CVIndependent

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Know Your Neighbors

24 Aug 2016
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Some columns are more difficult to write than others. This one will attempt to transcend partisan politics while I examine my unexpectedly overwhelming emotional reaction to the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president. In June, I wrote about the reactions many local women had as they voted for a woman for president in the California primary. However, voting in a primary is not the same as actually watching a major party select a woman to be its candidate. That was history being made in real time, and many women I know—as well as some men, and many of my Republican friends—were similarly astonished at the intensity of their emotions while watching the Democratic Party officially nominate Hillary Clinton. The gains achieved by the suffrage movement have always been incremental—countries where women were allowed to vote locally but not nationally; situations in which women could vote but not run for office;…
10 Aug 2016
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Rancho Mirage resident Bill Marx is known both for being the eldest son of Harpo Marx (the mute, harp-playing Marx Brothers star) and for his own talent as a composer and performer. He and his wife, Barbara, are among those named in bold print as attendees at many local charity functions, and Bill is often a featured performer, combining his piano-playing talent with comedic stories about growing up Marx. Raised in Beverly Hills, Bill became his father’s prop man at age 12 and his arranger/conductor by the time Bill was 16. “Dad couldn’t read a note of music,” he says. “I’d write the notes in letters, and he could feel the rhythm and harmony.” Bill’s dad decided that Beverly Hills was “too pretentious” and moved the family to the desert. Bill went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York and then settled in Los Angeles. While Bill’s…
27 Jul 2016
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Imagine coming to the desert to start a new small business, put down roots and make a mark—with no existing ties to the community. That is the story of Nikhil Mehta, a native of New Delhi, India, who relocated to Rancho Mirage last year to start Home Care Assistance, supplying trained caregivers who offer innovative approaches—so badly needed in this aging retirement community. Mehta, 59, came to the United States at age 24 with his wife, Kavita. They went to college together in India, and although she then came to the U.S. with her parents, she returned to India, where she and Nikhil married 35 years ago. Mehta attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a master’s degree in business. He and Kavita have two children: Arjun, 32, living in Los Angeles, and Jaya, 29, in residency at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Mehta’s long…
13 Jul 2016
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You feel it in your gut—that uncomfortable feeling of being stereotyped. A prejudicial belief that people with a particular characteristic—race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, etc.—are all the same means we don’t have to recognize others as individuals. It’s the ultimate guilt by association. I was about 12 when it first happened to me. I used to pick up the evening newspaper for my dad every day at the guard shack at the old MGM Studios in Culver City. The guard and I had gotten friendly and exchanged pleasantries each day. One day, when my Culver City High School was slated to play a football game that evening against our arch rivals, Beverly Hills, the guard asked me if I was going to the game. “I can’t go this time, but I hope our team wins,” I said. “Well,” he said, “one can only hope you beat the kikes.” I’m Jewish,…
29 Jun 2016
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Born in the Coachella Valley toward the end of the Generation X demographic, Tizoc DeAztlan, at 37, is the embodiment of all of the best Gen X stereotypes: individualistic, entrepreneurial, tech savvy, goal oriented—and wanting to make a difference. DeAztlan is a Coachella Valley native, born to Roberto, a lawyer, and Amalia, a social activist and feminist (and someone I’ve known for more than 25 years). He has two older sisters. “Yes,” he acknowledges, “I was the baby in the family.” DeAztlan says he was born into politics. “My mom instilled in me the need to see justice, and to not just settle for conditions in the community as they are, or for less than is fair.” A graduate of La Quinta High School in its first graduating class, DeAztlan went on to graduate from Fordham University with a degree in communication. He lives in La Quinta with his wife,…
15 Jun 2016
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“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” said Nadine Smith, the chief executive officer of Equality Florida, as she reflected on the recent gains for LGBT individuals, including marriage rights—and the horrific slaughter of those at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12. Her words hit home for me. I’ve been struggling to reconcile spontaneously bursting into joyful tears in the voting booth, mere days before Orlando thrust me back into the violent reality of our times. Any violence that indiscriminately targets a specific ethnicity, or religion, or race, or national origin, or gender is onerous. I see every person whose life was cut short or is still suffering grievous injuries as being just like my son, who is gay. My tears flow freely as the names and ages are called out on the news with small details of their ordinary…
01 Jun 2016
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Those of a certain age will remember Ish Kabibble, the zany cornet player with the strange haircut who played with bandleader Kay Kyser in the 1940s and 1950s, appearing on radio, television and the big screen. Kabibble was born Merwyn Bogue in 1908 in Pennsylvania. According to his daughter Janet Arnot, a Palm Desert resident, he originally studied piano, but didn’t like it—however, he liked the sound of the trumpet. Bogue got one when he was 12, and learned on his own how to play “God Bless America.” Hanging around speakeasy clubs, Bogue fell in love with Dixieland jazz. While in his third year of pre-law studies at West Virginia University, Bogue was playing with small bands. At a dance in 1931, bandleader Hal Kemp asked from the stage, “Is there a trumpet player in the audience?” Bogue sat in, and within months, he heard from Kay Kyser, an old…
18 May 2016
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The current flap about Hillary Clinton playing the “woman card” is nothing short of ridiculous. As a woman, I know what it feels like to be trivialized (called “honey” and “girl”), talked down to (“mansplaining”), ignored, talked over, interrupted and denied a seat at the decision-making table. I also know what can happen to one’s career if one stands up for oneself or responds in kind. So much for the “woman card.” Why aren’t we talking about Donald Trump playing the “man card”? After all, he’s trying to be some sort of alpha male by appealing to other men who wish they had the guts (and the money) to just say whatever they want. You know—a guy who puts down women based on looks, presumes women have less stamina to pursue their ambitions, makes unwanted physical advances, bullies to get his way, ignores a woman if she’s not a “10”…
04 May 2016
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Let me bring you into the world of Sharon Katz, a South African by birth, a music therapist by profession—and, in the words of musician Pete Seeger, “one of the people who is saving the world.” She was born in Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay) under apartheid—the rigid racial/social ideology system that required citizens to live by race designations (black, colored/mixed race, Indian, white) in segregated areas of the country, with restrictions about who could go where and when. “We lived in a conspiracy of silence,” she says. “South Africa was a prison for everybody.” As a young woman traveling with her family, Katz saw how others barely survived in their segregated communities, and she became obsessed with finding a way to support change. “How can this be my country?” she asked herself. “Seeing all of that changed me forever.” In her teens, she would sneak out to…
20 Apr 2016
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The Paris Peace Accords, which were supposed to end the Vietnam War, were signed Jan. 27, 1973. The United States pulled what American troops remained out of that country. Congress then passed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 cutting off all military aid to South Vietnam’s government in Saigon. As the North subsequently advanced effortlessly toward Saigon, President Gerald Ford ordered the evacuation of all American personnel, including the removal of as many refugees as possible who had been friendly toward America. The U.S. Embassy was not intended to be a major departure point, but many became stranded there, including thousands of South Vietnamese hoping to claim refugee status. I still remember the iconic pictures of those evacuation efforts through the night of April 29, 1975, and that last American helicopter taking off from the roof with people hanging off the sides—and many still lined up, unable to get out.…

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