Suburbia’s latest status symbol is the Armed Response placard in the flower bed. They look tacky and mar the landscape. Plus they reflect poorly on the property owner’s intelligence. A sophisticated burglar targeting a multi-million dollar estate can’t finesse a home alarm system? Potential violence must scare them straight.
This climate of fear seems unfounded. The streets of San Francisco are ten times more dangerous than in Palm Springs. Yet the fright level is directly inverse.
In the suburbs the fortifications of home and automobile keep you apart from everyone. Except for dealing with co-workers or the voice at the drive-thru, knowledge about people is invented not experienced. Ergo, Fox News.
Any person looking different or acting in a non-Stepford way is suspect. Interact with these druggies and you’re one step from death. When I told a friend, whose intelligence I respect, about my studio in the refurbished crack towers, her response shocked me: “get a gun.”
This communal trepidation gives police free reign to go after non-conformers. Gay men driving late at night are routinely pulled over for fabricated reasons. Like not coming to a full stop at deserted four way intersections. The cops interrogate them and search for any sign of alcohol, drugs, or paraphernalia. The slightest offense leads to jail.
Those copies of the Constitution waived at Trump rallies teach us about unreasonable search and seizure. An inalienable right as long as you have the money to prove the cop wrong in court.
Living with small town fear is a hard adjustment. It should be noted, though, that the founding fathers recognized this trait in the populace. They wisely decided to tap the national imagination with quadrennial presidential elections.
Within a block radius of my Jones Street apartment were about eight Ma & Pa groceries. Too expensive for regular shopping but perfect for last-minute necessities or impulses. In Palm Springs the closest onion is a mile away.
When I moved in I was encouraged by the Circle K across the street. I only knew them as interstate gas stations but hoped it would fill the gap left by Ma & Pa. It turned out to be a convenience store that was anything but. They had nothing I would buy.
It was a local institution, however, a place where riff-raff had congregated for 30 years. You could get a pack of Lucky’s there and, for local rebels, it was the first rite of passage.
I tried valiantly to support this questionable establishment. One day I was thirsty and bought a Minute Maid Lemonade. It tasted like Elmer’s Glue. Another time I was convinced I could easily find a bottle of tonic water. I scoured the saturated fat shelves and high fructose refrigerator cases for about five minutes. Finally I asked the cashier. She was nonplussed, “tonic water? what’s that?”
The only convenience they provided me was their ATM. I used it frequently. Getting to it meant negotiating the handful of street people on the steps. In a low-key manner they harangued you for money, which was annoying, but they were harmless if you didn’t engage. In a way they intrigued me: wondering how they got that way, how they survived, if the cute ones were good in bed.
On one of my ATM runs someone had pitched their crusty blanket and belongings inside the store next to the machine. Management didn’t seem to mind so I went about my business. Where most locals would have been in abject terror for their person and property, my only emotion was relief when my cash withdrawal was approved. I stepped over the nest and was on my way.
The Circle K was shut down as a public nuisance in July.
There are no street lights in most Palm Springs neighborhoods, supposedly to prevent urban glow from interfering with magical desert nights. And there is a serene feeling when you’re outdoors in temperatures way too warm, under skies that seem unnaturally dark. The community lies in calm. With an occasional hiccup from the hail of gunfire greeting yet another foolish intruder.
The Last Temptation of Me
- Helping the More Fortunate
- Do They Know It’s Christmas?
- A Horse With No Name
- The Blackened Snapper Is To Die For
- Come Together
- Pilgrimage On The 75% Off Trail
- The Ancient Cohachellian Art of Cacti Arranging
- Popsicle Sheers
- Life Is Strife
- Life Is Strife: Addendum
- Casting My Net
- Where Seldom Is Heard
- Desert Sage
- Jackie’s Tears
- Cancer, and My Name Is Larry
- Me and Mr. B
- On Milkshakes
- Learning Curve
- Dunbar’s Last Stand
- Tale of Two Cows
- Barstow Barista Boys
- The Season of the Donald
- Visions of San Jacinto
- Hackneying Hockney
- On My Way to Ralphs
- Gaydom’s Gump
- Goodbye to All of That
- The Final Salvo