Friday, January 29, 2016

Childhood Memories of the Midwick Tract

I grew up in the Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California.
The land started out as the Midwick Country Club and Polo Grounds, a prestigious location in Los Angeles County where movie stars, politicians, and royalty, including  King Edward of England, played golf and polo.
Films, like the original Robin Hood, were filmed on the polo grounds.

The Great Depression affected the club because fewer people could afford to frequent it. When the owners defaulted on a loan, Dominic Jebbia bought the property. In 1944, the clubhouse burned down, so Mr. Jebbia subdivided the acreage and sold it to a real estate developer. He donated part of the land to Los Angeles County for Granada Park and created a housing tract on the rest.

Returning WWII veterans bought most of the houses for their families. All the streets were named after famous golfers.

My family bought one of the houses in the first phase and moved in during the fall of 1948 when I was two years old. Our house was on Hathaway Avenue. Larry’s family bought on Hitchcock Drive in the second phase and arrived when he was five.

Our house was situated where the golf course had previously stood. We occasionally found golf balls in the neighborhood.

Midwick was the perfect place to grow up. Nearly all the mothers were housewives and stayed at home all day. The downside was we couldn’t get away with anything. The minute we did something wrong, our mothers knew before we arrived home.

The upside was the number of kids our age in the neighborhood. We never lacked for friends.
Just on our end of the street lived another girl my age, one a year older, one a year younger, and another two years older. Kathleen and I became blood sisters. We both had younger brothers and wanted a sister. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and nine months later, she asked me to be the matron of honor at hers. When we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary in September, my ‘sis’ was there to deliver a speech.

Boys around our age joined us to play games during the summer. We roller skated on the sidewalks, rode our bikes to the park (more about that next week), and played all summer at one another’s houses.

I’ve stayed in touch with many of the neighborhood ‘kids’ over the years. Quite a few are my friends on Facebook.

We had no need for block parents because we always had adults around in case of problems. During the summer, we played outside until dark when a parent finally summoned one of us home and our play ceased. This was a time and place that seemed safe. We hung out in groups and never got into serious trouble.

I am very grateful to have been raised in this special neighborhood with wonderful people.

Next week, I’ll talk about Granada Park, the major hangout for all the kids who lived in the tract.

Friday, January 22, 2016

January - Repair Month?

When did January become repair month? This year started with lots of issues.

My convertible had a dead battery last month. We called AAA to jump-start it when our charger didn’t work. They managed to get the car running, and we drove it around all day. It started again each of the next few days, but then we tried to start it one day, and it was dead again. It still sits in the garage not running until we can afford to get it to the dealer to discover why the battery is draining.

The reason we can’t fix the convertible for a while is because we’ve had several other repair bills.
The brakes started squealing on our van. Unfortunately, they had to be replaced. Since Larry uses the van for surfing nearly every day, we didn’t feel we had an option not to fix it. Especially since the convertible was already out of commission.

Also in December, the icemaker on the refrigerator stopped working. We didn't bother with it at the time because we had lots of company. Early this month we called out the repairman. He said we had three options: unfreeze the water line, replace the bin and auger mechanism, or replace the entire door. The last option really wasn’t valid because the refrigerator is nearly thirteen years old. The repair guy turned up the temperature on the freezer and manually left the light on, hoping the line would defrost. Fortunately, it did. The water began to dispense normally. The ice also dispensed—sort of. But the crushed ice didn’t work. Fortunately, the bin and auger mechanism (which had broken) could be replaced cheaply enough, so we’ve ordered a new one.

Then on Wednesday when we started a load of towels, the washer just stopped working. We called out the repairman, who arrived about 7:00 at night. The control board (the most expensive part of the washer, of course) failed. The new one will cost nearly as much as we paid for the washer itself just over two years ago. Larry decided we had to fix this one since it matches the dryer, which still works. So we wait for the repairman to return with the new control board.

When did January become the month for repairs? What really has me concerned is the month isn’t over yet…

Monday, January 11, 2016

“Attempting to Find in Motion What Was Lost in Space”

Once again, my guest is JR Greger. She has written a new suspense thriller, I Saw You in Beirut. I loved the book and wanted to know more about it. Enjoy my conversation with her. Lorna

I suspect many of us can identify with Tennessee William‘s famous quote in The Glass Menagerie. “We attempt to find in motion what is lost in space.” The net result for me is I loved consulting internationally while a professor, and I send Sara Almquist, the heroine in my thrillers, to various international locations.

In my latest novel, I Saw You in Beirut, Sara’s past, as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as a globetrotting epidemiologist, provides clues for the extraction of a nuclear scientist from Iran.

How did I get the ideas for this thriller? The University of Wisconsin-Madison was awash with Iranian students protesting the Shah in the late 1970s. I was a professor and the graduate advisor of one of these students. Conversations with her and her friends served the basis of creating the fiery character Farideh Hossein in I Saw You in Beirut.

Then in the 1990s, I consulted on issues in biology (medicine and agriculture) at the United Arab Emirates University in El Ain and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. As you might expect, I saw research facilities, hospitals, and classrooms, and talked to faculty, business leaders, and students. You might be surprised to learn I also saw a testing lab for the racing camels, agricultural industries, markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before the creation of free zones to enhance development, and ships lining up to pass through the Strait of Hormuz. In Lebanon, I was thrilled by Phoenician ruins dating back three-to-four-thousand years and saddened by the damage war had wreaked on the beautiful city of Beirut. It was easy to see why the Lebanese bragged Beirut was once the Paris of the Middle East.

Yes, you guessed right. My fictional Sara just happened to also have consulted (but on epidemiology) in the Emirates and Lebanon.

My area of academic research involved the utilization of metals by humans. Several major research discoveries on this broad topic were made in Iran and Iraq in the 1960s. I knew several of the researchers involved in the Shiraz experiment, which identified zinc deficiency in villagers in Iran. The fictional Doc Steinhaus in my thriller was a grad student research assistant in the Shiraz experiment. Later, he mentored Sara.

Then I supplemented my experiences with lots of research. I Saw you in Beirut is peppered with details on a variety of locations in the Middle East. Why not arm chair travel there?

In I Saw You in Beirut, a mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

I Saw You in Beirut is available on Amazon.

NEWS FLASH: Win a free copy of this thrilleron GoodReads  between January 9-15, 2016.

JL Greger’s thrillers and mysteries include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Coming Flu, and I Saw you in Beirut. Bug (shown in the picture) rules their house and is a character in all her novels. Her website is:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year's Resolution

It’s a new year, and most of us feel compelled to make New Year’s resolutions.


Every year I say I’m not going to do it…except…

I always resolve to get healthy. Every year. Sometimes I actually succeed. The frustration comes when factors beyond my control interfere.

This last year is a case in point. Until May, I was walking between one mile and two-and-a-half miles every day. I had gained weight over the previous couple of years, and I determined to get the excess off—just as soon as my entertaining was done.

On May 1, I expected a group of friends from grammar school for a mini-reunion at our house. That morning as I walked downstairs, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. A number of years ago, I damaged the same knee, so I thought I had further aggravated the old injury.

During the next couple of weeks, the pain increased. I tried doing the exercises I had done to help the earlier injury, but the pain grew worse. I finally went to the doctor. She took x-rays and sent me for physical therapy.

When it didn’t help, she ordered an MRI. It showed two tears in the meniscus—the old one and a new one—plus a cyst and arthritis.

On August 6, I underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee to repair the meniscus (cut out the ragged parts), remove the cyst, and clean out some of the arthritis.

Since I had never experienced surgery before, and since several friends who’d had the same surgery told me it was an easy operation, I assumed I’d come out of it pain-free and able to resume my normal activities.

Not so. The pain remained.

I continued to do my exercises and follow orders, but the situation didn’t improve.

In September, we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and took a trip to Hawaii in October. I continued with exercise and ice throughout the trip. By the end of our time in Hawaii, I finally started to feel improvement.

However, when we got back, the pain came and went, sometimes so acute I was in tears.
The doctor ordered a new MRI, and I made an appointment with the surgeon.

Both said the MRI looked normal for the surgery I’d had. The surgeon said it had been much more extensive than ‘normal’ (whatever that is). He gave me a cortisone shot in the knee, told me to stay off the leg (yeah, right) and come back in a month.

The shot lasted about two days, and then the pain returned.

It’s been intermittent ever since. Some days are better than others.

I’ve decided to continue following orders to get this knee back to normal functioning, whatever it takes short of replacement.

So my resolution, once again, is to get healthier this year. I plan to eat better, get exercise (when the knee allows), get rest, and generally take better care of my health.

I may be old (and I am), but I need to be in the best shape I can manage for the time I have left.

Did you make a resolution? What was it?