What’s new in Palm Springs, California, the dazzling oasis of sunshine, Palm trees, and oceans of sand? Just 113 miles from Hollywood, it’s long been a getaway for celebrities hoping to escape the paparazzi. And for snow birds who flock in from Canada and chilly eastern US climes, the vibrant town offers a respite from harsh winters. But for me–PS, as the locals call it–is simply my hometown.
Though I’m a native Washingtonian, we moved to the desert town when I was in high school, and during my undergrad and grad school years at UCLA, I was often in the desert city. Visits continued for decades since my mother lived here for over 40 years.
And right now, Ralph and I are once again in my old stomping grounds. It’s a do-over trip of sorts. We were last here in March 2020, but we’d barely touched down when we boarded a direct flight back to France when the ferocity of the pandemic became known. Since then a lot has happened.
For one thing, Marilyn is back! Love her or loath her, the 26-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe, known as “Forever Marilyn,” was formally installed near the Palm Springs Art Museum last June. The sculpture of the star, who was “discovered” in PS, was created by John Seward Johnson II. It reflects the iconic pose of her holding down her billowing skirt from the 1955 movie, The Seven Year Itch. The town’s promoters wanted Marilyn in the public eye once again—she’d been in storage after a two-year stint from 2012 to 2014—because the statue had been a boon for tourism. Tourists flocked to have their photos taken with her.
Other discoveries include condominium complexes that are sprouting everywhere. Huge lots that have been vacant forever are now construction sites. And, sadly, the See’s Candies store at La Plaza in the center of town—has closed. Not that I’m a chocolate buff, but it was a historic landmark, an island of stability in a sea of change.
On the bright side, for the first time, we saw masses of folks working out together in Ruth Hardy Park and pop up art. A work called Popsicles, by John Cerney, is temporarily on display near the antiques district on the south side of town.
But some things remain and are thriving. Old world Sherman’s Deli is going strong—there’s always a wait at this go-to place for kosher classics. And Welwood Murray Memorial Library, which opened in 1940, is still open to the public, offering WiFi and computer access. Though now a visitor center and research library for the Palm Springs Historical Society, it prevails, thankfully. Over the years, my mom carried many a petition to save the building–designed by architect John Porter Clark–from developers.
And on the natural side of things, you can still count on roadrunners scurrying around, stunning Vermillion Flycatchers (try Ruth Hardy Park), and zipping hummingbirds. And, of course, there’s the big, perpetually blue Palm Springs sky.
That’s the latest from PS. More news from France upon our return.
Wherever you are, stay safe and well.
The Birdwarcher’s Wife is now out in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Shortly, it will be available to order through book stores.