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Laguna Beach


Things Need to Change

Do you know what it is like in today’s society being an African American? I’m guessing that you do not. So today, I am going to share with you some of my life experiences as a black, male teenager.

I am out skating with two of my friends and we decide to go to a local candy store for some sweets. We walk into the store with our backpacks on, when the owner stops me and tells me to open up my backpack. I am the only one asked to open my bag. Keep in mind, the two friends with me are white and I am black. I ask the owner why. He then proceeds to tell me that I am going to steal something from the store because that is what I, as a black male, would do. I tell the owner that I am not going to open my backpack for him, as he is not allowed to search through my belongings without probable cause. The owner proceeds to kick me out of the store, while my friends stand in shock, wondering what the hell just happened.

This past weekend, I am at the beach walking with friends from Oak Street beach to Bluebird beach. While I’m walking, someone yells at me “Get off the beach, you n-word.” I continue walking, ignoring the racial slur, even though I am furious. What else am I supposed to do?

I cannot even go to Thalia beach without people looking at me weird. They say things to me that they don’t say to my white friends. 

I have had to deal with racism my entire life. Slavery may no longer exist and our country may claim to have ended segregation, but racism is still rampant in our society. Innocent people are dying. People are bullied for the color of their skin. People are treated differently because of how they look. We are guilty until we are proven innocent. This may seem worlds apart from where you are, but it is not. It is here, in Laguna Beach. It is in every city in America. And it happens to me every day. 

My message is this: Stop the toxicity. Stop the hate. Stand up to racism. Don’t stay silent. Let’s be the change that needs to happen. 

Submitted by Mario Rodriguez

Laguna Beach


Is ocean health an “essential service”?

The ocean provides us with every other breath of air and, through daily evaporation, all of the rainwater replenishing reservoirs to quench our thirst and irrigate food crops that sustain us. We cannot survive very well more than three minutes without air, three days without water, or three weeks without food. Yet, who really cares for the ocean? 

Peter Douglas, the California Coastal Commission’s leading official, often warned, “The biggest threat to coastal protection is ignorance and apathy”.

The ocean accounts for as much as 50 percent of home value and the Laguna Greenbelt can add another 19 percent. Yet how often do we consider what happens to the ocean as we mindlessly fill it with daily sewage and urban runoff contaminates?

In my professional opinion, Laguna Beach’s wastewater enterprise model demonstrates the inability to adequately fund essential services to protect the health and welfare of the community and valuable natural resources at the foundation of the regional economy. “Enterprise” models seek to maximize “profits” while forgoing needed expenses for basic inspections and maintenance, seemingly contributing to serious recent episodes of massive sewage and fuel spills polluting the Laguna coast.

City Council and staff “entrepreneurs” seemingly know that one way to balance expenses against profits is to skimp on maintenance and keep staff at minimum levels and expertise. As a cost saving measure, it would seem, Laguna Beach has no marine biologist to direct City operations in improving ocean water quality or an Ocean Commission to guide well informed City policies. The present “wastewater enterprise monopoly” guarantees there is no competition and pressure to seek innovations leading to Zero Liquid Discharges to nearshore waters.

Public Private Partnerships (P3) introduce modern innovations to capture sewage biosolids for bioenergy production. Biogas can power wastewater filtration to potable standards for beneficial reuse and measured reductions in secondary sewage discharges to local ocean waters. P3 Partnerships, State Grants, Federal infrastructure funds, and progressive philanthropic contributions also provide valuable ass-set management capital to ensure long-term funding of this renewable source of water. New water will protect Laguna’s precarious semi-arid environment prone to climate change, mega-droughts, and wildfires. A pipe dream? 

Since 2008, Orange County Sanitation District, in partnership with water districts and universities, has produced 100 million gallons per day of high purity recycled water to blend with potable water and supply Laguna Beach with 60 percent of its drinking water. In the meantime, Laguna Beach ratepayers are billed for discharging all of the City’s 1,870,000 gallons of wastewater daily to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall just 1.5 miles offshore at Aliso Creek. Deep water upwelling transports our contaminates to the marine life food chain and, ultimately, to nearshore habitats despite many engineers’ assurances that sewage discharges magically “go away” with ocean dilution.

Fortunately, ocean discharges can be upcycled to add precious high purity recycled water for the City’s wildfire prevention and suppression to solve two environmental problems at once. This obviously practical step requires City leaders to take a deep dive into science and learn basic facts about Laguna’s relationship to the Gulf of Santa Catalina – our home in the Pacific Ocean. It also means we must appreciate the need to protect the Laguna Greenbelt with “new water” – an effective, proven means to prevent and suppress fire.

Political leadership to partner with water innovation leaders and implement improvements to wastewater infrastructure follows community intelligence and will power. We must take long-delayed steps to ensure a better future for ocean health – the foundation of the ‘eco’-nomy. When we stand up for the ocean to speak loud and clear for leadership, constructive action will follow.

No pressure means no progress. Police and Firefighters are not “enterprises” and, unlike ocean health, are funded as essential services. Can you think of anything more essential to Laguna Beach than a healthy ocean?

Let’s not let our collective ignorance and helpless apathy flush away Laguna’s future. Aren’t we all the sustainable solution to ocean pollution?

Mike Beanan has served on the former Ocean Advisory Committee, Wastewater Task Force (WTF), and recently on the Environmental & Sustainability Committee.

Letter Beanan

Mike Beanan

South Laguna


Taco Salad

By Jackie Bayless

Corona Chronicles

We had been in Maui, our paradise, before the pandemic was officially designated. On March 16, we arrived at LAX, waiting for our bags in a large crowd of travelers (horrifies me now to think of it). We’d been hearing news of the coronavirus cases in Wuhan and more recently in Washington State, but there were no cases in Hawaii and the shelves there were fully stocked. I wanted to make taco salad – my comfort food – for dinner the next day. I drove to Pavilions and was shocked at the sight of so many empty shelves – no toilet paper or paper towels, no meat, no bread, and no milk. If we had only needed to survive on chips and soft drinks, we would have been fine.

I scored some ground beef, 80 percent fat, 20 percent lean, looking rather pale and unappetizing, but, heck, I would brown it and use the rest for spaghetti. I needed lettuce and a can of kidney beans to add to the ingredients I already had. There was not a can of any kind of beans to be found. I moved on to Gelson’s where the butcher was putting out a few packages of beautifully hand-trimmed chicken breasts. Expensive, but yes. I found a head of limp lettuce and there, on the shelf for canned goods, was a single can of dark red kidney beans. I actually held it aloft in triumph. A woman behind me in line (we were not yet at the six-foot separation rule) smiled, saying, “Two months from now, people are going to be asking themselves, why did we buy all those beans?” Two months? If only it were so.

While we were on vacation, I had been recovering from bronchitis, which now seemed to be getting worse. I stopped going to the grocery store or anywhere. The last time I was in Gelson’s, I coughed into my fist, not my elbow, eliciting a stern look from another shopper. I’m 70, so I was taught to cover your mouth. It’s hard to change gears at this stage of the game – but now I will. 

I called my doctor and had my first telehealth appointment via Zoom. It was actually quite fun for both of us. He sent me to Quest for a blood test. Quest was not testing for COVID-19, so the lab seemed safe, but I sanitized coming and going. It confirmed I had mycoplasma pneumoniae, walking pneumonia. I’ve been on a new antibiotic and am better every day, but the experience of phlegmy coughing made me understand how frightening it must be for COVID-19 patients to have difficulty breathing. 

I’ve chatted with my three children and East Coast grandchildren by text and via FaceTime. They are all handling the school at-home experience and are in good spirits. But one son works in a Washington, D.C., family jewelry store –who’s shopping for diamonds at a time like this? – and the other is a wedding videographer in Charleston, S.C., where he had booked eight destination weddings. All have been postponed, with one cancellation. My daughter who works for Oceana, an advocacy group for the – you guessed it – ocean, is doing fine. She works from home when she’s not organizing and is a longtime Zoom user.

I am okay. My husband and his family are as well. This is not like scrabbling for food or our lives while our homes are being bombed, but I have to admit I am just dying to go out for dinner. Fresh ahi from Maui and a martini sounds so good right now.

Jackie Bayless is a Laguna area writer who is plowing through the many books she has wanted to read at an unprecedented pace since early March 2020.

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


In response to “Mayor reprimands Blake for unseemly email”

Regarding Friday’s article “Mayor reprimands Blake for unseemly email,” I find “unseemly” to be a vast understatement. Mr. Blake’s attack on Ms. Iseman is inappropriate, unprofessional, uncalled for, and deserving of expulsion from city council.

Our town is facing multiple difficult issues, not the least of which is the COVID epidemic, and we cannot allow our leadership to be distracted by what is clear to many as harassment and abuse by Mr. Blake.

I applaud Mr. Whalen’s leadership as our Mayor and his decision to issue a public reprimand to Mr. Blake.

Mr. Blake has demonstrated a pattern of disrespect and disruption. He should resign or be removed.

Thomas C. Bent, MD

Laguna Beach


Blake seems unable to conform to the city’s code of conduct

Does Peter Blake get up on the wrong side of the bed every morning, or is it only when the City Council meets? His recent email to fellow council member Toni Iseman is not only mean and nasty, but completely wrong. Having a medical condition does not preclude one from serving in a civic capacity. After all, Franklin Roosevelt was an extremely effective president during both a major depression and a world war, even though he had polio and could not walk. 

Toni is an extremely competent council member. She does her homework, asks good questions, responds to citizens’ requests, and conducts herself in an overall professional manner. I can’t say the same for Peter Blake. He sits scowling during city council meetings. I expect him to growl or bark at any minute. Most of his verbal comments are to interrupt someone during public communications and say something nasty. City council members do not have to agree on the issues, but they have the responsibility to do so in a civilized manner. 

Council member Blake seems unable to conform to the city’s code of conduct, which calls for officials to treat everyone courteously, listen to others respectfully, exercise self control, be open-minded to all views, avoid personalizing debate, and provide fair and equal treatment for all people and issues. To me, Peter behaves like a bully and appears to have anger management issues. Perhaps he is the one who is unfit for civic responsibilities.

Anne Frank

Laguna Beach


I first moved to Laguna 50 years ago

The first time I visited Laguna was in August of 1960. I remember telling my 11-year-old self, “Someday I’m going to live here.” Turns out it took 10 years, but I finally arrived in June of ‘70.

It was a month after the horrific shootings at Kent State, seconds after I had graduated from USC, and two months before I was ordered to report for my physical exam at the height of the Vietnam War. 

Way back then, there was a Denny’s at the corner of Coast Hwy and Bluebird, the Community Clinic had just opened its doors, Marriner’s Stationery and Shields Hardware were mainstays on Forest Avenue, Corky’s Cafe was next door to the Safeway market at Boat Canyon, you could play handball at the high school, and there were gas stations on the ocean side of PCH at Main Beach. 

Over the decades, good things have happened to me here in Laguna.  For example:

--In 1974, while I was teaching preschool at Anneliese’s on Manzanita, the mayor appointed me to the city’s golf committee. This was decades before Mark Christy and his team turned The Ranch into the jewel that it is today; 

--Four years later, as a member of the Laguna Beach Citizens Alliance, I was asked to interview on cable TV all the candidates running for city council. I remember artist Marlo Bartels calling me the next day chanting, “Vote, vote, vote” for the candidate of your choice;

Letter Freidenrich 1

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Submitted photo

1978: The night Denny interviewed on cable TV all the candidates for city council

--In 1985, I was retained to coordinate the No on Offshore Oil Drilling campaign on behalf of Laguna, San Clemente, Newport, Huntington Beach, and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Thanks to the continuing efforts of council members like Bob Gentry and Toni Iseman, there are no oil rigs off the Laguna coastline. To this day, this remains the single most important political campaign of my life; 

--After commuting from Laguna to Long Beach and Los Angeles, where I held marketing and fundraising positions from 1988 to 1998, I decided to stay “local” so I could turn my attention to matters closer to home. Lucky for me, the Laguna Art Museum (LAM) was looking for a development officer, so I accepted the job offer; 

--The next time you walk into LAM, look down at the sand-colored tiles in the front lobby. With the help of Bolton Colburn and many at the museum, I unveiled the first 108 personalized tiles, which sold for $1,000 each, during a raucous community celebration; 

--Within minutes of the Bluebird landslide in 2005, I was on the phone with then-mayor Elizabeth Pearson. By dinner time, we had a plan in place to help those who had been forced from their homes. Three days after the disaster, hundreds of Laguna neighbors gathered in Bluebird Park to offer temporary shelter and/or clothing and other supplies to those in need. Clearly, if another landslide happens in town, we have a road map for recovery; 

--Days after Barack Obama was elected president, 25 of my friends and I decided to host a black-tie, inauguration gala at [seven-degrees] on January 20, 2009. According to Audrey Prosser, a longtime member of Laguna’s Democratic Club, the event I brainstormed attracted 300 guests and was, at the time, the most successful fundraising night in the organization’s history. I’m guessing my friends are anxious to host another inaugural gala next year; and,

Letter Freidenrich 2

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Submitted photo

2009: Denny welcoming the crowd to the Obama inauguration gala at [seven-degrees]

--Last July, the Arts Commission voted to study a concept I presented (modeled after what artists have done by painting or decorating 6,000 manhole covers throughout Japan). Stay tuned as I am hopeful that here, in the Home of the Artists, colorful works of art will begin appearing on our sidewalks in 2021.

Back when I first moved to town, 15,000 people called Laguna home, Ronald Reagan was governor, gas cost 35 cents a gallon, and a modest, two-bedroom home sold for under $100,000. Ten years later, Reagan was elected president, gas cost nearly $2 a gallon, and small homes were on the market for $200,000. I won’t insult your intelligence by reminding you who the president is now, or how much gas or a home costs today. 

What I will say is this: Despite the many differences of opinion in the 1970s, I always found people in town willing to listen to each other. Yes, the 1971 height limitation measure was contentious; but foes kept talking. Today, not so much. 

Whether it is a parking structure, public art in front of city hall, or Mo Honarkar’s proposed development plans, people are quick to demonize their neighbors for having different points of view. As a result, I have seen several friendships fractured to the point of no return. Dare I ask, should the Friendship Shelter take up a new cause?

No one can turn back time, but life in Laguna in 1970 was much simpler than it is today. Still, it remains a slice of paradise for those of us lucky enough to call Laguna home. I, for one, always will be grateful for having first moved to town half a century ago.

-30-

Denny Freidenrich is the author of nearly 1,500 letters to the editor and commentaries. His pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Hill, Boston Globe, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, OC Register, and many other publications coast to coast. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Filling Holes

By Sandy Homicz

Corona Chronicles

For 47 years, our committee of volunteers has published a monthly newsletter for the residents in our neighborhood bordering Coast Highway. But this month we find ourselves with numerous “holes” on our pages – empty spots where we originally had planned to report all the great events to be enjoyed in and around Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and other coastal communities.

We might have described the fun at our Saint Patrick’s Day parties, or posted photos of garden clubs hosting plant sales, or publicized local home tours, or featured stories about beach cities recreation, arts, and cultural events. But instead, we have nothing to report!

Non-Happenings:

There was no Men’s Club breakfast. No Women’s Club outing to Sherman Gardens. No Book Club tour of the Los Angeles Central Library. No homeowner meetings. No nature walks on the bluffs and headlands. No farmers markets. No Festival of Whales Concert. No library enrichment programs. And even no Disneyland.

Everything came to a halt – and we all know why.

News stories of the spreading coronavirus warned us to keep “socially distanced.” Round-the-clock reports of rising COVID-19 cases set off a panic with serious results. The stock market quivered on fears of global ruin. Travel plans were scuttled as areas went into quarantine. Churches canceled services just when God seemed most needed. Educational institutions started schooling by Skype. Rumors of weeks in isolation created a hoarding spree. When Costco posted signs saying they were out of cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers, or when we went to Ralph’s and found bare shelves where the canned goods used to be – that’s when things began to seem surreal. After all, how much toilet paper or creamed corn should we stockpile before we safely feel we have enough?

What Next?

After heeding the warnings and not going, not doing, we are wondering what comes next. Overall, the virus curve seems to be flattening now that awareness has grown and a shutdown has kept some infection from spreading. Our hopes rise as manufacturers step up to provide increased medical supplies and scientists work to find a vaccine. Deep feelings of gratitude go out from all our country to the health care workers and emergency responders helping those who are ill, and to those who keep things running during our national “shelter in place.” As time goes on, once this crisis passes, we hope everyone continues to practice healthy habits and perform those acts of neighborly kindness they are demonstrating right now.

Sandy Homicz is editor of the Seashore News, moderates the Dana Point writing group Write On, and is a founding member of California Writers Circle.

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


Turmoil and disrespect in our town: Peter Blake

To say that the horrible turmoil in our nation is extremely distressing is a colossal understatement. I feel such sorrow and total impotence. Regrettably, we have turmoil and disrespect right here in our little town. This is something I can weigh in on.

The story about Peter Blake asking for Councilwoman Toni Iseman to render her resignation because of what he perceives as a medical and mental impairment was cruel and inappropriate, to say the least. 

In council meetings that I have watched, I’m impressed at the homework Toni does prior to each meeting. I assume this comes from her training as an educator at the college level. She asks pertinent questions and it’s quite obvious to me that she has researched issues and discovers how such issues will impact the community and neighborhoods. She’s the councilperson that always considers the residents. Blake, on the other hand, rarely engages unless it’s to hurl an insult or bully a speaker. The lack of preparation on his part is quite obvious. It would seem to me that Peter Blake is the one that needs to render his resignation for a lack of civility and the ability to serve us adequately.

Trudy Josephson

Laguna Beach


Plant Man Column

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” –Lewis Grizzard

My father, Pete, was born in the midst of the Spanish Pandemic, then spent his formative years during the economic devastation of the Great Depression, followed by service in the United States Army in the Second World War. Never once did I hear him complain about world events that shaped his life and influenced his unmatched fortitude during difficult times. Little wonder he and his contemporaries have been called The Greatest Generation.

His father was a truck farmer, growing tomatoes and strawberries in the shadow of Saddleback, towering over the Santa Ana Mountains. The horticultural lessons my father crafted in the fields, manifested decades later in his skill and art of growing homegrown tomatoes. My earliest recollections are only pleasant thoughts enjoying his fiery red tomatoes that were so tasty!

Most gardeners have or are ready to plant their tomatoes, which are available at your favorite nursery now. Best Laguna varieties include Early Girl and Celebrity. If you are growing in containers, select Patio, a compact grower. Super Steak and Better Boy, planted in your tomato patch, are good choices for large fruit. Super 100 is a fine cherry tomato, Lemon Boy produces yellow fruit, and La Roma is planted for tomato paste. 

Letter Kawaratani 1

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Super 100 Cherry Tomato

Purchase plants that are bushy, not leggy. Although beckoning with the promise of early harvest, avoid plants already in bloom or bearing fruit, they may not transplant well. 

Plant tomatoes deep, as roots will develop where the soil touches the stem. This makes for a bushier, stronger plant. Finally, choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight. Pinch off the bottom leaves and reserve a minimum of three pair at the top. Tomatoes appreciate well-prepared soil, so begin by using plenty of planter’s mix to ensure good soil structure and add a few ounces of a balanced starter fertilizer and gypsum per plant. The initial fertilizer application will be sufficient for the plant until it sets fruit, then it will be time to reapply vegetable fertilizer. Feed once a month while the fruit develops and then discontinue once they near maturity. In the case of container culture, always use a good quality potting soil. 

Tomatoes require regular watering after the fruit has set, about two inches a week. One can stimulate earlier fruit production by placing the plant under a little water stress early, however, be careful not to overdo it.  As harvest time approaches, cut back on watering to get less watery fruit and increase flavor. 

Most of the diseases and problems associated with tomato root systems are in the past, thanks to the introduction of disease resistant plants. Hornworms must still be dealt with, either by hand picking or eliminated by BT, Bacillus thuringiensis. The occasional aphids are easily managed by application of horticultural oil. Both control methods are respectful of your garden and home.

Letter Kawaratani 2

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BT and Horticultural Oil

Sunken black areas at the distal part of the tomato are caused by lack of uniform soil moisture after fruit has set, and/or a deficiency in calcium. This problem is called blossom-end rot and cannot be controlled with a pesticide. A white scald on the cheek of the fruit indicates sunburn and is prevented through good cultural practices.

I hold a true culinary affection for the tomato, and I dream frequently of how to serve them. You see, tomatoes are used in submarine sandwiches, club sandwiches, BLT’s, sloppy joes, and Catharine’s green salads. Without this versatile vegetable, one couldn’t possibly eat a pizza, huevos rancheros, shish kebab, Adolfo’s guacamole, ratatouille, Spanish rice, Manhattan clam chowder…

See you next time.

Letter Kawaratani 3

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Finest kind tomato

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for 69 years. He can be reached at (949) 494.5141 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach


Just Five Minutes

By Theresa Keegan

Corona Chronicles

“Think they’d notice if I went down?”

“Who knows?”

“I want to go for just five minutes – put my toes in the water.”

“We all do,” says the man in the black Rip Curl T-shirt as he reattaches his face mask, shrugs his shoulders, and walks back up Thalia Street hill. “But we don’t.”

The runner is left alone. She tugs at her ponytail holder and a shoulder-length cascade of blonde hair suddenly surrounds her head. Sweat rolls down her back.

The surf’s turquoise breakers peek through orange construction fencing and yellow caution tape. This siren song for surfers and beach lovers is not answered today. It hasn’t been for over a week. The swells ripple together into varying shades of black and gray, cascading into the horizon, untouched by people along the Orange County coast. 

She lurches forward, issuing furtive glances, and tugs at the impromptu fence post.

Even after her eight-mile run her youthful legs could easily hurdle over the netting. And then it’s just a bit of a limbo move to scrunch under the yellow caution tape on the steps. She won’t even disturb the numerous signs declaring, in all capital letters, that DUE TO COVID 19 ALL CITY BEACHES AND THEIR ADJACENT PARKS ARE CLOSED.

Is it really worth it she wonders? 

But the waves’ cadence, the breeze, the sun warming her sweat stained bright yellow T-shirt. It’s just too irresistible.

She dashes over and under and finally down the steps. No time for taking in the view today. 

At the bottom she steps on the heel of her running shoes to get them off quickly, whips off her damp socks, tucks them into the sneakers, and places them on the gray slab rocks that usually double as a landing pad for all kinds of footwear. Today, her Sauconys sit alone. 

She gasps at the beauty of the solitary beach. The sand envelopes her feet, its warmth and pliability so soft and comforting. She looks up and down the coast feeling like a selected goddess, alone in her kingdom. The false sense of control is quickly shattered – a rogue wave crests at the shoreline, surges forward, and wraps her ankles in white sea foam. 

An unsolicited moan of ecstasy emerges from her lips. 

“This, this moment right now, is why I live here,” she whispers to herself. She walks along the damp, darkened sand to the water’s edge. 

Just up to my knees she now thinks. She scoops up a handful of water, splashing it on her sweaty face. The salt from her sweat and the ocean sting at her eyes. She’s amazed at the water’s warmth for April. 

“Maybe I was just overly hot from running?” she wonders – stepping further into the swells. The cresting water transforms into brilliant clear turquoise waves before crashing again into gray foamy swells. The swirling push pull cadence of the ocean massages her calves and she unconsciously moves deeper until she is in limbo – either dive or be crushed. She arches under a cresting wave, emerging on the other side face glistening toward the sky. Her body joyfully floats in the buoyant weightlessness of the ocean. She continues her bobbing, bending into the lifting waves, stretching back she gazes at the empty beach. 

“Wow,” she whispers aloud. “I’ve never been totally alone at the beach.”

The waves lift her higher. She floats on her back, reluctantly acknowledging that not all sea creatures are friendly. It’s not that she’s scared, but if she’s the only human around, well…

She rides the next wave in, still marveling how warm she is in the April water. 

As she sits on the step, leaning down to put on her running shoes, she’s suddenly light-headed. Then a cough erupts. The strange, dry, persistent cough continues as she slowly, suddenly laboriously climbs the stairs. At the top she shuffles toward home, wanting to put her head down on the bed – just for five minutes. 

Theresa Keegan is a freelance journalist in Southern California who marvels at how quickly rabbits overtook the pathways at Heisler Park once people were removed from the equation. 

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


Love (of Paper Goods) in the Time of COVID

By James Kemlet

Corona Chronicles

The line was shorter than I expected. I imagined an endless column stretching all the way to Pacific Coast Highway. It was 6:50 a.m., and the shifty-eyed man in front of me moved his cart into a defensive position in case I had any plans to try and steal the pole position he now occupied.

Jeez, mister, I thought, there are only seven of us on the whole damn line.

At 6:55 the line had grown to 50. I pointed this out to my wife, Chris, who gripped the handle of her cart a little harder. I almost expected her to start making engine revving sounds as the clock ticked down.

And then, right on time, the smiling, middle-aged matronly clerk opened the door of Albertson’s and the hunt began.

“You get the toilet paper and tissues. I’ll look for the organic popcorn,” I said. Chris nodded. 

There was only one regular jar of Orville Redenbacher remaining, which I grabbed. Chris preferred organic popping corn. So it goes.

With my job completed, I headed for the paper goods aisle. On the way there, I passed Chris who looked lost.

“It’s on aisle eight. Meet me there,” I shouted.

“Only Charmin!” she called after me. “Ultra Soft Mega rolls! And a three-pack of Kleenex!”

“What if they don’t have that brand?” I had posed at our pre-shop strategy meeting. She wouldn’t even consider that possibility. “They have to have that brand,” she said.

She was right. The sight of fully stocked shelves with toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues looked unreal. Part of a movie set.

The sign said, “One per customer.” One what? One roll? One package? It didn’t specify.

So I took one eight-pack. That much toilet paper would easily last for the two additional months we were probably going to stay in Southern California before chancing the cross-country drive back to New York.

I felt like one of those sleazy lawyers getting a guilty client off because of a loophole. 

There was no three-pack of Kleenex, so I took two boxes and wondered if that middle-aged smiling matronly clerk was going to call me on that. 

Chris came around the bend, saw what I had in the cart and smiled lovingly.

“Let’s go,” she said. “It’s getting too crowded in here.” It was 7:15 a.m. in the morning on a weekday.

The clerk rang us up, and just like that, we were driving home with our treasures.

Once home, Chris began breaking apart the Charmin. She went to put four in the back closet. Suddenly she was standing in the hallway, her face ashen. She was holding a second eight-pack of Charmin Mega Rolls.

“I forgot about these,” she said. “I bought them last month – before the virus, before the hoarding.”

I thought about driving back to Albertson’s and leaving it in a shopping cart at 3 p.m., when a full shelf of paper goods would be just a sad memory. I’d put a sign on it that said “FREE” and retreat to my car to watch.

Instead we put it back in the closet. 

I did feel guilty. But not for long. I remembered a little mantra my grandmother once told me, back in the world before COVID.

You can’t have too much toilet paper.

Jamie Kamlet is an environmental educator and retired teacher of the gifted, dividing his time between one set of grandchildren in New York and the other in Southern California. He writes science fiction when he is not running with his dog or hiking with his wife.

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


Mr. Blake is losing his chance to be a force for good with his continued polemics

I have often disagreed with Toni Iseman on issues of policy. I will probably continue to do so. But I have found her a devoted public servant and a good person at heart.

The recent ad hominem attack on Toni by Peter Blake as reported in the paper is, in my view, absolutely inappropriate, and works against the interests of the people of Laguna Beach.

Opinions expressed civilly are worth having. Opinions whose purpose is to demean and threaten do not serve the public or its interest. Mr. Blake has the ability to be a force for good in this town. He is losing (some may say “has lost”) his chance with his continued polemics.

Michael Kinsman

Laguna Beach


In support of Roxanna Ward

Dear Music Lovers of Laguna Beach,

I speak on behalf of so many musicians and music lovers in the city of Laguna Beach when I say that the strange maneuverings regarding Roxanna Ward’s employment at LBHS give cause for concern.

I am the President of LagunaTunes Community Chorus. I was the PTA President at LBHS in 2006-2007. I am the daughter of Carol Reynolds, former Artist of the Year in the Patriot’s Day Parade (for her accomplishments in music), founder of the Laguna Concert Band, and retired chorus teacher of 35 years.

I’d like to express how disturbing it is that the choral program at the High School is treated with such apparent disregard. It has come to my attention that Ms. Ward has reportedly been demoted to “accompanist.” I have a high regard for accompanists. They have their own position of value in the music world. But that is not what Roxanna does. Yes, she can accompany. But she also teaches. She inspires. She finds talent where someone might not think they have it. She carries kids from the baby steps of learning to sing, to performing on the stage for parents and the community. When you are a musician of her caliber and a person who cares deeply about the kids, you have surpassed the job of accompanist.

Roxanna Ward has been with the High School for 19 years. I know that she is on the cusp of retiring which makes this alleged decision even more egregious. If you care about this woman who has devoted so much of herself to the kids of Laguna Beach, please give her One More Year. Give her the opportunity to go out, in a COVID-free environment, next year. Let her have a final concert, a proper send off. That’s all. 

Is that too much to ask? One more year!

Patti Jo Kiraly

President, LagunaTunes


Peter Blake’s behavior

I read with considerable dismay about City Councilmember Peter Blake’s nasty and wholly inappropriate email to his City Council colleague Toni Iseman in which he asserted that in light of her “health problems” she should resign. It’s unconscionable that at a time when every level of government is being severely tested, he has elected to behave in this fashion. We need creative thinking and problem solving not venomous attacks.

Glenna Matthews

Laguna Beach


a sheltering place

By Molly Roberts

Corona Chronicles

benevolence of the night sky 

who hung the moon tonight

as though on a string

crescent and gold

with Venus hovering close by

once hidden stars appear 

  clear 

  bright

staying the night, saying to mankind:

we are here, waiting to be seen, cease your haste

...and they were last night, seen 

   bold, bright

   peaceful, alive 

as the string that hung the moon 

lowered it, goldened it

until its crescence dipped to a hidden view

in memory where beauty remains 

and Venus stood her guard 

over the night over the stars

benevolence of new morning light 

who sings out lyrics of nature’s ongoing song 

twilling of early dawn birds in trees 

the soaring sound of broad wings 

through the rising sun’s best light, that hits 

the swell of the sea below

and soft gray sleek bodies 

undulate with grace in and over and through

the waves

benevolence of lateness in the day 

whose royal elegance lowers its sun

to farthest edge

burnt orange softening light 

dusk tinted magenta shimmering delight 

golden beam on the water’s exterior 

for a fleeting moment fullness in measure 

we ask ourselves 

how can we, like these, 

live as we were meant 

as the moon, held

as the stars, willing to shine 

as Venus, bold 

as morning, with its newness 

as birds, free and with song 

as life in the sea that goes easily along 

as the sun, giver of warmth to all in her path 

as all of nature itself

audaciously praising the giver of life

Molly Roberts is an open water swimmer, high elevation trail runner, mother of four teenagers, and married to her best friend. She has discovered yet another adventure while self-quarantining: “glamping” on her deck where she writes about nature in all its glory.

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


Last Stop

By Cecile Sarruf

Corona Chronicles

Saturday. I arm myself for war before heading out the door: mask, gloves, and hand sanitizer. I hit Jons Marketplace intent on purchasing an Ameri Belgian chocolate bar for my best friend in Australia. She’s housebound and going batty. Normally, I send See’s, but they’re closed. I patiently wait my turn behind the personal distancing tape on the store’s flooring. When I get to the cashier, I notice she’s wearing a mask and gloves. Good. 

I then head out to another supermarket in Huntington Beach. It’s more bougie with its parquet flooring and lax atmosphere. It’s a surreal wonderland where I seem to be the only one wearing pandemic protective gear. I notice the lack of distancing tape, the X-marks-the-spot where you must stand between life and death. So, I approach the cashier and ask for a store manager. All other markets have implemented safety measures, why not here? An indifferent young man appears, as if bothered by my concerns. He explains he’s just following regulations, as there is no need at this time “according to corporate.” Besides, he notes, there aren’t many people coming in or haven’t I noticed? 

“But,” I argue, “there’s a pandemic! People are dying!” 

Mr. Stupid stands his ground, nonplussed. I grab some goods and get myself over to the post office to send a tiny package to that friend of mine in Australia. This is my last stop before heading back home and staying put. 

“That will be $30.00,” the clerk says. No mask. No protective plexiglass. 

“What? For one card and a chocolate bar?” As I haggle, my nose starts to itch under my mask. My right nostril begins to run. “How can this small envelope be 30 bucks?” I ask her while reaching into my purse for a nose tissue. 

“It’s the least expensive rate, ma’am,” she says. 

I blow and wipe my nose while considering the price. Then I realize – to my horror – I’m still wearing gloves!

“OMG!” 

The woman glances up. I quickly remove the dirty gloves and toss everything that can kill me into the trash bin. “I can’t believe it!” I blurt. Frustrated at myself, I cancel my transaction. After all, $30 could get me food rations and other essentials, right? I need to pay attention and rethink this whole thing over.

I find that I can’t stop overthinking. I miss my friends in Laguna Beach. I miss my friends in Los Angeles. A summer trip to Australia is certainly out of the question. I go for a quiet bike ride around the block in the cool evening. Upon my return, I crack my bedroom window open to quell the nauseating news about the mounting death toll. By Sunday evening, I feel a sore throat coming on. I slam shut my window. 

Monday morning and my throat feels raw. Like a caged bird hop-skipping its perch to avoid the cat’s paw, I cringe in fear. Is this how it happens? One stupid mistake? Was it the bike ride, the bedroom window, or was it my last stop at the post office? The threat of COVID-19 barrels down on me. No vaccine. No cure. This sore throat now holds me captive like a very sinister diabolical game.

Cecile Sarruf is a recently laid-off English teacher occupying her time writing and painting in the OC. 

Third Street Writers is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enhancing writing in Laguna Beach through workshops, public readings, and community outreach. During the shutdown they’ve taken their weekly Monday morning workshops to the web but look forward to returning to their home base of the Laguna Beach Library. To join or for more information, visit www.thirdstreetwriters.org.


Non-Grad

I have been reading and watching on TV stories about kids who were scheduled to graduate from whatever school – grammar, high or college, but because of the pandemic are precluded from doing so. That group of kids, incidentally, includes our granddaughter, Ally, who has completed her undergraduate studies at Oregon U. All the excitement about parties and celebrations and goodbyes had to be canceled. Some families held their own private ceremonies with just family members. What I heard and saw on the tube was a lot of lamenting but nothing really devastating. Most of the kids, while disappointed, have taken it in stride. While they won’t forget it, they will move on with their lives.

All of which reminds me of my formal graduation, or lack thereof, from Rutgers University in 1951.

You see, I never walked the memorable march down that aisle in New Brunswick, N.J. in cap and gown to shake then President of Rutgers University Robert Clothier’s hand, and receive that cherished parchment. I was nearby, but I never made it. I was at Camp Kilmer, just across the Raritan River from the New Brunswick campus. I had been drafted into the Army in May of 1951, and sent to Kilmer for indoctrination. It was there that I learned my first lesson in military survival. Noncoms consider recruits to be the lowest form of life. 

At Kilmer for the first few days we were issued uniforms, given those classic, sleep-provoking lectures, and kept busy for days with menial housekeeping tasks including agonizing mess duty. As Rutgers graduation day approached, I had no doubt that all I had to do was approach our empathetic lieutenant or one of the seemingly affable and understanding noncoms to get a pass to attend the ceremony, take a bus to the Rutgers campus, and after graduation, return to camp. I was so sure that I waited just three days before the ceremony to request a pass. Having no background or knowledge of protocol, I walked into the platoon command post, saluted the sergeant, and asked to see the lieutenant.     After five minutes of criticism of my saluting a non-commissioned officer and my saluting technique in general, I was coarsely informed that the lieutenant was not in. I then made my request to the sergeant (he had a drawl a mile wide) who looked at me blankly, and said that he personally would take care of it. When I asked him our chances, he replied that passes are given every day for such personal reasons. This was a Wednesday and graduation was on the following Saturday. He told me to return at 5 p.m. Friday. As I left, I noticed what I perceived to be a smirk on the face of the company clerk.

You know what happened (or did not happen). Like a naïve child I showed up promptly at 5 p.m. on Friday. Another sergeant was just rising from his chair as I entered. “What ya want, private? Hurry it up cause I got a pass and I ain’t gonna miss my bus out a here. So what ya want?” Explaining the details to him, I could see and feel that I was not going to attend that graduation. He looked at me with derision and in a cursive, disrespectful monotone advised me that as company 1st sergeant, he would have received any such request, that he had not, and even if he had, he certainly was not going to give any s--t ass (his cultured term), dumb, expletive recruit an expletive, pass off that expletive base.

When I asked if I could speak to the lieutenant, he exploded. Using street vernacular and novel combinations thereof that I had never heard before even in the streets of Jersey City (but was to become expert in the months ahead), and advising me to perform an act that, as far as I know, is physically impossible, he ordered me out of the office, shouting that I should expect to be on KP Saturday and Sunday. With the persistence that would serve me well in future years, I hung around the command post that Saturday morning hoping to see any officer. None showed up. I knew then, of course, that any chance of attending the graduation ceremony was gone. The following Monday, still disappointed, I encountered the staff sergeant I had first met. In response to my question on what happened, he responded that he did not think it was that important; that he really did not give a damn; that any way he had a “hot” date that night; and that certainly he was not going to hang around that lousy place just to plead the case of a dumb-ass private E-1. “Ya know,” I remember him saying, “Ah nevah even been gradjuated from no high school.” “I know”, I replied, “I know.”

Arnold Silverman

Laguna Beach


Proclamation recognizing the month of June as LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach

In light of LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach, we want to share the full resolution unanimously proclaimed by City Council in 2017: 

PROCLAMATION RECOGNIZING THE MONTH OF JUNE AS LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL & TRANSGENDER HERITAGE & CULTURE MONTH IN LAGUNA BEACH

WHEREAS, reflecting the rich heritage and culture of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) community is vital to honoring the residents and visitors to the City of Laguna Beach; and

WHEREAS, Robert F. Gentry, one of the first openly gay Mayors in the United States, served in the City of Laguna Beach; and

WHEREAS, the first openly gay candidate for President of the United States (Fred Karger) is a resident of Laguna Beach; and

WHEREAS, the devastating impact of the AIDS crisis is recognized in Laguna Beach through the efforts of the HIV Advisory Committee, the longest running such City committee in the nation; and

WHEREAS, the City of Laguna Beach recognizes the diverse, evolving and ever-changing needs of the LGBTQ community; and

Letter Tebbutt

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

WHEREAS, the City of Laguna Beach supports the inclusion and reflection of the LGBTQ community in its businesses and commerce; and

WHEREAS, it is understood that the City of Laguna Beach supports and values the major contributions of LGBTQ visitors to tourism; and

WHEREAS, the LGBTQ senior citizen population is recognized for its contributions to shaping the City of Laguna Beach; and

WHEREAS, the City of Laguna Beach supports its young LGBTQ residents, encouraging them to be who they are and ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all; and

WHEREAS, the City of Laguna Beach supports the LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee’s efforts to recommend practices and events that celebrate the LGBT community; and

WHEREAS, the LGBTQ community finds their life experiences reflected and honored in the policies, businesses, arts, culture and celebrations within the City of Laguna Beach.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Laguna Beach City Council proclaims that, FOREVERMORE, the month of June is recognized as LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER & QUEER HERITAGE & CULTURE MONTH IN LAGUNA BEACH and encourages the community to honor and celebrate the contributions, heritage and culture of the LGBTQ community.

Chris Tebbutt

Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Alliance


Join the face mask movement

With all the struggles of violence, hate, disease, and underemployment lately, it’s no wonder that we are feeling more isolated than ever. We need something to unite us – and I propose that we do that wearing face masks. Show your love and support for one another, and solidarity by wearing a face mask when you go out.

As an ER doctor serving on the pandemic frontlines, my mask has been a lifeline. Face masks literally save lives – by containing our droplets when we cough, sneeze, talk, or sing. Imagine if the 40 percent who are infected but asymptomatic wore a face mask to prevent the spread. 

But face masks also show your neighbor that you care about them and everyone around you. Instead of seeing face masks as a nuisance, wear them as a badge of honor – a symbol of your love for humanity. Instead of being bothered by the breathability of your face mask, remind yourself of the natural positive hormesis that occurs when your lungs work a little harder. Instead of feeling awkward talking through a mask, use it as a reason to be extra friendly to your neighbor, who desperately needs a warm interaction to brighten their day.

I look forward to seeing you wear your face mask the next time you are out in Laguna Beach. I will be wearing mine. 

Anita Wang, MD, FACEP, is a board-certified ER doctor of 30 years and owner of the Laguna Beach wellness clinic Wellness, Longevity and Aesthetics. Practicing Integrative Medicine allows her to help patients find health and vitality through comprehensive health profiling. She has practiced at UCLA Medical, Eisenhower Medical Center, and as a team lead in China during the 2003 SARS outbreak with Doctors without Borders (MSF). When she’s not saving lives on the pandemic frontlines, Dr. Wang speaks globally, advocating for natural preventive health, non-invasive bladder control, and minimally invasive aesthetics skin tightening. For more information about Dr. Anita, visit www.anitawangmd.com or call (949) 734-0580. 

Dr. Anita is also a supporting member of FaceMasks4All.org, an effort run by several local small businesses to build a stockpile of 24,000 facemasks – one for each Laguna Beach resident. Show your support at www.facemasks4all.org

Anita Wang, MD

Laguna Beach

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