Op-Ed: Finding peace in the desert, among the ghosts of my family, as the new year approaches

Op-Ed: Finding peace in the desert, among the ghosts of my family, as the new year approaches

Time flows in another way within the desert right now of yr. Round 4pm the solar slips behind Mount San Jacinto and its shadow glides throughout the Coachella Valley, blanketing all the pieces in a hazy gentle. Different locals usually keep away from coming to downtown Palm Springs throughout the vacation season, however I like these moments when the calendar narrows all the way down to a treasured few days.

Within the weeks earlier than the brand new yr, the desert appears to be continuously warming, the air is full of the scent of autumn roses. Typically a change of breeze is all it takes to lure you into the glowing streets brimming with the structure of the previous and the individuals of right this moment. There’s one thing nearly dreamy about discovering myself in the identical place as annually ultimately slips away.

Downtown Palm Springs is full of vacationers, all pushed by the sun-drenched slowness of the vacation. Once you stay in a resort city, you get used to this stop-action, however you by no means cease feeling just a little uncomfortable with it, and my household has been right here because the late Nineteen Fifties.

they have been some First Jews to settle in Canyon Country Club, one of many few locations the place somebody with my final identify may belong. Years later, my grandfather Poppa Cy would take me by way of city, mentioning the assorted residential areas by way of the window, and saying, “By no means stay there.” There was no malice, only a easy clarification. She had discovered her place, I’d have discovered mine, she wouldn’t be left behind. he’s door or inside he’s mountain bay.

The desert doesn’t need to destroy something, so the buildings of Jewish oppression are nonetheless standing. Tour teams cross by way of these throughout Modernism Week. I’ve thought of this usually this yr, when anti-Semitism brazenly poured from the web to politicians and celebrities, the true property agent who confirmed my mother-in-law a brand new dwelling and instructed her she “may humiliate a Jew.” vendor, as a result of my spouse saved me from saying one thing I’d remorse. Or it might not. The truth within the desert is that, relying on the place you stand, when you closed your eyes in 1962 and opened your eyes in these closing moments of 2022, you won’t be capable of inform the distinction, bodily or mentally.

These could not appear to be reminiscences to carry shut, however the reality is, my grandparents got here right here for a purpose: They felt at peace. Even after Poppa Cy collapsed from dementia, she nonetheless thought she was on her porch wanting over Andreas Canyon or Again 9, every doing just a little mitzvah. I’m the one one within the household to inherit this sense of peace, the final individual residing right here, strolling downtown on a heat December day, reckoning with ghosts.

I suppose it is as a result of the gentle melancholy centered on me like few issues do. He tells me that the unhealthy occasions are getting higher. It jogs my memory that my little longings have made me belittled, that I can forgive as my grandfather will need to have accomplished to spend a single day on these streets.

I stroll right into a vacationer lure store – nearly all the pieces within the retailer has “Palm Springs” written in Nineteen Fifties retro font on it – and I circle it. Years in the past this was a poorly lit bookstore known as Bookland. Rumor has it that Truman Capote and Herman Wouk used to come back from out of city to purchase newspapers, and retired Chicago Outfit mobster Tony Accardo favored his crossword puzzle alternatives.

I’ve by no means seen any of them there, however the place the t-shirt racks at the moment are, I can see my 12-year-old rummaging by way of my idols’ paperback books. I run my fingers over the phrases of Robert B. Parker, Donald Westlake, and Elmore Leonard, the Hanukkah coin poking a gap in my pocket, Poppa Cy double parked in Palm Canyon in her gentle yellow automotive, hand within the facet mirror, sporting sun shades, a bit of solar on her nostril He placed on cream, and his shirt was unbuttoned midway to his chest.

“How are you right this moment?”

A salesman standing just a few ft from me – a younger girl – is straightening some shirts.


“Is that this good or unhealthy?”

I level across the store. “This place was a bookstore. I used to sit down right here and browse a ebook.”

“Is that this true?” says.

Is that this true? I am going out and stroll. Search for and down the block. The shadow of San Jacinto Mountain darkened the road. The headlights are flashing. The temperature dropped under 70, sufficient to present me chills. Possibly Bookland was on the following block. Possibly it would not matter. Possibly if I wait lengthy sufficient, Grandpa will cease and we’ll drop all the pieces and head again down the canyon.

Tod Goldberg is the writer of the newest ebook “The Low Desert: Gangster Tales”. She administers the Low Residency MFA Program in Inventive Writing and Performing Arts Writing at UC Riverside. @todgoldberg

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