Dreams. Patterns in the clouds. Drug-fueled hallucinations. A life thoroughly well-lived. There are many answers to the question: where does a writer find their inspiration?
But for some, it's all about the location. Some places tell a story, other places create them. Some are a tale in themselves. The desert resort of Palm Springs, a diamond in the dusty rough of the Coachella Valley, is such a place.
Palm Springs has been delighting folk since the turn of the century. Tourists and celebrities alike have traded the city heat for shady mountains, palm-lined vistas and midcentury art deco glamour. The desert resort still pulls in a million pleasure-seekers a year from all over the world and it’s not hard to see why: less than two hours from L.A., the city is perfectly situated for a weekend getaway or longer sojourn with serenity.
(For those of you with darker interests, Palm Springs is also just an hour northwest of the shipwrecked Salton Sea, the haunting alter ego of desert modernism left to rot. A side trip to the eerie Bombay Beach is highly recommended.)
There is something for everyone at the Springs, whether your poison is a frosty beer at the low-key Hair of the Dog or a refreshing mojito at the luxurious Parker Mini Bar (with a decadent side order of spa treatment, wallet-allowing). Hardcore fashionistas can take a break at the charming Sherman’s Deli for the best pastrami outside of NYC, or grab an original slice at Shakey’s Pizza (left). Early-eaters can enjoy brunch and bottomless mimosas at Pinocchio’s alongside the ceramic effigy of Marilyn Monroe, daring white dress and all.
There is hiking serenity in the San Jacinto Wilderness, whether accessed by foot or the spectacular aerial tramway.
More cultural types can enjoy museums, antiquing, theatre and film festivals, and the city's also a haven for the LGBT community with its breezy, gay-friendly spirit. It really does seem as if Palm Springs has it all.
Local author Edward Cozza certainly thinks so. Palm Springs is the setting for his debut novel, Nowhere Yet, a tale of old friends reuniting for a nostalgic weekend to mend emotional fences after years apart. I was lucky enough to chat with Ed about his writing process and the mystical sway this desert oasis holds over him and his characters.
“I go to all these places,” he told me, “see all these things, meet all these people, eat and drink all these things. I make notes, let them ferment, then start writing. The desert is the perfect place to stop, collect and write.”
But why Palm Springs over any other good-time destination like Malibu or Las Vegas? The answer is straightforward – the desert climate just cannot be beaten. The stately mountains shade revelers from both the worst of the heat and the winter chill. And, Ed pointed out, for a man who spends a lot of his time travelling, a leisurely two-hour journey without pat-downs or x-rays is a crucial catalyst for some serious R&R.
Most of the action in Nowhere Yet takes place at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton at Rancho Mirage, which sits above the Coachella Valley and gazes down on lesser hotels… or at least it used to. Ed informed me, sadly, that the Ritz-Carlton has recently fallen from grace and after so many years of first-class care has been sold, repurchased and now languishes awaiting rebirth.
But in its heyday, the hotel was a source of inspiration for authors like Ed. “The therapeutic nature of my last visit started things percolating in my head, about resolving unresolved issues. The memories from that place are all tremendous.” And thus, Nowhere Yet was born.
With so much on offer in this arid playground, I wondered where the artistic types choose to eat, amble and play. “That is a tough one,” Ed joked. “Because if I tell you I might not be able to get in there next time.”
With a little persuasion he confessed to his two Palm Spring loves, steak and golf. The area boasts over a hundred golf courses – so how can a guy possibly choose? “PGA West Stadium and Jack Nicklaus Courses are just flat-out beautiful. I’m not good enough to play there but somehow I got on without incident or injury.” So not just for the gifted enthusiast, then?
The choices for post-round recuperation are just as bountiful. “For steak, there’s LG’s, Morton’s, Sullivan’s… and Wally’s Desert Turtle is always fun, too.” Again, the wealth of options is overwhelming to a first-time visitor, but with so much to explore, a return trip is definitely in the cards (editorial aside: the banana soufflé at Wally’s is a definite must).
For regular visitors like Ed, there is more to the desert than just fun and food. “I left Colorado 26 years ago and to say those years flew by is a terrible understatement...The desert made me think about where I grew up, and the hope that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from those people in the future.”
It goes without saying that there is nothing dry or lifeless about Palm Springs, and it doesn’t take an author’s heart to appreciate this oasis in the scorched wastes. Before leaving, I asked Ed to choose his favorite place on earth, curious if he would nominate the desert, and without missing a beat he answered in one word. “Home. Wherever my wife and dogs are.”
Now that's spoken like a true wordsmith.
Edward Cozza lives in Encinitas. Contemporary novel Nowhere Yet is his first of a planned trilogy.