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Fri04032020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

Motoring

What’s your price for flight?

In finding mister right

You’ll be all right tonight …

Some days, you just don’t have it—and for me, today was one of those days. I had a long list of things to do, and … well, most of them didn’t happen.

On days like this during “normal” times, there are a handful of things I know I can do to get my head into a happier, more-productive frame of mind. Watching or listening to baseball, for example. A quick dip in the apartment hot tub helps. For some reason, a quick Aldi run does the trick. Yes, I am weird: Grocery shopping normally clears my head.

But … there’s no baseball. The apartment hot tub is closed, per state orders. And grocery shopping is daunting these days, and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

So, bleh.

Because many of my usual mental-reset techniques aren’t available, I’ve been seeking new ones … and I think I’ve found one: cheesy ’80s music.

Hey, don’t judge. We’re all just makin’ do here, OK?

In all seriousness: As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the ’80s on 8 channel on Sirius/XM saved my butt today, productivity-wise. The catchy sounds of songs like “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, for some reason, help.

I know I am not the only one out there who had an off today. If you’re in the same boat … hang in there. We all have off days, even in good times … and they’re usually followed by better days, even in not-so-good times. Right?

Here are today’s links—and there is a whole lotta info here:

I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast today. I joined the usual hosts to talk to the amazing Dr. Laura Rush, as well as Daniel Vaillancourt—who has a daunting tale of going through the COVID-19 test process—and mask-maker Clay Sales.

• The new small-business-loan program that was passed as start of the stimulus package? Well, it’s a mess—so much so that some banks are refusing to start accepting applications until things get clarified.

• First there was a problem with an accessibility of COVID-19 tests (and there is still a big problem). Now there are increasing concerns about their accuracy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

• Now after that shitty news, take solace in the fact that serious progress is being made in developing a vaccine—faster than has ever been done before.

• The New York Times, using cellphone location data, has made a fascinating map showing which parts of the country have been staying home, and which parts have not.

• Eisenhower Health brings us this short hand-washing demonstration.

• Due to the coronavirus and resulting blood shortages, the FDA has made its restrictions on gay men donating blood slightly less stupid.

• The Conversation explains in detail how plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 may help treat people suffering from it.

• The Los Angeles Times tells the story of another group of people who are risking their safety by working through the pandemic: farmworkers.

• Cactus Hugs’ Casey Dolan speaks for all of us when he kindly requests that other people stay the hell away.

• Hey, fellow Dodgers fans: You can work out virtually with head trainer Brandon McDaniel twice a week

• A whole bunch of journalism professors have written to Rupert Murdoch, asking him to make his Fox News Channel stop spreading coronavirus misinformation.

• Time magazine looked at newspaper ads from the last pandemic, and they prove that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

• Bill Gates offers up his thoughts on what we can do to make up for lost time in quashing this pandemic.

• If you didn’t set up direct deposit with the feds for your tax refunds, it may take a while for your stimulus checks to arrive.

• Have time on your hands? Wanna learn an instrument? Well, Fender is offering free guitar, bass and ukulele lessons during the pandemic to 100,000 people.

• You know some of those “ventilators” Elon Musk donated to the cause? Well, they’re actually CPAP machines. Sigh.

• The fantastic folks at Rooster and the Pig are offering anyone who needs it with a free lunch.

• Greater Palm Springs’ Anndee Laskoe offers up this trip to some fantastic local places you can take from your couch.

• And finally, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark—you remember her, right?—offers us this important message from “Elvirus.”

If you value what we do, and can afford it, please support independent local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Also: If you’re so inclined, get mail delivery of our print edition here.

Stay safe. Hang in there. Wash your hands. More tomorrow.

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

It’s April 1, no’ foolin. That means one of the most insanely awful months in American history is finally behind us.

How long was March? The obvious, mathematical answer is 31 days. But, man, were those a looooong 31 days.

Here’s how long March was: Remember Pete Buttigieg? When March started, he was still a presidential candidate. Yep: He dropped out on March 1, two days before Joe Biden’s decisive Super Tuesday wins.

Back then, most of us had no idea what in the hell was coming—or if we had any clue, we couldn’t fathom what it all meant.

A story in the print version of the March 1 edition of The New York Times had the headline: “Readiness of U.S. for an Epidemic Raises Fears About Shortages.” It’s worth noting that this story, while on the front page, was below the fold.

The online version of the story had a more search-term-friendly headline and sub-headline: “How Prepared Is the U.S. for a Coronavirus Outbreak?” The subheadline: “The country is better positioned than most but could still face critical shortages of respirators and masks. Hospitals have triage plans in place. State and local governments have broad powers to quarantine.”

Uh … well … yep?

The local BNP Paribas Open was cancelled on March 8, the day before it was supposed to start in earnest. Coachella and Stagecoach were postponed on March 10. The NBA kept playing until a March 11, when a player tested positive, halting a game in Oklahoma City just before tip-off.

That was just three weeks ago. Yeesh.

Now, it’s April … and we’re looking down the barrel of a month virtually none of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares just 31 days ago.

Yet, there are reasons for optimism. We’ve linked to stories in previous days that indicate we’re having success in #flatteningthecurve here in California. And every day means we are one day closer to the end of this, whatever that may mean.

Stay home as much as possible. If you’re one of the “essential workers” who can’t stay at home, God bless you, and be as safe as you can. Enjoy this time, as bonkers as it is, as much as possible.

Oh, yeah, and 1) stop flushing wipes down the toilet, and 2) wash your hands.

On a personal note: Thank you so very much to the 30-plus people who became or maintained being Supporters of the Independent in March (plus today). Whether you gave us $10 or you gave us $500, your support means so much to us.

To Jill Arnold, Morgan James, Ken Alterwitz, Elizabeth McGarry, Alex McCune, Miho Suma, Gustavo Arellano, Howard Goldberg, Richard Fluechtling, Cactus Hugs/Casey Dolan, Debby Anspach, Scott Phipps, John Delaney, Leonard Woods, Michael Herzfeld, Kenneth Theriault, Lynn Hammond/Lynn Hammond Catering, Jeffrey Davied, Harvey Lewis, Vicky Harrison, Joanne Bosher, George Bullis, Joshua Friedman, Darrell Tucci, Scott Balson, Elizabeth Wexler, Deidre Pike, Marsha Pare, Jeffrey Norman, David Ponsar, Lea Goodsell, John de Dios and Anthony Gangloff … thanks for helping us continue to do what we do in these unbelievably tough times.

If you have the ability to join these generous people in helping us continue covering the Coachella Valley with quality journalism, go here for more details … and thank you.

Now, for today’s news links:

If you fear you may be sick: Call Eisenhower at 760-837-8988 or the Desert AIDS Project at 760-992-0407 before you go anywhere.

• I will again be joining Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr tomorrow on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast with Dr. Laura Rush. If you have any questions about this damn virus and whatnot for the good doctor, send them to me before 8 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• If you need help, the amazing people at FIND Food Bank are heading to a local town near you to help with its mobile pantry. Get the details and the schedule here.

SiriusXM is offering free streaming through May 15.

• Independent TV columnist Bill Frost points out that a whole lot of the streaming services you normally need to pay for are offering programming for free right now—and he also has information on a dozen streaming services that are ALWAYS free.

• Also from the Independent: What better time is there to go outside and enjoy the stars and planets (as long as everyone is social distancing and stuff)? The Independent’s Robert Victor has the scoop on what to watch for in the heavens in April.

• Related: The Rancho Mirage Public Library and Observatory has moved its Swoon at the Moon program online, starting at 7:30 p.m. tonight!

• Yet another excellent scholarly article from The Conversation offers a silver lining in all of this: Could COVID-19 end the world’s illicit wildlife trade?

• In this era of Zoom meetings, be careful with the filters you have on your phone, lest you wind up becoming a potato.

Being a brand-new parent in the age of the coronavirus leads to a whole bunch of surprising worries, as this story from friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano illustrates.

Why is Dolly Parton a national freaking treasure, besides, you know, the obvious? Is it because of her amazing generosity? Or is it because she’s going to start reading bedtime stories to us all every Thursday? You decide.

• Another, albeit very different national treasure, Samuel L. Jackson, encourages you to Stay the F**k at Home.

• Need some quick, relatable laughs? Make sure you’re following Leslie Jordan on Instagram.

• LGBT folks and allies, take note: A whole bunch of pride-festival organizers, including Greater Palm Springs Pride’s amazing Ron deHarte, will be hosting an online Global Pride on June 27.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Reach out to a loved one. Tomorrow’s a new day. Now go wash your hands again. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's face-mask-wearing weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles has a wish for mega-churches; This Modern World offers up the latest edition of Life in the Coronaverse; Jen Sorensen provides a primer on Plague Insurance options; Apoca Clips rolls its eyes as Li'l Trumpy prattles on; and Red Meat features Earl waxing poetic about an old love.

Published in Comics

My husband and I got married in August 2019, and we were together for more than five years before getting married. I’m very happy and love him with all my heart. I want to have his kids and support his entrepreneurial efforts as he supports mine. We don’t fight; we just have some tiffs here and there. The kicker is that I have a tough time feeling him during sex, and he doesn’t last as long as I would like him to.

We’re adventurous enough to try different things, i.e. toys and different positions, but I find myself sexually unfulfilled. He also isn’t very willing/interested in going down on me; in fact, he has not once gone down on me. I’m also finding myself attracted to and fantasizing about other men. In addition to being honest with my husband, I don’t know what the solution is. I’m not opposed opening up a marriage, but I worry that I’m just being selfish and that it’s too soon to try or even discuss it at any length. I did bring up a crush I have on a co-worker, and my husband said, “There’s nothing wrong with having a snack.” What did he mean by that? Do you have any other insights or suggestions on what to do?

I hope you, your family and your friends are holding up OK during this pandemic. It’s a scary time, so I hope you’re all OK.

Married Not Dead

I shared your letter with Tristan Taormino, author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Through her books, lectures and podcasts (“Sex Out Loud Radio”), Taormino has helped countless couples navigate the transition from monogamy to non-monogamy. But before we dive into the specifics of your situation, MND, there’s something Taormino and I want to make clear to all.

“In this time of a global pandemic, thinking and talking about non-monogamy is all you can do right now,” said Taormino. “This goes for everyone: No new sex partners until public health experts say we can go back to standing closer than six feet apart. Even then, we’re going to have to proceed with caution.”

Listen up, people: the woman who literally wrote the book on open relationships says open and poly relationships are cancelled for the time being. “Yup, cancelled,” said Taormino, “unless every one of your partners lives with you.”

While COVID-19 isn’t classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), having sex with someone who has coronavirus would almost certainly result in transmission. And since people who get infected typically don’t show symptoms for up to two weeks, the fact that someone appears to be healthy doesn’t mean they are corona-free. Someone can look and feel great and be both infected and infectious. So for the time being, we should only be having sex with a sex partner we live with. If you have more than one sex partner, and you’re all staying in the same place, great! Poly isn’t cancelled for you and your partners. But we shouldn’t be hooking up with new partners in person or going to see established partners we don’t live with. That goes double for meeting up with non-cohabitating partners who have other partners and whose other partners have other partners of their own. But the good news is that sext messages and dirty video chats are both allowed and encouraged, kids, so we can get off online with new people, as well as established partners who live on the other side of town or the other side of the world. Hell, get the whole polycule together on Zoom—just don’t actually get together (or get under) anyone you don’t live with.

OK! With that out of the way, MND, we’re going to answer your question. But bear in mind that some of our advice—our advice about opening up your marriage—won’t be fully actionable until after COVID-19 is brought under control.

“I’m glad MND is being honest with her husband about her desires, but let’s take that further with even more specific talk about what’s missing in her sex life,” said Taormino. “In her letter, I heard: pussy-eating, intense-enough sensation from intercourse, and longer sex sessions. I’ll translate that: She’s missing pleasure, reciprocation and orgasms for her. She is NOT being selfish for wanting these things. They are pretty fundamental aspects of a sexual relationship, and she needs to address them with her husband first.”

Backing way the hell up: Assuming you knew about my column five years ago, MND, it’s telling you didn’t ask for my advice back when you realized your new boyfriend was never going to eat your pussy. (Spoiler: I would’ve told you to dump him.) Since you chose not to break up with your boyfriend over the lack cunnilingus back then, and you don’t want to divorce your husband over it now, MND, it would seem that going without oral—or at least going without at home—is the price of admission you’re willing to pay to be with this guy.

As for your other issues about your sex life with your husband—you don’t “feel him” during penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse, and it’s over too quickly—the right toys could certainly help. But if your husband ruled out penetration toys that were bigger than his cock, MND, or if you didn’t order any that were bigger than his cock to avoid hurting his feelings, you’re gonna have to broach the subject of buying some larger toys, MND—ones you can really feel. And since experimenting with new positions didn’t help your husband last longer, you should try alternating between toys and his cock during PIV, which will make both the sex (and the husband) last longer.

“If MND’s husband is really in this relationship, he should be open and willing to give most anything a try,” said Taormino. “MND really needs to see that he’s as interested in her pleasure and satisfaction as he is in his own. And if there’s something she wants to try or something that really turns her on and gets her off that her husband doesn’t know about, now is the time to share the juicy details.”

As for opening up the relationship, MND, I wouldn’t advise most people to initiate that convo at this moment. Because if the conversation goes badly—and they often do at first—that could mean sheltering in place with an angry person. But based on your husband’s reaction when you confessed having a crush on a co-worker, MND, I think you could risk discussing opening up while you’re locked down. Your husband didn’t say there was nothing wrong with fantasizing about a snack, MND; he said there’s nothing wrong with having a snack. Make no mistake: That’s not a green light to immediately outsource getting your pussy eaten. But his calm, matter-of-fact reaction when you confided in him about your crush is good sign.

But first things first: You need to work with your husband on improving your sex life at home, and you should have a convo about that—and a convo about ordering some new sex toys—before you make plans to open up the relationship and start getting your pussy eaten elsewhere.

“Exploring non-monogamy is one way to address sexual incompatibilities and expand our capacity for love and intimacy,” said Taormino. “But the stuff between the two of them needs to gets talked about first. Otherwise, you’re glossing over the issues with something new and shiny.”

Follow Tristan Taormino on Twitter @TristanTaormino.

I’ve been in love with a close friend for years. Social distancing has thrown major life “regrets” into high relief, and I would be crushed if something happened to him. We’ve both been distancing for two weeks, and neither of us have symptoms. Can I have him come over to hang out? What if we ended up making out or hooking up? He has housemates, and I don’t, so he’s around more people than I am, but everyone at his house has been distancing, too. I see so many questions about hooking up with randos, and that seems like a clear no-no. But what about hooking up with someone you know?

No Regrets

Also a no-no, NR. We’re not supposed to come within six feet of anyone we don’t live with, NR, which means you can’t invite this guy over to play cribbage and/or fuck you senseless. If you wanted to invite this guy over to stay, you could shack up and wait out the lockdown together. But you can’t invite him over just to play. Instead of inviting him over and hoping for something to happen, NR, you should give this guy a call and tell him how you feel. He might feel the same way and want to be your quarantine buddy. But if he doesn’t feel the same way, at least you’ll know. Rejections we can get over, NR, but regrets are for life.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @FakeDanSavage on Twitter; www.savagelovecast.com.

Published in Savage Love

Much of the news today was bleak.

The latest projected U.S. death numbers are downright horrifying. The city of Toronto has cancelled all major public events through June 30—which brings home the reality that a return to “normal” is months away, at least. The state just announced that schools will not reopen this school year. And county health officials are recommending we all start wearing face coverings in public; the federal government may soon follow suit.

I’d also like to point out the latest piece in the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series, by staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald, about the cutbacks in services made by the Coachella Valley’s agencies that help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. While they’re still doing all they can to help people, and that’s a lot—I need to make that very clear—the pandemic means that for now, a rep from Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services can’t be there in person to comfort a rape victim as they begin to endure the trying process of a medical exam and dealing with law enforcement. That means that Shelter From the Storm can’t accept domestic-violence victims into their shelter right now—because they need to protect the health of the clients and staff already at the shelter.

This. Is. All. Awful.

Take a breath. Take a moment if you need to. And realize that despite all this awfulness, we are still blessed overall.

And now, the good news: There’s yet more evidence coming out that California’s (relatively) quick actions, most notably the shelter-in-place order, are truly, honestly working. By doing what you’re supposed to—keeping your ass at home—we’re making a real damn difference.

We should also take solace in the fact that our society—despite some real, systemic issues—is functional. I was hit by this fact earlier today when I read this fantastic article, from The Conversation, about what’s happening in Syria right now. Can you imagine dealing with COVID-19 and a nasty civil war at the same time? I sure as hell can’t.

We’re blessed. The vast majority of us are safe. And we’re making progress at beating this goddamned virus. Let’s keep it up.

Now, more news:

• People, listen up. We just received this plea from Katie Evans, the director of communications and conservation for the Coachella Valley Water District: “We are having a bit of a challenge. I thought you might be able to include in something—maybe as a brief or part of a roundup. With people increasing their use of wipes, we have getting a lot of wipes in the sewer system which can cause really significant damage to our pumps. We ran a campaign last year with the hashtag #nowipesinthepipes because even so-called ‘flushable’ wipes should not be flushed and can cause significant damage to our system. We really want to remind people that only human waste and toilet paper should go down the drain.” So … there. Got it? Stop flushing wipes!

• Our friends at Dig Boston have compiled yet another roundup of coverage of COVID-19 from alternative newspapers across the country. We ain’t dead yet!

• The city of Palm Springs has posted the slide deck from a recent presentation with Assemblyman Chad Mayes, Mayor Geoff Kors and some biz experts with details on the new loans being offered to small businesses during the pandemic. Everyone’s still figuring out all of the finer points of the loan programs included in the just-passed stimulus package, but this includes some very helpful info.

• As of tomorrow, Joshua Tree National Park is completely closed.

• Covered California asked us to remind you that they’re there to help you get health insurance. They write: “As job loss claims hit record-highs, more and more Californians will be dealing with a loss of income and their health insurance coverage. Covered California and Medi-Cal are providing a path to coverage for those affected by this pandemic. Covered California recently announced a special-enrollment period related to the crisis. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are like those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage from now through June 30.” Get deets at www.coveredca.com.

• Finally, a tidbit out of Michigan that’s sad but fascinating: Health officials are reporting that one of the COVID-19 victims there passed away at the age of 107. That means that this person was 5-6 years old or so during the last pandemic of this magnitude—the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919.

Wow. Feel free to join me in raising a toast to that man or woman. What a run.

I’ll be back tomorrow with lots more—including the list of Supporters of the Independent I promised you yesterday. It makes more sense to include that in tomorrow’s Daily Digest; that way, I can include everyone who supported us during the month of March. If you want to be part of that list, and support amazing, free-to-all local journalism like Kevin’s story referenced above, please go here. Thank you.

And to March: Good freaking riddance!

Wash your hands. Count your blessings. #nowipesinthepipes. And keep up the fight, as our efforts seem to be working!

Published in Daily Digest

Even in the best of times, an average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. That adds up to more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.

But these aren’t the best of times. As the nation and the world try to limit the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are told to stay home as much as possible—and that means that under these stressful circumstances, a lot of domestic-abuse and sexual-assault victims are being forced to constantly stay under the same roof as their abusers.

Angelina Coe is the executive director of Shelter From the Storm, the Palm Desert-based shelter and service provider for victims of domestic violence. She said the organization has needed to make a lot of changes during these unprecedented circumstances.

“Clients who are not currently in shelter but are receiving services from us are impacted, because everything is being done by teletherapy and telephonically,” she said. “There are no in-person meetings, for their safety and the safety of our staff as well, in order to maintain social distancing and make sure were not adding to the spread of the coronavirus. We don’t know what interactions (our clients) have had, and they don’t know what interactions (our staff members) have had.

“To not be able to come here for solace, safety, counseling and guidance (makes) a huge impact,” Coe said. “They (in the past) came in to receive in-kind donations and food distribution, things like that. Now they don’t have that readily available to them.”

Over at Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services (CVSAS), program director Winette Brenner and her team help victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. She said it’s important for people to know that there is still help available.

“We have had calls, but I feel that we are getting fewer calls, and I do think that it has to with the pandemic,” Brenner said. “People are afraid. People do not know what to do, or who to call, because everyone is in panic mode. Now, do I think that’s going to continue? No, I don’t. I think the more that the media get out there and let people know what services are available and where, that’s going to help. That’s our No. 1 focus—to let people know that, yes, we are in a pandemic, but we are still here to help you in the best ways we know how, and to the best of our abilities.

“We still have our 24-hour crisis hotline up, and anybody can still call that number and get a live person, not an automated recording,” Brenner said. (That number: 800-656-4673.) “We work closely with the law-enforcement agencies and SAFE services at Eisenhower Medical Center. We all work as a team for the sexual-assault victims, (and) we had to come up with a plan for the best way to continue to give services. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, at this time, we’re not able to respond physically to be at the hospital or the police department, but the hospital’s SAFE services (personnel are) still able to do the exams, and then they are referring the client to us, and we do the follow-up work. The same is true with law enforcement: Each particular law-enforcement agency has established their own protocols as to how they (participate), but we’re all still continuing to provide services for the victims and their family members.

“Because of the pandemic and because of the world we live in, sexual assault and human trafficking does not stop. Sad as that is, it doesn’t. So we’re really trying to come up with new ways to use the platforms that we have available, like Zoom (the video conferencing platform) and telephone conference calls.”

Back at Shelter From the Storm, Coe said that she, too, wants people to know that some help is still available.

“We are seeing a decrease in calls,” Coe said. “But we’re not sure exactly what the dynamic is. Is it because everybody’s home? Is it because of the uncertainty about where they’re going to go? Is it because there’s an additional fear about what happens next, and, ‘Am I going to be even more exposed (to the coronavirus) at a shelter than I would be staying home?’ There are a lot of factors there. But our hotline is still available. Our staff is still present and available in both English and Spanish.

“Our main focus now is safety planning—not safety planning around the client leaving (an abusive environment), necessarily, but safety planning if they have to stay.”

Coe ran down a list of challenges her team is trying to address.

“We are in the process of working on teletherapy via video conferencing, but that takes some time to set up—to make sure (victims) have a confidential location where they can take that video conferencing,” Coe said. “Our service is all about anonymity and confidentiality, so they can’t open up and disclose what’s really going on, or what the issues are that they really would like to discuss, if their children are in the room, or if their partner is still in the household, or if they’re living with other people for their safety. You really can’t get into that one-on-one dynamic. … A lot of (victims) do not want to participate in the telephonic counseling, because they don’t feel it’s effective, or they don’t have a phone available. Not everybody has a cell phone that they’re not sharing with someone else, or (they don’t have) the minutes to do that, especially if they (have no) income right now, because they’re not working due to the businesses being closed. Or they don’t have child care, because the schools are closed, which is a huge impact to our community clients.

Coe said Shelter From the Storm has needed to stop accepting donations of physical items during the pandemic.

“That creates a huge impact, because a lot of (clients) rely on those items of clothing and food and hygiene (products), backpacks and other every-day regular things that you’d (normally) just run to the Dollar Tree for,” she said. “… Without an income, they need those items even more, and we’re unable to provide them. So, it’s just huge for our community clients.”

The pandemic is causing challenges for the nonprofit’s in-shelter clients, too.

“The biggest impact for them is the uncertainty about what happens to them when their time (in shelter) is up,” Coe said. “Maybe other programs aren’t accepting new clients, or everything is on hold, because a landlord doesn’t want to take in a new tenant right now, since they don’t know what (that tenant) could expose them to. So that’s a huge fear factor, in addition to (the realities that) the client has already left their family; they’re here by themselves; and there’s no outlet, since we’ve restricted their movement in and out, because they’re sheltering in place. California has said everyone should stay at home, and that’s their home. They’re interacting only with the staff at the shelter, and they are missing out on many support services that would have been available to them during a normal stay. That’s causing additional anxiety, and our counseling has changed its focus to anxiety and coping skills, along with understanding the factors of: (What happens) if you are exposed? What are we doing to keep you safe? Why are we keeping you on ‘lockdown?’”

Coe said Shelter From the Storm is currently unable to accept new in-shelter clients because of concerns over COVID-19.

“We’re not taking in any new families, because we have no way to isolate them and to ensure that they’re safe, (while) not exposing our current clients to additional factors that we can’t afford to expose them to—and the same thing with our staff,” she said. “So what happens to them?”

Then there’s the financial picture: The nonprofits rely on government support, as well as community support via donations—and the pandemic and shelter-in-place reality has financially devastated both government budgets and members of the community. However, both Brenner and Coe said their organizations will do what it takes to keep offering the much-needed services they provide.

“All of our services are free of charge, and we work hard to keep it that way,” Brenner said, reassuringly. “I think right now that the best thing I’m doing for my staff is telling them not to panic, and that we will continue to offer the services that we have and that we can. As far as our financial security, right now, it’s a day-to-day issue. I think it’s too early to say what the future holds. But as long as we’re still working, I think we’re going to be OK. I haven’t heard anything different from the state. We’re still being supported (by the state), and our doors are still open, and we still have some (staff) in here for the victims.”

Coe said Shelter From the Storm is planning for the worst, but she remains optimistic.

“We are working on contingency plans in case we do have to reduce staffing numbers, or if we need to shut the shelter down (due to) whatever mandate might come down the line,” Coe said. “But we don’t think that will happen, simply because of the kind of shelter that we are, and what we’re doing to support the individuals who do reach us. But if that happens, how would we be moving forward? What would that look like? How would our staff survive? We don’t have anyone working here just because they enjoy the job. They all need an income—so we have to make sure that they’re sustainable as well.”

Despite all the darkness, Coe—whose shelter for victims of abuse is the only such refuge in the Coachella Valley—managed to find some proverbial silver linings.

“It’s been an intense time,” Coe said. “The Coachella Valley has been really good. Supervisor (V. Manuel) Perez’s office and the county have been really good about having weekly call-in meetings with providers and sending out updates. The (California) Partnership to End Domestic Violence has been a wonderful support network as well, (providing) scheduled weekly and bimonthly meetings to check in with other shelters, other leadership and get the most updated information.

“Again, we’re always pushing everyone to wash their hands, to keep social distancing, and to clean hard services as much as possible. We’re just doing our best to keep going.”

If you are dealing with domestic violence, call Shelter From the Storm at 760-328-7233. For more information on Shelter From the Storm, call 760-674-0400, or visit www.shelterfromthestorm.com. If you are a victim of sexual assault, get help by calling the 24-hour crisis line at 800-656-4673.

Published in Local Issues

OK, so who here is dealing with seasonal allergies right now?

Aaaand who here is being freaked out by those seasonal allergies right now?

Any other year, the congestion, the occasional runny nose and the couple-times-per-day sneezes would be mere minor annoyances—I’d take a Claritin and move on with my day. But the universe has made it annoyingly freaking clear this is NOT any other year, and as a result, every time I have the slightest sniffle, my paranoid brain goes OMG! I MIGHT HAVE THE VIRUS OMG HELP ME, further damaging my already-wobbly psyche.

Who’s with me here?

Of course, logically, I have no reason to actually believe I have the virus. I’ve been having the same damn allergies every spring for more than a decade now. My temperature is normal. I’ve been basically staying home, and have been washing my hands, on average, 34 times per hour. Aaaand then there’s the fact that these damn allergy symptoms aren’t the standard COVID-19 symptoms.

Yet I just sneezed—and damn near had a panic attack. I repeat: Who’s with me here?

My fellow allergy sufferers: You’re fine. Really. I promise. Probably. Anyway, the next time a light congestion sniffle causes you to freak out a little, please know: You’re not alone. (Even if you actually, well, are alone.) Your fellow allergy suffers, like me, are right there with you. So hang in there. Now go wash your hands.

Meanwhile … a huge thank you to all of you who have joined the ranks of Supporters of the Independent in recent days. In tomorrow’s Daily Digest, I’ll list the names of all of you who have chipped in during the month of March (which was a doozy of a month, no?) to help us keep doing what we’re doing. I am truly grateful to all of you.

To those of you who have requested mail delivery of the print edition: I’ll be sending out the orders we have so far tomorrow. Before I do, I am going to attack my desk with Lysol wipes; wash my hands four times (minimum); put on fresh gloves; and get everything together. (Not joking!) In other words, they’ll go out, as safely as possible, in tomorrow’s mail. If you want a copy or copies sent to you, details can be found here.

To those of you who get some yummy takeout/delivery from a local restaurant: We’re looking for Reader Indy Endorsements! Our Indy Endorsement feature has always showcased fantastic dishes at Coachella Valley restaurants … and now we’re asking you to help. If you enjoy an amazing appetizer, entrée, dessert or drink from a local restaurant, please 1) take a pic of the dish (unless you’ve already devoured it and have no plans to get another, in which case we’ll either go without a pic or request one from the restaurant); and 2) send us your writeup on why the dish is so gosh-darned splendid (250-350 words, usually … but we won’t be sticklers); and 3) we’ll edit it and publish it at CVIndependent.com, and link to it in a Daily Digest! We’ll also run a selection of them in our May print edition, room permitting. The goal here is to give our give our fantastic local restaurants a PR boost—and build community while doing so. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

And now, on with the news:

• The state is asking recently retired health professionals AND medical and nursing students—yes, current students who have yet to graduate—to sign up to join the fight (paid!) against COVID-19.

• Some Instacart and Amazon workers are on strike. Here’s why.

• If you’re looking for an academic deep dive into the reasons why the U.S. is behind on COVID-19 testing, the Harvard Business Review has you covered.

• MIT is developing plans to show people how to build emergency ventilators for about $100.

John Krasinski has launched a new YouTube series called Some Good News which, well, highlights good news during these messed-up times. For his first episode, he talked The Office with Steve Carell.

• If you’re obsessed with how the nationwide COVID-19 stats curve is going, Time magazine is updating its Coronavirus Chart—for the U.S. and five other countries—on a daily basis.

• Good news: Johnson and Johnson has announced a rapid COVID-19 vaccine-development plan, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, “rapid” means it still would not be available until early 2021.

• Palm Springs favorite TRIO Restaurant is planning a virtual happy hour at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1—no foolin’.

• Here’s an update from Friday on what Riverside County courts are and aren’t doing right now.

• Wow, this is awesome: Palm Desert’s City Wok restaurant is feeding unemployed restaurant workers for free.

• The Atlantic has been doing an amazing job at covering the pandemic in a thoughtful, intelligent, telling-hard-truths way. Here’s another fantastic piece, on the dangers of the coronavirus culture wars we’ve all seen sprouting up on social media.

• In Spanish: Here’s a primer on Spanish-language films being offered online—many for free.

• The San Francisco Chronicle offers up this primer on manners in this age of coronavirus.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen during the pandemic? According to Wired, it probably is.

That’s enough news for today. Wash your hands. Support local journalism. Send us your Reader Indy Endorsements! Enjoy life. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

If you’re one of those people who gets upset when you can’t read a newspaper article due to a paywall … it’s time we had a chat.

First off, you should know that it’s not your fault you feel this way. When the big daily newspaper companies went online two decades ago, the decision-makers at those newspapers decided to give everything away for free. Why, you ask, would they make people pay for news delivered in physical form, yet give it away online? I don’t know. I do know that many of those big newspaper execs are what people call “morons,” seeing as they chose to react to things like Craigslist not by innovating, but instead by making staffing cuts—resulting in a weaker product—to protect what was often a 30-40 percent profit margin at their companies.

This caused a death spiral at most daily newspapers around the country: They kept cutting and cutting and cutting, and not innovating, until things got dire. Then one day, they decided to start charging for that online news they’d been giving away for more than a decade.

Say it along with me: Morons!

In the alternative-newspaper world, we were a little smarter. Yeah, we gave away our content online for free, too—but that made a little more sense, because we’d been giving away the physical product for free, too. While our industry also got our ass kicked by Craigslist and online personals services, and that killed off some of the slower-acting bigger-city newspapers, a lot of people also innovated: We started doing profitable events that our readers liked, for example. We were more innovative online, too, making better-looking websites and creating e-Editions—and generally being more fun than other newspapers.

Until about a month ago, many alternative newspapers—especially in smaller and medium-sized markets—were doing OK. We were doing fun, engaging and important coverage of our communities; attracting advertising from restaurants, theaters and events; and doing events of our own. That kept the lights on, the servers serving, and the presses running—meaning we could continue to offer all that fun, engaging and important coverage to our readers for free.

Then … well, thanks to COVID-19, all the restaurants were closed (except, thank goodness, for takeout). So were the theaters. And the events were all cancelled. This is a problem.

Anyway, the idiocy of the daily newspaper companies, and the sorta-smarts of the alternative-newspaper companies, have long masked one important fact: Doing news is not cheap.

Take us at the Independent, for example. Our staff writer gets paid. Our 10-15 regular freelancers are paid. We have server fees and bookkeeper fees and cell-phone charges and monthly subscription fees for the computer software we use. Each “normal” pre-pandemic print edition of the Independent cost, conservatively, $3,000 to $4,000 to lay out, print and distribute. Heck, we pay about $2,000 a year just for libel insurance—needed to protect us in case someone with deeper pockets than us decides he or she doesn’t like a story we did.

I could go on and on … but you get the point: If you are able, you need to support the newspapers from which you get your information. (Yes, even The Desert Sun.) This stuff takes time, and talent, and money to produce.

So … the next time you can’t read a newspaper article due to a paywall, don’t snivel; subscribe.

As for the Independent, never fear: As long as I am around, we will never have a paywall, because I understand that some of our readers—especially right now—can’t afford to pay for the news … and I am proud of the work we’re doing, and I want everyone to have access to it. I also trust that our readers who can afford to send us a few bucks will do so, because they’re smart and value what we do.

But, seriously: Stop complaining about paywalls, OK?

Tomorrow, we’ll have some news about some exciting things going on with the Independent, despite all the darkness. In the meantime, keep reading. Oh, and if you want/need a copy of our April print edition, go here for details.

And now, the news.

• Our very own V.J. Hume did an amazing piece on how our neighbors who are Alcoholics Anonymous members are dealing with this new temporary reality. It’s a fascinating read.

• Fingers crossed: Faster, easier COVID-19 testing is on its way … to some places at least.

• USA Today brings us this interesting piece on what scientists are learning from COVID-19 mutations. Buried within the piece is more encouraging news about how California’s doing at #flatteningthecurve.

• Coming next weekend, some big-name drag performers are putting on a really big online show.

• The president and CEO of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce has put together a fundraiser to send local health-care workers food.

• Missing Las Vegas? Here’s info on a virtual tour of the Neon Museum to temporarily satisfy your thirst for the bright lights.

• The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center and Mayor Geoff Kors are holding a webinar at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday) on resources for businesses affected by this mess.

• From our partners at CalMatters: The governor thinks the state will have enough ventilators to get through the pandemic—as long as citizens keep doing our part.

• Palm Desert’s CREATE Center for the Arts has put its 3-D printers to use, making personal protective equipment for local medical professionals.

• A bunch of local orgs have created an emergency fund for families in need.

• Could the coronavirus bring back the drive-in movie theater?

• The California Restaurant Association is afraid that the pandemic will shutter 30,000 California restaurants.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Make sure (safely) that your neighbors are OK. Support local journalism. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Getting sober is one thing—and staying sober is another.

Since 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been there to help members stay sober—offering a safe place for people to air their thoughts, questions and problems, with the tacit understanding of “what’s said here, stays here.” At least 10 percent of Americans deal with addiction issues, meaning AA and other 12-step programs are huge parts of many people’s lives.

Then came the coronavirus—and a societal shutdown the likes of which the United States hasn’t experienced in more than a century. When people can’t attend meetings … what happens to sobriety?

Enter the internet—and, specifically, Zoom meetings. While some local AA members continue to meet in person—risks to themselves and society be damned—most have turned to Zoom to continue to get the community and support they need.

We recently reached out to nine AA members and asked them how they’re coping as we all ride out the pandemic. We’ll start with D. and D., a couple who met in the program. Instead of physically attending meetings, they’re hosting online meetings daily via Zoom (zoom.us) at 9 a.m. The first meeting they held had 22 attendees. Within four days, attendance had soared to 92—a meeting featuring a screen full of faces on computers, tablets and smart phones.

Zoom’s basic service is free, but meetings on the basic service can last only up to 40 minutes. Therefore, people happily chipped in to upgrade the service, with the extra money collected going to support the AA Central Intergroup Office of the Desert, which remains open on Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City. There, people have always been able to phone in or visit in person to pick up literature, ask questions about meetings, or simply learn about the mysterious disease of alcoholism. The central office now includes a list of Zoom meetings at aainthedesert.org.

D., the wife, got sober at the age of 14 and is a grade-school teacher with 43 years of sobriety; her husband of 14 years has 28 years of sobriety. They found out about Zoom after the husband took a course online several years ago.

“We were contacted for an (online virtual) AA meeting a year and a half ago—an early morning 6 a.m. meeting that went around the world, and we were both asked to be speakers,” the wife said. “There were people in Iceland, Cambodia, on islands, in remote areas of the world, or people here with jobs who had weird hours, and it was difficult for them to get to regular meetings. We had some apprehension—but we liked it.

“Zoom is free for 40 minutes, and anyone can use that. To upgrade, you have to pay. … We have unlimited time now for a whole year for $149.

“My favorite part of our meetings is at the end when everyone reaches toward the screen, and we say a final prayer. We feel a closeness of the spirit, and it’s like holding hands.

“Unfortunately, some people are too afraid of the technology to join us. This morning, there were a couple of people who had ‘slipped’ (drank again) during this coronavirus. … People are struggling, and they are not all finding Zoom right away. For newcomers especially, it’s difficult.

“Initially, we were just going to do this on Sundays. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t been exposed at school to the virus … so it was a strange time. I wanted to do something normal like our Sunday 9 a.m. meeting. But I saw on Facebook an ad for (online AA meetings), and they were looking for hosts—and our first meeting was so great, and everyone was so touched, that we decided to do it every day.

“We are supposed to be in lockdown. We may be isolated—but we are still connected. That’s why we call this meeting Stay Connected.”

The husband added: “It helped me so much. When you share your sorrows, they divide, and when you share your joys, they multiply. It’s true! It still works online at a Zoom meeting.

“Because of the virus, I couldn’t see my mother in hospice the last two weeks, so it caused me to concentrate more on the meetings. Then I actually found out by being texted during a Zoom meeting … that my mother was beginning to transition. … We interrupted the meeting, which I have never done before, and told everyone what happened, (and) that we had to go. Another member stepped up and acted as host. … We ran out and left our computer on. As we were traveling, we were texted that my mom had transitioned. We were back home 10 hours later, and the computer was still on—the meeting had closed, but we had no idea when it had ended!

“Since then, it has helped me to share at the Zoom meetings, and hear others’ stories about family who had passed away. I felt like I wasn’t alone by sharing at this meeting. … It was the best, to feel the group support … and to my unexpected amazement, I found myself being more open with my emotions, even to a group with a lot of strangers. I didn’t know I was going to do that. People from all over the country chimed in; it was like we were all on a life raft together. Just like AA’s creation of the Grapevine magazine for the loners, it was this forward thinking that got Zoom (meetings) started.”

The wife added: “With phones and texting, we all check on each other and offer support—and we still do that too, being self-quarantined. The technology is harder for older people, but we have younger people who stick around after every meeting to help them. Everyone is helping each other. We have to talk each other through it, so there is an incredible amount of communication going on.

“You’ll see a girl, 18, helping someone who is 85. It’s great.”


Kirk is a snowbird, a retired firefighter with 23 years in AA. Accustomed to attending five meetings a week, he now relies on Zoom for his meetings at 6:30 a.m., as well as another meeting originating back home.

“I see my old friends at the meetings! I almost feel like a newcomer—I had a lot of fear and uncertainty about the technology, like when I first walked into the rooms of AA,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I am going to keep doing what they tell me.

“I need a hip replacement and am taking a lot of Advil and Tylenol—we can’t do surgery on it right now. My doctor says this virus thing is a monster; everyone is so overwhelmed. It gives me goosebumps.

“I have not heard of anyone picking up a drink over this yet … yet. I am pretty bewildered by this; I think we are totally underestimating the power of this thing. None of us has ever done anything like this. … I think it’s going to get worse. I hear the doctors interviewed on TV, and their voices shake sometimes.

“I was cleaning up the yard yesterday, just to get out of my own head. Hopefully we will know more in another month or so. … We have to go back (home) at the first of April, and then we will come back down here until the end of May.

“I suggest that people pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t called in a while … and get connected! When I do, I can feel the anxiety leaving my body. Clean the closets; clean the garage—and stay away from the refrigerator! Bicycle riding is great. … Walking the dog is great.”


L., from Indio, has 29 years in the program; his wife, has 32. They met in the program years ago.

“I was all for the meetings shutting down because of the coronavirus. The meetings can be Petri dishes, because people go to them even when they are feeling sick,” the husband said. “They should have been closed sooner. I support them staying closed as long as this virus is a threat. I have a lot of people I am close to, and we are staying in touch on the phone, going to online meetings a bit, and practicing prayer and meditation at home.

“I met with one sponsee, wearing a mask, sitting seven feet away, sitting outside. It is the last face-to-face I will do, because he is in a recovery home, and people there are sick. Who knows how widespread this is?

“Having a wife in the program is an advantage, as she has a source of interaction other than me, with all her AA girlfriends, so the pressure is not on us to be each other’s source of entertainment. The online meetings I like, but not as much as in person, though it is a good way to stay connected.

“I am not living in fear. … We are taking all the precautions we can. We are in quarantine and go out only when we have to. … We have one N95 mask, and I wear that when I go out shopping. When I bring food home, I have a Tupperware container with water and bleach, and I wipe down everything.

“(My wife) and I are actually getting along better. … I don’t know why, but it is. We are on the same page.”

His wife adds: “I appreciate the online meetings. … I’ve been doing meditation and music—and making cookies! I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. I am doing good, staying healthy and feeling good.

“This is really strange, isn’t it? I think in the end, good will come from this. A lot of people are coming together in love and peace and gratitude.”


Scott, in Redlands, just celebrated three years of sobriety.

“AA changed my life, because it allows me to help other people,” he said. “I am a 100 percent disabled veteran with dual diagnosis—I have to treat everything. I had to learn skills to stay sane and sober, both. I work the 12 steps, and my sponsor allows me the freedom to work with my psychologist as well.

“… In AA, I learned to practice ‘radical acceptance.’ When I came to AA, I had no place else to go. Now I help other people, especially at (a center in Redlands)—first, by staying sober, and also by being involved in my 1,018 days.

“At first, I was a chronic relapser, but now I don’t relapse anymore, because I take every day as a gift from God. I have learned to build a life worth living, rather than destroying things. Part of the process is learning to love yourself. It was difficult, but I learned to believe in myself. Now I teach the guys I sponsor about assets and liabilities; you can look in your heart and decide who you want to be.

“I sponsor two newcomers, and one has relapsed, but came back; it had nothing to do with the coronavirus. You see, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection, and that’s why the rooms of AA are so valuable—that’s where we connect. We have to learn to pick up that phone and call our sponsors, call our sponsees, and join meetings online.

“The way to get through this time is this: If we don’t change our paradigms to changing circumstances, it isn’t going to work. We need to accept the change and be willing to change our behavior. It is a battle for all of us … but we’re not doing this alone. Even if technology is too much, we can all still use the phone!”


European-born Lena, now with 22 months of sobriety, lives in Palm Desert with a sober roommate.

“We actually have open meetings outdoors at noon each day, out in the fresh air, and we have a meeting (where) we hike to up at the cross at 8 a.m. … We are between four and nine people there every day,” Lena said. “I never had so many friends in my life! My sobriety is completely different as a result of this. … It’s like I didn’t know who I was.

“I started to use alcohol late in life, like after 40, and the progression was very fast. I came to California in 2017. I now volunteer and have a part-time job, but I am a dental assistant and don’t have my license yet. I went back to college late.

“I miss meetings … but Zoom meetings, thank God for them. It’s all over the country, which is great. So I am hiking in the morning, walking in the evening, and (having) Zoom meetings in between. I know several people who have ‘picked up’ (relapsed) over this, out of frustration, fear or justifying it—or they don’t want to go to meetings. Everyone who goes to meetings regularly stays sober, even with this stupid virus.

“I am very active. I have a very good sponsor, and we usually go to women’s meetings together. … I feel positive—it’s a great life, even with financial insecurity. God is everything or nothing, right? So I guess He’s everything!”


John, of La Quinta, celebrated 36 years of sobriety two weeks ago.

“When the meetings shut down, I knew I had to take care of myself—by phone, online, or even at outdoor early-morning park meetings … where I went only once,” he says. “I am now in a 15-day lockdown.

“I respect what the president is doing; he is the CEO of the country. … I can’t imagine where we would be if we hadn’t shut down. I have five sponsees right now, and I have to take care of them! I am going to stay in contact with them, and with other people, and with God.

“I am kind of retired from physical work. The online meetings have been a challenge technologically. Yesterday was the first day I seriously tried to do an online meeting, with partial success. I plan to definitely try again. My sponsees are doing really good; one guy is home with his kids, painting the house together!

“There are still (physical) meetings actually happening, and he is going to those in person. I didn’t get on him about it, but if we are all staying home, I think he should, too. I have another sponsee who is a nurse, and he is still working; he is doing OK. I say to him, ‘Take care of yourself, even with that protective gear!’ Another one is a kind of a hermit who never leaves the house much anyhow; we are only in touch by phone now, although we have met in person every week for five years.

“Another sponsee is moving! In the middle of this! He is lugging stuff right now.

“I used to go to meetings every day, and I love them. Acceptance is a big part of our program, and now we have to accept this new way of life. … We can’t get uptight about the new rules. Like the 12 steps of AA, we have to stay sober by doing them, and so we have to follow these rules in our civilian life to stay alive.

“God is asking a lot of us right now, but I think everyone will be just fine.”


In the city of Coachella is Joe, who plans to celebrate 21 years of sobriety in April.

“While this coronavirus is impacting people worldwide, I think it’s brought us closer than ever before,” he says. “We educate each other and stress the importance of being connected.

“We now have meetings in our home every day—sponsees and family, about 10 people. We aren’t worried about the virus; we are sanitizing and keeping our distance a bit, but we are not locking our doors.

“When I was overseas as a Marine, we had an Iraqi translator, and he used to walk around freely where everyone else was ducking flying bullets. He had no weapon. We asked why he did this, and he replied, ‘If it is meant for me to die, I will.’ I remember two other Marines under fire—one was taking cover; the other wasn’t, and he said to his friend, ‘Don’t bother hiding; you can’t die yet. You gotta get those teeth fixed first!’

“I won’t live in fear! I have to remind myself not to listen to my head, to live in a neutral zone … so I can’t go around thinking I might get the virus. My head will always try to feed me negative information. Every time we cough or sneeze now, we think we have the virus!

“There is a reason for all the principles of AA—we have to use the ideas, not just think of them as words. Now that we are home with our family all the time, I stay away from the news, because my mind gets worked on by it. AA tells me how to direct my day, and I am a whole lot better. It is a daily event, and if I don’t live in faith, then I can hear my mind talking to me. … It is stuff that is no good for me or anyone else. That’s why we hold these little get-togethers.

“People are so grateful for these! One gal just got 30 days (of sobriety). Another guy is 14 years old, and he just got two months of sobriety. To hear them say they need this makes it worth it—every time. I think I have had more get-togethers now than ever before; it is making us closer, while the rest of the world is isolating!

“I’m not yet going to meetings on Zoom. I say: Keep removing fear whenever it comes up; we are not running the show!”

Published in Features

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