A Tasteful Romance: Andria & Roberto Lo Grande – November 3, 2012 (Wedding)

Photos by John Mattera Photography

Andria (Trani) Lo Grande went to the Taste in San Pedro in April 2009 expecting to sample the different flavors of town. Little did she know that in addition to savoring the various delicacies San Pedro is known for, she’d also meet her future husband, Roberto.

Andria was introduced to Roberto while hanging out with friends at the Taste. At the time, Blackberries were still popular, so Roberto didn’t hesitate to ask for Andria’s “BBM” (Blackberry Messenger) name. That night, Roberto BBMed Andria and after two weeks of messaging back and forth, they went on their first date to Sushi Fiori in Redondo Beach.

“It was really sweet how he asked me – he asked me in Italian,” describes Andria, daughter of Phil Trani and Michelle Katrich. “He’s full Italian and I’m part Italian, part Croatian.”

The date went well and was a somewhat new experience for Andria as she didn’t really date much prior to Roberto, son of Sal and Maria Grazia Lo Grande. Although always a little “standoff-ish,” Andria decided to venture into a second date two weeks later, where the two enjoyed a night at the movies.

During this time (and in typical San Pedro fashion), one of Andria’s friends was dating one of Roberto’s friends, so they all spent a lot of time together. Then, Roberto had Andria meet his family in November of 2009, and a few days later, asked her to be his girlfriend.

“It was like I had to pass a test before he made the commitment,” Andria jokes.

Andria continued to make the grade in Roberto’s eyes, which was made evident during an October 2011 trip to Vegas for Andria’s and a friend’s birthday. While hanging out with a group of friends in their hotel room, Roberto got down on one knee and popped the question.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says Andria. “We were all just so shocked!”

Andria said yes, of course, and the couple married on November 3, 2012. Their ceremony was at Mary Star of the Sea Parish. Andria’s grandfather, Marijan “Mutt” Katrich, walked her halfway down the aisle, while her father walked her down the rest of the way. There were more than 350 guests in attendance and their large wedding party consisted of many relatives and friends.

On Andria’s side were Maid of Honor Cassie Redlew; bridesmaids Shannon Fredericks, Nicole Trani, Paola Palma, Cara Williams, Rindy Vidovich, Christina Lo Grande, Melissa Malahni, Stephanie Fiamengo, and Carly Potter; and flower girl Lauren Fredericks. On Roberto’s side were Best Men Sergio Lo Grande and Gaetano Lo Grande; groomsmen Phil Trani, Salvo Cracchiolo, Giuseppe Napoli, Paolo Funiciello, Pay Lopez, Jason Dorio, Joe Agrusa, and Eddie Sullivan; and ring bearers Jack Fredericks and Max Trani Hardin.

Following the ceremony, a pre-reception was held at Phil Trani’s Fine Food & Spirits in Long Beach, which is Andria’s father’s restaurant.

“We wanted our guests to have a place where they could go and be entertained since there was a large time gap between the wedding and reception,” explains Andria. “Everyone was able to enjoy drinks and appetizers, and we had a mariachi band that played for everyone and continued to play at the reception.”

Andria’s grandfather was a commercial fisherman and fell in love with the mariachi music he would hear while working on his ship. For Andria’s mother’s and aunt’s weddings, he hired mariachis to play at their receptions, so Andria wanted to carry on the tradition at her own reception.

Roberto and Andria’s reception was held at the Hilton Long Beach, where the couple entered dancing to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” They then shared their first dance to Steve Tyrell’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight,” followed by the father-daughter dance to Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl.” Also featured at the wedding were a variety of Italian and Croatian cookies, which were homemade by family members.

Following their special day, the couple spent a week in St. Lucia for their honeymoon.

Currently, Roberto and Andria reside in San Pedro, and Roberto is a superintendent on the docks, while Andria is a registered nurse at San Pedro Hospital. They hope to buy a home and start a family soon. spt

Downtown Hasn’t Shaken its Vacancy Problem

The number of For Rent signs in downtown hasn't changed much in more than five years (photo by Megan Barnes).

Downtown San Pedro looks a lot different than it did half a decade ago. Trolleys run up and down cleaned streets under crisscrossing lights that have given the area new charm. Just two months ago, the streets were blocked off for a festival celebrating the town’s 125th anniversary that drew thousands.

But despite all the momentum, there remains an undeniable, and quite visible problem: a number of “For Rent” signs still hang in shop windows up and down 6th and 7th streets. In August, Williams’ Book Store closed its doors after more than 100 years, and Jolly Burrito packed up and moved to Pacific Avenue.

“Nobody’s going to rent an empty space when on both sides of it is a business that’s suffering or another empty space,” says Warren Gunter, owner of P&M Management, which houses businesses like Niko’s Pizzeria and The Surplus Guy. He says two of his 12 spaces are currently vacant.

Gunter himself owned the former San Pedro Jewelry Mart on 6th Street. He thinks a lack of advertising to attract new day-to-day customers is what keeps tenants with staying power, and who will increase property values, from opening up shop.

“You could fire a cannon down the sidewalk. There’s no traffic downtown because there is no effort to bring in new customers on a day-to-day basis. The idea of these two-day parties that bring a lot of people downtown — well what happens the rest of the 365 days of the year?”

But others say the pre-Del Amo Mall days of residents doing much of their shopping downtown are over and it’s time to find a new brand or niche market to draw visitors. With the success of the First Thursday Artwalk and two new theatre companies moving into an already theatre-rich area, downtown seems to be shaping itself as an arts and dining district.

“There’s a certain charm around here. I think more and more people will think of this as a place to come eat and retailers will be more of the funky stuff,” says Alan Johnson of Jerico Development, another major commercial real estate company downtown, and one of the developers overseeing the makeover of Ports O’ Call Village. He estimates vacancies are about what they were when the Business Improvement District, or PBID, was formed six years ago, but says the area is making progress finding its new identity.

“Galleries and funky little shops will appeal to a crowd that’s looking for something different because we’re not going to be Hermosa Beach, we’re not going to be Long Beach; we have to carve our little niche.”

But downtown’s thriving community of artists and galleries isn’t necessarily open to the public on a regular basis, adding to the number of closed storefronts. Some are only open during First Thursdays.

“I hear a lot of concern about that, but otherwise they might not be occupied, so I think it’s actually a real plus,” Johnson says. “I think they really are central to the community we are.”

Inconsistent business hours are a problem among businesses downtown across the board. Some of downtown’s strongest businesses are restaurants with regular hours.

“I think the businesses that are going to survive are going to be the ones that create regular hours and a product that people will want to buy,” says Eric Eisenberg, owner of the Renaissance Group, which owns much of the commercial real estate downtown.

He estimates his vacancies might be better than what they were six years ago. The Renaissance Group recently hired a new marketing director who’s brought in a surge of inquiries through online marketing. A new vegan smoothie shop recently moved into the old Jolly Burrito location on 6th St.

“Do we have more vacancies than we’d like? Absolutely. But the reality is we’ve started a new type of advertising and I think if you talk to me in two months you’re going to see a lot of the vacancies rented.”

Eisenberg’s glass-half-full view of the vacancies is shared by others who stress that downtown’s transformation will take time.

“For the first five years we’ve concentrated on infrastructure, making the district an appealing place to come to, and now it’s time to start marketing,” says Valerie Goodman, PBID’s marketing director. “There are a lot of communities that have been really successful in reinventing themselves and attracting businesses, like Pine Street in Downtown Long Beach, but it takes time and doesn’t happen over night.”

PBID has received some criticism for its focus on beautification.

“No potential business is going to say, ‘I’m going to open a business because there’s twinkle lights and a red trolley car that runs up and down the street empty most of the time,’” Gunter says.

Johnson, who has also been doing business downtown for 30 years, however, thinks it’s a logical approach.

“To me, you don’t just market and scream at people 100 times to come down here,” he says. “You make something that people are going to want to come to and then you market it, so I think we are doing it in exactly the right order.” spt

Cirque du Soleil Redefines World Music with ‘Totem’

photo by John Mattera

Since the Cirque du Soleil production Totem opened in San Pedro on Oct. 11, its acrobatic, multi-sensory narrative of the evolution of mankind has captured the imaginations of audience members of all ages. Close your eyes, though, and you’ll be captured by its exotic, percussive soundtrack – composed by the Montreal-based Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard, who work together under the moniker Bob & Bill – which mirrors the show’s evocative imagery and atmosphere.

Incorporating indigenous music from across the globe, the rhythmic, multi-cultural music of Totem is “a trip around the world, starting from the first nations to today’s modern world,” Dubuc and Lessard said in a recent interview conducted by e-mail. That trip includes such seemingly disparate elements as Spanish flamenco, Native American influences and African rhythms, yet the pair manages to weave everything together in a way that effectively reiterates the Totem story of humanity.

Although tackling such a grand existential project might seem overwhelming, Dubuc and Lessard – who met while attending college and for 15 years have worked together scoring video games, TV shows and films – said they simply followed the script. “Like the evolution of mankind, we started from the beginning,” they said. “It’s the same process as writing for a movie – we have to follow the emotion curve of the performance by creating some (high) points in the music.”

When crafting ideas together for Cirque du Soleil, Dubuc plays keyboards while Lessard drums and sings. “We shoot different ideas and keep the ones we think sound the best,” they explain. “Then, our goal is to synchronize the music with the acrobatic acts. We’re inspired by the script, images from the creation of the show and costume designs, and we also like to bring the acrobats in our studio and work closely together.”

Although Dubuc and Lessard had previously served as musical directors and arrangers for several Cirque du Soleil productions and even produced the soundtrack to the touring production Kooza, Totem – the performances of which feature a live band with multiple vocalists, percussionists and guitarists, including former Genesis and Spock’s Beard singer/drummer Nick D’Virgilio – was the first Cirque show the pair composed. They have since written music for two additional Cirque shows (including another touring production, Amaluna) and are currently working on another Cirque project in development, they say.

“Writing music for Cirque du Soleil is very close to who we are,” they say, noting that Totem took them two years to compose. “Since the beginning, our dream was to write music for big shows like Cirque du Soleil, and it’s a great opportunity for us.”

With its global worldview, it’s hard to imagine a grander platform for Dubuc and Lessard than Totem. By incorporating sounds from numerous cultures past and present and using a wide variety of indigenous musical instruments from Mexican basses to Indian sitars, the show’s music is the aural equivalent to a voyage not only around the world, but also through time. In fact, its seamless meshing of traditional tribal music with contemporary influences makes you wonder if music has truly always been – and will always continue to be – the universal language. spt

Performances of Totem continue in San Pedro at 3011 S. Miner St. (near Berth 46) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 10. Tickets range from $55-$135. For more information, visit cirquedusoleil.com.

Clay Marshall is a San Pedro-based freelance writer who has written for Billboard, Guitar World and the L.A. Weekly, among others. He can be reached at portsounds@gmail.com.

It’s Not About Burning Calories

If you want to lose weight so you can feel confident and have energy without wasting time on methods that don’t work, then read on. What I’m going to tell you may completely change how you look at weight-loss.

Last month, I talked about the comfortable rut. It’s the place so many of us find ourselves in where we aren’t happy, but things haven’t gotten bad enough to change. If you are fed up and ready to end the rut, I want to set you on the right path and keep you from wasting effort and failing because you followed the wrong map.

I am going to assume your goal is fitness. You want a flatter stomach (maybe even abs), a firm butt, better arm definition, and it’d be nice to stop feeling so dang tired all the time.

Oh, and you don’t particularly have a lot of time in the week to do it.

Sound about right? Okay I’m going to show you a few common misconceptions people have about weight-loss and exercise. It may even explain why you’ve failed in the past. Here goes…

Losing weight – Perhaps the most important idea in regards to fitness is this: You do not try to lose weight. You try to lose body fat. There’s a big difference.

Losing weight is easy. Skip dinner and run on a treadmill for an hour. Do that for a month. You will lose a ton of weight (plus your sanity) and start to resemble a bag of skin propped up by a coat hanger.

The problem with most approaches to weight-loss is that it’s a short-term solution focusing solely on getting the number on the scale to drop. It puts you on severe calorie restriction (shakes, appetite-suppressing pills, long bouts of cardio) so that you can get the gratification of dramatic weight-loss.

However the results never last because a.) Nobody can live like that long-term, b.) Your body adapts and it stops working, and c.) Losing a ton of weight quickly means much of that weight is lean mass.

When you lose twenty pounds in three weeks, only a portion of it was fat. Any extended period of severe calorie restriction is almost always followed by a re-feeding period. Meaning, these people almost always gain the weight back. Only now they have less lean mass, making it easier to put on more fat than before.

It is true that to lose weight you need to create a deficit by consuming less calories than you burn in day. The problem is that people take this to an extreme and try to burn as many calories as possible. This leads directly to the second myth: Exercise is for burning calories.

Running or doing cardio alone for the sake of burning calories is a terrible method for burning fat. Your body is an adapting machine and will adapt to virtually anything thrown at it and will steadily get better in any routine until it becomes virtually effortless.

Your body must expend energy (calories) in everything it does. However, your body is a shrewd machine designed to survive so it will constantly try to save energy when and where it can.

When you first start running, your body is shocked by the change. You burn a ton of calories, sweat like crazy and after a couple weeks drop a ton of weight. But shortly after, doing generally doing the same workout stops working and you will plateau. This is the case with any exercise. Lack of variety will kill your progress.

Exercising to burn calories will have you focusing on spending longer and longer periods on the treadmill. Instead, what you should aim to do is increase your metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories all day in and out of the gym.

The right approach is adopting a well-planned strength and conditioning program that will add, not decrease, lean mass. You don’t need a gym or weights starting out either. You couple that with avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed food. Do that and you’ll be well on your way out of the comfortable rut. spt

Girls Basketball Sensations Rule The Courts

Rita Fiorenza of San Pedro High (left) and Angela Wade of Port of Los Angeles High School (photos by Jamaal K. Street).

San Pedro High’s Rita Fiorenza & POLA High’s Angela Wade are focal points for promising 2013-14 seasons, which includes a rare December showdown.

Fiorenza, a junior guard, and Wade, a senior forward, bring a lot of great intangibles to the forefront and have been tearing up the nets from the outset with their amazing talent of putting the ball in the hoop. These two young athletes have led their respective schools to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoffs (San Pedro in Division I, POLA in Division V) in each of the past two seasons.

San Pedro’s first home game for the 2013-14 season is against the Polar Bears, setting the stage for what could be an epic scoring battle if Fiorenza and Wade both have their way. It’s the closest thing San Pedro may have to a Diana Taurasi vs. Tamika Catchings WNBA-type duel.

Fiorenza, who began her basketball playing days at the tender age of nine, came to San Pedro for the 2011-12 season as a freshman. The team was coming off a dreadful 2010-11 season that saw the Pirates win only once in 21 games, losing all 12 of their Marine League contests in lopsided fashion. Since then, she has given the rest of the league reason to think twice about San Pedro being a pushover.

The Pirates still had some problems dealing with well-known powers Narbonne and Carson, but pulled a giant upset over another, defeating Washington Prep for the first time in 20 years. Fiorenza, who averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists, would help take San Pedro to the CIF-LACS Division I playoffs and garner All-Marine League first team honors.

For Fiorenza, there was one moment in her rookie season at San Pedro that stood out the most. “My most memorable game was against Elizabeth Learning Center,” said Fiorenza.

Sure enough, it was her home debut against the Bulldogs. With San Pedro trailing 42-40, only eight seconds remained in the game, and no one knew who was going to be the one to come up with the clutch moment. So Fiorenza took the inbound pass after it slightly went over her right shoulder, and darted to the basket, making a move to slightly avoid a Bulldog defender who didn’t want to draw a charging foul, double clutching a layup in mid-air that softly banked off the backboard and into the basket as time expired.

The crowd inside San Pedro’s gym went bonkers, and Fiorenza was elated and excited and her teammates were electrified. San Pedro eventually lost, 52-48 in overtime despite Fiorenza’s 18 points and signature moment.

“All I was thinking before I got back in the game was that I can do this. I believe in myself, and whatever I do, just get to the hole,” recalled Fiorenza.

There was no sophomore slump for Fiorenza last season, as she started off hot by scoring 26 points against University of Los Angeles, and then 23 in the rematch with Elizabeth Learning Center, which the Pirates dominated with a 72-49 road victory. She missed a couple of key games in the Marine League with an illness that slowed her down a bit. Despite that, San Pedro still made the playoffs again even with just three league wins.

Fiorenza has high hopes for her junior season, both individually and team-wise. “My main goal for me would be to try and be an overall better player and increase my scoring average,” she said. “And my goal as a team would be to do the best in leading my team and making sure we all play together well.”

Meanwhile, Wade is a pure sharpshooter for POLA who can adapt to any style, and the four-year veteran who’s been playing the sport since sixth grade is looking for more for herself and for her team. The Polar Bears look to build off last year’s CIF-LACS Division V semifinal appearance where they lost to Crosstown League rival Animo South Los Angeles for the third time in 2012-13.

“Getting to the semifinals was most memorable because even though we lost, we as a team did our best and fought hard till the end,” said Wade, who averaged 16.7 points, leading all scorers for all of the San Pedro-based high schools.

Friday, December 14, 2012, was a historic day for both Wade and the Polar Bears. Against New Millennium of Carson, Wade lit up the Victoria Park gymnasium like a Christmas tree, scoring 30 points to become the first POLA High basketball player – male or female – to put up a 30-point outing during the Polar Bears’ 69-46 victory. Even with that kind of individual brilliance, Wade was still humble, a lost trait in a lot of young athletes, and was a little surprised by her remarkable achievement.

“I was really shocked and amazed because I never really pay attention to my stats, but it doesn’t matter how much I score,” said Wade. “It’s all about the team and how much we scored together as a team, but the feeling was amazing. I was really proud of myself, but also thankful for a team that helped me get those points. Without them, I couldn’t have scored those points.”

Wade helped POLA post a 19-7 mark and a second place tie in the Crosstown League with a 7-3 record, along with two CIF-LACS Division V playoff victories over De La Hoya Animo of Los Angeles and Sherman Oaks CES, garnering an All-City Division V first team selection.

“Individually, I just want to help my team out as much as I can before I leave,” said Wade, explaining her goals for the 2013-14 season. “As a team, I want to have everyone work together and have a chemistry that will hopefully take us all the way to the championships.”

Fiorenza and Wade both carry at least a 3.0 GPA at their schools, with Fiorenza boasting a solid 3.5.

These two magnificent scoring wonders will have a chance to make a massive statement on December 9, when POLA visits San Pedro for their inaugural crosstown battle and overall bragging rights for their schools. It’s a game that can also bring this close-knit community together because you don’t see this kind of prep showdown very often these days.

Wade and Fiorenza are both looking forward to this latest challenge for different reasons. “To me, it feels just like another game,” said Wade. “But playing against San Pedro should be interesting and fun. I think it will really show not only the Pirates, but the whole San Pedro community what POLA High School is made of, that we are a competitive and good team. We will come with the heart to win and to just play to our fullest.”

“I think it will be a fun game to play in and I’m pretty confident our team will do just fine,” said Fiorenza. spt

Great Streets = Great Community

If we are going to have a conversation about the impact arts can have on a community, we must mention the current talk of the town, the Cirque du Soleil show Totem, which opened in San Pedro last month and will run until Nov. 10.

I took my family to see the show several days after it opened and was pleasantly surprised, not only by the quality of the show and its performers, but by the sense of community that I experienced while enjoying the evening out with my family in San Pedro.

While the show will bring approximately 50,000 people to San Pedro during its month-long run, helping our local economy and our local businesses, the experience of being out in San Pedro at a high-end professional entertainment event as we ran into familiar face after familiar face is something that I have not felt since my parents took me to Ports O’ Call when I was a kid. On a warm summer-like night out we greeted each other before the show, raved about it during the intermission and seemingly floated to our cars after, waving goodnight to each other. It was a very special evening in every way.

The fact that Cirque du Soleil chose San Pedro as its Los Angeles location for Totem, coupled with the fact that the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call Village will start in just over a year, where we will see new retail, dining and entertainment opportunities, is evidence enough that San Pedro is returning to its roots of being a social community that has a lot to offer to its residents and its visitors.

The reception room at the top of Los Angeles City Hall, called the Tom Bradley Room, has an inscription that reads: “The City Came into Being To Preserve Life, It Exists for the Good Life,” a quote from Aristotle. Even though we live in a suburb of the great city of Los Angeles, we are very much part of the fabric of it and participate in the evolution of it.

We live in an urban age. For the first time in history, most people live in cities and the UN estimates that over the next 40 years, the population is going to double on the planet. While we focus on the basics that preserve life – police & fire, maintaining streets and ensuring sanitation – it is equally important that we feed the soul of the city through arts and entertainment to ensure our residents can participate in “the good life.”

The city can support our new and exploding arts community by ensuring that the public environment in our arts district is thriving by being functional and safe. We must ensure there is ample parking, lighting and police patrol. We must work to create more public space that allows for the incubation of even more art, community and entertainment. Our First Thursday Art Walk is an ideal example of this.

A couple weeks ago, Mayor Garcetti issued his first executive directive, launching the Great Streets Initiative. “A great neighborhood needs a great street as its backbone, and, as city leaders, we need the backbone to make the bold changes necessary to build great streets,” said Mayor Garcetti.

The directive establishes a working group comprised of several City departments and headed by Doane Liu, Deputy Mayor of City Services (as well as a longtime San Pedro resident and my former Chief of Staff). The group is tasked with identifying 40 potential “great streets,” and proposing potential improvements – such as lighting, street furniture and landscaping – with the overall goal of increasing economic activity, improving access and mobility, enhancing neighborhood character, increasing community engagement, improving environmental resilience and making safer and more secure communities.

Great streets make for great community. San Pedro has outgrown the more simple utilitarian needs of our parents and their parents and now we must work towards fulfilling our cultural needs. As much as I was excited about the entire evening surrounding the Cirque du Soleil show, I am even more excited that we are closing in on a future for our community that makes my wonderful experience at the show a common experience for all of us.

I commend Cirque du Soleil for their brilliance of bringing their production to San Pedro, but ask all of you to recognize that they did it because it had value to them. San Pedro has lots of value and many of us will be very blessed to experience it on a whole new level very soon. spt

Meeting the Challenge

Our organization has adopted a slogan this year called, “Meet the Challenge.” It is appropriate for so many reasons given the difficulties we and all nonprofits face in attempting to keep up with the demand for our programs and services in an era of a growing “working poor” class.

I am in my 19th year at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor – the challenges have been constant during this time and have become even more severe given the economic realities of the past four years and the difficulties, limitations and sometimes the outright danger a growing number of local families and especially their children must face. I grew up in San Pedro at a much better time – there are MANY more challenges today for our children to address and overcome.

I recently read two articles that reinforced this imperative to “meet the challenge.” In a recent op-ed piece titled “When School’s Out,” two researchers talked about the huge concern of working parents while they are on the job and their kids are out of school. Interestingly enough, Fortune 100 companies employed all the parents interviewed, so they had many resources at their disposal and yet were still anxious and sometimes desperate as to where their children could thrive during those most important hours of 3-6 p.m. Juxtapose that reality with another article stating that Los Angeles has the highest poverty rate among all California counties – a staggering 27%. If parents of Fortune 100 companies are extremely anxious due to uncertainty about where their kids are and what they are doing after school, just think what our growing number of working poor parents of San Pedro and our Harbor Area must feel who have many less options but all of the same concerns and needs.

This is one reason why our “Meet the Challenge” slogan is so very appropriate at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor. Because without the commitment of our Board, staff and our donors, we could not continue to make available the most up-to-date facilities nor sponsor the most comprehensive child development programming possible for over 8,000 youth annually, a number that is growing as our College Bound and Arts Academy programs attract continually more at-risk youth and provide a pathway to their development and success. One illustration: our high school and middle school attendance has increased by a combined 70% over the last two years alone. Now that is a challenge.

But “Meet the Challenge” is also most appropriate for the children we serve. Although we attract all types of youth, our members are more often than not part of our 27% poverty rate. They are often hungry, condemned to poor living conditions, are without basic medical, dental and vision care (another article stated that one in seven Los Angeles school children do not have the glasses he or she needs), may be living without a parent or are in foster care. These children are part of the vastly growing segment of highly at-risk youth. Still, day in and day out I witness our kids who “meet the challenge” and truly overcome such great odds due to their indelible spirit and the efforts of so many caring adults and supporters. These children could easily give up, but with the Club providing a safe place to go and a plethora of programs and activities that allow them to develop and succeed – they do “meet the challenge” and will soon be leading our community and possibly our greater Los Angeles area as productive, caring and involved adults.

These children do not need a handout; they just need a helping hand. If not us, who? If not now, when? spt

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Albert Carranza, Jr. and Vickie Kinner from Harbor Area Paranormal.

“The place that lacks its ghost is a barren place indeed.” – John Hewitt

The Beatles’ “Paul is Dead” was spawned in 1969 and is perhaps one of the most incredulous music industry rumors ever circulated. A buzz that triggered frenzied fans to seclude themselves in darkened, candle-lit rooms, and engage in the meaningful sport of playing 33 1/3 LP records backwards, specifically to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” for the sole objective of hearing the last hushed monotone whispers of “I Buried Paul,” or perhaps to “A Day in the Life,” with ears strained to hear the crackling fire and agonizing screams that offered up “proof” that a car crash claimed the life of, until that moment, as previously perceived by his devotees, the immortal Paul McCartney.

Granted, using the primitive tool of fingers to listen to records backwards hardly compares to the high-tech ghost hunting equipment of today, although the chief objectives remain: to shape something from the invisible, and to make the inaudible, audible.

For the avid paranormal researcher, successfully doing so unearths a virtual mystical toy chest. As evidenced throughout history, folks have delved into unseen dimensions utilizing methods ranging from the solemn ceremonial séance, or teen party game, Ouija Board, to automatic writing, crystal ball or water gazing. In 2002, efforts to communicate with discarnate beings was developed with the “Ghost Box” or “Frank’s Box,” constructed by the electronic voice (EVP) enthusiast, Frank Sumption, for communication with discarnate beings. Although skeptics eagerly insist, and stand ready to prove, that all EVP’s or any “ghost evidence,” is attributed to natural phenomena or obvious hoaxes.

The U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier played pivotal roles beginning with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, to the primary host for air attacks against Al Qaeda training camps and the Taliban military installations in Afghanistan. On a balmy evening in 1998, San Pedran and former Navy Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Vickie Kinner strolled about this historic ship. As she glanced over the ship’s aft section, she heard several distinct painful cries, as if someone was calling out to her. Were these cries from the Enterprises’ massive 1969 fire triggered by an exploding MK-32 Zuni rocket that killed 27 and injured over 300? At that moment, Vickie realized her life’s path: to discover the meaning of unexplained sounds, to investigate the paranormal, to organize her own team and provide positive aid to both those who were unquestionably lost souls, and the people that wanted reach out to them.

In 2007, with that motivation, Harbor Area Paranormal (HAP) evolved. Kinner is adamant that they “do not encourage people to ghost hunt unless they thoroughly study the subject and go with experienced folks. Additionally, we don’t want people to trespass for reasons of possible criminal and spiritual danger.”

Other ghost hunters of the nonprofit, no charge for investigations HAP, include Albert Carranza, Jr. who, along with Kinner, taps into their digital recorders, infrared cameras, electro-magnetic and electronic voice phenomenon field meters, (EMF and EVP) in attempts, to coin a phrase from AT&T’s 1979 slogan, “Reach out and touch someone.” HAP has been privileged to attend some of the explorations on the Ghosthunters and Ghost Adventurers TV series but they keep busy in our Harbor Area with ample ghost hunting explorations.

Kinner is unwavering in her opinion that, “San Pedro is very haunted.” An important objective of HAP, who is also an official member of the Southern California Paranormal Alliance, Inc., is to remain aligned with the scientific community via experimentation to prove or disprove the validity of paranormal claims. In addition to researching claims, HAP actively supports the troops, specifically the Marines as they adopted a unit from Camp Pendleton and provide shoes for the Wounded Warriors in Afghanistan. “We don’t seek out locations, if people need help they can contact us via our website,” said Kinner.

HAP’s website includes the results of several investigations, including the San Pedro Warner Grand Theatre. “The theatre is very active with the paranormal and we captured numerous EVPs and apparitions,” said Kinner. “While backstage and in the dressing rooms, one of our members heard what sounded like someone wearing dress shoes and moving very quickly. In the theatre smoking lounge, which is located downstairs below the popcorn stand, we heard disembodied voices and captured cold spots, and shadows.” Dimitri Nimoy, a former Warner Grand employee, cements these findings with his own. “One night, while working the concession stand, I felt a distinct finger poke on my leg,” he said. “I’ve seen theatre seats move, heard footsteps and mumbling voices. I’d be fixing the popcorn solo, yet I knew I was never alone.”

Anna, a local San Pedran, was a confessed skeptic until she heard the distinct sound of footsteps and saw shadowed images in her 80-year-old home. “After purchasing our home, we were told by a former member of the Cook family who owned Alma Market that she was aware of certain activity in the home,” she said. “I decided to consult with Kinner’s group and tap into their resources. When HAP entered my home they were immediately aware of energy and captured EVPs and an apparition. Their investigation uncovered what we knew was present and following the research I felt a sense of relief, I was no longer frightened and ceased living in a hostile environment.”

For obvious reasons, no hunt is typical, although HAP does adhere to a basic procedure. Most pertinent is the explanation to the client that the team is unable to “clear” a home of paranormal activity, as Kinner clarified: “We investigate and reach viable conclusions, be the end result paranormal or non-paranormal. Family and witness interviews are conducted and we walk through the location, and hear details of the experience. Afterwards, it’s time for the electronic equipment, our cameras, audio recorders and the other devices that we place near where the purported activity has been noted. We take notes on the environment, including baseline temperature room readings and ask the spirits questions to try to get them to manipulate our equipment or items in the room, such as opening doors, moving objects or other things noticed by the family. One of the main things we spend time doing is attempting to find non-paranormal reasons for the activity that has been experienced. Once our investigation is completed, we send an email to the family with a reveal of evidence, either non-paranormal or paranormal, and include suggestions for reducing or dealing with the activity.”

If uninvited guests are knocking at your door, Harbor Area Paranormal’s expertise will help solve the puzzle. Vanished are the days of ruining your record player needles and, as we all know, Sir Paul McCartney is indeed among the land of the living. spt

For more information on Harbor Area Paranormal, visit www.harborareaparanormal.com.

San Pedro Through The Eyes Of A Master

Evrika “Evo” Zatikyan may be a man of few words, but his paintings — more than 6,000 in the past 20 years alone — speak volumes. The prolific Armenian painter spends hours behind the canvas creating impressions of colorful everyday scenes that capture and explore the human experience.

In honor of San Pedro’s 125th anniversary, Zatikyan turned his eye on the town for a special set of paintings that were unveiled on Oct. 19 at the Croatian Cultural Center on 7th Street. It wasn’t his first exhibit at the center, but Zatikyan is the first featured artist in the Art Without Boundaries series, which collaborates with consulates to showcase international artists in both Los Angeles and their home countries.

“I’m touched by the city’s view, by its scenic sea, and I’m very fond of sea life,” Zatikyan says through friend and fellow artist Martiros Hakopian, acting as a translator, who will also be featured in the Art Without Boundaries series. “And the people here have a good energy.”

Zatikyan went to art school in Armenia and spent eight years imprisoned in Siberia for his politically themed paintings before coming to the United States 20 years ago. Today he paints on a daily basis and his work hangs in public and private collections throughout Europe and the United States, including Rutgers University.

He recently spent time in San Pedro that inspired several paintings of the Harbor. Cranes rise in the distance over colorful waters that reflect the busy port as undefined passersby go about their day. Ripples of water hug a scene that takes in sail boats against the Palos Verdes Peninsula. His style recreates a sensory experience of life on the waterfront and the spirit of a port town.

“I do everything under impressions, and the impressions here are really touching me,” he says. “The ocean always gives big energy, so I like to capture that.”

More than 50 people, including Armenian Consul Suren Vardanyants, attended the exhibit of his paintings of San Pedro. Zatikyan was presented with awards from the offices of Congresswoman Janice Hahn and State Senator Roderick Wright.

“I think it’s a great contribution to San Pedro,” says Maya Bristow, president of the Croatian Cultural Center. “Art Without Boundaries is going to create a dialogue for artists like Evo. It’s a cultural cross-promotion.”

Zatikyan has been invited to give an exhibit in Armenia, and also plans to show in France and Croatia.

“He is a master of capturing the moment, he can capture moments better than a camera,” Hapokian says. “Why? Because the camera gives you dry images, but art involves emotion. It might not be photographic resemblance, but it’s character resemblance; the soul, the moment.”

Zatikyan spent 20 years painting 12 hours a day.

“I meet a lot of artists and Evo is one of a kind,” Bristow says. “It is very nice to celebrate his generosity and his vision of San Pedro. We are very happy to have him.” spt

The Art Without Boundaries series features artists from around the world and can be viewed at the Croatian Cultural Center (510 W. 7th St.) For more info, visit www.croatianculture.org.

Some Things Are Meant To Be

In March, I wrote a column about Tripod, our 14-year-old, three-legged dog. Originally, she wasn’t supposed to have been ours at all, but some things are just meant to be.

I found her in Banning Park as a four-month-old red-brown puppy with a broken left hind leg. We weren’t looking to adopt a dog just then and vowed to find her a good home. Before we began the search for an adopter, however, we took her to our veterinarian to see if there was a chance to save the injured leg. Unfortunately, it was beyond repair, but, if it was amputated, she stood every chance of living a normal life with just three legs. Amputation required a canine orthopedic surgeon, at a cost of $1,500.

Finding someone willing to take on a dog with such a hefty price tag was impossible. The alternatives were: 1.) Turn her in to the county shelter, virtually assuring she’d be euthanized, or 2.) Adopt her ourselves. Obviously, she was just meant to be ours, and for 14 great years Tripod was the belle of both our home and our print shop. Sadly, in July, we had to let Tripod go after her spinal cord became compromised.

I recount this story because history has repeated itself. After we lost Tripod, our friend Camilla Townsend asked her good friend, artist Stan Hicks, to do a watercolor painting of Tripod that we could hang in the shop for all her “fans” to see. The painting (which is outstanding) was unveiled during September’s First Thursday Art Walk at fINdings art gallery. Since Stan specializes in paintings of dogs, the show was also billed as a fundraiser for a local dog rescue service called Doggies 911 Rescue. In order to entice people to donate to that organization, Marilyn Vittone, one of the partners in Doggies 911 Rescue, brought an adoptable rescued puppy to the event: a five-month-old red-brown puppy with a fractured left hind leg in a cast.

She knew nothing of our history with Tripod, and to have chosen to bring that particular puppy from the scores of dogs in her care was, to us, like déjà vu all over again. The message couldn’t have been clearer: We were there to adopt this puppy… some things are just meant to be.

We named the puppy Alfie, but before he could come home with us, he had to spend two weeks at South Shores Pet Clinic until his cast was removed. During that time, we visited him often and got to know and really admire Marilyn, her partner, Masumi Hara, and Dr. Mark Weimer at South Shores. Doggies 911 Rescue’s motto is “No dog left behind,” and they specialize in homeless dogs with special needs that make them unadoptable. They rescue animals from shelters all over Southern California. With their personal funds, and with some limited outside donations, they fix whatever problems a dog may have before finding it a good home. For example, one night, while we were visiting Alfie, they brought in a small puppy for emergency surgery to remove nuts, bolts and metal scraps from his intestinal tract, which he had ingested while homeless and wandering the streets. He’ll be fine and will get a good home.

Even though Dr. Weimer and staff donate many of their services, Doggies 911 nonetheless accumulates huge medical bills. They’re constantly in need of donations. Please stop by and meet them and their adoptable dogs, Saturday mornings at Petco on Western Ave., or go to their website: www.doggies911rescue.org. You might find a new best friend that was just meant to be yours, or by donating, make it possible for someone else to find theirs. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.