Dunga Brook Diary: Not Rocket Science

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Vicki Whicker

Mother’s Day, 2011, 6 am. Central New York.

A breeze touches my cheek and I open my eyes to a room full of light and fresh country air. Outside, leaves flutter on the branches of giant old trees.

First thought—Home.

Second thought—Jim’s home.

Third thought—This is so not LA.

I’m wrapped like a mummy, wearing every bit of clothing I brought on this trip…leather jacket over down jacket, hat, scarf, fingerless gloves, two pairs of socks, and cowboy boots. Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Old habits die hard. Bob Vickrey enjoying his morning routine of coffee and newspaper in 1994.

By Bob Vickrey

Columnist Chris Erskine of the Los Angeles Times has become a trusted friend in recent years, although we’ve never actually met.

Reading his funny and gentle family-themed columns has become an addictive habit for me as I sip my morning coffee. Some people like sugar and cream with their morning brew, but I prefer a daily dose of “Erskine” with my coffee.

Before Chris, there were Al and Jim—better known in Southern California as the late L.A. Times’ columnists Al Martinez and Jim Murray. Those talented writers always helped connect me with the world-at-large with their personal and humane reflections about daily life.

Yes, I’m probably out of step these days with most folks, as American readers have slowly abandoned the traditional print version of the news and have opted for online access to the happenings of the day. In fact, when a young friend of mine catches me with my head buried in the sports section, she loves to tease me with her familiar refrain, “So, I see you’re once again catching up on yesterday’s news.” Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Palisades Drugstore Cafe, mid-1970’s

By Bob Vickrey

When I first walked into the Palisades Drugstore Café almost forty years ago, I thought I had stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Jeff Kool, the longtime owner of the Palisades Bookshelf, had told me one of the best lunches in town was right down the street at the local drugstore. As I entered the back door and passed the pharmacy counter, I made my way toward the unmistakable buzz of lively conversation emanating from the busy lunch crowd seated around two adjoining horseshoe-shaped counters. Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


All photos by Barry Stein


By Bob Vickrey

During the closing credits of many television variety shows of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, the off-camera announcer would routinely remind viewers, “Hotel accommodations for tonight’s guests during their stay in New York City were graciously provided by the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Hotel.”

Since no one ever offered those same accommodations during my stays in New York, last month’s lunch club visit to the glitzy new Beverly Hills Waldorf provided my first glimpse into at least one version of the storied hotel.

The original New York City hotel was built in 1893 in two stages, as the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel, which accounts for its later dual name. The hotels were demolished in 1929 to make way for the construction of the Empire State building. The business reopened as the Waldorf Astoria two years later in its present location on Park Avenue, and quickly became known as one of the world’s most prestigious hotels. Read more

Dunga Brook Diary: You Are Here

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January 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Where I Thought I Was

By Vicki Whicker

May 2011, Midnight, Central New York.

Finally, at Jim’s door. The Los Angeles to Albany flight topped by the three-hour drive (that should have taken two) has done me in. I’m exhausted. Shivering. And, it’s fucking dark. A billion stars in the sky but no moon DARK.

Jim’s beast is snorting and bellowing behind the door that I just knocked my knuckles raw on. The doorknob rattles and turns, crazily. I wish the headlights to my rental car were still on. I wish I’d arrived in broad daylight.

“JAX backup! JAX! Back! JAX! Goddammit!” Read more

Fellowship Monrovia, an evangelical church that makes its pop-up home at Monrovia High, finds followers come in all ethnicities and persuasions

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January 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

By Mary Reinholz

First published in the Pasadena Weekly, December 21, 2017

Christian evangelists often get a bad rap, depicted in the media as right wing extremists who preach fire and brimstone to a lily white choir.

But those images of TV preachers like the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson get turned on their head by Albert Tate, the charismatic African-American lead pastor and founder of Fellowship Monrovia, FM, a multi-ethnic pop-up church in the auditorium of Monrovia High School that is being touted as one of the fastest growing congregations in the San Gabriel Valley.

Tate, who once led the Sweet Home Church of Christ Holiness USA in his native Pearl, Mississippi, strides across the stage of the Monrovia High performing arts auditorium 36 Sundays a year, sometimes garbed in a black cassock or red trousers with a brown jacket or jeans and a sock hat. Sometimes he skips, sits down, stands up and breaks into song. Sometimes he thunders exhortations against “me-ism” and promotes the need for sinners to be humble and submit to God, shouting, “Make your bones with the Lord!” Read more


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January 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

My Dad would not be happy if he’d seen our check that day

By Bob Vickrey   

After paying the tab at a local café and noticing my burger and fries came to an astonishing $17.50, I found myself mumbling to no one in particular, “I remember when hamburgers cost fifty cents.”

It was meant as a seemingly innocent comment about today’s rising cost of living, but instead, I heard echoes of my dad’s voice uttering a similar nostalgic theme many decades earlier.

After tossing a couple of bucks into the tip jar for my carry-out lunch, I walked out with my twenty dollar hamburger, realizing it had come from a modest counter-service cafe—not a Michelin four-star restaurant. Read more


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January 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

photos by Barry Stein

By Bob Vickrey 

Singer Ray Price once sang “The night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life,” and it certainly appears that our monthly lunch club has adopted his famous motto in recent months.

After visiting The Galley in Santa Monica in November, we thought we should continue to visit famous L.A. restaurants that only open for business after dark. One spot that has been on our list is Dan Tana’s, the venerable West Hollywood Italian cucina and watering hole.

We forged into the cold, windy December night despite weather forecasts that had called for Southern California temperatures to plunge below the 70-degree mark. That kind of perseverance and dedication to our mission has become this group’s trademark. Read more

Kate Millett, ‘Extraordinary Woman,’ Remembered By Steinem, Ono, and Clinton

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December 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

November 10, 2017

By Mary Reinholz

Yoko Ono at Kate Millett memorial. (Photo: Mary Reinholz)

Feminist icon Kate Millett, author of the ’70s classic Sexual Politics, received a star-studded Manhattan sendoff on November 9, following her death September 6 in Paris at age 82. The Upper West Side memorial service drew about 500 people, most of them women, and sometimes befitted a state funeral.

Pamela Mataszewski, a blonde bagpiper in a kilt, began the service with a mournful dirge as she strode up the center aisle of a Unitarian Universalist Church to its altar where Millett’s ashes had been placed in a blue jug beside flickering candles. After she departed, still blowing her pipes,  soprano Katie Zaffrann sang “Ave Maria” to mark the passing of Millett, who lived at 295 Bowery for 38 years, residing there when it was in a rundown neighborhood populated by so-called “Bowery bums.” Her late 19th century building once housed the infamous McGurk Suicide Hall, a spot where several teenage prostitutes were believed to have killed themselves by lacing their last drinks with carbolic acid. Read more

Dunga Brook Diary: Sight To Be Seen

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December 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

From LAX to ALB

By Vicki Whicker 

I bought an 1820’s farmhouse and one acre for $10,000.

In the middle of nowhere.

Sight unseen.

Ok, not $10,000.

$10,000 plus closing costs plus all back taxes.

How many years of back taxes? And how much was even one year of back taxes in central New York?

I didn’t ask. When I want something, fine details are not necessary. You will encounter this attitude of mine, many times.

The FINAL total for an ancient house on an acre in “The Middle of Nowhere”?


BARGAIN. Read more

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