Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Oliver!

Let the Lego games begin!

Today you are you!

That is truer than true!

There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Happy Birthday To You by Dr. Suess

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sheltered Harbor

Snug and safe are you little boat as you are anchored in the harbor.
For the moment your weary trip is done.
Calm waters lap your hull and you are content.
No worries for now.
But for how long, little boat, will this harbor bring you joy.
You were built with a strong hull and sturdy sail to weather the roughest sea.
Your course has always been destination unknown.
How long will it be before you will tug at your anchor?
Wanting to be free to roam the seas once again,
Tasting the excitement of the storm, Accepting the challenge the sea has to offer.
Go little boat and taste the adventure for which you were built.
Return to me when you are weary and in need of rest.
For I have a purpose also – not to anchor you forever but to provide you a sheltered peace between your destination points.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Young Mentors

This past week, while at Wings of Hope, I had the opportunity to work with two of our summer interns. Both are college students and bright as a shiny new penny. It was such a delight to talk with them as we stuffed, stamped and sealed thousands of mailing pieces. Both are enthusiastic travelers, always planning a trip or two ahead of the one currently scheduled.

We discussed movies, music and books and I delighted in our exchange of information. The one young intern, hearing of my interests suggested a couple of books for me. One, The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, I quickly ordered up from my library. You can imagine my surprise when I picked the book up from the library and found it to be just short of 1500 pages! Whew, I will be busy reading for a bit it seems. I'm not sure where I went amiss is my education that I had not read this classic long before now. But thanks to these young people, that are our future, for being a mentor to me as well.

Again, I must say to my fellow senior citizens, get out there and get involved; you never know the special rewards that await you in your volunteering endeavors.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Home Again - “Ich bin ein Berliner”

A piece of the Berlin Wall

In July of 1980 I ran away from home for about six months and lived in the beautiful city of West Berlin, Germany. I was there a relatively short amount of time but still managed to have many wonderful memories to take back home with me. To say that Germans have short street names would be a wild exaggeration, they seem to smooch together two or three names all into one. At times I found this a bit difficult when attempting to navigate about the city, trying to read street names and drive at the same time. At first I was very worried about getting lost or wandering into East Berlin by mistake and getting shot. My neighbor told me not to worry; sooner or later I would bump into 'the wall' and be turned back.

Many afternoons were spent sitting by a small lake reading Herman Wouk's Winds of War, when I finished the book I wrote to the author to thank him for providing me my first friends in Berlin. To my surprise I received a nice note back from the author thanking me for writing to him.

I joined the German-American Women's Club and was able to attend a few of their meetings. It was interesting to listen to the older women talk about Berlin when it was a capital city of Europe, long before the war, filled with all the glitz and glamour one could imagine. Even when I was there it was amazing how much could be packed into one city. Since West Berlin was literally an island within East Germany, every attempt was made to assure that the citizens of West Berlin would want for nothing. A stroll down the famous Ku'damm (Kurfurstendamm Avenue) was like Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive magnified.

While I was doing volunteer work for the Red Cross, I received an invitation to attend the Christmas Eve service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the famous structure that was bombed during the war and stands in the center of the city. It was a very moving event with musical numbers performed by the Allied Forces choral group. As I left the church to walk to the bus stop for my trip home a gentle snowfall began, it was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.

In 1989 when the Berlin Wall was torn down, my Berlin neighbor collected the wall remnant that is pictured here and sent it to me as a memento. It's nice to have a little bit of history displayed on my bookcase and a reminder of my short term residence in that wonderful city.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chef Sophie

A few years have passed since this photo was taken, but Chef Sophie is still hard at work making delicious creations to please the palate. Last night I got to play sous chef to Master Chef Sophie as she prepared a yummy Coconut Cake. My role mostly involved taking a hammer and giving the coconut shell a few good whacks. I had to leave before the dessert was served, but I am hoping there might be a few crumbs left today. Word is that the cake was DELICIOUS.

I still say that girl is going to end up owning her own chic little restaurant someday. Better get your reservations in early.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Time for The Championships

Tea, my dear? Why yes, that would be nice. One lump or two? Oh, no, just straight and over ice. Over ice, you say? Yes, I believe I did say it clear. Why my dear I do believe you are not from here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ye Old Crab Cooker

It's fun when you go home again and you find that some things have just not changed. After Thursday's graduation ceremony we went down to The Crab Cooker on Newport Peninsula for lunch. Their sign says they have been in business there fifty-eight years, and if you had asked me my answer would have been, "Forever". But when I do the math I certainly was a young teenager when I made my first visit to The Crab Cooker. And now two more generations from my family have joined the line as customers.

I can't say much has changed inside or out; the tables and chairs seem pretty much the same as does the paint on the outside of the building. The fresh fish displayed on a bed of crushed ice is still there to greet you as you enter, the food is good, served minimalistic and efficiently. I know that some of the servers must be new because they are just not old enough to even have their five year pin let alone one showing fifty years of good service and a winking whale's eye.
It was a good day, starting with the graduation ceremony held in the Robert B. Moore Theatre on the Orange Coast College campus. Though I only knew one of the graduates, my grandson, I listened with pride as the graduates spoke of their school and the relationship with its staff. How the time spent at the school had changed their lives is such a dramatic way and how they now feel confident that their dreams can become a reality.
You know life is good, progress is being made and by golly I think the future is bright. I think their class motto pretty much sums it all up:
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one as reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
― Booker T. Washington

Friday, June 19, 2009

June 18, 2009 - Graduation Day

Grandma and The Graduate
Well here were are. What fun and such a proud moment.......way to go Kendall! Whoot, Whoot!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Going Home Again – Seaward Road 1972 – 1985*

Bags were packed, boxes stuffed with various crap and the sand for the most part was left behind as we moved from the water and up the hill from Coast Highway. It was a soft sea breeze that pushed us those one and one-half miles to settle in yet another new abode. Seaward Road was gentle curving street that wound up even higher than where we landed, about mid-way would be my guess.

From the street the house had a cottage look, with those lovely windows you could both peek in and out of. The front yard welcomed visitors with the lush greenness of the lawn and a curving brick path that led you straight to the front door. Once inside, the cottage exploded into house with a roomy open plan for the kitchen, dining and living room. The split-level downstairs had a most generous family room with a wonderful brick fireplace.

The backyard was enormous, mostly grass with a noticeable slope to the back wall and huge tree that would years later become home to a neat tree house. About midway and to the left was a Coral Tree, with those beautiful spikes of red when it was time for blooms. But I had a major problem with this Coral Tree when it came time for pruning; it's a veiled beauty with thorns as sharp as swords, each pruning season it would be the Coral Tree that would be victorious.

The beautiful backyard was host to many events, from an outdoor wedding for my sister-in-law, to annual Fourth of July parties for my Irvine Company compatriots. When grandchildren arrived on the scene they too enjoyed this outdoor space, playing, climbing or just squatting looking for bugs.

A parade of animals made appearances over the years. There was Arthur, King Arthur, we often called him. He was a narrow shouldered black cat and hunter of all things great and small. Arthur wasn't really our cat, but belonged to the previous owners who had moved several miles away. The owners would be called and Arthur would be picked up, only to return again and again. Finally it was mutually decided that Arthur would stay, he obvious was part of the house. Probably it is more correct to say that Arthur allowed us to live in his home. Arthur was a part of our family for many years, ultimately meeting his demise on the very street he lived.

There was the wild baby kitten from the Laguna Beach Pound, which wasn't kept for fear we would be eaten during the night. Then there was Shirley, a white Persian like kitten, who I recall had a rather odd personality, but maybe I've confused her, for I generally am a great lover of cats.

The first dog to come and visit and stay was Maggie, who actually belonged to Susan's boyfriend. He was moving and had nowhere to leave the dog except our home. Maggie was a beagle who ate everything in sight and this is no exaggeration. I would accuse my children of eating all the donuts or brownies and innocent faces would tell me it wasn't them. At first I didn't believe them, but then I had to admit that none of my kids had ever licked a plate clean of its powered sugar remains or eaten whole cubes of butter that I can ever recall.

When Shirley was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer I opted to have her put down rather than take on the expense of treatment, so feeling so very, very guilty over my decision I bought a little cocker puppy for Linda. She named him Peppy or was it Pepe? And that he was a very peppy little pup, who had a tennis ball in his mouth from the time he could get it to fit. There wasn't a person, workman, deliveryman or gardener that could escape a few ball tosses when Peppy would present the ball with his excited invitation and with wagging tail and those sorrowful brown pleading eyes.

More on Seaward to follow…

*Let the record books note that while it shows 13 years in one location, I did run away to Berlin, Germany for a few months.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My First Flight – PAA, LAX-HNL

It's just days now before Marijke takes off in her "Loki" and experiences her first Powder Puff Derby race. This event, along with my son emailing me a picture of some Pan American Airlines memorabilia where he recalled his early trips to Hawaii in 1960's, made me think of my own very first air flight.

It was December 1954 and my parents had planned this wonderful trip to Hawaii during my Christmas vacation break from school. Our plans were to fly to Honolulu from Los Angeles and then return home via Matson's cruise ship the SS Lurline. Prior to this new adventure my vacations were mostly spend at the beach house or the occasional driving vacation that would leave me pouty and grumpy, kicking and carsick in the backseat of the family car.

I was quite excited about taking this first flight never having been up in any type of plane before. I had heard wonderful and exciting stories about flying, sometimes scary ones, but it never deterred my own desire to want to do this. Certainly people flew in the 1950's but not with such regularity and casualness as they do today. I don't know what it cost back then but I image it was a pretty expensive option.

We boarded our Pan Am flight to Honolulu around midnight at LAX. My best guess is that the plane was probably a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, this model featured a lower-deck lounge and bar, an innovation which, combined with a long range and high speed, made the Stratocruiser a very popular airliner. We were given a nice midnight snack and then settled in for a good night's sleep. Some of the adults would venture down to the lower-deck lounge for drinks and chit-chat.

Around eight hours later we would be awaken and handed a nice fresh hot towel for our face, give a little stretch and be served a delicious breakfast on china plates, and juice in a real glass. There was even a small baby Orchid on the plate for decoration. We had just enough time to enjoy all of this before it was time to land in Honolulu.

Imagine, Los Angeles to Honolulu in a mere nine hours, it couldn't get any better than this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Cloak of Sadness

A cloak of sadness hangs over me today, like a great shroud saturated and heavy with the tears of a lifetime.

A sadness that comes from being there close and seeing the gun pulled free, watching the fingers as they squeeze against the trigger and doing nothing to stop it.

Sometimes the bang is heard only by a very few or no one at all.

But the shockwaves from this action continue to move forward, silently through time and space, leaving marks upon those in its path.

A cloak of sadness hangs over me today; much like the way fogs clings to the rocks on a June morning.

A sadness veiled in heavy air, waiting for the warmth of the sun to breakthrough and dry up all the dampness.

This cloud of fog obscures one's vision, the dreams and desires that lie just up ahead.

So close within reach while at the same moment totally unattainable.

A cloak of sadness hangs over me today, it's heavy and uncomfortable, and doesn't serve a purpose.

It's not a cloak of comfort; it's not a cloak of warmth.

Just a cloak of sadness for the way things are and the way things might have been.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going Home Again – China Cove 1968- 1972

If you have ever driven down to China Cove you will certainly remember this sign. Despite its simplistic message that surly could be easily understood, the Newport Beach Police Department made frequent visits to ticket violators. Even in the early days the sign loomed large, when there was probably more sand than there were cars around. Later illegal parking did become a nuisance, but you know that just one of many pleasures of living on the beach.

You will know from my Prequel, the family beach house was built in 1939, I was just a year old, and thirty years later I would move my family into that house and call it home. The house, remodeled in the 50's, was pretty utilitarian, an extended box form, with four bedrooms, three baths and the smallest kitchen around. I think it must have been designed after a ship's galley, but you know it worked. You could stand in the center of it and reach everything without having to take a single step.

Of course the best part wasn't the house but rather the front yard. Sand and sea, except for one small strip of grass that rivaled the kitchen in size. It was that tough Bermuda grass, I think that's what it's called, that stuff was indestructible and it made a great doormat to use to wipe off the tar from your feet.

We had a community sand volleyball court on the upper part of the beach, which took quite a lot of work to finally get approval from the City of Newport Beach. Volleyball players thought it was the best thing since sliced bread but the sun worshippers took exception to being pelted by errant v-balls. A compromise was finally reached whereby no volleyball would be played during peak beach time. Wilt (Wooden Hands) Chamberlin even played on our court once.

For several years we held an annual clam bake. A huge pit was dug in the sand, and then lined with stones that came from Laguna Canyon, a roaring fire was built, wet burlap sacks and seaweed piled on, and delicious food ultimately came out of the pit. While all this was going on underground, we would crank up the old ice cream maker and make flavors that included fresh peach, peppermint, chocolate chip and fresh strawberry. The first few years it was fun and our next door neighbor joined in and co-hosted with us. Then one year the neighbor and I looked at each other and both said, "Who are these people?" Seems word of the event had finally reached out to great unknowns, affectionately called Freeloaders. That may have been the last year for the party as we knew it.

Early mornings were spent cleaning the sea air off the front windows that had accumulated during the previous day. Certainly having a water view is good incentive to have sparkling clean windows. It never seemed like a chore at all. Another almost daily routine was hosing off the sand from the steps and sidewalks which was constantly being tracked in from the beach.

I suppose, some thirty years after selling the China Cove house, I will have to put that event in My Life's Regrets column. Because now it is there in that house I would like to spend my remaining days, just sitting and looking out at the water, walking along the shore and feeling the tickle of sand crabs under my feet and hearing that moan of the fog horn on early mornings in June. But that is not to be because the really sad thing is the house no longer exists, torn down to a enormous hole in the ground and rebuilt bigger and bolder than before.

If I ever win the lottery I am going to buy that house on Way Lane and tear it down again. Then I will rebuild just as it was built in 1939. I know my neighbor, Dickie, will be happy to have his view back.

The Supremes

Sometimes I get over-loaded with the flotsam and super-saturated with the jetsam that comes floating down through the airwaves in a most erratic manor. To try and figure out what the heck is going on with this Sonia Sotomayor appointment I had to put on my hat of "interpreter of all things nonsensical". First I went to the U.S. Constitution and right there in black and white were some answers.

Article II gives the President power to nominate Justices, who are then appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Constitution does not set any qualifications for service as a Justice, so the President may nominate anyone to serve, even me. But the nominee must receive the confirmation of the Senate, which means that the Senate must find that person to be a suitable candidate for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

The Constitution does not specify how many Justices are on the Supreme Court, however the Judiciary Act of 1789 allowed for the appointment of six Justices, in 1807 the number was change to seven, and in 1837 the number was change to nine and again in 1863 the number was increase to ten. Finally the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866 provided that the next three retirees from the Court would not be replaced, taking the number back down to seven. This natural attrition never came to fruition, for in 1869 the Judiciary Act again changed the number of Justices back to nine, where it has since remained.

Currently the Justices that sit on the Court come from the following Presidential nominations: President Clinton (2): Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, President Reagan (2): Justices Scalia and Kennedy, President Ford(1): Justice Stevens. The Bush Family has four nominees on the court; President GHW Bush (2): Justices Souter and Thomas, and President GW Bush (2): Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts.

Certainly Republican Presidents have the lead with seven of the nine judicial appointments. Now with the coming retirement of Justice Souter, a GHW Bush nominee and replacement to come from President Obama, this becomes serious stuff. Especially with Sonia Sotomayor, that would put another woman on the court, bringing the total to TWO of nine justices of the female persuasion, and increasing the nominations from Democratic Presidents to THREE of the nine justices.

Now I get it! Whew, for minute there I thought it was all about reverse-racism.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wings of Hope Welcomes Marijke

Pilot Marijke Unger (center)

This evening I attended a little reception at the Wings of Hope hangar for Marijke Unger who will be participating in the Powder Puff Derby on June 20th. Marijke works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and her co-pilot is Lara Carpenter, a captain for Sky West. The plane in the picture is Marijke's 1976 Bellanca Citabria that she will be flying in the race. I am looking forward to this air race and secretly in my heart will be flying right alongside both the girls. Oh how I would have loved to do something like this. Well, maybe in my next life.

Good luck girls, see you at the finish line.