CVIndependent

Mon06262017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Know Your Neighbors

26 Jan 2017
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I’d like to share some of my reactions to the inauguration—rough notes I took while watching wall-to-wall coverage from Thursday through Sunday. Think of it as a sacrifice made on your behalf. TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER I’m a sucker for tradition and ceremonial continuity. Even parades make me cry. So when President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place a wreath on Thursday, my first tears of the weekend began to flow. When representatives of the armed services marched out—holding the flags of their service, along with the American flag—and then executed the perfect turn and dipped the service flags just the right amount to highlight the national flag for the playing of the national anthem, I was moved. The solemnity of the event and the significance of what that location represents cannot be minimized. INAUGURAL CONCERT I didn’t cry at all watching…
11 Jan 2017
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After 30 years of working as a civilian employee with the Department of the Army, John Reece, 73, of Palm Springs, finally feels like he’s home. “I spent 25 of those 30 years overseas, from Japan to South Korea to Saudi Arabia to Greenland,” says Reece. “I’m finally in a place where I feel I can be totally myself.” Reece was born and raised in Missouri, to a minister father with strict religious standards. “It took me a long time to get over that,” says Reece. Reece was around church music throughout his childhood, with his father playing the organ and directing the choir. “My mom insisted we all take piano lessons when we were young,” he recalls, “and my older brother played trumpet and tuba and my younger sister was in the band.” It’s not so strange, then, that Reece worked as an entertainment director with the Army throughout…
28 Dec 2016
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Jon Von Erb did not take a straight path from San Francisco to Palm Springs—no pun intended. Von Erb was born in San Francisco into a theatrical family, with two gay parents who had met in New York: His mother was a coloratura soprano with the New York City Opera, and his father was a vaudevillian. “My mom took me to the Bolshoi Ballet when I was about 3 years old,” Von Erb remembers, “and I got hooked.” While Von Erb’s brother was an athletic football player, Jon became a dedicated dancer and choreographer. What was it like growing up in a family with a gay mother and a gay father? “In those days, it was a societal thing,” says Von Erb. “They were both in theater during an era when everyone was a smoker and drinker, and it wasn’t really accepted to be that ‘different.’ Otherwise, it was like…
14 Dec 2016
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I recently read an amazing story about the improbability of coincidence. A French writer was once treated to a plum pudding by a stranger. Ten years later, the writer ordered a plum pudding while in a Paris restaurant, but was told the last one had just been served to another customer—who turned out to be that original stranger, sitting at another table. Many years after that, the writer was at a dinner with friends and again ordered a plum pudding, telling his companions the earlier story. At that moment, the same stranger entered the room. “Coincidence” is defined as a remarkable concurrence of improbable events or circumstances which have no apparent causal connection with each other. Most of us write off such occurrences as merely accidental, but occasionally, we hear a story like the one told by the French writer, and we can find no way to explain the vagaries…
30 Nov 2016
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I knew something was going on when I walked into the community room at the Palm Desert Library for a meeting sponsored by the Desert Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California—and there were more than 140 people, hauling in chairs and standing along the side and back walls. I’ve attended ACLU gatherings locally from time to time, and there are usually about 15 to 20 attendees. A week after the election results, something different was happening. The speaker was James Gilliam, deputy executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. He talked about how the Los Angeles-based organization was going to need to hire more people just to process the thousands of inquiries and volunteer applications it had received over the past few weeks. The ACLU was founded in 1920, and the cases the group has had its hand in are the stuff of American history:…
16 Nov 2016
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Whether your candidate for president won or lost, the good news is that the election is over. Pundits will dig into every nuance of why someone lost or how someone won, but none of that will change where we are now. The system is what it is, and it works how it works. As important as it is to be a “good loser,” it’s even more of a show of character to be a “good winner.” I tend to be a Pollyanna, someone of irrepressible optimism who thinks good things will always happen in the end. My philosophy includes taking every defeat—losing a job, losing a love or anything else—and figuring out what I need to learn so I won’t repeat it; each learning opportunity is meant to get me ready for an even better experience to come. Yet I can be blindsided and feel like I took a stiff…
02 Nov 2016
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There are people you see often and think you know: the tennis pro at the club, the barber you see every couple of weeks, the market clerk who remembers your name, the co-worker you chat with at the coffee machine. In my case, there’s the woman who engineers my radio show: I see her every Sunday. We share laughs and stories, and I sincerely appreciate everything she does to make my time on the air run smoothly. I realized I didn’t know her at all the day she came in with her head shaved. “Wow,” I said. “What a change! Did you decide to do that because summer’s coming?” “No,” she said, wiping her hand over her newly hairless head. “Mischelle has cancer and is going to have chemo, and she’s worried about losing her hair. I wanted to show her how I’m right there with her.” Marisol Valle is…
19 Oct 2016
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The concept of “dementia cafés”—places where people, who all too often feel isolated and socially separated from their communities, can come together to relax and enjoy good company—has evolved and spread from Australia to England to Holland to Japan to San Francisco to Seattle to Santa Fe. It’s estimated that there are currently about 200 such cafés throughout the United States, designed to address the social implications of a dementia diagnosis on individuals, families, friends and caregivers. Starting anything new is always a gamble, so as one of the founders of the Coachella Valley’s first Dementia-Friendly Café, I am proud to announce that the café is beginning its third year of operation this month. At the first café, we thought we’d be lucky to have 15 to 20 people; 52 showed up. Clearly, there was a need. Dementia cafés are not support groups or seminars or daycare. There are no…
05 Oct 2016
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A great theater experience allows us to see our human selves reflected back—in a way that moves, informs and enables us to relate to the realities of the lives of others. When I was 17, my father threw me out because I had stayed out all night. Shortly thereafter, I got pregnant out of wedlock and contemplated suicide. I remember despondently standing in front of a bathroom mirror, ready to slit my wrists, and suddenly saying out loud to my reflection, “If it’s that bad, it can only get better.” And it did. Those feelings were overwhelmingly brought back when I attended the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre production of Push, written by George Cameron Grant, and directed by Cathedral City resident Jeanette Knight. The play was this season’s Youth Outreach Production. I first experienced this CV Rep program last year, when the focus was on female bullying. The theater buses…
21 Sep 2016
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Whenever I mention Janet Newcomb to anyone who has met her, one word always comes up: “Nice.” Newcomb believes she’s considered “nice” because she grew up with traditional Midwestern values. “I don’t even really think about it,” Newcomb says. “It’s so embedded in me: ‘Be a lady.’ ‘Say thank you.’ ‘Remember to pat people on the back.’ It’s just who I am. I want everybody to be happy.” Raised in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Newcomb graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in psychology. “It interested me,” she says. “I got married to my first husband and went to Washington, D.C. I got a job there with a defense contractor who was doing psychological warfare research.” Newcomb’s job later moved her to Los Angeles ,where she completed a master’s degree at Pepperdine University. She met her second husband, Don, and they married in Hawaii. Newcomb moved to the desert from…