Monday, November 23, 2009

Palm Sprung

by Ben Small

The wife and I just returned from several days in California, two in Palm Springs, two visiting relatives in Bakersfield and of course Men of Mystery in Irvine, one of my favorite book festivals.

The memory I will hold of this trip is of an empty Palm Springs. And I mean empty. Store fronts empty, streets empty, shops that hadn't closed empty, and restaurants... well, empty.

I could have put a lawn chair on the main drag and felt safe.

In those shops still open, we were the only customers. No golfers, no tourists, and this is supposed to be the high season. Our waiter, blaming everyone but Californians, lamented that the Hollywood types no longer come to Palm Springs; they go to Vegas. But I think Palm Springs' troubles go further than that. Despite nobody on the streets, nobody in the stores, and stores closing everywhere, the J-walking police were still handing out tickets. Sure, they need the money, but with no shoppers, no J-walkers, no revenues, one can only wonder where their salaries come from.

And the stores still open are desperate for customers. You wouldn't believe the sales. Some stores, the owner came outside, trying to draw us in. All we were doing was walking the no-crowd sidewalks, but our footfalls must have reverberated up and down the avenue. At just about every shop somoene came out to ask us in.

We thought it sad.

Normally I'd have said Bakersfield and Palm Springs were worlds apart, but on this trip, their downtowns looked like twins. Except I was not accosted by San Quentin paroles in Palm Springs. Seems San Quentin buses paroles up to Bakersfield and lets them go. According to the guy who hit me up for a buck, it's standard San Quentin procedure. He'd been through it before.

I was just glad I wasn't in Bakersfield during evening hours. I understand the released prisoners aren't so polite then. My niece said she'd had a gun stuck in her face at a traffic light just two weeks ago.

That couldn't happen in Palm Springs.

There's nobody there.


Anonymous said...

What a jolt your blog is, Ben. I can't believe it! Palm Springs -- I guess all the Golden Oldie celebs and high rollers died and nobody is showing up to replace them. Priced out maybe? That seems to be like a plague in California.

I still think California will snap back, but it's beginning to look like some kind of miracle will be needed. (Another Gold Rush?)

Bakersfield -- good grief. The Bakersfield newspaper is small but one of the few online newspapers that still sounds like a newspaper, but apparently it is not reporting any grim news.

Why is nobody reporting this stuff? It's like they're in the grip of some kind of paralysis. No wonder Hollywood is churning out disaster movies.

Pat Browning

Unknown said...

Yes, Pat, but they're making a Charlie's Angels sequel...

I think it will be awhile before California snaps back. I'm not sure they 'get it' yet.

Helen Ginger said...

Dang, Ben, I hope the majority of your trip was good, 'cause these two towns sound like ones to avoid, definitely Bakersfield.

Straight From Hel

Jean Henry Mead said...

Hard to believe, Ben, that California towns are emptying out. I think most of the evacuees are coming here to the Rockies. I spent countless summers in Bakersfield visiting relatives, so it's difficult to imagine empty streets there or in Palm Springs.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Once Buck Owens and Dwight Yokum left and the oil dried up, Bakersfield had little to offer. As for Palm Springs, I suppose the tnertainers from that era have either moved to Branson or died. The only thing certain is there will always be change.

Unknown said...

My cousin's place in Bakersfield is quite special, but the area is oil and ag, so there are lots of migrant workers.

Susan Anton was starring in the downtown Palm Springs playhouse. I'd forgotten about her. Wonder if her acting's gotten any better?