Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Monday, everyone!

Last week in this space, we linked to an article in which many experts were quoted as saying that curfews—like the one most of the state is under now—don’t help much when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

Well, uh, here’s an article from the Los Angeles Times that says the opposite:

It should be no surprise, as acting state public health officer Dr. Erica Pan outlined in her health order, that late-night activities are often related to social gatherings where there’s “reduced inhibition and and reduced likelihood” of wearing masks and staying distanced from friends and family.

“It’s because bad behavior goes up in the evening, at least as I recall from college,” Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, said at a campus town hall meeting last week.

So … curfews are helpful, unless they’re not. Got that? Good.

In other news: While small private gatherings can obviously lead to COVID-19 spread, they aren’t driving the spike we’re seeing around the country, according to this New York Times piece:

Household gatherings have “become a major vector of disease spread,” the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, said in an interview with CNN in late October.

But many epidemiologists are far less certain, saying there is little evidence to suggest that household gatherings were the source of the majority of infections since the summer. Indeed, it has become much harder to pinpoint any source of any outbreak, now that the virus is so widespread and Americans may be exposed in so many ways.

“Somebody says something, and somebody else says it, and then it just becomes truth,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard University. “I worry about this narrative that doesn’t yet seem to be data-based.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post today interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci. And what did he have to say?

Until a vaccine is widely available, he said, people must remain vigilant about following public-health guidelines such as maintaining social distance from others. Infections are increasingly spreading through small gatherings of five to 15 people, he said.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s crazy how little we know about this disease, eight-plus months into the height of the pandemic.

Today’s news:

• Finally: The formal transition process has begun. According to CNN: “The General Services Administration has informed President-elect Joe Biden that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, according to a letter from Administrator Emily Murphy sent Monday afternoon and obtained by CNN. The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump's defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.” This news capped a busy day of transition news—including the announcement of several of Biden’s cabinet picks.

In Los Angeles County, officials are shutting down outdoor dining for at least three weeks—and say that a complete stay-at-home order could be put in place very soon if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. As a result, many restaurant owners are wondering if their businesses can survive.

• Another week, another vaccine-maker releases positive trial results. As The Washington Post explains: “AstraZeneca on Monday became the third pharmaceutical company to announce positive results from late-stage trials of a coronavirus vaccine, saying that its candidate, developed by Oxford University, is up to 90 percent effective. Scientists and politicians alike hailed the third straight week of buoyant scientific news as a sign that, even as coronavirus cases surge to devastating levels in many countries, an end to the pandemic is in sight.”

• The results of the Independent’s seventh annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll are here! Congrats to all the winners and finalists.

California’s first family is under quarantine after three of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids were in contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for the virus. “Thankfully, the entire family tested negative today. However, consistent with local guidance, we will be quarantining for 14 days,” Newsom tweeted. NPR has the details

The monoclonal antibody cocktail President Trump credited for helping him overcome the coronavirus has received emergency-use authorization from the FDA. MedPage Today explains: “The FDA authorized use of Regeneron's REGN-COV2 intravenous monoclonal antibody cocktail … for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients at high risk of progressing to severe disease, the agency said late Saturday. … ‘Authorizing these monoclonal antibody therapies may help outpatients avoid hospitalization and alleviate the burden on our health care system,’ FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in announcing the EUA.” 

• General Motors had been siding with President Trump in his effort to remove California’s ability to demand more fuel-efficient vehicles. Well, the automaker has changed its tune. Per The New York Times: “The decision by Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, to withdraw her company’s support for Trump administration efforts to strip California of its ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards was a striking reversal. It was also a signal that corporate America is moving on from President Trump. More specifically, it was a sign that Mr. Biden may find the auto industry amenable as he tries to reinstitute and rebuild Obama-era climate change regulations that Mr. Trump systematically dismantled, at times with the help of industry.”

• While SARS-CoV-2 is running amok in the U.S., people in China are living relatively normal lives. A scholar in public health, writing for The Conversation, says China is doing much better at handling the virus because the country learned lessons from a previous pandemic. Key quote: “My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century.”

Yes, please. Reuters reports: “New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she offered President-elect Joe Biden assistance with tackling the rampant outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. During the first talks between the two since Biden was elected as the next U.S. president, Ardern said she offered access to New Zealand’s most senior health officials …  New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19 from the community twice, and currently has just 58 active cases of the virus, all in managed isolation facilities. In contrast, the United States over the weekend recorded its 12 millionth case.”

Our partners at CalMatters bring us this fascinating story about a dispute between two high-ranking Democratic state leaders: “The unpaid invoices piling up in Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had climbed to more than $34.2 million. It was Nov. 2. Since early September, his staff had been wrangling with the staff of State Controller Betty Yee over whether Padilla’s office had the budgetary authority to pay for a $35 million contract it had awarded to public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker to run a statewide voter education campaign called Vote Safe California. The secretary of state’s office maintained that it did have budgetary authority. The controller’s office, which approves payments, maintained that it did not.

This San Francisco Chronicle article examines why more employers aren’t offering their employees coronavirus testing. Key quote: “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance to employers to include coronavirus testing, and it advised that people working in close quarters be tested periodically. However, the federal government does not require employers to offer those tests. But the board overseeing the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, on Thursday approved emergency safety rules that are soon likely to require the state’s employers to provide coronavirus testing to all workers exposed to an outbreak on the job at no cost to the employees. Testing must be repeated a week later, followed by periodic testing. California would be the first state to mandate this, though the regulation doesn’t apply to routine testing of employees. That is up to individual businesses.”

• We may soon learn a little bit more about dinosaurs due to the “Dueling Dinosaurs.” National Geographic explains: “For more than a decade, paleontologists have speculated about a single fossil that preserves skeletons of two of the world’s most famous dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. Not only are the bones arranged as they once were in life, but the dinosaurs are practically intertwined. Each specimen is among the best of its kind ever found. Together, the pair—nicknamed the ‘Dueling Dinosaurs’—present a paleontological mystery: Did the beasts just happen to be entombed together by chance, perhaps as carcasses caught on the same river sandbar? Or had they been locked in mortal combat? Nobody has been able to study the fossil to find out. But that’s about to change.”

Finally, the producers of Jeopardy! have announced the new host … sort of. The Associated Press, via SFGate, reports: “’Jeopardy!’ record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday. Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show's ‘Greatest of All Time’ title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January. A long-term host for Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8, will be named later.”

As always, thanks for reading the Daily Digest and the Coachella Valley Independent. Please click here to become a Supporter of the Independent if you want to help us be able to continue producing quality local journalism. Be safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

We here at the Independent debated postponing our annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll this year.

Why? Well, COVID-19 has rocked the Coachella Valley—and a fair number of the businesses and organizations that are often winners and finalists in the Best of Coachella Valley are either closed or severely limited due to the pandemic. To put it mildly: It’s been a tough year.

There’s also a financial aspect. To be frank, this issue is normally a money-maker—something that helps fund our operations during the leaner times of the year. This year, we predicted—correctly—that we’d see a marked decrease in revenue for this Best of Coachella Valley issue, and wondered whether it was worth doing, given the amount of time, energy and money we put into it.

However, the more we thought about things, the more it became apparent: Postponing the Best of Coachella Valley poll would be a terrible idea—as there’s never been a more important time to shine a light on the valley’s best businesses, individuals and organizations, precisely because so many of us are struggling right now.

We also feel an obligation to present the Best of Coachella Valley as an antidote, of sorts, to the other publications’ “Best Of” polls—which sometimes have, well, odd results. For our Best of Coachella Valley poll, we ask each reader to vote only once per round, because our goal is to come up with a slate of truly excellent finalists and winners. The other polls have no such prohibition, because the goal of those polls is not to get a great slate of finalists and winners—the goal is for the publications to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote.

To the many, many readers out there who voted this year: Thank you. And to the winners and finalists whose names appear in the following pages: Congratulations, and thank you helping make the Coachella Valley such an amazing place to live.

Welcome, everyone, to the Best of Coachella Valley 2020-2021.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Best Art Gallery


CODA Gallery



Runners up:

3. AutoErotica/Michael Weems Collection

4. Heather James Fine Art

5. Melissa Morgan Gallery


Best Indoor Venue

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Purple Room

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

6. The Show at Agua Caliente


Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Empire Polo Club

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheatre


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Palm Springs Public Arts Commission

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Old Town Artisan Studios


Best Local Band

The Gand Band


Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

3. Desert Winds Freedom Band

4. The Flusters

5. Avenida Music


Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy


Runners up:

2. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

3. Femme A

4. DJ Zephyr

5. Guy Worden


Best Local Musician (Individual)

Keisha D


Runners up:

2. Jesika von Rabbit

3. Giselle Woo

4. Chris Lomeli

5. Kal David


Best Local Visual Artist



Runners up:

2. Phillip K. Smith III

3. Tysen Knight

4. Adam Enrique Rodriguez

5. Zach Fleming-Boyles


Best Local Movie Theater

Mary Pickford Is D’Place


Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

3. Century La Quinta and XD

4. Century at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

6. Tristone Palm Desert 10 Cinemas


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Coachella Valley History Museum


Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre


Runners up:

2. CVRep

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote Stageworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs

Life in the Valley


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter


Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

4. FIND Food Bank

5. Well in the Desert

6. AAP-Food Samaritans


Best Gym

World Gym


Runners up:

2. EOS Fitness

3. In-Shape

4. Planet Fitness

5. 24 Hour Fitness


Best Yoga

Urban Yoga


Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Power Yoga Palm Springs

4. Desert Yoga Therapy

5. Hot Yoga Plus Palm Springs


Best Bowling Alley

Palm Springs Lanes


Runners up:

2. Fantasy Lanes Bowling

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo


Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty


Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Bear Wear

5. Q Trading Company


Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service


Runners up:

2. Sergio’s Automotive

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. Starrs Auto Repair

5. Cam Stone’s Automotive


Best Car Wash


Elephant Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash


Runners up:

3. Airport Quick Car Wash

4. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

5. La Quinta Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center


Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Desert Hot Springs Florist and Nursery

4. California Desert Nursery

5. Bob Williams Nursery


Best Pet Supplies



Runners up:

2. PetSmart

3. Petco

4. EarthWise Pet

5. PoshPetCare


Best Annual Charity Event

Faux Fur Ball (Palm Springs Animal Shelter)


Runners up:

2. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

3. Desert AIDS Walk

4. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

5. Concert for Autism

6. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala


Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Augustine Casino

5. Morongo Casino Resort


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runner up:

2. NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)


Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. Bryan Gallo, formerly of NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Gino LaMont, NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)

5. Thalia Hayden, NBC Palm Springs (KMIR Channel 6)


Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5


Runners up:

2. 107.3 Mod FM

3. 106.9 The Eagle

4. Mix 100.5

5. 93.7 KCLB


Best Local Radio Personality

Patrick Evans, CV 104.3


Runners up:

2. John Taylor, I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast

3. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

4. Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3

5. TK, 93.7 KCLB


Best Retail Music Store

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles


Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center


Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics


Runners up:

2. Interstellar Comic Books

3. Comic Asylum


Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club


Runners up:

2. Kimpton Rowan

3. The Saguaro Palm Springs

4. Renaissance Esmerelda Resort and Spa

5. Renaissance Palm Springs


Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Fantasy Lanes Bowling

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Escape Games at The River


Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center


Runners up:

2. PSA Organica

3. West Coast Cannabis Club

4. The Lighthouse

5. The Leaf El Paseo


Valley Professionals


Best Doctor

Dr. Laura Rush


Runners up:

2. Dr. Michael Jardula

3. Dr. Amanda Curnock

4. Dr. Tulika Singh

5. Dr. David Morris


Best Eye Doctor

Milauskas Eye Institute


Runners up:

2. Dr. Gregory McMahill (Costco)

3. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision Optometry)

4. Dr. Keith Tokuhara (Desert Vision Center)

5. Dr. Gregory McFarland (Desert Eyecare Center)


Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)


Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Baumann (Palm Desert Smiles)

3. Dr. Carolyn Izu (Desert Dental Excellence)

4. Lake Dental Palm Springs

5. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics


Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio


Runners up:

2. TIE

Dr. Scott Aaronson

Dr. Suzanne Quardt

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

5. Dr. Maria Lombardo


Best Attorney

Walker Clark


Runners up:

2. Christopher Heritage

3. Eric Rudolph

4. Renell Burch

5. Thurman Arnold


Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air


Runners up:

2. General Air Conditioning

3. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

4. Blair Heating and Air

5. Hyde’s Air Conditioning


Best Personal Trainer

Ted Guice


Runners up:

2. Jaime Jimenez

3. Derek Falk

4. Jay Nixon

5. Michael Butler


Best Chiropractor


Dr. Gina Davis

Dr. Stephanie Nazemi


Runners up:

3. Dr. Jim Cox

4. Dr. Naota Hashimoto

5. Dr. Terre York


Best Real Estate Agent

Shann Carr


Runners up:

2. Barbara Carpenter

3. Scott Histed

4. Paul Zapala

5. Gary Pisula


Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors

3. Palm Springs Councilmember Lisa Middleton

4. Sheriff Chad Bianco

5. La Quinta Councilmember Steve Sanchez

Fashion and Style


Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk


Runners up:

2. Wil Stiles

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Kimbals

5. Riga Designs


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing



Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. The Frippery

4. Plato’s Closet

5. Iconic Atomic


Best Furniture Store



Runners up:

2. H3K Home

3. West Elm

4. Mathis Brothers

5. Erik’s Furniture


Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Antique Galleries of Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

5. Consign Design


Best Jewelry Store

Leeds and Son Fine Jewelers


Runners up:

2. Tiffany and Co.

3. El Paseo Jewelers

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. The Fine Jewelry Bar


Best Hair Salon


Brien O’Brien Salon

J. Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Palm Springs Fine Men’s Salon

5. Jake Turner Salon


Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Palm Springs Yacht Club at the Parker Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

3. Spa at the Ritz-Carlton

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Omni Rancho Las Palmas


Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Palm Springs Fine Men’s Salon


Runners up:

2. Massage Envy

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. La Quinta Medspa

5. Bliss Chakra Spa


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Rancho Mirage Florist

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations


Best Tattoo Parlor

Cactus Tattoo Parlor


Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

4. Heatstroke Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Desert Vision Center


Runners up:

2. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

3. America’s Best

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry



Best Public Garden



Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Moorten Botanical Garden

4. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

5. Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert


Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek Loop

3. La Quinta Cove

4. Joshua Tree


Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree National Park


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Mount San Jacinto State Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area


Best Hike

Indian Canyons


Runners up:

2. Bump and Grind Trail

3. Cross Trail Loop

4. Museum Trail

5. Art Smith Trail


Best Park

Ruth Hardy Park


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Whitewater Park (Rancho Mirage Community Park)

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Panorama Park


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Running Wild

3. Dick’s Sporting Goods

4. Yellow Mart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Bike Palm Springs

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. Tri-A-Bike

5. BikeMan


Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

4, Yellow Mart


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

3. Indian Wells Golf Resort

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Desert Dunes Golf

For the Kids


Best Playground

Ruth Hardy Park


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Ironwood Park


Best Place to Buy Toys



Runners up:

2. The Lumpy Bunny

3. TIE

JadaBug’s Kids Boutique



Best Kids’ Clothing Store


JadaBug’s Kids Boutique



Runners up:

3. The Lumpy Bunny

4. The Children’s Place

5. Carter’s


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Jackalope Ranch


Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Escape Room Palm Springs

5. Get Air Trampoline Park


Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens


Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese’s

3. Boomers

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Shakey’s Pizza

Food and Restaurants


Best Casual Eats

Bongo Johnny’s


Runners up:

2. Trio Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Caterer

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge


Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Lynn Hammond Catering

4. Carousel Catering

5. Fusion Flair


Best Diner

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. Rick’s Restaurant

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. John’s Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods Market


Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. Whole Foods

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Sprouts Farmers Market


Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Real Italian Deli

4. On the Mark

5. TKB Deli and Bakery


Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow


2. TIE

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts


Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. Over the Rainbow

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Ice Cream/Shakes



Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Lappert’s Ice Cream

5. Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at Arrive


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Windmill Market

5. Palm Greens Café


Best Frozen Yogurt

Jus Chillin’


Runners up:

2. Tutti Frutti

3. Beach House

4. TIE

Yogurt Island



Best Bakery

Peninsula Pastries


Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

4. French Corner Café

5. Carousel Bakery


Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace


Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

5. Jackalope Ranch



Best Burger

Tyler’s Burgers


Runners up:

2. Tony’s Burgers

3. Eureka!

4. Grill-A-Burger

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Veggie Burger

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen


Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. MidMod Café

5. Palm Greens Café


Best Sandwich

The Real Italian Deli


Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. TKB Deli and Bakery

5. On the Mark


Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Norma’s Italian Kitchen

6. Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta


Best Wings

Smoke Tree BBQ


Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

4. TIE

Billy Q’s

The Village Palm Springs


Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café


Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Panera Bread


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Jamba

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Fruit Wonders


Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Three Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Local Coffee Roaster



Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company


Best Coffee Shop



Runners up:

2. Ernest Coffee

3. IW Coffee

4. 4 Paws Coffee Co.

5. Just Java


Best California Cuisine

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge


Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Acqua California Bistro


Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s


Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. Bongo Johnny’s


Best Brunch

Jake’s Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. The Tropicale

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Chinese

Roly China Fusion


Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. PF Chang’s

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune Asian Cuisine


Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine


Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Santorini Gyro

4. Athena Gyro

5. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio


Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Pomme Frite

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Chez Pierre’s Bistro


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Its Taste of India


Best Italian

Il Corso


Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s Palm Desert

4. Mario’s Italian Cafe

5. Il Giardino


Best Japanese

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey


Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Joyce’s Sushi


Best Korean

Sam’s Korean BBQ and Teriyaki Grill


Runners up:

2. Umami Seoul

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Maru Korean BBQ and Grill

5. K-Tofu House


Best Sushi

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey


Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Dragon Sushi

4. Kiyosaku Restaurant

5. Joyce’s Sushi


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill


Runners up:

2. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

3. Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar and Grill

4. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood Restaurant

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

4. Kaiser Grille

5. Morton’s The Steakhouse


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

3. Le Basil

4. My Thai

5. Blue Orchid


Best Vietnamese

533 Viet Fusion


Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. Pho Vu

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Fuzion Five


Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen


Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Luscious Lorraine’s


Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. Le Vallauris Restaurant

5. Jillian’s


Best Outdoor Seating

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. The Tropicale

5. State Fare Bar and Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton


Best Late-Night Restaurant

Paul Bar/Food


Runners up:

2. Blackbook

3. The Tropicale

4. Revel Public House

5. Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Best Mexican


El Mirasol

Las Casuelas Terraza


Runners up:

3. La Tablita

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Rincon Norteño


Best Salsa

El Mirasol


Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rincon Norteño

5. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill


Best Burrito

El Mirasol


Runners up:

2. El Ranchito Taco Shop

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Los Pepes Mexican Grill and Bar

Spirits and Nightlife


Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Revel Public House

3. Eureka!

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Burgers and Beer


Best Local Brewery

La Quinta Brewing Co.


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Las Palmas Brewing

5. Desert Beer Company


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Beer Hunter

4. AMP Sports Lounge

5. Neil’s Lounge


Best Cocktail Menu



Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. Trio Restaurant

5. Mr. Lyons Steak House


Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food


Runners up:

2. Bootlegger Tiki

3. Seymour’s

4. Truss and Twine

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Blackbook

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Streetbar

5. The Roost


Best Happy Hour



Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Trio Restaurant

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Fireside Lounge

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Club 5


Best Margarita

Blue Coyote Grill


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. El Mirasol

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

6. La Tablita


Best Martini

Paul Bar/Food


Runners up:

2. Melvyn’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Lulu California Bistro

6. Zin American Bistro


Best Nightclub

Purple Room


Runners up:

2. TIE

Chill Bar Palm Springs

Hunters Palm Springs

4. The Nest

5. Copa Palm Springs


Best Sports Bar

Big Rock Pub


Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. The Village Palm Springs

4. AMP Sports Lounge

5. Revel Public House


Best Wine Bar

V Wine Lounge


Runners up:

2. Zin American Bistro

3. Dead or Alive

4. La Fe Wine Bar

5. Counter Reformation


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. On the Mark

4. Bouschet

5. Desert Wine Shop on 111


Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale


Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. Stacy’s Palm Springs

4. Counter Reformation

5. Del Rey at Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

Best Bang for Your Yen

Misaki Sushi and Grill

Tucked away in the back of the large strip mall at the southeast corner of Washington Street and Highway 111 in La Quinta sits Misaki Sushi and Grill. In pre-COVID times, the small, bustling eatery was packed with sushi and sashimi fans devouring some of the valley’s best fresh fish, served up in generous slices, at reasonable prices.

But if you’re looking for something beyond reasonable prices, Misaki’s house combo meal is a fantastic deal. For as little as $16, you get to choose one item from a group that includes beef teriyaki, chicken teriyaki, salmon teriyaki, mixed tempura, gyoza and shumai; and one item from a second group, which includes a California roll, a spicy tuna roll, four pieces of nigiri sushi or six pieces of sashimi. (Some of these items come with an additional charge.) If you increase your expenditure by $3, can select a second item from that first group.

The phone-order and curbside pickup service—so important these days—offered by the Misaki staff is convenient and efficient. For people who want to dine at the restaurant, outdoor seating is available on the patio.

We should also note that the portions are rather large. More than once, the three-item dinner combo option provided enough leftovers for a meal the next day.

—Kevin Fitzgerald

Best El Paseo Restaurant (Non-Pretentious Category)

The Fix Restaurant

The El Paseo shopping district can feel a little pretentious—but it always feels comfortable at The Fix Restaurant, which is self-billed as “a modern California bistro.”

The new owner has done a great job of remodeling The Fix, which was previously a bakery-focused endeavor. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces are light, bright, airy and modern. The menu selection is small yet extensive enough that most everyone can find something they’d want. One of my favorite menu items is the turkey cranberry melt sandwich—on multigrain bread, with copious amounts of turkey and cranberry cream cheese. The accompanying sweet potato fries are delicious.

However, what really blew me away is the service: On one visit, I felt like I was at a fancier restaurant when I got back to the table from the bathroom, and my cloth napkin had been neatly refolded on the table. The Fix is well-staffed, and everyone is friendly and professional. You can tell the hard-working owner, often behind the bar, has a lot of pride in his business.

Getting your fix at The Fix is not cheap, but it’s not too expensive, either—and it’s certainly well worth the money.

—Jeffrey Clarkson

Best Place to Find Consignment Treasures

Misty’s Consignments

We’ve heard some horror stories about shady furniture-consignment stores in the Coachella Valley—but our experiences with Misty’s Consignments, occupying a rambling warehouse space on Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, have always been fantastic, on both the consignment and buying sides.

Whether we were dealing with Misty herself or a member of her staff, everyone has been helpful and pleasant. Misty has a reputation of being a bit picky about accepting consignments, but for good reason: Everything we’ve ever consigned there has sold in less time than we imagined.

Of all the furniture-consignment shops we’ve visited in these parts, Misty’s has the largest share of items for sale that make us say, “That’s interesting.” In other words: You don’t have to dig too hard to find the treasures at Misty’s.

—Jeffrey Clarkson

Best Music Festival and Adventure Park


“Way back” in January, the inaugural 4xFAR Music and Adventure Festival came to Empire Grand Oasis. The announcement of the event took me by surprise, as the melding of music and adventure was a new concept—and the setting, in Thermal, seemed a bit odd.

But when I went to the festival, which was presented by Land Rover, it all made sense. The two-day event offered something for everyone, as music acts like Anderson .Paak and Mark Ronson shared the venue with an ax-throwing area and test drives of the 2020 Land Rover. While we never got to see what Coachella 2020 would have been like, it’s safe to say this festival was out to compete.

The future of 4xFAR is unknown, so music lovers and thrill seekers alike must keep their fingers crossed for a second coming of this unique fest.

—Matt King

Best Weird Al Tribute

Finder’s Thrift and Vinyl/Spatula City Records

Finder’s Thrift and Vinyl is an absolute gem of a store that I discovered pre-pandemic. At the La Quinta spot, I was able to find everything from favorite albums for cheap to vintage Star Wars gear. When the shutdown came, I—among others—worried how the independent store would fare.

Thankfully, owner Matt Lehman knew exactly what to do: He quickly transformed his large record selection into an online shop titled Spatula City Records. The same deals and finds from the store were made available online, complete with fast service and shipping right to one’s door.

The online shop’s name is an homage to Lehman’s hero, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and his film UHF. Check out the Spatula City Instagram, @spatulacityrecords, to see a photoshoot done in the store that features Yankovic records displayed on every shelf—and photo even got reposted by Weird Al himself.

—Matt King

Best Pandemic Pastime

El Toro Flicks

The year 2020 and the accompanying entertainment closures have revived many underutilized and older forms of media—including the drive-in movie theater.

Drive-in theaters have popped up around the Coachella Valley; after all, social distancing comes easy when you don’t have to leave your car. El Toro Flicks in Palm Desert has become a favorite of many drive-in-goers, both because of the venue and the movie selection—the theater is located at top of the art-covered Westfield Palm Desert parking garage, and the selection of movies ranges from old classics to newer gems.

It will be interesting to see whether the drive-in theater revival continues when regular movie theaters reopen for good. I, personally, hope it does: The format has advantages for introverts and germaphobes alike.

—Matt King

Best Local-Release Promo

Throw the Goat

Throw the Goat is one of the hardest-working bands in our valley—and the restrictions of COVID-19 seemed like only a minor setback to the group.

Throw the Goat adapted to a new reality when it came to promoting new album Capitol Hell. The band couldn’t perform shows or tour to promote the album—so the band created an online campaign called Vote Goat 2020. The Goat-bros filmed tons of behind-the-scenes content and issued it to fans who pre-ordered the album, along with posters, T-shirts, and stickers.

It’s safe to say that the members of Throw the Goat are ready for anything the world throws at them—because they’ve proven that nothing will stop them from getting their voices and music heard.

—Matt King

Best New Local Album

Instigator, Necessary Evil

As the members of Instigator grow older, their sound only gets better.

What started as a high school band has now morphed into one of the highlights of our music scene. The thrash-metal stylings of Instigator shine bright on their second LP, Necessary Evil—and the sound is matched only by the greats of the genre.

While the band was only able to perform live a handful of times everything closed, those shows proved that the explosiveness displayed on the record comes through just as powerfully in a live setting.

Hopefully one day soon, fans will be able to witness Instigator perform Necessary Evil live in its entirety.

—Matt King

Best Theatrical Tear-Jerker

Dezart Performs’ ‘Daniel’s Husband’

Independent theater critic Bonnie Gilgallon started off her review of the Dezart Performs production of Daniel’s Husband back in January with this: “Any professional critic worth his or her salt strives to be fair, tactful, entertaining and, most of all, honest. To regularly gush or fawn over productions would cause us to lose our credibility. But every now and then, a play comes along that leaves us no choice but to gush.”

I saw Daniel’s Husband myself—and Bonnie’s assessment is perfect.

The show starred local-theater icons David Youse and Michael Shaw as Mitch and Daniel, a couple that has been together for seven years—but the two have never married, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is currently legal in all 50 states. The audience learns that Daniel badly wants to be married—but Mitch doesn’t care at all for the institution of marriage.

Of course, something happens in the play—flawlessly directed by Darin Anthony—that turns Mitch and Daniel’s lives upside down, shining a light on the importance of legalized marriage.

The performances by Youse and Shaw were amazing—Youse’s Mitch had a moment of grief and anger that constituted the most powerful scene I’ve ever seen on a local stage—and both Chuck Yates and Hanz Enyeart are fantastic in supporting roles, as is Deborah Harmon as Daniel’s mother.

Daniel’s Husband was performed on the Pearl McManus Theater stage only 11 months ago, but an unimaginable amount of turmoil has taken place in the United States since then. The pandemic has reminded everyone how vital it is for LGBTQ individuals to be able to make medical decisions on behalf of incapacitated partners—and the addition of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court has made the nationwide existence of marriage equality seem rather tenuous. In other words, the messages in Michael McKeever’s script are rather prescient.

Kudos to Dezart Performs for bringing this powerful play to the Coachella Valley—and for leaving audience-goers gushing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

At a show I watched fairly recently (back when live music shows were still a thing), I witnessed a display of flashiness and soul unlike anything I had ever seen. The singer had immaculate pitch—and she created one of the most unique and pleasurable concert experiences I’ve ever experienced.

I got to meet the artist after the show, and her name was Keisha D—this year’s choice, by readers of the Independent, as the Best Local Musician.

I spoke to “Keisha D” Mimms over the phone recently—and had the pleasure of telling her about her win.

“Oh my goodness. That was worth waking up and taking a shower for!” Mimms said. “We’ve had COVID going on, and most people know I’ve been quite ill. Just to be thought of, and not forgotten, after trying to give something to them that they would enjoy—that just means a lot.”

Throughout her career, Mimms said she’s always strived to make her performances positive.

“I started singing at 13, and all I ever wanted to do was perform,” Mimms said. “I’ve been so blessed, because I’ve been able to do it since I was a kid, and travel and give back to communities. I did missionary work where I was a featured vocalist in different spots. It started out with singing ministry, and then I got into the classics and some pop music. It was always a positive spin.”

Keisha D has now been performing in the Coachella Valley for more than two decades.

“I didn’t come here to start a music career,” Mimms said. “I came here to slow down. I had always done real estate; my parents always told me to have a backup. I did commercial real estate with my family’s business. When I came out here, I ran a brokerage firm. I got started singing again through volunteering for a dance-team program. They would do musicals, and I would help with the musicals, and sing. The mothers would always ask if I was a professional, or why I wasn’t singing out here. The next thing you know, one of the mothers told me to do the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call. I didn’t even know what that was, so I looked it up. I got my entry in at 4:45—and it was a 5 o'clock cutoff time. I stood there in the office filling out forms and making sure I got in. I ended up winning for best vocals. That’s what really got me started here, singing those nights and having people go, ’Who’s that girl?’ Once I won, people started calling, and the McCallum asked for my permission to give my phone number out.

“After that, I hit the ground running. I was saying, ‘Sure I can sing for this; sure I can sing for that.’ The mayor of Palm Springs would ask me to sing at an event. I’ve even sung for his own wedding anniversary. I just started booking for all types of functions. Then I started working at a school, mentoring for music, theater and dance.”

Keisha D has kept performing despite struggles with serious illnesses.

“I’m under doctors’ care,” Mimms said. “It’s complicated, because there are so many things going on at once. I have pancreatic issues, and now I’m really suffering terribly with autoimmune disease, and it’s debilitating. I thought fighting with pancreatic cancer was brutal, but this has become outrageous. I’m still plugging away, though! They’re keeping me as comfortable as possible, and hopefully I’ll be able to do what I have to do until it's time.

“I really need all the positives, because I live in pain every day. It’s a bit devastating. I look at footage from last year, and I’m onstage going back and forth, dancing, singing and laughing. Today, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s difficult, but I’m positive that I still can do what I can do. I’m doing some virtual concerts, where now I just sit with my band. It’s a little more calm—not as much gyrating.”

The pandemic has not stopped Mimms from using her music as a positive force: Recent virtual concerts have benefited other musicians.

“When I’m asked, I’ll do things at Frankie’s (Old World Italian Bakery and Café),” she said. “They are doing this thing called Project Bread, where they help musicians who don’t have income and are struggling. Some of us other musicians are going in and performing, and people are donating gift cards and money. Any musician can go over there and ask for $50 for groceries, or whatever they need. I’ve been doing shows for that cause. I’ll be performing there again Dec. 18.”

Her Keisha D Scholarship Fund, via the Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District, benefits “under-served minority students who are interested in pursuing their education in music and performing arts.”

“When I became sick, I realized I may not be singing or performing that much, so I wanted to leave something that would be ongoing forever,” Mimms said. “That’s when I created the Keisha D Scholarship Fund, when I realized that a lot of these kids in school don’t have the opportunity to get everything they need for college.

“It’s through the Palm Springs Unified School District. Every year, seniors can apply for the music scholarship and are allotted a certain amount of money, as long as they are going to a four-year university and have an acceptance letter. Anybody can go there (to and donate any time they want. We always need to keep funds in there. My first recipient was Oliver Trinidad; he’s a horn player, and he went to Biola University. I wanted to be able to put something out there that will make a difference for young people.”

Keisha D expressed sadness about the way in which artists have been treated during the pandemic.

“It has been really difficult,” Mimms said. “Never in my lifetime would I think I’d see something like this, where we are not allowed to sing out in public—then to be told that musicians, on the totem pole of essential, are last. There are a lot of ways to do this thing safely, and keep us on the mark, especially if you’re doing things outside. I wish they would let us at least set up some Plexiglass and give the musicians an opportunity to get back out there. Then again, I understand, and my doctor just told me I can’t even go out, because it’s that bad right now.

“It’s really funny, because I laugh at some of the artists who said that they couldn’t perform without an (in-person) audience in front of them. They must not be real performers then. It’s like television: How many times have you watched a live concert on TV and had a great time, because you got to see the artist you love performing? If you have the resources to do a virtual show, then get out there and reinvent yourself! There were over 3,000 views at my livestream show at Frankie’s, and I had many people say how great it was to see me, or how happy I made them. That’s what it’s about.”

Both fans and people unfamiliar with Keisha D can look forward to experiencing her talents on an upcoming live album.

“We’ve taken all the different venues I’ve sung at, cleaned up the music, and put it into a CD,” Mimms said. “Part of the proceeds will go to the Kiesha D Scholarship Fund, and another part will go to all of the musicians who participated in it. It was supposed to come out in October, but that didn’t happen, so now we’re shooting for January.”

For more information, visit or

Published in Features

The original Palm Springs Animal Shelter was built in 1961—and it was, according to the nonprofit organization’s website, “woefully inadequate in meeting the needs of the current animal population of Palm Springs.”

But that would eventually change. As the website says: “In 2009, the city of Palm Springs allocated $5 million in a capital improvement bond, and the process of designing a shelter that would stand as a model for Southern California began.” In November 2012, the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter assumed operations of it from the city.

Eight years later, the readers of the Independent have again selected the Palm Springs Animal Shelter as the Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity, and the shelter’s major fundraising event—the Faux Fur Ball—as the Best Annual Charity Event.

“You know, I think one of the reasons that people might have voted for us this year is because of how we’ve been able to operate during this incredibly challenging time,” said Tamara Hedges, president of the PSAS board of directors. “It’s a credit to our executive director, Gabrielle Amster, her team and our volunteers that we’ve been able to continue to serve our community, and that we’ve been able to continue to do adoptions in a safe, controlled manner. We’ve even been able to do our vaccine clinics, which are important, because they provide a low-cost option to make sure that folks can get the care they need (for their pets) during this time. So although it’s not been business as usual—far from it—we’ve still been able to be here for the pets and people in our community.”

In 2019, the shelter’s team accepted 687 pets that were surrendered voluntarily by their owners; 1,553 stray animals; and 178 pets that were returned by adopters. Through the end of October 2020, the shelter has taken in 537 pets surrendered by owners; 1,130 strays; and 168 adopter returns. While the pet in-take numbers are pretty much on a par with last year’s totals, Amster said pet adoptions have been on the rise so far this year.

“It’s like a 12 to 20 increase,” Amster said. “It’s about 20 percent for dog adoptions and 12 percent for cats.”

A few months ago, television outlets were reporting that some pet-adoption facilities had literally run out of animals suitable for adoption.

“We never ran out,” Amster said. “But we definitely worked to keep up with the demand. There have been times in the past where the demand was not enough for our (adoptable pet) population, but that did not happen during the pandemic. We definitely have had a lot of demand.”

Hedges said it’s good that the demand for adoptable pets is high.

“It’s been steady, and we’ve been able to do a lot of really positive match-making, and I think that has been so great for people who are looking for companionship during this time,” Hedges said, adding with a laugh: “I know my pets are saving me. Even though I live with my husband, he’s on my last nerve at this point, but the animals are always smiling.”

Joking aside, Hedges and Amster said they’re aware that the pandemic and the economic downturn have taken a physical and mental toll on both pets and their owners.

“We have to be really aware of the struggles that many in our community are experiencing because of COVID,” Hedges said, “whether it’s financial, or a short-term illness. Gabrielle and the team have really worked hard in the pet-retention arena. I think it’s an important part of our story that we are continuing to provide people with resources. Sometimes it’s as basic as providing them with pet food. Or, it could be advice we provide about care that’s needed by their pet. Or, it could involve behavioral issues.”

Added Amster: “Some of what we’re dealing with is the result of troubles that the humans have leading their lives, and that trickles down to the pet. People have been displaced, or they’ve lost their job and don’t have the resources they need to provide care for their pets. That’s the sort of situation that we’re really trying to support. We don’t want to separate people from their pets, and we don’t want people to bring us their pets—that they love and want to have by their side—simply because they can’t afford to care for them. We want to make sure that people have access to low-cost vaccines, and spay-and-neuter services, and pet food. We want them to have access to behavioral help in case they’ve had to move to a smaller house, or move in with family members—their animal may need training help so that they can stay together in the new environment. Those are the sorts of things that we’re really focusing on.”

The shelter runs a pet food bank of its own, and partners with several local human-food providers (including the Mizell Senior Center Meals on Wheels program, the Desert AIDS Project and AAP-Food Samaritans) for distribution.

“On our website, we actually have an application for those who need pet-food help,” Amster said. “You don’t have to qualify for the program, but you do have to fill out the application, and then we reach out to each individual pet owner to provide them with the food their pet needs.”

Since the pandemic forced the cancellation of the Faux Fur Ball—it was scheduled for March 28—the shelter’s brain trust has been working to come up with an alternative strategy to raise much-needed funds.

“Rather than trying to do a virtual ball, we’re planning a new event,” Hedges said. “It’s going to happen on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, and it will be at the Palm Springs Air Museum, called Palm Springs Animal Shelter Film Festival Presents: Love at the Drive-In. The entertainment focus will the Bow Wow Film Festival, which is a curated, national touring film festival focused on the dog-and-person bond we all share—but there will be a cat film or two thrown in there, because many of us love both cats and dogs. We’re going to make it an old-fashioned, ’50s type of drive-in experience, with delicious box-meals from Lulu (California Bistro), who’ll be catering, and it’s going to be a blast. The program will be on a big stage with a movie screen behind, and the attendees will be able to view the films from their cars, as well as a short program we’re presenting. So, it’s all outside in cars and super safe.”

Sponsors will be signed up in January, and guest tickets will go on sale shortly thereafter. Some of the money raised will hopefully be dedicated to a new program that provides funds to pet owners confronted with high veterinarian bills.

“We’re trying to (create a program that can offer aid) when pet owners come to us, and they’re surrendering a pet because they cannot afford to help the pet with whatever medical needs it has,” Amster said. “They think that’s the only option they have, the only way their pet is going to get help. We really don’t want to see that happen. We hope that if an animal has a broken leg, or if it has a tumor that’s not life-threatening, rather than having us take that pet in, fixing its issues and then adopting it out to a complete stranger, we want to provide the care for that pet and return it to its owner. We realize that veterinary care is financially out of reach for a lot of pet owners, and it’s something we feel somewhat responsible for.”

Hedges promised that the Best Annual Charity Event will return as well.

“We’ll still bring back the Faux Fur Ball next fall or in 2022,” Hedges said, “but this (new event) will be its own thing, and it will be a lot of fun. We’ll do some fundraising, friend-building and celebrating, because despite all that is hanging over our daily lives, there’s still a lot of love and joy. We see it every day at our shelter.”

For more information, visit

Published in Features

The Gand Band has been a frequent performer in the Coachella Valley for years—during which the band has often kept the party going all night long.

The group, known for its unique and talented takes on 1960s cover songs, has been selected by Independent readers as this year’s Best Local Band. I recently spoke with Gary and Joan Gand via Zoom about the honor.

“I think it is so exciting,” Joan said. “I mean, it has been many years since we have been playing, and we see these contests come and go by, and we always kind of felt like maybe someday, we’ll be in one of these things. It is really welcome to get something like this to happen this year, especially since it is such a tough year for live music and for our band.”

Added Gary: “Yeah, it is really a thrill, because we have been at it for a really long time—you can tell,” he said, motioning to his long, white beard. “You know, we are not in it to win contests, but to make audiences happy. It is great when they respond to that.”

Joan said the band is a quartet—more or less.

“Gary plays the guitar, and I play keyboards, but a few years ago, I started playing bass on my keyboard as a way to keep the band smaller and to be in control,” Joan said. “We jam quite a bit, and when you are jamming, the bass player is very important, as they kind of lead where the song is going to go. We have two drummers that we work with. We actually have probably about six great drummers that have played with the Gand Band that we still stay in touch with … but it depends on who is available, who is on tour. Larry Mitchell is our main drummer; he plays with Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, and when he is not on the road, he plays with us. We have various singers that appear with us, but our main singer is Dion Khan, and he is just a fantastic guy, a fantastic frontman. … Whatever the music calls for, whatever the show calls for, we’ll bring in people.”

The band is originally from Chicago, and the Gands made their mark in the Coachella Valley by bringing in some of that Chicago sound.

“When we first started playing in Palm Springs, the music scene was essentially made up of crooners—basically, singers accompanied by piano players doing a lot of Sinatra, Rat Pack stuff,” Gary said. “We thought that there was not enough R&B and Chicago blues around here. We are kids of the ’60s, so the music that we love is the music of the ’60s.”

Added Joan: “We were a blues band in Chicago for many, many years. We started coming out to Palm Springs for winters, and we thought it might be fun to see what the blues scene was like, so we showed up at a jam at one of the now-defunct clubs. It was a great place called The Blue Guitar. We sat in, and we had a great reception, and the music community was very welcoming. … We started playing a little bit at parties, and then we put a band together and started playing at venues. As we played, we discovered people loved blues, but they also loved having a little different music mixed in—some soul and Motown music, and some ’60s pop tunes, like Dusty Springfield. We just started expanding our horizons, and the audiences in Palm Springs loved that, so we just kept going.”

Gary sums up the band’s range thusly: “It was sort of like setting your iPod on 1961 to 1969. It was that whole gamut. So we could go anywhere from early Stax Records artists like Booker T. and the M.G.’s, to later ’60s with The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Cream. We really run the gamut from the Newport Jazz Festival to Woodstock.”

Incorporating their funky style into the scene wasn’t always easy.

“We were always told to turn it down,” said Joan. “We ran into that several times. We changed venues because of that. If they didn’t like it, we moved on.”

Added Gary: “Our basic formula was, if you can’t hear it, you can’t dance to it—and if you can’t dance to it, then you shouldn’t be coming to see us, because we want to see you on the dance floor. We don’t want to see you sitting in your seats talking to each other or trying to hook up. We are not background music.”

The band played every Thursday for several years at Oscar’s in downtown Palm Springs.

“On that patio, we could do anything,” Joan said. “During street fair night, we would get fantastic audiences every week of both locals and visitors. We ended up seeing people come back year after year, because they would book their vacation in Palm Springs every year and see the Gand Band as part of their vacation.”

The Gands said Oscar’s plays an important role in an upcoming project.

“We recently put on a concert which we filmed with Trini Lopez, who had some big folk-rock hits in the early 1960s,” Gary said. “He turned out to be our next-door neighbor.”

Added Joan: “He lived two houses down from us, and he was in his late 70s when we first met him. He was quite the star in the ’60s, and he still could sing great, so we had him do little guest spots with us.”

Said Gary: “Whenever we would get together with Trini, he would tell us these great stories about how Frank Sinatra signed him to his record label. Sinatra had his own record label called Reprise, and Trini was the first rock act on Reprise, because it used to be all Sinatra’s Rat Pack friends. … Whenever we would get together, he would tell us all the stories about all the famous people that used to come see him—Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, all of the big stars from the early ’60s.

The Gands wanted to give Lopez the respect they felt he deserved.

“After telling us all these stories for so many years, and singing a few songs with us here and there, we teamed up with some local documentary filmmakers in Palm Springs,” Joan said; the film will be titled My Name Is Lopez. “They recently did a movie called House of Cardin that played in Palm Springs and was very popular. We asked them to create a documentary about Trini Lopez’s life and his experiences, and film a live concert at Oscars. We did this in 2019, and the film is now in post-production. It has taken a while, but it is going to be fantastic. We have both vintage footage and a concert that we all did together.

“He unfortunately passed away from COVID in August. That was really sad, so the film is even more important to us. We’re so glad we were able to capture his excitement on film, even when he was 83.”

Before the shutdown, the Gand Band regularly performed at theme nights at PS Underground.

“They do a really unique thing where they do a multi-course gourmet dinner, coordinated with music to a theme,” Joan said. “We were able to write our own shows to do there. We would come in and say, ‘We want to do a 1960s variety show kind of thing called The Beat, and these are the kinds of songs we would like to do, and these are the kinds of performers we would like to have.’ They would coordinate the food and have some 1960s recipes, and they also have great light projection, so we were able to project a lot of cool graphics on the wall behind us.”

While other bands have experimented with live-streamed shows, the Gands said they plan on holding off until performances can be held in person.

“We just really like playing for people, and when you are sitting in your room playing to a television camera and there is no interaction, that really doesn’t turn us on,” Gary said. “We are really there for the audience and the live performance and the interaction with the people—applauding at the end, and the whole thing.”

For more information, visit

Published in Features

Happy (?) Monday, everyone.

If you have not yet voted in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll … well, now’s your last chance. Voting is slated to end tonight (Monday night). However, I know a lot of you don’t read the Daily Digest until the morning after we send it—so we’re going to extend voting until noon on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Unlike the other publications’ reader polls, we only ask each reader to vote once. That’s because unlike, say, that desperate daily’s poll, the goal of our Best of Coachella Valley poll is not to boost our web traffic; our goal is to get a strong, comprehensive slate of winners and finalists.

Thanks to all of you who already have voted! And for those of you who haven’t, click here!

Today’s news:

• The wind that’s wreaked minor havoc here in the last 24 hours is helping fuel a nasty wildfire in Orange County that, as of this writing, has forced 60,000 people to evacuate in Irvine. Two firefighters have also been badly injured, according to the Los Angeles Times: “The firefighters, 26 and 31, were both intubated after one of them suffered second and third degree burns over 65% of their body and the other suffered burns over 50% of their body.

The winds plus fire dangers have caused PG&E to cut power to 361,000 Northern Californians.

• By the time you read this, there’s a very good chance that Amy Coney Barrett will have been confirmed as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

NASA announced today that there is now definitive evidence that there’s water on the moon. The Washington Post explains one reason why this matters: “Moon water has been eyed as a potential resource by NASA, which created a program named Artemis in 2019 to send American astronauts back to the moon this decade. Launching water to space costs thousands of dollars per gallon. Future explorers may be able to use lunar water not only to quench their own thirst but to refuel their rockets.”

I recently spoke with Mike Thompson, the CEO of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, about the construction currently under way at the Center’s building—which has been closed since March because of, well, you know. We also discussed what changes COVID-19 will lead to when the Center reopens—and Thompson teased possible expansion plans, but wouldn’t spill the beans. Key quote: “I was on (a virtual Center program) last week with a small group of people, and one of the gentlemen was older, and he said, ‘I’ve been able to do more since the pandemic than I was prior, because my physical condition just didn’t allow me to do so many things. Now, I feel more connected than I did before, because I can sit in on a new number of things virtually.’ So I think we have to be mindful that ‘connection’ means different things to different people.” 

• Now THIS is a 2020 news-story lede: “Eight days out from a presidential election, the president of Fox News and key members of the network’s election team have been told to quarantine after they were exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. … The infected person was on a flight chartered to transport Fox News employees returning to New York from the Thursday night presidential debate in Nashville. The person tested negative before departing Nashville and positive after returning.

• We’ve linked to stories that basically say the same thing before, and I am pretty sure we’ll link to stories that basically say the same thing again … and if you want to be really horrified, read to the end of this quote, from MedPage Today: “If 95% of people in the U.S. wore masks, about 130,000 fewer Americans would die through February 2021 compared to current reference data, reported the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) COVID-19 Forecasting Team, based at the University of Washington in Seattle. At 85% adherence, almost 96,000 lives could be saved in the U.S., the authors wrote in Nature Medicine. Otherwise, the model projects a cumulative death toll of about 511,000 people in the U.S. by the end of February.” Sigh.

• The White House chief of staff made a remark over the weekend that raised a LOT of eyebrows—because it implied that the Trump administration is, more or less, conceding the battle against the virus’ spread. According to CNN: “White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that the US is ‘not going to control’ the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surge across the country and nearly 225,000 Americans have died from the virus. ‘We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,’ Meadows told CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union.

• An immunologist, writing for The Conversation, explains one of the reasons why COVID-19 can be so deadly: It appears that in some people, the disease causes their immune systems to turn against them: “Of great concern has been the sporadic identification of so-called autoreactive antibodies that, instead of targeting disease causing microbes, target the tissues of individuals suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.

• Wait … COVID-19 causes HAIR LOSS in some people?! Yep, according to NBC News.

Our partners at CalMatters took a look at some of those glossy mailers we’re all being inundated with … and discovers, surprise surprise, that they’re often rather deceptive.

• The New York Times published a powerful piece on Charles Adams, a Black police officer and football coach in Minneapolis—who feared for both his life and the lives of his students when protests broke out there following the death of George Floyd. Key quote: “He was a 20-year veteran of the police force, an African-American officer who tried to effect change from the inside. He was also the coach of a state championship football team in a poor, Black neighborhood, and a steadfast shepherd for his players. As the sky darkened, he feared for them. Where were they? Were they safe? He feared for himself. His uniform made him a target. The face shield and gas mask hid his identity from the angry crowds, obscuring the beloved figure he has been across large swaths of the city.”

• Well, this is depressing: Buzzfeed talks to some health-care workers who were forced to turn to online sex work to make ends meet after SARS-CoV-2 arrived: “Stories of young women paying their way through school with sex work are nothing new, but in the seven months since the WHO declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic, online sex work—often left out of discussions of ride-hailing and food delivery apps—has become an increasingly mainstream facet of the gig economy, and people like Clara (who lost work at a university hospital as a patient care assistant) say the risks are worth it to keep themselves afloat.”

And finally … vandalism of campaign signs is a common occurrence across the country, alas. But Florida—of COURSE it’s Florida—takes things to a whole new level: NBC News reports that a man named James Blight decided to commandeer a backhoe to attack Biden-Harris signs. Key quote: “’Blight told police that he had been drinking whiskey all day and did not remember most of the day,’ (Haines City Police Public Information Officer Mike) Ferguson wrote. ‘He said that he couldn’t help but hit the Joe Biden signs and acknowledged to taking down a fence in the process. Blight said he did not know how to operate the equipment.’”

Try to have a good week, everyone—but expect craziness, because, well, it’s eight days before Election Day, and it’s 2020. The Daily Digest will be back Wednesday—and please help us out, if you can, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, because, well, we have bills to pay, and we give out our content for free, because that’s how we roll. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope everyone out there had a fantastic weekend, despite the troubling nature of these times.

While my weekend had some lovely moments—a socially distanced patio dinner with friends being the highlight—I also spent a fair amount of time counting all of your votes in the first round of our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll. Well, all of that counting is complete, and I am happy to announce this year’s slate of fantastic finalists in 126 categories!

With that, voting is now under way in our final round of voting, which is taking place here through Oct. 26. As I’ve mentioned in this space before: We ask each reader to vote once, and only once, in each round. Whereas the goals of other “Best Of” polls in this town are to get their publications as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites repeatedly to vote, our goal is to come up with the best slate of finalists and winners. So, please vote—but only once. And we’ll be watching IP addresses and verifying email addresses to cut down on the shenanigans.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the first round, and thanks in advance to all of you for voting in this final around. Oh, and congrats to all of our finalists; thanks for helping to make the Coachella Valley the amazing place that it is!

Today’s news:

• Unless you’ve been hiding in some sort of bunker for the last 24 hours, you’ve likely heard about the complete bombshell The New York Times dropped yesterday regarding Donald Trump’s taxes. The newspaper seems to have gotten Trump’s tax records—documents he’s long fought to kept out of the public’s eye—and they show a history of massive losses, suspect deductions and very little actual taxes paid. Most alarmingly, however, they show that the president has $421 million in debt coming due soon—which, as the speaker of the House pointed out today, raises security questions. It’s not hyperbole to say that this is one of the most important stories of the year. It’s also true that the revelations are unlikely to sway Trump devotees, given that previous unsavory revelations have failed to do so.

A series of wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties have resulted in “significant loss,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Nearly 50,000 people face evacuations; the situation in wine country is beyond heartbreaking.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, was taken into custody yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after he apparently threatened to kill himself. Parscale was fired as campaign manager in July but still worked for the campaign. According to The Washington Post: “The police were called by Parscale’s wife, Candice Parscale, who told the officers upon their arrival that ‘her husband was armed, had access to multiple firearms inside the residence and was threatening to harm himself.’ Parscale was in the house with 10 guns and was inebriated when the police arrived, according to a police report released Monday. His wife had escaped the house after he cocked a gun and threatened suicide, the report said. Her arms were bruised, and she told officers that her husband had hit her days earlier, according to the police report.”

• Efforts by Trump campaign donor and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to “reform” the U.S. Postal Service by cutting costs and severely slowing mail delivery were dealt a blow by a federal judge today. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The U.S. Postal Service must prioritize election mail and immediately reverse changes that resulted in widespread delays in California and several other states, a federal judge ruled Monday. … The judge’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit by attorneys general for the District of Columbia and six states, including California, that accused the Trump administration of undermining the Postal Service by decommissioning high-speed mail-sorting machines, curtailing overtime and mandating that trucks run on time, which led to backlogs because mail was left behind.”

• Related is this scoop from Time magazine: “For three weeks in August, as election officials across the country were preparing to send out mail-in ballots to tens of millions of voters, the U.S. Postal Service stopped fully updating a national change of address system that most states use to keep their voter rolls current, according to multiple officials who use the system.” At least 1.8 million addresses (!) are effected.

• Oh, and then there’s this from NBC News: It turns out the USPS isn’t really keeping track of mail theft. “The Postal Service’s law enforcement arm acknowledged the shortcoming after NBC News, prompted by anecdotal accounts of an uptick in mail theft around the country, sought and received mail theft figures through a Freedom of Information Act request.

• Even though a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Census count to continue through Oct. 31, the bureau today said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations.” Hmm.

Politico over the weekend dropped a story with this frightening lede: “The (Health and Human Services) department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to ‘defeat despair’ about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.” In journalism school, we were taught that this is called “propaganda.”

• Now let’s compare that story with this piece from CNBC: “The United States is ‘not in a good place’ as colder months loom and the number of newly reported coronavirus cases continues to swell beyond 40,000 people every day, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

Channel 4 News, out of the United Kingdom, reported today that it had obtained a “vast cache” of data used by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. What did that cache reveal? “It reveals that 3.5 million Black Americans were categorised by Donald Trump’s campaign as ‘Deterrence’—voters they wanted to stay home on election day. Tonight, civil rights campaigners said the evidence amounted to a new form of voter ‘suppression’ and called on Facebook to disclose ads and targeting information that has never been made public.”

According to NBC News: “A major hospital chain has been hit by what appears to be one of the largest medical cyberattacks in United States history. Computer systems for Universal Health Services, which has more than 400 locations, primarily in the U.S., began to fail over the weekend, and some hospitals have had to resort to filing patient information with pen and paper, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.” Eek! Locally, according to the UHS website, the company operates Michael’s House in Palm Springs.

The San Francisco Chronicle today became the latest newspaper to examine the troubling fact that a lot of people who have “recovered” from COVID-19 have not actually fully recovered. Key quote: “The coronavirus can infiltrate and injure multiple organs. Studies have reported lasting damage to the lungs and heart. People have suffered strokes due to coronavirus-related clotting issues. The virus can cause skin rashes and gastrointestinal problems. Some people lose their sense of smell and taste for weeks or even months.”

A political science professor, writing for The Conversation, explains a study he did that proves something fairly self-evident: “Politicians deepen existing divides when they use inflammatory language, such as hate speech, and this makes their societies more likely to experience political violence and terrorism. That’s the conclusion from a study I recently did on the connection between political rhetoric and actual violence.” Yes, Trump’s speeches are examined, as are those by other world leaders.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times issued an unprecedented and expansive self-examination of and apology for decades of systemic racism at the newspaper. It’s worth a read.

Stay safe, everyone. Please consider helping us continue producing local journalism—made available for free to everyone—by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you can. The Daily Digest will return Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest

We here at Independent World Headquarters debated postponing our annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll this year.

Why? For one thing, the city magazine and the daily already do readers’ polls—and the timing of the daily’s poll usually overlaps with the timing of ours, which confuses the heck out of everyone.

For another thing … as you may have noticed, we’re in the middle of a raging pandemic, which has curtailed or shuttered many of the businesses and organizations that are featured in our poll.

However, upon further reflection, we decided not to postpone our poll—and voting is taking place now. First-round (nomination) voting will be open through Monday, Sept. 14. Go here to access the ballot, where you will fill in the blank in each category. (In other words, we have no pre-determined list of candidates.)

Why did we decide to press forward? Well, for one thing—and I say this with all due respect to the winners and everyone else otherwise involved—those other readers’ polls are kind of terrible. For our Best of Coachella Valley poll, we ask each reader to vote only once per round, because our goal is to come up with a slate of truly excellent finalists and winners. The other polls have no such prohibition, because the goal of those polls is not to get a great slate of finalists and winners—the goal is for the publications to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote.

The other reason why we pressed forward: There’s never been a more important time to shine a light on the valley’s best businesses, individuals and organizations, because so many of us are struggling right now.

The top vote-getters in the first round of voting will advance to the final round, which will take place at from Monday, Sept. 28, through Monday, Oct. 26. The Best of Coachella Valley results will be announced at on Monday, Nov. 23, and in our special December print edition. Complete rules and a list of categories can be found on the ballot page.

Thanks in advance to all of you wonderful readers who take the time to vote!

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent—and don’t hesitate to message me at the email address below with questions or comments.

A slightly modified version of this piece served as the September 2020 print version Note From the Editor; portions were also used in a recent Daily Digest.

Published in Editor's Note

We here at the Independent debated postponing our annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll this year.

Why? For one thing, the city magazine and the daily already do readers’ polls—and the timing of the daily’s poll overlaps with ours, which confuses the heck out of everyone.

For another thing … as you know, we’re in the middle of a raging pandemic, which has curtailed or shuttered many of the businesses and organizations that are featured in our poll.

However, upon further reflection, we decided not to postpone our poll … so here we go! First-round (nomination) voting will be open through Monday, Sept. 14. Go here to access the ballot, where you will fill in the blank in each category. (In other words, we have no pre-determined list of candidates.)

Why did we decide to press forward? Well, for one thing—and I say this with all due respect to the winners and everyone else otherwise involved—those other readers’ polls are kind of terrible.

For our Best of Coachella Valley poll, we ask each reader to vote only once per round, because our goal is to come up with a slate of truly excellent finalists and winners. The other polls have no such prohibition, because the goal of those polls is not to get a great slate of finalists and winners—the goal is for the publications to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote.

The other reason why we pressed forward: There’s never been a more important time to shine a light on the valley’s best businesses, individuals and organizations, because so many of us are struggling right now.

The top vote-getters in the first round of voting will advance to the final round, which will take place at starting Monday, Sept. 28. The Best of Coachella Valley results will be announced at on Monday, Nov. 23, and in our special December print edition.

Thanks in advance to all of you wonderful readers who take the time to vote!

Today’s news—and, boy oh boy, is there a lot of it:

Sigh. Here’s a lede from an NBC News story: “A Black man was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, a bystander's video showed, prompting community protests and widespread anger.” Thank god this time the victim lived: Jacob Blake, 29, is in serious but stable condition. Here’s what happened, according to Blake’s attorney: “Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father.”

This is why it’s not a good idea to have large gatherings of people, especially indoors, right now: “The number of COVID-19 cases connected to a wedding reception in Millinocket (Maine) continues to climb, with state health officials saying on Saturday that they could trace 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus to the reception. That’s up from 32 confirmed cases on Friday.”

• If you’ve ever doubted whether an absence of competent federal leadership can truly affect issues at the local level, this story will erase those dounts rather quickly: The Associated Press reports that distance-learning efforts are being hampered by a laptop shortage. Key quote: “The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts.”

• We’re only three stories in, and I need a drink. Or three. So here’s the Independent’s most recent cocktail column, in which Kevin Carlow offers guidance on how to make all the basic drinks. Cheers.

• Aaaand now back to the news, and this horrifying Business Insider headline: “Rats reported feeding on packages of rotted fruit and meat as postmaster general’s cutbacks unleash chaos at California's mail centers.” Sigh. And Ew.

• More bad news: It’s now been proven that a person can indeed get COVID-19 more than once. MedPage Today offers the damning details. But, no panicking! Key quote: “‘My hope is that while reinfection has been documented, it is a rare or uncommon occurrence,’ Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who was not involved in the research, told MedPage Today. ‘So far that seems to be the case, but we're still only a few months into this pandemic.’”

CBS News-YouGov just did a poll asking people about the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. … and sit down for this one: “57 percent of Republican respondents said the U.S. death toll for COVID-19 was ‘acceptable,’ while 43 percent said it was ‘unacceptable.’ Republicans were the only partisan group of which a majority of voters said the number of deaths was acceptable. Among Democrats, 10 percent said the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. was acceptable, while 90 percent said it was unacceptable. For independents, 33 percent labeled the death toll as acceptable, and 67 percent called it unacceptable.” For the record, that U.S. death toll is currently approaching 180,000.

The FDA on Sunday, after pressure and criticism from the president, decided to authorize the emergency use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 patients. The move has been criticized by many experts—including those from the WHO, Reuters reports.

• OK, here’s some actual good news: California has been approved for the extra $300 in weekly unemployment funds. BUT it’s going to take several weeks to actually start happening, and there are all sorts of exclusions. Bleh. The San Jose Mercury News explains.

• More good news: It appears the number of coronavirus infections nationwide is decreasing—and, according to The New York Times, experts say that’s because various restrictions, like mask ordinances, are having an effect.

The New York attorney general is looking into possible corruption in the Trump Organization. Key quote: “The attorney general’s office said it began investigating after Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer,’ Michael Cohen, told Congress in February 2019 that Trump had used these statements to inflate his net worth to lenders. The filing said that Eric Trump had been scheduled to be interviewed in the investigation in late July, but abruptly canceled that interview. The filing says that Eric Trump is now refusing to be interviewed, with Eric Trump’s lawyers saying, ‘We cannot allow the requested interview to go forward … pursuant to those rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution.’” Hmm.

Two political science professors, writing for The Conversation, examine a negative aspect to mail-in voting you may not have thought of: secrecy, or a lack thereof. Key quote: “Mail-in voting still requires an official ballot, and can still be validated and counted anonymously. That eliminates what’s commonly known as voter fraud—where someone casts a ballot on behalf of someone else. But it doesn’t address outside forces influencing the authentic voter at the moment they make their decision. The voter marks the ballot outside the supervision of election monitors – often at home. It’s possible to do so in secret. But secrecy is no longer guaranteed, and for some it may actually be impossible.”

The weather is finally giving overwhelmed and tired firefighters a break in Northern California. But dry and dangerous conditions remain.

Another county has been removed from the state’s COVID-19 watch list, meaning some businesses and schools may begin to reopen soon there. Congratulations to … (checks notes) … Orange County!?

• OK, this is genuinely a very cool thing, because it shows the technology exists, and could be more widespread soon: The San Francisco International Airport has set up rapid COVID-19 testing for employees and flight crews (but not, as of yet, passengers). Key quote: “Technicians use an Abbott Labs device, about the size of a toaster oven, to analyze samples obtained using a nasal swab. Abbott Labs said the device ‘amplifies the RNA hundreds of millions of times to make the virus detectable—returning test results in 13 minutes or less.’

• The city of Palm Springs will soon be closing down part of Palm Canyon Drive to allow restaurants to expand. “The pilot program, which is expected to kick off within the next two weeks, would allow for a full closure of Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo Road and Tahquitz Canyon Way,” says the news release.

• Also Palm Springs downtown-related, from the Independent: The PS City Council agreed to cut $3 million in funding from the under-construction downtown park when it passed the new budget several months ago. However, on Aug. 6, in a 3-2 vote, full funding for the park was restored—a move that infuriated many within the local business community. Kevin Fitzgerald talks to the City Council and breaks it all down.

• This damn pandemic has claimed another local restaurant: Zobo and Meester’s announced today it will close for good on Sept. 9.

• Alt-country great Justin Townes Earle died last week at his Nashville home, at the age of 38. You can read his New York Times obituary here. He appeared at Stagecoach several times, and spoke to the Independent in advance of the 2017 festival. “Nobody should ever expect me to make the same record twice, or (for the records to) even to be in line with each other,” he said. “I’m a whimsical motherfucker.” RIP, Justin.

• We’re now entering the “Let’s Get Weird!” section: Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned from Liberty University today after the news broke that his wife—with Falwell’s knowledge and occasional from-a-distance participation—apparently had a long affair with a younger man who was a “pool attendant” when they met. From NPR: “Falwell's departure comes on the heels of an investigation by Reuters on Monday in which Falwell's former business partner, Giancarlo Granda, claimed he had a multiyear sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki, which involved Falwell looking on while the pair engaged in sex acts.

Or maybe he isn’t resigning. Hmm.

KFC has temporarily dropped its “finger lickin’ good” slogan, because, you know, WE CAN’T LICK OURSELVES ANYMORE BECAUSE OF COVID. Wait. That’s not exactly what I meant … oh, never mind.

That’s a LOT of news for today. Be safe. Be careful. Be happy. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, to help us keep doing quality local journalism. The Digest will return Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest

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