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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Know Your Neighbors

20 Mar 2019
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La Quinta native Cruz Moore is a young man with a plan. The 25-year-old was raised with his younger sister by their grandparents, and he says he was taught about responsibility and the need to follow a path toward the future. Moore’s path has led him to become a filmmaker, and one of his films, The Rise and Fall of Robert Benfer, has been accepted into the Palm Springs American Documentary Film Festival, and will be showing at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. As a child, Moore was exposed to the full spectrum of film, influenced by his grandparents to see movies like The Sound of Music and Jurassic Park, and by his uncles to see science fiction and horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. “The full spectrum of human emotions can be found in horror films,” says…
06 Mar 2019
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Palm Desert residents Earl and Sandra Mitchell started out as high school sweethearts; today, they are retirees who finish each other’s sentences. Their paths in life were formed by higher education, but they’re now tapping into artistic skills they’d pushed into the background while pursuing professional careers. Earl, 73, was born in Albuquerque, N.M., into a family with one brother and five sisters. His family moved to Compton, Calif., when he was 10. Sandra, 72, was born in Riverside and raised in Compton, with a brother and two sisters. Earl and Sandra married when she was 19, and he was 20. “When I was in high school, I fell in love with a beautiful girl, but I had to get permission,” Earl says with a laugh, “because at that time, guys had to be 21 to marry on their own.” After high school, Earl studied at California State University, Los…
20 Feb 2019
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Brayan Mendoza is only 24, but he has already experienced the American dream in some ways—through his immigrant parents and his own efforts to turn his love of movies into a career. A resident of Desert Hot Springs for eight years, Mendoza was born in Palm Springs. He graduated from Desert Hot Springs High School and earned an associate’s degree from College of the Desert in English. “I’d like to go back to school and study film,” he says. “Film did a lot for me. I was going through a rough patch and was close to the breaking point. I even thought about taking my own life. Then I found American Film Institute’s 100 Years …100 Movies and watched all 100 of them. I found so much happiness and joy in doing that. I credit film for saving my life and turning me on to that form of expression.” Mendoza…
06 Feb 2019
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I sensed fragility when I first met Crystal Harrell, due to her slight frame, gentle beauty and shy smile. I quickly learned I was wrong—and found out how strong and determined she is. Harrell, 23, is a native of the Coachella Valley—born in Indio, and currently residing in La Quinta. She attended College of the Desert, and graduated with a degree in communication and film from the California State University, San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus. Harrell’s family sounds perfectly “normal”: Her mom was a homemaker, with her dad working at Lowe’s (“My dad has never had to hire anybody to do anything!”), and a brother two years younger who is pursuing creative and graphic arts. Harrell found her calling as a writer through reading. “I was always very shy,” she says, “but reading was a big thing for me. Before I could even read them, I’d look at picture books…
24 Jan 2019
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The sexual molestation began when she was 6. By 11, she was being raped. Her mother was largely absent; she was unsure who her father was; her 80-plus-year-old grandmother did her best to raise three grandchildren on Social Security. Their home was strictly Catholic, in a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community in San Diego. “My mother ended up on her own with three children, perhaps from different fathers,” Borges says. “She had been the baby of her very large family, so my aunts or uncles were all much older with their own families. She left us with my grandmother. At one point, she returned to take my middle brother, leaving my oldest brother and me with Grandma.” Borges’ oldest brother was a teenager. His sexual behavior toward her began when she was 6 and continued, including rape starting at 11, until she left for college at 17. “My grandmother went to…
09 Jan 2019
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Barbara Fosse, 81, has been in the desert for more than 17 years. After selling pharmaceuticals for 30-plus years, the Sun City Palm Desert resident is now program coordinator for Tunes for the Memory, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Music Mends Minds, an orchestra and music program targeted to those with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia-related conditions, traumatic brain injury and stroke, as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Carol Rosenstein, a Los Angeles resident and 2018 CNN Hero, founded Music Mends Minds after what she describes as a “freakish moment” in 2014 involving her husband, Irwin, a person living with Parkinson’s. “I walked in and heard him sitting at the piano,” she recalls. “He had previously played piano and saxophone, but hadn’t made music for the eight years since his diagnosis. I noticed how he seemed to resurrect while playing, responding like a plant that had needed…
26 Dec 2018
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Anyone who met them always came away saying, “They’re the ideal couple!” Donald Beck and Geoffrey Webb met in Monterey, Calif., in May 1992, at a religious conference. “I would always go to Los Angeles to see Geoffrey,” says Beck, “and he had never been to Palm Springs. He finally came down on a day when it was 120 degrees, but when I want somebody, I want them. There’s no choice. By Thanksgiving that year, he had moved here.” Beck, now 86, was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. “My real parents were Czechoslovakian. The family had come over in the late 1800s. I was what was known as a ‘change-of-life baby.’ The next older, my sister, was 16 when I was born. When my parents died, one of my older brothers became my legal guardian. I was about 5 when my mother died, and I have one strong memory…
12 Dec 2018
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At 69, Gina Bikales is the embodiment of the word “indefatigable”: She’s seemingly incapable of being tired out. Gina leads Script2Stage2Screen (S2S2S), the theater company which presents staged readings of new works at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rancho Mirage. (Disclosure: I have acted with S2S2S before.) “We (the Coachella Valley) have theater going on year-round now, (as opposed) to when I came to the desert in 2000,” Bikales says. “(We have) community theaters presenting ‘chestnuts’ (older hit plays that always attract an audience); professional companies doing edgier works; three great full-time companies; and S2S2S taking it a step further, doing only new, unpublished works. We want scripts that speak to current issues.” Bikales came to her role with S2S2S—running the program as well as casting, directing and occasionally taking a role herself—with a lifetime of connection to the arts. Born in Topeka, Kan., and raised in Kansas City, Gina…
14 Nov 2018
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Some people are heroes without meaning to be, and modestly claim afterward: “We got lucky!” Robyne McCarthy Taylor was flying for Qantas, based in her native Australia. Born and raised in Victoria, Robyne, now 66, joined Qantas after trying a secretarial job in Melbourne after high school. “I was 21 when I joined Qantas,” she recalls. “I trained with a group of really quality people—we were the youngest girls they had ever employed. We’ve remained really close throughout the years. It was when the (Boeing) 747s came in. I was one of three girls, ‘flight hostesses,’ who flew on each flight along with 12 male ‘stewards.’ “We had to sign a contract on our application about whether we wanted to retire at 35 or at 55. I was only 21, and thought that surely by 35, I’d be willing to go. But the stewards didn’t have to sign a contract.…
31 Oct 2018
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Doug Dean had no idea that a Woody Herman concert his concert-pianist mother took him to when he was 14 would change his life. “My mom was an amazing woman,” says Dean, 78, a Palm Desert resident for 10 years. “She played on a radio station in Chicago and also taught piano. I remember hearing her on the radio when I was about 5. She started teaching me piano and how to read music. I played on and off until she took me to that concert—and I decided then and there that I wanted to study the drums. “I was in the hospital at about 10 or 12 years old, and I remember listening to Daddy O Daylie,” the first African American with a syndicated jazz radio show in Chicago. “He used to say he was ‘the musical host who loves you the most’ and ‘I’m as nice as a…