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Ralphs Employees Are Happily Back at Work

Things are back to normal at the Ralphs store on Sunset.
Things are back to normal at the Ralphs store on Sunset.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Since the grocery strike, which affected some 800 Southern California stores, ended just over a week ago it is back to business as usual at Ralphs on Sunset, for both the customers and the workers. Early yesterday morning Jay Lopez could be found taking a detailed inventory of the produce department. As a produce clerk, it is his job to see that there is enough broccoli and ripe bananas on hand for the expected increase in customers over the weekend. He said he welcomes the familiar routine after being locked out for five months. ‘The strike was very hard on many of the workers here,’ said Lopez, who has worked at Ralphs for 14 years, four of them in the Palisades Sunset store. ‘Fortunately, I was able to live on some savings I had put aside to buy a house, as well as the money I was paid for standing in the picket line.’ Lopez, a father of three, said he walked the picket line for the whole five months and has had to put off buying a house ‘for now.’ While he had no comment on the settlement that was finally reached, which calls for a two-tier system which clearly favors veteran workers like him over new hires, his main concern all along was to ‘keep our current health benefits,’ which he basically has. Under the new three-year contract, veteran employees won’t have to pay for their medical coverage in the first two years, but they will now have some co-payments. Also glad to be back at work is Luis Zelaya, who has worked as a produce clerk at the Ralphs store in the Palisades since 1999. As he stocked the shelves on Wednesday morning he said that his family survived the strike by living on credit cards and the weekly stipend ($240 a week for the highest-paid workers) he received while on the picket line. ‘Now I have to work hard to pay all that off,’ said the father of three. Asked what he thought of the new contract, in which new workers will receive substantially less in pay and benefits, he said that although he saw it as a compromise, ‘everyone got something.’ Zelaya and Lopez are among the highest-paid clerks at Ralphs, both earning $17.90 an hour. The first grocery strike in California in 25 years, which started October 11, affected some 70,000 workers from San Diego to Santa Barbara. After union members of the United Food and Commercial Workers at Vons and Pavilions stores went on strike, employees of Albertsons and Ralphs were locked out in a show of union solidarity, as they share the same contract. During the strike Ralphs reduced store hours and hired thousands of replacement workers to man its stores. Locally, some 80 workers were affected by the lockout at Ralphs. Approximately 30 of them found work at Gelson’s, ‘helping out during the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush,’ said store manager Ray Stockton. ‘We’ve now hired five of those Ralph workers on a permanent basis.’

Jeff Taylor and Daughter Eulogized

The sanctuary at the Methodist Church on Via de la Paz was filled last Friday afternoon for the memorial service of Jeff Taylor, 36, and his 2-1/2-year-old daughter Bayden, who had lived just down the block. They had died on Monday afternoon when their car inexplicably crashed into an apartment garage behind the church and caught fire. As mourners entered the church, they were greeted by members of the family who showed them to their seats, including Jeff’s older brother Bob, his older sister Cheryl Higgins, and his younger brother Tim, all of whom grew up in the Palisades. On the altar was a poster-size black-and-white photo of the family at Christmas: Colette with her daughter Bayden on her knee, Jeff holding Preston. There was also a large color picture of Jeff and Bayden taken just two weeks before they died, Bayden in a pink party dress being held by her dad at a friend’s birthday party. The service began with a Boy Scout Honor Guard from Troop 223, in honor of Jeff having been an Eagle Scout. ‘While we have come together today in grief and in pain,’ said Reverend Nancy Wilson in her opening remarks, ‘we have also come here today to celebrate the lives of these two wonderful people.’ As ‘Amazing Grace’ was sung by a soloist, young Preston was inconsolable as he cried in his mother’s arms. The eulogy was given by Jeff Taylor’s best friend, Phil Pecsok, who was best man at Taylor’s wedding. Until recently, Taylor worked for Pecsok at NAXCOM, an Internet company that sells sports memorabilia. ‘Jeff was a true Palisadian,’ Pecsok said. ‘Born and raised here, he went to Palisades Elementary, to Village School for a year, to Paul Revere and then Pali High. Jeff and I met almost 30 years ago to this date when we began playing baseball in the Phillies organization at the Recreation Center. Jeff later went to college at San Diego State, where he met Colette. ‘He loved Colette more than anything and his kids were the light in his life. He always thought about them. Five minutes before Jeff died, he drove over to this church where his wife and son were, just so he could drop off a raincoat for Preston and an umbrella for his wife so they wouldn’t get wet walking the four doors back home in the rain. Jeff was Preston’s and Bayden’s hero. He and Preston were inseparable. And with little Bayden, it almost became a joke that she wouldn’t let go of her dad. She adored her dad. I suppose that is why Bayden is with Jeff now. ‘Jeff was a one-of-a-kind individual who touched us all in many ways. But most of all, he made us laugh. I know I will miss his smile, his wit, and his sense of humor. I will miss whiffle ball, over-the-line, baseball games and Little League championships. I will miss poker nights and Vegas trips, chats on the phone and watching ‘Seinfeld’ together. I will miss calling him ‘Tiger.’ I will miss him saying ‘No’ to Sunday golf with me, because Sundays were his family day. But, most of all, I will miss his laughter, his friendship and his love. We all wish this would have happened at 86 instead of 36, but I know I wouldn’t have traded this wonderful, rich, short ride with Jeff for anything in the world. ‘Jeff, my friend, we will never, ever, forget you.’ Bob Taylor, 12 years older than his brother, shared some family memories, and the last conversation he had with Jeff the day before he died. ‘I was on the phone with him on Sunday just before the Oscars, and he said he thought ‘Seabiscuit’ was going to win for Best Picture,’ recalled Bob. ‘Now, if you know Jeff like I do, you’d know that for a moment there he almost had me convinced. But in the end I told him ‘No,’ that I was going to stick with ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I left him a message Monday morning to kid him about it. I’m still waiting for him to call me back…’ Colette Taylor was the last to speak. Saying she was unaccustomed to addressing a crowd, she thanked everyone for coming to the service. ‘I feel your love and your prayers. They help me get through the day. Right now, I’m feeling OK. But it hurts. It hurts a lot.’ [See adjoining story.] There was then a slide presentation of the family’s life together, accompanied by Kenny Rogers’ hit song ‘Through The Years,’ which was Colette’s favorite song. She sang it to Jeff all the time: ”’Through the years ”Through all the good and bad ”I know how much we’ve had ”I’ve always been so glad to be ””with you ”Through the years’ ‘The loss of Jeff and Bayden leaves a passel of questions,’ Reverend Wilson concluded. ‘Why these two people? Why here? Why now? Why was God not in the neighborhood last Monday afternoon? We are left bewildered. And angry. What is the meaning behind this seemingly random sequence of illogical and senseless events? I believe [in this case] God’s own heart was broken.’ Mourners were then invited to a reception at the Bel-Air Bay Club, which was dubbed as a special party for Bayden, ‘for the 3rd birthday [July 2] she is never going to have, and all the other celebrations in her life that will never be,’ said her aunt Cheryl. In the living room of the club, which was decorated with candles and flowers, there was a large cake with dancing princesses on the top. Guests were invited to enjoy the family’s photo albums which were on display. After about an hour everyone gathered on the grass overlooking the ocean in front of the club. They were given a pink or white balloon. Colette was the first to release hers, followed by Preston, and then the guests, 150 balloons in all. ‘It was the most beautiful thing,’ Colette said afterwards. ‘Seeing all those balloons going off towards the sky.’ Preston later asked his mother if she thought the balloons had reached heaven yet. ‘I told him yes, which seemed to please him.’

Charter Schools Foundation Gains New Board Members

According to a 2003 statewide Rand evaluation, charter schools’more so than regular public schools’expand family choices, encourage parental involvement, increase teacher satisfaction, and raise academic achievement. ”Mark Snyder, the new chairman of the Palisades Charter Schools Foundation, believes the report is accurate and timely, especially since all seven schools in the foundation (Canyon, Marquez, Topanga, Kenter, Palisades Elementary, Paul Revere, and Palisades High School) are charter schools and are in the process of starting their charter renewals. ”Kathleen Hall-Goldner, a local realtor for Coldwell Banker and the foundation’s new co-chair, concurs with Snyder. Both are Palisades residents, and they recently shared the Foundation’s vision for the remainder of the school year. ”Charter schools were approved in California in 1992 as an alternative to public and private schools, with each school required to renew its charter every five years. ”The Palisades Charter Schools Foundation has stepped forward to host three workshops in March, April and June for parents and teachers from the seven local schools that will focus on the renewal and writing process. The Sacramento law firm of Spector, Middleton, Young & Minney, which has foremost expertise about charter schools in California, has been retained to provide expert assistance in writing the 16 necessary elements required by the state and school district in a school’s charter. ”In addition, the Foundation has hired Excellent Education Development Corporation of Santa Monica, a non-profit corporation whose purpose is to partner with charter schools to prepare review documents that will assess potential revenue and expenses for each individual school, so they can decide if they want to become a directly funded charter school. ”Snyder, who has a Ph.D. in education, has been employed by LAUSD for 25 years and currently works at PaliHi. He was one of the key people responsible for leading the school into fiscal independence a year ago. His son, Michael Brenner, is a freshman at Pali. Mark hopes to encourage each school to be as aggressive in its wish to have the most autonomy possible. To him this means that parents and teachers would work collaboratively to have the power over decisions that determine the education of every student. He feels the more control school leaders have over finances, the more control they have over all aspects of a child’s education. ”Hall-Goldner, who chaired the Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Concert last spring, feels lucky to have such good neighborhood schools. Her daughter, Elizabeth Hall, attended Kenter Canyon, Paul Revere and PaliHi, and is currently attending George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. ”She and Snyder both believe that the Palisades Charter School Complex is a model for the entire United States. They are unaware of any other school system in the country where a student can start in a charter school at the kindergarten level and remain in a charter system until they graduate from high school. ”’The Complex gives the community enormous ability to partner with their schools,’ Snyder said. ‘Our schools are consistently top ranked in California, and are recognized as distinguished schools. In 2003, nearly all the seniors graduating from Pali went on to college.’ ”As well as steering charter renewal this year, the Foundation also plans to once again support the Lori Petrick Teacher Recognition Award. This program was initiated last year to give a small financial reward to a teacher or teachers chosen for outstanding achievement and inspiration in one of the seven charter schools. Since all educational research has shown that a student’s achievement is tied directly to a teacher’s effectiveness, the Foundation hopes this award will continue to reward teachers that help students achieve their potential. ”In addition, the Foundation plans to help with community awareness. Snyder and Hall-Goldner agree that there is a sense that many of the achievements of some of the charter schools’ students are not being sufficiently highlighted so that kids get their full recognition. In a community that perceives education as a top priority, the co-chairs would like to see outstanding students and programs acknowledged. They’d also like to see more members of the community get involved in partnering in education. ”Along with Snyder and Hall-Goldner, new Foundation officers this year include secretary Sue Pascoe and co-treasurers Mo McGee and Debra Hafford. The Foundation welcomes donations to keep their dream possible: ‘Neighborhood schools helping students achieve to their highest ability.’ Checks can be made out to The Palisades Charter Schools Foundation and mailed to: 15777 Bowdoin Street, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. ”Contact Mark Snyder at PaliHi: 454-0611, x3090.

Palisadians Young and Old Will Walk Against Hunger March 28

By JOAN HILL Special to the Palisadian-Post Palisades community and religious leaders are giving their full support for the upcoming 29th annual Pacific Palisades CROP Hunger Walk. ”The 5K walk begins and ends at the Palisades Recreation Center (851 Alma Real) on Sunday, March 28. Registration is at 12 noon and the walk begins at 1 p.m. The walk raises funds to aid CROP (Communities Reaching Out to People) which helps alleviate local and world hunger. ”’Feeding people is one of the most worthy causes on our planet,’ said Steve Guttenberg, the walk’s honorary chairman. ‘By joining together in the walk through the Palisades business district, Palisadians have proved in the past, and will prove on March 28, that we make a positive difference in our world.’ ”Local community groups, schools, and religious institutions including Palisades Presbyterian Church, Kehillat Israel, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi and Palisades Methodist Church, are taking part. ”’We who have so much have an obligation to share our blessings with those who have so little,’ said Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel. ‘Our annual Hunger Walk is an opportunity to make a difference in the world and demonstrate with our feet and hearts that what we do matters.’ ”Added the Rev. John Todd of Palisades Presbyterian Church: ‘This is a joyous coming-together of the Palisades community, well known for its open-hearted generosity, for a wonderful afternoon of communion with friends and family while at the same time helping to alleviate a local and international problem.’ ”Last year’s Hunger Walk raised $32,500. ”At St. Matthew’s, fourth graders have been keeping a daily total of the money they have raised and have set a goal of $17,000 for their class contribution alone. Fourth grade teacher Anne Hillard observes that ‘the students are enthusiastically looking for sponsors for the walk, soliciting family and neighbors to do chores, and will be working on Sundays at the Swarthmore farmers’ market and after church services at St. Matthew’s. As a teacher, I feel an extreme sense of pride as the students strive to help others while gaining important life skills.’ ”Hunger is a worldwide problem, as statistics show nearly one of four children in Los Angeles County goes to bed hungry every night. Aiding the hungry in this area, 25 percent of the funds raised will go to the Westside Food Bank, which annually distributes more than 4 million pounds of food to over 60 local social-service agencies. ”The remaining 75 percent benefits CROP, a nondenominational program of the Church World Service, which partners with agencies in more than 80 countries providing food, shelter and water resources to the malnourished and impoverished. ”In addition to walkers from KI and St. Matthew’s, students from Marquez, Corpus Christi, Palisades Elementary and Curtis will be participating. ”’The great thing about the Hunger Walk,’ said David Miller, rector of the Parish of St. Matthew’s, ‘is that people from all over the community band together to make common witness about how we feel about world hunger, and that is why I will be putting on my sneakers after church on March 28.’ ”Corporate sponsors are John Aaroe and Associates, DBL Realty, Union Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, and the Palisades Junior Women’s Club. Contact: Don Mink at 477-3633.

Huntington Palisades

An Irresistible Suburb

Aerial view of the Palisades taken in December 1927. Note the circular pattern of the streets in the Huntington Palisades, south of Potrero Canyon. Also, note the white house, the first in the neighborhood, which still stands today (see below). 	 Photo: Courtesy Pacific Palisades Historical Society
Aerial view of the Palisades taken in December 1927. Note the circular pattern of the streets in the Huntington Palisades, south of Potrero Canyon. Also, note the white house, the first in the neighborhood, which still stands today (see below). Photo: Courtesy Pacific Palisades Historical Society

Imagine college students walking around a bucolic 200-acre campus in the Huntington Palisades, with views of the ocean on one side, the mountains on the other. This is just what the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet had in mind in the mid ’20s, when searching for a site for Mount St. Mary’s College. Alas, the Pacific Palisades founders’Methodists all’scotched the plan and hastily added the Huntington to their holdings. ”Located on an ocean-cooled promontory overlooking the Pacific, The Huntington was irresistible to visionary developers, who banked on the rustic surroundings and superb views to entice investors and newcomers to Los Angeles. ”As early as 1887, the prosperous businessman Abbot Kinney purchased the 226-acre parcel from the Marquez family and prepared a map of Santa Monica Heights as an addition to Santa Monica. He laid out the streets in a regular grid pattern and gave them names such as Kinney, Breeze and Pacific’which he would later recycle at his beach community of Venice. ”Kinney planted the streets in his Palisades suburb with eucalyptus, which he had imported from Australia with the mistaken idea that, apart from their landscape value, they could be marketed for construction and for oils. But as eucalyptus proved to be poor building lumber’it warped’and with the depression of 1888, Kinney abandoned his subdivision plans, leaving only the eucalyptus trees, some of which can still seen today.” ”After his vision for Santa Monica Heights collapsed, Kinney sold the entire property to Collis Huntington (uncle of Henry Huntington), who had parlayed his railroad holdings into domination of the Southern Pacific network. Envisioning a great seaport at the mouth of Potrero Canyon, Huntington made plans to establish his private estate on the bluffs above Santa Monica Canyon. He built a wharf extending 4,720 feet out into the ocean off Potrero Canyon, which during its first year of operation handled more than 300 vessels. ”When the decision was made to establish the port of Los Angeles at San Pedro, not in Santa Monica, and with the death of Huntington, his heirs eventually sold the entire 226 acres in 1926 to Robert C. Gillis. A Canadian immigrant, Gillis was president of the Santa Monica Land and Water Company, whose large-scale land purchases set the pattern for subdivisions from Westwood to Pacific Palisades in the early 1900s. ”Gillis’ purchase came at a critical time for the Pacific Palisades Founders Association, which by 1924 was beginning to drown in debt as a consequence of falling property sales. Gillis agreed to take over the property, pay the bills and continue the development program. ”Honoring the legacy of the Huntington family, Gillis named his new suburb Huntington Palisades and planned to transform it into a fashionable upper middle-class community. ”Unlike most subdividers, who adopted a grid pattern, Gillis chose a romantic scheme of curved streets and landscaped boulevards, which followed the terrain and preserved the vegetation. Concentric semi-circular drives surrounded an open park area (bounded by El Cerco Place) and intersected a broad entry street with landscaped central parkways (Pampas Ricas). ”The design reflected the high standards set by Gillis and Rev. Robert Scott (founder of Pacific Palisades and president of the Association) and included elements characteristic of the Olmsted Brothers, who laid out New York’s Central Park. ”Frederick Olmsted, the older of the two, had come out to Los Angeles to help in the planning of Palos Verdes. The Association contracted with him to provide guidance in planning various neighborhoods, including Tract II (college-named streets south of Sunset) and Las Pulgas Tract (upper Las Pulgas Canyon), and the Huntington. Their legacy is reflected in the curving streets and view lots outlining the periphery. ”Gillis divided the Huntington property into lots from a quarter of an acre to more than a full acre and set minimum construction costs from $5,000 for the smaller to $15,000 for the larger parcels. He prohibited owners from using lots for other than residential purposes, erecting dwellings of more than two stories, growing hedges to more than five feet, and placing houses without regard for setback lines. Gillis extended these restrictions in perpetuity, and established a property owners’ association to enforce them. ”Lots varied in size to accommodate large homes on the choicest sites’at intersections and along the mesa rim. Underground utilities were installed and ornamental light fixtures were provided, costing four times the normal amount for such services. A 40-acre plot adjacent to Potrero Canyon and Beverly Boulevard (Sunset) was designated for commercial use, as was a strip along the Coast Highway. ”Most of the old eucalyptus trees planted by Abbot Kinney were carefully preserved, though the new streets cut across their even rows. Street names were chosen by the project engineer, W. W. Williams, who named them after famous places (and people) in Mexico, where he had spent much of his mining career. Alma Real was named for his lady friend, a singer and dancer from Mexico; Toyopa was the name of a lost mine in Sonora, Mexico, originally called Coyuca; Chapala is the name of the largest lake in Mexico, and Corona del Mar means crown of the sea in Spanish. ”During the years that suburban layouts emerged around Los Angeles, the revival architectural style aesthetic became the mode in domestic architecture. Architects and builders turned to California’s Mediterranean climate, vegetation and sunlight and embraced Italian and Spanish styles. Soon a California architecture evolved, characterized by colors very light in tone, exteriors of plaster, adobe or stucco, and low-pitched tile roofs. ”A few great mansions, comparable to country villas, achieved the massive simplicity and elegant ornamentation of Mediterranean architecture, but when adapted for suburban living, compromises had to be made. In particular, the substitution of open lawns and driveways for front walls and central courtyards was particularly incongruous, as architectural critic Charles Gibbs Adams noted in 1928: ”’Truly we are a melting pot, not of nationalities, but of architecture,an architectural anachronism, Nordic invasion of the Mediterranean, Attila again in Rome.’ ”By 1928, the dream of Huntington developers dissolved under the harsh reality of slumping land sales. As revenues fell, progress lagged on the promised improvements and maintenance suffered. Vacant lots and parkways went uncleared and many of the original plantings died from lack of care. Paving of the streets in the Huntington continued, but the Santa Monica Land and Water Company’s tract office on the southwest corner of Chautauqua and Pampas Ricas eventually was converted into a home’one of the 600 that occupy the Huntington today. ”After World War II, building once again resumed at a record-breaking pace in all the tracts of the Palisades. The resident population grew from 796 in 1940 to 6,387 10 years later. And the predominant architectural style in the Huntington is still the 1950’s rambling, single-story ranch house with a shake roof. New construction’often imposing two-story homes’is underway on practically every street, attesting to the fact that this neighborhood is still irresistible. (Research for this article came from ‘Pacific Palisades: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea,’ Betty Lou Young, and ‘The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930,’ Robert Fogelson)

Fabled Bradbury This Way Comes

Most think of him as a writer of science fiction, he prefers to be known as a fantasy writer; but by any definition Ray Bradbury is a living legend of American literature. In addition to such masterworks as ‘The Martian Chronicles,’ ‘The Illustrated Man,’ ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes,’ the prolific author, now 83, has published more than 30 books, close to 600 short stories and numerous poems, essays and plays. Bradbury will appear at the Palisades Branch Library, 861 Alma Real Drive, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. The author traces his creative roots to what happened when he was 9 years old. ‘I fell in love with literature, libraries, rocket ships, magicians, carnivals and life,’ Bradbury told the Palisadian-Post during a recent telephone interview. A native of Illinois, Bradbury attended high school in Los Angeles, the city he’s called home ever since. The ‘happy compulsion’ driving Bradbury to write for over 70 years shows little sign of abating. He just finished ‘The Cat’s Pajamas,’ a new collection of short stories to be published in July. A film based on his short story ‘Sound of Thunder’ is in production in the Czech Republic and he speaks enthusiastically about the new movie version of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ which is under way, produced by Mel Gibson and directed by Frank Darabont, whose credits include ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ In his famously forthright style, Bradbury weighs in on earlier adaptations of his work, describing ‘The Illustrated Man’ as dreadful, but praising Disney’s 1998 film ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’ as one of the finest ever. Speaking of cinema in general, ‘As Good As It Gets,’ the 1997 Academy award-winning film starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, is among Bradbury’s all-time favorites. ‘It’s a fabulous screenplay with characters you care about,’ he says. ‘A wonderful, wonderful film. The camera didn’t jump around. Rather it made love to the people and stayed with them. “There’s a constant theater going on inside my head,” Bradbury says, revealing the source of his own storytelling gifts. “When waking in the morning, I choose one of the metaphors bouncing around in my head and go to work. Often I’ve finished a short story by noon.” Bradbury uses a typewriter and scoffs at the idea of converting to a computer. “Why would I need two things that do the same thing?” he says with a chuckle. In ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ the book many consider to be the author’s masterpiece, Bradbury imagines a world of extreme censorship and political correctness, where firemen are charged with finding and burning down hidden libraries, and where technology’the protagonist’s wife surrounds herself with a three-walled television screen’has a stranglehold on the human spirit. On the prophetic nature of the novel, written in 1953, Bradbury says he “feels lucky these things occurred to me when I was only 29 years old.” Eminently quotable, the author once commented: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” “Our educational system is crap,” says the author when pressed to elaborate on the remark. “We don’t teach reading and writing,” he says. “Our whole civilization will go to hell if we keep on with this.” Bradbury always intended adults to be his audience, but happily concedes that the work “appeals to everyone from 8 to 88. At readings, I would see all these kids in the audience who loved ‘The Martian Chronicles’,” he recalls. “It was simply great.” The author has four daughters and eight grandchildren. His wife of over 50 years, Maggie, passed away last fall. As to his appearance at the Palisades Branch Library, Bradbury says he never prepares remarks. “I’m like a grenade,” he says with a laugh. “I get up there, pull the pin, and explode.”

Therapist Helps Writers to Infuse Characters with Life

Many actors use Method acting techniques to learn everything they can about the characters they play’their backstory, motivations, desires and dreams. ”In Rachel Ballon’s book, ‘Breathing Life Into Your Characters,’ she advocates that writers can use ‘method writing’ to make their characters more alive, interesting and well-rounded and therefore improve the quality of their fiction, plays or screenplays. ”Ballon will speak about her method on Thursday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Books, 1049 Swarthmore. ”Ballon is a psychotherapist as well as a writing consultant and writer, who has integrated her two careers in the book, using psychotherapy techniques to help writers create three-dimensional characters and also using writing exercises to help clients delve more deeply into themselves. ”The book, her fourth about writing, is sprinkled with writing exercises and examples of memorable characters from recent works such as Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’ and Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Corrections,’ as well as classics such as Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House.’ ”For example, for method writing, she offers an exercise for writers to do freewriting (fast, stream-of-consciousness writing with no concern about grammar, spelling or punctuation) about a sensory memory that relates to a feeling within one of their characters. In turn, they are better able to give their characters genuine emotion from their own experience. ”’You have to go back to emotional memories to infuse characters with emotion,’ Ballon says. ”For example, one writer she worked with couldn’t connect to his own vulnerability. ‘As a child he was not allowed to cry, and his characters were very one-dimensional,’ Ballon says. She had him write about the time he had wanted to cry and was reprimanded so he could re-experience the emotions of it. Then she had him write the same scenario again but change the ending, to say ‘I am going to cry.’ ‘It helped him get in touch with love and softness. His characters could express love and vulnerability. He couldn’t have done it if he hadn’t worked through it,’ Ballon says. ‘It takes it out of the head and into the heart, past the unconscious. From there come the most honest and the most passionate stories.’ ”Ballon has a private therapy practice in Westwood, where she often uses writing as a tool with clients. ‘Writing helps get rid of never-ending stories or unresolved conflicts in a person’s life.’ ”A Brentwood resident, Ballon became a therapist after being inspired by a course that she took at UCLA in using poetry as a therapeutic tool. She began using poetry with children and older people and found what a potent tool it was in helping them express feelings. ”A teacher at UCLA Extension and USC School of Cinema and Television, Ballon has also written for television and film. Go to www.rachelballon.org.

COUNTDOWN TO PPBA OPENING DAY

Steinfeldýs Pitch Is Golden

Jake Steinfeld (left) shows Palisades Pony Baseball Association players the art of throwing a fastball at the Rec Centerýs Field of Dreams. Steinfeld will throw the first pitch on Opening Day March 20.
Jake Steinfeld (left) shows Palisades Pony Baseball Association players the art of throwing a fastball at the Rec Centerýs Field of Dreams. Steinfeld will throw the first pitch on Opening Day March 20.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

By SUE PASCOE Special to the Palisadian-Post The Palisades Pony Baseball Association (PPBA) will celebrate its Golden Anniversary with its traditional Opening Day ceremony Saturday, March 20. This year’s festivities are unique, not only because they mark the Association’s 50th year, but also because they include the dedication of the Field of Dreams Wall. Palisadian fitness trainer and author Jake Steinfeld will throw out the first pitch on the new diamonds at Palisades Recreation Center. The community-funded Field of Dreams project was spearheaded by longtime youth coach Mike Skinner, who led the community in designing, revamping and revitalizing all four playing fields, including bleachers, dug-outs, and lights. PPBA invites players, families and friends alike to join in the dedication ceremony. From 7:30 to 11 a.m. a hearty $3 breakfast of golden pancakes, sizzling sausage, steaming hot coffee and chilled orange juice will be served on the outside basketball courts at the Rec Center. Tickets are available from any player or at the park the day of the breakfast. Even parents with children too young to play baseball are invited to attend the community event and support their local youth baseball program. Proceeds of the pancake breakfast are used to pay for field maintenance, team uniforms, equipment and umpires. Top ticket-sellers earn prizes, so please support your next-door baseball player. At 9 a.m. on March 20, Steinfeld will be the latest local celebrity to show off his fastball at the first-pitch ceremony. Steinfeld has authored several self-help books and is currently working on one titled ‘I’ve Seen a Lot of Famous People Naked… And They’ve Got Nothing On You,’ a guide for the street-smart entrepreneur. It will be published by Amacom next fall. The book will teach readers how to put a business plan together. Readers who write a business plan and then fill out the questionnaire at the end of the book have a chance of having Jake fund their fledgling company. Although not every family can support the Field of Dreams, young and old alike will benefit from the recently-completed renovations. Whether its PPBA baseball, AYSO soccer, flag football or the fledgling lacrosse league, the Rec Center fields will accomodate numerous athletic activities for generations to come. Steinfeld is the perfect example of a community supporter and was one of the first citizens to step up to the plate with a donation. On the road most of the spring overseeing the fourth successful season of the Major Lacrosse League that he founded, Steinfeld also created the world’s first 24-hour fitness television network and founded the nonprofit Don’t Quit! Foundation. Those interested in following his lead in supporting the Field of Dreams can call Skinner at 478-5041. Bob Benton will begin his 14th year as the PPBA commissioner overseeing more than 300 boys who make up the four divisions: Pinto (ages 7-9), Mustang (ages 10-11), Bronco (ages 11-13) and Pony (ages 13-14). Games will continue through June with the World Series and selection of the all-star teams. Buy your tickets early and look forward to a mouth watering, fun-filled morning supporting the 50th year of baseball in our community, as well as the dedication of the Field of Dreams Wall.

Spikers Down Colts

The last time both the boys and girls volleyball teams at Palisades High won City Section championships in the same academic year was 1997-98. The girls defeated Roosevelt in the fall to win the first of what would be three straight City titles and the boys won the last of their 10 City titles the following spring with a four-game triumph over Taft. Palisades is halfway to history again this year. The girls’ squad did its part in November by beating Granada Hills to win its first City title in four years. Now, the honus is on the boys’and they might just have the firepower to duplicate the girls’ feat. The Dolphins won their first two matches in impressive fashion and while talk of a winning City might be premature, many players believe they are ready to challenge for the championship. ‘I think we can go undefeated. I really do,’ PaliHi senior outside hitter Jason Schall said after the Dolphins swept visiting Carson Monday. ‘Our mindset is completely different than last year. The confidence level going into this season is much higher. Last year, we were coming off an 0-15 season and our goal was just to finish .500. Our expectations now are to go undefeated in league and make the City finals.’ Schall is one of several players who experienced a frustrating loss to Western League rival Westchester in the City Invitational finals last year at Cal State Northridge, a match he said was ‘like a nightmare.’ ‘I’m glad we got some playoff experience, but that was prom night and some of our players didn’t show,’ said Schall, who had 11 kills and six digs against the Colts. ‘I think the date of the finals conflicts with the senior prom again this year, so we’ll have to deal with that if we make it that far. But I want to play in the upper [City] bracket this time and I’m sure we will.’ Palisades (2-0) struggled in the first game, but pulled it out 25-21 on the clutch serving of sophomore setter Rusty Barneson and two key blocks by 6-foot, 6-inch middle blocker Nebojsa ‘Nash’ Petrovic. The Dolphins won the final two games easily, 25-15 and 25-14. Petrovic finished with 12 kills and four blocks, senior outside hitter Brett Vegas had seven kills and Joey Sarafian added four digs. Barneson had 32 assists but said the Dolphins have to shore up their game to meet their lofty goals. ‘We’re getting there,’ he said. ‘We’re still lacking a little in our passing and we’re making too many service errors. But we’re definitely ahead of where we were this time last year.’ Even without junior middle blocker D’Andre Bell, a first-team All-City basketball player who joined the volleyball team after the Dolphin hoops’ squad was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the City playoffs, Pali had more than enough weapons for Carson to handle. Bell is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during the basketball season but was expected to return to practice Tuesday. ‘It’s amazing how quickly he’s picking the game up,’ Barneson said of Bell. ‘He had never hit a volleyball until a couple weeks ago but you’d be surprised how good he is already. With him in the lineup, we’ll be that much better.’ In its season opener last Wednesday, Palisades made short work of San Pedro, another Marine League team, 25-15, 25-17, 25-17. Petrovic led the Dolphins with 12 kills and six blocks and Barneson had 27 assists. Palisades travels to undefeated Chatsworth today in a match PaliHi head coach Dave Smith believes will be a better barometer for where his team stands. ‘They [Chatsworth] have been one of the best teams in the City for the last three years and they’ve beaten us easily the last two times we’ve played them, so this should be one of our toughest matches. If we can beat them it’ll earn us some respect from the elite teams and hopefully get us a higher seed come playoff time.’ The Chancellors (2-0) beat Arcadia of the Southern Section in four games in their season opener and swept Monroe 25-11, 25-11, 25-6 Monday.

Tennis Third in Fresno

Based on its performance at the season-opening Central California Tournament in Fresno, the Palisades High boys tennis team will be the team to beat in the Western League and a strong contender for the City championship this season. The Dolphins began their schedule two weeks ago against several of the top teams in the state and held their own up north, finishing third in Division II with a 3-3 record. ‘Last year, we won Division III,’ PaliHi coach Bud Kling said of the tournament.”So this year was a step up in competition and we played very close matches against very good competition.’ After blanking Wasco and Stockton Lincoln by 6-0 scores in the first two rounds, Pali lost to a deeper, more experienced Palo Alto team 4-2 in its third pool play match, with top singles players Chris Ko and Ben Tom notching the Dolphins’ two points. Palo Alto was subsequently placed in Division I and Palisades in Division II. The next day, the Dolphins beat St. Ignatius of San Francisco 4-2, but Tom suffered pulled muscles in his thigh and hamstring and limped through Pali’s last two matches’a 6-0 loss to eventual Division II champion Los Gatos and a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Davis. ‘Los Gatos just overpowered us,’ Kling said. ‘They had bigger kids who served harder, hit harder and were quicker. Against Davis, we were ahead at one point and all the sets we lost we could’ve won. I’m pleased with how we did.’ In their final match, the Dolphins lost all four singles matches in tiebreakers and won both doubles matches. Ko reaggravated a sore shoulder in his match at No. 1 singles and Tom was hobbled at No. 2 but both still nearly pulled out victories. Palisades lost to Southern Section powerhouse Loyola last Friday at Rancho Park and fell 10-8 to host Beverly Hills (1-1) in another intersectional match Monday despite missing two key players. Ko was nursing his sore shoulder and didn’t play. Neither did team captain Taylor Robinson, who traveled with the team despite having had four wisdom teeth pulled. Because Palisades was the visiting team, it played under Southern Section rules, which employ a round robin format in which each singles player and each doubles team plays one set against each of the other team’s players and teams. Filling in for Ko at No. 1 singles, Tom lost to the Normans’ highly-ranked Mike Gurman, 6-1, but recovered to win his last two sets, 6-1, 6-1. Ariel Oleynik, who did not have to play Gurman, swept his three sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. Brian Pak, brought up from the junior varsity, lost 6-0 to Gurman, but had chances to win his other two sets before losing them 7-5 and 7-6 (7-5). ‘Loyola was better than us. They are a very strong team,’ Kling said. ‘But with a full squad, we might’ve beaten Beverly Hills. At the very least we tie 9-9 in sets and count games. At that point, you count games and the team with the most total games wins the match.’ While competitive in singles, Palisades (3-5) was less successful in doubles, winning only two of nine sets. With one more point, the Dolphins would have tied Beverly Hills (1-1) in games, but that point proved elusive. Stephen Surjue teamed with Darya Bakhtiar to lose 6-1 and win 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 at No. 1 doubles. Daniel Yoo and Sephir Safii were swept 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 and Josh Kim/Daniel Lee lost 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3 doubles. The Dolphins traveled to crosstown rival Santa Monica Wednesday and open defense of their Western League championship against Fairfax on Monday.’