Article from the 1/29/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel boats, I have answered 42,297 questions.
There are some of the more interesting/unusual questions/comments I have received:
During our last 4th of July celebration, "Can we watch your fireworks celebration from the mainland?"
Looking at the "Local" mail slot at the Post Office, "Does this mail go to Avalon?"
"Are there any good places to eat here?"
"Is there a desert on the other side of the Island?"
"Are there mountain lions and coyotes on the Island?"


I have decided to write my Catalina book once I reach the 50,000 mark.  It will contain approximately 25 chapters and each chapter  will have five interesting/unusual questions/comments that I have dealt with, a story of what life was like on Catalina, seen through my perspective, and a bit of remarkable trivia about the island.
I would like to conduct a little contest to see who can come the closest to predicting when I will receive my 50,000 question/comment.  If you would like to participate, I will need a date and a time of the day.  To help you out, you can see how many questions I have already answered and the length of  time it took to answer them.
I am presently only working cruise ship days, which are "normally" on Monday and Tuesday and I only work from 7:30-11:30 a.m.  I will be working Friday-Tuesday during Easter Weekend and Memorial Weekend.  I will be working  this full-time schedule on a weekly basis throughout the summer, starting June 14 and ending Labor Day Weekend.
Simply send me an email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your guess.  EVERYONE who submits a guess will receive a free copy and the winner will receive 10 copies.  The ending date for submissions will be January 31, 2016.

Possible Drawbacks For Living On Catalina Island

To begin this discussion, I must preface ALL of these comments with the disclaimer that I am neither representing the ideas and opinions  of the "Islander" newspaper, nor the "Chamber Of Commerce", and they these are purely my own opinions (although I hope that they are shared by others).

2014 proved to be a most interesting year!  Definitely the most peculiar coincidences occurred which caused me we ponder the possibilities that certain individuals knew more about my health issues than I did and were trying to thank me BEFORE it was too late!  Four different families stopped me and told me that because of my "Casino Walking Tour", they each decided to buy a home on Catalina!  I SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN A COMMISSION!  One Conservancy volunteer from the mainland devotes more of her time than any other told me that because of a lecture I gave for the Conservancy years ago, she decided to be a major volunteer.  One lady, who I have worked with many times for Casino events, told me that she saw me on a PBS special on Catalina and decided then to pack up and move here, although she had NEVER been to the Island!.  These six decisions scared me to death!  Although it is obviously a compliment to my persuasive communication powers, I hate to think that these kind people invested so much money and time to the Island, based solely on my ability to "sell it".  I asked them if they felt that they had made the right decision and in all case, THANK GOODNESS, they said "YES".  IF I had known their intentions, I would have taken each of them out for a cup of coffee and shared with then the "other side of the coin"; the possible disadvantages of Catalina Island life.  This is what I would have shared with them and hope that others keep these in mind BEFORE they make a major commitment.

Catalina is an "Island" DAH!  Thus all of the disadvantages of living on an Island is that you are water locked.  You can't  hop in your car (if you are lucky enough to have one) to go visit friends or family.  You have to go by boat or helicopter and this can be a bit expensive, even with an Islanders' discount book, especially if you have a large family.  If the weather is inclement, as it has been the last month, you might NOT be able to get off the "rock".  Most Islanders have learned that if you need to be off the Island for a major appointment (surgery, cruise, etc.), you might have to plan on going over the day before to make sure that you make it!  Renting a car, staying in a motel/hotel, meals, etc., could prove to be quite an "insurance" investment.  This Christmas season, for the first time in 68 years, I missed being with my mother due to the boats not running!  Many products that have to be "barged" over also cost a bit more than the mainland and when these storms arise, the needed foods don't arrive, unless it is flown over, and we have simply learned to "live without" certain things and stock up in case this happens.

Regarding medical issues, IF you find yourself having to be medivaced by helicopter off the Island to Long Beach or Torrance Memorial Hospitals the costs, without insurance, are staggering.  When I was forced off the Island a few years ago, it cost my insurance company (Medicare and Blue Cross) $16,000.  I understand that the costs are now twice that amount!  If you are a Kaiser patient, you will have to forgo that insurance, once you move to the Island, as they will not cover you due to the possibility that they might have to pick up this expense.  

Because we only have a few "franchises" and no real "specialty" stores for food and/or clothing, you might find yourself having to do most of your shopping at Costco, Trader Joe's, etc. when you leave for the mainland.  We often laughing refer to the morning Monday boat as the "hospital boat" as we also don't have any medical specialists on Catalina so if you need any particular care, you make those appointments and do your shopping on the same trip.  Many of us go over with empty suitcases, just for shopping.  

Although every household is permitted a golf cart of similar footprint type vehicle (Smart Cart, Mini Cooper, etc.), in order to get a full sized automobile, you have to be on a waiting list for 15-25 years!  You might have left the Island, died, or simply no longer want a car by the time your name comes up.  You are not permitted to simply buy a car on the Island or mainland without your designated "City Sticker", so wait, you MUST!  Golf carts have also been a contributing factor to the fact that our children are more obese and have more cases of diabetes than their average counterparts on the mainland.  The golf carts have almost taken the place of walking exercise and the number of good intentioned parents who daily "DRIVE" their children to school, for those few blocks, are certainly not helping these concerns.  One time the school came up with "Walk Wednesdays" to help start a new thought process, but the idea hasn't been as successful as hoped.  Maybe "Walk Weekly" is more of what should be considered.

If you have your taste buds all set for a particular chain store (Taco Bell, Country Fried Chicken, MacDonald's, etc.), you are out of luck.  The only "franchises" we have are "Vons" and we now sell "Starbuck" coffee.  Anything else, you have to go to the mainland.  Many times, when the boys and girls go to the mainland for a school sporting event, they have to be driven to a number of different fast food establishments to make sure that they get "exactly" what they want, after being "brainwashed"  from countless commercials on television and radio.  As a kid growing up on the Island in the '50's, I remember hearing on the radio commercials for "Pizza Man".  The enticing commercial would emphatically declare, "If you are within the sound of our voice, we will deliver you a 'Pizza Man' pizza within 45 minutes or you will get it free!"  I would know the times that the "S. S. Catalina" would be in service, as well as the other boats and seaplanes and so was aware of  the times when there was NO SERVICE to the Island.   I would then call "Pizza Man" (it would have to be after 5PM on weekdays, or weekends before 5 to make the cheapest "long distance" calls) and tell them that I would like my "free" Pizza.  They never understood why I would say that, especially when I was within the "sound of their voice", but when I told them where I lived and that they had better start swimming NOW if they thought they could get the pizza to me within "45 minutes", they were obviously annoyed and frustrated.  I NEVER forced them to deliver on their promise, but I do know that soon after my calls, they took the commercial off the air.

By mainland standards, were a pretty much "free" of major crime, but we do have a problem with golf carts being "borrowed" and drugs/alcohol among our youngsters.  I don't think that there are any definite solutions to these issues.  The fact is that we really do not have specific recreation for the kids, outside of school and that which the natural beauty of the Island promotes (hiking, swimming, boating, surfing, etc.), that their mainland counterparts are blessed with.  We DEFINITELY need a youth center (the local churches try to pick up some of this slack), gym,  and a swimming pool (we have long ago raised the needed funds, now we just have to find a suitable place).  A "regular" bowling alley wouldn't hurt either. These facilities could also be used by your senior citizens, which also need, but don't have such facilities. 

Because we survive on tourism, we have to depend on our economy to be strong, as travel and leisure are purely "discretionary" and come at the end of the expenses that are essentials.  We are becoming more and more dependent on cruise ships visiting us, yet when the ocean isn't cooperating, we can definitely feel a major loss in our individual incomes, especially during the winter months when visitor counts are down on a normal basis.

Finding good affordable housing is a major issue.  When I started looking a few months ago, I found more doors slammed in my face rather than opened to me.  I know that this situation was not personal, but unfortunately shared by many desperate renters.  It is so bad that many business want to see a job applicant's "long term lease" before they even ask to see their resume.

The Island have been in a major water rationing mode the last couple of years and all of the snow and run off from the mountains, that the mainland depends on, have no affect on us.  We have to ration to 25% of what we would normally use for the last couple of years and some of us remember when we went into Phase 3 (50%) and I was chairman of the committee to decide what we would do for Phase 4 (you wouldn't believe what decision we made!).  We now have desalinization which only helps to keep our heads above water (pardon the pun).

It has been made clear by Los Angeles County that when faced with a major disaster that will affect us and the mainland, we will be "on our own"!  The millions on the mainland understandable take priority over the thousands here. We have a very qualified team of sheriff, fire department, and medical crew, supplemented with a trained back-up volunteer team of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team).  EVERYONE needs to be self-sufficient in case we have to "wait it out', before any assistance is freed up to come to our aid.

Our young people need to be mentored so that they can adjust to the life on the mainland.  Driving cars, not carts, on read roads and freeways; learning about how to deal with rapid transit; dealing with people who are completely different than they are used to; all need to be addressed.  The "Women's Forum" does a good job in mentoring high school girls, but who is working with the boys?  EVERY student needs mentors to help them over the cultural shock of life on the mainland.

We are focused on meeting the needs of the visitors to the Island, but not doing enough to meet the needs of those of us who have to live on the Island with the decisions made by others.  We need to work together to make sure that our decisions are properly balanced between the visitors and the Islanders.  We have limited room for growth so each decision has to meet our priorities.

We need to take advantage of our renewable energy sources.  We must think and plan outside of our traditional ways of thinking and realize that we are blessed with much sun and wave action to utilize solar and tidal energy.  As long as our population and tourism continue to grow, we aren't in the position to miss any of these opportunities.

Last week I highlighted what I thought were our strengths and this week, in order to be "fair and balanced", I took a stab at some of our weaknesses.  By doing so, I have hopefully brought to like some problems with possible solutions.  Our advantages DEFINITELY outnumber of disadvantages, but I would like to see us work on making our unique little Island lean even more toward our strengths.

I started my "Catalina HistoryWalking Tour" through "Tour Catalina" and so am now sharing my knowledge of this remarkable town and Island with visitors and Islanders alike.  If you would like to join me, click on to :  If you're an Islander, click on Promo Code "F1F", and sign up for one FREE tour.  For any questions, call 310-502-6131 <tel:310-502-6131> .  

To contact me, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..