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I first met someone with “sleeves” in 2001. He was a fellow law school student, and we were chatting on a balcony.

“Nice shirt,” I said, not knowing I was describing his tattoos. Once I realized it was body art, I was astonished. “Didn’t that hurt?” I asked.

“I guess so,” he said, “but it wasn’t all that bad.” To this day, I’m skeptical.

Robert DelSol Williamson runs Flagship Tattoo in Palm Desert. He is described by a neighboring merchant as “a real artist.”

Along with his wife, Amanda Marr, Williamson has been running Flagship Tattoo for four years, taking it over when the former owner decided to move on. The name Flagship came from the original founder’s father.

“I wanted to change the name,” says Williamson, “but left it because it was a known name in this location.”

Williamson got his first tattoo at age 17 along with his best friend, also named Robert.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” he recalls. “The age of consent was 16 at that time, so we walked into a shop holding hands and said we had just met on the Internet and knew we were in love. We wanted to get each other’s names. We drew up each other’s tattoos—mine a cactus with a sombrero as the “O” in the name, on my left ankle, and his as a wiener dog peeing into a Santa Claus hat with the pee spelling out ‘Robert’ on his shin. It hurt—no tattoo exactly feels good. We were young.”

Williamson, 30, was born in Tucson, Ariz., and raised in Silver City, N.M. He graduated with a master’s degree in art from Western New Mexico University, after attending the University of Arizona and San Diego State.

“I was always obsessed with drawing,” he says. “When I was young, I used to draw the flags of all the different countries in the world.”

Williamson is the youngest of five children. “I was raised by my mom, a hospice nurse and a real survivor. She taught me how to make the best out of life, because it’s over quicker than you expect.”

He describes his dad as “cool,” although they were estranged and had little contact until about two years ago. “I learned from my dad that actions affect people,” he says.

Marr, also 30, the eldest of two, was raised in the Palm Springs area. Her dad was a plumber, and her mom was involved in the horse industry and made sculptures. Marr and Williamson met in a photography class at College of the Desert, where she is working to complete an associate’s degree.

“I took a photography class at COD,” says Williamson, “mainly so I could use the darkroom. I love taking pictures. After we met,” he laughs, “I started really going to class.” Marr runs the administrative side of the business.

Williamson began his tattoo career while still in school, working “here and there on impulse. Then, one day, I decided I wanted more and got involved in the industry. I started asking lots of questions. The experienced tattoo artist I was working with found out I was studying art, and after I finished school, I served an apprenticeship for two years with him.”

Williamson has never done ink on Marr. “She has two tattoos that she gave herself, one on each leg. I won’t do a tattoo on her. What if we didn’t stay together,” he laughs, “and I knew she was walking around with pictures I had done? Or worse, it’s too easy to criticize my own work, and I’d have to be looking at it every day. Besides, she’s more artistic than I am. She has a geometric pink tattoo on one thigh, and she’s very into Japanese culture, so she has a ginkgo leaf on the other.”

When a client comes in for a tattoo, Williamson makes a drawing based on what the customer describes. “I work on the picture with them, and then draw something up to make a pattern. I have a Thermofax machine that puts out the pattern on paper. Then I put it on the customer and press it on so the lines transfer to their skin when I remove the pattern. It takes about 30 minutes to do a small tattoo. There are times when someone has to come back because of how long it will take. If they change their mind, they’re stuck with half a tattoo.”

Williamson, who has family connections to Norway, has recently established residency there, and his goal is to open a shop in Europe.

“I wanted to pick a place in Europe that would allow me to open a shop, perhaps in Belgium or Germany, and Norway was a good choice to establish residency,” Williamson said. “Amanda would have preferred Japan, but everything there is super-structured, and the lifestyle is so different. We plan to keep both locations going once we’re established in Europe.”

Williamson’s current passion is photography. “I take pictures of things I find attractive to the eye,” he says, “mostly people. I also do site-specific installation art that’s meant to change the feel of a space for a period of time.”

What’s the most challenging tattoo Williamson has ever done?

“I did a koi (fish) sleeve,” he says. “Doing Japanese tattoos involves lots of structural rules, so it’s difficult to get it right.

“Maybe the one I’m most proud of is the one on my neck, with the founding year of the Socialist Workers Party that I wanted to memorialize. I once thought about changing the name of the shop to something like The Red Star, but,” he laughs, “Amanda said it might not be right for Palm Desert. She was right, of course.

“I think the most difficult one I’ve done is the magical Japanese Daruma doll (a magic symbol of revival and never giving up, which is believed to bring good luck) on my leg. It’s so intricate.”

I always thought I wanted a tattoo, perhaps a small heart on my hip. I’m still skeptical, but if I ever decide to cross that off my bucket list, I’ll definitely seek out Robert DelSol Williamson. After all, as his neighbor says, he’s a true artist.

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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Some people drop names to impress you. Others can't help it.

Jane Summer, 73, unconsciously drops names like Clint Eastwood and Janeane Garofalo. When you grow up in a company town, and the “company” is the film and television industry, you can’t help it.

Summer started her career, after only six months of college, at Creative Management Associates, working with producers like Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg. She went on to read scripts for well-known agent Mike Medavoy, who had become vice president of motion pictures for CMA, and she subsequently met film greats like director/writer Michelangelo Antonioni, and stars like Donald Sutherland and Rosie Grier.

Born in Providence, R.I., Summer was raised in Beverly Hills from the age of 2, along with her older sister.

“We moved to Doheny Drive,” she says, “right around the corner from Chasen’s,” then a famous Beverly Hills restaurant. “My dad used to play cards with Dave Chasen. I remember back in those days, we could buy a pickle for 5 cents at the deli on Beverly Drive, and ride our bikes to school. The milkman and the vegetable man would come around, and of course there was the Helms Bakery bread truck.

“It was a different time and a charming place to grow up. You saw stars and others on the streets and in the restaurants. When you grow up there, you know people in the industry. It wasn’t a big deal, just part of the hometown experience

“My mom was very beautiful and talented. She was an actor and ballerina whose father ran a carnival. My dad was from an upper-class wealthy family that didn’t approve. My dad had a furniture store, and then he bought a Cadillac car lot. I remember when he got a 1954 turquoise El Dorado with a leather top and seats! We belonged to the Sand and Sea Club in Santa Monica, the only beach club which would accept Jews at that time.

“My family fell apart when I was 8, but throughout all the drama and trauma, he never walked away. My dad had a great sense of humor. I learned about perseverance from him.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Summer lived at Vista Del Mar, a Jewish agency that provides residential care and education, along with other services. “I had good influences there,” says Summer. “I may not have been privileged, but I grew up in a privileged environment, which saved me and sent me on my way. It was definitely an interesting part of my life.”

Summer moved back in with her father from ages 16 to 18—and then was on her own. She left the talent agency when it merged with another company and became ICM.

“I had a great friend who worked for (agent and producer) Freddie Fields. She then went to work for the Cousteau family, and I ended up taking her job as Philippe Cousteau’s assistant—setting up productions, helping the crew get equipment, and things like housesitting. When they moved their headquarters, since I had been doing writing, I had a friend who introduced me to Los Angeles Magazine, and from there, I went to Playboy Magazine, where I worked as an assistant story editor. The story editor then was Mimi Roth, whose son, Eric, wrote (the screenplay for) Forrest Gump.

“When Playboy closed its Los Angeles offices, I met someone who worked for the Smothers Brothers. I just had beginner’s luck. After 10 years of doing public relations, I went out on my own, because it turned out I was good at creating a story and selling it for media coverage. I worked with restaurants—and the irony is I don’t cook at all.

“I’d had a short marriage earlier that I left at 40 with a dog and a bed. Around that same time, I met my husband, Bruce, who was a restaurant reviewer. His wife had died, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ He said, ‘Yes, you can come out to Malibu and walk my dog. He’s very lonely.’ I drove out on a Sunday, and it turned out we knew so many people in common. Bruce and I were married for 12 years. He died in 2006.”

By 2011, Summer’s business had diminished as a result of social media.

“I’m basically very introverted. I had to be extroverted in my business, but I didn’t want to be constantly ‘out there’ anymore,” she says. “I started working when I was 13, after school, and I’ve always worked, no matter what was going on in my life. It’s just that I began to realize I wanted to change my life.”

In 2014, Summer relocated to Palm Springs for two years before settling in Palm Desert.

“My friend was going to school (here in the valley) and told me I could possibly get a scholarship,” she says. “I’ve been attending College of the Desert part-time working toward a liberal-arts degree, focusing on things like creative writing, theater arts, the history of jazz and art classes. This semester, I may take some time off. I don’t necessarily want to stay in school and complete a degree, but I know it’s good for me, and it’s always bothered me that I never finished school.

“Sometimes, I think maybe it’s time to go back to work. I do take care of dogs for people; I call my place Casa Dog Mom. And, of course, there’s my (dog) Lancelot. I’d like to get more involved in politics, with everything that’s going on. I just know I’m not finished yet.”

Summer has traveled to London, Paris, Canada and Mexico, and all around the United States. If money wasn’t an issue, she says, she would want to go everywhere.

“I speak some French, and would love to live in Paris,” she says. “I want to see Spain and Italy, and it would be great to be able to take an around-the-world cruise. I really regret that based on how I grew up, I’ve always been somewhat fearful.”

What is something people would be surprised to know about her?

“I love to sing,” Summer says, with her face lighting up. “I’m really good at it. I took voice classes, and this is what I should have done my whole life—be a chanteuse. One day, maybe I’ll muster up the courage.”

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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

When many people hear the words “science, engineering and technology,” their eyes fog over.

Debra Vogler is working to change that.

“I’m so frustrated with the lay people who don’t want information on science and technology,” Vogler says. “We have to do a better job of communicating about what those fields are doing and the impact it will have. I’m doing what I can within my own little sphere of influence.”

Vogler, 66, has been a Palm Desert resident since 2012. Her husband, John, is the maintenance manager at The Living Desert.

“We moved in on Thanksgiving Day,” she says with a laugh. “Believe it or not, we both love the heat. We would come here for vacations and really loved it. We always said that someday, when we were ready, we’d move here. Then the right opportunity presented itself, and we said, ‘This is the time.’”

Vogler was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., along with her younger sister, now a lawyer. She attended Catholic schools.

“My mom, a bookkeeper and secretary, was a big influence, teaching me about perseverance and being the best you can be,” she says. “It was expected that I would always do the best I could. My father, a truck mechanic, was stricter than my mom, but I got the same message from him. It was the time of the rise of the women’s movement, and although he couldn’t quite fathom it, he was clear that he didn’t want his daughters to be under anyone’s thumb. He’d say, ‘When you start something, you master it. You’ll be able to write your own ticket. You’re not here to be a decoration or an ornament.’

“My father had me take piano lessons, and I actually thought I might become a concert pianist. But at about 9 or 10, I thought that if someone hadn’t discovered me by then, I wasn’t destined for Carnegie Hall.”

Instead, she began to develop an interest in science.

“My grandmother had a tiny TV set,” Vogler says. “I always watched Mr. Wizard, and thought that I wanted to be on TV. I remember reading about Einstein and learning about the universe. I also remember when John F. Kennedy announced we were going to the moon—I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to investigate and do as many things as I could. I always thought I would do it all. I loved science, and I felt you could help mankind by unlocking the secrets of the universe.”

After completing college and earning a master’s degree at Marquette University, Vogler left Wisconsin in 1977 and headed to Sunnyvale, Calif., for a career in Silicon Valley.

“I had majored in physics and minored in math,” she says. “I started working as an engineer in the defense industry. It wasn’t physics, but it turned out that I was very good at project management. I could assemble a team to get things done. I became one of the youngest project engineers in my field at that company. I also met my first husband there.

“After my husband died (in 1984), I took a break from engineering. I had always loved jewelry, and although I’m not the arts-and-crafts type, I had design ideas and could handle the marketing aspect. I took off for a couple of years and went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. I had fun, but I couldn’t really see myself doing that for too long, so I went back to engineering as a consultant. I moved into the semiconductor equipment-manufacturing industry.

“Around the mid ’90s, I realized that video was coming to computers, and I wanted to see how I could do that in a thoughtful manner, so I started volunteering to do training videos. I got experience with story boards, doing voice-over—and realized I really loved it.”

By 1998, Vogler had become disillusioned, upset that her engineering career wasn’t moving as fast as she had hoped.

“Promotions for women seemed to take forever,” she says. “I wasn’t that happy. I wanted to do other things. So many people don’t understand science, and the media doesn’t do a good job of explaining it. I had been interviewed for a report we were doing and found I was a natural in front of the camera. I decided I wanted to explore that pathway for myself.”

Vogler started her own media production company, Instant Insight Inc.

“I had come up with the idea of a children’s science show, Curious Duck, and executive-produced a pilot episode. The day we shot the pilot, I was really in my element. I thought it would be possible eventually, but rather than trying to build my own company at that time, I joined PennWell publications in 2001 as a senior technical editor. I’ve written hundreds of tech-news stories and produced and hosted several hundred video and audio interviews with semiconductor and photovoltaics industry executives and technologists.

“Unfortunately, my mother had suffered a stroke in 1998, and I had to manage her health care until she died in 2007. Finally, in 2011, I started working on my own company again, and I’ve also been a senior technical editor for one client and assisted with the planning and organization of technical sessions for another. Getting into journalism eventually led me to doing video production and on-camera work. It was melding what I had done professionally with what I had wanted to do as a little girl—to be on TV. I’m now re-editing the original pilot of Curious Duck, hoping to break it into several mini-episodes, bringing a different dimension to what people think they already know.”

Vogler and I had a fascinating discussion about the difference between pure research and applied research—and a lot of it went way over my head, I must admit.

“Research affects the knowledge to produce something useful,” she says. “Real things happen out of theories. We’re at a point in history where we can’t just say, ‘I’m not a scientist.’ We need to figure out how science and technology apply to real life. I like to think of myself as being a bridge, because we’re getting to the point where what we used to do to make a living is vanishing. We’re not prepared for that. More and more people will start to feel that what they can contribute is no longer needed. It affects everything we do, including decisions we make as voters and how we prepare for the future.

“Scientists and engineers are advancing our knowledge about the universe and how it works. They’re finding ways to solve the problems of humanity. We owe the world more than just being here.”

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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

What is it about the desert that encourages many people who come here to retire to instead rediscover their passion?

Joseph Gole (www.JosephGole.com), 72, is the cantor at Har-El Congregation, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Palm Desert. His career, in a way, began at age 9, when the teacher at his Hebrew school began to give him solos, and then at age 11 included Gole in Friday night services.

“I was actually the catalyst for my family becoming more religious,” he says.

“My mother wanted me to take math and science, but I knew I wanted to pursue music, because I knew that was where my strengths were. I did my first High Holidays service at 14, and while at Hebrew High school, when I was 15, my teacher brought me into another temple to do services. In high school, there was an arts direction you could take. At 16, I was singing with The Young Americans. I remember that while in high school, the choir teacher got another job and left; we had a madrigal group that I ended up conducting.”

Gole and his brother, an attorney, were born and raised in Los Angeles. Their mother, now 96, had emigrated from Poland at age 14. “She dabbled in real estate and could be very giving and charitable,” he says, “but … she had lost most of her family, and the trauma of those experiences never fully left her.”

Gole’s father, who died in 1999, was the youngest of nine children, born in America to Russian parents. “His mother was born blind,” Gole recalls, “and he was raised by his siblings. He worked as a contract administrator for the government. He was a very constant man, somewhat rigid, but he was also a frustrated musician and singer—that’s why he started me at 5 on the accordion. He was always very supportive of the direction I chose.”

Gole attended Los Angeles Valley College and then graduated from the music department at the University of Southern California.

“At 14, I had a band, hired the musicians, and played the accordion and sang. I put myself through school playing music at events like weddings and bar mitzvahs,” Gole says.

Gole’s first job as a cantor came at age 18 at Temple Emanu El in Burbank.

“It was part-time, a small synagogue, and I had a limited role,” he says. “I’d show up at services, conducted the choir, and assumed some responsibility.”

Gole later became cantor of Sinai Temple in Westwood, a Conservative Jewish synagogue, at age 25 and served there for 10 years. He moved on to other temples before returning for a second stint 18 years later.

In the Jewish religion, there are different strains of worship: Orthodox, the strictest in observances; Conservative, which relaxes some of the rules of the Orthodox—for example, allowing congregants to drive to services on the Sabbath; and Reform, which emphasizes Jewish ethical tradition over the obligations of Jewish law. The Reform movement, to which the majority of American Jews belong, has sought to adapt to modern sensibilities, and sees itself as politically progressive and social-justice oriented while emphasizing personal choice in matters of ritual observance.

A cantor is a clergy member who may lead worship, officiate at life-cycle events, teach adults and children, run synagogue music programs, and offer pastoral care.

Gole’s self-description as a cantor: “I’m not stuck in my ways. I like mixing it up. I like doing things differently. Until World War II, cantors were all European-trained and came from a very traditional environment. After the war, immigrants weren’t coming here so much anymore, and the schooling of cantors broke into different organizations.

In 2016, Gole—divorced after 28 years of marriage with two children, a son (now 26) and a daughter (31; “She gave me a beautiful grandson!”)—was renting in West Los Angeles when he realized what a value it was to relocate to the Coachella Valley.

“Although I wasn’t really ready for retirement,” he says, “I wanted to get away.”

Now working with Har-El, Gole is coaching a young man preparing for his bar mitzvah; and a young man singing for the holidays at the temple. He has gone on cruises as a pastoral presence for Hanukkah and Passover services on board.

One of his current joys is working with a group of older women who wanted to prepare for bat mitzvah, which was not necessarily available to them when they were young. Bar mitzvah has always been a rite of passage for young Jewish men at age 13, including the privilege of reading from the Torah in front of the congregation. In Conservative and Reform Judaism, bat mitzvah is now also available as a rite of passage for young women, generally performed by giving a lecture on a Jewish topic or reading from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament.

“The women I’m working with have developed a real sense of community,” Gole says. “The experience of studying together for bat mitzvah became very meaningful for them. To be able to have this interaction is what makes it all so meaningful for me.

“I realize now that at 25, I was scared. At 35, I was still in touch with people from my old temple associations. I hadn’t comprehended the impact I’d had on people—I hadn’t really appreciated (it) in the moment. That realization was very powerful for me, that I could touch people in such a profound way. It’s been an important part of my life ever since—the interaction with people at critical points in their life, whether happy or unhappy. The fact that I get to share in those moments offers a powerful opportunity.

“I’ve realized that my journey has been to explore and understand my inner self—a truly liberating experience. … My message is to follow your passion. Find mentors who will encourage you. Don’t be afraid. We’re all afraid. Just follow your heart.”

Cantor Joseph Gole has done just that, and rediscovered his passion here in the desert. Isn’t there a story in scripture about that?

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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

According to Psychology Today, the common understanding about the brain—that the left side controls logical and analytical thinking, while the right is intuitive and creative—is a myth. Regardless, lifelong artist Judy Nemer Sklar has made ample use of both sides during her journey through life.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Sklar remembers starting to draw when she was about 5 or 6 years old.

“It was really cold in Minnesota, and everybody had one of those old furnaces,” she recalls. “My early memory is coming down the stairs with my papers and pencils, getting under the table with my feet on the furnace, and drawing the women from the fashion pictures I had seen in the newspapers. My parents saw my interest and sent me to an art school before I even got into regular school. They always encouraged me.”

Sklar’s father had a chain of jewelry stores, and her mother worked with him. She also has an older sister, a teacher; and a younger brother, an engineer. She remembers her late father as being loving, tender and quiet. Her mother is alive.

“My mom is still very current, and a very happy person. She lives in assisted living, and everybody there loves her,” Sklar says with a smile. “They wanted to give her a kind of ‘make a wish’ gift. She said she wanted to meet (former Minnesota senator and Saturday Night Live alumnus) Al Franken. He actually came and spent a whole day with her. It was wonderful!”

In her early 20s, Sklar relocated to California. While looking for a part-time job, she met Jerry Sklar, an accountant who worked in Century City.

“He had a practice working for entertainment clients and was looking for a secretary who could relate to his clients and be a problem-solver,” Judy says. “He saw my chatty side, and the truth is I loved (solving) all their problems. When we ultimately married, we still worked together, and although he didn’t see my art as a serious profession, he told me to ‘go enjoy yourself.’ For our years together, I was definitely using both sides of my brain!”

Years after completing a year of college in Minnesota, Sklar completed her degree at Chapman University in Orange, in 2010, and ultimately earned her master’s degree in humanities at California State University-Dominguez Hills in 2016.

Sklar and her husband for years had a home at The Lakes in Palm Desert and visited the desert often. After Jerry was diagnosed with cancer, Judy became much more involved with their business endeavors. When their Los Angeles home was damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, they made the decision to settle in the desert.

“Our home had been almost destroyed by the earthquake, but we were still able to live in it until the rains came,” she said. “We had about five minutes to get out (when the rains came); it was destroyed.

“Jerry could still work, and in addition to his L.A. clients, we had developed some clientele here in the desert. Plus, I saw that there was a niche market in business management for seniors here. Although I had to get more and more involved in the business (while also) caring for Jerry, I never dropped out of art; I just had to compartmentalize it.”

It was during her husband’s illness that Judy went back to school to earn her master’s degree. “That is what saved me and brought me fully back to art,” she says.

Jerry died six years ago, after they had been married for 29 years.

While still working with her business clients and producing her own art, Sklar is also sharing her passion for self-expression by teaching classes and holding workshops.

“Although through my work with my husband, I became much more verbal, you need silence to be able to think about what you want to do artistically,” Sklar says. “My workshops are about embracing your creative life. My passion is for people who say, ‘I can’t even draw a straight line.’ I say, ‘Who cares?’ It’s about how to use your creativity to get in touch with who you are. It’s like planting a seed.

“For some of my students, it’s really transformative. They can find their true voice.”

Sklar’s art has been shown in galleries throughout California, and she has won juried regional and national art awards. Her work has been showcased in magazines, and is in selected private collections across the country. She is a past board member of the Artists Council of the Palm Springs Art Museum, was a juror at the La Quinta Arts Foundation, was a member of the docent council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

“When I was a docent at LACMA, I would get in early through the workers’ door where all the art was coming in and the crates were being unwrapped. I saw so many things that inspired me,” Sklar says. “I work mostly with watercolor mixed with collage. Some things I can do in a day; others can take up to eight months. I have an unusual style of working. I rarely draw something out first. I’m always changing it as I go along.

“I’m beginning to show again; I have a group show coming up in Los Angeles. I guess I would describe my work as figurative but abstract. For me, color is everything, especially a rich palette of primary colors. I often sit and watch people for inspiration. I use music and snippets of conversation. I might see something on a T-shirt. I keep a drawing journal where I just jot something down that I will use later on.”

You can learn more about Sklar’s work at judynemersklar.com.

“I’ve been on a transformative journey in my life, and as a middle-years person, I believe whatever we’ve garnered in life is what we have to give,” she says. “It’s important to know what is in you and be willing to let it out without being worried what others will think. If I had a child asking whether they should pursue their passion, I’d say, ‘Just do it!’

“Your goal in life should be to find your own passion, and then your mission in life is to give it away.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

“When I first went to the radiologist,” says Phil Drucker, “he told me, ‘Other than the cancer, you’re a really healthy guy.’ I’ve been a vegetarian, haven’t smoked since I was 22, and hardly ever drink. I kept thinking, ‘This just isn’t possible.’”

Drucker, 60 and a La Quinta resident for the past eight years, was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. The eldest of three, his parents were children of immigrant parents.

“My mom’s biggest impression on me was not what she said, but rather what she did,” says Drucker. “When I was in elementary school, there was a teacher’s strike. Most people backed the teachers, but my mom didn’t. She put on her miniskirt and go-go boots, and wrote a sign: ‘I pay my taxes. Why aren’t my kids in school?’ She taught me that when you think you’re right, all you need is an army of one.

“My dad was very old-school European. He worked for the Department of Water and Power for 38 years, a union guy. He was a complex person, a deep thinker who kept to himself and didn’t talk much. The main thing I remember is that our house was full of books. He loved books—never threw one away.

“My parents hadn’t gone to college, so it’s kind of funny that when I got a scholarship to college, my dad said, ‘This college thing is really great, but did you ever consider going into the Air Force for 10 years and retiring with a pension and then going to college?’ I figured if I didn’t do (college) then, I never would.”

Drucker did take the scholarship and went to Cal State Northridge for a year. He later attended Santa Monica City College for a year before going to UCLA for a degree in fine arts.

“Music had been in my family,” Drucker says. “My sister played piano, and my brother took up the saxophone. I learned the clarinet in junior high school, because my parents didn’t want to pay for a new instrument, and my dad had an old one he had played.”

At age 16, Drucker took up the guitar and later played in various bands. “It was in the 1980s,” he recalls, “in the post-punk scene. Through my 20s, I got paid for playing, and got to tour to Europe twice along with all over the U.S. and Canada.

“When I stopped playing music, I knew I needed a ‘real job.’ I had worked in a letterpress company while I was in school, and went back into that world. I kept finding myself as the person who was the liaison to lawyers, handling things like contracts and copyrights. A lawyer I worked with once said to me, ‘Do you know the difference between what you do and what I do? About $150,000 a year!’”

At age 34, Drucker decided to go back to school. At that time, entry into law school at the University of La Verne required a personal interview in addition to taking the Law School Admissions Test. “When I met for the interview, the admissions director said he’d been doing his job for 20 years and had never had someone come in with a degree in fine arts. But he said he found me interesting, so I got admitted.

“Because of my undergrad degree, I knew about music, painting, graphics, copyrights—and it interested me how the law around those things had materialized over the years. I hadn’t thought about the fact that copyright and patents are covered in the Constitution, and that it’s actually a limitation on First Amendment rights.”

Drucker graduated law school at 36, and at 40, he passed the bar on his first try.

“It’s kind of funny,” he says, “that my brother also became a lawyer. He’s in PI (personal injury), and I’m in IP (intellectual property).” In addition to his practice, Drucker became an expert on constitutional law, including teaching and public speaking.

What should people know?

“First, if you’re ever stopped by the police, be nice. They have a gun, and you don’t,” he says. “Second, don’t mess with immigration agents at the airport. They can throw you into a dark room for up to 72 hours.

“The Constitution doesn’t really grant you rights; a piece of paper can’t give you rights. What makes us unique is we are the only nation conceived on the concept of ‘natural rights,’ born with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The piece of paper lays out what the government CAN’T do, and is only as good as those using it.”

After a life of eating healthy and working out regularly, Drucker last year was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I had never been in a hospital before. I even still have my tonsils,” he says. “I didn’t go to the doctor routinely, but my stomach was bothering me, so I went in and had a blood test. The doctor called me the next day and said I had to come back immediately. I had another blood test, and it turned out my hemoglobin level was way lower than it should have been. The doc said I shouldn’t even have driven myself over. He said by law, he couldn’t let me leave, and that if I walked out, he’d have to drag me back. I ended up in a wheelchair taken to the hospital, and they said I’d have to stay at least 48 hours. They’d have to give me blood to try to get my count to an acceptable level.

“It finally dawned on me to ask, ‘I don’t have cancer, do I?’” he says. “It turned out I did, but it hadn’t metastasized. The doctor said in six more months, that wouldn’t have been the case.

“I had surgery and they found five nodes infected, so I had to have chemotherapy—pills at first, and then infusions—and I had 28 radiation treatments. It feels like they take you to the brink of death’s doorstep, and then your body kicks in, and they encourage it to heal. It was really scary. I got depressed and felt so fatigued, but I kept up my teaching schedule through that semester.

“The infusions are done in a large room with lots of other people, and I realized one day, looking at everybody, all hooked up to the same machines, that it didn’t matter who we were—we all wanted the same thing: to get better. That’s what binds me to all other cancer survivors for the rest of my life. It confirmed what I’ve always believed: We are all one.

“Most people take their dog to the vet more than they routinely go to the doctor. It’s a mistake. The fact that I ate vegan and worked out was probably the only reason they were able to get the cancer in time. They tell you to think positively, but you think, ‘If this could happen to me, what else can happen?’ You experience vulnerability, helplessness, a sense of futility. I never thought about giving up, although there were very dark days.

“I’ve gotten into mindfulness, living in the moment. I know life isn’t about the past or the future; we can’t change them anyway. They tell you to decide if you want to share your experience, and I’m willing to help anybody going through what I did.

“Whatever is going on in life, you have to find the gems in the mud. That’s what keeps me going.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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 college.”

After her three-year stint at the World Bank, Danalis worked for the Greek foreign minister, who wanted an adviser to his cabinet who had international-development expertise.

“I couldn’t read or write Greek,” she says, “in spite of my parents both having come to America from Greece. I actually lost a lot of my hair the first six months, just from the stress.”

After two years advising the Greek cabinet, Danalis was recruited by the European Union to go to the Balkans as a program manager when the European Parliament allocated funds for the Serbian government.

“I was on track to being a true American success story,” she says, “but then I was in Belgrade when I witnessed a horrendous incident that would change my life.”

In 2002, Danalis and a friend were sitting in their car when a man walked past them and began to get into the car parked in front of them.

“He opened the door—and the car just exploded, and so did he,” Danalis says. “I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t be alone and couldn’t be with people. It was a very frightening place to be. Everyone around me was well-meaning and said the equivalent of, ‘Suck it up. If you’re going to do work like this in the world, then things like that will happen.’”

In 2003, Danalis left Belgrade and went to live on the Greek island of Kefalonia, where her father had been born.

“I told people I was going to write a book,” she recalls. “That’s what you say instead of, ‘I’m having a nervous breakdown.’ In my year there, I learned so much about myself.

“When I got my graduate degree, it was handed to me by (former U.S. Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright, who was the embodiment of a tough woman. I believed that my toughness was my greatest asset. What I learned that year in Kefalonia was that my emotions and compassion were my greatest assets. I felt that the system that was preparing me to make it in the capitalist world had lied to me.”

Danalis moved to Athens and was there for 10 years, working as a consultant to the sustainability and corporate responsibility industry, helping companies improve their bottom line by focusing on people and the planet as well as profits.

An only child—born in New York and arriving in Southern California in 1980—Danalis came to the desert in 2011 to take care of her mother, who had Stage 4 cancer.

“I stayed in Palm Springs because by the time my mom died, I had made a home here,” she says. “Besides, I met the love of my life!

“My parents met each other at a Greek restaurant in Greenwich Village. Mom had come to the U.S. when she was 9, my dad when he was already an adult. My mom had had a traumatic childhood, so although she was very artistic, she never had the self-confidence to stick with any idea. But she always told me, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’”

While taking care of her mother, Danalis studied Buddhism and taught at the Buddhist meditation centers in both Palm Desert and Palm Springs. Since 2011, she has been pursuing her mission as a “mindfulness coach.” Danalis (felinadanalis.com) is a regular presenter at the Golden Door spa in San Marcos, working with individuals and groups online, and presenting programs for Planned Parenthood, Cancer Partners in Palm Desert, and the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs.

“There’s too much homogenization in the world right now,” Danalis says. “We need to stay in touch with our individual cultural roots, combining the best of our traditions with modernity. We’re all so stuck to our phones; it’s all about transactions but not about relationships. We sometimes forget that we are human beings with a connection to our history underneath it all.

“I’m concerned about the implications of economic inequality that results in a lack of access to health care. Stress has an impact on illnesses, and I believe we can make a difference in our own well-being by not focusing so much on ‘self-help,’ but rather on the cultural and social impacts that influence our health.

“Mindfulness, to me, is helping particularly women master resilience in the face of stress, anxiety and the drama in their lives, so that they are able to have more impact in the world. It’s a kind of spiritual fitness—just as we exercise our physical muscles to be physically stronger, we need to exercise our spiritual fitness muscles in order to be able to be still. Only then are we able to have a social impact that can change the world.”

Sometimes, traumatic events do not stop us; they can make us stronger. Felina Danalis exudes a positive energy that is infectious. She is still making a difference on a global scale—just not in the way she originally thought she would.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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; it was my mother’s maiden name,” he says) was born and raised in Beverly Hills. His father was in the real estate business.

“My dad drank a lot,” he recalls, “but wouldn’t touch a drop when he was working on a project. He had developments in the Palm Springs area, and I always liked it here, which is why, 19 years ago, when Phyllis and I retired, I wanted to move here.”

Wade and his sister were raised in a religious family. His mom, originally from Minnesota, was a Christian Scientist; his dad, originally from Connecticut, was Methodist. Perhaps the greatest lesson in his life was learned from his mom: “She taught me to always be nice to everybody, more even to the poor than the rich. We were in Beverly Hills, where there are so many rich people, and she would take my old clothes and donate them for those who needed them.”

Phyllis, the youngest of three sisters, was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a Jewish family that kept a kosher household. “My grandfather was a rabbi,” she says, “and my mother, originally from Kiev, Russia, and father, originally from Warsaw, Poland, had an arranged marriage. I’m so proud to know my father’s name is inscribed at Ellis Island.

“I got my sense of humor from my mom, who lived to 97 years old,” Phyllis says. “She used to joke that she had no wrinkles on her face, ‘But you should see my behind!’ She worked in a bakery all her life, and my favorite story is when a robber came into the bakery, and she got in his face with: ‘I work for a living. You should go out and get a job, too!’

“My mom taught me there was nothing more important in life than family. She was such a strong influence on me. My dad, on the other hand, was kind of just there. He was very quiet.”

Phyllis went to Drake Business School after graduating high school, while Wade went into the service during World War II as a paratrooper; he completed one year at Santa Monica Community College when he returned. Phyllis and Wade both had first marriages with children.

Although Phyllis and Wade met in 1976, they didn’t get together as a couple until 1981—and after Wade finally asked her out to dinner, they started to sneak home at lunchtime. She used to play April Fools’ jokes on him, once taping his phone receiver down so when he tried to answer it, the entire instrument came up; another time, she put dirt into his instant coffee.

“My daughter had lots of dolls,” she recalls, “and I once took the head of one of them and put it into the men’s bathroom toilet, so when they lifted the lid … .”

Wade and Phyllis got a motor home and traveled around the country for more than six years. “It was the best time of our lives,” she says. “We met so many people.”

Wade adds: “We’d drive into a park; someone would come by to say hello, and we’d have cocktail parties every night.”

Says Phyllis: “My mother would ask me, ‘How can you live in a truck?’ She didn’t realize it cost more than a condo!”

They say they’d put on shows in the motor home parks. “We’d do Roaring ’20s and dress up,” says Phyllis.

“She made me do it,” Wade adds with a laugh.

When Wade got ill with cancer, they decided to settle in Palm Desert, where they would be closer to consistent treatment.

Phyllis started an aerobic pool exercise group, and then joined the “You Don’t Have to be Hemingway” writing group (where I first met her five years ago). Her writing is almost always infused with humor. One piece was about the embarrassment of trying to squat behind her car to relieve herself in the middle of a long drive, with the constant complication of men stopping to help; another was about turning the tables on a sales-scam caller that concluded with him quitting his job.

Wade is the cheerleader. “He’s the one who told me I should start writing,” she says.

He chimes in: “She’s so intelligent.”

How did these charming, interesting and obviously devoted people become who they are?

Phyllis claims to have been very shy, “an ugly child” who had few friends and wasn’t happy as a young woman. “I felt lost in a crowd of one.” And yet, Phyllis is the now more outgoing and social of the pair.

Perhaps what unites them most is a sense of acceptance of where they are in life.

Wade: “You have to live each day the best you can and enjoy yourself. Don’t get mad at people when it doesn’t make that much difference. What’s happening in the world doesn’t have to make you mad. If you don’t like somebody, just don’t be around them.”

Phyllis: “I do get mad sometimes—at Wade’s illness—but you have to roll with the punches. It doesn’t make sense to be mad. Have patience. You have to hold on to a positive attitude, or you’ll hate life.”

Phyllis’ humor rises to the occasion yet again, mentioning that the writing group’s latest assignment is about describing a picture. “I’m picking the ‘Mona Lisa’ and assuming her expression is meant to say, ‘Hurry up. I have to go to the bathroom!’”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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 in Rancho Mirage.

Goldberg, born in Walnut Creek and raised in the Coachella Valley, comes from a family of writers. His mother, Jan Curran, now deceased, was the society editor for The Desert Sun for many years. She had been a columnist and editor long before coming to the desert.

“I used to fall asleep to my mom writing her column. To this day, the sound of an IBM Selectric typewriter can make me fall peacefully asleep,” Goldberg says.

His father was a television news reporter and station manager; his parents divorced when he was 2 years old. Goldberg has three siblings, all older: his brother, Lee, a novelist and television producer; sister Karen, a lawyer and author; and sister Linda, an artist and author. “Between the four of us,” says Goldberg, “we’ve published about 100 books!”

Goldberg’s wife, Wendy Duren, is also a writer. They married in 1998, lived in Las Vegas until 2000, and then settled in the desert.

“We have no kids,” says Goldberg, “but we do have two dogs.”

Goldberg didn’t really learn to read until he was about 10 or 11 years old. “I was dyslexic,” he recalls, “and the first book I remember that had a profound emotional effect on me was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I stole that book from the library, because it was considered too old of a read for me at that age. My mom had a great appreciation of literature, and when she found I had taken the book, she marched me back to the library and told the librarian, ‘Every single book in this library belongs to my son!’

“Steinbeck was easy to read, but asked difficult ethical questions, like about the nature of love between men, and what it means to care for someone in such a profound way that you would take their life to save their life. It also made a difference that the book took place in Northern California, in places I had been. It was important to me as a writer to know that something that was made up happened in a real place that I could see.”

After graduating from Palm Springs High School in 1989, Goldberg earned his bachelor’s degree in English at California State University, Northridge, in 1994. “I have to admit I majored in ‘frat boy,’” he says. “I was a terrible student, but I was involved in student government and was homecoming king!”

He went on to receive his master’s degree in fine arts from Bennington College in Vermont: “I became an excellent student. I really cared because I was finally doing the thing I loved most—writing.”

Goldberg’s first book, Fake Liar Cheat, was published in 2000 by Simon and Schuster.

“I was very lucky,” he says. “After college, I had published short fiction pieces, so I had established a literary reputation. That makes agents take notice of you. I started writing the book in 1998, and it’s really something, seeing what you write in print.”

Although Goldberg’s primary focus revolves around crime and criminals, he cites Empire Falls—a 2001 novel by Richard Russo which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002—as a major influence. “He taught me how to write from multiple points of view, and how small towns could mirror all the problems of a big world,” Goldberg says. “I’ve also been influenced by writers like Margaret Atwood, Aimee Bender and Susan Straight, who changed my view of magical realism, dystopia and our own Inland Empire.”

Goldberg has also written opinion pieces for various newspapers across the country, focused on violence in the United States: “I remember once seeing a boxer die in the ring when I was a kid, and I’ve written essays about the terrible side of life. I’m always trying to understand why seemingly normal people do abnormal things.”

A prolific reader, Goldberg can quickly rattle off a host of titles he read in various decades of his life: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (“It showed that absurdity had a place in the world”); crime authors like Ralph Ellison and Lawrence Block; Richard Ford’s Rock Springs and The Sportswriter (“He taught me that genre fiction could be mixed with other concepts”); and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (“I learned the ability to look at the vulnerability of people in combat”). Goldberg is currently working on a series of four books about Rabbi David Cohen, a fictional character based on a real hitman from Chicago.

“I prioritize the things that are most important to me,” he says. “I write one to two hours every other day, but once I’m into it, I’m pretty regimented. Mornings, I read students’ work and sometimes write book reviews. I’m most creative in the evening, and when there are no classes, I’ll write from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., but I also need to be able to turn it off. Wendy’s also a writer, so she understands. She’ll ask, ‘Who am I talking to right now: the hit man, the rabbi or my husband?’

“I’m a kind of method actor when I’m writing. I need to replicate a character’s language and keep it in my head; otherwise, the character doesn’t feel human. I’m fascinated by what gets people to kill. People make irrational decisions when they feel pressed against the wall. There are lots of great books about killing in a war, but in crime fiction, there’s a glorification of violence I find disturbing. In my books, there is always a ripple, a ramification, a consequence.

“I write because I have to, and because it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve satisfied what I always wanted out of my life: a beautiful wife, and the desire to write and to teach.”

Tod Goldberg has a lot to say, and he has found a way to build his life around saying it.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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 directly or indirectly.”

Paris went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., initially planning to major in German, but he quickly changed to biology, thinking he would go into the medical field.

“I planned to become a doctor, but that meant being inside all the time,” he says. “However, the college allowed students to design their own focus, and I decided to make another major for myself in film. I took classes in film editing and camera work, and even made a film about an artist at the college.

“While at school, I took half a year off and went to Europe to work at the British Film Institute. After a week, I decided I was going to visit the great centers of Europe and Africa and shoot some film. I got a van in Amsterdam and drove to Paris and then to Morocco. I was fascinated with the London Tube (the underground transit system), which had a really creepy ambiance. I visited some family relatives in Hungary during the time when Eastern Europe was still under Soviet domination. I ran out of money in Morocco, so I worked on a fishing boat for three weeks while waiting for some money to come from home. When I got back to college, I put all the experiences together on film.

“While at college, I rented a basement apartment, and one of my memories is that the Humphreys were my neighbors!” (Hubert Humphrey was a senator who served as vice president from 1965-1969 and lost a presidential bid to Richard Nixon in 1968.)

Macalester allowed students an “interim term” to explore their own interests, and Paris had a friend at the UCLA film school. “He asked me to come out,” recalls Paris, “and thus really began my film career.”

Paris now describes himself primarily as a documentary filmmaker—although his peripatetic nature still prevails.

After college, Paris stayed in Minnesota for 20 years, working with a small film-production company. He was then offered a job in New York, but the weekend before he was going there, his then-girlfriend invited him to her family’s lake cabin.

“On the way,” he says, “her dad had to stop at this beautiful farm, 100 acres with a lake and a four-bedroom farmhouse that needed a lot of repairs. It was for sale for only $14,000. So instead of taking the job, I bought the farm. I’d had some experience in gardening, and I pretended I was a farmer for a year. I even rented a cow from a local farmer! I’ve made some bad choices, but I always pick the choice that I think will make me happy.

“After a year, I needed to get a job. I became a human-services technician at a state-run nursing home, which became one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It was a kind of dumping ground for people without family support or who had illnesses that nobody wanted to deal with. I had taken care of my great-grandma when I was young, so I jumped in. I made a documentary film while I was there, based on interviewing the residents. My attitude was that I was going to get into whatever their reality was from day to day, and not try to pull them into mine. That film was actually used for training at that facility for many years.”

Paris later began a career in log-building. “I cut the logs myself and built from the ground up. I just finished and sold a project in Idyllwild built in the old Norwegian style. I even taught classes in how to do it. And I just finished doing a house here in the desert that was featured during Modernism Week.

“I’m always doing several things at once. I put together small film festivals while I was in school. I did sponsored films for corporations while I was in Minnesota. I’m not about to earn a living as a documentary filmmaker, although my current project is filming a series of 15-minute profiles of people in the Coachella Valley who love what they’re doing. I search for unheralded individuals with a passion for their work, and their struggles to help themselves and others to find joy and celebration in their lives. I’d love to pitch it as a series for local film festivals or maybe to run on PBS. It would be a good project to do with film students at College of the Desert.”

Paris loves to cook, dance, watch sports and hike. His enthusiasm when he speaks is engaging. He’s been married to Lori for the past 28 years, and they have a blended family from prior marriages.

“We’re totally opposite,” he says. “She is cautious, a thinker, but we mesh well together, like oil and vinegar once they’re blended.”

Paris came to California almost 30 years ago after visiting his film-historian older brother in Los Angeles.

“I love the desert,” he says. “I love the diversity here, and I love the proximity of five grocery stores within a five-minute drive. But my first week here, I had a nightmare that I couldn’t find a parking space that wasn’t handicapped. That speaks to my anxiety.”

Dan Paris has settled into the desert life, but if his past is any prologue to his future, he will continue his peripatetic lifestyle, always looking for a new way to express himself.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. 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.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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