The Cactus Patch
April 2018

Joshua Tree and MOVIES!
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I am the desert
Feel the breeze
That dances through the Joshua trees.
~Mojave by Diane Siebert with paintings by Wendell Minor

On Friday the 16th of February Polly, John and I drove to Joshua Tree to visit Polly’s sister Ginny who is recuperating from knee replacement.  Our first stop was the Boron Museum where they have a delightful mini team of life-like mules hauling wagons. Next we stopped at Amigo’s in Barstow and had a filling lunch.  We finally reached the town of Joshua Tree and had an evening of chatting. 

Since Ginny had an appointment next day, we left and went on to Joshua Tree National Park.  Since it was a holiday weekend, the place was packed!  We still managed to see some wildlife.  Right away we found a coyote who was trying to feed on road kill. We also managed to watch rock climbing at Quail Springs and Hidden Valley.  It was quite a contrast to the 60s when Polly and I had first visited Joshua Tree National Monument (as it was then) and camped in Hidden Valley.  The place was quite lonely back then.

We went on to Skull Rock and then managed to find a spot at a picnic table.  Just outside the Park we found there is now an observatory and a nature trail with labeled plants (including a number of cacti). At this time of year there were no flowers on the cacti, although there was one small red fruit on a Mammilaria.

From there we went on to the visitors center and small oasis next to 29 Palms We had a snack at Jack in the Box and then returned to Joshua Tree.  That evening we all had Dinner at Pho 85 in Yucca Valley.

On Sunday we went to the Evangelical Free Church in Yucca Valley to hear Ginny sing and play piano.  The church is on a steep slope with parking at three levels.  There is rock walling with beaver tails inserted at intervals.  Also next door is an unrelated hillside of religious statuary. On the way home we stopped at the SlashX which is a hangout for off-roaders.  It turns out it was lucky we weren’t on that road the week before as there had been a huge crowd for an off-road meet!  Next we had lunch at Denny’s in Barstow.  Two other former Denny’s buildings are visible from the present one!

On the 23rd we saw the film “Maudie” at the Fox.  This stars Sally Hawkins as a disabled woman who succeeds by selling paintings.  It’s a moving story, but it was even more meaningful to us as she lived in a small village near Digby in Nova Scotia.  By coincidence our friends Andrena Teed and Nigel Rollo, whom we knew in Botswana, live in another village near Digby and we had stayed with them in 2007 on our way back to Bakersfield.

On the 24th we started a marathon of film watching since the Regal offered all 9 Oscar best film nominees for $35.  We started with “Three Billboards,” the story of a private protest which is not very cohesive. After that we watched “Darkest Hour” which portrays the struggle of Winston Churchill in WWII.  The best thing about it was his makeup; and he did get an Oscar!

On the 25th we watched “Phantom Thread” which portrays a struggle with an egotistical dressmaker and then “Get Out” which is a black oriented horror/Sci-Fi film. On Monday we saw “The Shape of Water” which also starred Sally Hawkins and is a fantastic Sci-Fi love story. This was followed by “Call Me by Your Name” which is the story of a young man struggling with his homosexuality.  It takes place on a visit to Italy.

“Lady Bird,” which we saw on Tuesday is a young woman struggling with sexuality which takes place in the U.S.  This was followed by “The Post,” a movie of the stand by the Washington Post against government’s attempt to hide the true story of events in Vietnam.  The fact that the editor of the Post was a woman and the Post a little-known paper at the time makes for exciting drama.  Finally, on the 3rd of March we watched “Dunkirk,” a better than average war film.

Of the nine Oscar nominees for Best film, I felt that only “The Shape of Water” and “The Post” were worthy of the nomination.  I chose “The Post” and was wrong, but at least I liked the winner!  On the 4th, of course, they announced the Oscar winners and on the 9th I received a Certificate for having chosen the least correct number of winners from FLICS, our foreign film club.  That night we watched “Abacus,” a documentary of the struggle between a small bank and the government.  I had chosen it as the best documentary, but it didn’t win.

As if that weren’t enough films, on the 11th we watched a free showing of “Miss Representation,” which shows how women are put down by various media.  Finally, on the 17th we watched The “Black Panther” at the Maya using the gift certificate which came with my FLICS award.  I was pleased to see shots of Lesotho and actors in Basotho blankets.  When they proceeded from real herds of sheep and village huts to the imaginary city I was reminded of the rather surrealistic observatory which had been built by an eccentric priest across the road from the University in Roma, Lesotho.  I was surprised to see the South African actor John Nkani as the elder T’chaka.  We had seen him in the play “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” in New York in the 70s.  The decades have not slowed him down.  Afterward we watched a double rainbow -- but we didn’t find the pot of gold.

Films weren’t the only thing we saw.  On the 14th we saw an excerpt from the musical “Big River” for free at the Beale Library.  I had wanted to see this show as I had played Huck Finn in a musical production in Malawi back in1980.  The cost of tickets to the full show was prohibitive and so I had given up hope.  The actors playing Huck and Jim were superb, but the keyboard was much too loud in the small library room.  I trust the full show had a more balanced sound.

During this time period we also went to Fresno for a talk by Ernesto Sandoval on the reproduction of succulents on the 1st of March and, of course, the BCSS meeting with Woody on the 13th.  Woody had an excellent balance of landscape, close-ups and locale, but he got a little preachy on conservation.  We got it the first time… and the second… and the third… etc.

Finally, on the 17th we went to a used book sale at the Beale Library and got some real bargains, including the children’s book quoted at the beginning of this article.  It has terrific paintings.  I think some of the best art is done for children!

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