Category Archives: Family

Back in Los Angeles — But I have photos!


Back in Los Angeles since the end of February, technical challenges: My 10-year-old laptop finally gave it up and resuscitation efforts have proved not financially prudent. So, I’m posting this on a new machine, which is awesome, though I’m orders of magnitude poorer.

What to do? It’s a necessity — few things are, but a computer, for me, seems like one of them. Anyway — while I was in Milwaukee I took a bunch of pictures I have yet to post on the blog, though some have made it to Instagram (follow me there @jimbola2).

Up in the Rafters at Milwaukee City Hall


The other day my brother called, mostly out of the blue, with an opportunity I had never considered: he wanted to know if I’d like to tour the Bell and Clock Towers at the historic Milwaukee City Hall. 

Of course I said yes. It was a bright, cold day and much of this experience would be on open-air platforms, so I bundled up and headed downtown. I met my brother Bill Arnold (Public Information Manager for Milwaukee Common Council, City Clerk’s Office) in the echoey lobby of the old building and we made our way up to the top (8th) floor of the offices. From there we had to climb a series of staircases.

From the first level we climbed a staircase to the Bell Tower level, which held, you guessed it, the Bell, (the 22k pound bell was named for Milwaukee founder/first mayor Solomon Juneau) and also rooms which, according to Bill, were the Bell Keeper’s apartment back in the day. He (I assume the Bell Ringer was a man) and his family would live up here, and it would be his job to ring the bell and probably also to take care of the clock maintenance. Of course, this reminded me of the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and I figured this old building must be haunted.

We were on the Bell level when the hour struck, now mechanized with an electric hammer ringer. But — I was allowed to ring the bell using the rope, which requires some strength and momentum. Alas, no pictures of that. But I was proud of my old small self!

From there we had to climb up another level to the clock. This was the circular staircase in the photos below. Tried to position Bill so you could get a sense of perspective on the size of the 4-sided clock.

This trip did not go up as high as we could, which would have been to the cupola, where there’s a space to stand and where the flag pole is — it was just too cold for me and I’m not that great with heights. (The flag was at half mast that day for the murdered children of the high school in Parkland, FL. )

Here are some other views of the City Hall (styled after the Hamburg Rathaus), built in the 1890s. Enjoy, and thanks Billy!


Train Trip Diary #2: New Orleans


Train trip continues – first leg of my monthly pass was Los Angeles-New Orleans, where I got off the Sunset Limited. My sister and brother-in-law (Kate and Dave) picked me up at the station.

Here’s the train near dusk entering Morgan City, Louisiana:

Most of the days there were filled with family catching up. They live in the Uptown neighborhood, about a block from the Mississippi River levee, in a very quiet little corner of NOLA that Dave has called a “quiet small Southern town.”

I have to agree. Love being there, I love the quiet and the pace. So so different from Los Angeles. And everywhere the divine decadence of the old city collapsing, almost: the streets are unbelievably uneven with potholes everywhere; the sidewalks are cracked and chipped or non-existent. The songs of cicadas rise and fall as you walk, the Spanish Moss hangs from the trees and often buildings sport saplings or other plants from their own facade cracks.

Here’s me walking to coffee in Uptown:

I’ve been there often enough now to have pretty much seen most of the tourist spots and now my favorite activity is just to walk and absorb the city: its people, architecture, culture — which of course includes music, and I was there for Jazz Fest activities.

We didn’t go to the Jazz Fest grounds, but a lot of the musicians play in clubs around town during the event, and we did get to see one of my favorite NOLA musicians, Jon Cleary.

Here’s some rain porn for a parched Southern Californian:

Sex notes — I’m not having any here, but I do have thoughts/opinions on it — On looking for sex so far – it’s the apps, it’s all about the apps, it’s Adam4Adam. The same thing I typically get at home – headless or totally photo-less guys emailing me asking me if I’m interested in sex. I don’t even bother answering anymore. Especially on that site Adam for Adam – the only reason I keep it is that I still would like to meet this one L.A. guy some day and so far as I’ve seen, he’s not on Grindr or Scruff. And of course, I would never run into him in the real world, because who goes out anymore? How we’ve changed, in such a short time.

I thought about writing this last night and this morning, and decided maybe I should try cruising, you know street cruising, again, which I’ve largely avoided since prostate cancer surgery for a number of reasons. There’s also the part about being old. It usually doesn’t happen anymore, that instant eyeball connection that was made in public so often in the younger years. But sometimes it still does happen.

It’s still fraught with danger, somewhat, in that you never know if you’re cruising a straight guy who will be offended and possibly violent. Or, if you cruise a younger guy—and at this stage, they’re ALL younger—you risk coming off as a creeper. So I usually don’t – make initial eye contact, or do the 1-2-3 turn-around-and-look dance.

One of the days we went up to City Park to look at the sculpture garden and have coffee and beignets. At least I did. Some pictures of that park below.

One sculpture in particular caught my fancy, it was for the Resistance Fighters. Obviously super relevant in the age of Trump.

Here’s some pix from the NOLA portion of the trip:

Student Video from a Long Long Time Ago (well, 1978)


My nephew recently found this and had it converted from the original super 8 film to digital. The woman in the short film is my sister, Pati Arnold. The baby is my nephew, Joe Wantoch. This film was taken in the fall of 1978 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Streets were Bartlett Avenue and North Avenue and Oakland Avenue.

The film class assignment was probably something on the order of “do something with a beginning, middle and end and try to remember to cut on the action.” At least that’s what I seem to remember. The film class would have been at Marquette University.

Oh, it’s silent, so there’s nothing wrong with your speakers.

He Died on Hill 346


It’s hard for me not to have “Suicide is Painless” (the theme to MASH) going on in the background as I write this. Yesterday I found some information on my uncle, my mother’s brother Dick Lee, who has always been, at least for all of my 60 years and more, an MIA from the Korea War. It was always like an open wound for her, I believe. She died several years ago, having long been the last survivor of her nuclear family.

Yesterday was Memorial Day. I found The Korean War Project online, which has a database of casualties from that war, and a lot more information — such as what battle these soldiers were fighting when they were killed or taken prisoner or MIA-ed. So now I know where he died, and found this place on a Google Map.

It’s a place called Chorwon, North Korea. It’s close to the border, it’s close to Pyongyang (the capital of that country). The google camera car doesn’t go to North Korea, so you can’t really spy on the street scenes there.


But we know it was a place named only by a number. It was Operation Polecharge and it was Hill 346. He died on his 22nd birthday, October 16, 1951. He was 22 years old. He left behind a wife and a soon-to-be born daughter, my cousin Marie-Ann. I wonder what he was like — was he serious and reserved, like my mother, or was he a happy-go-lucky kind of guy? She was always called effervescent; I imagine he was a combination of both poles. Operation Polecharge. I wonder what he thought about that day on Hill 346.

This is where it is:


I know my mother gave the government a DNA sample years ago as negotiations continue for North Korea to return the remains of all U.S. soldiers lost there. Hard to believe, but this continues all these years later. There’s not been a match for Dick Lee yet.

The great quiet


IMG_20140107_225805The quiet after the woman has gone










Fifty years or more, still the light comes through like it always didIMG_20140115_161335












IMG_20140115_161858What secrets what joys did the battered ceiling keep in










Mourning redemptive IMG_20140115_162310











IMG_20140115_163901Playground laughter seeping undenied










IMG_20140116_171946Lovers, and lovely places, a man’s voice, a small wave crashes on the shore









Light flickered for a brief instant
























So many clues  IMG_20140120_152326











IMG_20140121_174927every book, a unique story











and yet, abandonedIMG_20140121_200618












IMG_20140122_093121life goes on












Photo snaps put through Instagram process. The apartment (of a deceased relative) is in New York. I recently realized I still had these on my phone and thought they were haunting. Photos originally taken August, 2013.

Other New York: The 9/11 Memorial, The New WTC Building, and Zuccotti Park


Not that there was any theme to my recent trip to NY than to help with family matters — but I did want to see the 9/11 Memorial.

It’s free, you need to get a timed reservation which cost $2 for processing online; however, the morning I went (Sunday at about 11 a.m.) they were letting people without reservations in and I don’t think there was any wait for it.

As you can see in the pictures, the memorial pools are stunning. It’s impossible to see the bottom of the drain, so to speak, from the viewing areas around the perimeters of the fallen towers’ footprints. So for all you know, they go down to the center of the earth.

Even though there are signs everywhere reminding folks that this is a place where a mass murder happened, there were the usual groups of tourists posing for photos with the dramatic backdrop. Can’t say I blame them, really, as the very act of showing up serves to remember that day.

I took pictures of a couple of names: David Angell, who was a writer/producer on TV shows such as “Cheers” and “Wings,” I had met and in fact interviewed when we both worked on the Paramount lot. He and his wife were passengers in one of the planes that day.

Mark Bingham was a gay man from San Francisco who is thought to be one of the people on Flight 93 who fought the terrorists back. He was well-known in the community, and was involved with the gay rugby team. The night of September 11, a community shrine went up for him (as well as for the other 9/11 victims) at the corner of 18th and Castro in San Francisco.

There’s the new WTC, now topped off and looming over Manhattan, an enormous structure. Then finally, I took a photo of Zuccotti Park, just blocks away. Now cleared of Occupy Wall Street, you’d never even know they were there. I can’t help but feel this is a sleeping giant we’ll be hearing a lot more from in the next few years – and that’s a very good thing.


Joan Arnold, 1920 – 2013

Joan Helen Arnold

Joan Helen Arnold

Tomorrow — Friday, August 16 2013, we will memorialize and bury my aunt Joan Arnold, who died last week (August 8, 2013) in a New York hospice at the age of 92.

The day before she died she told us that she wanted to get strong enough to return to work: “You know, I’m a workaholic,” she said. A pretty amazing force of nature, Joan had one job – and still had it the day she died – for at least 70 years, all of which were spent at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Which means she started working for that company – which was only a local bookstore back then – during World War II. She once joked to me that they had to keep her on, at least to shelve the books, because she was the only one there who knew the alphabet, a not so subtle dig at how educational standards have fallen.

A single straight woman who never married and had no children, Joan was always a role model for me as she was so totally comfortable in pursuing her single life in the big city, always fiercely independent, even last year refusing to be walked up to her apartment door by a middle-aged relative. “I do this by myself every day,” she said, adamantly.

She led an enormously busy life as well. A season ticket holder to the Metropolitan Opera, I think she also saved every single Playbill for every play she ever attended – and she went to the theater constantly. Not odd, as she was a former actress and stage manager, having appeared in many Off and Off Off Broadway plays in the 1940s and 50s.

"Rehearsal--Robert Carson, director of the Tophatters, gives final instruction to his leading ladies before curtain goes up ... on the off-Broadway group's presentation of 'The Wallflower' at the Central Y. M. C. A., Hanson Place. At left is Joan Arnold. Beverly Zatt, center, plays the title role." (1952)

“Rehearsal–Robert Carson, director of the Tophatters, gives final instruction to his leading ladies before curtain goes up … on the off-Broadway group’s presentation of ‘The Wallflower’ at the Central Y. M. C. A., Hanson Place. At left is Joan Arnold. Beverly Zatt, center, plays the title role.” (1952)

One of the things I always admired about Joan was her volunteerism – within the last couple of years, she was still helping out at her church, where she made sandwiches for the homeless, as well as at the Natural History Museum (close by in her Upper West Side neighborhood) where she was working on a project cataloguing local island birds.

In the past, she was honored by former mayor Ed Koch for her work with the blind.

Next week we’ll leave her apartment forever to the NYC rental wars. This is bittersweet. This is the first place I ever stayed in NYC, as an impressionable child attending the 1964 New York World’s Fair, as well as the launching pad for my first solo European trip in 1974. When I visit New York in the future, I won’t have a living relative here, which seems very odd.

Yet Joan leaves an enormous legacy of spirit. I’m always searching for appropriate models to guide me on that future path. She’s always been near the top of that list, and will continue to be. Farewell, Joan. I’m honored to have walked you home.

A little bit more on Joan’s life, from my dad:

Joan was born in Akron, Ohio. The family moved to the New York city area in the 1920s and eventually settled In the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn. Joan graduated from Our Lady of Angels grade school and Bay Ridge high school, and completed her education at Alfred University in upstate New York.

She graduated magna cum laude, majored in English and drama and won her class literary prize. Joan liked to travel. Besides seeing most of the USA, she also made trips to Russia, China and Egypt as well as western Europe.



photo (6)

(Services were Friday, August 16 2013 at the Crestwood Funeral Home in New York; burial was at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY.)