Friday, June 24, 2016

JUNE - where has it gone? National Caribbean American Heritage Month. LGBT Pride Month. PTSD Awareness Month? African-American Music Appreciation Month.

   Perhaps I haven't written all this month - despite the many issues and causes -- because I've had my mind on my cancers.  I admit I am somewhat absorbed by the process, as well as the side effects. The way I look has also been somewhat absorbing - although I find selfies aren't the best way to capture the process.  I have two cancers - - ovarian and endometrial.  Most of it was removed by way of an operation ( non-invasive luckily ) but they feel they have to try to kill anything that might remain.

Here is one photo I took to show my red face and wounded chest sores,  as well as using a wonderful cap I bought through the Internet and a beautiful turtle scarf given to me by my friend Jim.   The redness is from Dexamethasone a steroid.   I am not sure why the sores form on my skin. A type of burning perhaps.  Why I take a steroid isn't totally clear to me. I do remember my mother's Bell's Palsy -- the first time around the time of the Rosenberg's execution when there were no steroids and she had to sit in a dark room for days and months I think to heal.  The second time was much later but unfortunately my father was dying of horrendously painful bone cancer. My mother was his caretaker - impossible for an 83 year-old woman to care for an 83 year-old man who couldn't move.  But this second time she was cured rather quickly with steroids.

This one I took at my first chemo.  I had three chemo treatments with 3 weeks in between, starting in March.
That took me up to May when I had 3 radiation treatments -- one each week for 3 weeks. Radiation seems less intrusive in my case. Don't think it's true for others. One finds out that no one else is going to be able to tell you what you will experience. CANCER IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE!  
 My hair started to fall out after the second treatment I think. Or maybe the third.  This shows areas of thinning.

So I decided to get a professional hair cut from Don Morand who has been haircutter to the stars for many many years. So much so that his stars are going to be very upset when he has to retire, which I think he finally does at age 85!! He has lived in a beautiful little funky cabin that my mother owned for years. It has no street access so feels very much like the country, even if it is located above a freeway.

Below are some photos of how to cover a bald head. Scarves and tattoos are good. I'm pretty lazy so I wear the "sleep caps" mostly.  I'd rather wear nothing in the heat.
In the photo above I was practicing tying scarves with beautiful Janice Ramkalawan, one of my oldest friends. We were at Echo Park Lake.      
Here I am with very red cheeks - the first day after a chemo treatment.  It's a reaction to the steroids they give us the day before and morning of.  Not sure why.
I take so many meds --  Dexamethasone is the steroid.  Ondanestron (Zofran) for nausea but it has side effects (they all do).       Cetirizine (Zyrtec) to prevent possible allergic reaction.  Famotidine (Pepcid) because there is always stomach upset.   I can take something called prochlorperazine for nausea and vomiting but for some reason I haven't had that reaction.

After a day I have to take much more for an upset stomach.  These pills are very binding.
I take senna, Magnesium, Milk of Magnesia and more sometimes.
I try to drink a ton of water every day.
This is a photo of my hair almost gone.
The bald head with the turtle above was an idea I got when
looking for henna tattoos.
I am hoping my son-in-law can do it since he is a fabulous
artist.  I bought some henna and applicators. We'll see.
It washes out eventually anyway!

Best is if you can eat really healthy food -- especially protein. I'm a vegetarian but I eat nuts, beans, miso, and mostly fruits and vegetables.  Rice noodles are good. Bok choy is great.  But lately I have been sneaking in fish since I love it and it does give me a bit of energy.  Not enough energy of course.

Today after my 4th chemo treatment I feel like sleeping all day. But I also don't want to sleep that much. But sleeping is healing.

My darling friend Linda Perez came to visit me and Brian at one of my chemo sessions!! That was such a treat! She is so gracious and generous.

She is a new grandma now too! Congratulations Linda.

To the right is my first effort at typing a scarf.  It worked okay but looks better with a bit of hair sticking out. And I don't have any at the moment.
So Brian generously shaved my head after it mostly fell out.  It is very difficult to shave a bald head.  It isn't as smooth as you think -- it has crevices and dents, etc. etc.   So he found a way to go back and forth in a rhythm that was very effective. It took a long long time to do, and it was cold and almost raining the day we did it.  Felt good though.

During the 3 weeks of radiation and 3 weeks before the next chemo my hair started to grow back a little bit. Even the eyebrows grew some.
It is very hard to apply make-up if you aren't accustomed to doing it.  I cannot draw eyebrows very well.
The American Cancer Society generously gives a class in make up and gives a free kit full of it.  I used some of it and found it helpful.  But mostly I like to stay clear of chemicals, including make-up.  How ironic is it to use chemicals when you are trying to heal from cancer.  I believe they provide people with on wig - but the weather seems too warm for a wig.

Many wonderful people have suggested I steer clear of all of this and just do alternative methods.  I would but I have no idea how far along my cancers are.  The ovarian is stage 3 they say but they don't have any idea about the endometrial.  I felt more confident trying conventional medicine first.   Radiation wasn't bad because it was internal in my case. No skin effects except the usual dryness. And there was exhaustion too.  Chemo gave me many many more side effects -- some are detailed here.   One I forgot to mention is tingling of feet. Yesterday the nurse gave me the names of 3 natural supplements I could take to counter some of the effects of tingling or numbness in the feet, which unfortunately can lead to much worse effects.

My oldest friend Heidi died at 41 from melanoma -- I feel they would've caught it sooner if it had happened to her much later.  It was from all the x-raying they did of her scoliosis inflicted back.   She refused radiation and chemotherapy.  I think I can understand why -- it was just too much suffering for her to go through in her already physically challenged life.  She had scoliosis and no money to really treat it.  She suffered from Addison's Disease (president Kennedy had it).  She was brilliant, an artist, a genius. She had painted 60 paintings at the end of her life -- and UCLA even studied her end of life to show how much the mind can affect prolonging one's life.  She lived about a year and a half longer in order to paint all these paintings.  I have one -- of a duck with chicken babies she saw in Europe once.  She painted beautiful cows and rural paintings.    But here are the two things she gave me when we were sixteen -- celebrating the Great James Baldwin:

It was 1963 or 1964 and we were emotionally and politically caught up in the Civil Rights movement.  But Heidi always dug deeper than the rest of us, read the most relevant works, and sought to represent them.

I think it would help me if I went back to the book about my father and actually wrote as much as I can.  It would probably keep me going too.  But I am a very superficial person in some ways -- I feel I am alive to support the efforts of others.  All the fights going on in our world today -- we need to support peoples' efforts as much as possible.  I am mostly wrapped up in trying to support others.  At this point I think we all deserve the most support we can muster.

And I do find alternative salves and potions and liquids very important in the healing process. I use a beautiful salve for my skin that a friend made and sent.  She also sent me a healing and preventive liquid to keep me safe while around others.  My body is very susceptible to disease right now.

I also use straight Vitamin E oil on my very dry skin and it seems to help heal.  
I get very bad arthritic pain with chemo for some reason. So I found a source for a wonderful salve made with coconut oil, other oils, and a tincture of Cannabis.  It definitely helps.
I know there are lots of Cannabis products that might help but let me try to explain why I am waiting to do the healing thing once this toxic mix is over.

HEALING PRODUCTS SUCH AS CANNABIS, IV VITAMIN C, AND OTHER WONDERFUL HERBAL AND NATURAL PRODUCTS WILL POSSIBLY ENCOURAGE GROWTH INSTEAD OF ALLOWING THE KILLING OFF OF ALL THE DEADLY CANCER CELLS.  This may not make sense because I am allowing my body to get run down and tired. But I feel that this process will soon be over and I can finally do the healing things I need to do.  I'll go back to my naturopath, my acupuncture, my massage, etc.  These things are important now but part of my problem is that I can't drive much (my eyes are dry, my eyesight impaired, my reflexes are slower) so I can't go to all the alternative activities I'd like to do.  But I know I will return to my chair yoga and dance.  

I'd like to end this with a tribute to Harry Belafonte -- one of our greatest living Caribbean Americans and a fighter for civil rights and against poverty, etc, etc,  Harry Belafonte's was one of the very first LP records (vinyl of course) that my family ever owned.  He was always a hero to us.  So I learned his songs very early on.  Harry gave up an even more lucrative career to support the Civil Rights movement.  He was highly successful as an actor and singer, particularly when he sang Calypso songs. But his heart was with the struggle. He had witnessed too much oppression and experienced it as well in his young life. 
   For example, from the Bio linked below: "Always outspoken, Belafonte found inspiration for his activism from such figures as singer Paul Robeson; writer and activist W. E. B. Du Bois; and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. In the 1950s, Belafonte met Martin Luther King, Jr. The pair became good friends, and Belafonte emerged as a strong voice for the civil rights movement. He provided financial backing for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council and participated in numerous rallies and protests. Belafonte was with King when the civil rights leader gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., and visited with him days before King was assassinated in 1968."

So I thank you Harry Belafonte for your inspiration and your talent!! You have given so much to the people of the world.
   I would wish that I could do a quarter as well as you have in making this world a better place.

Sherry Skipper-Spurgeon gave me this incredible scarf from West Africa, with earrings which you can't quite see.  It is beautiful!! I'm wearing an East African shawl from Zanzibar that says "Pole Pole Zanzibar" and Hakuna Matata!     Gracias!! 

Saturday, May 21, 2016



   I have always wanted to write inspiring little books for middle school students (to give them hope in this tough world) about unknown heroes of our country and our world.  The first I thought about was Charlotta Bass, the first African American woman to own her own newspaper. Then I thought about Philip Veracruz and Larry Itliong - unknown heroes of people who work in the fields.  It was Filipinos who organized first in the fields.  Who knew?  Did you?
   Philip Vera Cruz was a Vice President of the Farmworkers union, the highest ranking Filipino in the union.  My friend Kent Wong:  "Although I was active with the United Farm Workers, Philip had to teach me that it was the Filipino Americans who first organized a farmworkers union in the San Joaquin Valley. He proudly shared the story of how the Filipino Americans launched the historic Delano grape strike. He explained that the establishment of the United Farm Workers Union was a merger between two separate unions, one representing Filipino American workers and the other with a primarily Mexican membership."

   Larry Itliong -  "An unsung hero, hard around the edges, Larry Itliong never bragged about his work and always put the cause above everything else, says San Francisco State University history professor Dawn Mabalon. Before he moved north to Delano, Itliong spent the spring of 1965 fighting alongside grape workers in the Coachella Valley to raise their hourly pay from a meager $1.10 to $1.40. "  The workers - but only the Filipino workers - went out on strike. Latino workers kept on working and the owners took advantage of this.  "Itliong, along with other Filipino leaders like Philip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, and Andy Imutan, realized that if they were going to win the strike, they could not proceed alone. Together, with Itliong as regional director, these men led and organized the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). They reached out to Chavez and Huerta, who had formed the mostly-Chicano National Farm Workers Association (NFWA)."

   "After several years of unsuccessful picketing, the movement called for a national boycott of table grapes. It was at this point that Delano attracted international attention, along with that of much of America’s sympathetic white middle class. The big businesses were finally taking a hit where it hurt: their wallets.

“Cesar became the face of the movement,” says Gadiano. “And then look at Larry. He had dark glasses, a Fu Manchu, and a cigar. He looked like a tough guy—and he was.” Itliong was relegated to a secondary role within the UFW, and Chavez emerged as the leader of the farm workers labor struggle."

Words from the workers who were there:  (Yes! Magazine article)
   "It took years to resolve the strike. The first union contracts were signed on July 29, 1970. Chavez said 95 percent of the strikers had lost their homes, cars, and most of their possessions. But in losing those things, they also had found themselves. Despite all the disagreements, a powerful bond existed. “The cause is always above a single personality, that’s what Philip [Vera Cruz] used to say. It was beyond him, beyond me. It’s crazy to think about. I lived it,” says Gadiano."
   "Agtang agrees: “That grape strike and boycott would not have succeeded without genuine solidarity” between the two groups. “And that lesson is as important and meaningful today as it was five decades ago,” she explains. “Larry and Cesar insisted that the workers eat together and hold joint union meetings. They insisted grape strikers from both races share the same picket lines. As a result, people got to know one another and friendships grew.”

   "When the strike was finally settled and when union contracts were won, one of the first projects that Cesar Chavez launched was the construction of a retirement home for Filipino farmworkers. Plans were unveiled at the United Farm Worker’s first conven- tion held in 1971. At this convention, Cesar Chavez was elected president, Dolores Huerta was elected first vice-president, and Philip was elected second vice-president, the highest-ranking Filipino officer. "  Kent Wong

Here is more from Kent Wong explaining one reason why Vera Cruz has been somewhat marginalized:

"Although he invested his life building the union, Philip had some disagreements with the leadership of the United Farm Workers.

"One disagreement involved the union’s position on undocumented workers. The UFW feared the growth of the undocumented workforce in the fields. They feared the growers’ use of undocumented workers as strikebreakers, and on occasion even called the fed- eral immigration authorities when undocumented workers appeared to cross the picket lines. Philip ve- hemently disagreed with this position and firmly be- lieved that the union had a responsibility to organize all workers, regardless of their immigration status. The UFW position was an early position on organiz- ing undocumented workers that is different now, and has been for many years.

"Philip also disagreed with the leadership of the UFW on the issue of the Philippines. In the late 1970s, Filipino American activists throughout the country were mobilizing to oppose the dictatorship of Fer- dinand Marcos, president of the Philippines. Philip joined other Filipino Americans in calling for an end to martial law and widespread political repression.

"In 1977 Marcos invited Cesar Chavez to visit the Philippines. In spite of Philip’s opposition, Chavez accepted the invitation to travel to the Philippines, where he received a special Presidential Appreciation Award. Philip thought it was contradictory for the UFW convention to oppose some repressive regimes and not the Philippines. He said, “I cannot under- stand why a resolution was passed to condemn the dictatorship of Nicaragua and at the same conven- tion, to praise the dictatorship of the Philippines.”

There is much more to this history of both men - and I'd like to share more. But if you go online you'll find lots of links about them. Not enough of course.  And books about them:

Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement ...By Craig Scharlin, Lilia V Villanueva

A Village in the Fields by Patty Enrado.

Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American ...By Dawn Bohulano Mabalon

The Original Writings of Philip Vera Cruz...By Sid Amores Valledor    

Article by Kent Wong in Asian Americans Advancing Justice 
"Your Asian Wasn't Quiet" 
Little Known Farmworkers - Yes! Magazine - 
Larry Itliong's Story Now Emerges - 
Grapes of Wrath - forgotten story of Filipinos Who Led a Farmworker Revolution - 

Sunday, May 8, 2016


   I realize this might be my most painful entry to date. Because our country demonizes people with mental health issues, there is so little information and not accurate at that, available to us.  Two groups stand out as trying to bridge the gap in information and acceptance -- MHA and NAMI.  I only have personal knowledge of NAMI - the National Alliance on Mental Illness - and it has not been extensive.  The first person to introduce me to NAMI was mentally ill herself but had no awareness of it.   Years later, when I was grieving over the fact that I was a terrible mother, and had ruined all my relationships, a good and kind friend took me to one of NAMI's Family Classes.  What helped the most was meeting other parents and people with similar problems as mine, and how they were coping,  or not coping, with them.
   This always reminds me of how we demonize mentally ill people. Remember Thomas Eagleton, McGovern's candidate for VP who was thrown out for suffering depression (HOW DARE HE)?   Very few people talk about seeing a counselor for depression or other issues -- anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic attacks, manic depression, bipolar issues, etc. etc.   I tell people if I see a counselor or psychologist, but then again, I got tired of all the secrets being kept by my family.  The trouble with my approach is that it tends to frighten people.  We have never accepted OTHER-NESS in this country -- we have always demonized differently abled people, for example, and perhaps even more people who suffer depression or mental illness.
   One remarkable exception stands out in my mind -- PATTY DUKE.  This delightful star had the courage to share that she was bipolar with the world, and what a difference the medication lithium made in her quality of life and the lives of people around her.  Her own and possibly a publicist's words:      “I subscribe to the theory that says you're a product of all your experiences,” recently said Anna Patty Duke Pearce. And with a life that has been described as being close to one out of a Dickens novel, Anna Pearce, better known to the world as Patty Duke, has experienced more in her life than most heroines in classic novels do. Her story, as a woman, who has emerged from a person who was self-loathing and struggling with a mental illness and suicide attempts, to a mental health speaker and one of the most brilliant actresses of any generation, is one which could serve as an inspiration for most anyone."

   "Response to Anna and her mental illness was overwhelming when the movie originally aired on ABC in late 1990. The hotline number for The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which Anna gave out before the ending credits, was flooded with phone calls from people, who through Anna’s story, recognized that they, or a loved one, suffered from this horrible illness and now wanted to seek help.
   "Writing the book, playing herself in the movie, and speaking about mental health, has made it possible for Anna to help others, as well as herself in understanding that those who are mentally ill are not alone, and that there is help out there for those who want it.
   "Bantam, the publishers of Call Me Anna, approached Anna to write another book, this time specifically concerning her mental illness. A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness was published in 1992. Anna’s story is told in alternating chapters and other facts are told by medical reporter Gloria Hochman in the other chapters."

   My husband was a criminal defense attorney who defended parole violators. Sadly, because of our obnoxiously criminal Governor Reagan, hospitals were closed and mentally ill people were pushed to the sidewalk and crime. These were the majority of my husband's clients.  Not only were they vulnerable, once put in jail, they did not receive their medication.  Guess what? They were often returned to prison because they never got the care they needed.   I am happy to say there is one exception recently to the scenario of HOMELESS, MENTALLY ILL, AND DRUG ADDICTED VETERANS who are often in jail or on parole, etc.  Partially due to a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration there are now places these veterans can go to get off the streets and get services.  One of those places, at least in California, is right across the street from my house - Gateways Mental Hospital.   Over 75 veterans with mental health and drug addiction issues are now housed at this facility and being treated.  At least this is the assumption. They are helped with finding housing as well because there has been turnover in the population.  I am hopeful that this is helping at least our veterans.

   But the average mentally ill homeless person is still out on the streets alone.  We are surrounded by homeless people in my area.  We know that many of them are mentally ill. Not only are they not receiving help, they are also being CRIMINALIZED by the city of Los Angeles and Mayor Garcetti. I am painfully aware all the time of homelessness and can only think that THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE, GO YOU OR I.  My husband has begun giving money to a young woman who is under a bridge alone, speaks no English, and didn't trust him at first.  He managed to convince her that he didn't want anything from her.  But we worry about her all the time being alone. This is not a kind city.  In fact, I find Los Angeles to be a cruel city, and much crueler than I ever realized. 

Los Angeles criminalizes the homeless.

   But I'm straying from the main topic here - MENTAL ILLNESS MONTH.    I personally have experienced my own forms of mental illness, and the illnesses of my loved ones.  My mother suffered serious depression, as I believe did my dad, but they felt that therapy was indulgence and not applicable to them.  My father always told me to go change the world, instead of contemplating my navel. (His exact words.)  All this meant was that any suffering - manifestation of their illness -- was taken out on those around them.  Of course that meant me and my sister.    My sister's response to this situation was to become a bully. Being bullied often causes one to become a bully.  She made sure that I was left without defenses.  But she also managed to capture center stage at every moment so that my parents had no idea what I was experiencing - including her abuse.  
   Because I had never dealt with my own depression as a youth, I was unable to recognize the problems with my one child.  I thought if I kept her busy, involved her in the arts -- flute, dance, visual art -- and more, she would be just fine.  Having a fulfilling life would be enough.  But I was so wrong.  Sometimes mental illness is inherited. Often I think. And sometimes it is circumstance -- or perhaps the circumstances can trigger it.  I can detail the moments I now realize were signs of mental difference.  I do sincerely believe that a relatively adjusted and healthy loving family can handle mental illness more easily than a broken, dysfunctional one.  Sometimes however, there is absolutely nothing that can be done.

One issue I haven't dealt with here at all is medication.  I mentioned NAMI to a great teacher friend who is an advocate for Special Ed and she was very negative about them.  And I believe this is because their solutions are pretty traditional and call upon the use of heavy medications.  No one likes the way medications make them feel.  I myself took about ten different types of anti-depressants to get through my life.  None was satisfactory, and ultimately I found I was able to keep the demons at bay if I exercised at least one and more likely two hours a day.   But I have met people who have found medication helpful.  I want to keep an open mind about this issue but I am open to all opinions.  I tried to find healthier alternatives but they didn't always work.  Some illnesses do require meds just as Anna Patty Duke Pearce's did.

To be continued someday... 


Mental Health America - 
National Alliance on Mental Illness - 
Official Patty Duke site - 
National Coalition for the Homeless -  

Thursday, May 5, 2016


What I think was similar to our apartment building in Croton-On-Hudson, NY but much smaller than this one.

   I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with schools.  You may find that odd since I worked in education nearly my entire work life of forty years.  My personal experience was not singularly brilliant or positive.  I was one of the poorest children in my neighborhood schools and I suffered mightily for it. The teachers just thought I was dull.  Certainly I did not impress many of them.  Certainly one's experience with school has a lot to do with class and ethnicity.  A kind teacher will see beyond those differences and celebrate them.  That, however, was not my experience.

   However, I do have some fond memories of teachers who literally saved my life, or rather, emotionally saved me from complete wreckage.  Yes, I am fond of hyperbole, but I cannot imagine having survived without these few teachers who thought I was a worthy human.

   The first teacher I clearly remember was Virginia Mills, a preschool teacher in Croton-on-the-Hudson, New York who literally picked up the ball when all the students refused to play with me.  Although my mother was the treasurer/fundraiser for the school, my father's reputation and notoriety had hit the small community of Croton in a big way.  A year later, in fact, some teenagers dressed in Catholic school uniforms came all the way from another town to throw stones at me.   Anyway, Virginia Mills loved pickles - as did I.  I was Joanie Pickle Kramer and she was Virginia Pickle Mills.  She once took me for a ride in a jump seat in an old car. I don't know if it was hers or not. She was glorious.   By the way, for a description of RED HILL where I lived briefly, and Croton-on-Hudson as well as Peekskill, please read this piece in American Heritage.

We lived in a small cottage on the property of William Gropper on Mt. Airy Road when we first moved to Croton-on-Hudson. 

   Unfortunately I don't remember kindergarten at all. I think that was one traumatic year when we had to suddenly pack everything up that we could fit in Alan Funt's old Woody Station Wagon and drive across the country to Oregon.  I had to leave behind the beautiful handmade dollhouse I had been given for my sixth birthday.  I was heartbroken and haven't really gotten over that loss.  But the real loss was any sense of childhood I might've had.  It was gone.  Stones thrown, dollhouses lost, I was no longer a child.

   Fortunately we lived in a small town outside of Portland, Oregon in 1953.  We rented a farmhouse with pears, apples, cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and a filbert orchard.  I walked across a huge field of Pickles (for the pickle factory) to catch a school bus to school.  My classmates were berry pickers who had to work alongside their parents. We were allowed to wear whatever we had to school since children were so poor.  In first grade, I had the best teacher I would probably ever have. Her name as I remember was Mrs. Gold, and she was also from the East.  My father later explained to me that OREGON spent more for education that Westchester County in New York, so we had the best schools, the best teachers, the best for even a very poor community.  I loved Mrs. Gold so much that I made my mother go talk to her about it.  My mother probably was sympathetic with Mrs. Gold and tried to help me understand that I didn't need as much attention as the other children did.  After all, I already knew how to read (from age 5 because my mother read to me every single day, took us to the library, etc. etc.) and many of the other children didn't.  Mrs. Gold gave me a solo in the Christmas assembly - I played the xylophone all by myself.  I don't remember her too well, except that she was beautiful, and glowed as gold does.  How could I not be enraptured?

Historical downtown Gresham, Oregon.
My father worked for Jan De Graaff at his lily and tulip bulb farm in Gresham, Oregon.  He told Mr. De Graaff not to worry, that when the FBI came, he would leave and not cause any trouble. Mr. De Graaff was very kind.

   So in 1954 we got back in our woody station wagon and drove all the way to Los Angeles, California, not before visiting a fellow "spy" in Sequim, Washington.  We also stopped in San Francisco where my father would have preferred to live but my mother fell in love with the dry sunny climate of Los Angeles.  Suddenly she was free of all those allergies that had plagued her her whole life, even causing her to faint and often hit her head on the bathroom sink.  Los Angeles became my mother's haven.  But not mine.  I hated it. I loved the green and wet Oregon climate, the endless fruits, and vegetables, and nuts and flowers.  I loved the freedom of a rural setting.  Los Angeles was hell to me -- concrete hell.
   I remember little about Grant Elementary school here in Los Angeles. Perhaps because I didn't really want to remember those ten years I lived in Los Angeles.   However I did have very kind teachers in 2nd and 4th grade, and one in 6th.  In those years we were half a year with one teacher and half with another.  I think it wasn't that great an idea, but not sure.  My 2nd grade teacher, Mr. Krich [not sure] was a fabulous but overly strict teacher. Once he allowed my best friend to pee in his pants rather than allow him to go to the bathroom.  I never forgot that.  That was also the year that I began to hate teachers.  Grant had an art teacher who set us all to painting with water colors.  I tried, I really did.  But she came over to me, grabbed the brush from my hand, and proceeded to paint the painting for me.  That was the end of anything artistic I ever did again. THIS IS THE WAY A TEACHER SHOULD NEVER BE -- THIS IS THE SUCCESS ACADEMY APPROACH -- HUMILIATE AND PUNISH A CHILD. This was the end of my trust in teachers generally, or in school in particular.  I took the painting home, by the way, and my mother put it on our wallpaper peeling walls and it stayed there for ten years.  A curse I suppose to my lack of creativity.

In fourth grade I had one of two beautiful sisters - the single one I think.  Ms. Robicheaux perhaps, who owned a standard poodle.  Our landlords in Oregon had raised tiny frantic poodles and I was thrilled to find out what a poodle should be.  Once Mr. Krich and Ms. Robicheaux took me out to dinner at the Brown Derby on Vine Street.  I don't remember why they did this.  It seemed strange.  Many years later it occurred to me that they were having an affair, and used my presence to mask some of their relationship?  But that might have been too cynical.  They were lovely and young, they had both dyed their hair blond, and they were excellent teachers.  A coincidence perhaps.  Another teacher I don't remember liking but who did me a favor was a third grade teacher. She chose me to go on the ART LINKLETTER SHOW!! with my best friend Steve Adler, the one Mr. Krich had caused to pee in his pants.  I still have two of the gifts -- a record of the show and a globe that I received all those years ago (60 perhaps).  I was disappointed when I found out they asked us the questions before the show, then told us to answer exactly as we had, so that Art could pick the best questions.  I was rather spontaneous however, and told Mr. Linkletter that I wanted to marry Steve and go around the world.  He asked Steve how much money he had and Steve said $25.  So Mr. L said, "that'll get you as far as Pasadena."
   Grant elementary allowed me to skip a year.  My reading scores were 11th grade while in the 5th -- so I guess they thought I needed the challenge.  I regret to this day that I was ever skipped as I missed critical emotional and social development, which was already sorely lacking.

   Moving on to Junior High, the dreaded misery of most pre and teens, I find that I lost track of my absolute favorite teachers.  I can remember the name of one and not the other. These two teachers accepted me for who I was, perhaps recognized a troubled insecure child, and tried to give me the attention and confidence that I craved.  Mrs. Ethel Parrish was the light of my life, only I didn't realize it at the time. She taught Science and I believe was the advisor for the Girls League, of which I was Vice President (my best friend Heidi was President).  Mrs. Parrish I think had me chosen by the Home Economics department to be one of two girls to get their hair cut and styled in front of a girls' assembly.  I wasn't too fond of the cut, but it certainly was an honor.  Mrs. Parrish however did the most amazing thing I can ever recall a teacher doing for me.  She allowed me to meet her after school at the bowling alley near my house where she helped me finish the hem of a dress I had made in home economics, in time to wear to a school dance.  What was so extraordinary was that she was on the school bowling team and this meant they allowed a student to invade the teachers' private time and leisure after school. I don't think I would have wanted to do this.
   My seventh grade English and Social Studies teacher (ninth grade too) did not like me. Mrs. Ring? - a published author and a snob.  But my 8th grade teacher did.  She encouraged me to write. I did the best writing I have ever done in school for this teacher (whose name I cannot recall). I regret that I lost two pieces --  A SHORT MYSTERY STORY, and a poem about the Lemon Tree in my back yard.  Mrs. W or S was considered old in my mind, but she was gentle, and kind, and encouraging. All that I needed to take off and think that I actually had a mind! 

Le Conte Middle School library today with my colleague Janet Larson holding a pajama party.  The shelving is still the same as it was in the early early 60s.  And they don't know the song we all had to learn back then.  

   Off to Hollywood High when my nightmares began.  I was only 14 and very shy, overweight, and lacking any confidence. The smartest kids in my middle school of course were the tops of the school. I was never accepted in any of their clubs.  My "best friend" Heidi was top scholar, top artist, top social clubs (approved by the horrid Bertha Standfast who actually allowed SORORITIES on our campus).  Hollywood was all white, and I hated it.   I also was outspoken about my beliefs.  In 9th grade at Le Conte one teacher, Mr. Goldblum,  had used me to enliven discussions. But when it came down to it, he always chose the other kids ahead of me for any responsibility. I realized I had been used.      By high school I reveled in my radicalness.  I wore black. and tried to be a BEATNIK.  I refused to sit down for a DROP DRILL and had my name entombed on my cumulative sheet with a RED MARK.  And the last year the principal held an assembly to call me and my two friends Communists because we handed out leaflets protesting the DEFACT SEGREGATION OF THE LOS ANGELES CITY SCHOOLS, and encouraged fellow students to sit in a the LAUSD BOARD OF EDUCATION [where my mother was working coincidentally. She didn't believe it was the schools' fault.  She was right of course, but it was the only target we had. The HOUSING COVENANTS were harder to fight.)

Hollywood High School - the home of the Sheikhs.  How disgusting is that?  Not even pronounced properly.  

   I cannot name one teacher that I liked in high school.  That is a sad story.  I wasn't encouraged by any of them.  Perhaps the one I can name is Ruth Kopf, Biology teacher, who was tolerant and kind.  I helped her one period a day and enjoyed that.  But otherwise, all teachers were anathema to me.  They disapproved of my left wing views, they told me I wasn't smart enough to go to Jr. College as my other friends were doing, they discouraged my applying to Berkeley (where I ended up in Sophomore year).  How much more negative could it have been?  Well, now I know it could have been much worse.  I could have had NO FRIENDS, or no identity as a Beatnik and a Leftist.  I had a purpose at least.
   But I had no adult support. And my home life was chaos, as Mrs. Parrish had guessed.  I have long decided that no one will like all their students. But at the very least, teachers must not show such obvious favoritism that students feel bereft at best, suicidal at worst.  Teachers have to know that home lives are not easy.  Did I say I was one of the poorest in my High School?  I bought two outfits at Sears, that was it.  I hated my clothes, my body, my hair.  But I did at least have my leftist views that helped me see a larger picture.    And the day I graduated from Hollywood High -- no one in my family came -- at the Hollywood Bowl no less -- my sister sent me a congratulatory TELEGRAM FROM CUBA, where she was visiting with the Socialist Workers Party and met her future husband.  

   So teachers - yes I can love them.  They come in many forms.  They can be the person who teaches you how to crochet, to the neighbor who taught you the piano.  There are as many teachers as there are subjects to teach, in my opinion.   Sometimes the best teachers are just ordinary people you meet once on the street, in a store, or taking the bus.   BUT PROFESSIONAL TEACHERS MUST BE HONORED THIS WEEK OF TEACHER APPRECIATION.  STOP ALL THE NEGATIVITY AND BLAMING OF TEACHERS.   Find a teacher and bring them flowers, an apple, any sign that you appreciate their good works.  You won't be sorry and you will make the hardest working people on the planet happy!!

Mt. Airy Road and the left -- 
Jan De Graaff Lily -
Allen Funt episode -

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


   May is full of celebrations too - as I think every month is in our Hallmark and candy and flowers dominated culture.  Asian American Heritage Month is particularly important I think because, as always, our country has never appreciated properly or fully the amazing contributions of every group who has lived here or come here. And in our history we have treated Asian people abysmally -- Chinese building the railroads, Japanese in World War II, etc.   Lets change that pattern and highlight the great accomplishments of so many people to our world.

   Off the top of my head - who would be my top picks for honoring this month for Asian American Heritage?  I always want to pick people one has never heard of, or rarely knows about.  I start with WAH MING CHANG -- the creative presence behind many Disney creations and the STAR TREK phaser!!   Did you know that?  Besides being so amazing, Wah Chang, as my daddy called him, hired my dad to work for him when he could find no other job.  I once got to visit the factory where Wah Ming Chang made beautiful little toys to sell, though sadly the business closed.  I kept them until they fell apart.  Wish I still had them.  Watched the workers having to paint tiny eyes and insert the working mechanisms to make them move.

Wah Ming Chang began his art early as his mother was an artist and provided materials for him to use. Sadly she died when he was young. But others saw his promise and he went to live with Blanding Sloan and his family. Wah Ming Chang is involved with many efforts with Sloan and on his own.  Some of these are the following:

   "Blanding Sloan teamed up with the Changs to do an animated Anti-A-Bomb film titled The Way of Peace. The film debuted at Constitution Hall in Washington DC with President Truman and Albert Einstein in attendance

   "Work slowed up for the Changs company so Wah joined with Gene Warren and formed Centaur, an effects company. The company worked on several projects, from commercials, costumes, props, and even a toy line.

   "In 1956, Wah, Gene and Tim Barr started a new company, Project Unlimited. It was through this company that Wah and Gene would work on the projects for which they are best remembered."

"The first major work would be for George Pal's production of tom thumb in 1958. George Pal had finished principle photography on tom thumb and was looking for someone to do the stop motion sequences for the film. One company submitted a budget which was too high and George had looked for Wah and Gene's company Centaur but by then they had closed that company. The story goes that George met Gene walking down the street one day and they struck a deal then and there. 

Wah Chang during the filming of The Time Machine
   "The next year would find Project Unlimited working on The Time MachineThe Time Machine earned Gene Warren and Tim Barr an Oscar for best special effects. Wah was left out due to the way in which the credits were submitted to the Academy. See our page on Project Unlimited for more on the Oscar winning special effects used in The Time Machine. Other projects undertaken were: Pilsbury Doughboy, Planet of the ApesMaster of the World as well as major props and costumes on The Outer Limitstelevision series. 
Project Unlimited eventually also closed its doors, but Wah continued to keep busy. During the years that followed he worked on various other projects as an independent artist. During this time he created several props and costumes for the Star Trek television series. Among them are: the federation communicator, tricorder, hand phaser and the Salt Creature. Wah was also created masks for The King and I starring Yul Brynner and the massive headdress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra."

   "Film historian Bob Burns reported that Chang didn't object to this. "He was the most humble, gentle man I've ever known in my life," Burns said. "He never boasted about anything he did, and he just did remarkable stuff."[4]

Wah Ming Chang and his wife Glennella Taylor

   "After twenty-five years, the Changs decided on a major change in their lifestyle. In 1970 they packed up their home in Altadena and moved to northern California where Wah designed and built their new home. Wah now concentrated on creating sculpture of wildlife. In 1987 Hank Ketcham commissioned Wah to sculpt a life-size bronze sculpture of his creation, Dennis the Menace. Four sculptures were eventually done, one went to Ketcham's own garden, one in his studio, one at the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital and the forth was placed in Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey, California.

   "In 1992 Wah experienced post polio syndrome as a result of his earlier bout with polio. It was now necessary for Wah to use a walker to get around and Glen was now doing more of the business dealings regarding his bronze sculptures.

   "A few years ago Glen passed away and today Wah has a live in helper who takes care of the daily tasks. Now at age 83 he is still solving problems with creativity. He gets around the house with the use of his walker which he has modified by the addition of a metal basket in which he has on hand paper, pens, his incoming and out going correspondence and his cordless telephone, in essence his own portable office.

  "In 2000 Wah had a showing at his local art gallery of a photographic study of many of his accomplishments ranging from his early years up to his sculptures.

"Although he doesn't have the strength and stamina to do his sculptures any longer, he has discovered the PC. On our recent visit with him in January this year he showed my wife and I his current art projects he has created using his PC. We've not seen the end of the creative endeavors of this great talent yet!"   (from )

   There is so much to say about Wah Ming Chang.  I hope you will consult the books written about him and his great contributions to art. He was also a humanitarian, someone who cared deeply about the environment.  He hired my father knowing what my father's reputation was. He was not afraid.

   I wish I could find some photos of the smaller items he produced - The Flying Milkman Exhibit at Disneyland in the early 60s.  The wonderful toys from his factory.  So much much more.

Wah Ming Chang died December 22, 2003.  You will find lots of tributes to him on the Internet.  I hope you will explore more about this wonderful human being!!
Below are two books still available:  

Wah Ming Chang - 
Part 2 of Wah Ming Chang - 
A blog on Wah Ming Chang - 
Wikipedia - 
The Time Machine Project - 
Star Trek Chang -