The line of demarcation between them that’s got and them that don’t is thick and wide in the Coachella Valley. The fortunate live behind gates with entry codes; brown-skinned people inside the walls are just visiting. Well, working, actually.
As it goes with the rest of America, there seems to be no middle class in Palm Springs. Within the category of The Have’s, people are either stinking filthy rich or upper-middle-class. After that, it’s straight to low income.
At the car wash, where all the workers are Hispanic, a conversation between two men: Audi: I hate it when I get my car washed and it gets water spots.” Mercedes: “Yeah, I know what you mean. At night I drive in the middle lane, away from curbs and medians, to avoid the sprinklers.”
I count myself among the fortunate, even as only an RV dweller. My neighborhood is a gated community with full-time security, fountains and flowers, well-manicured lawns, eight swimming pools, fruit trees, a golf course, and tennis courts. The only people with skin darker than mine that I have seen in the park are performing maintenance work, in the park or on the RVs. Every type of vendor imaginable is present in the park on a daily basis. RV washers, house cleaners, carpet cleaners, landscapers – the RVs are like whales, providing a nutrient-rich environment for the barnacles that hitch a ride and give armor-like protection. Symbiosis in action.
I am staying in Cathedral City, about seven miles from downtown Palm Springs; people have told me to “be careful” and “look out” in this area. As one concerned acquaintance put it, “Once you cross the wash, everything changes.” I find these words of caution curious. In Cathedral City there is more diversity, cheaper prices, and a plethora of Mexican food joints, but this isn’t exactly The Hood.
This is a town with disposable income, like childless gay couples with two salaries, and retirees. But, the “free” stuff listed on Craig’s List is garbage, and so are the donations of clothing and household goods made to charitable organizations. If you’ve got something to purge, you consign it in the Valley. Consignment stores for both furniture and clothing abound in all of the Coachella Valley bergs. Make that money, baby.
When out dining, friends and family members insist with fanatical zeal on separate checks. Waiters don’t even roll their eyes at the request. I have never understood the necessity for this and never will. Just round up, for Chrissakes.
In this town of privilege, I am privileged to be privileged. I will start volunteering next week, answering phones at the Palm Springs Historical Society, but for my own balance I think I will also seek out an organization that works with those in poverty.