Winter Winds

The winter winds bring us our version of cold-weather living in Twentynine Palms.  The wind brings character into our otherwise predictable and sometimes boring winter days of endless sunshine.  When the winds blow it is not with gentle breezes but with consistent gales. It rushes through the palm trees with a distinct rustling sound.  Flags flap and flutter, furling and unfurling, as the wind whips them around. Open trash can lids hit against the side of the can in an inconsistent rhythm.  It whistles through the holes in the stop sign poles and hums through the electrical wires. It is a cacophony and not a symphony of sound.

Being outside in the cold wind for any length of time is tough but doable.  At a park and rec flag football game during a recent windy evening, the sidelines were filled with parents wearing beanies, sweatshirts, and their biggest jackets.  Some had blankets over their laps as they were watching their sons and daughters play. A few even had a kerosene heater set up in front of them, cranking out heat at the highest setting.  These were the people who have lived in Twentynine Palms for a while. Those who just arrived to Twentynine Palms from much colder climates were watching the game in a sweatshirt and baseball cap.  

When the winds blow we prep our house for them.  Windows have to be shut throughout the house otherwise a layer of dust will be on the windowsill and surrounding furniture.  Garden flags need to be brought in because the wind will work them off their pole and blow them east to Wonder Valley. We had a shade umbrella for the children’s small outdoor picnic table but lost it because we didn’t bring it in and the wind lifted it and took it somewhere over night.  When setting out trash cans for the trash truck to get them the next day we learned from our more experienced desert-dwelling neighbors to put a large rock on the lids so the wind wouldn’t blow them open and carry our trash all over the desert.

Windy nights make for good sleeping weather.  The sound of the the wind blowing outside in the cold makes me thankful that I’m inside my warm home.  It makes me appreciate my blankets that much more. My young daughter doesn’t appreciate the windy nights.  The wind whips especially loud passed the corner of the house that forms her bedroom. She can’t sleep while the wind blasts past the outside corner of her bedroom.  My daughter usually ends up sleeping on the floor of my bedroom on those cold and windy nights when its windy chaos outside and warm peace inside.

Roses in the Desert

My Dad would give my Mom a dozen roses throughout their marriage.  All of them would be red to represent “love” but there would always be a lone yellow rose to represent “friendship.”  The only yellow rose blossom contrasted against the sea of red. Both my mother and her mother had rose bushes in their backyards.  I could see my mom’s yellow roses through the living room window, the blossoms swaying in the wind from my favorite armchair. I’d sit back and watch them.  My Grandma had a much larger variety of rose bushes. She had all sorts of colors and would display large bouquets of them on her kitchen table.

Roses can even tolerate the scorching desert heat with enough water.  Yucca Valley has a lovely rose garden by their community center with a surprising variety of roses.  I enjoyed walking among them when we first moved to the Morongo Basin, being very watchful over my 18-month old daughter as she trotted among the thorny bushes trying to find the biggest and prettiest blossoms.  She’d point each one out to me before burying her little nose into the blooms, inhale deeply, and say “Ummm, is good!”

When I finally got my own home with a yard I knew I wanted to have some rose bushes.  Walmart was selling bare-root roses and I splurged one day and bought two of them There were no leaves or flowers on either of them.  They were just a couple of sticks with roots wrapped in plastic wrap. The label on one of them promised a yellow rose and the other a red rose.  I read the directions on the wrappers carefully and planted them in my backyard. The yellow rose was planted underneath my dining room window. I hoped that in time I would be able to look out my window and see the yellow blossoms swaying in the wind.

They both quickly had leaves and soon blossoms but the red rose didn’t seem to be doing was well as the yellow rose.  It’s blossoms were shaped weird and it didn’t bloom near as much as the yellow rose bush did. My dog discovered he enjoyed the taste of rose bush and chewed up the red rose so much that I put the poor bush out of its misery and uprooted it.  The yellow rose survived the mauling and my husband put stakes and a chicken wire fence around it for protection against our fury rose-killer. When my husband was installing the stakes he discovered why the yellow rose bush was doing so well.  He drove the stake right through the washing machine run off pipe. When ever my washing machine drained, my rose bush got watered. What a happy accident!

I’ve learned how to take care of my surviving yellow rose bush.  Youtube and Google directed me how to prune it. When I noticed the blooms weren’t frequent and unimpressive I asked for the advice of a more knowledgeable rose-grower.  My Mom told me that roses are heavy drinkers and feeders. Well, I had the watering down but my rose must be hungry too. I started fertilizing with rose food and my little rose bush has flourished.  

My yellow rose bush is doing well surrounded by its protective fence.  It’s watered by the washing machine and the leftover water in the dog’s water dish.  I write on my calendar when it’s time to fertilize it with rose food. It’s not big enough for me to look out of my dining room window to see its blooms but I think it will be with time.  I’ve enjoyed harvesting it’s blooms and displaying them on my kitchen table. When I sit at the kitchen table I get whiffs of the roses perfume and it smells sweeter than the other roses because it came from my own backyard.

How Living in Twentynine Palms Has Changed Me

Living in Twentynine Palms has changed me in some ways.  I’ve adapted to quiet and non-chaotic desert nights. I’m accustomed to limited store selections to choose from when I shop.  The wide open desert spaces have welcomed me and I am confined in big cities with large buildings sneering at me from above.

It’s very quiet at here at night with the only occasional evening sounds being an adventurous off-road vehicle or the Marines blowing stuff up in the middle of the desert.  So when my husband and I exited off the 15 freeway and headed to the Las Vegas Strip for a weekend getaway, our mouths dropped open and our eyes bugged out, dazzled by the Strip at night.  We looked at all the shiny and flashy lights and were mesmerized. The sidewalks were teaming with people. It was all so busy and chaotic with the sidewalks being a rushing river of people and the lights continuously flashing above them.  We felt like country bumpkins out to see the big city. “Look at all them thar purty lights, honey!” I said to my husband with a hillbilly twang.

“Wow! Look at all them thar people!” He replied.

Living in Twentynine Palms has also changed my level of contentment.  I have become used to limited choices when it comes to shopping. The closest Walmart is 30 minutes away in Yucca Valley and the closest Target is 90 minutes away in Palm Desert.  Going to the store has become a big deal because of the amount of time involved and the cost of gas to get there. Our shopping trips have become very purposeful and I learned to be content with what choices we have.

I recently went to the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert.  Walking through the mall I suddenly realized how bored I was with window shopping.  I wasn’t interested in their products despite all the attractive displays in the many stores.  Now, I’m not sure how much of my contentment is from becoming older and wiser verses living in Twentynine, but living in Twentynine certainly helps.    Living here has helped me be more content with what I have because of the lack of choices and the hassle to drive to a shopping center.

One of the things I love about Twentynine Palms is the wide open spaces.  I didn’t realize how much I appreciated the open space until my husband and I took our kids to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  We had a fun day at the Science Center and the adjacent Exposition Park Rose Gardens. It was getting late and the sun was setting so we decided to start the journey back home.  My husband was driving and I was trying to navigate him through the labyrinth of freeways to get out of the city. I told him to take a freeway exit that took us toward downtown Los Angeles.  I noticed my mistake as our van came off of the freeway exit and positioned itself in line with the Los Angeles skyline.

“This is the wrong exit!  You have to turn around!” I said.

“I’m trying to!” My husband replied.

The Los Angeles skyscrapers came closer and closer until we were right in the middle of them.  Large buildings towered on either side of us. Traffic zoomed around us and people in suits were walking on the sidewalks.  Everyone knew where they were going except for us.

“Take a right turn at the next street”  I said, looking at the map app on my phone.

“I can’t!  It’s a one-way street!”

I fought down claustrophobia and tried to ignore the buildings pressing down on me as I frantically tried to have my map app give me a new route to take out of the city.  We finally made it out of downtown Los Angeles and my husband and I both breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled back onto the on ramp that would take us eastward toward home.

The lifestyle in Twentynine Palms grew on me and I’ve adapted to it.  After my travels it is good to be in Twentynine Palms again where there are quiet nights, lack of shopping malls, and wide open spaces.  My travels have shown me how living in Twentynine Palms has changed me and for that I’m thankful as it means I’ve been able to see a variety of different places.  There’s a wide, wide world outside of our little desert city.

Some Time in Sleepy Hollow

The fiery jack-o-lantern hurled toward me through the covered bridge.  It’s light illuminated the interior of the bridge section by section as it came nearer.  It was a thrilling image. The Headless Horseman threw the jack-o-lantern at the unfortunate Ichabod Crane in this Disney version.  That scene stuck with me through childhood and into adulthood. I learned that what I always thought of as “The Headless Horseman” as a kid was actually a short story called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving who wrote it in 1819.  As a lover of books I thought to give Irving’s short story a try. I now read Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” every year around October and November. It is the best book to read around the autumn season as it has all things that we associate with autumn in it: scary ghost stories, brilliant autumn scenery, and an abundance of good food.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a great ghost story.  Irving sets the story in superstitious Sleepy Hollow whose residents pass the time by telling stories about the ghosts they’ve seen first hand.  The Headless Horseman, or the Hessian of the Hollow, is the favorite among the locals but there are others. A Woman in White shrieks on winter nights before a storm because she perished in the snow and the unfortunate Major Andre who met his demise at the wrong end of a rope in a large gnarled tree.  “Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled underfoot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country population” (Irving 1078).

Ichabod Crane, the community’s school master, was very receptive to the Sleepy Hollow ghost stories.  He enjoyed adding to them from his copy of Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft in which “He most firmly and potently believed” (Irving 1063).  Ichabod’s willingness to believe in the ghost stories makes him a prime candidate to meet with the Headless Horseman.

It’s thanks to Ichabod that we have such a wonderful description in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” of a farm community in the autumn.  He notices the brilliant autumn leaves and the bountiful harvest. Ichabod takes pleasure in the table and he notes all the farm animals and crops that will make excellent future dining.  It is through his appreciative eyes that we observe the tables laden with pies and cakes. The tables groan with their burdens of ham slices, beef, and broiled chicken. The spread of food would out do any of our Thanksgiving tables.  It is going home from this last gathering that the school master, Ichabod Crane, meets the Headless Horseman.

I won’t go into what happens next as an incentive for you to get the book from the library and read it for yourself.  Don’t cheat and watch a movie or see the Disney cartoon because Washington Irving’s story is much richer. It’s the difference between fast food and a five-star restaurant.  Reading Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will transport you from your comfortable armchair and into a small farming community with the abundance of the autumn season and ghosts for company.  

 

Works Cited

Irving, W.  Irving: Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent., Salmagundi, A History of New York, The Sketchbook, New York, Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1983.

Trick-or-Treating Disappearing?

It was Halloween and for the past few weeks I haven’t known my ATM pin number.  I took myself to the bank to get it reset. I walked into the branch and saw Halloween decorations everywhere.  The bank tellers wore pirate costumes and there were bowls of candy on the counters. A pirate-teller was finishing a transaction with a woman and they were talking about what there is to do in Twentynine Palms for Halloween.  The woman said she was new to town.

“Well, last year my kids went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood but we had maybe a 50% success rate” I said.  Many of the houses were dark and some of them were obviously at home but ignored the doorbell. It was rather frustrating.  It’s Halloween,darn it, participate!

“I think a lot of them were going to the activities at local churches” I said.

“Oh yeah, the trunk-or-treats are pretty popular” another pirate-teller lady said as she opened another window to help me with my forgotten ATM pin.

“It’s so sad that it seems trick-or-treating is disappearing” continued my Pirate-Teller,  “I remember when parents would stay home handing out candy and the kids out went around the neighborhood trick-or-treating.   You can’t do that anymore – it’s just not safe to leave your kids alone like that.”

I was impressed with her trick-or-treating memories.  My Pirate-Teller looked to be around my age and I didn’t have the same experience when I was a kid when I trick-or-treated in southern California.  My parents never let me go out with a bunch of other kids. There was always someone’s parent with us.

“Did you grow up here in Twentynine?” I asked.

“I grew up in Washington” my Pirate-Teller replied.

I was disappointed that she wasn’t from Twentynine Palms.  It would have been interesting to know what trick-or-treating was like in Twentynine Palms maybe 20-30 years ago.  

Is trick-or-treating disappearing in Twentynine Palms?  We’ve lived in two different neighborhoods here and the first neighborhood saw zero trick-or-treaters.  Zero. When we took our small children to trick-or-treat, neighbor after neighbor said they “didn’t buy no candy” and we left empty handed.  I resisted the temptation to deliver the “tricks” when we got no “treats.” We ended up sneaking onto the base housing by Luckie Park to get good trick-or-treating in.

In our current neighborhood we got our first trick-or-treaters.  It was neat to hear the clatter of people coming to the door and knocking or ringing our doorbell.  

“Trick-or-treat!” a chorus of little voices would say.

There weren’t a lot of people but it was enough for me to run out of candy.  We shut off the porch lights and turned off all the lights in the front of the house.  I was surprised when the doorbell rang. My husband and I exchanged guilty looks. This was the first time we ever pretended we weren’t home on Halloween.

The next morning I went outside and saw that the last group that we pretended we weren’t home with had destroyed the jack-o-lanterns that my kids were so proud of.  I swept away the remnants of the pumpkins angry and bewildered that someone would do such a thing,. I was tempted before to dish out the “tricks” but to actually carry them out?

We had a few trick-or-treaters this year and they all came after 7pm.  I made sure I had plenty of candy so children wouldn’t have to carry out the “tricks” if I didn’t have the “treats.”  Some of the kids coming up the walk were driven by their parents. They’d stop the car to let out the kids when they saw a lit house.  I also had a group of kids come by that I hoped this would be their last Halloween trick-or-treating. Their voices weren’t little when they said “Trick-or-treat” and it was more a statement and not an exclamation.  

My husband took our kids around our neighborhood to those houses we knew and then went over to a housing development near our home.  Our young neighbor asked my son if he was going to base to trick-or-treat as he hopped into the car in his costume. People seem to opt for base housing where the homes are closer together and there are sidewalks or they head over to the church trunk-or-treats.  The City of Twentynine Palms offered a Halloween Fun Fest with games, candy, and a haunted house. They advertised it as a “Safer alternative to traditional door-to-door trick or treating.”

Trick or treating is not disappearing in Twentynine Palms, it’s just not happening around my neighborhood.  The idea of going door-to-door and getting treats on Halloween is very much alive in Twentynine Palms. It’s just not happening as much in the neighborhoods like mine where the houses are spread out and there are no street lights or sidewalks.  I will still make sure that I have plenty of candy, just in case.

The Cricket Wars

The sound of crickets chirping has always been a soothing sound to me.  It greeted me as I arrived home late at night and walked to the door after parking in the driveway.  The chirping crickets kept us company while we trick-or-treated in our neighborhood as we walked from house to house.  On the ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Disneyland we floated past the man smoking his pipe while he watched the evening as the crickets were chirping in the make-believe scene.  The animatronic figure rocked back and forth in his rocking chair on his front porch of his house in the swamp.

I learned recently that the frequency of a cricket chirp can be modeled linearly.  The warmer the evening is, the higher frequency the cricket chirps. There’s even an equation that you can plug in the degrees in fahrenheit and predict how many chirps per minute a cricket will sound.

The sound of crickets chirping in the evening outside is a wonderful sound.  Crickets chirping inside is not soothing at all. A cricket inside the house is a trespasser.  

It started in the garage.  I would go in the garage to get something and hear a cricket chirping in there.  Huh, I thought, there’s a cricket in here. Wonder what he’s doing in here? A garage is not the optimal place for a cricket to live.

The garage was only the beginning of the cricket assault.  A few nights later I heard one in a storage closet that shares a wall with my 7-year old son’s bedroom.  We kept the cat boxes in there and and stored extra household items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.  Huh, I mused, wonder why a cricket is in here? The storage closet is at the opposite end of the house from the garage and is not the optimal place for a cricket to live.

I didn’t think much of the crickets in the garage or storage room after that. But when my son said at bedtime one night “Mom, I can’t sleep, the cricket’s chirping too loud.” It became a matter of family security.  

I dutifully opened the storage room and was greeted with nothing but darkness and the almost constant sound of a cricket chirping.  I flipped the light switch to dispel the darkness but saw nothing but cat boxes and cleaning supplies.  It must have been hot in there to the cricket as he was chirping at a very high rate from some hidden position.   There was no way for me to see the cricket much less stop him from chirping.

War was declared between the crickets and I.  The crickets won that battle that night as my son took his blankets and set up his bed for the night on the floor of my bedroom so he could sleep.

Since then my son has relocated to our bedroom to sleep a few more times.  It was not every night but it was enough for me to recognize that I was losing battles in the Cricket Wars.  New measures had to be taken. I would give no mercy and appointed myself judge, jury, and executioner when it came to the crickets in the house.

I delivered the first verdict while reading in my favorite chair in my bedroom.  I spotted something scuttling out of the corner of my eye and I after I verified that it was a cricket and not a cockroach (my husband is the judge, jury, and executioner of cockroaches) I sprang into action.  I grabbed one of my sandals lying nearby where I kicked them off and carried out the execution. No mercy was granted to the trespassing cricket.

I have extended the duty of cricket executioner to my kids.  They were trained in the procedures after they came running down the hall “Mom! Mom!  There’s a cricket in the bathroom!”

“Go kill it!” I replied.

My son was too happy to comply with this command.  But my daughter wanted to grant the cricket probation by removing it from the bathroom and setting it loose outside.  I am still working on my daughter’s training in cricket execution.

The family cat has also joined in the Cricket Wars.  Every morning, an hour before everyone is up, the cat and I hang out at my little desk.  I sip my coffee while she’s curled up in my lap. One morning she jumped down from my lap and was interested  in something by the small bookcase nearby. She sniffed at it and I saw it hop. The cat found herself a small cricket.  She pawed it around the floor and pounced on it. When she grew bored of her game she gave one last jump on it and chomped down the cricket as a pre-breakfast appetizer.  Judge. Jury. Executioner.

I suppose I could look into hiring an exterminator but I’m leery about all the chemicals they spray around the house.  We haven’t seen a cricket for a few weeks now. I’m sure the Cricket Wars are not over but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve won this battle.  Crickets should keep their high-frequency chirping outside and trespassers will not be tolerated. I’ve got highly-trained cricket executioners and a guard-cat on duty 24 hours a day.

Pioneer Days Parade 2018

Saturday of Pioneer Days in Twentynine Palms is our favorite day of the 3-day event.  Starting the day with pancakes at the fire station and then watching the parade is the best part about Pioneer Days.  What began as a novelty for our 2-year old son to have breakfast in the fire station on Adobe Road has become tradition for us.  We love arriving to the fire station and being served by the fire fighters and seeing the huge fire engines up close. For $16 our family of four can enjoy a great breakfast with other members of the community.

Our parade-viewing strategy this year is a little different.  After trying to view the parade on Adobe Road and baking in the sun, we decided that Twentynine Palms Highway may be a better choice.  We parked the car in the public parking behind Papa John’s Pizza and walked a few blocks to the fire station on Adobe Road to have breakfast.

Once our bellies were full of scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes from the firehouse we made our way to the parade route.  On the way there we saw the Jelly Donut beckoning to us like the sirens in Homer’s “Odyssey.” The highway was already closed for the parade but we looked both ways before we crossed anyway.  We were greeted with the wonderful smell of fresh donuts. Once armed with our donut bounty we crossed the highway again to the shaded curb and settled in to watch the parade while feasting on donuts.  Parade viewing is more pleasurable with a donut in one hand and a coffee in the other.

Now came the hard part – waiting patiently until the parade starts.  This is difficult for kids of all ages. We were close to the beginning of the parade route and could see them lining up into position.  The wait was unbearable. My daughter couldn’t wait any longer.

“Can I see what time it is?” She asked for at least the third time since we’ve sat down.

I plucked my cell phone out of my purse and handed it to her.  She looked at it.

“It’s 10 o’clock!” She announced.

No sooner had the words left her mouth that the police car at the beginning of the procession lit up it’s lights and blared it’s sirens.  We all jumped, startled at the blast of sound. The parade began to move forward. It started exactly on time.

On came the parade.  We all stood when the color guard came and men removed their hats.  What followed was a representation of the community’s best. The Marines were first.  They rolled down Twentynine Palms Highway in a big LAV-25, Humvee, and MTVR. These large armored vehicles were impressive up close.  I never appreciated their size passing by caravans of them while driving on the highway.

“Look honey,” said a young mother to her son, “Marines, just like daddy.”

Palm Vista Elementary school and Joshua Tree National Park had representatives in the parade.  The Kiwanis Club, the Fraternal Eagles, and the Twentynine Palms Historical Society were also there.  The Sky’s the Limit tossed hand fulls of small buttons into the crowd with their logo on it from a fancy convertible.  There were also people in the parade who want to be elected to serve the community in November.

Everyone was waving and smiling to those watching them along the street.  It’s so neat to see all different members of the community come together representing our city.

This year there was a ton of goodies that were passed out to the audience by those in the parade.  My kids got fliers from Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, American Heritage Girls, Trail Life USA, and two Fall festivals put on by local churches Halloween Night.  Each flier was accompanied by a piece of candy or two. The kids got so much candy that I commented that we wouldn’t have to go trick-or-treating this year.  My children looked up at me in horror not recognizing I was teasing them.

People walked up and down the parade route trying to sell things.  The kids looked longingly at the man selling cotton candy and novelty toys.  Other kids were lucky because their parents bought them bubble blowers and plastic noisemakers from the cart.  My children looked at the cart knowing they couldn’t have anything from it because they chose donuts instead. On his return trip, the man pushing the cart slowed down as he walked past my kids.  Smiling at them, he tempted them with the goodies hoping their mom would cave in and buy some pretty junk. I smiled back at him and he kept walking.

We saw my children’s coaches and classmates.  I saw my coworkers and students – both former and present.  We waved and said hello and got an occasional hug. It’s nice to feel part of the community.

The parade ended, as parades usually do, with emergency vehicles blasting their sirens.  Like “the wave” at a large stadium, People stood up and put away their folded chairs as the emergency vehicles passed them by.  My large mom-purse was filled with all the goodies that were handed out from the parade participants as we stood and packed up our things to leave.  

“We’re going to trade your candy in for a toy, sweetheart” said a mom to her young son.

“That’s a good idea,” I told her.  “Otherwise mom and dad would eat it, right?”

“Oh no.  It would go straight into the trash!” She replied.  

When we got home we dumped all the goodies on the kitchen table and separated the candy from the fliers they were taped to.  This candy isn’t going into the trash because I don’t have it in me to be wasteful. All that candy on the table wouldn’t fit in our candy jar.  So I asked my kids which ones they liked the least and I took those and set them aside to take to work. My high school students will appreciate them.  Throw away your own candy, as for me, I will save it to be appreciated by someone else.

Next year’s Pioneer Days Parade will be just as enjoyable.  Especially now that we know that the optimal viewing spot is on the highway.  We also know to bring a bag to carry all the goodies and fliers as the parade participants are very generous to kids.  Until next year, Twentynine Palms Parade!