Going Coastal

I used to think living by the beach was all about the water, that proverbial patch of blue. The Holy Grail of all water to watch, sense, smell and best of all, hear. But you know…its so much more than that, Way more.

Just the sky as a daily changing canvas is worth the adoration. It is as if a painting constantly in the works is presented for you, from sun-up to sundown. Just in the last 45 minutes, I have noted the clouds go from white to cream to pale blue, and they are on their path toward slate gray any minute. Some evenings, a smidgen of lavender has melded into the closing colorful pallet. Often, this celestial blanket spread above appears soft and textured and elicits one’s imagination to wonder about the tactile feel of it all, if it were possible.

In my semi-circumference of view, are palm trees whose windy waltz interplays against the warmth of golden light that has been a constancy for eons. This bright orb that travels the coastal sky from dawn to dusk has been the subject of myth, folklore, history, science, music, art, dance, poetry, architecture, sculpture, lecture and even fashion. Every single culture that has existed on this earth has paid homage to our Sun and has revered her to the height of appointed Deity. Without our Eos, our beaches and sand, our hills and mountains, our greenery and flora, our creatures who walk the land would just not be. How poignant each day becomes at the behest of our great Star, the star from which our very own elemental existence simply could not even have begun. And what a backdrop for that shining globe- the expanse of shimmering sea!

To live by the beach is to adopt a lifestyle. First and foremost, is attitude. A bit of Hawaii in your every reaction. Is it the roll of the waves, the lull of tide, the hush of the breezes? What is it about a surfside town that makes her inhabitants so relaxed and calm? Take things in stride…”Cazh” is the word, its all cool, it’s all casual. Upon arriving to settle down and live in a beach town, the first person I encountered was a real estate agent. When he heard I was new and looking, he spilled forth: “Well, welcome to town!” Mind you this is a city, but there is a hometown heart here. My neighbors are openly friendly. Smiles, offers of aid, first names shared. Wow. Am I still in Southern California? Even my plumber who came to check out my sink the other day wore Bermuda shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt that read: “Have you hugged a Plumber today?” I mean, that’s just cute. Seriously! Cute. There’s hints that this is an ocean town…Surfin’ Donuts, a tall standing surfboard flanking an outspread hung USA flag in a post office lobby and a taco joint that has a surfer dude riding the waves for the logo. When one contemplates surfers, one thinks of the sort who take the time to ride the curl and hang a ten. These things take finesse, and devoted, carefree time. It seems that’s the seaside lifestyle. Prioritizing one’s life to commune under the Sun and in the water.

Is it coincidence that everywhere I look, I see people wearing Hawaiian shirts, sandals and sunhats as the clothing options of choice? Now, it isn’t easy to lose your temper with someone when either you or they or both are dressed in this manner. I mean really…how can you get angry when giant hibiscus flowers on a field of green are advertising peace, beauty and nature on one’s shirt, or their shirt?! Everyone has one skin tone here, regardless where they are from…it’s HEALTH tone! There’s appled cheeks, kissed from the sun noses, tans and browns of every degree. Plus, as you walk the sidewalks, a scent of suntan lotion drifts about every so often. Only those with a happy disposition spending time in the sunshine could acquire such robust coloring. A women’s clothing shop sign claims how it caters to the “Bohemian Lifestyle” with flippy, swishy skirts and sundresses. There are restaurants entitled with Patio, Lounge, Grill, Bistro, Nook and Corner on their marquees.  All these terms evoke relaxation, no hurrying…tarry awhile. References won’t let you forget you are in a laissez faire setting…there’s cabanas, coves, barbecues, and there’s even dolphin inns and seahorse shanties. The maritime whimsey is all around. It coddles one’s mentality. It navigates the disposition of the people.

Everything about living along the shore is a positive. Who wouldn’t want to live where the weather is temperate, with predictable morning and afternoon cooling zephyrs? But, in my coastal oasis, the desire to succumb to afternoon siestas is an overwhelming  indulgence. I can see how Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy came to adopt this integral part of the day. It is taking time to relinquish one’s thoughts to what naturally feels good. A nap in a sailor’s hammock will do quite nicely, especially if outside in the open air. To appreciate these kindnesses from nature is important. After all, we pay enough attention to the opposite phenomenons in nature- the tornados, floods, and earthquakes. Why not engulf oneself in the sweet gift the ocean offers us every day- those winds from the big blue?

I notice in my new locale, there is a wide variety of people not only from varying walks of life, but from many ethnicities. As I strolled into my new bank the other day,  I saw patrons whom with normal ease were conversing with one another- each quite oblivious to any difference of any kind. This made me stop and think: why did I even notice this in the first place? Have I been living in THAT sheltered of a place in the past? I don’t think so, but there is an added ingredient here. I think it is the forward thinking acceptance. Everyone is just happy to be hangin’. Period. Living in a cosmopolitan place is definitely inspiring. Perhaps, this conglomeration of folk hails from a populace garnered from arrivals by boat, train and plane. Not too far down the coastline is a Marine Base. Some of these citizens might be veterans or relatives of those in service. No matter why people are here- they find themselves along for the wave of ease, happenstance, thrill and adventure!

Then there are the birds. At first, I thought there weren’t any. But, the other afternoon, as I ascended my outdoor stairway, I heard a mourning dove in the distance. When I reached my landing, I heard his mate answer back- and then the conversation ensued for several minutes. Funny, I felt invasive, so I stepped inside and a bit later noticed outside my door, on the closest wire to my home, sat the two birds. They were doing just what everyone else here seems to do…just hangin’ together, checking out the scenery- and perched, facing the ocean. I thought, “Wow, even the birds are romantic!”

There are many, many dogs. They are beautiful. Always on a leash and with a fit as a fiddle owner. Because where I live is quite hilly, people slip on their sneakers and  everyone’s “Best Friend” leads them along, as they trudge up and over the undulating land. The day I arrived, my neighbor in the house next door introduced himself, and his dog felt he must do the same. Maybe the pooch was excited, but I did hear his dog bark quite a bit for several hours. It has been nearly a month now, and I have not heard him since or any other dog. I see plenty of them, just not hear them. So living here are content four legged ones as well? Great! People, birds, dogs…everybody is happy!

Originally, the land that comprises much of this modern-day municipality was owned by a Spaniard. All of it, for miles far beyond what the eyes can follow, was his Rancho. Then, in the 1930s, an out of place Norwegian decided he wanted to build a “Spanish village by the Sea”. He bought la tierra, and immediately set to paper a few hard and fast rules. Mainly, he wished to expound on the adobes with red-tiled roofs that were already a long-time complement to the virgin landscape. Thus, he decided to create a city ordinance stipulating that all new buildings must reflect this historic, Spanish style. Eventually, some infiltration of other forms of architecture dotted the cityscape, but for the most part, the original adobes and the initial builds for his Spanish hamlet have survived and been untampered.

The earliest village “Ole Town” streets are still here, and in fact, my home is on one of those streets. They twist and turn and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to them. Creating a grid to follow, just did not happen. Authentically, as in the days of past centuries, roads were created more as foot and cart paths threading amongst cottage-size homes; not streets for the modern motorcar. I love this aspect, because it trains my brain to be observant and to imprint pictorial paths in which to go hither and thither. It makes living here a bold enterprise every time one sets out to go somewhere! However, in my travels, I have found a few long, intersecting -across the village- thoroughfares that do help. Out and about, are residents walking, biking, skate-boarding, as well as driving. No matter how you traverse this town, the views of homes clifftop-perched at every angle to catch a glimpse of Sun and Ocean, is breathtaking! In panoramic breadth, contemporary homes somehow harmonize with the echoing of architecturally historic visuals of young California. This serves to entice and entrance those who gaze upon it all- as they pass along. It would seem they are under a spell, perhaps long-ago cast by Neptune’s rolling waves of the sea.

Throughout the city are Spanish detail references. Over-reaching some main boulevards arch wrought iron Spanish frilled street signs and lanterns. Colorful tiled homes and buildings are in abundance.  They often have original ceramic tile as exterior decoration, or in their inner courtyards. One can glimpse painted tile designed as borders around windows and doors. There are crafted large, inlaid mosaic-tile medallions set into low walls along the village main street, while others name beach access tunnels. I have even noticed old “cobblestonesque” sidewalks up and down the rows of shops. There is some stained glass, but it is that familiar red roof tile and crisp white-walled adobe that adds Mediterranean flair to the surroundings.

A colorful brush has painted this seaboard town. Blue, white, red, and the nearly chartreuse green rounded hills with abundant mustard in bloom, create a primary color feast for the eyes. In addition to these rich hues, are the violet spires of Echium Candicans, and the purple clusterings of Limomiun Statice Perizil. Orange beaked Bird of Paradise or Flower Strelitzia are everywhere. Cranberry red Bougainvillea grow prolific and spontaneously along the coast.  Much of it is planted to add rich contrast to the white-washed walls of the adobes. Also, indigenous to the coastal shale soil and climate, and growing with profusion, is the Malva (Lavatera) maritime bi-color blooming shrubs, showcasing pale lilac and deep purple. Just gorgeous! Look closely, as one can see red Calistemon, or wild growing bottle-brush in clusters of ground cover. Remembering childhood, my eyes have zoned-in on the hot pink and magenta Carpobrotus Acinaciformis, a native succulent to the shoreline cliffs and crevices. With such a splash of color on every turn, it is no wonder as to how California became the land of dreams.

Having officially set anchor in this new “berth”, I’m certain there will be a bounty of discoveries in the next upcoming months, after all, summer is around the bend. I have read there are surfing contests, bowlings on the green, street fairs, farmers’ markets, festivals and outdoor concerts in the works. Meeting people and relishing the fine weather are expressions of daily routine. My gratitude for having this new zip code in which to dwell is immeasurable. It all began with the Pacific as my magnet. Yet, living by the ocean is so much more than mere gazing at the azure jewel sparkling out to the south, west and northwest. Knowing this, I still pinch myself to prove it is real.

 

 

 

 

Our Music Man

Probably, the stars lined up well in advance of the following chain of events. All I know is, when I was five years old, I had the privileged opportunity to ride the Santa Fe Super Chief all the way to Washington D.C. It was part of a month long escape from the San Gabriel Valley oppressive summer heat and to attend the CAN: Convention of American Nurserymen.  My father was in the fine business end of horticulture. He sold truckloads of live plants that would be shipped anywhere across the wide USA. He worked for the wholesale nursery company known as Monrovia Nursery. It eventually became “The Giant” in the Industry. How fortunate that I was just barely old enough to come along for the adventure with my two brothers and big sister, mom and dad. Many events took place on that trip, but this is not about those. No, this introduction is the springboard for making a connection from one magical night on a magical stage to a decade later: a bevy-full of magic on numerous stages. It is a connection between the famous role of an actor and a real live, true man.

Back in 1960, my family dressed-up for the theatre one of those nights we spent in Washington D.C, on that summer vacation. I remember buckling my patent leather shoes, twirling my cascading long curls, adjusting my velvety bow, and spinning 360s into a fanning circumference of my satin dress. I was primed for pleasure of unknown heights. My sister was dressed in a matching frock, looking very elegant, dreamy-fancy and wide-eyed. My brothers were in suits, ties, belts and polished good leathers.  My parents were the epitome of fashion perfection. Not a piece of lint to be found, looking lovely and daper and not at all like parents of a growing family.

We took a car to the famed National Theatre.  Because we were somehow blessed by the gods, we actually sat in “The President’s Box” and afterwards were invited to go backstage and meet Robert Preston, the lead actor.  The show was the stage performance of “Music Man”.  Being able to see from up on high, I could take in the full spectacle; watching the trilling fingers on trumpets, marching musicians, and seeing it all happen at the talented hand of the master himself, “Professor Harold Hill”. My young eyes took in that charisma and hung onto every word that was said or sung. I watched the dramatics, the dancing, the convincing, the swooning…I watched love unfold and story outcome evolve. I rejoiced along with the audience with the boisterously jubilant final act. It was sheer, captivating entertainment all wrapped in one big musical bow. I think I fell in love with music itself that wonderful night…

Years later, by the time I reached high school, I had already been immersed in a world of music under the instruction of a myriad of tutors. My uncle taught me basic fingering on our household piano, and my mother would often play piano or organ. I had a public school teacher introduce me to the violin and eventually I had a private teacher to refine what things I learned. In junior high, I had Mr. Ross, whom I could swear was really Beethoven when he would jump up and down on our orchestra conductor’s podium. Mr. Wilshire came later, and I learned to play to please. Both men were taskmasters in their own way. Both etched deep streams of chromatic chords into my soul.

Then, one autumn day in 1970, I came to be under the directorship of Mr. Gordon Norman. He was so many things all wrapped in a Stewart Tartan Plaid suit jacket. To me, he was Professor Hill revisited. He was official. He was sharp, exacting and our sergeant of arms. With either an outward swing of his arms to say, “Instruments up, let us begin” to a more intent tapping on the music stand, conveying “Let’s get it right THIS time, folks”, his leadership would instigate and inspire.

I played first violin for him. I determined to keep my spot in First Violins, and sometimes, had to accept “Second Fiddle”. He discreetly would tell me he needed strength in every section. But, I knew it was because most of my extra-curricular focus had nothing to do with striving for brilliant bowing. You see, I was also in the Plaid Piper Drillteam which marched behind The Tartan Marching Band. Spreading my free time quite thinly, Mr. Norman knew first and foremost I was a student. Therefore, in orchestra class, there would be occasions when he would tell all of us to stop and put our instruments down. He would allow us to study for an English vocabulary test or go over notes before an important exam. I appreciated his being “in tune” with the kids. Mr. Norman seemed to know what we needed. It was easy to have a good rapport with our “fearless” leader.

Granted, Gordon Norman was the director of the marching band. But, he knew what sort of effect he wanted both the band and drill team to create. Being of extremely short stature, my presence in the parade block formation on the street had only one possible location: front row and the far end position on either the left or right. One’s eyes could see a row of drill team girls lined up and guided up, standing sharp as a tack. Following it across visually, was an interruption at the end of the row where a sudden drop would happen. This was where my not quite 5 foot height would boldly attempt to proclaim its existence. Mr. Norman would once in awhile saunter over to me, peer downward, and with a smirk combo of stern, yet kind, ask: “Are you standing in a hole?”. He knew it didn’t take much to make me laugh and just lose it. Thus, his jokes were a good test of what restraint I might possess. After all, when standing at attention before stepping off the competition line, you cannot flinch one bit….not even if a giant blue bumble bee decides it likes your colorful tartan pinned close to your neck and ear lobe. (This actually did happen to me in a competition parade when we were all frozen at attention.) Did I move? Absolutely not! That’s trained fortitude!

Being a Plaid Piper Drillteamer, meant long hours of practice. Daily we were called to the football field to go through the field show routines. Each week we had a new show, so a lot of practicing had to ensue. I vividly remember one 1971 morning, we were called to practice to be there by 6 am. All of us girls had rollers in our hair-the band girls as well. That particular morning, the ground shifted and rolled and it was my first outdoor earthquake I had ever experienced. But, Mr. Norman waited for it to calm down, and we continued on without recoiling from further practice. Even when the regular school day ended, the last period of classes was 7th period. The entire band and drill team practiced until the sun went down. That was the time. We ended after sunset. Every school day. Every week. He was determined to have us reach our best.

It paid off well because, Mr. Norman and his compadre in arms, Mrs. Jean Thompson who specifically oversaw the drillteam, created the finest marching charts and field shows a high school band could have. We won countless awards and were invited to venues not usually associated with high school marching bands. We performed in the Rose Parade, at the Rams Game at the Coliseum, at the 49ers game up in San Francisco. Along the way we slept over in Porterville and Fairfield. Gordon Norman had to be in charge of the whole shebang– each of us staying in homes of families in those towns who had children in their high school’s marching band. That was a truckload of trust back in the day!

In 1972 he took all of us to Switzerland where we spent weeks roaming the Swiss Alps and picturesque hamlets. We rode cogwheel trains to the top of snow-capped peaks, we cleared Mt. Pilatus and looked down on Lucerne through the clouds below. We took a lake cruise, and drove in buses through winding mountain roads. We visited and performed in the towns of Bern, and Interlaken. We stayed one weekend in a university dorm. We marched in the “Fetes de Geneve” and met the Soviet Union Army Band. We exchanged pins with them and other international bands from all over the globe at that grand celebration. How could a mere music teacher instigate and carry-out such an enriching experience for 300+ students?

For the Switzerland trip, we learned new ways to perform. I learned the “Black Bottom” and the “Charleston Dance”. I was invited to help devise and perform a flag twirling routine. We presented these at an amazing band concert hall in Geneva. I’ll never forget the Russians playing the “1812 Overture”. We even heard the hauntingly beautiful alpine horns perform. These were memories for life. Rich, storied, philosophical, and educating. What Mr. Norman and Mrs.Thompson gave us goes beyond anything any other teachers could have given.

When competing in our own hometown area in Southern California against other high school bands, we strove to and often won, top prizes…First Place and Sweepstakes! Mr. Norman expected so much from us. But in that message of expectation was the mantra of “I know you can achieve it”. Thus, we did do very well. We loved being winners, travelers and entertainers. We loved being enthralled with the world of music, march and dance. We loved it because he loved us. We believed no task was too hard because he believed.

And this is where my reference to Professor Harold Hill comes in. Gordon Norman was our “Professor”. I don’t know if he stepped off a train from Iowa or not, but, when he came to Glendora, he turned up the volume on our quaint, little town. He used his salesmanship to convince our parents to buy authenticity. We wore Stewart Plaid from Scotland, and donned real accoutrements for the pipers and drill team right down to the hackles, amber silver brooches, ostrich feather bonnets, ghillies and kilt pins. ***I’m not sure, but he and Mrs. Thompson may have been instrumental in securing permission from Scotland and England to allow us to wear the Royal Stewart Plaid.*** I know there already were tartan and British regalia uniforms already in use…but he demanded more exacting finesse; more items from the true sources. Why not wear Stewart Plaid? That was our Music Man’s motto- “If you can dream it, then go for it!” Of course, this became embedded in all of his musicians and drillteamers’ hearts. I know I think that way. I am as my son once put it: an “infernal” optimist! I got that from Gordon Norman.

He insisted the band have white shoes for marching and before parades each shoe was on the marcher’s foot in a plastic baggie. Parents scurried about as the bags came off just before step off…and with white shoe polish in hand, checked for any stray marks. Gloves were examined for lipstick spots and replaced if need be. Our drill team hair had to be one style, a pageboy, and it could not touch the shoulders when straight. Tons of hairspray was in use. Every girl had to wear mascara and the exact same color lipstick. It was all about polish. It was all about the smile, too.

Gordon Norman also instigated the booster parents to sew woolen capes for the Drillteam. Our skirts were very short and we often were very cold out on football fields standing in attention. My mother was one of the boosters who sewed those woolen knee length capes lined in satin. He must have been listening to us, because it seemed we always had our needs fulfilled. How fondly I think of that cape. I can almost feel it, smell it and be warmed by the sentimental thought of it.

“Gordy” had chutzpah. Still does. Often, on our way home from an event, he would lead three buses full of growling stomachs and voraciously hungry students. Woe to the fast food chains who would see huge buses of our 300+ children arriving. He would ask if they could take on the challenge. He had a way of making the earth move at his behest. Even as his musicians and young charges, he was not easy on any of us. He would say, “Nobody else picks up your instrument. You bring it, you take it. Nobody will do it for you.”

If he wanted something he asked. He had a knack for knowing whose bread to butter to get permission for us to practice marching down Foothill Boulevard and on the 210 freeway before the Glendora stretch officially opened. You knew if he asked (you), to do a favor for him, he had full faith you could do it. I recall one day in the band room, he looked at me and said, “Would you mind cleaning up my office? It’s an awful mess.”  I laugh in memory because that was the day he first taught me a term I eventually taught my own students. I asked him that day where to put a pile of papers that looked impossible for me to sort out, not likely knowing what they were…his answer? “Oh, they go in the circular file, Julie.” He saw my quizzical look and then smirked back and shifted his eyes to the metallic, dark green trash can. Even at home nowadays, I’ll say to put something away in the “circular file”. It was a responsibility to help out my teacher. I was more than proud to help him out.

He made us all revere him, but, not by “Harold Hill” pretend tactics. That is where the distinction lies. We just knew he had scores of ideas and he did not like backing down from them. We knew those ideas always became something great. His power of positivism was his shining mace. He led us in spirit cheers in the gym using lighted letter banners to spell out our High School name. We had spirit sing alongs on each bus and observed a “silent zone” returning to home, driving past our campus southern border, where we inwardly thought of our Alma Mater song “Praise to Thee Glendora”. As we turned the corner, then in modulated reverence, sang the words– once out of “the zone”. Mr. Norman galvanized parental efforts to hold raffles, to fundraise, initiate barbecues, host band parties for the kids, hold pancake breakfasts and set up assembly lines in cafeterias for making pizzas to sell throughout the city as a means to get us all on trips long distanced and even across “The Pond” to Switzerland.

If, I think back to winter, 1973, I can imagine myself polishing my black marching drill team shoes. I check to see the small piece of plaid in each square buckle was tightly fastened. Next, I inspect my black knee socks for any miscreant speck. I adjust my short stewart plaid kilt, and pull down my black vest with silver diamond-shaped buttons. I fluff the ruffles around my neck from my white blouse, and have a fellow drillteamer make sure my cap is at the right angle with black ostrich feather hackle pointed upward. She’ll have smoothed out straight my tartan plaid draping off the back of my shoulder. I know not to put my gloves on until the very last. I was a Plaid Piper Drillteamer. I marched behind the legendary Tartan Marching Band. My snappy movements are filed in muscle memory, and I only have to concentrate on letting the music lead me, as I accentuate with crisp movements. I’m ready to perform for Band-o-Rama.

Band-o-rama just celebrated its 50th year performance. Gordon Norman started the tradition and was invited this year to guest conduct. The traditions remain from what we did long ago. The band played as the drill team now known as Pageantry, performed “Scotland the Brave,” “The Highland Fling”, and “The Sword Dance.” It ended with our Alma Mater, “Scotch On the Rocks” and “Amazing Grace”. Our Drum Major kneeled on one knee in full Scottish regalia and a lone piper played the tune. The moment was spell-binding. Tears glistened.

Back in 1973, I sat on a drum case of a friend, waiting for it all to begin. I thought of Mr. Norman and what he must have had to go through to start this whole operation. He had to convince the students, the parents, the school administration, the college whose auditorium we utilized, the city businesses to help pay for the building for the entire week of practices before the show.  But, our “Professor Hill” has that smile. He has a way of winning us all over. I think his smile says, “If not for me, then do it for Music”. Well, we did. We have. I hope we always will.

I get up from that drum case. I don my pristine, white gloves. I’m ready. The curtains rise. The Glendora Tartan Marching Band is sitting erect with instruments poised. The Band Leader, Maestro, Director, our “Music Man”, walks out under the flood of stage lights. Thunderous applause. He steps onto the podium box. He raises his conductor’s baton….the drum cadence commences. I emerge from the side curtains and march out with other Plaid Piper drill team girls performing our “Scotland the Brave” routine. The Pipe Band slowly rises up from the dropped floor and the magic begins….

 

Thank you Mr. Gordon Norman. Thank you for everything.

 

 

The Abounding Sounds of Glendora

A train of thought, worth the ride….

Nestled against the softly shapened foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, is a bedroom community no longer so small. Grown from town to city, it barely retains its quaint character. Those who have been fortunate to be raised in such a place can keep the charm alive in the halls of their memory. A sweet mixture of home and community is what comes to mind.

When I think of Glendora, a series of sounds comes spilling forth:

Firstly, there are musical sounds. Glendora is rooted in music whether in the schools, the downtown district or the homes. Foremost in thought is our marching band playing “Scotland the Brave” with the bagpipes skirl leading the tune. Marching shoes are hitting the pavement marking time with crisp white drillteam gloves slapping palms and thighs in unison. Next, I recall Glendora High School’s orchestra playing an “A” at the tap of Mr. Norman’s baton on a metallic music stand. If I dig deeply enough, I can remember Charles Ross’s plucking of violin strings to tune young children’s instruments. When I used to walk the halls in high school, often, the harmonizing sounds of choir practice in session would showcase those beautiful voices…Indeed, music in school was prevalent.

Music was always a part of homelife. I hear my brother’s sax, his bass viol too, my other brother’s Ludwig drum set pounding the fury, and his Martin guitar gently strumming. I remember the lilt of my sister’s flute and my own violin practicing. Lucky was the occasion when our uncle would come to visit and perform on the organ just about anything on request. He thrilled us every single time. Never forgotten was my mom’s organ and piano playing in our house on weekend mornings. She played with verve and woke us up. I can still catch her rhythmic, clandestine “when nobody is looking” tap-dance in our kitchen and quite fondly, my father’s sweet whistle of tune while tending his roses or loading logs in our fireplace. He’d pull back the metal screen and shift the wood about. Once it began, the sputters and snaps would commence. As my mind ferrets the thoughts of sounds around home, I can hear the tinny sound of my beloved transistor radio and the blasting lyrics to “Oklahoma” coming from the downstairs’ bedroom record player console. Slipping into thought are the strains of Hendrix, Janis, Iron Butterfly, Dylan, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Safaris, Simon and Garfunkel, Glen Campbell and John Denver. Sounds from televised “Sing along With Mitch”, “The Lawrence WelkShow” and specials featuring that swoon worthy voice of the one and only Elvis.

You could say music was rampant in our Glendora household. Often, before a big family meal, a brother-sister duet of “Heart and Soul” would enliven the ivory keys of our family upright piano. When it came to meals together, there was plenty to talk about, too. If I try hard, those voices come to life for me. A sentimental thought emerges of the tiny, yet lively chirping of “Moonbeam” our canary, abashedly interjecting his opinion into the dinner table conversation most evenings. But, specific outdoor sounds are in the halls of my memory as well.

Taking a mental walk outside, I hear the mourning dove’s call in my backyard, a neighbor’s rooster heralding the break of day, a variety of birds chirping cheerfully as if in homage to the sunshine, the crows holding a rambunctious convention several times a year up in the trees, a woodpecker ardently at work, the unique baby-like wail of the local peacocks, and lest I forget, the questioning call of the lone owl who made our tall avocado tree his home. From my upstairs bedroom window, I detect the distant whinnying of the Armstrong’s stabled horse. Either outside or in,  occasional planes fly high overhead humming their beelines; airport bound. A tuned ear appreciates these sensorial details, including the “every so often” sonic boom made from the jets clearing the sound barrier up near Edwards Airforce Base.

Inclusive of this audible menagerie is an infusion of yells with squeals that signaled the splashes of diving, running jumps on springing boards and belly-flops into our family pool. My brain hones in on the tick, tick, clicketing of the Rainbird sprinklers, the Santa Fe train’s wan whistle cry, and carefree siblings singing songs on the swings in our yard. I even remember the muffled giggles as we would literally sausage-roll ourselves down the verdant, grassy knoll up behind and northeast of our back porch veranda.

Imagining being in town, at Finkbiner Park, I hear the melody blaring from the ice cream man’s truck that used to canvass our neighborhoods, and come round to the playground. Walking along our suburban streets, I hear rock n roll bands practicing in their families’ garages, the clacketing of skateboards on sidewalks and at the skate park, the sound of jump ropes slapping the ground as feet hop and voices recite chants, the basketball slamming onto cement– then the dunking sound it makes, whooshing through the hoop. How clever was the repetitive flapping of playing cards placed inside the spokes of bicycles ridden up and down city blocks. All these sounds made Glendora not just a town, but a hometown.

Almost anywhere near the downtown village one could and still can hear at Christmastime, the pealing Christian Church bells. On Sundays, if walking about, the grand Methodist Church pipe organ can be heard uplifting hymns to Heaven, And, most days, the chimes ring from the Public Library tolling out the hour. A more subtle sound is the clear “dinging” of Bock’s Variety Store’s old-fashioned register bell. Carried on the wind are distanced shouts and cheers at the Little League baseball games held at Sandburg and Goddard. From in the village can be heard the crack of wooden bats hitting homers, and the softball crowds rousing support emanating from the Finkbiner Park stands. Amongst the minutiae of memory are the sounds of strollers’ squeaky wheels with babies babbling on board.  Then there is the sound of strong winter gales blowing in the trees and through palm fronds. Happily remembered is the exultant vocalizing of the “Whoas” of passengers and riders in cars going down the “The Dip” on Sierra Madre Boulevard. From the eastern end of Glendora was heard the fireworks popping and crackling on the Fourth of July, and for some, the 4:00 Quitting Time horn blast at Monrovia Nursery.

Whether one was shopping, walking, roller-skating or riding around the various streets of Glendora, there was a plethora of sounds to now remember. I most certainly do! The thoughts fly past quickly.  I recall the sound of water from a hose being sprayed onto cars and kids giggling in playfulness as they soap up the tires. I hear truckloads of carolers rolling through the neighborhoods at Christmas, singing on front lawns or from the truckbed. I can identify the squeaky opening sound of the ice-cream freezer door at Finkbiner’s Market, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves along Sierra Madre, the flapping in the breeze of the elementary schools’ USA flag and California’s flag. I hear their rope and metallic fastener clanging against the tall standing flagpole, and even the school buses’ engine rumble as it is idles and takes off with a load of excited students. My mind hears the spritely discourse or happy conversation downtown along Glendora Avenue. Memory fires up the sounds of different makes of cars and vehicles driving up Glendora Mountain Road, especially, a Diesel Engine Mercedes SEL, a 56 Chevy, a Volkswagen beetle and a Triumph roadster, for they belonged to family. I can think of the sounds of automobiles zooming down Glendora Mtn. Road, down Valley Center, and along Foothill. Sometimes the acceleration was quite obvious! Other times, usually at dusk, lone, territorial coyotes call after the speeding wheels as if to say- “Be careful! We are still here!”

Glendora was a splendid town in which to live. Her sounds invigorated, lulled, and inspired. I hope that the citizens living there today take the time to stop and have a listen, because Glendora’s sounds are testament to her beauty. Glendora is not just roads and  buildings. It has been an on-going symphony of sounds for well over a hundred years. They describe a way of life. They reflect the people. The people of Glendora.

Julianne Cull (2019)

 

On the Cusp of Autumn

🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂

Autumn in Southern California is an unpredictable thing. Not only is it hard to know when it will finally “feel like Fall”, but when it will actually occur is also an uncertainty. Of course it will happen! We will all rejoice and sigh relief from the oppressive, baking sun we endured the long-drawn our summer. But, when it does indeed make its presence known, everything will seem all the better.

We have already had some precursory signs which both tantalize and frustrate. Obviously, one cannot fight the laws of the celestial heavens. Our sun is seen at a different angle in the sky now, and we are beginning to have shorter days. Thusly, the marine layer is creeping in at night from the coast and its fingered fog is reaching far inland, up into the northern desert nether lands, and burrowing deep into the valleys and Orange County. Overnight, the thermometer in Southern Cal is dipping into the 59s and low 60s, and if you are hunkered down in a cabin up at Big Bear or Arrowhead, you are on the brink of 32 degrees, with a chance of snow. But, none of this noted drop in temps is lasting too long. During the day, there has been a 20-30 degree rise. By 4 pm, it is not quite hot enough to warrant the air conditioning, but it is such that seeking shade and liquids are still priorities. Therefore, tis the season of dangling the proverbial “autumn is approaching” carrot over our heads.

I for one cannot wait to open my front door one morning, and smell that fall has indeed come home. The air will feel wetter, heavier and have a fresh scent to it. Everything will be drenched in deeper colors and a portending mood of promise will linger all around. Even the cement may have a hint of scent of pre-sunrise precipitation, This immediately excites something within me. It is like a trigger. I will soon be reaching for an umbrella and scarf; and none too soon!

When on my walks I first spot that first leaf turned red, or orange, or yellow, I will know Autumn is upon us. So far, nothing. It is just past the first week in October. Patience is important, yet, I know it likely will arrive as late as the last week of the month. Typically, my children would have to wear sweaters or jackets to go “Trick or Treating” on Halloween. There are rare occasions though, when even by Halloween, Autumn is still in the wings. I can remember back to childhood having to tug along my pillowcase jammed with a candy trove, breathing steamy breath through my dime store mask. Eventually, I’d give up anonymity, and push it on top of my head in order to breathe freely and cool off a bit. Having this memory, I know full well that just because September 21st is the autumnal equinox, doesn’t mean immediate glory days.

And how glorious the months of Autumn can be! Once here, we revel in trees ablaze in reds, golds, tangerines, even deep purples. In California, the nurserymen are much to be credited for finding and planting species that do have showy fall color, and are able to withstand the extremes of blistering summer heat. In decades past, far underground have flowed waters that today’s trees if mature enough, can still tap into for resiliency. When Fall has finally stepped up to the stage, you can discover this plethora of different types of trees that will indeed display color galore. I am grateful to all the landscape architects who have designed with a rich palette in mind, for it brings a vibrancy to our environs that is nothing short of spirited. Having green and lush most of the year is definitely soothing, but, also having a demonstrative Fall botanical fanfare for all to enjoy is quite special, if not invigorating.

I love the Fall for the crisp in the air, the bite of an apple and in the brisk of the wind. Seeing that first swirl of autumn leaves evokes cozy thoughts and spurs on promise. It’s the same effect you get when you style a toddler’s lock of hair and as the brush pulls away, the hair bounces enthusiastically into an expressive curl. Even the first fireplaces put to the task, send out a plume of good things to come. Where there is wood burning there is a hearth, and where there is a hearth, there is a home and where there is a home, there is much to be appreciated.

Sitting near the fireplace, for the first time in Autumn, every sense is heightened and brilliantly noted. That smoky scent, the flush over face and hands awash in warmth, one cannot help but feel entranced by the sporadic snapping percussion of spark or the “hushed” glowing of ember. Immediately, this scenario calls for one of several engagements. There, before the hearth, the choice can be made. Either engage in quiet pondering, read an intriguing book or hum a heartfelt tune. Maybe knitting a secret present or whittling a small token from wood are past times of preference. Not everything must adhere to modernity. Perhaps, a sincere conversation or an impromptu tale to be told may fit the bill and savor the experience. Better still, is there a harmonica in your pocket? A dulcimer in the corner? A fiddle upon a hook? A recorder on a shelf? How about a banjo by the woodbox? Any of these instruments put to fine use on the brink of the moment is worthy of performance, remembrance and gratitude. All are fitting ways to rein-in long desired Autumn.

This is what the season of Autumn does, I believe. It brings us back to home, back to the fold. It focuses us near to the most meaningful part of our lives; our family. Even if your hearth is far away from loved ones, just coming in out of the cold, settling down by the fire, and kindling the thoughts of good things either gone by or good things yet to come, is invaluable. It could be this is why the seasons are the way they are. On the third of four seasons, we witness a final profusion of color. Its a last testament to what life can and maybe has been. The celebration and acceptance of change, the gusting of wind with coil and spin, and temperatures calling for shelter all hone us in like the shine on a sickle. We are honed in to home. To hearth. To heart. To Family. To dreamscape and imagination. To prayer and resolve. To praise and guidance. To warmth and peace. To safety.

Is it any wonder that so many of us residing in Southern California love the Fall time of year? It would seem Fall itself is magical. There may be an “Old Man Winter” waiting up in the canyons, ready to take over in a blanket of frost and white. But, in Autumn, we have “Wise Man Wizard”. with the sweep of his invisible wand, he summons moisture and rain. Then, he flicks it again to stir- up the winds. With that mysterious touch, he commands the temperatures to fall, and the leaves to grandstand their dramatic hues. Then, oh so subtly, he gently twirls his wand, capturing crisped leaves in his design to be noticed. Our eyebrows raise. Our footsteps pause, our heads turn to listen, and our heartbeats do a mini bellyflop from within. We know its here. Autumn has come!

There, at home, is the cinnamon in the applesauce on the stove, and the pumpkin bread cooling from the oven. A log just softly cracked in two in the fireplace, and the kitten opens one eye, spots it, shuts his lid again, and goes back to his undercurrent, slumbering purr. There’s the door, the latch is lifting….another pair of boots has come home.

An Afterthought Remembrance of 9-11

Remembering 9-11 is always an emotional experience for us all. That morning, 2001, I recall driving to work in a state of ignorant bliss. I was listening to classical music on KUSC. But after about the first two miles, an unusual feeling came over me. It was strange because I didn’t know what it was and couldn’t put my finger on it. All I knew was, everyone was driving oh so calmly and not in their usual mad rush to work or school. I thought: “Is it a holiday? Oh, dear! I could have slept in!” Then, I thought, “No, maybe there was an earthquake and somehow I didn’t feel it in the shower before breakfast. But, no, that couldn’t be. If it were a big earthquake, enough to slow people down, then surely I’d know it. No… I guess I’m just imagining things.”! Thusly, I resumed my listening to the music that roused my soul, and really thought nothing more about the odd feeling and the way people were behaving.

Once I zipped into my parking spot at school, I gathered up my usual accoutrements; coffee mug, purse, satchel and a stack of books. Into the office I went, ready to be greeted by either the secretaries or the principal. I immediately noted a spectrum of looks on the faces of a handful of colleagues gathered around the secretaries’ main desks, which ranged from empty stares to anguished frowns. Still, I thought, “Oh, Silly, you are thinking so dramatically. Stop it.”

As I proceeded to exit the office door to go stride up the hallway to my classroom, someone said to me in a monotoned voice, “Your brother called you and said to call him right away- here’s his number”. Instantly, my worrywart brain ran the gamut of fears: “My brother? Which one? Why? Oh no, not my mother! Is she okay? Are my kids alright? Did something happen to one of my family members?” At fiber-optic speed every frightening scenario synapsed throughout my mental network. In this case, it was unfortunate to be blessed with a vivid imagination. Well, I spun around on my high heels, and high-tailed it into the teachers’ lounge. There was a phone I could use right there. (This was not the cell-phone era). Just the fact that I received a phone call at work from a sibling, was a riotous event. Why I didn’t think it was something good or joyful, I cannot say, except for maybe, those zombie, mesmerized drivers I encountered city-wide on every road this morning.

I then looked at the note. It was from my baby brother. (I’m fifteen years his senior, and he is the cherry that topped the ice-cream sundae when he completed our family.) I started dialing…and made a last ditch effort to figure out what this was all about. I pulled out the positive, and thought it was either a prank or he was going to swing by for a quick, impromptu social call. You see, I was and am so proud of him. He lived and worked in Los Angeles. His present job was Head-hunting in business. He had a way with people, and was excellent at matching the person to the right occupation. But what could he want?

“Hi…”, he said. Pause. “Did you hear the news?” I responded with no. “Well, it’s very bad, very serious… a plane at 9:00 am New York time, drove straight into a tower of the World Trade Center. Then another plane did the same thing to the second tower.” “What? How could such an accident happen? Really?”, I responded. “We don’t know, but the president has put a freeze on every airport in the country. There are other planes- and they think we are being attacked.” As he told me these things, he stated them in a firm, soothing voice. All I could do was think and then say, “Our beautiful America? Who would want to kill us?” “Why kill our citizens?”. None of it made any sense. Lastly, my brother went on to tell me there was fear the White House was a target. Then… I just lost it. I began to cry, my face became hot and flushed and my heart seemed to beat out of my chest. Finally, he said he would talk with me when school was out, and to keep in touch. He said I should feel safe in school and that the boys were safe in theirs. How did he know I wanted to just go grab my kids from daycare? He knew I had a job to protect and care for my children where I was teaching. His thoughtful gesture in reaching out to extend an informative comforting hand, reminded me I needed to be stoic, resilient and level-headed. I needed to not discuss the unfolding events unless point blank questioned about it. I needed to be a brave, wise, protective, professional. The call to arms had sounded.

The rest of the day was as if I were living in a mist. I honestly recall very little about what we did in class. I believe I simply went through the motions. It must have been surreal.

On my drive home that fated day, I reflected on the phone call. I was impressed with the stewardship my younger brother demonstrated. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. He acted in faith, taking on the role of our father, our dad who had passed away two years prior. My sweet, giving, steadfast “littlest” brother, assumed the paternal responsibility. I heard later that night he had called all my siblings and had driven out to our mom’s to be at her side. He gave us his love. He made sure the family would not be stricken or broken apart. He made sure every single one of us was connected and in the know. He was a fine American that day. He showed “the enemy” they wouldn’t succeed because he emboldened our strength of family.

My zany scallawag, “Goodnight Moon” loving, Little Tykes green tractor farmer, Little League pitcher, Atari champion, computer-wiz, thespian extraordinaire, violist magnifique, USC Trojan, business entrepreneur, racecar driver, shrimp scampi chef, baby brother —proved to be “The Solidifying Factor” in what was inarguably, a quite fretful, disillusioning perhaps even dangerous day. For that dedication to family was surely a rise to honor. I will always be very, very grateful that he loved us as our father.

Tidbits of Affirmation

Written: September 10, 2013

I am so happy. I received my first intrinsic “gift” from my class today. I learned, even after ALLLL these years of pedagogy, something wonderful about little students. When they fall in love with something you have done, and leave a few subtle “breadcrumbs” along the way…one had better pay attention and appreciate their communicative hints. So, it goes like this. The first day of school, I presented my obligatory (my own set goal) a capella singing of “America”. I have a book that portrays the lyrics through superb photos…waving amber grain, spacious skies and shining seas—excellent for ELLs. (English Language Learners). Well, I was fortunate enough this year to actually sing on as close to “spot on key” as possible (for me): believe me, I am no singer. But, I did okay, no cracks and I somehow picked the right starting note that would allow me to reach the upper register notes and the low ones, too. The kiddos really liked it. They said “again, again!”. I did, and thus began their love affair with learning it. 

Over the next few weeks they requested I read the book and sing it each time I tried to instigate a read-aloud on the floor. No relenting. No changing of the guard, either. They’re just barely coming to accept the beginnings of the “Johnny Appleseed” song. Today, we were especially too busy for a read-aloud, and despite the fact that we got to work in our first art project tied to literacy and writing, my little scallawaggers took the proverbial “bull by the horns”, themselves. 

As is the rule. when finished with their project, all cleaned-up and fancy free, their next task was to choose a book to read independently or with a buddy. So, as I am helping mend circles that were supposed to have been made from a square, engineer a few glue bottles, and subtely advise a few logical choices, I realize most of my 23 charges are completed with their “Goodnight Owl” projects. I know this because I start to hear a wafting gentle melody…it continues on with a few more voices chiming in, oh so naturally. I don’t think my pupils even knew they were embarking on a genuine enterprise, not for show or even affirmation, but for the simple joy of singing that song. 

My one boy who has been the most enthusiastic champion for the reading of that book daily, was on the floor turning the pages as the song leader, if you will. A cluster of about four or five children had heads bent low hovering over every word, singing with complete childlike essence. Then, I noticed others still at their desks, in a non-chalant spontaneous way, were one by one joining-in by humming or singing along. I tell you, it was a magical moment. A present all wrapped in unadulterated love. Thank you class. I love America, too.

Allegory and Irony

Imagine…

Stars falling upward, floating toward the beyond,

Waves singing songs, dissipating back to sea

Echoes in conches silenced and the seagulls are gone.

Why have these senseless ironies ensued?  Was there ever a purpose?

Can oddities reverse?

Think about it? What if we woke up one morning to find that everything was doing the opposite of what it was supposed to do? What if things once ordered, suddenly were not? What if the very stuff we depend on seemed to laugh in the face of constancy and just mess with reality? What if crazy became sane?

We know it would be surprising, annoying, upsetting…even frightening. And, the repercussions could eventually be devastating…

How might we react? Dive back under the pillow? Get out the camera? Call the police? Pinch our skin? Cower in fear? I’d run to the mirror to see if I looked the same.

But you know, such an oddity could possibly bring humor for just one day, before it all changed back. I mean, don’t you think you would laugh if you started to see:

Birds with wool on them. and animals sporting feathers.

Bears who’d run from people, or just give them a hug!

Upside down houses rocking on the apex of their rooftop!

Fruit squeaking at us each time we took a bite!

That definitely would result in some laughter!

This could be quite fun, you know? Maybe, the ironies we’d find therapeutic, once realized nobody was getting hurt. The true philosophers would either find this nonsense comical or puzzling. Scholars might be inclined to sit for a spell and try to discover if there were some hidden message in all this madness. Perhaps we would conclude the silliness was a game for us meant to hint at the hidden meaning. Henceforth, all interested parties would commence to set forth inspecting the wild mayhem, document it and pencil tip to lip, ponder the purposeful point.

We may find that the absurdity revealed truth. If the sun bounced and danced in the sky we would have trouble with our eyesight, the plants would confusedly get entangled while trying to follow its path and the clouds might turn gray in consternation and even yell at it saying, “Just stop! We don’t know whether to cover up the sky today or not! Hey there Sun, your rambunctious ricochet is discombobulating our plans! Now, QUIT it!”

If the rivers kept spilling up and out and over the banks, it would look pretty ridiculous and even cause massive flooding! This in turn would uproot the trees and plants, and they would fall to the ground blocking the roads or busting up houses. The roads would be washed out with their street signs standing in a widespread pool of water. ~~Though, none of that would ever be funny. It even happens already.

Simply imagine if everything you did seemed to have the unintentioned effect:

You would brush your teeth only to find that all of last meal’s bits of food were back on your teeth. They’d look all mottled and scary ugly! What if as you attempted to skip down the stairs to breakfast, but the stairs only led upwards, then, you could never get downstairs to have your pancakes! How frustrating! Plus, you’d eventually starve! Goodness gracious, what if:

Visualize if chalk on chalkboards refused to grip to the board and everything the teacher wrote would slide right off the second she wrote it!

How about if cars, buses, taxis and trucks only drove up and down in the sky, never moving forward? They’d all ping pong up and down and probably crash into each other. Or think about if the wheels on all trains were now square! Nobody could get to their job! ~~Again, none of this the least bit comical.

How nightmarish it would be if flowers thought they were underwater sea plants and behaved like sponges, coral, urchins and anemones by eating the bees and butterflies that would land on them? Oh no! Eventually no more re-seeding. No more farms. Rural commerce would end!

How ironic it would feel and iron hot too, if snow came down in hot flakes instead of cold ones? And what if the rain came down like needles, or worse, what if it rained skyward? What would happen if the wind blew only up and down? Never sideways…

So many absurdities…

In your house, contemplate the difficulties of a refrigerator that warmed food, the air conditioner blew heat, and the vacuum spewed dust and dirt everywhere? Imagine dealing with it all!

Are you starting to regret playing this thinking game? The possibilities of destruction and insanity are endless.

You turn on a light and things become darker.

You tap on your iPad and what ever you touch disappears.

You turn on the television and the picture is nothing but miniature squares all swirling around like a tornado.

You go to the movies and the picture on the screen stays in “Freeze Frame Mode”. So much for the “Blockbuster MOTION Picture”!

You try to open a book to read it and it slams shut and starts to cry. Though a fun twist might be if it read itself aloud to you…

You go to the bank and find out they only have sticks of gum in the vault. No money! The coins are cookies, and the clerk says, “That’s how the cookie crumbles!”

When you try to shoot a basketball into a basket it pops right back out of the net, refusing to go through! What? Never a slam dunk, ever? The score stays 0 to 0 forever!?

Every single time you swing the bat to hit the baseball it sways away from the ball to avoid hitting it. No more homeruns to cheer about!

How about when you try to get away from this wacky world you find that your bike’s tires constantly go flat. I guess there is no chance of escape. It is a world of sheer, deranged lunacy. Even the people talk in mixed-up fashion.

There just would be no fixing it, righting it; and there’d be no rhyme or reason to any of it. However~~there might be a truth to rise from all the illogical rubble.

****************************************************

You see, in ACTUAL Life everything does have a plan. It is all in working order-most of the time. When a musician plays a pipe organ, musical sounds with distinct notes come out of the pipes, not floating color or wafting scents.

All  the workings of life are regulated, it seems. Thank goodness clocks tick tock evenly, and your computer factors in (Daylight Savings Time). I’m thankful “on the ground mail” reaches its destination, much more often than not. I prefer to hear Classical music played on KUSC, and I can count on that station to provide it! I’m glad my professors taught me first, then tested~~well, at least the pre Post Graduate School professors did.

It’s nice to know we can count on the moon to glow, rather than strobe light its beam. I’m relieved to know my shadow does follow me and not someone else! Thankfully, when I exercise I do strengthen my heart as well as build-up my bones. How blessed I am to know my children run to me, not away from me.

Perhaps, after all this bizarre banging about of causes and effects, we have come to know gratitude. I for one am extremely grateful for:

That incandescent glow of mellow Autumn moon.

The beautiful scent of simple rose.

The calming comfort of the swishing sound a household broom conveys.

The tender little dimple that appears when a baby smiles, or you find one on the his/her knees and elbows.

Yes, the World was created, planned, ordered and produced in the loveliest of ways. It puts the concept of dependability on a grand pedestal.

And when something truly extraordinary, truly exquisite, truly accidental does transpire~~we can  hold dear the spontanaeity of the moment.

And neatly place it in our own treasure box.