Article from the 5/4/2017 Catalina Islander

A passenger got off the cruise ship and immediately greeted me with "Mahalo!"  I smiled.  She then said, "Aloha!"  Again, I smiled.  Frustrated, she said, "What do you natives say!?!"  "'Hello' and 'Hi'." I said.
Years ago at the 'El Galleon Restaurant'  Robert Wagner,  actor, and husband of late Natalie Wood, was being a bit loud and demanding.  He kept saying, "WHERE IS MY WAITRESS!?!  I WANT SERVICE!  DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM!"  Calmly the server came over to his table, "Sorry, I was waiting on Mr. John Wayne."
"Do you have a school and/or a hospital here?"
"When is 'tea time' in the 'Undersea Gardens'?"
"Where is the tunnel that connects Catalina to the mainland?'
MY MAINLAND FIX!  Ever since Taco Bell was in Avalon years ago, I HAVE LOVED THEM, but have to wait until I get to the mainland for my "Fix"!  I have been the house guest for the last couple of days of Bob Haffey, Rolling Hills Estates, a GREAT friend of Catalina and mine and a collector of memorabilia extroadinaire!  I came over for my too often medical visits.  He "allowed" me to take him out to lunch at Taco Bell and, although we are both on a diet, we didn't regret it one moment!
WE ALL NEED APPRECIATION!  I am always shocked how we seem to forget what the words "Please and Thank You" mean to those who serve us!  It hurts to see waiters/waitresses going out of their way to make the guests happy and yet the patrons rarely look up, let alone say those two magical words!  When was the last time you thanked those men and women who keep our streets clean for doing such a remarkable job?  Doesn't take much to say, but carries a LOT OF WEIGHT for those who are on the front line trying to make our lives better!
REAL FAMILY TIME!  I have to laugh when I see families in restaurants, obviously wanting to enjoy a quite meal and precious "family night out" together, and yet everyone of them has their cell phones and IPads on the entire time and rarely look up, let alone talk to each other.  A few days ago I was at my favorite haunt, "Mr. Ning's", and I saw two adults, in their middle 30's, with two teen age girls and one boy, around 10.  THEY WERE TALKING, LAUGHING, AND DIDN'T HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT ON!  Three times I wanted to go up to them, to show how much I enjoyed a family REALLY ENJOYING EACH OTHER, but three times I turned back.  FINALLY, after leaving the restaurant, I came back in, excused myself, and told them how remarkable it was to see such a heartwarming sight.  Turns out it was the father's birthday, he and the young woman had just got married, and his son and her two daughters were now part of the "new family"!  I AM SO GLAD TO I WENT BACK TO TALK TO THEM!
SPECIAL BIRTHDAY!  You are all invited to my 70th birthday as well as my "Coming Out Celebration" on Sunday, May 21, "Peoples' Park", across from City Hall, 2-4pm.  Please no presents, but cards of support will be greatly appreciated.  If possible, please bring a dozen cupcakes, to help everyone share in this moment, and provide your own drinks.!  I am now going on record that I want to be the "Voice" that neither myself, my brother, nor so many other gays and lesbians have had over the years.
BEACH CLEAN-UP!  I was so PROUD, TIRED, and SORE to join fellow Rotarians, Gary Black, Christy Lins, Cathy Miller, Bill Paige, Linda Salo, soon to be Rotarian, Tim  Foley, and wonderful friends, Kate Beasley, Larry Hambleton, Theresa Hambleton, and Sherill Paige,  to do a day of cleaning up one of the most beautiful beaches on Catalina, but rarely used, "Ben Weston", for the Conservancy, last Sunday!  And we are still friends through all of it!
Who remembers where they were on December 7, 1941 (bombing of Pearl Harbor), November 22, 1963 (association of President Kennedy), and/or May 10, 2007?
On May 10, 2007, I had just finished giving a lecture to new employees on the Island to help empower them with knowledge about our past/present, through the Chamber Of Commerce.  I finished my discussion about the devastating fire of November 29, 2915, which destroyed the West end of Avalon, and we were all leaving to have a lunch break, around Noon.  As we left the Bank, heading West, I noticed smoke pouring over the hill, by the Chimes Tower!  Sirens started blowing and  it was evident that were was a major fire coming toward Avalon!  During some soldering work being done at our Christian broadcasting station, KBRT, approximately 5 miles away, a spark set off the fire.
I was/am a member of CERT, "Community Emergency Response Team".  This is a local group of volunteers who are deputized under the Sheriff and Fire Departments to act as the "first responders" to ANY emergencies and disasters befalling our town, as support from the mainland can be either long in coming, or non existent.  (By the way, anyone wanting to join this essential group of men and women, please call Deputy Doug DeCesare, 310-510-0174.  No experience necessary.  After all, they did allow me to join!  Only a willingness to learn, be trained, and show a desire to help our wonderful town is needed).  I quickly put on my uniform and reported to City Hall.  I was placed, along with Jack Cook. at the foot of Country Club Drive/Tremont, to make sure that the traffic was only going one way, AWAY FROM THE FIRE, and to help evacuate Avalon.  By the time the evening was over, approximately 4000 residents and visitors were evacuated with the FANTASTIC response by the "Catalina Express".  I was eventually moved to the "Sand Trap" restaurant to guard against those who might be wanting to get too close to the now evacuated hospital and school.  From there, along with Wayne Herbst, I was able to witness the fire changing course at the LAST MINUTE , BYPASSING THE TOWN!  WHAT A SITE!
It was a remarkable operation by the residents of Catalina, until the reinforcements came from the mainland.  I HAVE NEVER BEEN PROUDER OF BEING OF CITIZEN OF AVALON!  In all, there were approximately 770 firefighters, Marines, Navy, and work crew men and women who took on this herculean task of trying to fight and limit the fire.  By the 5th day, we had lost close to 5000 acres (1/10 of the Island), and the fire had come precariously close to the town, being halted at only around 40 feet behind the school and other buildings!  Many responders from the mainland shared with me the fact that they had NEVER been treated as well in ANY community during a fire as they were in Avalon! 
As the restaurants were closed and food for cancelled weddings and banquets wasn't able to be stored, it was now being proudly served to these brave individuals .  The fire would eventually be loving referred to as the "20 POUND FIRE" as that is what the average firefighter kidding said was how much he/she had gained with all of this great food! 
To say that we dodged a MAJOR bullet, is to state the situation lightly!  Many locals, including myself, were sure that we had seen the demise of Avalon!  NO MORE HOME!  We did, unfortunately, lose one house and eight businesses, but no one was killed, or even a major injury, and the main town of Avalon never showed any sign of this ordeal.  During this terrifying period, MANY homemade banners and signs popped up all over the town, sharing the love and appreciation that the residents had for those putting themselves on the line for Avalon.  Many of these brave men and women and had NEVER even been here before.  Local, state, national, and even international news media carried our fire story as each of the five days progressed!  CATALINA, THE WORLD LOVES US AND WE ARE FORTUNATE TO STILL BE HERE!"
Once everything was under control, the mainland responders, as well as the news medias, went home. Every Islander who could, bid a major tearful farewell to these liberators as they boarded the last boats. home!
I had asked some of the mainland media to do a "follow up" story on how well we had faired through all of this and that our town was still in business.  I was told that the fire was the "only" real story and that a subsequent report would not be worth carrying.  Unfortunate, but understandably,  this attitude of the media, but they weren't the only ones to walk away!
After the fire was contained, I wrote a "Letter To The Editor" of both local newspapers, sharing my feelings that unless we did something SPECIAL for these much needed heroes from the mainland, as well as our own local participants, we really didn't deserve to be SAVED!  Harsh words, granted, but much felt by me! 
A year ago, at our 9th Anniversary since the fire, through this column,  I asked  for support from local businesses and residents who would like to help me put on a "celebration" for the 10th Anniversary to notify me.  NO ONE RESPONDED!  I met with the Sheriff Department and both Fire Departments and they showed interest and appreciation for such a recognition, but once I took their ideas to  some our local organizations that should logically be wanting to acknowledge such an averted tragic event, NO FOLLOW-UP!
Sorry, Avalon, but I am VERY ASHAMED of all of us, with this "out of sight, out of mind" mentality regarding this possible disaster.  To not even show any signs of appreciation, as far as I am concerned, is heartless and insensitive.  I was once proud of us during the fire, but now feel ashamed ten years later!  I am sorry, but I thought we were made of better stuff than this!
If you want to contact me directly,