Our Laguna: Personal ‘sacred cows’ we won’t give up

The economic crisis has hit hard, with jobs, homes and savings lost. Even the financially secure — what used to be called “comfortable,” have tightened their belts.

However, most folks have least one sacred cow they hold dear, some more costly than others when asked. Family, home, pets and sex have been excluded. No one would be willing to give up those — at least most of the time, although there were times I would have traded my sassy three sons for a cup of coffee and they surely often felt the same about me.

Books would be at the top of my “untouchables” list if it were not for the public library and the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library Book Shop and the Assistance League’s Turnabout Shop, where I get my weekly fix.

So No. 1 for me is my monthly hair appointment — I haven’t seen the natural color of my hair for more than 50 years and I don’t intend to start now. I would give up the chocolate-covered caramels sprinkled with sea salt at the Chocolate Soldier, to which I was introduced by Rebecca Barber — God forgive her — before I stop sending my bed linens to the laundry to be washed, starched and pressed. And I willingly pay extra to have my gas pumped at the Shell Station in Laguna, the only one in town that still offers the service with a smile.


Attorney Gene Gratz wouldn’t give up opera performances — especially now that the Metropolitan Opera is broadcasting its Saturday matinees live in movie theaters. He is a regular at the Met when he is in New York, but now he can enjoy his passion a lot cheaper by going to the Irvine Spectrum.

“It’s $20 instead of the $220 I paid the last time I was in New York,” Gratz said.

And it’s fun.

“We go in jeans and eat popcorn,” Gratz said. “A bunch of us meet at the Spectrum about 9 a.m. for coffee and gossip and then we go to lunch after the performance.”


Makes his day.

Cindy Hartman of Strands and Stitches does needle work and yarn shop knits for pleasure and then goes golfing.

Hartman was one of the knitting instructors at a very well-received class at the Susi Q Senior Center.

Needlepoint teacher Doña, pronounced Donya, Harmon loves living by the beach, eating locally grown, organic foods and lunch at Nick’s with her bike group.

“They don’t care if we are grubby and they give us hot, steamy towels and fresh potato chips,” Harmon said.

Lisa Triebwasser, who teaches what my grandmother called “fancy work” at Saddleback Community College, tops her list with the gourmet food she buys at Sapphire Pantry, followed by regular pedicures and the occasional facial.

Businessman Sam Goldstein was at a loss when asked what he wouldn’t give up.

“That’s because he never gives up anything,” said his wife, Pamela.


He’s still plugging away on the renovation of the Heisler Building on the corner of South Coast Highway and Park Avenue, despite the loss of Tommy Bahama as a tenant, for which specific plans had been developed.

“We had to junk more than 36 plans and wasted 2.5 years,” Goldstein said. “That’s why we are in court.”

The suit has not been settled and with no specific tenant on board, the interior design has to be more generic.

“I am not a happy camper,” Goldstein said.

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson cherishes good theater seats.

“Even when we were our poorest, I always managed to find money for theater tickets,” Johnson said.

True, said her husband, Marv, whose priorities are cheaper and easier to come by: clay and stone

“I’m pretty lucky, I can always find them,” said Johnson, who teaches sculpting at the Laguna College of Art & Design. “They are in the front yard.”


Laguna is built on clay soil and rock — just ask the residents of Ceanothos Drive in South Laguna.

Contractor and designer Gregg Abel would sure miss the mushroom ravioli at Nirvana Grill if push came to shove, but he wouldn’t give up the chili and mussels and fries that come in a broth.

“With slices of bread it’s a meal for me and it’s a family affair,” Abel said.

Nirvana owner Lindsay Rosales-Smith is his goddaughter.

“Also, I am an amateur ‘mixologist’ and I make a martini every night and I am always experimenting,” Abel said.

Bob Borthwick wouldn’t give up Chinese dinners at the Mandarin King in North Laguna.

Polo and horseracing are two of Martha Lydick’s passions. The third is buying books at the Friends of the Library Book Shop — big surprise. Lydick is president of the Friends.

“Good beer or good wine,” responded former Mayor Neil Fitzpatrick when asked. “My answers to your questions always embarrass Ginger [his wife].”

Arnold Hano wouldn’t give up The Los Angeles Times sports section. Hano both reads and writes about sports — his book about one afternoon spent at a New York Giants game when the great Willie Mays made “The Catch” is considered a classic.

Former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman puts her home air conditioning on the reserve list — even though she didn’t use it much this year.

And she loves to travel. She would continue to take trips even in straitened times, just cheaper ones.

She recently returned from Lake Tahoe and is preparing for a trip to Africa.

Her husband, Michael, would rather play golf, Kinsman said.

Surprisingly, Design Review Task Force Chairman Matt Lawson didn’t come up with a list of electronic gadgetry when asked for his sacred cows. His digital video recorder was third, following the gym trips and the trainer and the plein air art he and his wife, Mary, collect.

Like me, Realtor and arts benefactor Bobbi Cox wouldn’t give up her hairdresser.

“I’ve been going to Colleen Marshall since 1986,” Cox said.

And for one brief exception when unwise advisors for her run for City Council talked her into coloring her hair, it is Cox’s crowning glory.

Her crowning achievement might well be the $50,000 she donated to fund one of the dance studios in the Susi Q. She loves dance — and to dance.

“I’ve been going to the Sandpiper on Sundays to dance to the Heat Band for almost as long as I’ve been going to Colleen,” Cox said.

Her other passion: walking on the beach.

“My one round of golf a week saves my sanity,” said Mayor Kelly Boyd. “I enjoy the weather, the camaraderie of friends and just getting away from the daily routine.”

Many seniors have been hit particularly hard by the economy — some have lost their savings, but past Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. President Louise Buckley considers herself lucky to live in Laguna and enjoys giving something back to the community.

“I live alone, but there are young families with children in need and I am working with Sande St. John to make sure they have the Back-to-School materials they need,” said Buckley, the Seniors’ representative on the project.

“Sometimes we seniors get too wrapped up in our own issues, but we need to keep giving. And it is rewarding.”

Buckley also regards her hair appointments as sacred.

“I take two buses to go to the beauty shop,” she said.

And let us all hope that regardless of the economy, the city never gives up its buses.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail