Friday, February 18, 2011


A TRIBAL TRIBUTE TO PETE BONINE. 150 members of our tribe are gathered at Quartzsite, Az for the Annual RV show and flea market.
We use the occasion to celebrate a much loved member who's been struck with Lou Gerig's disease and must hang up his keys. Those who feel especially close to him and appreciate the contribution he's made to their lives-- gather to tell him so. Vicki Bonar and Joey Shelton arrange to have him brought up from Yuma. I've been asked to lead the event.
We begin by presenting him with a box full of cards on which we have written personal messages of thanks and recollection. In the coming weeks he will surely enjoy reading them.
Then one by one people stand to reminisce events with Pete---many tell how he came to their aid---fixed their fridge or water pump or hot water heater or install solar panels. Or they talk about shared adventures down the Colorado River---an event he organized more than once. He hosted our fabulous annual Dance Rally once. He helped Brad build a whole camper.
He still has his wits about him and seems to relish being with his friends---some have been travel buddies almost 20 years. And of course I wrote a poem for the occasion---a poem that invites audience participation.
When I point to Pete--the group says "Pete Bonine."
Here's the Poem:

We've all done deeds for others' needs.
We've all helped cook and clean.
But it's doubtful if any has helped as many
as mister Pete Bonine

Who is the champ of hose and clamp?
Who is the best ever seen
at helping to mend a brake or rear end
could it be Pete Bonine?

And who gets the calls when the temperature falls
'bout troubles with our machine?
Who can fix heaters and read tricky meters?
Was it our Pete Bonine?

He has traveled and played, wandered and strayed;
camped in meadows so green;
shared our fun for a decade and one;
I speak of Pete Bonine

We've seen him whirl ladies from forties to eighties;
bask in our fireside scene;
show movies this big on the side of his rig;
Yes, it was Pete Bonine

Who viewed the whales? Who hiked the trails
with Hippies in Eugene?
Who Kayaked down the rivers brown?
Yes! It was Pete Bonine!

We friends by the dozens; closer than cousins
gather in this Quartzsite scene
to say we're proud and shout out loud:
At a signal, we all rose to say WE LOVE YOU PETE BONINE-----and broke into prolonged, thunderous applause. Can you see the joy on his face? Afterwards, he whispered his response to me and I shared it with the group: I love you too he said---and I enjoyed every minute with all of you---I'm thankful to God for the ability to fix things---it was my pleasure to be helpful.
Special memory pictures were presented and special lady friends gathered around for photographs.
He bid us farewell with the courage of a hero.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: "all you ever wanted to do was contribute"(Erhard) And here is living proof. My tribe---the WINs---loved, enjoyed and appreciated this man and we all relished the opportunity to tell him so--face to face. Shouldn't we do more celebration services than memorial services?

Sunday, February 13, 2011


75 MILES BEYOND THOSE MOUNTAINS IS THE MEXICAN BORDER. WHO WOULD OR COULD WALK THAT FAR TO ENTER THE US ILLEGALLY. With a companion, I hiked in this desert today. Those are the Sand Tank mountains on the horizon--about 25 miles southwest of Casa Grande, Az. We've been told that illegals pass through here.
We find one of their footpaths.
And this curious pile of stuff nearby.
A good backpack and coat.
And an assortment of abandoned gear----a great opportunity to see what border crossers carry with them.
In the backpack is a Mexican flag--we will keep it as a souvenir.
And these curious husks we could not identify---but assumed they were some kind of food.
And these items---I'll give you a close look at them.
A black water jug---specifically manufactured in Mexico for border crossers---the white version --we learned--made the illegal too easy to spot.
Electrolyte liquids to replace what the body loses in long desert walks.
Dont know why they left their Jesus and Mary watch. Good luck charm?
An electrolyte bottle with oatmeal bits inside. We wondered if they had a child with them.
A packet of medicine, I presume. Anybody know what PROTEHEPAR is? ----just one more mystery on top of the obvious one: Why did they leave their stuff here? We left the scene more or less intact in case they were coming back---took only the watch (wasn't working) and the flag. For my tech-savvy friends who might wish to visit the site, I record the precise location----N 32 degrees---50.240 minutes---W 112 degrees---07.133 minutes.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: My view on the overall illegal immigration question.
1. Clubs, cultures and nations have the right and responsibility to controll access to their "thing".
2. The US has failed its responsibility for reasons of greed (wanting cheap labor) and sentimentality. (unwilling to do what would really stop the llegal flow --Snipers on the border or some meaningful punishment)
3. Reasonable changes in current policy would include biometric identification system---easy to get work permits---with strictly enforced limits (Like Switzerland) when the worker must return to his native country. Severe penalties for hiring illegals. Severe penalties for abusing illegals. Those already here must get legal--work a specified time and GO HOME (for a specified time before being allowed to return for more work)
4. We alone should control the number and qualifications of who may become a citizen---based on OUR needs--not theirs.

Friday, February 11, 2011


THE MOST VISITED GRAVE IN ARIZONA----Hadji Ali or HI JOLLY as his American friends nicknamed him---- a Syrian camel driver brought to the west along with 75 camels in 1858 as part of an army experiment in desert transportation and freight hauling. I bring (my camera shy) companion to see Hi Jolly's tomb in Quartzsite and she wants to hear my poem about him.

As I begin to versify, a total stranger---seemingly charmed by my words--steps close to hear my oration. My companion is amused and thinks the moment is worth capturing on camera as I continue with the poem: "Hi Jolly Returns to Quartzsite".

He's unabashedly focused on the story as I unroll it---I'm flattered at his keen attention--Perhaps he's never heard anyone quote poetry before.

I'm into it now---full force---with an audience of two as I conclude the poem. He seemed genuinely mesmerized---suggested I send the poem to Arizona Highways Magazine.
I share with you my vision of Hi Jolly returning to see the 100,000 campers now clustered about his town.

Hi Jolly Returns to Quartzsite

Friends called it folly, but bold Hi Jolly
Came with camels to the West.
The Army back east was testing which beast,
The mule or camel, worked best.

Results were abstruse, the camels set loose
To wander the West left and right.
Hi Jolly stayed, worked and played,
And died in the town of Quartzsite.

But at the top of this year, with spirit and cheer,
Hi Jolly returned to his town.
Some cosmic track ushered back
This wandering desert clown.

Floating ghostly still in those Chocolate Hills,
He scanned the valley below.
A Syrian boy felt the wondrous joy
That only long-sleepers could know.

His town was alive, like a busy beehive.
Bustling activity swirled.
Thousands and thousands of small mobile houses
Filled the largest campground in the world.

Like fog on the ground, Hi Jolly floated ‘round,
Absorbing as good spirits can,
The flavor, the scenes, and what it all means,
This massing of deep desert clans.

Something grand and dear was happening here
Hi Jolly could not have expected:
The mobile domicile and a new lifestyle
In Quartzsite were being perfected.

The sprouting seed of a brand new breed,
Living simple, light and lean.
Living happy and free as wild Cherokee
In cozy little living machines;

A life that’s bold with oneself in control
And clusters of friends in affection;
Reinventing the tribe and helping revive
Our long lost natural connection.

Choosing sunlight’s glow over ice and snow,
Acceptance over sorrow,
Adventurous game over riches and fame
And today over “iffy” tomorrow.

His mission complete, Hi Jolly took seat
And vanished on the ghost camel “Rhyme,”
Speeding his report to his spirit cohorts,
Because eternity is interested in time.

He originally came to try a new game,
So it gave Hi Jolly sweet pride
And special delight that here in Quartzsite,
Something new was again being tried.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


THEY EXIST----AND I WILL SHOW YOU ONE. My companion this date shares with me a fascination with derelict buildings.
This abandoned motel near the Salton sea draws our attention. Surely there's a story here--we will go get it.
We go through it noticing this and that---how the copper wiring has been removed---sinks, toilets, doors, windows etc. The life and loves of its last occupants are clearly written in the debris we find. I'm delighted to have a friend who enjoys so strange a hobby as this. We poke our way through all the rooms.
We note there is something different about this last one. Someone's been here very recently---food, water, clothing scattered about.
Someone apparantly has been sleeping on that couch---eating off that table. AND THEN---AND THEN!!!
An angry man steps from the recesses--yelling and warning us not to steal anything. We were intruders in his home and vulnerable to a Norman Bates (the movie Psycho) type attack. I managed this shot when my companion distracted him.
Then instinctively went into charm mode---cheerful---asking easy questions--needing his help. He responded---warmed up and eventually told his story: Has been living here for years---tolerated by the Indian lady owner--who bought the place at a tax sale. He tried living at the Slabs ---gave various reasons for leaving there. The truth was obvious to me, however. He was drunk and wanted to stay drunk.-----That requires easy quick access to liquor. The Slabs are 4 or so miles from an alcohol source. Here, a store is only a half mile away. My tiny home town of Sondheimer, La had several like him---they were my sometime childhood friends. I surmise that he gets the $600 a month that California will pay to such folks to avoid paying the $2500 a month it would cost to institutionalize and treat him. Doing the math, He has $20 a day to feed his body and his habit---so he requires free rent.
He showed us where he sleeps in the summer---atop these stacked mattresses---shaded in late afternoon and a bit more breezy at nights. He had not lost his sense of humor---told me that I could leave my companion with him.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: The story I take away from this encounter is that the guy chose easy access to alcohol over easy access to human companionship at the Slabs. I wonder what he would choose if the choice was made even more stark: ALCOHOL OR PEOPLE. (i.e. total solitude with alcohol or people ---with no alcohol.)

Friday, February 04, 2011


AN UNLIKELY SEA!----that blue stripe behind me---the SALTON SEA---35 miles long --about 15 wide--less than 50 feet deep---saltier than the ocean--less salty than the Great Salt Lake---the most productive fishing area in the world----OF JUST ONE SPECIES OF FISH---Tilapia----all others have died out as the sea grows steadily more salty---and get this--- tilapia are a fresh water species---introduced here--from asia--that have learned to survive. So numerous are they---that they can be caught by simply dragging a hook through the water.

ITS BIGGEST SURPRISE IS THAT IT (THE SEA) EXIST AT ALL. Until 1905 it was a dry lake bed where salt was mined. And then---and then---an accident occured----an overfull Colorado River burst its banks---racing down a west-running farming canal---creating a brand new river--surging down, down, down ---260 feet below sea level filling the area with water. It evaporates at the rate of about 6 feet a year and would disappear in 10 years---EXCEPT---that now the farmers of the Imperial Valley allow the runoff of their fields to go there---almost exactly equaling the evaporation rate---so the water level holds more or less steady. Nutrients leached into it from the farms creates incredible algae blooms--food for zillions of fish----but then---but then, the growing algae depleats the oxygen level----until---- AAAAHHHGGGGG----JILLIONS OF FISH DIE---wash ashore--stink to high heaven for awhile---then next farming season---the survivors restart the whole process. With my camera shy companion, I'll go down there and show you.
I'm camped up her--on a plateau I call Overlook----below me---the BADLANDS.
Down by the sea, I examine a fish carcus. Behind me, the remains of a marina---innundated by one freakish year of high water. Developers once hoped to create a Lake Mead kind of place here but the salty water and dead fish smells did not draw the tourist---or investors. Now only a strange few live along its shores.
Last season's casualties---by the millions---litter the shore line. Who do you think could benefit from this wierd cycle of boom and bust?
THESE HAPPY THOUSANDS---that's who---White Pelicans---a large percentage of the species live here. Of course gulls, ducks and a few hundred other species cash in here---often enroute to elsewhere.
On another day---My "tribe" visits the south eastern shore to view a natural wonder---burping along its shores. That's one of us atop the peak---a very interesting Alaskan.
In the right setting he will divulge some of his northland adventures. My favorite is his year's living aboard a log raft in a remote Alaskan bay---built a house on it.
These mounds are what we've come to see. Each a natural tiny mud volcano---erupting because here the earth's crust is thin----and hot. No surprise then, that 4 geothermal power plants operate nearby.
I Risk a facefull of mud to get a close look.
at this.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: The creation and management of the Salton Sea is an interesting and complicated story of unintended consequences and adaptation. Clever minds have proposed several ingenious "solutions" to its challenge. The Sonny Bono wildlife reserve at its south end features huge settling ponds to detoxify farm runoff before it enters the sea--- a great start---the ponds burst with life and food for millions of birds---additional food is grown on the spot for them. A win win for them and us viewers.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


PERHAPS THIS MAN AND HIS FAMILY WILL INSPIRE YOU TO LIVE YOUR DREAM. A real live Tarzan of the desert----Marshal South---- scans the valley below his mountaintop home in the remotes of Southern California ---in the 1930's. When I saw this photo in the library of Julian, I knew that I must go visit the site.
You can drive to the base of Ghost mountain, with only a few miles of dirt road.
And then you must hike a mile uphill to this spot. (approximately where Marshal was standing) Below is Blair Valley.
Incredible as it now seems---an entire family of 5 lived 16 years in this unlikely place.
What remains of their house.
Can you see the cistern to my left? It's one of several---In front of me is a collection bowl. Searching around, I found several water collection sites and a likely spot for their garden.
Also this sun dial.
Marker at the base of the mountain ----says: YAQUITEPEC----ONE FAMILY'S ATTEMPT TO LIVE OFF THE LAND. In 1932 while the country felt the grip of depression, Marshal and Tanys South came to this mountain to build their home and live off the land. They raised their children here, wrote magazine articles, grew vegetables, gathered native plants and after 16 years decided to call it quits. Yaquitepec, or Ghost Mountain still carries the reminders of South's homesteading adventure. The steep mile-long walk to the homesite will give you a breathtaking view of the land the South family called home. Look for signs of the ingenious water system with its cisterns and troughs. The adobe structure is quickly becoming a victim of the elements.

Living off the land proved difficult. Supplies had to be brought by model t from Julian and carried up on foot. Tanya South tired of her eccentric mate's lifestyle and the family split up leaving Yaquitepec to the sun and the wind.

The stories of the South family fade with time in the pages of Desert Magazine, but the melting adobe and the garden terraces will remain atop Ghost Mountain for years to come.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I stand in Awe at the courage of this couple--to dare--to deviate---and I say with Cassanova: "When I consider life's opportunities, I am astounded at my own timidity." Click here and see the family in action: