OK, Los Angeles and Palm Springs weren’t on our official big adventure; we went there on our way to San Francisco before we flew to Beijing. But they had a lot in common with the rest of what we’re doing – we weren’t visiting family, we’d never been to Palm Springs at all or to LA together, and they’re a completely different culture from what we’re used to.
We drove into Palm Springs and we weren’t enamored; this Rat Pack-y home for the rich is just so artificial in a desert. And when we checked into this very cool and very colorful hotel, the Saguaro, I said to Mark “I’m not sure I’m going to get Palm Springs.” Of course, it didn’t help that it was 107 degrees, which, even if you’ve recently seen snowfall in Duluth, is just too damned hot. But 24 hours later, after a morning hike in a canyon and some sweet pool time, Mark turned to me and asked “Why would we ever leave here?”
There is something to be said for lounging at a pool, reading in the heat, but we did leave after just two days to go to LA. The thing that most stood out for me about LA was how happy our friends are there. We visited three friends we know from different parts of our lives – Keith, who went to graduate school with us; Saul, who did Tom Harkin’s ’96 campaign with Mark; and Judith, who we’ve both worked with closely with in the world of organizers and political data. And what they all had in common, besides being just great people, was how much they love LA. How happy they are. They’re dating, enjoying life, and just … did I mention how happy they are?
There was one other really cool moment in LA. Saul took us for a bike ride down to the beach and along the bike trail in Venice Beach and Santa Monica. At one point I noticed the trail had a name: the Marvin Braude Memorial Bikeway. I thought “I bet I
(almost) know that guy!” It turns out our neighbor in Cambridge (now ex-neighbor) is Ann Braude, whose father, I knew, had spent years on the LA city council. Sure enough, he was a long-time promoter of the trail and it was dedicated to him just a couple years ago. I love it when great city councilors make the world a better place, particularly when they’re your friend’s father!
For many years I’ve been pretty much an anti-LA guy; I’d spent a year in Long Beach when I’d been in the Navy and I didn’t love it. Thirty years later I still couldn’t figure out why anyone would go to LA when San Francisco is in the world. And I had no interest in going Palm Springs under any conditions.
Maybe I should have spent some time there before deciding that. What a tragedy to learn that just as I leave the country!
Special thanks to Saul, Keith, and Judith for being such great hosts and showing me a part of the U.S. I didn’t know. And oh yeah, one more thing: we did have our obligatory celebrity sighting. Our last night in LA, we stopped at a little bar for an after-dinner drink. We’re standing at the bar and Mark goes to the bathroom, when who walks up to take his place at the bar but Bill Maher. Yup, that guy. Mark had to kind of reach around him to get his drink when he came back, but we didn’t talk to him. Let’s put it this way: Mark & I were on one side of him, and two young attractive women were on the other side. We saw a lot of his back…