Article from the 11/18/2016 Catalina Islander

Since becoming "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 59,600 questions.
GROSS OVERSIGHT!  Please add Eddie Vega and "Mr. Ning's" to the list of those who participated in the election.  As always, Eddie was invaluable with his hard work and fluency in English and Spanish and as we had NO BREAKS the entire day, 6AM-9:30PM, "Mr. Ning's" delivery to the polling location (Catholic Church) made it possible for us to steal a bite every now and then!  EVEN COLD TASTED GREAT!
YOU INSPIRE ME!  Karen Cross, AFS (American Field Service) Activity Director, Los Angeles, again brought over a group of exceptional high school Senior exchange students from around the world and again I had the honor, through the Conservancy, of taking them around the Island and helping them to clean up "Shark" and "Little" Harbors.  At the Airport I gave them each a copy of the "Islander" and they noticed the "Letter To The Editor" from Jane Budd understandably upset about the trash the keep accumulating at "Three Palms" and the "Mt. Ada" overlook.  It was decided then that the students wanted to do something special for Avalon, after they were done cleaning up in the Interior.  With little daylight left, they ascended on "Mt. Ada" and picked up broken glass, cigarette butt, UNDERWEAR, etc.  Muhammad Rizky Firdaus, Indonesia, Hashir Magsood, Pakistan, Catrina Rocco/Niccolo Roselli, Italy, Maria Sacristan, Spain, Elias Sager, Switzerland, and Paula Valencia, Colombia, did the job, WITHOUT COMPLAINING  that Islanders should have done!  THANK YOU guys, Conservancy, AFS, and Karen!
If you want to check out any of my past column submissions, as well as some of the more unusual/interesting questions/comments I have received, Rocky Wall has graciously taken it on as a project, www.catalinaislandman.com
The 3-hour PBS documentary, "WEST OF THE WEST", covering the history of the eight channel islands, with a very good segment on Catalina (including yours truly), is only available in Avalon at the "Steamer Trunk" and the "DC-3" (Airport).  If you don't live on Catalina, send me a check for $23, P. O. Box 1533, Avalon, CA 90704, and I will send you a DVD.
 
"FEELING THE SOUND"
 
Most people only know me as the guy who greets the cruise ships and cross channel boats, who writes this weekly column, and "tries" to be our local historian/"Catalina's Personal Google".  What many don't know that, among my many other professions, i. e., taught "Communication" at Illinois State and Indiana Universities, I also managed entertainers.  Definitely, one of my most unique clients was a Black/blind comedian, Kenny Johnson!  What made it so enjoyable for me was that I often wrote material for him.  IMAGINE GIVING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO WRITE FOR HIM!  I went CRAZY!  One of my favorite lines was how delighted Kenny was that the state of California was so helpful in putting those raised areas on the freeway lanes so that he could stick his cane out the window of his car, while he was driving, to make sure that he stayed in his designated lanes, going 65mph!  Always got laughs (who would "boo" a Black/blind comedian!?!)
One time things just didn't work out as planned.  We were at hotel in Palm Springs and Kenny was the entertainment for a convention of special needs professionals.  As we were driving (I did most of it! lol!), I asked Kenny how he was going to start his dialogue.  He said that he was simply going to say, "I know what you are thinking, and yes, I am blind."  "NO KENNY. NOT FUNNY!"  I came up with "I know what you are thinking, and yes, I am Black."  "THAT'S STUPID, CHUCK, THEY KNOW I AM BLACK!"  "I know, Kenny, THAT'S what makes it funny.  THEY AREN'T THINKING THAT!  THEY KNOW IT!"  "Are you SURE, Chuck!"  "TRUST ME, Kenny!"  It was time for lunch, which was when Kenny was supposed to do his "thing".  It was a 3 tiered stage, where the VIPS sat, and then the hundreds of professionals were sitting at large round tables.  When given the signal, Kenny took my arm and I lead him up to the top tier, got him situated behind the podium, and then went back to my seat, which was the LOWEST level, facing the social workers.  As Kenny began, I couldn't wait to hear my "line" as I saw three tables of Black participants smiling positively at me.  I couldn't wait to get their reaction!  Kenny proceeded, "Ladies and Gentlemen, you noticed that my manager lead me up to the podium.  He felt he needed to do this, NOT because I am blind, BUT because I am BLACK!"  I GOT A REACTION, O. K.!!!  Little laughter, BUT A LOT OF DAGGER STARES from the tables directly in front!  When he had finished his successful performance, I went up to get him and bring him down so he and I could have our lunch!  As I lead him down I whispered, "WHAT WAS THAT INTRODUCTION!"  "The one that you dictated for me!"  "NO IT WASN'T!  You didn't memorize it correctly or decided to go off script!"  I NEVER LOOKED UP FROM MY MEAL AND COULDN'T WAIT TO HITCH KENNY'S SEEING EYE DOG TO THE FRONT OF MY VAN AND LET KENNY DRIVE HOME!  I WAS TOO UPSET TO DRIVE!!!
About 12 years ago, Kenny married a very sweet blind lady, who had a daughter who usually accompanied her everywhere, but for part of their honeymoon, they decided to make the treck themselves, unescorted, from Las Vegas, where they lived, to Catalina and give me a "surprise" visit.  I received a phone call from Kenny at Two Harbors!  He was wondering where I was and I explained to him he was in the wrong location, but I would come ASAP and pick them up,  bring them to Avalon, and then they could stay with me. 
I got down there as quickly as possible and found them waiting patiently for me at the end of the pier.  HOW THEY MADE IT ALL THE WAY FROM VEGAS ON THEIR OWN, I COULDN'T IMAGINE, but here they were safely on the Island.  The WRONG end of the Island, but on the Island, none the less!  As I was driving them back on the hour+ drive, I realized that they had never been to Catalina, so I broke into my "tour guide mode".  You know, "on your left, you can see...", "on your right, you will notice...", etc.  For some reason, because I knew Kenny and they both seemed so confident, I FORGOT THEY WERE BLIND!   When we got to Avalon, near the corner of Crescent Ave./Pebbly Beach Road, I turned around to apologize to them (they were both sitting in the second row of my van).  "PLEASE FORGIVE ME!"  "For WHAT, Chuck?"  "FOR BEING SO STUPID AND INSENSITIVE TO GIVE YOU A VISUAL TOUR OF THE ISLAND!!!" "Chuck, calm down.  We were talking about this while you were giving us your WONDERFUL tour.  Do you have any idea of how DESCRIPTIVELY you talk!?!"  "No, I NEVER thought about it!" "Well, you DO!  In our "minds' eyes", were able to SEE EVERYTHING you were describing and we SAW a FANTASTIC Island, THANKS!" (I am hopefully providing this "descriptive" element when I write this column!). I was beginning to cry!  "REALLY!?!"  "Yes, REALLY!  By the way, WHAT is that sound we are hearing?"  "What sound?"  "The sound of water flowing, but then making a rattling noise!"  I had to SHUT UP and LISTEN for a few seconds!  "That's the sound of the waves coming up to the shore and then going back over the gravel!"  "Chuck, we have NEVER been to the ocean!  Could you please take us down there so that we can 'feel the sound'?"  I had them take off their shoes and socks and roll up their pant legs and I led them down to the "sound".  The three of us standing there; two of them with beautiful angelic smiles, and me trying to understand their fascination.  After a few minutes, I closed my eyes and ENJOYED their experience with them.
I don't know what happened to Kenny and his bride as we lost contact.  They taught me that day to "FEEL" and I will hopefully NEVER forget!  If any of you EVER hear me complaining about life being a bit "tough", then remind me of Mr. and Mrs. Kenny Johnson and you have my permission to give me a mild slap to the side of my head to remind me how fortunate I am to live on Catalina Island and can see/hear how special it is!
Contact Chuck directly, chuckliddell.catalina@gmail.com