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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Know Your Neighbors

27 May 2020
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Jimmy Boegle didn’t start out wanting to be a newspaper editor. What he really wanted to do, since the third-grade, was be around baseball. “I got into journalism while I was in college,” he says, “because I had the athletic ability of a turnip.” When you first meet Boegle, you get self-deprecating humor, and the idea that he’s a man who is open, warm, gentle, focused—and anything but shy and introverted, even though he insists he is. “When I was young,” he recalls, “I was tagged very early as gifted and talented, whatever that’s supposed to mean, but I was socially awkward and shy. Even now, put me in a room with lots of people I don’t know, and I’m still shy.” After graduating from high school in Reno, Nevada, where he was born and raised, Boegle, 45, headed for Stanford University. He decided the way to be part of…
13 May 2020
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When the virus shutdown began, it was difficult for me to acknowledge that I am considered one of the vulnerable ones—someone who’s “elderly.” After all, I know people at least 15 years older than I am who are in great shape, mentally sharp and active. Then I realized that being considered “vulnerable”—whether one is “elderly,” physically at-risk, or in a dangerous place like a nursing home or prison—should be a term that describes someone society should quickly move to protect. Well … then I heard the lieutenant governor of Texas talk about how old people should sacrifice themselves so the economy can once again flourish. (At least that was my interpretation of what I heard him say.) Then I heard the president say we’re all “warriors,” like Americans during World War II, and some of us need to be willing to risk death so that the rest of us can…
29 Apr 2020
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I first met Alden West in January when I was helping direct Taking Care of Mimi, a provocative play being produced as a staged reading by the Script to Stage to Screen (S2S2S) theater. West was playing a lead role as a matriarch with dementia whose death leads to a murder investigation—and I couldn’t believe it when West revealed she was 87 years old. “Eight-seven and a half!” she proudly proclaims. West, a resident of Sun City in Palm Desert since 2003, was an only child, born in Washington, D.C. “I figure I can claim any state,” she says with a laugh, “and I was raised all over the country: West Virginia, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore, Richmond and New York City. I went to so many different schools, each with its own teaching styles, that when I moved from Buffalo to Baltimore, I found that they had learned script writing in…
15 Apr 2020
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COVID-19 is claiming victims around the world, and in some ways, life will never be the same—including, for some, the realization that unexpected death is always a possibility. I have worked for more than 25 years on matters involving end-of-life decision-making. I thought I had considered every possibility, and I’d made it very clear about what I would and would not want to happen to me if I was unable to make my desires known. Yet there are now things I thought I was certain about that I am suddenly reconsidering. Advance directives, sometimes called living wills, are legally applicable in all 50 states, and are available to anyone 18 or older. They tell medical personnel what kind of care we are willing to accept or reject. In the 19th century, the Supreme Court concluded that unwanted treatment can be considered an assault—that we own our own bodies. That is…
01 Apr 2020
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Dr. Dilangani (Dana) Ratnayake, 35, has been a Cathedral City resident since 2016. “It’s emotionally draining to deal with patients who are in pain,” she says. However, she’s decided that emotional drain is worth it. I first met Ratnayake because I have chronic pain. About three years ago, I had a headache that lasted for three months nonstop. After what seemed like every test known to man, I learned I had stenosis in a couple of the vertebrae in my neck. I consulted with a local pain clinic and was given steroid shots that almost instantly stopped the headaches and eased the discomfort in my right shoulder. I’ve never used opioids, but I have been getting routine pressure points shots in my shoulder and neck ever since—and she was assigned to be my doctor. Ratnayake came to the United States from her native Sri Lanka at the age of 16.…
18 Mar 2020
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Although I had been following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, it still seemed somewhat remote from the life we live in the Coachella Valley. It was in that state of mind that I decided to go see a comedy show at a local theater. It all started on Monday, March 9, when six of us—Carol and Denny, Casi and Tom, and Rupert and me—got tickets for the afternoon performance of Old Jews Telling Jokes on Saturday, March 14, at the Indian Wells Theater on Cal State’s Palm Desert campus. Afterward, we planned to go to Carol and Denny’s for a light supper. Then, increasingly, the reality of the coronavirus unfolded. I am, unbelievably (to me), heading toward my 79th birthday in May. I had a heart “incident” last Thanksgiving that forestalled a heart attack and resulted in a stent being placed in one of my arteries that was…
04 Mar 2020
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Karen Borja is a warm, open person who seems genuinely glad to meet you. It’s a personality that explains Borja’s success as a community organizer—helping people learn how to help themselves by changing what isn’t working in their environment. Borja, 30, and her husband, Blaz Gutierrez, are residents of Indio. She was born and raised in Coachella along with a younger brother. Like many of her contemporaries in that community, she is the child of farmworker immigrants, who learned from her parents that hard work leads to what she refers to as “generational wealth”—the ability to build on each generation’s skills and experiences. “For me, it was realizing what policies helped my family move from the bracero program,” she says. The bracero program was initiated in August 1942 between the U.S. and Mexico, and lasted, with amendments, until 1964. It was named based on the Spanish term bracero, meaning "manual…
19 Feb 2020
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Lanny Swerdlow, tongue firmly in cheek, introduced himself thusly: “I’m gay, Jewish, an atheist, a liberal, in a mixed marriage to a Native American, left-handed and a tree-hugger.” What else is there to know about this 73-year-old registered nurse? Quite a lot! Swerdlow was born and raised in Los Angeles, the younger of two brothers. His father died at 32 when Swerdlow was only 2 years old. “My ‘real’ dad was my mom’s second husband,” he says. “He was an accountant, somewhat distant, but a good dad and provider for our family. My mom lived a life of quiet desperation, pretty ignorant of the real world—but you have to remember that women in those days didn’t go very far. There were a lot of things she could and should have done that she never did. One of the lessons I got from that is: If I want to do something,…
05 Feb 2020
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You may have encountered Brian Hess before—back when he was a child actor who told Mr. Whipple: “Don’t squeeze the Charmin!” Hess, now 46, began acting in commercials when he was 5 or 6; his cousin was doing the same, and Hess thought it looked easy. He became an extra in several shows and worked with NBC; the acting helped pay for his education. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Florida Keys, Hess and his family moved to California when he was 16. “I was an athlete in high school who realized I wouldn’t make pro,” says Hess, “so I opted to join the Air Force. My father had been in the military, with stints in the FBI and CIA. He instilled in us that caring for people has meaning and is important. He said to work hard and not look for glory or seek recognition. “My mom…
22 Jan 2020
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She left her native Missouri/Kansas at the age of 25 for San Francisco in 1970. She describes her artwork as “abstract impressionist,” and creates sculpture with a slightly sexual bent. She has lived in a sprawling home in Thousand Palms, which she hopes one day will be a museum, for more than 30 years. Oh, and did I mention the peacocks? Ramona Rowley, a vibrant 75 years old, envelops you with a warmth and openness that is both refreshing and unusual. She and her brother were born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Kansas. “My dad was in the Navy and didn’t even see me until I was a year old. He had been raised on a farm in Kansas, got his education in agriculture, and ended up as dairy commissioner,” Rowley said. “My mom was also raised on a farm and became a teacher, but she had always…

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