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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Know Your Neighbors

23 Mar 2016
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We live in a time when the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is being targeted by his own party (via the Republican Principles PAC) with a depressingly accurate TV advertisement that quotes the various derogatory expressions Donald Trump has used over the years to describe women. It’s also a time when a Lane Bryant ad featuring “plus size” woman resulted in a backlash—including two major networks, ABC and NBC, refusing to run it. This means it’s time to address an age-old issue: the objectification of women, and its resulting impact on women in particular, and society in general. Sure, there are lots of examples of how badly some nations around the world treat half of the population—horrors like genital mutilation/female circumcision; burning women alive who are suspected of violating cultural norms like having extra-marital sex (including having been raped); the sex trafficking of young girls; and practices like arranged…
09 Mar 2016
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In the course of a normal life, we meet people—yet seldom do we meet someone who impresses us immediately, someone we know will make a difference in our lives. I was lucky enough to have such a meeting a couple of years ago—and sadly, there was not enough time to wring everything I could out of the relationship. I met Cathy Greenblat in connection with a showing of her extraordinary pictures of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and I wrote about her in January 2014. She and her husband, John Gagnon, were then fairly new residents in Palm Springs—both retired academics who were trying to get settled in and establish lives here after several years living in France. The first time I met John was when I was invited to their home for dinner. I knew he had retired as a professional academic, but had no clue what he had…
25 Feb 2016
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When it comes to learning about black history, it turns out the best place to begin is right here at home. The cultural history of this area is reflected in the names of streets honoring celebrity residents like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore, and streets honoring Native American history, like Tahquitz and Arenas. One name not as well-known is Lawrence Crossley, the namesake of Crossley Road. He’s an African American who arrived in Palm Springs from New Orleans in the late 1920s and went on to become a successful and influential developer and businessman. Far too many local residents don’t even know there is a long-standing and thriving black community here, nor do they know about the shameful circumstances that led to that community being located where it is, at the north end of Palm Springs. The history of Palm Springs includes the disgraceful episode in the early…
10 Feb 2016
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When I moved to Palm Springs full-time in 1985, vacationers strolled downtown during “the season.” I shopped in the chic stores at the mall—at least until they closed down each summer. Spring Break was our biggest attraction (although local residents generally stayed home that week), but that did not last much longer: After years of laissez-faire treatment of young partiers, there was the riot of 1986, and then-Mayor Sonny Bono decided to shut down Spring Break. In the years that followed, the International Film Festival was born, in 1989. The downtown mall closed. Downtown became dreary and sad. Thankfully, Palm Springs has experienced a turn-around—as has the Coachella Valley in general—by hosting events and encouraging tourism that brings more diverse groups and revenues to the area. Now that downtown Palm Springs is finally heading toward progress at replacing the empty mall behemoth with shops, walkways, living spaces, arts installations, hotels…
27 Jan 2016
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It’s difficult to find the right word to describe coming together to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade becoming the law of the land. Celebrate? That doesn’t feel right, because even pro-choice individuals don’t think abortion should be “celebrated.” Commemorate? Yes, we do remember and memorialize the decision that affirmed women have a right to privacy regarding when and whether to bear a child. But perhaps there’s an even better word. Solemnize? To dignify with events or ceremonies? That works for me. Recently, a group of local women and men gathered to solemnize the 43rd year since the Supreme Court validated women’s sovereignty regarding their own bodies, on Jan. 22, 1973. How’s the legal decision working these many years later? The total number of abortions performed legally in the United States has steadily been declining, particularly among teenagers, largely as a result of the use of birth control, sex…
13 Jan 2016
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Words have meanings. In the hyped-up atmosphere of the presidential campaign season, words are being used as political weapons—apparently assuming the audience is ignorant. I want to change that, particularly with regard to words like “sexist” and “feminist” and “enabler” and “abuse.” If a wife defends a philandering husband, is she an enabler? Not necessarily. If a man is a womanizer, is he therefore an abuser? Not necessarily. Can someone be a feminist AND be sexist? Unfortunately, yes, and that can describe either men or women. These words are not interchangeable. Sexism is an attitude based on traditional stereotypical gender roles. (All definitions used are consistent with both dictionary.com and Webster’s Dictionary.) When someone, male or female, judges another on the basis of the role they’re supposed to play, they’re being sexist. Donald Trump is sexist when he denigrates a female candidate’s appearance based on the stereotypical assumption that women…
30 Dec 2015
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It’s that time of year when we’re supposed to articulate our intentions about how we plan to be better human beings in the coming year. Resolutions imply that we have to stop doing something, or give up something—which assumes we’re not already perfect. Plan to exercise more? What’s stopped you so far? Think that’ll change? Resolve to eat smarter or exercise? Why not start today? Commit to repair your relationship with someone? What are you waiting for—an engraved invitation? The older I get, the faster time seems to go by, and there’s not much life left to get “me” right. With all of our daily responsibilities—kids, deadlines, bills to pay, family and friends with issues that inexorably involve me in some way—focusing on myself and becoming a better person seems hopelessly counterproductive. Besides, I’m not sure I need to figure out how to get better. I have a good friend…
16 Dec 2015
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I admit I’m feeling unnerved. The terrorist attack in San Bernardino followed seemingly unrelated events including the shooting of Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis, and the murder of three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. Then came the fire-bombing at the mosque in Coachella, and the death of my old friend George Zander after the gay-bashing he and his husband, Chris, suffered in downtown Palm Springs. (As of this writing, it is not yet clear whether Zander’s death was directly related to that assault.) Coincidentally, I recently ran out of new books on my nightstand, and began re-reading two old favorites: 1984 and Brave New World. They are both incredible novels—but reading them at the same time is perhaps an unnecessary punishment at a time when our own country’s future seems to be so precariously hanging on the next presidential election. George Orwell’s 1984 is…
03 Dec 2015
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The past few months have brought me one ailment after another, side effects from treatments causing other issues, a lack of appetite (which is not a way to lose weight I would recommend) and no energy. (I’m not a hypochondriac; this is atypical.) I admit I’ve been a little cranky. OK, VERY cranky. Luckily, I’m finally feeling better. I spent Thanksgiving in Los Angeles at the home of an old friend, with my daughter and assorted family. On the Wednesday preceding Turkey Day, that friend had a house guest in addition to me: a young woman named Kelly, 42, who is recovering from a heart transplant. (For privacy purposes, I’m not using Kelly’s real name.) My friend volunteers at a major hospital once a week in their patient and family care group. She’s assigned to a floor where patients are waiting for or recovering from transplants. Her job is to…
18 Nov 2015
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I have two local friends who hail from London: Rupert in Rancho Mirage, and Gillian in Palm Desert. They often laugh at how Americans react to their British accent. “Well,” I tell them, “Americans can’t really differentiate between British, Australian, South African or New Zealand accents, let alone between North and West London. We just assume that if you have that accent, you must be smart and educated.” Many of us have similar trouble differentiating between Vietnamese and Filipino, Japanese and Chinese, Saudi and Syrian, Egyptian and Liberian. They’re all either Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern or African—if we know enough to make those distinctions. With what just happened on Nov. 13 (more than 125 dead in Paris), as well as what happened only a day before in Beirut (43 killed) and a couple weeks before that on a Russian plane (224 dead), it’s also difficult for us to differentiate…