Palm Springs City Centre
Before venturing there I had always had something of a fascination with Palm Springs. As the getaway resort for numerous A-list celebrities in the 50’s and 60’s other than the fact that it was an escape from Hollywood, I often wondered what was it that drew them to a small town in the middle of the desert?
When I was planning to go there twenty years ago, Palm Springs was to be in the middle of a “budget” road trip through some of the South Western States of America.
It seems hard to imagine now trying to find decent, bed bug free, reasonably priced accommodation outside of the major hotels without the internet. Most of the time the only option was to turn up at the chosen destination and take pot luck that there would be something there to meet your needs. This takes time and eats into vacation time.
Luckily for me my parents had spent some time in Palm Springs the previous summer and had a recommendation: the Mira Loma Motel. It was apparently stuck in a 60’s time warp with each room adorned with Art Deco style furniture but above all it was clean and cheap. As icing on the cake, apparently Marilyn Monroe had spent some recreation time there in her heyday. Well, if it was good enough for Norma Jean……
The Legendary Mira Loma Motel in it’s Heyday
After three or four drive by’s each time missing the small building set back from the road, I soon found myself parked in front of the hotel lobby. I went into reception and was met by a pleasant lady, in her late fifties. She had clearly seen too much sun and cigarettes and had that puckered expression of one who enjoyed both vices in equal measure.
I was soon checked in and had the keys to the room in my hand. The receptionist suggested that I park the car around the back of the building as there was a gate there that allowed easy access to the complex and better still was a few feet from our room.
I duly parked the car around the rear of the hotel and proceeded to lug to two heavy suitcases from the boot of the car. I half carried, half dragged the cases to the gate and pushed it open with my foot. I heard a voice from my right “let me get that for you and an arm was extended across my shoulder to hold the gate open for me.
I turned and squinted into the mid day sun to say thank you but my good Samaritan was already on his way to his room with a wave of his hand. Something though struck me as being a little odd with this encounter. I shook my head. Must be seeing thing. The sun was high in the sky and I had left my sunglasses in the car…..
My wife opened the room and we were soon checking out our new surroundings: home for the next two nights.
I turned to my wife who was looking out of the window as if trying to check on something. I had to ask the question: “is it me, or was the guy holding the gate open for me completely naked?”. She turned and nodded. I knew that California had a reputation for being a liberal State for the USA but naked guests strolling around an everyday motel? Not that I am a prude but it did seem a little too much.
I tried to rationalise the situation. Maybe he had just had a shower and in his rush to help me at the gate, his towel had fallen off. A simple explanation for what could easily happen to any of us. Couldn’t it?
When I look out of the window, I saw the same guy open his room door, stroll out to the pool in nothing but a pair of flipflops. He flicked these off and dove straight into the pool. Try and rationalise that I thought.
What kind of motel had we come too? I began a search of the room to give a clue to this question. I soon found a postcard in a one of the bedside table drawers. On the back beneath the name and address of the motel were three words that made sense of everything: “CLOTHING OPTIONAL MOTEL”. Why would my parents have come to somewhere like this? With my two young sisters too! I then began to wonder if this was a practical joke. When I got home and confronted my parents they swore that the motel was nothing but a standard, everyday no frills motel when they were there. Not only was it no frills, it was no clothes to boot.
It now made sense why the woman on reception was dressed in nothing but a dressing gown at lunchtime. The doors to the motel were also frosted glass from top to bottom unlike most of the motels and hotels we had driven past on this stretch of road. Obviously, this was so that people walking and driving past couldn’t see the naked hotel guest cavorting in nothing but their birthday suits.
And so it was that I spent two nights (we were out most of the day thankfully) there. Breakfast was the most interesting part of the day. As it was warm the other guests thought nothing of standing around eating bagels, muffins and sipping coffee in the nude. I was not sure where to look – actually I was sure where not to look. – maintaining eye contact seemed to be the order of the day!
I cannot say that I was sorry to leave the motel. I am now thankful that with the internet similar mistakes are unlikely to be made!