CVIndependent

Tue10202020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Anita Rufus

Jimmy Boegle didn’t start out wanting to be a newspaper editor. What he really wanted to do, since the third-grade, was be around baseball.

“I got into journalism while I was in college,” he says, “because I had the athletic ability of a turnip.”

When you first meet Boegle, you get self-deprecating humor, and the idea that he’s a man who is open, warm, gentle, focused—and anything but shy and introverted, even though he insists he is.

“When I was young,” he recalls, “I was tagged very early as gifted and talented, whatever that’s supposed to mean, but I was socially awkward and shy. Even now, put me in a room with lots of people I don’t know, and I’m still shy.”

After graduating from high school in Reno, Nevada, where he was born and raised, Boegle, 45, headed for Stanford University. He decided the way to be part of the sports world was to become a sportswriter for Stanford’s student newspaper, but covering even minor sports required attending all of the games or matches—which took up a lot of time.

“I worked my way through college,” he says, “and couldn’t do that, so I began covering events rather than sports, which didn’t require that kind of schedule.”

Between his junior and senior years of college, Boegle got an internship with the weekly newspaper in Reno, and upon graduation, he began working for The Associated Press in San Francisco.

“I had started dating a girl in my freshman year, and we were engaged, but I knew it was over when she showed up not wearing the ring the day before I graduated,” he says. “I went to work for the AP and was supposed to be there for about five months, and then they would reassess my job. After those five months, I decided to go back to Reno, and got a job with a small daily newspaper in Sparks, Nevada.”

Ah, if only our life stories unrolled in a straight line. With Jimmy Boegle, the back story is full of twists and turns.

“I was an only child,” he says. “My mom and dad had been told they couldn’t have children, so when I came along as their only child, it did lead to some smothering. My mom is still living in the same house we had in Reno since I was 8 years old. She had been a housewife, but later worked as a secretary/assistant for a real-estate appraiser. She would say, ‘If you work hard at anything, you can succeed.’

“My dad was complicated—a rural man, hunter and construction worker. He could be very loving, but also very gruff. He died in 2012, and at his memorial service, it (was a theme) that he would have given the shirt off his back for his friends if they needed it. As we had gotten older, we developed a good relationship.”

Most of Boegle’s friends in high school were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormon church, and he became a member of the church after his freshman year of college.

“Although I had some issues with the church, I saw much good there,” he says.

He said that during his freshman year of college, there was a dorm get-together during which questions were asked for the attendees to get to know one another; if the answer to the question was yes, the attendees were to go to the other side of the room, while if the answer was no (or the attendee didn’t want to answer), the attendee stayed in place. After lots of easy questions, like one’s favorite color, they asked whether attendees were attracted to the same gender.

“I knew I was different all the way back in middle school, but I had never actually known anyone who had come out as gay,” Boegle says. “At that event, seven or eight did, out of maybe 100 there. That got my mind going.”

That event helped Boegle realize he had, in the Mormon church’s terminology, a “same-gender attraction issue.” Still, he decided to try to fight the attraction—until after his engagement ended.

“I’m no longer a member of the church,” he says. “After I admitted to myself who I am, and they were pushing anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives, I couldn’t stay. … I finally told my parents (I was gay); my mom had probably known before I did, and made it clear she loved me anyway. We agreed it was probably better if she told my dad. He wasn’t thrilled with it, but we got past all that.”

In 1999, the Reno paper he had interned with, the Reno News & Review, hired him to come back as their news editor. A short time later, even though he was just 24, the paper made him its editor. Then Sept. 11 rocked the newspaper industry, putting papers at risk all over the country as businesses could not afford to advertise.

“In October of 2001, the paper decided to cut me since I was paid the most (on the editorial staff),” Boegle says. “A month later, I got a job with Las Vegas CityLife as the political reporter and news editor.”

While he was in Las Vegas in 2002, he met a man named Garrett.

“We’re now coming up on 18 years together, five of them married. He is also from Reno, so when we go there, we get to spend time with both of our families,” Boegle says.

“The Tucson Weekly was looking for an editor (around) that time, and although I initially turned it down, they talked me into it. I was there for 10 years, before we came to Palm Springs.”

Boegle has been in Palm Springs since January 2013—when he founded the Coachella Valley Independent, because he saw the need for an independent voice dedicated to local issues and local entertainment. He has recruited writers to cover news, sports, local clubs and restaurants, local musicians and artists, theater productions and movies—and a column to acquaint locals with some of their neighbors. (Ahem.) The CVI is online and distributes a free print edition monthly throughout the Coachella Valley.

Much like what happened after Sept. 11—but far worse—the pandemic has made running a newspaper difficult, with advertising revenue disappearing. On March 13, as the reality of the pandemic was setting in, Boegle began writing a new “Daily Digest” to bring news updates and provide links to helpful information.

“This (the pandemic) is so unprecedented,” he says. “We haven’t faced anything like this since the Great Depression. I’m just trying to get the CVI through this.”

When I ask what motivates Boegle, he answers quickly: “A lot of things. Fear. The support of friends and family. … I’m blessed to know so many amazing people rooting for me to do well.”

Boegle has won many awards for his writing, and CVI has won four national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). He is currently serving the as membership chair for AAN. For fun, he plays softball, watches the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves good conversation with friends.

“There’s no better experience in life than sitting down with good friends and having a good meal,” he says.

What’s the best decision Jimmy Boegle ever made?

“Going on a second date with Garrett! On our first date, he kind of creeped me out – he seemed decent, but a little weird.” Now, Boegle says he most prizes Garrett, their cat and the Coachella Valley Independent.

Jimmy Boegle’s athletic ability may have been limited—but his vision for what is possible is playing out in real time.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

When the virus shutdown began, it was difficult for me to acknowledge that I am considered one of the vulnerable ones—someone who’s “elderly.” After all, I know people at least 15 years older than I am who are in great shape, mentally sharp and active.

Then I realized that being considered “vulnerable”—whether one is “elderly,” physically at-risk, or in a dangerous place like a nursing home or prison—should be a term that describes someone society should quickly move to protect.

Well … then I heard the lieutenant governor of Texas talk about how old people should sacrifice themselves so the economy can once again flourish. (At least that was my interpretation of what I heard him say.) Then I heard the president say we’re all “warriors,” like Americans during World War II, and some of us need to be willing to risk death so that the rest of us can feel safe and rebuild our country.

For what it’s worth, I am not expendable! I would die to protect my children or grandchildren, or maybe even somebody else’s kids, but I do not wish to be sacrificed to create a job.

On the other hand, I might kill a total stranger to get my hair cut.

Staying in and staying apart has had a definite effect on me. I’m not totally alone—my boyfriend stays with me, but after more than two months basically inside, there are days I might prefer being alone. You know what I mean.

I keep in touch with friends, sending messages of support and sharing both inspiring videos and hilarious jokes. I spend two to three hours a day on my computer, reading news feeds, responding to emails and checking out Facebook.

And then there’s Forty Thieves solitaire. I’m an addict to crossword puzzles, KenKen puzzles and soduku—and now that I’ve discovered Forty Thieves, I’m hooked. Once I start, I’m determined to beat the game, and that can stretch into hours of time.

I have friends who claim to have completely reorganized their closets (mine are already color-coded), scrupulously cleaned their houses, filled bags of clothes to donate, and baked everything from sourdough bread to cookies. To them, I say: “Shame on you for trying to make the rest of us feel guilty.”

When it comes to being lazy, this shutdown has been a guilt-free gift to me. I’m pretty lazy to begin with. Sure, I do a weekly radio show, write this column every other week, go to the market once a week and read every police procedural upon which I can get my hands. Beyond that, I’m perfectly happy sitting on my couch in front of the TV and watching reruns of everything from CSI to Law and Order, and the previous night’s late-night comedy. (I’m elderly, you see, so I go to bed too early to watch them live.) I have not cleaned out my closets, although I’ve been threatening to for years. My house is dusty—that’s a genteel way of saying I’m not a good housekeeper. I manage to make sure we eat, but my cooking philosophy is that if you can’t just heat it up in the microwave, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

Then there’s the crying.

I’ve always cried easily. When everyone stands up to sing “The National Anthem,” I cry. When I see a news story about how people have come together to help someone in need, I cry. When I watch videos of people bring reunited, or nurses and doctors trying to save people’s lives, or anything inspirational, I cry. When Miss America is crowned, I cry (even though I don’t believe in beauty pageants). Moments of togetherness, of families caring for each other, of strangers reaching out to strangers, of individuals putting themselves in harm’s way to help others —it all makes me cry. When I see protesters toting long-arm weapons, or innocent joggers being shot down, or the worldwide numbers of the ill and dying, I cry.

However, EVERYTHING makes me cry right now. When I go to the market and see everyone wearing a mask, I cry. When I see a YouTube video of parents dancing with their children or roughhousing on their living-room rugs, I cry. Intellectually, I know my tears are an expression of the concern, and even depression, that I feel during these perilous times. Knowing that, however, doesn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even things that are absurd or hilariously funny make me cry!

We’re all going through our own adjustments. Some are catching up (remotely, of course) with family members and old friends. Many are reading or playing video games or binge-watching shows they didn’t get to see when they were living “normal” lives. Most of us are sincerely feeling that by staying home, we’re not only protecting ourselves, but others as well.

But a lot of us are also feeling cabin fever. How desperate am I, after more than two months of being stuck in my dusty house with its overcrowded closets? Yes, I enjoy being lazy—but the loss of haircuts and mani-pedi appointments has been shockingly difficult. I have lousy hair, and I can barely comb it myself.

I previously mentioned that I’d kill for a haircut. OK, I wouldn’t really kill anyone. But I might trade my first-born for a mani-pedi. OK, I probably wouldn’t really do that, either. Instead, for now, I’ll just cry.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

I first met Alden West in January when I was helping direct Taking Care of Mimi, a provocative play being produced as a staged reading by the Script to Stage to Screen (S2S2S) theater. West was playing a lead role as a matriarch with dementia whose death leads to a murder investigation—and I couldn’t believe it when West revealed she was 87 years old.

“Eight-seven and a half!” she proudly proclaims.

West, a resident of Sun City in Palm Desert since 2003, was an only child, born in Washington, D.C.

“I figure I can claim any state,” she says with a laugh, “and I was raised all over the country: West Virginia, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore, Richmond and New York City. I went to so many different schools, each with its own teaching styles, that when I moved from Buffalo to Baltimore, I found that they had learned script writing in the first-grade, while I hadn’t. I had a little yellow desk at home, and many tears were shed at that desk!

“It was a challenge going to schools in big cities and then in rural areas. I came from Jackson Heights in New York City, where if you bumped into somebody, you’d never say you were sorry. In rural areas, if you bumped into somebody, they’d say they were sorry—they were very polite.”

West’s father worked at Chevrolet, which moved him around a lot; he also served in the Navy during World War II.

“My mom had married early, at age 18, and was a homemaker until the war, when she went to work,” West says. “I was very close to my mother, even when I was a teenager, and I could tell my dad anything. I not only loved my parents; I liked them.

“My dad was a college graduate, and after I graduated high school in Virginia, where we had lived since I was about 11 or 12, I went to Cornell, where both my dad and granddad had gone. I didn’t stay at college, however, because I had promised to marry my first husband, so I left school at Christmas of my sophomore year. If I had stayed in school, I would have majored in theater arts, but I left too soon to declare a major.”

West proudly proclaims that she had three grandparents in Congress.

“My father’s father was a Republican; my mother’s father was a Democrat. Then when my mother’s father passed away, his wife filled out his term. She had to run for it and was elected.”

West’s jobs over the years included retail; she also worked as assistant in a dental office. In 1980, she studied for and got her real estate license. She sold real estate until she moved to Sun City from Hillsborough, Calif.

West started acting in high school, in Falls Church, Va.

“There was a local community theater, and a friend suggested I audition,” West says. “I got a part and was cast as an Eskimo girl, in a full Eskimo costume, doing a hula. I loved it! I did a little acting before I had my children, and I still remember getting my first stage kiss.

“In college, I got the lead part in my freshman year in The Importance of Being Earnest, and in my sophomore year, in The Madwoman of Chaillot. In that one, I actually had to learn how to whistle! I had always been a little shy; I’d cross the street to avoid someone I didn’t know well. What I found was that when I’m onstage, I’m the character.”

West didn’t start acting in earnest until she came to the desert.

“There was a Panhellenic group meeting I attended, and at the end, they announced an audition was being held for some work at local venues,” West says. “They gave me a part, and that gave me confidence. Then Ron Celona (artistic director of Coachella Valley Repertory) cast me in Driving Miss Daisy. I got a nomination from the Desert Theatre League for that part.

“After that,” she laughs, “I tried out for all the old-lady parts!”

West has subsequently earned more nominations and several wins from the Desert Theatre League—including the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“When I went up to get the lifetime award, I said, ‘I feel like this is the gold watch,’ but then I thought, ‘You people probably don’t even know what I’m talking about.’” Again, she laughs heartily.

West never formally studied acting, although she has taken some courses locally. She says she can’t do “method acting,” in which an actor digs into personal experience to present a realism-based performance. “I try to think of what is written and who that character is. I try to figure out how that character would deal with the situation being portrayed.

“Truth is, it’s getting more difficult to memorize lines. Sometimes, there’s a word I just can’t get, and I have to substitute one. Lately, I’m noticing that I can only be friends with someone who can complete my sentences,” she says, again with a laugh. “I always have to respond to what’s written and what’s happening onstage in that moment.”

Respond, she does. In the show I helped direct with Script to Stage to Screen, West portrayed an aging woman whose family is at odds about her condition. West’s ability to become that woman and respond to what was happening around her, even when she had no dialogue, was astounding.

West has three children—two daughters and a son. Her second marriage began in 1960 and lasted until her husband died in 2011.

“I’m lucky to have two of my children living fairly close, and the third has a place in Mexico, so it’s a great place for a getaway,” she says.

Does West have a guilty pleasure? “Sweets,” she answers immediately. “My kids tell me I’m indecisive, but I’ll take a cookie over a drink any day.”

How has the current stay-at-home policy affected West? “Being an only child, I’ve had no problem at all,” she says. “I walk every day and do my cardio exercises. I’m used to being alone. I even prefer it sometimes. I’ve learned to adapt to whatever is going on.”

That is a reaction worth emulating.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

COVID-19 is claiming victims around the world, and in some ways, life will never be the same—including, for some, the realization that unexpected death is always a possibility.

I have worked for more than 25 years on matters involving end-of-life decision-making. I thought I had considered every possibility, and I’d made it very clear about what I would and would not want to happen to me if I was unable to make my desires known.

Yet there are now things I thought I was certain about that I am suddenly reconsidering.

Advance directives, sometimes called living wills, are legally applicable in all 50 states, and are available to anyone 18 or older. They tell medical personnel what kind of care we are willing to accept or reject. In the 19th century, the Supreme Court concluded that unwanted treatment can be considered an assault—that we own our own bodies. That is why we have “informed consent” for any type of procedure, from having a tooth pulled to open-heart surgery: We are made aware of what the procedure will be, and what possible negative effects could conceivably result, so we are making a conscious decision.

I’ve always been sure that I would never want to have my life sustained artificially—on a ventilator, for example. I remember my father, fully conscious and aware, being intubated. He couldn’t talk due to the tube down his throat, and his arms had been secured to the bed rails—because he kept trying to pull that damn tube out. I remember him pleading with his eyes; he did not want what was happening. But my mother was legally empowered to speak for him if he could not speak for himself, and to her, he was still “in there,” and she couldn’t ask to have the machine removed, although she knew that was what he wanted.

I decided right then and there to make sure I would never have my life dependent on being hooked up to a machine. I wrote in my advance directive that I did not want my life sustained by artificial means; I would prefer to be kept comfortable with narcotics, if needed, even though the drugs might hasten my death. I wanted to die a “natural death.”

Now we are hearing about people who came down with COVID-19 and who needed to be on a ventilator for up to several weeks—and then recovered. I’m rethinking my choices yet again. While varying sources say that between 66 and 86 percent of COVID-19 patients on ventilators don’t make it … that means between 14 and 34 percent of patients do.

I now have to think about whether I want to buck those odds—but with an advanced directive, at least I am the one making the decision.

If you have never filled out an advance directive, or you have not revisited your choices in some time, pay some attention to this. Forms are available free from the state and local hospitals, and at www.cdc.gov. There are also online registries. One of the best forms I’ve found is available for a small fee from Five Wishes. It applies in 42 states, including California (and it can be used in all 50 states by attaching it to an individual state’s form).

The first two wishes are part of every state’s official form, and are legally enforceable: Who you want to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself? And what treatments do you want or not want, under specific conditions? The choices can include how long you might want to live in a coma before life support is terminated; whether you want antibiotics or forced feeding; if you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops; and whether you want every possible medical treatment to be given indefinitely. None of this is easy to contemplate—but the choices are yours. And that’s the whole point.

The remaining wishes are informative for your family—what type of burial or alternative you want; whether you are willing to be an organ donor; how comfortable you want to be as your life ends (for example, I hate being massaged, and I want everyone to know that); whether you want music played, or religious readings; and other things you might want your loved ones to know. These wishes are not legally binding, but the information can be both comforting and helpful to those left behind.

Advance directives don’t require a lawyer or notary public. You can fill out the forms and have two neighbors or other disinterested parties (not your medical team or children, for example) acknowledge that they saw you sign.

Even if you or a loved one refuses to fill out forms, you need to have these conversations—because you never know what could happen. A grown child could be in a terrible auto accident. Your grandmother, who has always been there for you and has lived a long, full life, could suffer from a sudden illness. Something could happen to your spouse. Do you know what they would want? Do they know what you would want?

You also should choose who will speak for you, if you can’t speak for yourself. You might opt to select a best friend or a more-distant relative, rather than someone who could get caught up in the middle of family drama or be subject to guilt. Whomever you choose should be very clear about what you want and don’t want—and be willing to act on your behalf.

Without having an advanced directive, the law decides who can speak for you—your spouse, child, parent or someone further down the family tree. Worse yet, you may be unfairly shifting the burden of those agonizing decisions onto the medical team acting in the demands of the moment.

Advance directives can be withdrawn, amended and updated at any time—which brings me back to what I’ve been rethinking about being on a ventilator. It’s definitely something I want to think about a little more, and talk about with my family.

The experience of COVID-19 has hopefully opened our eyes to positive societal changes we can and should make—universal access to health care, preparing for the worst whatever the cost, working with other nations because we are all in this together, and so on. On a personal level, we can use this difficult time to internalize how suddenly life itself can change—and make sure we have the ability to have some say in the matter.

The question is … who decides?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Dr. Dilangani (Dana) Ratnayake, 35, has been a Cathedral City resident since 2016.

“It’s emotionally draining to deal with patients who are in pain,” she says. However, she’s decided that emotional drain is worth it.

I first met Ratnayake because I have chronic pain. About three years ago, I had a headache that lasted for three months nonstop. After what seemed like every test known to man, I learned I had stenosis in a couple of the vertebrae in my neck. I consulted with a local pain clinic and was given steroid shots that almost instantly stopped the headaches and eased the discomfort in my right shoulder. I’ve never used opioids, but I have been getting routine pressure points shots in my shoulder and neck ever since—and she was assigned to be my doctor.

Ratnayake came to the United States from her native Sri Lanka at the age of 16. She has two older sisters, one of whom was then in graduate school in Minnesota.

“My parents got green cards,” she recalls, “because my aunt had actually sponsored my dad 10 years earlier.”

Ratnayake’s mother was the director of a Sri Lanka government agency-tourist board, who taught her daughter to “do what you want to do in your life.”

“My dad was with the Sri Lankan police,” Ratnayake says. “He’s very easy-going, and I think I’m more like my mom. I think I put undue pressure on myself.”

While Ratnayake’s parents currently reside in Sri Lanka, the family formerly lived in Minnesota, where Ratnayake completed high school and then earned her undergrad degree in biology at the College of Saint Catherine. She went on to get her doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and had her anesthesiology residency at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A fellowship then took her back to Minnesota.

Why anesthesiology? “I liked the procedural aspects,” she says, “and I like being in the (operating room). With interventional pain management, you actually get to build a relationship with the patient.”

Ratnayake returned to Minnesota with not only a degree, but also a husband. “We’ve been together 10 years. A family friend had known him for a long time,” she says. “We actually started dating while I was still in Minnesota, and got married during my last year of medical school.”

Her husband is a primary-care physician, currently practicing in Redlands.

“During residency, (doctors) rotate in different sub-specialties,” says Ratnayake. “Pain management was one aspect. After my fellowship, I came to the desert with Kaiser, focusing 100 percent on pain management—but that wasn’t for me” at the time.

She went back to anesthesia full-time. “But doing anesthesia, interactions with patients are short and intense. There are no long-term relationships.

“I didn’t realize then how much pain management focused on the use of opioids. It wasn’t like that in training. Real pain management is using all of the skills learned—talking to patients, the use of meds, interventional therapies, and other methods of pain control. Opioids do have a role, and that’s the challenge, but it’s diminishing now. It’s not the first best option, nor the only one.”

Of course, Ratnayake has a bucket list. “I like to travel. I was in Europe last year, and I go to Sri Lanka at least once a year to see my parents. Up to now, my time has been limited. … I practice yoga, and I love dogs, but don’t currently have one, so I volunteer at the shelter.”

Ratnayake’s ability to relate on a personal level is not often found in a doctor, at least in my experience. She listens, is empathetic, and always exhibits a warm, caring demeanor. In 10 years, she says she sees herself with a successful practice, working full-time to help those who struggle with pain.

“Maybe, at that point, we’ll have kids,” she says with a laugh.

As for that successful practice she sees herself having, Ratnayake is on the cusp of getting it started. “I’m looking for more autonomy in a practice, and the ability to screen the patients. If you’re looking for opioids to deal with pain, I may not be your doctor of choice,” she says. She wants to focus on women with pain, as doctors are often not attuned to the different kinds of pain that women experience—for example, during menopause.

I initially spoke to her several weeks ago, before the reality of the pandemic set in. Ratnayake said then that she’d found a location and was seeking credentialing to work with health-insurance providers. “I’m hoping for April or May, to start with being open a couple of days a week and weekends,” she told me. “I’ll keep doing anesthesia work with hospitals until ultimately opening five days a week.

But the coronavirus has changed Ratnayake’s path, at least for now. I checked in with her a couple of days ago.

"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on delaying the start of my pain practice. Credentialing and new contracts with physicians are now delayed,” she says. “I was hoping to open for a few days in April, but it will be at least (the middle) to end of May before we finalize contracts and also implement a process where social distancing can be practiced and patients can be seen safely.

“Since elective surgeries have been postponed, I’m not doing anesthesia work—and I must admit it’s an unusual feeling to have time on my hands.”

It may be emotionally draining to deal with patients who are in pain, but Dana Ratnayake is making a place for herself in our local medical community—and is on a mission to relieve pain.

“A lot of people are in chronic pain, and if they’ve been on opioids, you can’t just cut them off. It’s life-changing to get off them,” she says.

We’re lucky to have her.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Although I had been following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, it still seemed somewhat remote from the life we live in the Coachella Valley. It was in that state of mind that I decided to go see a comedy show at a local theater.

It all started on Monday, March 9, when six of us—Carol and Denny, Casi and Tom, and Rupert and me—got tickets for the afternoon performance of Old Jews Telling Jokes on Saturday, March 14, at the Indian Wells Theater on Cal State’s Palm Desert campus. Afterward, we planned to go to Carol and Denny’s for a light supper.

Then, increasingly, the reality of the coronavirus unfolded.

I am, unbelievably (to me), heading toward my 79th birthday in May. I had a heart “incident” last Thanksgiving that forestalled a heart attack and resulted in a stent being placed in one of my arteries that was blocked up after a lifetime of smoking. I could go on, but in other words, based on age and underlying conditions, I'm one of the vulnerable.

An email on Monday suggested that maybe we should see about getting a refund on the tickets. We’re all of a certain age, and perhaps going to a theater with a crowd of people wasn’t such a good idea, with the virus news getting more disturbing every day. I said I’d look into it.

I called the ticket broker through whom the tickets were purchased—and was told they were nonrefundable. In spite of my pleas about being a senior on a fixed income who couldn’t afford to either simply forfeit the price of the tickets or take the chance on going to the theater, the broker (who was very polite and understanding through it all) said—preposterously, it seemed at the time—that unless a national emergency was called, the show would go on.

I did manage to joke with the broker that given the virus’ circumstances and the older local population for such a show, perhaps our group attending would be no problem, since nobody else would be in the theater. He laughed politely … but held his ground.

I then called the theater box office, but a voice message made it clear their season was over, and therefore, they were not able to respond. Next, I sent an email to Cal State and asked if they planned to close down the campus, including the theater—after all, they are local, and I assumed they would act responsibly in the best interest of the public, to say nothing of their students. They did respond, but only to say the show had been contracted as a theater rental, and the campus had not closed down—so I had to work it out with the ticket broker.

Next, I had planned to drive into Los Angeles Tuesday morning to attend the memorial for a dear friend who had passed after three years in a nursing facility. It would be at a hotel on the beach in Santa Monica; after lunch, we’d watch a plane drop my friend’s ashes into the Pacific. I had even been asked to say a few words. Then, I was planning to spend Tuesday night with my daughter and two of my grandchildren. My grandson, who lives with his dad in Texas, was flying in to spend his spring break with his mom and sister; I was staying over to see them. Finally, on Wednesday, I had an appointment to audition for a game show, after which I was to return the desert.

My daughter was concerned about her son taking a flight with all the coronavirus news, so she cancelled his visit. She also expressed her concern about me attending an event where many of the people there would have flown in from around the country. 

Monday afternoon, I made the responsible decision, and I sent my regrets. I felt badly about not attending, but felt as if I had ultimately made a decision in the best interest of my own health.

Tuesday involved more emails about whether my friends and I would still go to Saturday’s performance; finally, I made it clear that it was up to each of us individually whether to attend. Clearly, eating the cost of the tickets would not destroy any of our lives. I indicated that I probably would go, but Rupert might not, given his underlying physical conditions. Casi and Carol said they would probably go, but their spouses probably would not. It’s interesting that the women, not the men, seemed willing to chance it.  

On Thursday, I had scheduled an interview with one of the next subjects for this column. I called on Wednesday to cancel—and the subject was actually thankful, given that the news was getting more and more alarming with each passing hour.

My high school group that gets together for lunch annually was supposed to meet on St. Patrick’s Day in Los Angeles. On Thursday, I begged off that as well. Of course, they ended up cancelling until later in the year.

Despite all of this, on Thursday night, it seemed all of us had decided the hell with it: We were all going to throw caution to the wind and attend Saturday’s show, hoping it would at least provide some laughs and lighten up the angst we were all feeling.

Then, on Friday the 13th, President Trump declared a national emergency. 

True to their word, we received emails indicating the show had been cancelled, and our ticket price was being fully refunded. It was honestly the first time in more than three years I felt good about something coming out of the Oval Office.

I got my nails done on Friday, while the manicurist downplayed the threat of the virus based on her belief that it was all being hyped to damage Trump. It was an oddly lucky visit, however: The beauty-supply rep was there, and I ordered a box of 100 plastic gloves, the type stylists use to apply hair dye. At least I may be able to avoid trying to find hand sanitizer for now.

My regular weekly shopping trip to the pharmacy and the market on Saturday was definitely “a trip”: Why is everyone going crazy over toilet paper? Why aren’t all stores limiting purchases of certain items? Is it really true that people are physically fighting over cleaning supplies? Yikes.

The six of us met for dinner at Carol and Denny’s Saturday evening. We were glad to be together, partly because we’d all been avoiding public contact as much as possible, and it was lovely to have some relaxed, friendly time. We hugged before we said good night. Yeah, I know, social distancing, but sometimes you have to be willing to die to have good friends and love in your life. 

The best news of the week was learning that quarantined Italians are singing and making music on their balconies… and that public health workers are risking their lives to help wherever needed.

What a week it was. And who knows what the future holds?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Karen Borja is a warm, open person who seems genuinely glad to meet you. It’s a personality that explains Borja’s success as a community organizer—helping people learn how to help themselves by changing what isn’t working in their environment.

Borja, 30, and her husband, Blaz Gutierrez, are residents of Indio. She was born and raised in Coachella along with a younger brother. Like many of her contemporaries in that community, she is the child of farmworker immigrants, who learned from her parents that hard work leads to what she refers to as “generational wealth”—the ability to build on each generation’s skills and experiences.

“For me, it was realizing what policies helped my family move from the bracero program,” she says.

The bracero program was initiated in August 1942 between the U.S. and Mexico, and lasted, with amendments, until 1964. It was named based on the Spanish term bracero, meaning "manual laborer."

“As a result of my grandfather’s participation in the bracero program, they were able to get green cards and continue to live here,” Borja says. “My mom is from Mexico. Her father was a bracero. She is a very hard-working woman who ran a day-care facility for over 22 years, helping generations of kids. She was licensed by the county of Riverside, and took care of the children of farmworkers.

“My dad was from El Salvador. During his early teens, the revolution was going on there, so his parents sent him, along with a cousin, to Mexico. He later went to Mexicali, then crossed the border and became a farmworker. Unfortunately, he died when I was only 14.”

Borja attended a women’s Catholic college in Notre Dame, Ind., called St. Mary’s College.

“It was real culture shock,” she says. “There were less than 50 women of color out of over 1,600 students. It was the first time I had been in a ‘minority’ situation. It was a real challenge. I was so homesick, I would cry every day. I had previously traveled to Europe, to Mexico and all through California with my parents, but this was the first time I was by myself. I found it was easy to make friends and get involved, because I needed to make sure I had a group to support me.”

Borja got her first taste of community organizing when she was about 16.

“There were youth groups in the local churches, and there was a local park that had gangs and drugs, where parents wouldn’t let us go by ourselves,” she says. “We were asked if we wanted to come to a meeting about the park, and I think about 500 people showed up. I didn’t really understand everything the adults were talking about, but we were asked, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ So we started listing the things we were concerned about. I got really engaged and involved. We learned there was city money dedicated to parks. By my senior year of high school, when I was 17, we won the park victory. When I came back during my first year of college, they had really done things: It was cleaner and safer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! The politicians actually followed through.’”

Borja also helped create a park in Oasis, the first in the area, at the site of an abandoned elementary school.

“It had gotten in terrible shape,” she says, “and had become a danger for kids. It took three years and getting both the school district to agree to sell the 15 acres and the park district to buy it. The park district built a soccer field, and it became a place people were able to run laps.”

During her sophomore year in college, Borja got the chance to travel to South Africa to attend school for a semester.

“I remember thinking, ’What am I doing in Africa? Who do I think I am? I’m just a little girl from Coachella,’” she says. “I had a friend who was a nurse, and a group of African women showed up asking her to vote for their candidate for president. I was so moved by their conviction. Their candidate won the town’s vote because of those African women getting people involved. That flipped a switch in my head. I suddenly realized the park project wasn’t because of the politicians. We won the park victory because mobilizing the grassroots community does actually work. The impact that left on me is why I do what I do.”

Her time in Africa led to another life lesson for Borja: She got pregnant and chose to have an abortion. Then during her senior year in college, Borja met an LGBTQ woman with whom she was able to identify based on the feeling of not being accepted—of feeling “less than.”

“As a Catholic Latina,” she says, “I found I believed that LGBTQ rights and abortion rights are part of our community and need to be respected. A couple years later, there was a group of nine of us—not just from our campus, but also from Holy Cross and Notre Dame—who showed the example of young Catholics being open and affirming and accepting, and creating safe spaces, to show that all students deserve to be seen and feel safe. In my senior year, we had the first transgender speaker on campus. It was standing room only!

“In the summer between my junior and senior years, after I had become president of a campus gay/straight alliance club, I actually went to a ‘gay’ camp for students and LGBTQ leaders. I was chosen to go by my school as one of the ‘straight’ students,” she says with a laugh. “I came to realize how brave they were to be out. They were empowered to be themselves and to help their campuses toward inclusion.”

In addition to her degree in political science, Borja later received certification in nonprofit management from University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus. She recently received the sixth annual Community Justice Award given by Bloom in the Desert Ministries in recognition of her dedication and hard work.

Borja worked for seven years with Inland Congregations United for Change, focused on helping residents of the eastern Coachella Valley access education and transportation. She has now been with Planned Parenthood for the past two years, currently serving as the director of community affairs for Riverside County. “My current job is to make sure we have political and community support to keep the doors open,” she says. “I’m so proud of how much access our patients get to care and information. Last year we began providing hormonal therapy for transgender patients.

“My family taught me that leadership is important. This work has allowed me to be a Catholic Latina who believes in women’s rights, is pro-choice, supports LGBTQ rights, and is from Indio, California.”

Karen Borja’s warmth and open nature comes through clearly—and she makes a difference in her community. That is the fulfillment of her legacy of her definition of “generational wealth.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Lanny Swerdlow, tongue firmly in cheek, introduced himself thusly: “I’m gay, Jewish, an atheist, a liberal, in a mixed marriage to a Native American, left-handed and a tree-hugger.”

What else is there to know about this 73-year-old registered nurse? Quite a lot!

Swerdlow was born and raised in Los Angeles, the younger of two brothers. His father died at 32 when Swerdlow was only 2 years old.

“My ‘real’ dad was my mom’s second husband,” he says. “He was an accountant, somewhat distant, but a good dad and provider for our family. My mom lived a life of quiet desperation, pretty ignorant of the real world—but you have to remember that women in those days didn’t go very far. There were a lot of things she could and should have done that she never did. One of the lessons I got from that is: If I want to do something, I do it … even if it’s not always a good idea.” He laughs easily at himself.

Swerdlow had a choice of high schools to attend in Los Angeles. “I could go to Fairfax High, which was very white and Jewish, or L.A. High, which was very mixed.”

He picked the latter. “I wanted something different, and it opened my eyes to other cultures. … I was interested in theater arts; I wanted to go into that, because that’s what ‘homos’ did.” Instead, he got a degree in zoology and later studied fisheries’ biology.

Swerdlow surprised his family when he came out as gay. “They had come to visit me in Oregon, where I was working for the state Fish Commission, and were surprised to learn of my feelings. My mom cried; my dad was upset. They were my liberal parents! Then they said I wouldn’t be happy for the rest of my life. I told them I would go straight, but I couldn’t play that role. When I finally confronted them, they accepted me for who I am.”

Swerdlow got involved with the gay-liberation movement in Oregon. He started a newspaper, and the police-advisory board asked him to join and represent the groups with which he was involved.

“Every Friday and Saturday night, young people would congregate on a street corner, and the police had tried to do something about it for years,” Swerdlow says. “At one meeting, they asked me where else they could go. Six kids had come into my office to raise money to open a club, so I told them to find a place, and I’d help bankroll it. A Realtor friend found a place, but it was a disaster. I got seven kids to help me do the work, and they worked seven days a week for 10 to 12 hours a day. I gave them a 49 percent stake in the business.

“We opened an underage gay/lesbian nightclub which became well-known, but overnight, the problems began. The police started coming and busting kids for curfew violations, batting them around and dragging them off. I consulted a lawyer and sent a letter to the city attorney, who sent a letter to the police department. Then they just stationed two officers in front of the club, waiting for kids to come outside.

“I then went to the head of the police bureau and began to learn about how politics works. I told him we couldn’t run the club if he kept putting police in front of the club. He got on the phone, requested some budget information—and then we never saw police there again. I learned that just because something isn’t right, that doesn’t mean it will get fixed. I also learned that something can get done if you have something hanging over someone’s head, like the threat to take away budget money. My experience with the club taught me not to just trust the system.”

The nightclub, which was sold in 1997, included a mini-studio for making films. “We did Night Scene for local TV with a focus on gay issues, and another show called Outrageous, and then a show about cannabis common sense, to help push toward legalization. The kids did the shows, including learning how to do the technical stuff.”

Swerdlow’s parents lived in Palm Springs, so he and his husband, Victor Michel—his partner for more than 27 years—would often come down to visit them. Swerdlow’s mom had taken ill and needed help, so he and Michel came to the Coachella Valley and stayed; they now live in Whitewater.

“We like it there,” he says. “There’s no businesses, very little traffic, lots of places to hike, and it’s close to the middle of nowhere, but not too far from somewhere.”

His path toward becoming a nurse began when he got a call from the hospital about his dad.

“I realized he couldn’t take care of himself anymore, and I decided to become a medical tech, ultimately going to College of the Desert and graduating as a registered nurse in 2006,” he says.

Swerdlow became involved in Democratic Party politics, representing a Riverside County assembly district on the party’s state central committee. He serves on the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District’s board of directors.

Swerdlow has been passionate about the legalization of marijuana for many years. As a nurse, he is cognizant of the medical benefits of marijuana use, and has specifically championed the need for the Veterans Administration to make it available, despite the federal government classifying it as a dangerous drug. He was instrumental in getting language into the state Democratic Party platform supporting legalization prior to the passage of Proposition 64. He also has an online radio program and leads the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, focused on the Inland Empire.

In 2012, Swerdlow started the Brownie Mary Democrats of California.

“I wanted to form the ‘Democratic Cannabis Club,’ but they didn’t want me to put that name on it, so I named it after the woman who was known for baking 600 brownies a day and delivering them to AIDS patients in San Francisco,” he says. “I want to get more involved in health-care issues, especially the need to ensure that everybody has coverage. And I’ll stay focused on cannabis. With thousands of people on alcohol or drugs, they can get off using cannabis. It doesn’t solve their problems, but it doesn’t have all the down sides, either. We need on-site use localities, and it should be as available as liquor.”

Lanny Swerdlow describes himself in a lot of different ways. I describe him as an effective activist.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

You may have encountered Brian Hess before—back when he was a child actor who told Mr. Whipple: “Don’t squeeze the Charmin!”

Hess, now 46, began acting in commercials when he was 5 or 6; his cousin was doing the same, and Hess thought it looked easy. He became an extra in several shows and worked with NBC; the acting helped pay for his education. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Florida Keys, Hess and his family moved to California when he was 16.

“I was an athlete in high school who realized I wouldn’t make pro,” says Hess, “so I opted to join the Air Force. My father had been in the military, with stints in the FBI and CIA. He instilled in us that caring for people has meaning and is important. He said to work hard and not look for glory or seek recognition.

“My mom retired as a pediatric nurse practitioner, and both of my younger sisters became nurses. Mom said that caring for people has meaning and is its own reward, and that we should never stop learning, giving and caring.”

Hess never told the Air Force that he suffered from shin splints, and reached the point where he could hardly stand up. He went to the base hospital and was exposed to physical therapy for the first time. Once out of the service, he began work as an athletic trainer—and realized he wanted to do more with seriously ill patients, like those with brain injuries, amputees and stroke victims.

“I found I loved it,” he says.

When an opportunity arose to enter an internship working with brain-injury patients, Hess went to Charleston, S.C., as a physical-therapy assistant.

“It was a chance to get out of Los Angeles for a couple of years,” he says, “and it was my introduction to working with patients with cognitive impairment.”

Hess returned to Los Angeles, but four years ago decided to escape “the hustle and bustle,” and moved to the Coachella Valley. His family had spent time in the desert over many years, and he decided to make the move.

“I was raised near the beach in Florida, and I love the heat,” he says.

Hess joined the staff of the Eisenhower Memory Care Center’s Adult Day Center program and is currently its program coordinator. The program’s mission is to provide day care to functionally or cognitively impaired individuals in a safe, supportive environment.

“I’m particularly impressed with the staff,” Hess says. “The program has been operating for 36 years, and there are long-time staff who are totally dedicated. You don’t do this kind of work for over 30 years just because it’s cool.”

The program is in transition, with plans to expand to a new location where it can expand its availability beyond the current 49 patients.

“It’s great for me to feel like a catalyst for the progress being made regarding dementia and related diseases,” Hess says. “The level and scope of care are different than when I worked with brain-injury patients. I’ve learned much greater patience. Doing this kind of care is a different kind of job; you can’t just clock in and then go home. For me, it’s a 12-hour-a-day commitment.

“I want to find a way to get everybody on Earth who is affected by this disease into this kind of program. It used to be that Mom and Dad had direct family support when they aged, but now we have children and grandchildren bringing them in—even in-laws and distant family members.

“It’s hard for family to let go when someone’s capabilities have changed. You have to step into the patient’s world. If you didn’t know what day it is, wouldn’t you want people around to compensate for that deficiency? I tell families, ‘So your loved one has these memory deficits. So? The sky is still blue; the earth is still round, so what difference does it really make that they don’t know what day it is?’ It isn’t about what they can or can’t do any more. Here at the center, that doesn’t matter. We expose them to fun and games, laugh at jokes, listen to music and relate to them where they are. The abilities they have lost don’t factor into the time they spend here—and it gives caregivers a break they so badly need.”

Statistics show that caregivers often die before the patients for which they are caring, in part because of the stress associated with caregiving. The Eisenhower program also offers caregiver support and education, including the importance of learning effective communication skills.

“For me, it’s about reaching that one family out there that thinks they don’t need this,” Hess says. “Come for just one time is all I ask. It will make a difference. Once families realize this is available, and it’s here to help them, the light bulb goes on. I do as many public presentations and community activities as I can. I will market our services anywhere they won’t shut the door on me. I even leave fliers, ‘accidentally,’ by dropping them in supermarket aisles.”

One of the biggest issues around dementia and other types of cognitive impairment is the stigma still associated with the illness.

“People don’t want to admit this is happening in their family,” says Hess. “They try to shelter someone rather than bringing them to a program like ours. It becomes something people hide. For every one of the people in our program, there is another family out there that doesn’t look for resources. They think they have a grasp on it, because they haven’t burned out yet.”

Hess is continuing his education; he’s currently in a licensed vocational nurse program.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and being here has been a catalyst,” he says. “I’ve seen how much nursing is involved in the care we give.

“I came on board here at a time of transition (with) this program. I actually thought, ‘If not me, then who?’ I actually jumped at the chance to do it. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I have to believe I ended up here in the right place at the right time.

“I’m a believer in doing things first and asking questions later. If you know you’re doing the right thing, just do it.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

She left her native Missouri/Kansas at the age of 25 for San Francisco in 1970. She describes her artwork as “abstract impressionist,” and creates sculpture with a slightly sexual bent. She has lived in a sprawling home in Thousand Palms, which she hopes one day will be a museum, for more than 30 years.

Oh, and did I mention the peacocks?

Ramona Rowley, a vibrant 75 years old, envelops you with a warmth and openness that is both refreshing and unusual. She and her brother were born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Kansas.

“My dad was in the Navy and didn’t even see me until I was a year old. He had been raised on a farm in Kansas, got his education in agriculture, and ended up as dairy commissioner,” Rowley said. “My mom was also raised on a farm and became a teacher, but she had always wanted to be a hairdresser. She went to school and opened a salon in our home.

“The real secret is that she had always wanted to be an actress. She was very beautiful, loved children, always had flowers on the table, and always had a house full of everybody’s kids. My parents had dated since the ninth-grade.

“I wasn’t encouraged to love art. My grandmother was the first to call me an artist, and I had a second-grade teacher who told my mom about a picture I had done. I was 18 when I saw (a fine-art) painting (for the first time). It was (one of) Monet’s Water Lilies. I couldn’t stop standing in front of it. I took art history, looked at lots of photographs, and realized the difference when you’re standing in front of a piece of art.”

After a summer session at Washburn University, and in spite of the fact that the University of Kansas had an art department that beckoned, Rowley attended Kansas State.

“My dad had graduated there, and if I had gone to (the University of Kansas), I would have been a traitor!” she said.

Rowley had a first marriage (“to get out of the house”) and began working at the Menninger Foundation. Her husband was a therapist there in the children’s hospital, and Rowley worked as an adjunctive therapist focusing on art and horticulture, working with the occupational therapists.

“My office was in the greenhouse, and I got to watch bougainvillea blooming when there was snow outside. Everybody was jealous,” Rowley laughed. “I wasn’t just doing art, although I enjoyed it. My job was to help people to be creative. You have to learn to be alone and spend time dedicated to finding what your colors are.”

Rowley made the break and moved to San Francisco in 1970.

“I found my life,” she said. “I was 25 and going forward to explore who I am and what I want. It was too hard to be an artist in Kansas.”

A mutual friend introduced Rowley to another artist, a Spaniard named Manuel deArce—and thus began a lifelong relationship.

“We lived together for 34 years before we ever married,” she said, her eyes sparkling as she talks about her beloved late husband. “He had a wife when we met. I had a boyfriend, and we were just friends. I was the only American in our group of friends. It was ’70s San Francisco. We were sitting on the floor and talking nonstop about art. He gave his wife a baby that she wanted, and we wanted to be artists. It turned out that everyone made the right choice. I think we followed not our egos, but our souls.

“When we met, Manuel didn’t like abstract art. He had trained at the school in Spain where all the great masters had trained. When we left San Francisco, I had been doing ceramics for over 20 years, using pink clay, whites and browns, sometimes lapis (a blue gem) or shells from the ocean, and colors that changed from glazing and with metal leaf.”

What brought Ramona and Manuel to the desert? “Manuel loved Palm Springs,” said Rowley. “He used to stop here on the way to do exhibits in Arizona and Texas.

“In the desert, I started out as a painter. Manuel and I were huge influences to each other, more about being artists rather than in the art itself. At 5 p.m., when the light changed, we would take my art and set it on the table, have a glass of wine and take the time to see what I had done that day. He never gave critiques, but he would say, ‘Do you mind if I turn this (ceramics piece) over?’ They would often have more power one way or the other.

“You need to find the colors: They tell you what to use. I reflected the sky and earth in Kansas. In San Francisco, it was blue and grey; I was painting torsos in lavender, blue and grey, with lots of full, round shapes. I’m a woman and intuitive; he was a Spaniard and very colorful. Manuel was using bright colors in San Francisco, but the desert environment changed what he saw.”

The house Rowley shared with deArce has their paintings, large and small, throughout, along with Rowley’s pottery and specialty pieces on the walls and shelves. Canvases stand along every surface.

“I’d like this to be a museum someday,” Rowley said. “I’d like to keep working for the next five years, then be doing exhibitions and classes.

“I had tried to tell my parents that I didn’t want to go to college, that they should send me to Europe. When my mom was 80, we were in Europe. She said to me, ‘We made a mistake. We should have sent you to Europe.’ Last year, I got to see Botticelli in Italy. While my legs are still good enough to travel, I’d like to go to different cultures and find out how people become who they are.”

Among many exhibitions and collections, Rowley’s art is included in the permanent collection at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. She is also a photographer.

Rowley candidly talks about how her art suffered after deArce died in 2017.

“I had no joy in my life for almost three years. My paintings were bad,” she said. “Luckily, I was finally able to find a new ‘friend.’ Now I can channel the muses again. When I do that, I never do a bad painting. I’m finally ready to sign these pieces.”

Did I forget to mention the peacocks? On the sprawling cactus-laden grounds surrounding her house, Ramona has 11 peacocks roaming freely, including Houdini, a rare white peacock.

“I raised him from a baby. We even dance together; the males dance, you know,” she said. “We discovered Houdini wasn’t male when an egg was laid in the house. Oh, well.”

Ramona Rowley is a free spirit, a dedicated artist and a warm and lovely human being. And then there are the peacocks …

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.