Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine David Sedaris wrote an article about learning a foreign language. While I normally don’t read his stuff (a bit too raunchy for my taste), I did enjoy reading of the trials and tribulations he experienced in making the jump from English to whatever it was he was at the moment trying to learn – Chinese, French, German, et al.

I have finally reached the point in my life where I don’t think I’m going to make any further effort to transform my two years of Spanish in High School into a passable understanding of that language. In those two years – we’re talking about 1951 to 1953 – we studied vocabulary, we conjugated verbs and we translated Spanish novels. We spoke words with the Castilian “th” sound. The first few sentences we learned to speak were these: “Que es el burro? El burro es un animal. El burro es un animal importante.” I don’t remember where the story went from there, but wherever it went, I ended up those two years with “B”s on my report card and a total inability to either speak or understand Spanish.

From time to time I can pull out from the tiny little part of my brain that stores foreign words an appropriate word of Spanish. Once I even helped a little Hispanic lady at the local Post Office who needed to fill out a form that was written in English. The postal clerk was so rude to her about her inability to speak and read English that I decided I should show her that all Anglos aren’t so mean. I remembered the Spanish words for Name, Address, City, etc. and between the two of us we got the card filled out properly and returned to the clerk. I told the clerk he should be ashamed of himself, and I walked out behind la senora, as if protecting her backside from any more rude comments. But that’s about the maximum good that my two years of Spanish have ever done.
When we moved to Turkey I was determined to learn enough of that language to make myself understood. I sent for a small tape offered by Tom Brosnahan, writer of The Lonely Planet’s “Turkey - Travel Survival Kit” and before I set foot in Istanbul I could already count and say a few pleasantries, name the colors, a few fruits and vegetables, and a modicum of verbs, all in the present tense, of course.

Once we got established, I hired a young bilingual (Turkish-English) woman to help me learn the language. The first lesson was promising: Good day, Yucel Bey. Good day, Cetin Bey. How are you? I am fine, thank you. And you? I’m fine, too. Thanks. Good bye. Ah, I thought, I can do this. But in tackling the second lesson a red flag went up. I was going to learn about school children, clocks, teachers, books, pens and pencils, playgrounds, tests, school athletic events and so forth. It seemed to me that I would be spending a lot of time learning about things that I really didn’t need to bother with.

Before long I set aside my lessons, and although I never stopped studying, I made use of our driver in correcting my pronunciation, in finding an easier way to say something, and ultimately in making sure what I said could be understood by a run-of-the mill Turk. Ahmet Bey was a great help, and it was to his credit that I finally got to the point where I could, within the limits of my Turkish vocabulary, make myself understood. I never got to the point where I could converse with anyone in Turkish. But I could tell a taxi driver where I wanted to go, which corners he should turn at, if he should go faster or slower, and where to let me out. On trips I could tell a hotel clerk that Jerry and I wanted a room with a bathroom, and we wanted it to be clean and have a window. I could ask where we could find a meat, fish, or chicken restaurant. I could check us in and out of the hotel, the restaurant, and the tourist site. I could nicely tell the rug merchant that we did not want to see his rugs. I could tell anyone who wanted to know that we were Americans, that we thought Turkey was a beautiful country, that we lived in Istanbul right now, and that in America we had six children and a bunch of grandchildren.

What I never was able to do was to understand a word that a Turk said to me – if it was more than one syllable long. Their language has a root word that I may have known the meaning of, but then a whole lot of suffixes were attached to it so that I never had a clue as to what was being said or meant. I just couldn’t think fast enough, and wasn’t familiar enough with the language to just “get it.” So I learned to say in Turkish “I speak a little Turkish but I don’t understand it yet.” That always got me out of the jams.

Reading David Sedaris’ funny account of his own verbal trial and tribulations reminded me again of what I went through. I have no compelling desire to be bilingual at this stage in my life. I just don’t think I have the energy left to tackle such a big job. But I know I’m inadvertently picking up a few new Spanish words because of all the billboards in Spanish that abound in this part of Southern California. You too probably know the words – Tecate, Corona, Dos Equis, etc.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I've told you before how small our apartment is. The photo above is of our bathroom, taken by yours truly. With so much crammed into such a small place, occasionally you pick up the wrong thing.

Two boxes of necessary wipes. One contains Neutrogena Makeup Remover wipes, and the other Preparation H wipes. Below is what happens when you grab the wrong thing!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


For the first 10 years of my life my family lived in rented housing, first in apartments until I was about 6 years old, then in a rented house. Finally at age 10 our family bought the house above in Long Beach.

It originally sat on property three blocks south of where it ultimately landed. The Long Beach "bus barn" on Anaheim near Cherry Avenue needed to expand, and this house had to be moved. My father purchased it and had it moved to some empty property he owned. His intention was to fix it up and sell it, but when my mother saw it she insisted that it was the house of her dreams. Daddy acquiesced. It became "the house I grew up in" and will forever be what I think of when I reflect back on those days.

It was not a big house, but it did have a lot of rooms. It was two rooms wide. Across the front on the left side was a living room, behind that a dining room, and behind that a kitchen. On the back of the house abutting the kitchen was a room full of windows that we called a "sewing room" but which usually functioned as a bedroom. That room also had a door to the outside. On the right side of the house was a den, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and on the back of that side was a tiny extra room that also was used for a bedroom. That room was just wide enough for a single bed and a walkway. I'd guess the house had about 1800 square feet to it. I always thought of it as a big house, but as I grew older and as time passed, I decided it really wasn't all that big. The rooms were not big, but I admit there were more of them than most houses had.

Years later after I moved away, I had occasion to drive by the old house, and I couldn't believe how much smaller the front yard was from what I remembered. But of course all my memories are from the time I was a young person, and everything seemed bigger then because I was smaller.

In talking this over with my sister a few years ago, we also agreed that the pots and pans mother had in the kitchen were all much smaller than we remembered them. The pot she used when she made stew was huge -- but somehow, like her cookie sheet, it grew much smaller over the years.

In reconnecting with old friends at our High School Reunion back in 2003, I learned that they all thought we lived in a huge house and that we were very rich. I was so suprised to hear that. I didn't think of our family in that way. But what I learned from them was this: many of them had come to California during the depression in search of work. They truly were poor. Although I had been in their houses when we were all in elementary school, I have no recollection of thinking they were poor, but in retrospect I can now see that compared to what they were still living in, our house would have seemed like a mansion.

As for my family being rich, we had a strange situation. My father was, as best as I can describe it, a promoter. He cultivated friends at the bank and in real estate, got loans and bought property, developed the property and sold it. He reinvested the money in other property, etc. He was always having mother sign on the next loan application. He needed an "image" as a successful businessman, so he drove a nice car and entertained at nice restaurants.

My mother, on the other hand, never was able to emotionally move out of the depression. All she ever wanted was for Daddy to get a job with a regular paycheck. She lived as if another depression was right around the corner. Dad would buy her a beautiful dress, and she would return it to the store and buy two house dresses. She never allowed my sister and me to buy any "name" apparel. We had to buy the cheaper "knock-offs" (although we didn't call them that in those days.) Mother was frugal and worried; Dad was generous in his spending and spent hours at the table "figuring" -- which was, according to our mother, him trying to figure out what he was going to use for money the next week! He always owed money but always made money, too. Mother always felt there was NO money.

After my sister and I married and went out on our own, the folks upgraded to a different house, but they didn't do it deliberately. One day one of dad's co-horts called to say there was a nice house for sale in Belmont Heights that he thought would be a good investment for dad. Dad bought it sight unseen. That was a good part of town and Dad figured he could make money on that house. Again, when my mother saw it, she said she'd updated her dream and THIS was now the house of her dreams. Again, Dad acquiesced. Dad had no idea that all the furniture in the house came with the sale, so my folks ended up with a lovely house, beautifully furnished.

That is the house my children remember as "Maa-Maa's (Grandma's) house. I have no emotional investment in that house whatsoever. It was nice, but in my heart nothing could be as good as the Gardenia avenue house.

I had always hoped to be able to go back to that old house and take a look through it. As it happened, it was for sale a year or two ago, and online there were photographs of all the rooms. I looked at them, but was horrified to see that not one of them looked like the room I grew up in. Each room had been modified to some extent. I decided it was just as well that I let sleeping dogs lie. The real rooms in that house only exist in my memory, along with all the fun and the warmth and the good times.

So I occasionally look at the photo above and re-affirm that it was surely the best house in the whole world for a girl to grow up in, size and value notwithstanding!

Friday, July 15, 2011


If you've been following the news carefully, you will have read that Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB48 into law yesterday.

The State of California has changed its Education Code to insure that the contributions to our society of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are specifically called to the attention of students in the K-12 social studies curriculum.

I am politically a liberal Democrat; I am pro same-sex marriages. I do not like any kind of discrimination. I thought the movie MILK was absolutely necessary and very inspiring. However, I draw the line at making one's sexual orientation a part of the public arena. Especially a part of our school curriculum. It makes me sad that the Governor I voted for saw fit to make SB48 law.

Below is the wording from the new law, along with the Legislative Counsel's words to help citizens understand what it all means.

SB 48, Leno. Pupil instruction: prohibition of discriminatory content.

Existing law requires instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of both men and women and specified categories of persons to the development of California and the United States.
This bill would update references to certain categories of persons and additionally would require instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups, to the develop-ment of California and the United States.

Existing law prohibits instruction or school sponsored activities that promote a discriminatory bias because of race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry. Existing law prohibits the State Board of Education and the governing board of any school district from adopting textbooks or other instructional materials that contain any matter that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry.
This bill would revise the list of characteristics included in these provisions by referring to race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, and sexual orientation, or other character-istic listed as specified.

Existing law prohibits a governing board of a school district from adopting instructional materials that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or occupation, or that contain any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.
This bill would revise the list of characteristics included in this provision to include race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, and occupation, or other characteristic listed as specified.

Existing law requires that when adopting instructional materials for use in the schools, governing boards of school districts shall include materials that accurately portray the role and contributions of culturally and racially diverse groups including Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States.
This bill would revise the list of culturally and racially diverse groups to also include Pacific Islanders, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, and persons with disabilities.

Existing law provides that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of specified characteristics in any operation of alternative schools or charter schools.

This bill would state the intent of the Legislature that alternative and charter schools take notice of the provisions of this bill in light of provisions of existing law that prohibit discrimination in any aspect of their operation.

This bill also would make other technical, nonsubstantive changes

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I have always loved the city of Los Angeles. I was born and raised about 30 miles south of LA, in the city of Long Beach. My mother and dad were married in LA, my grandma used to take me on day-long "binges" (her word) to LA, where we would eat lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria and then ride the escalator at one of the large department stores downtown. When I spent two summers in El Paso with an aunt and uncle, my folks drove me to the big train station in LA and picked me up there when I returned. The La Brea tar pits in those days were just what their name said: tar pits. Bones of prehistoric animals were recovered from the tar and displayed inside the museum. There were large statues around the park showing what the animals looked like.

Everything changes from what we remember as kids, and Los Angeles is no exception. The Church of the Open Door is one of my early memories, as it was close to the Central Library and one couldn't help but see the big signs on the top that said "Jesus Saves." For years if you were in the downtown area at night you would see those big neon signs offering their message to anyone who saw them. As I understand it, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, known as BIOLA, started in this building, and although BIOLA and the church ultimately moved out to the San Gabriel Valley, the signs even now are still shining brightly in LA at night. I think it is quite amazing that they have been allowed to stay up.

In high school my friend Ro and I often took the Red Car (electric train) into downtown LA to do research at the Central Library. So it wasn't surprising that I chose to attend George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in LA when it was time for college.

Another place that isn't there anymore is the old Turner's Inn, a Hofbrau near 15th and Figueroa where a bunch of us kids from Pepperdine used to go on a Saturday night to do some folk dancing.

At that time Pepperdine was a strict Church of Christ college, and there was no dancing whatsoever allowed at any of the college functions. But there was a PE course in folkdancing (in case you have never done the schottische or the polka, believe me it qualified for physical education!). We would take the bus over Manchester to Figueroa and then transfer to the bus that let us out right at the door. We're talking about 1953-54 now, and it was safe then to have a bunch of 18 and 19 year old girls (I don't remember the guys coming with us) running around in that neighborhood after dark. What a blast we had.

And the last of today's rememberances is a funny one and it really had nothing to do with cars, although the famous Harry Mann's Chevrolet store was involved. I was out on a date one evening and we were headed to a restaurant for a piece of pie after going to a movie. We had stopped for a red light and I glanced over at the building. I saw two doors with a sign over each. One said "Harry Mann - Service" and the other said "Harry Mann - Parts." The latter sign struck me absurdedly funny and I burst out laughing. I wasn't comfortable enough with my date to point out what it seemed to say, and he couldn't figure out why I was laughing so hard. I kept saying to him "Never mind, never mind. It's not important!" And then I'd laugh again.

To be honest with you, after these many years I don't remember who I was with, but I do remember that it was the first and only date I had with him. He probably thought I was a nut case. And I wouldn't have blamed him a bit. Harry Mann's Chevrolet isn't there any more either, so I can't go back and check it out. And anyway, today no one would think it was funny. But I sure did then!

And of course Pepperdine isn't there anymore either, having moved out to Malibu. But whenever I go into the city, I can sense a change in atmosphere - the air is heavier and there is a bit of an ocean smell in the afternoons when the wind blows in from the west. It's then I have the feeling that I am forever linked to Los Angeles, with my special years at Pepperdine lurking right behind my actual awareness. Memories come so easily in LA.

I often wish that I lived in LA. I have 2 cousins and a daughter and her family that do and I envy them so much. Thank goodness I still have reason...and health...to drive in every so often. It's just my favorite place!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Captivating. Whimsical. Funny. Poignant. Utterly Charming. Delightful.

How could you not want to read a book that has been depicted by these words? It’s the story of a small Jewish family coming to England pre-WWII and the methods of coping with the past and tackling the future that each member devises. The father, a businessman, ultimately decides to design and build a golf course, hoping to interest American golfer Bobby Jones in his quest. The mother, the keeper of the past, brings that past into her life by baking all kinds of German desserts. The only child, a daughter who was a baby when she came to England, draws away from the family as she goes off to Cambridge and changes her surname from Rosenblum to Rose.

The rural community where the Rosenblums finally settle make it hard on the new immigrants, but ultimately a few good-hearted people intercede and the golf course is started. And the fun begins.

A few reviews have noted that it is a slow paced book. It is, but that doesn’t stop the surprises, the hilarity and the magic. There is a shock at the ending that will put a smile on your face, and a poignancy that will put a tear in your eye (and that maybe will join others rolling down your cheek.) The author herself had grandparents who came to England in this manner and it is their life that is the foundation for this wonderful tale, or fable, or whatever genre you want to put it in. Do not let the pace of the book stop you from soldiering on. At some point you’ll be gripped by Mr. Rosenblum’s adventure and you won’t be able to put the book down.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This photo above is of the "famous" (or infamous) Surfing Madonna mosaic that had a short life span under a bridge in the lovely little coast town of Encinitas north of San Diego. "Short" in that it went up about Easter and came down mid-June. In a nutshell, it is grafitti, and Californians are having an evolving relationship between grafitti and art, as well as between artists and taggers. You know the old religious saw, "Hate the sin but love the sinners?" Well, that's kind of where some of us are. We don't like laws broken and we don't like grafitti, but we do like art and we do like artists. (We haven't come to like taggers very much yet, nor can we sometimes tell the difference between good art and bad art.) Oh well, I think we are probably not alone in our puzzlement.

There is no way I can describe for you the most interesting backstory of this mosaic. The artist was smart enough to make the mosaic on a board of some type and then bolt it to the bridge so, as I understand it, when the mosaic was forced to be taken down at least it was intact. Hopefully it can find a more welcoming home. I have no trouble with the picture either artistically or religiously, though some have. If it were a roller-derby Madonna, I might think otherwise. But I just can't work myself up against something that is so eyecatching and vibrant.

Fox News has a most readable post about it online. Since I'm not able to reproduce a link on my blog yet (except sometimes when I've got my back turned one appears), you can cut and paste this URL and get a good idea of what this little part of Southern California, far from LA LA land, is talking about. NOTE: Actually, my brilliant son snuck into this blog and made "Fox News" into a link for me, so now with just one click above you can read the story.

It is good to have such a smart, helpful son! Thanks, Sean.


Monday, July 4, 2011


Most of you by now know that we live in Country Village, a senior apartment complex. It is not an assisted living unit but rather we rent our own apartment in this very large complex that encompasses about 20 acres. There are lots of people who find their social life within this complex, and there are others, of which we are a part, who rarely participate in things scheduled by various groups and clubs within the framework of the complex.

So the yearly 4th of July Parade here fluctuates in both participants and observers -- some years it is, by numbers, a success and other years could barely be called a parade. Outside groups are invited to participate, and many of the people who use golf carts to get around these large grounds decorate their carts and join the parade as well.

This year's parade was bigger than last year's, but still, you can tell by the pictures below it could be better. But I guess it's the spirit of the thing that counts.

We live in a rural area, so we are fortunate to get various contingents of horseback riders.

Burrtec Waste Management company handles the trash pickup in Country Village, and they know how to make a dumpster look patriotic!

We have a wonderful car club in the neighborhood that always gives us a good show. Their cars shine like the sun, make fantastic noises and are so clean you could eat your dinner off of them, if they would stop moving around with all the hydrolic equipment that make the cars do all kinds of weird things. It's these old cars that are my favorite of all the entries.

The Marching Band of Patriot High School, with flags and drums, put on heavy black and red uniforms and shakos and marched along the route in the 95 degree heat, playing very patriotic music to get us in the spirit. They get an "A" for effort and for appreciation!

The Veterans Club, 65 members strong, commandeered a flatbed truck and came around tossing hard candies to all the kids lining Lynn Circle - the mile-long route inside Country Village that becomes the parade route on July 4th. The vets represent all the wars and military action that men 55 and older would have participated in. For Jerry, he's a Korean War vet, and if you know what he looks like, you can pick him out on this "float."

The parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. is the "middle part" of the day's festivities. A Helicopter lands near the front office at 9 and some old airplanes from the Chino airport do some flyovers beforehand; afterwards there are festivities down near the office that includes hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, beer, water, soda, kids' games, bouncers and slides, and a raffle for a 42" TV sponsored by the Vet's club. All in all, if one can take the July heat, there was plenty to do today to celebrate County Village's 4th of July festivities. For me, I took a few snapshots, chatted with a neighbor for a while, fixed a cool lunch and then took a little nap. It was a good celebration all around, smallish parade notwithstanding.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


It is always a surprise when someone in the family comes forth with a photograph that you have never seen before. The photo above is one that fits in this category. My cousin Shirlee uncovered it somewhere in her ephemera collection and sent me a copy of it.

The most interesting thing is that even though we know it is our family, both of us were hard put to identify everyone.

The children, from left to right (and with approximate ages) are me, my sister Ginnie Lou and my cousin Shirlee, who was Shirley then, just as I was Barbara. That being the case, I'd date it from 1941; I would have been 6 and the other two approximately 4. The location is Long Beach, California, where we kids grew up.

Shirlee wondered who the man was at the right; she thought it was Uncle Marvin. I had to break the news to her that it was her father, my Uncle Sam. I recognized him, but she didn't. We got a laugh out of that.

The three women in the photo are sisters. They are my mom, who is behind Ginnie Lou, my Aunt Marie, who is behind her daughter Shirley, and my Aunt Florence. The fact that Uncle Marvin is not in the picture makes me suppose that it was he who was the photographer. They lived in Kansas and obviously were out in California on vacation. They had no children until December of 1943, when my cousin Sharon was born.

Except for the fact that I knew my mother had to be in the picture, I would not have recognized her. I have several pictures of myself as a teenager that could have been a replication of her. When I was in college my mother and I won a contest for the mother and daughter who most looked alike. However, for the most part I was always thought to look like my dad, so go figure. Anyway, that lady was my mother, for sure! The two men on the left were my dad, who is behind me, and his best friend who always was in our lives and was called "Uncle Bill." His real name was Wilmer Augustus Funk, formerly Funck.

It took my cousin and me a few minutes to decide on who the remaining man was. We settled on Uncle Hugh, youngest brother of the three sisters. In 1941 he would have been 19 -- and he always had kind of a baby face, so we are quite sure our identification is correct.

Shirlee and I spent a lot of time discussing this picture. She said the ladies were wearing "swimming pajamas." I, being the older of the two of us, had never heard of swimming pajamas and couldn't find anything using Google that spoke of them...but I don't know everything. Maybe there were such things. And since Aunt Florence has a swimming cap on her head -- well, who knows.

And to make a story out of what you see, here's my try. Aunt Florence and Uncle Marvin came to California on vacation, and the family decided to go to the beach. It was much colder down at the beach than what they expected (accounting for why no other people are on the strand) but neither Uncle Sam, Uncle Hughie or Aunt Florence let that stop them from going in the water. After taking the obligatory picture to show the folks back in Wichita when they got home, Uncle Marvin put his camera away, told the family they'd send a copy of the picture when they got it developed, and everyone left the beach.

Within the year WWII would break out. Uncle Bill would go to the island of Peleliu, Uncle Marvin, a pharmacist by profession, would become a medic and go wherever he was needed, Uncle Hugh would fight in Sicily, and Uncle Sam would be in the Merchant Marines. My father was 4A, which was because of his age and the number of people depending on him for their survival (wife, two kids and a mother-in-law). But at the time of this picture, undoubtedly the summer of 1941, life was good.

Friday, July 1, 2011


1. Mimi’s Yogurt, Berry & Granola Breakfast Parfait
2. My computer
3. The Mazda Tribute, known as Nannette
4. The cat sleeping on my bed
5. Taking a nap on the davenport
6. Finding old friends on the Internet
7. My letter “B” necklace given to me by my mother-in-law
8. The New Yorker Magazine
9. Especially the L.A. Times
10. Bracelets
11. Hot Coffee
12. Cool Jazz

1. People who let their dogs poop on my lawn
2. Root canals
3. Grocery shopping
4. Going to the Laundromat
5. Loudmouths
6. Country Western Music
7. Crows
8. Wieners, except in hot dogs
9. Slow computers
10. Reality TV
11. Cigarette smoke
12. Large pills or capsules – “horse pills” my folks called them.

Now you know!