Monday, February 2, 2009

Southern Exposure

A few weeks back I was talking with my father about the ailing economy. I was telling him about how nobody seems to want handbags in a recession so my boss was asking us to take unpayed days off; he was telling me about how his job at the American Friends Service Committee was coming to an end at the end of January. Sort of joking, I suggested that we take a funemployed-adventure vacation and to my surprise, he took me up on it! So, last week, my father and I flew to Southern California and spent a week at the Palm Springs condo my parents own and rent out to make some extra cash.


Let's just say that... my vacation wasn't just a break from the philadelphia cold and my daily routine, but also from my social class: The condo was literally ON the PGA west golf course and Palm Springs is completely filled with rich old people shopping in really bourgie strip malls.

(Actually right on the golf course... Notice how only the "lawns" and the parts where people have to tee off are kept at maximum green... that's because Palm Springs is actually in a desert. So.... all of this is forced greenery.)

Now, I know that I live in state of relative privilege (as proved by my ability to access this kind of vacation at all). I know that even though I'm a woman, I'm white and that because I grew up in an upper-middle class situation, the social position and power that comes with it will always be part of who I am and how the world responds to me. But, having just finished discussions about working class women of color in my feminist discussion group, I was shocked to see so many of the structures we had criticized being played out everywhere I looked- and to find myself implicit in them in ways beyond my control...

For example, when we arrived at the condo it turned out that the space had not been cleaned since the previous guests had been there. Every single bed had been used, every single towel dirtied; there was food in the fridge and on the counters... and all of the surfaces were covered with empty drink bottles and dirty tissues. (I don't leave my house that messy, let alone anywhere that I would stay on vacation!) As the "homeowner" my father (and myself) couldn't help feeling a little invaded by this past group. We wouldn't leave your house in such a state! But thus is the nature of renting (it's not like we're ever there... my parents have only ever been there once before and that was 5 years ago) and the only thing we could do was call the cleaners (a group of predominantly spanish-speaking women) and complain that they hadn't come on time- thus taking our frustration with the mess out on them. And they came, and they cleaned, and it was awkward. How do I convey that I'm a progressive feminist in that situation? Do I, can I at all? Is it inappropriate? I can't even articualte the way I feel without feeling a little bit ass-holey... How can we talk about these things?

I some ways, the "vacation from class" that I mentioned earlier is the exact opposite of the way I felt throughout the trip: I was aware of the classist structure of the area I was in at every moment of the trip.

That being said... my dad and I made choices that saved us money. We ate in a lot, cooking eggs and reduced-gluton toast, and we even made food from the fruit trees in the condo yards!

(Orange juice from the orange trees, grapefruits for breakfast, and a lemon meringue pie!)

And over-all, we had a great time! I loved spending time with my dad- traveling with him is so laid-back. (And I can kick his ass in boggle every time.) Here are some highlights from the trip:

We took an arial tramcar up to the top of Mt. San Jacinto! 8,500 ft up!

Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park!

Very educational tour of the Wind Farm!

Checking out tide-pools on the coast of San Diego!

And, CLEARLY, date shakes. That's right! Milkshakes made from dates! (I'm 70 at heart.)

Lots more photos and lots less socio-political rambling on my facebook page!


jessiezmac said...

yeah you pretty much nailed it on the head of the socio-economic class thing in southern california (which is totally like more easily visible in palm springs!!). i started noticing it again too just in the last couple of days that i've been back here - it's really kind of heartbreaking and hard to handle sometimes.

jessie :o)

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I loved your combo-nimals! especially their latin (sic) names! Great fun. Sounds like your trip with your dad was really nice -- I'm big on positive parent-kid time! Come back soon so you can beat us all at Boggle!