Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Twenty - Healthy Living and California Car Culture (?)

Today's blog comes from the heart (and heat) of California's Coachella Valley in the exurban fringes of Palm Springs.  Yes, I made it here in one piece without strangling any of my travelling companions --including the dog who panicked at 3am and started barking in two of the motels we stayed in en route.

Have been here a few days now, and it's been a good setting for healthy eating (weight watcher points and my personal vegetable consumption targets have been met).  Will try to weigh in this Saturday to see if the scale agrees. I'm relishing the sun and desert landscapes which are a change from my usual rainforest abode in the Canadian Pacific Northwest.  The skies are so big and blue...

That said, I am absolutely floored by the degree of car culture here, which seems so wrong for a place that professes to be health conscious.  With the exception of the older part of Palm Springs, the rest of the city is laid out to completely discourage walking.  For example, if designed differently, the complex where my parents' place is situated could be an easy, flat, 15 minute walk from the local shopping centre, complete with gym, grocery store, and cinema.  Yet there's barely a shoulder on the road, and you'd be taking your life in your hands if you walked on that thin --and often non-existent-- margin of asphalt as cars zoom by at 110 km per hour (65mph). 

A few of the wealthy districts in some suburban cities have meandering lanes for golf carts that would also be safe for strolling on foot --but these cover a long distance beside the walls of gated communities before you reach any real destination (other than another gated community).  For all the rhetoric about freedom down here, it amazes me that people in this part of California would want to box themselves in so much with their walls, gates, and cars.  Tourist life here is so different from time spent in San Francisco where you can spend hours and hours walking or taking streetcars through all sorts of safe and interesting neighbourhoods.

Reining myself in ever so slightly from my walkability rant, I had an experience yesterday that served as an odd, but clear reminder of my need to get fit (the rationale for the vegetables-as-medicine project).  My thrifty mother took me to her favourite second hand (charity) shop called the Cellar Door.  She loves it because it's full of rich people's castoffs at extremely good prices.  Nearly all of the furniture in her living room came from there, including a lovely gold brocade sofa in pristine condition.  I thought it would be fun to browse the women's clothing section.  Now as a plus-sized woman this is often a challenge, but most second-hand stores will have at least a few items in my size.  Not this one.  All the outfits were size seros and size fours --I haven't felt like such a freak in a long, long time.  Made me think long and hard about my fitness goals...

Of course, as an ironic little twist my parents and I went later that evening to see Michael Moore's new film "Capitalism - a Love Story".  That evoked another set of mixed emotions for me, ranging from smugness to guilt about my own materialistic weaknesses.  There were five of us in a theatre that could seat two hundred --which may or may not reveal something about this place.  That said, I am enjoying the holiday and my vegetables as medicine project seems to be going well.

Ciao for now!

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