• A Holiday Classic Drinks Story

    • 12/17/2018
    • Richard Foss
    • Cuisine
    • Comments are off

    By Richard Foss, Dining and Cuisine Writer

    It’s the time of year when people pull out their worn copies of Dickens, and if they’re paying attention they notice something: Charles is quite a sensualist when it comes to food and drink. When he talks about a bad meal you’re disgusted, and when he describes a good meal you get hungry. This is the case even though he’s referring to English food, which most Americans aren’t all that fond of. It’s a compliment to him as a writer that, along with the tears he evokes at the death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop and the laughter at the jolly but clueless Mr. Pickwick, he can make modern readers hungry for mutton, goose, and mushroom pudding.

    Dickens also wrote about the drinks of his era, never more lyrically than when he described the chronically broke Wilkins Micawber making an alcoholic rum punch.

    I informed Mr. Micawber that I relied upon him for a bowl of punch, and led him to the lemons. His recent despondency, not to say despair, was gone in a moment. I never saw a man so thoroughly enjoy himself amid the fragrance of lemon-peel and sugar, the odour of burning rum, and the steam of boiling water, as Mr. Micawber did that afternoon. It was wonderful to see his face shining at us out of a thin cloud of these delicate fumes, as he stirred, and mixed, and tasted, and looked as if he were making, instead of punch, a fortune for his family down to the latest posterity.”

    Many writers have celebrated the delights of drinking cocktails, but here is the great example of someone describing the joy of making them. What is this elixir he celebrated, and would a modern person like it? Might it be part of a modern Christmas celebration?

    The answer is that it’s delicious, a kind of hot alcoholic lemonade with the sweet and tart flavors accented by fragrant lemon oil and spices. It’s also not difficult to make [the recipe is on the sidebar on this page]. Producing it is an impressive party trick; turn the lights low as you ignite it, and the flickering blue flames rising from the pot will transfix your guests (no matter how heartfelt their pleas, deny their requests to pause the process so they can take just one more video; letting it burn too long risks losing most of the alcohol.) When it’s time to taste, you’ll experience the Victorian love of fruity, spice-laden, mildly alcoholic hot drinks.

    Besides that punch, other Victorian hot alcoholic concoctions include the mulled wine that fills the air at parties with scents of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel and rose hips. You know it’s in a room the moment you enter because the warm alcohol aromatizes the room as it picks up the oils of clove, citrus and spices. Both white and red wines are used for this purpose, but the longtime favorite is port — enjoyed everywhere and by everyone.

    In 1861, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management opined, “As this beverage is more usually drunk at children’s parties than at any other, the wine need not be very old or expensive for the purpose, a new fruity wine answering very well for it.” That sentence alone tells you a great deal about how Victorian standards for raising children differ from ours.

    You have probably read about the most famous hot wine punch without knowing it. Right at the end of A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge has had a change of heart, he tells Bob Cratchit, “We will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

    It’s safe to say that most Americans have no idea what a bowl of smoking bishop might be, so this information will put you ahead of your neighbors. To make smoking bishop you stud oranges with cloves, roast them, and then add their spice-infused juice to a punchbowl of port wine, hot water and sugar. When Scrooge uttered that phrase using Cratchit’s first name, he was indicating that he intended to treat him as an equal and offered a favored drink of wealthy people like himself.

    There are many other winter drinks that are suited to Christmas: hot buttered rum, brandy flips with hot cream and egg, and even mulled ale — hot dark beer with the same spices used in mulled wine. All of these are rarely seen in bars because they take time to make and Americans don’t know to ask for them. But if you want to show some traditional style at your holiday gathering there’s no better way to do it. Give the toast for the season, “Wassail!” and in doing so wish your guests good health in a blessing that goes back to Anglo-Saxon times. These drinks are tasty and can be potent, so make sure they have a designated driver and as such will be able to join you for Christmases to come.

    Charles Dickens’ Punch 

    This recipe is from a letter Charles Dickens sent to Amelia Austin Fillonneau on Jan. 18, 1847, accompanied by a note which said, “I hope it will make you a beautiful punchmaker in more senses than one.” The recipe reprinted with permission from Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich, Perigee Books, copyright 2010.

    Original recipe:

    “To make three pints of punch, peel into one very strong common basin (which may be broken, in case of accident, without damage to the owner’s peace or pocket), the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin, and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double handful of lump sugar (good measure), a pint of good old rum, and a large wine-glass full of brandy– if it not be a large claret glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. Let it burn for three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up five minutes, and stir again.

    At this crisis, having skimmed off the lemon pips with a spoon, you may taste. If not sweet enough, add sugar to your liking, but observe that it will be a little sweeter presently. Pour the whole into a jug, tie a leather or coarse cloth over the top, so as to exclude the air completely, and stand it in a hot oven ten minutes, or on a hot stove one-quarter of an hour. Keep it until it comes to the table in a warm place near the fire, but not too hot. If it be intended to stand three or four hours take the lemon peel out, or it will have a bitter taste.” 

    Suggested modern procedure:

    Use a crockpot, and heat the sugar, peels, and alcohol to medium before setting the fire. This will eliminate any danger of cracking the crock.

    Use six ounces of Demerara sugar, 20 ounces of rum and 6 of Courvoisier VSOP, the kind Dickens kept in his cellar. David Wondrich’s book has an essay on recommended rums– brands include Smith & Cross and Sea Wynde. For large parties I use Jamaican medium dark rum or a mix of Myers’ dark and an amber rum — the more expensive rums make a slightly better product.  You can use Raynal brandy, which has a cognac flavor but is far less expensive.

    The fire melts the sugar and extracts the oil from the lemon peel. Dickens’s advice about lighting the spirits in a warm metal spoon works, but a barbecue lighter is even better.  Do not try to light the whole pot while holding the match in your hand. Note that alcohol burns with a pale blue flame, so if you are in a bright room you may not be able to see the fire.

    Dickens used the British quart, which is 20 ounces, rather than the American; this recipe calls for 40 ounces of water. Before serving add a dash of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg into each cup after serving for an aromatic delight.

    The punch can be drunk hot or cold, and if you remove the lemon peel will keep for days if kept cool and sealed. Dickens was a master punchmaker, and the sweet and sour flavor will delight your guests. When you serve it, raise a glass to the master of literature and hospitality.

    Richard Foss is not responsible for kitchen fires or inebriation as a result of trying this recipe.

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  • Random Letters 12/13/18

    • 12/14/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Letters
    • Comments are off

    A More Responsive Buscaino?

    Am I mistaken that Joe seems to be getting better? He provided a link to an RLNews article!? [Weekly Newsletter: A Bridge Home Watts, Updating the City’s Planning Process, Port Drivers Update, www.randomlengthsnews.com/2018/12/04/cal-cartage-charade-fools-harbor-commissioners-bhttpsut-nobody-else/]

    He’s getting Harbor City our skatepark and doing a good job with our Winter Wonderland. Am I being distracted from a dastardly deed? Most likely, but seems like he’s getting better. Now if we can get more than just one Bridge Housing for all of CD15. We need at least three: Watts, Harbor City/Gateway and Wilmington/San Pedro.

    Caney Arnold,

    Harbor City

    Student Letters

    Editor’s note: In the past few weeks, Random Lengths News received a group of Letters to the Editor from the students of San Pedro High School English teacher Michael Kurdyla. Students commented on stories from the past few months.  The end result was more than 10,000 words from high school students engaging the most topical issues being discussed today.  In the interest of space, we will select a few of the letters for print, while posting the remainder online.

    RE: “You Come Here To Suffer”

    I had some questions on an article called “Farm Boss To Workers: “You Come Here To Suffer,” by David Bacon. My first question is how did the writer come across this information? Second question is how did he come up with this title? My last question is why didn’t he put more stories into his writing to help people have a better understanding of how those people felt and what they really went through to get where they are now?

    David Bacon states that the workers went on a strike and does not say when it happens. They try to to get paid $14 an hour, but instead got $12.39 an hour, And a Republican [legislator] Virginia introduced a bill to expand the H-2A program. I’m wondering why they changed its name from H-2C to H-2A —  was it to make it seem like they shut the program down? In the H-2A program there would be about 900,000 guest workers and the federal minimum wage was $7.25-$8.34 an hour.

    The author gives an example about a person named Rosalinda Guillen who didn’t mind sharing her story. She states she was a director of Community 2 Community, a farm worker advocating organization in Bellingham, Wash. She says, “The impact of this system on the ability of farm workers to organize is disastrous.”

    A person close to me is my grandma and when she was a little girl she and her family would pick cotton on a farm in Mexico, and she would tell me that sometimes when she would pick the cotton her fingertips would bleed.

    The author would put some pictures in his article and one of those reminded me of a story “1963: The Year That Changed Everything,” this article is similar to it. Both talk about protesting for something they want or for something that is right for their people. There was one sign in this picture that said “WE ARE WORKERS NOT SLAVES!” the picture also shows members of the Yakima Nation of Native Americans join from workers, other immigrants, community and labor activists marching through Yakima to celebrate May Day.  And just wanted to say if you’re reading this thank you.

    Isabella Romo

    San Pedro High School

    Dear Isabella Romo,

    David Bacon has spent the last 25 years documenting immigrant workers and their struggles as a reporter and photojournalist all over the West Coast and down along the border of Mexico. He has researched, photographed and interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people for these stories. Some workers don’t give their full names out of fear of retribution or being deported. Most come here because of economic hardship in their countries often caused by our foreign trade policies or violence in countries like Honduras and El Salvador. 

    Farm worker struggles have gone on for decades in this country with the most successful organizing occurring with the United Farm Workers Union in the 1960s and 1970s with Cesar Chavez.

    Thank you for writing

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

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  • A White House Christmas Carol

    • 12/13/2018
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Trump’s nightmare before the shutdown

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    It’s winter in Washington, D.C., snow has dusted the White House lawn, the West Wing staff have gone home for the evening and Donald is in the residence watching Fox News. It is getting late and the White House butler, Raymond, checks in on the president, “Is there anything I can get you before I retire for the night sir?”

    “Just fill up my glass of Diet Coke and that’ll be it. Has Melania gone to bed yet?”

    “Yes, sir,” Raymond responds, “Goodnight.”

    Donald looks past the large flat screen TV out the window next to the painting of George Washington. The snow falling gently as he places his hand on a large commemorative White House snowglobe next to his Diet Coke. He begins to doze off.

    In a half-woke fog, Donald stares into the snowglobe shaking it again and again until it falls onto his lap. He’s asleep. The TV remote in one hand the globe in the other.

    Suddenly he hears a voice, “Don, wake up,” it says.

    He looks around and there’s no one there.  “Over here,” the voice says.

    Donald looks down to the snowglobe on his lap and peers into it, “Damn, if that doesn’t look like George Washington. I wonder how they did that?”

    “Don, this is George. Yes, that one — Washington — and I’ve got some advice for you.”

    Startled, he asks, “And what would that be?”

    “Just tell the truth. Just once, like I did when I chopped down the cherry tree. Maybe then they’ll leave you alone.”

    “I can’t do that. The Democrats would come after me with the axe. You have to act strong if you’re going to be in control.” Donald pauses for a moment then asks, “Are you the only one in there, I’d like to get a second opinion on this”

    “Don, we are all in here except for the ones who are still living. George H.W. just arrived and he says, ‘Don’t eat the broccoli.’”

    Trump rolls his eyes and gives the globe a good shake.

    “Let me talk to Lincoln!  Abe, are you there? Talk to me Abe. The Democrats are trying to assassinate me.”

    The image of Lincoln appears in the globe, “Calm down, Don. You haven’t gone to the Ford Theater yet on this Russia thing. But tell us, how was Stormy Daniels, she looks, as you say, HOT!”

    “They can’t prove any of that. It’s a witch hunt and they’re all lying about everything.”

    Abe scratches his beard, “Yes, yes, you know this place hasn’t changed in over 150 years. The press likes to print rumors and there’s plenty of that still … but do tell all of us dead presidents, how was it with Stormy? You know it’s been a while…”

    “But Abe, tell me how I get past all this adversity,” Donald pleads.

    Lincoln thought for a moment then replied, “All men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character you give him power.”

    Trump looked annoyed by this answer. He then shook the globe once more thinking that it was going to give him the wisdom of 40 past presidents. Suddenly, the image of Richard Nixon appears in the snowy orb, peering back at Trump.

    “Damn it, Don. Just tell them that you’re not a crook and that the press has been out to get you from the very beginning. You know, I’ve been dead for years and the press still won’t leave me alone. They keep bringing up Watergate and comparing it  to the Russians meddling in the elections. They even support the special prosecutor like they did with me! They are a bunch of bastards,” Nixon shouts.

    “I guess that didn’t turn out so well for you did it, Dick?” Trump asks.

    “Yeah, it was those damn tapes that I kept to record everyone. Without those, they’d have never got me. You aren’t recording your conversations are you?”

    The president pulls out his cell phone and shows it to Nixon, “I don’t need a recorder. Everything is on this device. Twitter is my revenge on the news media. They can’t stop me from getting back at them, distracting them and exciting my followers. The media just keep falling for my tweets.”

    A Fox News announcement of more indictments coming from Robert Mueller’s investigation wakes Trump from this dream suddenly. He turns off the sound and quickly falls back into the dream. He shakes the snowglobe once more only to find that the presidents have all gone and there, on the small lawn in front of the tiny White House, is a group of scary gnomes.

    He shakes it again and again but the gnomes remain. “Who are you people anyway?” he asks. Then he looks closer.  It’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, former FBI director James Comey, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

    Astounded, he screams, “You can’t be in there! This is my snowglobe and you weren’t invited!”

    At this point the lights come on and John Kelly the president’s chief of staff rushes in to check the president.

    “What the hell is going on, Mr. President? It’s 5 a.m. and you’re still watching Fox and you’re sitting here looking into a snowglobe like it’s some kind of damn crystal ball … are you alright?”

    “Damn it, Kelly, get this thing out of my hands. I think it has been infected with a virus. Have the IT people inspect it! In the meantime make sure things are set for our trip to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas Eve. This place is too cold in the winter and the ghosts of the past are hovering around me.”

    A worried Kelly replies, “Huh, ummm, OK, I’ll get right on it.” He leaves immediately to call the White House physician to have him check on the president. Kelly shakes his head and thinks to himself, “Man, was that weird! I’m glad I’m out of here by the end of the year.”

    Trump grabs the remote and turns up the sound on Fox News and immediately falls back to sleep.

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  • Maersk Announces Zero Carbon Future, We Need It Sooner, Local Activists Say

    • 12/13/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, last week announced a target date of 2050 for completely ending its use of fossil fuels, which would significantly cut other harmful pollutants, too. The official environmental goal is a net zero CO2 emission, which drew praise from local activists, regulators, and ports, but also a continued diversity of perspectives on the future.

    “To achieve this goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030, and an acceleration in new innovations and adoption of new technology is required,” Maersk said in a Dec. 4 press release.

    Maersk highlighted its leadership in reducing CO2 to date, but went on to say that with growing trade, continued efficiency improvements were simply insufficient.

    “The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” said Maersk Chief Operating Officer Søren Toft. “The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial,” he said, in light of the scale of transformation needed.

    “Given the 20- 25-year life time of a vessel, it is now time to join forces and start developing the new type of vessels that will be crossing the seas in 2050,” Maersk said.

    “To reach the target by 2050, in the next 10 years we need some big breakthroughs,” Toft told the Financial Times. “We will have to abandon fossil fuels. We will have to find a different type of fuel or a different way to power our assets.”

    “As usual, Maersk is in the lead in the push for cleaner fuels,” David Pettit, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Random Lengths. “I think that Maersk sees the changes ahead and would like to be a part of the solution rather than have something imposed on the company from above.” But, Pettit warned, “Maersk, despite its size, can’t make this change happen on its own.  There needs to be industry-wide commitment to the fight.”

    “We can all be grateful for Maersk leading a call to action, as the shipping group did with lower sulfur fuel over ten years ago,” said Richard Havenick, a leading advocate for low sulfur fuels from the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council at that time, prior to the ports’ first Clean Air Action Plan. The port had repeatedly rebuffed such calls as unrealistic and impractical, when Maersk’s announcement abandoning high-sulfur bunker fuel took the whole industry by surprise. World-wide low-sulfur regulation through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not go into effect until 2020.

    “Current advancements tell me, however, we must expect Maersk, industry, and regulators to set goals higher,” Havenick said, citing rapid advances in battery and electric generation technologies that are decarbonizing the power grid faster than had been thought possible.

    “It is good news that Maersk has taken this step, even if its implementation is delayed,” said Peter Warren, another long-time Coastal San Pedro activist, who’s also a board member of the San Pedro & Peninsula Homeowners Coalition.

    “We are really thrilled to hear about Maersk’s announcement of carbon neutrality,” said Lisa Wunder, the Port of LA’s Marine Environmental Manager. “It really lines up with some of the programs here, specifically regarding our 2017 update to our Clean Air Action Plan, where we for the first time introduced greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

    Despite significant past reductions, “Ships still remain the largest source of pollution at the Port of Los Angeles,” Wunder said.

    “We applaud Maersk’s effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Emissions from shipping contribute significantly to climate and other forms of air pollution, and technologies that are net zero for CO2 will also help clean up harmful levels of smog and particulates,” the South Coast Air Quality Management District said. “While we need to reduce emissions in our area much faster to meet federal air quality standards, efforts like this will help.”

    AQMD held a technology forum on ocean-going vessels (OGV) on Dec. 5. OGVs contribute 14 percent of NOx emissions; they were the third-largest contributor in 2012, but will be the top contributor by 2023, with a slight increase in emission levels. In sharp contrast, the top two — heavy-duty trucks and off-road equipment — will see steep declines, as will passenger cars and light-duty trucks, whose emission levels only narrowly trailed OGVs in 2012, but will plummet by well more than 50 percent by 2023.

    “By now, Maersk´s relative CO2 emissions have been reduced by 46 percent (baseline 2007), approximately nine percent more than the industry average,” Maersk’s press release noted.

    “Over the last four years, we have invested around USD 1bn and engaged 50- plus engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions,” Toft said. “Going forward we cannot do this alone.”

    POLA has had some involvement with Maersk’s efforts already, through its Technology Advancement Program.

    “They are investing over $125 million on energy efficiency improvements for ships,” Wunder said.

    “They’re taking 12 of their ships and then making various improvements, changing the bows, the propellers, raising the bridge, doing other things to improve efficiency on their ships,” Wunder explained. “The portion we’re funding on this project is actually the data collection, so when the project is completed we’ll have a before and after to see actually how much greenhouse gas emission reduction is found through this program.”

    Results are expected within the next two months.

    “Despite what some may or may not think, the ports of LA and Long Beach have been environmental leaders over the last decade,” POLA spokesman Phillip Sanfield said, pointing to the Clean Air Action Plan and Clean Trucks Program as models that other ports have followed.

    “It takes leadership, and we’ve done that, and we’re seeing Maersk doing this now on the shipping line front, so we’re really pleased about it,” Sanfield said.

    But this representation — though true in part — misstates the causal order of things. Maersk’s leadership dates back at least to the abandonment of bunker fuels in the early 2000s, well before the first Clean Air Action Plan, when POLA was still fiercely resisting community calls for the port to curb bunker fuels.

    “The Port of LA continues to externalize costs onto the community. Rather than treating the community as customers, the port treats us as a problem,” Warren told Random Lengths News. “We are, in fact, the biggest customer of the port in terms of the dollar value of the health effects, lost wages, sick days, and other health care impacts that we absorb daily, year in and year out,” he said. “The port has made an ugly decision to put those costs on the community, including children, seniors, and the disabled who can bear it the least, as well as relatively healthy adults.”

    Numerous studies bear this out, both directly and indirectly. For example, as noted at AQMD’s forum last week, its 2016 Air Quality Management Plan is projected to prevent 1,600 premature deaths per year, with cumulative public-health benefits estimated at $173 billion from 2017 to 2031.

    While AQMD includes such costs in its socio-economic analyses, they are far from being reflected in the marketplace. As far as global warming costs are concerned, activist-led divestment campaigns are the most noted way of beginning to remedy that deadly accounting failure.

    Ambient air pollution currently results in several million premature deaths worldwide, while global warming impacts from heatwaves and other extreme weather events will far surpass that in years ahead. A recent report in The Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal, found that 157 million more vulnerable people worldwide were subjected to a heatwave in 2017 than in 2000, and that 153 billion hours of work were lost in 2017 due to extreme heat as a result of climate change.

    All sectors contribute to this, but transportation disproportionately contributes to both global warming and air-pollution mortality and morbidity. And shipping plays an outsized role in local impacts, as AQMD’s recent forum highlighted.

    “Getting other shippers to join in will be critical,” Pettit stressed. Ports and regulatory bodies have crucial roles to play as well.

    “Ports would probably need to upgrade their electric infrastructures to be able to charge batteries on oceangoing vessels,” he said. “I think that IMO is interested in electrification although there will always be some foot-dragging by some members.”

    “In addition to IMO advocacy, the coastal states may be interested in fuel requirements within their waters,” Pettit went on to say. “I would expect NEPA and CEQA to be useful tools here also, although the issue of feasibility will of course be prominent.”

    Along with praising Maersk, AQMD said, “We also fully agree with the need for broad collaboration and investment in research to develop cleaner technologies, and that must start today in order to meet this ambitious goal.”

    “Of all freight transport, ships uniquely traverse vast expanses of potential energy sources, whether solar, wind, hydrogen, or other elements abundant at sea,” Havenick pointed out.

    “We should reasonably expect Maersk and others to require carbon-free ships by 2025 with implementation by 2035 or sooner,” he said. “It’s beginning to look like the fossil fuel group is holding onto the flat earth while zero emission technology advancements reveal with increasing speed that the earth is round!  That’s the real world and it’s here now!”

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  • Environmentally Efficient Civic Center Comes to Long Beach

    • 12/13/2018
    • Lyn Jensen
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Lyn Jensen, RLN Reporter

    As part of a massive downtown civic center development, Long Beach is planning to shut down its existing downtown library on Jan. 19, in favor of a more environmentally-efficient one, scheduled to open summer 2019. The current civic center, including the main library, was built in 1976 in Lincoln Park, bordered by Ocean Boulevard on the south, Pacific Avenue on the east, Broadway on the north, and Magnolia Avenue on the west. The new project preserves the general location, but the existing city hall and library are being demolished to make room for retail and residential development along with what the city is calling a “re-envisioned” four-acre Lincoln Park.

    Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners is contracted to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the $520 million civic center for the next 40 years.

    Besides a new library, plans call for an 11-story city hall and an 11-story headquarters for the Port of Long Beach, along with a reconfigured flow to downtown traffic and more allowances for bicycles and pedestrians.

    The artist’s rendering on the developer’s website shows the new Port of Long Beach headquarters and city hall to the west, and a residential and commercial development in the center, with Lincoln Park and the new library in the east. Centered between the work area of the civic block and the play area of the park and library will be new residences and commercial units, including a 36-story tower that will serve both as a hotel and as residential space. Around the tower will be a commercial, pedestrian-friendly “market space.”

    Plenary-Edgemoor touts the new library as the “jewel of the park,” containing all of the services provided in the existing Library in a spatially and operationally more efficient building.

    According to a 2017 press release from the City of Long Beach, the entire new civic center will be more environmentally efficient, too. For example, the new library will have a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold rating, with a large solar area across the roof generating all the building’s power.

    Plenary-Edgemoor adds all of it will blend seamlessly into the neighborhood. “Our Project will re-introduce Chestnut and Cedar streets to the Civic Center — to make it more open and inviting to pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles. Next, we will extend First Street across the site– to connect east to west. These simple actions will form an urban framework of smaller blocks that will knit the downtown back together and create a new pedestrian environment,” according to a company press release.

    The plans also call for new commercial and residential development along Third Street and Pacific, along with reconfigured flow of downtown traffic, and allowance for more bicycling and pedestrian traffic.

    For more information, see Plenary Edgemoor website:  www.pecplongbeach.com

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  • Emptying Harbor View House

    • 12/13/2018
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    When the drumbeat of progress drowns out the voiceless

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Where are the residents of Harbor View House?

    That was what Linda Martino and Jane Ferrari wanted to talk about when they visited the office of Random Lengths News Nov. 19 — that and the real reasons they had to leave, besides a broken elevator.   If the women’s mood seemed urgent, it’s because they were among the 140 residents of Harbor View House who had been given one week to move out, and only two days remained until the Nov. 21 deadline.

    But this was a week in which everybody was hurrying against a deadline —  the Thanksgiving holiday. At RLn, they left their contact information, took our advice to focus on finding shelter and moved on while we wondered if there was a plan in place for when that deadline came.

    Four days later — two after the deadline — a chance meeting with Ferrari near Harbor View House provided a clue. She was standing outside the historic structure on Beacon Street, but the doors weren’t locked and it didn’t look as though she’d spent the night outside. Inside, tables were stacked and staffers were bustling about. She explained that she’d chosen to sleep in the post office.

    “I was given the option to go to a [residential] facility located off Sunset Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles,” Ferrari said. “It was too far from my family. Being up in the hills … is too far from public transportation.”

    Ferrari’s family, including two grown children, live in Westchester.

    Ferrari also reasoned taking the place in Hollywood, she would have left her without easy access to her personal belongings, which were in San Pedro. But this morning she was without many of them, anyway, and her plans for the day involved retrieving them and putting them in storage.

    “I was told my paintings were left out because they couldn’t fit the moving boxes and they had no answer to what happened to my jewelry,” Ferrari explained.

    It hasn’t always been like this for Ferrari. “I used to have a car before I came to Harbor View House,” she said, but residents without the means to stay in a board-and-care facility like Harbor View House often have to reduce their income and assets to a level that would qualify them for Social Security (a fixed income)  and be charged a monthly rate set by the State of California.

    Ferrari said that before she entered Harbor View House, she worked as a U.S. customs broker — custom brokers are licensed, regulated, and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to assist importers and exporters in meeting federal requirements governing imports and exports. According to the US Bureau of Statistics, custom brokers earned on average of $65,000 a year.

    Ferrari came to Harbor View House three years ago when her sister died. She’d been working hard, seemingly non-stop, she recalled, and saw Harbor View House as an opportunity to take a break from life.

    “I came here on my own account,” Ferrari said. “I was told Harbor View House wasn’t necessarily a rehabilitation center, but it was close to the beach.”

    Five Days After the Deadline

    Harbor View House had been home to Linda Martino for 10 years when she suddenly learned that she had seven days to leave.  She never expected to live there forever. The building had been sold last summer, but residents had been told they would not have to be relocated and rehoused until June 2019.

    Now, on Nov. 26, Martino returned to Random Lengths News to report that, five days after everyone was supposed to be out, seven people were still living at Harbor View House. She brought the memos  from the administration of HealthView Inc., that informed residents that because the elevator had broken down, they would have to be relocated and rehoused much sooner than next summer. This memo was, in effect, their 30-day notice giving them until Dec. 13.

    The memo was dated Nov. 13 — the same day the Daily Breeze published a story about the irreparable elevator.  But the story said residents had to be relocated in a week’s time, by Nov. 21.

    After Martino passed along her documents she noted Harbor View House staff would no longer allow Ferrari inside. The women now believed that Ferrari had been manipulated into signing the discharge papers with a storage unit for her belongings dangled in front of her as bait.

    “Jane [Ferrari] was on a contract, when that contract was up, she was no longer paying rent,” Martino said.

    “All residents have to sign a release form to be discharged,” Martino explained. Martino noted that many of the residents didn’t have the mental wherewithal to make decisions for themselves.

    “Most of the residents there aren’t able capable of understanding that. Most of the residents aren’t capable of defending their rights,” Martino said. “I saw on a daily basis the residents’ rights being violated.”

    Martino estimated that about 70 percent of the residents at Harbor View were pushed out of the building after a couple of days.

    Martino believes a significant number were sent to Grandview Retirement home near downtown Los Angeles, a facility down the street from MacArthur Park. This is only rumor given that the information is difficult to verify due to HIPPA privacy rules. What we do know is that downtown Los Angeles wasn’t among the destinations that Harbor View House officials mentioned in stories reported by the Daily Breeze.

    Martino charged that the counseling and the transition that was supposed to happen didn’t happen because the process was so fast.

    “The interviews conducted by other facilities asked questions like, ‘Do you do [illicit] drugs?’ and couple of other questions,” Martino explained, drawing on her experience. “We didn’t have a choice. They didn’t tell us what our options were.”

    Unlike a lot of Harbor View House residents, Martino said she had a few options other than moving to another facility, including moving in with her daughter in Orange County, or her siblings in Apple Valley.

    She chose not to go that route due to a list of health issues, including high blood pressure. She said she suffered a stroke in 2010, about two years after she moved to Harbor View House. Martino said she didn’t want to leave because all of her doctors were in San Pedro. She decided to rent an apartment in Long Beach once she gets Harbor View House to refund monies she paid earlier in the month.

    By her estimate, Martino believed only a few of Harbor View House’s residents were capable of living independently.

    “But still, we were all under [Harbor View House’s] care.”

    Martino has been a California resident since 1987. She left New York and followed her children, parents, and siblings to the Golden State after splitting from her husband of 12 years. She still speaks with a strong New York accent.

    “I come from a very close-knit family,” Martino explained. “I really didn’t have any immediate family out there [New York]. So I came out here.”

    Martino has worked many jobs in her adult life. She said her last occupation was that of a drug and alcohol counselor at the Tarzana Treatment Center, a residential program for women and children in Long Beach. She worked there for six years. She said that when her mental-health issue started interfering with her ability to do her job, she resigned. She said she was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia, and started receiving help from the Long Beach Mental Health Services.

    “It started taking over certain parts of my life so I had to turn in my resignation, so I could get treatment,” Martino said.

    Martino opened up a series of sober living homes with a partner in Long Beach, called “Quality of Life.”

    “I had a good network. A lot people were involved. A lot of people in Long Beach know me and we were doing that for 10 years,” Martino said.

    Martino said it all came to an end when her business partner betrayed her by taking all the money out of the accounts for a year. The banks foreclosed on the houses one after the other, and she ultimately lost the business.

    She moved to Orange County and lived with her daughter after her business failed. She returned after a few years and continued her care under Long Beach Mental Health Services. A fight with one of the male residents there resulted in her arrest. A social worker was sent to interview her, and she was transferred to Harbor View House. Then, before she knew it, as she said, 10 years had gone by.

    “It was the most horrible 10 years of my life because of all the stuff that went on there,” Martino said.

    “I got harassed [by staff] a lot because I advocate a lot and get staff members written up a lot for things they shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “I told on them all the time. So I got harassed.”

    The building was sold and closed escrow in June 2018. In Martino’s event timeline,  Harbor View House’s parent company, HealthView, Inc.’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey Smith informed residents at the time and told them they had a year.

    “He said not to worry about anything. Everyone that was still in the building could move to the new place HealthView, Inc. was purchasing.

     The Official Narrative

    “That’s the thing. We were only given one week,” HealthView, Inc.’s chief financial officer said. Smith was explaining the particulars of the order to comply issued by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to repair the elevator in one week.

    Smith noted that the comply order included the code section for which HealthView, Inc. was in violation and noted that the order covered all occupied levels regardless of the number of stories the elevator serviced.

    When the Hillcrest Company, the buyers of Harbor View House, closed escrow in June 2018, Smith explained HealthView, Inc. had started to look at other properties in which to purchase and relocate.

    Smith took great pains to explain how the city and county stepped up to offer assistance if he needed it.

    “We were able to relocate [the residents] on our own, with them [Councilman Joe Buscaino’s and Supervisor Janice Hahn’s offices] on standby,” Smith said.

    Relocating and rehousing 140 residents with special needs in a week sounds daunting. But by Thanksgiving, all but seven were found suitable places, Smith said. The administrator admitted that four to five of these residents were hard cases. They couldn’t comprehend what was going on, Smith said.

    The administrator explained that the Los Angeles County of Mental Health was called in to assess these four to five patients to determine if they qualified to be placed in 5150-hold—the Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows a person with a mental illness to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization. These clinicians evaluate clients to determine whether they are at risk of harming themselves or others or are unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter as a result of a mental disorder. If the client is deemed to be at-risk, they are detained, then sent to a licensed facility.

    Smith also noted that HealthView, Inc. had the help of family members in relocating clients. Families were notified of what was transpiring and were included in the relocation effort, Smith explained.

    It was only after arrangements were made either with family members or destination care facilities that residents were asked to sign discharge papers. Smith denied allegations of manipulation and coercion to get those discharge papers signed.

    My goal was to lessen the impact for the residents by relocating them with their friend groups and family members, Smith said.

    Smith admitted that some residents wanted to remain in San Pedro, but only a small percentage ended up staying in San Pedro.

    Smith says he understands why residents would fixate on him as the reason why they are being relocated, [or dislocated, depending on your perspective]. But this wasn’t a decision made by him. HealthView is a corporation. This was a decision that came from the top.

    In answer to an allegation that residents belongings were still at Harbor View House and being thrown away, Smith said all but a couple of clients have their belongings with them. He said none of them required storage.

    In regard to questions about staff still working at Harbor View House, he pointed out they are subject to the The WARN Act, the 1988 law aimed at preventing mass firing of workers without notice of at least 60 days.

    “We had all hands on deck working through the weekend,” Smith explained of the days before the Nov. 21 deadline. “We were dealing with over 20 different facilities. Everyone had a choice.”

    ERASING The Distinction Between The Sheltered And The Unsheltered

    In law enforcement and guard work circles the California Welfare and Institutions Code is shorthand for a person suffering from mental illness and that meaning was interchangeable with “homeless person.”

    When institutionalized, persons experiencing homelessness or mental illness, all distinctions separating the sheltered and the unsheltered are erased in the eyes of our judicial system, law enforcement, the news media and the public’s imagination.

    Irrefutable evidence is unlikely to emerge showing the irreparable breakdown of Harbor View House’s elevator was simply cover for a business decision made midstream. We won’t know if all of these residents were truly displaced throughout Los Angeles County. We’ll just wonder if the next 5150 we see on our streets were a former resident of Harbor View House.

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  • LB Playhouse’s New, Fun, and Faithful Take on “A Christmas Carol”

    • 12/13/2018
    • Greggory Moore
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call Columnist

    Before A Christmas Story, before the classic claymation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even before It’s a Wonderful Life, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol established itself as a holiday staple. You know the story: Scrooge, rich in pocket but poor of heart, is shown the error of his ways via a series of visitations, then turns it all around in the St. Nick of time, and “God bless us, everyone!”

    With such built-in familiarity and the boob tube bringing various film versions into your home for free this month, why carve out a night during this busiest, spendingest ’tis the season to hand over a bit of your hard-earned money to see what Long Beach Playhouse is doing with it? I’ll tell you why: because this is the most fun anyone’s had with Dickens this side of Scrooged.

    Okay, stay with me here. Collins (Jack Murphy) heads an itinerant theatre troupe that has seen better times. It’s Christmas Eve, and with no audience to be had, Collins has lost his love of lifeforget about Christmas spirit!and he no longer sees eye-to-eye with his actors. With nothing better to do, one of them (Michael G. Martinez) proposes a challenge: the troupe will improvise a Christmas play, through which Collins will regain his espritin which case he will cede leadership of the troupe.

    No, it doesn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t really matter, because this is just an excuse to put on the improvised playwhich is, of course, A Christmas Carol, with Collins spontaneously taking on the part of Scrooge. And it’s a welcome excuse, because this “improvisation” makes A Christmas Carol new and hella fun, all while adhering faithfully enough to the source to please all but the most inflexible traditionalists.

    To be clear, the Long Beach Playhouse cast is not improvising. This show is a scripted adaptation by director Larry Mura and his wife ‘Phie, incorporating much of Dickens’s dialog verbatim. The fictional actors on the streets of 19th-century London are the ones improvising (impossibly well, obviously. “Did someone write this down?” one of them asks near play’s end), and it’s our pleasure to watch them invent the plot on the fly, find and fill their numerous roles, and employ their bodies as sets and props to bring their story to life.

    This conceit would have zero chance of working were it given to a cast that could not meld completely as a collective and move with such fluidity between the worlds of Dickens and the (fictional) actors that for the audience there is no separation between the two. Their success is such that in one moment we’re giggling as a junior member of the troupe (played by Baiinga Lontho) complains about being relegated to minor roles such as the door to Scrooge’s office (and there are a lot of laughs along these lines), then the very next we’re moved by Dickens’s redemptive narrative.

    And this is, after all, A Christmas Carol, so that’s critically important, no matter how fun the other stuff is. The Muras haven’t sacrificed this sacred cow so much as gussied her up. We get our ghosts and Cratchit and Tiny Tim, along with all the heartwarming words that make this 19th-century work a timeless classic. And if you’re anything like me, sentiments like “think[ing] of people below [us] as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys” get you every time, even if you already know them by heart.

    Mura directs the show to perfection. There is an elegant ebb and flow to the pacing, and the blocking always focuses our attention where it needs to be, while the ancillary actors in a given scene always keep the background interesting. The cast is so uniformly good that there aren’t really any standouts, and their moments out of the spotlight are just as valuable to the play’s overall success as their starring turns.

    “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” Scrooge says after returning from his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” Seeing him learn this lessonand put that knowledge into actionis a good reminder of how we forge our lives link by link, moment by moment; and what a hell of our own making it would be to find out too late that we’ve chained ourselves to that which doesn’t really matter.

    That may be the greatest value of revisiting A Christmas Carol each year, and Long Beach Playhouse’s adaptation wraps it up for you in a package that is funny and new.

    Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at Long Beach Playhouse

    Times: Fri–Sat 8:00 p.m., Sun 2:00 p.m., The show runs through Dec. 23.
    Cost: $14 to $24
    Details: (562) 494-1014; LBplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

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  • Wilson High School graduate, Jairo Izaguirre-Reyes.

    Through Music and Language, A Wilson Student Grasps Keys to Success

    By Melina Paris, Staff Reporter

    Two recent graduates from Wilson High School in Long Beach have found their pathways to higher education, receiving full scholarships through the arts, community service, and sheer tenacity. Random Lengths News recently profiled Tess Anderson and Jairo Izaguirre-Reyes.

    Both students excelled in school through certain challenges. Jairo came through escaping a violent country and Tess managed through a serious illness. Ultimately, both stood out because of their own resolution and strong support from both home and school. Tess and Jairo both possess the common traits of strength and compassion, both of which are the key to what drives these two young adults. First, a look at Jairo’s story. Tess’s story will follow in an upcoming edition.

    RLN sat with Jairo’s stepfather, Daniel Farina. Jairo was born in San Pedro Sula–one of the world’s most dangerous cities–in Honduras, ranked one of the poorest countries in the Americas, in 1999. He escaped with his mother and sister at age nine and found asylum in Austria. That connection was from Jairo’s Austrian great grandfather, which allowed the young boy’s family to apply for citizenship. They have dual citizenship in Honduras and Austria.

    Aside from the bitter cold, a shock from Honduran average temperatures of 80 degrees, Austria brought a positive change for Jairo. Within three months he learned enough German to participate in the school chorus during Christmas. He was also accepted into the most sought-after middle school in the city: Gratz International Bilingual School. Jairo spent four years there learning all of his subjects in German and English. Even with these good experiences, Farina said the move affected Jairo. In Honduras Jairo had a “nice and accommodating life.” It was much harder for him in Austria.

    “For instance, in Austria the government helps you but they request two things, that you speak German and work,” Farina said. “They also help you find jobs. His mom started working but Jairo had to go to school by himself on public transportation. Every kid does that but he had never done that before.”

    In 2014, Jairo relocated to Long Beach with his family. Since then he has steadily excelled in his work both in and out of school. He took 15 advanced placement courses and his weighted GPA is more than 4.0 (A weighted GPA is calculated by awarding additional points to classes that are considered more challenging than the basic curriculum). Jairo also participated all four years in cross-country and track, becoming one of the captains during his senior year. He still goes every morning to Signal Hill to run. One of his goals is to join the cross-country team in college. He was accepted with a full four-year scholarship to Bowdoin College in Maine. Jairo will be the first college graduate of his family and after that he expects to pursue a double master’s degree in Germany.

    But when Jairo first enrolled at Wilson High he had to take an art subject. He signed up for guitar class.

    “He never played any instrument before or read music,” Farina said. “Today, according to his teacher, he is not just a technical player, he is a performer.”

    Jairo communicates through music. He feels music can improve communication between people, Farina explained. His music teacher said that Jairo inspires his other classmates.

    “He always challenges himself to a higher level,” Farina said. “His teacher said the last piece that Jairo played for him was an adaptation of Mozart’s, The Magic Flute. When I asked his teacher if he liked Jairo’s playing. He replied, ‘Yes, and I will never hear that again from one of my students.’”

    Jairo started with an acoustic guitar with metal strings. Then, for his birthday, he wanted an electric guitar. Farina agreed but told Jairo that he would love the classical guitar. Eventually Jairo started with classical guitar and found a love for it.

    He completely transitioned to playing classical music. He loves Bach and began playing difficult pieces. Jairo kept challenging himself further and progressing with classical pieces. He also plays guitar regularly in some of the local nursing homes.

    But there is more than music to Jairo’s daily activities. He volunteers in the Long Beach marathons and has participated in the Long Beach Youth Leadership Program, mentoring younger students in middle school.

    Jairo is multilingual in German, Spanish, and English. He has a certificate from the German Government stating that he speaks at a college level in German, and he has the option to apply at the University of Berlin where they offer a dual master’s degree.  He hopes that Harvard will recruit him, as he would like to major in business there. Bowdoin College is one of the junior Ivy League schools that Harvard recruits from. His major at Bowdoin is still undeclared, but he has an interest in and love for psychology.

    What drives Jairo’s motivation? Farina said it is Jairo’s desire to always improve himself.

    “It’s the same with his running,” Farina said. “Every time he runs, he tries to better his last time. And academically, his mother instilled it in him to challenge himself by taking the harder courses.”

    In one of Jairo’s major achievements, he got an ovation at his school awards night for taking 15 AP classes; most students take up to eight. Jairo passed them all with fours and fives.  On his SAT he made 1600 points, which earned him a B grade. Farina asked him, “Are you B guy?” Jairo said “No,” took the SAT again, and earned more than 1600 points.

    Farina and Jairo’s mother, Karen, instilled in Jairo the belief that a person must have a balance between mind, soul, and body. He developed that balance with academic excellence, superb music skills, and a healthy physique. And in this last year Farina saw a moment when that door opened for Jairo. When Jairo went to visit Farina’s stepfather in a nursing home, he brought his guitar to play for him. When he saw how happy it made Farina’s stepfather and everyone else, Jairo said that he wanted to keep going back to play for them at least every month.

    “When he goes there to play he gives up having his own Sunday,” Farina said. “He said, ‘I have a gift and it’s good to share it with people who enjoy it.’ He wanted specially to play The Magic Flute for my stepfather.”

    From escaping violence and finding asylum to acclimating, essentially, to a new world, twice, Jairo found his muse in music and language. Through these expressions, he has harnessed his path toward higher education.

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  • Random Letters 12/6/18

    • 12/11/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Letters
    • Comments are off

    Open Letter to Joe Buscaino

    Making homelessness your focus will not cure our seaside sickness.

    The economic crisis in San Pedro is the community killer. By civic design, ‘our’ Waterfront, which is our greatest economic resource, works only for the few, not the many. This myopic (status quo) devotion to industrial cargo, has killed the commercial, residential and recreational industries. Our lack of community commerce  gives our streets over to crime, poverty, drug addiction, homelessness and violence. No businesses. No jobs. No ‘life.’ No future!

    Who cares to maintain order when there is nothing privately invested?

    If we were to eliminate every derelict, bum, homeless, vagrant (whatever) from our landscape, we would still be a community of descending decay! Because there is NO “safety,” “health,” “quality of life”— “future.”

    LA’s number one business is tourism, and we are a seaside with next to nothing to offer. What do we attract, that is above the poverty line? We only attract human problems…

    Our ‘sell-out’ leaders use SP as a dirty stepping stone for their own political futures — and as long as folks (who know better) protect their deceit, we all suffer.

    Fine that you finally agree that our leaders have miserably and deceitfully,  failed. Then, why keep forgiving/re-electing them so that they may steal more of your present and your future? Why pay them to condemn your Community?

    How bad does it have to get before you all address the real source of our one-of-a-kind California seaside slum? Who will be left to defend our mutual public interest?

    John Papadakis

    San Pedro

    A Word from the LA City Council President       

    I wanted you to be one of the first to know: today I have officially launched my campaign for Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the 2nd District. After discussing with my wife, Fabian, and our sons, we are excited to continue the progress we have begun in my time in the Assembly and Los Angeles City Council.

    I am asking you to join me in these early stages of my campaign because you know where I stand. I have always prioritized making Los Angeles a better place to live, work and raise a family. And you know as well as anybody that I will continue this work in the Supervisor’s office.

    Herb Wesson,

    President of the LA City Council

    Gun Violence and Safety

    Gun violence is at unacceptable levels and needs to be addressed. A reasonable place to start to try and minimize gun violence is gun safety. Gun safety is acceptable to most gun owners. Gun safety does not take anyone’s guns, so the 2A people cannot object on that ground.

    Gun safety should require that every gun owner attend safety classes yearly. The classes should include shooting the weapon. Weapons are like itches that need to be scratched. People need to shoot them to alleviate the itch. It’s also a way for them to blow off steam, which can divert them from violence.

    The classes should also include anger management. People need to be trained how to recognize theirs and others’ unsafe symptoms, coping skills and where to locate options to deal with stress.

    Every bullet and gun barrel should have a crisis center’s 800 phone number on them. This may prompt someone to look for an outlet other than shooting someone. Also, all gun owners should have an anger management app on their mobile phones that will let them know they have options on how to alleviate stress.

    John Henrichs
    San Pedro

    Mr. Henrichs,

    At the very least there should be as much training to operate a gun as there is to drive a car, with annual registration and licensing. One might ask, “at what age should a gun license be restricted?”

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Season of Gratitude

    Thank you “ALL” for giving me my spiritual life back. I asked God to use me. He told me what my gift was through song I heard on the radio. Hood family ministry, Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year. Riders come out and ride for Jesus.

    Annette Cabrera Aguilar
    San Pedro

    Student Letters

    Editor’s note: In the past few weeks, Random Lengths News received a group of Letters to the Editor from the students of San Pedro High School English teacher Michael Kurdyla. Reading through the letters, the students did an admirable job following their teacher’s instruction to read and critique stories that piqued their interest. We will be select a few of the letters for print while posting the remainder online.

    RE: “You Came Here to Suffer”

    I am a freshman here at San Pedro Olguin High School. Your article personally inspired me and touched my heart. It is very important to spread the message of immigration. It is especially important that people understand the suffering that immigrants go through on a daily basis. Immigrants are being treated like animals! Doing hard labor in the sizzling sun under pressure is unfair. Instead of letting them take breaks, they work non-stop. Doesn’t the constitution state that all men are equal? Then why aren’t we all treated the same? We’re all human. We all work hard and strive everyday to live. We all breathe the same air and have feelings.Immigrants shouldn’t be treated this way based on where they’re from. It’s cruel and depressing,

    Kailee Murillo

    San Pedro High School

    A Monument for Jim Gladson

    I am a freshman at San Pedro High School. After reading the Random Lengths article, School is Where the Kids Are, written by Mark L. Friedman talking about who Jim Gladson was and the funeral recently held for him, it made me realize what a great person he was.

    He founded the Los Angeles Maritime Institute Topsail Youth program. This is program  takes many students from the Los Angeles Unified School District and other school districts around San Pedro, teaching them about sailing and the marine environment. I was lucky enough to be a part of this program, it was a wonderful learning experience for me and all of my peers.

    He started this program when he saw the positive effect sailing had on students. Even students with learning disabilities. Instead of giving up on them, Gladson took them out sailing and changed their lives.

    The title of this article was one of Jim’s famous quotes. Gladson was irrepressible. When he had a goal in mind, he went for it and there was no stopping him. In 2010 he received the lifetime achievement award for “A Lifetime of Dedication to Sail Training.”

    I believe it is crucial to recognize what a great person he was. Gladson, like many people, was very interested in making sure he could do everything he could for people. He linked helping out students with sailing and everyone thought it was a great idea.

    I think that somewhere in San Pedro there should be a monument or memorial in honor of Jim Gladson. He did so much good for the students of San Pedro and in the article, it only states that everyone posthumously remembers Gladson as a good person. By the author stating this, he is persuading everyone to believe what a great person Jim Gladson was. I do believe he was a great person, and in conclusion, I think somewhere in San Pedro there should be a monument named after him because of everything he has done for our community.

    Giovanna Sinay

    San Pedro High School

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  • Curtain Call: Darkside

    A Powerful Meditation on the Search for Goodness

    By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call Columnist

    mily has a problem. She’s at university studying a bit of philosophy and she’s increasingly troubled by her investigations into the status of the Good, particularly as highlighted in thought experiments proffered by Professor Baggott. Is it Good, for example, to divert a runaway train full of passengers from plunging off a cliff if by doing so you kill an innocent boy playing on the tracks?

    It’s a consideration that transports Emily from lecture hall to the land of thought experiments, where she meets up with that now-deceased boy. They are soon joined by the superhero (or should we say: Übermensch?) Ethics Man – Baggott behind the mask – who floats to earth after taking his doomed plane’s sole parachute (the premise of another well-known hypothetical), leaving his fellow passengers, a banker and a politician, to go down with the airship.

    “I was a utilitarian consequentialist,” Baggott explains, “but I’ve been forced to reexamine some deeply held convictions. […] Ethics Man is [now] a Nietzschean egoist. […] The rules are made by whoever has the will to make them.”

    We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, and for someone in search of the Good (Nietzsche wasn’t), such ratiocination doesn’t necessarily satisfy, so Emily treks ever deeper into her psychic wilderness, losing touch with the real world as she fantasizes about how she might address humanity on the subject:

    They know the world is fucked if something isn’t done. They know what has to be done. They don’t understand why nobody is really doing it. The system is locked somehow, they don’t know why. They’re looking up at me. Can Emily McCoy save the world? I explain it to them as if I’m talking to children. When I’m done … [they] sit there, stunned. But next day fucked-upness is on the turn, like floodwater starting to go down. Glaciers, rain forests, pollution, destruction, starvation…

    “What do you say to them?” the boy asks.

    “That’s the part I’m still working on,” she says.

    It’s intractable work, though, and it’s driving her mad.

    Darkside is Tom Stoppard’s always-clever, often-brilliant exploration of how searching for the Good in a world without a reliable roadmap might lead one to madness. And while his words are wonderful in their own right, part of his masterstroke is incorporating The Dark Side of the Moon into the text. More than mere mood-setting, the lyrics and even sound effects of Pink Floyd’s timeless classic are themselves parts of the story, voices in Emily’s head.  Breathe, breathe in the air / Don’t be afraid to care / Leave but don’t leave me / Look around, choose your own ground.

    When Emily gets the chance to live out her fantasy — within her fantasy, at least — by addressing that mass of lost souls searching for the Good, from on high she holds forth passionately, mouthing words that we hear as the wordless wailing of  Great Gig in the Sky,   a gorgeous human voice soaring to the heavens, before finally melting into Emily’s articulated plea:

    The earth is a common. You can’t save it for yourself, but you can save it for others, and the others will save it for you. The other is us, and we are the other. We are of a kind. We are natural born to kindness, which means to act as our kind, as kin to kin, as kindred, which is to act kindly. What is the Good? It is nothing but a contest of kindness. To be unkind is against nature … [When] we live for trickery and gain, we turn against nature, and nature will turn against us.

    The flaws in this production are mostly audiovisual. Director Eric Hamme and crew aren’t quite able to stitch together script and sound seamlessly. The music is her madness (Dark Side of the Moon is, after all, about losing one’s mind from trying to move through our morally opaque world), and we should be overcome by it with her. To this end the lighting and visual effects ought to be sharp enough to focus our attention where it needs to be in a given moment—on an actor’s face or voice, on Roger Waters’s lyrics, in a haze of atmosphere; but they almost always feel generic, like an iTunes visualizer setting with elements that would be the same no matter what music was playing. Too much of the time the stage feels naked and static.

    The blocking is also less than ideal, with the downstage action playing effectively only to a small part of the house. If the stage were a baseball diamond, home plate would be the downstage extreme and the audience would be sitting along the first and third-base lines. Show up early and position yourself as close to home as possible.

    Part of the reason to sit there is to fully enjoy the performances. Despite the greatness of the text, Darkside would die a hard death without an actor who can humanize Emily — she’s a person in pain, nothing hypothetical about it — and Maribella Magaña makes her real. Paul Knox also does a good job making Baggott not just Ethics Man (a bit campy by design) but also a real man increasingly troubled by the conundrums he’s been teaching all these years, particularly when he sees what they’re doing to his favorite pupil.

    The standout supporting role is Matthew Anderson as the Witch Finder, bringing a menace that augments the visceral range of the onstage action. Robert Young offers a few quietly-charming moments as the descendant of another famous thought experiment. On opening night all of the actors occasionally hit their lines too much on the nose —Stoppard’s writing rewards letting the words do the heavy lifting — but I suspect they will lay back a bit as they get into the groove during the month-long run.

    As written, Darkside is a radio play whose original production was by the BBC in 2013. Two years later, the Garage Theatre peeps were the first — as in ever — to adapt it for the stage. It went over well enough that Stoppard — a historical giant of theatre, with four Tonys and an Oscar to his credit — sent one of his people from merrie ole England to the little ol’ Garage to see what the fuss was, and the show received the official Tom Stoppard stamp of approval.

    The point of this review is to talk about the current reprise, not that original production, so I’ve avoided comparisons between the two. But past experiences influence present experience, so I figure it’s only fair to disclose that your faithful reviewer saw this show through eyes that saw the original, however much or little that fact influenced his review.

    While discussing the Garage Theatre’s challenges in staging Darkside back in 2015, Stoppard told me (yeah, I’m name-dropping — it’s Tom Stoppard, for fuck’s sake!) that “every scene is difficult, when not impossible.” The Garage has bravely taken on those many challenges, coming out the other side with mixed results.

    But whatever the shortcomings in the production, this is a truly great play, one that stays with you long after you leave the theater if you’re able to focus on the message, which seems even more pertinent today than just a few years ago. “The ice is melting. Your drink is getting warm,” Emily says as Pink Floyd plays us out.

    A wall of water is heading for your patio. From space you can see the coal furnaces glowing. We consume everything. We’re dying of consumption. Hardwoods are toppling for dashboards. The last rhino has given up its horn for a cancer cure that doesn’t work. The last swordfish is gasping beneath a floating island of plastic as big as France. The weather report is a state secret.

    And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    Times:  Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. through Dec. 15
    Cost: $18-$25
    Details: www. thegaragetheatre.org
    Venue: The Found Theater, 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach

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