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Know Your Neighbors

15 May 2019
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Felina Danalis, 46 and now a Palm Springs resident, was making a difference on a global scale. After graduating magna cum laude in international relations from Georgetown University, she earned a graduate degree in international economics at Johns Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, including a year studying in Italy and an internship with the Associated Press. She then walked straight into a job with the World Bank. “I was in the department that helped countries get development money,” she says. “I wanted to help make the world a better place. After all, I had been schooled in free-market solutions to everything, and I wanted to know more about the world. I traveled to places like Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Macedonia. It was fascinating, and the best training I could ever have had as a first job—if you don’t count folding sweaters at Benetton while attending…
01 May 2019
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She is creative, funny and a vibrant 87. He is laid back, nice to everybody, a supportive cheerleader and a cancer survivor still going strong at 91. They’ve been together for nearly 40 years and finish each other’s sentences. Phyllis and Wade Tucker met in 1976 when they worked across the hall from each other. He had his own insurance agency; she was a secretary for a management company. “Everyone in my office was Jewish; everyone in his wasn’t,” Phyllis says. “We used to call the distance in between the Gaza Strip.” Wade remembers not liking her much, because she would always come into his offices to run copies on his machine. “He told me I had to pay 10 cents a copy,” she laughs. They discovered they were both going through rough divorces—and the rest is history. Wade (“It’s really John Wade, but I always go by just Wade;…
17 Apr 2019
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Indio resident Tod Goldberg, 48, talks very fast—which makes sense, because he has a lot to say. The author of hundreds of books and articles, he is also the founder and director of the 10-year-old low-residency master’s program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus. “I wanted to have an MFA program on the business of writing,” he says, “so our participants get published or get their works produced. I see my job as getting my students’ work sold, and we’ve been extraordinarily successful.” The program has had more than 300 students, with more than 75 percent of them being published or produced within two years of graduation from the program. Goldberg oversees a faculty of 16 and an online-mentor program, in addition to the intensive 10-day residency workshop, held annually at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa…
03 Apr 2019
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Peripatetic is a word based on the way Greek philosopher Aristotle studied and learned: by walking about. Today, that word also describes an itinerant—one who travels about for duty and business. Dan Paris fits that description. Paris, 68 and a Rancho Mirage resident, was born and raised in Cleveland, in what he describes as “a Hungarian ghetto.” His father was a soccer-playing immigrant from Hungary who had worked in the salt mines as a child. His mother had been born in Cleveland, but Hungarian was the language spoken at home. “Knowing another language is an advantage,” says Paris. “It’s like another culture given to you. … I was very inquisitive as a kid, and I always had to excel. … I’d get interested in something and stick with it for a while. I was always looking to do things that made a difference to me and that helped others, either…
20 Mar 2019
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La Quinta native Cruz Moore is a young man with a plan. The 25-year-old was raised with his younger sister by their grandparents, and he says he was taught about responsibility and the need to follow a path toward the future. Moore’s path has led him to become a filmmaker, and one of his films, The Rise and Fall of Robert Benfer, has been accepted into the Palm Springs American Documentary Film Festival, and will be showing at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. As a child, Moore was exposed to the full spectrum of film, influenced by his grandparents to see movies like The Sound of Music and Jurassic Park, and by his uncles to see science fiction and horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. “The full spectrum of human emotions can be found in horror films,” says…
06 Mar 2019
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Palm Desert residents Earl and Sandra Mitchell started out as high school sweethearts; today, they are retirees who finish each other’s sentences. Their paths in life were formed by higher education, but they’re now tapping into artistic skills they’d pushed into the background while pursuing professional careers. Earl, 73, was born in Albuquerque, N.M., into a family with one brother and five sisters. His family moved to Compton, Calif., when he was 10. Sandra, 72, was born in Riverside and raised in Compton, with a brother and two sisters. Earl and Sandra married when she was 19, and he was 20. “When I was in high school, I fell in love with a beautiful girl, but I had to get permission,” Earl says with a laugh, “because at that time, guys had to be 21 to marry on their own.” After high school, Earl studied at California State University, Los…
20 Feb 2019
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Brayan Mendoza is only 24, but he has already experienced the American dream in some ways—through his immigrant parents and his own efforts to turn his love of movies into a career. A resident of Desert Hot Springs for eight years, Mendoza was born in Palm Springs. He graduated from Desert Hot Springs High School and earned an associate’s degree from College of the Desert in English. “I’d like to go back to school and study film,” he says. “Film did a lot for me. I was going through a rough patch and was close to the breaking point. I even thought about taking my own life. Then I found American Film Institute’s 100 Years …100 Movies and watched all 100 of them. I found so much happiness and joy in doing that. I credit film for saving my life and turning me on to that form of expression.” Mendoza…
06 Feb 2019
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I sensed fragility when I first met Crystal Harrell, due to her slight frame, gentle beauty and shy smile. I quickly learned I was wrong—and found out how strong and determined she is. Harrell, 23, is a native of the Coachella Valley—born in Indio, and currently residing in La Quinta. She attended College of the Desert, and graduated with a degree in communication and film from the California State University, San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus. Harrell’s family sounds perfectly “normal”: Her mom was a homemaker, with her dad working at Lowe’s (“My dad has never had to hire anybody to do anything!”), and a brother two years younger who is pursuing creative and graphic arts. Harrell found her calling as a writer through reading. “I was always very shy,” she says, “but reading was a big thing for me. Before I could even read them, I’d look at picture books…
24 Jan 2019
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The sexual molestation began when she was 6. By 11, she was being raped. Her mother was largely absent; she was unsure who her father was; her 80-plus-year-old grandmother did her best to raise three grandchildren on Social Security. Their home was strictly Catholic, in a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community in San Diego. “My mother ended up on her own with three children, perhaps from different fathers,” Borges says. “She had been the baby of her very large family, so my aunts or uncles were all much older with their own families. She left us with my grandmother. At one point, she returned to take my middle brother, leaving my oldest brother and me with Grandma.” Borges’ oldest brother was a teenager. His sexual behavior toward her began when she was 6 and continued, including rape starting at 11, until she left for college at 17. “My grandmother went to…
09 Jan 2019
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Barbara Fosse, 81, has been in the desert for more than 17 years. After selling pharmaceuticals for 30-plus years, the Sun City Palm Desert resident is now program coordinator for Tunes for the Memory, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Music Mends Minds, an orchestra and music program targeted to those with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia-related conditions, traumatic brain injury and stroke, as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Carol Rosenstein, a Los Angeles resident and 2018 CNN Hero, founded Music Mends Minds after what she describes as a “freakish moment” in 2014 involving her husband, Irwin, a person living with Parkinson’s. “I walked in and heard him sitting at the piano,” she recalls. “He had previously played piano and saxophone, but hadn’t made music for the eight years since his diagnosis. I noticed how he seemed to resurrect while playing, responding like a plant that had needed…

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