Indy Digest: April 7, 2022
In late 2012, I placed an ad on Craigslist. The headline on the ad: “Coachella Valley Independent seeks talented, fun freelancers.”
One of the first responses came from Erin Peters. In her email, she talked about her writing and reporting experience, most notably for her own website, called The Beer Goddess. While her experience was impressive, I was especially intrigued by the portion of her email that addressed the “fun” portion of that headline.
“Am I fun? Well, I think so,” Erin wrote. “Here are just a few fun things I’ve done: 1. Attended Burning Man last year and helped build a New Orleans themed jazz bar, which was bigger than the actual bar (Le Bon Temps Roule). 2. Skydiving: I won’t get into the fact that there was a malfunction with the main chute, and we ended up pulling the reserve chute. Okay, maybe ‘fun’ isn’t the right word for this. 3. Moved to Big Bear for a couple of years from Los Angeles to work from home and snowboard. 4. Made up a beer holiday. Yeah, seriously: www.StoutDay.com.”
I instantly set up a meeting with Erin during my next trip to Palm Springs—I hadn’t even moved here yet—and we did lunch at Manhattan in the Desert.
The Independent had its first beer writer. And I had met someone who would become a dear friend.
Erin was definitely fun. Strikingly beautiful, she taught swim classes in her spare time, and dealt with a wonky shoulder that she kept dislocating. We howled with laughter when she told us about the time she dislocated her shoulder while sleeping … buck naked. Unable to get dressed or do much of anything, Erin had to call paramedics for help. She was both relieved and mortified when the hunky Palm Desert firemen arrived.
We bonded over our love of good alcoholic beverages. While I am more of a cocktail person, she introduced me to craft beer—instilling in me an appreciation of good sour beers. Garrett and I were regulars at her parties at her Palm Desert home. One year—for her birthday, if I recall—she got The Flusters to play in her backyard. When she came our way to Palm Springs, we’d often hit the bars on Arenas Road. She had an open invitation to use our guest room so she didn’t have to make the drive back to Palm Desert; she took us up on the invite a time or two.
Like many young professionals, she found advancing her career in the Coachella Valley to be something of a challenge. A digital marketing/content specialist, she worked at Graphtek Interactive for several years before moving on to Cord Media and then Palm Springs Life.
In 2017, she decided she needed a change and moved to Ventura. Around this time, she received some life-shattering news: She had ovarian cancer.
She fought the cancer with every ounce of her being, undergoing energy-draining treatments and constantly looking for new trials and therapies. Through it all, she kept living her life as best she could. She continued to teach swim lessons, and worked as the digital media manager for Good Sam. She kept writing about beer, and made trips to Guinness’ headquarters in Ireland to celebrate International Stout Day.
While Erin no longer lived in the Coachella Valley, we kept in touch. I went to Ventura in the summer of 2018 to celebrate The Beer Goddess website’s anniversary, and I got to meet her then-boyfriend and future husband, Mark Valance. It was a fantastic time; I promised I’d come back to Ventura soon, bringing Garrett along the next time. Due to the pandemic, work craziness and scheduling conflicts, we never made that trip—something I’ll always regret.
On Jan. 1, Erin beautifully and heartbreakingly wrote on Facebook about her rough 2021.
“Just one year ago, today, I was paddle boarding the local harbor on my new paddle board,” she wrote. “Not much longer after that, things went downhill. I’m a big fan of learning new things in life (like paddle boarding!) and think one should never stop exploring and growing. Lord knows, Mark and I learned a lot this past year. We learned that different hospitals have different distribution for different drugs and trials. … I learned what a fantastic researcher Mark is. We learned how to access my port in order to feed me intravenously, something usually the nurses do. We learned that there’s exciting new cancer treatments (possible cure) in the pipeline.”
The post concluded: “Everything in life seems to have crests and troughs. 2021’s trough was deep and strong. But I’m a good swimmer. While the breaths I took and continue to take are shallow within the rough waters, they are keeping me alive. May 2022 rise up in a beautiful crest so that I can ride the wave to health and vitality.”
That crest was not to be. Just 13 days later, she posted, simply: “Chemo stopped working.”
We chatted shortly after that via text. She maintained a brave attitude despite it all.
Early this morning, Mark posted on social media: “The love of my life passed peacefully tonight. I’m lost, but thankful she is not suffering from the 5-year battle with ovarian cancer anymore.”
I love you, Erin Valance. I’m beyond heartbroken. Tonight, I’ll open up a sour beer and toast a life well lived.
Our deepest sympathies go to Mark and the rest of Erin’s loved ones.
From the Independent
By Matt King
April 5, 2022
“Freaks” was originally released in 2013—but exploded on TikTok in 2020 and 2021, catapulting Surf Curse to a whole new level of success.
By Matt King
April 7, 2022
Altın Gün’s music can be described as psychedelic Turkish funk, as the band covers and reinvents folk songs from Turkey.
Beginnings and Endings: As Jennifer Kupcho Wins Her First Tournament, the LPGA Says Goodbye to Mission Hills
By Kevin Fitzgerald
April 5, 2022
A recap of the final edition of the Rancho Mirage LPGA tourney formerly known as the Dinah Shore.
By Bill Frost
April 6, 2022
First true crime stories took over podcasting. Now, the genre is infecting streaming TV.
April 7, 2022
Topics addressed on this week’s comics page include the missing 7 1/2 hours; overconfident yelling; father-son bonding; and more!
• The latest Palm Springs wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 showed a slight increase in the amount of virus. Testing done on March 28 and 29 revealed 240,020 and 110,079 viral copies per liter on those dates, respectively—up from 80,401 and 130,715 the week before. Given that number was more than 6.6 million on one day around the start of the year, these numbers remain fairly low. About 73.2 percent of the virus on March 29 was the BA.2 subvariant. Considering the BA.2 subvariant is more contagious, and numbers are increasing in other parts of California, I expect these numbers to rise a bit in the coming weeks.
• Just in time for these expected increases, governments are cutting back the frequency of COVID-19 stats reporting. Our partners at CalMatters say: “This week, California shifted—in a small but significant way—its approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective Monday, the state Department of Public Health stopped issuing weekday updates on coronavirus data, including test positivity, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations. It now publishes those numbers just two days a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Some counties have since followed suit with their local dashboards. A spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health told me in an email: ‘We have learned over the course of this pandemic that it is more helpful to look at data trends over time and that public health recommendations should be based on consistent trends rather than day-over-day changes, which are impacted by various testing and reporting patterns over weekends and holidays.’ Last week, the state also lifted its vaccine mandate for indoor mega-events.”
• Riverside County is one of those counties that is also cutting back its reporting, The Press-Enterprise reports.
• Related: The Atlantic declares: “America Is Staring Down Its First So What? Wave.” A taste: “As national concern for COVID withers, the country’s capacity to track the coronavirus is on a decided downswing. Community test sites are closing, and even the enthusiasm for at-home tests seems to be on a serious wane; even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a new deal on domestic pandemic funding, those patterns could stick. Testing and case reporting are now so ‘abysmal’ that we’re losing sight of essential transmission trends, says Jessica Malaty Rivera, a research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. ‘It’s so bad that I could never look at the data and make any informed choice.’ Testing is how individuals, communities, and experts stay on top of where the virus is and whom it’s affecting; it’s also one of the main bases of the CDC’s new guidance on when to mask up again. Without it, the nation’s ability to forecast whatever wave might come around next is bound to be clouded.”
• Also related: Remember how on Monday we mentioned the deal the House and Senate had reached regarding $10 billion in funding for COVID-19-related programs? Well … NPR reports: “Quick passage of a bipartisan $10 billion COVID aid bill is unlikely now that Senate Republicans—with the support of some Democrats—are trying to use the legislation as a way to extend Trump-era immigration restrictions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday accused Republicans of using ‘poison pills’ to derail a carefully crafted bipartisan compromise after they blocked a procedural motion the day before to begin debate on the funding bill. … Republicans want Democrats to allow a vote on an amendment that would extend an order that made it easier to deport migrants at the border. Under Title 42, a World War II-era public health law, the government can take emergency action to expedite deportations if there are public health concerns, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
• Speaking of pandemics … the bird flu is now sickening birds across the country. A professor of veterinary medicine, writing for The Conversation, breaks down what this means: “The virus of concern in this outbreak is a Eurasian H5N1 HPAI virus that causes high mortality and severe clinical signs in domesticated poultry. Scientists who monitor wild bird flocks have also detected a reassortant virus that contains genes from both the Eurasian H5 and low pathogenic North American viruses. This happens when multiple strains of the virus circulating in the bird population exchange genes to create a new strain of the virus, much as new strains of COVID-19 like omicron and delta have emerged during the ongoing pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk to public health from this outbreak is low. No human illnesses have been associated with this virus in North America. That was also true of the last H5N1 outbreak in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015.” Whew.
• Focusing in to local news: Our friends at the Palm Springs Post offer an update on one of the golf courses the Oswit Land Trust is trying to acquire to preserve as open space: “More than 100 neighbors and others concerned with the future of the former Bel Air Greens golf course tuned into Zoom Wednesday evening for what was described as a ‘neighborhood outreach meeting.’ The event turned into a virtual lashing of the land’s current leaseholder that was both emotional and comical at times. The meeting was one of two required by the city as the leaseholder, Albert Howell, attempts to go through the steps of converting the decaying former golf course from open space to residential use. That process kicked off last November when Howell filed an intent to convert application for the 35 acres off El Cielo Road adjacent to Mesquite Golf & Country Club. … At the end of 75 minutes of testimony, those who were able to have their voices heard through the din made one thing clear: No developer will have it easy building homes on some of the last remaining open space in the city. And Howell, despite his insistence otherwise, was informed he does not currently hold the lease to land zoned for housing and probably never will.” Read our recent coverage on Oswit’s attempts to acquire Bel Air and two other golf courses here.
• A man with a familiar family name is the new Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians leader. From a news release: “Tribal Council Chairman Reid D. Milanovich was elected to his first term as tribal chairman. Milanovich vacates his Vice Chairman position, and a special election will be held in coming months. … The Tribal Council elections are a matter of tribal law, and are managed privately by the Election Board. The results of the March 15, 2022 election were certified and became final on April 5, 2022 when the Tribal Council Members were sworn in.” Reid Milanovich’s father, Richard Milanovich, led the tribe for almost three decades.
• It appears a local grocery-store strike has been averted. The Los Angeles Times says: “A union representing 47,000 Southern California grocery workers tentatively signed a new three-year contract with Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions, averting a strike they had authorized last week. The contract will be put to a vote next week by rank-and-file members of seven United Food and Commercial Workers locals representing employees at 540 stores from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. The union delayed releasing details of the agreement until members ratify it. But it praised the result, which it said included higher wages and improved benefits for essential workers who have toiled through difficult conditions during the two-year pandemic.”
• Related-ish: One grocery store chain engaged in price-gouging during the early days of the pandemic, according to the state. The Los Angeles Times explains: “As panicked shoppers stocked up on grocery essentials during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smart & Final made them pay. The grocery chain engaged in price gouging on four premium egg products between March 4 and June 22, 2020, state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said Tuesday as his office announced a settlement with the Commerce-based supermarket company. … According to Bonta, Smart & Final sold more than 100,000 cartons of illegally priced eggs, having raised the price on some items by approximately 25%. The grocery chain will pay $175,000 in penalties.”
• And finally … Coachella has a new headliner to replace Ye, better known as Kanye West … maybe? PageSix.com—not normally a source we’d quote here in the Digest, but we’re making an exception given the low stakes here—reports: “Coachella organizers allegedly tried to stiff The Weeknd after he stepped in to replace Kanye West as Sunday headliner at the festival later this month. We’re told the singer threatened to pull out if he wasn’t paid the same money as West, who was set to rake in $8 million plus a $500,000 production fee. Page Six had exclusively revealed that The Weeknd was the front-runner to replace the ‘All of the Lights’ rapper, who bailed on the gig less than two weeks before showtime. Coachella organizers announced early Wednesday that The Weeknd, 32, and house music supergroup Swedish House Mafia will be taking over the rapper’s slots on Sunday, April 17, and Sunday, April 24. But a music source told us the deal wasn’t yet done for the ‘Blinding Lights’ singer.”
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