If LA was strange, then Palm Springs is plain bizarre. It’s a middle-class retirees’ enclave of tennis courts and polo shirts, smack bang in the middle of the desert – a man-made oasis of wide streets and lush, immaculately manicured lawns. The very existence of Palm Springs is a sort of giant proof-of-concept, a demonstration of man’s ability to conquer nature and bring forth greenery (and golf courses) from some of the most hostile land on the planet.
It exists because it can. The cost, of course, is catastrophic – you can only imagine the environmental damage wrought by constructing it. But then, that’s just the point – the cost isn’t important. The place exists as a brash gesture of human endeavour and ability, Dubai before there was Dubai. There’s no question of co-existence with nature – nature is subjugated to human ambition. We’re a strange species at times. Our abilities are amazing. But our priorities…
Although happily, they do harness wind power.
Anyway, the reason we drove down into the desert is that Palm Springs also serves as the most convenient jumping off point for Coachella. And happily, we had some friends; here. They were staying at the sort of place that makes you feel like you’re living the dream. It used to belong to Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, of whom photos adorned the place left, right and centre. The decor wasn’t as opulent as you might imagine, but there was every movie star comfort – pool, jacuzzi, kit, caboodle.
It seems that Coachella plays up beautiful to the whole music industry idea of music coming a distant second to schmoozing – no-one seemed to actually have a ticket, us included, but that was fine… everyone just came for the parties anyway. Being too, um, intoxicated to go anywhere, we just hosted a party at our place, which was fine – we met some awesome people from New York, some decidedly strange Vice hipsters from LA, and stayed up all night.
We never did get to the festival. But then, neither did anyone else.
Living. The. Dream.
Driving down, we heard a hip hopper on the radio confessing that, “I want to be a billionaire so freaking’ bad”. It seemed appropriate. And then as we drove through the desert, three Chinooks flew overhead like giant insects. We’re in a foreign land, for all that they speak our language.
On the way back, though, we tuned into Henry Rollins’ program on the most excellent KCRW – not unlike LA’s answer to RRR, for those back home. About half an hour in, he paid tribute to “an amazing Australian musician who passed away recently”… and played Rowland S Howard’s ‘Pop Crimes’.
Listening to Rowland as we rolled down the highway back into LA… Something I never imagined doing. And really quite moving.