Posts Tagged ‘idyllwild’

Cross Bearer Walks Along Highway 243 Near Idyllwild

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Wes Maugh walking with his cross along Hwy. 243 Tuesday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During this Lenten season, the cross is often depicted on posters, signs and church banners. For Christians, it symbolizes everlasting life.

Yet, it was unexpected to find a senior citizen carrying an oversized cross along Hwy. 243 near Idyllwild on Tuesday evening, March 13. About 40 yards behind him was a woman carrying a Bible.

“God asked me to do it,” said Wes Maugh, 63, an Evangelical minister from Banning.

He had carried his 40-pound pine cross from Valle Vista to Mountain Center (about 17 miles), and was headed back down the hill again. His wife, Victoria Grace, 59, was walking with him.

Wes Maugh and his wife, Victoria Grace

They stopped for a minute in a pullout. Several motorists honked and waved at them.

Wes built his cross in 2010, and since then, has traveled along roadsides to 194 cities and towns.

“I’ve traveled from 29 Palms to Glendale and Devore to Fallbrook,” Wes said. “The cross is for everyone.”

Even though there isn’t much of a shoulder along Hwy. 243, Wes was free from worry about getting hit.

“I have two angels beside me,” he said, winking at his wife.

For better traction, his 8 x 5 1/2 foot cross was equipped with a roller at the end.

“Otherwise, it would split,” explained Victoria Grace.

Yet, the roller didn’t help ease the burden any. Wes let me rest it on my shoulders as I walked just a few feet. It was heavy and uncomfortable, and I was going downhill. No way would I want to walk 17 miles up and downhill with it over my shoulder!

Yet, Wes and Victoria Grace were in good spirits. They said that many motorists have honked and waved at them. Some have stopped and prayed with them, while others have given them water, money or slices of pizza.

Wes walks with his cross to help avert natural disasters

“Whatever they have in their car, they share,” he said.

Victoria Grace said that some motorists have shouted at Wes for carrying the cross.

“Why are you doing that?” they’ve demanded.

“Why not?” Victoria Grace retorted.

Over the past two years, Wes has racked up 4,175 miles with his cross to help his fellow Californians avert natural disasters.

“God told me that if I carried this cross, then He would turn away catastrophes in California,” Wes said, mentioning storms, fires and earthquakes.

“God is not into death and suffering,” Wes said. “This cross is no burden; it’s a blessing.”

Wes added that the cross was a symbol that should be seen out in the open.

“It has a voice,” Wes said. “It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Although Wes and his wanderings are not associated with any particular religion or church, it’s not an original idea.

“For 38 years, Arthur Blessitt racked up 38,102 miles around the world with his cross,” Wes said.

Arthur’s cross was a bit bigger than Wes’, 12 feet x 6 feet. Arthur made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and they wrote a movie about him (‘The Cross’).

“I saw Arthur walking with his cross along Hwy. 101, and it changed my life,” Wes recalled.

The message that Wes wanted to impart was simple:

“Jesus loves you, and He is coming soon,” Wes said. “But it will happen in a twinkling of an eye, so you have to be ready, and stay ready.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.





Welcome Back to Idyllwild, Shepard Fairey

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Shepard Fairey is a 1988 Idyllwild Arts grad. Photo courtesy Sidney Morgan.

For the first time in 24 years, (Frank) Shepard Fairey, a now famous graphic designer / street artist, returned to his old high school, Idyllwild Arts Academy.

During an hour-long lecture on Feb. 10, Shepard showed slides and told how he raised hell, worked hard, believed in causes, got arrested, got lucky and gained some fame from his 2008 Barak Obama poster and 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

Students, faculty and Idyllwild town folks packed the IAF Theatre and mobbed him for photos at the art show afterwards. It was his “Welcome Back, Kotter” moment.

“This is the best thing that’s happened to visual artists,” said Kevin, a senior visual artist from Korea, as he stood in front of Shepard Fairey’s posters at the show. His friend took his picture with Shepard Fairey, which likely was later posted on Facebook.

“I’ve got one of his stickers,” beamed Bella, a senior fashion design major from China. “And it’s signed!”

Back in 1987, when Shepard Fairey attended his senior year at Idyllwild Arts Academy, he was “stagnating” (according to his parents) with interests only in punk rock and skateboarding. When he got kicked out of North Carolina School of the Arts during the summer, he came to Idyllwild Arts.

“When I met one of my art teachers, David Amico, he was wearing biker boots and a Ramones (punk rock) T-shirt,” Shepard said during his slide presentation/lecture. “For the first time, there was no adversarial relationship with my teachers. They treated me like one of their peers.”

Ellenie, his former 2D design teacher, said that Shepard was an average art student.

“But being average at Idyllwild Arts means that you’re among the top three percent of young artists in the country,” she clarified. “He also had to be reminded about the rules a couple of times.”

That year, he studied black-and-white photography, but then used color photography to make fake California Driver’s Licenses with his friends. Later, he used that same fake ID to get into LA clubs to post his “Obey” posters.

"He's the best thing that's happened for visual artists," exclaimed Kevin, with Cynthia, before Shepard Fairey's posters.

Shepard also told how he jammed the color printer at Kinko’s with a paperclip and printed off hundreds 11 x 17-inch posters in black and red, but only paid for six copies.

He’s not saying that it was right, but it’s what he had to do to as a struggling arts student to get his message (of questioning authority) out to the masses.

A the Rhode Island School of Design, he remained active in the skateboard /punk rock culture. One day, he was showing a friend how to make stencils, using a newspaper photo of Andre the Giant. His friend refused thinking it ridiculous, but Shepard’s interest in the wrestler took off. And so did the popularity of his art.

He stylized the image, and put it on buildings and walls around Providence. It made the local news.

“I realized that the only things occupying the public space were government signs and advertising,” he said.

It all started with a crude sticker of Andre the Giant, Shepard Fairey said.

He filled that public space with his “Obey” campaign.

“But then I realized that scale was important,” Shepard told the crowd. (After all, Andre was over 7 feet tall and weighed 525 pounds).

He saw an opportunity to paste over a large billboard featuring a local politician in full scale pointing his finger. The headline read: “He Never Stopped Caring About Providence.”

The next day, Andre the Giant’s face covered the politician’s, who also had mob connections. The billboard ‘makeover’ made the news again, but Shepard had to apologize.

“It took him about four minutes to figure out who did it,” Shepard said, shaking his head.

That incident didn’t stop Shepard from promoting his “Obey” campaign all over U.S. cities and towns, and getting arrested 16 times along the way.

This wasn’t your average street artist “tagging” for his own fame, but a serious conscious objector using his art to bring issues to light.

Shepard Fairey with iconic Obama poster and student.

Some of them he showed during his slide presentation, including anti-war images featuring then-president George Bush with a Hitler moustache, and a young girl carrying a grenade in her hand. Other issues included the oppression of the Tibetan monks, air pollution, and water pollution. Yet, his anti-war slogans were most prominent.

“We spend a lot of money on the military in the U.S., rather than education,” Shepard claimed.

He showed a poster of new parents proudly cradling a bomb. Another one featured a gas mask with bold text: “I don’t want my taxes to pay for the new world order.”

After showing the last slide of a giant tyrant boot ready to crush masses of people, he softened a bit.

“All I’m saying is that you can use your art to speak up,” Shepard told the Idyllwild Arts students. “Few people have the courage to do the heavy lifting. Be brave, OK?”

He spoke not just to the visual artists, but to young musicians and writers as well.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” he said. “You could build music on your laptop or write a blog.”

He’s doing what we’ve always told our students to do, said Ellenie. Take something that you believe in and show it through your art.

Although Shepard became most famous for his 2008 Barak Obama poster, Shepard didn’t spend much time on it. He said he was impressed with then-candidate Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and decided to create a poster. He was lucky that it was sanctioned by the Obama campaign by a former skateboard friend.

“That poster rose to the national spotlight like none other,” he said.

Early in Obama’s campaign, Shepard was identified as the artist who created the iconic poster. When asked if he was mad that others were taking his image and profiting from it, Shepard said, “no.”

On campus, Shepard Fairey was approachable and congenial. He allowed Sidney M. to take these pictures.

Since then, Shepard has become disappointed with some of President Obama’s politics, but said that he’s the best candidate around.

Shepard’s work has appeared in galleries and museums around the country. He illustrated Time magazine numerous times.

Even with all of his success, Shepard was “at home” among the artists at Idyllwild Arts.

“I saw him sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch,” exclaimed Peter. “This was my big moment! So I sat down next to him and told him what a big fan I was.”

He allowed Sidney, a photography major, five minutes before his lecture to take several portraits of him.

(from L) Eric, a film student, with Shepard Fairey. Eric offered to be an extra camera man sometime.

“He was so nice and casual,” Sidney said. “You can see how natural he is in the pictures.”

View the pictures that Sidney took on her blog,

Eric, from Mexico, spoke to him about filming him in the future.

“I’ve been saving up for my own video camera, and told him that if he needed an extra guy to shoot, I could do it,” Eric said.

Shepard gave Eric his contact information, and since he was hanging around, he was interviewed by Gail Wesson for her Feb. 11 Press-Enterprise article.

When asked if he had seen Shepard Fairey’s lecture before coming to the alumni show, Hubert Halkin of Cafe Aroma replied, “Of course I did! I saw it in the comfort of my own home–on UStream!”

Shepard Fairey’s posters, including the 2008 Obama poster, remains on display at the Parks Exhibition Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2251. To hear his one-hour lecture in its entirety, visit, and click on UStream, or visit the latest issue of the Idyllwild Herald at  For Shepard Fairey’s art, visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Feb 16, 2012 @ 12:39



NACA Help for Idyllwild Homeowners

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

NACA promised distressed homeowners face-to-face meetings with bankers, like Ollie.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

There’s help for Idyllwild homeowners who are upside down on their mortgages, behind on their payments or even in foreclosure.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is coming to the rescue! The grassroots group with “No Loan Sharks” on their T-shirts will be at the San Diego Convention Center Feb. 9-13, and the Los Angeles Convention Center Feb. 16-20.

Gather your paperwork and go!

NACA just helped hundreds of distressed homeowners at the Ontario Convention Center this past weekend.

For free, NACA will help you organize your finances so the final package is presentable to your banker. And they will get you a face-to-face meeting with one on the spot.

Throughout the day at the Ontario Convention Center, happy homeowners told others over the loud speaker how NACA and their banks lowered their interest rates and payments. Many spoke only in Spanish. Others thanked God, NACA and their bank (in that order), for the change that had taken place.

I didn’t go to the podium, but I was “saved” by NACA last Monday. I was behind in my $1300/month mortgage payments and facing a Feb. 14 foreclosure date. After completing the process, Bank of America shaved off $150 of my monthly payment and lowered my interest rate from 6.25 percent to 2 percent.

Bank of America bankers worked hard with homeowners and approved nearly 80 percent of modifications, NACA said.

I live on Marion View Drive in Idyllwild, and I was months behind on my payments. At the time that I went to the NACA event, Bank of America was considering me for my third modification, but the prospects didn’t look good.

Days before, a foreclosure sale date was posted on my door while I was doing the dishes.

Then my neighbor, Louise, told me about NACA at the Ontario Convention Center. People were getting approved for modifications on the spot. In fact, Bank of America was approving 80 percent! Louise had seen it on TV.

My mother encouraged me not to wait until Monday, but go on Friday afternoon. It was a smart move, because the whole process took me three days.

When I walked into the Ontario Convention Center that afternoon, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. I was with 2,000 other people who were in the same boat. Everyone was struggling to keep up with payments in this economy, and were at risk of losing their homes. We were hardworking, but were getting the “run around” from our banks.

Since I work as a freelancer, NACA put me in the self-employed group for orientation.

“Bankers don’t like to give modifications to self-employed people,” the NACA counselor stated. “Your income doesn’t match your bank statements, and your bank statements doesn’t match your taxes. They think you’re lying about your income.”

We all laughed because it was true. But she was going to show us how to make it work.

I told Mary, my NACA counselor, that I had donated a $800 Herb Jeffries banner to charity

She told us to bring six months of bank statements, our 2009 and 2010 tax returns, homeowner’s insurance and various other documents (for a complete listing, visit

Before morning, we had to add up all the business expenses and deposits. But first I had to find everything. I sat in a sea of paperwork, hoping that I got everything. After all, Ontario was two hours away, and I couldn’t run back just to get something!

The NACA event was widely attended because it promised face-to-face meetings with a banker. For those of us who have gone through modifications before, it’s frustrating that you can never speak to a banker in person.

I returned on Sunday (because I had to work Saturday) with my paperwork. They had rows and rows of tables with calculators set up to assist. Once you had all of your paperwork ready, then you had to get in line to have it checked. That took about an hour.

Once you were checked, then you got a number, and waited for one of the six NACA counselors to look over your paperwork and signed off on it. Then you were ready to speak to a banker. The counselor finally approved my paperwork at 11 p.m. Sunday night.

I walked out to an empty parking lot at the Ontario Convention Center. It was a beautiful and eerie sight.

The next day should have gone smoothly, but I noticed that my bank statements were out of sequence. During Orientation and other times, NACA volunteers would tell stories about homeowners who were sent back to the drawing table because their paperwork wasn’t in order. We were all afraid of making the same mistake.

So I waited to talk to John, who was working with a young couple, so I passed him a note. An hour and a half later, I was still waiting. Then I began to panic that I wouldn’t make it through the process in time. He finally told me that he didn’t have time to correct any mistakes. Other NACA volunteers told me to go to the next step in the process.

At that point, I cried.

Why did he keep me waiting for so long? What if I lose my home because I waited too long to get through the process?

The NACA counselor told me to stop and take several deep breaths. I calmed myself. Everything was going to be OK, he said. I had mascara running down my face. I was sleep-deprived and hungry. And had just spent two days getting my paperwork together. Now I was going to talk to a banker?

The next stop was to sit at a table with phones. In the center, there were two NACA employees who faxed your paperwork to the NACA counselors whom you spoke to over the phone. This was the last step before you spoke with a banker about modifying your loan.

Ollie, my B of A banker, worked hard to "crunch my numbers" and make my modification work.

On one side of me, a middle-aged Mexican man was speaking to the counselor via a translator. He worked for UPS. Then he got depressed and didn’t work for three years. Now his benefits are running out, and he’s worried about losing his home.

The woman at my right went through bankruptsy when her husband left and she had huge house payments. When she got on the phone with her NACA counselor, she opened up a four-inch binder of all her materials, each color-coded. My shabby Stater Bros. shopping bag reflected how I looked and felt.

I waited 45 minutes to talk to Mary. Right then, I didn’t realize that our conversation was more important that actually speaking with a banker. Because Mary was the one who was creating my “case.”

I told Mary about being an artist in Idyllwild. How I loved my home, and planted a new tree each year. I wanted her to see the “human” side of the paperwork. I knew that I didn’t make enough money to afford my home. Freelance is unpredictable. It’s gravy one month, and zilch the next.

Yet, I told Mary that I was working hard to improve my income. I cut back on my expenses. I didn’t buy clothes or go out to eat anymore. Forget about vacations.

When Mary asked me if I donated to the church, or gave to charity, I knew that I had to say something besides, “no.” When your home is on the line, you must pay attention to who is helping you. NACA’s headquarters is located in the Bible Belt, where God and family still mean something. I didn’t donate regularly to my church, but I am charitable.

I told Mary about the time I donated an 8-foot Herb Jeffries banner to a Cafe Aroma fundraiser at Cafe Aroma. The Pop Art banner was worth $800, but Herb needed money for his medical bills. I donated the banner that sold for about $300. Cafe Aroma presented the banner to Herb along with the money.

“That’s a sweet story,” Mary said. “You seem like you’re working hard to keep your home. We sometimes get people who want a modification, but haven’t worked in three years.”

I told her how I cleaned houses and walked dogs to make ends meet.

“When I cleaned my first toilet, I cried,” I told Mary. “I was a college graduate and an award-winning writer. And here I was doing the worst kind of manual labor. But I knew it was only temporary. I just hadn’t turned the corner yet.”

Mary went over my financials, including my credit report. She wished me well and I was shuffled over to another line, and then waited in a new area.

In front of us, there were about 100 Bank of America bankers all dressed in red polos shirts. Each was helping people like us modify their loans. They’d call out names and bring them over to their assigned bankers. One by one, we saw people getting up and receiving help.

It was even entertaining. Whenever a modification was approved, the Bank of America banker would hit a gong, and many of the others would stop and shake their “clappers” or tambourines in a momentarily “celebration.” This was very encouraging for those of us waiting in the wings. It seemed like Bank of America approved new modification every 15 minutes.

This was good news for NACA. For every successful modification, they received $150, according to the NACA paperwork. This was a small price to pay to have NACA guide homeowners through the process.

“Have a little faith,” said one homeowner sitting next to me. “There’s money available for us. Try not to worry.”

She was from San Francisco and had just driven seven hours with her family to get here. This was her second NACA event. Months earlier, she had driven to Texas, but didn’t get the modification. NACA said she needed to be working, so she got another accountant job and updated her paperwork.

“There’s people here from other states,” she said. “They know that NACA can help them.”

When I finally got to set before Ollie, my pretty Bank of America banker. I was out of words. My contacts were tearing into my eyes and my stomach was in knots. What could I say to make her want to help me?

Ollie focused on my paperwork, and started “crunching” the numbers. She asked for copies of pay stubs and bank statements. I reminded her of my foreclosure sale date. She nodded politely, and kept looking at her screen. After awhile, she called a supervisor over to check her work

“You’ve had two other modifications,” he stated. “You were fine for a year and a half, and then fell behind again.”

“They caught me up, but never lowered my payments,” I told him.

He checked another screen and verified it. With a lower payment, I could weather whatever came along.

Ollie and he shaved off $150 off my payment and (gasp!) lowered my interest rate from 6.25 percent to two percent. Over the past seven years, I’ve only been paying on interest and not the principal.

“I haven’t seen a two percent interest rate since college more than 25 years ago,” I confessed.

A lump grew in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. This was a beautiful day!

My first new low payment was due in two days, but I was ready. When I got into the NACA line to check out, they told me to make sure to ask Bank of America for my final documents (after the three month provision payments were paid).

“If you don’t hear from Bank of America, then you call us,” the burly NACA volunteer said.

They seemed like a Union to me, but it made me feel good that NACA “had my back.” No one was going to take my house away from me.

There’s hope for other Idyllwild homeowners this month. NACA and the bankers (including Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Idy Mac and many more) will be at the San Diego Convention Center Feb. 9-13, and the Los Angeles Convention Center Feb. 16-20.

For more information, visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

New CRV Policy for Recycling Center

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Andrew from Earthwize had to announce the company's new policy on milk jugs

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Monday, Jan. 16, Earthwize, the recycling center near the Stater Bros. in Hemet, announced a new policy.

They are no longer taking non-CA CRV plastic milk jugs or 100% juice containers.

“We just got an email this morning saying that it’s our new policy,” said Andrew, who has worked at Earthwize for four months. “It’s got to say ‘California CRV’ on it, or we can’t take it.”

Before Monday, Earthwize would allow recyclers to intermingle their non-CRV milk and juice jugs with their other CA-CRV plastic bottles. For example, empty milk jugs would be mixed and weighed with Coke and Pepsi containers.

You can tell what is recyclable and what isn’t by looking for the ‘CA CRV’ redemption symbol printed on the bottles.

“The milk jugs would add more weight and give them a little bit more, but not much,” said Andrew.

According to Earthwize’s overhead sign, the company would pay $1.43 a pound for mixed plastic bottles (including CA CRV and non-CRV) or $1.54 a pound for pure CA CRV plastic containers. That is, until Monday.

Taking these recyclables without California CRV was more of a courtesy for our company, Andrew said. He would just store them in a separate container the back and someone would pick them up and dispose of them.

Andrew explains the new policy to a customer

“We’d get about 100 of those plastic jugs a day,” he said. “They were taking up a lot of space.”

Andrew thinks the new policy may be a space saver for the company, but more than likely, it was the State of California that determined the new recycling policy.

“The state evaluates all of the recycling centers, from time to time,” Andrew explained. “Then they take into account all that is recyclable and what isn’t.”

The State of California sets the policy, our company doesn’t, he added.

The state must’ve determined that penny glass (wine bottles) weren’t cost-effective either. Most recycling places won’t take them now, but the Transfer Station in Idyllwild will.

Each person who came up to the Earthwize recycling center in Hemet that morning got the verbal announcement about the new policy from Andrew. Most of them took it in stride, but one guy got angry.

“What am I supposed to do with all of them now?” he asked Andrew.

“They are supposed to take them back with them, but a few people dropped them into my trash bins when I wasn’t looking,” Andrew said.

Hopefully, Earthwize will revise their sign soon, so Andrew won’t have to make their new policy announcement 100 times a day.

Andrew points to the former Earthwize price for mixed plastic bottles

He didn’t seem to mind, however.

For more information about Earthwize and their recycling policies, call (909) 605-5770 or visit

Earthwize is based out of Ontario, California, but has recycling centers all over the state. The closest one to Idyllwild is at the bottom of the hill, next to the Stater Bros.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Action Photographer Helps Idyllwild

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Fire near Black Mountain Sunday. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The emergency dispatch call came in at 2:53 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8. There was a fire burning on Hwy. 243 off Black Mountain Road near Pine Cove.

By 3:30 a.m., she was on the scene taking pictures next to the fire trucks. By 5 a.m., she had posted two of the best fire photos on Facebook and emailed them as a warning to others.

She also sent copies to the Idyllwild Town Crier and other media outlets to post on their web sites as “Breaking News.”

You could say that Idyllwild freelance photographer Jenny Kirchner thrives on chaos.

She spent three years as the main photographer for the Idyllwild Town Crier covering fires, accidents, natural disasters, and crime. At that time, she was using all of her own equipment, but purchased a police scanner and GPS device to help her to be first on the scene.

However, it was her “softer” photos of Idyllwild School kids playing soccer that won her national journalism awards.

Now that she’s a freelancer, Jenny can’t stay away from the natural disasters. Her best friend, Jill, is a dispatch operator in the desert who lets her know when things are unfolding.

“It’s a thrill being so close as things are happening,” Jenny admits. “But I also like knowing that my photos are helping people.”

She remembers grumbling to herself at 5 a.m., with no sleep, that people better check their emails about the fire in the morning.

The fire photos she sent out went to homeowners in the area, and van drivers from Idyllwild Arts Academy who were going down the hill early Sunday morning. (Jenny is also a part-time van driver for Idyllwild Arts). Julia Countryman is both a homeowner and a van driver.

Jenny captured the intensity of the fire in the early morning. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

“I saw Jenny’s pictures before I left for Ontario Airport Sunday morning,” Julie said. “And told my daughter that if the fire comes over the ridge, we’re evacuating.”

Since Jenny’s posting, there were several reports of the fire online, but none had her spectacular shots.

Even though it was dark at 3:30 a.m., Jenny managed to get both the blue skies overhead with the fire’s orange and yellow intensity, and the scrubby brown brush below.

In the second photo, Jenny captured the wind as it moved the fire along. She was at a safe distance, but everyone knows how quickly winds can change to move the fire in another direction. Gusts were reported up to 60 mph that day.

She sent the Idyllwild Town Crier her fire photos as a “professional courtesy” for them to use on its web site. They gave her photo credit and are in the process of negotiating a freelance contract.

Obviously, they know the value of a local photographer who is willing to bypass danger, give up sleep and take awesome action photos for them.

In addition, Jenny posts her fire photos and those of other disasters on her own web site, The web site generates commissions to do other photography work. She likes covering sports events, she says, but would rather not do weddings. Perhaps they’re not exciting or dangerous enough?

Jenny Kirchner’s fire photos can be found on her web site,, and the Idyllwild Town Crier’s web site,

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 10, 2012 @ 12:39


Caballero Sells Eucalyptus Wood in Idyllwild

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Samuel Perez, 77, from San Jacinto, shows off his roping skills while he sells hard wood in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Most weekends, you’ll see him in a cowboy hat throwing his rope next to his truck full of wood near Strawberry Creek Plaza in Idyllwild. Lean and handsome, he looks like an extra in a Hollywood movie. But he’s the real McCoy.

Samuel Perez, 77, came by train to the San Jacquin Valley from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1961 with the U.S. Bracero Program, which brought in thousands of “strong-arm” contract laborers after WWII.

He said about 2,000 of them lived together on the farm and picked strawberries.

“It was hard work,” he said, shaking his head.

Since then, there have been better times for Samuel and his family. He has a new home in San Jacinto now, but the eucalyptus wood that he sells comes from his 3-acre ranch in Winchester which is now rented to another family. There’s only horses there now, but he used to buy and sell cattle at the San Jacinto Auction until the accident.

“I broke this bone,” he said in halting English, pointing to his femer bone on his thigh. “There are two pins in there.”

He also had his hip replaced.

Samuel sells a half cord of eucalyptus wood for $130 in Idyllwild

The accident happened when Samuel was herding cattle through a corral, and one of the steers panicked and gouged his leg.

Now he has two horses, a quarter horse named “Mr. Perez,” and an Andalusia named, “Napoleon.”

On weekends, he loads up eucalypus wood that he cuts from trees on his ranch (less than 18 inches in diameter) and comes up to Idyllwild. He charges $130 for about 1/2 cord and will deliver to any home here.

He has no regular customers, but would like to build up some clientele.

From September to October, he was coming up about twice a week, but in November, everything came to a halt.

“I wasn’t selling anything in November,” Samuel said.

He took December off, but was back in a different roping spot near Mountain Harvest Market on Saturday, Jan. 7. He looked like a vision standing in the sunlight with his cowboy hat and rope.

One Idyllwild resident offered to buy Samuel Perez's rope

Just then, an Idyllwild resident came up and asked how much he wanted for the rope.

“This one is not for sale,” Samuel explained. “I brought it from Guadalajara, and it cost me about $200, that I cut into pieces.”

He told the guy that he’d bring him another one next Tuesday.

It looked like regular rope to me, something that you’d buy by the yard at Forest Lumber. But cowboys know ropes, and both of these guys knew the true value of it. It will likely cost one as much as a truckload of wood.

Samuel will stack the wood for elderly women, he said, if they offer him a $10 or $20 tip.

“But not for the guys,” he said with a laugh. “They can stack it themselves!”

However, one elderly woman asked him to deliver the half cord of wood, and stack part of it near the front of the house. Then she told him to drive around to the back of the property and stack the rest of it.

“She was expecting too much,” he said.

The woman also had a big dog that was part wolf that she kept inside the house. When she wrote him the check, Samuel couldn’t wait to get out of there. He said the wolf-dog’s head came up to waist level.

Samuel will take cash or local checks for the eucalyptus hard wood. He’s up in Idyllwild most weekends, but you can reach him directly at (951) 692-2084.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


Lost: Family Cat in Idyllwild

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Peanut, my 8-year-old cat, has been missing for one week, since Thanksgiving Day.

She was last seen outside the family home at 53530 Marion View Drive (near McMahon) in Idyllwild.

She is all black with yellow eyes and weighs about 10 pounds. She has tiny paws. There was no collar or ID tags.

There were many visitors around town Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s possible that Peanut may have “hitched” an unlikely ride home. On several occasions, Peanut  would jump into people’s cars. Sometimes they’d drive off not knowing she was there until they heard her cries.

Or, Peanut may have gotten locked into a shed or garage. You know how curious cats can be!

If you live near Marion View Drive, Country Club, or McMahon, and saw Peanut around your home Thanksgiving weekend, please call me. It’s possible that she may still be alive, and just trapped somewhere. It is my only hope! My heart is breaking!

Reward: $100 for Peanut’s safe return

Please call Marcia Gawecki at (951) 265-6755

Thank you!



No Recourse for Hemet/Valle Vista Marijuana Dispensary

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Next time you're at the Shell Station in Valle Vista, check out the activity across the street at the medical marijuana dispensary

The legitimate medical marijuana dispensary, located at 44518 Florida Avenue (across from the Shell Station at Lincoln Avenue) in Hemet/Valle Vista, has a tremendous amount of activity at all hours of the day and night.

Cars drive up and park and within 30 seconds, they take off again. It happens at 6 a.m. as well as 8 p.m. Is all this activity legal? Are all of them sick with legitimate green cards so they can buy marijuana? We hardly think so, but an officer from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said tonight (Nov. 28) there’s little that can be done about it.

The dispensary's address is 44518 Florida Avenue in Valle Vista

“The police are aware of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the area, and they monitor them all of the time,” said the officer answering the non-emergency line. “But they can’t see everyone’s green cards, so there’s little that can be done about it.”

We voiced our concerns about the dispensary’s close proximity to teens and children in that neighborhood. The Shell Station also has lots of local traffic. What if students were able to walk in to the Valle Vista Medical Marijuana dispensary and purchase bags and get back on the bus? (Conveniently, a RTA bus stop is located just outside the premises!)

There's lots of activity there, day and night

“The police cannot do anything about potential situations,” explained the officer. “They cannot bust a business on ‘what ifs.”

She suggested that perhaps everyone we’ve seen frequenting the place had legitimate green cards (which are cards prescribed by their doctors).

“They’re really easy to get,” she said. “It could be that everyone you’ve seen come and go over there legitimately has them.”

So there’s nothing that can be done about a medical marijuana dispensary gone bad? During any given day, when you fill up at the Shell Station, look across the street to see how many cars pull up and leave from there. If our 5-minute projection is correct, they may have more than 500 customers a day!

What if that dispensary wasn’t reporting that much business on its books? Is that enough reason for the police to raid them?

An RTA bus stop is conveniently located just outside the premises

“The only way an officer could investigate that medical marijuana dispensary is if someone said they were able to buy marijuana there without a green card,” the officer said. “We would need actual information.”

But who would admit to that? The person buying marijuana without a green card would be arrested on the spot! They’d be in just as much trouble as the dispensary! (Unless they brokered a plea bargain, but that only happens on TV crime dramas!)

Our tip came from a teenager who lives in Idyllwild. He casually pointed to the dispensary as we drove by in the car.

“You can buy marijuana there,” he said.

We wish he would have added, “Without a green card.”

If this marijuana dispensary is legitimate and popular as all get-out, then why not put a sign out front? There’s a large blank white sign in the parking lot left over from when it was called a tire shop six months ago. Why not put the business name in bold letters: Valle Vista Medical Marijuana Dispensary? Underneath they could brag about their popularity like McDonald’s does: “Over 1 billion customers served.” That way, everything would be above board. Parents in the neighborhood and church goers would all know, as well as the junkies, and then let the chips fall where they may.

The officer suggested that anyone concerned about illegal drug activity at the Valle Vista Medical Marijuana Dispensary contact the Riverside County Drug Activity Tip Line at (951) 955-6384. All tips can be anonymous, but if you leave your name and phone number, then an officer will contact you for followup information.

We left the tip line information about the Valle Vista dispensary, along with the editor’s name and phone number on their answering machine. We’ll see if we get a return call.

In the meantime, there’s a dispensary at the bottom of the Hill (about 15 miles from Idyllwild) where almost anyone can buy marijuana. Unless there’s proof of illegal activity, it will continue to service the area well.

To contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s 24-hour non-emergency line, (800) 950-2444.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Valle Vista Marijuana Dispensory?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011


The address to this popular building in Valle Vista is clearly marked on the front.





By Marcia E. Gawecki

The brown building with white trim looked just like any other doctor’s or dentist’s office in Hemet/Valle Vista. Only that this one, across from the Shell Station on the corner of Florida and Lincoln Avenues, had a lot of activity.

In fact, in the five minutes it took to fill up my car, four cars had come and gone. And one heavy set guy, who gassed up at the Shell Station, had walked over there and returned within those few minutes.

What was going on here? Was this a crack house?

I’ve lived down the street from drug houses in Chicago and Idyllwild. The drug dealers in Chicago had it down to an art. Cars would stop in the street and honk, and they would run out in their neon green shirts to serve them. At any drug house, there’s always a lot of activity and no one sticks around for long for fear of getting caught. I also used to cover crime for the Idyllwild Town Crier, and had once interviewed a potential drug dealer in Garner Valley. So I’m naturally suspicious.

Several months back, this brown building used to be a tire shop. But it wasn’t open for long. Now, there is only a blank white sign, but the address, 44518, is clearly marked on the front of the building in 12-inch letters. A crack house wouldn’t be so obvious.

There's a lot of suspicious activity at this location

“That’s where you can buy marijuana,” said a teenage boy from Idyllwild who was riding in my car as we passed the place one afternoon.

I didn’t think much about it then, but wondered how he could be so casual about those things with an adult. But each time that I filled up my car at the Shell Station, it nagged at me. There was way too  much activity going on over there for my comfort level.

This time, I decided to take pictures as proof. Except on my camera, there’s no time marker. In one of my pictures, a guy in a blue hoodie, looked up and saw me. I pretended to be messing around with my camera, just taking odd shots to get it to work again. Always take a picture of your foot. (That’s an old street photographer’s trick).

On the way up the hill, I called 911. After all, that hoodie guy could be a drug dealer who had already memorized my plates and told his friends. I could be dead by morning and no one would know why!

The CHP operator transferred me to the Hemet Sherrifs’ Department, saying that I was “reporting suspicious activity.”

I told the dispatch operator what I knew, including the remark from the Idyllwild teen whose mother lives in Hemet. They took my phone number and said that they would send someone out to investigate.

‘Better take your guns,’ I prayed silently. ‘There’s going to be a shootout. No one gives up their drugs that easily.’

The building at 44518 Florida, is a legal marijuana dispensary

Within a few minutes, a Hemet police officer called me back.

“That’s a marijuana dispensary,” she said. “It’s legal.”

She said it had been operating for about a year now, and fellow officers have checked them all out for validity.

“That’s where people can go when a doctor prescribes them marijuana,” she said.

I thanked her and hung up. It must be like the medical marijuana places in Venice Beach that attract so much attention with tourists. That explains why this nondescript building in Valle Vista, with a huge address, has so much activity.

I ran a quick check for “marijuana dispensaries” on , but the 44518 Florida address didn’t show up. However, another one in Hemet and more in Palm Springs, Beaumont, Perris, Murrieta and Riverside, appeared.

Yet, I remain on guard. Could a medical marijuana place go bad?

“Yes, they closed the one in Menifee,” said Peggy, who lives in Menifee. “They were dispensing medical marijuana, but also selling it illegally on the side. Some citizen’s group shut them down.”

Could that be what’s happening in Valle Vista? Are they legally and illegally selling marijuana at the same time?

If everything was above board, then why do their customers only stay for two seconds? That’s the behavior of someone who doesn’t want to get caught, not a cancer patient who wants to feel a little better.

This marijuana dispensary is too close to my favorite Shell Station for comfort. If there’s a police shootout and one of the bullets hits a gas truck or tank, then everything could blow sky high!  Yep, I’ve seen it on TV! With my luck, I would be gassing up on pump number 7.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


The Monster’s Daughter Visits Idyllwild

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

For more information, contact Jeffrey Taylor at (951) 659-6000