Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Arrested Development

Perhaps it was Tinkerbell who stole that moniker from me not that long ago. Reminiscing on almost 80 years stumbling around this great planet of ours, I’ve come to the conclusion that there were a lot of things I never accomplished in my youth and growing up was one of them. Finding a stable home life like that of ‘Ozzie and Harriett’ or ‘The Beaver’ (don’t laugh, I was very impressionable at that age) gave me a false impression of what ‘real home life’ was supposed to be like back then. It wasn’t to be part of my backstory.

Our 50th and 60th high school class reunions reminded me of two different high school experiences for two different groups of students. One group was college-bound and the other more focused on ‘getting a good job’ after high school. Both could probably be best described as your typical late fifties high school drama, trauma, and angst. Add to the mix that ours was an all-boys high school and the interaction between boys and girls was stilted at best and handicapped to some degree.

The first two years in college followed pretty much a similar pattern although the girl part got a little better. Then the US Army, finishing college, escaping to Europe and finally a single searching life back in the states put me back on track like my friends.

Most of my youthful aspirations were never meet. I never traveled around the world on a tramp steamer or shipped out of New Orleans to cruise the Southern Hemisphere as a rambling vagabond.

My rambling around the countryside like Woody Guthrie was provided by Uncle Sam who limited my ventures to California, Louisiana, and Virginia.

I never did the expat thing very well. The first time around in Europe, my job in a Danish laundry didn’t leave a lot of time for exploring the countryside or other countries. On my second venture East, I applied for work at the BBC but a Yank in London had a real uphill climb to be accepted there.

Domestic life ensued and fifty-one years late I’m retired and busy with other things. My youthful na├»ve dream of becoming a writer started in the early 70s with two typed up westerns then took a hiatus for another fifty years until it finally became a real and new vocation and career for me starting around age 65.

Now I write full-time, drawing on my imagination and anywhere else I can steal an idea. I guess it doesn’t hurt to still have a little youthful exuberance attached to the task of churning out storylines for my blogs, plays, novels, etc.

Now with ‘Sweetpea and the Gang,’ I get to rekindle the joy, excitement and wonder at the antics of my grandchildren. I don’t need maturity to go back in time and rekindle the joy of youth once again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Sweetpea Progress Report

Ten years ago, when my grandchildren were at those precious ages of three through seven, I had this brilliant idea of creating a comic strip centered around their lives. Great idea; bad timing.

Back then, there were four or five major syndicators who distributed comic strips to newspapers and magazines worldwide. My, how things have changed in a relatively short ten years! First of all, the kids have grown up and lost their childish beauty and charm. They’ve become older, maturing (perhaps) beyond their years, and growing into responsible young adults.

All I have left of that earlier period are a lot of pictures and the memories of their cute antics, questions, and wonderment at the world. But, I hope, those memories are enough to recreate that Camelot period before formal education, peer influences, and a growing awareness of the sometimes-confusing world around them took away their childish charm. The challenge arises in finding a new means of world-wide distribution because the old way of disseminating comic strips no longer exists.

Nowadays, there are only two or three syndicators for a limited number of newspapers around the globe. Newspapers themselves are slowly dying out or morphing into other forms of information and entertainment. For the most part, comic strips have transitioned to the internet and web distribution. It’s a now whole new ballgame out there now.

Comic strip distribution on the internet has become the new frontier.

My first tentative toe-steps into the world of illustrations had to do with a skinny hippo and his fear of being different. ‘Waleed, the Skinny Hippo’ was written about ten years ago but languished because of the lack of an illustrator. Fast-forward to last winter and my editor and I found our answer half way around the world.

Through a serendipitous series of events my editor and I found a plethora of freelance artists and illustrators on line. After thoroughly reviewing more than ninety-four, we chose an illustrator named Shamina from Bangladesh to create my skinny hippo called Waleed.

After that successful experience, Vida and I turned out eye toward someone who could recreate cartoon versions of my grandchildren. Once we found a comic strip artist named Santijury, we were off to the races.

The first comic strip turned out great. It was a bit silly but it did a good job of capturing Sweetpea and her gang in a manner I thought representative of future comic strips. Then we created a sampler of three more comic strips to really test the waters and elicit feedback on the viability of the project.

Click here to view a 3-strip sampler and give feedback on the new Sweetpea & The Gang!

After putting our respective heads together, Sharon and I and my editor agreed that the series, if it were to proceed, would be edgy but tempered with sensitivity and not afraid to cover a host of relevant, timely issues.

I was fortunate to get some great feedback from several writing associates whose judgement I respected. The fact that they were Moms themselves only added to their credibility.

So what are the next steps?

First, we have to thorough examine the feedback on the sampler; likes, dislikes, themes apparent, themes not to apparent, common thoughts and interests, objections, concerns, etc. The whole gamut of responses that I’ll need to best judge if this is a viable idea or not. Based on that feedback, do we want to proceed building an inventory of 30 to 50 comic strips?

We must also do extensive research into the present-day opportunities for placement on the web, world-wide distribution.

Then there is the whole question of monetizing this project. At a certain point, I’ve got to decide if I’ve paid a lot of money for an inventory of cute comic strips based on my grandchildren or I have a viable business plan that can make some money.

The common consensus among the players in the field is that the most realistic business model is to offer free-to-consumer, ad-subsidized content, which then trades on audience loyalty by selling books, T-shirts, merchandise, and original art.

The whole question boils down to; is this the route I want to go? Is this what I want to create and then do into the foreseeable future? Or was this just a cute idea, not really viable over the long term and an expenditure of money well spent to create a series of comic strips of my grandchildren.

I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Affordable Palm Springs

Raw land for development is very scarce in Palm Springs and has been for years. Several years ago, some venturesome developers latched on to a new approach to the problem. They decided to take an aging trailer park in the south end of town and bring in new modular units; rebuilding the area from the asphalt streets and up. They seem to have succeeded well beyond their initial intentions.

Even with the pandemic shutting down businesses for quite a while, buyer interest never waned and now the park is almost completely finished with new modular units throughout. One of their secrets was to push the modernism style in everything they did - design wise.

Fans of mid-century architecture are drawn to Palm Springs because of the plethora of original and redesigned mid-century homes here. It’s a ‘modernism’ mecca for design aficionados and those who want to return to the simpler times of the late 1940s and early 50s.

Since ‘Modernism Week’ began almost fifteen years ago in Palm Springs, the legions of McM fans keeps growing and interest exploding. Yet there is a subtle truth lurking just below the surface of all of this excitement. The fact that few folks can actually afford to live in one of those mid-century treasures…until now.

That real estate disparity slowly began changing with the refurbishing of the old trailer park, an extended land lease and some imaginative architecture. Palm Canyon Mobile Club is a completely remodeled mobile home community with its newly-built ‘modern micro-homes in a not-so-tiny package.’ Homes started at around $115,000 for a one bedroom plus an average of $650 per month space rental. It’s become one of the newest clubs in town for McM addicts.

I tell friends that there are three things to remember about real estate here in California. First, this is California real estate so it doesn’t have to make sense relative to the rest of the country. Secondly, this is Southern California real estate which means it can get even crazier than other parts of the state. Finally this is Palm Springs real estate which is a unique hybrid in itself. If you understand anything about the housing market you could probably guess that California housing is an entirely different breed of animal.

In addition, studies have shown that the millennials’ demand for a new type of neighborhood has led to the emergence of ‘Urban Suburbs.’ Those are defined as high-density neighborhoods in suburban areas that share a number of urban qualities such as walkability and nearby amenities such as shopping, restaurants, etc. North Palm Springs is starting to attract this kind of development as well as other parts of the country too.

There is a new cluster of tiny homes being built outside of Atlanta.  The Clarkston development will be the first neighborhood of homes under 500 square feet to be sold in Georgia. Other metro projects are to follow with 40 tiny homes being built in South Fulton and another in the Pinewood Forest in Fayetteville.

Creating new housing designs that complement the surroundings here is nothing new for Palm Springs. Beginning in the mid-40s, architects originated a design movement specific to the greater Palm Springs area. It became known as Desert Modern. Their buildings featured groundbreaking techniques such as post-and-beam supports, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a wide array of colors to match the surrounding mountains and desert. These were homes meant for the very few who could afford them and their tony locations in the desert. Now one developer’s solution to that exclusivity lies in a century old model that’s been around for ages…the mobile home.

The Palm Canyon Mobile Club was originally built in the early 1960s. The location was ideal. It was close to shopping, restaurants & bars, and offered its residents some of the best mountain views around. The park was one of the rare few to allow all ages, not just seniors.

In late 2016, the master lease for the park was purchased and the ground lease was extended 65 years which provided security for the park's future. Then the developers began to bring a new vision to the Palm Springs Mobile Club with their own version of the tiny home.

The developer’s idea was to take your standard mobile home park and turn it into a desert enclave of tiny homes. They’ve taken the old reliable double-wide mobile home and turned one half of it into a tiny home. Of course, being Palm Springs it couldn’t be just any half of a doublewide. The developer and designers have used the cantilevered roof line as an architectural statement and designed amenities that both complement and enhance the main structure.

With nine-foot ceilings throughout, plus clerestory windows and sliding glass doors, the homes are flooded with natural light. There are one and two bedroom homes, ranging in size from 600 to 900 feet. It’s single level living with full sized appliances and room for a washer and dryer. There are some private fenced yards, a lot of outdoor decks and select front porches.

The center of the community is "The Club," featuring a newly remodeled club house; updated resort style pool area which includes an outdoor fire pit and lounge areas, plus barbecue area. A work-out room, pool table, plus updated poolside bathrooms and sitting areas are part of the club house features.

This new housing concept has certainly taken hold and portends more radical changes to mobile home parks throughout the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs has always had a wide variety of housing from single family homes, duplexes, condominiums, cooperative housing, senior housing, mobile home parks, apartments, vacation rental properties and VRBOs.

Now tiny homes are edging their way into the marketplace. It will be interesting to see if they take hold and how price appreciation compares to other types of housing.

Only in Palm Springs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022


Last summer, my classmates and I celebrated our 60th high school class reunion. Not surprisingly, it was notable for the absence of several familiar faces, a couple of classmates wheelchair-bound and the presence of portable oxygen units scattered about the room. That’s probably not too strange since we’re all in our late seventies, pushing up against the eighty-year mark and slowing down considerably. They say it’s called the circle of life.

Now a year later, a 61st class reunion has been organized. It will be held at a bar/restaurant in the vicinity of our old high school. I’m guessing some of the wiser ones among our class leadership decided that with our attrition rate as it is, it was probably best not to wait another ten years before we all met up again. But there was another reason for gathering and reminiscing about ‘the good old days.’

Concurrently with our 61st reunion, a new book about Cretin has just come out on Amazon. Com. Its genesis was simple enough. After last year’s class reunion, a couple of my classmates got together and decided it would be nice to capture some of the memories of our time from 1957 to 1961 at a unique educational institution that no longer exists. Thus was born ‘Cretin ’61 A Class Memoir.’

When I went on Amazon to buy a copy of ‘A Class Memoir’ I discovered another book about Cretin entitled: ‘Cretin Boy.’ This book was written by a graduate of the class of 1979. The second, ‘A Class Memoir,’ is by one of my classmates, Joe Delmont. It turns out that neither one was a romp down memory lane; at least not for me. Instead both books were a grab bag of other people’s memories; none of them patterned after my own.

For what it’s worth, both books, but especially ‘A Class Memoir,’ brought to mind just how isolated I felt a lot of the time relative to the experiences of my classmates. Reading ‘Memoir’ made me feel as if I was looking in on four years of high school that I only heard about in the homeroom, cafeteria, and after school.

To their credit, Amazon did a good job describing ‘Cretin Boy:’

‘Cretin High School, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota was a Catholic, all-male, military academy that brought unique twists to the already difficult high school experience. Cretin Boys, as they were called, were subject to the oppression of both church and state as they navigated the diverse teaching styles of Christian Brothers, military instructors, and lay teachers. Cretin Boy looks at those menial first jobs, takes you dancing with a girl at that first high school formal, and peels down the street in a Corvette-on-loan with a teen at the wheel. It is a coming-of-age story with a military dress code, a coming-to-faith story while smoking in the boy’s room.’

My classmate, Joe Delmont along with a group of friends, collected all the content for this second book of memories of our class and did a great job with: ‘Cretin ’61 A Class Memoir.’

Amazon described his book this way:

‘What Was It Like To Be Part of This Group?

Cretin ’61 was founded in 1871 as an all-male, blue-collar, Catholic, military high school, for day students, one that emphasized physical discipline and man-to-man directness to teach personal responsibility and excellence in athletics, academics, and career development as we grew from boys to men. This school ceased to exist when Cretin dropped mandatory JROTC and merged with Derham Hall High School. This book is a snapshot of our school days in 1957-1961.’

On a very personal level, the two books paint a fascinating picture of a time and place long since relegated to mostly old black and white photographs and the occasional color print of my high school years. But a time and period of my life better remembered by other people.

While the two books did a great job of rehashing old memories of high school; it was much more personal for me. The books really filled in a vacuum inside my head that had been there for over 61 years. It further reinforced the notion that my high school experiences were remarkably different than those of most of my classmates.

Reading the ‘Class Memoir,’ one can’t help but feel that many of my classmates who contributed to the book were truly reliving their ‘glory years.’ That’s not meant as a criticism but rather an acknowledgement that their experiences during those four years followed a different trajectory than mine did.

Raised in a single parent household (my mother left school after the sixth grade) where education was never talked about, I only had one distant cousin who seemed to ‘have it together.’ He was attending Cretin High School at the time, following in the footsteps of his two brothers. After that, he was going to college, as had his two brothers. Though never discussed, I had the distinct impression that ‘Buzz’ (Ronald Pizinger - later Doctor Pizinger) was the one to follow. So I naively thought I would too.

After being passed by with the first group of applicants, I only got into Cretin after someone dropped out, and I was next on their wait list. Lucky me! Both books brought back a plethora of memories; both good and sad but real and honest, nevertheless.

It truly was the best of times and the most trying - at times. It was what it was and both books pointed out the unique educational experience both my class of 1961 and the class of 1979 can hold dear to their heart.

I can’t change the fact that I felt like an outsider a lot of the time while I was attending Cretin. I still feel like an outsider some of the times but a much older one now and able to treasure the gifts I received there.