Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Are All My Republican Friends So Giddy This Morning?

My good friends on the Republican side of the aisle are beside themselves this morning, they are filled with joy and optimism because of last night's slim victory for Karen Handel, the Republican, over Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, in the highly charged U.S. House race.

They’re telling me it’s a statement. They're saying it's a clear, unmistakable sign that the GOP remains united and that their embattled President has weathered the early storms and overcome his critics. But that's a pretty skewed conclusion to reach from studying the results of this special election. If anything, this election tells me that the opposite is true.

A Democrat winning in this deep-red district would obviously have been a slam dunk. But this election nevertheless is a three-pointer for the Dems in that it demonstrated, in real numbers and real time, the swift and enormous shift in sensibilities of a largely educated deep-south district that has not voted for a Democrat for President in decades.

Sure, the anti-Nancy Pelosi campaign theme remains an effective one for Republicans of all stripes in the South. But the fact that a Democratic candidate did so well is the takeaway.

Tom Price, Trump’s dishonest, compassionless Secretary of Health and Human Services, won in that same district just seven months ago by more than 23 percentage points. But Handel defeated Ossoff by less than 5 percentage points. In other words, a win's a win, except when it isn't.

Bottom line? Despite the GOP's party mode this morning, if we see a swing anywhere near that large nationwide in the midterms next year, the Democrats will take over the House, easily.

One can only hope. As a staunch moderate with some liberal views and some conservative ones, I've never been this partisan in my life. I could have voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich over Hillary Clinton last November.

But this is the worst group of reactionary, knuckle-dragging Republicans to infest the Beltway since Sen. Joe McCarthy walked the earth.

These are some demonstrably hate-filled folks in DC these days who are hell-bent on destroying this country in all kinds of ways and reversing real progress on countless fronts. They care not about working Americans, the poor, seniors, cancer patients, minorities, the environment, science, or international diplomacy, for starters. 

More than I can ever recall, this is a party that shamelessly caters to the rich and to big business. And this President is a global embarrassment.

But back to Georgia, where I personally didn’t expect Ossoff to win last night. I had a feeling the reactionary crowd would step up and just not let it happen, precisely because the Dems wanted it so badly and spent so much money on this race. 

But I did expect it to be close, and it was. Symbolically, significantly, satisfyingly close. We’ll see what happens in the next 18 months. 

But mark my word: if Trump keeps making an absolute mockery of the presidency and keeps making a fool of himself on and off Twitter, if he signs this despicable healthcare bill, which will inevitably and profoundly hurt millions in Trump's base and which Senate republicans are now re-crafting with zero input from their Democratic colleagues or from the American public, and if he gives gargantuan tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and says the rest of us be damned, the midterms will be very interesting.

Trump, his cabinet, and the Republicans in Congress are all largely a disaster both in style and substance. The corruption is evident, and so is the incompetence. 

The election results last night, as well as the historically low approval ratings for this President, show that folks across the nation are coming to their senses. Because that's what Americans do eventually. We come to our senses. We know a skunk when we smell one. It just takes us a while sometimes.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Big Question This Summer for Classic Rock Fans: Are ANY of Those Guys On Stage Original Members??

As a classic rock music aficionado, or perhaps aficio-weirdo, I admittedly have a borderline obsession with aging rock and roll bands. And that preoccupation always crescendos this time of year when all the dinosaurs come to town.

It's fascinating to me how these wrinkly bands just keep on keepin' on so far past their glory days, and it's both fun and infuriating keeping tabs on how many, if any, original members are still in these beloved bands from yesteryear.

For examples, look no further than the Grandstand Stage concert lineup this summer at the Del Mar Fair (yes, I know it's now called the San Diego County Fair, as the logo above states, but I refuse to cooperate, it will always be the Del Mar Fair to me).

Grand Funk, one of rock's most popular groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hits Del Mar's main stage next Thursday, June 15, but without original co-lead singer and chief songwriter Mark Farner, who for some fans is Grand Funk.

When a classic rock band shows up without its original co-lead singer and songwriter, things get a little weird. When this happens, more often then not I'm out. But there are notable exceptions, and this is one of them.

I take these things on a case-by-case basis. I've seen Grand Funk before at the fair, without Farner, and they still kick ass. Grand Funk, which remains a tremendous live act and is one of the pioneers of blue-eyed soul, enjoys a loyal following of aging boomers. Grand Funk deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Two of the power trio's three original members, bassist Mel Schacher and vocalist-drummer Don Brewer, are still in the band. Brewer was lead singer on several of the group's biggest hits, including the worldwide #1 smash "We're An American Band." Mel and Don make up one of the more underrated rhythm sections in rock history.

Another aging rock legend appearing on the Grandstand Stage in Del Mar this summer is War, the melodic funk masters from the 70's ("All Day Music," "Low Rider," "The World is a Ghetto," "Why Cant We Be Friends?"). The only remaining original member is Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan. But he's a rare talent, and his presence on the stage on July 3 is just enough "War" to give me peace.

Yes, I'm sometimes willing to overlook the absence of key original members of our favorite bands. But it's subjective. There's a complex and mostly inexplicable formula behind why I'm sometimes ok with it and sometimes not. It's not calculus, it's emotional, inconsistent and just plain strange.

I know I'm not alone. There's nothing rational about our love for music and the artists who make it. We're all sometimes willing to embrace a band even though key original members are not up on the stage, while other times if a favorite member is gone, so are we.

And sometimes vice versa. There are a bunch of lead singers of great bands who are still touring on their own sans their bands. They include Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival, Sting of the Police, Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, and Peter Cetera of Chicago.

Cetera will be appearing at the Del Mar Fair on Thursday, June 8, without his former band. But while Peter will forever be associated with Chicago, he's been on his own since 1986. More than 30 years. Hard to believe. 

As a loyal Chicago fan from the moment I heard "Chicago Transit Authority" when I was an eight-year-old drummer, I'm still ticked at Cetera for leaving the nest. And I remain disgusted that he refused to rejoin his bandmates at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction last year. 

It represented a golden opportunity for Peter to make peace with the guys who helped him become rich and famous. And it would have been a nice gift for Chicago fans who've waited for decades for this unlikely reunion.

But no. Peter stayed away. His bitterness has not dissolved. He played the prima donna card once again. It was petty. Aggravating. Still, there's no denying his talent, or his contribution to Chicago, or that, yes, perhaps he has good reasons for not reuniting with his mates. 

I prefer Chicago now to Cetera solo, but I do still enjoy seeing Cetera when he performs live, which is increasingly rare. At his show at the Del Mar Fair, he'll play many of his solo hits, as expected, but he'll dip surprisingly deeply on this tour into his Chicago past and play such songs as "Happy Man," "Wishing You Were Here," "Dialogue," Hard to Say I'm Sorry," "I'm a Man," "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and "25 or 6 to 4."

Meantime, Chicago appears at the San Diego Civic Theater in September without Cetera, and of course without original lead guitarist extraordinaire Terry Kath, who died 40 years ago. But Chicago's current and very longtime ax man Keith Howland is an outstanding musician.
And the two newest members -- Lou Pardini (keyboards, lead vocals) and Jeff Coffey (bass, lead vocals) are both stellar. Pardini is a rare talent with some serious vocal and piano chops, and Coffey is a real find and is, with apologies to  Cetera and Jason Scheff, arguably the best tenor rock singer Chicago has ever had.

Chicago is in very good hands, and the venue is already sold out. Why? Because the band still works. Chicago remains one of the best live acts in the business. And the truth is, the group has always deployed several lead singers, without a real sole front man. 

And most importantly, two of the group's legendary founders -- James Pankow on trombone and Lee Loughnane on trumpet -- and founding member/co–lead singer Robert Lamm, who for me is really the heart and soul of this band and has been since day one, are still in the fold.

For me, as long as Lamm is on stage, Chicago is still Chicago. And I'm still in the roaring crowd.

Then there are the anthology/nostalgia tours this summer, which are particularly interesting. The "Happy Together" tour, for example, features diehard, often rather long-in-the-tooth baby boomer survivors of the 1960's music scene.

Hosted by The Turtles' co-founders Howard Kalyan and Mark Volman, the tour this year features The Association, the tremendous vocal band from the 60s with such hits as "Windy" and "Never My Love." Only a couple original members remain. Also on the bill are the gifted family band The Cowsills (still mostly intact), and Chuck Negron, one of the three original lead singers of Three Dog Night.

But my favorite anthology tour is "Lost 80's Live," which comes to San Diego in August with some of the popular bands of the 1980's that didn't quite reach superstar status but enjoyed considerable and deserving success.

Lost 80's, which stops at Humphrey's By the Bay for two nights, markets itself as having "all the original lead singers" from these 80's bands, which this summer includes Berlin's Teri Nunn and Missing Persons' Dale Bozzio. These are two underrated bands with unique and talented female lead singers.

We're told, however, that Cutting Crew ("(I Just) Died in Your Arms," "I've Been in Love Before") will not have its original lead singer and songwriter Nick Van Eede on this tour. So there's a bit of false advertising surrounding this gig. But Lost 80's is still a lot of nostalgic fun and worth seeing.

Of course, none of this was a problem in the 1960s and 1970s when these bands were largely still intact. But now all bets are off. When a band like The Guess Who tours without its inimitable lead singer and songwriter Burton Cummings, the band should be called "Anyone's Guess."

There are bands from the classic rock era who tour without a single original member. The Grass Roots, a mostly anonymous hit-making machine in the late 60's and early 70's, sadly lost their lead singer and leader Rob Grill back in 2011.

But the band showed up at Humphrey's a couple of years ago without a single original member. The band played many of its memorable radio hits ("Temptation Eyes,"Midnight Confessions," "Wait a Million Years"), but I had no idea who those guys were up on that stage. It was essentially a cover band using the real band's name. I wanted my money back.

This is not a new phenomenon. A decade ago when I was the pop music writer for San Diego Magazine, I noted that the San Diego concert lineup that summer sounded like a new take on the old Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s on vocals?”

I said that trying to figure out how many, if any, original members of your favorite veteran touring bands are still on board is enough to make a music fan go nuts.

Classic rockers Journey, I noted, who were appropriately inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame a few weeks ago, appeared at the then-Coors Amphitheater (Now Mattress Firm) without lead singer Steve Perry.

He wasn’t actually the band’s first singer. Perry replaced Robert Fleischman, who had essentially replaced Gregg Rolie when Journey made the transition from a fusion spin-off of Santana to a rock-pop band. But Perry is the one who originally sang almost all the songs people want to hear. Handling lead vocals at the time was Steve Augeri. Who??

This was before Arnel Pineda, the phenomenal singer from the Philippines, joined the band and practically 'out-Perried' Steve Perry.

Boston, one of my favorite classic rockers, which to this boasts arguably the greatest rock album debut of all time, still tours despite the fact that original lead singer Brad Delp is sadly no longer with us.

But the singers (yes, it took two to replace Delp) taking his place are excellent, and Tom Scholz, the band's guitarist, songwriter and mastermind, is still on that stage. As long as Scholz is in, I'm in.

Like I said, it's subjective, this stuff.

Foreigner appears without original lead singer Lou Gramm, voice of all the band’s hits, at Mattress Firm Amphitheatre in late August to celebrate the band's 40th anniversary. But the only remaining original member is Mick Jones, who just celebrated his 127th birthday.

Foreigner is touring this summer with Cheap Trick, who were just named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and whose lead singer Robin Zander is still in the band and still in reasonably good voice.

Are you appropriately confused? Well wait, there’s more. The Doobie Brothers appear August 16 at Humphrey’s without longtime co–lead singer Michael McDonald. Original Doobie Brother co–lead singers Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons are still in the fold, but guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, who left Steely Dan to join the Doobie Brothers, is no longer with either band.

If you're getting even more confused, then I'm doing this right.Then there’s recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lynyrd Skynyrd, who'll appear in July at the Events Center at Harrah's Resort SoCal without original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a plane crash 40 years ago.

Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny, is the band’s frontman and does an admirable job of filling some very big shoes. But is Skynyrd really Skynyrd without Ronnie “Free Bird” Van Zant? 

The question remains: Are any of these bands worth seeing without their key members? And are any of these singers worth seeing without their bands? Judging from ticket sales, they are. The shared sentiment among many summer concertgoers is that at least these musicians are keeping classic-rock music alive.

I agree with that sentiment, for the most part. When a band is so indelibly associated with one person - as Grand Funk is with Mark Farner - things get strange. But I'm still gonna go to the show. I'm still gonna rock out in the grandstand to "We're An American Band" and "Closer to Home." What else would a classic-rock aficio-weirdo do?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

If You Or Someone You Love Has Cancer, Trump Is Not Your President

During his first overseas diplomatic trip last week, President Donald Trump paid a brief visit to a young cancer patient, and his supporters went ballistic because it wasn't widely reported by the legitimate press. Perhaps that’s because despite this PR stunt, Trump’s actions have been overtly hostile to cancer patients. One visit with a patient doesn't change that.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the generic, noble-sounding healthcare bill he champions, will, if passed in anything resembling its current state, have a profoundly negative impact on cancer patients.

Trump has been compared to Richard Nixon, but that comparison is an insult to Richard Nixon. After all, Nixon declared war on cancer. And he meant it. Trump, however, has declared war on cancer patients. And he evidently means it, too.

As a three-time, 20-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I'm nauseated, angered and saddened by Trump's pathetic efforts to look compassionate with his brief visit to a cancer patient's hospital room. I would ask the family of the child he visited to read the bill Trump is trying to get passed. 

But, kind readers, don't take my word for it. Every respectable national cancer and health organization condemns the preposterous, vicious, immoral healthcare bill Trump wants to see become law. Everyone who has actually read the bill knows it rewards the rich and throws pretty much the rest of us under the bus.

Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for example, one of the finest cancer hospitals in the world, is evidently none-too pleased with Trump's handiwork and recently announced that it will not host its annual gala at the president’s Mar-a-Lago property.

Trump's healthcare bill is nothing more than an $800 billion tax break for America's wealthiest citizens. It does great harm to cancer patients and many others with pre-existing conditions. It also denies basic services to and wildly increases premiums for seniors, children, the disabled and those suffering from prescription drug addiction.

Trump also wants to severely slash funding for medical research. He's called for a 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as deep cuts to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These cuts would obscenely slow and in many cases stall cancer research and the development of new cancer treatments.

Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, had this to say about Trump's plans:

"America should not go backward to the time when our fellow citizens with pre-existing health conditions faced high costs for limited coverage, if they were able to obtain coverage at all. The AMA urges congressional leaders and the Administration to pursue a bipartisan dialogue on alternative policies that provide patients with access and coverage to high quality care and preserve the safety net for vulnerable populations."

In a joint statement, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, JDRF, March of Dimes, National Organization for Rare Disorders, National MS Society, and The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, said:

"In March, our patient advocacy organizations collectively urged Congress to ensure that any changes made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provide affordable, accessible and adequate coverage and do not result in a loss of coverage for any Americans. The AHCA would do the opposite, causing at least 24 million Americans to lose health insurance, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The bill would profoundly reduce coverage for millions of Americans — including many low-income and disabled individuals who rely on Medicaid — and increase out-of-pocket costs for the sickest and oldest among us. We are alarmed by recent harmful changes to the AHCA, including provisions that will weaken key consumer protections."

Rick Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association:

"Our top concern is what this change could mean for older and sicker patients, including those with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer patients and those with chronic conditions. For these reasons, along with our previously stated concerns about the AHCA, we cannot support the bill.

"The amendment proposed this week would dramatically worsen the bill. The changes included put consumer protections at greater risk by allowing states to waive the essential health benefit standards, which could leave patients without access to critical health services and increase out-of-pocket spending. This could allow plans to set premium prices based on individual risk for some consumers, which could significantly raise costs for those with pre-existing conditions.

"There is nothing moderate about the AHCA. Rather, it is an extreme attack on access and coverage for millions of Americans."

Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president:

"Changes under consideration that would allow states to waive important consumer protections ― allowing insurance companies to once again charge Americans with pre-existing conditions more because they’ve had cancer, diabetes or heart disease ― would make a bad bill even worse. This would be devastating for the 25 million Americans 50-64 who have a deniable pre-existing condition."

Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States:

"It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill. Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted. Lastly, we must point out that this bill has been crafted largely behind closed doors, with almost no input from providers of health care."

Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

"Pediatricians have been voicing our opposition to the AHCA since it was initially introduced, and the current version makes an already bad bill even worse for children and families. This bill would dismantle the Medicaid program by capping its funding and eliminating the Medicaid expansion, and a new amendment adds on even more harmful policies, such as allowing insurance companies to refuse to cover those with pre-existing conditions. In short, the bill hinders states’ and families’ ability to provide and access care. These are not improvements to our health care system; they are setbacks that would have real consequences for children.

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association:

"The American Health Care Act is bad policy. The measure would force millions to lose insurance, cut key public health investments and gut health protections for Americans. Now, in a bid to win votes, they’ve taken a bad bill and made it worse.

American Academy of Family Physicians:

"Despite recent activities and amendments, the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) remains a highly flawed proposal that will destabilize our health care system, cause significant loss of coverage, and allow for the discrimination against patients based on their gender, age, and health status. For these reasons, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) continues to oppose the AHCA and encourages the House of Representatives to reject this failed policy.

"By removing critical consumer protections that collectively ensure that the millions of individuals with pre-existing conditions can continue to purchase affordable health care coverage, the AHCA would result in higher premiums and higher deductibles for millions. Additionally, the negative impact of the AHCA is not limited to the individual insurance market. These policies also may impact the more than 130 million people with employer-sponsored insurance."

Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association:

"AHCA would cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years, dramatically increase premiums on seniors, restrict millions of women from access to health care, weaken the sustainability of Medicare, and repeal income-based subsidies that have made it possible for millions of families to buy health insurance."

Bruce Siegel, CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals:

"The AHCA is a deeply flawed bill that would leave more people without health insurance than before the Affordable Care Act, weaken programs for our most vulnerable people, and leave states, local governments, and taxpayers holding the bag. This amendment might win votes, but it likely won’t change the outcome: 24 million more Americans without health insurance."

Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians:

"On behalf of the American College of Physicians (ACP), I write to urge the House of Representatives to vote no on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) because it will bring great harm to patients, many of whom are treated by our members, notwithstanding the amendment that reportedly will be offered today on funding for high risk pools

"There is nothing moderate about the AHCA. Rather, it is an extreme attack on access and coverage for millions of Americans, and especially, older, sicker, and poorer patients who are most in need of help. Please vote for patients and against this extreme bill. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation."

Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California:

"The bill could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance. The discrimination, whether on price or just on the ability to access insurance at all on preexisting conditions, is unconscionable. As a country, we are better than that."

Friday, May 26, 2017

After The Flowers!? The Stunning Anza-Borrego Desert Is Actually Best Enjoyed After The Wildflowers Are Gone

Ah, the wildflowers of the Anza-Borrego Desert. They're the eye-popping, sweet-scented stuff of legend out here in Southeastern California. And this year's "super bloom" was the best show these flowers have given us in years, thanks to the near-biblical rains this winter.

Like just about everyone, we enjoy seeing the desert light up with these impossibly colorful flowers each spring. It's a natural and reliable phenomenon that annually and convincingly disproves the tired notion that there's no life in the hot desert.

But as beautiful as the desert flowers are, Borrego - and specifically Borrego Springs, the charming, underrated little town within these desert confines - is best enjoyed after the flowers have gone back into dormancy beneath the baked desert surface.

That may sound counter-intuitive. But it's not. Borrego really comes alive after the droves of well-meaning Lookie Lou's have caught their brief glimpse of the flowers and headed back home. It's a far more enjoyable, satisfying and relaxing trip. 

I'm not grumpy or anti-social. I like people. But I don't like the mind-numbing traffic jams that accompany the flower season. Coming out to Borrego when there are throngs of humans and long lines utterly defeats the purpose of coming out to Borrego.

The joys of breathing in the scent of the flowers are compromised, at best, when they're accompanied by the smell of 10,000 cars, trucks, motor homes and motorcycles.

So here's my obvious recommendation: Get out there now, after the flowers but before it gets oppressively hot. Right now, it's still in the high 90s, which, with the typically low humidity, is just fine. In May and early June, there are no big crowds and there is no hurry, no worry. It's blissful. And fun. And, dare I say it, educational.

Warning: If you want until July to go, well, you'd better be a desert rat. It's hot.

Our favorite retreat in the world - La Casa del Zorro

If you do choose to spend more than a day in Borrego, the one and only place to spend the night(s), if you're not camping, is La Casa del Zorro, the desert diamond I've been happily frequenting now for more than 30 years. It's my favorite getaway in the entire nation, hands down.

La Casa provides the perfect lodging experience. It's the closest thing to home, but better. The service is impeccable, the staff aims to please. It's a great place to come back to after a full day of hiking, exploring.

There is so much more to Borrego than the wildflowers. We come for the impossibly starry nights, the canyons, the hiking trails, the charming local shops (Borrego Outfitters) and eateries (Carlee's), tennis, golf, critter watching (coyotes, bighorn sheep if you're lucky, road runners), the delightfully friendly, art-loving, non-jaded locals, and, above all, the chance to exhale, relax, and be reminded why life is so worth living.

La Casa has has always represented a unique combination of rustic and classy. It is for all kinds of reasons among the finest hotels in America, without being pretentious.

We like to dig our hiking boots deep into the sand and climb every mountain, then come back to one of La Casa's legendary Casitas and hang out by our own private pool and review the day. Or we head over to the full-service spa, or the state-of-the-art tennis facility.

Other than staying at La Casa del Zorro, the other thing we highly recommend you do during your trip is check out the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitors Center. The knowledgable and pleasant staff will show you all the best hiking trails for those who want it easy, moderate or really challenging.

They'll answer any questions you have, and tell all the secrets of the desert. And if you get out there this Saturday, head to the Borrego Palm Canyon Canyon Campfire Center where a talk will be given on Anza-Borrego's miraculous star-gazing night skies, which are among the very best in the world.

You can explore constellations and planets in a way you perhaps never have before. Bring binocs, a flashlight (red lens is preferable). Ask for Sally Theriault, Park Interpreter.

Also be sure to ask the staff at the Visitors Center about how much life there really is in the seemingly lifeless California desert.

There is something so enthralling and inspiring about desert life, especially when you stop to consider just how hot it gets out here in the summer months.

The desert is in fact teeming with life. And it's life of the hardiest, most robust kind. You gotta be tough to live in these parts, be you plant, animal or human. You gotta be a true survivor.

As a three-time survivor of cancer myself, I have an even stronger connection to the critters of the desert than I did before I was diagnosed. They can endure a whole lot. I guess I can, too. The desert in the hottest months is Darwinism on high. It requires a toughness that only the 3,000 or so year-round residents of Borrego Springs possess.

So take a day, or a week, and head out to Borrego, right now, or at least by mid-June before the heat becomes too much. Get the best of all worlds: stay at La Casa, but do some hiking in the desert and the nearby mountains, walk until you are winded. 

There is no greater feeling than to be exhausted amid the majesties and nuances of Mother Nature. As for flowers, well.... We don't need no stinkin' flowers!