Friday, February 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

The first time I vacationed in Palm Springs I was 12 years old. It was the only place my family could afford -- the prices are low in summer as the temperature climbs to 115 degrees. Palm Springs is located in Coachella Valley, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The desert is surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains. In winter you can swim laps in a heated pool
and look up at snow-capped mountains. Not far from Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park, 800,00 acres of massive granite formations, prickly trees, the San Andreas Fault, coyotes and jackrabbits.

Today, Palm Springs is home to aging boomers, retirees, a large gay community, casinos, numerous golf courses and the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. On the north side of the 10 is Desert Hot Springs, described by locals as "Desperate Hot Springs," home to once fashionable spas, now swarming with meth labs, headquarters for notorious gangs and families struggling to survive above the poverty level. In March 2009 local and federal law enforcement agencies busted these depots of illegal activities.

I shop at Von's, corner of Gene Autry Rd. and Highway 111, in Palm Springs. Standing near the check-out I noticed a tall, glass cabinet with cartons of cigarettes, packs of Nicorette and large containers of Similac (powder baby formula). "Why is Similac under lock and key?" I asked the cashier.

"People steal the baby formula and use it as a "filler" for cocaine."

Two towns in the Coachella Valley, four miles apart, yet galaxies removed in housing, education, and culture. How did this happen and will the balance be restored or will the infection spread?

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