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Chuckwalla Wire, Voice of the Tri-Desert Empire

Weekly Observatory

The Sometimes Spring Retro Estates fire insurance swindle.  (Editor’s note:  Regarding the wildfire that swept through Sometimes Spring last month, leaving hundreds of seniors homeless.  Homeless and angry, since it turned out their expensive fire insurance was worthless, with no reimbursement in the offing.  So far the local authorities haven’t been much help in explaining what happened. We reprint here an extract of the essay written by the Reveille’s part-time interim reporter Cheryl Weiss for Mr. Kinder’s Social Issues seminar at Chuckwalla High.)  
The  Imperial County District Attorney has issued an arrest warrant for Jerome Botts, the charismatic real estate promoter who reportedly has fled to Brazil following the devastating Virago Canyon Fire that ravaged more than 300 homes in the Sometimes Spring retirement community of Retro Estates.  Assistant DA Dmitry Claustivitch said the county is still unraveling the complicated machinations that ended in the default of Botts’ Phoenix insurance company with an accompanying loss to residents estimated to be “in the millions.”  According to Claustivitch, Botts used “suspicious bank loans” for a heavily discounted leveraged buyout of a housing tract in receivership after the bankruptcy of the late developer Calvin Busk. The houses had been an unsold  drug on the market since all of Sometimes Spring is in “a permanent red flag zone” for wildfire, the entire village being surrounded by miles of tinder-dry brush. After gaining control of the development, Botts formed his own mortgage and insurance companies that offered prospective home buyers low-interest mortgages along with comprehensive fire insurance at the statewide market rate. “On paper it looked sort of legitimate,” Claustivitch said. “No reputable bank would write a mortgage without fire insurance, and no reputable insurance company would issue on these homes.  But Botts put together a package.”  It was a package, Claustivitch said, maliciously designed to fail.   “He had to know that eventually there’d be a big fire. But until then, for years, he could collect the insurance payments and, we believe, stash the money offshore. Botts bundled the mortgages into securities that he unloaded to voracious hedge funds and used the proceeds to finance the insurance bond, while broadening the area of coverage with reinsurance.  “It looked solid but it was a house of cards.”  At the very outbreak of the thousand-acre Virago Canyon fire Botts bolted.  “He had his suitcase packed, and was gone with the first siren.”  The default means the burned-out homeowner has lost his roof but not his tranched mortgage, and no relief in sight. “We can’t find any trace of the money,” Claustivitch said.  “It’s probably in the Caymen Islands and Botts probably is in Rio.”  Cheryl Weiss

Refining the flour  Chuckwalla JC’s adjunct satellite of UC Riverside’s department of sustainability and resilience, has refined its recipe for  the school’s much ballyhooed survival biscuit, improving the design that provides battered heat refugees with complete nutrition in one hard cracker.  The biscuit, meant to be as imperishable as Royal Navy hardtack, contains all the vitamins and minerals that are on the Wheeties label, plus complete protein, gut probiotics, and a dose of fiber.  The new recipe is also easier to bake. “After mixing, the easily obtained half dozen ingredients the biscuit dough can be baked in a simple solar oven,” said Brad Steffle, a UC resilience specialist.  Or lacking an oven, the biscuits can be baked like sun-dried bricks in the searing afternoon of the apocalyptic Southern Hemisphere.  “Just put the patty on a flat stone in full sun,” Steffle said.  To be edible, however, the baked biscuit has to be dipped in liquid.

The latest self-published Amazon  e-books from Desert Empire authors:

"Blind, Deaf, and Nuts", the anonymous memoirs of a Chuckwalla assisted living caregiver.

"Every Person for Itself," By Faith Dennis, the Palo Verde survivalist and food hoarder. An improving tract for the improvident, on the theme of “you’d better watch out..

"Beam in My Own Eye," by Besos Amazn.  Another dash of perennial bilious tonic from the local gadfly who haunts the columns of the Reveille’s letters page.

"Eyeball and Thumb", a Heuristical Journey, by Blythe's Terry Lott.   The local inventor and tinkerer offers rough-and-ready rules for navigating the common perplexities of life.

"The Primate Diet," by Evan Fields.  Bananas and peanuts? The Sometimes Spring author and  world traveler "forages and nibbles" through the grocery produce aisles to create a no-cooking, high fiber natural diet based on fruits and nuts.

"A Lover’s Slings and Arrows," the confessions of an anonymous local Lothario and con man.  “I only hope the people I’ve hurt have been able to learn from it.”

Rickshaws Redux  Following a much-noticed New York Times article about the sudden appearance of rickshaws on Chuckwalla streets, the city council Wednesday once again turned to the knotty question of how best to license and regulate the burgeoning number of human-powered conveyances.  "This hit-piece has cast a dark shadow on our city," said Mayor Robert Crane. "It made us look like we were returning to slavery."  The Times photo accompanying the article showed a man identified as an undocumented immigrant  from El Salvador pulling a home-made rickshaw carrying an unidentified portly Caucasian burgher. Crane said the current rickshaw ordinance needed to be amended to add stricter penalties for operating unlicensed rickshaws.   Under regulations put in place last month, rickshaw operators must pay a license fee, pass a medical checkup, and be between the ages of 18 and 35. Operators must also wear forced-air HEPA respirators on days when atmospheric PM2.5 is greater than 100 ppm. Penalties for non-compliance, however, only involve minor fines.  Councilman Henry Pipps said the Times article also mentioned the upside of rickshaws.  "They don't pollute, they reduce congestion by giving rides to the elderly going to the doctor or the grocery store." At present Chuckwalla has four licensed rickshaw operators:  Rickety Rick's, the original operator, founded by junior college students; Breatharian Commune, which specializes in short trips for the elderly and disabled; the free-kitchen Harmony House, which serves the un-housed and car-less; and the low-income senior hostel Castaways,  generally serving the tavern trade.  The Times article, however, focused on "gypsy rickshaws" pulled by paperless border crossers from Mexico and Central America who congregate at the former Kmart parking lot to offer rides to snowbirds heading to Albertsons.  "This is a health and safety issue," Crane said. "Some of those Jerry-built contraptions are falling apart."   Acting police chief Abel Dick said his officers have issued several tickets to operators of unlicensed rickshaws but doubted the tickets would hold up in court.  "The problem is the law doesn't clearly define a rickshaw," Dick said, "We're treating them as bicycles, but they could be pedestrians." Dick added that the gypsy operators worked for  "suggested donations' rather than fares, which further complicated the legal picture.  After an hour's desultory debate, the matter was moved to an ad hoc committee to be formed later.

Snake handling    The Borrows Gang rattlesnake feed faces no shortage of serpents for the annual barbeque held at the gang’s rustic encampment near the old Frog Skin mine south of town.  Event spokesman and Borrows resident Bo Keeley said the rattlesnake poaching of the previous year has been nipped by “vigorous measures “ to ensure a plentiful supply of the toothsome reptiles.  Last season, poachers from Texas cleaned out the major nests around town to supply the Big Springs, Texas, rattlesnake roundup and cook-off, which had come up short because of a prolonged drought and an outbreak of plague that decimated the rodent population, the rattlesnakes’ principle nourishment.  “We let the Texans know what we thought about snake rustling,” Keeley said. Still, because of last year’s depredations, the rattlesnake crop has diminished, but, thankfully, there is Billy Everett’s snake farm.  “Billy has raised up a big ball of snakes for us,” Keeley said. And he said the meat will be delicate and flavorful, since the snakes have been raised entirely on white laboratory  mice. “Your wild rattler takes a varied diet of  rats, lizards and toads, which can make the meat a little gamey,” Keeley said.  “Billy’s snakes are pure sirloin.”

Apparently the Little Red Songbook sing-along in Victory Park will go on as scheduled for Wednesday noon.  The Breatharian House duo,  A Pair of Chicks, will perform works from the Wobbly songbook, followed by a program of spirituals from the OMG Youth Ministry’s vocal  trio, the Amazing Graces.   The unusual double bill represents a conciliation brought about through the intercession of Chuckwalla mayor Robert Crane. The blurb in the Reveille announcing the event sparked an angry email from OMG Youth Ministry director Byron Fistule in which he threatened picketing of the Breathairian duo‘s performance.  “The Hail Adoni  Baptist Church (parent of the OMGYM) unalterably condemns Breathairianism in all its parts,” said Fistule, who promised to drown out “caterwauling socialism” with a vociferous protest.  It was the conciliating mayor who smoothed feathers by suggesting the concert also could be an opportunity to showcase the talents of the Graces, “whose voices often it’s been my pleasure to enjoy in church.”  The Chicks and the Graces, Crane said, are “wonderful young women who should get every chance to reach out to the community.”  The Chicks will perform “Solidarity Forever.”  Hook, Line and Sinker,”  and “Worthless is the Freedom Bought.“ The Graces will cover “Jesus Paid it All,” “To God be the Glory,“ and “The Old Rugged Cross.“  The singers will close out the concert by joining voices for  “If I Had a Hammer.”

Pillow Arrangement with Wanda   Fridays, 7-8 p.m. Students should bring seven pillows  Wanda shows how to pile the pillows for a good night’s rest, or for relaxing with a book, or for binge-watching television.   The reclining body needs support under the arms, the small of the back and the knees.  Wanda says people should never sit to read.  The reader needs to be reclining, with pillows supporting the back and head, both arms, and under the knees and feet.  Wanda’s Yoga 486 Hobbesianway. (Sponsored)