Avalon

Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands. Close to one million people travel to Catalina Island every year, many of them from Los Angeles which is, in the lyrics of the song, “26 miles across the sea.” The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort, making Avalon a resort community. They built a dance pavilion in the center of town, an aquarium, and created the Pilgrim Club (a gambling club for men only). Just as the Bannings were anticipating the construction of a new hotel, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon’s buildings, including six hotels and several clubs.

In February 1919, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island and its associated properties from the Banning Brothers. Wrigley devoted himself to preserving and promoting it, investing millions in needed infrastructure and attractions, including the construction of the new Catalina Casino, completed May 29, 1929. In its heyday in the 1930s, due to its proximity to Hollywood, Catalina Island was a favored getaway destination for Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable. The island also served as a filming location for dozens of movies. In order to encourage growth, Wrigley purchased additional steamships to service Avalon and brought attention to the town by having his Chicago Cubs use the island for the team’s spring training from 1921 to 1951, absent the war years of 1942–45.

Avalon town and harbor 2012
Avalon town and harbor 2012

Glass bottom boats tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water. Lover’s Cove, to the east of town, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino (far right in photo), are popular places to dive. The area is famous for the schools of flying fish and the bright orange Garibaldi which teem in local waters.  In 1958, the song “26 Miles” by the Four Preps hit number 2 on the Billboard charts. The main theme of the song is summed up in the last line in the refrain, stating that Santa Catalina is “the island of romance”, with the word “romance” repeated four times.

Two Harbors is the second, and much smaller, resort village on the island, located at the isthmus of the island, north of Avalon. There is also a place called Camp Emerald Bay on the north end of the island that was a Boy Scout camp until 1991.  The Girl Scouts were also forced to move from their camp at White’s Landing, when its lease with the Catalina Island Conservancy expired that same year. “The Catalina Experience™” now takes you to White’s Landing — gateway to Catalina’s interior and positioned on the island’s most expansive beach.

camp white's landingOn http://www.vintagegirlscout.com/campCA.html, I found this ancient photo of this magical place, described as follows in the camp song that I still remember.

“Camp’s White’s Landing-

We canoe and we row

Lots of places to go.

There are boars and S’mores and a beautiful view!”

I don’t remember how big the place was, how primitive it was, or what its proximity to the Boy Scout camp was when I was a Girl Scout camper there for a summer or two in the late 1960s.  The main thing that sticks out in my mind from my time there was meeting a fellow GS camper who told me she wanted to convert to Judaism after reading Leon Uris’ Exodus.  I guess we were all impressionable young teens then and, even though I myself was heavily into the romance of the Jewish state portrayed in that novel, I thought this girl was crazy for wanting to be Jewish if she wasn’t born into it!

In retrospect, I guess the Girl Scouts had a bigger impact on the formation of my adult ideals than I was aware of at the time.  I was a member of the organization from first grade almost until high school graduation.  The GSUSA timeline on their website describes the 1960’s in the excerpt below and includes a photo of Girl Scout Cadettes on Earth Day, 1970, which was also a cause in the forefront of my still-forming political awareness at the time.

 “During this tumultuous and vibrant decade, Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” conferences around the country to lend their voices to the fight for racial equality, launched the “ACTION 70” project to help overcome prejudice and build better relationships between people, and viewed the Apollo 12 moon landing at Cape Kennedy, Florida, as guests of NASA.”

Places of My Life

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With thanks to this post The Struggle of Backstory which refers to another post The Shocking Truth About Info Dumps.  Both of these posters are fiction writers.  I may or may not have a dream to join them, but right now I’m trying to limit myself to non-fiction.

In this pursuit, I have kinda sorta started two blogs, but have not put very much on either one so far.  This series and this challenge, then, represent my first real attempt to contribute, to give something back, to the bloggers I follow.  I have learned a lot from them.  Mostly I have learned about them, to care about them, and to look forward to their thoughts, their feelings and their lives, on a regular basis.  I usually comment, which gives them my thoughts and experiences, so I hope they are still interested in learning more about me.  There are also some bloggers who “said” they would follow me but seemed to be a little out of my current wheelhouse.  I don’t follow or read them on a regular basis but wanted to give them an opportunity to drop me if they find me to be similarly “strange.”

Over the last year I have also written some vignettes for two memoir classes.  Out of the process of figuring out what I want to leave behind for my twenty something year old daughters to learn about me, why I am the way I am today and why I raised them the way I did, I discovered that many of my memories are tied to the places in which they occurred, be they real or imagined.

Those who don’t learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them

An email from the Sorbonne (Paris).

I am fresh pressing or reposting or whatever the above from a blogger I follow who I consider to be a fellow old fart (sorry!).  Her vintage is 1956.  Note the comment from vivachange1957.  I am vintage 1955 so I guess many of us old farts like to hang together!?

This action is a backhanded through truly meant compliment and mazel tov to this lovely lady/mature student as well as an appreciation of some more fine and thought-provoking poetry that emerged from a terrible historical event, in this case WWI.  Many of the literary gems that emerged from WWI are based on first-hand accounts of the horrors from which these authors emerged.  I have noticed that some recent best-sellers have the same source material, though these soldier-authors are seeing the same casualties of war on turf that is farther from home i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, parts of Africa.

If only some of the Muslim terrorists, or at least the varying Muslim factions or other radical religious or sectarian warriors, would look more closely at the devastation they leave behind, instead of expecting heavenly rewards or more power or whatever “reasons” they’re giving themselves for leaving all this pain behind, maybe it would humanize them enough to stop it!  If they would put themselves in the shoes of the survivors of this devastation, and learn these lessons of history, maybe they would see how futile their actions are!?

I will try to revert to more humorous entries for this weekly feature in the near future.  By way of excuse and apology, I am almost finished with the second WWII-based book being read and discussed in the last several months by my Fiction Book Club, and I also recently saw “Unbroken” after completing that book.  From these sources I learned that, amazingly and unfortunately, peoples from entirely different cultures and on opposite sides of the globe, committed the same types of atrocities against their fellow human beings, and it just made me sad.

Commit to a Writing Practice Part A – 3 important songs?

I have no idea how the description and title of this prompt is even remotely related to writing about the three most important songs in my life and what they mean to me. So I am going to split this into a two part post with relevant tags on each.

The prompt told me to try free writing and gave a bunch of advice intended to let all my fabulous ideas and wonderful words just flow on to the page. Unfortunately, my self-evident truths will not allow me to accept any of this advice because it all runs counter to who I am and how I write. Here’s each point of advice and how I feel about it.

• Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you’ve just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.) No, that’s trying to make sure that what I’ve said might make some sense to the reader.
• Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) If I don’t edit as I write, the post will get too long and convoluted. I wouldn’t want to read a post that was too complicated or too boring.
• Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.) I draft in Word which does this all for me.
• Lose control. I have, but more around the number of posts I want to write, not what goes in each post.
• Don’t think. Don’t get logical. I’m a German Taurus so I have to do both under the laws of the universe.
• Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.) Gotcha! I’m good with this one. Anonymity helps.

The prompt goes on to say “Just let go” and ends with this quote from Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator

“Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.”

Borges’ first published book included a series of non-fictional essays and short stories, using fictional techniques to tell essentially true stories. Borges also wrote poetry, essays, screenplays, literary criticism, and edited numerous anthologies. His poems embrace the same wide range of interests as his fiction, along with issues that emerge in his critical works and translations, and from more personal musings.

My self-evident truth about the relation of Borges’ advice to my writing is that, since it’s more appropriate for fiction writers and I write non-fiction, it’s not related at all! The philosophical term “Borgesian conundrum” is named after him and has been defined as the ontological question of “whether the writer writes the story, or it writes him.” I can get behind that thought in some of the non-fiction stories I write. Thanks, JLB.