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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.

April was horrible, in terms of deaths and economic calamity—but for the most part, the country hunkered down and sheltered in place. But now that May is here, the figurative wheels may be starting to come off.

Many are states starting to reopen—despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Some local governments in California are taking steps to reopen, in defiance of the state orderProtests seem to be getting angrier—including those close to home in Orange County, over Gov. Newsom’s surprising decision to close the beaches there, and only there, this weekend. 

Here in the Coachella Valley, some are getting restless, too. The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce yesterday asked county supervisor V. Manuel Perez to do what he can to “start opening back up the Coachella Valley economy.” Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom said the first steps toward reopening California are days, not weeks, away … but has not been specific on what that means, exactly.

How is this all going to play out? I have no idea. All I know is that the next 30 days are going to be a wild ride—and that the Independent will be here to help make sense of it.

Wash your hands. Be kind. Be safe. And hold on tight, folks.

Today’s links:

• The big local news of the day: College of the Desert announced today that all summer AND fall classes will move online. More or less, this means the campus will be closed for the remainder of 2020.

• As expected, the government has announced that remdesivir may be used as an emergency treatment for COVID-19.

• Related: This opinion piece from The Washington Post does a good job of putting Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks on Wednesday regarding remdesivir in the proper context: They gave us real hope.

• Also related: The House wants Dr. Fauci to testify next week. The White House isn’t going to let him.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newsom’s program that would pay restaurants to make meals for seniors in need has a lot of problemsand as a result, not a single meal has been delivered yet.

• Here’s a holy-cow-that’s-awful stat: More than 4,000 workers at 115 meatpacking plants in the country have tested positive for the virus. More than 900 of those are at a single Tyson plant in Indiana.

• Related: It turns out the much-touted executive order by the president for meat plants to reopen isn’t going to do much of anything.

• Not only is the race on to develop a new vaccine; some scientists are studying whether old vaccines, for polio and tuberculosis, can help fight the coronavirus. How’s that possible? It involves something called “innate immunity.”

• The Palm Springs Cultural Center this week has added two films to its watch-at-home lineup. Get the details on Crescendo and Saint Frances here.

• The Atlantic takes a mostly depressing look at how the pandemic is going to change retail business in the country.

• The U.S. Bartenders’ Guild fund has only dispersed $1.5 million of the $7 million it has in its emergency aid fund—with up to 90 percent of applicants being rejected. The San Francisco Chronicle gets some answers on why that is.

• Omar Tate, the proprietor of a popup restaurant experience called Honeysuckle, wrote a powerful essay for Esquire; this one line sums things up masterfully: “When America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.”

• The headline on this piece from a HuffPost political reporter gets straight to the point: “Tribes Were Supposed to Get $8 Billion In COVID-19 Aid. They’ve Gotten $0.”

Former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has a message for the people protesting stay-at-home orders: You’re being selfish, and you’re disrespecting America’s veterans.

• Related: Elon Musk is getting some Silicon Valley execs on the “reopen now!” bandwagon—while others are decidedly in disagreement.

• The consistently excellent Texas Tribune breaks down the battle in that state over unemployment benefits—and as that state reopens (prematurely, perhaps), many fearful people are being forced to go back to work.

If you’re one of the people who somehow believes COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, either you’re ignorant, or you don’t know how numbers work.

• When it’s time for Las Vegas to reopen … it’s not going to reopen all at once, as the MGM Resorts acting CEO pointed out during a call yesterday.

• Some people are starting to get an email from the Census Bureau asking questions about how they’re faring during the pandemic. Here’s a story from NPR, from a week or two back, on why that’s happening.

That’s enough for today. Be safe. Wash your hands. Check in on a loved one and see how they’re doing. Get details on our fantastic coloring book here, and becoming a Supporter of the Independent here. Barring anything major, we’ll be off tomorrow, but back on Sunday, in honor of World Press Freedom Day.

Published in Daily Digest

There was sooooo much interesting news today—from more on California’s reopening plans to the hubbub over Tupac Shakur’s unemployment (not joking!)—we shan’t delay in getting to the links:

• Today’s big news: Gov. Newsom today laid out more specifics on the reopening of California, in a four-stage process. Right now, we’re in Stage 1. (But you knew that already.) He also suggested that the state’s schools could open earlier than normal summer

• From the Independent: Kevin Allman talked to the owners of Dringk, Bongo Johnny’s and Eight4Nine, as well as the executive director of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce, about the tough decisions restaurants have had to make during the pandemic.

• From the Independent: Matt King is a student at College of the Desert who comes from a family full of teachers—so he decided to talk to several of his teachers, current and past, about the challenges of being a teacher at a time when in-person classes cannot be.

• Two related stories: The Conversation brings us this piece, posted yesterday from a business-law expert, on one reason why meat plants may be closing—a concern over being prosecuted if they get blamed for spreading the virus. And then today comes the news that the president plans on ordering the plants to remain open—and possibly protecting them from liability—in an effort to keep the meat supply chain up and running.

A sad stats day: The U.S. crossed the 1 million line in terms of coronavirus cases—and the virus has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam War.

• Yet another piece of evidence showing that we’re living in the worst timeline: The feds are preparing to loan big business billions—with almost no strings whatsoever.

• NPR’s headline says it all: “Leaving Off Mask at Mayo Clinic, Pence Said He Wanted To Look Workers ‘in the Eye.’” Sigh.

• The Wall Street Journal yesterday posted this piece: “The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing a Manhattan Project for COVID-19.” While the story itself is interesting, I recommend skipping straight to the PDF report from the group

• For this one year only, films will not need to be released theatrically in order to be eligible for the Oscars.

• Best Buy today announced that it was allowing the Geek Squad to enter people’s homes again.

• Well, this is depressing: Some stores are running out of sympathy cards because of this damned virus.

The nation’s hotels, large and small, are getting ready to do things rather differently when travel again becomes a thing.

• As the great Dave Barry would say, we are not making this up: Scientists are examining the possibility that nicotine may keep COVID-19 at bay. Yes, really.

• I repeat, we are not making this up: If you’re having problems checking the status of your stimulus check on the IRS website, try typing things in all caps. Yes, really, again.

• Meanwhile, out of Kentucky comes this headline: “Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear apologizes to Tupac Shakur over coronavirus unemployment claim.” Yes, this headline is accurate, and no, we’re not smelling toast.

• Aaaand in the ever-weird and cutthroat world of British media, a newspaper has suspended a journalist after he allegedly snuck into a rival newspaper’s Zoom meeting.

• This is not directly related to the virus, but we need all the good news we can get, so here’s a just-released trailer for the Kimmy Schmidt special coming to Netflix in May.

That’s all for today. Buy our coloring book, dang it! Let us know if you want a copy of our May print edition sent to you. And if you can afford to support our journalism, please do so, because times are tough. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Education is a big deal in my family. My grandmother was a teacher; my mom is a teacher; my aunt is a teacher; and my brother is on his way to becoming a teacher.

Of course, modern teachers have never had to deal with anything like this before. California school buildings are closed through at least the end of this school year—and instead, teachers are doing their best to educate students online. Because of these unusual circumstances, I decided to talk to some teachers in my life—my mom, an old high school teacher and a couple of my college professors—via email or online chat (except for my mom) about what it’s like to be a teacher during a pandemic.

“Theoretically, the quality of the learning should not be changed, but I can’t help but assume it has been diminished drastically,” said Corbyn Voyu, an assistant professor of English at College of the Desert. I am currently enrolled in her English 2 class, and Prof. Voyu has been putting a ton of effort into re-creating the same fun learning environment from her classroom in our Zoom video conferences.

“I worry about the students who specifically chose to take courses in-person rather than online,” Voyu said. “I cannot imagine their quality of learning is remaining the same. Usually at this point in the semester, there is an effort slump, which impacts the quality of reading and writing I see from students. That perpetual phenomenon, coinciding with the stay-at-home order, is making my assessment of student work more ambiguous than usual. I am constantly wondering: Is this the normal midterm decline, or the new medium of learning that’s causing students to not participate? I am not sure I will ever find a concrete answer.”

Prof. Voyu explained how she is working extra hard to keep her teaching interesting.

“I am resorting to more educational gimmicks like Kahoot! (an online quiz game), to varying degrees of success,” Voyu said. “I am culling work down to the most-essential pieces, because I know an interminable Zoom session is no fun for anyone. I am lessening the rigor of my standards by recording lectures, carrying the brunt of discussion, and extending deadlines. Mostly, I find I am trying to operate on ideals of compassion. … My students deserve to learn and, I believe, need to learn about literature, so I want to provide them the space to do that. I am really trying to follow where my students lead; I want this time to work for them rather than for me. Basically, if my students have an idea that might make their learning better, I’d do it if I can. In a regular class setting, I cannot say I am that flexible.”

I am also in adjunct teacher Steven Fuchs’ Intro to Government class. Compared to Prof. Voyu’s more free-flowing class, Prof. Fuchs’ class is primarily lecture-based. He said he appreciated the technology of the Zoom application and online discussion boards.

“I find them extremely useful, especially since I can now associate a name with a face,” Fuchs said. “This is always an issue when instructors teach large survey courses. So, in some respects, it adds a level of intimacy to the class. I will absolutely encourage students to interact via Zoom and discussions in future classes. … Except for some startup issues, I'm very pleased with the transition. I’ve been using online quizzes and papers for over five years, and taught a fully online class during winter intersession, so I think my students are lucky to have a relatively easy transition.

“Also, students are often shy about speaking up in public, so the text-only discussions I have been implementing have given them a chance to more fully express themselves and their academic abilities.”

To see how things were going at the high school level, I reached out to my old film teacher, Monica Perez, the head of the Digital Design and Production Academy at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal. She has always been tech-forward with her teachings.

“Most students are only familiar with online classes as a form of credit recovery; there has always been a brick-and-mortar classroom where kids are given multiple scaffolds and retaught if they don’t understand,” Ms. Perez said. “In this online-only setting, it is harder to gauge who needs help, because a student has to be more proactive in their learning. The quality of learning is there, because the curriculum stays the same; it is the way a student chooses to digest that learning that comes into play. There are many videos and guides that can be used to facilitate learning; kids know how to Google answers, so that concept isn’t new. (Education success) is more of a motivational factor now more than anything.”

Ms. Perez said she’s needed to allocate more time to check in with her students.

“One of the biggest differences in my teachings is my form of communication with my students,” Ms. Perez said. “I get a lot more phone calls and text messages now. Students just need to know that you care and miss them. I miss them dearly, so hearing them on the phone is a big positive difference.

“Kids don’t need to know about existentialism if they’re living it, so we (teachers) can approach these topics a little differently. I have ditched some bell/busy-work activities for more online conversation and debate. I am going to limit the craze of Zoom for only necessary times. I prefer pre-recorded material anyway; live Zoom could be used for quick Q&A sessions.”

While Ms. Perez said video conferences are useful, they can’t and shouldn’t fully replace the physical classroom.

“Video conferences are a double-edged sword, because not all students have access to connectivity,” Ms. Perez said. “They are a strong tool for students who need the ‘live’ interaction with their peers and teachers, as online classes by themselves require a lot of discipline and individual effort. I see it as any other tool. It is a fad right now because of our pandemic circumstances, but there are multiple modes of teaching and learning. … In the future, yes, I do see many riding the video-conference train, but I also see many students and teachers alike missing the organized chaos of the brick-and-mortar classroom. A perfect storm, in the end, would be an equal balance of the two mediums.”

Ms. Perez said she’s heartbroken that the class of 2020 won’t be able to fully experience their senior years.

“Many of us are very saddened that we don’t get to be with our kids for the end of the 2019-2020 school year,” Ms. Perez said. “I miss all my children, from those who make me want to pull my hair out, to those who make me a proud ‘cat mom’ everyday, to those crazy combination students who flip a coin and keep me guessing.

“If anything, this pandemic has shown the importance of education and the need to reinvent the ‘old traditional’ ways of learning to a fusion of old and new. In order for kids to thrive, we can’t teach like we taught 50 or even 10 years, ago. We have to evolve.”

Finally, I spoke to my mom about how teaching is continuing at the elementary-school level. Maureen King is a teacher at Palm Academy in Indio, and she is doing her best to make sure the learning never ceases in her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade combo class.

“We do a mandatory check-in every day with our students via video conference or email,” King said. “Every student went home with their school-issued Chromebook and a paper packet encompassing three weeks’ worth of school work. However, that was back in mid-March, so our daily check-ins have been utilizing our system of online video lessons in order to further their education. Many programs that we used in regular class are being used for distance learning, and I am able to assign specific lessons for student reinforcement when needed. Once a week, the entire class meets virtually to see one another, play some games and check on their social and emotional well-being. I also have office hours if students need one-on-one tutoring.”

King is proud of the measures being taken to continue connecting to her students, but she admitted there are some obstacles between younger students and technology.

“I find that younger students are needing more help at home to login and share assignments with their teacher,” King said. “Internet connectivity is not a given in our school population, so I am working on providing additional written packets for students who have been unable to join virtually.

“Per my school guidelines, teachers should be providing four hours of work per day, focusing on reading and writing, math and personalized passion projects. We are also stressing the importance of physical activity and the well-being of the students.”

No matter the education level, local teachers are working hard to do the best they can under the stressful circumstances.

Prof. Voyu summed up her motivations in this way: “These are unprecedented times, but I have too much respect for my students and for my subject to just allow the semester to be considered a wash.”

Published in Local Issues

The California Indian Nations College is celebrating its first year of offering unique higher-education courses to local Native Americans students.

While the school didn’t start offering courses until the fall of 2018, its genesis occurred in 2015, when Theresa Mike began meeting with local tribal leaders and academic leaders in Southern California. While there are currently 37 accredited tribal colleges in the United States, there is not one in California.

In 2017, CINC received seed funding from the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. The school’s partners include College of the Desert; the University of California, Riverside; and CSU-San Bernardino. The college’s offices are on the UCR Palm Desert Campus.

T. Robert Przeklasa, CINC’s vice president of academic affairs, said the college fills a disconcerting need.

“The latest figures were put out in 2016. CSU-San Marcos’ California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center put out figures that showed in California and the United States, (Native American college) enrollment is inching down,” Przeklasa said.

Celeste Townsend, the interim president of CINC, suggested a possible reason for that decrease.

“Not everybody claims (they’re) Native American,” Townsend said. “When you go around to these colleges and universities, the enrollment is 1 percent. How many students are claiming Native American as their primary ethnicity, and how many are choosing not to claim?”

Even though there’s a sizable Native American population in the Coachella Valley, Townsend said she’s dealt with a lot of misconceptions.

“During our meetings with College of the Desert as one of the first points of contact we had, they asked us, ‘Where are you going to get your students?’” Townsend said. “We were like, ‘Are you kidding? We’re in the desert. There are so many tribes within this area!’ So there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and misconceptions. … A lot of universities go after those (students) straight out of high schools. We opened it up to anybody and everybody. Having been someone who took 12 years to get an (associate’s) degree, I come from an understanding that you go where you are comfortable. Some of them don’t feel comfortable.”

Townsend said she and her colleagues were surprised by the immediate demand for what CINC was offering.

“We moved in here last year in July, and September was when we were approved to offer the general-education courses for CINC,” Townsend said. “We had 3 1/2 weeks to recruit, and we needed to have 12 students in each class. In 3 1/2 weeks, we landed 40 students. Seeing the age range and the students wasn’t just really exciting; it was really heartfelt. … We were like, ‘Wow! (The demand) is really out there! We’re just trying to start!’

“We’re still developing policies and procedures, and we still need to get our necessary accreditation. We’re cart before the horse, offering these courses through College of the Desert, which is our incubator and our host, with UCR supporting our offices. We’re trying to establish California Indian Nations College as a standalone college.”

Townsend said they learned a lot from their first year of offering courses.

“Our vision at first was to offer these culturally infused courses for our students, but seeing the diversity we have in the age and desires of our students, there has to be that personalized focus,” Townsend said. “We have a personal approach: ‘What can we do? How can we help you?’ We’ve found that (some students) are struggling with writing. You have those who are needing that extra writing and math support, which we have begun to offer through workshops. We concentrated on offering English 1A, which is composition, and a counseling class to develop an educational plan for themselves. … We’re trying to accommodate their needs by offering these classes while still trying to build a college, build a program and build degrees.”

California Indian Nations College is seeking regional accreditation, which can take years to achieve.

“Regional accreditation is quite a process,” Przeklasa said. “You have to become eligible for accreditation. In California, the accrediting body is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. You have to be operating for three years with students and finances before you can even apply to be eligible. Once you’re granted eligibility, you have to supply more years of records. … Basically you’re looking, at the very earliest, of seven years of operations.

“We wanted to be sure our classes counted. … If we were offering them on our own, it wouldn’t fly. (Other colleges) wouldn’t recognize the courses. So we started with this partnership with UC Riverside, and the plan was to offer classes through their extension. When we started talking more with the accrediting commission, they said, ‘UC doesn’t offer associate’s degrees, so you can’t work with them. Find an institution that offers two-year degrees.’ That’s when we started working with College of the Desert. We’re doing our best to operate and move toward accreditation while still getting our students those courses that can be transferred.”

While looking at the courses offered, I noticed a class for tribal-law-related matters. That led to a discussion of why college education is important for tribal sovereignty to survive.

“We have a student who is from one of the tribes east of here. She is a little older and has said to me, ‘My tribe doesn’t have leaders anymore. They’ve passed on, and somebody needs to take over. I need to educate myself so I can take over,’” Przeklasa said.

CINC is currently offering classes for free.

“During our first term, the Theresa A. Mike Scholarship Foundation gave scholarships to all of our students. They were fully funded in these courses. For this (concluding spring) term, the courses are funded, and students don’t have a financial barrier again; all they have to do is purchase their books and get to school, and everything else is covered,” Przeklasa said. “We’re working hard with our foundation and our development people to ensure that we have the support for the college so we can do that and buy out the classes to ensure that there is no cost for our students. However, should we have to charge the students tuition, it’s going to be the same tuition as College of the Desert. There are a number of programs that College of the Desert has through the state where if you meet the criteria, you can get in for free. There are also Pell Grants and the Promise Grant, so those avenues of financial assistance would be open to the students.”

Townsend said CINC has a lot more work to do.

“When you look at the college as a whole, we need educated board members. We need faculty recruitment. We still need to recruit and focus on these students. We need to continue to work on our curriculum.”

For more information, visit cincollege.org.

Published in Local Issues

When you meet Palm Springs resident Dan Waddell, you immediately get the impression of someone who is gentle, affable, pleasant and relaxed—but the quintessential pianist will definitely confront you if necessary.

I met Waddell when I was producing Palm Springs Confidential, a comedy/musical revue, in the early 1990s. He came on board as musical director on the recommendation of Bill Marx, the noted local pianist and composer who had written the show’s music.

As the producer of the show, I had to keep the peace when Marx was at odds with Waddell over how some piece of music should work. There is an expression that comes over Waddell’s face when he doesn’t get his way—yet he is a consummate professional, and things always end with a harmonious result, “as long as the result is the best it can be.”

Waddell, 75, was born and raised in Tacoma, Wash., as the eldest of three. His mother played piano in the church, so Waddell studied piano as a kid, playing recitals that put him in front of audiences. He learned the organ as well, and played in church while he was in high school; he also worked gigs around town. However, Waddell did not feel compelled to make the piano part of his professional life—and is as surprised as anyone that it turned out that way.

“I had no idea I was going to do this for my whole life,” he says. “I probably assumed I’d go into a building trade. My dad was a utility engineer who did woodworking, which taught me how you can screw things up if you’re not precise.

“I got a music scholarship to college, and thought it was better than going to Vietnam. I had to play an audition for the scholarship, and they told me I should go into music education. I did what I could do best. If I had any real musical influence, it was my teacher, Leonard Jacobson. He made me want to do the work.”

Waddell furthered his musical education with post-graduate studies with the likes of Arthur Loesser, Constance Keene, Abram Chasins and Richard Faith.

Waddell became a member of the musicians’ union while still in high school and worked clubs while in college. He met his wife of 51 years, Robin, while they were students at the University of Puget Sound.

“I met her at a going-away party for her music teacher,” he says. “Robin also sang and played piano. We had just gotten married when I enlisted in the Army with a guaranteed assignment for two years—I actually enlisted for three—to go to their music school. It was once again the best way to stay out of Vietnam. The Army sent me to Arizona, and after my time was up, and my son was born, I became a lecturer in music at the University of Arizona in Tucson.”

Prior to settling in the Coachella Valley 27 years ago, Dan and Robin, along with their son, lived in lots of different places. Waddell worked cruise ships for seven years, “and I think the only place I haven’t yet been is Australia and New Zealand. I kind of fell into (playing cruise ships). I was playing at a club in Seattle, but (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) had put up such a fuss about people drinking and driving that people stopped coming downtown, so the club went downhill. I auditioned for a booker for Sitmar (Cruises), so Robin and I moved to Cuernavaca (Mexico), because it was a lot easier to pick up a ship in Acapulco, which wasn’t that far away.”

Over his long career, Waddell has played with such notables as Cab Calloway, Tony Sandler (of Sandler and Young) and Frank Stallone. He has been a featured concert pianist, music director, vocalist accompanist, organ designer, and judge for the local Virginia Waring International Piano Competition. He has also played organ and piano locally at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta, and Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs, among other places.

“I’m a professional musician,” says Waddell. “I don’t play from some burning desire to create music. I play because people pay me to play. I’ve worked with many, many talented local people, and with the Desert Symphony at the McCallum Theatre.”

Waddell has been teaching others for more than 25 years at College of the Desert, leading students in basic and applied piano, fundamentals of music, and the music theater workshop. His advice for young musicians? “Learn as much as you can about music, taking into consideration that we all have limitations. You have to learn how to work around your limitations.

“I’d also have to say it’s important to move to a big city for exposure, and to meet people and network. I should have gone to Los Angeles and the Dick Grove School of Music, where I would have spent my time writing charts and working with really good musicians, but I got married and went into the Army. I would advise anyone serious about a music career to put themselves in an environment where they can hang out and get paid for it. That’s how you learn and sharpen your skills.

“It’s a given in any endeavor, particularly the entertainment business, that you have to do what you do well. You have to get out there. It’s all about diversity and opportunity.”

Bill Marx likes to introduce Waddell as “the best piano player nobody has ever heard of.” Waddell responds: “I hate that,” adding with a wry smile, “but he’s absolutely right!”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

College of the Desert held a ceremony on Saturday, April 22, to commemorate fallen Palm Springs Police Department officers Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny at the college’s Sheriff Bob Doyle Public Safety Memorial.

Vega, 63, and Zerebny, 27, were killed on Oct. 8, 2016, while responding to a domestic-disturbance call, in what Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described as an ambush.

“It was very touching,” said David Kling, the father of Officer Zerebny. “I really appreciate that the college would have it and invite us. The plaque is beautiful. Anything they can do like this to commemorate Gil and Leslie, I think they would really appreciate it.”

Afterward, I spoke to Neil Lingle, the director of the Public Safety Academy of College of the Desert, about the importance of the memorial to the community. Lingle is a 31-year law enforcement veteran who retired from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 2007.

Was the memorial your idea?

The COD peace officer memorial grew out of the first (COD) bond measure, when they built the buildings for the Public Safety Academy. Bob Doyle, who was the previous sheriff of Riverside County, donated $25,000 to build this memorial to honor police and firefighting personnel who have lost their lives in this county. So what we did is we went back to the first death we knew about in 1895. Every police officer and firefighter who has died since that point in time … (has been) memorialized on this wall.

What impact do you hope this memorial has on students, faculty and the community as a whole?

I think it serves as a dutiful reminder of the sacrifice that these officers made, and in addition to that, the sacrifice of their families, who have to move on without their loved ones. It’s a tragic loss for the families and the law-enforcement community. These people sign on to be professional law enforcement and firefighters to serve their communities and do good in their communities. In this instance … officers Vega and Zerebny were ambushed and killed on Oct. 8, 2016.

Is there anything you would like to personally say?

This was a ceremony for the students and the family of the deceased officers. We honor the fallen officers for their loss and sacrifice; and I meant what I said in my remarks: We do genuinely share the sorrow of these families on the loss of these wonderful human beings and public servants.

Published in Snapshot

You never know whom you might meet at a dinner party.

I was surprised when my hosts invited their excellent “caterer” to join the table. I was even more surprised when the affable young man was asked if he would sing to us after dinner. Michael Graham stood by the table and blew the group away with his resonant baritone voice in an a capella rendering of “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

We enthusiastically applauded while he modestly beamed.

Only 29, Graham is a young man who not only loves the culinary arts, but who sings his heart out with the California Desert Chorale; takes award-winning photographs; and offers personal services from organizing events to IT consulting.

“I like helping others whenever I can,” he says.

Born in Victorville and raised in Desert Hot Springs and Palm Desert, Graham now lives in Sky Valley. His motivation comes from advice he got from his mother: “She always told me to win my own race,” he says. “I judge my success in any endeavor by using my own previous success as my goalpost.”

From a young age, Graham—an only child who was home-schooled—found his voice in music.

“I was always interested in music,” he remembers. “I spent a short time in a children’s chorus. Music was in my family; my mom and grandmother were both pianists, and my grandfather, a writer, was always interested in music. I was raised on a diet of Andrew Lloyd Webber, opera, musical theater and German lieder songs. In my teens, I began to explore music from around the world. I had no confidence in my own ability to sing, but I was able to work with my grandmother when I started to learn, and that was so gratifying.”

Graham enrolled at College of the Desert. “I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue, but it was suggested I major in music,” he says.

The music program at COD offers both certificates and degrees to music majors, and includes both private lessons and public-performance opportunities.

“I had to audition, and I was so unsure about my voice,” says Graham. “There were a lot of really talented people. I took Broadway-voice classes along with jazz, and I was lucky enough to work with Mark Almy for one-on-one instruction.”

Almy is an adjunct faculty member at COD with an operatic background. He’s taught at the University of Redlands, Riverside Community College, Cal State San Bernardino and the Idyllwild Arts Academy, and has directed full operas at COD.

Currently, Graham’s passion is his involvement with the California Desert Chorale, with 60 voices of men and women between the ages of 29 and 85. The group was founded in 1986. The chorale’s artistic director, Tim Bruneau, was trained by the likes of Marilyn Horne and Beverly Sills, and has appeared as a soloist and choral singer with organizations that include the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Los Angeles Master Chorale.

“I entered the program at COD in 2009, and by spring 2010, I was invited by Tim Bruneau to try out for the chorale,” Graham says. “I was one of four interns he selected from students at COD.”

For Graham, the chorale offers a range of music that fits his background: “There is an equal mix of pop and classical music. I loved doing their program last Christmas. It had something for everyone.”

What’s ahead for young Michael Graham? “I’d love to travel and see the world. I want to know what’s out there. Music and cooking right now are more of a hobby. … I do like staying here in the Coachella Valley. I appreciate the beauty of the desert; the whole landscape is so rich once you stop to appreciate it, so I have considered my photography as a profession.”

As a man not yet 30, does Michael Graham have any advice for other young people?

“I owe so much to the great teachers at COD and to the California Desert Chorale,” he says. “I’ve been able to work with many superb people and musicians, because I learned from my family not to be limited by fear.

“It’s easy to rule something out before you’ve even tried it, saying to yourself, ‘I couldn’t do that.’ Whenever I’ve tried, I’ve found those fears are not usually valid. Try not to worry about it—just go for it!”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Here are the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

An all-time-high number of people voted in both rounds this year—and the slate of winners and finalists represent all parts of the valley.

Come celebrate the winners with us during the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Awards Show and Celebration, presented by Renova Solar. It will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub—this year's Best Nightclub winner.

Thanks to all of you who voted in this year's poll!

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


ARTS

 

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. CODA

3. Heather James

4. Melissa Morgan

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Date Shed

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. McCallum Theatre

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

 

Best Local Band

Venus and the Traps

 

Runners up:

2. The Flusters

3. Brightener

4. The Myx

5. War Drum

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Pwee

5. Tommy Locust

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Nico Flores

3. Keisha D

4. Kal David

5. EeVaan Tre

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez

 

Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

4. Marconi Calindas

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3 TIE

Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Century Theatres at the River

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Coachella Valley History Museum

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum

 

Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote StageWorks

5. Dezart Performs


LIFE IN THE VALLEY

 

Best Alternative Health Center

La Quinta Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Healing Center

3. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center

 

Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair Farmers’ Market

 

Runners up:

2. Certified Farmers’ Market Old Town La Quinta

3. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs VillageFest

5. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Desert

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. Desert AIDS Project

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

24 Hour Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. World Gym

3. EOS Fitness

4. In-Shape

5. Planet Fitness

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

3. TIE

Evolve Yoga

Yoga Central

5. Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Best Bowling

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo

 

Best Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Classic Cars

3. Desert Lexus

4. L&L Automotive

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Indio Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Bob Williams Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Petco

 

Runners up:

2. Bones ’n’ Scones

3. PetSmart

4. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

5. Desert Feed Bag

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

3. Ramblin’ and Gamblin’ (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert)

4. Dinner in the Canyons (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)

5. Center Stage (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6

 

Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Local Radio Station

Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. K-News 94.3

5. La Ponderosa 96.7 FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM

 

Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Mozingo, Mix 100.5

4. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, Sunny 103.1 FM

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes & Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Public Library Booknook

3. Revivals

4. The Book Rack

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop

 

2. Desert Oasis

3. Interstellar Comic Books and Collectables

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. The Riviera

5. The Saguaro

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Spencer’s Gifts

4. GayMart


FASHION AND STYLE

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

2. Wil Stiles

3. Glossy

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Angel View

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Gypsyland

4. Penny Lane Boutique

5. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley Furniture Homestore

4. Mor Furniture for Less

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

TIE

The Estate Sale Co

Victoria’s Attic

 

Runners up:

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Classic Consignment

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers

 

Runners up:

Leeds and Son

Hephaestus

Daniel’s Jewelers

Robann’s Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Salon 119 and Spa

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Revive Salon and Spa

5. Read Brown

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Spa La Quinta (La Quinta Resort)

 

Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa at Miramonte

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Zen

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. Revive Wellness Center

5. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

TIE

Art and Ink Tattoo Studio

The Tattoo Gallery

 

Runners up:

3. Flagship Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry


OUTSIDE!

 

Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Downtown Palm Springs

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Sunnylands

4. El Paseo

5. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

La Quinta

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs

3. Palm Desert

4. Highway 74

5. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Lake Cahuilla

5. Coachella Valley Preserve

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Palm Springs Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Freedom Park (Palm Desert)

Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Las Flores (Coachella)

5. Demuth Park (Palm Springs)

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Cyclery

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

5. PGA Tour Superstore

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. PGA West

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs

4. The Golf Club at Terra Lago

5. The Lights at Indio Golf Course


FOR THE KIDS

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Mirage Community Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us

 

Runners up:

2. Mr. G’s for Kids

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Big Lots

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. The Childrens Place

3. Tillys

4. Fallas

5. Revivals

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Old Spaghetti Factory

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Chuck E. Cheese

5. Desert Ice Castle

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Boomers

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Desert Ice Castle


FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

 

Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. In-n-Out Burger

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

2. Lavender Bistro

3. Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Cello’s Pantry

 

Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

3. Elmer’s

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s

 

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Whole Foods

4. Harvest Health Foods

5. Clark’s Nutrition

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace

 

Best Custom Cakes

TIE

Over the Rainbow

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Brandini Toffee

5. Creamistry

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

2. Beach House

3. Golden Spoon

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

 

Best Bakery

French Corner Café

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries

 

Best Barbecue

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

 

Best Burger

In-n-Out Burger

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Tyler’s Burgers

4. Eureka!

5. Smokin’ Burgers and Lounge

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Trio

5. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills

 

Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Blaze Pizza

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Wingstop

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels

 

Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

5. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up

4. Beach House Yogurt

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Old Town Coffee

4. IW Coffee

5. Ernst Coffee

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Teavana

4. Koffi

5. Ristretto

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Café

 

Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Sunshine Cafe

5. John’s

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Cliffhouse

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Trio

 

Best Brunch

Pinocchio in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. The Tropicale

 

Best Chinese

PF Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Miro’s Restaurant

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Athena Gyro

 

Best French

La Brasserie

 

Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Le Vallauris

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Shogun Restaurant

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Cafe

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s

4. Trilussa

5. Livreri’s Palm Springs

 

Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

 

Runners up:

The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

Shogun Restaurant

Dragon Sushi

Edoko Sushi

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. TIE

Morgan’s in the Desert

Steakhouse at the Spa

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai House

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Blue Orchid

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Pho Na

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Café Jasmin

 

Best Upscale Cuisine

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Lavender Bistro

5. The Tropicale

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Alicante

4. Smokin’ Burgers

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Mexican

La Casita

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill’

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas (Original)

 

Runners up:

2. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Las Casuelas Quinta

5. Felipe’s

 

Best Burrito

Taqueria Guerrero

 

Runners up:

2. Castaneda’s Mexican Food

3. Chipotle

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


SPIRITS AND NIGHTLIFE

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Bart Lounge

5. Score the Game Bar

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eureka!

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Trio

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Toucan’s

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. The Tropicale

5. Spurline

 

Best Happy Hour

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Applebee’s

3. The Tropicale

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hair of the Dog

4. Red Barn

5. Score

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas (Original)

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Mitch’s on El Paseo

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. The Tropicale

5. Trio

 

Best Nightclub

Copa

 

Runners up:

2. Zelda’s

3. Hunter’s

4. Bart Lounge

5. Chill Bar

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

4. Alicante

5. Village Pub

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. La Rue Wine Bar

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Dead or Alive

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Costco

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Fame Lounge

 

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Eureka!

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

Being in charge of a college athletic department can be quite a challenge. Not only must your teams be competitive on the field; you must also make sure your athletes are doing well in the classroom.

Those tasks are even more arduous when your program has been rocked by scandal—and that’s the task Gary Plunkett faced when he became College of the Desert’s athletic director early last year.

In early 2012, one COD football player was shot to death by police in Palm Desert while in the process of committing a burglary. Several others were subsequently arrested for criminal activity. Later in 2012, then-new COD President Joel Kinnamon vowed to clean up not only the football program, but a culture that allowed such miscreant behavior to occur.

The 45-year-old Plunkett is the man charged with continuing to change that culture. The South Bay native previously spent nine years as the head women’s basketball coach at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga. At COD, he oversees 14 sports—seven each for men and women. With the exception of the football team, the COD Roadrunners compete in the new Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.

“I was coaching basketball against COD in the same conference when the issues with the football program arose,” says Plunkett. “While Dr. Kinnamon did not specifically address the past in the interview process, I was fully aware all that had transpired. I knew the challenges we faced. I took the job with the goal of meeting high standards and making sure we were in compliance both on and off the field.”

Plunkett is aware that community colleges have had a lousy reputation for “parking athletes”—in other words, bringing on athletes who are only looking to earn a scholarship to play at a four-year school, and who don’t care about academics. He said that COD is working to emphasize the academic component.

“At this level we have academic requirements,” he says. “We have a full time academic coordinator who meets with athletes weekly. Also, faculty members alert us to students having problems, and we try to help.”

The yearly athletic department budget at COD totals a little more than $300,000, not counting coaches’ salaries. A large chunk of that goes toward travel expenses.

Plunkett says coaching is one of his biggest challenges. “Our coaching staff is excellent, but with the exception of the men’s golf coach, who also a professor here, the coaches are part-time and have other jobs,” Plunkett says. “They are extremely dedicated, but they have time constraints as well. It also makes it difficult to retain coaches who have been offered full-time opportunities.”

One of the unusual things about the Coachella Valley is the large amount of retirees—including retired coaches from major sports who live here at least part-time. Therefore, Plunkett says, his coaches sometimes get some good unsolicited advice.

“My staff has some connections to these people, and every once in a while, they get a message,” he says. “They are very grateful to get advice from those who been at the top.”

As the college continues to expand, COD wants its athletic program to better reach out to the community. About a year ago, it hired a sports information specialist to work with local media to publicize events. Plunkett says he’d love to see more community and fan support to grow the Roadrunner brand.

“We absolutely want to ramp up our local outreach. When we see young kids at our events, we know that these are potential COD students or athletes,” he says. “I hear from many local people who say after attending a local event, ‘I never knew you had such a beautiful campus or facility. I am definitely coming back.’”

Plans are in the works to reach out more to local high school coaches as well. A high school basketball tournament that was played at the COD gym led to some financial problems, but Plunkett says he is open to a new tournament if arrangements can be made.

According to Plunkett, good things are ahead for the Roadrunners.

“The future is very bright. We are in a new league with a great staff,” he says. “Not only are we poised to win championships; we want to see more and more of our student athletes leave COD and compete successfully on the four-year level.”

For more information on COD Athletics, visit codathletics.com. Steve Kelly is freelance writer/broadcaster who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Sports

When Rent opened off-Broadway in February 1996, it rocked the theater world and won instant acclaim. The death of 35-year-old composer-lyricist Jonathan Larson from an aortic aneurysm just before the show’s opening certainly added to the show’s impact, but the musical’s stark depiction of life and death in New York City in the late 1980s stands on its own.

Based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent—now getting an excellent production complements of College of the Desert—chronicles one year in the life of a group of poor artists living in the East Village of Manhattan. Aspiring film-maker Mark (Shafik Wahab) searches for professional recognition, while his HIV-positive songwriter-roommate, Roger (Christian Quevedo), longs to pen a hit tune before succumbing to his illness (“One Song Glory”). Soon, Roger meets Mimi (Allegra Angelo), also HIV-positive, and the two fall in love after she seduces him (“Light My Candle”).

Mark is pining for his ex-lover, Maureen (Meagan Van Dyke), a highly sexed performance artist who has left him for a woman, Joanne (Alisha Bates). Mark and Joanne sing of their mutual obsession with Maureen in “Tango: Maureen.”

Computer whiz Tom Collins (Anthony Martinez) falls for Angel (Aaron Anzaldua), an adorable transvestite inflicted with AIDS. Rounding out the principal cast is Benny (Dion Khan), Mark and Roger’s former roommate and current landlord, who is pressuring them for past-due rent.

The score is terrific, but certain numbers really stand out, including Mimi’s steamy “Out Tonight,” the tender Tom/Angel duet “I’ll Cover You,” and the best-known tune in the show—“Seasons of Love.”

I cannot say enough great things about this cast: The leads are all outstanding. I would not be at all surprised to see some of their names in lights on Broadway down the road. However, the glue that holds the show together is Wahab as Mark. His stage presence, strong voice and acting chops are perfectly suited to the role. As the tragic lovers Roger and Mimi, Quevedo and Angelo are marvelous. Their voices are terrific, and both dig down deep to bring true emotion to the stage. Their passion is palpable; both are guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye at some point.

With a cast this strong, it’s hard to do, but Anzaldua nearly steals the show as the doomed Angel. His slight build and outrageous costumes complement his superb performance. He is clearly having a blast onstage … but when the darkness sets in, the audience wants to wrap him in our arms and comfort him.

As Angel’s lover Tom, Martinez is stupendous. When he reprises “I’ll Cover You” after losing Angel, his voice soars up to the rafters. I defy any audience member with a pulse not to have chills after hearing that number.

Khan’s Benny is also fantastic. He handles his featured song “You’ll See” with great aplomb.

The chemistry between Van Dyke and Bates as lesbian lovers Maureen and Joanne is sizzling. Even women who’ve never had the slightest interest in switching teams might consider it after their erotic duet “Take Me or Leave Me.” Van Dyke has a huge future ahead of her in musical theater.

The members of the ensemble hold their own with the principals—there is not a weak link.

A lot goes on in this show—there’s a large cast, a band onstage, lots of dancing, heavy emotion, sexual themes—all of which require a director with great skill. Mark Almy has that skill; everything flows just as it should. Major kudos also go to musical director Scott Smith and choreographer Shea New. Joseph Layne’s set and lighting, and Jack Ramoran’s sound, are right on the money, as are the costumes (Rick Doerfler, Kathy Smith, Courtney Ohnstad).

The only flaw in this production is an occasional volume imbalance between the band (the excellent Scott Smith, Anthony Arizaga, Mikael Jacobson and Brad Vaughn) and the singers. There are times when the lyrics are difficult to understand—partly because the band’s a bit too loud, and partly because the singers’ diction is a bit unclear. A slight adjustment in the musicians’ volume would make a big difference.

The show is long—about 2 1/2 hours, but well worth it.

This was the first time I have seen a production of Rent. It won’t be my last.

College of the Desert’s Rent will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 29, at the Pollock Theatre on the COD campus, 43500 Monterey Ave., in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 for general admission, and $20 for students. The run time is 2 1/2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-773-2574, or visit collegeofthedesert.ticketleap.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

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