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For years I've had visions of Palm Springs ginned up by the Hollywood publicity machines. It was paradise, a gleaming oasis out in the desert where the rich and important could go to sun themselves, enjoy the fruits of their prominence, and avoid having to mix with the lesser beings of the earth.
So, recently, when I was in Southern California, I naturally had to go see it.
It turned out to be a pleasant enough place but not the site of superfluity I had been led to expect.
For one thing, it's no longer "out" in the desert. Los Angeles has crept towards it so mightily you might almost call Palm Springs part of the outer suburbs. And walking up and down the streets there, you see lots of people you suspect of having incomes of less than a million a year (I guess the rich have to have somebody nearby to serve them).
There is still a downtown in the sprawl of what is now Palm Springs. And it still has an air of exclusivity. But it also has something else, just a touch of creeping seediness, which may well be its future. There are boarded up store fronts, always a sign that things are not going perfectly.
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Yet, there remains a sidewalk of fame, not as much fun as the one in Hollywood, but pleasant in calling the stars of yesteryear to mind. And just off to the south are the rising mountains which continue to let you know that you're not just in an ordinary place.