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.