Posts Tagged ‘idyllwild’

Poet Targets Taboo Topic Tuesday Night

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Matthew Dickman with Ed Skoog and his infant son

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“It’s called three poems and three suicides,” Matthew Dickman said matter-of-factly about the title of his upcoming poetry recital.

He’s a poet from Portland, and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this week to teach an adult poetry class. On Tuesday night at 7 p.m., Matthew will read along with four other poets at the Krone Library on campus.

Matthew has firsthand experience with suicide, which is often considered a taboo subject in our culture. His older brother committed suicide, along with several of his friends who were artists.

“We often think of teens as the biggest group that commits suicide,” Matthew said. “But actually geriatric suicide is more common. When an 85-year-old grandmother quits eating, we accept that as ‘her time to go.'”

In past lectures on suicide, Matthew has asked members of the audience to stand if they have had a family member commit suicide. A few stand up. Then he asks those who had a spouse, lover or close friend commit suicide to stand. A larger group stands up. Then he asks those who have known someone from school or work who have committed suicide.

“By then, most of the audience are standing,” Matthew explained. “And those who are sitting fall into one of those groups, but are too shy to stand. Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s just a matter of time when you know of someone who has committed suicide.”

He said that his older brother was a great person, and had attempted suicide before, so it wasn’t a surprise. He recounted an experience with him in an Irish Pub in Portland:

“It got really crowded in the bar towards the end of the night and I bumped into a guy with my shoulder. It was an accident, but he grabbed me squarely on the shoulder,” Matthew recalled. “In the bar mirror, I could see the flash of a knife blade, so I tried to push him away. Within seconds, my older brother was there, shoving the guy up against the wall.”

Violence was more common than not in the working class Portland neighborhood where Matthew grew up.  His family home was a safe oasis for many kids, away from the neighborhood violence.

Matthew will teach a poetry class at Idyllwild Arts this week

At a young age, Matthew identified with a photo of the Beat Poets standing on a San Francisco street corner.

“There they were, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the rest, all standing there, not wanting to fight anyone or push drugs,” Matthew recalled. “They just wanted to change the world with their poetry.”

Later on, Matthew met Alan Ginsberg at a book signing in Portland.

“My brother handed me a bunch of Ginsberg’s books and told me to get them signed, and we’d meet up at the coffee house later,” Matthew said.

So he went, and when it came time for him to meet the Beat Poet, Matthew mentioned that his writer aunt had once worked with Ginsberg in a hospital.

“He ignored my comment, and instead asked me about my love life,” Matthew said.

He fumbled for an answer, Ginsberg signed the books and Matthew walked away.

“He was totally hitting on you, dude,” his friends said. “You should talk to him.”

When the crowd thinned out, Matthew ended up talking to Ginsberg, and invited him to join his twin brother and friends at a local coffee shop. Ginsberg was in his 70s at the time, and Matthew was 18.

“He was totally cool,” Matthew said of the experience.

They read poetry, practiced Buddhism and ate chocolates over the next few days. He said that he and Ginsberg had kept in touch by email and phone until he became sick.

“Then I never heard from him again,” Matthew said.

After his death, Matthew wrote a poem called, “I miss you, Alan Ginsberg.”

Matthew also wrote a poem about his older brother’s suicide in his first book of poetry, “All American Poem” (2008). With his twin brother, Michael, he wrote another book entitled, “50 American Plays” (2012), one for each state. In October, Matthew has another poetry book coming out entitled, “Mayaknovky’s Revolver.”

In his poetry class this week, Matthew prefers to put the suicide topic front and center so there’s no surprises. He said most of the adults who take his class come to heal from the experience.

“I don’t expect great writing,” he said. “Oftentimes, words escape you when your emotions are intense.”

But he hopes to help them turn their harrowing experience into art.

Matthew said that he met Ed Skoog, who is in charge of Poetry Workshop during the Summer Program, when he officiated at his brother’s wedding.

“Not only can Ed write poetry, but he plays a mean banjo,” Matthew laughed.

Besides teaching poetry, Matthew edits a national poetry journal, and freelances for advertising agencies. Only just recently, he said, he’s been able to support himself through his writing.

He started writing poetry when he was a sophomore in high school to impress a senior who was interested in poetry.

“She liked one of my poems, and we got to make out,” Matthew recalled. “After that, I just kept writing.”

Since then, Matthew has won many awards, and garnered national attention for his lyrical poems.

On Tuesday, July 17, Matthew will read some of his works at 7 p.m. at the Krone Library on the Idyllwild Arts campus (located at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild). Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Op Art Ceramics at Quiet Creek Gallery Saturday

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Op Art Vessels

This afternoon, Saturday, July 7, Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery in Idyllwild will host one of the final receptions of award-winning porcelain ceramicist Leslie Thompson of Ojai.

After three decades of decorating her ceramics with designs influenced by Op Art and pattern weaving from Native American and Amish cultures, Leslie will ‘retire’ from painting and focus on fine pattern weaving.

“We are privileged to host one of Leslie’s final ceramics exhibitions, featuring recent and  finally carved masterpieces,” said Mike Ahern from the Quiet Creek Gallery. “They are truly heirloom pieces.”

The intricate patterns on these hand-crafted “vessels” resemble patterns found on Native American blankets or wall hangings. What Indians have created with a needle and thread, Leslie has managed with a brush and paint. Each pattern creates an optical illusion, making her pots look multi-dimensional.

Op art works are abstract, with many popular pieces made in only black and white. When you look at them, there is an impression of movement, vibrations, swelling, warping and even “hidden” images. Some of the designs in Leslie’s work can look like an aerial view of a staircase, or the texture of a pine cone, depending upon the viewer’s perspective.

According to various web sites, Op Art was derived from the constructivist practices of the German Bauhaus School which stressed the relationship between form and function. Some better-known artists associated with the Op Art style include Julian Stanczak, Victor Vasalery, John McHale and Arnold Schmidt.

Leslie paints optical illusions onto her pots

To her credit, Leslie has won awards from all over the world, including Europe. She has shown in 30 galleries, but now has limited them to a select few, including Wellfleet, Massachusettes; Sedona, Arizona; Sausalito, California and Idyllwild.

“Leslie’s pieces are one-of-a-kind, last-of-a-kind, and will be collectable over time,” Mike added.

Mike said that he first met Leslie three years ago when she was staying at the Quiet Creek Inn and taking a Navajo weaving class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Since then, Mike has been featuring her pottery at the Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery.

“Leslie has been doing this challenging work for several decades and feels that it is appropriate to retire this media of her art,” Mike explained. “It has indeed put demands on her hands, wrists, eyes over the years, and now she’s ready to focus on her other chosen medium–weaving.”

There will be a champagne reception for Leslie Thompson’s work on Saturday, July 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery, located at 54300 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. The event is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

A View of the Highland Fire from Hemet

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Smoke from the Highland Fire reached Hemet

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the Target shopping center in Hemet, people were talking excitedly in groups, looking up at the smoke coming from the Highland Fire which began Saturday night, June 16.

According to news reports, the Highland Fire, which is beyond the Banning side of the mountain in Beaumont, reached 2,000 acres by 8:30 p.m., and was 10 percent contained.

An air tanker flew onto Hemet Field, which was on the other side of the Target store.

“I’ve seen the air tanker come in and land three times,” said Wayne Parker, an Idyllwild Arts van driver.

He had been there for about 20 minutes, waiting on ESL students to come out of Target.

“There must be water tanks with hoses on Hemet Field,” Wayne said. “But I can’t see over the store, which is blocking my view.”

The tanker took off and headed back towards the fire. Red and orange flames could be seen from the distance.

“The tanker’s doing a number on that fire,” Wayne added. “It’ll probably be contained by the time we reach Idyllwild.”

This crew from Mountain Center had just returned from fighting a blaze in Palm Springs

The ESL students, from China and Korea, were on their way home from a field trip to a fun park in Temecula. They were concerned about the smoke, but when they got to Hemet, they could see that the fire was a long distance from Idyllwild and relaxed a bit.

“I’m not afraid,” said William, an ESL student from China who is studying film.

Currently, nine of them are taking makeup classes at the academy for 8 weeks. However, today was a fun day, away from their studies.

Charles Schlacks, an Idyllwild resident, who returned from a film event in Orange, said the smoke from the Highland fire could be seen as far as Riverside.

“I was on the 215, and could see the smoke from there,” Charles said.

Wind was a big factor in other blazes around Idyllwild Saturday night.

At the Shell Station in Valle Vista, a fire crew from Mountain Center (BDF 56) was filling up and cleaning their windows. They looked tired, but said they weren’t returning from the Highland Blaze.

The brush fire they had been battling in Palm Springs was about five acres.

“Wind was a big factor today,” said one of the firefighters.

When asked about the Highland Fire, the firefighter said they had heard about it, but didn’t know why they hadn’t been called to assist.

“Maybe we’ll be called later on,” he said, as he put away the squeegee.

According to news reports, as many as 300 firefighters are are battling the blaze, including ground crews, helicopters and air tankers.

He laughed when someone asked if the Highland Blaze would be contained soon.

Smoke caused a haze over the setting sun. Mountain view of Hemet. Photo by William Liu.

“Not likely,” he said.

Driving up the hill towards Idyllwild, the smoke was casting an eerie haze over the setting sun. Several motorists had pulled over in one of the pullouts to take pictures.

Firefighters are expected to work though the night.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Dick Halligan to Perform in LA June 21

Monday, June 11th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Remember the old Blood, Sweat & Tears favorites, “God Bless the Child,” and “Sometimes in Winter?”

That was the genius of Dick Halligan, composer and musician, who lives part time in Idyllwild and Italy.

Dick also arranged  “Variations on a Theme” by Erik Satie, for which he received a Grammy nomination. The rock/jazz band, Blood, Sweat & Tears dominated the Billboard charts in the early 1970s and won the Grammy’s Album of the Year in 1970, over the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Dick also wrote musical scores for 15 films, including “The Owl and the Pussycat” from 1970, starring Barbara Streisand and George Segal, and “Fear City,” from 1984, starring Tom Berenger and Melanie Griffith.

Next week, Dick will be taking his grand piano on the road with a June 21 concert at the Cornerstone Music Conservatory in Los Angeles.

“Dick Halligan: A Man and His Music” reveals his fascinating musical influences that lead to a rewarding musical life as well as personal challenges with focal dystonia, a debilitating nervous system disorder. Rod Menzies is directing the show. Tickets are $20 or only $15 if you order by June 14.

Dick attended a recent musical at Idyllwild Arts

Several weeks ago, Dick held his solo debut in Idyllwild, but many missed it.

“I think he’s a genius,” exclaimed Jessica Schiffman, a friend of Dick’s who is an Idyllwild artist who shows at the Bill Anson Gallery in Palm Springs.

Dick and other local writers would meet monthly to read their works out loud at Jessica’s home. At that time, Dick talked about writing his memoirs. An unassuming guy, he had a lifetime of successes to write about, including time with Blood, Sweat & Tears, and composing jazz and classical music as well as film scores.

He told the group how his musical career started in high school when he got a band together. He was playing an accordian at the time.

Over the years, he learned to play the trombone, piano and flute. He was playing trombone when he first started with Blood, Sweat & Tears.

All of his experiences are written down in his memoir, that he completed within three months. Dick wrote it all out in longhand, while his wife typed it up.

Dick brought the finished manuscript to one of the writer’s group meetings at Jessica’s house. He read a few pages from the beginning.

“We all looked at each other in amazement,” recalled one writer. “Dick doesn’t mess around. When he says he’s going to write a book, he does it.”

Well, most people would think that a memoir written in three months is pushing it a bit. But for Dick Halligan, three months was all it took.

His memoir was well written with clarity and humor. When he gets it published, it will be a bestseller.

It also served as the basis for his solo show.

“All I’m missing now is some good pictures,” Dick said. “I wished I would have kept some over the years.”

Blood, Sweat & Tears played at the famed 1969 Woodstock concert.

“Yeah, I was there, and everyone talks about how great Woodstock was,” Dick said. “But they must’ve been in the audience. From the stage, all I could see was black.”

Dick, the musical genius and the regular guy will be revealed on stage. He spoke excitedly about it while attending the final musical, “Berlin to Broadway” about the life of composer Kurt Weill on June 20 at Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Dick said that he never thought much about Kurt Weill’s work, but enjoyed his later tunes showcased in the 2-hour student show.

“Kurt Weill showed a lot of sensitivity and his love of America came out in his work,” Dick said.

“Dick Halligan: A Man and His Music” will be held Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Music Conservatory located at 12121 West Pico Boulevard (one door West of Bundy) in Los Angeles.

Cornerstone Music Conservatory is on the 2nd floor next to The Party Store. There is plenty of free parking in the lot. Tickets $20 (or just $15 with reservations by June 14th).

To order tickets, contact Jeannine Frank at Jeannine@FrankEntertainment.com or call (310) 476-6735 or (310) 666-9066.

Photo courtesy of Dick Halligan.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Student Hopes to Win ‘Voice of the Valley’ Saturday

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Idyllwild Arts vocal student Nicky leaves a rehearsal at the Hemet Theater

Once you fall off a horse, the best advice is to get right back on again.

That’s what Idyllwild Arts vocal student did when he was eliminated recently for the NBC TV talent show, “The Voice.”

“I got a callback and screwed it up,” Nicky said. “I was looking into a camera and not a live audience, and started worrying about my image, you know, and what people might think.”

One of “The Voice” judges told him to try again next year and go straight to Call Backs.

In the meantime, Nicky decided to try out for a local talent show, “Voice of the Valleys” and gain more experience. He made the cuts from 99 to 34 to nine. Now on Saturday, he’s going to try and win it.

The prizes are worth the effort of the many rehearsals over the last few weeks. He’s had to squeeze them in during finals, and make many trips down the hill. Until Saturday’s show, Nicky is staying over at his advisor’s house before returning home to San Francisco.

The first prize includes $1,000, a record deal and an audition at Disney.

Nicky said that he’s most excited about the record deal because it would allow him to showcase songs that he’s written over the years, which amount to more than 300. Recently, he wrote songs inspired by artwork created by fellow artists at Idyllwild Arts. For one modern piece, Nicky reached into the piano to strum the keys.

Nicky reaches into the piano to strum the keys

“It’s supposed to sound like a snake,” Nicky said. (see Idyllwild Me story, “Music Comp Collaborates with Visual Artists” dated May 9, 2012).

On Saturday night, Nicky is going to sing “I Want You” by Luke James. In the audience, will be his girlfriend, Paris, a dance major, her father, Ryan Zwahlen, music head, and Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts.

“Everyone’s really good,” Nicky said of the other contestants, who range from high school students to middle-aged adults.

“Luke James is a brilliant new R&B artist, and his arrangement of “I Want You” will take you by surprise,” Nicky said. “There’s a high falsetto that you don’t hear every day.”

(from L) Nicky, Will and Corwin listen to their instructor, Kevin Sullivan

He also has to sing a new vocal arrangement of “It was You,”written by James Below.

After that, Nicky will sing “Don’t Stop Believing” with the group and “Man in the Mirror” from Michael Jackson.

The “Voice of the Valley” Competition will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at the Tahquitz High School Performing Arts Center, located at 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet. (Not at the Hemet Theater where they’ve been rehearsing).

Tickets are $25 and $15 for students. For more information, call 951-743-0872 or visit www.vov2012.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Abandoned Graffitied Van Was Stolen

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The abandoned van in Valle Vista turned out to be stolen

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Not often when you report an abandoned vehicle to the police, do you get to hear the end of the story.

In this case, the white Ford van was stolen. It now sits parked outside Idyllwild Garage, waiting on the insurance company to make its report before returning it to its owners.

However, in my attempt to be a good citizen, I may have implicated myself in the crime. You see, my fingerprints are all over the driver’s side handle.

It all started a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed the white van parked in the pullout near Valle Vista. It’s a popular pullout because it’s close to the bridge and the creek, and oftentimes people go there in the summer to cool off.

Days later, I was going down the hill again and noticed the same van parked there. This time, I was concerned. Mostly because it was after the weekend, and it hadn’t moved.

Was the guy on an extended fishing trip, or did something happen to him?

In my short stint as a newspaper reporter (Idyllwild crime was my beat), I learned to notice inconsistencies. I once called a sheriff’s deputy about an abandoned truck in Valle Vista. (My editor thought it may have been associated with illegal dumping at the time). As it turned out, the truck’s owner was an out-of-work musician who hung himself in a nearby tree. He had even left a note in the truck.

The police blotter only mentioned the abandoned vehicle.

So knowing that, I got the license plate number and the number of the nearby mile marker, and reported the abandoned van to the police. They took down my information, and said they’d send an officer out to investigate.

I laughed with the dispatch operator about the driver being on a long fishing trip. I didn’t mention any hunches about dead bodies.

Three days later, I passed the same van again, but this time it had graffiti tagged all over it. On one side, they used profanity. It was no longer a nuisance vehicle, but an eyesore. I called the police again.

But this time, they directed me to Code Enforcement. I guess any abandoned vehicle that had been damaged, was now their problem. I gave the same story, and the officer said he’d open a file and get right on it.

Same van turned up at Idyllwild Garage

On May 21, I got tired of waiting on the police to tow the vehicle, and stopped to take pictures. It had “Infamous” written on the hood and rear.

Thinking about the abandoned vehicle/suicide in Valle Vista, I tried the door handle. After all, there could be a dead body inside.

It opened.

Inside, the van smelled of cigarette smoke, and the ashtray was overflowing with butts. There were clothes all over the back from a laundry basket.  The graffiti taggers must’ve rummaged through them looking for money or valuables. However, they overlooked a Gucci makeup bag.

I was glad that there was no corpses, or anyone hurt inside.

I tried to take a picture of the inside, for what reason I don’t know, but my flash didn’t go off. My camera said that I needed to replace the batteries.

“Just as well,” I thought to myself. “There’s no body, or anyone who needs my help, so now I’m trespassing.”

That was the end of the story, until today when I saw the van parked outside Idyllwild Garage.

My fingerprints were left on the door handle

I spoke to one of the mechanics, telling my good citizen story.

“Funny that it would end up here in Idyllwild,” I said.

“It was stolen,” he said. “The insurance company is on its way over to investigate.”

The owners were not from Idyllwild, he added.

Then I started to sweat. My fingerprints were left on the door handle. Should I turn myself in, and confess nosiness? Are my fingerprints impeding the sheriff’s investigation?

I decided to lay low and wait until the police come to me. Surely, they have records of me reporting the abandoned vehicle twice in one week. When you report anything to the police, you always have to give your name and phone number.

But I’m worried that I’ll get busted for stealing the van.  I’ve seen too many Film Noir movies to know that anyone’s luck can change on a dime. A good deed can land you in the clinker, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Student Film Screenings Tonight & Saturday

Friday, May 25th, 2012

A zombie screams

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Zombies and pilots are among the themes for this year’s Student Film Screenings held tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The much-anticipated event is free and open to the public.

Part of the zombie movie was shot next door to me in Idyllwild. I volunteered my neighbor’s house because frankly, my kitchen was a mess.

Maurice Mysenburg’s home was perfect because it was unoccupied (he lives in La Habra), it had a small Sherwood Forest in the back yard, and dark wood paneling throughout.

The script called for one actor to shoot a zombie dead against the wood paneling in the bedroom.

“I wonder if the blood will leave a stain?” asked Isaac, head of the Film Department.

Isaac and Gerald decided they needed to match the wood paneling so they could use it as an overlay. (I’m sure my neighbor, Maurice, wouldn’t want to live with zombie blood above his headboard.) As it turned out, however, they created the blood stain in post-production.

The film crew unloads all of the equipment

Outside, the film crew was unloading the lights, camera and equipment. I was just sorry that I wasn’t going to be around to watch them shoot the zombie film, “Life After Death.”

Before I left, one of the students asked to use my garden hose. I imagined that he needed it to fill up a fog machine or something.

As it turns out, he needed to hose down a zombie.

She had platinum blonde hair, and caked blood all over her face. She was a gruesome sight. And she stood there screaming. Why the zombie needed to be wet and miserable was unknown.

A zombie in full makeup

The zombie film was written by Armani, a sophomore film student at Idyllwild Arts, who insists that it’s got a decent storyline.

“It’s about a guy who convinces a girl to leave her 5-year-old brother at home so that she can go out with him,” Armani explained.

(See ‘Zombie Teen Flick” Idyllwild Me post dated April 10).

“‘It’s more about the story between the sister and brother,” Armani said.

Armani said that “Life After Death” is not autobiographical.

“My sisters didn’t leave me home alone until I was 10,” he said.

Most of the other short films, including “Wing Man” were shot in and around Idyllwild. Those who come to the Student Film Screenings tonight and Saturday night will notice many local sites.

Like all Idyllwild Arts events, the event is free and open to the public. But come early to get a good seat. For more information, contact (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

Musical Storytime at Idyllwild School

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Tiffany (far right) will be playing her cello for grade schoolers at Idyllwild School

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Storytime will never be the same for grade schoolers at the Idyllwild School.

Today at 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., four students from Idyllwild Arts will be bringing a book to life with music and songs.

“The Story of Arly Rabbit,” was written by Jennifer Stevenson (a friend of Idyllwild Arts Music Chair Ryan Zwahlen), who is well known for her interactive musical stories for children and their families.

Jen is a composer, educator and clarinetist.

Her story has a local angle to it. It’s about a jackrabbit from Palm Springs who travels to Idyllwild.

The four Idylwild Arts students who will be performing “The Story of Arly Rabbit,” include Emma on flute; Lisa on violin; Tiffany on cello and Alex as the narrator.

Ryan's friend, Jennifer, wrote the musical story

Tiffany, a graduating senior, said that she was looking forward to the two performances today.

“The story is interactive, so when we’re playing our instruments, the students will be encouraged to do hand gestures along with the music,” Tiffany said.

In videos shown on Jen’s web site, she asks students to make bird flapping motions with their hands or climb an imaginary tree like a monkey.

Afterwards, the performers are going to demonstrate how to play their instruments and then play musical games with them, Ryan added.

The music collaboration between the two Idyllwild schools was made possible by an AEL grant of $1,000, that was awarded to Lisa, the violinist.

Ryan worked with Bob Boss from the Idyllwild School for this event. He said that it took about two months to finalize their schedules and all the details.

For more information on Jen’s Musical Adventures, visit www.tessellamusic.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Neighbors Help Combat Idyllwild Crime

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Having a large dog helps keep crime at bay

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Due diligence is what will help Idyllwild in its latest crime spree. In a Town Hall meeting held at the Idyllwild School on Saturday, March 24, about 100 townspeople were there to express their fears and find some answers. Some of my neighbors were there.

It’s not important that I didn’t go to the meeting. What is important is that I know my neighbors. And that I talk to them about what’s going on in the neighborhood when they’re out walking their dogs. Or we’re helping each other shovel our driveways.

That kind of neighborhood diligence will help combat crime. Two years ago, we all banded together to shut down a drug house at the end of our street.

Some enterprising renter decided to open up a drug house and supply the neighborhood with pot and other drugs. New cars started lining the streets, but most would only stay for a few minutes. Odd people would walk by in the middle of the day, not waving or looking you in the eye.

Then the drama started. Cuss words coming out of the mouths of grown women. And fights over money. The cops were there a lot, and finally they made her move out. Guess they got to the landlord (who was out of state). The last time I saw her, she was carrying a puppy in her hand along Hwy. 243, showing it to drivers trying to sell it.

The moral of this story is not how to combat a drug house in your neighborhood, but how you and your neighbors can band together to stop crime. During that time, we would all talk to each other about what we saw, and heard. Some reported her to the police for disturbing the noise ordinance, while others called Code Enforcement for all of the junk in the yard.

I should have been on high alert when I read in the Town Crier that my neighbor had reported break-ins in part-time homes around her. I’m only 10 houses away.

“I don’t have anything to steal,” I’d laugh and say. Except I’d cry if anyone took my MacBook.

Unoccupied homes are open invitations for robbers

Then my neighbor from Los Angeles told me that some thieves broke into a neighbor’s house while she was at home! The woman was disabled, so they just kept robbing her! That neighbor is a credible source, so I believe him. He’s in his 70s and worked in insurance investigations.

The in-home invasion, he said, was near McMahon (where Marion View Drive turns into Double View). My guess is that the thugs are targeting homes close to the highway. Just one turn and they’d be on Hwy. 243 and out of town.

My brother was a loss prevention officer for JC Penneys in Omaha. Too many times, he said, he would get pepper sprayed in the face by robbers. They would pack things into suitcases or bags and put them by the doors. Then they’d rush out to a waiting car and speed away. In pursuit, my brother would get sprayed–all for minimum wage.

But that lesson taught me that robbers want a clean getaway. They want the fastest way out of town. So if you live along Hwy. 243 in Idyllwild, it’s time to be diligent. Lock your doors, and report strange activity to the police.

Mountain Top Liquor was robbed at gunpoint a few weeks back. Richard, the clerk on duty at the time, said the guy knew what he was doing.

“He held the gun straight in my face and didn’t waver,” Richard said. “Either he’d done this before, or he had military training.”

Then the robber took off on foot behind the Fort, likely to a waiting car. Richard said the guy must’ve known someone locally because he knew where to park and get away quickly.

“Lock your doors,” Richard warned me. “There are people out there without ethics, and you have to protect yourself.”

I’ve been careless about locking my front and back doors at the same time. I also forget to lock my car, but secretly I hope that one would get stolen.

Streets like Marion View and McMahon are close to Hwy 243

However, I wasn’t expecting a knock in the night.

It was around 10:30 p.m., and I figured my boyfriend forgot his key. The bedroom is upstairs, so it took me a few minutes to open the door. By then, no one was there, but a station wagon was parked just beyond the driveway. I could see its frame in the moonlight.

I flicked the porch light and waved. But the car sped off. It wasn’t my boyfriend’s friends dropping him off. Was it someone just lost, looking for another house? Or were would-be thieves checking me out?

I noticed that the window was open a crack (for fresh air), but it could’ve easily been pried open. My car, covered in snow, was parked across the street because I have a slanted driveway and its easier to get out in the snow. The porch lights were on, but maybe they were wondering if anyone was at home?

Keep in mind when they knocked, no dog barked, because I don’t have one. But my boyfriend has a viscious cat that I wouldn’t think twice about letting out if anyone forces their way in. And they’re lucky I don’t have a gun.

Many women I've met at the Legion in Idyllwild pack guns

The home invaders are lucky that that invalid woman didn’t have a gun. Many people up here have guns, and I’m not just talking about Tracy Filippi, the bug guy.

Women have guns in their homes and in their cars. I’ve talked to a lot of them at the American Legion. These women are senior citizens, but many of them have also served in the military and know how to use a gun. They wouldn’t think twice about shooting anyone who forces their way into their homes.

My guess is the crime spree for homes and businesses along Hwy. 243 in Idyllwild will continue until someone gets shot. And then it won’t be like taking candy from a baby anymore.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

MMA Champ to Focus on Idyllwild Youth

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Willy is a 4-time MMA Champ. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Idyllwild Fitness Center reopened three weeks ago. The new owner, Willy Latzo, is a four-time mixed martial arts world champion, who bought the gym for two reasons: To help him train for his next fight, and to help the young people of Idyllwild.

If you Google Willy Latzo, a million hits turn up. A self described, “Champion of the Hearts,” Willy also has many fight videos on You Tube. He is the European Champion in Muay Thai Boxing and a German champion in boxing. in 2000, he retired undefeated with 268 fights.

He said that fighting allowed him to travel the world, and see the better part of life. He has a trainer, and agent, and lots of people who work for him. He’s owned many gyms before, including in Berlin, where he’s from, and in Los Angeles.

Yet, Willy ended up in Idyllwild. Why?

“It was time to buy a gym, and we looked at Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and New Jersey,” and, surprisingly, Idyllwild came up, and we thought, ‘That’s brilliant!'” Willy said, from his office with only one muscle poster on the wall.

At 6 foot, 2 inches, and 255 pounds, Willy is a formidable force. Although he was wearing a sweatshirt and pants, it was hard to see his muscles. Granted, it’s wintertime in Idyllwild, but it was surprising how bundled up he was, and how little he wanted to talk about himself, his championships, his lifestyle, and physique.

“This gym is not about making money,” Willy began. “It’s about potential.”

He knows Hulk Hogan and other famous celebrities personally and wants to bring them to Idyllwild. He wants to help generate some excitement about fitness for the teenagers of Idyllwild.

“It’s too early yet,” Willy said. “We just opened up this month, but in the Spring, I’d like to start working on some events that focus on youth and fitness.”

He said that he’s met a lot of teenagers who are hanging in the streets with nothing to do.

“Some have come in here smelling of vodka,” Willy said. “I’m not here to judge, but who is taking care of the youth?”

“We need to help and show courage,” Willy added. “We should not look away.”

As a father of two teenagers, he knows how challenging it can be. He has a son who is 15 years old and a daughter who is 13 years old.

But he believes that fitness and fighting helped him develop character growing up in Berlin.

His parents are originally from Turkey, and moved to Germany for a better life. Both were nurses who worked hard, sometimes 16 to 20 hours a day.  However, his father died at age 49 of cancer.

“I think he was heartbroken because he couldn’t go home,” Willy said. “He never returned to Turkey.”

Willy started fighting at age six, and learned quickly. He was teaching his first karate class at age 9. His lessons lead him to fights all over the world.

Willy and wife Ramona at their Idyllwild Opening. Photo Jeffrey Taylor.

“I think I was born to fight,” he said.

During the discussion, he pointed out that fighters aren’t angry. They don’t hate their opponents. Mixed martial arts is a sport like any other. It’s about training, strategy, and outwitting your opponent.

“The kids ask me, ‘Isn’t it violent?” Willy said. “It’s not violent. You need to honor your enemy.”

Yet, over the years, Willy has seen the underside of the sport. The drug abuse, and the pressure of sponsors. You find out that your opponents are fighting for the love of money, and not the sport.

“And then one day, you wake up in a hotel room, and you don’t know your own name,” he said.

At age 40, Willy is not delusional about his career as a fighter. He has broken every bone in his body and his nose 16 times. He can’t feel any sensation in his legs anymore. It’s not because he’s been kicked too much, but he wanted to deaden the nerves there. In an ancient method, he used a rolling pin to force his nerves away from the bones.

“It’s great for fighting, but bad in your personal life,” Willy said.

In Idyllwild, he feels closer to the universe. He and his wife, Ramona, love it here. The other night, he walked home in the light of the full moon and was rejuvenated.

He spoke about Lin Long, a woman from China, who lived in the woods for 10 years after she was banished from her town. She developed her own fierce fighting style from the animals.

He said when he went to Japan, he was the chosen student.

“I am the grand master,” Willy stated.

He is looking for another student to learn his martial arts secrets from him. But it wasn’t clear if it would be a boy or girl.

(from L) Jeffrey Taylor with Sara Karloff. Background art by Marcia Gawecki.

“He or she will come to me,” Willy said.

He also spoke of his belief in Zen Buddhism, and how a worm could be his grandmother, so he must be careful where he steps in the woods.

All in all, Willy is a champion. His experience as a personal trainer has already shaped one local into a true believer.

“In just three weeks, I can see definition in my chest,” said Jeffrey Taylor, of Green Cafe Internet.

Like many people who work behind a desk, Jeffrey was putting on weight because he couldn’t ride his bicycle in the snow. Willy started focusing on his stomach.

“For most men, that’s the weakest part,” Willy said.

After an hour workout, Jeffrey would complain that it hurt to laugh. But he kept with it, and soon he started to see an improvement.

“I looked in the mirror, and I’m starting to see a six pack,” Jeffrey said with a grin.

He’s not talking about beer, but abdominal muscles that stick out when you’re in great shape.

Yet, Jeffrey is quick to point out that Idyllwild Fitness is not geared for bodybuilders.

In Idyllwild, Willy feels closer to the universe

“I’m not trying to build muscle,” he said. “I just want to get back into shape.”

Besides toning, Willy talks to Jeffrey about his diet.

“He said no more chips, wine and pasta,” Jeffrey said.

For variety, Jeffrey couples his workouts with salsa aerobics, which is also offered at the gym on Tuesday nights.

As for the young people of Idyllwild, many think it’s cool that we have a MMA Champ living among us.

David, who has lived in Idyllwild his entire life, said that he met Willy when he first arrived.

“He knows karate, and is tough, but very spiritual too,” David said. “He’s looking for his next student.”

At least six teenagers are really glad that Idyllwild Fitness reopened its doors. They work for Willy and get to see him on a regular basis.

Idyllwild Fitness offers fitness machines, free weights, a sauna, along with aerobics classes to suit your lifestyle. Monthly individual rates are $40, but funfight, Willy’s high energy workouts with the punching bag, are more.

For more information, call (951) 659-5000 or visit www.idyllwildfitnesscenter.com. Idyllwild Fitness Center is located in Strawberry Creek Shopping Center, just below Mountain Harvest Market. Enter on the lower level.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.