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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Know Your Neighbors

11 Jul 2018
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Wayne Sinclair didn’t intend to spend most of his professional life as a medical-malpractice lawyer. Born and raised in Leechburg, Pa., the Palm Springs resident, now 72, started higher education at West Virginia University. “I wanted to go to Pitt (the University of Pittsburgh), but the tuition was too high,” he said. “I had originally thought of being a minister, until I was about 21, and explored the seminary twice—once in high school, and once in college. I finally figured out it wouldn’t be a good thing for me. I ended up majoring in political science and minored in history and Russian. “There were six grad-school slots open when I graduated, so I went into the law school. I was fortunate that a leading national firm, Steptoe and Johnson, had an opening. I started in accident claims, and I remember my first case was a $1,000 accident. I won the…
27 Jun 2018
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He’s tall, lanky and attractive, with a quick smile and garrulous wit … and he cooks! David Jackson, 63, was born in East Los Angeles and raised there with his two sisters until his sophomore year in high school, when his dad was transferred, and the family moved to Toronto. Jackson started cooking along with his grandmother when he was about 3. “I had a Swedish grandma,” he says, “and learned to cook all kinds of wonderful Swedish dishes. I started working as a cook at about 16, while I was still in high school in Toronto, in the kitchen at a nice hotel. “Then I went to a fly-fishing camp near the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. I was hired as the dishwasher and kitchen assistant; however, the lead cook was a 25-year-old clown who didn’t even know how to make icebox cookies; he thought you just made…
13 Jun 2018
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I don’t cook. It’s not that I can’t; I just don’t enjoy it. Still … I can’t imagine what it would be like to learn to cook if I couldn’t see. At the Braille Institute in Rancho Mirage, Chef John Phillips teaches people with limited vision how to develop what he calls “the basic skills a food handler would need to know in a professional kitchen,” including using knives safely (“There are NO plastic knives in my kitchen!”), chopping vegetables, making sauces, defrosting frozen foods, baking meatloaf, gauging food temperature, practicing sanitary precautions and using a fire extinguisher—all the basic skills that enable someone to safely prepare simple meals. “I sometimes have four or five people in the class who can’t see at all, so I will pair them up with someone with at least partial sight,” Phillips says. “We don’t do foods that are deep-fried, but I can teach…
30 May 2018
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I’m always pleasantly surprised when I realize that someone I thought I knew turns out to be so much more than I could ever have imagined. Shellie Meeks is my technical producer and board operator at iHub Radio in Palm Springs. I always feel supported when her face is on the other side of the console. Shellie is pleasant, diligent and determined to work around an often-debilitating case of fibromyalgia. I thought I knew her—and then one day, I was blown away. My subject was witches, and I was quoting statistics about how many (mostly) women were killed in just a year’s time in Salem, Mass., at the end of the 17th century. Off the top of her head, Shellie asked if I knew that 60,000 so-called witches were killed throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Who knows something like that? Shellie Meeks, 40, has lived in Joshua Tree with…
16 May 2018
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Tom Davis is philosophical regarding his work: “I wouldn’t change a thing. I enjoyed having my own business, but when it became tedious, my attitude was, ‘I’m outta here.’” That attitude was a lucky break for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Davis, 68, a Rancho Mirage resident, was born in Teaneck, N.J., and grew up in Anaheim. He started doing consulting work in the desert in 1990 and made the full-time move from Orange County in 1997. “I had my own land-planning and development consulting business,” says Davis, “but when the recession that everybody forgets about happened, many of my competitors were heading to Las Vegas because there was so much development going on there. I wanted to expand my business reach and profile, and I knew the desert had great growth potential. Plus, my wife’s parents were here, and her grandma and grandpa had the first liquor…
02 May 2018
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Medical professionals—backed up by numerous studies—say that socialization is important to healthy physical and mental aging. Too often, retirees or widowed individuals become isolated, don’t want to attend events alone, feel cut off, or are dependent on others to push them to get out and be around others. One antidote we are fortunate to have here in the desert: many informal groups that routinely meet to share friendly talk over a meal—the aging comedians, businessmen, show biz vets, university alums and many others. About 10 years ago, I returned to the desert after seven years in San Diego, where I completed law school, and I was looking for activities that would engage me to jump back into the local scene. The newspaper said the Democratic Women of the Desert was meeting, so I went. This was a group of positive, motivated women who wanted to make a difference—they weren’t attending…
18 Apr 2018
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I’m starting a new streaming-radio gig on iHub Radio (ihubradio.com), That’s Life, after 10 years of doing a call-in talk-show about politics (which I’ll still be doing on iHub as well). That’s Life will be an hour-long show airing weekdays that explores the things that make us all able to relate to each other—subjects like, “Did you ever see your father cry?” or, “What’s the worst job you ever had?” Well, that covers two shows during my first week. I admit that I’ve struggled to come up with ideas that span all cultures and ages, and will lead to an entertaining daily show. This brings us to the amazing group of seniors who attend the weekly You Don’t Have to Be Hemingway writing club; I wrote about them in 2014. The group recently held its sixth twice-a-year “recital,” led by creative director Helen Klein, whose idea it was to start…
04 Apr 2018
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At what age do we finally figure out what our life is all about? Some of us never figure it out—while others are seemingly lucky enough to figure it out quite young. Bryanna Czarny, 24, was born in Bellflower, Calif., as the oldest of five children. She spent her early years in Yucca Valley, and has been in La Quinta since the seventh-grade. She came out of a hard-working family: Her father has been a UPS employee for many years, while her mother has proven it’s never too late to go back to school for a career. Czarny had done some acting in high school, including being nominated for a supporting-actress award. “I had acting coaches who believed in me and pushed me,” she says. After graduating from La Quinta High School, Bryanna was dead-set on moving to Los Angeles to pursue her education toward a career in television and…
21 Mar 2018
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Palm Desert resident John Peters, 66, came from a confused family background—which, in anyone else, might have led to dysfunction, insecurity and/or any number of psychologically traumatic results. But this ebullient man has not only prevailed—he has triumphed. Peters was born the youngest of four children in Intercourse, Penn. (Yes, that’s really the name.) His father died 6 months before he was born—and his mother remarried and moved, leaving behind the four kids. His two brothers were sent to an orphanage school; his sister was placed in a similar school. “There were no social programs back then for a young mother like there are today,” Peters says gently. Peters was too young for a placement and was adopted and raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle in an Amish community. “The (Amish) kids were all the same (as ‘normal’ kids), just wearing different clothes,” he says. “Intercourse had a population of…
07 Mar 2018
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Most of us live our lives within the boundaries and expectations set for us by our families and society. Some of us are lucky enough to discover our calling—like a bolt out of the blue. I had a friend who was something of a ne’er-do-well in his youth, but late one night while standing on the deck of a ship, he had what he could only describe as a revelation: His calling was to preach the gospel. He pursued that career for the rest of his life. I met Coachella Valley resident Kate Zenna at a Palm Springs Women in Film and Television event. She is smart, articulate, personable and enthusiastic—and like my aforementioned friend, she found her calling via what she describes as an epiphany. Zenna was born in Montreal and lived for a time in Newfoundland before she and her younger brother (“I make him tell people he’s…

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