Keepin’ It Surreal

I’ve heard people say that Las Vegas is the most surreal place on earth. But I just spent the weekend in Palm Springs, and I beg to differ.

Las Vegas has no sham about what it is — a place to indulge in all those things that you’re not supposed to do, like drinking, gambling, going to titty bars, eating bad food, smoking indoors.

Palm Springs, on the other hand, is much more multi-tiered.

There’s the ‘Famous People Live(d) Here’ tier. That tier is unmistakable, especially when you’re waiting at the stoplight at the corner of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to Retire Here’ tier. Hectare upon hectare of gated communities, all of which look just as recently installed as the palm trees that surround them. I often wonder, in such surroundings, just who the gates are meant to keep out. I can’t recall the last time I saw so much automotive bling-bling (gold trim on half-block wide Cadillacs, landau roofs, custom hood ornaments), except perhaps on one of those BET music videos.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to be Gay Here’ tier. And the nudist tier (which overlaps sometimes with the gay tier). And the Indian Gaming tier (which, interestingly, seems to have been appropriated in part by Donald Trump — funny, I didn’t even know he was Native American). And the mega-Christian tier, which inspires people to decorate their cars with tributes to the big J.

One of the scariest tiers is the media tier, which consists of only happy news (in spite of a world in total turmoil). I’m sure the focus groups must have revealed long ago that the population in Palm Springs didn’t want to know anything disturbing or complex, because everything is reduced to the most banal, palatable or cute.

I guess the break with reality is why people make this a weekend escape. What worries me is that some just never come back.