Overlooking Banning, California

Two crows, Banning California

Coming home from Idyllwild, on the road to Banning, I pulled over to let a couple of cars pass. Posing nearby on an outcropping of rock were a pair of crows. I only had my iPhone with me, and frankly even if I’d had another camera, unless it was sitting on the seat ready to go, I was probably better off with the iPhone. Most wild creatures aren’t in the habit of staying in place until you get your camera out! I shot through my windshield, and they were kind enough to hang on long enough for me to get a few frames.

As they both flew off I was suddenly reminded of an old friend. Tim Jeffries Szukala hated crows! He would wince when he would hear them calling to each other, and he was convinced they were bad luck. It was almost comical watching him shake his fist at them. Tim was a big part of my life for a few years–he was in the very first band that I ever shot, Cesjacuzzi–but I hadn’t talked to him in years, and only recently heard that he passed on earlier this year. And watching those two crows fly off made me suddenly miss him. A lot. I wish I’d seen him more over the years. I wish we’d kept in better touch. I wish he was still around, and I could call him, and ask him to come over and change a lightbulb. I wish I could hear him play one last drum solo…

When Cesjacuzzi was winding down, we could all sense it, but no one knew that the last gig would actually be the very last gig forever – and I missed it. I had gone to almost every show for years, but that one show I missed, and it was the last.

I don’t like regrets, but I have a few. I regret missing the last gig my first favorite band ever played, and I regret not keeping in better touch with a friend that I really and truly loved. Tim was a great guy! And a great drummer! And as I watched those two crows fly away, I remembered just a little bit better why I loved him the way that I did.

Beaumont and Banning

Beaumont and Banning // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

A few days ago, on my way down the hill, I stopped to shoot the city of Banning from above. The incline is so steep, I didn’t have to go to a special view site, I just pulled over on the side of the road, and shot over the edge! The snowcapped mountain in the background is the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, and directly behind me would be the Idyllwild area – Banning is located smack in the middle between those mountain resort areas, in the valley below.

I’ve never known very much about Banning, it was always just a dusty little town on the way to the desert. In fact, in my family we say “Beaumont and Banning” like it’s all one place, when in reality they are two separate neighboring cities. Sisters in the same valley, but definitely separate cities. I spent the day exploring both.

Beaumont is the smaller of the two, population-wise, but it seems bigger driving through? I’m not sure why? Banning has twice the population, but it seems smaller and dustier, which I actually like. The fewer big box stores, the better, as far as I’m concerned! It also has a tiny but cute downtown area with an old theater that still shows movies. I read over the weekend that the movie theater was being considered for a grant to get the outside repainted, and the inside renovated – so it sounds like that theater will stay healthy, business-wise.

What I like best about both cities is the fact that there are so many old houses. It was never a terribly wealthy area, so the old houses are all small – there are no big Victorian mansions like you’d find in downtown Riverside or Redlands, but if you’re looking for a little old house, they have them!

Pink Blossoms  // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ll end with a shot of a branch from a tree in Banning – nothing special, but every spring, this kind of tree knocks me out – the blossoms are so PINK! And with no leaves, just masses of hot pink flowers, they look too unreal to be real. So I stopped and got my yearly image, and that’s that. And I’ll probably do it again next year!