More Death Valley Days for California?

I didn’t need California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to tell me the Golden State is in the middle of a drought. You can see it in the California natal chart, set for Sept. 9, 1850 in San Jose, at 9:41 a.m. Here’s the chart, thanks to Astrodienst.

Note that dry, constricting Saturn is heading for fertile California’s 16 degree Virgo Sun. Transiting Uranus is currently past an opposition with the Golden State Sun, but it’s moving retrograde, back to an opposition with Saturn in the sky. This will take place in early November at roughly 19 degrees of Pisces/Virgo.

Mars will also make a passage through Virgo, in August, going over the state’s Sun before it opposes Uranus in the sky, a signature for wildfires if I ever saw one. But this could easily be psychological fires as physical ones.

It looks to me like California’s populace could be angry. That may be due to the strain of higher gas prices on residents of a state that has long had a love affair with driving. Driving the Ventura Highway memorialized in the America tune has gotten a lot more expensive in the last year.

Still, with Virgo involved, the state’s civil servants might be up in arms about something or it could be agricultural workers or the truckers who transport produce who rise up in protest.

Few astrological sites are better than Richard Nolle’s AstroPro for predicting wild weather, which is often triggered by new and full moons. Click on his site on my blogroll and when you get to his home page, click on the label that says “futures.” Be sure and do this in the beginning of August if you live in California.

As California goes, so goes the nation. (Sorry, Maine!) A drought in this agricultural state is more grist for the mill of higher food prices. Here’s the link to a story about the governor’s official declaration:

At the same time that the Governator is proclaiming a drought, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is sounding the alarm about the vulnerability of California’s state park system, citing “deterioration, neglect, and poor public policy.”

Here’s the link:

Saturn in Virgo could also be interpreted as belt-tightening (Saturn) in public parks (Virgo). Although it’s known for its symbol, the Virgin, Virgo is the sign of the worker. He or she takes the family to the park on weekends because it’s a low-cost form of entertainment, not to mention a way to commune with nature.

Protecting California’s land is an issue that has been close to home for me this winter while my husband has been working at one of the 125 golf courses in the Palm Springs area. Of course, you know how these courses stay green in a region that gets two to four inches of rain a year. They’re watered every day, sometimes twice a day.

In the interest of marital harmony, I’m going to reserve comment on the wisdom of this. Certainly, golf courses bring tourists to the desert and that helps the economy, but…

Given the number of swimming pools in the state, perhaps a daily swim could be a state-mandated substitute for a shower or bath. That’s assuming there’s enough water to fill the pool.

Panhandling in Palm Springs

Palm Springs, Calif., may have a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, but the reality is somewhat different. Fact is, the wealth has moved down the road to the neighboring desert towns of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells, taking with it the upscale stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and luxury car dealerships.

Thank heavens the rich folks weren’t able to take Mount San Jacinto with them when they moved farther down Route 111. They have to settle for the foothills, while I’m just footsteps from Chino Canyon and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

I like the fun, funky vibe of Palm Springs, which owes a lot to the lively gay scene. I have spent many happy hours combing the racks at Revivals, a chain of thrift shops that benefits the Desert AIDS Project, and getting fashion tips from ever-helpful Drew at Chico’s downtown. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve gotten a makeover on Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Girl. Don’t worry, I’m not “outing” Drew. He’s out — so is half the town!

Another favorite Palm Springs pastime of mine is window-shopping at the used classic car lots. I dream of replacing the baby blue 1966 Ford Mustang that I crashed back in December, 1977. Saturn was at 0 degrees of Virgo then, quite close to where it is now. Maybe that’s why I’m eyeing Mustangs again. Fortunately, transiting Mars isn’t hanging around my Uranus in Leo, the way it was then. Mars/Uranus is an accident-prone aspect.

You know when I first decided that I had to have a 1966 Mustang? It was back in 1966, when I was watching That Girl starring Marlo Thomas. Her boyfriend, Donald Hollinger (Ted Bessell) drove a Mustang and worked for Newsview, obviously a stand-in for Newsweek magazine.

Now, most 6-year-old girls probably wanted to be an actress like Ann Marie, the character played by Thomas. Not me. I wanted to be Donald Hollinger because he worked for a magazine in New York and drove a Mustang. Even then, I could see it was much easier to be a journalist than an actress!

There’s no car in my life right now, and we’re living in what the locals call the “windy North side” of Palm Springs. When I want to take a break from my laptop, I make the 2-mile trek down to the heart of downtown. Along the way, I often encounter a fair number of homeless people, some of whom should be in rehab for drug or alcohol addiction or taking medication for mental illness.

Yesterday, I was walking down Palm Canyon Drive toward downtown when a bright-eyed, clean-cut young man with a ponytail approached me. I assumed he was going to ask for directions. I avoid making eye contact with folks who look scary and cross the street if they appear to be dangerous, but this kid seemed O.K. 

I was shocked when he gave me a big smile and said, “Hi, I just paid my rent and I don’t have any money. I get paid on the 5th. Could you give me a dollar?” (No one ever asks for anything less than a dollar here. Why not leave the contribution to the donor’s discretion? Somebody might hand you a $20 bill.)

“No, I’m sorry,” I said. But what I really wanted to say is: “I don’t have the money to pay my rent yet.”

Today is May Day, and the internalized voice of a long-lost Commie friend points out how little capitalism has achieved for the masses. He was Jewish boy from the Bronx who grew up during the Depression and got involved in organizing from the get-go, as his mother was shop steward of her milliners’ union. If he were still here, I’d hit him with one of my favorite John Kenneth Galbraith quotes: “Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”

After my rant yesterday against folks who blame the victim, I can’t very well attack yesterday’s panhandler. But he got me thinking. None of the jobs around here, including the one that my husband has at an upscale golf resort, pay more than $11 an hour. That produces a paycheck of about $800 every two weeks.

The going rate for a one-bedroom apartment out here is $800 a month, though you can find one for a little less in August, when the temperature hits 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Throw in a car payment, auto insurance, and $4-a-gallon gasoline (some people do ride the bus out here, but it’s mostly schoolchildren and recent immigrants) and there’s not much left over.

My beggar yesterday was well-groomed and well-spoken. He was too healthy to be a crystal meth addict, though there are plenty of them in these parts. The young man looked about 22. He was so fresh-faced that if you cut his hair and gave him a suit, he could pass for a Mormon missionary. 

Is all his money going to pay off his student loans? Could be. Or does our vaunted service economy not pay him a “living” wage? I don’t know the answer. Maybe he’s been hitting the slots at the Spa Resort Casino, which, like a lot of Palm Springs, is owned by the Agua Caliente Indian tribe.

Even if I can’t afford the baby blue 1966 Mustang, maybe I need to splurge on a new retro Electra bicycle so I can dodge the beggars. Brother, can you spare a dollar?

Chillin’ with the ‘Life is Good’ Dudes

Last night at the Palm Springs Villagefest, a street fair held every Thursday, I got to meet Bert Jacobs, chief executive optimist (yes, that’s his title!) of Life is good, the Boston-based company dedicated to spreading good vibes. (For you copy editors out there, that lower-case “g” is intentional.)

Bert is no stranger to street fairs, having gotten his start at them, selling T-shirts with his brother John in the late 1980s. Only last night, Bert and John weren’t manning a humble booth; they were sitting outside a brand new Life is good store and autographing copies of their new book, Life is good: Simple Words from Jake and Rocket.

The book signing was heralded by spotlights that shined in the sky as if it were a movie premiere or the opening of a new car dealership — equally as glam in Southern California. In front of the store, there were two groovy cars decorated with Jake, the goofy-looking stick figure who is on his way to $100 million in revenues, and Rocket, his faithful canine companion. One of the vehicles (I’m not a car person so I didn’t notice what kind) was tangerine-colored and emblazoned with the slogan: “Do what you like. Like what you do.”

Of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do a mini-interview. “I know you’ve been asked this a million times,” I said to Bert, as he inscribed a copy of the book, “but how did you get the idea for Life is good?” He told me the concept was a reaction to all the bad stuff he used to see on the evening news. “It wasn’t the nightly news. It was the nightly murder,” he said. “We wanted to let people know that life is good.”

And indeed it is for the Jacobs brothers, sons of Needham, Mass. who embody an upbeat, granola lifestyle that appeals to folks from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore., and lots of places in between.

Just talking to Bert and flipping through the pages of the Life is good book, whose proceeds go to the Life is good Kids Foundation, made me want to buy that retro Electra bicycle called “Gypsy” that I saw yesterday. No, the Life is good ethos isn’t about consumerism; it’s about getting out on the road, being in nature, having fun, maybe lending a help hand if one is needed.

What’s gratifying to me is how the Jacobs brothers give back to their community. They’ve delivered countless “You can change the world” speeches at college graduations. On May 17, Bert Jacobs will be the commencement speaker at his alma mater, Fitchburg State College, in Massachusetts, and will receive an honorary degree from the school.

The philanthropic efforts of the Jacobs brothers and their foundation are truly awe-inspiring. Case in point: In October, 2006, Life is good broke a Guinness world record by lighting 30,128 jack-o-lanterns on the Boston Common. The event was a fund-raiser, and brought in more than $500,000 for Camp Sunshine, a haven for families of kids who are seriously ill. Even last night’s book signing was a fund-raiser. All proceeds from the sale of the $20 book go to the Life is Good Kids Foundation.

I’ve spent the morning reading profiles online of this latest rendition of the American rags-to-riches story. I’m going to link to a couple of the best, this one from the New York Times and this one from Inc. I didn’t find what I was searching for, though: birth dates for the two brothers.

I learned from the NYT that Bert was 42, and John, who is the company’s chief creative optimist, was 39, on Nov. 22, 2007, when the article appeared. In the course of surfing the Net, I found out that the brothers founded Life is good in 1994 with the creation of fun-loving Jake.

Although they had been peddling T-shirts at street fairs and on college campuses for several years before that, their official bio says that in August, 1994, “with a combined sum of $78 in the bank, the brothers considered giving up on the ultimate road trip. Then they created Jake and he showed them the way.”

That was during the Uranus/Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. I’m a Cap and I still haven’t figured out what that major aspect was about, other than helping Corporate America get a little groovier.

Based on the ages provided for Jacobs brothers, I’ll venture to say they are both part of the revolutionary Uranus/Pluto in Virgo conjunction crowd, born in the late Sixties.

(I don’t have my print ephemeris with me and can’t spend hours on this, but it’s possible John’s Uranus is in Libra, not Virgo. Without a birthday, I can only guess. Either way, it’s evident that Bert, who is definitely Uranus/Pluto in Virgo, is the spokesman of the team.)

Now, the obvious question here is: Why didn’t I ask Bert when he and his brother were born? I’m kicking myself this morning that I didn’t, but there was a line behind me to get books autographed. I’m a closet astrologer. I don’t like to call attention to my occult tendencies in public, especially with all the wacky folks wandering the streets of Palm Springs, where there is a homeless problem.

I didn’t have a chance to meet John last night, but Bert looks like a Virgo to me. Interesting that many of the Life is good T-shirts, water bottles, backpacks, and tote bags promote an outdoorsy lifestyle — very fitting for Virgo, since it’s an earth sign.

One of my favorite scenes from the Life is good book is a picture of a tent with the constellations overhead. It carries the tagline, “Five star accommodations are easy to find.” This egalitarian attitude echoes the hippie, back-to-the-land vibe of the late Sixties and thumbs its nose at the recent obsession with money and status. Another good one, in light of National TV-Turnoff Week (Apr. 21-28), has a picture of a TV and the axiom “Think Outside the Box.”

Even without birth dates for the Jacobs brothers, I can tell you this company will continue to expand, thanks to help from Jupiter in Capricorn this year. The slow passage of Pluto through Capricorn, which lasts until 2024, could bring great transformation to Life is good. Bert and John could go the way of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and end up selling out to a multinational, but retaining control over the Life is good merchandise and image. That’s a ways down the road, though.

In the meantime, they’re keeping their merchandise fresh and have a great line of pastel-colored T-shirts for Mother’s Day . With Saturn’s passage through Virgo bringing on belt-tightening, the Great American camping trip is set to make a comeback. Yeah, gas prices are sky-high and the dollar is tanking, but we still need a vacation. And, of course, we’ll need some Life is good T-shirts for our road trip!