Friday, August 27, 2021

A Look At 'Wild At Heart' Horse Sanctuary

Between having grandparents who lived on a dairy farm in the Central Valley and growing up in the middle of nowhere around horse and cattle pastures, I have had my fair share of experience around livestock. My experience mucking out corrals and tending to animals, along with having an open Saturday morning, were what lead me to the Wild At Heart horse sanctuary on the west side of Lancaster, California, after I saw a post on a local community page on Facebook asking for volunteers. 

I drove out to 70th Street West and Avenue H on a warm Saturday morning to an unassuming horse property in the desert. Walking down a short dirt road past the farmhouse I found a sign indicating I was at the right place, and I waved at the first person I saw. A volunteer (I'm sorry I forgot your name! I'm really bad at names!) directed me to one of the founders, Leslie, and after a brief introduction and signing off on a liability waiver I got a hose and a brush and started scrubbing down water troughs. 

A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Wild At Heart was established in 2015 to take in, rehabilitate, and adopt out horses in need in the Antelope Valley, and permanently board and care for horses that have special needs or high maintenance requirements. With over 30 years of experience with horses and their care, Leslie is well qualified to take on the role of a unique but much needed service in the area. 

I'm glad I spent so many of my childhood and teen years climbing the fences in the fields outside my home town, because I did a lot of that going from corral to corral, dumping water and scrubbing the gunk out of horse troughs. It's also good that I'm accustomed to manure because one horse-- I didn't get his name, but he was a good boy-- saw the mud puddle I had created with his dirty trough water and decided to cool off by splashing around in it. While I was also hot in the summer sun I wasn't really intending to be in the splash zone of mud and manure, but that's what to expect with working with livestock; you're going to get dirty.

Once all the troughs were clean and I pet as many horses as I could, I made my goodbyes with Leslie and told her I would be back. It was a pretty good workout, which would be enough for me to return, but it's more than that; I like being around horses. The opportunity to scratch their giant heads and pet their massive ears is something I don't often have these days, and knowing I can be a part of the welfare of animals in need is rewarding in its own right. Plus, with horses and cows, they poop. A lot. And they eat and drink. A lot. There's always a need for a helping hand at the sanctuary, and if I can give it I will. 

If you're not afraid to get a little dirty or break a sweat, they have opportunities to volunteer on Saturdays and (I think) Wednesdays. If you want to check out the horses, try horseback riding, or want to adopt, they're open from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Plus, if you're looking for another fun way to support the organization, the 2nd Annual Cowboy Bash in Leona Valley will be held on September 25th and will have food, drinks, music, a silent auction, and pony rides, with proceeds going toward the sanctuary. Be sure to check them out on Facebook for more information.

It's a great organization and another hidden gem in the Antelope Valley, and I hope you take some time to check them out!

Friday, August 6, 2021

My Attempt To Be Less Trashy, pt. 3: Clothing

This is another installment of my series "My Attempt To Be Less Trashy" where I share things I have and do to try curbing my environmental impact. Like I've said before, even though I'm not the best at zero- or low-waste living, an attempt to be mindful is better than not trying at all, and you can read about my swaps and habit changes I've previously written about here and here.

Clothing is something that has a serious impact on the environment. In the early half of the last century there were two seasons for clothes: Cold and Not-So-Cold. The average wardrobe wasn't typically too extensive (even though men often wore suits every day, they would have maybe a couple suits they wore in rotation). Today, thanks in part to companies wanting to turn a profit, there are up to 52 seasons for fashion-- one per week, just so fast fashion boutiques can pump out something new for people to buy. As a result, the textile industry is the second largest polluter on the planet. That doesn't even factor in the water used to wash garments after we buy them! There are things we can all do to curb our impact in regards to buying clothes, and a few things I've done are pretty easy: 


Detergent strips

Awhile back I started using laundry detergent strips, mostly to see what they were like. Considering liquid detergent is liquid because of it being mostly water, I didn't feel like spending more money on a plastic tub of blue-dyed watery soap. I used powdered detergent for ages for that exact reason too, but I figured the strips would make for less mess, and I was right. In my experience, detergent strips, which are about the size of a couple sticks of gum side-by-side, wash just as well as any detergent I've ever used, all while biodegradable and in a lightweight, recyclable package. Even switching from liquid detergent to powdered is a good first step to save water, and washing everything cold is a great way to save energy too, but if you want to save on packaging and overusing detergent, strips are a great option. 

(Also, sidebar, they're great for travel if you don't want to pack liquid or powdered detergent in your suitcase!)

Re-wearing clothes

More often than not, I wear the same shirt at least a couple times before washing it. I wear my jeans and shorts a lot of times in a row before putting them through the wash, and flannels until they start to stink. I wash my chonies after every use, of course, and the clothes I run and work out in only get worn once before washing since they get pretty stinky pretty quickly, but by re-wearing a lot of my clothes I can not only save time doing fewer loads of laundry but also extend the life of my clothes by not washing and drying them so often. Plus, fortunately for me, I wear basically the same thing every day, so nobody has ever called me out for repeating an outfit. I doubt it would happen to you either, and even if it does it's their problem and not yours. If it smells fine and isn't too wrinkled wear it, who gives a shit.

Buying used

This goes for a lot of things, but clothing in particular is good to buy used. With so many new lines of clothes coming out every week, and apparently a market to buy a new outfit every week, a lot of clothes go to waste. Only 7% of people purchase used clothing, and only 28% donate used clothing to thrift stores, which is a problem because people buy five times as many clothes as they did in 1980. I still rock the $2 boots I found, and I've recently purchased a nice button-down through Patagonia's Worn Wear shop with credit I received from sending in a different Patagonia brand shirt in for repair. The company Darn Tough, which makes great socks, has a lifetime warranty on their products so you can exchange them instead of throwing out your old socks. There are ways to get clothes both affordably and with less of an environmental impact, and besides buying from companies that engage in sustainable practices in manufacturing the best way to do it is to buy secondhand. 

Fixing what you have

Again, this can go for a great many number of things, but repairing your clothes is one way to extend the life of your clothes. If you don't know how to sew, it's not too difficult to learn how to reattach a button or close up a hole in a seam of a shirt. Like I did with my $2 boots, if you have a pair of shoes that can be resoled you can keep a lot of material out of a landfill, and as I mentioned before, Patagonia's Worn Wear program can attempt to repair clothing you send in and, if they can't, they can repurpose the material of your clothing to be made into something else. I had an old pair of jeans that had a huge grease stain, but instead of tossing them I treated the stain until it was barely noticeable unless you really looked for it. and when they started to get holes in the I patched them up and wore them until they got too far gone, but even after that I made them into shorts. By using what you already have you can spare your wallet from buying the style of the week and the landfill from throwing out something with something repairable.


You can also hang-dry your laundry, use old clothing for crafting projects like quilts and the like, or be naked (it might not work well in mixed company and it might get cold eventually though, FYI), but there are things we can all do to curb our impact on the environment when it comes to the clothes we wear. It boils down to being a conscious consumer and taking care of the things we already have, in our clothing and everything else. 

Nobody likes a trashy person, and if you're like me and want to be less trashy there are choices we can make to be nicer to the planet. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

My Attempt To Be Less Trashy, pt. 2: Eating and Drinking

This is another installment of my series "My Attempt To Be Less Trashy" where I share things I have and do to try and curb my environmental impact. Like I've said before, even though I'm not the best at zero- or low-waste living, an attempt to be mindful is better than not trying at all. 

One part of life that I know I still need to improve on is in the realm of eating. Something like 40% of food is wasted in the US, and fast food packaging makes up something like 10% of total packaging waste globally, but I'm just as guilty as anyone of forgetting about spring mix in the fridge and grabbing Taco Bell. However, I have made some changes to improve on my impact with dining, and maybe these along with not opting for Crunchwrap Supremes when I get tired of digging through the cupboards will help reduce my impact in the realm of food and drink:


My Hydroflask

I love my insulated water bottle. I found it secondhand, and using it instead of buying bottled water has been an easy solution to reducing consumption of single use plastics. I have a small collection of Nalgene water bottles too, and while they work well enough my Hydroflask is both insulated, which keeps my water cooler when it's roasting here in Southern California, and made of steel, so it's virtually indestructible. It has a few dents and scratches but I know this bottle will last forever, whereas Nalgene bottles can break after awhile and single use bottles get thrown out as soon as they're empty. Any reusable water bottle is an easy first step toward using less single-use plastics (and a great way to remember to hydrate!) but I love my secondhand Hydroflask. A new one can be a little pricy, but it pays for itself with how many bottled waters you don't have to buy.

A stainless steel lunch box

When I'm working I like to pack a lunch, mostly to resist the siren song of Doordash and help spare my poor wallet, but also to prevent more food packaging from being unnecessarily wasted. I've used plastic containers for years to transport my workplace lunches, but they crack after awhile and end up unusable, so awhile back I invested in a stainless steel lunch kit. It holds my peanut butter sandwich and trail mix just as well as any plastic container has, and like my Hydroflask it's also virtually indestructible. Paired with coffee from my $2 Klean Kanteen and a cold drink with my stainless steel straw and I have myself a fantastic workplace meal kit that will last me a lifetime.

French press/cold brew coffee

Admittedly, while I used to be a coffee snob, I'm cool with drinking store-brand big-tub coffee from a drip machine. However, one way to reduce waste from an already impactful drink is to make coffee via press or by the cold brew method. French pressed coffee, while also delicious, doesn't waste a paper filter, and when I make it I throw the grounds into my compost pile. While cold brew normally uses a paper filter it makes a concentrated coffee that can keep in the fridge for days, so instead of using a new filter every morning for a pot of coffee you can use one filter for a batch that can last a few days you can enjoy hot or cold (that also is delicious, but be warned; dilute it because it is potent and, if you don't, you'll bounce off the walls and crash hella hard). Plus-- you don't need me to tell you-- even making coffee at home with expensive locally roasted beans is cheaper and less wasteful than buying a cup from Starbucks.

Keeping it local

Transport of produce can be a carbon-heavy endeavor. By going to a local farmers market (if you're lucky enough to have one in your vicinity) you can get your fruits and veggies from places you know, and actually meet the people who grow them. In my experience, produce is generally about the same price as at a big box store and way fresher and, in my opinion, way tastier. Also, if there's a brewery near you, you can get a growler fill of a tasty beer to share with friends instead of a 6-pack if you're going to a party, and since growlers are reusable you can BYOB again and again without having to throw out any packaging-- with the added benefit of knowing who made your beer and where it came from. I like my insulated steel growler because, like my water bottle and lunch kit, it'll last forever, and it keeps my beer cold without having to carve out room in the fridge.

Being full of beans

Every day at work for years I had the same lunch of beans and rice at work. While I don't suggest you eat nothing but beans and rice for dinner every night for five years like I did, reducing meat consumption is one way to reduce your carbon footprint. I had heard a statistic that claimed if cows were their own country they'd be the third largest producer of greenhouse gasses (imagine a country populated by nothing but cows, how awesome would that be?) I'm not vegan, and I'm a pretty terrible vegetarian at best, but I do what I can to curb the amount of meat I eat by getting protein from beans. It's easy to sub black beans for meat in items from Taco Bell, which I think dramatically improves Crunchwraps. I still eat meat a few times a week, but generally most of my meals are bean-based. 


Growing your own food, eating raw vegan, and eating your homegrown raw vegan food at home instead of dining out are other, maybe more extreme ways to dine responsibly. Being intentional with what you're buying, eating/drinking, and throwing away are good to keep in mind too if you're not quite ready to go with a full-on self-sustaining raw vegan drum circle hippie commune lifestyle.

Stay tuned for even more swaps and habits I've tried to make myself less trashy! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

My Attempt To Be Less Trashy, pt. 1: Bathroom

When I was in the 6th grade my class went to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School for a two or three day program. I don't know what my fellow classmates took away from the it, but aside from being half asleep and nearly falling off a top bunk after someone's alarm clock went off at 5am, I remember learning about invasive plants, composting, conservation, and being more eco-conscious with my day-to-day life from a bunch of Northern California hippie types from the late 90s. Between that experience and growing up in remote areas around natural spaces, I believe I was predisposed to be at least a little environmentally aware. 

I'll be the first to admit that I am not the best tree-hugging-earth-cookie-granola-groupie out there, and individual action is a drop in the river compared to the impacts of major industries in terms of pollution and waste, but I try to make a conscious effort to reduce my impact on our struggling planet when I can. Imperfect eco-consciousness is better than not trying at all!

That said, I've decided to lay out some of my lower waste swaps and actions in a series I'm calling "My Attempt To Be Less Trashy." I will lay out some things I have done to try and curb my footprint, and hopefully you'll consider trying some of these out yourself if you can. The things you can do are limitless, and there are so many different YouTube videos on the subject, but I might as well throw my hat into the ring anyway.

I'm going to kick off this series in the bathroom, just like I kick off my morning routine. The following are swaps I've made to make life a little greener:


Bamboo toothbrush

One big hunk of plastic we deal with every day is our toothbrush. It's easy to see why plastic ones get used so regularly, though, since they're everywhere and you can pick up five for a dollar at any big box store. I wanted to try out something different, so I picked up one made from bamboo. The bristles are still plastic, but the majority of the toothbrush is capable of being thrown into a compost bin. Plus, it works the same as any old manual toothbrush, and while it cost me a little more it's still about as much as a name brand one. 

Deodorant in cardboard

One thing I found to reduce the plastic in my life is deodorant from the brand Hey Human that comes in a cardboard tube. I like how it smells, it works really well, and the packaging is recyclable paper, which I like. Other brands have started doing it too (I think Old Spice started using cardboard for some of their deodorants) so it's a pretty easy swap if you want some variety.

Bar soap and conditioner

People talk a lot of shit about three-in-one shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I get it; it doesn't do a good job as either shampoo, conditioner, or body wash, and you're left with dry skin and hair. I've been blessed with pretty good skin (so long as I'm not out in the sun too long, I burn like crazy), so I can keep my shower supplies pretty minimal. I use a pine tar soap bar and a conditioner bar since a lot of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner are made with a lot of water and come in bulky plastic bottles. Being able to get away with using one bar of soap, and having a bar for conditioner, saves space and clutter in the shower and saves on plastic and water waste.

Bidet

When I first used a bidet-- like a lot of people using a bidet for the first time-- I yelped from the jolt of water going into my nether regions. However, after that I have grown to miss it when I'm away from home and need to poop. Not only do I get a squeaky-clean feeling down below, using a bidet also means I can use less toilet paper without sacrificing cleanliness (I use Who Gives A Crap's bamboo toilet paper too), so I can take a dump knowing I'll have a funky fresh booty.


There are other ways to waste less in the bathroom; shorter showers, water-saving shower heads, toothpaste tabs, the list goes on and on. The things I shared are just a few of my favorite hygiene-based changes to greenify my daily routines. I'll keep playing around with other things to see what else I can do, but I hope you consider some of these in your routine. 

Stay tuned for other swaps and habits I've tried to make myself less trashy! 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

This Land Ain't My Land: My Trip To The Antelope Valley Indian Museum

It's important to know whose home you're living in. Having lived in the Payahuunad├╝-- also known as the Owens Valley-- and the Great Basin region of the US nearly all my life, I have had at least some understanding of who the Indigenous people of my homeland were and are. Since moving to the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, I've found that, aside from strip malls and housing tracts, the history of the place focuses almost entirely on aerospace and a tiny bit on agriculture and the interstate highway system, but Native history doesn't get a lot of focus. That's why I wanted to check out the Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Site, on the far east side of Lancaster, north of the town of Lake Los Angeles.

Stephanie walking toward the museum
The museum
My wife Stephanie and I headed out on a windy Saturday in mid-May, which happened to be the first day they had been open since the pandemic began. Driving up the dirt road toward the museum, which is a kind of cool but out-of-place Tudor style building stuck out in the middle of flat desert and rocky buttes, I realized there were murals painted on the building of Native inspired designs. After getting the go-ahead from the ranger in the gift shop, we entered and paid the $3 each to check out the exhibits. 

The building was constructed in the 1930s as a summer home by an artist and amateur architect named Howard Arden Edwards, who collected art and artifacts from the Southwest and Great Basin regions. The building and his collection later became a museum, and in the 80s and 90s became a California State Historic Site. There are displays of native plant species that Indigenous people had historically harvested, examples of baskets, pottery, and other artwork from tribes throughout the Great Basin region, and maps showing the names of tribal locations and historic trade routes through the region. 

a barn along the nature walk
the barn along the nature trail 
There's also a short nature walk around the museum that showcases historic buildings, examples of natural formations in the landscape, and information about the ecosystem that surrounds the place. I appreciated the informational packet calling out the development to the south of the museum as an example of being mindful of our choices in how "we use (or abuse)" the land we live in. After doubling back to the gift shop to get some books on desert plants and the tribes of the area, Stephanie and I made our way back west toward home.

While the experience of learning more about the local Indigenous people was worthwhile, I can't help but think about how much colonial sentiment the collections at the museum has; I doubt there was any sort of consent from tribal entities about "collecting" these cultural items back in the 30s, and though it's good to have some cultural reference for the peoples who have lived in California and the Great Basin for thousands of years, it's important to remember that they're still around and not just the "primitive people" described by an American Southwest fanboy from the last century. 

Take Vasquez Rocks State Park, between Palmdale and Santa Clarita off the 14 Freeway. It's known for its film history and for being a hideout for bandits during the wild west days of California. While that's interesting and all, I don't often hear about the small group of people who inhabited the area for a couple thousand years that had their own unique culture separate from the surrounding tribal entities, or how Spanish colonization wiped them out and sought to do the same to the Indigenous peoples in general. History has largely written off Native America as being a thing of the past, but with organizations like Indigenous Women Hike and others there's more focus on setting injustices of the past and present right instead of treating Indigenous people as mystical relics of history. 

I'm glad that the exhibits acknowledge the sweeping generalizations about tribal culture in the Southwest are antiquated, but it's important to remember that a lot of the artifacts on display were brought into the Kitanimuk lands from abroad. To better understand and respect the places we live we should focus on and acknowledge the people who were here before us, and those connected to those roots today. I still believe the Antelope Valley Indian Museum is worth checking out if you're willing to make the drive, but be sure to check your colonizer mindset at the door. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

The 3rd of July

What's your favorite holiday? As a kid it may have been one of the gift-giving ones, like Christmas or Hanukkah, and for a lot of people Halloween remains supreme because of scary movies, the costumes, and getting candy, which people of all ages can appreciate. Independence Day was a big deal growing up since I lived in the small town of Independence, California, home to the world-renowned Fruitcake Festival in December and the most wholesome small-town 4th of July celebration I've ever been a part of. There's a pancake breakfast, parade, craft fair, pie and ice cream social, fireworks, 5k run, games at the park, and a deep-pit barbecue dinner. If you've never been it'd be worth checking out since they had to shelve the festivities last year. 

However, I'm not writing about the 4th. I'm thinking about the most auspicious and magical event that happens to make the deep-pit barbecue possible. See, deep pit barbecue is made in a, well, y'know, deep pit, filled with hot coals, wherein clods of beef are placed to slow cook for many hours, resulting in the most tender and juicy beef you will ever enjoy. Because they have to start the cooking process the day before, at some point many years ago someone decided to make the barbecue in the park an event, thus creating a local favorite holiday: The 3rd of July.

At Dehy Park, located on the north end of Independence, the organizers set up a stage for a local band to play, and while the band plays locals begin to mill in, coolers of beer in tow, to drink and dance the night away. In the background of the festivities it looks like some sort of weird sacrificial rite; large flames flicker and burst from a hole in the ground while old timers stand by to make sure nothing goes awry. They then place the clods of beef into the dwindling flames after the pit sufficiently heats and after the locals are sufficiently drunk. Teenagers sneak away to the shadier corners of the park to do what teenagers do, and some adults sneak away to other shadier corners to do what teenagers do. The music and dancing goes well into the night like an ancient ritualistic festival, and at 6am many in attendance meet back at the park for the Lion's Club pancake breakfast to kick off a patriotic day, bleary eyed and tired but excited all the same.

When I think of summertime growing up, I think of a few things; the smell of the lilac bushes in front of my mom's house when I was in high school, balmy evenings playing in the sprinklers when I was 5 or 6, hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill, fireworks echoing off the mountainsides, and being jazzed about the possibilities before me, but nothing encapsulates the excitement and sensory experience of summertime quite like the 3rd of July at Dehy Park in Independence, California. If you have time and are in the neighborhood, and you like live music and small town charm (and if they're even doing it this year), be sure to go and check it out. It might become your favorite holiday too.

Monday, May 17, 2021

My $2 Coffee Cup

I'm an avid coffee drinker. As a matter of fact, I've written about it a couple times in this blog, both how I've been a coffee snob and how I lightened up (seriously, have you seen some recent commercials for Folgers? They're pretty great). Through most of my 20s I practically lived off of nicotine and caffeine, and often posted up at coffee shops racking up a hefty tab cup after cup. Even though I quit smoking a few years ago and stopped drinking quite as much coffee I still enjoy a cup or two in the morning when I wake up and when I'm out and about before lunch. The latter usually means stopping at a coffee shop, and though it's been difficult in the Age Of Covid, in an effort to reduce at least a little waste I do my best to bring my reusable travel cup whenever I go to a cafe.

Like I've mentioned before in a previous post, I've been bringing my secondhand Klean Kanteen when I go out for coffee. It's a little 12 ounce insulated stainless steel cup, covered in stickers from various shops I've been to, that I picked up for a couple bucks at a small town thrift store. It's nothing a normal person would get too excited over, but I've been over the moon about it since I bought it over a year ago because it's one of the best thrifted purchased I've ever made, and not just because they retail at like $25 new.

It keeps coffee hot for a long time. Like, painfully hot. An hour after filling it I still burn my mouth as long as the lid is closed. Most travel mugs I've had before would keep things reasonably warm for a little while, but this mug will keep coffee just about as hot as it was brewed for at least a few hours. The fact that it's like sipping molten lava for so long helps me pace my coffee drinking so I can enjoy one cup much longer.

Aside from coffee staying hotter longer, it also has saved me a little money-- not just from not having to freshen up my coffee when it gets cold. A lot of places, like Coffee Bean and Starbucks, historically have shaved off a few cents if you bring in a reusable cup, though I haven't been able to get a reusable cup filled for awhile now. I made back the $2 I spent on the cup pretty quickly in the 25 to 50 cents saved by having coffee shops forego the paper cup, so that was a win in my book.

Lastly, the environmental impact of cups steers my decision to use it. According to EarthDay.org, 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used every year, which is a lot of fucking cups. For a beverage that already has a not-so-great track record of sustainability, adding that many disposable cups into the waste stream makes things way worse. I've managed to avoid a few dozen cups and lids from getting thrown away by opting for my reusable cup instead of the disposable option. In the past year, I managed to keep at least a few plastic lids from entering the waste stream by transferring my coffee shop purchases from a lidless paper cup to the Klean Kanteen. It's a small step, sure, but I can at least do a little something to be nicer to the planet in those moments I find myself at a coffee house.

Reducing waste has been really difficult in the last year thanks to disposable masks and gloves, single use plastic wrapped items to reduce the chance to cootie transmission, and the prevalence of takeout and delivery. I'm guilty of using single-use items and getting delivery and fast food full of disposable packaging (and fast food delivered when I forgot to pack lunches at work [Popeye's is great when you don't have to wait in the drive-thru line]), but I try to be mindful of what I throw away, be it trash or money (getting Popeye's delivered is expensive), so making coffee at home and taking it with me for later in an old travel mug is one little way to not be so trashy. Little changes like that make a little difference, and a bunch of little changes add up, so I'm going to keep drinking my hot bean water from my $2 coffee cup and keep trying things to be nicer to the planet and my wallet. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Big Ol' Kitties: A Trip To The EFBC's Feline Conservation Center

Simba, one of our stinky doofuses

My wife loves cats. We have two stinky little dorks she loves very much, and I don't think there has been a cat she hasn't immediately fallen in love with, which made it surprising when I learned she hadn't been to the Feline Conservation Center in Rosamond, California. I like cats well enough, but I really appreciate conservation and protecting wildlife, but in light of the Netflix series Tiger King and knowing a few redneck types from Rosamond, I wanted to check the place out to make sure that the California High Desert didn't have its own Joe Exotic. 

The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound's Conservation Center was established in 1977 to house endangered big cats from all over the world, and was opened to the public in 1983 as a nonprofit. They provide educational tours to inform people about the cats and their natural habitats, and they provide the cats with as much enrichment as possible by means of toys and things to play with and chew on, like boxes (all cats love boxes), bones, and essential oils, among other things. The Conservation Center is part of a global network of zoos and facilities dedicated to the protection of cats, so they aren't bred for sale and are instead bred for species conservation, which is really cool. 

Getting there was a bit of an adventure. From the 14 Freeway I headed west, past the shopping centers and the high school and into the desert with smatterings of trailer parks and subdivision housing. I then headed north on a side street toward what appeared to be some abandoned mine operation on the hillside, passing more residential housing among the sagebrush until I saw a sign with a tiger on it and the letters "EFBC" with an arrow pointing to the left. After a short drive down a dusty dirt road I came to the parking area of the compound. 

The gate to the compound
The entrance
Walking up, you're greeted by a gate with a couple cat statues on either end, which opens up to a little atrium with a memorial placard commemorating the information center and gift shop. From there, you enter the gift shop to pay the fee to enter the grounds (it was $10 for me, but $5 for kids and $8 for veterans). The shop was stocked with plenty of big cat memorabilia and toys, along with a couple taxidermed big cats, probably from years ago. After a quick speech from the shop attendant about not harassing the cats, keeping my mask on at all times, and keeping off the grass, I was set loose to check out the animals.

a snoozing caracal
An unfazed caracal
There's a lawn surrounded by trees and enclosures for the cats, and since I went early in the day some of them were being fed. Chinese leopards were pacing and scoping out the staff carrying food, and a caracal snoozing on a perch acted like I wasn't even there. I got stared down by a jaguar, which was cool because there was a fence between us so I didn't have to act on my primal instinct to freak out or act on my dumb domesticated brain to want to pet his toebeans. There are informational plaques that give a lot of interesting information about their habitats, social behaviors, diets, and appearances, so you get both an educational experience and a chance to see animals that are hard to find in the wild. 

A serval next to his sign
A serval and his plaque
I'll be back for sure, because even though I didn't spend a long time checking out the place I'm sure my cat-loving wife will love it and make a whole morning of it. If you like supporting the conservation of endangered wildlife and seeing big furry babies doing cat stuff but, like, on a larger scale, it's worth the adventure into the desert to check it out. Plus, with everything being put on pause last year they could really use all the support they can get, so check out their website for more information.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Vaccines (for America!)

We're in year two of the 2020s, and there are still people confused about why we have to social distance, wear masks, and get the vaccine if we still have to wear masks and socially distance after the fact. I've come up with a way to explain it all in the most American way I can:

The virus is a million little Bad Guys With Guns. Wearing a mask is taking cover, and keeping at least 6 feet apart from one another makes the accuracy of the Bad Guys With Guns worse. The thing is, just taking cover and keeping a little distance isn't going to guarantee that you won't get killed by a stray bullet, so we need the only thing that can stop a Bad Guy With A Gun, which every American knows is a Good Guy With A Gun. 

The vaccines are Good Guys With Guns. The first dose is getting the good guys into position, and the second dose is the one where they get the ammo and you get some body armor. That way, the Good Guys With Guns and the Bad Guys With Guns can duke it out, and even though you can still get hit by a stray bullet in the crossfire you're way less likely to die from it. 

However, while you with your Good Guys With Guns can fight off the Bad Guys With Guns, other people who don't have their own Good Guys With Guns can still get caught in the crossfire and killed by a stray bullet, which is why people who are vaccinated still need to wear masks afterward; give your fellow Americans some cover.

Some folks still think the virus is fake or that the vaccine is dangerous. 29 million cases-- some people I know in the ranks-- and over a half million deaths-- of which I know a couple people-- should be enough evidence that the shit is real. Yes, there have possibly been 50 deaths tied to the vaccine, but considering 42.5 million people have gotten both doses of the vaccine the odds of dying from the vaccine are way lower than dying from the disease it protects you from. I refuse to live in fear of a needle prick, wearing a piece of cloth over my face, or big numbers. I think we can be braver than that. 

If you love Freedom and Liberty and Your Fellow American, wear a mask, get vaccinated if you can, and use some common fucking sense.