Mid-time at Riviera – WVRC on October 2nd

Yes, we’re still there – and will be next week, also.   Then on the 16th, back to Bel Air.  But in the meantime, today started with the Pledge, led by Sean McMillan. Sean couldn’t resist allowing as how the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled yet, we were OK to use the “Under God” phrase – which suggestion was well received. PP STEVE SCHERER and PP JIM DOWNIE combined to lead us in America the Beautiful, one of our better numbers. DICK ROBINSON provided the Invocation, which came from the legend on a tea towel which Jessie picked up on an Irish trip. It was based on experience – “I have seen” - and concluded that this allowed the writer to know what God is. Good thoughts, and well expressed, DICK.

LILLIAN KLEIWER had the impossible task of announcing any Visiting Rotarians, particularly difficult when no one who was looking for WVRC would know we were temporarily at the Riviera. However, our former member, Dick Littlestone, was there, and was nicely applauded. The date of October 2nd, in history, was memorable for the birth of Mahatma Gandhi in 1869, and almost a century later, in 1950, the comic strip “Peanuts” first appeared – in just 9 newspapers! Pres. PETER had a yarn about the mother who was concerned that her small daughter had just eaten some ants. The hospital assured her that ants weren’t harmful – until they learned that she had given the little girl ant poison to kill the ants! Some fast facts – the first novel ever written on a typewriter was Tom Sawyer – and North America has more wilderness area than Africa, by 38% to just 28% for Africa.

We were reminded that the Paul Harris Celebration Dinner is coming up on November 1st, at the Crowne Plaza in the City of Commerce. PP STEVE DAY is the recipient of your raffle ticket stubs and dinner reservations, and once again we expect to lead the District in PH attendance. As background, PDG ANDY ANDERSON was asked to describe how the first such Dinner came about. In November of 1984, Incoming District Governor BILL GOODWYN called ANDY and outlined his idea for an event honoring Paul Harris – a dinner dance was the plan. ANDY and BILL spent a lot of time and effort growing and selling this idea – and when it happened, it was a big success. Our members who were much involved included HOWARD and ELOISE SISKEL, DAVE and ELEANOR MORE, BILL BLOOMFIELD Jr,  RON WANGLIN, and WALLY FISCHMANN. This was the first such west coast Celebration outside of a single event in San Francisco, and it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Rotary Foundation. So WVRC can take pride in starting a great tradition – and it’s up to us to continue to support this worthy program.  PP STEVE DAY can even arrange car-pooling – so call him!

PP STEVE SCHERER reminded us that the Annual Golf Tournament at Los Angeles Country Club is coming up on Monday, October 13th. Check with STEVE, or CLARK McQUAY to reserve a spot – and you don’t have to be a low-handicapper to participate. As an editorial aside, YOE believes it is probably worth the price of admission just to witness what kind of costume (including shoes) that STEW GILMAN will come up with this time…And while we are on dates, two more, if I may: Our Rotary Auxiliary will gather for lunch at the home of the McQUAYS, on Tuesday the 14th. CLARK will offer a tour of his beautifully tended garden – and again, speaking editorially, YOE suspects that CLARK doesn’t realize how bad his kind of talent and dedication makes the rest of us husbands look… Petie Henkes will take your check, and it all starts at 11:30. Tuesday the 21st is the Yearling Breakfast. HARLAN LEWIS is the Major Domo, and it will be at the Holiday Inn at Sunset and the 405, starting at 0730. It’s a great chance to learn more about the many worthwhile programs of WVRC, and HARLAN needs to know if you’ll be there, naturally.

The first of the month is Birthday time, and we had two arrivals from China! Ro Shaw came along on the 10th, in Fujien, while Pres. PETER chose the 31st, in Shanghai.  The rest of the cast included PP BOB WESSLING on the 8th, in Chicago, with the duo of BILL EDWARDS and MICHAEL GINTZ choosing the 11th – BILL in Bloomsburg, PA, and MICHAEL in good ole Northridge. JAY HANDAL (where have you gone, Jay?) picked New York, on the 13th –same day as the Golf Tournament – and STEW GILMAN was close to home in LA on the 18th. Incoming Prexy RUDY ALVAREZ liked the 23rd, in San Antonio, while PP STEVE DAY preferred Sacramento on the 25th.  BOB THOM chose the 30th, in far-away Detroit, and Get This – BOB TROXLER will be celebrating his NINETY FIFTH the last day of October! Does Evansville, Indiana know about this?

LENORE MULRYAN and husband JOE were both at the head table, and PP DAVE WHITEHEAD had a blowup of a recent article in the Palisades paper, showing LENORE, who, somehow, wasn’t wearing her Rotary Pin. This publicity cost LENORE a hundred big ones – but she got even!  Seems that she has been looking high and low for our Club Banner, the one that fits on a table. This was needed for her presentation to potential Ambassadorial Scholars next week – and who else but Pres. PETER was found to be the villain who was keeping it hidden.  Such kleptomaniac behavior obviously deserved a fine, so between them, they arranged that PETER would pay the same as LENORE. Considering that PETER just forked over 500 clams, this additional fine seems to YOE to be setting a bad precedent for future CEO’s – I kind of assumed they operated under some type of Executive Immunity, or some such protective shield.

Pres. PETER next asked the UCLA Alumni who were present to raise their hands – and I said to our table, “This could cost money”. But PETER was asking if we had seen the back cover of the present UCLA Magazine. When it flashed on the screen, who else but JIM BECHTEL was there, with his dad, Lou. JIM is the current Secretary of the UCLA Alumni Association, and they were shown since Lou had just created an Endowed Scholarship at UCLA – and YOE thinks that costs at least $75K! In a further example of generosity, the Bechtel family has now made a donation to the WVRC Foundation for five thousand dollars – and that sounds like some sort of record donation, at least to YOE. JIM, thanks very much, and please tell your dad how much we appreciate this support.

Jim’s guests were Dr. Jorge Lazareff, and Susan Milliken, the Director of the Global Neuro Rescue organization. Dr. Lazareff spoke briefly, outlining their just-completed trip to Romania. He and his team performed five surgeries while there, each one attended by many local physicians – thus the patients are not only treated, but doctors can, and do, learn the latest techniques during these surgeries. The month before, in August, his team treated seven children in China who were suffering from Neural tube defects – again, with many local physicians there to observe and learn. On this subject, please be reminded that we are planning a major Wine Tasting, in support of Global Neuro Rescue.  Save the date – Sunday, May 16th, please.

Joe Mulryan, our interloper from LA 5, introduced our Speaker, Ryan Ingrassia. Joe first pointed out that LA 5 had sponsored Ryan for his Ambassadorial Scholarship, which he spent in Africa. Ryan is now the District Nominee for the World Peace and Conflict Resolution Scholarship, which will be conducted on an international level – and WVRC is now his sponsor. He attended USC, came back from Africa recently, and LENORE is his Councilor (and he couldn’t be in better hands, YOE would add).

Ryan, whom some of you met at the recent Siskel picnic, began by telling us a Zanzibar Folk Tale.  There was a tree, so large that seven men could barely reach around it’s trunk. The ground underneath was covered my myriad layers of leaves, which had fallen from the tree. The tree decided to grow to Heaven, but God objected, so he pulled it up and set it upside down on the crater where it had stood. Thus, the only thing that now remains of this giant tree are thin strands of roots, straggling toward the sky. This is God’s way of punishing those who try to control his world.

When Ryan arrived in Tanzania in 2002, his goal was to immerse himself in the culture of story telling.  This was a much different agenda from other Ambassadorial Scholars, since he lived among the villagers, without running water, or electricity – a truly unique adventure. In a Masai Village, he listened to stories which were translated from Swahili, probably the dominant local language in that part of Africa.  Tanzania covers 584K square miles, of which 6% is under water. When he checked in to the University of Dar Es Salaam, he found they had no folk story department, which he had expected to join.  So he created one! He traveled mostly by bicycle, starting at Ngorongoro Crater, and began to get used to a diet of goat’s milk mixed with antelope blood!

On the Island of Zanzibar, they have 76 dialects. This is part of Rotary District 9200, which covers FIVE countries, and most of the people are Muslims. While there, he was able to arrange a Matching Grant from RI to build a badly needed Detention House.   In Uganda, where PDG BILL GOODWYN has spent some time, Ryan found that both men and women did the work – different from some areas he visited. In total, he visited four countries, gave talks – and told stories – in three different languages. English, of course, Swahili, and his high school French got him by.

Rwanda was the scene of perhaps the most brutal ‘ethnic cleansing’ ever seen. In 1994, over ONE MILLION Tutus were killed during a two-month period.  The good news is that they are now ethnically integrated, and he helped them start the first public library in the country. While there, his bus ran off the road, and he of course got out of it as soon as it stopped moving. When he returned to the bus shortly thereafter, all his luggage was gone – and the locals couldn’t understand why he had left things in the bus in the first place. He encountered some TV production, and feels this is very relevant to Africa today. He urged us to continue to support our Scholars, and reminded us that Rotarians affect lives!