Israel – My admittedly biased perspective

As a whatever kind I want to call myself Jew, the history, presence and land of Israel continue to exert a great deal of influence on my world view and the way I live my life here in the US.  Israel, just in case there is anyone out there who does not already know this, is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank to the east, and Egypt and the Gaza Strip to the southwest.  More importantly than its historically unfortunate location, at least in my mind, Israel, in its Basic Laws, defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State, even though this tiny and newish country has no official religion.  I won’t go into a lot of the history or current politics, but just want to give a little background about how and why Israel came to be, and why it still is so important to me, even now, nearly forty years since my one and only visit there.

Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people and is often referred to as a Jewish state. The country’s Law of Return grants all Jews and those of Jewish ancestry the right to Israeli citizenship.  Since the existence of the earliest Jewish diaspora, the hopes and yearnings of Jews living in exile have been an important theme of the Jewish belief system, based on historical ties but also, unfortunately, sometimes as a matter of life and death for anybody who is identified as a Jew, even if they don’t self-identify as one, in some places in the world even today.

The first wave of modern Jewish migration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.  Pogrom is a Russian word and is defined by Wikipedia as a violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews.  Although the Zionist movement already existed in practice, Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, thus offering a solution to the so-called Jewish Question (this phrase is an eerily familiar carryover to the 20th Century) of the European states. The Second Aliyah (1904–14), began after the Kishinev pogrom, which was not even the last one to happen in Europe.

During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community.  The Declaration stated that Britain intended for the creation of a Jewish “national home” within the Palestinian Mandate.  After World War II, Britain found itself in intense conflict with the world Jewish community over Jewish immigration limits to this promised Jewish “national home.”  At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees sought a new life far from their destroyed communities in Europe. Palestine-based Jewish/Zionist activists attempted to bring these refugees to the “Promised Land” but many were turned away or rounded up and placed in offshore and/or barb wire enclosed detention camps by the British.  Finally, after a lot of strife and some death in the interim, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on 11 May 1949.

My Jewish father and his divorced mother were able to leave Germany, though I do not at this point know exactly when or how, and get to England sometime in the 1930s.  My dad was born in 1930, so I’m pretty sure he was just a small boy when they made this big move, all on their own, I imagine, and descended in the strange big city of London just as WWII was looming on America’s horizon, and may have been descending, along with bombs, from the skies over the city, courtesy of a possible pending and potentially deadly for my dad German invasion.  From 7 September 1940, one year into the war, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. Mom tells me that it was on one of those nights, as people streamed into the deep-level shelters that were built under London Underground stations to protect its citizens during The Blitz, that Grandma met the person who would make it possible for her to make a living as a cook for Turkish embassy and military personnel stationed in the city.  I guess her acquisition of this position, as well as her understandable concern for the safety of her one and only child, led her to find alternate housing for Dad with a Quaker family in what should have been the more peaceful countryside in Surrey.  Mom has often told anyone who’ll listen, that Grandma had to give her written permission for Dad to stay outside as he watched the fireworks of the German bombs that landed elsewhere, though I’d guess still uncomfortably close by for any mother’s comfort.

I’ll probably never know if, when, or how much abuse my grandparents and parents endured as Jews in Germany, in England, and even in the good old USA.  I’ll probably never know if they ever feared for their lives during any of those incidents.  I just know that, for whatever reason, be it stubbornness or tradition or even possibly hope or pride, they have always been and will always be Jewish, and they passed this belief system on to me and my sister.  As I was growing up in Southern California, to the best of my recollection, I experienced just some mild peer-related discomfort due to my little discussed Jewish heritage and lesser observed Jewish traditions, like celebrating Hanukkah instead of Xmas and missing school on the High Holidays. Way back then, in the 1960s and 70s, the bat mitzvah, a ceremony recognizing a girl’s coming of age within Judaism, was not as common as it is today and I don’t know if my parents had ever even considered it as an option for me or my sister. They did, however, send us to religious school, well into our high school years, with the culmination of that experience and education taking place in a confirmation ceremony at the Temple, right around the end of tenth grade, I believe.  That was a pretty impressionable time for me, and probably for most kids, as we painfully, in fits and starts, matured into adults.  That was also a time of a lot of turmoil in and around Israel, as it fought a series of wars with its much larger Arab neighbors, who at various times since its birth in 1948, and from various locations, had tried to destroy the Jewish state (kind of like Iran and what still exists of the Syria’s government today) and sweep all its Jewish citizens into the Mediterranean, assuming no non Arab countries would take them as refugees, as few had thirty years earlier.

I had Jewish friends in college and joined the Jewish sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, on my campus for my last year or two there.  I had a Jewish boyfriend that I’d met in band there, though by the time I got my degree in 1976, I knew I had forced my mom to the harsh realization that her baby would not emerge from there with the degree she wanted me to have, the Mrs.!  She did, however, offer me, possibly as a substitute for the missed bat mitzvah and to maybe find a future Jewish husband, an all-expenses paid six week trip to Israel and Europe that summer.  I took this trip with the non-college grad daughter of one of Mom’s divorced Jewish friends and it was of course organized by a Jewish travel agency.

In July 1976 an airliner was hijacked during its flight to Tel Aviv by Palestinian guerrillas and landed at Entebbe, Uganda. Israeli commandos carried out an operation in which 102 out of 106 Israeli hostages were successfully rescued.  I was touring Israel as these events took place.  I think we had just left the Golan Heights, where it was I could feel how dangerously close the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War was to populated and exposed areas in Israel.  When we entered Jerusalem and shopped in its open air markets we saw, and may have even picked up on our bus, Israeli soldiers who strolled or sat casually in their olive uniforms, machine guns over their soldiers, which I initially did my best to try to overlook.

During the two weeks I was in Israel, the feeling grew inside me, though I have only a vague memory now of how it actually came to be.   In the middle of all that potential danger, I felt safe.  Given the political direction of my own country now, where, heaven forbid, discrimination among citizens based on religion could become a real fact of life, and in light of the discrimination actually experienced by own family on that basis not so long ago, I am still comforted by the reality of Israel today.

Huntington Beach and why I’m still hbsuefred

Huntington Beach (locally initialized “HB”) is a seaside city in Orange County in Southern California, known for its long 9.5-mile (15.3 km) stretch of sandy beach, mild climate, excellent surfing, and beach culture.  Our little family, Me+Husband+Two Young Daughters (approx ages 2 and 4) moved to a two story house on the end of an HB cul-de-sac in 1994.  We all reluctantly moved away from that home, on a pie shaped lot with a pool + a yard in the back + less than a mile from the beach, about twelve or thirteen years later.  Our girls gained some degree of maturity + some other “gifts” they took with them when we moved but I, their mother, believe I took many more.  The gifts I received there, that I have carried with me in my heart and in my spirit since we left, fall into two general categories.  (1)People and (2)Fitness.

With our girls approaching school age, we made the obvious decision to move from a small house, the first one that Husband and I had purchased together, in a family-friendly neighborhood which was, unfortunately, located too close for comfort to a high crime, gang-infested area.  At the time, I was working, on a temporary/contract basis, for McDonnell Douglas in HB.  While performing due diligence to locate a place for us to move to that was both geographically desirable and affordable, I came across an article in the L.A. Times touting Huntington Beach as “The Best City for Children.”  Decision made.

The house we bought had one of just 19 addresses on Dragon Circle, in one of several La Cuesta housing tracts built in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s in the very desirable neighborhoods of South Huntington Beach.  When we moved in we were warmly welcomed by our neighbors next door since, besides theirs, ours was the only home on the street then that had young children living in it.  Over the next five or so years, the number of homes where young children lived more than doubled and, since we lived at the closed end of the street, the children congregated on the street in front of our house to play while their parents congregated nearby to watch over them.  I wish I could say that all of these similar families, by income, size and just general characteristics, continued to get along with each other over the years, while all the children went to school, played, joined sports teams and Scout troops together.  Sadly, I cannot, but that is a tale for a different post.  One of those new neighbors who moved in with her family became my best friend and now, even after both of our husbands retired and we are separated by thousands of miles, we still enjoy a weekly scheduled hour long (or more) conversation.  Gina and I both look forward to those events, and have visited each others’ new homes, after we both left HB, her for Southern Oregon and me for first Middle and then East Tennessee.

Construction of any kind on the beach is prohibited without a vote of the people, allowing Huntington Beach to retain its natural connection to the ocean rather than having the view obstructed by residential and commercial developments.  Swells generated predominantly from the North Pacific in winter and from a combination of Southern Hemisphere storms and hurricanes in the summer focus on Huntington Beach, creating consistent surf all year long, hence the nickname “Surf City”. The city includes just a small industrial district in its northwest corner, while the colorful and active downtown district includes an art center, a beach-centric shopping district, and the International Surfing Museum. The HB Pier, domain of fishermen (also women and kids), strollers and people and surfer-watchers, stretches from Main Street into the Pacific Ocean. BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery is based in Huntington Beach.

The HB tourism website, surfcityusa.com, advises visitors and residents alike to “Mark your calendars for all the fun-filled events Huntington Beach has to offer!  Some of the most popular annual events include the Surf City USA Marathon in February, Annual Huntington Beachcruiser Meet in March, National Professional Paintball League’s Surf City USA Open in April, US Open of Surfing in the summer.”  It goes on to say “You might notice that people in Huntington Beach don’t stay indoors for very long.  That’s because this is a fit, active town where residents and visitors not only spend their days at the beach, but also take advantage of Surf City USA’s other outdoor and natural attractions.  We’re home to Orange County’s largest city parks and… (y)ou can bicycle for miles along our coast, go horseback riding, or even try yoga on a paddle board in Huntington Harbour.

Now, contrary to the way the people in HB are described above, I did stay indoors for very long before we moved there.  Over time, though, even I came to enjoy and appreciate the variety of more healthful and physical activities that I could try just by stepping out my front door.  Actually, I found many new outdoor pursuits to attempt by perusing the free local papers I regularly picked up off my driveway.  So, after determining that I needed to do some good and possibly fun things for me and me alone, for both my mental and physical health, I decided to go ahead and try a few.  So in 2002, I believe, I started training for the Long Beach Half Marathon using its Official Training Program called, appropriately for me, A Snail’s Pace.

The group I trained with met on Saturday mornings at HB Central Park.  The program, at least as currently advertised, offered, besides fun group training, 16 Weeks of Expert Coaching/Training, structured pace groups with safe interval training and an evidence based structured training program to maximize efficiency and minimize risk.  All half marathons are 13.1 miles long. I actually completed the Long Beach Half Marathon twice, as well as a couple of Surf City Half Marathons and half of the first Orange County Marathon that ended with me calling home to be picked up out of a pouring rain!  The course time limit for those distance races, both Marathon & Half Marathon events, is usually 7.5 hours.  I did my first Long Beach Half Marathon, mostly walking with a few very slow jogging splits, in about 3 ½ or 4 hours.  I finished those other distance events plus the Music City Half Marathon in Nashville,  as well as a 5K or two, since then, but that was the fastest pace I have ever had in any timed event.

I had so much fun in that first training program that I was inspired to keep moving even after I finished that first race.  I kept training with that group for a year or two after that but veered off into less formal training with a girlfriend who moved into a La Cuesta neighborhood just a five minute walk away from mine around 2005 or so.  Kathy was a friend of a friend and we had only met each other a couple of times before she moved to HB, the first time when we co-hosted a wedding shower for our mutual friend.  She and I hit it off from that beginning, and our bond was strengthened by other shared factors besides our close geographical proximity after her move.  We both, along with our mutual friend, were purchasing agents working in the local aerospace biz.  Kathy also had two daughters who were close in age like mine, though hers were slightly older, as well as a fairly small family of parents and in-laws and a couple of sisters and nieces who lived in Southern California.  Her girls were active in school and other extracurricular activities similar to mine, and her husband worked a lot of hours in a stressful job, like my husband.

Just by a happy happenstance, when I found out that Kathy would soon become a neighbor, I asked, I think, if she would be interested in joining me for walks in the area.  She was and, looking back and totaling up the time that passed while we took our nearly weekly jaunts, I can hardly believe that they only occurred over a few, possibly three or four years.  IDK why, but the time we spent and the distance we covered on those walks, both literally and figuratively, loom monumental in my memory.  I guess, though, the time flew by because we spent it in mutually rewarding and invigorating conversation.  Even before I moved away from HB, I had begun to miss those talks with Kathy more and more, as she got busier on her job, after being promoted a few times and taking on more responsibility, and as her husband was able to back away from the stress of his job and began biking with her.

As I walked around the HB neighborhoods less and less often, I substituted bike rides along the Santa Ana River Trail, a 12-foot wide path following the Santa Ana River, a waterway that is cement-lined through much of Orange County and begins at a junction with the Huntington Beach Bicycle Trail.  The closest access point to this easy-riding trail was about a five minute ride from my backyard.   When we moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, I tried to find a similar trail or path so I could continue to exercise in the great outdoors.  Unfortunately, no part of this state is flat for any great distance, which easily discouraged me from trying to ride my beach cruiser.  On top of that, there are four seasons here, and two of them are either too cold or too hot or too wet, either in the form of snow, frozen puddles or humidity I could cut with a knife, to comfortably continue this exercise on any kind of a regular basis.  Riding the recumbent bike in the basement is just not the same!

Gardena – First entry of my WIP memoir

I have been enrolled off and on in a memoir writing class over the last year or so.  During that time I have written several vignettes, dealing with various subjects, parts and times of my life, working off of whatever popped into my head in the days before the next class assignment was due.

Throughout that stressful process I had been struggling with how I wanted to organize those stories in a way that might make them interesting for my audience, which essentially means my two daughters.  They both know a lot about my immediate family, mainly my mom and my sister, as my girls have spent a lot of time with both of them over the 25 years of their own lives.  They are both acutely acquainted with my own self-image and my cynical sense of humor.  However, as young women of the millenial generation, I don’t think they, like many of their peers, have much appreciation for or understanding of the struggles and challenges faced by their foremothers, especially those like myself of the baby-boomer generation.

In the end, at least for the time being, I’ve decided to organize my stories chronologically as much as possible. Fortunately for me, then, I have already written the first story I wanted to tell about the beginning of my life, which took place in Gardena, which is thus also one of the Places of My Life.  Here it is…

I have a lot of good, but hazy memories, of my childhood in the small town of Gardena, California.  Those memories include a range of the usual neighborhood activities, though my childhood home was situated in an unusual location which was not ideal when compared to current standards and preferences for raising a family in safety.

Gardena is a city located in the South Bay (southwestern) region of Los Angeles County.  Some believe the city was named for its reputation for being the only “green spot” in the dry season between Los Angeles and the sea.  Gardena officially became a city in 1930 when it incorporated itself as protection against a heavy county tax imposed on a planned park project.

Gardena is bordered by two cities, Torrance and Hawthorne, that big beautiful park developed by the county that Gardenans didn’t have to pay for, and two neighborhoods, Athens and Harbor Gateway, that are officially part of the city of Los Angeles.  Athens (and I didn’t know till now that it had a name) is a predominantly black, heavily Hispanic, relatively prosperous unincorporated community.  All the schools in Gardena were part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest public school district in the nation, with a reputation for extremely crowded schools, large class sizes, low academic performance and incompetent administration.

Harbor Gateway (as it was renamed by the city of LA) is a narrow north-south corridor situated approximately between Vermont Avenue and Figueroa Street north of Interstate 405, and Western and Normandie avenues south of I-405. The territory was acquired by the city of Los Angeles in a shoestring annexation, specifically to connect San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and the Port of Los Angeles with the rest of the city.  Despite being part of the city of Los Angeles, some parts of Harbor Gateway have a “Torrance, CA”, “Gardena, CA” or “Carson, CA” address because they are serviced by those cities’ post offices. This is where I lived from my birth, on Wednesday, April 26, 1955, until we moved (a whole ten miles and ten years later) to Torrance, so my sister and I could complete our early educations in a better school system.

503 w 157 realtorWe lived at 503 W. 157th Street, on the corner of a busy main street, Figueroa. Fig ran along the side of our house  and the street in front of our house was the entrance to the neighborhood.  Fig was on the side of the house you can’t see in this photo, which I can’t believe I was able to find today online, so maybe the house still looks like this, as it did when I lived there! No matter what they’re called today, like subdivisions or some such other high-falutin or modern terms, I will always associate happy memories, wherever I live, as having taken place in a neighborhood.

Kitty-corner from us across Figueroa was the Spanish American Institute.  I guess I really never knew what went on there, I just knew, or at least I think I can recall, that a small herd of cows may have been housed or stabled there.  I had no idea at the time what function the cows may have served at the institute but we could smell them and touch them and I think maybe even ride on them, unless that was just a figment of my childhood imagination that I choose to hold on to, among others.

sai cattle being examined by bob  kathy hedges

There really were cows across the street!

Our neighbors, both close by and farther afield, encompassed a variety of family sizes, arrangements and ethnicities, during the first ten years of my life that my own small and homogeneous family lived in this little house with the carnations (which had a beautiful smell) and geraniums (whose smell made me want to puke) that grew in the ground along the non-busy side and the large fig tree that anchored the far corner of the brick enclosed back yard.

Gardena, like many of the suburban areas of Los Angeles, now probably falls within the category of urban sprawl but, back in that idyllic time, it was one of the new bedroom communities rising out of the rich California farmlands that were initially cultivated by Japanese and Mexican families.  I know that my family, Dad and Mom, added a master bedroom and bath, with a fashionable walk in closet, to our house, probably around the time my sister came along, about 4 ½ years after me.  I also know that two very different families, in almost every possible way, had lived next door to us in that ten year period, on the other side of those flowers and brick wall.

The first family there was the Millwees and oh my god!  They were four typically rambunctious blonde and freckle faced boys.  Mom was Esta, an unrefined woman who spoke with maybe a slight Okie accent and had the dusky dark skin tone and long lanky physique to match.  Dad was Don, Sr., a construction worker or some other outdoor manual laborer of that time and place, like maybe an oil field operator.  I don’t think he was around very much; he had to work a lot to support that large and active family.  I remember the two older boys, Donnie and Brad, and how I would halfheartedly chase them around the grass and the yard and up the fig tree, sometimes even walking dangerously balanced along the brick fence that separated our ordered backyard from their chaotic one.  Most searingly, my most ingrained memory of trying to act like one of the boys is the one where I stepped off the fence into their backyard, in my rubber go-aheads, only to encounter a nail sticking up out of a block of wood there that ended up with its point embedded in my foot.

On the other end of the spectrum was the second neighbor family, a pretty traditional Japanese one.  Theirs, like ours, was composed of a mom and a dad and two little girls.  I don’t remember a lot of details about those people, but image of the beautiful, colorful, large and sort of exotic Japanese dolls, encased in glass, that were prominently displayed in that home, made a long lasting impression on my by then expanding and inquisitive mind.

I think the neighbors across the street were Filipino, with a grandma who nurtured a beautiful rose garden.   I remember proudly bearing a few of those fragrant colorful blooms to a favorite teacher, with the stems wrapped in a wet paper towel to preserve them, surrounded by aluminum foil to preserve my fingers from the thorns.

I don’t think I have ever again lived in such a relatively small geographical area that encompassed a similarly large diversity of neighbors.  This early exposure to the variety of colors and languages of America’s citizens probably, especially in retrospect and in comparison to the places we lived while my kids were growing up, opened my mind and my heart to appreciating all of our wonderful differences!

Disneyland is my happy place

As Walt Disney sat at a bench, at an amusement park, watching his daughters play, he noticed how ragged and filthy the small amusement park was. He also observed people’s reactions to different rides, and noticed how children’s parents had nothing to do. They would be anxious to go home, while their children were still having fun, and playing.  This is where Walt was conjuring, and planning a new type of amusement park; one that would be clean, and would have attractions for parents and children together. This was Walt Disney’s idea, which he brought to fruition with his creation of Disneyland.

Disneyland is the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.  Opened on July 17, 1955, Disneyland has a larger cumulative attendance than any other theme park in the world, with over 650 million guests since it opened.  These two sentences contain all the basic facts you need to know about how and why this still magical place and “The Happiest Place on Earth” colored my childhood, my youth, my young adulthood, my dating and parenting life, and really my entire outlook on life, today and into the future.  Critical to Disneyland’s lasting impact on me is that the park and I are the same age, with both of us officially beginning to exist on planet Earth in the year 1955.

Years before Disneyland was constructed, Walt was thinking, generating, and creating everything in his mind. He traveled the United States, and visited buildings of America’s most prolific inventors and creators, such as Thomas Edison’s Workshop, the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop, and the home of the Dictionary magnate Noah Webster. While visiting these places, he was formulating and dreaming of a “Mickey Mouse Park” with a western village, Main Street, and more; these ideas would eventually form Disneyland.

The concept for Disneyland began when Walt Disney was visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters Diane and Sharon. While watching them ride the merry-go-round, he came up with the idea of a place where adults and their children could go and have fun together. He hired a consultant from Stanford to gauge the proper area to locate the theme park based on the area’s potential growth.   The recommended location was on 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County.

 

To fully appreciate the facts given as initial background above, one must be able to picture the landscape of Southern California in the 1950s and at the same time jump ahead and compare it to that landscape today.  Los Angeles was spreading out block by block and tract by tract, as more and more housing was built in response to increased demand.  This increased demand was generated over the decade by the booming economy as it changed over from agriculture, oil drills and basic manufacturing to more advanced manufacturing of airplanes and rocket ships and jet engines, from the basic black telephone and party lines and operator assistance to intercoms and automatic telephone exchanges and microelectronics.    This manufacturing change and growth in turn led to the expansion of supporting retail businesses and services until the urban sprawl became suburban sprawl that crept out of the L.A. coastal basin, east over the Santa Monica Mountains (really foothills) into the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, north to Simi Valley and sleepy coastal communities, and of course South to the now infamous Orange County, “The OC.”  This sprawling and seemingly haphazard growth, along with improvements in the manufacture of automobiles, including some assembled locally, made cars cheaper and more ubiquitous on existing roads and led to the necessity of moving all these new Californians from place to place.  This became LA’s famously crowded freeway system.

 

Griffith Park still serves as an oasis of nature in the heart of the urban jungle that is Los Angeles proper.  It is today, in fact, one of the largest urban parks in North America, referred to as the Central Park of Los Angeles, though LA’s park is much larger, more untamed, and rugged than its New York City counterpart.  Conversely, Orange County is now the third-most populous and the second most densely populated county in California, the sixth-most populous in the United States, and more populous than twenty-one U.S. states.  The completion of Interstate 5, known to Angelenos as the Santa Ana Freeway, in 1954 helped make Orange County a bedroom community for many who moved to Southern California to work in aerospace and manufacturing. Orange County received a further boost in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland.

Uncle Walt, as my irreverent dad would often call him, uttered the following words of wisdom and promise with regard to his new amusement park in the year it was opened.

To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land; dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world. Disneyland will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts. The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company. Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by, and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future. Here will be the wonders of Nature and Man for all to see.

When Disneyland opened, in the year of my birth and for a long time after, there were still orange groves surrounding the site.  My grandma lived among those groves when I was a kid, before they were pulled out to make room for more Disneyland parking lots, tourist motels, and the newer parts of Anaheim.  One of the joys of every family visit to Disneyland was to sit together in a glass-enclosed booth in Tomorrowland, talking to Grandma on the hands free phone.  I don’t remember if this “attraction” was managed by AT&T or Bell, though I think I remember that you had to reserve the booth ahead of time.  Dad would dial Grandma’s number and we’d all shout “Hello” at once when she picked up the receiver on her end.  I think we talked to Grandma more often from that little booth inside Disneyland than we did face to face, even though she was only a few miles separated her from us when we were there!

We went to Disneyland at least once a year while I was growing up. When my kids were born, my mom couldn’t wait till they reached the age where a daily nap was no longer required so that she and Dad could go with Husband and me to bring  her “jewels” to Disneyland for their very first visits.  Even now that we all, except Mom, have lived in other states, my girls and I make it a point to visit Disneyland, and the newer Disney California Adventure theme park, as often as we can when we’re back in So Cal, and as often as we can find some way to pay a discounted admission price!  When Disneyland and I were both young, and until we both became teenagers, park patrons would buy a book of tickets, along with admission.  These tickets were labeled by category of the rides listed thereon as A, B, C, D and E. A ticket rides were the cheapest, most sedate and old-fashioned; E ticket rides were the best and newest and most exciting, at least from a kid’s perspective. We long time natives still say that when something is a lot of fun, exciting, and/or adrenaline pumping, it’s a real E-ticket experience.  I used to say that about my last job in California, long after E tickets had gone the way of the dinosaurs but shortly after the opening of California Adventure.  When I walked into the office every morning, I’d welcome my colleagues to the ShinMaywa California Adventure, warning them to prepare for an “E” ticket ride. I only had to explain the concept once, even to the Japanese natives I worked with, before I got their hearty concurrence about the nature of our shared daily experiences.

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

This is another quote from Uncle Walt that struck a chord with me.  It mirrors how I feel, or at least want to feel, about myself.  I guess, in the end, maybe this is really why I feel such a kinship with my beloved Disneyland.  It’s still where I want to go when I want to feel like a kid again, even now, when we are both senior citizens.

Avalon

Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands. Close to one million people travel to Catalina Island every year, many of them from Los Angeles which is, in the lyrics of the song, “26 miles across the sea.” The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort, making Avalon a resort community. They built a dance pavilion in the center of town, an aquarium, and created the Pilgrim Club (a gambling club for men only). Just as the Bannings were anticipating the construction of a new hotel, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon’s buildings, including six hotels and several clubs.

In February 1919, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island and its associated properties from the Banning Brothers. Wrigley devoted himself to preserving and promoting it, investing millions in needed infrastructure and attractions, including the construction of the new Catalina Casino, completed May 29, 1929. In its heyday in the 1930s, due to its proximity to Hollywood, Catalina Island was a favored getaway destination for Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable. The island also served as a filming location for dozens of movies. In order to encourage growth, Wrigley purchased additional steamships to service Avalon and brought attention to the town by having his Chicago Cubs use the island for the team’s spring training from 1921 to 1951, absent the war years of 1942–45.

Avalon town and harbor 2012

Avalon town and harbor 2012

Glass bottom boats tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water. Lover’s Cove, to the east of town, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino (far right in photo), are popular places to dive. The area is famous for the schools of flying fish and the bright orange Garibaldi which teem in local waters.  In 1958, the song “26 Miles” by the Four Preps hit number 2 on the Billboard charts. The main theme of the song is summed up in the last line in the refrain, stating that Santa Catalina is “the island of romance”, with the word “romance” repeated four times.

Two Harbors is the second, and much smaller, resort village on the island, located at the isthmus of the island, north of Avalon. There is also a place called Camp Emerald Bay on the north end of the island that was a Boy Scout camp until 1991.  The Girl Scouts were also forced to move from their camp at White’s Landing, when its lease with the Catalina Island Conservancy expired that same year. “The Catalina Experience™” now takes you to White’s Landing — gateway to Catalina’s interior and positioned on the island’s most expansive beach.

camp white's landingOn http://www.vintagegirlscout.com/campCA.html, I found this ancient photo of this magical place, described as follows in the camp song that I still remember.

“Camp’s White’s Landing-

We canoe and we row

Lots of places to go.

There are boars and S’mores and a beautiful view!”

I don’t remember how big the place was, how primitive it was, or what its proximity to the Boy Scout camp was when I was a Girl Scout camper there for a summer or two in the late 1960s.  The main thing that sticks out in my mind from my time there was meeting a fellow GS camper who told me she wanted to convert to Judaism after reading Leon Uris’ Exodus.  I guess we were all impressionable young teens then and, even though I myself was heavily into the romance of the Jewish state portrayed in that novel, I thought this girl was crazy for wanting to be Jewish if she wasn’t born into it!

In retrospect, I guess the Girl Scouts had a bigger impact on the formation of my adult ideals than I was aware of at the time.  I was a member of the organization from first grade almost until high school graduation.  The GSUSA timeline on their website describes the 1960’s in the excerpt below and includes a photo of Girl Scout Cadettes on Earth Day, 1970, which was also a cause in the forefront of my still-forming political awareness at the time.

 “During this tumultuous and vibrant decade, Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” conferences around the country to lend their voices to the fight for racial equality, launched the “ACTION 70” project to help overcome prejudice and build better relationships between people, and viewed the Apollo 12 moon landing at Cape Kennedy, Florida, as guests of NASA.”

The Tijuana Inn, Gardena, California, early 1960s

Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you. Wow, this prompt opens up so many possibilities for me, since I feel like I have lived my whole life around food, usually not in a very good or happy way.

Fortunately, the prompt gave me leeway to talk about any (or all) aspects of a meal that has deep roots in my memory from the food I ate to a description of the place I was when I ate it.  More importantly, I get to include the people who were there AND a reminder from one of my new-found favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who wrote in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Nostalgia Photo Challenge

Warning – This post does not contain any photos, just copied evocative velvet art!

The Tijuana Inn, Gardena, California, early 1960s

This was my family’s go-to dining-out spot. I don’t remember much about the Mexican food they served, but I gleefully recall the pats of butter that came to the table with the tortillas. I have been told that I refused to eat as a baby. Healthy eating habits were not a concern for elementary school kids in those days, so what I looked forward to the most when my family of four (Mom, Dad and little Sis) sat down at one of the tables was licking the sweet creamy butter off those little soft cardboard squares, one after the other, and bring me some more, please!

Like the food, the restaurant’s décor has not remained clear in memory, either. I’m pretty sure there were many booths, maybe some of them were round. I think the upholstery was orange pleather, the kind that leaves lines on your thighs after you have peeled them from your seat. I googled the Tijuana Inn, which I knew no longer existed, and found that the old place had gone into bankruptcy before it burned down last century. The entry also provided its location, which brought to mind a memory of a bank of plate glass windows across the front, facing dear old Gardena (or was it Redondo Beach?) Boulevard. Like many family dining establishments, they featured painted-on decorations in December, maybe even “Feliz Navidad” or “Feliz Año Nuevo.”

There is, however, one aspect of the décor that I remember made a big impression on me as a child: a couple of large, almost wall size paintings, which I think were actually the kitschy but endearing velvet kind. One featured what I imagined was an Aztec god or warrior, cradling the limp form of a beautiful Latina in a pristine white dress, and I wondered what their location and relationship were. The other one was of a bullfighter in the ring with an angry bull, and I never wondered what their relationship or location was. I didn’t really want to think about it.

The last clear memory I have of eating there, and just about anywhere else we ate as a family while we all lived under the same roof, was how my parents liked to tease my sister by saying that she placed her orders “from the right side of the menu.” This meant that her selection was always the most expensive among us. Maybe that’s why, even now as a fifty-five-year-old twice-divorced single woman, she’s still looking for a “Sugar Daddy?”

tj inn velvet artbullfighter velvet art

A Job She Love that Loves Her Back – A Rare Situation for Many of Us Old Farts!

Watch Me.

I used to have one of those, but it was a very long time ago (nearly 8 years but it started 10 years before that) in a galaxy far far away (in So Cal for a subcontractor to one of the few commercial airplane manufacturers still in existence).  You can follow the link above to my happily employed fellow blogger’s post that describes some of the reasons she still loves her job.  IDK, maybe us old farts should all work in frigid Minnesota.  Maybe that environment better preserves nice people?

My comment is based on my more recent experience where most of my older co-workers hated their jobs probably because, like me, they knew they could have done their jobs better and had much more fun if only more of the managers respected their experience and supported the ideas they generated from it.  Instead, unfortunately,  they seemed to often fear ideas that came from old farts like me. If any of our ideas were even actually considered, we seldom heard about it.

FYI my lovely old job was with a Japanese company that also still built a seaplane using a design developed in WWII.  I contend that the main reason they kept me on so long was due to my skill in translating their ESL to semi-technical business English in letters to their domestic suppliers and customers.  These wonderful people always bought whatever my kids were selling for school, soccer, Girl Scout, etc. fundraisers.  They let me use their office supplies when I wanted to be participate as a parent in my daughters’ schools, interests and extracurricular activities.  I received no flak or  hassle when, after 5 years there, I requested a part-time flexible schedule that allowed me to work around school schedules after my nanny started working part-time for a crazy neighbor who didn’t appreciate that I was already paying the nanny to work for me full-time.

I didn’t receive a watch when I left ShinMaywa after 10 years. They just let me pick the venue for my farewell lunch. and I still have the pictures my old boss took of all my Japanese friends enjoying the strange delicacies served at the best Jewish deli in Orange County.

To bring this story back to the watch pictured in the linked post, I have started wearing one again.  I’d had to remove it  on arrival at my last job since it stood between my wrist and the desktop when typing on the computers I used there and, more often than not, I’d forget to take it with me when I left the office each day.  As an Old Fart, I don’t like using a cell phone, which I don’t always have on me anyway, to find the time.  I just have to remember to put my watch on before I leave the house!

 

A Room With a View (or Just a View)

Where shall I go? What shall I do?
If I could zoom, where would I go?

Maybe I would go to that room where I could find Scarlett, Rhett and a cast of thousands.
That room might be a good old fashioned library, filled with books and only books
Just books of all titles and sizes, subjects and authors, old and new, true and not.
I picture the library in one of those films that I watch over and over again.
That’s “Ever After” with a young Drew Barrymore and a young Dougray Scott –
So young that the movie makers were not afraid to give us a hint of the young man’s manhood in his white tights and codpiece!
There’s a spiral staircase in a many-windowed tower where all the walls are bookcases
That’s light and bright
With inviting nooks in which to sit and read and includes one of those great and precarious ladders that slides across the tall bookshelves

Come to think of it, maybe I would go to that other room where I could find Scarlett, Rhett and a cast of thousands
Any, preferably, old movie theater would likely do.
There is only one snack bar. It’s on the ground floor along with restrooms that are fabulous architectural monuments unto themselves.
All accessories are heavy and ornate, especially in the screening area.
Like the old and now demolished Carthay Circle theatre in Los Angeles, where my dear and now departed Dad took me to see Gone With the Wind for the very first time.
I miss them both.

carthay circle exteriorcarthay circle interior