Bruce Fessier, Palm Springs Desert Sun

One is a desert oasis. The other is an "island of romance."

Both Palm Springs and Avalon, Catalina, are Southern California hideaways distinguished by their distinctiveness. But they also share so many parallels, it’s almost as if they exist in twin universes where images from the past live on in the present.

I’ve been exploring the symbiotic relationship between Palm Springs and Catalina since I was a kid. And my grown sons have enjoyed the 29-mile sea crossing from Long Beach since they were kids. So, in early June, we shoved off to celebrate an unusual month of milestones — including three birthdays, a wedding anniversary, a college graduation, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, my mother’s birthday and my wife’s annual children’s theater show. It was still considered Catalina's pre-season, so the island wasn't crowded and temperatures were ideal, hovering in the low 70s.

My only regret is that the Catalina Express stopped giving free birthday ferry rides last December. With all of our birthdays, it cost us a $73.50 round trip for sure.

Last year, we visited Catalina as a reward for attending a timeshare presentation. This year, we thought it wise to elevate the experience a bit. We traversed the coast in a motor boat instead of pedaling through the harbor. We rented a house that came with a golf cart instead of taking a bus to where its driver wanted to go. And we rented a cabana on Descanso Beach because, well, my L.A.-based son said that’s the way you’re supposed to enjoy Catalina.

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We had our first parallel universe crossover on that beach. I rented some skin-diving equipment to check out the fish that gravitate to you like moths to an underwater flame, and a woman at the counter recognized me from my Desert Sun photo. Teri Alexander told me she had moved to Catalina full time six years ago, but she had run a business in the desert called Two Moms Window Cleaning. And her partner was the mother of the family friend we had just asked to watch our dogs on this vacation!

That wasn't the only odd coincidence. The company that booked our Catalina house, Oranj Palm Vacation Homes, also books vacation rentals in my neighborhood. Catalina Island Vacation Rentals merged with the Palm Springs Rental Agency in 2016. So, go to and you’ll find a choice of vacation homes in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Catalina.

The featured entertainment at the Catalina Casino that Sunday was Charles Phoenix, author of the book, “Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style.” Four months earlier, I had sat next to him on a double-decker bus as he led a Modernism Week tour throughout Palm Springs.

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