Two Hours From Beverly Hills - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Two Hours From Beverly Hills

Let me tell you why Big Wifey and I love Rancho Mirage, and the whole Coachella Valley, roughly the area from Palm Springs east to Indio, so much.

We started living here on a semi-permanent basis, which is to say we bought a condo at Mission Hills CC, in about 1979. It was a small two bedroom overlooking a grassy lawn and then a billion tennis courts. At that time, the desert was different from what it is now. There were immense empty spaces where I would walk my Weimaraner dog, Mary, and practice target shooting.

There were blocks and blocks of small houses with bougainvillea all around and no traffic. My wife and I would ride our bicycles for hours. There were no shopping centers of any size east of downtown Palm Springs.

The air was dry and clear. The sky was always blue. Once in a while there would be romantic lightning storms.

In downtown Palm Springs there was a Saks and maybe (I am not sure) a Bullock’s Wilshire and a few other luxury stores.

Other than that, there were a plethora of date shake stands, the Ocotillo Inn, La Quinta, and endless vistas.

It was a desert paradise, totally different from L.A., but only a fast two-hour drive from our home in the Hollywood Hills.

That was 36 years ago. Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. There are shopping centers everywhere. There is so much retail space you can scarcely believe your eyes. There are magnificent hotels stretching all of the way from Palm Springs to La Quinta and maybe beyond.

There are world-class medical treatment centers. There is a world-renowned drug and alcohol treatment facility named for a great first lady.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of rehabs and sober-living centers. In the Coachella Valley, the 12 steps play equally well with the Ten Commandments. Maybe better because there is nothing in the 12 steps about adultery.

There is so much spiritual renewal going on here every day that it might as well be the Sinai Desert in the time of Moses.

But the essence remains the same as when my wife and I came here in the 1970s: it is a safe, protected, magnificently beautiful garden of Eden in a difficult, threatening world. The sky is still blue. The air is dry and clean. The palm fronds line the heavens.

We live at Morningside now, just down Bob Hope from the 10 Freeway. I look out on an emerald golf course and a stupendous pool every day. By night, I often swim, as late as two or three in the morning. I look up at the stars, and in the desert, the stars are painted on the sky. I see the moon and Venus and jetliners all above me. I see the billionaires landing above me in their G-V’s and their Falcons. I hear, but do not see, the military planes practicing night maneuvers forty thousand feet above me.

Far away, in other deserts, people are killing each other. In this desert I am swimming and I can see the moon through the palm fronds.

In this desert, there will be people playing golf tomorrow morning. No one will be planting bombs here. Instead, thousands of gardeners will be planting peonies and azaleas and daisies and jacarandas.

In this desert, men and women who are tired of the rat race will rest and restore their souls as the breeze blows over the Santa Rosa Mountains and creeps through their plantation shutters onto their sleeping faces.

A friend of some forty years or more, Larry Wilson, used to say that when things were going badly in Hollywood, it was time to go down to the desert “to balance my aura.” I tried it many times and it usually works.

The stress just melts away as I lie on my deck, soaking wet, and watch the golfers lazily play just a few yards from where I am. The stress stays away when Wifey and I go out to dinner at El Paseo and are surrounded by polite, well-mannered Canadians and Iowans, instead of the tough as nails men and women who live near us in Beverly Hills.

This is a Midwestern small town, a slice of the best of Hollywood, a resort valley on a par with any in the world, and it’s affordable, gloriously beautiful — and still a short drive from the largest metropolitan area in America. It has a huge future and a huge present.

My wife says it to me over and over again as we prepare for sleep: “I love it here,” she says, “do we have to go back?”

Well, yes, we have to go back to Beverly Hills and Malibu, but only the desert changes our aura. We’ll be back.

Small town pace. Small town safety. Big city lodging and food and shopping. Two hours from Beverly Hills, and no one thinks Beverly Hills will change your aura — unless you get it changed from living to dead by a Bentley driver talking on his cell phone while he plows into your car.

Don’t get me wrong. Beverly Hills and Malibu are lush beyond words and I don’t deserve to live there. But the desert — even mostly paved over or seeded over by golf courses — has power to change your aura. The view of the golf course here at Morningside from where we eat lunch — that has power to change your life.

That’s a big one. All glory to the wonderful men and women who make the desert hum with a silent aura-changing dynamic breeze.

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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