TUESDAY, APRIL 15
The residents of Needles are talking about seceding from San Bernardino County—or even California—to form their own county or to join Nevada, and nobody’s sure if that’s a threat or a promise. The way-out-nowhere city—which is not pronounced “need-less,” no matter how appropriate that might be—is feeling betrayed and ignored by county leaders. At least the desert heat hasn’t affected their perception. Back in March, when Needles asked the county to take over its troubled hospital, supervisors said they’d only help if the hospital got rid of its emergency room and inpatient beds. Needles kind of thought it might be nice to have a hospital that served people when they most needed it and had places to lie down. So on April Fool’s Day it took over the hospital. Soon after, talk of secession began. One problem: Needles doesn’t have the necessary 10,000 people to form a county in California. One solution: in Nevada, its 5,700 people might make it a medium-sized . . . uhhh . . . chicken ranch.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16
President George W. Bush listens intently as Pope Benedict XVI gives a speech at the White House about the importance of democracy connecting with moral values. He seems to listen, anyway. And it seems to move him. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. As the Pope concludes, Bush moves out of his chair, moves to the religious leader’s side and says, movingly, “Thank you, your Holiness. Awesome speech.” At least he didn’t puke on the Pope, the way his dad threw up on Japan’s prime minister during a formal dinner in 1992—although that was pretty awesome and moving, too . . . reverse peristalsis, I think that particular movement is called.
THURSDAY, APRIL 17
A naked man, standing on a rocky precipice in Riverside’s Challen Hill Park—looking into the sky, his arms spread, apparently “trying to get closer to God”—is talked down by police, who detain him for a mental health evaluation. No word on what he thought of the Pope’s speech.
FRIDAY, APRIL 18
The high price of gold—more than $900 per ounce—is inciting a real muckenfuss in Southern California deserts, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which reports that mining claims have risen from nearly 5,000 to more than 8,000 since the year 2000. That kind of get-rich-quick crapshoot is stupid, of course—even when it’s 14-karat crap—and not just because of the get-rich-quick part. Mineral mining really muckenfusses with the environment; it’s the No. 1 polluting industry in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory—just ahead of the company that makes Keith Richards’ living embalming tonic. In other hopefully-not-toxic get-rich-quick news, I accidentally get some of that gray crud from my lottery scratchers in my mouth.
SATURDAY, APRIL 19
After a lot of negotiation and concession, agreement is reached to allow construction of a Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs. Lots of people react as though that’s a good thing—others as though it’s a better thing than it was when it was first approved by the Palm Springs City Council last October. Back then, the hotel was to stand between 100 and 120 feet tall and feature 500 rooms. But after a lawsuit was filed by a group headed by height-limit activists Frank Tysen and Roxann Ploss (yes, height activists . . . who knew?), the developers came up with a design that has a 100-foot-height limit and is not so dense. Tysen explains he was worried that allowing such a tall hotel would set a precedent for other buildings downtown. “We didn’t want to stand in the way of the revitalization of downtown Palm Springs,” he says, sounding almost apologetic—perhaps because there was nothing anybody could do to keep the tired Hard Rock brand out altogether. On the other hand, maybe it will fit in with the city’s retro ambiance.
SUNDAY, APRIL 20
Lakers fans catch the Game One of the playoff series with Denver at Red Baron Pizza in Hesperia, and they’re pretty sure that funny feeling in the pit of their stomachs is nervousness—nothing to do with the food. Last year at this time, Red Baron was one of the city’s lowest-rated restaurants by the San Bernardino County Health Department. But this year it was the only restaurant in the city to receive a perfect score. Five other businesses got perfect scores, and eight received 99’s—including, of course, the 99 Cents Only store.
MONDAY, APRIL 21
President George W. Bush makes an appearance on “Deal or No Deal,” surprising contestant Army Capt. Joseph Kobes by appearing on a screen to express gratitude for the soldier’s three tours of duty in Iraq—which earned him a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Bush then goes back to hosting his own game show, the one in which planet Earth’s 6.65 billion contestants lose every day. Thanks a lot, Your Assholiness. Awful presidency.