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Features

11 May 2015
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Felice Chiapperini, a manager and field-services coordinator for the Braille Institute, doesn’t think his organization gets the publicity it needs. “We’re the best-kept secret in the Coachella Valley,” he said. The Rancho Mirage location is one of five Braille Institute centers in California. The organization was founded in 1919 by J. Robert Atkinson after he lost his sight. Atkinson learned to read Braille and managed to transcribe 250 books. “We like to say that we offer services to those with low-vision to no-vision, and everybody in between,” Chiapperini said. “A lot of people have misunderstandings about who we serve, and our name is a bit misleading. ‘Braille Institute’ invokes in people’s minds images of people who are totally blind—images of Helen Keller, and things like that. While we do serve that community, the majority of the people we serve fall into the category of low-vision.” Who qualifies as low-vision? “Anyone…
03 Mar 2015
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If you’ve been to Palm Springs VillageFest, you’ve seen the “Ask the Rabbi” booth. Rabbi Yonason Denebeim has been running that booth for about 25 years—and, not surprisingly, he has many stories to tell. Like, for example, that time when he hosted Matisyahu during Coachella in 2006. Or when he worked with the Navajo tribe on the funeral arrangements of a local Jewish man who was an admirer of the Navajo. Or when he was a tour guide in Israel. During a recent interview at Chabad of Palm Springs, Denebeim—you can call him Rabbi D if his last name gives you trouble—talked about his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, and how he decided to enter spiritual life in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement instead of opting for a more lucrative career. “I had a choice of going into a professional craft like law or medicine, or I could get out in the…
27 Jan 2015
It’s been a long road home for Coachella boxer Randy Caballero. The International Boxing Federation’s world bantamweight champion has been fighting in faraway places for more than a year now. The twisting road led him first to Sunrise, Fla., then to Kobe, Japan, and then finally to Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he seized the world title he’s wanted since he was 8 years old, when he first began boxing under the tutelage of Lee Espinoza, director of the Coachella Valley Boxing Club (pictured to the right). But Caballero is now home, and the first defense of his title will happen in the friendly confines of the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s Events Center, on Friday, Feb. 27. The Independent spent time with him at the Coachella Valley Boxing Club gym, on Douma Street in Coachella. We asked him how it feels to be a world champion. “It feels good, but it…
02 Jan 2015
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The fame that El Gato Classic founder Eddie Elguera’s skateboarding career gave him led, in part, to a drug and alcohol addiction in the early 1980s. (For more on the El Gato Classic, see the main story.) He retired from the sport, and then became a born-again Christian before eventually returning during the boom of vert-skating in the 1980s. He opened the Rock Church, where the slogan is, “Loving people to life.” Elguera was not shy about discussing his fall into drug use. “Basically, when you’re at the top, and you have people throwing money at you, the opportunities are there for people who want to give you drugs and give you alcohol,” he said. “It’s so important to have a good structure around you that helps you to bounce wisdom off of. I was focused for the first two years, and I wouldn’t allow things to come in like…
02 Jan 2015
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Palm Springs will become the center of the skateboarding world Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25, when the area will be taken over by skateboarding’s most legendary riders for the El Gato Classic. At the center of the event is Eddie “El Gato” Elguera, a valley resident who is a pastor at the Rock Church in Palm Desert. Elguera became a professional skateboarder in the late ’70s and went on to be a two-time world champion. He’s a major influence on many current pros, given he created several tricks that skateboarders continue to use today, such as the “Elguerial.” “When I started back in the ’70s, when pool skating and vertical skating was coming out, there wasn’t the recognition that there is today. Now, it’s a lot more mainstream, and there are corporate sponsors like Red Bull,” said Elguera during a recent interview the Rock Church. (For more on…
03 Nov 2014
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I first met Shawn Kendrick back in 2008. We were both working at the Stagecoach Festival for Borders Books and Music; he was a general manager at the now-defunct company. He showed me a photo of his family: Shawn is white; his husband, Gerald Raye, is black; and they’re the parents of six children. Just another American family. I recently caught up with Shawn, Gerald and their children at their home in Murrieta, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Palm Springs. I arrived shortly after 3 p.m. on a weekday; the kids had just come home from school and were each given the opportunity to pick something out of the “treasure chest,” a box containing various toys. Raye explained that he’s a seasoned bargain shopper at Walgreens, so he knows how to stock up on items to give them. The kids are 15, 13, 9, 7 and 5.…
03 Nov 2014
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It’s a typical October Friday lunch hour at the American Legion’s Owen Coffman Post 519, located on Belardo Road in downtown Palm Springs. The mostly older, mostly male crowd is enjoying tasty dishes such as burgers, sand dabs and deliciously crispy fish-and-chips, while sipping on drinks from the inexpensive yet fully stocked bar. I’m here with my good friend Jim McDivitt; this is the second time I’ve had lunch with him at the American Legion hall. McDivitt—some of his friends, myself included, lovingly call him McDiva—first invited my partner and me to lunch at the hall over the summer. He thought the place and its people would make for a good story. He tells me why he joined this post of the American Legion. “The food and drinks are cheap,” McDivitt says, laughing. “I’d been going as a guest of a friend, and I finally joined because I felt stupid…
08 Sep 2014
Sept. 11, 2001, started off as just another day for Dr. Harry Marshak. “I was working then at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan, which is maybe two miles away from Ground Zero,” recalled Marshak, who now practices ophthalmic plastic and facial surgery in Palm Desert. “We were in the middle of surgery when a nurse came in and said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Everybody thought, ‘Well, it’s just a small plane that must have gone into the building.’ But people kept coming in with reports, so (when) we were done with surgery, we went up to the roof. “The tower that we could have seen had already fallen. Everyone was in shock. So the question was what to do next. The hospital had an emergency protocol which we went through—but we had only one, not-too-severely injured fireman brought in. And then…
26 Aug 2014
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In January 2013, Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock spoke at a TEDx event in the London area. Both of these speakers are familiar with controversy, thanks to their criticisms of modern science and their outside-of-the-mainstream ideas about consciousness. However, these talks would catapult them into a whole new level of controversy: Their lectures—Sheldrake’s was titled “The Science Delusion,” and Hancock’s was called “The War on Consciousness”—were later removed from the main TED website, due to the speakers’ “questionable suggestions and arguments.” This angered a lot of the speakers’ fans, including Gary Bobroff. “They’re challenging assumptions in the scientific world that have no merit,” said Bobroff, a Jungian psychotherapist, about Sheldrake and Hancock. He was so angered by what he perceived as censorship that he organized Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium, a conference that will take place at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center from Friday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 14.…
11 Jul 2014
Between the Trinity Alps and Humboldt County’s coastal range, the Trinity River has carved a narrow, verdant valley in Northern California, where the Hoopa people have lived for thousands of years. Here, redwoods mingle with oaks, ancient traditions co-exist with modern amenities, and the reservation’s small Hoopa Tribal Museum holds hundreds of treasures, from obsidian blades to intricately woven reed hats. Almost all of them can be checked out by members of the 3,000-person tribe and used in ceremonies. “The museum is for the people,” museum curator Silis-chi-tawn Jackson explains. “It’s not about the people.” Jackson arranges a dozen Hoopa relics on a glass countertop for a handful of people to see. “What was this used for?” asks Charles “Chuckie” Carpenter of the Hoopa cultural committee, two long braids dangling as he points to a necklace made of shells and deer hooves. “I was told this is what Indian doctors…