The barren southeastern California desert eventually starts to break up, with swaths of dusty landscape giving way to slashes of green, palm trees clustering close together and offering scant shade to sun-bleached pastel stucco buildings. Things begin to get more and more upscale feeling the closer you get to the coast, the golden sheen of the Golden State beating back the dust. Palm Springs—golf haven, retirement community, LGBT oasis, and site of Coachella’s annual depravity—is the gateway to the SoCal Promised Land. The first inkling of the good life that awaits those who braved the desolation, sculpted from spring break romper room to lazy family town under ex-mayor Sonny Bono’s reign.
Now it personifies the all-American California ideal. Everyone is tan, and happy. The pace is mellow, food great, quality of life as stunningly high as you would expect from a town that has grown to encapsulate so many ideals to so many out-of-staters. It’s obvious, immediately, why so many dream and conspire to retire here. It’s the kind of town that makes you want to pull up a seat in the shade and watch the world go by. And that is a beautiful thing.