CVIndependent

Thu08222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

In the spring of 2013, my friend Shann Carr invited me to brunch.

Shann at the time was the volunteer coordinator at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, and I was just putting the finishing touches, if memory serves, on the first print edition of the Independent. The brunch—on the patio of the late, lamented Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge—was primarily for Shann’s volunteers, a group of fantastic people Shann thought I should get to know.

At that brunch, Shann introduced me to a music blogger by the name of Brian Blueskye. We chatted a bit, and he expressed interest in doing some freelancing for the Independent.

In the six years since, Brian became the Independent’s first employee (besides myself). He grew as a writer and reporter, winning a national journalism award on his way to becoming the best music journalist in the Coachella Valley. This is the 72nd print edition of the Independent; he’s had multiple bylines 71 of them—all but that very first issue I was finishing up when I met him. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that he’s become one of my best friends.

Because of all this, Brian’s departure from the Independent is decidedly bittersweet: The Desert Sun has, quite wisely, hired him to be the paper’s new arts and entertainment reporter, on the heels of 40-year veteran Bruce Fessier’s retirement. On one hand, the Independent will deeply miss Brian’s work; he’s been such a vital part of the Independent’s DNA that he can’t be replaced. I also have deep concerns about The Desert Sun’s parent company, Gannett, in terms of both ethics and stability. But on the other hand, I am elated for Brian, because The Desert Sun is compensating him at a level that the Independent right now can not afford—at a level that Brian definitely deserves.

While Brian will be missed within these pages, I am excited about the changes we’re making following his departure. Kevin Fitzgerald, whose byline has been appearing in the Independent for almost as long as Brian’s has, is taking our open staff position. Like Brian, Kevin has a national journalism award to his credit for his work in the Independent. While Brian primarily covered music, Kevin’s focus will be on news and features—meaning the Independent’s news coverage will get a decided boost in both quantity and quality. I am elated to welcome Kevin on board as the Independent’s second-ever employee.

As for music and arts coverage, we’re bringing on some new regular freelancers to fill the void—and trust me, they’re going to do a fantastic job. While we’re still fleshing out these additions (drop me a line if you think you should be one of them), here’s info on two of them: Matt King, at the ripe old age of 17, will be covering music; in fact, his first piece, on The Regrettes, appears in the July print edition on newsstands now, and will be posted here at CVIndependent.com on Monday. Don’t underestimate him because of his age; Matt is an excellent writer and musician who knows the local music scene well. As for our other addition: Watch CVIndependent.com for the Independent debut of Andy Lara, a longtime music and culture writer who’s previously written for the Coachella Valley Arts Scene and LAist.

We’ll have more news on all these exciting changes soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, and be sure to pick up that aforementioned 2019 print edition. Feel free to email me with feedback at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

I joined the Coachella Valley Independent in 2013, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The Independent has provided me with many opportunities in my journalism career.

Thus, it’s bittersweet to say that as of June 19, I will be stepping down from my position as the assistant editor/staff writer here at the Independent. I have accepted the position of entertainment, culture and celebrity reporter at The Desert Sun.

In the spring of 2013, when I began writing for the Independent, this was a very new publication. The first issue, a quarterly, had just hit newsstands; we would not go monthly in print for six more months. I was new to the journalism profession and didn’t know what to expect. Now, six years later, as I look back at what the Independent has accomplished, as well as my own accomplishments, it feels incredible.

This publication has won three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. The depth of news coverage we have been able to do, with limited resources, on local elections, state legislation, homelessness, LGBT issues and a broad number of other subjects makes me proud. I’m honored to have been part of this publication.

I’ve enjoyed an incredible number of editorial opportunities in our local entertainment scene, covering both Coachella and Stagecoach every year since 2013; interviewing a long list of nationally touring bands; and getting to cover events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival. I’ve also covered numerous great local bands. Some of them have said, “This is our first interview,” when I went to meet with them; many of them are still together in the local music scene, doing great things—and even enjoying some success outside of the valley.

All along, I knew that if I wanted to advance my career, it would probably require that I move outside of the area—which presented a dilemma: I’ve called the Coachella Valley home for 15 years now, and I love it here. That’s why I am so thrilled about this job at The Desert Sun.

On the flip side, I’m sad to be leaving a publication I’ve grown along with over the last six years. This publication has taken on such a diverse range of coverage and is an important voice in our local community, from Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” column to Robert Victor’s monthly astronomy column, and from all the great food and beverage coverage to the fantastic in-depth arts and entertainment coverage.

The mission statement of this publication says it all: “We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. We want to be a mirror for the entire Coachella Valley. We want to inform, enlighten and entertain.” A lot of work and sacrifice goes into putting that mission statement into action, and I hope that people will continue to support the Independent for a long time to come.

Published in Community Voices

More than 80 people came to the Copa Nightclub on Wednesday, Dec. 12, with one goal: to celebrate the people, businesses and organizations that make the Coachella Valley a fantastic place to call home.

The Coachella Valley Independent and Copa Nightclub sponsored the fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party, an event that honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories ranging from the best place to hike, to the valley's best restaurants, to the valley's best sex-toy shop. (Our readers say it's Skitzo Kitty, by the way.)

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle, with help from assistant editor Brian Blueskye—came to celebrate Barbara Carpenter, voted Best Real Estate Agent for the second year in a row, and Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping seven categories.

After the awards were given out, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music delighted the audience with a full set.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald. In the media section, find the welcome video from Rep. Raul Ruiz, as well as a video of the event, courtesy of Tantalum Films. (Originally published on Dec. 13; updated with video Jan. 3.)

Published in Snapshot

The presidency of Donald Trump has made many Americans angry, frustrated, sad and fearful for the future. But in my case, the presidency of Donald Trump helped turn me from a staunch atheist into a Christian.

Let me explain.

I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather was an Episcopalian, and my grandmother was a Catholic. My first exposure to religion came from my grandfather taking me to Episcopalian services in my hometown of Mentor, Ohio, whenever he was up early enough on Sundays. I remember those experiences fondly: I got to know the other kids in Sunday school, and enjoyed the fun arts and crafts that reflected the values of the Episcopalian Church.

Then came a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was 9. The next morning, we all went to my friend’s Baptist church, where rather than being nice, the teachers told us fire-and-brimstone stories that frightened me. After a few interruptions by other kids, the pastor came into the classroom, yelling at us—and praying for Jesus to save us from evil.

I never wanted to go to church again. When my grandfather would go to the Episcopal parish, I’d ask to stay home.

Later in life, I practiced Buddhism for about a decade; I even had a refuge ceremony performed by a Theravada monk on my 21st birthday. However, I never really found my place in Buddhism; the Asian cultural elements didn’t mesh with my life in the United States, and I didn’t get the answers to questions I needed from my teachers and fellow Buddhists. After that, I abandoned religion, and came to embrace atheism.

Earlier this year, I found myself in a deep depression. I was spiritually drained as I tried to make sense of my life in these uncertain times. I turned to books written by Ram Dass, who I had always admired; they helped. Then, of all things, the royal wedding uplifted me: The sermon by Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, at the ceremony for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was nothing short of remarkable. I began to think about the things my grandfather believed in and tried to instill in me as a child—values inspired by his Episcopal faith.

Ram Dass once said, “Faith is what is left after all your beliefs have been blown to hell.” I had essentially reached that point: I was questioning all that I believed in, and ironically, the only thing I felt faith in was that there had to be something greater than myself.

I’ve been shaken to my core several times during my life. I dealt with an alcoholic mother who died at the age of 40; my father abandoned me before I was born; even my grandfather was not as accessible to me as I would have liked during my childhood. Despite the despair I’ve felt at times, I’ve always survived—through the grace of God, I now believe. There were many times when things could have turned out much worse. An open mind and a new perspective have led to my newfound faith in God.

What does the current president have to do with all of this? The climate he created helped blow all of my beliefs to hell. The despair he’s fomenting is inescapable on television and on social media—from Milo Yiannopoulos bullying people over the internet in the name of “free speech,” to white supremacists hitting activists with cars, to the general dark cloud that seems to be hovering over our country. Political discourse has turned ugly, and people are becoming more and more vindictive over political matters.

A fairly recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that, incredibly, 75 percent of white evangelicals still support Trump. Famous religious figures such as Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell Jr. have turned faith into a partisan game. Trump and his cabinet have been using religion as a means to promote an agenda that opposes diplomacy abroad, and both human rights and civility at home and beyond. 

Given my life experiences—including those as a gay man—I’d come to see religion as part of the problem rather than the solution. In many ways, I still feel that way. I also couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of a vengeful God, and I was disgusted by the “loving intolerance” expressed by many so-called Christians regarding people who believe differently than they do, and people with lifestyles different than theirs.

When I told friends I was starting to think back to the values instilled in me by my grandfather and the Episcopal Church, and that I was thinking of going back to church, most were supportive. Others were—and are—deeply concerned about me. I am often asked how the person who once fervently denounced religion is now a regular churchgoer.

I’ve long known the Episcopal Church is LGBT-affirming, stands for social justice, and allows clergy—both male and female—to marry. Still, I was wary when I first found myself at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs. The rector, the Rev. Andrew Green, encouraged me to explore my new interest and told me I was welcome to attend services at the church whenever I was ready.

I began attending services on Saturday afternoons. At first, I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but I soon felt welcomed and comfortable.

One particular service “sold” me: The Rev. Green was talking about what makes someone a good Episcopalian. He pulled out three simple rules that were on a sheet of paper: “Love God; love others; and love yourself.”

Those three simple rules, combined with my experiences in reading both The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible with my newfound open-mindedness, have given me a perspective on life that not even the horrors of the Trump presidency can diminish. The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi has also become important to me, and I have recited it to myself many times: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

In this confusing and dark time, Donald Trump has not only led me to reaffirm my beliefs in the values of human rights for all, equality for all, and social justice; it has also led me to a place where I have found solitude, comfort and a belief in civility—even at times when civility is seemingly nowhere to be found.

Brian Blueskye is the assistant editor of the Coachella Valley Independent.

Published in Community Voices

Representatives of many of the Coachella Valley's top businesses, groups and organizations gathered on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub for the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Party.

The revelry was the culmination of a process that started back in August, when first-round voting in the third annual Coachella Valley Independent readers' poll began. The top three to five vote-getters in each category then moved on to a second round of voting, which took place through October. The results were announced at CVIndependent.com on Nov. 28 and in the December edition of the Independent

Held at Copa, the Best Nightclub winner, the party was hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle. After the awards, Best Local Band winner Venus and the Traps treated the audience to a set.

Below are pictures from the evening, by Independent contributor Cory Courtney. Enjoy!

Published in Snapshot