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Coachella Valley Ghost Story: Erawan Gardens

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                                             rsz erawan garden hotel                                                                       

There is no doubt that the desert landscape is blanketed with glorious beauty, but it also possesses a depth of alluring mystery as well. Honestly, with the amount of history that has taken place here, and the millions of people who have traversed through it over the years, the possibility of there being indelible footprints left behind is certain.

The energy that survives from the past in the Coachella Valley may take different forms. From the deafening silence heard when hiking on the many enigmatic trails, to entering an obviously spirit burdened historic building, or even witnessing a paranormal vision itself. The latter is what I experienced years ago on a golf course in Indian Wells...that's right, I saw dead people. Well, one dead persons ghostly presence at least.

It was years ago in my youth, when there wasn't as much nightlife here in the desert as there is today, and having a good time took a little creativity. In the coolness of the evening one winter, my roommate and I left our meager dwelling in Palm Desert and drove to a lush, green carpeted golf course in Indian Wells, adjacent to the Indian Wells Hotel and behind what is now the Miramonte Resort and Spa, formerly Erawan Gardens (Erawan Gardens opened in 1963 and stood tall in all of its Oriental style glory for 34 years, until being sold in 1996).

We were actually sitting at one of the golf courses that had been used as the home of the original Bob Hope Classic Golf Tournament. So there we were, all bundled up in our desert winter wear (a thin sweater and jeans) staring up at the black velvet and rhinestone sky. We quietly slinked over to a sitting wall next to someone’s house, because the wetness from the grass had seeped through our jeans, making for a slightly swishy, uncomfortable feeling.

We cracked open a couple of beers to enhance our evening and let the surroundings guide our conversation. It must have been the enjoyment of our banter, or the beer that gave my next reflexes such a natural and loose response. A polite soft spoken woman approached me on my left and asked "Do you know what time it is?", and without hesitation I responded, "Sure, its 2:30 in the morning" I said politely, and with a smile no less. She thanked me, and then in what seemed to be a slow motion instance, flashed by us in a white blur and vaporized into the wall.

We snapped our heads towards each-other and gaped in amazement at what we had just seen. Then, without saying a word, we gathered our belongings with lightning speed, and threw ourselves into the car as if we were fleeing an alien attack. The ride home was in silence...as we both tried in earnest to mold our minds around what had just happened.

We could tell by the direction that she came from that she materialized from the Erawan Gardens that was closed and fenced off at the time. But who was she? Why did she want to know what time it was? Did she die before she could make her appointment? Maybe she died after partying at the Erawan Gardens and missed a late night rendezvous with her lover? There were no distinct answers to our questions, the only thing we knew for sure was that we were now believers in the afterlife. A belief that I always fervently defend when confronted with a non-believer who poo-poos any boo’s from beyond.

The desert can be gloriously unpredictable and holds a multitude of secrets. So if you find yourself taking a late night stroll on one of the many golf courses in the Coachella Valley, don't be surprised if you encounter some unexpected company…and don’t forget to wear a watch.

Photo credit to tikiarchitecture.blogspot.com

Halloween Fun in the Coachella Valley!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                    rsz fb img 1476082672873

It’s The Palm Springs Locals favorite time of year! Halloween brings the desert cooler weather, pumpkins, costumes and all kinds of thrills and chills! It’s the holiday when everyone can cut loose, dress up in a costume and be a kid again, or at least act like one. The Coachella Valley is bursting with all kinds of ways to celebrate this spectacularly spooky time of year. So get ready to get your scare on, and have some Halloween fun in the Coachella Valley!

                        

Idyllwild Haunted Hotel/Ghost Town- Admittedly, Idyllwild is not in the Coachella Valley per say, but it is a beautiful and well regarded fun mountain get-away from the desert floor (only 35 minutes or so). The adorable mountain village boasts Halloween themed fun through the month of October, that has been procuring screams for well over a decade. The Ghost Town is located by town hall, where a temporary structure is erected by a multitude of volunteers who bring their talents to the project that benefits local youth in Idyllwild, “It really brings the community together”, says event rep, Nathan Dejarnette.

The Haunted Hotel and Ghost Town produces chilling fun for guests as they meander through different themed rooms such as the Doll Room and Spider Suite, among other creepy living nightmares. The ghostly fun runs from 7pm to 10pm every Friday and Saturday night through October and of course on Halloween. Tickets are $8 per person for a single entrance and $10 for all of you hard core freaks who want to enter more than once. For more information and tickets visit www.idyllwildghosttown.org.

Escape Room Palm Springs- For a unique, interactive experience, Escape Room Palm Springs is the place to be. This year round attraction is the only one of its kind in the Coachella Valley, bringing thrills and chills, while highlighting survival and competitive instincts.

Opened since February 2016, Escape Room Palm Springs is the creation of computer and game savvy, Mark and Dominique Fruchtman. The concept is to bring a group of people together in a themed room, give them clues to decipher a puzzle, so they can escape the room in an allotted amount of time. Twisted fun! There are four different rooms, the Saw Room (inspired by the horror film, for adult ages 18 and up), the Dark Shadows Room ( help a vampire back to his coffin before dawn), the Mystery Room ( Da Vinci Code meets the Twilight Zone) and the Titanic Room ( find the key before the ship sinks). The rooms are described as walking onto a movie set.

As a special for Halloween for the month of October, the Saw Room is modified into a "Scary Saw Room" where something or someone may be lurking in what is usually an actor/staff free zone. Extra twisted!

Escape Room Palm Springs is opened Tuesday through Friday nights from 6pm to 9:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 9:30. Tickets are $30 per person. It is great for families, friends, couples, and even business groups. The attraction ups the ante in Coachella Valley amusement for not only Halloween, but all year round. 

For more information and tickets visit www.EscapePS.com or call 760-779-8888 for private parties.

Big Horse Carriages Haunted Carriage Rides- Give yourself up to the Halloween spirit with a tour of downtown Palm Springs in a horse drawn carriage. Clippety-clopp your way into haunted tales of Palm Springs with your ghostly guide. Tours run from 8-10pm every weekend through October. Reservations are suggested as space is limited to the living……muah, ah, ah. For more information call 760-660-8860 or visit www.bighorsecarriageco.com

Halloween Carnival & Pumpkin Patch- Light hearted spooky Halloween carnival fun for the whole family awaits you at this community event. Enjoy free trick or treating, carnival rides, games, haunted house, hay maze, beer garden and much more! The event takes place at the Westfield Shopping Mall in Palm Desert on October 14-16 and 20-23. The carnival opens at 5pm on Fridays and 11am on Saturday and Sunday, a minimal entrance fee is required. For more information visit www.facebook.com/HalloweenCarnivalandPumpkinPatch .

Elvira’s Congo Room Halloween Party- Hang out with the original “Mistress of the Dark” at the hip and historic Congo Room inside the Caliente Tropics Resort in Palm Springs on Wednesday, October 26th from 6pm-9pm! Wear your best Elvira costume and compete in the costume contest! DJ entertainment and drink specials plus photo opts with the “Mistress” will make this a great Halloween celebration. Tickets are $10. For more information call 760-322-7353.

Village Fest Halloween- The weekly Palm Springs Village Fest gets a bit ghoulish on Thursday, October 27th from 6pm to 10pm in downtown Palm Springs. Bring the kiddies down for trick or treating with vendors, face painting, crafts and so much more including a Haunted Bus provided by Sunline Transit. Get there early before the candy runs out! Entrance to the Village Fest is Free! For more information visit www.villagefest.org .

Boo!Seum- Dress up in a costume and have goofy fun, at the not-so-spooky kid friendly Halloween event at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage on Saturday, October 29th from 1pm to 4pm. Kids can sticker treat (a candy alternative), play games, do a scavenger hunt, participate in a costume parade and do science experiments in the Haunted Lab! Great interactive fun for kids! Admission is $9.95 per person. Pumpkin Carving is available for an additional $10 (registration required for the pumpkin carving only). For more information visit www.cdmod.org .

2016 Halloween Harvest Festival- Do some safe-o-treating at this family friendly event in Palm Springs at the Pavilion Parking area at Sunrise Park on Saturday, October 29th from 6pm to 10pm. Enjoy live DJ music, carnival booths, games, refreshments and more! Tickets are $5 for ages 13 and up, and $3 for kids 4 to 12. Game tickets are .25 each or 5 for $1. For more information call 760-323-8272.

BB’s Halloweekend Bash-It is the deserts biggest Halloween bash hands down! The event takes place at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. Get ready for a party with 3 dance floors, a pool area, 6 huge rooms of entertainment, DJ’s and live bands. And as if one night of scantily clad costumed men and women wasn’t enough, BB has extended the festivities of hot Halloween Hedonism to 2 nights…Friday, October 28th AND Saturday, October 29st….from 8:30pm to 2am both nights. For tickets and more information visit www.partywithBB.com    

Halloween on Arenas- Halloween comes alive at this annual celebration on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs on Saturday, October 29th from 6pm to 10pm! Revel in live entertainment with performers, Kristine W., Keisha D., Marina Mac and many more. Enter to win up to $1000 in cash and prizes at their costume contest. A $5 donation is suggested for the event and VIP tickets are available for $60 which include a hosted bar featuring Kettle One vodka, microbrew tastings and a gift bag. The event benefits the Desert Aids Project, Greater Palm Springs Pride, LGBT Community of the Desert and the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus. For more information and VIP tickets visit www.halloweenpalmsprings.com .

Terror Fest- The Date Shed in Indio presents Terror Fest on Saturday, October 29th from 8pm to 2am! The event takes guests to the brink of terror with 5 stages of music, live art and visuals, The Path of Terror and the Haunted Spirits Garden! Food trucks will deliver gruesome goodies. Tickets are $15/$20. Visit www.dateshedmusic.com for pre-sale tickets and more information.

Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade- Now you might be asking, what is Halloween-ish about golf carts? Well, usually nothing, unless you’re talking about scary drivers…Ha! But this year’s theme put the parade in the running as it will be, “Golf Carts, Ghosts & Glitter”. The 52nd Annual Golf Cart Parade rolls down swanky El Paseo in Palm Desert on Sunday, October 30th. It is a yearly craved event by locals and visitors alike. Watch decorated golf carts sponsored by local businesses and organizations blaze by at a snail’s pace, while enjoying vendors, Kids Zone and the beauty of El Paseo. The event is Free to enter, and the vendor’s booths open at 9am with the parade starting at 12pm. For more information visit www.golfcartparade.com .

Living Deserts Howl-o-Ween- Have a Halloween adventure with your family at the wondrous Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Palm Desert on Sunday, October 30th from 10am to 2pm & on Monday, October 31st from 6pm to 8:30pm. Dress in your favorite costume! Kids 12 and under will receive a trick or treat bag to stroll down the trail to collect candy from the many treat stations. Fun includes, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin decorating, face painting, a monster maze, live entertainment and animal encounters with Living Desert Zookeepers. Tickets are $10 per person, members are Free. For more information visit www.livingdesert.org.

There you have it, a variety of ways to enjoy the Halloween season in the Coachella Valley. Choose one, or choose them all, there is something for everyone!! But whatever you do, have an awesomely spookalicious time and get more treats than tricks. Boo!!

Get Lost on 111

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                          rsz lost

It is sometimes said that the best places to dine are tucked away from the mainstream. That it takes a bit of effort to find the place, but once you do, it’s so worth it. Such is the case with the tasty hidden eatery Lost on 111 Grill & Art Lounge in La Quinta.

Just like its name says, the place makes you feel a little lost on 111. The name came when the owner, Damen Perry, saw that people would drive into the square shaped shopping center on the North West side of Dune Palms off of highway 111 in La Quinta, looking very lost and confused. He would witness them driving aimlessly, so hence the name.

Perry originally bought the restaurant in late 2012 while it was still operating under its former incarnation, Scamblez, which obviously specialized in breakfast fare. Yes, that is scrambles with a “Z”. Perry, along with his wife would frequent La Quinta often from L.A. and fell in love with the area. When they came across an opportunity to snatch up a struggling restaurant at a great price, they jumped on it.

The former restaurant was living in the shadows of bad reviews. But Perry thought that they could make it work under the former owner’s recipes and formula. He soon found that following their lead would not work at all. So with the help of his uncle Billy (a previous cook in the Navy) who leads the grill, Perry steered the business in a different direction, and changed it into his vision to incorporate art and food in January 2015.

Perry’s background is highlighted in art and music, bringing something different to the local desert restaurant scene. There is just a different vibe as soon as you enter Lost on 111….and it’s a good one.rsz imag0737

Pulling from his extensive island travels around the world, the intimately sized restaurant feels island inviting. Perry’s goal with his restaurant was to make people want to experience island life, which ever island they can imagine. The décor and food reflect Perry’s focus. A variety of island inspired art drape the walls, with intricate masks, paintings and other varieties for sale to the public (white tags indicate what is for sale). Perry purchases the art directly from the artists so they get paid immediately, none of the art is on consignment. The prices are authentic to the artist, as he does not price gouge.

The menu vibrates to the same cord as to the art on the walls, offering different tastes for different palates. Guests will find dishes such as Kalua Style Pork, to Portuguese Sausage, to a good old fashioned Angus Bacon Cheeseburger, as well as their traditional breakfast items which include Pancakes, French Toast plus a selection of omelets and scrambles (Loco Moco Scramble anyone?). On occasion, they introduce island inspired specials such as Jerk Chicken, a Jamaican island favorite (mine too).                                                                                               rsz imag0736

On my visit to Lost on 111, my boyfriend and I decided to try some of their stand out items. For myself, I chose the Kalua Pork, no big surprise there as I am a pork freak! My boyfriend leaned towards the Locos Mocos, which is a choice of meat (Portuguese sausage, thick cut ham, spam or an Angus patty), topped with a fried egg, grilled onions, sweet and savory Huli Huli gravy on a bed of white fluffy rice, with a side of cold Macaroni salad. The dish had distinctive elements, all working together to create a balanced taste festival! The gravy served purposefully bringing all of the ingredients together under a velvety brown blanket. My Kalua Pork sandwich came tucked between sweet Hawaiian bread, served with Billy’s potato bites. The pork was melt in your mouth tender, with a perfect smoky flavor that worked with the natural taste of the pork and did not overwhelm it. A definite 10 on the pork satisfaction meter.

Although we opted for iced tea, they do offer other beverages including a selection of wine, local beers (CV Brewery, La Quinta Brewery plus more) and Mimosa’s (try their Pog juice special).

Above all, the prices at Lost on 111 are affordable, making it a place that anyone can enjoy, an aspect that Perry is adamant about.

Lost on 111 is currently opened Wednesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch, but will be expanding their hours/days throughout the season to incorporate dinner hours. To highlight the art aspect, they will be having a “Paint Night” on Friday, October 21st. Guests can get their paint on with artist Andrea Durett as she guides them to put brush to canvas, replicating one of her own paintings. Appetizers and wine/beer will be served to help get the creative juices flowing. The event is $50 per person and space is limited.

Lost on 111 Grill & Art Lounge is an absolute find in the desert restaurant scene, great for a family outing or cozy couple dining. With an intimate, creative, breezy island vibe, very friendly service and fabulous food, they have a winning recipe. I’m certainly looking forward to the next time that I get Lost on 111.

Lost on 111 Grill & Art Lounge is located at 79-410 Highway 111 #103, in La Quinta.

For more information visit www.loston111.com

For more information on “Paint Night” visit www.creativepaintingparties.com

Free CV Clinic Helps Those In Need

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                             rsz cvvim logo

Everyone needs it, but some cannot get it because they are uninsured and too financially challenged to pay for it. I’m taking about healthcare. It is a fundamental need that we all should have access to. Thankfully, there is an organization here in the Coachella Valley that can help provide healthcare for those who can’t afford it, with the Coachella Valley Volunteers In Medicine clinic in Indio. The only free clinic of its kind in the desert area.

The CVVIM clinic is not what you might think that a clinic would look like. It is devoid of the stereo-typical adjectives that might follow the thought of a “clinic”. Clinics are sometimes known to be dreary, impersonal, almost uninviting, a hole in the wall environment. That is certainly not the case with the CVVIM in Indio, which provides quality care in a hospitable, clean, inviting atmosphere.

Conveniently located off of 48th avenue and Jackson St. in Indio, the clinic is easy to find. The CVVIM started in 2010, and moved to its state of the art facility in 2013. The non-profit organization is completely funded by fundraising and grants. It does not receive any government funding. The clinics goal is to help those without money, health insurance, or who have prohibitive health insurance (not able to pay a co-pay or reach annual deductible) get the health care that they need.

rsz 24790 coachella valley vim clinic vfk

The CVVIM is solely run by volunteer doctors and nurses as well as front office support staff. The clinic has only four paid fulltime employees. The doctors and nurses volunteer their time and expertise, with the explicit intent to help those who are in need of medical care, “They really like it”, says CVVIM Executive Director Doug Morin. Besides the primary care doctors, the clinic also has specialists that can be seen by patients in the fields of Cardiology, Gynecology, Orthopedic, Dermatology and Pediatric care.

The volunteers come from different backgrounds and areas, some are retired and some are residents at nearby hospitals who want to donate their time. The clinic averages about 45 volunteers a month and offers two clinics a day depending on volunteer availability, and patients are seen by appointment only. It is well coordinated and takes extreme orchestration.                rsz dental chair pic cvvim

The clinic has six medical exam rooms and two fully equipped dental suites. The clinic offers primary medical care and basic dental. They do not treat broken bones, nor do they take care of crowns or bridges. They do however take of general medical care, and help monitor chronic issues such as diabetes. The dental area offers cleanings, x-rays and fillings.  They do not dispense medication, but do direct patients to participating pharmacy’s that offer excellent discounts, up to 60% off regular prices.                                                                                                                    

The CVVIM offers testing such as HIV, Mammograms, and also provide vaccinations. They utilize Lab Corp for patient lab work at no cost to the client. Local valley hospital’s work closely with the clinic, and offer support, including Kaiser Permanente which does x-rays for them at no cost, “Those kinds of things make it possible to do what we do”, says Morin.

There is also a community room at the clinic that is utilized for meetings, and with collapsible walls, can be used for temporary exam rooms, chiropractic, acupuncture and therapeutic services.

To be a patient at the CVVIM there are 3 criteria that must be met. The patient must be a Coachella Valley resident (Driver’s License, utility bill, etc), have verifiable proof of income, ($23,000 or below for a single person), and either have no health insurance or cannot access their insurance (not able to fund a co-pay or reach their yearly deductible).

Morin explains that the majority of their clients are people who work in the agriculture, hospitality industry, paid cash (under the table) or work at a job that doesn’t provide enough hours to get insurance through their employer. Morin encourages those who qualify to make the CVVIM their medical home, “Our average patient visits the clinic 3 times a year”.

To expand their services, the clinic started an outreach pilot program over the 2016 summer, visiting homeless encampments in Indio to assist those in need and get them to the clinic.

The clinic sees 1,500 patients, with 3,500 service contacts a year. It costs approximately $500,000 to run the clinic on a yearly basis, with $400,000 worth of donated doctors hours given.

A key fundraising event for the clinic takes place in February. The upcoming 2017 Wine Lovers Auction is perfect for wine enthusiasts. The event takes place on Friday, February 3rd at the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage. The night will kick off with a Reception, Silent Auction, Elegant Wine Dinner and then a Live Auction to round out the evening. Attendees will be able to bid on a variety of items such as, wine dinners, wine travel packages, wine golf events, wine storage, jewelry, art and much more. Tickets for the event are $250 per person (tax deductible). Last year’s Wine Lovers Auction yielded $200,000 for the clinic. All proceeds benefit the CVVIM.

With the growing cost of health care, it is paramount that places such as the Coachella Valley Volunteers In Medicine exist. It makes for a healthy population and the betterment of our community as a whole. And goes hand in hand with the belief that everyone, no matter what their financial circumstances are, should have access to health care.

For more information visit www.cvvim.org

For Wine Lovers Auction tickets go to www.WineLoversAuction.com 

An Online Place For Timeshare Needs

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                  rsz westin desert willows full kitchen

Whether you’re looking to sell or rent your timeshare, or looking to buy or rent one, there’s and online place to fit your needs. Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com provides an online marketplace for owners and buyers of timeshare.

Timeshares have been around for decades and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Many people own one and those who don’t, want one. But what do you do if you’re looking to sell or rent your timeshare, or if you want to buy one without going on a long tour? And then there are those who want to rent a spacious, luxurious timeshare instead of staying in a sometimes confined hotel. It’s easy with Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com.

The online marketplace is set up to help both sellers and buyers/renters of timeshare. Sellers can buy advertising space to get their timeshare out on the market to either sell or rent. The service is exclusive to individual owners and does not represent large timeshare resorts. It’s all about the private owner. Owners are required to attend to their own inquires, while Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com offers the best exposure for their timeshare. The company’s specialists are there to help owners achieve success in the marketing of their vacation property.

The inventory on Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com is vast, with timeshares in all of the most high demand resorts in the world. Resorts such as Desert Breezes, Westin Desert Willows Villas, Diamond Resorts, Disney Vacation Club, Westgate, Hilton Grand Vacations Club and many more can be found on the website.

Since the inventory is priced by the owner, the savings is substantial, up to 70% off from booking directly from the resort itself. Bonus!

In business for over a decade, Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com assures customers a positive experience. They also offer direct assistance from their affiliated timeshare brokerage company for owners who need help in selling their timeshare.

So whether you’re looking to sell or rent your own timeshare, or buy or rent one of your own, visit Timeshare-Resale-Rental.com for all of your timeshare needs.

For more information visit www.timeshare-resale-rental.com

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