If it happened in Lemon Grove, Helen Ofield knew about it. But she was no town gossip.
For nearly a quarter-century, the former Big Apple resident celebrated the Big Lemon as president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society. A prolific writer and lecturer, Ofield continues, at 77, to keep the community faith.
“We can only go up from here. Not even the CCP virus from Wuhan can keep this country down,” she wrote recently. “That thought reminded us of Frank Woolworth’s paean to his five-and-dime empire, the 60-story Gothic beauty by Cass Gilbert built in 1913 at 233 Broadway, Manhattan.”
So began an essay on the Woolworth Building — the tallest building on earth at the time (until the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings came along in 1930).
Many of her missives include digital art by her 81-year-old husband, Jack, a former San Diego State University film professor with a long career in the industry, including stints with the National Film Board of Canada and as a writer-director for ABC and PBS and principal in Bowling Green Films Inc. He was an animator, too.
A member of the Directors Guild of America, Jack is joined by Helen at their shop newpacificproductions.com
Helen also is a poet — or at least a master of parody.
The hills are alive with the sound of spraying
the germs that will live for a thousand years;
The hills fill our lungs with corona virus and
We yearn to spray every germ that we fear(s).
A kiss on the hand is strictly verboten,
Corona’s not a girl’s best friend;
A kiss may be grand but will give you a virus,
You’ll lose your charms that once were priceless —
Helen then recalled polio epidemics of the past and her brush with legendary polio survivor Itzhak Perlman. She recalled clutching his $45 million Stradivarius violin in its case with the “$7K bow” as the maestro signed autographs.
Here’s our latest visit with prominent San Diegans making their way through the maze of the pandemic.
Times of San Diego: How are you working during this pandemic? What telework tools are you using?
Helen Ofield: We work online daily and stay in touch daily with a farflung group of colleagues and friends, who are doing likewise.
We love our house and garden, each other and our work in writing, art and historic preservation. For the latter, Helen meets online via blue jeans with the busy board of the Lemon Grove Historical Society. Jack’s work is on Vimeo, Folkstreams, our website, www.newpacificproductions.com, and in lots of collections. YouTube is a bottomless pit of remarkable videos of the visual and performing arts.
How many in your household — number of kids and adults? How are you all getting along?
We are a household of two people — but our three grown children and their families are nearby (even though one group is in Texas). We are worried to bits about all three groups as layoffs have taken a toll and our son’s 24-year-old successful business, Anglers Choice Tackle, is facing hard times like so many of the small businesses that undergird this nation’s economy. They are brave and good and striving, but Great God, there is only so much hard-working people can take.
We stay home, wear masks when venturing occasionally “out” and are forever washing our hands. We keep a container of handi-wipes in the car for flying trips to bank, post office and grocery stores, so that all doors, keypads, surfaces, carts, etc., are handled with wipes, not just our hands. We bought masks from a clever local lady, who makes beautiful, washable masks from various fabrics.
How are you getting food and other necessities? How often do you personally go out, or are you taking delivery mostly?
We don’t leave home without a list, so the trip within 1.5 miles of home is efficient. A couple of dear friends have helped by going to the 7 a.m. “Senior Citizen” shopping hour. We order in from a good local restaurant, Giardino’s, which is hanging on by its chinny chin-chin.
They deliver at a pre-set time to our front porch and we leave an envelope of cash, which is King, Queen, Duke and Duchess. We wave to each other across the driveway.
Aside from official local, state and government channels, how are you getting news about the outbreak? How much social media do you use?
We look at all kinds of TV and online news media. We read widely, all kinds of viewpoints, and are dismayed by the closed-mindedness of so many at a time when we need inquiring minds. After all, this country was built on a set of “firsts” — First Amendment rights of religion, speech, assembly, petition, press. That’s why they’re first. Times of San Diego is a glowing example of “press.”
How do you ward off negative emotions — fear, anxiety, depression? What steps are you taking to preserve mental and physical health?
We are not depressed or anxious and have little “divine patience,” but plenty of divine rage. Our country is being changed in front of us and must live to stand again for the meaning of our founding documents.
We take out our impatience on a treadmill in the garage and gardening. To help cheer pals and family, we sent out Chuckles (old columns) from Lockdown and Jack’s beautiful digital paintings that evoke travels far from Lockdown 2020.
What else do you want people to know about your own personal response to the outbreak?
Despite the Communist Chinese Party’s denials, the source of the pandemic is being ratcheted down to that infamous Wuhan lab and to China’s refusal to inform the world in time (as to the WHO, please). We pity the 1.4 billion Chinese people who are kept in the dark even as millions of their countrymen die.
This ancient, talented people has endured plague, famine, war, slaughter, slavery in a hierarchical society, and a complete lack of freedom, yet has managed to deliver countless inventions to the world, especially two that ironically make the above “firsts” possible — printing and paper-making.
11th in a series. We invite suggestions for interview subjects — prominent San Diegans in politics, business, nonprofits, sports and the arts. Write to Ken Stone, contributing editor, or post a comment.