A New Era

Walter’s adventures and thoughts

Archive for July 2009

Echo Park

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Echo Park is very scenic.  Recently I visited it and was taken by the setting.  Cascading palm trees resting against a hillside,  sitting behind a lake had a very relaxing effect on the people who sat around enjoying the ducks.  Echo Park Bridge I sat there remembering the first time I visited the park.  I was 6 years old and eager to test my fishing skills.  My father sat patiently for hours while I fished.  I caught nothing.

Finally my father said it was time to go.  No sooner had he called an end to the days fishing expedition I felt a tug on the line.  I reeled in the  first catch of my life.  Once out of the water it was clear I could not boast  about my skills as I did not catch the fish.  It caught me.  Apparently it had been swimming by my hook when it got snagged by it.  The hook was embedded on the side of its body.   The saying”I will take luck over skill any day’ could not have been more poignant than at that moment.    After pictures were taken, I returned the fish to its home.

People do not realize how beautiful ‘Old Los Angeles is.  Downtown From Echo Park


Written by waltermelton

July 16, 2009 at 1:55 am

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The Reunion

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Walter At The Reunion With Classmates And Their Wives

Walter At The Reunion With Classmates And Their Wives

Venturing out in search of finding my niche in Los Angeles  involves many things.  One must understand the position in which he is in order to devise an effective strategic plan to move forward.  That can be quite a task when the nation is experiencing the worst recession since the great depression.  Downsizing is the norm and with that comes an increase in the unemployment rate.  California has one of the highest rates in the nation.   I would be remiss to exclude the fact that I am 55 years old.  It is not politically correct to practice ageism but it is alive and well in the labor markets across the nation.

What do people do when the economy is shrinking?  Some   network network with friends in hopes of finding a job.  Others return to school with the hope of reinventing oneself.  I did a little bit of both.

For years, it haunted me that I had not finished my degree at the University of Pennsylvania.   When I started rebuilding my life, one of the things that had to be done, along with straightening out my horrendous tax situation, was to finish my degree.   It would lift  a 30 year burden  and  provide options as well.

It took roughly two years  to clear up the tax mess.  It taught me something.   Everything has a process to it.  You have to start some place and go through it.  Sometimes things take time to develop.  So last year when I was working through the tax entanglement,  I felt it was time to plant some more seeds and keep the funnel of future accomplishment filled with sprouting possibilities.  Fortunately things worked out for me.

It was at this time last year when I called the Director of Collections at Penn.  She was there when I was a student and was well acquainted with me.  She told me to start making my payments of delinquent loans. When I had made six consecutive monthly payments she could begin to release my transcripts to other universities. However, my goal and dream was to finish my degree at Penn.   As I was under the impression I had to pay my total indebtedness before the hold on my registration would be lifted.   I hesitated for six months before beginning monthly payments in December of 2009.

Originally when I contacted Penn last year,  I talked with an assistant dean.  She was busy each time I was told to call her and I interpreted the situation as not very encouraging.  Then in early December, I  discovered  a female academic coordinator,  there when I was in school, remained in her position.  The receptionist put me in touch with her and she was very engaging and encouraging.  She was glad to hear from me and took the time, over a few days, to inform me what I needed to do to finish my degree.   That conversation inspired me to begin my payments to Penn.

Concurrently, in the summer of last year, I began  locating my old classmates from school.  I graduated from the prestigious Harvard School for Boys (Currently Harvard/Westlake School) in Los Angeles.  It was a  very small school in the 60’s and early 70’s with a total of student body of  approximately 400 students.  Having attended the school together for six years,  we were a tight knit group with an unbreakable bond  and spirit of camaraderie that is difficult to match.   I reached out to Laird our class president.  A man with a warm  heart.   He embraced me immediately though we had not spoken in well over a decade.  I was  hoping  he could hire me in some type of administrative capacity but soon found out he had a different plan in mind.

After a few brunches downtown, Laird asked if I would help him co host our 37th Class reunion and work with him in a new real estate related venture.  I was only too happy to do both.  He approached me in December and we began exploring opportunities in real estate while planning our reunion event.   I started my payments to Penn as well.

In April,  we tracked down most of the class members and it was great to reconnect with the class. There were some amazing stories told to me in learning what my classmates had been doing for the past 37 years.  Working with Laird has considerably shortened the time it build.  Furthermore, people from college and elementary school were finding me on Facebook.  It has been an extraordinary experience.  People are indeed reaching out to each other. It is as if we have  never been apart..  I formed a class website and page on facebook and the guys were bantering back and forth much like we did while we were in school together.

In May, after writing for the LAbeez website for almost a year, I finally attended a long awaited video production workshop.  I had looked forward to that for a long time.  It was one of the components  necessary to reinvent myself-to become proficient in all multimedia applications.

We had  our reunion at The Beach Club in Santa Monica on May 16, one day after my birthday.  It could not have had a better birthday present.    We were all back together and decided to  get behind a non profit organization and use are collective skills to  make something beautiful happen for people.

A week later my attorney called me to tell me  the California State Franchise Tax Board decided to permanently write off my outstanding debt instead of accepting my offer in compromise.  Stunned I asked him why they decided to write off the five figure debt.  ” The man said that you were honest, Walter!!!”,  said my attorney-amazing, a strong testament that honesty is the best policy.

Finally, I called Penn in June.  I only planned to talk to the academic coordinator with whom I spoke in December.  Upon finding out she had retired in May, the receptionist connected me to another assistant dean.  He was very welcoming and directed me in detail as to what to do.  I called the economics department and in short order was approved as an economics major and certified  I had finished all of the required courses for the major.

Administrative policy required I take four courses and earn a “B” or better.  Fortunately I  found  three professors who were willing to accept work for  incompleted courses.     Two courses were with one professor.  That leaves only one science course to take andI shall request a review committee to allow me to take it  in Los Angeles.

In the meantime,  the director of collections informed me she would lift the hold on my registration so I could finish at Penn with the stipulation that I continue making the payments for my delinquent loans and tuition fees while enrolled in new courses, if necessary.   It amazes me how life can change.  I thought it would take me at least a year to even begin taking classes.  I am in the process of completing my degree now.

This is how I am advancing forward–cleaning up more of the past and tying together loose ends.  It is the best way, I believe, to position myself for the future.   It is becoming a lot more fun, this rebuilding process. To celebrate, I joined the recreation center at the University of Southern California where I began swimming and lifting weights to start my fitness program.  Another seed is planted.