Monday, July 20, 2015

Breakfast at the Palms

Most every Sunday we go to the Palms in Wonder Valley for breakfast. It is the high point of my week, and for others as well. Some people fondly call it church and there is gospel/honky tonk singing, too with our beloved piano player Sister/Miss Ida Lane and her Noir Gospel Heathenettes.

Every week I get to see people that I've come to love and meet wonderful new people. The circle just keeps expanding.


From left to right: my better half, Ken (legs akimbo) is sitting with the local artist Jill Reinig. Behind Ken is Steak House and Tania Hamidi (whom I just met) talking with Chris Carraher and Beth Shefield at the table. Along the table on the right are educator Roberta Meyer from Joshua Tree and writer/healer Annalies Kuiper from the Copper Mountain Mesa. Jerry sits next to her and Sister Ida's better half (or evil twin, depending) Stewart. Kip Fjeld, in white shirt, is waiting tables. Sister Ida is at the piano with Bob Tellefson (the most interesting man in Wonder Valley), and many others are hanging out in the bar.

This is such a friendly group. People more from table to table and room to room and out onto the patio. Strangers are welcomed.

It may be that many of us spend a large part of the week in solitude, so when Sunday rolls around we're ready to be social.


This is the view on the long drive home after breakfast. Of course, the view is different every week, but it's always spectacular and the feeling is always a blend of deja vu and nostalgia, as if I've always been here and always will be here.

If this calls to you, join us at the Palms on Sundays. Breakfast starts at 9 a.m. and the last stragglers leave sometime between 1 and 2 p,m. A basic breakfast is $3.50 and a well bloody Mary is $1.50. They take credit cards.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cabin in the sky


Our friend Benjamin Gould took this picture of our cabin with a camera that cost more than my car! I'm not given to spending a lot on cars, so it's probably not that shocking of an amount.

I love this, though: how the creosote in the foreground looks like giant trees; the shooting star in the left of the frame; the Milky Way; and especially how the cabin looks like a charm on a charm bracelet. You can see Joshua Tree National Park in the left of the frame, about 30 minutes away.

Photo journal

These are photographs taken over the last two weeks.

Jimmy Marquez Fisher
Ken and I stopped on the frontage road to the 110 freeway near Cabazon to look for the memorial for Jimmy Marquez Fisher. I saw him lying on the highway the night he was struck twice and killed. See Friday Night Lights. Ken is sending me some of the other photos we took as my camera was acting up. The notes attached to the makeshift cross are from his sister.


This is the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center in North Joshua Tree. Copper Mountain Mesa is actually its own county service area, CSA, and Mary Helen Tuttle is the MAC (Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council) representative. She is also the angel of the CMMCC.


After serving breakfast at the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center's First Saturday breakfast we drove to our house in Wonder Valley. This is one of the roads we take. People ask me why we bought a house out here. This is one of the reasons. It's even more remote. Once you get bit by the "remoteness" bug you just want more.


This is another reason we love Wonder Valley: the Palms Restaurant, Mary Sibley (zipping by in a blur) and Laura and James Sibley who make up The Sibleys, the bar band. Great bar. Great people. Great food. Great prices. Great live music. You get the picture.


This is looking at the north of Amboy neighborhood from Highway 62. It's nestled at the base of the Bullion Mountains. There's a sun shower on the left. I hadn't noticed this when I took the picture but I think those are two funnel clouds forming to the right of the shower. A tornado touched down that day and destroyed some fencing and tore up some roofs, though there were no reports of injuries.

Best bathroom in Joshua Tree


I've seen this work at the swap meet in Yucca Valley. Stunning. The artists uses dishes: bowls, plates, and cups, which makes the work three-dimensional.

We were having a slice at Pie for the People in Joshua Tree and I snapped this in the bathroom off the patio that all the businesses there share. One of the best public restrooms ever!

Mojave Night

We pulled the rollaways onto the porch around 11:00 p.m. It was hot, over 100 degrees yet, and humid, but worse than that, it was still. The clouds above were thick and heavy and promised rain, but broke their promise with an obstinate shrug.

 A full moon failed to punch through the clouds, but its light shown as if behind a thick curtain and the sky looked bruised and the light looked soiled. We tried to sleep.

At 1:00 a.m. I woke to the sound of all-terrain vehicles tearing up the dirt roads near us. They stopped at the corner. About ten minutes later a truck drove up the dirt road and stopped at the same corner. I’d heard the truck from two miles away, from where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins and the washboard rattles up through your bones and you think to part your teeth in your mouth because it feels like if you don’t your teeth might break. From two miles away I could hear the tools, or the metal scrap, or both, clanging around inside the truck bed.

A car travels down a dirt road on a clear night, with a long exposure. By Ben Gould.
Sound carries at night in the desert. I’ve listened hard to conversations a quarter mile away and heard snippets of things I should not have been privy to. I know more about coyotes than I’m sure they want me to know.

Why people drive out to that particular corner so close to a great nothing, I have no idea. It only makes sense in some logic of despair, some logic that depends on a lifetime of careless losses, and unpredictability, perhaps made personal with a festering grudge, a despair that can only be broken out of with violence of one sort or another.

I watched the vehicles from the cover of my porch until they drove off and I lay down again. A breeze passed through as if it were lost or scared. I wanted it to stay so badly that my lips were moving. I heard tiny taps on the metal roof. They continued. I stepped off the concrete porch into the sand but didn’t feel anything. Could rain fall on the roof but evaporate by the time it got to me two feet below?

I slept awhile.

When I opened my eyes again it was still dark. The moon sat directly overhead behind the thinnest veil of clouds. Then it broke through and the sand brightened white and glittered like snow, reflecting light back up to the sky. I looked across to our native plantings, brave and stoic inside their cages. They looked like abandoned suitcases on the tiled floor a train station, out of place and self-conscious.

The  moon, that night.
A young mesquite tree stood alone at the end of the porch, its two slender trunks rising to a feathery canopy, looking much like a ballerina en pointe, spotlighted under the moon.

A few hours later I felt chilled and tugged at my sheet, trying to cover my shoulder. Half-awake I closed my eyes tighter against the dawn and savored the pocket of cold air that the rising sun pushes forward before it takes over the day shift. I tried to memorize the chill because I knew I’d need that memory later when the heat and humidity made me panic and consider fleeing this place for the summer, like other people with more means and sense.

Every day in the desert heat is lived singly and no one person on any one day can say decisively what will happen next, or may draw a moral from it. In the heat of the day we listen to each other with a little more patience, and overlook the forgotten words and names, the delays, the repetitions, and sometimes we just stop talking altogether, being in the same boat and all, sunbeaten, and just wait out the heat.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Graffiti in the area

Of all the "two kinds of people" in the world, I seem to be among the group that craves a certain amount of disorder. This has been much to my mother's dismay. She equates order and balance with beauty and good. Manicured and perfectly landscaped environments make her happy and make me itch. Too much landscaping can lead me to despair. When I start seeing weeds growing up through cracked pavement, corn growing in the parkways, and street chickens I begin to breath easier, to relax. It feels like I belong there, like humans belong there.

Beautiful and imaginative graffiti in Silver Lake, painted over by the City.
So even though there was a general hue and cry over graffiti in the Monument, and rightly so, good, old-fashioned graffiti on seemingly abandoned buildings brings me great joy and optimism. I'm not very good at explaining why. I'll have to think on it, but I believe it has to do with truly free speech.

If you have the chance, watch the documentary Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression. The documentary makes a case for graffiti, and most law-and-order types will grudgingly admit to beauty in some of it - that some of it is art. But Vigilante Vigilante lobbies for taggers and defends tagging, and though I can't exactly remember why, my own take has been that there really are no public venues for youth to express themselves. All over they see the tags of corporations, city government, and private land holders marking the environment they live in. Tagging is a way of saying, "Hey, I live here, too." Instead of acknowledging that the city has failed our youth, city officials equate tagging with gangs and murders and put the youths that they catch in the murky dungeon of the State of California's Gang Database.


Maybe one of the most beautiful things about graffiti is that it's not allowed. If by observing something we change it, governmental and corporate approval generally seems to change things for the worse. The change is never unnoticed.

Cathy Allen, an art instructor at the Copper Mountain College, today posted about new murals that popped up in Wonder Valley. After conferring with a friend wise to the works of graffiti artists I located a video of the process and the finished work. The artists are Mear One, Cyrcle and Vyle One.



This is lovely work and so fitting in its environment. In a landscape where the hand of man has left destruction these artists brought unexpected beauty.

Mear One,  aka Kalen Ockerman, responded to Andre Saraiva's tagging a rock in the Joshua Tree National Park in an article in the LA Times.
"Graffiti art is the honest voice of the dissatisfied soul — it's a political act," Ockerman said. Then he added, "All Andre did was smear a work of art by mother nature with industrial chemicals to celebrate his own ego."
The work above reminded me of another piece I'd seen in Joshua Tree last spring, and I researched the artist who painted it.


This is across from the VFW in Joshua Tree and is the work of artist Jules Muck. How sweet it was to turn and be greeted by eyes as bright as the small tufts of grass that briefly sprouted up this spring! It's additionally fresh that the artist is a woman.

These are the kinds of disorder that salve the soul that must face the probable eventuality of yet another Dollar General in the Morongo Basin, in the anti-corporate Joshua Tree no less, wage-slaving our population, literally poisoning our youth with lead gew gaws from China, and grudgingly selling milk and eggs so it can take all it probably wanted in the first place: SNAP money. And yet, that building will be the epitome of order. Trees and bushes will be neat and trimmed and weeds and bugs will be poisoned out of existence.

Here's a video antidote to my rant.



If I've been a downer today, dear reader, please forgive me. Enjoy the beauty of the human spirit, which continues to pop up in the desert like shaggy mushrooms in a wasteland of corporate order.