One of the things that disturbs me most is when certain B-list celebrities grab hold of concepts like “ORGANIC” and turn them into their cause celebre (and newest moneymaker) via marketing spin. A sucker is born every minute. But sometimes the sucker is being sucked by an even bigger sucker. Allow me to explain.  Case in point. Suzanne “Sucker” Summers, who makes her home in the Coachella Valley and makes her money by exploiting every health and body craze that surfaces. Why is she a sucker? Because she believes her own press, and has bought into the propaganda put out on the right about the Affordable Care Act (read on).

Before going into her views on “Obamacare,” let’s talk about her latest marketing endeavor. Here she is this month on the cover of GOING ORGANIC magazine, distributed widely for free throughout the Coachella Valley. I always note the irony of this publication because it’s printed on Glossy paper that isn’t recycled and doesn’t even break down easily in a compost bin. But that’s a different story for another time.


And what is GOING ORGANIC magazine doing this month besides raking in cash from all of its’ advertisers and contributing to landfill waste with it’s used and unused copies? Why, it’s shilling for Suzanne Somers’ new moneymaker, a line of health and beauty products that capitalizes on the concept of organic.


Oh no. Here she goes (blows). If it’s not the Thighmaster or another poorly written book, it’s going to be something to try and help you save face. Organically of course.

Proving that a good publicist can get you coverage almost anywhere and on almost any topic, she was recently featured in the WALL STREET JOURNAL giving her opinion on “Obamacare.” The Somers summation? It’s a “socialized ponzi scheme.”

She goes on to criticize the Canadian health care system because she is intimately informed about it since her husband hails from that country up north (remember him? Alan Hamel? He used to do commercials for the ALPHA BETA supermarket chain back in the 1980’s. He isn’t just a ‘has been.’ He’s also a Canadian).


Suzanne Somers Canadian husband shilling for the Alpha Beta Supermarket chain in a 1980’s era television commercial

Then she makes her first big blunder: she compares the ACA to the system in Canada as if they were one and the same.

Canada has a single-payer system. The ACA just requires Americans to purchase insurance from private health care companies on an exchange. Apples and oranges, but it’s all the same fruit to this nut. To add insult to injury (and to push her “socialism” claim) she falsely attributes quotes to Lenin and Churchill, which the WSJ was forced to print a retraction for and correct online. Ooops!

The final laughable moment comes when she laments that healthcare will be so unaffordable for seniors that they won’t be able to afford her new Organics line. She ignores the fact that seniors remain covered under Medicare, which IS a single-payer system just like the system in Canada she originally criticized. It’s a lot more “socialized” than anything the ACA will produce.

Three might have been company, but with this kind of loony logic it’s starting to feel like a crowd. Come on Suzanne. Get a grip.

But that’s not the point, really. We know what Suzanne is up to, because it’s what she’s always up to. She’s trying yet again to appear relevant, because she just wants you to know that she has a new line of products called SUZANNE ORGANICS. She’s pulled this trick before (anyone remember the Thighmaster?) And if you use these new products along with her Thighmaster and buy a couple of her books you won’t even need health insurance anyway. This is why her publicist convinced the WSJ to give her a silly platform. It’s not about selling healthcare or insurance. It’s about selling her products, which in all their permutations always boil down for Ms Somers to some version of “ME…ME….and more ME.”


To read a great Daily Kos story about Suzanne’s expert opinion on “Obamacare” click here

To send a note to GOING ORGANIC magazine and ask them why they don’t print on recycled paper and prefer to go all glossy or ask them why they are willing to shill for a nutcase like Suzanne contact publisher Estelle Foster at or editor David Stern at

To watch husband Alan Hamel in a 1981 Alpha Beta commercial click here



When I first moved in to my place in February, the cooling of my house wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But as summer approached I got more and more curious: how was I going to get through a very hot summer with no air conditioning?

The answer was easy. My place came with an evaporative cooler mounted on the roof. I was assured I wouldn’t need anything else to ensure a comfortable summer season.

At first the whole thing seemed kind of primitive. For one thing, it only had two switches: ON and OFF (for the system as a whole) and HIGH and LOW (for the fan within the system which circulates air within my house via ducts in each room). There was no way to “set” the desired temperature. There was no timer to let it know when to get my house cool and when to dial it back a bit.

How does this thing work? I wondered.

It just does. And beautifully I might add.


When you turn the system on it continuously blows cool air into your home — none of this on/off/on/off stuff that air conditioners go through and which are very inefficient as far as energy conservation is concerned. And the only way I even notice that it’s on is if I feel the temperature change or walk beneath a duct and feel the air blowing down on me. That’s because it’s operation is virtually silent. Another great advantage over a/c.


Unlike air conditioning units, which recirculate air within a closed system – cooling and recooling it and drying it out — evaporative coolers circulate constant fresh air from outside while adding moisture to it in the process. Last summer I spent Palm Springs, where air conditioning units run 24/7 and I woke up every morning with dried skin, chapped lips, and a scratchy throat.  None of that happens with my evaporative cooler.

In keeping with the constant flow of air, you can even keep a door or window open while running the evaporative cooler. In fact, it helps to crack a window open an inch or two. That way the fresh air can push out the “old” air. My two cats and my dog Phoenix use a doggy door to go in and out of the house. When I forget to crack open a window and am running the evaporative cooler their doggy door “window” ends up being pushed open with a nice little whistling sound as a result of the air pressure.

Fresh, clean, moist air. What a concept.



Evaporative cooling systems use about 70% less energy than an air conditioning unit, and they have negligible C02 emissions. The thing runs on water and electricity. There is no freon in an evaporative cooling system, or any other kind of cooling agent other than H20. 


Evaporative coolers are cheaper to buy, install, and run than air conditioners. They also need less maintenance. With a simpler system, maintenance is simplified. One quick annual service (I had mine in April for about $50) is all that is needed. No freon recharges, no air filter cleanings or replacements. And by using 70% less energy you can only guess how cheap my electricity bill was all summer long.


Evaporative coolers work best in hot and dry areas. This isn’t the type of cooling system you should get if you live in hot and humid Florida. Luckily the Morongo Basin meets these conditions perfectly, with the exception of a few humid days last month when monsoonal type storm clouds dumped rain on our usually dry desert.

Some people say evaporative coolers just don’t work in humid conditions. I found that this was an exagerration. My cooler worked best in hot and dry conditions, but it still managed to make things a bit cooler inside on even the most humid day. With just a handful of days during which these conditions were present, it just wouldn’t make any sense for me to invest in an air conditioning system. For a few days every year? Who needs that expense? Who needs that headache? What kind of man am I if I can’t sit through a humid day or two once every year.




GO SECOND CHANCE SHOPPING: Some Recent Thrift Store Finds


 Here at Second Chance Homestead we furnish our home with previously owned items that need a second chance. Shopping “second-hand” is sustainable living at it’s best: Taking home used items saves them from landfills; buying something old instead of something new saves the energy involved in the production of new items; and spending money at thrift stores benefits the local non-profit organizations who run them. It really is one of the best ways to participate in your community. And it saves you money.

But it’s not all environment and economics.

Don’t forget about the THRILL!  It’s like going on a treasure hunt and finding gold. You make your way through shelves and racks and suddenly stumble upon the most amazing find!  For example, I recently came across two handmade Portuguese plates (In the 1990’s I lived in Portugal for a year and a half and have a love for the country and it’s crafts). I was ecstatic! And I didn’t even have to go overseas to get them!

 Here are some recent thrift store finds:


How Now Brown Cow. This cow is actually a “piggy” bank. $1.50.


Used baseballs add a nice decorative touch when stacked atop a plate handmade in Portugal. (baseballs 75 cents each; 2 handmade plates 75 cents each. The other one sits under the cow)


An antique adding machine (with period paper receipt roll). $12.00.


A retro ceiling light fixture cover in glass and wood. Fits in perfectly with SCH’s “rustic ranch” look. $3.00.


Morton’s Salt vintage tin. $3.75.


Handmade ceramic “mini” milk pitcher. $1.50.


Dancing Plates. Set of four. 75 cents each.


Metal and Glass “lantern” covers for votive candles. Set of 3. $2.25.


Vintage Candlestick holders. Glass. Set of two. $1.50.

TOTAL SPENT: Just 33 dollars.

Have a good weekend! I hope you take time to do some “second chance” shopping of your own! 





Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chief Jeff Grubbe. The Tribe is suing the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District, alleging years of mismanagement of the local water supply.

Water officials in the Coachella Valley are claiming to be making progress in their efforts to keep from depleting the natural aquifer that the Palm Springs area sits atop. They’ve come up with a solution: keep on pumping water out of the aquifer. Replenish it with water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta. The only problem? The tunnels which could transport the water have never been built.


Sign announcing the use of recycled water, a responsible approach to water management, but one that only 18 out of 124 Coachella Valley golf courses employs.

The Coachella Valley has some of the heaviest water use in California, due in no small part to the presence of 124 golf courses in the area, only 18 of which use recycled water for irrigation. The remaining 106 draw fresh water from the ground. And that’s just the golf courses.


Philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg with First Lady Betty and President Gerald Ford

There’s is also the problem of zip code — the 92270 of Rancho Mirage, one of the “richest” zip codes in the country. It is also the realm of the politically well-connected. Senator Barbara Boxer calls Rancho Mirage home, as did President and First Lady Ford. 

Perhaps nothing illustrates the success of Rancho Mirage excess better than the Sunnylands estate, the former winter home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg and now a high-level retreat center for national and international leaders.  It sits on 200 acres of manicured lawns and gardens and even boasts it’s own private golf course. President Obama recently met there with Chinese President Xi Jinpin. It’s that kind of place.

Groundwater levels have dropped by more than 100 feet underneath Rancho Mirage since the 1950’s, indicating some of the most intense water consumption Valley-wide. It takes a lot of water to keep the landscaping green as money. 


Aerial view of a not atypical estate in the desert city of Rancho Mirage.

It should be no surprise that the Valley’s original residents, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, are suing the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency to assert their rights to the groundwater. Their suit accuses the agencies of mismanaging the water supply.

“DWA and CVWD continue to…mislead the public into thinking that everything is OK and that they have a handle on the issue when clearly they do not,” Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe said in a statement to the Desert Sun.

Is a desert really the place for dozens of golf courses and sprawling estates with acres and acres of manicured lawns?


If the water dries up in Rancho Mirage, no doubt they’ll just truck in pallets of Evian Water to fill up their swimming pools and water their parched gardens. But what about everybody else?

To read more visit the Desert Sun at




ImageDon’t worry. There won’t be any pickpockets reaching into the folds of your sari trying to get at your hard-earned cash, but you might want to think twice about heading for Joshua Tree this weekend. Between the cost of a four-day pass ($325) and the money you’ll spend purchasing the wares of the 100 vendors there selling everything from food and books to jewelry and neti pots — your pocketbook will be saying “Ouch!” just when your spirit says “Om…”

“Yoga’s a very big business now. Everyone’s doing yoga,” executive producer and Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein tells the Desert Sun in Saturday’s edition. “We’re expecting at least a couple thousand people, maybe 3,000.”

In addition to yoga and the vendor market, they’ve got meditation, instruction in chanting, hula hoop classes, and workshops by leading philosophers and authors. You can even stay overnight at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center where the event is being held.


 Shiva Rea Shakti-Rocks the House

And then there’s the music.

When you’re tired of shopping and downward dogging, you can chill out in front of the stage where musicians the likes of former Madonna backup singer Donna De Lory will be performing and elevating the spirit. Donna used to do Gay Pride events. I guess now she’s working the Shakti Circuit.


Donna De Lory and Madonna strike a pose

Despite my playful criticism, Silberfein puts the weekend into nice perspective with his comments to the Desert Sun:

“You bring your family, spend a couple of days, do yoga, you hangout, eat good [vegetarian] food. I mean what could be bad? There’s no drugs. There’s no alcohol. Where can you go that that exists anymore today?”

He has a point. The last time I was in a public place where there were no drugs and alcohol was when I attended an AA meeting.

But I just can’t see myself at Bhakti Fest. I can’t afford the entrance fee. I haven’t got the right wardrobe. I always feel self-conscious when I bend into a difficult pose.

Still, my sober brother David T. is headed there all four days, and his  friend Alexandra the yoga teacher also plans to show up. How about you?

For more information on Bhakti Fest read the article in the Desert Sun at or go to the Bhakti Fest website at


Shyamdas and Radhanath Swami (Rise Globa Product Shots) 


Yesterday I was in Palm Springs to receive acupuncture. I do it from time to time to restore balance in my body and help recover from chemotherapy. I haven’t experienced anything like it. There’s a pinch at the start (“That smarts!”), followed by 40 minutes of relaxation as needles tend to various energy points in my body. It leaves me feeling renewed and remade. After a session with my acupuncturist Askat, I felt revitalized enough to do some shopping. Feeling revived, I headed over to Revivals, a “thrift” store whose takings benefit the Desert Aids Project.

First the well-being. If you are in the Palm Springs area and need acupuncture, want to explore options in Chinese Herbology, or just lie down for a restorative massage, be sure and check out the Desert Wellness Clinic at I cannot recommend them highly enough.

And next – Revivals. They’ve got everything under the sun, but I was interested specifically in previously owned artwork to adorn the walls of Second Chance Homestead.

I collect artwork that is graphic – mostly posters, prints and lithographs with big, bold type and rich, expressive hues. I always want “text” with my imagery. A recent gem “find” came into my collection for just $10 – a framed poster from a shop in San Francisco circa 1973. 

note: I’m not a professional photographer but I’ve tried my best. Also, my home was pretty dark and I needed to use the flash! I know…I know…


“Goines Posters: 1968 – 1973,” by David Lance Goines. Designed for a 1973 exhibit in a San Francisco gallery. Reprint featured here (1977) by Portal Publications Ltd. for an exhibit at the Thackrey and Robertson Gallery, also in San Francisco. 20″ by 28″.


Detail from “Goines Posters: 1968-1973,” by David Lance Goines.

Maybe Revivals had on its shelves some good pieces to go with the Goines poster. After only a few minutes perusing their stock, I found not only companions but two true “soul mates” from the same shining decade.


“Broadway,” by Hilary Knight for the Triton Gallery, NYC.  1974. Number 3 of 150. 


Detail of “Broadway,” by Hilary Knight.

I love discovering amazing pieces that were once loved but have fallen onto hard times and found themselves in thrift shop stock. They are like orphans that need to be adopted. And with my recycle/repurpose/renew/re-use Homestead ethos, I LOVE to give a great work a second chance to be displayed and continually admired.

 I also love the fact that I’m able to buy truly amazing and often original artwork at affordable prices, and that the money that leaves my pocket goes to an important cause.

Affordable? How much do you think I spent on “Broadway”? Just five dollars and twenty-five cents, thank you. Money well spent.


“George Berke,” by Michael P. Smith. 20″ by 27″. 1977. Number 599 of 1000.

The second print,  “George Burke,” depicts a reveler at the 1977 Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. It cost me all of nine dollars.

Total three pieces: Under $25 (twenty four dollars and twenty five cents to be exact).

 Could I have come away with even one cheaply framed mass-produced unoriginal print from Ikea or Walmart or Target to hang on my wall for that small amount of cash?

Even better – I never have to fear someone walking into my place and saying, “I LOVE that print! I have the same one at home!”

 The God of Second Chances. That’s MY curator. 


Detail of “George Berke” by Michael P. Smith

















It’s been a long hot summer and quite awhile since I’ve posted to the blog. I’ve been busy putting off plans for the Homestead and tending to my health. It’s the most I’ve been able to do.  In late February/early March I was diagnosed with a rare yet treatable skin cancer. By April it was spreading aggressively across my skin (back, legs, face, scalp, arms, chest – you name it) and had metastasized to my digestive tract. It still remained treatable, but it upped the game (and the price) of my cancer treatment.

To date, I’ve had five chemotherapy treatments with a drug called Doxil. It’s used to treat breast cancer, the particular skin cancer I have, and sometimes ovarian cancer. It’s effective but also expensive. The treatments I’ve been receiving have gone for about $50,000 a pop. Yes, that’s right. There is no “typo” there. In chemotherapy treatments alone I’ve “spent” $250,000 on my health in less than six months. And this doesn’t count consultations with my oncologist, CT scans and other procedures associated with my treatment. But that’s not all. I’ve had lots of doctor and ER visits, rides in ambulances, and a hospital stay. Want to know what all that can cost?  Read on…

Some backstory:

I  didn’t have any insurance when I first got signs that I was sick. To make matters worse, I’d been laid off from my job (a part-time job with no benefits) two months before, so I didn’t have any money.

It was irresponsible, but I waited almost three months to go see a doctor. I felt caught between a rock and a hard place. I had NO money and NO insurance. The thought of walking into any medical facility in the United States seeking diagnosis or treatment was altogether frightening.

Rationalization and denial became my M.O.  I told myself I was stressed, that my body would heal up on it’s own, that I was young and it couldn’t be that serious.If I kept my head in the sand long enough, maybe it would all just go away.

Here’s where Obama and Health Care Reform come in. In 2013 I was lucky enough to qualify for an early roll-out pilot of the Health Care Reform law that was taking place in select California counties. Now that I had insurance I made an appointment to see a doctor. “First available” was in February. That is when I learned I’d be facing the biggest challenge of my life.

The Cost:

I’ve had countless doctors visits, which bill at several hundred dollars each. At each visit I have extensive blood tests that also run into the hundreds of dollars. I’ve had three ambulance rides to hospitals, each of which can go for over $1,000 a pop. I was in the hospital for one week for observation after they gave me my first chemotherapy dose. Cost for care: just under $100,000.

And then there are visits to the E.R. In the past six months I’ve been to the emergency room more times than I care to admit. Add ’em all up, and they’re worth another $100,000.


That much, you say? Let me give you just one example:

After my fourth chemotherapy treatment I was having really bad stomach pains and had to go to the E.R. twice within 24 hours. Remember, my cancer is in my digestive tract. It does all kinds of crazy things with my stomach, intestines, esophagus. Think vomiting, diarrhea, etc. And sometimes PAIN.

The first time I was there for about 7 hours and had a CT Scan. I was given DILAUDID by injection and allowed to sleep on a bed for six hours. Then I was sent home – told to come back if the pain didn’t subside. When the Dilaudid wore off the pain was the same. I drove back to the E.R. and waited there for 2 hours until they prescribed some additional medication and discharged me.

FIRST VISIT: $13,479.37

SECOND VISIT: $3,067.47


The Million Dollar Man:

So, to summarize…I’m not quite at a million dollars, but they’ve spent more than half a million in six months just to keep me alive.

Something about that just doesn’t seem right…Should it really cost this much? A bag of medicine that drips into your arm at $50,000 a pop? An Emergency Room visit that lasts less than 12 hours and costs over $13,000? Hospital stays that cost more than I will ever make in a year?

I used to think that the key to reforming our healthcare system would be the extension of health insurance so that every American is covered. I don’t believe that is enough anymore. The cost for healthcare in this country, driven up by the for-profit nature of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, is unsustainable. The whole system is sick. Much more sick than I am.

Feeling Like Patty Hearst:

Someone’s getting rich. Someone or some corporation is getting filthy rich.  And government’s getting stuck with the tab. I feel like I’ve been held captive by an out of control healthcare system that has used my unfortunate situation to milk the system for all it’s worth. Like I was kidnapped, kept in a closet, brainwashed and then forced to help some freaks rob a bank.

Do I really want to be a part of this? Do I have any choice?

But I’m getting better. I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Note: All the external cancer sites are now gone as a result of treatment. In a few weeks I will have procedures to determine the progress of treatment within my digestive tract. A recent test shows that the cancer has not spread elsewhere in my body. I may require additional chemotherapy treatments, but I am hoping to be in complete remission by the end of the year.