CVIndependent

Sat05302020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Debra Ann Mumm is one of my favorite people in the entire Coachella Valley.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Debra in a variety of ways over the years. Way back when we launched our monthly print edition in 2013, her then-store Venus Studio Art Supply sponsored our launch party, with Ryan Campbell creating a mural-sized artwork live. I served with her on the Desert Business Association board of directors. I’m also proud to call her my friend.

Today, Debra runs the CREATE Center for the Arts, a Palm Desert arts nonprofit that is doing amazing things. Despite the obvious challenges, the pandemic hasn’t stopped Debra and CREATE from doing amazing things; in fact, they’ve stepped up to fill a community need: The CREATE Center has mobilized its 3-D printing capabilities—and those of others—to make personal protective equipment for the local medical community.

Wow.

Anyway … a week or so ago, I was inspired by an idea that originated by the Chicago Reader and The Pitch newspaper in Kansas City. I called Debra and asked if she wanted to partner up to do it, and she agreed.

Ladies and gentleman: It’s time to announce the Coachella Valley Independent Coloring Book.

This is a quick turnaround project … and it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. We’re inviting local artists and designers to participate by drawing a page—locally themed, if possible--of the coloring book. The proceeds will be split between the Independent, the CREATE Center and the group of artists that participate.

Take note: The deadline for art is 1 p.m., Friday, April 10. That’s a week from today! The details can be found here. Enjoy!

And now, the news:

• Sad news: The Purple Room’s last night of takeout/curbside food and drink will be Saturday. Inspiring news: The space will be turned into two assembly lines for the CV Mask Project, which is trying to meet the need of 45,000 disposable gowns for Eisenhower Medical Center in the coming weeks. Good news: Michael Holmes and co. will continue doing their fantastic live shows via Facebook on Wednesday and Saturday. See Michael Holmes’ explanation here.

• From the Independent, via our partners at High Country News: It’s important to get outside during these trying times—but it’s important to do so ethically and responsibly.

The city of Palm Springs has told some businesses that have boarded up their windows that they need to take the boards down. This, understandably, has ticked off said business owners. Anyway, here’s the city’s explanation.

• Dammit, can’t we have ANYTHING nice right now? Turns out Zoom, the platform everyone’s using for online meetings and whatnot, is the subject of some nasty hacking—and an FBI warning.

• Some smart people from UC Riverside explain why stay-at-home orders need to last at least six weeks. Bleh.

• Depressingly related: Some countries that had made progress in fighting back COVID-19 are shutting some things down again as the virus makes a comeback.

• A group from Washington state is suing Fox News for calling the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax.

• In other lawsuit news, businesses around the country are suing local and state governments for shutting them down, because … freedom?

• So, are we going to war with Canada now, because the feds are trying to stop US companies from sending medical equipment there? (Just kidding about the war part … maybe?)

• If you don’t mind reading scientific writing, this piece from Nature Medicine explains why wearing a mask is a good idea.

• Goodness gracious, that’s a lot of depressing news. Let’s change gears to happier things, and talk about “Virtual Hugs,” thanks to the LGBT Center of the Desert and Destination PSP. It’s actually a fundraiser: Destination PSP is selling a line of “Virtual Hugs” T-shirts and caps, with the proceeds going to The Center and its vital work. Learn more here from The Center here, and buy the T-shirts here.

• Vulture.com did an amazingly wonderful thing: It asked more than 35 TV showrunners and writers what their famous characters would do in this pandemic. The results are splendid. My favorite: Veep’s Selina Meyer would have handled this crisis … brilliantly?

• The cancelled SXSW’s film festival portion will live on online, thanks to help from Amazon. 

• NASA has a wonderful resource packed with information and lessons for kids and families. It’s called NASA at Home.

• Wanna learn more about Japanese cooking? Our friends at Wabi Sabi Japan Living are offering the latest in their series of Facebook Live classes tomorrow.

• Google has developed a website with downloadable data on states and countries’ mobility trends during the pandemic, using anonymous location data.

Tomorrow’s my unplug-for-the-sake-of-sanity day, so we’ll be back Sunday. In the meantime, if you’re an artist, get us your coloring book submissions. Support our efforts to continue to do great local journalism if you can. Oh, and wash your hands.

Published in Daily Digest

People have been trying to get outdoors during this COVID-19 pandemic, and I don’t blame them. Without fresh air to breathe, clear sunlight or mist on our eyelids, I don’t think we can remain sane.

And we need a sane population. Especially now.

All over the country, beaches and parks are closed; and warning tape is wrapped around playgrounds. People are trying to get out, but not finding any place to go to. Central Park remains open, and New York City has been asked by its mayor to close certain streets to vehicles so people can get out and walk. In the San Francisco Bay area, residents are still being told that parks are open, and to go enjoy them—with certain caveats: The restrooms aren’t open, and neither are the trashcans. Don’t hike in groups.

In the West, we’ve got plenty of space. But are we supposed to be using it? We’re hearing different messages. There’s been a pushback against recreating on public lands, mostly from gateway communities receiving visitors they don’t want, even as people are being encouraged to enjoy parks and open spaces where they can keep a safe distance from others.

So … which is it? Stay indoors, or go outside? If you go out for a walk, you might hear someone shouting at you from a window, “What don’t you understand about just stay home?

Moab, Utah, was overwhelmed by tourists—a madhouse, I’m told, which is significant when you hear it from a Moab local. Then it became too much, and all tourist services were closed down. Mayor Emily Niehaus announced, “Moab is asking people to please stay in their home community.” The Southeast Utah Health Department halted visitor recreation; restaurants were closed or limited to curbside service; camping and hotels across multiple counties were closed to non-locals, and visitor centers have shut down. A similar scene played out at Joshua Tree National Park, which closed completely on April 1. Everybody, go home.

But is home restricted to the indoors, or does it include the spaces around you?

I believe in the right to be outside, but at this moment, it shouldn’t be exercised through visitor centers and bottlenecks. Forget the parks; seek out the spaces in between, the backyards and alleys. Be as local as you can.

People heading to Red Mountain Pass to ski between Silverton and Ouray, Colo., with out-of-county plates, have gotten a yellow slip on the windshield from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, reading, “San Juan County Colorado is enacting a LOCALS ONLY order until further notice due to the COVID-19 virus crisis.” Further down the slip, it notes, “Failure to comply with this order will result in charges with the potential of 1 year in prison, and a $1,000 fine.”

In southwest Colorado, as in much of the West, we’re fortunate to live in a nest of public lands with few trails or kiosks, mostly dirt roads with random pullouts—the spaces managed by the Bureau of Land Management. When I hear “shelter in place,” I think of this place. How far does that legally, ethically extend?

A couple of days ago, my gal and I met up with two friends, another couple sheltering at home, and drove separately to a rock scarp near where we live. We kept six feet or more between us at all times, handing nothing back and forth without an antibacterial wipe. The air we breathed was cavernous, a sandstone canyon without a trail or a sign, a place where you’d rarely see footprints. For half a day, we scrambled over boulders and took pictures of rock and sky. I took more caution than I normally would, limiting the risk, because you don’t want to take any resources from rescue workers who already have tough jobs to do. On our hike, we recounted the weeks since we’d seen each other last, catching up on the stories under the vault of the sky. This, I believe, is sanity. As far as I’ve heard, what we did is neither illegal or unhealthy. Perhaps it’s not unethical, either.

I realize not everybody can do this; the out-of-doors comes in degrees. Sometimes just standing on a sidewalk and staring into the sky makes a world of difference.

Currently, federal land agencies, including the National Park Service, defer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for social-distancing guidelines. But for those wondering about going out farther than their own back-forty, Colorado Parks and Wildlife put out simple guidelines reflecting outdoor recommendations from groups and agencies around the West.

In a nutshell:

  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Keep a social distance from others.
  • Avoid high-risk or remote activities.
  • Announce your presence to others.
  • Stay regional.
  • Avoid times and places of high use.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Be kind. Say hi.

A key bullet point is “stay regional.” How big is a region? Where do you usually travel for groceries? In some big Western counties, 100 miles or more can be your region. In Denver, I figure this means your city and the land immediately around it; Front Range residents are advised to avoid traveling to the high country or to small mountain communities closed to visitors.

However, there’s no official definition. One good answer came from a friend: “If someone gets to a spot, and there are a bunch of people there, you should immediately go somewhere else.”

I was probably one of the last groups to leave the southeast Utah backcountry. I came out with participants in a wilderness archaeology program. We traveled through the town of Bluff to see what was happening, and we found a pandemic in progress: People were telling us to go home, to stay put in Utah, or to go back to the wilderness where we’d been living happily for the last five days. Airplanes were still flying, so civilization was still intact. But answers were hard to find. We all headed back home, which sent us in every direction, but kept us out of the hair of the locals, which seems to be the major issue. Small gateway communities do not need the strain on their groceries, gas or medical services.

If you’re looking for justification to take a trip to the backcountry, leaving your area to go through someone else’s, this isn’t it. Stay in your home terrain. If where you live has backcountry wrapped around it, or a trail that’s open and uncrowded, or just some woods to walk through, I consider that an extension of home. It may not be true for most of us, but many live out here on the margins. And all of us, I hope, can reach the outdoors in some form—because sanity is also necessary for health.

Craig Childs writes about adventure, wilderness, and science. Craig’s newest book, Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America, explores the arrivals of humans into a new hemisphere during the late Pleistocene. Craig teaches writing at the University of Alaska and in the Mountainview MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University and lives off the grid in western Colorado. This piece originally appeared in High Country News.

Published in Community Voices

“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay,” I’ll often hear in reaction to articles by myself or my outdoorsy LGBTQ peers. And it’s true: Nature doesn’t care if I’m gay.

But people do.

A few ago, I finished a world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. For three years nonstop, I lived in a van, hiked trails everywhere from American Samoa to the Arctic Circle, and accomplished an outdoors journey no human had ever done before. But comments about the trip have included things like, “Well now I need to be careful in the bathroom at national parks,” and, “Why do you have to shove your lifestyle down our throats!” A sponsor terminated our partnership halfway through the project, saying over the phone and in writing that I was doing too much LGBTQ outreach.

A camping website called The Dyrt posted an interview with me on Facebook featuring a thumbnail photo in which I’m holding a rainbow flag in front of Yosemite’s Tunnel View. The comments were so inflammatory that the publishers decided just hours later it was inappropriate to leave it up. They later denounced the hateful comments and reposted the story with a call for civility—which was unheeded. A rainbow flag incited such anger from a community of nature-lovers that they ignored what so many outdoor enthusiasts have told me is their “dream trip.”

This happened in June, of all months, the one month when my social media feels like an explosion of rainbows due to worldwide Pride festivals. When historic anniversaries like the Stonewall uprising and marriage-equality decisions are remembered. And when seemingly every corporation, from Listerine to Disney, is releasing products that celebrate these culture-changing moments.

Yet, as the rest of America chases this “Pink Dollar,” the outdoor recreation industry seems less interested in the near $1 trillion in purchasing power of the U.S. LGBTQ community. Or the shift in culture evidenced by the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2019 “Pride Night” was the team’s highest attended game in seven years. Or—as I can attest after seeing Tinder photos from every corner of the United States during my parks journey—the vast market of gay men hoping to look cute in athletic clothes on top of a mountain.

Some in the LGBTQ community argue that corporate Pride promotions are simply “rainbow washing” to increase profits. But as someone who didn’t meet an openly gay adult until I left my home state of Nebraska at age 19, while 14 years later can get married in any state across the U.S., I’ve seen the progress our culture has made. And I believe companies had a large part in it.

In an age when corporations are afforded some of the same rights as individuals, financial power plays a significant role in our society, from politics to cultural acceptance. When Marriott, a company started and owned by Mormons, is willing to sponsor Pride festivals and has an entire annual #LoveTravels campaign aimed at making LGBTQ travelers feel welcome, even people in so-called “flyover states” are influenced by ideas more progressive than they might see at home.

In the same way, the outdoor recreation industry has the power to help build a future where LGBTQ outdoors fans are seen the same as everyone else. In that world, other nature enthusiasts’ reactions to a photo of a flag-bearing hiker would be the same whether it was an American flag or a rainbow one. If outdoor companies follow the example of the rest of corporate America, they could use their influence in a way that both helps their bottom line and improves the lives of outdoor lovers.

As civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” The backing of inclusive values by outdoor brands will help nature enthusiasts like the Eagle Scout who wrote me via Instagram to share that he’d never had an outdoorsy gay role model until learning about my national parks record. Better representation will invite more people to experience our great outdoors. While LGBTQ discrimination still causes vastly higher rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth than their straight peers, this moment in time gives me hope.

When I started my national parks journey in 2016, the outdoor recreation industry had never had a Pride Month ad. Now, several companies and nonprofits sponsor an annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit; an outdoors-themed drag queen is commanding attention from brands, and REI (which I work with to help promote LGBTQ inclusion in the outdoors) received the Kenji Award at 2019’s Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in part for their “Outside With Pride” apparel.

This promotions and inclusion work of the past three years has expanded the tent of who sees themselves in outdoors culture, meaning we’ve come one step closer to a goal: A hope that one day, the readers of an article about a gay man visiting all of America’s national parks won’t care about the sexual orientation of the adventurer. After all, if nature doesn’t care that I’m gay, why do people?

Adventurer Mikah Meyer was recently named one of NBC’s “Pride 50” for groundbreaking work with LGBTQ communities. He is a regular speaker on topics ranging from epic outdoors experiences to the benefits of inclusion for businesses and individuals. He is based in Minneapolis. This piece originally appeared in High Country News.

Published in Community Voices

I'm a health nut, so I almost never eat at fast-food restaurants. But I notice that every time there's a new burger joint here in the valley, it opens to much fanfare. These establishments are very popular with people who have little time on their hands, not to mention the slime on their hands when they're eating all the greasy food.

But what's wrong with this picture? Shouldn't we be encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle? We live in an area that offers plenty of outdoor recreation, yet not everyone takes advantage of it.

We can eliminate much of the debate about health care by just focusing on prevention. If we teach people how to take care of themselves, that will decrease the chances of them becoming dependent on the system. For those who have already become ill, I propose instituting an incentive-based health-care system. For example, if an obese person loses a specific amount of weight, they would be offered a discount on their insurance premium; after all, money is a great motivator. But let's take a look at some practical solutions to get people started.

Anyone who has driven into the Coachella Valley has noticed those unsightly windmills located next to the freeway. They've always been an eyesore. Perhaps we should remove all the windmills and replace them with people. If someone is in need of more exercise, they would have the opportunity to stand in the wind-prone areas and flap their arms as hard as they could. By doing this, they could generate power, and burn calories at the same time. It would be a win-win situation for everyone, not to mention a wind-wind situation.

Another suggestion is to have our own “running of the bulls” event here in the desert. The idea would be to let loose a herd of bulls through the streets and have them chase a group of people who need exercise. There's no better way to get in shape quickly than be forced to run for your life.

But before you dismiss all this as a bunch of bull, we need to recognize the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Activity is the key to longevity.

One of the best ways to stay active is to swim, and here in the Coachella Valley, we're lucky to have a body of water large enough to accommodate thousands of swimmers. I'm talking about the jewel of the desert, the Salton Sea. There's nothing more satisfying than taking a dip on a beautiful day surrounded by the aroma of rotting fish. And that's the point: There could be a race called “Last One Out Is a Rotten Egg.” All the contestants would swim as fast as they could to get out of the water quickly. The last one out would, indeed, smell like rotten eggs.

The ideal solution would be to combine all of these activities together to create the First Annual Coachella Valley Turbine Toro Tilapia Triathlon. Participants would start off by flapping their arms like a wind turbine, then be chased by bulls all the way to the Salton Sea, where they could swim alongside floating tilapia.

When the swimmers emerge from the sea, each of them would be personally dried off by former Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, who's used to throwing in the towel. The winner of the competition would be invited to have a Big Mac with Bono Mack and her husband, Connie Mack. Of course, Big Macs aren't exactly the healthiest food in the world, which leads us back to our original goal of living a healthier lifestyle.

Our new congressman, Dr. Raul Ruiz, spent a year as a medical student with Partners in Health, an organization dedicated to providing health care to impoverished countries. His services could certainly be used to educate people here about the benefits of taking care of themselves.

In the meantime, you deserve a break today. Forget the burger; get your buns out, and do something active.

Published in Humor