CVIndependent

Tue11192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Christina Lange

I’m embarking on a trip. Not just any trip—but rather a cross-country-and-back trip on bikes.

In fact, if everything went according to plan, I already left, departing from Bakersfield on July 3.

Writer and lighting genius Marcus Peck, from San Jose, Calif., did not know me—a freelance writer/photographer/Lindy hopper—before mid-March 2014. We met working an AV gig at a teacher’s conference in Palm Springs; we quickly discovered that we both have an interest in cycling.

Marcus mentioned something about a long-term bike-ride for charity at a post-work pub-session. I, without hesitating, said, “I’m coming.”

We have been organizing this trip ever since from our respective home cities (he in San Jose, and me in La Quinta). We met again on July 2, and set off into the wind on the 3rd. Marcus has solemnly promised to learn how to Lindy hop and even mentioned something about possible street performances along the way. We also have ukuleles with us!

After leaving Bakersfield, we will head first morth to Missoula, Mont.; east to Boston; south to Washington, D.C.; and back west, probably via Florida, Texas and Utah. We expect the journey to last six to eight months.

We are partnering with three charities: Amman Imman: Water Is Life; Together We Rise; and the Filipino Youth Coalition. We each have a fundraising page. Half of the donations go toward the bike ride, and the other half will go to the charities.

As a writer/photographer team, we have a strong background in telling stories, visually and with finesse in language. (Well, Marcus uses finesse in language; I do photos.)

We are in this to travel slowly, to witness each mile as it goes by, to push ourselves and simply see the land.  

Follow us at vagabonditinerary.wordpress.com; we will post updates as often as possible. You can also donate there.

Christopher Perry loves old silent movies—so much, in fact, that he has developed a new and intriguing way of presenting them.

See for yourself at the Silent Movie Comedy Festival, taking place at the Rancho Mirage Library at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 30.

The films that will be presented are pure comedy gold, featuring legends like Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Charley Chase and Snub Pollard. However, the special treat is not just watching the silent movies—but seeing and hearing the Photoplay Ensemble present an authentic score along with the movies.

Yucca Valley musicians and film buffs Christopher Perry and Henry Lozano constitute the Photoplay Ensemble. Perry, aka “Doctor 3D,” has been fascinated by silent films since he sat in a silent-movie theatre in Hollywood as a third-grader in the 1960s. Fast-forward a couple of years later, when he was the proud owner of the legendary book Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, which fueled a deeper passion into this lost cinematic art. In high school, living in Minnesota, he was already a professional musician accompanying silent movies.

Perry works with an authentic library of music made for silent movies called “cues.”

“There were sailor themes, the ‘Hurry!’ suspense theme, a cue for the action scene, the battle and love scene, as well as cues for the more pensive and thoughtful scenes, where the actor is thinking really hard,” he explained.

Perry uses these as guides to create film scores.

During the silent-film era, musicians would be on set “creating a mood for the actors, thus aiding the actors. Directors called out the directions while filming,” he said. Of course, the audience would never be privy to this, as there was no sound.

Henry Lozano, aka the “Mad Doctor of Sounds Effects,” has been a percussionist since his early teens; he missed the era of old-time radio, but he later became a big fan of it nonetheless. He saw a newspaper ad, placed by Perry, calling out for a special-effects guy in 1999. The rest is, as they say, history.

When Perry was first starting out, he got a surprise call from Hollywood great Ray Erlenborn (1915-2007). “Ray called one day and asked whether I needed any sound effects, and I said, ‘Sure, I always wanted sound effects.’”

They soon became friends. “(Erlenborn) had a career in silent film as a child actor; in the ’40s, he was a radio-effects guy. He worked in vaudeville; he worked alongside Bob Hope and Buster Keaton in the 1950s; he played Spike in the “Winnie Winkle” series, and if ever there was a close-up of Harold Lloyd’s hand, Ray Erlenborn’s hand was the stand-in.”

Lozano was introduced to Erlenborn at the audition to become the special-effects guy for Perry. After the Harold Lloyd silent film, Erlenborn, as the story goes, stood up in the dark audience and said loud and clear: “This man is an absolute treasure; don’t lose this man.”

Perry and Lozano have been collaborating ever since. Catch the magic they create with silent films on Wednesday night.

The Silent Movie Comedy Festival, with accompaniment by the Photoplay Ensemble, takes place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, at the Rancho Mirage Public Library, 71100 Highway 111. Admission is free, and the show is appropriate for all ages. For more information, visit www.ranchomiragelibrary.org.

Drummers do not often steal the show—but that just may happen on Friday, March 28, at Schmidy’s Tavern.

Dave Lombardo, the drummer for Slayer and Fantomas, is coming to town with his new band, PHILM, which also includes War’s Pancho Tomaselli, and Civil Defiance’s Gerry Nestler. Ipecac Recordings released PHILM’s album, Harmonic, in 2012.

Joining the lineup is legendary homegrown drummer Alfredo Hernandez, and his band Whiskey and Knives, which also includes vocalist Jason Basely, bassist Mike Smith and guitarist Jon Arnold. The group plays punk and stoner rock—unabashedly and enthusiastically.

This will be the second time that Whiskey and Knives shares the stage with PHILM, Hernandez said.

“We had a show together during the NAMM show out in Anaheim,” he said via email. “Dave Lombardo's new band kicks ass! A power trio. Dave reminds me of Gene Krupa meets Cozy Powell. … It's a ginormous honor to be opening up for them.

PHILM’s music is loud, but not Slayer loud—hard and heavy, with an aggressive attitude, although the music also includes sounds reminiscent of ’60s and’70s rock. Lombardo has downsized with this band: They’re a trio, and Lombardo only uses a four-piece drum set, as opposed to the nine-piece that he had in Slayer. PHILM has been around since the mid-’90s, but didn’t play much until recently due to Lombardo’s commitments to Slayer, Fantomas and Testament.

Beyond the drumming, though, Whiskey and Knives’ Hernandez will be pulling double-duty: He will be hitting the decks as DJ Habanero.

“The mix for DJ Habanero is music that you hardly ever hear,” Hernandez said. “I have an array of bands that you might recognize and stuff that you will finally discover, just like I did.

“I was a big KCRW listener since '88-89 with the Morning Becomes Eclectic,” he said about the legendary So Cal NPR affiliate. “… Before that, I got some of the best schooling from one of the greatest DJs on earth, Rodney Bingenheimer, on KROQ. My older brother Mario ... in the late ’70s bought an FM antenna to place on the roof so that we could catch Rodney's show every Saturday night.”

Yes, it’ll definitely be drummers’ night at Schmidy’s.

PHILM will perform with Whiskey and Knives and DJ Habanero at 8 p.m., Friday, March 28, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Tickets at the door are $10. For more information, call 760-837-3800, or visit www.schmidystavern.com.

So you really want to go to Coachella, see some super-cool bands and have the time of your life.

But you have no tickets, and the event is sold out. Other than watch for another possible locals-only sale, what do you do?

I worked at the Coachella box office during the last two festivals, so take it from me: Unless you don't mind pissing a few hundred bucks into the wind, and watching your friends go in while you cry by yourself, don’t buy a festival wristband from anyone unless you’re 100 percent sure everything’s legit.

The most heartbreaking case I saw involved a young girl who came to the Coachella Valley all the way from Australia. She'd bought a dodgy ticket and couldn't get in touch with the person from whom she’d bought it. Boy, did I feel bad for her. It was also unseasonably cold, and she was wearing short shorts and sandals. I did lend her my sweater while she tried to get in touch with the guy from whom she'd purchased her pass. Alas, it was not meant to be.

You do not want to be like her. Here are some guidelines.

No. 1: Do not buy wristbands from a third party. Sure, there are large third-party ticket-sellers that sound legit, but if you have any issues, the folks working the front gates at Coachella cannot help you. You are only covered and if you buy through the one legitimate channel: Goldenvoice/Coachella and the ticket agent, Front Gate Tickets.

If you have any issues with those third-party-purchased tickets, you will have to get in touch with the company from whom you bought them, and it will be up to them to help you. If you, say, have a faulty wristband and need a new one to be issued, good luck getting them to come to Indio to bring you a new, working wristband. I repeat: The folks working at Coachella cannot help you.

No. 2: Do not buy from a “friend.” Unless you know this friend’s middle name, or their parents came to your bar mitzvah, or they know that you wet the bed until you were 9, don’t do it. I’ve seen too many people standing in front of the box office, heartbroken and crying: “But I know this guy/girl; they couldn’t come, so I bought their ticket off of them.” The standard response is: “OK, so call them up, and tell them to call/e-mail the ticketing people, and have them let us know that they are happy for you to have the wristband. Maybe then we can help you.”

Far too often, the story continues: OK, the person is actually just a friend of a friend of a friend, and the wannabe Coachella attendee with the non-functioning wristband doesn't have a phone number for the friend of a friend of a friend.

One popular scam involves a person reporting a “never-received pass,” even though that person did, in fact, receive a pass. That person then gets a new pass to replace the “never received one,” and sells the first, now-deactivated pass.

Another common story: “This one guy bought all of the tickets for a big group, and we paid him back. All of the others got in, but my wristband is not working.” I repeat: You need to know the person from whom you got the wristband very well. Have the phone number, the address, the middle name and photocopies of the ID and the credit card used for the transaction, with a statement that you are allowed to have one of their wristbands. Trust no one you haven’t known since kindergarten. The wristband is attached to the purchaser's name, and his/her presence or lack thereof can make or break you. The purchaser has all the power as to whether you’re going in.

Here is what you can do to protect yourself (and even then, there are no guarantees): If you get a wristband from someone, have he or she contact Front Gate, the Coachella ticket agent (frontgatetickets.com; 888-512-7469), and add your name to the system. Register that wristband before you buy it. If the person is legit and can’t go, then why would he/she care if you change the shipping address in the system? If he/she refuses or says it isn’t necessary, DO NOT BUY THE WRISTBAND. To be extra-safe, get the wristband number after he/she calls, and call Front Gate yourself to make sure the wristband you are about to buy is now attached to your name.

If there’s a conflict, the person who bought the wristband and whose name is on the account has full authority. If you registered this wristband, and you also show up in the system, you are second in command—but you will not win if there’s a dispute. I’ll say it again: You should only buy a pass from someone you completely and utterly trust.

No. 3: Do not buy a wristband from a dodgy dude/dudette standing outside of the festival gates. Why? Re-read the last 800-plus words.

If you have a truly close friend who is getting rid of his/her ticket, and you follow all of the above advice, chances are you’ll be OK if you take the ticket—and you should thank your lucky stars that you have such a friend. If not, accept that you missed out this year, and get ready to buy your 2015 passes when advance sales begin; you can even opt in to a payment plan. Remember: If you are the original purchaser of a pass, you do not have to worry about being scammed.

But, please, do not trust Craigslist and other third-party sellers, “friends” who really aren’t, or scalpers. It isn’t worth it.

For more info, read up at www.coachella.com/festival-info.

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” —attributed to H.G. Wells

When I was a small child, in a little village in Southern Germany, my bike was my golden key to exploration, adventure and new worlds. I lived in Africa between the ages of 5 and 8; I liked to wear turquoise saris and pedal my massive, maroon bike through the dusty fields and back roads. When my family moved to the suburbs of the Eastern U.S., my embarrassing orange-cream-and-white bike got me to town, to the library, to civilization.

Then came that magic age of 16, and the freedom to drive. I could go farther than the library! My bike got dusty in the garage.

Fast-forward a decade. I was 26 and had been living in London for seven years. I had no need for a car (and was too broke to have one, anyway), but was getting sick of public transportation—buses not showing up in the pouring rain, getting onto said buses with seemingly hundreds of others, etc. A good friend of mine, Laura, was using her bike as her primary form of transportation, and she convinced me to give a bike a shot. I got myself a super-cheap bike and began to cycle.

I loved it. The wind, the air, the energy, the rush of being outside and propelling myself forward to the destination! No matter what the weather conditions were, I loved it.

Then I moved to Salton City. When I first moved there, I cycled along State Route 86 between home and my job at the casino—yes, even at night. I was lit up like a Christmas tree—and it got pretty hairy at times along the highway, but it still beat sitting on my behind in a car.

I recently moved into the Coachella Valley proper, and I continue taking my trusty bike (upgraded now with slimmer wheels) out when I can. My bike played a part in my move: I figured I could cycle more and drive less—to work, to the stores, to dance class, to social gatherings, to events, and just for shits and giggles.

But … where is everybody? I do not see many other people who use the bike as a method of getting around—and I wonder why. We live in a fair climate area, with wide avenues, blue skies and acceptable temperatures at least three-quarters of the year. Many bike lanes are in place, yet they are hardly being used.

As for the few cyclists who are out there, there are predominantly two types: the poor, who have no alternative but to cycle (and take the bus); and the rich, who ride in carbon-fibered pedaling packs. Where is everyone else? Why aren’t people beyond those two extremes using bikes to get around Is it fear? Does it take too long to get places? Do people not even consider bikes as a fun and pleasurable alternative/option?

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration’s most recent National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, nationally, only 5 percent of the people interviewed use a bike to commute to work or school.

Granted, some of the local bike lanes are funky—waaaaaay too narrow, half on sidewalks, etc.—and what’s with switching from a cycle lane to being relegated to the sidewalk every other block on Eisenhower Drive? These issues certainly need to be addressed; some cities do better than others. CV Link will benefit the whole community, but that project is still years away. Still, today, there are many bike lanes—and overall, that’s good!

Of course, bike lanes aren’t the only concern; aggressive or inattentive motorists are a huge reason why many people are afraid to cycle. Drivers need to be more educated about sharing the road with cyclists, and should understand what it feels like to be passed too closely by a car. Thank goodness the 3-foot law goes into effect later this year!

Motorists: We bicyclists are not trying to piss you off; we’re just trying to get from here to there. And don’t ever yell at a cyclist to “get the fuck off the road.” We have every right to be on the road. And to those of you who cry out about rule-bending cyclists: Please make sure you are an obedient driver who never speeds, never runs yellow lights, never texts and never breaks any other driving rules. Otherwise, you’re a hypocrite—a hypocrite who can kill me with your vehicle.

Yes, people die while riding their bikes. About 2 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States in 2011 were cyclists. That’s too many people—but far, far more pedestrians and motorists get killed in accidents than bicyclists do.

An enormous positive aspect of cycling is health and happiness. When I drive, especially long distances, I often arrive lethargic and tired. When I cycle, I feel more positive, have more energy, and can concentrate better. I am not the only one who feels this way

Of course, bicycling is not always a viable option; there are often real reasons to take the car. But when there is not a real reason … consider trying bicycling. Your body, your mind, your bank account and your environment will all thank you.

Driving north on Highway 86 one sunny fall afternoon, I almost crashed when I came across the sight of beautiful ladies and snakes hugging the walls of a market in Desert Shores.

“Shesha Sand Storm,” the mural that so surprised me, is a show-stopper. It’s monochrome, dramatic, loud and obviously the work of someone skilled and talented. It offers an urban contrast to the desert skies, yet somehow suits the backdrop of the market and surrounding area.

As it turns out, not one, but two artists created this mural: Finnbar Dac (aka FinDac) and Angelina Christina. They’re the same people who created the beautiful and controversial mural at Bar in downtown Palm Springs.

FinDac hails all the way from London, England; Angelina is from the Los Angeles area. They were traveling across the U.S., leaving their larger-than-life painted women and snakes all over the country, in places including Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Minneapolis and New York City—culminating in early December’s Art Basel, one of the largest art events in the world, in Miami Beach, Fla.

Urban areas like Minneapolis and even Palm Springs make sense for street-art-style murals. But Desert Shores? Its last Census population: 1,104. It’s in the middle of the Colorado Desert, sitting quietly alongside the Salton Sea. Desert Shores is largely populated by families, mostly lower-income. It has a laundromat, a closed bar, a couple of churches, a closed marina and a fire station. Life is quiet here. But sometimes what draws a mural artist is not mere location, but the size and availability of an empty wall.

Angelina and Fin came to Desert Shores with friend and fellow artist Craig, aka B4Flight, who has been documenting their journey. The muralists saw the sea for the first time and were intrigued.

Angelina had heard of the Salton Sea, but like most Angelinos, she had not ventured out this way. FinDac had come to Los Angeles to expand on his work. Born in Ireland and based in London, he wanted to explore the world and its empty wall spaces with his paintbrush, stencils and spray cans. He only started painting about five years ago—as an act of self-preservation. It gave him peace and a space away from whatever it was that was haunting him.

He met with Angelina, a muralist and artist based in Venice Beach, and they connected. Same vision, same ideas—including embarking on their epic road trip.

They arrived in Desert Shores and headed for the seashore. Slightly perturbed by the fish smell, ever curious about the circumstances of the sea, and on the lookout for potential wall space, they spoke with a local resident who recommended they pay the market a visit: There was a big, empty wall there.

The owner approved, so they got to work. Local residents came up, curious about their work and impressed by the scale and beauty; kids surrounded them, wanting to see their techniques. (Some of those kids had been tagging in the area and were well-versed in street art.)

The result: “Shesha Sand Storm.”


In addition to meeting with Fin and Angelina, I got in touch with Carmen Zella, whom I met at a Salton Sea-related conference. Carmen is the executive director of the Do Art Foundation, based in Los Angeles.

While Do Art did not play an official role in the Desert Shores mural, Carmen has been promoting Angelina and Fin, as well as other artists and projects that “are artistically uplifting spaces and communities’ access to art.”

Zells is well aware of the myriad issues surrounding the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea needs more positive attention, and Zella feels that bringing public art to the region will ultimately benefit the area.

I was intrigued by how it was that an L.A.-based foundation came across the Salton Sea, and why Zella felt it was important to bring public art to this location. I recently interviewed her via email.

When was the first time you came down to the sea? How did you hear about it, and what intrigued you?

Living in Los Angeles, the allure of the Salton Sea has been mystified and demystified. It’s an area of significance, and creative splendor—yet disregarded by the society at large because of its troubled waters. Artists see beauty where others do not; artists exemplify and portray beauty in areas that are largely ignored. By opening up the area for this type of investigation and exploration, wheels can start turning, and positive attention to the area can be restored.

Why public art? Why the Salton Sea?

Public art is an expression that is democratic. It is non-exclusionary, and is a form of communication that inspires thought—it provokes curiosity, but above all is a reminder that human expression and creativity is vital and should be shared with others. It’s our history and a major part of our evolutionary path. We lack waterways, and in an age of environmental crisis, making the right steps is no longer a choice—it’s a necessity to ensure our survival on this planet and way of life as we know it.

Do you have any particular locations in mind where you would like to see murals?

I love seeing murals that incorporate the surroundings and are sensitive to the architecture. Spaces that are more remote, or demand a sensitive palette, because they have exquisite qualities of decay, or abandon—when they are restored by an artist’s touch with an addition of character, love and tenderness in the way that they spend time together, it’s powerful. How the artist and the building can combine and collaborate to restore the facade into … “art” is my favorite.

Which artists are you thinking of bringing in?

I would love to move more into the Salton Sea … and the community of artists would as well. There are two classifications of artists: the ones who are born as artists who make work because their mission is to express and evolve, and those who make work because their mission is to be known and made legendary. I prefer the former, and I think that the sensitivity of the Salton Sea deserves this type of artist as well.

Do you think it might be possible to have collaboration between local artists and more well-known artists working together on these murals?

Absolutely. Involving the community is always important. Sometimes, outsiders see things that we do not; having lived in the same environment for so long, we forget. The freshness of new eyes that are speaking other languages or hearing strange sounds is a great reflection for ourselves and surroundings. Mixing this with a local culture is the best mix. Most artists need to develop collaborative relationships, so I would never pair people together in this practice, because it is a forced marriage … but there are many ways to incorporate unity. We learn from each other in observation as well as in shared experience.

What do you think the murals and public art will do for the Salton Sea?

Whenever artists move into areas, transformation begins to take shape. This area is equated to decay and environmental tragedy; artists (can) bring in new life and take what is existing and showcase its beauty.

The Do Art Foundation would love to work with local community members, (helping) owners and local artists to make a significant effort to bring the opportunity to the area in the form of a large-scale art movement. For this, we will need support, both financially and in terms of participation of businesses to house, feed and host the artists who would happily come there to share their work. In the wake of this, tourists, art-lovers and attention will be revived in this area—without any agenda other than to uplift the community. We are ready at Do Art Foundation to help connect the artists and make this happen.

“Litter, and it will hurt. It hurts the community, and the fines will hurt when you get caught. Half of the litter is accidental, from things blown off trucks and such, but the other half doesn't reflect positively on the community.” —Walt Thompson

I have a message for the person who intentionally dumps trash and unwanted items into the desert.

You are a total jackass.

It does not matter whether you dump in a neighborhood or an open space. Shame on you, as you are responsible for:

• Environmental degradation. Bringing in hazardous waste, plastics, plastic bags, diapers, clothes, tires and commercial waste is not conducive to a healthy ecosystem. Waste gets into waterways; it damages vegetation; animals and birds eat it; it attracts rodents and crickets.

“Dump sites containing waste tires provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can multiply 100 times faster than normal during our warmer months. Severe illnesses, including West Nile virus and encephalitis, have been attributed to disease-carrying mosquitoes originating from discarded waste tires,” said the Imperial County Public Health Department in a 2007 research paper.

• Physical and health risks—especially to kids. Kids might see some of these areas as improvised playgrounds—which means they could be playing in chemical waste. Rodents living at the dumpsite might have the hantavirus, and there is high risk of sharp objects like broken glass, rusty metal nails and so forth.

• Lowering property values. Who wants to live in a neighborhood where there is a large amount of trash? According to the Keep America Beautiful website: “93 percent of homeowners say a littered neighborhood would decrease their assessment of a home’s value and influences their decision to purchase a property. And 40 percent estimated that litter would reduce a home’s value by 10 percent to 24 percent.”

• Using taxpayer money unnecessarily. Billions of dollars, both from government and private sources, are spent each year cleaning up other people’s trash. According to a 2009 Keep America Beautiful study, the United States spends $11.5 BILLION on cleaning up litter every year. This does NOT include organizing campaigns to educate people not to dump. Let’s put that in perspective: If your salary is $29,000 per year, it would take 34,482 years to earn just $1 billion. Wouldn’t you prefer that this money be spent on something useful, rather than loathsome individuals or groups who can’t be responsible for their own shit?

• Trashing the Salton Sea. If you dump your trash into a wash, it will move down the wash. There isn’t much rain—but when it rains, it pours, and all that trash will end up in the sea. And let’s not forget our fabulous wind. Guess who eats the trash? The birds and the fish. Hazardous liquids seep into the soil and pollute the waterways. Oh, but I hear some of you say: The Salton Sea deserves to dry up anyway. Well, if the sea is allowed to dry up, the trash and the pollutants will not. Instead, they’ll blow through the valley during high winds.

Thanks for all that, illegal dumper.

So why do people dump in the desert? What on Earth makes them think it is OK? Laziness, a lack of education, because it is easy, or a total disregard for anything outside of their narrow world-view, for starters.

Perhaps it also includes a misunderstanding of the desert landscape: To many, the desert landscape is not alive; they do not see the damage that their dumping can create. However, the desert is actually an ecological wonder, and if people would spend more time in it and learn about the ecosystem, they may begin to have a different connection with this landscape in which we all live.

So, what can we do about illegal dumping? Mainly, it boils down to education:

• Most trash-haulers will pick up bulky items and electronic waste, often for free, on designated days, or if you ask in advance. Hazardous materials can be dropped off at various locations, and a lot of communities organize annual or twice-a-year household hazardous waste collection days. Each city is different, and it may take a little bit of research and planning—but that is what being an adult is all about. Google is handy; type in the name of your city, your trash service, and the service you require, and you’ll probably have more links and information than you can swing an old motor-oil bottle at.

• Educate kids while they are young about the effects of illegal dumping. Every school district should organize an annual cleanup day in the areas surrounding their schools. Every child is better off after attending a community cleanup, as they see first-hand the effects of illegal dumping—and the time and effort that is required to clear an area of trash.

• Spread the word about what we can all do if one of us sees someone in the act of dumping illegally, or the aftermath. For one, you can call the local sheriff’s department or police department. While illegal dumping tends to be unfortunately low on law enforcement’s priority list, they are responsible for acting on your behalf. There are also task forces and other resources in place, like IVAN, which is set up to take reports on illegal dumping activity. The website is pretty easy to use—and you can even upload photographs.

• Would-be illegal dumpers need to understand that there are consequences. In Riverside County, according to the waste-management website, “The fine is $5,000. If the illegal dumping involves commercial quantities, you may be imprisoned up to six months and fined $3,000 upon the first conviction, $6,000 upon the second conviction, and $10,000 for a third conviction. Vehicles may be seized and impounded for 30 days when used in the act of illegal dumping; related costs may exceed $1,000.” The county has started putting up cameras at well-known illegal trash sites, too.

If I had my way, I would walk every dumper out to their own personal dump site, make them pick up their own trash, videotape the whole thing, and shame them each publicly.

This year’s annual community cleanup at the Salton Sea takes place on Saturday, Nov. 9; please come and volunteer from 9 a.m. to noon at the corner of Sea Elf Street and Salton Bay Drive, off South Marina Drive in Salton City. Snacks and water will be provided, as will gloves, bags and some picker-uppers. If you have any questions, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information:

The Salton Sea area’s Salvation Mountain was handmade by folk artist Leonard Knight.

That is right—handmade. By himself. Every single line of paint, every tree limb, every handmade flower on the walls, every “Jesus” written on the side of the 50-foot-tall mountain—all of it.

Originally from the East Coast, Knight came out here to fly a balloon across the United States that he had made in the name of God, but the materials kept rotting. So Knight moved on to his new project and began to use what natural and materials were available to him. Using adobe clay, hay, water, found objects (such as tires and car parts) and—according to Leonard—a lot of faith, he built this gigantic tribute to God in the 1980s, epitomized by the words "God is Love" standing out underneath a giant cross at the top.

Both religious and nonreligious people's faces light up when they visit his creation out here in the desert, on the southeastern side of the Salton Sea near Niland—and if they’ve had a chance to meet Leonard, they seem to each have a story. He has received visitors from all over the world—and that number only increased when the film Into the Wild came out in 2007. In real life, the subject of the story, Chris McCandless, had spent some time with him; later, Sean Penn, the director of the film, got Knight to make an appearance in the film.

Today, Leonard Knight no longer lives onsite. He is turning 83 this year and has been living in El Cajon since December 2011. Knight had slept in a small trailer near the mountain, with no heating or air conditioning, no running water and no electricity, since 1984. In the summer, day time lows can hover around 95 degrees, and highs can hover around 115 for weeks on end. It can also get insanely humid.

Bob Levesque, of Salvation Mountain Inc.—a nonprofit organization tasked with preserving Knight’s work and legacy—says that Knight’s health has declined rapidly in the last two years. Knight lower left leg had to be amputated due to a blood clot, for example.

However, the news is not all bad: He underwent a much-needed operation on his cataracts, and he can properly see again. In fact, he is planning a visit to Salvation Mountain at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 19. If his health permits, for the first time in nearly 20 years, he will be able to see his mountain in full color.

The massive lifestyle change—from living independently at his mountain, to living in the El Cajon home—must have been quite the shock to his system.

“He made attempts to pay someone to smuggle him out and drop him off at the mountain,” Levesque says. “We, of course, didn't let this happen, as his health would not allow him to stay. After his amputation is when he finally realized he was at the best place he could be. He now tells Dan (Westfall, the Salvation Mountain board of directors president), ‘The kids here are taking good care of me, and I like it here.’”

In the meantime, the folks at Salvation Mountain Inc. are trying to figure out the best ways to maintain the site. Knight’s majestic mountain is not immune to the desert sun and heat, and is in need of repairs and constant maintenance. Throughout the cooler part of the year, the board organizes monthly work parties, and the members hope to attract more participants this fall.

The organization is accepting applications from people who wish to be onsite managers. So far, applicants have preferred short-term commitments.

“Weare planning to continue recruiting and fill the schedule with any qualified candidates for however long they can stay,” Levesque says. “I guess this will keep us truly living by faith. So far, we haven't had any lapses in coverage, but at times, the coverage is a local baby sitter who fills in when someone goes away.”

Managers receive a stipend and are supplied with “water, ice, solar, DSL and waste removal. For the right candidates, we may also be able to offer living quarters, but prefer if they have their own RV,” Levesque says.

The charity relies heavily on donations.

“The generosity of hundreds of people has helped maintain funds in our account so we can offer a stipend to onsite managers and buy supplies and other needed items. Most of all funding comes directly from the donation box at the mountain, but we also have been receiving donations via PayPal online and through private donations.”

Meanwhile, Salvation Mountain is worth visiting. In Knight’s words: “I just really believe that God built this mountain, that I didn’t. I am not really capable, especially being an artist, of doing anything, but God Almighty can do anything.”

For more information or to donate, visit www.salvationmountain.org, or www.facebook.com/SalvationMountainIncBoardOfDirectorsSite. To receive an application form to become an onsite manager, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Once I stepped into the one-story building off of Highway 111 near North Shore, I knew I would be going bananas.

After all, this building is the home of the International Banana Museum. 

The first sense that is tested at the museum is smell, as you take in the aroma of banana-nut-bread candles. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but it becomes a welcome cloak as you peruse the collection.

Vision is the second sense that is bombarded: It’s hard to describe the sheer amount of banana-related items in that room. Books on bananas, plastic bananas, food with bananas, stuffed toy bananas, stuffed toy monkeys with bananas, Christmas banana trees, banana stickers, jewelry-encrusted plastic bananas, banana snow globes, crème de banana liqueur, banana monkey necklaces, a flute in the shape of a banana … the list goes on.

The purchaser of the original Banana Club collection started by Ken Bannister, Indio native Fred Garbutt is an excellent curator with an eye for detail. At the same time, he seems slightly confounded by his decision to have purchased the collection in the first place. He dons “a sporty banana look”: a yellow shirt, glasses, a banana pendant on a chain necklace, Hawaiian shorts, and green-and-yellow Converse shoes. Garbutt’s statement that “bananas are associated with humor, with monkeys, and are fun and whimsical” rings true—and he revels as he throws out banana puns, innuendos and fun facts. He said he tries to keep his obsession on the “right side of totally bananas” while having a great deal of fun.

He bought Bannister’s collection on eBay in April 2010 and opened the museum to the public in November 2012; it’s open four days a week. Garbutt believes the collection originally included 17,000 items, and he has added enough items to reach the 20,000 mark.

And he’s adding more: Every day, he scours eBay and other online auction houses for more stuff. Guinness World Records still lists Ken Bannister as the record-holder for the largest collection of banana memorabilia; Garbutt hopes Guinness will do a recount of his items.

Garbutt’s current pride and joy? A record player in the shape of banana that he bought via eBay. It’s perfect working order, much to his delight.

What song did he recently play on it? “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”

I had to ask Garbutt: Does he like eating bananas? He said his mother made a dish when he was a child in which she would slice bananas, lay the slices out in a circle, and add whipped cream. Other than that, however, he ate no more bananas than an average kid. But, because of the museum, Garbutt has started eating more of them, he said. He has been working hard to expand the items on his soda-fountain menu. Visitors can enjoy banana splits, milkshakes and other banana-related items, including a banana soda ice cream float.

“Before making them available, I had to perfect my float and milkshake, so I would experiment. I have been having repeat customers coming in for the banana soda ice cream floats and milkshakes alone,” he said.

I had the milkshake, and my friend had the ice cream float. I would come back just for the milkshake goodness Garbutt put together.

Garbutt grew up in Indio and would visit the Salton Sea during its heyday in the 1950s. The building which houses the International Banana Museum and Skip’s liquor store has been in his family since 1959.

“There are so many misconceptions of the Salton Sea. The news leads people to believe that it is a cesspool that should just dry up,” he said. He wants the museum to help put the Salton Sea back on the map, and is even working on a “Banana Split Boat Trip” with an airboat operator who is setting up business at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. Visitors on this tour will be able to enjoy the sea on the boat and then afterward visit the museum.

I came away with the impression that Garbutt would have been just as excited about a collection starring any fruit, if that’s what would have been on offer. However, there is indeed something special about the banana. After all, bananas make numerous appearances in comedy bits, right? As a result, you cannot help but leave the museum with a smile.

The next step for Garbutt and Platty—check the museum’s Facebook page for portraits of Garbutt’s travelling banana friend—is to continue travelling around the world in search of more banana-related items for the museum.

The International Banana Museum, 98775 Highway 111, North Shore, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Monday. Admission is $2. For more information, call (619) 840-1429, or visit www.facebook.com/InternationalBananaMuseum.

Moon Block Party, a collective from Pomona, Calif., has for a second year in a row organized an area music festival that overlaps with the Coachella festival.

Their intention, organizers say, is not for Desert Daze—taking place on Saturday, April 20—to be an alternative to the monumental Coachella fest, but to add to the number of music-related activities that are available to music aficionados storming the area in April.

Last year, Moon Block Party was invited to put on Coachella-related parties. This, they did, but not in a small way: They coordinated musicians and bands to play a Desert Daze Festival for 11 days in a row, largely at Dillon’s Roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs. This year, they downsized to a one-day, festival, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

Phil Pirrone, who spearheads the festival and the collective, explains they found that location.

“We scoured the desert to find this year's location,” he recalls. “One night, my wife and I were literally scrolling Google Earth, trying to find what looked like ranches or parks or something. … We eventually found a ranch north of Bermuda Dunes. … That didn't work out, although they were very nice people—so nice, they referred us to Sunset Ranch.”

So nice, indeed! The location boasts a lush desert oasis complete with palm trees and lake in Mecca. Bring your tents; there is camping on the lake (though no swimming is allowed).

On offer is music from bands from Mali, Los Angeles, Seattle and Brooklyn, as well as Coachella Valley band Slipping Into Darkness (which was also a last-minute addition to the Coachella fest). Expect an eclectic assortment of music from post-punk and drone to dark folk, anti-apocalypse rock, and so on.

One highlight is the mighty band Tinariwen, a group of Tuareg musicians hailing all the way from the Saharan region in Mali. They are very much established on the world-music scene, and are coming all the way to Mecca to perform their lush poetry and guitar-based, rhythm-heavy music.

“Most of the bands on the festival are friends and bands we really believe in,” Pirrone says. “The others, like Tinariwen, have been our dream list for a very long time. We just reached out to their agent, and the timing was right, and it worked out.”

Pirrone and the crew of the Moon Block Party want to make this regular, annual event. It looks like the Eastern Coachella Valley is on its way to becoming a Mecca for alternative and mainstream music alike.

The Desert Daze Festival takes place starting at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69520 S. Lincoln St. Tickets start at $35. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertdaze.org.

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