Postcards from Palm Springs – This Moody Desert

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T. Senzee

Palm Springs was in a mood a few days and nights ago. That’s when I anchored myself at a small, Warm Sands-adjacent, boutique hotel imbued with several significant cultural legacies: one architectural, another historical and still another of an LGBTQ+ landmark nature.

Palm Springs, and to a lesser degree one of the city’s casually stylish small lodgings, Triangle Inn, seems to be sharing a palette of covidian moods I’d been feeling too. Odds are, you too are at least vaguely familiar with these almost melancholy frames of mind and soul, even as brighter days seem to be drawing nearer. I see signs of these same lilting dispositions on faces both familiar and unacquainted. Sunlight, weather and the desert’s geography seem equally anxious and contemplative. We, the 2020 Pandemic survivors, have varyingly become more diverse, nay, deeper in our moods.

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Modernist architect, Hugh Michael Kaptur designed what’s now the Triangle Inn as his first commercial-architecture project back in the late 1950s. Like the California desert city in which it stands, the hotel lends to a  spectrum of moods.

Kaptur designed what was originally the Impala Lodge in 1957. The young modernist was creative in subtly yet intentional queuing the human eye to take in the Coachella Valley’s natural environment and the defining mountain ranges that ring the desert floor. That’s true even from an indoor space as solitary and utilitarian as my hotel room’s bathroom.

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Lush garden corridor from guest rooms to the inn’s lustrous, small, but luxuriantly heated pool.

The Triangle Inn has, for decades, served clientele comprised mostly of gay men. Michael Green and Stephen Boyd bought the property in 2000. The husbands continue to operate Triangle Inn as a clothing-optional resort as did their predecessors . It’s “boutique,” but not fussy. It’s stylish, but not fancy; clothing-optional and feels sensual, though anything but lurid. If the returning guests I encountered around the immaculately kept, bathwater-temperature pool indicate the kind of regulars who frequent the place, expect no-pressure opportunities to mingle and chat lightly with new friends—or to be left comfortably alone, whichever you prefer.

Triangle Inn’s pool: inviting, rewarding. — T. Senzee

Desert X 2021
The outdoor art fest known as DX21 was a solitary and stoic affair for this traveler. Next year will likely be more socially engaging—assuming vaccinations make the mark needed for herd immunity in America. But here’s a slice of what DX goers saw this year in an around Palm Springs:

Serge Attukwei Clottey’s Desert X 2021 (DX21) installation (below) adorns boundaries reaching out from a park’s manicured edge to touch the desert’s wilderness. Calling eyes outward, westward and northwesterly toward Mt. San Jacinto, the San Gorgonios and this region’s ubiquitous, standing army of energy-harnessing wind turbines, the work’s yellow and orange squares cut from plastic, water-carrying “gallon” containers like those used in the artist’s home nation of Ghana and across swathes of Africa blanket two massive cubes that are connected by a ponderous carpet of the same contiguously woven material. Spread uniformly across a stretch of grass at James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center and park space in Palm Springs, the jarring and provocative two-cube piece is more than the sum of its parts.

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Serge Attukwei Clottey’s works, his Desert X installation, The Wishing Well among them, are powerful statements comprised of “personal and political narratives,” according to the artist’s Gallery 1957 bio.

Another DX21 installation was more temptation than I could resist. I pray the artist’s forgiveness for photographically distorting this installation, but I couldn’t help taking an iOS panorama-mode pic. Eduardo Sarabia’s The Passenger (above) is a maze telling us about the choices-laden journey stories of hundreds of years of desert-trekking sojourners. Walking through The Passenger is a lonesome adventure even with friends. In fact, I noticed folks in groups naturally separating into individualized patterns of experiene as they made their ways through the maze. Sarabia’s work in this explains to us without a single word that the desert’s only real friend is the sky. Walk the desert floor on a hot, sunny day without much water on hand and make the wrong directional choice. You’ll soon know, it’s only the sky who can offer rainwater across miles of desert in a matter of a second or two.

The long trail to The Passenger by Eduardo Sarabia, a Desert X 2021 installation pulls visitors off of nearby roadways and sidewalks and onto her sands, on foot. DX21 required online appointments in order to maintain social-distancing mandates. The Desert X app was marginally helpful.

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Never Forget. It’s not just the title of Alaska-born Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist, Nicholas Galanin’s Desert X 2021 installation just north of Tramway Road on Highway 111 coming into (or leaving) town; it’s a call to action. The “Hollywoodland” sign-evoking piece speaks for itself. This link found at DX21’s website offers patrons a chance to take part in the effort to return indigenous lands to benefit progeny of indigenous peoples from whom they were, long ago, usurped.

T. Senzee
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Thom Senzee is an award-winning, West Coast journalist, founder of LGBTs In The News (lgbtsinthenews.com) and author of the All Out Politics syndicated column. ©2017 Thom Senzee. (@Tsenzee) -Twitter
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