The Lovers of Valadro

Thoughts from Dr. Joe They died young, probably during late adolescence. However by the looks of it, they were in love. Two 6,000-year-old prehistoric skeletons from the Neolithic period were found locked in an eternal embrace in Valdaro, near Verona, Italy, hidden from the eyes of humanity. It could be the oldest love story. Verona is where Shakespeare set the star-crossed lover’s tale "Romeo and Juliet." Incidentally Verona is the same area where Giuseppe Verdi set the opera Rigoletto, the story of doomed lovers. Archeologists believe the find has more emotional than scientific value. The lovers were adolescents of the Neolithic age, a formative period in the evolutionary development of society. It was during the Neolithic era when religious, societal and emotional sentiments were formed, particularly relative to family and village. Thus scientists and anthropological experts assert that the lovers’ embrace with arms and legs leave little doubt that their final connection was born out of deep sentiment. The remarkable story of the Lovers of Valdaro aligns with the aurora of love. Although we compose music, write love songs, prose and love stories we hardly scratch the surface attempting to intellectualize love’s phenomenology. Subsequently we encapsulate its mystery Read more

Channeling Father Flynn

Thoughts from Dr. Joe I first came face to face with Father Flynn in 1957; I was in the 5th grade. I had to answer for the D’s Sister Mary Judith gave me in behavior. Father told me I would hang from the flagpole at Saint Frances of Rome if I were to continue such antics. For the rest of that fall, I was his indentured servant. My servitude continued well after the fifth grade. I became his eyes and ears in the neighborhood, his muscle, and prosecuted his will in a tough Italian/Irish neighborhood in the Northeast Bronx. I was conscripted for life and couldn’t break the hold he had on me. Although Father Flynn has passed, I am linked to his memory. He was the reincarnation of Saint Ignatius Loyola and Genghis Khan. Saint Ignatius was a soldier before he found the Jesuits; Father served with the China Marines prior to ordination. It was rumored he became a priest to atone for the mayhem he cause growing up Hell’s Kitchen and what he did to the Japanese in the war. He was shrouded in mystery; that’s what made Read more

Thoughts from Dr. Joe

Play Like a Champion

As the students enter Mr. Lively’s AP Euro class at LCHS, they take a moment to rub a sign hanging on the wall in room 305.  “Play like a Champion Today,” it says!  I wanted to understand the essence of a teacher who would have such a mantra.

Play like a champion challenges the student to expect more from themselves there-by reaching higher levels of learning and character.  It’s instilling the quest for excellence, a virtue that transcends all endeavors.   Greatness doesn’t come from those content on just being, but from the conscious endeavor of reaching.

Bill Lively is a third year teacher from Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, California.   At UCLA he double majored in history and religion and received a master’s degree in historical research from Oxford University in England.  His credentials and intellect are impressive.  However who he is as a teacher and as an individual is far more critical than where his degrees are from.

Great teachers inspire their students because someone initially inspired them.  Mr. Lively was influenced by his high school English teacher, Randy Oudega.   “He brought energy, passion, and excitement to the classroom,” Bill explained.  “He ignited a spark within me and showed me the true potential of teaching.  I wanted to be in a classroom telling stories and giving kids an overarching view of the world and of themselves.”

Currently assistant principal, Jim Cartnal has been mentoring Mr. Lively.  Mr. Cartnal has recently left the classroom leaving big shoes to fill in the history department.    “I want to be the best teacher for the kids and Mr. Cartnal gave me the blue prints of how to do that,” Bill said.

Mr. Lively’s influence on his students is infinite.  He touches their future by infusing his philosophies into their core.  There’s an extension of concentric circles emanating outward from his wisdom and passion.   He believes in academic excellence and honors the intellect, not for a means to an end but for a means in of itself.  Not only does he impart knowledge he fills his students with hope and showers them with a thousand reasons to embrace life.

Bill was a Boy Scout.  He earned the rank of Eagle and adheres to the moral standards demanded by that distinction.  “Being an Eagle is becoming a new person, transforming to a higher set of ethical values,” he said.    Those values earned as a young man evolved into a unique teaching philosophy.   “My goal is to make every kid who walks into my class stronger both intellectually and morally.”

Everyone screams about test and AP scores but Bill gets it; he realizes that the future character of his students is omnipotent.  When you get that you’ll get Mr. Lively.

I asked senior, Alyssa Stolmack for comments about Mr. Lively as the faculty advisor to the Associate Student Body, (ASB).  She paused and commented, “I need to find the right words.  He deserves it!”  She continued, “He challenges and encourages us to be our best; he is always honest.”

“So Bill, what’s in the future,” I asked.  He was quick to respond, “This is my dream job; La Canada is my family; these are my kids and I love them.”

I had a penchant to find out why students are enamored by him.  Once it clicked, I’d put it in a bottle and sell it.  I asked Alyssa, “What’s the Zen of Mr. Lively?”  She exclaimed, “He has a weird intangible effect on us; we’re better people because of him.”

I needed a bit more than “Weird and Intangible” so I dug deeper and found the answer to my inquiry in an old journal; It’s a quote by writer, Steve Maraboli.  “When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves.”  That’s playing like a champion!












































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Kaitzer for School Board

Why I support Kaitzer for School Board!

It’s not a no brainer that I support Kaitzer, my wife, for School Board.  I believe it’s important to be intellectually honest in the political process as it is foundational to our democracy. Consequently I have a rationale as to why I am voting, for Kaitzer!

The Romans gave us 19 virtues they believed essential for leadership.  Among these was “Gravitas.”  It’s defined as substance or depth of personality.  It’s the sense of importance of the matter at hand.  One earns gravitas over time; time is the duration of substance.  In essence one has to pay their dues.  It’s responsibility!  Heaviness!  Earnestness!  Maturity!  Such leaders use intellect, reason, and experience to do great things.

Kaitzer is a woman of substance, steeped in Gravitas.  She has paid her dues educationally, experientially, and has used her gift of reason to forge an intellect worthy of your consideration.  Integrity is foundational to Kaitzer.  Her word means something.  The pursuit of excellence is germane to her character. She is honorable, reliable, and worthy of trust.

Although issues such as parcel tax, common core, sagebrush, and teacher evaluations merit our analysis, being glib on such concerns is not the essence of leadership.  My first question is:  “Does the candidate have Gravitas.”  Kaitzer does!  The education of our children requires this consideration.  I encourage you to follow my lead and vote for Kaitzer for School Board.


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Searching for Answers Where There Are None

Thoughts from Dr. Joe
 I came early to the Twelve Oaks Retirement Home, nestled in a grove of hundred-year-old oaks.   My intention was to walk the grounds and meander between the quaint cottages and gardens searching for the Zen of the story that I would write. With every breath and step taken, I was filled with peace and serenity.  At Twelve Oaks peace was present, right here and now!

I was drawn to the sound of running water emanating from an old stone fountain.  I thought of the words of Chang Tzu, “You will always find an answer in the sound of water.”  Since I came to Twelve Oaks searching for answers, I would rely on his wisdom.

Why would Southern California Presbyterian Homes sell this property to a developer for private development?  Why would they displace the residents allowing them only 60 days to leave a place where they thought they would live out their last years?  How does Southern California Presbyterian separate friends thus adding to the isolation of seniors suffering from dementia and distorted realities?

However, what I sought mostly was the answer to the inquiry: how can any society allow this to happen for no apparent reason other than profit?  What does this say about who we are?  Something will leave us as a people when Twelve Oaks is sold and bulldozed over.  We need such havens for our elderly because how we treat our senior citizens ultimately defines who we are.

Twelve Oaks, an 80-year-old property, has been the favored philanthropy of the mothers and daughters of the National Charity League (NCL), Glendale Chapter dating back to the 1950’s.  The property and its residents provide a laboratory were young girls and their mothers serve meals, plan parties, care for the grounds, stuff goodie bags, make blankets, prune roses, cook dinners, and of course interact with the elderly.

The impact of displacing the residents seemed to weigh heavily upon the children of the NCL.  They appeared bewildered by the upcoming demise of Twelve Oaks.  Tenth grader, Samantha Loui, explained, “The residents are fascinating souls who have struggled through life and survived to pass on their wisdom. Many of them have taunted death, then walked away with courage I have yet to find.”  She continued, “I am losing the people who taught me the importance of reading, who told me about the world before technology, who showed me what actually matters in life, and told stories about fighting in wars.”

Eighth grader Katherine Lazier expressed, “There is fear and helplessness in the voices of the residents.”

I spoke at length to two old soldiers who fought in Europe and Korea.  Merle Baer, 90 flew the C-46 Commando in World War II.  Eugene Eyraud flue B-50’s in Korea.  But now the soldiers, veterans of American wars sit around and wait to die.  These boys are my soldiers! They are veterans!  It is unspeakable how Southern California Presbyterian Homes would expel people from the greatest generation from the only homes they currently know.  So little is know about the feelings of old people, maybe that’s why it’s easy to bulldoze Twelve Oaks.

I observed the forlorn faces of Rose Chen Loui, Paris Cohen, Janet Lazier, and Gabriella Chuck, mothers of daughters in the NLC. We sat at the same table, listening to the old soldiers.  During a quiet moment I heard the trickling water but the answers that Tzu promised as to the questions I initially proposed remained unanswered.

I realized though, the demise of old people eventually comes full circle.  It comes right back to us!  And my best analysis is there is no moral rationale to close Twelve Oaks!

We watched the elderly amble back to their cottages and a sadness lingered. In disbelief I turned to Paris Cohen she whispered,  “Is this what awaits us?”









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Rockin for the Homeless III

Thoughts from Dr. Joe

In 1962 my brother Fred started a band called the Perfections.  They were rockers.  When the heat and the beat got up on a Saturday night, he brought the house down and the East Cost Swing Dancers would take off and hit the moon.

I was a 15 year-old punk conscripted as an indentured servant schlepping equipment for the band.  They had a gig at Glen island Casino, the biggest musical venue in New York.  They were playing for a benefit sponsored by the New York Yankees raising funds to refurbish Frankie Frisch Field on Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx.

All the rockers from the Bronx were there.  People came for the Yankees; for Frankie Frisch Field, but mostly they came to dance.

With Fred’s saxophone hanging around his neck, his hand on the keys, he grabbed the attention of the Perfections and with a synchronized waving motion he shouted, “A one, a two, a one two three!”  The Sax exploded!  Glen Island Casino was rockin’!  The Perfections brought the house down; it was sheer pageantry.

It’s been 51 years since the Perfections played the Casino. However, the allure of ‘Rockin’ on a Saturday night for a worthy cause is alive in La Canada.  On Saturday, November 2, 2013 Brad Schwartz is producing, “Rockin For the Homeless III.”  He’s raising funds for Union Station Homeless Services the largest social service agency assisting homeless and low-income people.

Brad’s a ‘homeboy’ from Brooklyn.  Consequently I understand his commitment to service.  “I remember where I came from,” he said.  In La Canada we’re blessed; we should give back!  I want my children to realize, not far from here people much less fortunate than we are.”  He continued, “The mission of Union Station is to help the homeless rebuild their lives and end the cycle of homelessness.”

A few years back, Brad and some guys were hanging out brainstorming about throwing a party for their friends in La Canada.  At the end of the evening, it had evolved into a rockin roll ‘shoot out’ with live music, and a philantropical endeavor.  Great deeds have a ridiculous beginning.  They are often born in a café over coffee.

“This is a La Canada event.” Brad Said.  “It was invented in La Canada, it will be at the Thursday Club, sponsored by La Canada residents, attended by La Canadians, and with a La Canada band.”

Rockin for the Homeless I netted $20,000 dollars.  It was meant to be a one-time thing.  However, people wanted it back, subsequently II was born bringing $50,OOO for Union Station.  What will “Rockin for the Homeless III bring?  “This is a testament to La Canada’s affection for Union Station,” Brad said.

Brad and I sat over a cup of coffee trying to intellectualize the essence of this town that speaks to its uniqueness.  What drives us to love our town, it’s schools, it’s dancers, and it’s athletes?  What causes us to bond and come together for fun and service?  The answer to such inquiries was beyond our pay grade.  But Brad brought it home when he implied,  “Whatever makes La Canada a home is what will bring us together at “Rockin for the Homeless III.”  I believe when you try to intellectualize the magic, you lose it.

Come to this event.  Let your hair down!  Go crazy!  Howl at the moon!  You’ll have a great time and you’ll help a bunch of homeless Americans just a couple miles away.  Visit to learn more.

I’ll never forget the night at Glen Island Casino.  It was the first time I asked a girl to dance.  After she said, “No,” I went to the bar and had my first shooter with Yankee, Tommy Tresh, 1962 Rookie of the Year.  That night we even saved Frankie Frisch Field and I asked my second girl to dance and tore it up with the Perfections.



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Thoughts from an Old Spitballer

I’ve been told a million times; stop living in the past, it’s the present that’s important.  There’s no past and there’s no future; all there is ever, is the now.  About the only thing we can get from the past is experience but we can’t relive it.

That’s good philosophy and maybe I should heed such wisdom.  But I can’t help drifting back to the days when I was the best spit-baller east of the Hudson River.

Let me define my terms.  I don’t mean a spit-baller, who throws a spitter’ pitch where-by the pitcher wets one half of the ball with either spit or Vaseline and hurls it at the batter analogous to a curve ball.

What I’m talking about is chewing a piece of paper and shaping it into a sphere.  Then, with your lips puckered as though you were going to kiss your first girl, you blow the spitball through a straw toward an intended target.

Bruce Springfield sings a song called, “Glory Days.”  He laments, “They’ll pass you by.”  All you are left with then are broken down images of what once was.

When I think back about my glory days, I recall getting detention everyday for smacking someone in the face with a spitball.  If I were to do that today I’d be a three strikes offender doing 20 years to life.

Did you read the, “Sheriff’s Report” in the “Outlook,” last July 18th?  Apparently we have a spit baller living among us who hit a La Canada resident in the cheek with a spitball.  There was an actual crime report filled!  I kid you not!

With the advent of this calamity La Canada is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.   Dr. Peter Veckman one of the scientists from the movie, “Ghost Busters” describes our fate.  “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

Something happens every day that makes me want to throw myself under a bus.  After reading the July 18th crime report, I wanted to throw myself under a bus twice.

My sensibilities are not poignant and I make no apologies for not sympathizing with the La Canada resident hit in the cheek with a spitball.  There is a duality to existence.  Look at the world and you will see sublime splendor, and then when you open the other eye you’ll see the rampant tragedies of life.  There are young men and women all over the world dying for misplaced causes.  There are psychotic teenagers blowing up people in Boston.  There are tsunamis and earthquake humbling humanity bringing catastrophes that change the existence of nations.

We are too willing to squander our sensibilities on a frivolous happenstance for the illusion of feeling safe under the slightest affront of an appearing offense.  Having resilience and being able to discriminate what’s real and what’s imagined relative to what negatively affects us has been undermined.  If we think everything is offensive and that everything is tragic then what will become of us when things really go south.  Hypersensitivity to life’s mishaps will not make us better.  It will weaken us.

Recently, I went back East with the LCHS Orchestra.  After overdosing on violins, I took the number 2 train uptown back to my neighborhood in the Bronx.  I was reliving my glory days.  My grammar school, Saint Frances of Rome had chains on the doors and boards on the windows, but I managed to visit my 8th grade classroom.  The crucifix still hung on the center wall but I was more intrigued by the ceiling.  When I looked up, I saw a smidgeon of tiny wadded up spitballs cemented to the ceiling of the classroom. I had a big smile on my face because fifty-three years ago I put them there.















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