Wednesday, January 6, 2010

That Was Palm Springs..

... that was!

Just back from our Palm Springs jaunt to celebrate Ellie's birthday. It was an unpromising start. We arrived in time to unpack in the tiny--I mean tiny, closet-sized!--room in our B&B, and walked out for lunch at the Tennis Club (!) nearby. We passed on the Bloody Marys that most of our neighbors seemed to be enjoying, and opted for a shared Cobb Salad--we could have shared it with another couple, it was so huge. Then off to discover what we had remembered as a rather picturesque downtown. Didn't seem that way to us this time. Heading north from the couple of blocks at the very center of town, we found empty lots and stores boarded up. A few consignment and antique shops, selling stuff for outlandish prices--though we did run into a few friendly dealers and struck up some pleasant conversations. And discovered a newly opened branch of the Terrence Rogers Gallery, old friends from Santa Monica...

But... there didn't seem to be much happening, so we opted for a movie in the evening and, on the way to the theater, stopped at an authentic deli for dinner and found ourselves surrounded by a convivial gathering of Jews--some of them clearly long-time immigrants from Eastern European countries. The food was great... in that traditional deli kind of a way, but far heavier and gravier than we would have wanted, and so much that we asked for a take-home box for more than half our meal--then forgot the box and left it on the table. On the way to the theater, we paused for a few moments to consider going back for it but on the whole decided, no, it was better off left where it was.

The movie was fun. "It's Complicated." It wasn't, really complicated. A pleasant enough romp with Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep, the latter being pretty much the giggly Meryl Streep we know and love. Could have left that one for a rental, but okay, it gave us a few chuckles--particularly the scene where Streep and co-start Steve Martin indulge in a few tokes, for the first time in twenty years or so. Both hilarious. We laughed.

Got back to the B&B to discover that Ellie had not brought her toothbrush. Nor her earplugs, which she likes to sleep with. And the stopper in the bathroom sink didn't work. (We discovered the next morning that the shower didn't work either.) And the tiny room felt claustrophobic. The double bed nearly filled the entire floor space. The duvet felt like lead. I woke an hour after going to sleep and couldn't get back to sleep again. Took a pill. Dozed fitfully for what seemed like hours, rehearsing my complaints to the management. Waking the next morning, we debated the possibility of leaving and coming home to George.

However, we did have a talk with the manager in the morning and she was very gracious. We were offered the choice of two other rooms, much more spacious, for the same price as ours. We ate French toast and scrambled eggs in the sunshine, and a couple of cups of coffee made the world look brighter too. We borrowed a couple of hotel bikes and set off into the back streets of Palm Springs, where the mid-century architecture is always a delight. We saw--I'm sure we saw--a pair of bluebirds. Do bluebirds live in Palm Springs? I was surprised. But they sure weren't blue jays. We see enough of those... Anyway, who can be mad when they think they see a bluebird?

Back at the hotel, we returned our bikes and set off in the car to the museum, where we had made an appointment to meet with the senior curator--a colleague of Ellie's in her professional association. A pleasant lunch--shared sandwich, Arnold Palmer--in the sculpture garden, next to a pair of monumental standing bronze hearts by Jim Dine; and a wonderful tour of the museum and introduction to its collections with our guide and friend. The current installation is "The Passionate Pursuit"--selections from a stellar collection promised as a gift to the museum. We were also much impressed with a corner devoted to the medium of glass; and by an exhibition of the photographic work of Linda Connor, whose sepia-toned pictures of locations throughout the world are the product of an extraordinary eye for the telling image. We loved the museum itself, small enough in scale and scope to be manageable in a visit, but endowed with a good number of truly significant works of art.

In the afternoon, we drove down through Cathedral City to Palm Desert, where there are several notable galleries to visit. The prices, in this recessionary period, are simply eye-popping. Twenty to eighty thousand dollars seemed the norm for basically mid-list artists--and I don't want to sound condescending. There were some fine paintings, fine sculptural works, and some amazing glass... but the bottom line, for me, was the reminder of the huge gap between the wealthy in this country and the rest of us, most struggling to get by and all too many not making it. Is this reverse snobbery? Maybe. I found myself wishing, not for the first time, that art, and the buying of art, could be somehow more democratic. That those at the very top of the market could sacrifice a few of those top dollars in favor of those lower on the totem pole. A redistribution of the wealth, if I may be allowed--old socialist that I am!

We had been thinking of going to see "Avatar" in its 3-D version. It seems to be something of a cultural phenomenon. But the lines outside the I-Max theater in Cathedral City were enough to discourage us from the idea, so we went to see "Invictus" in Palm Springs instead. It's a terrific movie, directed with the ease of simple authority by the ever-surprising Clint Eastwood. Morgan Freeman does a great job as Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon as the captain of the Springboks rugby team, which became--thanks to Mandela--a living symbol of the possibility of reconciliation in South Africa. I used to play rugby as a youngster, and still remember the sweat and smell of the scrum. It seems to have become a pretty brutal sport since my days. By comparison, American football, with its all its pads and pauses, seems like a sport for pussies.

I'll have some pictures to post tomorrow. For today... enough!

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