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The Sun Runner The Magazine of the Real California Desert, December 2010/January 2011

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The Sun Runner The Magazine of the Real California Desert December 2010/January 2011—Vol. 16, No. 6 The Sun Runner Magazine PO Box 2171, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 (760)820-1222 • Publisher/Executive Editor:Steve Brown Founding Editor Emeritus: Vickie Waite Theatre/Film Editors: Jack & Jeannette Lyons Literary Editor: Delphine Lucas Music Editor: Judy Wishart Calendar & Social Media Editor, Asst. Publisher: Barbara Buckland

Contributing Writers Lorraine Blair • Steve Brown David Brown • Barbara Buckland John Di Pol • Lou Gerhardt Jack Lyons • Dennis Morrison Denise Ortuno Neil • Ruth Nolan DeRanger Steve Salkin • Linda Sibio Starsinger • Karine Swenson • Judy Wishart Contributing Photographers: Steve Brown • Mike Lipsitz Dennis Morrison • Denise Ortuno Neil Ruth Nolan • Sandy Scheller • Seth Shteir Renee Vargas • Judy Wishart Contributing Artists: Rik Livingston Karin Mayer • Eric Mueller Advertising Sales: Sam Sloneker, Travis, Puglici, Ryan Muccio

The Sun Runner The Magazine of the Real California Desert

December 2010/January 2011 The Desert Treasures Issue

Inside this Issue: Dry Heat, by Steve Brown ... 9 The Tortoise Telegraph News gathered from around the desert – at our own pace ... 11 Letters from ... you ... 12 Coachella Valley Confidential, by Denise Ortuno Neil ... 13 Woven Words, The Authors’ Page ... 15 Desert Art News, by Barbara Buckland & Steve Brown ... 16 Desert Treasures Special Section Their Own Calcutta, Mara Cantelo & John Tsiolis, by Scot McKone ... 21 Marta Becket, The Diamond of Death Valley Junction, by Barbara Buckland ... 22 Mayor Jacques-André Istel and Felicity’s Remarkable Monument to History & Remembrance, by Steve Brown ... 25 When a Legend Continues... Dick & Jimmy Dale, by Steve Brown ... 28 Spirit Run, Spiritual Journey, by Ruth Nolan ... 30 The Medicine Gardener: The Amazing Ocotillo, by Starsinger ... 32 Of Grizzlies & Tortoises, How Utility Scale Solar Threatens the Ecology of the Mojave Desert, by Seth Shteir ... 33 DeRanger Steve: The Outdoor Adventure, by Steve Salkin ... 34 Discovering Granite Mountain, by Dennis Morrison ... 35 Ridgecrest: The Other “Indian Wells”: 4 Treasures, by John Di Pol ... 36 Ramblings from Randsburg: On the Trail to... Randsburg...Gateway to the Treasure of a Golden Past, by Lorraine Blair ... 38 Desert Theatre Beat, by Jack Lyons ... 39 She’s Back – Artist/Performer Linda Sibio Returns!, by Linda Sibio & Steve Brown ... 40 Film Talk, by Jack Lyons ... 40 Hi-Desert Music News, by Judy Wishart ... 42 Hot tubbing with John the Hippie and his Magnificent Outdoor Shower (Scene Two – Act One), by David Brown ... 43 Positive Living: Jeff Hafler, by Lou Gerhardt ... 44 Hot Picks from The Sun Runner Calendar ... 44 The Best Places to Stay in the Real Desert ... 47

Distribution Manager: Sam Sloneker The Sun Runner Magazine features desert arts and entertainment news, desert issues and commentary, natural and cultural history, columns, poetry, stories by desert writers, and a calendar of events for the enormous California desert region. Published bimonthly. MAGAZINE DEADLINE: Nov. 22 for the December/January Desert Treasures Issue, for advertising, calendar listings, & editorial. To list a desert event free of charge in The California Deserts Visitors Association Calendar, please send your complete press release to, or mail to: Calendar, c/o: The Sun Runner Magazine, PO Box 2171, Joshua Tree, CA 92252. Please include all relevant information in text format. Notices submitted without complete information or in a wrong format may not be posted. Event information will not be taken over the telephone or telepathically. SUBMISSIONS: By mail to the address above; by email: publisher@thesunrunner. com, or stop us when we’re at the Desert Queen Mine, like everybody else does. SUBSCRIPTIONS: $22/year U.S.A. ($38/ year International, $38 trillion Intergalactic) Cover Art — The Two Kings, by Steve Brown Copyright © 2010/2011 The Sun Runner. Dick Dale is the legendary King of Surf Guitar, as well as a resident of the hiPermission for reproduction of any part of this publication must be obtained from the desert. Dick’s son, Jimmy, is an emerging talent who is continuing his father’s publisher. The opinions of our contributors musical legacy. Both are true desert treasures, and we honor them this issue. are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the magazine, which is an Are you a desert artist or photographer? Would you like your work on the cover inanimate object. We have made some effort of The Sun Runner Magazine? Send copies of work you’ve done that might be apto be accurate, but we are not responsible for propriate for our cover to errors or omissions in material submitted to Are you interested in The Sun Runner Magazine’s 17 years of growth as the only us, nor claims by advertisers. Advertising, press releases, and public service announce- regional desert media for the California deserts? If so, join our Desert Readers ments accepted at the mysterious discretion Advisory Group (DRAG). To sign up for future DRAG meeting notifications, email of the all-knowing publisher. 8 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011


e live on an incredible planet, rich in natural beauty, and awe-inspiring creations of our fellow human beings. I’ve been in perpetual amazement and reverence of all I’ve encountered in my half-century on the planet, and my sense of wonder isn’t showing any signs of letting up. Whether I’m wandering among the temples of Ayutthaya or walking the walls of Troy; riding an underground river to a place of ancient Mayan refuge or hanging out a helicopter over an erupting volcano, I feel as if there is such a stunning wealth of beauty, life, and culture on our Earth that we are blessed beyond belief. At the same time, through the ongoing loss of wild places of beauty and the neglect and deterioration of human masterpieces, I’ve become keenly aware of the transitory nature of these treasures. Every society has different approaches toward both the natural world and cultural creations. Societal values differ and adapt, methods of supporting and preserving these treasures alter when other factors change. Attitudes towards these treasures change over time in response to economic pressures, war, famine, or technology. Nothing stays the same but my conviction that the most valuable “things” on the planet are not comprised of little rectangular green pieces of paper. Most societies have ways to formally

recognize cultural treasures, and ours is no different. As a nation, we have much to be proud of with our national parks, museums, preserves, wilderness, and foundations for preservation, art, and culture. But regionally, we offer very little in the way of formal recognition or support for many of our cultural treasures. About four years ago, I began to think about my experiences exploring the desert and their meaning. I believe it was at a performance by Marta Becket in the Amargosa Opera House when I began to understand the need for not only recognizing the wealth of cultural and natural treasures the desert offers, but also the need to share these treasures with our readers. Sitting in the Amargosa Opera House prior to the sold-out performance in the almost non-existent town of Death Valley Junction, I listened to the crowd as I gazed up at the patrons Marta had painted on the walls so many years before. I heard Italian, Chinese, German, and English—real English—being spoken all around me. But when we returned from our trip through the Death Valley region, I found most desert residents had not only never gone to the Amargosa Opera House, but during Marta’s 40-plus years of performing, almost nobody I asked even knew who she was. Here was an extremely talented performer and visual artist who had a

reputation that drew an audience from around the globe, but most people in the desert had no idea she existed—after four decades on the stage. I saw that same scenario repeated after a visit to Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, and when I ran a photo of his magnificent creation on the cover of this magazine a couple years back, many people didn’t pick up the issue because “God is love,” was painted across the mountain. Recently, I was once again reminded of how much our desert has to offer during a visit with the mayor of Felicity, Jacques André Istel, and Felicia, namesake of the town. This issue is what I hope will become an annual celebration of the true wealth of the desert—its people (past and present), their creative spirit and contributions to our true desert culture, and our natural treasures that inspire and amaze. We have our own little celebration coming up on January 8, and we’d like to invite you to join us. We’ll be commemorating the start of our 17th year of publishing with the magazine’s Sweet 16 Birthday Party, from 5 to 10 p.m., under the tent at the 29 Palms Inn. We’ll have entertainment, food and drink, special guests (especially if you come to the party!), and a few surprises. Please consider yourself invited and on the A-List. I hope to see you then! -

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 9

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An Endorsement for the Desert The Sun Runner is pleased to endorse the California Desert Protection Act of 2010. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed legislation would help protect around 1.6 million acres of desert lands, which we believe will benefit from the bill. We have, through our highly disappointing dealings with the BLM and California Energy Commission over the past six months, as well as the Eagle Mountain dump that won’t die (it’s like the worst B-horror flick, coming back to life again and again after stakes are driven into it repeatedly), and various other power projects, including the now-dead (we hope) Green Path North, come to believe that more protection for desert lands is necessary. This legislation provides more of a mandate for preservation, coming at a time when the desert continues to be ripe for plundering during the new green energy gold rush. The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 would create two new national monuments, the Mojave Trails National Monument along Route 66, and the Sand to Snow National Monument, from Whitewater up into the San Bernardino Mountains (adding protection to places such as the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, where the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plotted the course of Green Path North, straight through the Preserve, which also is designated a BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern). The proposed legislation would also add to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, as well as the Mojave National Preserve, while expanding some wilderness areas and protecting waterways such as the Whitewater River, Deep Creek, and the Amargosa River as

Wild and Scenic Rivers. The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 would help protect tribally significant lands, environmentally sensitive lands and wildlife, as well as cultural and historical resources, while preserving more open and scenic vistas in danger from development, and encouraging tourism throughout the desert region. The legislation is not perfect (no legislation is), and there are concerns from both the environmental and off-roading/ public access sides. Our endorsement is made with the belief that these concerns can, and will be, worked out to leave access to historic routes and to ensure the off-road community will continue to have access to designated recreational areas and trails. It is our hope that this legislation could lead to a more responsible management plan for off-road vehicle use across public lands in the California desert that will, in turn, lead to more collaboration and cooperation between all concerned parties. With proper implementation, the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 could not only lay the framework for better desert management practices on public lands, but it could bring crucial economic benefits to desert communities through tourism and recreational opportunities. Studies show that visitors spend around $230 million each year in the California desert region, with more than 6.5 million visitor days reported annually by our national parks and wilderness areas. Tourism, travel, and recreation play a significant role in the economy of the region, and it is our belief that this proposed legislation would increase that economic contribution, supporting small businesses across the desert.

“As a fourth generation resident of Inyo County and the Amargosa I am grateful that legislation is being presented that will protect this beautiful and unique land for future generations. As the owner and operator of Shoshone Village, which employs over twenty-five people, I feel strongly that this legislation also will protect the financial future of the region.” – Susan Sorrells, Shoshone With the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the Inland Empire to the west, and the Las Vegas metropolitan area to the east, the California desert region is in danger from over-development that will create more lasting damage to our region if we do not act soon. The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 provides a framework for taking positive action toward better management of our region, and providing some protection for its natural resources. From Route 66, an endangered American cultural treasure, to two new national monuments, and wild rivers, sacred lands, and wildlife habitat needing protection, this legislation sets a way forward for this management, and we are proud to join with desert city governments, chambers of commerce, businesses, and a broad range of organizations and user groups in supporting Senator Feinstein’s legislation. For more information about this proposed legislation, please visit www.

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Blown in on the wind... Prop 21, which The Sun Runner endorsed last issue, failed in the November elections, leaving the fate of hundreds of California State Parks, and the entire parks system, up in the air. We hope the new gubernatorial administration can work with the legislature to find a permanent and productive solution to funding our state’s natural, historical, and cultural treasures, but we’re not holding our breath. We could have saved them for $18 a year per car, but we didn’t. Now, it’ll likely cost us a heck of a lot more—one way or another. Tragedy struck in 29 Palms on November 20 when 21 year-old Marine corporal Joshua Kruzik was charged with murder in the death of Audrey Allen, an 18-month old baby girl. Audrey was reportedly in Kruzik’s care while he was staying with her parents, and died of blunt force trauma. Our hearts and prayers go out to Audrey and her parents. Many of the 90 California fan palms at the Willis Oasis area of the Coachella Valley Preserve that were burned in a fire on November 26, should recover, according to the BLM. The palm trees should regrow their fronds come spring, though it will take years for the skirts of dead fronds (which serve as habitat for some of the more interesting residents of the oasis) to return. The cause of the fire is under investigation. An internal review by the BLM of its policies and procedures for permitting off-highway vehicle events has found the federal agency did not adhere to its own procedures during the Mojave Desert Racing Production’s California 200 tragedy that killed eight race spectators in Johnson Valley on August 14. The agency’s handling and oversight of events like the California 200 has to be questionable at best, with little to no supervision of the race taking place. The accident scenario shows race spectators violating safety restrictions, with no security personnel in sight. While this accident was horrific for everyone involved, clearly there is a need for better safety practices at off-road races. Every form of racing has experienced accidents, some easily preventable, but while stronger procedures need to be implemented to prevent future tragedies, it is deplorable that some opponents of off-road vehicle use took the opportunity this tragedy provided to come forward to condemn all off-road vehicle use, capitalizing on the high-profile nature of this horrible accident to further their cause. 12 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

A Noet from a Poet... Steve, a note to say I very much enjoyed your Dry Heat column in the October/ November issue of The Sun Runner on art. One phrase in particular stands out: “Art can help transcend time, socialized norms, prejudice, and artifice, to connect people on a deeper, more archetypal level.” So, so true... I am a poet who just moved out to the Coachella Valley from LA (by way of Boston) and after reading your column and the Oct/Nov issue thought I might reach out and suggest a poem be included in each issue of the magazine. It seems like a natural. I did this a few years back with the Yogi Times magazine (see the attached poem entitled Jerome, penned for one of my music heroes Jerry Garcia) and it was quite successful. I think we did about a dozen of them before financial difficulties forced the magazine’s closure. I have taken the liberty of attaching a brief bio as well as another poem of mine entitled Death Valley. As indicated, I have published two books of poetry and co-produced (along with Marty Rifkin, Bruce Springsteen’s pedal steel player who lives in LA) two CD’s of music & poetry. I have performed my work at the LA Times Book Festival @ UCLA, The Ruskin Art Club, Beyond Baroque and many other fine venues throughout SoCal. I am also on the Board of Directors for Tebot Bach (, a non-profit poetry foundation, currently editing a book series for them entitled The Deeper Dimension. My web-site is Please let me know if the inclusion of a poem in each issue would be of interest and we can get together over the phone or in person to discuss. Thank-you in advance for your consideration. Brian Michael Tracy Brian, we’d love to include more poetry, but have to pay for all these pages. Until we can afford all the pages we want, we’ll have to make do with our annual Desert Writers Issue, where poetry and prose prevail! Thanks for writing!


truly believe that there is somewhere that everyone goes to re-group, re-think, re-charge, let go and let be. For some it may be a park or a garden, or taking a drive may do the trick. But for me I take a short jaunt to Palm Springs and release myself to Our Lady of Solitude Church. It is not a scheduled ritual by any means, which makes it all the more special, because you see, it is always there for me, waiting to help, to encourage, to embrace. It is my sanctuary. Perhaps it’s the old world smell that exudes from the walls of the church, reminding me of the great cathedrals in Europe which draws me to this quaint church in Palm Springs. Or maybe it’s just the quiet temperament that embodies the church, how it is never in a hurry, exempt from the blind rush of life around it. Whatever the reason is that I seem to find myself at its doorstep time and time again, is a reason the Man in charge (and you know who I mean) can only answer. Now I don’t mean to infringe, upset, be un-pc or ruffle any sue happy people’s feathers out there who might find some sort of religious recruitment value in what I’m talking about. But relax; this is not

a timeshare sales presentation. You will not be required to buy anything and the warm fuzzy feeling after reading this article is really free, and it won’t take you 90 minutes. However, if I were trying to sell you something, a visit to this beautiful church would not be a hard sell. Our Lady of solitude Church has some serious historical significance in Palm Springs, being that it was one of the first Catholic Churches in the city. The church was completed in 1930 after years of fund raising and petitioning efforts by church leaders and other religious minded citizens. And as a result, Our lady of Solitude Church celebrated its eightieth birthday this last February, joining the other octogenarians living nearby. It amazes me to think what the church has seen in its eighty years of existence, the growth of the city around it must be overwhelming for it at times. You may think it strange how I speak of this house of worship as if it were a living entity, but it’s not strange at all. It is widely known that buildings hold their own energy, and to think that a church, of all places, would deserve the same possibility is really not that farfetched. It’s actually

more probable. For over eighty years the faithful have been coming to Our Lady of Solitude for help with their sicknesses, their financials, their souls, their lives and those of family and friends. As well as weddings, funerals and baptisms. The comfortable silence of the church is inviting, and the ghostly memories of those who have prayed before only add to the antiquity of the ambience. I don’t remember when I started going to the church, and I quite honestly hesitated about including it into my column. Sort of like telling people about a great restaurant, and then not being able to get a table yourself because of its new found popularity. But I believe that a place like Our Lady of Solitude Church is something very special, and needs to be shared as all churches should be. And it doesn’t matter what faith you choose to practice, because upon entering the church, the reality of something bigger is undeniable, and the belief that you’ve found a true desert treasure will be too. Our Lady of Solitude Church is located at 151 West Alejo Road in Palm Springs. There is part of the desert that is totally for the birds, but I mean that in

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Our Lady of Solitude Church. Denise at the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center in Indio, inset (photo by Renee Vargas).

the most complimentary way. Just a hop, skip and a roll of the dice from a couple of east valley casinos, sits an amazing refuge for our feathered friends. It’s the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center in Indio. I recently had the stunning pleasure of visiting this hidden gem and some of the wonderful people who make it all happen. The non-profit organization started over twenty-four years ago with the direct intent to care for birds that were sick, injured or abandoned. After almost a decade, the CVWBC opened to the public on land that was provide by the Valley Sanitary District. The Executive Director Linda York and others involved with the center have worked tirelessly over the years taking care of birds in need throughout the Coachella Valley. “People bring in birds all the time”, Linda told me. I also spoke with volunteer Diane Franco and met a rather diva like Barn Owl named Corazon. As I toured the facility we came to the wetlands area, that’s right, I said the wetlands. (Who knew?) It was breathtaking to see all kinds of birds happily flying about an indulging themselves in water and playing hide and go seek in the tall grass. The Wetland Habitat opened in 2001 expanding the center to over 22 acres, giving the public a unique opportunity for birding and photography. There are even towers available to augment the view, and what a view it is. That day, I could see the east valley clearly including the neighboring casino which sits in sharp contrast to the Wild Bird Centers serenity. Visiting the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center was quite the experience, and the dedicated volunteers that work there do a great service to the community of wildlife and people alike. The desert continues to surprise me at every turn, with what seems to be a bounty of untapped and humble finds…the adventure continues. Find out more about the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center at 14 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

I feel like I was just here, in the startup chaos to the holiday season. You know, the shopping, the traffic, the pressure of what to promise for my New Year’s resolution. A year has gone by so fast, and I really don’t remember what last year’s resolution was. Actually, I think it was something fairly simple like, to be happy in all aspects of my life, and to slow down and take things in stride. I think I’m halfway there; maybe it was like a lay away plan. I would accomplish it slowly, a little then and a little for next year’s resolution, baby steps. Well I’m glad that part of the holiday is taken care of, baby steps I say. So let’s take a couple steps together, and see what wonderful “can’t miss” events will be taking place in the near future. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but that’s because it’s so good and tasty, that would be the International Tamale Festival in Indio on December 4th and 5th. I personally like to go on the last day because all of the tamales have been judged and you know right where to go, call (760)391-4175 for additional information. I also would like to recommend the 19th Annual Festival of Lights Parade in Palm Springs on December 4. This year’s festival is extra special because it was almost canceled due to city cutbacks, and it was the business owners in downtown who insisted and made it happen at www.palmspringslights. com. Thanks guys! There’s the 22nd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, January 6 - 17 for all of you film buffs. Call (760)7788979 for details. And of course, balls will be flying at the Bob Hope Classic January 17 - 23. There’s way more to tell you about, but this column is only so long, so for more event information visit, I wish you happy holidays and a prosperous and joyous New Year. Catch you next year on Coachella Valley Confidential!

New Mysterious Mojave Comic Book Ever wanted to be in on the making of a comic book? Well you can support The Sun Runner’s first comic book project—Mysterious Mojave, Volume 1. With artwork by Desert Hot Springs artist Billy Makuta, and words by Steve Brown and Locopelli, plus much more, this new comic book will take readers on a journey to the strange and interesting side of the Mojave Desert. Visit to find out how to support Mysterious Mojave and get signed copies, original artwork, and other incentives for supporting this new project. Get a signed copy of Mysterious Mojave for only $10, or for $30, get a signed copy and a year’s subscription to The Sun Runner. Or be the Honorary Publisher and Locopelli’s Great Friend of the Mojave Desert! Palm Springs Writers Guild Scholarship Winner Claire Davidson of Cathedral City is the recipient of the Palm Springs Writers Guild’s Barbara Seranella 2010 scholarship of $1,000. The scholarship will go toward Davidson’s education at UC Santa Cruz where she is currently a sophomore. The PSWG scholarship is based on merit, including demonstrated writing skills. A graduate of Palm Springs High School, Claire says she decided to become a writer when she wrote a book during second grade. Her teacher entered it into a regional contest where Davidson received third place. Recently Davidson completed her first novel and is in the painful critique process. For more information on the Palm Springs Writers Guild, visit Ridge Writers’ News The Ridge Writers in Ridgecrest are hosting Maryann Butterfield as their featured speaker on January 5. Butterfield will discuss researching historical fiction. Daniel Stallings will be the club’s featured speaker on February 2, talking about “Making the Most of Your Book Signings.” Both meetings will be held at High Desert Haven at 6:30 p.m. The Youth Writing Competition hosted by the Ridge Writers produced two top winners: Heather Couillard, age 10, a fifth grader at Las Flores Elementary, and Sawyer Chrisman, age 11, a sixth grader at Monroe Middle School. Heather wrote an imaginative tale about “My Favorite Worm” (a gummy worm, as it turns out), and Sawyer’s winning entry was “My Favorite Disasters in Terribleville.” For Ridgecrest writers, check out Also in Ridgecrest... The American Association of University Women recently transfered the copyright for the “Indian Wells Valley and Upper Mojave Desert Handbook,” from the AAUW to the Maturango Museum. Liz Babcock, the museum’s history curator, serves as coordinator of the museum’s publication efforts. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 15

ART CLASSES & MORE Eric Mueller’s “Last Supper.”

6847 Adobe Road 760.361.1805 Located across from Barr Lumber

TWENTYNINE PALMS 29 Palms Art Gallery Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair: Saturday, December 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. More than 35 artists & crafters participate in this special event that includes art, cards, crafts, holiday gifts, wooden toys, jewelry, purses, clothing and accessories. Gallery and gift shop are open until 3 p.m. Bonnie Brady and Richard Hardman: paintings, mixed media, collages, and paper-making, photography. December 5-26. Reception Sunday, December 5, 12-3 p.m. Andy Woods and Eric Mueller: photography and acrylic. December 29-January 30. Wednesday through Sunday, 12-3 p.m. 74055 Cottonwood Dr., 29 Palms. (760) 367-7819.

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29 Palms Creative Center (See the 29 Palms Inn below for information on the exhibit with Gretchen Grunt, proprietor of the 29 Palms Creative Center.) The 29 Palms Creative Center offers a wide variety of classes: Holiday Greeting Cards with the Monotype: December 4, Saturday, 12-2 p.m. $55. The Beginning Potter: December 4, Saturday, 2-4 p.m. $30. Holiday Greeting Cards Sewn: December 11, Saturday, 12-2 p.m. $55. Hand Building with Clay: December 11, Saturday, 2-4 p.m. $30. Holiday Greeting Cards with the Monoprint: December 18, Saturday, 12-2 p.m., $55. Linoleum Block Prints with Color: January 8, Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., $50. The Stained Glass Enthusiast: January 15, Saturday 11 a.m.-1 p.m., $30. The Beginning Potter: January 22, Saturday 11 a.m.-1 p.m., $30. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 74055 Cottonwood Dr., 29 Palms. (760)3677819. The 29 Palms Inn, Oasis of Mara Gretchen Grunt and Chuck Caplinger. Chuck Caplinger’s commercial art career

16 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

dates to the 1960s, with RCA Service Co., contracted to NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, at George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, as an art director/illustrator servicing Wernher Von Braun’s Research and Development Dept. After moving to California in 1980, he worked with Lonestar Pictures, painted celebrity portraits, and operated Caplinger Studio in Hollywood. In 1997, Caplinger, with his actress wife Holgie Forrester, established his new creative base, Desert Art Studio & Gallery, in 29 Palms, where he creates oil paintings, portraits, and murals of the Southwest. His award-winning paintings and portraits hang in public and private collections around the world, and his historical murals are represented in cities throughout California and Texas. As a native Californian, Gretchen Grunt knew she was looking for an adventure in the arts. With little formal instruction, Gretchen began her education at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, and graduated with distinction from Sonoma State University after an intensive two-year study in the traditional printmaking methods of etching and lithography. Gretchen then returned to San Luis Obispo becoming an active member of the San Luis Artists’ Gallery in the historic Creamery, where Gretchen directed the painting of a mural that still exists today. Gretchen returned to 29 Palms in 2003, where she made her studio open to the public, leading to the establishment of the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery. Gretchen works in any medium that takes hold of her imagination, beginning with painting, life drawing, and then printmaking on or off the etching presses, mosaics, collaging, & most recently bookmaking. She also teaches private art classes with students of all ages & skill levels. Gretchen donates 3 percent of her art

sales to the Mojave Desert Land Trust in an effort to give back thanks. This exhibit is sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, and runs through December. The gallery is open daily. Oasis of Mara, 29 Palms Inn, 73950 Inn Ave. (off National Park Dr.), 29 Palms. (760)367-3505. 29 Palms Art in Public Places Diana Shay Diehl & David Greene. Desert photography and humorous “Hy-Desert” painted works are featured through December 30. Born in Bamberg, West Germany, and raised in South Carolina, Diehl migrated to the California desert in 1984. Inspired by her older brother, Daniel Shay, Diana developed a love of the arts and spent her early years immersed in museums, galleries, and discussions of art and life. Diehl’s photography has been a life-long venture, with formal training in black-and-white film processing under the tutelage of photographer Andrew Schumaker, a student of Ansel Adams. Her exhibit at City Hall is titled “Mojave Light Images.” A self-taught artist, David Greene made his artistic debut as a caricature artist at Ameriflora 92, an international floral show in Columbus, Ohio. Greene joined Acme Art Company in 1993, and spent the next seven years volunteering and directing the non-profit alternative art space in Columbus’ Short North Arts District. His artwork is included in the Ohio Arts Council permanent collection. Greene moved to 29 Palms in 2006 and has since exhibited his art in local galleries and the Hwy 62 Art Tours. In 2008 he painted six exterior murals for the Holiday Inn Express in 29 Palms. Greene says, “California Hy-Desert Brand started as a private joke…. Inspired by California orange crate label art of the last century, I depict the ‘fruits’ of the high desert area in which I live.” The Art in Public Places exhibit is sponsored by the Public Arts Advisory Committee. Lyn Sells & Zander Hardin. January & February. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. 29 Palms City Hall, 6136 Adobe Rd., 29 Palms. (760)367-6799. JOSHUA TREE Crossroads Café Rik Verlin Livingston’s “Beautiful Downtown Joshua Tree” through January 5. Rosa Poulsen’s paintings & Cheryl Kandel’s paintings & fiber art, January 5-March 2.

True World Gallery “Becoming” - New Works by William Loveless. December 4-January 2. Artist’s reception, December 4, 7-10 p.m. The Red Arrow Gallery and Lounge ‘From Here From There’ Series #4. Tim Easton & Dan Rhema. December 4-January 31. Opening reception December 4, 7-10 p.m. Art Queen Jack Pierson. Through March. By appointment, or Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p. m. Woods in the Desert ”The Gift Show.” Through December 23. “My Best Photo” Group Show. Also works by Cindy Daigneault. Through January. Opens Saturday, January 8. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Joshua Tree Art Gallery Sparse: James Moses, James Hayward, Scot Heywood, Diane Best (our hearts are with you), C.J. Lawrence. December 11-31, opening reception Saturday, December 11, 5:30-8:30 p.m. YUCCA VALLEY

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Hi-Desert Nature Museum “Water in the Desert:” College Photography Exhibition. January 7 - March 6. Opening Reception, Friday, January 7, 5-7 p.m. Photography prints by 26 college students from Copper Mountain & Mt. San Jacinto Colleges. Personal interpretations of water in desert environments, including oases, desert streams, pools, thunderstorms, and flash floods, as well as how water can be used or conserved. Adult Craft Program. Sunday, December 5, 2-5 p.m. Take some time out of your hectic holiday schedule and enjoy an afternoon making crafts. Kids Craft Program. Saturday, December 11, 10 a.m. - noon. Make a holiday-themed craft to keep or to give as a gift. HiDesert Nature Museum, 57090 29 Palms Hwy.,Yucca Valley. (760)369-7212. Tamma’s Magic Mercantile Artists featured in Tamma’s include nature and wildlife photography of David McChesney, Christy Anderson’s license plate and “junk art,” Christopeher Pheyk glass blower and art, Divine Design greeting cards by Barbara Penney, Claire Montrose stained glass windows and bottle crosses, Frederick Ruldolph leather art, gourd art of Ronald Churchwell. 10 December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 17

TWENTYNINE PALMS ART GALLERY AND GIFT SHOP Desert Art Native American Jewelry and Southwestern Gifts 74055 Cottonwood Dr. (off National Park Dr.) Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-7819

Open: 12 to 3 PM Wednesday–Sunday Summer Hours: 12 to 3 Friday-Saturday-Sunday

This innocuous piece of artwork, The Dream Screen, by Rik Livingston, was banned by the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, just when a show of Rik’s art was set to open at the chamber’s offices. Based on Henri Rousseau’s famous, “The Dream,” Rik’s work somehow was censored by a board made up of a gallery owner, artists, and other creative people. Chamber President George Kopp evidently responded to our request for an explanation by sending it to somebody else, as we never received any response from the chamber whatsoever, but were able to read it published online. It didn’t answer our questions anyway. The chamber cobbled together a compromise by opening night, and a Holiday Art Censorship Show opens December 18 at the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery, which isn’t afraid of the occasional boob—or worse! a.m-5 p.m daily. 55727 29 Palms Hwy., Yucca Valley. (760) 228-0700. MORONGO VALLEY

“The Community’s Natural Foods Store”

Joshua Tree Health Foods

Your Informed Mind, Healthy Body Connection Fresh Organic Produce • Refrigerated & Frozen Bulk & Packaged Foods • Herbs • Supplements Body Care • Books • Apparel 61693 Twentynine Palms Hwy., Joshua Tree, CA Corner of 29 Palms Hwy. & Sunset Rd.

9:00-6:00 Monday thru Saturday


18 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

The Purple Agave Art Gallery Group Show: Bryan Jonasse, Penelope Krebs, Barbara Well Roberts, Cheryl Jordan, James Hagerty, Gwendolyn Awen Jones, Bob Nelson, Wally Pacholka, Tami Woods, & Renee Schwab. Through January. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. PALM SPRINGS Palm Springs Arts Festival Traditional and contemporary artists, arts, crafts, jewelry. Friday-Sunday, January 21-23, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Palm Springs Art Museum Modern Masters Celebrate Line and Form, through December 28. Richard Avedon: Fashion, Stage, and Screen, through

January 30. Photographing the American West: Selections from the Permanent Collection, through February 27. Classes, workshops, films, more. Free from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m.–5.m. second Sunday each month. Palm Springs First Wednesday Art Walk December 1 & January 5. Hosted by the Backstreet Art District. Galleries and studios featuring modern and contemporary fine art. Wednesday, 6-9 p.m. Dezart One Gallery Group Show: “Offbeat Impulse,” Marlene Bergman & Robert Newman. Encore Artist Reception, Saturday, December 18, 7-9 p.m. Show runs until January 2. Solo Show: “Nonobjective Idiom,” New Works by Downs. January 5-February 13. Artist Reception, Saturday, January 15, 7-9 p.m. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum Song of the Basket. Through October 16, 2011. Baskets of the Cahuilla women. Flora Patencio Collection. Permanent. Flora Patencio was a strong leader in the history of the Agua Caliente people. Exhibition studies basket making. Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m. Closed Monday & Tuesday. 219 S. Palm Canyon Dr. (760)323-0151. PALM DESERT 1st Thursday El Paseo Art Walk Gallery stroll on El Paseo. January 6, 5-7 p.m. TECOPA Tecopa Hot Springs Resort “Celebrating Image and Word:” Bill Dahl and Cynthia Anderson. Artists’ reception, January 15, 2-5 p.m. Gallery open daily 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Show runs January 15-February 24. LA QUINTA Art Under the Umbrellas. January 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. RIDGECREST Maturango Museum Rebecca Smith, “Tapestry Interpretation of Ancient Imagery.” Through, January 12. Members Show. January 13-March 9. Artists reception January 14, 7-9 p.m. Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday nights until 8 p.m. Admission free to store and information area, to exhibits and art gallery for members; non-members admission $5 adults, $3 students, seniors. Maturango Museum, 100 E. Las Flores Ave. (760) 375-6900, BORREGO SPRINGS First Friday Nights December 3, January 7, 5-8 p.m. Borrego Art Institute “Home” Show,” through December 14. Community Open Show & BUSD Student Art Exhibit K-12, December 18-January 11. Opening reception, December 18, 5-8 p.m. More detailed information on all these art exhibits and events, plus those arriving after deadline, is available on our online calendar listings at December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 19

20 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011


hen Mother Teresa found her mailbox flooded with letters from people wanting to join her endeavor to care for the poor, her response was typically the same: “Find your own Calcutta.” And for two local residents leading similar paths to help the needy, they discovered their own Calcutta here in the Morongo Basin: Mara Cantelo, founder of Tender Loving Christmas (TLC), and John Tsiolis, proprietor of John’s Place. Tsiolis’ journey began in Greece as a child, and with his country’s economy still shattered from the effects of World War II, he was no stranger to pangs of childhood hunger. After immigrating to the United States and working in a restaurant in Los Angeles, he found similar conditions of need afflicting the homeless. “Working in Los Angeles,” he says, “is where I learned of serving free meals on Thanksgiving.” After moving to the Hi-Desert, Tsiolis, in spite of economic downturns, continued to provide the traditional feast and this year marks his restaurant’s 25th anniversary of serving free breakfasts and Thanksgiving dinners. With the kitchen’s ovens heated up and preparing turkey a full week before Thanksgiving, the restaurant on Thanksgiving day serves an average 1,600 breakfasts and 1,000 dinners with employees chipping in with donated three-hour work shifts. Reflecting a glow of sincerity with a twinkle in his eye, Tsiolis says, “In appreciation of customer loyalty, and for those unable to afford a meal at Thanksgiving, the welcome mat is placed at the door.” In experiencing another kind of hunger that wounds the sturdiest of hearts—loneliness—Mara Contelo’s doors swung open 27 years ago when she founded TLC. After spending a Christmas alone, she vowed there would never be a repeat: “Everybody should have a place to be on what is sometimes the loneliest day on earth.”

As a young girl growing up in the Morongo Basin, the close-knit community surrounding her taught that everybody takes care of one another. And with TLC it’s the same – a yearround community event where scores of individual volunteers and numerous citizen organizations bond together to help others. As TLC’s efforts culminate at the Yucca Valley community center on Christmas day with up to 2,300 meals served, dinners delivered to shut-ins, gifts for needy children and those confined to convalescent homes, Cantelo confides, “one in seven people in the basin have been touched by TLC’s efforts.” Over the years, with one in seven people touched throughout the basin, Cantelo recounts two small stories: “On Christmas day a call came in from a woman whose neighbor was dying of cancer and she was in care of the neighbor’s children.” When the woman commented that the children’s house was undecorated, TLC set to work: “We found a spare Santa, rounded up a few elves, decorated the house, brought food and made them a Christmas.” Unfortunately however, though the mother and her children shared a special Christmas together, the cancer took her life shortly thereafter. Recalling the story of the boy who was “gettin’ nothin’’’ for Christmas, Cantelo says it wasn’t because the boy was bad. “The boy came to TLC and said his family could not afford a tree. We went into the lot and found a tree, and while not asking for a single gift, the tree was all it took to make the boy and his family’s Christmas shine a little brighter.” While some have fleeting thoughts of doing something special for their community but never making the time to do so, Cantelo and Tsiolis along with an army of volunteers exemplify the phrase, “giving back.” With Cantelo sometimes called the “Mother Teresa of the Morongo Basin,” and Tsiolis’ restaurant open on Thanksgiving for grace rather than profit, it appears both have found “their own Calcutta” here at home. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 21


arta has transformed an abandoned,run-down theater, in a ghostly town where two lonesome highways meet, into a vibrant, glowing, evolving, breathing work of art, a timeless tribute to all Marta holds dear: respect for history, the arts, culture, humor, humanity, and, most of all, dance. Murals painted by Marta cover the walls and ceiling of the theater she discovered by accident in while touring in 1967, knowing the instant she saw it she had to have it. As she restored it, she was renewed as it gave her the freedom to express herself in a way she felt truly reflected her potential. From Marta’s autobiography,”To Dance On Sands:” “The only time she felt free was when she dancing. Performing her own creations on her own stage…it would be like dancing forever. Then, one day, in the middle of Death Valley, it appeared to her like a dream. A beautiful theater that no one wanted… Now 86, Marta was born in New York City on August 9, 1924, to Helen and Henry Beckett. Marta’s mother loved music and had it playing constantly and Marta danced to the classics as soon as she could sway. Her father was a newspaper theater critic who took the toddler to events ranging from “Swan Lake” to Coney Island. Back at home, Marta would sketch her days using newsprint tablets and crayons. Marta decided after one especially memorably evening that the theater would be her life. She made her own costumes from her mother’s castoff evening gowns and was enrolled in the arts-oriented preschools of the day. More than anything she wanted to dance. Marta’s parents separated before Marta was born, and at the 22 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

age of five, Marta’s mother returned to her home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. To support herself and Marta, Helen did a wide variety of jobs including furniture restoration, gambling on the stock market, and sewing costumes for the theater. Marta accompanied her mother to her theater job and it was there Marta had her first stage roles. An only child, taller and thinner than others her age, Marta felt an outsider and was much happier in her room with her sketch pad and crayons. She had a large rag doll named Echo and played with block people— her first audience. Marta, though lacking formal training, was gifted as both a musician and artist, and obtained scholarships at Philidelphia’s “Settlement Music School,” which she attended in additional to public school. She was very happy about this, but wondered when she’d be able to study her real love, dance. Her art teacher pushed her toward creating large scenes on subjects of her choosing, nurturing creative confidence over training. Piano was more difficult. She struggled to learn sight-reading, as her eyesight was poor, even with glasses. But, she played well by ear and had enough creative confidence that she began composing her own music, teaching herself how to write it out on music paper. Attendance at cultural events continued. A matinee of three ballets, and “Swan Lake,” Gaite Parisienne,” Scherherazade,” became a transcendent experience for Marta as she was moved by the universal theatrical languages of dance and pantomime, and knew they were languages she had to learn. As Marta developed her skills and honed her creative con-

fidence, she continued observing, critiquing the world around her as she had learned early on, unknowingly tutored by a theater critic. She began making her decisions based on her own judgments that often differed from the norm, for example, refusing to attend church upon recognizing hypocrisy. Despite the normal challenges and disappointments of childhood Marta was always pulled back to what she thought of as her “best friends”—her creative pursuits. At one point another student at the music school threw a tantrum when told to work with Marta on a mural project since she was a girl. She was sure the teacher would side against her, to her surprise, he sided with her. Eventually Marta and her mother returned to New York to further Marta’s studies, aided by Marta’s father who started the transition with a trip to Carnegie Hall to hear a symphony concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini to whom her father Henry referred as the “greatest conductor of them all.” During that visit, Henry took Marta and Helen to New York’s Natural History Museum where Marta spied a miniature desert built to accompany the coyotes, buffaloes, and other creatures. Marta wondered if there was such a place, thinking “the serenity and peace, endless space of pale colors of sand and sky seemed like a perfect canvas for dreams.” Fast forward through the years…Marta finally studied dance and then moved into the “real world” of theater…night clubs, Broadway—where the singing of an artist named Carol Bruce in a production of “Show Boat” moved Marta to tears every time. It was also during this production that Marta’s name became “Becket” with one “t.” When Marta noticed the misspelling in the program she thought, “that was me all along and now the truth has finally been uncovered.” Somehow dropping the “t” changed her into the person she felt she really was, and she was happy. “Show Boat” eventually closed when its star, Jan Clayton, went west to Hollywood. During Clayton’s farewell party, she summoned Marta, who went back stage to speak with her. Clayton told Marta she was going “to do something special, something important in the theater one day.” After “Show Boat” closed, Marta was unable to find immediate work in dance and became a fashion model. Vogue asked her to become a permanent model for the magazine, causing her to reaffirm her commitment to her art when told she would need surgical modification of her dancer’s legs, as they were unbecoming to Vogue’s clientele, a decision which they believed should be casual since she had “stopped dancing anyway.” Reflecting on her situation later, a political cartoon she was making for Ladies Home Journal changed into a sketch of a wistful and still ballet dancer. Marta resigned from the Ladies Home Journal assignment, resolved to return to dance, and after months of work to regain her form she was in a production number that would include Marta painting on stage, dancing, and playing her own music on the piano, accompanied by the Music City Dance Hall orchestra. She was 24. The years passed, taking Marta into television, to a performance of her original shows at Carnegie Hall, theater tours. She danced, designed costumes, and modeled for art classes. During an audition a talent scout told her she had the ability to portray an entire cast by herself. Marta then developed a “one woman show” of dance, theater, vaudeville, music, and mime; also designing and manufacturing the sets and costumes. She toured, performing in a variety of venues to great reviews. To earn extra money she painted original designs on pottery, and on shirt cardboards. And though she was able keep a

Marta Becket with Sandy Scheller.

life that felt more creatively truthful, it was not without hardship, treachery, and compromise. In the spring of 1959, Marta, still living with her mother, met Tom Williams, whom she eventually married. Tom accompanied Marta on her tours, acting as emcee and stagehand. In 1964 they bought an Econoline van and set off on a tour of the west. They stopped in a small desert town in California for gas; Marta was so taken by it she vowed to return to it one day for a longer visit. Returning to New York, years passed. By now people like Mary Tyler Moore were purchasing Marta’s art. Marta sustained an injury while rehearsing and was warned to slow down. She visited a gypsy fortuneteller who told Marta she would be moving from New York to a small rural town that starts with the letter “A,” where she would do “the most satisfying work of her life.” On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I made my pilgrimage to Marta Becket’s Amargosa Opera House and Hotel in Death Valley Junction to experience the brilliance of Marta’s soul refracting into her world famous murals and her exquisite performance, now given from a wheelchair. I had learned of Sandy Scheller, a mime, flamenco dancer, artist, theater seamstress, and kindred spirit who has known Marta some 16 years. Sandy was so inspired by Marta and the Amargosa Opera House that she created a tribute to Marta, “If These Walls Could Talk,” featuring mime, dance, and vaudeville, performed by Sandy. Marta is shown in video as part of Sandy’s show, at one point the two dance together. Sandy, who lives in Las Vegas, gladly makes the trip each weekend, sleeping on the Opera House stage, surrounded by Marta’s art that glows and flickers in the light of the potbelly stove. Sandy also does much of the costume design now at the Amargosa. I December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 23

asked Sandy if she had anything she’d like to say about Marta and she said, “She is a jewel, she is a diamond, she is a treasure ........ she is Marta Becket.” I was absolutely thrilled by the performances of Marta and Sandy and overwhelmed by the Opera House. Nothing I read, watched, or heard, prepared me for the emotions I felt. After the show, I waited in line with her other fans to speak with Marta, who was holding court by the fire in the hotel’s lobby. I introduced myself to Marta explaining the reason for my visit. She was clearly thrilled and genuinely honored and touched to be included in The Sun Runner’s Desert Treasures Issue and spoke fondly of the magazine. I asked her if she had anything she wanted the 50,000 or so folks who will read this issue of The Sun Runner to know. She smiled and took my hand, a queen in her wheelchair, wearing the beautiful midnight blue dress that fit her perfectly, made for her with love by Sandy. After making sure that she had my absolute full attention, as only a master of the stage can do, she said, “I would have gone insane had I not found the Amargosa, it has been my life and my salvation. I rescued it, and it cured me.” She has written that she could not have found her artistic fulfillment anywhere else. She went on to say she wishes there was more respect from the current generation for the past (history) because “it is going so mechanical” with cell phones, computers, and e-mail. She fondly recalled the days when one could obtain everything from toys to a violin and piano from the Sears Roebuck Catalog and said was glad “not to be 12” now. She told me that she is frightened that respect, as a quality in general, as well as respect for history and the arts—what she called “the soul of this country,” is going, going, and once gone, will be gone forever. She said she hopes her art and the Amargosa Opera House will 24 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

live on after her passing and has entrusted her legacy to Richard Regnell, director of operations at the Amargosa Opera House. I thanked her for being such an inspiration as both an artist and a woman and she smiled, held my eyes with hers, eyes that sparked with vitality and humor, and asked me to return to the Amargosa to talk with her again. And as I said I would, I will return to Marta Becket, the diamond of Death Valley Junction, and her Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, to hand-deliver her copy of this issue of The Sun Runner to her, just to be sure she knows she’s valued as the desert treasure she is. Painted with the skill of a highly trained artisan and with the freedom and abandon that somehow came to life in the wind-filled silence of Death Valley Junction, Marta Becket’s Amargosa Opera House is a testament to what can be done with enough time, talent, love—and will. The world of Marta Becket is best seen live, up close, and in person. You will leave there changed somehow, enriched and refreshed, but perhaps not so sure of the real world as you were before you met Marta Becket, Sandy Scheller, and the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. Marta Becket has said that one day, she “too will haunt this place, dancing like a dust devil in the wind.” But each day Marta’s stage calls out to her to, “Take me. Do something with me…Give me something to live for; something to look forward to.” She’s “grateful to have found a place where I can fulfill my dreams and share them with the passing scene for as long as I can.” Go now to where time stands still. Do it while there’s still time. To go: If you want to experience the magic of Marta Becket, Sandy Scheller, and the Amargosa Opera House, check the website and Facebook page for the latest information regarding performance schedules, but in general they are Saturday evenings: “If These Walls Could Talk,” doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7; and Sunday matinée: Marta Becket in “The Sitting Down Show,” and “If These Walls Could Talk,” doors at 1:30 p.m., show at 2. For information call (760)852-4441, or visit Note from Barbara: You may find more information about Sandy Scheller at Sandy and Steve Brown wrote a more in-depth article about Sandy’s relationship with Marta that was published in The Sun Runner’s Annual Desert Writer’s Issue, August/September 2010. I have quoted from Marta’s autobiography “To Dance Upon the Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley,” copyright 2007 Marta Becket and Stephens Press, LLC.

tion, nothing more than a rest stop for a photo and a laugh, while on your way elsewhere. Felicity, however, is more than that. Much more. I get the impression from Lee’s response to my request to meet Mayor Istel (and her) for this story, that there is some concern that I may follow in the footsteps of publications like “Weird California,” that played up the concept of finding the center of the world in the middle of nowhere, while trivializing other aspects of what Felicity has to offer a visitor willing to take the town, and its creators, seriously. Wedged between “Fear and Loathing in Midgetville,” and “Cosmic Thrills at Rosicrucian Park,” the book’s account, and many other travel stories about the town, acknowledge superficially that there are other aspects to Felicity besides the whimsical, but it is almost as if their authors couldn’t bring themselves to do more than grab their certificate showing their dog stood at the center of the world before hitting the highway once again. Felicia refers to the work she and her husband Jacques are focusing on as, “unlike the whimsical ‘Center of the World.’” She then notes, “Happily, both whimsy and academic prowess can co-exist.” Little did I know as I planned our trip to Felicity what an understatement that was. But, oh, what a delight to find out.


o, where did it all begin? Ah, that’s the thing with remembrance, whether personal or historical—it’s difficult to always be able to pinpoint that exact moment, the precise inception of an idea or an act. Yes, we may know the time on the watch when we first step outside the airplane and plunge toward the earth below, but knowing what led to that moment, when we truly began moving toward taking this daring plunge, is more of a challenge. And so it may be with the desert town of Felicity, its esteemed mayor, Jacques-André Istel, and his dynamic wife and creative partner, Felicia Lee. Just off Interstate 8, east of the Algodones Dunes, a short drive from Yuma, Arizona, and the Colorado River, and not too much more than a stone’s throw from the border with Mexico, lies Felicity. Read most travel accounts of visits to Felicity, and you’ll find they focus on its fame as the “official center of the world.” Many accounts offer a quirky spin on how you can get your own certificate (even your dog can get its own certificate) that proves you’ve actually stood at the spot under the pyramid that marks the official center of the world. It sounds kind of silly, and really, it is. Not that silly is a bad thing at all though. But if that was all there was to Felicity, and to its residents—the woman for whom the town is named, and the man who named it after her—then it could be just a fleeting distrac-

Beginnings Jacques-André Istel was born in France in 1929 to Yvonne and André Istel. At a young age, he and his family fled France in 1940 as the Nazis invaded. He later attended Princeton University where he studied economics, reportedly not liking it much, but doing very well academically anyway, graduating in 1949. Istel then went into the Marine Corps during the Korean War. After the Corps, he followed in his father’s footsteps to become a successful investment banker, and, in a twist that anyone following his life had best get used to, he jumped out of a plane and into a new career. Right about now, it should be apparent that Jacques-André Istel is not one to do the expected, at least, not for long. Istel’s jump out of investment banking and into the world of parachuting wasn’t just a leap into a new profession, he really was central to the creation of this new profession. Recreational parachuting hadn’t really existed in America before Istel got involved. He went from taking that first jump to becoming known as “the father of American skydiving.” In fact, he is credited with coining the term “skydiving.” He first parachuted in 1950, and on a trip to France in 1955, Istel saw that French skydivers had learned techniques of controlled freefall. This was, according to Ed Scott, executive director of the United States Parachute Association, the beginning of skydiving in America. Istel brought these techniques he learned, back to America, and became a “vocal advocate for public acceptance of skydiving as a sport, not a daredevil activity.” Scott, who presented Istel with the USPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, quotes a passage from Time magazine in 1957, that conveys how deeply taken Istel was December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 25

with skydiving. “You just let go of the plane and suddenly you’ve changed elements. You start to drop but you don’t feel anything—only a marvelous sense of control. It’s like being immersed in light water.” Istel formed the first U.S. team to compete at the 1956 World Meet in Moscow. He captained the U.S. team that took the French Coupe du Monde, was the world record holder in 1961, insisted on safety as an integral part of skydiving, and pioneered the Telsan technique with Lew Sanborn (the “Tel“ is from Istel, combined with “san“ from Sanborn), another parachuting pioneer with whom Istel co-founded Parachutes, Inc., a company that designed parachutes and ran the first parachuting school in the U.S. The Telsan technique transformed skydiving, operating under the premise than a fairly intelligent, reasonably healthy individual could learn the basics of parachuting well enough to take their first jump in the same day. An innovator, educator, and advocate, Istel remains revered by the skydiving community for his contributions to the sport. Felicia & Felicity So, did Felicity begin with Istel’s skydiving? Well, no, but yet perhaps maybe, in a way… Istel first became acquainted with the desert when he was a Marine. The drive and ambition to accomplish what he set out to achieve that led him to become an expert in skydiving, combined with his sense of adventure, could only serve well when building something from nothing. Istel purchased around 2,800 acres of land for the town. His 1973 wedding toast to his bride, Felicia Lee, a reporter for Sports Illustrated when they first met, hints at his personal philosophy that is still emerging in Felicity. 26 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

“To trials past To empathy To a halt in uncertainty To the one, my last Felicity Salute in immortality.” In 1985, Istel wrote a children’s book, “Coe, the Good Dragon at the Center of the World.” When deciding where this good dragon would live in the desert, Felicia reportedly suggested, “Why not a pyramid?” With the gentle whimsical humor that permeates Felicity, rendering an unmistakable human touch to all it offers, Istel notes, “As men are wont to do, he took his wife seriously . The author built the pyramid, named the town for his wife, and thereafter ran for Mayor. All in keeping with any gentleman’s concept of a well-ordered universe.” The book received good reviews and went into a sixth edition, with the French edition described as “the American Babar,” by French author and critic, Claude Tannery. The center of the world, replete with its own granite and glass pyramid, located in the town of Felicity (officially established in 1986), became the legally designated center of the world, acknowledged by Imperial County, and the Institut Geographique National of the French government. The grounds of the town of Felicity create a slightly surreal, dreamlike ambience for those who visit. There is the pyramid, of course, but there is also a section of the original stairway of the Eiffel Tower, circling up to nowhere, a three-dimensional bronze sundial patterned after Michelangelo’s famed “Arm of God” that points to Adam across the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel. There is a Post Office too, that saw more than 2,300 letters mailed out the day of its dedication in 1987. The dedication ceremony included a speech in Chinese by Consul Zhou of the People’s Republic of China, who traveled 600 miles for the occasion. Though not particularly religious, Istel had The Hill of Prayer built in Felicity in 2002, moving 150,000 tons of earth, and The Church on the Hill at Felicity now stands above the town, its moral anchor. A relative of Goethe, Wolfgang Lieschke, sketched the early site design and stained glass window. But it is the monuments that lie between the pyramid and the church that perhaps both best define and describe the underlying mission of the town of Felicity and Istel’s purpose. Remembrance The town of Felicity is dedicated to remembrance. And it is evocative of the best of humanity in its dedication. Don’t ask me how it is being done, but in this stretch of desert about nine miles from Yuma, something monumental, literally and figuratively, is taking place. It is known as the Museum of History In Granite, at the World Commemorative Center (a registered trademark). I’m certain many travelers glaze over, viewing the long lines of granite monuments at Felicity, but that is a mistake, for these are exceptional. Begun in 1997, when Istel was outraged by reports of veterans spending two million dollars for a memorial wall never built, the trustees of the Museum of History in Granite, supported by the “immense” co-operation of the United States Marine Corps, built the granite Marine Corps Korean War Memorial in exactly one year. This first of the museum’s granite walls included the engraved names of 4,617 Marines and 107 Navy Corpsmen who died during the war. From 1999 to 2001, with assistance from the Library of Congress, the Service Historique de l’ Armèe de l’ Air, and noted historians, the Hall of Fame of Parachuting edited and engraved Quest for the Sky (Histoire de l’Aeronautique Fran-

caise), a beautiful accounting of French aviation, that includes more than a few surprises (like reproductions of the Wright Brothers’ pilot licenses, for instance). In 2002, the original Hall of Fame of Parachuting transitioned into the World Commemorative Center and its Museum of History in Granite, as its mission continued to expand. The History of the Foreign Legion, with its concept of redemption through danger and suffering, was dedicated in 2003, and was followed by the launch of the History of Humanity (over 400 panels in progress), and the histories of Arizona, California, and the United States. As Istel leads us around the grounds, introducing us to Arizona outlaws, mythical heroes, philosophical concepts, astronomy, art, faith, language, mathematics, music and poetry, I begin to get a sense of what he is creating here, and it is more ambitious—and far better executed—than I could ever have anticipated. Whatever you do, don’t take my word for it. Please, go, spend the day with Istel’s creation, and when you walk, read, and look, imagine continuing this work into the future, an ongoing remembering of the best that humanity can be. I’m in heaven wandering these grounds with Istel leading the way. Our “modern” information society creates perhaps an all too-level playing field, where all information, ranging from news that a Hollywood star is going back to rehab equates to Homer’s Odyssey, a misspelled “tweet” equals the story of Gilgamesh. But Istel, and I honestly don’t know how he does it (but it’s my kind of magic), has distilled (edited is too plain a term for this process) historical accounts, philosophy, literature, mathematics, linguistic development, myth, music, religion, poetry, children’s fables, art,—the crux of the human story—into a simmering roux that is not only marvelously tasty, but conveys the essence of our experience on this planet. Oh, certainly, it is a job only begun, but these granite panels are designed to last for several thousand years, which may be a boon for future generations when all the information stored digitally vanishes in a flash. What will the future know of what came before? What will be remembered? Who will make sure that those yet to come will know something of us who have come and gone? Istel and Lee, and perhaps some few others who grasp the significance of this project, are doing their best to continue the stream of remembrance, from where it all began, and begins again and again with each human experience. There is an un-engraved eight-sided granite monument that stands waiting at the center of the eight monuments of the “History of Humanity.” This is the Felicity Stone ™, the “Rosetta Stone” of our era. A tentative draft of the first panel (to be translated into seven other ancient and present languages includes the following: At the top of the panel, the quote, “NOTHING IN EXCESS” (from the temple of Apollo at Delphi), the lower part including numerical sequences and our alphabet, along with a succinct statement of the purpose of the monument. And in the center, these verses from Rudyard Kipling: The tumult and the shouting dies, The Captains and the Kings depart; Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget! A fitting inscription for the World Commemorative Center, and the creative force in Felicity, dedicated to remembrance and the collective memory of humanity itself. To learn more about Felicity, visit Felicity is open for visitors Thanksgiving until Easter.

On Desert Treasures...


y original concept for sharing “desert treasures,” with our readers was to include a special section with each issue of the magazine, sponsored by a regional business that shared our vision of bringing authentic desert cultural treasures to life and acknowledging their contributions. Alas, we have found no such sponsor to date, but instead, we launched the concept with this issue to begin the process of featuring some of these incredible people around the desert. I hope that if we cannot run our Desert Treasures features in every issue, we can at the minimum, run an annual issue such as this one. Rest assured, we will never run out of people (present and past), and places, to include. In fact, I feel horribly negligent for not including everyone in this issue, and almost heartbroken at the omission of some I had hoped to have the time and pages to profile. People like Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel, Dr. Lowell Bean, Donna and Larry Charpied, Alfredo Figueroa, and Leonard Knight, just to name a few, all deserve not only acknowledgement, but acclaim for their contributions. And there are so many more... Perhaps, if this desire to acknowledge the human riches of our desert home connects with our readers and supporters, even the local and county governments within the desert region, we will be able to eventually expand the program, and maybe include a formal recognition process and ceremony at some point. The desert isn’t an easy place to bring one’s dreams to life, the thousands of dry holes dug into hillsides, abandoned shacks, and slowly vanishing tracks leading off to nowhere, silently attest to that fact. Yet some people, people often with grit as well as talent and skill, do just that. They doggedly bring their dreams to life, and by doing so, they inspire others just waking, to do the same. My dream is to keep sharing folks like this with people like you. We’re heading into our 17th year of “talking story” about the desert with this magazine. When I took this on six and a half years ago, somebody I told about it groaned and complained, on my behalf, that there would be absolutely nothing to write about. It took me about 15 minutes (I’m slow) to figure out that no matter how many issues of the magazine I may put out in my lifetime, a long list of stories, people, and places I want to get onto these pages, will remain waiting when I wander off down some unmarked track to join the dream that is the desert. I have been fundamentally moved and changed by the people I have met here in the desert who have brought their dreams to life, despite the odds. And I am all the richer for these desert treasures I have found. Thank you all. – Steve Brown December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 27


he raw untamed power of a crashing wave smashing into the beach isn’t quite what you’d expect to find waiting for you east of Twentynine Palms, but if you head down the dusty road to the old Army glider air strip where Dick Dale lives, you’ll find it—even though the pool’s dry right now and the neighbor may pop off a round or two if you drive too fast. Dick, born Richard Anthony Monsour in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1937, is the legendary king of surf guitar, known for being hard on amplifiers and for playing left-handed and upside down with such force that watching and listening to him, I have to wonder how those poor six strings survive. Watching Dick play here in his living room is a bit akin to hanging out with Poseidon as he whips up another hurricane. It’s beautiful, but you’ve got to respect it or it could get dangerous. I think about the story of how this left-handed master of the guitar, who launched the genre of surf guitar music (as a musician, and a surfer—a photo of Dick surfing near the pier in San Clemente adorned the cover of his first album, “Surfer’s Choice”) back in the 1950s, destroyed almost 50 amplifiers as Leo Fender had Dick test out both his new Stratocaster guitar and Fender amps. While Leo laughed at the sight of Dick playing the Strat upside down and backwards, some of the 49 amps sentenced to death literally burst into flames under the punishment dealt out at the hands of Dick Dale. It became apparent to Leo that a more powerful amplifier was going to be required to keep up with Dick’s style of playing. The Fender Musical Instruments Company created the “Showman” amp, with more wattage and speakers that could handle it, as a result. The Fender 49 did not die in vain. It was the world’s first 100 watt amplifier, with a new James B. Lansing (JBL) 15” speaker, 28 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

and it eventually evolved into the Dual Showman, with two improved speakers that paved the way for power players to follow. Later, Guitar Player Magazine dubbed Dick the “Father of Heavy Metal.” But make no mistake, most of the power of Dick’s guitar style comes straight from Dick, not from any amplifier. He’s known to be real loud on stage, but then he’s pretty loud without an amp. And he’s not just a loud guitarist, he’s got a style that is boldly aggressive. Dick’s guitar is unabashedly on the attack a lot of the time. He attributes some of this to his style of emphasizing the beat on one - no waiting around into a bar of music for this player. Some of Dick’s driving stacatto style comes from his early start as a drummer, influenced by the likes of Gene Krupa. Listen and you can hear that approach come through— loud and clear—on many of his songs. You’d think Dick would be a natural shoo-in for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that organization has shunned him (and quite a few deserving others) so far, evidence perhaps of politics that should have been left out of an institution that was supposed to enshrine leaders in the art of musical rebellion. Instead, Dick was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum in 2009, along with musicians like Chet Atkins, Charlie Daniels, Victor Feldman, and others. Guitar Player Magazine gave Dick their “Guitar Legend” medallion in 2007, received a platinum record for his recording of Miserlou, and was nominated for a Grammy (along with Stevie Ray Vaughn) for the music in the movie, “Back to the Beach.” Not only was Dick first to have more than one record on the Top Ten charts at one time, but was also first to have five songs from one album on the charts all at once. Dick Dale’s personal history would no doubt make for a great tumultuous biography, and an even better screenplay, full of ups and downs, and connections with a veritable Who’s-Who of stars. Ed Sullivan had him on his show (the first rock guitarist to perform for Ed), and sauntered out on stage to shake hands with him—reportedly the first time he did so on television. Leon Russell was in his original band, The Del-Tones (who put out their music on his own Deltone label until their hit, “Let’s Go Trippin’, the iconic “first” surf rock tune, was picked up by Capitol Records). He was in several of the classic “beach party” movies with Frankie and Annette, and even one film with Marilyn Monroe. Vegas classic, Liberace, made it a point to drop by his shows when Dick played Sin City. And his music has had a life of its own, popping up on TV shows from Friends to Star Trek Voyager, in commercials for everyone from Domino’s Pizza to Nissan, and even at the 2000 Super Bowl, while Dick himself has shown up recently on billboards for the L.A. Dodgers, and he’s been on David Letterman, the Conan O’Brian Show, and even Beavis & Butthead. Dick’s made a lot of money, lost a lot of money, designed and built homes, cared for and trained exotic animals (concerns about Jimmy’s safety led to him moving the animals from his home to a facility). He’s a pilot, a surfer, a martial arts expert, and an archer. He’s even made music for Disneyland’s Space Mountain, and stood atop Space Mountain at the grand opening of Tomorrowland in 1998 (no safety harness), playing “the beast” for all to hear throughout the Magic Kingdom. Fender, after creating the Dick Dale Signature Stratocaster, now also offers the Dick Dale Signature Malibu, a thin-bodied acoustic guitar in surfer red, with dual matching pickguards to save that beautiful red finish from destruction when some-

one plays it like Dick does. Dick notes it is made from solid mahogany,with a Strat neck, and is only three inches deep, something he emphasized with Fender, stressing that deep guitar bodies caused problems for guitarists who had to hook their arms over the guitar to play. Fender, he says, didn’t think a shallower guitar body would produce a full sound, or a loud enough sound. “I’d been screamin’ for years—20-plus years,” Dick notes. “Nobody would do it.” But when Dick designed this new acoustic for Fender, they did it. And when Dick played the guitar, it sounded full bodied. “I said, ‘See guys, the world’s not flat,” he laughs, adding that the guitars, the Kingman and the Malibu, are selling like hotcakes. Today, I’m surrounded. Dick is shredding on one side of the couch to my right, while another impressive guitarist sits to my left. It’s Jimmy Dale, Dick’s 18 year-old son, who has been living up to the child prodigy status of the king’s son. But just seeing Jimmy as a child prodigy is to sell him short. I’ve seen Jimmy play around half a dozen times, and he isn’t any cookie-cutter replica of his dad. His talents stand on their own, and one thing I’m hoping to see is those talents recognized and put to use. He plays guitar, drums, keyboards, and more, (just like his dad) and he does them well. Jimmy isn’t going to just follow in his dad’s footsteps, he’s going to be making tracks of his own, and from the sound of what I’m hearing in the living room, they’re gonna be great. He and I talk about the bands he likes, ranging from Radiohead and Coldplay (“absolutely amazing”), to Tool, Blink 182, and August Burns Red. Some groups he likes for certain qualities—their dramatic chord progressions or their melody lines. “It would be ideal to pursue something in music, but it’s such a gamble,” Jimmy says, sounding like he’s picked up some perspective on the business end of music. “I really like playing drums now.” We talk about his songwriting and how sometimes if it sounds right, it doesn’t feel right, and vice versa. He’s sounding like a bit of a perfectionist, and I’m hoping to have the opportunity to discuss his songs in a few years. He’s only 18, after all. Sometimes all that is needed is a little more life experience to gel the creative components. Dick relates the reaction he gets sometimes when people see Jimmy play music. “They say, ‘Aren’t you jealous?’” he says. “I say, ‘Shit no, that’s what he’s supposed to do.’” The last thing Dick is likely to do is engage his ego in feeling musically threatened by his son. He’s obviously invested

a great deal of himself into encouraging Jimmy to excel, and there’s a feeling of fatherly pride that sometimes seems to embarass Jimmy. It’s touching to see the two together at home in more ways than one. I haven’t been out here at “the ranch” for a long time, since 2003 when I spent an afternoon with the king of surf guitar and his heir apparent. A lot has happened since. Jimmy’s grown up quite a bit, and will turn 19 in January. He’s graduated from high school and is deciding where he wants to go from here. He really wants to experience what it’s like to be on his own, but right now he’s preparing to go on tour with his dad. One of the most darkly significant things has been the re-emergence of cancer in Dick’s life. In the mid-1960s, Dick had emerged as a musical star to be reckoned with, only to have his career derailed by a bout with intestinal cancer. Look at his discography, and there’s a huge gap between his album, “Rock Out with Dick Dale and his Del-Tones: Live at Ciro’s” from 1965, and “The Tigers Loose,” released in 1983. Cancer returned a couple years ago, and Dick is still dealing with the consequences. But while Dick endured cancer and hard times throughout his life, his career began a remarkable comeback when Quentin Tarantino worked Dick’s rendition of “Miserlou” into his blockbuster movie, “Pulp Fiction.” We talked a lot about cancer and staying healthy, and Dick’s values as a father during our 2003 visit, but today there’s no time. Dick and Jimmy are rehearsing for their upcoming tour—a tour that could easily have not taken place. Dick’s doctors wanted to do surgery right away, but Dick told them it would have to wait until he and Jimmy finished their 20-stop tour up the West Coast. “I love going to Canada,” Dick notes. “Taking those big ferries through the islands. It’s so beautiful.” I get the impression that this tour means a lot to Dick—an opportunity to have another adventure with his son, and to be on stage, where he and Jimmy enjoy a relaxed and endearing father-son presence. Often Dick shares a story with the audience while Jimmy laughs or holds his head in his hands like any other well-adjusted, mildly embarassed18 year-old stuck on stage when dad starts going on a bit. The Rendezvous Ballroom where Dick first broke attendance records, packing thousands into the Balboa club, has long since burned down. Pop music fads have come and gone. Dick Dale’s influence on contemporary music worldwide continues through his own music, and that of his son. Where Jimmy chooses to take this musical gift he’s been given—the gift he’s worked to make his own—is up to him. I’m betting it’ll be a ride to remember. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 29

“Every step you run is a heartbeat joining you from the spiritual world to the earth.”

– Alfredo Figueroa, Chemehuevi-Yaqui historian and activist, defender of Mother Earth and the Blythe Intaglios


a Cuna de Aztlan Spiritual Journey,” it says on the flyer I have downloaded from a friend’s Facebook site. “All Defenders of Mother Earth Are Welcome,” it says. I have been hearing a lot about the Blythe Intaglios in recent months, and, as a native of California’s Mojave Desert, I am deeply disturbed that the areas in the California desert where these massive power plants will be installed include some of 30 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

the most untouched, pristine, and magical tracts of desert land. And so, I decide to call the number on the flyer, and am met with the enthusiastic voice of a man named Alfredo Figueroa, a longtime, noted historian of the Colorado River region who is, as it turns out, the organizer of this event. “Yes, yes! Please come! You will never be the same again after this experience!” “How do I find it?,” I ask. “It starts at the Blythe Intaglios, right? I’ve heard about them, and have wanted to visit them soon.” “Yes, that is right,” Alfredo exuberates. “Our day will begin 15 miles north of town on Highway 95. You will see the signs for a ‘Spiritual Journey.’ Turn left there!” I know that this is something I simply cannot miss. Through my scholarship as a professor of English and desert literature at College of the Desert, I have learned a bit of the lives and land of the California desert Chemehuevi Indians. Far ranging territory into Nevada’s Charleston Mountains, Las Vegas, and down through the Ivanpah Valley, New York Mountains, Granite and Providence, Old Woman, Turtle, and Big Maria Mountains, to the region where the Blythe Intaglios are carved into the land, the Chemehuevi legacy is deeply etched across the face of the land. The Chemehuevi bird songs, including those of the Salt Song Trail, tell the story of creation and living with an actual base and correspondence to precise spots on the land in the eastern/Northern Mojave Desert, southern Nevada, and parts of Utah and Arizona. Some of the songs include crucial hunting grounds with their own particular songs depending on animals being hunted: bighorn sheep, for example. After a long, dark, pre-dawn drive across miles of open desert along Interstate 10, I see the sign: “Spiritual Journey.” I rush out of the car to other gathering vehicles in the glinting sun. I hurry to where Alfredo Figueroa is standing near some of the fenced intaglios, which can be described as large, smoothed away drawings/figures in a flat, dark, compact surface of smooth, small stones that occurs in some desert areas and is known as “desert asphalt.” “This one,” Alfredo explains, “is Ometecuitl: man. The one over here is Omecihuatl: woman. And the other, is Ometayo, the creator. Their bodies are shaped as bows and arrows, indicating where they have come from.” I listen intently, and look at the aerial maps he holds in his hands. I shyly introduce myself. “Oh, the teacher! There you

are!” Alfredo gives me a warm welcome. But today, I’m not a teacher: I am all student. Alfredo talks quickly, giving those clustered around him more insights on the geoglpyhs. I read some of the handouts he passes out. These, and many other intaglios in a wide region here, some located within the boundaries of the proposed Blythe Solar Millenium Project, are at least 3,000-4,000 years old, by some archaeological estimates; according to others, some may be up to 12,000 years old. Archaeologist Jeffrey Adams, who is documenting intaglios in the Western U.S. for the BLM, has already catalogued 312 intaglios in the area, in addition to the handful recognized here at this federally-protected site located on a bluff above the Colorado River. Suddenly, it is time to form a circle. Alfredo begins the ceremonies. Sage staffs are lit, and we are led to honor the four directions. Spiritual leader Jaime Vega, from Ventura, blows a conch shell for each turn. Noted Native American leaders and speakers take turn speaking, including Reverend Ron Van Fleet, Mojave traditional elder; Philip Smith, who along with Ron is a Ward Valley Warrior Veteran; Lori Cachora, Quechan Cultural Director; Linda Otero, Fort Mojave Cultural Director; and Victor Van Fleet, Ron’s cousin and a Mojave Spiritual Runner who has organized today’s Spiritual Run. Leading the run will be Jesus “Chuy” Figueroa, Alfredo’s son, and Ruben “Mo” Gonzales is here, both who are longtime Peace and Dignity runners. Vivian Hamilton, Cahuilla, has prepared and brought three ceremonial bundles containing the highly-decorated spirit staffs that will be carried by the runners. Emboldened by the rhythm of the ceremony and a surprising lack of inhibition, I ask Patricia Figueroa, Alfredo’s daughter if I can join the runners on the six mile hike/run through the Big Maria Mountains wilderness, the beginning of the day’s long journey. She nods yes, and smiles at me. “Thank you so much for coming here today,” she says. And so, following a dozen others, I pick up a spirit staff, a beautiful, blonde-colored, wooden staff that has rainbow streamers coming from its top. I’m scared, but know I must do this. Vivian tells me that this is one of the newest spirit staffs. After a short truck ride in the bed of a large pickup truck, all of us “runners” disembark and walk a steep dirt road into the wilderness. I don’t talk. One man beats a drum that he carries along, and another blows a small wooden flute. Jesus, our leader, carries a massive spirit staff that is hugely laden with hundreds of feathers from powerful birds, including eagle and condors. As I walk quickly to keep up with the others, I narrowly avoid stepping on a large flake of desert tortoise shell. I smile. I am glad to know that the tortoises here, in these mountains, are not yet under siege from Big Solar, are not being torn from their ancient burrows like their brothers at the Ivanpah Bright Solar site 150 miles to the north. A light wind blows through the canyon. We hike and hike. We all stay together, and I am touched by the deep caring and genuine concern that the spirit runners demonstrate for one another. Some among us make light conversation, others simply walk. There is a strong sense that we are all in this together, and on our walk, we function as an unspoken team. We become one, unified person, it seems, all holding our spirit staffs high. Sometimes, Jesus breaks into an easy run. I struggle to keep up. A young man next to me tells me that I should offer water to my spirit staff first, before I drink. We struggle across boulders in a wash. And then we climb a long hill, and we find an ancient Indian trail. We are heading for the pass. These mountains are raw, tough, and sun-swept. I turn to look back: the Colorado River weaves its blue braid to the south and north,

a belt of brilliant green along its sides. And then it’s gone. We are deep in the wilderness. We continue to walk, and walk, and walk. One hour. Two hours. It’s getting hot, and I want to run, and so I do, trying to keep up with Jesus and the several others who follow his stride. I hold my spirit staff high, and don’t feel tired. One woman says she feels dizzy, and I break out my Gatorade. She revives. We move ahead. And that’s it. We’ve made it. Now for the long downhill stride. A small group reaches the vehicles first, and I’m about five minutes behind. I go up to Alfredo. “Ruth! You did it! You will never be the same after this!” He is ecstatic. And so am I. Still, this isn’t our last stop. Jesus and a handful of other runners continue to run southwest, on the open flats. I ride behind several truckloads of people who have joined the runners and who take turns running, carrying the spirit staffs, one or two miles, then being driven along and replaced by others, for many more miles across the desert. As we drive and walk, I notice more intaglios, ancient lines spread in desert pavement/stone, as we drive by. We drive through washes, and lush groves of desert ironwood, and finally arrive at the site of Kokopilli, a 200-foot long, 50-foot wide “image of the creator,” according to Alfredo, and Cicimitl, “the spirit of the underworld,” which is 10 yards tall and 10 yards wide. After taking pictures, and watching the sun set behind the McCoy Mountains just to the west, we all get back into cars and trucks. The open desert is graced by a soft, lavender twilight. Just before we reach a bridge leading over Interstate 10, the runners, including me, disembark. Some of us run, and others walk, across the bridge. Ahead of us, the New Fire Ceremony begins. Together, we all walk in a circle around the fire and replace our spirit staffs back on blankets resting on the ground. We are all purified with sage. Then, the Mojave Dancers, from Needles, begin to dance. The sun has gone down. The rocks for the fire ring are from Ward Valley, and will be placed there again. Alfredo speaks to the group, explaining the significance of what we’ve done, and other elders follow him. The evening turns into all of us sitting around the fire, in chairs, enjoying the warmth, each others’ company, a shared love for the desert land, and a front-row view of the evening’s touchable, infinite stars. Alfredo Figueroa was right. I will never be the same. I have completed La Cuna de Aztlan Spiritual Journey today, and it feels like I have walked through my entire life, returning to where I began. As I go to sleep that night, I feel the energy of the spirit staff I carried through the Big Maria Mountains, so very sacred to the Chemehuevi Indians, connected skyward through the palm of my hand. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 31


’d like to start by thanking readers for their overwhelming response to my last article, “Creosote & Mullein” (The Sun Runner, October/November issue). My intention was simply to direct attention to alternative ways to boost and maintain our health right here at home, in these expensive times, and this was met with more interest and gratitude than I expected. Perhaps I should not be so surprised, since many of us desert-dwellers (and residents of other types of rural areas) have chosen to live here precisely because we desire a healthier and simpler lifestyle closer to nature than can be had in most urban areas. From the response, I’m gratified to report that it appears our collective consciousness is expanding in near-direct proportion to the efforts of some to take our health choices and other freedoms away, and that thanks to large-scale sharing of information, more of us are becoming actively enthusiastic about taking responsibility for our own well-being and becoming our own “experts” in other areas of our lives also. One can only see this as an improvement on what has gone before. For this issue I’d like to discuss a beautiful, strange-looking plant often used ornamentally in desert landscaping: the tall, spiny Ocotillo. The roots and flowers of this bizarre looking plant (which is in fact an herb) have several medicinal uses, in particular extremely important health benefits for those suffering from prostate or uterine dysfunction. The Ocotillo is dormant during the winter season, but in the spring and early summer Ocotillo plants form fiery orange-red 32 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

flowers at the ends of their limbs, which can be between 12 and 15 feet long. After the summer rains, the limbs produce a layer of leaves along their lengths, turning the plant into a mass of beautiful green stalks. In the absence of rain, the plant will of course respond in this fashion to a good soaking from the garden hose. The Ocotillo plant emerges from one large central root (which must remain untouched if it is to survive our meddling with it). An abundance of sharp, rigid thorns cover each limb from bottom to top, so it is advisable to wear leather gloves when harvesting it. Ocotillo is highly useful and has little (if any) toxicity associated with it. It is used in cases of poor circulation in the pelvic area accompanied by bloating, hemorrhoids, prostate enlargement, and the frequent urge to urinate. Most of these symptoms are caused by pelvic lymphatic/venous congestion. Ocotillo can help the assimilation of dietary fat, helping make circulation more efficient in the portal blood supply, which circulates around the digestive tract, removing fats, and metabolic waste from the cells which make up the intestines themselves. Improving portal blood circulation and lymphatic drainage from this area positively affects nearby organs such as the uterus or prostate by increasing circulation to them. Ocotillo is an especially important herb for women who have pre-menstrual or uterine pain caused by congestion. In some cases it may be an important part of a formula that takes into consideration a larger picture of hormonal imbalance. For men with enlarged prostate issues, this herb has been found to be extremely helpful, especially when combined with saw palmetto berries and nettle root. Since diet and liver health may also play key roles in creating congestion of the pelvic area, it is important to eliminate poor quality dietary fats, get regular exercise, and most importantly, (here’s my favorite) drink more water! And by the way, if you’re thinking of building an interesting house, the branches of the Ocotillo can be used to create house walls, roofs, and of course…the Ocotillo fence.

For information on help designing your own medicine garden, please contact the Medicine Gardener at (760)4130538 or email *These statements are not approved by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For any serious condition, please consult a licensed Naturopath (ND). As always, The Sun Runner encourages the uncommon use of common sense when working with native plants, especially when ingesting them. If you aren’t sure about how best to make use of a plant, do your research and exercise caution. Using native plants medicinally dates back thousands of years, but many have not been clinically studied, so an element of personal responsibility is involved in their use. Treatments cited in this article are those traditionally ascribed to the plants included in the story. We’re not health care professionals, so please consult yours if you have questions or concerns.


he towering grizzly bear and diminutive desert tortoise have something in common, and it’s not good: both animals are struggling for survival. “The population of grizzlies in the continental United States was 50,000 at time of Lewis & Clark and it’s down to 1,600 animals today for some of the same reasons the desert tortoise has declined precipitously since 1970: habitat destruction and human caused mortality,” says Professor Emeritus Sid Silliman. Silliman, who taught a course on the endangered grizzly bear at Cal Poly Pomona, fears that like grizzly bears, the threatened population of desert tortoises will eventually be restricted to just a few areas. And according to Silliman, projects like the Ivanpah Solar Plant, situated along the California Nevada border and near Mojave National Preserve, are part of the problem. The Ivanpah solar project is not unique: the Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies have received a flood of applications for utility scale solar developments causing many to refer to it as the “Solar gold rush.” But many conservationists are questioning whether these projects should be sited on sensitive lands like the Ivanpah Valley. “Ivanpah is so interesting because it’s in the east Mojave and has a different climate. It has monsoon rains, different plants, lush vegetation and biological soil crust,” says Laura Cunningham, a biologist and founder of Basin and Range Watch, a source of conservation information about the Mojave Desert. The biological soil crust prevents erosion of the fragile desert soils, absorbs atmospheric carbon and sometimes takes thousands of years to form. “I’ve never seen crust so dense as in the Ivanpah valle—you can see this black fuzzy coating all over the dry sand,” reports Cunningham. But Ivanpah is also unique in other ways. It is “old growth desert,” a reference to the many venerable creosote bushes, which have survived on the site for hundreds of years. The area is also remarkably beautiful and rugged. Huge barrel cacti punctuate the arid landscape and in the winter the view of the nearby snow capped Clark Mountains is spectacular. The valley is habitat for 10 rare plant species and the California population of northeastern Mojave Desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, burrowing owls and the golden eagle. This unique environment is threatened by large scale solar development. Construction of the Ivanpah Solar Project will involve three solar concentrating thermal power plants with 173,500 panels. Each panel will have two mirrors and will surround three 459-foot power towers—taller than the great pyramid at Giza. The development would involve permanent destruction of 3,600 acres of critical desert tortoise habitat With two other large solar projects slated to be developed nearby, the cumulative impacts may mean the loss of the viability of the northeastern desert tortoise recovery unit, a population defined

by the 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan that lives in the Ivanpah Valley. “This tortoise population is different from other populations and part of my training as a biologist is you want to maintain distinct populations,” points out Cunningham. “If these Ivanpah tortoises become extinct you can’t just take some from Ridgecrest and replace them.” In addition to the concerns about desert tortoise, there will also be significant impacts to two special status plant speciesMojave milkweed and desert pincushion and the project site will be an eyesore when viewed from the Mojave National Preserve. Yet another concern is flooding as the power plant will be located on a steep alluvial fan that is covered with hundreds of active washes. Torrential winter or summer rains could thunder down the fan and inundate the power plant. Proponents of industrial scale solar developments argue that they are essential to combating climate change and weaning our nation off foreign oil. To them, criticism of projects like Ivanpah are iterations of Nimbyism (an acronym for the phrase not in my back yard). But conservationists like Silliman and Cunningham see things differently. “In my view the way forward is through the distributed solar energy—through local generation and small scale generation,” says Silliman. “Rooftop solar photovoltaic should be a key part of any plan to move us away from carbon based energy. It’s more efficient, it avoids the economic problems and it’s more democratic.” Silliman also points out that it doesn’t make sense to destroy habitat in the name of climate change when that very habitat may be what helps species adapt to climate change. Small, local solar arrays located on disturbed lands, in or near cities and towns and on rooftops are comparable in efficiency, faster to bring online and less expensive than remote, utility scale solar thermal plants like Ivanpah when the cost of new transmission infrastructure, line losses and other costs are considered, according to Solar Done Right, a coalition of public lands activists, engineering experts and biologists. The reason the remote, utility scale solar plants are being constructed at such a rapid pace is that investor owned utilities can make significant profits off the sale and transmission of energy. They’ve also convinced key decision makers that large scale solar is the best way to address climate change. Both the BLM and the California Energy Commission have authorized construction of the two billion dollar Ivanpah solar plant, which means that Brightsource Energy is the first solar developer to break ground on a utility scale solar development in California. Contract workers have already begun removing desert tortoises from the site, but there is no way to know if some have been missed during the relocation effort. Back in September, Silliman, Cunningham and other desert activists camped at Ivanpah to educate people about the beauty and diversity of the Ivanpah valley, emphasize that the construction of this power plant will permanently destroy part of the Mojave Desert and to publicize their opposition to the industrialization of the northern Ivanpah valley. Cunningham reports that the sunsets were amazing and there were beautiful stars. The group took a tortoise walk, looked a cryptobiotic crust and found wildflowers blooming from a summer rain. Migrating swifts and swallows flew through the clear air. She fears utility scale solar will destroy the ecology of the Mojave Desert and the character of its communities. “My big message to congress is that we need a renewable energy plan that includes distributed solar. Can we slow down a little bit and get an energy plan?” Seth Shteir is California Desert Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 33

DeRanger Steve


The outdoor adventure

t’s been awhile since we’ve talked about the Outdoor Adventure. You know, hiking, climbing on rocks, crossing streams and getting lost With the weather turning brisk it’s only natural to want to go for a hike in the late afternoon. Why not? It’s time to grab pack, a friend and my dog, then head into the Santa Rosa/San Jacinto National Monument to a fave place where we can sit on a rock and watch hikers in the distance climb up and down the Art Smith Trail while safely making a nice hot cup of tea. Through field glasses it’s easy to see that most of these hikers are not prepared for even simple problems on the trail. The lack of daypacks, water, and proper clothing is plainly in evidence, which starts a train of thought about recent events in and around the deserts. “What kind of events?” you may ask. “From locals to visitors hikers in trouble,” sez I.* We tend to gloss over it when a lost hiker is reported on TV. Why? Because it happens all too often and it’s reported mainly as a sound bite unless a major rescue is mounted. {Drum roll please}. In mid-November, a father and his two kids, ages 10 and 17, spent a cold night in the hills above La Quinta, while elsewhere two hikers waited six hours for rescue and a couple of other lost hikers survived using supplies found in another missing man’s campsite. Then locally the RivCo Sheriff’s Dept. responded to a call from the Palm Springs Aerial Tram regarding a report of three lost hikers as two more lost hikers found each other in the San Jacinto Mountains after wandering around for who knows how long. This is a disturbing trend. More hikers seem to get into trouble every year due to the simple thought, “I’m just going for a short hike (with or without friends and gear).” How many of these people are wearing only jeans and a shirt? How many don’t have water or can’t make a fire right there? Way too many. So where does outdoor adventure start? It happens any time you step off the pavement into nature’s backyard, even if it’s only a local trail within city limits. The caveat is; trail safety is not what you think it is. Most people think of trail safety as what to do when things go in the crapper. What to do has been covered in this column for years, along with what to carry. However there are a few other fundamental considerations, starting with: Are you prepared? While that means having a basic hikers kit and appropriate clothing, it also means, do you have a plan and know the area where you are going? Have you left word you’re going? If you’re a visitor in the area the answer is probably “no,” 34 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

in which case it might be prudent to study a map of the area’s trails and to set a waypoint in your GPS to the car while turning on the tracking function in case you get lost. That’s assuming you carry a GPS. That done, you can be off to explore your new surroundings, for now is the time to actually look at where you are. Not through the eyes of a local, tourist, city-zen out for a hike or nature walk but through the eyes of nature herself. Listen—lizards in the brush, migrant birds in the trees. Smell—creosote and winter flowers in bloom over last year’s sycamore leaves or the crisp scents of the season. As you walk along it is easy to get lost in the beauty of the moment. It’s so easy you might not even be aware of a late season rattlesnake under a rock six inches away as you meander up the trail. That’s okay, the rattler was relieved you didn’t see him as well. Now bound across a mountain stream using some well-placed rocks as “stepping-stones,” except the rock you chose shifts. Down you go, twisting your ankle, banging you bum, and now you’re wet and cold. This is where trail safety comes in. It is not a set of hard rules although there are a few rules, both written and unwritten. Mostly it’s common sense. Start with: Never Go Alone. While this really goes without saying, it’s amazing how many people get into trouble as a group or by being separated from the group. Of course leaving the trail can result in getting lost or injured and damaging the habitat. At least when you’re on a trail if you get lost you can always sit down and wait for someone to come up the trail. Playing in water and rocks does need some need extra caution. Checking the bottom conditions with a walking stick whether in sand, rock, gravel or mud gives you a 3-point anchor for stability even in a moderately fast current. Adding sticky feet in the form of trail sandals when in water, can save you from a fall and protect your feet from unseen glass and other hazards. Then again, you should really be wearing good trail boots, wearing sandals only when you’re in the water. Speaking of slick rocks, in April, 2004, a hiker in Joshua Tree National Park fell into a crevasse where he lay for a week before being discovered. Rock formations and boulders can be deceptive, looking strong and solid. Water, ice, even the rocks’ texture can make it a difficult place to hold on with bad footwear. The same strong winds that shape the rocks can also throw people off balance, resulting in falls, and even a short fall can cause a major injury. Rocks of any size can shift without warning, especially when underwater, so check for stability. Strange as it seems the way in is not always the way out. The climb into one of the pools in Murray Canyon is fairly easy, but the thing is the way out can lead you into being trapped on the mountain and caught in poison ivy. Make sure that you can get out the same way you entered, or that you know of an easy way out, planning for the member of the group with the least skills. If you don’t see an obvious way out then don’t go in. “You said, “Hot tea… and, make a fire right…; what about no fire rules?” First, when you’re in trouble those rules don’t apply. Next my daypack has a small gas-fired camp stove, a “safe fire.” Nonetheless, even a camp stove can set a wildfire with fire conditions often in the high range, and once set, the mountains and deserts burn quickly, so no smoking or open fires. Know your limitations. While mental attitude makes it easy to walk the trail, physical limitations may prevent you from doing so, especially when temperatures are at their extremes. Whether in a group or on your own, no one can see to your safety except yourself. *People say I can’t spell. ‘Sez’ is the word ‘says’ used with artistic license. Questions, comments, suggestions? E-mail or visit


was an explorer type ever since I can remember. When I was a child I would gather my neighbor friends, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hike up Cucamonga Canyon to the falls. We would spend many afternoons there. I had minibikes and motorcycles as a kid that got me to those magic places where I was the only human for miles. As soon as I could legally drive an automobile, that extended my outings even further. I would take vehicles that had no business on anything but asphalt out into “the great beyond” of the Mojave Desert. Once a friend had told me that his brother-in-law rode a dirt bike from Apple Valley to North Lucerne Valley without touching asphalt. I couldn’t believe this as I had frequented this area and knew of no such route. Stoddard Wells Road, west of the Black Mountain quarry railroad spur, was the only route through, I told him. He said that was not the case. Armed with a mini pickup truck, some gear and plenty of time I went in search of the fabled route to Lucerne Valley east of the railroad spur. After many trespasses onto quarry property with no results I began to search further east. It took a few months of weekend exploration into every canyon and craggy hilltop to finally discover an open valley heading north. It took another week to find the entrance and a two track road leading that direction. On my first sortie I made it about a mile into the valley over the rough whooptie-doo road. I got out and wandered around on foot just before dark then left for home. Totally blown away by the rugged beauty and remoteness of this valley, it was all I could think of until the next trip. The next weekend I gathered a friend, a dog and some gear and headed out again. About a half mile further than the first trip, giant boulders of decomposed granite sprang up everywhere. The mountains outside the passenger window were just boulders stacked upon more boulders. We camped at the foot of this mountain of boulders and spent the rest of the weekend climbing and exploring them on foot. This spot became my favorite campsite for years. I found out later that the mountain range was named Granite Mountain.

On later trips I discovered that the valley narrowed to a skinny canyon guarded by an ancient juniper tree, the only one in existence in this part of the desert. It survives to this day because it is located on top of an underground spring that never quite reaches the surface. If you kick up some dirt with your shoe the ground beneath is wet all year round. My vehicle was unable to pass through the rough narrow entrance to the canyon that season. After winter however, a lot more sand had been deposited on the road making it easier to navigate. On one trip I saw a pure white owl in the juniper tree. I was unable to get a photo before it flew away. I soon came across a Fish and Game warden coming from the other direction. We stopped and talked for a while. I asked him about the road condition the direction he was coming from. He said if I had made it this far the rest would be no problem. Another half mile through the canyon I found myself in the midst of a Joshua tree forest. Just a small area of them, but there were many and they were densely gathered. A little further down the road I realized the Fish and Game warden was probably playing a joke on me as the road became extremely rough for a long way. My clutch leg began to cramp trying to keep the engine at idle speed while crawling over small boulders. Laugh if you will Mr. Ranger, I’m not turning around. I could see a couple of hills ahead of me. They looked like islands in the middle of the valley, a great place to stop and rest my leg. As I walked around these small islands of boulders I could tell this area must be home to all kinds of four legged critters and two legged birds. There were just too many great places for animals to shelter. Bones were scattered in the area from a recent mountain lion or coyote’s dinner. Hawks were flying in the sky above my little truck. This place was definitely something magical. As I approached the highway on the east end of the valley I could see a handful of small cabins and trailers belonging to some lucky folks that called this place home. I wished I could turn around and head back the way I came. My leg and my calendar would not allow it however so I returned home on asphalt instead. I loved the area so much I eventually became one of those lucky folks and bought property there myself. I am currently living there today. Not long after moving here I began to hear about a threat that was coming to my wonderful valley, a threat that has gripped much of the Mojave Desert in the last year or so. A giant green monster has its eye on us: the political/ corporate monster they call “renewable energy.” This monster is well known among desert dwellers. It has an insatiable hunger for undisturbed, pristine acreage, and little regard for wildlife or scenic beauty. One day soon my magical valley and pristine canyon will be in the shadow of 400 foot tall wind generators. Enjoy it while you can folks. I think Don Henley said it best in the Eagles’ song “Last Resort”… “If you call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye...” Dennis is from Lucerne Valley. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 35


ebster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a treasure as “something of great worth and value.” Here in California’s expansive Mojave Desert are four such treasures. Each is BIG, covering 2.5 million acres in toto. Each is one of a kind—of large asset value and priceless in worth to its respective “owners” and to our country at large. The owners of the “Big Four” are the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. These huge military land holdings were initially established during and after World War II, but all have grown and expanded in their basic missions and capabilities. All four are located in the Northern and Central Mojave Desert. Here’s a short description of each: Fort Irwin National Training Center is the U.S. Army’s central facility for realistic joint and combined arms training at battalion and brigade levels, including air support elements. Fort Irwin’s 600,000 acres adjacent to the China Lake reservation are of desert mountain and valley topography. A large combat force is permanently stationed to serve there as the “enemy” with similar large elements as the “friendly force” rotated in for training. A large area in the southwest corner has been dedicated to NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Tracking and Communication Complex. Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, is the home of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, the Navy’s (and Defense Department’s) largest full-spectrum in-house facility for research, design, development, test and evaluation of air armaments and related systems. A large land area and special-use airspaces encompass various technical facilities, 36 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

indoor and outdoor laboratories and a complex of test facilities for armament testing and electronic warfare. The Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, is located in the southern Mojave and complements the historic Marine Camp Pendleton on the Pacific coast. The 600,000 acres at Twentynine Palms accommodates large and small combined arms training with live-fire exercises. A Middle Eastern village site, with native role players, provide training of assault tactics. An “IED Alley” range helps to develop countermeasures for improvised explosive devices. An expeditionary airfield handles close-air-support aircraft and superlarge transports such as the C-5. Edwards Air Force Base is the home of the Air Force Flight Test Center located in the desert portion of eastern Kern and northern Los Angeles counties. AFFTC’s principal mission is to test and evaluate military aircraft and related systems during their research and development clear to deployment. Every Air Force aircraft since WWII has been flown at Edwards, including experimental aircraft which set world records for speed and altitude. The Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards is the test site for the experimental testing and design of aircraft propulsion systems. NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is also located at Edwards. There are other positive aspects of the “Big Four” besides the critical importance of their prime missions. Some observations: 1. The land areas for which they have stewardship responsibility are carefully managed to segregate and control the various activities and uses.

Training at Fort Irwin, and a map of military facilities in the California deserts.

2. The Mojave Desert is rich in archeological cultural resources, especially with petroglyphs (rock art) made by ancient Native Americans. Each of the Big Four has an active program for the protection and preservation of these resources. The “No Public Entry” regulation is a fine protective shield. In addition, a 30,000-acre area of the Coso Mountains in China Lake’s North Range has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in North America (several thousand). Recently this area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. 3. Workers at Edwards and China Lake have at times developed products or processes that can have use outside of military applications. The government-sponsored Technology Transfer Program is the vehicle to move such products into the commercial and private world. Just two such examples (both from China Lake) are light sticks, originally developed for rescue of downed pilots and now ubiquitous at Halloween; and the stop-motion television we now take for granted for instant replay during televised sporting events and other competitions. 4. The Big Four is a big economic engine, with over 30,000 military and civilian employees and numerous contractors (sans rotating trainees at Ft. Irwin and Twentynine Palms). The annual budgets in toto probably reach a billion dollars or more. 5. In spite of what is written above, the Big Four (possible exception: Edwards AFB!) get very little “press” in metropolitan and big-city newspapers. Yes, the local area people and newspapers are familiar with their military neighbors, but because of the remote locations the greater majority of the people of California are not aware that these treasures even exist. Maybe that’s for the better. John Di Pol, Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert.

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 37


old often lies anonymously secure in its desert home as it has since the beginning of time…mostly unseen and unnoticed. So it was on the California Rand until THEY came… looking and digging and most likely cussing as they nearly ran out of supplies and “the hungry coyote began to sniff in the tent door, too uncomfortably like the proverbial wolf.” In a twinkle it all changed when Ithaca N.Y. born writer-turned-prospector Frederic Mooers cried out: “We’re rich! WE FOUND IT!” Mooers, along with former Hesperia area cattle rancher Charles Burcham and Bakersfield house builder John Singleton became both rich and famous as the LA Times noted in their 1904 publication, Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest. The great Yellow Aster (first named the Rand Mine as inspired by the Witwatersrand in South Africa) had been born! The serious business of mining requires much in addition to the luck of a gold strike. Those with brawn, those with brain, and best of all those with a full dose of both, were needed to get the operation going. Investors, along with a shrewd sense of business, were crucial if the mine were to become profitable. The Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Company had all those necessary ingredients including a woman without whom (according to Wide World Magazine, a British publication) the mine partners would have been “like a boiler without a safety valve.” Dr.Rose Burcham, in addition to having her own entry in the aforementioned Men of Achievement was featured in the August 1912 Wide World article titled: A Woman Gold=Miner. Thousands of people worked in the

mines of the Rand Mining District leaving their footprints in the continually blowing dust of the desert. Some of them also left behind buildings which you can see today. Cottages evolved from one-room cabins which had sometimes evolved from boarded-in miner’s tents. Churches and stores and even a saloon remain from early days. All are treasures in this unique part of the desert. Mine ruins even dot the hills. (Caution: mines are both privately owned and dangerous; trespassing will not be tolerated.) A dictionary definition of Treasure includes, 1. gold and silver…2. very valuable object or person. The Rand Mining District seems to contain it all! I asked several longtime Rand visitors what they identified as the district’s treasure and their responses were as varied as the people queried. Several pointed to their fascination with the ‘boom and bust’ cyclical nature of mining camps, people and businesses coming and going and their curiosity of what tomorrow will bring. Some spoke of their enjoyment of watching others experience this journey to the past for the first time. Others spoke of their connectedness with people who walked the same streets, entered the same buildings, breathed the same air and were blown by the same wind. An old saying is “GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT.” So is desert treasure. What treasure will YOU find on the Rand? Come and see…. Lorraine Blair is an author and lecturer on the history of the Rand Mining District. Several of her books are available at The Sun Runner Shop inside Tamma’s Magic Mercantile in Old Town Yucca Valley.

38 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

The old Catholic Church in Randsburg, then, above, and now, below. The 1912 Wide World story on Dr. Rose Burcham, top.

Desert Theatre Beat

By Jack Lyons Sun Runner Theatre Editor


s the year 2010 winds down (and not a minute too soon), it’s time to give you an end-of-year report on the status of theatre in the high and low desert venues. When the year 2010 began, I lamented the state of live theatre, not only here in the Coachella Valley, but everywhere. On the downside, our desert community lost four theatres, victims of the tanked economy. On the upside, however, we gained three new venues for a net loss of only one theatrical company. Actors and theatre companies are always cockeyed optimists, God love ‘em. First order of business for this issue’s column is to congratulate all the winners and nominee’s of the Desert Theatre League’s Desert Stars Awards ceremony held last month in Indio. Your “Spotlight On” columnist Jeannette Lyons nabbed another DTL award. This time it was for Best Director of a Staged Reading, for Dezart Performs, of Palm Springs. As usual, hi-desert theatres garnered their share of awards. Joy Groves of The Groves Cabin Theatre won two acting awards, with the Hi-Desert Cultural Center awarded Desert Stars Awards to Ron House as Best Director of a Drama, Sue Kelly for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, and Leissa Von Volz, for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama All three awards in the professional category were for the production: “Swift Fox: The Untold stories of Willie Boy,” written by director Ron House. The Desert Theatre League is comprised of 30 producing organizations from the hi- and low desert, along with individual DTL members at-large who provide the finest in live theatre for our many desert residents and communities. Well done all! HI-DESERT THEATRES … Theatre 29, 29 Palms Now entering its 11th season of pro-

ducing and presenting quality familyoriented live theatre, Theatre 29 kicks off their new season on Friday, January 14 with Neil Simon’s first smash hit as a playwright. “Come Blow Your Horn,” directed by hi-desert favorite Butch Pelfry will be presented for a five week run, performing Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.; with one Thursday, January 27 show at 7 p.m. and one Sunday matinee, February 6 at 2:30 p.m. through February 12. For reservations and ticket information call the box office at (760)361-4151.

flaky Broadway producers is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. The production opens Friday, January 28 and performs on Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 13. For reservations and ticket information to both productions call the Box Office at (760)323-5123. Congratulations to the Palm Canyon Theatre on garnering 16 DTL Awards for theatrical excellence in performing, designing, and choreography.

Groves Cabin Theatre, Morongo Valley The Groves is mourning, along with the rest of the valley, the loss of one the desert’s finest actors—John Corley. John was scheduled to perform in the Groves production of “Painting Churches” in October, however, during rehearsals his health issues forced him to withdraw from the show. Theatre founder Joy Groves and Artistic Director Vicki Montgomery decided without John, they would postpone the show until he felt ready to return. John Corley passed away on October 19. John will be sorely missed by all who knew him. The theatre instead presented “Daddy’s Dyin,’Who’s Got the Will?” directed by Kathryn Ferguson. The production, which ran for four weekends, closed on October 31. The next production at The Groves is the uplifting dramedy, “Wit,” written by Margaret Edson. The Groves is the most honored of all desert theatres, garnering more than 50 Desert Theatre League Awards over the years. With only 22 seats, reservations are a must. The theatre will be accepting reservations for the upcoming play “Wit” right after the first of the year. Call the box office at (760)365-4523

Coyote StageWorks, Palm Springs Fresh from their DTL win for Outstanding Comedy Production, the creative trio of Chuck Yates, Alan Denny, and Larry Raben are at it again. This time their upcoming production in December, is the follow-on success, “A Tuna Christmas,” written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. Again Chuck Yates and Alan Denny are portraying all 22 zany and crazy characters of Tuna, Texas, under the clever and watchful eye of director Larry Raben. The comedy runs from December 2 to December 19 at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 South Cahuilla Road (at Baristo), Palm Springs. Performances are given on Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with two shows on Sundays, a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening show at 6:30 p.m. Call (760)318-0024 for tickets, reservations, and additional information.

LOW DESERT THEATRES … The Palm Canyon Theatre, Palm Springs America’s favorite orphan, “Annie,” will be working her magic on the kids at the orphanage, as well as on Daddy Warbucks and the audiences of Palm Springs’ flagship theatre, beginning Friday, December 3, at 8 p.m. “Annie,” the endearing musical written by Charles Strouse and Martin Charmin, with a book by Thomas Meehan, and directed by Steve Fisher, performs on Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through December 19. As a way of ringing in the New Year, the PCT is presenting the blockbuster musical “The Producers,” written by Mel Brooks. The hilarious tale of two

Cabaret Theatre West, Indian Wells The professional cabaret performing company operating out the Hyatt Grand Champions resort, is presenting their Christmas/Holiday show, “Swingin’ with the Season,” on December 18 and 19 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on December 19 at 2 p.m. Producers Jane Treacy and Dr. Audrey Reed tell me the show makes for a great Christmas stocking stuffer gift for young and old alike. Sounds like a good idea. In January 2011, the cabaret series continues with a show called “Lullaby of Broadway.” The show features music and songs of America’s unique contribution to the world of show business —the musical. Composer like George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein, George Gershwin, and many more, who made the American musical a worldwide staple of entertainment, will be featured. Performances are given on January 28, 29, February 11, 12, and 13. Call Ellen for reservations, tickets, and ad-

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 39

Desert Theatre Beat, continued... ditional information at (760)568-0024.


ou may have noticed the “Cracked Eggs” haven’t done anything in the hi-desert lately? Why? Unfortunately the director, Linda Carmella Sibio, had to stop doing this project due to permanent health conditions. Linda says dropping the Cracked Eggs was a sad decision for her and her sponsor, Bezerk Productions (a national non-profit dedicated to educating the mentally disabled in the experimental arts). The organization has, however, decided to sponsor two solo projects by the founding artist, Sibio. One project is a book (with visuals) chronicling the artist’s experiences for the past 27 years teaching the experimental arts to the mentally disabled on Skid Row in Los Angeles (the Operation Hammer project) and the rural area of the hi-desert (the Cracked Eggs project). This book includes visuals and is done in a cross style incorporating hyperrealism and poetic essays with visuals. It is one- third complete and will be sent to national and international publishers for review. The second project is a solo endeavor by Sibio, which incorporates performance, visual art, installation, and video projections (by Blake Brousseau). Sibio is sending the proposal to both national and international venues for review. Some venues she is interested in are Andrew Edlin Gallery (Chelsea, NY), The New Museum (New York), Exit Art (New York), ICA (London, England), and Track 16 (Los Angeles). She hopes that hi-desert dwellers will come out for the Los Angeles show. On the personal level, Linda and Brousseau tied the knot and got married on May 2. It was an “art” wedding with

Desert Theatre Beat Musings … There is always a lot going on in our desert paradise and there is only so much space in my column. However, I appear on two TV shows about theatre in the area One show I do is colleague Denise Neil’s (also a writer for The Sun Runner) TV show “Coachella Valley This Week,” which can be seen on KRET-TV, Channel 14, every Saturday from 9:30 - 10 a.m. And I do reviews for the Critic’s Roundtable segment on Time Warner Cable’s “Desert Entertainment This Week,” with Gary Walker and Don Martin. So, if I missed mentioning your favorite theatre or show in “Desert Theatre Beat,” check out these two TV shows, and read the next issue. Support the arts at every level, and remember a great nation deserves great art. See you at a live theatre venue. 60 of the couple’s friends at the Espace DbD in Los Angles. Officiating at the wedding was internationally known performance artist Rachel Rosenthal. Blake premiered six shorts he created with Sibio on the concept of “marriage.” In addition, such notable performers as John Fleck (one of the NEA four, and actor), Nathalie Broizat (a French artist and Fulbright Scholar), Jean-Paul Monsche (of The Mad Alsacians fame), Marcus Kuiland-Nazario (if you’ve ever been to L.A. you’ve probably seen Marcus), Leo Tolkin (Cal-Arts student), Alan Pulner (co-founder About Productions) and Elia Arce (an internationally acclaimed artist who used to live out herein the hidesert)—all did incredible performances to the extent that Michael Tolkin stated “This is the best wedding I’ve ever been to.” Sibio hopes to show the video of the wedding at a fundraiser for Bezerk Productions in the coming months. She’s busy conjuring up what would be a great evening as only Linda could imagine. The Sun Runner has agreed to be a sponsor. So watch for this event! Sibio thanks the communitiy for your support in what has been a difficult three years of her life. “I hope to continue making art and letting my voice be heard,” Sibio says. So do we, here at The Sun Runner. Sibio has overcome difficulties before to go on and produce world-class art nationally. We look forward to her return to the desert’s—and the world’s—art scene.

40 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011



his issue always signals the arrival of one of the three 800 pound gorillas of film festivals in the country. The 22nd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival brings a train-load of Hollywood stars, celebrities, filmmakers, writers, composers, producers, plus glamour and excitement when it arrives. This year the Festival Awards Gala, presented by Cartier, and hosted by Mercedes Benz and Entertainment Tonight will kick off the 2011 awards season on Saturday, January 8 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, and will be hosted, once again, by “Entertainment Tonight’s” Mary Hart. The festival for the general public begins on January 6 and runs through January 17, 2011. The Palm Springs International Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in North America and is expected to welcome more than 130,000 movie maniacs and fans over 11 days here in our desert paradise. Darryl Macdonald, executive director of the festival and his programming team have been screening entries since early spring and have whittled down the films from over 40 countries to more than 200-plus films, documentaries, and animated movies. Film junkies can view their favorites at more than five venues over the 11 days of the festival. Screenings will take place at: The Regal Cinema, Stadium Nine, The Camelot Theatres, The Palm Springs High School, The Annenberg Theatre at the Palm Springs Museum, and The Palm Canyon Theatre. All screening venues are located in Palm Springs. Film Festival Chairman Harold

Matzner and executive director Daryl Macdonald bring glitter and glamour to this year’s honorees with the presence of: Colin Firth, who receives the prestigious Desert Palm Achievement Actor Award, Natalie Portman, who receives the Desert Palm Achievement Actress Award, Javier Bardem, the Spanish Academy Award-winning actor who receives the 2011 International Star Award, Cary Mulligan who is being honored as the Breakthrough Performance Actor of the year, and Jennifer Lawrence who receives the Rising Star Award at this year’s Film Festival Awards Gala. The international and Hollywood film communities have put their best foot forward with these honorees. The PSIFF always delivers when it comes to stars, stories, movies and excitement. There will be plenty of time for attending parties, schmoozing sessions, and chatting in line with your fellow film festival colleagues or with dinner guests at local eateries between screenings during the eleven days of the Festival. Tickets to the various screenings, and films go very fast, so I would recommend film fans go online for tickets and information, as soon as possible, at www. or by calling (760)3222930 or (800)898-7256. Film Societies or Organizations For those crazed movie fanatics that just can’t wait for the festival to begin, I have an prescription/suggestion for you. One can always attend one of three film society’s screenings. The Desert Classic Film Society is presenting a unique program of rare Christmas films dating from 1915 to 1955. The program of short subjects, which lasts approximately two hours, will be introduced by film historian Christopher Perry, Sunday, December 5. The program begins at 6 pm. The Bijou Theatre is located at 57482 Onaga Trail in Yucca Valley and admission is only $5. For additional information call (760)3650475. The Desert Film Society will screen “The Red Machine” and “Gandhi at the Bat,” at the Camelot Theatres Saturday, December 11 at 9 a.m. sharp! If December 11 doesn’t work for you then I suggest you catch the Society’s screening of “Inhale,” on Saturday, December 18. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the screening begins at 9:30 a.m. “Inhale” is the story of rising Santa Fe District Attorney Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney) and his wife, Diane (Diane Kruger) who wait every day for the word that there’s a donor for

Mark Speer Automotive Academy Award winner Robert Duvall will receive the Career Achievement Award at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival. their daughter Chloe. Diagnosed with a rare degenerative condition, Chloe is on a long list to receive a double lung transplant. As her health worsens, Paul becomes desperate to save his young daughter… so desperate that he’ll risk everything to organize an operation. The film also stars Sam Shepard, Vincent Perez, Rosanna Arquette and Jordi Molla. “Inhale” is a tight and fastpaced film that leave you guessing what might be around each twist and turn, right up to the end. It’s only 83 suspenseful minutes and it’s in English. For additional information call (760)772-2999 or www. See you at the film festival in January 2011.


Roy’s Tires

4082-B Adobe Rd. 29 Palms

Start your Fridays with The Sun Runner at 8:30 a.m. on

KX96 96.3 FM

FADE OUT: This just in: Executive producer Jim Casey and producting partner Kim Waltrip has begun production on their fourth project together—”A Thousand Cuts”—an original story written by Eric Barr and Marty James, directed by Charles Evered. The film stars Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Michael O’Keefe, Michael A. Newcomer, Olesya Rulin, with cameos by Jimmy Van Patten, David Naughton, and Charleene Closshey. Filming began near the end of November and it will be shot entirely in Palm Desert. The film is a WonderStar and J&J Production, who recently produced “Expecting Mary, and “I Didn’t Come Here to Die.” Casey and Waltrip have other projects lined up for 2011. December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 41

The Shadow Mountain Band on stage at the Joshua Tree Roots Fest, left. Cold War Kids at Pappy & Harriet’s, inset (photo by Beth Clifford). The John Linn Band with their new tour bus, below. There Be Pirates! is raising funds for their 3rd UK tour by sending Christmas cards with download card stickers for their albums “Drink & the Devil,” and “Pirates in the Desert,” to folks on your list for as little as $7.95. See for details and put a little swashbuckle in your holidays.


ongratulations to Gram Rabbit who won Best Dance Song for “Candy Flip” at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. The HMMA helps indie musicians get paid in the music industry. We are so proud of our Rabbits! Northern Ireland’s Snow Patrol were here recording at the Rancho De La Luna and even attended one of Ted Quinn’s Open Mics at Pappy and Harriet’s. Although they did not play that night they still caused quite a stir. Snow Patrol are massive, their major label debut Final Straw was certified 5x Platinum! The Joshua Tree Roots Fest was a blast again this year and our local favorites Shadow Mountain Band really rocked! Early bird tickets are already available for the Joshua Tree Music Fest that will be held at the Joshua Tree Lakes and Campground on May 13-15, 2011. I would like to thank everyone who came to see me on the Hwy 62 Art Tours and to Two Lane Blacktop and The John Linn Band for providing some outstanding music for the weekend. The John Linn Band pulled up in a gigantic tour bus and I thought to myself, “I always wanted to go on tour in a big bus like that!” Be careful what you wish for because they asked me to do just that with them next year. Local artist Christy Anderson is going to “pimp” their ride and the bus is being fitted for solar power and bio-diesel fuel. I am looking forward to quite an adventure documenting the tour with some really fun guys, if only for a week. Fullerton’s Indie rock band Cold War Kids played to a sold out crowd at Pappy and Harriet’s. They gained recognition with the release of their debut LP Robbers&Cowards and opened for the White Stripes as well as a national tour with Death Cab for Cutie. There have been some outstanding shows at Pappy’s in the last couple of months including Masters of Reality with Chris Goss and David Catching, Prince Bonnie Billy, Dick Dale and his son Jimmy, Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst, The Sadies and many more. The BIG surprise coming up at Pappy’s is on January 22 when none other than Sean Lennon ( yes THAT Sean Lennon) and his new band with Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, will take the stage. This show is sure to sell out so be sure to get your tickets now! I would like to invite everyone to The Sun Runner’s Sweet 42 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

16 Birthday Party from 5-10 p.m. on Saturday January 8, 2011, under the tent at the beautiful 29 Palms Inn. Free! Food, drink and live entertainment with hosts Billy Makuta and Ellen Brenner Makuta of Really Shooo Cabaret (and There Be Pirates!). Musicians on the bill so far include Really Shooo, Shawn Mafia, Steve “Dandy” Brown & co. (from Hermano), Barbara Buckland, and a few surprise guests. The publisher of the magazine may even do a song or two in honor of There Be Pirates! upcoming third UK tour and his lecture on piracy at the Hi-Desert Museum this February where they may also do a kid’s pirate/sea music event. Please come by and help us celebrate 16 years of The Sun Runner! Congratulations to Redd Stodder on the release of his CD Yogi Nights, and to Jeff Hafler for being the Grand Marshal of the Pioneer Days Parade. Happy Holidays to everyone and have a Rockin’ New Year! Pick up some of Judy’s artwork (and much more) at The Sun Runner Shop inside Tamma’s Magic Mercantile, 55727 29 Palms Highway, Old Town Yucca Valley. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (760)228-0700.

Sustainable Living

Simple Times in a Simple Place

Hot tubbing with John the Hippie and his Magnificent Outdoor Shower (Scene Two – Act One)


(By Pasquali via David Brown)

omewhere over the desert, high above a parched and sun-beaten stretch of land populated by creosote, lizard, snake, rabbit and coyote, as well as many other such friendly, interesting, and delightful creatures, Raven hovers in the heavens. She is riding thermal currents in a slow manner, using little wing, and this suits her fine. She is a creature of elegance and beauty and, frankly, those like her need use little energy to get by, unlike some of the rest of us not so endowed... Dancing in smaller to larger circles and back, and then ovals up and down and every place in between, she glides effortlessly, delicously wearing a wonderful suit of the blackest black, shining, aloof and uncaring for the world below, strutting those wings in the mid-day sun. Although noted for being gregarious and curious by nature, this single bird seems to be mildly disinterested in an interesting scenario taking place a few hundred feet below... “Put that bottle down! Now!” “I would like to belay your request dear Rabbit, however, I cannot as it would appear mi langua seems to be stuck in the neck of this bottle!” “I can see that, you big dumb Coyote! How on earth did you get your tongue stuck in a beer bottle? You do the most idiotic things sometimes.” “Yes, that is what I am supposed to do I guess, languish my days away playing the fool... I was trying to get the last drop! Why else (what else is there but it all?)? Presto! There I was, holding the bottle by the neck with these wonderful canine teeth, they are for more than just ripping meat you know...and I stuck my equally wonderful tongue in there and it swelled up and...” “Shut up! Hide! Someone’s a coming.” Our faithful friends Rabbit and Coyote coyly move into the shelter and shadows of an interesting structure. It is built of salvaged wood reclaimed from an old jack rabbit homestead which was falling down. The owner was not related to our friend, Rabbit. Our hero, John the Hippie, his freak flag a-flying, was hired to demolish this old place, which is exactly what he did, in a timely manner, as beffiting any true hero. Being a hero is not a job, it is a way of life, just like desert ratting or surfing, perhaps. John carted off the remains in an early sixties Ford Ranchero. Yes, a Ford—John the Hippie walks on his own terms and drives when he has to, recieving payment with elusive cash and then there’s the free building materials. Both very green. He, as they say, “made it on both ends!” Back at his own homestead, our hero began the task of selecting and preparing his newfound treasures for use. Taking each piece of lumber, John the Hippie removed all nails using a monkey bar. He then took the useable nails, ones not so bent as to be rendered useless, and placing them on a flat stable surface, gave each one a good sound hit with a 24-ounce framing hammer. They are no less pre-bent than the ones you can buy at the local hardware store, sent many a mile across the shining Pacific, and these my firends, are most likely made of real steel! When selecting framing lumber, the checked ends, the ones with major cracks, are cut off with a sharp hand saw, revealing,

in most cases, slightly cracked but sound inner wood. Remember, this lumber must hold a fastener, and if it can’t, well then... the pieces deemed unuseable become firewood. Just like most everything else in life, many things considered old, such as cars and radios and old flames and what not, have plenty of life left within them for those who may appreciate their virtues. Just look at John! Up in the heavens, Raven loses interest, circles one more time and heads east. Ahhh, the warm sand feels good on the bottom of my feet. Do you like my wet towel? I am sure many of you appreciate it, and for those of you who may not, I humbly appologise for the disappointment. Examine the alternatives... Myself, I greatly appreciate the way that John the Hippie has cut the one by six planking to different widths, the little Italian in me leaping for joy at such artful execution, and it hides the imperfections of the planks. Welcome my friends to Lumber Recycling 101! John has selected a large square as the shape of his shower, although your own may be any shape or size. The shower walls are left open along the bottom, and they are five feet tall. John the Hippie stands of short but stocky proportions, so this is adequate. In each corner, he has placed a four-by-four post into the ground, using the time tested method of coating the end with tar and then mixing small rocks and found gravels while setting it. He has also placed one at center of one side as an opening, as I will show you by opening the gate... Pardon me, my towel has fallen!” “Oh, look at that!” exclaims Rabbit. “My towel as a kilt!” Anyways, a two-by-four is cut to proper length and then placed connecting the posts at the top and bottom. The planking is then attached to said frame, laying one plank against another at random widths, creating an interesting and artistic appearance. Mira Bella and bellisima! I really like the floor! In the bathing area, an old pallet is used as a floor grate. John even used a hand plane and a sanding block to smooth all the edges and remove the splinters. This takes time, but what else, may I ask, does John the Hippe have but time? This pallet grate simply rests on the ground, and it may be tilted up against one of the walls when not in use. In this manner, not only may it dry out but it makes it difficult for rattler snake to snooze under it on a warm day, does it not? And black widow spider, as well as cousin recluse. Is this not good? The area under the pallet is a small depression dug out of the sand about a foot’s depth. You will need a sharp-edged spade for the job. The depression is then filled with small rocks and pebbles found in the removed material by raking through back and forth again as needed. Once you have done this thing, take a little break and when the mood affects your person to do otherwise, shovel the small rock and pebbles back into the depression. Remember to pace yourself as a job rushed and a worker pushed too hard is no fun to be around. Now, use the back of a rake, the side without tines, and level the crushed aggregate the best you can. Finally, walk back and forth across this surface, just like you were crushing grapes, to compact it. This makes a nice, level, or close to it, surface for the pallet, and gives the water somewhere to go other than make things a muddy mess. I suppose you could dig a trench and make a French drain if you wanted, however, why overdo it? Relax and take your shoes off. View the magnificent desert. Take in the subtle sounds and feel the breeze tickle your face and the sun warm your back. Life is for such things. Savor and relax... But first, please be so kind as to hand me that kilt laying about there! Graci! – Pasquali December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 43



met the epitome of a positive living man recently when I met Jeff Hafler for the first time. Jeff is the young businessman who was selected to be one of two Grand Marshalls for the October Pioneer Days parade in Twentynine Palms. The other Grand Marshall is my friend, former mayor M. J. “Mac” Dube. Jeff was selected as a “Pioneer of the Future.” What a great choice! What a great guy! Jeff owns and operates the Beauty Bubble, a salon located next to the home he shares with his partner Mikal Winn and their adopted son, Cash. Their 10 acre property also features a significant beauty equipment museum and a first class bed and breakfast. In addition to Jeff’s busy daily work schedule, Jeff is a musician. He and his brother Jamie often entertain at the 29 Palms Inn. They are pretty darn good! I am very proud that I live in a community in which our chamber of commerce demonstrated a non-judgmental, intelligent, far-sighted attitude when they made their superior decision to choose Jeff as Grand Marshall. Jeff and Mikal are wonderful parents and drive their lively and exceptionally bright five year-old ,Cash Donovan Hafler, to and from Twentynine Palms Elementary every school day. Jeff and Mikal know Cash’s birth mother and were at the hospital in Los Angeles when he was born. Cash was legally adopted at birth. When Jeff and Mikal were married in the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Cash was present as a young witness. Pet lovers will appreciate the fact that the family has two dogs, one cat, two goats, 20 chickens, 30 rabbits and three tortoises. Mikal is also an incredible artist whose jewelry has been worn by the likes of Halle Berry and even Brittany Spears. What a family! This column is sponsored by Indian Cove Market and Deli on Twentynine Palms Highway just west of Twentynine Palms near Indian Cove Campground at Joshua Tree National Park. They are open seven days a week for your convenience, and are well stocked for campers and everyone else, with a great little deli and friendly customer service. The Indian Cove Market and Deli is one of around 500 locations throughout the desert where you can pick up a copy of The Sun Runner Magazine. 44 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

Through Dec. – Theatre 29: “The First Christmas.” 7-10 p.m. $10-12. Theatre 29, 73637 Sullivan Rd., 29 Palms. (760)361-4151. Dec. 4 & 5 – Petroglyph Field Trips. World class rock art. Preregistration required. Maturango Museum, 100 E. Las Flores Ave. Ridgecrest. (760)375-6900. Dec. 7 – Inlandia Creative Writing Institute. Free, advance registration required. Creative writing workshops. Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs. Dec. 7 – Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. 5:30 p.m. Lighting ceremony, music, Santa. Veterans Park (between Library & City Hall on Adobe Rd. ). 29 Palms. (760)367-3445. Dec. 7 – Super Ruby Tuesdays Open Mic Night w/Ted Quinn. 8 p.m. 21+. Joshua Tree Saloon, 61835 29 Palms Hwy., Joshua Tree. Dec. 9 – Lakey’s Christmas Show. 7 p.m. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 10 – Desert Tortoises: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow. 7-9 p.m. $5. Kristin Berry, USGS. Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Dr., 29 Palms. (760)367-5535. Dec. 11 – Santa Visits The Gardens on El Paseo. 10 a.m-1 p.m. $10 donation benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert. Face painting, crafts, choral performances, refreshments, picture w/Santa. 73-545 El Paseo, Palm Desert. Dec. 11 – Family Fun Day at Maturango Museum. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free day at the museum, 2nd Saturday monthly. 100 E. Las Flores Ave., Ridgecrest. (760)375-6900. Dec. 12 – Dave Koz & Friends: A Smooth Jazz Christmas. 7 p.m. $55-95. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Dr., Palm Desert. (760)340-ARTS. Dec. 12 – San Gorgonio Pass Poets Society. 2:30 p.m. 2nd Saturday monthly. Beaumont Library, 125 E. 8th St., Beaumont. (951)849-1022. Dec. 12 – Caballeros Gay Men’s Chorus of Palm Springs, “FA LA LA” Holiday Concert. 3 p.m. $20. Center for Spiritual Living, 45-630 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. (760)322-3112. Dec. 15 – The Capitol Steps Satire Group. 7 p.m. $50-75. Benefit for/at Temple Isaiah. 322 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs. (760)3252281. Dec. 16 – Rojer Arnold Band. 7:30 p.m. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 17 - Holiday Art Hop 29. 12-8 p.m. Fundraiser for Mojave Desert Land Trust. Art, food, music. 73509 29 Palms Hwy., 29 Palms. Dec. 18 – Desert Film Society Presents: Inhale. Free for members, $15. 9 a.m. Camelot Theatres, 2300 E Baristo Rd., Palm Springs. (760)772-2999. Dec. 19 – “The Sit Down Show With Marta Becket & If These Walls Could Talk.” Sundays, 2 p.m., until May 1. $15, Children $12 (5-12). (760)852-4441. Amargosa Opera House, Death Valley Junction. Dec. 20 – Ted Quinn’s Open Mic Reality Show. 8 p.m. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 21 & 23 – Tehachapi Community Theatre Presents A Christmas Carol. 6:30 p.m. $7.50. BeeKay Theater, 110 S Green St., Tehachapi. (661) 822-4037. Dec. 22 – Desert Gathering. 6:30 p.m. Donation. Alternative friendship, support & holistic healing network. Wednesdays. Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Friendship Hall, 59700 29 Palms Hwy., Joshua Tree. (760)365-8371.,

Dec. 24 – Jazz & Blues In the Cafe. 5-9 p.m. Free. Bob Peoples brings jazz & blues to Cafe Potpourri in the Carriage Inn. 901 N. China Lake Blvd., Ridgecrest. (760)446-7910. Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve w/ Stormin’ Norman and good ole’ country music. 6 p.m. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 25 – Merry Christmas. Happy birthday Dorien & Jimmy Buffett! Dec. 26 – Pappy’s Allstar Band. 7 -10 p.m. Sundays. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 28 – Tehachapi Community Theatre Presents: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” BeeKay Theater, 110 S Green St, Tehachapi. (661) 822-4037. Dec. 29 – Me & You at the Zoo at The Living Desert. 9 a.m. 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. (760) 346-5694. Dec. 31 – Celebrate New Year’s Eve With I See Hawks in L.A. 8 p.m. Tables reserved for dinner only w/6 p.m. earliest seating. No cover. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Dec. 31-Jan. 2 – New Year’s Celebration Weekend at Calico Ghost Town. Admission varies. New Year’s Eve celebration & throughout weekend live music & dancing, Old West gambling demos, more. Yermo. 800-TO-CALICO. JANUARY 2011 Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day with Terry Hanson & California Whiskey. 8 p.m. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. Jan. 2 – Dezart One Open Mic Poetry Reading. 4:30 p.m. 4116 Matthew Dr., Palm Springs, (760)328-1440. Jan. 3 – Borrego Birders. 8-10 a.m. 1st Monday monthly. Borrego Springs. (760)767-3098. Jan. 6 – Carpe Diem String Quartet. 7:30 p.m. Gypsy, tango, folk, blues, jazz-inspired music. Parker Performing Arts Center, Burroughs High School, 500 E. French St., Ridgecrest. (760)375-5600. Jan. 6-17 – 22nd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. 400+ screenings, 200+ films from approximately 60 countries. Screenings throughout Palm Springs. (800)898-7256. Jan. 7 & 8 – Star Parties. 7-11 p.m. Free, donations accepted. View galaxies and more via an 11” celestron telescope projected onto a monitor or screen. Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, 860 Hot Springs Rd., Tecopa. (760)852-4420. Jan. 8 – The Sun Runner’s “Sweet 16” Birthday Party. 5-10 p.m. Join us to celebrate our 16 years of publishing, with entertainment, food & drink, special guests, & cake. “Under the Tent” at the historic 29 Palms Inn. 73950 Inn Avenue, 29 Palms. (760)820-1222. www. Jan. 14 – A Life in the Theater. 7:30 p.m. $5.75-15.75. Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center, 590 Palm Canyon Dr., Borrego Springs. (760)767-4275. Jan. 14 – The Mikes of Twentynine Palms. 7-9 p.m. $5. Cliff Trafzer, Ph.D., History, Professor, Indian Affairs. Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Dr., 29 Palms. (760)367-5535. Jan. 14,-16 – Blythe Bluegrass Festival. One of the biggest bluegrass events in the US. Colorado River Fairgrounds, 591 N. Olive Lake Blvd., Blythe. (760)922-8166. Jan. 15 – Night Sky Workshop. 10 a.m. Free workshop to improve quality of dark night skies & help understand benefits. Joshua Tree Community Association. Joshua Tree Community Center, 6171 Sunburst Ave., Joshua Tree. (760)366-9862. Jan. 15 – Harvey House Market Days. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Food, produce, crafts in historic Harvey House. 681 N. First Ave., Barstow. (760)256-8617. Jan. 16 – Jazzoo Concert Series at the Living Desert. 4 p.m. Paid reservations required. Music of jazz legends played by Roger Neumann and Friends. 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. (760)346-5694. Jan. 22 -– The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kep Muhl. 8 p.m. $15.Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown. (760)365-5956. www.

For the most comprehensive event listings for the California deserts, please visit

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 45

46 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 47

29 Palms Inn

Fine food & lodging since 1928. Lunch, dinner, continental breakfast, Sunday brunch. Art-filled dining room, bar. Heated pool, poolside patio, adobe bungalows. “Oasis of Mara” and trails, near JT National Park headquarters and visitor center. Paul & Jane Smith, Innkeepers. 73950 Inn Ave., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-3505


Circle C Lodge

Private oasis offers 12 spacious guest rooms nestled in a lush garden courtyard with heated pool, spa, BBQ pit. Full kitchen, A/C, HBO, phones, continental breakfast. AAA, extended stay available. 6340 El Rey Ave., 29 Palms, CA (760)367-7615 • 800-545-9696

Country Inn

Complimentary Continental Breakfast. Pillow top matresses. Business Center with fast DSL Internet Access, Data Port/Fast DSL Access in all rooms. FREE local calls. Outdoor pool, some Jacuzzi Rooms, Kitchenette Rooms. TV w/remote, iron, coffee maker, hair dryer, clock radio. Friendly, professional staff. 71829 29 Palms Hwy., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-0070 • (760)367-9806 Fax

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

Free Smart Start breakfast, free local calls, fast DSL Internet access, heated pool & spa, fitness center, business center. Andy Patel, General Manager. 71809 29 Palms Hwy., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)361-4009 • 1-800-HOLIDAY

48 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

A respite for desert travelers since 1940, downtown 29 Palms. Swimming pool, courtyard, A/C, direct phones, satellite TV/HBO. Refrigerators/microwaves, kitchenettes available. Ken Patel, Manager. 73352 29 Palms Hwy., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-3528

SUNNYVALE GARDEN SUITES Condo-like suites with a touch of the “old west.” Junior, 1 & 2 bedroom suites, full kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, private patios w/barbecues, Cable TV, DVD, patio area, playground, spa and fitness center. Tony & Cora Naraval, owners. 73843 Sunnyvale Dr., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)361-3939

Roughley Manor

Bed & Breakfast Inn. Gorgeous 1928 stone manor on 25-acre historic Campbell Ranch. Gardens, elegant guest rooms, fireplaces, grand piano in great room, fine linens, gourmet food, catered functions. Gary & Jan Peters. 74744 Joe Davis Dr., 29 Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-3238

Amargosa Opera House & Hotel

Historic Spanish Colonial style adobe hotel with Marta Becket murals, gift shop, AC. Reservations recommended. (760) 852-4441

December 2010/January 2011 – The Sun Runner 49

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Drive (at Utah Trail) Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 Park Info: (760)367-5500

Mojave National Preserve

29 Palms Chamber of Commerce

73660 Civic Center, Suite D Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (760)367-3445

Death Valley National Park

Barstow Chamber of Commerce

Joshua Tree National Park Association

Beatty Information Center, Beatty, NV (775)553-2200 Furnace Creek Visitor Center & Museum (760)786-3200,

Death Valley Chamber of Commerce

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Foundation

Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association

California Deserts Visitors Association

50 The Sun Runner – December 2010/January 2011

Ridgecrest Area Convention & Visitors Bureau 1-800-847-4830

Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce

Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority

The Sun Runner Magazine

The Desert Treasures Issue, December 2010/January 2011  
The Desert Treasures Issue, December 2010/January 2011  

The first Sun Runner Desert Treasures Issue highlighting people who are cultural treasures in the California deserts, including Marta Becket...