Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Rick Rothman

It's nobody's fault that the Coachella Valley happens to sit on top of the San Andreas Fault. Experts believe we're overdue for the Big One, which would cause a lot of shaking and baking here in the desert.

When it comes to natural disasters, people in other parts of the country have time to prepare, as meteorologists can issue warnings as a storm approaches the area.

In the case of earthquakes, however, you never know when one is going to hit. Some scientists believe there are subtle changes happening underground just prior to a quake, and special devices are being developed in an effort to create an early warning system, giving residents a precious few extra seconds to get out of harm's way. But until these devices are ready to be implemented, there are alternatives we could use to warn us of impending disaster.

The most difficult issue is determining whether the shaking is going to be a small temblor or a major earthquake. The best way to make that distinction is to find a person who can tell the difference between a false alarm and a big deal. The only person who fits that description would be Vice President Joe Biden. Using Biden for this purpose would involve moving his office to the Coachella Valley, of course.

If the shaking becomes strong, Biden would get on a loudspeaker and yell, "This is a big f---in' deal!" That would allow residents to take shelter immediately.

People who study earthquakes are familiar with P-waves, or primary waves, and S-waves, or secondary waves. Under the Biden System, a new F-wave would be added.

Another method we could use to warn us of earthquakes would be to study animal behavior. Most people have heard stories about how animals act unusually before a quake hits.

P-waves travel faster than S-waves, which are the ones that cause damage during an earthquake. Some animals can detect P-waves 60 to 90 seconds before the shaking starts. In the case of dogs, we could utilize their unique pee-wave warning system: If a dog begins to pee uncontrollably, that would be a good indication that a quake is on its way.

Another solution would be to distribute wild animals to every household in the Coachella Valley. Scientists have noticed that elephants move to higher ground before any shaking happens. If a resident wakes up to find an elephant on the roof of the house, it would be a good idea to take shelter.

Of course, there will always be people who prefer to be warned the traditional way, by watching the Emergency Alert System on their local TV station. Here in the Coachella Valley, we're very fortunate that tuning into almost any station will provide us with just about the same information: For example, KESQ Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 use a similar script for both of their newscasts. If a viewer tunes in to either channel and sees footage of Biden dropping an F-bomb, or an elephant stuck on a roof, they would know an earthquake is just moments away.

Watching these two channels would be a huge advantage over watching NBC affiliate KMIR Channel 6. Most scientific news is reported by meteorologists, and KMIR's weather reports are pre-recorded from Las Vegas. You can always tell if an earthquake is happening "Right Here, Right Now" (KMIR's slogan) if you see the ceiling of the studio cave in on the weather forecaster's head on KESQ or CBS Local 2.

So, remember, if you want to survive the Big One, make sure your canned goods have a long continental shelf life before you serve them on your tectonic plate. After all, we're all in the same boat, which would come in handy in case California falls into the ocean. "Better get ready to tie up the boat in Idaho," as the song says.

When people from out of state or other countries hear the term "Coachella Valley," they usually think of Palm Springs as its most relevant community. That outdated perception has been perpetuated for decades, going back to Hollywood's golden years, when movie stars came here to vacation, making our desert an exclusive getaway.

While local officials are trying to bring back some of the energy for which Palm Springs was once famous, the east valley has continued expanding, and in some ways is now considered a new hot spot.

Most outsiders don't realize there are nine separate cities that constitute the Coachella Valley. Several attempts have been made over the years to consolidate these individual entities, all without success. Our valley is made up of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs. Some people feel that having so many cities in such close proximity, each with their own distinct rules and regulations, contributes to a lack of cohesiveness.

If a proposal succeeded to unite all of these cities, residents of the Coachella Valley would be able to co-exist under the same jurisdiction. This action would mandate a name change, and there's only one name that would be easy for people to remember: Rancho Laquindiothedral Hotsprindianwellschella Palmirage Desert.

The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau would also be able to change their name to the Rancho Laquindiothedral Hotsprindianwellschella Palmirage Desert Convention and Visitors Bureau. Just think of how simple it would be to call information. When the operator says, "What city, please?" instead of saying, "Indio," the caller can say the all-encompassing name.

It wouldn't be long before the new name becomes part of popular culture. For example, when doing a crossword puzzle, you might see a clue that says, "60-letter word for a city in the Southern California desert."

Even spelling bees would find themselves testing contestants on our new city name. It would be common to hear a student ask, "Can you use it in a sentence?" or "What is the origin of the word?" as the moderator tries to pronounce it.

Once the new name is approved, efforts could be made to promote it. We can take a cue from Hollywood, where the famous Hollywood sign remains a landmark to this day. Hundreds of construction workers would have the task of hauling each letter up to the top of our local mountains, where the full city name would span several miles. Of course, the sign would also be visible from the newly renamed Rancho Laquindiothedral Hotsprindianwellschella Palmirage Desert Aerial Tramway.

You may have noticed that there are two names missing from this discussion. Thousand Palms and Bermuda Dunes are two unincorporated communities here in the Coachella Valley. Thousand Palms has been in the news recently, as Cathedral City has been trying to annex its land. Cathedral City's City Council has created a subcommittee to study an annexation effort, which would include 9,700 acres of land and its 7,000 residents.

However, the real issue is equality. Why should nearby Twentynine Palms only have 29, when Thousand Palms has 1,000? Thousand Palms should give half of its trees to Twentynine Palms and be renamed 500 Palms, while 29 Palms would be renamed 529 Palms.

Concerning Bermuda Dunes, the unincorporated community should have an annual short-film festival, where the attendees could wear Bermuda shorts. This festival would compete with the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, which would be renamed … well, you get the idea.

I have to admit: It is a little tedious writing the entire name of our new city. That's where nicknames can come in handy. For example, some people call Cathedral City "Cat City." That's an interesting abbreviation, as an argument could be made that Cathedral City is going to the dogs.

That's why there should be a contest encouraging residents to come up with a shortened version of our new city name. As an incentive, Cathedral City’s City Council could do what it does best, and present the winner with gift cards purchased with a city credit card.

Still, when you’re watching a game show with a clue for Rancho Laquindiothedral Hotsprindianwellschella Palmirage Desert, you could be proud you live in a city with a name that's both historical and hysterical. I'd like to buy a vowel, please.

It isn't really my bag to write about bags, but it's not easy being green when you have to answer questions like, "Paper or plastic?"

The Palm Springs Sustainability Commission has been researching the idea of a plastic-bag ban in the city. Dozens of cities and counties across California have already adopted plastic-bag bans, and Palm Springs would be the first city in the desert to follow their lead.

In other cities where a plastic-bag ban is already in place, there is also fee of 10 to 25 cents per paper bag. The idea is that adding a charge for paper-bag use will also help encourage people to switch to reusable bags. The only drawback would be the tendency for reusable bags to harbor bacteria, so the public would have to get into the habit of washing them periodically.

There are a lot of things we can do here in the valley to help the environment, and our large population of senior citizens is just the group we need to help us accomplish this goal. Our country has a history of putting elderly people out to pasture, and this attitude cannot be tolerated. We need to give these seniors a feeling of usefulness so they can continue to contribute to society. The most efficient way to do this would be to replace all the plastic bags with our beloved old bags. There are plenty of old bags in the area who would be more than happy to assist in this effort. There could even be an organization dedicated to making these seniors available to the public called, "Bunch Of Old Bags Interested in Earth's Survival," or BOOBIES for short.

If someone needs to go shopping, they can enlist the help of one of these BOOBIES to carry the groceries for them. The BOOBIES would also have a reusable clause in their contract so they can be called upon again and again for their services. However, it would be the shopper's responsibility to wash these reusable old bags to prevent any bacteria from spreading.

Unfortunately, plastic bags aren't the only threat to the environment. We also have a severe water shortage here in the desert. There are 66 golf courses in Palm Springs. On average, each consumes more than a million gallons of water per day.

So what can we do about the situation besides asking our local Native Americans to perform a rain dance? The solution lies in raising money to build a reservoir, and there's no better way to do this than to have a benefit concert.

The Doobie Brothers could perform their hit song "Black Water" for the occasion. While the Doobies are singing, the BOOBIES could pass out bags for donations.

Let's not forget one of the most important ways to be green. Everyone needs to do their part to save electricity. The desert is the perfect place to utilize solar energy. Our never-ending supply of sunshine makes it a no-brainer. That's why famous no-brainer George W. Bush should be appointed to assemble a solar panel to study solar panels.

Can you imagine a world with no plastic bags, plenty of fresh water, and unlimited electricity? It may sound like a fairy tale, but as Frank Sinatra would say, "Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart." That would include all of our young-at-heart old bags, of course.

Lights out.

I'm a health nut, so I almost never eat at fast-food restaurants. But I notice that every time there's a new burger joint here in the valley, it opens to much fanfare. These establishments are very popular with people who have little time on their hands, not to mention the slime on their hands when they're eating all the greasy food.

But what's wrong with this picture? Shouldn't we be encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle? We live in an area that offers plenty of outdoor recreation, yet not everyone takes advantage of it.

We can eliminate much of the debate about health care by just focusing on prevention. If we teach people how to take care of themselves, that will decrease the chances of them becoming dependent on the system. For those who have already become ill, I propose instituting an incentive-based health-care system. For example, if an obese person loses a specific amount of weight, they would be offered a discount on their insurance premium; after all, money is a great motivator. But let's take a look at some practical solutions to get people started.

Anyone who has driven into the Coachella Valley has noticed those unsightly windmills located next to the freeway. They've always been an eyesore. Perhaps we should remove all the windmills and replace them with people. If someone is in need of more exercise, they would have the opportunity to stand in the wind-prone areas and flap their arms as hard as they could. By doing this, they could generate power, and burn calories at the same time. It would be a win-win situation for everyone, not to mention a wind-wind situation.

Another suggestion is to have our own “running of the bulls” event here in the desert. The idea would be to let loose a herd of bulls through the streets and have them chase a group of people who need exercise. There's no better way to get in shape quickly than be forced to run for your life.

But before you dismiss all this as a bunch of bull, we need to recognize the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Activity is the key to longevity.

One of the best ways to stay active is to swim, and here in the Coachella Valley, we're lucky to have a body of water large enough to accommodate thousands of swimmers. I'm talking about the jewel of the desert, the Salton Sea. There's nothing more satisfying than taking a dip on a beautiful day surrounded by the aroma of rotting fish. And that's the point: There could be a race called “Last One Out Is a Rotten Egg.” All the contestants would swim as fast as they could to get out of the water quickly. The last one out would, indeed, smell like rotten eggs.

The ideal solution would be to combine all of these activities together to create the First Annual Coachella Valley Turbine Toro Tilapia Triathlon. Participants would start off by flapping their arms like a wind turbine, then be chased by bulls all the way to the Salton Sea, where they could swim alongside floating tilapia.

When the swimmers emerge from the sea, each of them would be personally dried off by former Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, who's used to throwing in the towel. The winner of the competition would be invited to have a Big Mac with Bono Mack and her husband, Connie Mack. Of course, Big Macs aren't exactly the healthiest food in the world, which leads us back to our original goal of living a healthier lifestyle.

Our new congressman, Dr. Raul Ruiz, spent a year as a medical student with Partners in Health, an organization dedicated to providing health care to impoverished countries. His services could certainly be used to educate people here about the benefits of taking care of themselves.

In the meantime, you deserve a break today. Forget the burger; get your buns out, and do something active.

Friday, 05 April 2013 12:00

Early Palm Springs: A Personal Memoir

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, my parents came to Palm Springs almost every weekend. It wasn't surprising that they decided to eventually retire here. They lived in the same house for more than 35 years, and I continued to visit them as an adult.

I decided to move here permanently 10 years ago to help out my mother after my father passed away. I took care of her for eight years until she passed away in 2011, at the age of 91.

Looking back conjures up a lot of memories and makes me realize just how much the Coachella Valley has changed over the years. As a kid back in the ’60s, I can remember how excited I was whenever it was time for another Palm Springs weekend. As soon as we reached the desert, the first thing I noticed was how clear the sky was compared to all the smog back in Los Angeles. However, by the time the ’70s had arrived, there were days when even the desert had a cloud of pollution hanging over it.

I could always tell when we reached town by the abrupt change of scenery. One minute, it was nothing but barren desert. Then suddenly, there was lush greenery, as well as the hustle and bustle of small shops.

I can actually remember when Palm Canyon Drive and Indian Canyon Drive were both two-way streets. When you're a kid, everything looks bigger. Now these streets seem so narrow. I can't imagine how two-way traffic ever existed on them.

We used to stay at some of the historic hotels in the area, including the original Riviera and the Howard Manor. I noticed that every hotel's TV set had a closed-circuit station that broadcast nothing but weather information. There would be a series of dials that would show temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed. A camera sitting on a track would slide back and forth showing these various dials with music playing in the background. I remember watching this channel for hours, hoping the camera would fall off the track. It never happened!

My father was an avid golfer, and sometimes, he would take me along with him. That would give my mother the opportunity to go shopping. Back in those days, none of the streets that crossed washes had bridges built over them, so in the rain, those streets would become flooded very quickly. My mother was quite a daredevil when it came to driving and felt she was adept enough to navigate the rough waters. Somehow, she always made it across, apparently determined to take advantage of the big sales going on at the stores.

Sometimes, we would come to the desert in the summertime. I remember one visit when we heard on the weather report that it was 122 degrees. But that didn't stop my parents. They would occasionally go to Las Vegas for a change of pace, but Palm Springs always remained their favorite destination.

When she was in her prime, people used to tell my mother she looked like Marilyn Monroe. She used to be a fashion coordinator, and her passion was shopping in department stores for clothes. She had so many outfits that she rarely wore the same thing twice. My mother was outrageously funny, and I think I got my sense of humor from her. There was never a dull moment when she was around.

In her later years, though, she didn't go out much. She preferred to stay home and watch TV. You could always find her sitting on the couch watching Regis Philbin, The View, Judge Judy and her favorite channel, HLN. She also enjoyed reading the National Enquirer and believed every word of it!

In its heyday, Palm Springs was a vibrant and exclusive getaway. Now revitalization efforts are underway to recapture that energy.

My mother's energy and vitality still live on inside everyone who knew her. The two-year anniversary of her passing is this month. To my mother, Lillian: I love you, I miss you, and your sunny outlook will always be synonymous with Palm Springs.

Like the song says, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." So true.

Driving through the Coachella Valley can be a memorable experience, and not just because of the spectacular sights.

Many celebrities and politicians who have made their homes here have streets named after them. Seeing their names in lights again is like taking a trip down memory lane.

Have you ever been a stranger in the night on Wonder Palms Road? That street is now known as Frank Sinatra Drive. Have you ever lost hope while driving down Rio del Sol? That street is now called Bob Hope Drive. If you've ever encountered any singing cowboys on Bogie Road, you've probably been hiking on Gene Autry Trail.

All of this started when former movie star, Charles Farrell, became mayor of Palm Springs. Farrell, who founded the famous Racquet Club, had Farrell Drive named after him.

Even Let's Make a Deal host Monty Hall has his own street on the former Van Fleet Avenue. Tourists are encouraged to guess which house he lives in. They're asked, "Does Monty live behind door No. 1, door No. 2, or door No. 3?"

Having a street named after a famous person always sounds more interesting than using numbered streets. For instance, 34th Avenue is now Dinah Shore Drive, and 36th Avenue is now Gerald Ford Drive. Even band leader Fred Waring had 44th Avenue named after him. I wonder what Waring was wearing during the dedication ceremony.

The East Valley is home to streets named after the presidents. Motorists can find themselves driving down Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison or Monroe Streets. I'm still waiting for them to name a street after the Mathis Brothers in West Indio.

It's easy to tell who these streets were named after just by looking at the name. But there are other streets whose origins are more elusive. Take Palm Canyon Drive, for example. For the answer to that mystery, I consulted Riverside County Planning Commissioner Edward "Boom Boom" Finklestein.

I caught Ed in the parking lot as he was leaving his office one afternoon. "Can you tell me how Palm Canyon Drive got its name?" I asked him.

"Gotta go," he said hurriedly. "It's my Bingo night." As I started walking away, he yelled back, "Check with Bunny LaRumba! She knows everything!"

Ed handed me Bunny's card and gave a thrusting motion, confirming how he got the nickname "Boom Boom."

The address on the card indicated that Bunny lived in the East Valley farming community of Thermal. I hopped on Interstate 10, which led me to Highway 86. Can't they name freeways after people, too?

I entered a run-down trailer park and spotted the address. I knocked on the door, and Bunny came out to greet me.

"Boom Boom sent me here," I explained.

"It must be his bingo night," she surmised.

Bunny invited me in and proceeded to tell me her life story. As it turned out, she was named Miss Thermal in 1952. It was time to get down to business. "How did Palm Canyon Drive get its name?" I asked.

"It was named after a Kenyan with large palms," she replied. "They used to call it Palm Kenyan Drive."

Bunny continued. "When President Obama was growing up in Indonesia, he lived on Frank Sumatra Drive."

I listened with intrigue. "Obama's parents came to the Coachella Valley for a vacation and met Juan E. Levin, a local recluse. They later named Highway 111 after him."

By now, I was on the edge of my seat. "Juan E. Levin wanted the stretch of Highway 111 that went through Palm Springs to have a different name. The Kenyan had large palms, and the rest is history."

"I thought Obama was born in Hawaii," I told her.

"You'll have to check with Donald Trump about that whole birth-certificate thing," she said.

As I'm sure you've realized by now, my encounters with Edward "Boom Boom" Finklestein and Bunny LaRumba were entirely fictitious. But this proves how rumors are spread. These rumors give birth to folklore that's passed down from generation to generation.

It was a windy day in the Coachella Valley, and I decided to take a walk through one of our many canyons. As I hiked up the trail, a palm frond fell off a nearby tree and landed on my head. Suddenly, it all made sense. With all the palm trees and all the canyons in the area, it was no wonder they named the street Palm Canyon Drive.

I was thrilled with my discovery and started skipping with delight when I suddenly bumped into a tall man. It was President Obama!

"Don't tell anyone I'm here," he told me. "I was in town and decided to take a stroll." Then he reached out to shake my hand.

"What large palms you have," I said to the Kenyan in the canyon.

I wonder how Pennsylvania Avenue got its name.

It's the end of an era for listeners of KDES 98.5 FM in Palm Springs: Long-time personality Bob "The Bopper" O'Brien has abruptly departed from the station.

According to, the KDES program director and morning-show host was let go due to budgetary reasons. The article went on to say Bob is already looking for his next opportunity and can be reached at

The Independent emailed O’Brien, and he declined to comment—other than to send thanks to his fans—due to a “signed agreement.”

One of O'Brien's favorite expressions is: "This is B.O.B. on the J.O.B." Now, unfortunately, B.O.B. is out of a J.O.B., at least on KDES.

O'Brien had just come back from vacation and was on the air for one day before being permanently removed. Whatever the budgetary reasons were that led to his dismissal are between him and the owner of the station, RR Broadcasting.

However, removing a talent like him who has been a fixture on KDES for nine years just to save money simply doesn't make sense. O'Brien started on KDES in 2004, doing the midday show. Listeners looked forward to his noon-time request segment, called "Bob's Bistro." He continued doing mid-days until 2012, when he replaced Danny Fox on the morning show.

Interestingly, Danny Fox, another long-time fixture on KDES, also left abruptly without any explanation.

O'Brien's sense of humor made him a perfect fit for the morning show, and his encyclopedic knowledge of music helped him program the station, which bills itself as "The Greatest Hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s."

As it turns out, O'Brien is also an accomplished author. His book Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979, A Complete Guide was written under his real name, Bob Leszczak. 

According to his website, his next book is Who Did It First? 500 Very Famous Songs Originally Recorded by Someone Else.

O'Brien also sang with the Duprees early in his career.

O'Brien's absence has created a complete reshuffling of the KDES on-air personalities. Legendary DJ Russ O'Hara, has moved from afternoons to mornings. Listeners from L.A. may remember O'Hara, who was on KRLA for many years.

The former evening DJ, Victor Cruz, is now doing the afternoon shift. A syndicated request and dedication program hosted by Art Laboe has been expanded each night.

KDES started broadcasting in 1957 as an AM station at 920 on the dial. KDES-FM went on the air in 1963, and a few decades later began playing oldies, which has since morphed into classic hits

Their original frequency was 104.7. However, in 2010, KDES moved to 98.5, taking over the spot on the dial once occupied by beautiful-music station KWXY, also owned by RR Broadcasting. KWXY now broadcasts on 1340 AM, which is a travesty to the large senior population in the area, as they have to listen to this unique station on the less-sharp AM band.

In this age of media conglomerates, mergers and acquisitions are to be expected. But tinkering with a beloved personality like Bob O'Brien is a shame. He was the heart and soul of the station.

In today's radio market, it's unusual to find a DJ that actually knows something about the music they're playing. Driving around town, it was always reassuring to hear Bob's voice. His quick wit always brightened up my day.

KDES may still play the greatest hits, but Bob O'Brien—and his listeners—took the biggest hit of all when he was let go from the station.

This story is all about stories, and how, in my view, too many of them can block the view.

The impending demolition of the Desert Fashion Plaza in downtown Palm Springs has raised concerns that a new six-story hotel will impede the view of our local mountains.

But just how important is it to have a view? After all, Sarah Palin says she can see Russia from her house, but she still thinks Africa is a country. Barbara Walters reminds us to take some time to enjoy the view, but asks us: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

What is it about our magnificent mountains that makes them so visually appealing? I've come up with some ideas that would allow sky-high structures to exist while still retaining the all-important view.

Idea No. 1: All buildings above six stories must be made entirely of glass. This would allow people to see the mountains right through the building.

Of course, occupants would be required to provide their own means of privacy. This would apply primarily to restrooms and bedrooms.

Idea No. 2: Embed all new buildings into the mountain itself. This would ensure that the structure would essentially become part of the view. The soon-to-be razed Chart House restaurant would be a perfect example of this.

Idea No. 3: Eliminate the mountains. If there are no mountains, there would be no view to be blocked.

There are two ways this could be done. We could wait for natural erosion to do its work. However, this method may take several million years.

For those who are too impatient to wait that long, an organized effort could be made to supply workers with pickaxes. These laborers would chip away at the terrain until there's nothing left. However, removing the mountains may put an end to the tourism industry here.

So all of us have to decide what's more important: having the ability to construct tall buildings, or keeping the view?

The development in question is slated to take up three city blocks, so the solution is actually quite simple: All someone needs to do is walk a short distance to their left or right. When they are no longer standing in front of the hotel, the view will miraculously reappear. But in this car-conscious society, any suggestion of walking would be met with resistance. Therefore, I'm proposing some ideas to get people moving.

Idea No. 1: Install a conveyor belt directly in front of the hotel. It would look much like the ones passengers stand on in airports. People could then be taken a few blocks away, where they can once again see our majestic mountains.

Idea No. 2: The city could issue stilts to anyone seeking to elevate their view. These would be similar to the stilts used by circus performers. However, this technique might give the area more of a carnival atmosphere than it already has.

Idea No. 3: Have a series of trampolines situated in front of the hotel. Anyone who can jump high enough would be able to catch a brief glimpse of the mountains.

Of course, some of these ideas may cause serious injury, especially to our elderly visitors.

We could make use of the many local artists here in the desert. For a small fee, one of them can paint an artist's rendering of our snow-capped mountains so people won't miss the real thing. We could even take a cue from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and have a cable car attached to the power and telephone lines directly in front of the hotel.

Some of these proposals may be considered shocking—in the case of the last one, quite literally. But this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

What it all comes down to is perspective. It's really all about how you look at the situation.

If you went to see a movie, and there was a tall person sitting in front of you blocking the view, would you chop off his head with a pickaxe? It depends whether the movie is worth watching. But generally speaking, we shouldn't lose our heads about this.

Palm Springs has always had a quaint, village-like atmosphere. Building a new six-story hotel is a tall order that would bring controversy to new heights. That's my view. End of story.

If you've ever been confused about which channel you're watching here in the Coachella Valley, you're not alone: It's been a year since the merger between the former KPSP Channel 2 and KESQ Channel 3, which left some people scratching their heads.

CBS affiliate KPSP, otherwise known as "Local 2," was the only locally owned station in the valley. Philanthropist Jackie Lee Houston and her husband, Jim, started the station several years ago and used it to raise awareness of community-based efforts.

When Jackie Lee passed away, Jim decided to sell the station to the company which owns ABC affiliate KESQ, otherwise known as "News Channel 3." Channel 2 immediately moved operations into Channel 3's building, and now both stations broadcast their news from the same studio in Palm Desert. They also now use the same call letters.

If you think that is confusing, it doesn't end there.

News Channel 3 continues to air their evening newscasts at 5 and 6, while Local 2 broadcasts theirs at 5:30, and 6:30. But wait, there's more. The company that owns News Channel 3 also owns KDFX, otherwise known as "Fox 11." At 10 every night, they air a newscast called "CBS Local 2 News at 10 on Fox 11." This newscast is replayed on Channel 2 and airs as "CBS Local 2 Night Side."

This gives the anchors at Local 2 the opportunity to go home early where they can snuggle in bed and dream of greener pastures, presumably without the ubiquitous blue backdrop.

But wait, there's even more. Every morning, News Channel 3 airs a morning show from 5 to 7. Then from 7 to 9, it's replayed on Channel 11, where it's called "News Channel 3 in the Morning on Fox 11."

If you tune in on the weekend, both stations have different anchors, but use the same weatherman and sportscaster. And no matter which day you tune in, you'll always find both stations using the same reporters.

Some have complained that the merger has led to a lack of diversity, while Local 2 management contends that it gives them more resources to cover the news. Both viewpoints are actually correct: The merger does give Local 2 more resources with which to cover the news, while at the same time becoming a clone of News Channel 3.

The issue is not the quality of the newscasts. Both stations do a surprisingly good job for a smaller market. It's the duplication. If you were to watch both stations' newscasts back-to-back, you would essentially be watching the same program, but with different anchors.

There is one bright spot, though: Every weeknight at 6:45, you can watch "Eye on the Desert." The 15-minute program, anchored by Local 2's weatherman, is the most informative arts and entertainment show in the Coachella Valley.

By the way, there is another TV player in town: The NBC affiliate, KMIR 6: The call letters were named after the historic El Mirador Hotel, where the station was originally located.

The two principal anchors on Local 2 and News Channel 3 are rumored to be golf buddies, which makes me wonder what they talk about on the golf course. Could they have inside information about their parent company's plans to take over more stations? Could CNN be next? What about "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on News Channel 3." Or perhaps "Anderson Cooper 360 on Local 2 News at 10 on Fox 11."

But why stop there? They might as well go worldwide. Don't be surprised if you find yourself watching "BBC World Service on News Channel 3 in the Morning."

What would Walter Cronkite think? Or more importantly, what would Ted Baxter think? The future of serious journalism in the Coachella Valley is at stake.

The least they could do is use a different-colored backdrop for each station so you can remember which channel you're watching. For instance, KESQ can keep the blue; Local 2 can use green; and Fox 11 can be red.

Or better yet, they can have a strobe light shining different colors and play disco music. I'd rather watch the anchors get up and dance than watch the same newscast on the same set all day long. After all, it's all about diversity. We'll be right back.

"Give it another chance, Lance!" Sheryl said. "The Tour de Palm Springs is coming up. You can be a star again!"

Though they were no longer romantically linked, Sheryl Crow was Lance Armstrong's biggest fan. "I'm out of shape," Lance explained. "I've been lying on the couch looking at my jerseys on the wall."

"You need to stop moping around all day," Sheryl told him.

"I'm not moping! I'm doping!" Lance insisted. "As soon as I'm done, I'm going to the bicycle shop to check out the new models."

About an hour later, Lance entered the shop and looked around. "May I help you?" the manager said.

"I need a bike with strong spokes," Lance told him.

"You'll have to speak to our spokes person," the manager explained. "Let me get him for you."

A moment later, the manager returned with a soft-spoken man. "I can have your bicycle delivered next week," the man told Lance. "But I can't speak for the spokes. There's been a spike in spoke sales at our Spokane plant. There isn't a speck left."

"Never mind," the cyclist said. "I'll find my own bike." Lance spotted one he liked and bought it on the spot.

He rode it back as fast as he could to show Sheryl. "How do you like my new bike?" he asked.

"It would help if you took the training wheels off," she told him.

Lance got a screwdriver and removed the training wheels. Then he honked the horn on the handlebars. "I'm ready for Palm Springs!" he exclaimed.

"Have a nice ride," Sheryl said as she handed Lance his helmet.

The cyclist was ready for his big comeback. After he arrived in the desert, he located his hotel, the Renaissance Esmeralda.

A man happened to be walking out of the resort just as Lance rode into the driveway. The cyclist recognized the man from TV.

"Aren't you Dr. Sanjay Gupta?” Lance asked.

"That's right," Sanjay replied. "I'm here for the Desert Town Hall lectures. I'm giving a speech on the dangers of doping. Aren't you that Armstrong guy?"

Lance tried to think of something to say. "I'm Louis Armstrong," he told Sanjay as he started singing “Hello Dolly.”

"You don't look like Louis Armstrong," the doctor said. "You must be that other Armstrong."

"You're right," Lance said. "I'm Neil Armstrong. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

"Wait a minute," Sanjay said. "You're Lance Armstrong, the cyclist! You need to come to my lecture. I can help you."

"I don't have time," Lance explained. "The Tour de Palm Springs is about to begin. I have to get to the starting line."

Sanjay gave Lance a Slinky from his pocket. "Whenever you feel the urge to take steroids, just stretch this Slinky instead," the doctor told him. "It works every time."

Lance was grateful. He took his new Slinky and happily made his way to Palm Springs, where the race was just getting under way.

"On your mark, get set, go!" the announcer yelled. Lance sped off with the other cyclists and soon found himself in the lead.

However, the faster Lance went, the more he found he was missing his steroids. He reached into his pocket to get his Slinky, but it had fallen out!

The cyclist immediately pulled over and got off his bike. "Help! I lost my Slinky!" he screamed to the crowd.

One of the spectators spoke up. "I saw what happened," he told Lance. "You lost your Slinky when you rode your bike under the giant Marilyn Monroe statue. It bounced up and got stuck under her dress."

Lance took out his cell phone and called Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "My Slinky is stuck inside Marilyn Monroe!" he exclaimed. "I need you to perform emergency surgery!"

"I'll be right over," Sanjay said. A few minutes later, the doctor arrived, with a CNN crew who covered the event as “breaking news.” The entire nation was on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome.

Sanjay climbed up on Lance's shoulders so he could reach up into the tall statue. The first thing he noticed was a man's leg sticking out.

The doctor pulled on the man’s leg until he fell to the ground. It was Bill Clinton! "What in the world were you doing in there?" Sanjay asked.

Bill had a big smile on his face. "I was just havin' a look around," he said with a smile.

"Let me borrow your cigar," Sanjay said. "I think I can pry Lance's Slinky out."

Sanjay carefully inserted the cigar and suddenly, the Slinky popped out. Lance caught it and stretched it as far as he could.

"There's still time to finish the race!" he said as he got back on his bike.

Lance had so much energy that he couldn't stop. The cyclist raced down the street, knocking over other riders in his path. Unfortunately, he became so erratic that he collided with an air conditioning van just as he reached the finish line.

When the driver got out of the van to assess the damage, Lance immediately knew who he was.

"Aren't you the guy who created the Tour de Palm Springs?" Lance asked.

"Yes, sir, it's Esser," Tim replied. "I know who you are, too. You're Lance Armstrong!"

"I don't allow my riders to use steroids," Tim told Lance. "I'm going to have to detain you in my van."

Lance tried to explain. "I didn't use steroids! I just stretched my Slinky!"

Just then, Sheryl arrived with a group of cyclists. "Our group is called the Free Lance Riders," she explained. "We demand his release."

A reporter approached the group to get an interview. "Excuse me," he said. "I'm a freelance writer. I'd like to ask the Free Lance Riders a few questions."

Tim finally had enough. "Peddle your pedals somewhere else," he told Lance. "You're free to go."

The cyclist was thrilled and decided to announce his plans for the future. "I'm starting my own event," he said. "It's called the Tour de Lance."

Sheryl had plans of her own. "All I wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Palm Canyon Drive," she said.

"That's a good lyric for a song," Lance pointed out.

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