Palm Springs is weird. It is a place where aloe plants and citrus trees grow in rock gardens between midcentury modern bungalows, a casual thrift store raid can unearth $5 Naturalizer pumps, there looms a monstrous hotel called Spa Resort Casino, and supermarkets sell brown splotchy grapefruits from Texas.
I was there in January working the PS International Film Festival, and between shifts as a venue manager – answering questions like, "Is this movie going to be in the handheld style?" deflecting comments such as, "I'm 83 years old and you expect me to stand in line?" and leveling the occasional threat, including, "Sir, do you want to be the person escorted from this theater by the police?" – I stopped by the Palm Springs Farmers' Market, conveniently located in the parking lot next to my theater-home.
It was January in the desert, and I was shopping on a strip of strip-mall pavement, not expecting much in the way of produce. I should have known better, considering that a small leafy grove in the courtyard of the Casa Cody, my temporary adobe abode, enabled twice-daily citrus binges and the decadent melty-sweet dates I buy at the Ferry Building and rhapsodize about to anyone who'll listen are grown on Flying Disc Ranch in nearby Thermal, CA.
Anyway, at the market, after brushing past a few soulless stands hawking out-of-season produce pulled from cardboard boxes, I encountered many charming vendors of organically grown marvels, including:
- a week's worth of enormous kiwis, tangy and bright ($3!)
- long and slender Fuerte avocados, creamier than Hass, with smooth, vibrant green skin
- a dozen lovely little quail eggs that I scrambled and ate with grainy toast on Inauguration Day. My gut reaction? Obama-approved.
- jewel-like khadrawy dates, encased in brown papery skins. Seriously, these are nature's candy. Will someone please explain to me the cold indifference with which my dates and I are usually met? (Yes, I really want an answer to that.)
But the morning's most surprising sight was definitely this guy:
He sold me red russian kale, spicy stalks of rapini, and baby magenta radishes that I consumed slowly and with reverence in an attempt to absolve my intake of Cherry Coke and glowing yellow popcorn.
What did I learn during this second annual desert foray? Whether in the form of a 20-something farmhand, a conversation about the long-lost formula for Bakelite, or the sight of arid brown mountains against blue sky, Palm Springs can serve up a refreshing cleanse to the palate – even to a self-satisfied San Franciscan.