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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Know Your Neighbors

30 Nov 2016
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I knew something was going on when I walked into the community room at the Palm Desert Library for a meeting sponsored by the Desert Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California—and there were more than 140 people, hauling in chairs and standing along the side and back walls. I’ve attended ACLU gatherings locally from time to time, and there are usually about 15 to 20 attendees. A week after the election results, something different was happening. The speaker was James Gilliam, deputy executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. He talked about how the Los Angeles-based organization was going to need to hire more people just to process the thousands of inquiries and volunteer applications it had received over the past few weeks. The ACLU was founded in 1920, and the cases the group has had its hand in are the stuff of American history:…
16 Nov 2016
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Whether your candidate for president won or lost, the good news is that the election is over. Pundits will dig into every nuance of why someone lost or how someone won, but none of that will change where we are now. The system is what it is, and it works how it works. As important as it is to be a “good loser,” it’s even more of a show of character to be a “good winner.” I tend to be a Pollyanna, someone of irrepressible optimism who thinks good things will always happen in the end. My philosophy includes taking every defeat—losing a job, losing a love or anything else—and figuring out what I need to learn so I won’t repeat it; each learning opportunity is meant to get me ready for an even better experience to come. Yet I can be blindsided and feel like I took a stiff…
02 Nov 2016
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There are people you see often and think you know: the tennis pro at the club, the barber you see every couple of weeks, the market clerk who remembers your name, the co-worker you chat with at the coffee machine. In my case, there’s the woman who engineers my radio show: I see her every Sunday. We share laughs and stories, and I sincerely appreciate everything she does to make my time on the air run smoothly. I realized I didn’t know her at all the day she came in with her head shaved. “Wow,” I said. “What a change! Did you decide to do that because summer’s coming?” “No,” she said, wiping her hand over her newly hairless head. “Mischelle has cancer and is going to have chemo, and she’s worried about losing her hair. I wanted to show her how I’m right there with her.” Marisol Valle is…
19 Oct 2016
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The concept of “dementia cafés”—places where people, who all too often feel isolated and socially separated from their communities, can come together to relax and enjoy good company—has evolved and spread from Australia to England to Holland to Japan to San Francisco to Seattle to Santa Fe. It’s estimated that there are currently about 200 such cafés throughout the United States, designed to address the social implications of a dementia diagnosis on individuals, families, friends and caregivers. Starting anything new is always a gamble, so as one of the founders of the Coachella Valley’s first Dementia-Friendly Café, I am proud to announce that the café is beginning its third year of operation this month. At the first café, we thought we’d be lucky to have 15 to 20 people; 52 showed up. Clearly, there was a need. Dementia cafés are not support groups or seminars or daycare. There are no…
05 Oct 2016
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A great theater experience allows us to see our human selves reflected back—in a way that moves, informs and enables us to relate to the realities of the lives of others. When I was 17, my father threw me out because I had stayed out all night. Shortly thereafter, I got pregnant out of wedlock and contemplated suicide. I remember despondently standing in front of a bathroom mirror, ready to slit my wrists, and suddenly saying out loud to my reflection, “If it’s that bad, it can only get better.” And it did. Those feelings were overwhelmingly brought back when I attended the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre production of Push, written by George Cameron Grant, and directed by Cathedral City resident Jeanette Knight. The play was this season’s Youth Outreach Production. I first experienced this CV Rep program last year, when the focus was on female bullying. The theater buses…
21 Sep 2016
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Whenever I mention Janet Newcomb to anyone who has met her, one word always comes up: “Nice.” Newcomb believes she’s considered “nice” because she grew up with traditional Midwestern values. “I don’t even really think about it,” Newcomb says. “It’s so embedded in me: ‘Be a lady.’ ‘Say thank you.’ ‘Remember to pat people on the back.’ It’s just who I am. I want everybody to be happy.” Raised in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Newcomb graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in psychology. “It interested me,” she says. “I got married to my first husband and went to Washington, D.C. I got a job there with a defense contractor who was doing psychological warfare research.” Newcomb’s job later moved her to Los Angeles ,where she completed a master’s degree at Pepperdine University. She met her second husband, Don, and they married in Hawaii. Newcomb moved to the desert from…
07 Sep 2016
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The Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival offers young people around the world an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas about creating peace—by making films. Carole Krechman, a 12-year resident of Rancho Mirage, is the driving force behind this transforming project, which is sponsored by her group, The Peacemaker Corps, a non-governmental organization established as a result of Carole’s experience as chairman of the board of the Friends of the United Nations. Carole took a rather circuitous path to this endeavor. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School and went on to study architecture at UCLA. She spent many years redoing homes for famous people in the entertainment industry (she can drop names with the best of them!) before moving her specialty to roller-skating rinks, and then in the 1990s, to “family entertainment centers” including ice rinks, bowling alleys and so on. “I’m especially proud of working in…
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…

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