Friday, January 30, 2015

Wonder Valley Book Trailer

My lovely neighbor Winter Rosebudd turned me onto this video trailer for the Wonder Valley book, by William Hillyard. I See Hawks in LA wrote and performed Wonder Valley Fight Song. I just KNEW there had to be a song for Wonder Valley.

I have mixed feelings about Hillyard's book and website. The more time I spend in Wonder Valley the less I want to say, or write, anything about the people who live here. I keep the confidences and secrets even if the tellers do not identify them as such. Though they survive the baking desert sun I fear they might wither under public scrutiny, the thirst for local color and the drive for progress and improvement.

The only stories I find myself able to tell are those that give people second thoughts about moving here, you know, the true ones about the heat and the cold and aridity, the lack of services, and the snakes and spiders. Coming from Los Angeles, a refugee of greed-based gentrification and the razing of family neighborhoods, I want Wonder Valley to be immune to development. I know - crazy dream, right? But there must be one place in this country that remains wild, and free from speculation. From what I've seen, it's too hot here for vultures, and, I'm hoping, vulture capitalists.


 Don't know how accurate this is anymore, but here are the lyrics:

I like rocks
And rock gardens
I like to watch materials harden

The desk clerk at the Motel 6
Just past the Marine Base
He said this here is a nice little region, but
Stay away from Wonder Valley

Wonder Valley
Wonder Valley
It’s the land where a man can take a stand
Wonder Valley

You don’t need a de-louser
Better bring a douser to
Wonder Valley
Groove the land
Take a stand in Wonder Valley

Watch the sunset change the shadows
Watch the food thieves swinging from the gallows
Wonder Valley

Well the desk clerk at the Motel 6
Said he was looking for a 1966 Ford Fairlane

I said come on down to L.A.
He said oh, no
They just want to trick you
Then they’ll roll you

Well I stayed up all night watching the sun come up
All I want to do is drink a beer and have a cup
Of coffee
One after the other

You can talk about my guns
Don’t talk about my mother

Wonder Valley
Wonder Valley
It’s the land where a man can take a stand
Wonder Valley

The desk clerk said stay away from Wonder Valley
They sell the methamphetamine behind the alley
They could go insane
They could kill little Sally

I walked through the town
Like Johnny Cash
Didn’t have no trouble
Burning through my stash
in Wonder Valley, Wonder Valley

The marines fly their planes
And the lizards go insane
In Wonder Valley

When the missiles start to fly
Grab the kids, don’t wonder why . . .
Better head for Wonder Valley

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pano sunset

I figured out the panorama function on my phone and captured this spectacular Sunset on the Copper Mountain Mesa, Sunday, January 25, 2015.

The Salt Song Trail

Ken provided the information about the Salt Song project and this very moving video from the documentary, The Salt Song Trail. Living in the Morongo Basin you begin to understand how this vast region could be considered sacred: that the sacred dwells in place and not confined in a corner church. This project combines cultural conservancy with environmental protection.

Philip M. Klasky wirites, "The Salt Song Trail won the 'Best Documentary Short' at the 2005 American Indian Film Festival. The film counters the invisibility of native peoples
and exposes the dark period in American history when Indian children were kidnapped from their homes and forced into boarding schools where they suffered physical and psychological abuse and were stripped of their cultures through a brutal and systematic program of cultural genocide.

"The Salt Song Trail, that recorded a ceremony at the site of the Sherman Indian Boarding School in Riverside, California. The singers performed the Salt Songs at the school’s cemetery marked with the little headstones of the children who never made it home. Larry Eddy explained, 'The children who died here, their spirits would hang around here in these mountains forever, but we came here and sang for them and blessed them and blessed the earth where they lay and their spirits will be able to go back to their home country, they will be freed and that’s the significance of the Salt Songs.'"


The Salt Song Trail spans California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona and includes 14 bands of Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) peoples (Cedar City, Chemehuevi Valley, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Indian Peak, Kaibab, Kanosh, Kawaiisu, Kaiparowits, Las Vegas, Moapa, Koosharem, Pahrump, San Juan, Shivwits, and Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians). For more information see: The Cultural Conservancy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I want a byline

The Hi-Desert Star is soliciting for a Joshua Tree Correspondent and I've applied. June LeMert Paxton's wrote My Life on the Mojave and also wrote for local papers and for a prison journal. I think Helen Bagley, from Sand in my shoe: Homestead days in Twentynine Palms, may also have written locally, though I can't quite remember. Anyway, I'd be so honored to follow in the footsteps of these local giants. [Update: i GOT it!]

Frank and Helen Bagley, on a mural in Twentynine Palms, where they owned the first store.
I stopped by the Hi-Desert Star office and introduced myself to the editor. I sensed she didn't think I could handle the job, so I started sending her weekly columns. The deadline for the column below is this coming Wednesday and I thought I'd add it here because it details some interesting upcoming events.

Enjoy, and cross your fingers for me.
TUESDAY: Ever want to give the county supervisors a piece of your mind? Well, now you can! TUESDAY’s San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors meeting will be videoconferenced at the new Bob Burke Government Center, 63665 Twentynine Palms Hwy (in front of the Hi Desert Medical Center). Videoconferencing lets the public testify, make presentations, or simply watch the meeting. The public portion begins at 10:00 am. Preview the agenda
FRIDAY: Was running one of your New Year’s resolutions? Join the Copper Mountain College Foundation Zero Run this FRIDAY from 11:30 a.m. t0 12:30 p.m. Zero Run is the latest fitness craze and requires no training, uncomfortable sweating, or even shoes! The entry fee is $20 and earns you a t-shirt, commemorative photo and a water bottle. For $5 extra they’ll mail them to you and you can “run” at home. All proceeds benefit CMC students, programs, and activities. 
The first issue of the quarterly Desert Oracle is now available. A one-year subscription is only $15. Ben Sullivan and Doc Daniels write for the spring issue, with Drew Reese providing artwork. 
Tickets are still available for January 31 show of DESERT STORIES 8 at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center's Blak Box Theater. Artists include Klaus Wille, Dusty Wakeman, Tobias Crabtree, Matt Perry, Leah Taylor, Stacy Doolittle, Susan Cram, Louise Goffin, and Michel Cicero sharing true-life experiences and a few tall tales. Order tickets:

Sign up to learn placer gold mining through the Copper Mountain College Community Education Program. Four all-day SATURDAY courses beginning February 28 for $60. The course includes equipment needs, electronic prospecting, filing a claim, map reading, desert survival, and more. Lots of other useful classes available, peruse the catalog. 

A little olde-timey advice from Luminating Lem that most people are probably already familiar with: “Desert Efficiency Expert… Sez worst part of doing nothing is… you can never take any time off. Lem is sure thinkin' way ahead of most folks.”
-Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrapbook, Packet four of pouch two, sometime between 1945 and 1967

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Crows of Pearblossom

I just learned of the children's book, The Crows of Pearblossom, written by Aldous Huxley while he was living in the Mojave Desert. It's a strange and creepy book. I'm including the climactic illustration below.

It's the story of two crows trying to start a family. Their efforts are foiled by a rattlesnake who continues to eat their eggs. They win out in the end and Mrs. Crow uses the body of the snake to hang her children's diapers on.

For more of the story and a more nuanced review, please read Amy Bronwenzemser.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Native American Plant Uses

I'm very excited to be taking Daniel McCarthy's class Native American Plant Uses through the Desert Institute.

Here's the description,
Discover the abundant uses of native desert plants with Daniel McCarthy. McCarthy will teach participants about the plants historically harvested by the native peoples of Southern California for food, medicine, and utilitarian purposes. The program will start with an overview of local Native American tribes and how culture defines plant use. Attendees will learn about plant communities, habitat, and distribution, focusing on the ethnobotany of key species found in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. In the afternoon, the class will identify edible plants found in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. No plants will be harvested. Respectful gathering practices will be discussed as well as restrictions collecting on federal lands and in the National Park.
"Cahuilla Indian  basket weaver, Palm Canyon Trading Post, Calif."
Note the agave in the background which was a staple food.
To prep for the class I'm reading Mukat's People free online. The book tells about the native Cahuilla Indians in the area. If you scroll to the table of contents you can click down to page 36 and begin the chapter titled Plant Environment. This tells of the staples of the Cahuilla, how and when they were processed, by whom and the traditions and ceremonies around the collections of various foods. These included acorns, mesquite, pine, cactus, agave, yucca and nolina, seed pods (cat's claw accacia, palo verde, desert willow and ironwood), fan palm, and more.

If you're into edible or medicinal plants consider taking this class. More people knowing about the utility of desert plants could go a long way towards protecting habitat in the Morongo Basin.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

13 indications that you might be a "desert rat"

I’m dismayed to see the term “desert rat” appropriated by the off-road vehicle industry when off-roading is so inimical to the preservation of the desert. The term “desert rat” was popularized during World War II, referring the British soldiers in the Libyan desert.

John Hilton wrote an essay, “How To Be a Desert Rat and Like It,” in 1948. Harry Oliver published it in The Desert Rat Scrap Book, a Southwest desert newsletter edited by Harry Oliver from 1945 to 1967.

Hilton writes in his essay,
"Anyone can be a desert rat who can see and love the beauty of the desert in all of her moods. There’s beauty and wild music in a desert sandstorm. The lightning and thunder of a summer cloudburst are the flashing eyes – the emoting and tears of a high-spirited, beautiful actress ‘putting on a scene.’ They are soon over. There’s beauty in crisp cold winter mornings and hot sultry summer afternoons, but most of all there’s the intimate beauty of being alone with her on long walks or lying on her warm breast on balmy summer nights counting the stars in her hair – listening in the silence to your own heartbeat as it matches hers.

"Being a desert rat and liking it is like being in love – you just can’t help it."
After spending a year in the Mojave among a group of very interesting artists and independents I've compiled a list of indications that one might be a desert rat. If you have observations of your own, please add them in the comments.

You might be a desert rat if…
  1. You have circular driveway.
  2. The road you live on has two or three names and at some point the road just kind of peters out and probably takes up again in the next town.
  3. You recognize your neighbors by the sound of their tires on the dirt road.
  4. All your wine glasses have Marine insignia on them.
  5. You have 3000 pictures of clouds on your phone.
  6. You don’t own any sunscreen,
  7. You’d just as soon go outside without your pants as without your hat.
  8. You have a cabin in your house.
  9. Your two favorite shows are sunrise and sunset.
  10. Your garden is named after a federal prison.
  11. The stars keep you awake at night when you sleep outside in the summer.
  12. You’re actually not all that crazy about the moon because it makes it hard to see the Milky Way.
  13. Your house has hot and cold running water – hot in the summer, cold in the winter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's always darkest, and coldest, before the dawn

Ever notice how you shiver a little just before the sun comes up? I need to remember to document this (check the dang thermometer) but enough of my friends have said they notice it, too, that I assume it is a genuine phenomenon. A little research proved me right.

Early Morning Wonder Valley, by Sandra Lytch
The chill is the effect of two things: the solar semi-diurnal tide and the latent heat of vaporization.

Gail, at Ask A Scientist!, writes about solar semi-diurnal tides, "The heated, expanded atmosphere literally pushes air ahead of the rising Sun in a bi-modal wave, causing peaks and valleys of pressure, and resulting in a slightly decreased pressure a few hours before sunrise; the decrease in pressure can translate to a slightly decreased air temperature."

Gail goes on to say that this effect is nearly imperceptible.

Joepoidog, at writes regarding latent heat of vaporization, "When the Sun's rays first hit dew or frost on the ground, but before the radiant heating of the Earth has begun, the Sun's rays actually begin the process of evaporation and it is this process of evaporation that removes heat from the environment thus registering a noticeable drop in temperature."

Or, it could be that's the time I'm hightailing it to the outhouse and I just notice how damn cold it is.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Literary Desert

Finished reading My Life on the Mojave, by June Le Mert Paxton.

It had some hair raising sections in it, and lots of lacy poetry. It touched on the Great Depression, and depression. She never really spoke of her ailments but hinted at asthma and depression. She'd visit her husband and daughters in Pasadena from time to time and they drove to the desert to visit her every other week.

The healing aspects of the deserts are highlighted, as they were in the book Sand in my shoe, homestead days in Twentynine Palms, by Helen Bagley.

Both books talk about all the people who came here to regain their health, starting with veterans from World War I. Many people who were given only a few months to live were able to fashion a life for themselves and hang on another 10 or 20 years or more.

Le Mert writes about life and death, wildlife, shotguns, small luxuries, and local families whose names I still see around. Beside the poems the book also included many optimistic letters to her friends and daughters.

I also finished Deathwatch, by Robb White for Kip's Desert Book Club tonight. It's a grueling account of desert survival, kind of 127 Hours (without the removal of body parts) meets True Blood (without the vampires). The protagonist reminded me of True Blood's small town Jason Stackhouse, capable but uncomplicated, longing for a world that makes sense, and getting in trouble because he lives as if it does. This is my first visit to the book club, and I'm looking forward to going and already bought a bottle of thrifty champagne for Kip's birthday.

Hope to see you there!