Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Staff Dinners

This holiday season, eating has been a constant theme.

The two BLM interns who have been working at the museum left at the end of December, but before they left they wanted to come over to the house and make a traditional Korean dinner. Staff cooking dinner at our house was one of the traditions started on Grand Turk everytime an intern left.

Natalie cooked a dinner of spring rolls, BBQ pork, and stir fried rice. It was delicious, and we had a house full.

Having someone over to the house to cook became a good impetuous to get pots and pans. We still have been cooking with the one 5-quart chili pot that I bought in June. Right before Christmas turned out to be a good time, we found an opened box of Martha Stewart cookware that was missing pieces. It was 50% off and we got another 25% off because of a Friday late night sale. Cooking went off without a hitch, literally.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What was That?

Deneen was just awoken by a 3.0 earthquake that was 6 mile SE of Ocotillo, where we are staying this week. She came out to the living room to yell at the boys for wrestling. I am not sure what is funnier, that she was awoken by an earthquake, or that she could possibly mistake an earthquake for Martin and Davis wrestling.

Monday, December 26, 2011


On Christmas day it was 70 degrees. That is a good place to start.

Holidays have been interesting for the last couple of years. We have lost all of the family traditions that we once had in Ohio. We are now searching for new ones. Every house along the street where we are renting sets up luminaries along the sidewalk. It is the only street in El Centro to do this, and evidently it is a long-standing tradition.

The luminaries burned Friday night and Christmas Eave. On Friday night we went across the street to a block party. This, evidently is also a long-standing tradition. We have met several people on the street and have been invited to quite a few parties. Now that I think about it, there are a lot of parties on our street.

On Saturday we had a large Christams dinner with roast turkey and baked sweet potatoes. Then Saturday night we walked down the street, through the luminaries, to Willie's Donuts and bought a dozen choclate covered donuts. Everyone thought this would be a good new tradition.

On Christmas Day we celebrated with our new tradition, Monte Christo sandwiches and opened a conservative amoutn of presents. Martin got "toe shoes" for hiking (pictured), Davis got a new knife for hiking (pictured), Lucas got a ping pong table.

One of the benefits of not having furniture is that we now have plenty of room for a ping pong table. Most of our actual Christmas day was spent setting up a ping pong table and playing ping pong.

We received an invitation to eat Christmas Dinner at Pastor Ron's house. Around 3:30 we walked a couple houses down the street and had a wonderful evening of food, stories, and song. After-dinner conversation focused on a theological discussion of the portrayal of Mary Magdelyn in art and popular literature. After that, we played guitar and sang carols. It was quite the party. We walked home around 10:0o.

We are going to spend next week in Ocotillo hiking and working.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Martin's Trip to San Diego

Martin flew in from Chicago on Sunday. We drove in to San Diego to pick him up and thus began our ending Sunday evening.

After grabbing Martin we went over to Old Town where we walked around and looked at historic buildings and the outdoor markets. The Cosmopolitan Hotel was recently restored in 2010. The interior had a digitally produced reproduction wallpaper. I pioneered this method in 2003 but have not followed restoration work to know if it has come into general practice, but the paper was unmistakably a digital reproduction. I pointed this out at length to my wife and children.

Every time we have been to San Diego in the past we have eaten at Hodad's. This trip we decided we should try some other places. So we checked out Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives for some other highly recommended eateries. Old Town sports a Crazee Burger and right inside the door there is a large, signed poster of Guy Fieri just like at Hodad's. You can get a variety of meats including a Kangaroo burger, an Alligator burger, or an Ostrich burger. The hamburgers are said to be "voted best burger in town." We ordered five regular burgers. They weren't.

This weekend was the 61st annual Las Posadas procession in Old Town. We picked up a few candles and walked in the procession. The procession was led by Joseph and Mary, who was riding on a donkey. There were a couple other people, too. I am not sure who they were, but one was wearing a big sombrero.

Next, we went down to the Embarcardero to watch the 40th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. Approximately 40 boats all decorated with Christmas lights paraded across the bay. Lights, music, dancing, it was quite an event and made us miss the maritime culture that was a constant in the Turks and Caicos.

After leaving the Embarcardero we drove over to Ikea and bought a dresser for the bedroom. Up the road from Ikea was a second restaurant visited by Guy Fieri and so we drove up to the Studio Diner and split a couple Monte Cristo sandwiches and a chocolate malt. The Monte Cristo, stacked with ham, turkey, and cheese, was dipped in batter and deep fried. On television it looked absolutely amazing.

My brother Bryan use to make Monte Cristo sandwiches. I can not remember the story where he saw them, but I think he had ordered on at a restaurant and then decided to make them at home. I have been making them ever since. Mine are grilled, light and delicate. Every time we make them we wish we had made more.

The deep fried sandwich at Studio Diner was really heavy. The plate came with four quarters. Between the five of us, we could only eat six of them. And after two you felt like you had a brick in your stomach. We all decided we liked our version of the Monte Cristo much better. The shake was great and the sweet potatoes fries were ten times better than the ones we ordered at Crazee Burger, which were suppose to be their specialty.

Well, there you go, a couple hours back over the grade and Martin is home for Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Going to the Dentist, Sort of

I wish I still had the time to write long, expletory posts that were insightful and funny...

This past Monday I went to the dentist...

in Mexico.

I have been talking about it for weeks, ever since I discovered that Algodones is the number one place where older US citizens go to have inexpensive dental work done. When we were there a few weeks ago I told Deneen that I was going to go.

Well, on Monday I built up extra courage and went. Now I have been to a doctor in two foreign countries. On Grand Turk we were covered by the National Insurance plan.

Deneen did not think I would follow through. I did get really nervous. Almost sick to my stomach, standing in the back alley where the dental office was located. But this probably had more to do with going to the dentist than going to the dentist in Mexico.

I was only in for a cleaning, which was advertised on the door for $15.00. While in the waiting room I could hear other patients talking about upcoming work. One was having impressions done and was trying to work out when he could get back across the border to have the rest of his work completed.

My fifteen minute wait turned into a 30 minute wait. But that was not so bad for a walk-in cleaning. The doctor was very nice and she made the experience comfortable. The office was clean and was a lot like going to the dentist 25 years ago. The dental chair had one of those spittoons.

The cleaning went quickly. The dentist wanted to sell me on lasering by gums. But I passed. I think the whole thing lasted 20 minutes. And then it was off to the cafe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Staff Christmas Party, Sort of

This past weekend the two BLM interns working at the museum came over and cooked dinner at our house. Natalie is Vietnamese and wanted to make an authentic meal to share with everyone during her last couple of weeks in the Imperial Valley. With Jessica here, it was very reminiscent of the staff parties we had on Grand Turk when staff came over to the house and made traditional Haitian meals.

On Monday I escorted the crew to Algodones, Mexico, where we spent the day and had yet another staff Christmas party dinner, sort of. The BLM interns are finishing up four months of work. We are holding volunteer days at the museum on the first couple of Saturdays in December to make sure everything they started is finished, but that does not solve my bigger issue of what do we do for staff next year...

which I guess is just in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In Like a Lion

December 1 came in like a lion. If you see the news you probably heard something about the Santa Anna winds hitting LA. Bryan told me today that they had sustained winds of 30 miles an hour in Fresno and he was cleaning up limbs.

Please. I think 30 miles an hour has been about the average wind in Ocotillo since I have been here.

We did not get the wind, but we got a huge winter storm. It was 63 degrees when I woke up. I told Deneen that I can't handle this weather and we need to find somewhere warm to move. By evening it had dropped to 55.

Last year I walked around in a t-shirt and flip flops all winter. But this year I may have to have my cold weather gear shipped from Ohio.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers

This year we spent Thanksgiving at the Ocotillo Optimist dinner in Ocotillo. The optimist prepared dinner for 50. Far, far fewer came. So we left with a weeks worth of leftovers.

On Saturday we took the leftovers and hiked to the wind caves with the Imperial Valley Hiking Club. I prefer to call them the "eat and nap" hiking club. And you may remember a couple previous posts.

Today's hike was four miles. Two miles in. Lunch. Two miles out. Sorry, in order to get back before dark the nap had to be left behind. Which is actually kind of a bummer.

The wind caves are very cool. They are a large stretch of mountains where, for the last million years, the wind has been shaping and rounding the rock. This area is on the back side of the Coyote Mountains, where we hike often, but we had never been here. One of the outstanding features is that from the back side of the mountain you could see clear to the Salton Sea, about 60 miles away.

We ate lunch in one of the caves. On the backside we ran into a couple guys who had camped overnight in one of the caves. Now there is a good story...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving is Coming

For the three years on Grand Turk we spent Thanksgiving with either the Bonnie and John or Bion and Colleen on Grand Turk. Dinner was set with the backdrop of crystal blue waters and spectacular sunsets.

On Sunday, I spent the day with Bonnie and John in Annapolis, after spending the weekend at a conference. I have forgotten how much I liked hanging out with them. We always appreciated the times on Grand Turk. Their vacations there were also sort of vacations for us, especially for Deneen, who always missed her friends from Columbus.

We had a great afternoon watching Shelby play Lacross. But for me the highlight was walking through the historic waterfront of Annapolis. I have also forgotten how much I like early American urban architecture.

By the time I fly back to San Diego and drive back to El Centro it will be time to think about Thanksgiving. But this visit is already making me miss Thanksgiving, well at least the last couple of years.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hiking is the New Deneen

It has cooled down in the Valley and I guess much like when I first came, it must be hiking season again. The past two weekends we have been hiking out in the desert.

We went out with the "lunch and nap" hiking club a couple Sundays ago. Then this past weekend we went hiking over on the east side of the county to look at archaeological sites.

I keep telling the boys that their mother is ruining there chance at a happy marriage. Because though she asks where the beach is a lot, and she complains about being hot a the time they boys have wives and children they are not going to remember any of that. They are just going to say things like: "My mom could hike twice this far," and "My mom climbed mountains twice this high."

Trip to Mexico

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do. The weekends have been busy, lately. This past weekend we took our first trip into Mexico at the Algodones Port of Entry. We walked around for a minute, but spent most of the time eating.

Rico's Tacos is a taco stand, or really a taco cart, sitting along Avenue A, right around the corner from Calle Segunda, within the first blocks after you cross the border into Algodones, Mexico.

Look closley at the picture. He is a fixture at this location. There is always a line, which includes both day visitors and locals. Now, I will admit, his tacos look good.

“Are they really the best?” I inquired.

A lady standing near the cart turned. “Yes!” she said. “We have eaten tacos all over town, these are the best.”

“I never turn my nose down at authentic Mexican food,” said my traveling companion. I guess we will try them and see.

“How many,” Rico asks.

“Tres,” I said, trying to remember my best Spanish from high school, even though it was not really necessary.

In a few seconds, I was holding a small styrofoam tray of tacos. Along the front of the cart there is a wide array of toppings including grilled hot peppers, guacamole, cucumbers, and salsa lined up from hot to mild. I topped each taco a little differently.

Rico has been selling tacos off of his taco cart in Algodones for 20 years. He grills carne asada over coals right on his cart from 11:00am until the border closes at 10:00pm.

There is another guy who is the “money man.” You pay him. “I never take the money,” says Rico.

I asked the “money man” how much I owed. I don't know what I expected, but I did not expect it to be $3.00. The tacos were big, well worth the value.

A third guy came over and asked if we wanted something to drink, well specifically if we wanted a bottled Coca Cola. In Mexico, Coke is made with real sugar. It tastes like coke used to taste in the US twenty years ago. For another dollar we bought a Coke.

We just stood in front of the stand and ate. Now, I have eaten a lot of tacos. I happen to really like tacos from taco stands. But my experience is with taco stands in Ohio. Rico's tacos were good. Really good.

We finished them quickly, and started to leave. “Excuse me,” said the drink guy. “My bottle.”

I did not understand.

“My bottle,” he said again, handing me a plastic “top go” cup.

“Oh, you keep the deposit,” I said. We guzzled the rest of the Coke and gave him the bottle.

We continued our walk around looking at the stalls and venders each saying, “It's almost free!”

“Those tacos were almost free,” I joked to my companion. “They were really good, too”

We made a circle around the block and found ourselves back at Rico's Tacos.

“How Many?” Rico asked.

“Three more,” I said.

Are Rico's Tacos the best in town. Well, I did not try every taco in town, but I will tell you a secret. The next day, went back across the border just to go to Rico's taco cart for lunch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Bunch of Troopers

This weekend we went camping in the desert for the first time. Campgrounds re-opened on September 1. We went up to the Agua Caliente County Park in the Anzo-Borrego desert, about 25 minutes north of Ocotillo. Not only is this a county campground, it is built on a hot spring and has a historical use as a camp area.

I am writing a piece about hot springs for the Yuma Winter Shopping magazine, so this was sort-a, kind-a work related. But it was also the best viewing night for the Orionid Meteor Shower, so kind-a not work related?

So, I will write this blog in two parts.

Part one: Camping

You have no idea how many times I say, "I know where that is. It is in the hall closet in the house on Grand Turk." or "I have one of those. It is on the second shelf to the left of the door in the garage in the house in Columbus."

Well, we left a lifetime worth of camping
equipment in the attic of the house on Grand Turk. In September 2009, it became more than camping equipment. It became survival equipment. I think that is the last time I have done anything resembling "camping."

This weekend we packed what we had up in the car and left for the desert. I told Deneen and the boys that I want camping to be easy and spontaneous. Lets just get in the car and go. The boys were troopers.

We have the tent here that Martin and Graham used on their drive out. We have one flashlight that I won at one of our Survivor parties 10 years ago. We have two sleeping bags. We have several knives (Davis has been collecting knives). What more do you need.

OK, evidently you need some kind of stove, a better light, a couple chairs, a coffee maker (luckily I bought an Italian espresso maker on clearance at Target right before we left).

But, I loved every minute of it. Deneen, maybe not so much.

Part Two: Orionid Meteor Shower

We became very aware of the stars and the movement of stars on Grand Turk. I don't think we will ever be somewhere where the stars area more prevalent, but the desert should be a pretty good second.

One of my fondest memories was watching a star fall out of the cup of the big dipper while walking down the beach in March 2oo9.

Meteor showers were especially significant on Grand Turk. And we tracked them. There are roughly eight a year. The best one Lucas has ever seen was the Persieds in August 2009. The best one I ever saw was the Leonids in November 2010. I saw the biggest and brightest shooting star I had ever seen.

Well, October 21 was the Orionid Meteor Shower. I had thought that camping in the desert would be remote, quite, and dark. Well, it was remote.

Between the YMCA and two boy scout troops, not to mention all the families from San Diego bringing their kids, dogs, and music to the desert, the campground was a bright and noisy oasis in the middle of nowhere.

Lucas and I took a night hike to try and get away from the light. Up the mountain to our right was a steep climb with unseen obstacles. I have the cuts on my legs to prove it. Distance is distorted in the dark. And it is really hard to get away from light. But, in forty years of camping and running camps, this was by far the best night hike I have ever been on.

From our count, we saw about 25 meteor per hour. Most were faint and fast. You notice them out of the corner of your eye.

"There's one"


Too late.

But two were big enough to make the whole experience worth it.

You know, the Leonid Meteor Shower will be on November 17, and the moon rises at midnight. it should be good. Too bad, I will be at a conference in Baltimore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Implementation of Plans

The hardest part of the last eight months has been that it has been nothing but planning, planning, planning. In the last month I have had at least three dreams about visiting the Facilities Planning office at the Ohio Historical Society. Last night I had a dream that I went to visit the office. Fred was there. But everyone else was a little kid. When they weren't looking I snuck into my office to look at old plans of projects that I had completed.

This week we completed the gift shop installation and had our first logo products arrive. I have been talking about the importance of getting a gift shop open since I first arrived.

In a planning document dated April 7 I proposed: "The gift shop is a key component of the visitor information center. The FY 2011 budget includes $6000 in gift shop receipts. Slat wall shelving will need to be purchased and installed. The museum has a supply of desert related books, but museum specific items logo items such as hats, cups, and prints will need to be produced and purchased."

A couple weeks later, I went to Yosemite National park with Bryan and saw the gift shop I envisioned. I began planning and completing construction drawings.

This is the gift shop at Yosemite.

A few we ago we purchased fixtures from the Borders that closed in San Diego. Last week our logo products came in. This past week my new friend Jimmy ran all the electrical work, I screwed the cabinets together, and Marty the Board President cleaned everything with Murphy's Oil Soap.

Voila! We have a gift shop. This is the first hard installation of something that I have planned here as a necessity to getting opened. It only took nine months. I don't know if this is long or short. I had hoped to get a gift shop up during my second 90 days. I first looked at the fixtures at Borders the day Martin left. That was August 15. So I missed my goal by nine days?

At the Turks and Caicos Museum I built and installed the new gift shop after I had been there six months and 15 days (I just checked it on this blog). In March 2010, our gift shop sales for that month were more than the total sales of 2007 and 2008. It took 24 months for the gift shop to become an effective integral part of the museum operation.

OK, I guess I got benchmarks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going Back to High School

Yesterday, was the first day of the coiled clay art program at Southwest High School. This is the second half of the coiled clay art project grant that we received from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation. For the next eight weeks, the SAVAPA Art Club will be working with clay and investigating the shapes and styles of ollas in the museum's collection.

I took examples of the ollas in our collection to show to the art students. This was the first time in about twenty years that collections were taken out of storage and into into the classroom.

After the eight weeks, we will be mounting a traveling exhibit of the work: developing viability as a cultural institution. This is modeled after a project I developed in the Turks and Caicos where were trying to get a foothold on a larger island where the museum did not have a presence. Here, it is nearly the same issue. The larger town of El Centro is 26 miles from the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, which is in fact in the middle of the desert. Hopefully, the high school art project will result in a dozen or so quality pieces of work that will make stops at three or four places over the next year.

The art project that we displayed in the TCI can be seen here in an old post called Hanging Around Provo.

I think that everyone should just remember that post, but that was two years ago now, crazy.

Today, the Imperial Valley Press covered our program as the front page lead article. You can see the article "Students learn Kumeyaay Way" here. There is also a very good photo gallery where you can see a great picture of Lucas looking at the ollas.

But I have to warn you, if film ads twenty pounds, then pictures must add twenty years. The photo gallery looks an awful lot like my dad teaching a high school class.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jared and Kara in the House

Jared and Kara came to visit this weekend.

Lucas said that he thought more family had come to visit us here, in the most remote, inhospitable, and second hottest place to live in the US, than had visited us in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which boasted one of the top ten beaches in the world.

I tried to remind him that 18 members of the family had stopped and visited the house on a cruise, but when he talked about spending the night...

Well, Bryan and Terry, Stephanie, and Jared and Kara have all visited. This is quite a feet in that we have only been here a few months...and we are in the middle of nowhere. We don't have any chairs and had to eat dinner standing up in the kitchen.

The bonus of their visit, not that we don't love seeing family, is that we had to buy a queen-size air mattress for them to sleep on.

So, now we have a bed!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Starting from Scratch, Again?

On September 9, 2007, I started this blog with a post entitled Starting from Scratch. That blog started like this:

"In the movie Angel Eyes, a Luis Mandoki film starring Jennifer Lopez and James Caviezel, there is scene that is one of my favorites. The main character is living in a dirty apartment with no furniture, just a mattress on the floor. He has a line: "Do you know when some says lets starts from scratch? Well this is what it looks like. This is scratch."

Here it is October 1, 2011. We moved into a new house we are renting today. There is nothing in it. On Thursday I slept on the floor. Yesterday, we packed the the last load from Ocotillo and brought the rest of our "junk" to El Centro.

Deneen said that "we seem to have everything but furniture." It seems we are starting from scratch, again.

So lets recap:

In September 2007 we gave away everything we had accumulated over 20 years, bought a bunch of new stuff on clearance, and moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Deneen moved to the TCI on November 29, 2010. For the next nine months we had the best nine months of our lives. Then on September 7, 2008, Hurricane Ike ripped the roof off our house in the TCI and we lost nearly everything we owned. On August 29, 2010, we left the TCI with 25 bags of luggage. We lived for four months in one room of my mother's house. On February 4, 2011, I moved to California with a suitcase and a carry on. For the next five months I lived in a camper. In June 2011, Martin drove to California with two flat screen TVs, a trumpet, a baritone, and our new Jeep Wrangler. On June 10, 2011, Deneen and the boys moved here, each with two suitcases. For the next four months we lived in a double-wide trailer in the middle of the desert.

Yea, that about sums it up.

Now, we have a house. Well, really we have a pool.

We moved to El Centro through a series of events that I can only describe as providential. The second person I met after moving to the Imperial Valley was Pastor Ron. He is the pastor of the United Methodist Church in El Centro. Among other things, Pastor Ron sponsored me into the El Centro Rotary club. Within the first week that Deneen and the boys had arrived, he also invited us to dinner. During that visit they made us walk down the street to look at a house that was available for rent. The current renter, a Rotarian, had bought a house across the street. The owner of the house is also a Rotarian.

After eight months, this was the only house in El Centro that I had looked at that I would even ever consider moving into. But afford it? No Way.

A couple weeks later, after dwelling on the house for two weeks, I gave the owner an offer of what I thought we could pay for rent.

Today, I am having what can only be described as buyers remorse. I just signed a 15 month commitment. This just feels like forever. We have been so temporary here, up till now, that I have been OK with it. At any time we could have loaded up and been gone. The house feels too permanent.

I don't know. I am torn. I never got a California driver's license. I kept saying that I don't have a permanent address. And I don't really live here, I just work here! I don't know if you know this, but they don't even get Ohio State football here. But...did I say the house had a pool.

I don't know. I spent my whole morning watching a CBS original web series called Around the World for Free, and searching internet job sites. Deneen is tired of the "adventure" idea. She wants a nest; she wants a house.

I just watched on episode of Around the World for Free where Pavarti went to Haiti. It made me miss my Haitian friends. I want to see my Haitian friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Indulge in the Comforts of Fall: Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ok, so here's a shout out to Starbucks, sort-a, kind-a

One day last week I sat here from 8:00-3:00, only getting up to get coffee, writing an article. Yesterday, I held two meetings here and then arranged gift shop orders. Today, I have been here from 8:00-11:00. I am on my third refill.

I just saw Aaron, the president of the Chamber of Commerce. Miles is sitting over in the corner, he still has not found a job as a content writer. Frank asked me if the kids had started school. Marcus just came in to work. Eric is not working today, but he came in to get coffee.

We really, really missed two things in the Turks and Caicos: a coffee shop and a bookstore. Well, I guess it's lucky for us there is no bookstore.

The second week of school Lucas had an art project; draw where your family eats together. He drew the outdoor patio at Starbucks while we were sitting here. During the pinup crit, the art teacher was very critical of the drawing saying that the artist did not really listen to the "prompt."

But did he? In the transition of life for Lucas, Starbucks is one of the few constants. When Lucas was in school in Columbus he drove to the Lennox Starbucks during lunch. When I came home from the Turks and Caicos I drove Lucas to school and then sat at the Lennox Starbucks on the internet. After school, Lucas and I would sit there waiting for Deneen and Davis to meet us on their way down 315. In El Centro, we gravitated to the Starbucks because we had no where else to go in town. And we all carry cards with our names in Gold.

Literally, the Starbucks feels like home. And for Lucas, it probably feels more like home than a trailer in Ocotillo.

During the summer, while Martin was here, Davis would run over to Little Cesar's and get a five dollar pizza and the family would eat every week on the patio at Starbucks while I was at Rotary. Last Thursday, before the the boys went to Mock Trial Club we ate pizza out on the patio.

So, what picture would you draw when told to draw where "your" family eats together?

We talked about this last night. To be a better artist you need to look past what is right in front of you in order to see a deeper meaning in your artwork. What was lost on his art teacher was the reality of the social commentary inherent in Lucas' artwork. The drawing has a far deeper meaning than the literal representation of where his family eats together. It is actually almost tragic.

I guess he is lucky for not getting in trouble for drawing a picture of his dad's "office."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

De Anza Rescue Unit

I have two more articles for the IV Press to write this weekend, one about the De Anza Rescue Unit and one about BLM Rangers. Its kind of funny, but the stuff I get called to write about is also stuff I already have information on. I toured the old De Anza Rescue Unit mobile command center during the July 4th festival and picked up a bunch of flyers because I thought it would be cool to join. The handout was about the serious issue of dehydration in the desert. It included several stories of people who thought they were prepared...

I have a soapbox here, just like I did in the Turks and Caicos, as much fun as you think you are having, the desert is very unforgiving. I kept the De Anza flyer and made all the boys read it.

I just finished and submitted the article. I wrote one version in 500 words and another version in 650 words. Did you ever wonder why teachers made you write essays of 300 or 500 words? This is why:

De Anza Rescue Unit

Alone, on an evening ride around Superstition Mountain, a young rider crashed his motorcycle. When he regained consciousness the next day he was able to call the Sheriff's Department on a cell phone to request help, but he was already dehydrated and nearly incoherent. The Sheriff called the De Anza Rescue Unit, and an hour later they were searching the desert.

The rider was found one hour and fifteen minutes later. He was not near his bike and not in the location he gave when he called the Sheriff. Delirious with severe dehydration, he could no longer walk on his own. The rescuers brought him to the De Anza Rescue Unit mobile command center, gave him first aid, and immediately called for transportation to the hospital.

“If the victim had spent another two hours in the desert, he would have died,” was the report of the attending physician.

The De Anza Rescue Unit, Inc. was formed on May 26, 1969. “The unit serves as an auxiliary service organization prepared 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to assist the Sheriff's Department in organized search and rescue,” stated Paul Koon, the organization's current president.

Today, there are 28 members from all around the county, with a variety of occupations. “All members participate in field training exercises once a month,” stated Koon. “We run real-life scenarios, someone gets lost and we go find them.

“Each month our training focuses on different skills, sometimes it is foot tracking, sometimes it is vehicle tracking. Every member is required to maintain First Aid and CPR certificates. We are all disaster service qualified and part of the State Mutual Aid system. The De Anza Rescue Unit can be called to assist in both San Diego and Riverside Counties if needed.”

The organization is all volunteer, and members provide their own equipment and expenses for the 22 to 24 rescues that they are called to assist with annually. Jeff Green, who has been with the organization for ten years, field manages search and rescue operations for the unit. “When we receive a call-out from the Sheriff's Office, we can typically deploy half of our members within 45 minutes,” Green said, “but we can go out with five people and set up an effective search to find someone.”

In the 42 years since the Rescue Unit was founded, not all of the rescue stories have had such happy outcomes. “Even in the worst case scenario, what we do is important,”said Green. “To find someone and relieve the unknown factor for the family is a big part of what we do.”

In October 2010, The Rescue Unit began a fund-raising campaign to raise money to replace their mobile command unit, a 30-year-old school bus that has been very visible at community events, fairs, and festivals in the Valley. Soon the rescue unit will have a new state of the art mobile facility. “We are just waiting on the radios to be installed,”stated Koon. “Most of our operations are either at night in the middle of winter, or in the middle of the day in 120 degree weather. The new 5th-wheel trailer will have heat and AC and will allow people to get in out of the heat or cold. We have been putting in lots of work to get the trailer finished.”

Why put in so much work? Koon has the answer, “A couple years ago we were called out to the desert. A seven-year-old boy had run out of gas and was lost overnight. About 3:00am we found him asleep on top of his quad. When we returned that young man to his mother I knew that every volunteer hour that I had spent with the De Anza Rescue Unit was worth it.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yea, and I Just Moved Here

Dave just sent me an article entitled 10 Housing Markets that Will Collapse This Year.

Guess what number seven was...

El Centro, California, is located five miles from the Mexican border, and is one of the poorest cities in the country. Median income is just $43,300 per family, the tenth-lowest in the U.S. Unemployment is at a staggering 28.6 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, home prices decreased by more than 50 percent. According to a report in the Imperial Valley Press, one home was sold in the El Centro area before the recession for $390,000. In 2009, that home was listed at $200,000. Prices are expected to drop an additional 12.1 percent by the first quarter of 2012. Five miles from the Mexican border? Think about it and forgetaboutit.

Well, uh, too late...

Now, I can't believe the housing market has not already collapsed here. It's going to get worse? Ouch.On the flip side, we are looking at a house today to rent in El Centro. We could never have afforded this house a couple years ago. But we were at a party last month at Pastor Ron's house. He said the house down the street was going to be empty because the renter had bought the house across the street. We went to look at it. It would be nice, but no way. A couple weeks ago I gave the owner a letter and told him what I thought we could pay. He called me yesterday and told me to come pick up the keys.

With school starting four weeks ago and Deneen starting work this past Monday we are already crunched with the drive from Ocotillo to El Centro. We spend an hour every morning in the car. Last weekend we had to drive into town for a church youth group party and a school club party. Yesterday we had to go out to eat after school then sit at Starbucks while the boys were at an evening practice until 7:30 for the Mock Trial Club. Tonight, if Davis has to cover the football game for the school newspaper, we will be in El Centro from 7:00am-10:00pm, and most of that time I will be sitting at Starbucks.

Not that I don't love Starbucks...but I think they are getting tired of me. Lucas came in after school a few days ago and the barista said, "I know your Dad, he's the guy who gets a lot of free refills."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing and Blogging, Blogging and Writing

Have I said be careful what you good at lately? Well, be careful what you get good at.

I started a museum blog to document what it takes to open a museum. You can view the Desert Museum Blog here. I try to maintain those blog postings every couple of days.

This week I wrote three articles for the Imperial Valley Press. These were introductions to Yuma, Arizona, and the Imperial Valley for a shoppers guide to the desert.

But this blog is really about Davis' first published article. During his first week of High School, Davis went down to the school newspaper and signed up, I guess, anyway he got a press pass and made us go to the first football game two weeks ago.

When we looked at the online paper today, Davis' submittal was the front page lead article.

Ouch! Only Two Blogs Since Martin Left?

Where has the time gone? I did not write about the Border Patrol helicopter landing at the museum, or the four trips to the Borders bookstore closeout in San Diego, or the approval of the museum's strategic plan, Davis' first week of high school, the extreme heat warning, or the rain storm and distant lightening...that last one was actually pretty cool.

I guess I will just start with today.

Today I installed, well started to install, gift shop fixtures in the museum...

The day Martin flew out of San Diego I received a phone call to say I should check out the fixtures that were for sale at the Borders bookstore in San Diego. Since I was already in San Diego I went over to the store, getting there right before closing. This was the same day that the IMLS grant was due.

As it turned out everything in the store was being sold for probably 10 cents on the dollar. And there were nice store fixtures.

We went down and bought 14 units at I think $125 each. Two weeks later we got a call saying all shelving would be $50 on the coming weekend. We went down and bought 10 more units.

Last Saturday we drove down to San Diego and loaded the cabinets (this was actually the second trip) on the last day the store was open. I have been trying to get a gift shop implemented for 8 months. Finally, its here. Though now we have the hard part of filling the shelves.

But that's coming.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Power Outage

All Southern California is under a blackout. Power went off at the museum at 3:38pm. I am on the last of my computer battery. It was 98 degrees in the museum when I locked up. It is 109 on Jimmy's porch. Deneen and Atty are freaking out. We are drinking all of Jimmy's cold Mountain Dews. Might be sleeping outside tonight. But the worst thing is I am missing the opening of the 2011 NFL season!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anniversary, Shmanniversary

Today is Deneen and my 23rd anniversary. This is where I wanted to take her.

Riviera Maya, Mexico, which was the Groupon special today. But we just spent the day sitting in the house in Ocotillo. Boring!

Last year on this day I gave my last tour of the Museum on Grand Turk. A week later we were on a cruise. In 2009, we spent our anniversary at a party at Margarittaville and then my band played at the museum on Grand Turk. In 2008, I spent my anniversary with Dave Horn kayaking with the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Maybe next year we can go somewhere cool. I have booked a hotel in San Diego for Labor Day, Christmas, and New Years, just in case. But today was a bust.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

IMLS Grant

I was just reading the blogs from February. It seems kind of crazy how different things are here now. Yesterday, I had a $135,000 grant due to the Institution of Museum and Library Services for their Learning Labs in Museums and Libraries program grant. On Friday I did not think there was anyway I was going to get finished. On Saturday it was too close to not finish. At about 5:30 on Sunday morning I did not care whether it got finished. On Monday I read through grant requirements and realized I was missing two huge things and I had to rewrite the whole budget again.

When I re-read through the grant it was kind of impressive. The grant is based on the Afterschool Homework Program we developed at the Turks and Caicos National Museum. I even used Tuval's and Kenlove's blogs as examples. That program was funded by a grant of $5,000 the first year and $9,600 the second year.

The IMLS grant is for one of 30 Learning Labs to be funded throughout the country. The grant is for 18 months of planning and prototyping. I would love to fully fund this program at $135,000.00. Shoot, I would love to fund it with $9,600. The program in the Turks and Caicos was one of the best things I have ever been a part of. There is lots of support here to do something similar. In fact, the program would be seen as a monumental step forward for both the museum and the youth of Ocotillo.

Here is the grant abstract:

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is planning the development of a Learning Lab. At a minimum, the Lab would be a place where community youth would have access to internet, computers, and printers, and a staff member who could tutor or assist with homework, research, and academic projects. As envisioned, the Learning Lab will be a space where youth can explore natural science informally through connecting the natural history of the desert surrounding the museum with technological applications such as video editing, video webcasting, photo manipulation, graphic design, website development, and a new concept we are calling “geo-blogging.”

I have been working for the last three months to get all our Ts crossed and our Is dotted so that we can submit grants on It came down to the last minute. But I just got an email saying that our grant had been transmitted to the reviewing agency. Baby steps for most institutions, but huge monster steps for here.

Manic Mondays

Martin has left the Building.

That would have been this title. But that seems a little...well lets just say an undersell. After sleeping in for all summer, on Monday we all got up at 6:30am. I made breakfast burritos.

Today was Davis' first day of high school.

Lucas started his junior year in a brand new school. He sat at a table in art class and everyone started speaking Spanish. He said he did not understand a single word of the conversation.

Deneen drove into El Centro and hung out all day waiting on school to finish.

Martin and I drove into San Diego.

I had been up all night on Saturday and worked until about 3:00am on Sunday writing a grant that was due on Monday. Monday morning I was still waiting on resumes from consultants that were itemized in the grant budget.

Martin and I stopped at a Starbucks on the way. I got online and worked for a couple hours. We got into San Diego at 1:00 and I went to a meeting. After that, we went of to Balboa Park. I was hoping to see the Gustav Stickley exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art, but museums are closed on Mondays. I forgot.

We walked around the park and I lectured Martin on the 1915 Panama Exposition, applied ornament, the effect of industrialization on architecture, and the advent of Modernism. Martin gave me another birthday present.

Around 4:00 we went over to Hodad's and ate our last meal. I lectured Martin on word-of-mouth marketing, commercialization, and food as an aspect of culture. Martin ate a huge hamburger.

I dropped Martin off at the airport.

I think this summer was the most time I have spent with him in the last three years. It is very sad to see him leave.

I drove over to Little Italy to the Starbucks and sat for the next four hours trying to get my grant submitted before midnight ET. Wrong username. Then wrong password. Then systems crash Google Chrome. Then systems crash Explorer. Then systems crash Then "we close in 21 minutes." Then start the whole thing over. Then email receipt and validation of acceptance at 11:47 ET.

I called Martin who had not left LAX yet. Said goodbye. Told him that I had gotten the grant in.

Then I started home over the grade.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stephanie's Visit

I am not sure what is happening to August. I did not write a blog for two weeks and now I am trying to get caught back up. I feel like we have not done anything, but in the last two weeks I had a birthday, Deneen had a birthday, we drove to Pasadena twice, we saw Bryan and Terry twice, been to San Diego twice, the coiled clay summer program came to a close, we held a "Starry Night at the Museum" overnight program, I spoke at Rotary about the Turks and Caicos Hurricanes, which made people cry (seriously), Deneen was offered a job in the El Centro School Disctict, I was hired as a contract architectural historian by a multi-national company in San Diego, school started, Martin flew home, Oh, and Stephanie flew in from Columbus, Ohio, for a visit. During this time I had a massive federal grant due which required so much work you can't believe it.

But, this blog is about Stephanie. She arrived last Thursday and spent the weekend with us. I kind of felt bad. I feel like we did not do very much. For most of the day we try and stay out of the heat. I told her she could at least go back to Columbus and tell people we aren't kidding about the heat. And that we really have tacos every meal.

Thursday night I took her driving in the desert. She screamed the whole time so I don't know if she liked it. Martin took her hiking on Friday night. She came back very pale and said she almost died. On Saturday night she came to the museum overnight. Well, not quite overnight for her. But none-the-less, what she got was a pretty good snapshot of our lives here. We enjoyed seeing her anyway. On Sunday morning we all stumbled in from staying up all night, said goodbye, and she was on her way up to see Bryan.

In all that time, I only got one picture of her. That was at the last coiled clay art session.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Starry Night at the Museum

On Saturday we had our first museum overnight. This was the night of the Perseid meteor shower. We had 14 kids, all from Ocotillo, come spend the night. We made coiled clay pots, we fired pots in a camp fire, we roasted hotdogs, and we watched two movies. The four girls fell asleep early. The guys stayed up from 2:30 to 7:30 playing video games.

I worked all night on the text for an IMLS Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums program grant.

I was outside several times to see the meteor shower. On Grand Turk we watched all the meteor showers. I saw 20 or 30 last year during the Persied shower. This year it was a very bright full moon. I saw two.

I was also thinking that I know why most people think museums are for adults. It would be way easier.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gamble House Visit

This weekend Martin, Deneen, and I stayed over in Pasadena. As the home of the Rose Bowl, we know Pasadena well. Actually, that's not really true. We know OF Pasadena well. And in fact, that's not really true either. We know the Buckeyes have played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena 14 times. That's not really true either. I did not know that. I just looked that up. I guess what I really know about Pasadena is that as a true Buckeye fan you expect Ohio State to be playing in the Rose Bowl any year they are not playing in the national title game.

Anyway, what was surprising is that we went over to the Rose Bowl and discovered that it is actually called the "Rose Bowl." We were thinking that the actual game was called the Rose Bowl and the stadium was c

alled something else. The stadium was built in 1922. That was the same year the OSU Horseshoe was built. I did know that. For many years the Rose Bowl had the highest seating capacity of any football stadium in the county. This was true until 1998 when the stadium at the University of Michigan was enlarged.

I also know of Pasadena because of the Gamble House. The Gamble House is the winter home of the Gamble family from Proctor and Gamble of Cincinnati. The house was designed by Greene and Greene in 1903 and was an icon of the Arts and Crafts movement. Today, is is a historic house museum.

Though I am very familiar with the house, I had never been. This is why we stayed over. The house was open on Sunday from 12:00 to 3:00 with a limited guided tour every 15 minutes. The house did not dissapoint. I lectured Martin on the Arts an Crafts movement the entire visit.

I think that is what Martin got me for my birthday. I took him to the Gamble House and he did not complain once.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pasadena Pass Off

Last weekend we met Bryan and Terry in Pasadena and passed off Lucas and Davis. A week or so before Bryan called and asked if our boys wanted to go to church camp with his boys. I don't think we had really thought at all about doing family kind of stuff here. But a four hour drive later we were having dinner with Bryan and his family.

The drive through the Coachella Valley is long, sort of. El Centro is about an hour and a half from Palm Springs and Palm Desert, which are up above the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California.

Coming home we came down the 5 through Los Angeles. I thought this would be fine on a Sunday at 3:00. But it was not. I don't understand how somewhere can have traffic so bad that cars are stopped on the highway on a Sunday afternoon.

The 5 comes into San Diego. We stopped for dinner at Hodad's in Ocean Beach. The whole area along the coast was in the mid 80s and freezing. I was almost glad to head back over the grade to where the weather is warm.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

IV Press Article - Front Page today

click here for article and video

Children wind clay into pots for cultural learning

Staff Writer

12:34 a.m. PDT, July 28, 2011

OCOTILLO — Ocotillo resident Dillon Austin took care to smooth the sides of the project he spent hours creating Wednesday morning.

After winding together a coil for a base, he began building up the sides, one string of reddish-brown clay at a time. When finished, the hour glass-shaped pot was left to dry and be fired. It was Dillon’s first project for a pilot program art class at the Desert Museum.

“I want to come back next week,” he said.

The 12-year-old was one of about a dozen children from here who wound together pieces of clay into pots at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Though it was Dillon’s first class, others have been going to the center all summer to play with the clay.

The class is one portion of the pilot program the museum is putting together, said Executive DirectorNeal Hitch. The steps after the summer class finishes will be to bring the art classes to a high school in the fall, and then exhibit what the high schoolers create.

The program allows children and students to see what it takes to make some of the pots that are at the museum, Hitch said. Having the experience of creating a bad pot — and everyone’s first pot is bad — makes the ones that were made long ago by the Kumeyaay Indian Tribe in the area a lot more impressive.

The students could see how hard it is to make some of the two-feet-wide clay pieces when those students are constructing ones that are only a few inches wide, he said.

The pilot project began after the museum received a $2,000 grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation, he said. The Howard P. Meyer Foundation in El Centro also contributed funding and ASM Affiliates archeology company gave money for the clay.

The program has been a big success so far as the museum has seen more than double the expected number of kids each day, he said. The real test of how popular it is is the number of kids who return and recommend that others come out, Hitch said.

“This is just something that it’s fun to be here,” he said.

Children at the event agreed that it was worth coming back to.

Brittany Rausa, 12, has been coming for weeks, and said that she really enjoys making the pots. Her first one didn’t turn out well, but they’ve been improving.

Her favorite part is getting to mold clay while talking with friends, she said.

For 16-year-old Lucas Hitch, it’s about a little more competition than that. He wants to make pots that are better than his teacher’s, and his are getting there.

While he would like to make a pot as good as those by the Kumeyaay on display, he doesn’t think that’s going to happen with only a few classes left.

However, he said, he can hope.