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Opinion

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 4, 2016!

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 4, 2016!

Thursday, February 04, 2016  |  Staff

On this week's highly desirable Independent comics page: This Modern World talks to some political commentators; Jen Sorenson chats with a union member who supports Trump; The K Chronicles discusses some stuff he didn't get at first; and Red Meat finds Milkman Dan being a bully.

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Ask a Mexican: Why Do Gay Mexicans Go Back Into the Closet When They Return to Mexico?

Ask a Mexican: Why Do Gay Mexicans Go Back Into the Closet When They Return to Mexico?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016  |  Gustavo Arellano

Dear Mexican: I enjoyed reading the letter about lip liner some years back from the lovely Mexican lesbian.

I have met several guys from Mexico who came to the U.S. so they could come out of the closet. Nothing warms my middle-age gay heart more than when a nice Mexican young man says, “Hola, papi!” Ho...

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The Potted Desert Garden: Don't Settle for Just Cactus—Invite a Fairy Into Your Garden

The Potted Desert Garden: Don't Settle for Just Cactus—Invite a Fairy Into Your Garden

Tuesday, February 02, 2016  |  Marylee Pangman

The heat of the Coachella Valley will always hold its gardening challenges—but we’re not alone. Gardeners the world over are inspired to bend the rules and try to navigate uncharted waters, no matter where they live.

We have much more control over the environment around our desert homes when we garde...

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A Note From the Editor: It's a Month Full of Arts!

A Note From the Editor: It's a Month Full of Arts!

Monday, February 01, 2016  |  Jimmy Boegle

We’ve reached that time of year when it seems like there’s a big-deal event happening almost every weekend—a time of year which feverishly continues until the Stagecoach music festival closes out “season” in late April/early May.

Two of February’s biggest local events revolve around art: Modernism We...

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The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Jan. 28, 2016!

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Jan. 28, 2016!

Thursday, January 28, 2016  |  Staff

On this week's tantalyzing Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson wonders what would have happened in Flint had it been a rich city; The K Chronicles finds similarities in racism and littering; This Modern World examines phenomena found in presidential primaries; and Red Meat gets ready to settle an ar...

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Know Your Neighbors: On the Anniversary of 'Roe v. Wade,' Remember That Many Women Still Don't Have Access to Safe Abortion

Know Your Neighbors: On the Anniversary of 'Roe v. Wade,' Remember That Many Women Still Don't Have Access to Safe Abortion

Wednesday, January 27, 2016  |  Administrator

It’s difficult to find the right word to describe coming together to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade becoming the law of the land.

Celebrate? That doesn’t feel right, because even pro-choice individuals don’t think abortion should be “celebrated.” Commemorate? Yes, we do remember and memorialize th...

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My father’s recent death was not beautiful, and neither were any of the other deaths I’ve witnessed of late. This has left me wondering about a better path.

Death is not easy, to be sure, but these were made particularly painful by medical interventions—or perhaps I witnessed the confusion between saving a life and prolonging the process of dying.

So I threw a party. Or rather, I held my first Death Café—and it turned out to be a lively, invigorating affair.

In Europe, there’s a tradition of gathering to discuss important subjects—a café philo, for a philosophical café, or café scientifique, a scientific café. Now there are café mortel, or death cafés. A death café isn’t an actual place; it’s a temporary event in various locations, such as my home, complete with decorations and, for example, a cake with DEATH: THE FINAL FRONTIER scrawled on top.

My gathering included spunky friends, all in our middle years, all of us healthy. As it turns out, this is the segment of population that most seems to care about shaping the end of a life. A Pew Research Center study found that less than half of people older than 75 had given much thought to the end of their lives, and incredibly, only 22 percent of them had written down wishes for medical treatment. The same study, though, found a sharp increase in all adults putting something in writing (six of 10 of us), which indicates that percentage-wise, it’s the slightly younger folks who are preparing for their inevitable deaths.

This does not surprise me. For the last 14 years, I’ve been one of the 28 million Americans currently watching as someone dies. Baby Boomers and GenXers are caught in an unprecedented tide of taking care of both children and parents (not to mention ourselves and our own aging bodies); we are the first generation to be caught in this particular kind of care-giving-and-slow-death crisis. With medical intervention and technological wizardry, we’re forced to make decisions about procedures and medicines and ethics as never before. And we find ourselves without much guidance in a culture that’s conflicted and confused about dying.

Which is why we’re willing to talk. At my Death Café, I encouraged us not to focus on the deaths we had witnessed in the past, but instead to speak of the deaths that we want for ourselves in the future. Various results emerged. Half were afraid of the suffering that can precede death; half were afraid of death itself. A few of us had practiced death (“pretend this next breath is your last; what does that feel like?”), but all of us were convinced that doing so would only intensify and enlarge our lives.

The zeitgeist of this new movement is just now gaining momentum, but I can feel its strength and power. An unprecedented 66 percent of Americans now think there are instances in which doctors should allow a patient to die instead of doing everything possible to save that patient’s life. People would like to die—and sometimes would like others to die—and this doesn’t make us morbid or crazy or unethical or mean. No. We are merciful and kind. We are as moral as we are mortal. We just want to know how to gracefully do that is going to happen anyway.

What lies ahead is unexplored territory, much like death itself, really. Here in California, “Death With Dignity” legislation recently became law, and the state representative in my Colorado hometown is reintroducing a similar bill in that state. Don’t get me wrong; I am all for funding research, finding cures, and offering respite to caregivers. But it’s also our ethical duty to try for a chin-up, heart-steady end.

My father contracted pneumonia after 14 years of suffering with Alzheimer’s. He was given antibiotics; I was not in a legal position to object, but I’d have asked for comfort care only—not because I didn’t love him, but because I loved him enough to want him to have as natural and relaxed a death as possible. Instead, I saw him grimace in pain and fear. I saw tubes and syringes and the sores on his body. I saw the family he’d worked so hard to create break apart under the pressure. I saw his blue eyes fade, and they taught me well: This could happen to you, too.

Death is perhaps the greatest mystery we face, and the actual act of dying is the last physical act of our lives. We can strive to do it our way and to do it well. If anything deserves preparation, or some renewed clarity, death might be it. Which is why I suggest throwing a lively party.

Laura Pritchett is a contributor to Writers on the Range, an opinion service of High Country News. Her novel Stars Go Blue is based on her experience with her father.

What I say will not make me a popular person, but here it is: For excellent reasons, dogs should not be—and usually aren’t—allowed in the backcountry of national parks.

Dogs, being predators, bother wildlife even when they’re leashed. Then there’s canine fecal matter, which carries a number of diseases and parasites that may be passed on to wildlife.

Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of dogs are not good hikers; their paws become lacerated, and since they sweat through their feet, it is easy for them to overheat. If a dog gets lost or injured, search-and-rescue volunteers may have to risk their lives to aid the animal. This year, off-leash dogs had to be rescued from Volcanoes, Acadia, Kenai Fjords and Yellowstone national parks.

There seem to be many people who cannot bear to be away from their fuzzy loved one for the length of a hike in the wilderness, so they bring their dog along—even when it is prohibited. How do they get away with that, you may ask? Easy: They just say it is a “service” or “therapy” dog.

Bingo. No one can question the service dog. Websites selling service-dog vests, collars and even bandanas brag you can “Take your dog anywhere.” Then they add that they sincerely hope no one is gaming the system by registering a service dog that is not, in fact, a service dog. Right.

In 2011, the National Service Animal Registry signed up 2,400 emotional support animals. Last year, it registered 11,000. No paperwork required; this is on the honor system. Public employees such as park rangers may ask whether the dog in question is a service dog, but they may not ask about the manner of a person’s disability. One is allowed to ask what the dog is trained to react to and what, as a caring professional, one should do upon that occasion. Websites promoting pseudo-service dogs warn that one should have the answer memorized so “it flows smoothly.” If the question evokes a blank stare from those who have not rehearsed their smooth response, one can, if one is in a snarky mood and out of uniform, mention that “liars go to hell.”

Those protected under the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act are not pleased. Some say they are concerned that the rights of those with disabilities will be undermined by those who want Fido along and are willing to lie to achieve that goal. Although passing a dog off as a service animal is a federal offense, perpetrators figure they won’t get caught.

This is becoming enough of a problem on and off trails that municipalities such as Prescott, Ariz., are passing or proposing laws penalizing the pseudo-service dog. Meanwhile, national parks are allowed to close an area to service animals if it is determined that the animal poses a threat to the health or safety of people or wildlife. Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks both require that service dogs be registered with the backcountry office. The owner is schooled on trail etiquette, and search-and-rescue is alerted.

Rangers say that they never used to see dogs; now they deal with them 20 to 30 percent of the time. A dog owner may be ticketed if the dog is off-leash, barking or defecating on the trail—but not for lying about the dog’s status.

Mule wranglers at Grand Canyon say mules will attack a dog. On a narrow trail with a cliff on one side, this is not a good scenario. One wrangler says the half-dozen dog owners she has met cooperated in moving their dog out of sight; still, they’re a hazard.

Make no mistake: There are those for whom having their dog along can be a matter of life and death. When a legitimate service dog is on the trail, the owner usually sets a realistic itinerary and avoids extreme temperatures. But they often leave the dog home, because they do not want their animal exposed to danger or put under stress.

So what, you might ask, is the harm to a national park if a true or faux service dog is well-behaved while it’s there? Badly behaved teenagers surely do more damage to the wilderness than dogs; after all, dogs don’t spray paint their name on the rocks.

For me, it’s the lack of respect for a park’s rules that gets my goat—the notion that rules apply to other people, but not to me.

Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff is a contributor to Writers on the Range, an opinion service of High Country News, where this piece first appeared.

We Americans have been spoiled by low costs for so long that we have started acting as if low costs were our birthright, which explains why our government leaders have never been in any real hurry to do anything significant about our southern borders. Now, many spoiled, control-freak Americans are throwing temper tantrums over this issue, without thinking ahead. Careful; sometimes you WILL get what you ask for, only to end up wishing you’d just kept your greedy, selfish little mouth shut.

Surely someone has done a legitimate impact study of the volume and variety of the lowered costs we Americans enjoy on a daily basis due to our government’s playing the “indulgent uncle” on the issue of illegals from Mexico.

Conservative, but Not Crazy

Dear Gabacho: Oh, there are as many studies about the impact of undocumented folks on the economy as there are Mexicans who say their grandpa rode with Pancho Villa. Of course, almost all of those reports are biased bullshit, whether from the left (anything produced by Latino congressmen) or the right. (I’m looking at you, o hateful Federation for American Immigration Reform—was it someone from your crew or another of your Know Nothing ilk who, after a Vietnamese-American woman was tragically killed by a Mexican-American woman, wanted to know if the perp was an “illegal alien savage”?)

The only group hewing to the middle ground, alas, is the feds: They say that if we don’t legalize undocumented folks, we’ll lose $80 billion in unrealized gains by 2023; deficits will increase by $50 billion; and Social Security won’t get the $50 billion illegals could contribute if only they were legal. Of course, a Communist Kenyan runs the White House, so that report is also invalid.

So the truthful answer? What your humble Mexican says: #fuckthehaters.

Why are Mexicans so afraid of earthquakes? (George Lopez’s television show even based an episode around this topic.) Don’t you people know that here in the USA, we have something called “building standards” (unlike the adobe and Play-Doh used in Mexico for construction)? After the last big Northridge quake, you panochas were so afraid of being indoors that you made the local parks look like a Mexican-Woodstock!

Panocha Lover in Huntington Beach

Dear Gabacho: Pendejo, can we start with you using panocha (“pussy,” for those who don’t habla) as a slur? You had a great question that I won’t answer because of your stupidity. Anyone who uses the word as a synonym for cowardice obviously can’t get any. You want to call a Mexican a coward? Call him “Enrique Peña Nieto” or “Donald Trump”—or, better yet, “Panocho Lover in Huntington Beach.”

BORDERTOWN PREMIERE DATE!

Gentle cabrones: Am excited to announce that Bordertown—the animated FOX show that’s like a Mexican second-cousin marriage of Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers and on which I served as consulting producer—will have its debut Jan. 3 at 9:30 p.m.! Make sure to watch live, DVR it—and please DO NOT pirate the show … until Season 4, at least. Tune in, and join the #televisionreconquista!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

When I moved to a small town in the Mojave Desert last spring, I found myself in a new relationship with garbage.

There’s some serious junk festering in the sands of the Southwest: toxic dumps, airplane graveyards, nuclear test sites, and so on. An abandoned disposal site in Yuma, Ariz., holds a mountain of toxic e-waste from California. The Mesquite Regional Landfill in Imperial County, near the Mexican border, takes in rail-transported loads of garbage from Los Angeles. And the lonely section of the Mojave between Victorville and Las Vegas is known to be a choice stretch of body-dumping territory.

It makes for an odd and sometimes grim American miscellany. But the longer I’m here, the more inevitable the combination of desert and trash seems to be.

We live in a country that promises eternal newness. But we’ve never been great at dealing with yesterday’s new––the old new, the long-dead new, the new stuff that’s no longer shiny. It haunts us, gathering dust in the corners, lingering in the air like an unpleasant smell. It makes us uncomfortable, cluttering our lives. So we cast it away—into an emptiness that seems to dwarf it, a place where nobody will notice it.

This gesture makes sense, if you assume vastness and cleanliness are the same. They aren’t, of course. But it’s hard to remember that from our usual vantage on the desert—which is from a distance.

Even here in Southern California, I can climb away from what we leave behind. The scramble up 10,834-foot Mount San Jacinto is itself a kind of cleansing. The last half-hour to the peak is a crawl over white boulders, like chunks of old, hardened clouds, before a last breathless balance up the highest slab. At the top, 360 degrees of pure perception is yours for the turning, the taking, while the desert stretches its vast and apparently golden carpet far below.

The power of erasure can seem unlimited—at least until it comes up against some of the hardest trash to get rid of: the personal kind. As I get acquainted with the desert’s landscape of castoffs, I recall long-lost trash of my own. The Little Debbie wrappers, leftovers and wadded-up pieces of paper scattered around raccoon-raided cans in my childhood backyard in Florida; the stale peanut butter and marshmallows we used to trap said raccoons and then later release them by the creek; the decorative bunches of eucalyptus that I hauled from a dumpster and sold to neighbors out of my Radio Flyer wagon. The many apartment furnishings I gathered curbside on garbage collection days in Los Angeles. The pink sweatbands that found their way from my trash in New York City onto the head and wrists of a homeless man at the next subway station.

Many of us have bagged and tied off all kinds of memories and feelings, and buried them deep, left them to decompose, hoping that they’ll somehow disappear in the vastness of time and experience. But our memories and desires are not so easily disposed of. Periodic radioactivity of the heart is part of the human condition. We’ve all got some personal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant inside.

“Throwing away” just might be the dominant fiction of American consciousness. It’s the flipside of the American dream, a dark corollary to the myth of the West: The ability to become whatever you desire requires the ability to toss things away without looking back. We handle our personal garbage pretty irresponsibly. Perhaps, if we’re serious about valuing our environment, it behooves us to value our inner landscapes, too, expanding the notion of “sustainability” so that it includes more than just physical ways of being. Emotional trash may not disappear easily, but it’s a hardy material. It can be reused. Recycled. Whether for love, art or the common good, there’s tremendous power in learning to own what we wish we could just throw away.

So, in an awkward move toward reintegration, I am making an inventory of what I find as I dig into my own exterior and interior deserts.

Kleenex. Three peach pits. A wad of masking tape. Cat poop. Bad drafts of poems.

An empty box of assumptions. Old grudges. Some limitations. Some hopes, some sadness, some fear.

And this glazed, broken bowl that, if I bend over it at just the right angle, throws back a blurred reflection.

Elizabeth Wyatt is a writer and artist based in Joshua Tree. This piece originally appeared in High Country News.

It’s a claim that drives journalists crazy: Why is the media so negative? Why don’t newspapers cover positive news?

For argument’s sake, if we take the position that this claim is accurate (and it’s not; media sources generally give a lot of pixels, airtime or ink to arts, music, food and culture news that is, by its very nature, positive … but that’s a discussion for another time), much of our recent coverage here at the Coachella Valley Independent (including much of the content in our July print issue) is bucking the trend: A lot of our recent stories have landed on the positive side of things.

First: Brian Blueskye’s story on Yucca Valley 18-year-old Aiden Stockman, which is a must-read. I first learned about Aiden at Palm Springs Pride’s Harvey Milk Breakfast in May, at which Aiden and his mother spoke. Tears were flowing as Aiden and his mom talked about Aiden’s struggles with his gender identity—and the amazing acceptance Aiden’s Yucca Valley High School classmates showed him when he finally came out as transgender. However, not everything about Aiden’s story is happy: He faces a lot of obstacles when it comes to employment and his future.

After the Harvey Milk Breakfast, I asked Brian to get in touch with Aiden so we could share this story with a wider audience—and Brian did a fantastic job.

Second: Several of our recent news stories are rather uplifting. I recently penned a piece on the brand-new Sunny Dunes Antique District: A diverse group of businesses (many of which are new) in the area of Sunny Dunes Road just east of Palm Canyon Drive have banded together to work with the city and other groups to develop and promote the cool things going on the area.

Also: A couple of weeks ago, Brane Jevric brought us the story of Kane, a Palm Springs Police K-9 that took the place of a dog that was killed in the line of duty.

Of course, per usual, we’ve been publishing all sorts of great arts, food and music coverage, including a review of a fantastic brand-new revue at the Desert Rose Playhouse, a piece on delicious sour beers made in California, and an exclusive music mix from SynthEtiX, compliments Alex Harrington’s DuneCast.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the July 2015 edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, on newsstands now.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 12:00

A Note From the Editor: April Is Music Month!

Written by

It was two years ago this month that the first print edition of the Independent hit the streets of the Coachella Valley—three months after the “official” launch of CVIndependent.com.

Through 28 months of online publication and 21 print editions (two quarterlies and 19 monthlies, if you’re keeping score) so far, we’ve constantly strived to be a true alternative publication—in other words, cover topics that have gotten short shrift in the other local media.

One of those topics was music. Since Day 1, we’ve made an effort to cover as wide of a variety of music as possible—and I am proud of how we’ve done. This brings us to the topic of our second annual Music Issue, which is hitting streets this week. Some of the Music Issue stories have already been posted at CVIndependent.com; the remainder will be posted soon. We have a total of 10 stories previewing acts who will be performing at Coachella or Stagecoach, plus tons of other great music coverage.

Another undercovered topic we’ve been tackling: Issues in the East Valley. I am proud to say you can find two features that focus on the East Valley in this month’s print edition. Kevin Fitzgerald brings us the story of Agua4All, an effort to bring safe drinking water to areas of the eastern Coachella Valley where there has been none; you can read about that at CVIndependent.com on Friday. Also: Brian Blueskye tells the story of Martha’s Village and Kitchen, a fantastic nonprofit in Indio that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping the valley’s homeless.

Finally, I want to mention something we won’t be covering. Yet another topic that’s been undercovered in the valley is theater. For two years now, we’ve made every effort to ethically and fairly review all local productions that run for more than one week—and we’ve done just that.

However, at least for now, we won’t be reviewing Desert Theatreworks shows. After a review of the company’s production of Lost in Yonkers, company management stopped granting us review tickets. It’s worth noting that although Desert Theatreworks’ management took the time to berate the reviewer after the review was published, emails and a phone call from me to discuss the matter went unreturned.

Desert Theatreworks is now the second local company to do this; Palm Canyon Theatre has been denying the Independent review tickets for more than a year now.

The truth hurts sometimes, eh?

On Valentine’s Day, I did something that, at one time, I never thought I’d be able to do: I married my boyfriend.

When I first started dating the man who is now my husband, some 12-plus years ago, same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the United States. My, how times have changed: As of this writing, same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia—and even the staunchest same-sex-marriage opponents concede it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s legal throughout the United States.

The rate at which same-sex marriage has become accepted and legal has been simply stunning; after all, it has been less than 11 years since it first became legal anywhere in the U.S. (in Massachusetts). And look where we are now.

Unfortunately, legal change on other important social issues has not been so swift. This brings us to a recent Independent story, by Sacramento-based writer Melinda Welsh, on the right-to-die movement. (It's the cover story in our March print edition; you can also read more from Anita Rufus on the local angle here.)

Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act was approved by voters in 1994 (and it went into effect after an injunction was lifted in 1997)—yet today, physician-assisted death is legal only in three states, period. This is despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans say physicians should be able to “end (a critically ill) patient’s life by some painless means” if the patient so desires, according to a 2014 Gallup Poll.

However, the legal tide may be about to change, thanks in part to Brittany Maynard. Last year, the California resident was forced to move to Oregon in order to die with dignity after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She made her situation very public—and got a lot of attention in the process, before passing away on Nov. 1, 2014, at the age of 29.

In the wake of Maynard’s crusade, progressive lawmakers around the country are reintroducing death-with-dignity legislation. Welsh’s story looks at the situation in California. It’s a fantastic piece; you really should check it out, if you haven't already.

As always, I encourage you to let me know your thoughts; my email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

As festival season heads into full swing, I can’t help but wonder: How involved is the average Coachella Valley local in these big events?

Take the Palm Springs International Film Festival, for example. I’ve heard grousing that the festival, which started out as a smaller event designed primarily for locals, has grown into an event that’s more for L.A. and film-industry folks, and less for Coachella Valley residents. (When you consider how hard it is for locals to get tickets to some of the bigger film-fest events and screenings, you may realize that those grousers have a point.)

This brings us to a couple of February’s bigger events—especially Modernism Week. I have a confession to make: I have never attended a Modernism Week event. The same goes for many of my friends.

Why haven’t I ever attended a Modernism Week event? While it’s true that many Modernism Week tours sell out weeks and months in advance, it’s also true that a lot of other events—good events, some of which are low-cost or free—don’t sell out. Therefore, I can’t blame a lack of availability.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that when it comes to the behemoth series of events that is Modernism Week (which includes many hundreds of things to do), I didn’t really know where to start. Hence the “Modernism 101” story.

My goal in doing this piece was to answer a lot of the questions I (and, presumably, other locals) have about Modernism Week—and modernism in general, for that matter. Did I succeed? Judge for yourself.

Our great arts coverage coming to CVIndependent.com this month (and already out in our February print edition): a story on renowned local designer Christopher Kennedy; a piece on the neighborhood tours offered during Modernism Week; and a primer on another cool arts event happening this month: the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

I promise: I will attend at least one or two Modernism Week events this year. If you’re in the same boat that I am, I hope these stories will help you decide to take part in this year’s Modernism Week, too.

I hope you enjoy all of our coverage. As always, thanks for reading.

College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community.

But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives?

That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school.

The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her heart for adult women who return to school to improve their lives.

“Basically, I was one of them back in the 1980s,” she said. “I had made some bad choices early on, but finally realized that I needed to get an education to improve my life and the life of my boys. I learned first-hand that a combination of financial assistance and encouragement from other women was a magical combination for success. There are so many common threads in women’s lives, and they tend to thrive when they have the support of other women who have been there.”

Girlfriend Factor’s educational grants, known as GoGirl! Grants, are given to local women 25 years or older who show financial need and have chosen a specific educational path that will lead them to a specific employment opportunity. GoGirl! Grants are renewable, staying with the recipients until they graduate. Supporters of GFF, known as Girlfriends, act as cheerleaders to the women they assist, providing them with encouragement. GFF also brings them together occasionally, where they can meet other recipients to share experiences and friendship.

“These students are very fortunate to live within a community that has such a wealth of great educational institutions such as College of the Desert and Cal State-San Bernardino,” said Busick. “Most recipients end up staying within the Coachella Valley once they graduate since they are already established here, which is another positive aspect of assisting local adult women.”

For the Girlfriend Factor, it’s all about local funds for local women. The leaders of GFF believe that charitable giving is most effective when supporting local individuals who ultimately become productive members of their own economy.

“When you put a face to the individual you are assisting, the difference you are making becomes real,” Busick said.

For donors to the Girlfriend Factor who truly want a direct connection to the women they are assisting, GFF recently established Personalized Giving Grants, which provide naming rights of the grant and designate a specific recipient to receive that grant, creating relationships that are gratifying on both sides.

Not only are the students receiving GoGirl! Grants nontraditional; the organization itself tends to raise funds and gain support by marching to its own drummer.

“We attempt to not take ourselves too seriously,” Busick said. “We try to always have an element of fun when raising funds to improve women’s lives.”

The next GFF event is Club Cabana, an evening when GFF celebrates local professional men who support GFF’s charitable mission. This year’s Club Cabana is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at Toscana Country Club.

To learn more about Girlfriend Factor, visit www.thegirlfriendfactor.org.

The brown paper bag I carried out of the bookstore wasn’t there for the sake of discretion. Truth be told, the bookstore refuses to handle plastic anymore.

Ideally, the clerk told me, the store was on the verge of going entirely bagless, so I was lucky to be handed a brown paper sack. But it was raining, fortunately, and as I walked down the sidewalk trying to shield my new purchase, I secretly imagined a few genuine watermarks marring the surface of a page or two—indelible reminders that the spine of the West’s summer drought had finally been broken.

When (and if) the electronic book revolution gets more flexible and affordable, this bookstore might also be going bookless. Despite our latest national fixation with banning disposable plastic bags, nobody knows exactly how the future will be packaged. From an eBook merchandiser’s point of view, the traditional book is the archetype of excess packaging, and the ideas on the page are the only product an ecologically minded consumer should have to purchase. As a wordmonger, I tend to agree, but not entirely.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking that the Earth would be a lot better off without plastic bags. At the time of their appearance in the consumer world, they were touted as cheaper, lighter, more durable and a blessing when it came to saving trees. Now, as is the case with many innovations, the blessing has been transformed into a curse: No matter where you live, plastic bags billow and blow like dried leaves across the landscape or clog up the rivers. Allegedly, 100 billion of them get tossed out annually, a one-use trip from the checkout line to the landfill.

Major cities in the West have taken action to ban the plastic bag, some going so far as to charge shoppers 10 cents and a nasty look if they must beg for paper. Last month, California became the first state to enact a ban.

During disposable-bag debates, I wonder if anyone is talking about the sheer volume of packaging being hauled away inside those plastic and paper hammocks that cradle the products we buy, not to mention the shipping cartons and reams of plastic wrap that arrive by the semi-load at every shopping outlet before the merchandise gets arranged as stock on every American retail shelf.

Yes, there’s plenty of waste to go around, but the burden of it manages to fall, once again, squarely in the shopper’s cart.

I try to remember my reusable bags when I go out. Just like the 15 pairs of reading glasses I tuck into every corner of my house, bags are stuffed all over my vehicle, into the trunk, under the seats and in the glove compartment. I compress them into the tiny pockets of my backpack, bicycle and scooter saddlebags. Yet somehow, inevitably, I sometimes end up standing bagless in the checkout line, forced to accept plastic bags, or if I’m really lucky, increasingly rare paper bags, which come in handy as garbage-can liners.

I’m guessing that this new set of regulations will only prompt human beings to find sneakier ways around them. Some cities that have banned the bag have already reported increases in shoplifting, thanks to the influx of personal reusable sacks in their stores. Sadly, as long as saving money is the bottom line, the planet will never be our No. 1 concern.

As a community, I know we should be more than semi-conscious about the problem, but then again, is anyone keeping track of how many customers reuse or recycle the plastic bags they collect in some form or another? I know we’re offered secondhand bags with every secondhand purchase we make at garage sales and thrift stores. Surely, education and not just banning plastic bags, is key to solving the problem. Or am I a Pollyanna?

Though I may be compost before the average plastic bag breaks down, I can’t help foreseeing a future city or coastline where mounds of tote bags—all discarded—have come to rest. Ah, someone tells me, this is our newest unnatural wonder, the great dunes of our good intentions.

David Feela is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News.