Guest Opinion: Village Matters 


Endearing people make Laguna lovely.  

By Ann Christoph

Covid engendered a lot of changes. I no longer look like my photo in the Indy (new headshot coming soon). I adapted to working alone at the office, bringing my lunch instead of going home. 

It saved time, and I was away from more tempting food at home. I ate less, changed food types (almost completely gave up ice cream!) and lost weight. 

Not wanting to be exposed to possible viruses at a salon, I let my hair grow very long. Whatever makeup I used before was abandoned. Masks covered our faces anyway. But more change was needed. I needed to be stronger.  

John Thomas told me he had a trainer. “But he’s very tough.” John’s skeptical expression implied that I might be unable to measure up to this tough trainer’s rigorous program and demands. I called the trainer, Cliff Smith, anyway. I found that he is very demanding but also very kind. I wondered, where was this drill sergeant-like person John had described, so I asked Cliff, “Are you harder on John than on me?” “Of course, I am always harder on men than on women. Women are self-motivating. Men need a stronger push.”  

Cliff confessed other things, like he hesitated to call me back because he had heard all these bad things about me from his other clients. 

Oh dear, what were they? I was demanding and meddlesome and always trying to have things my way. (This was not surprising to me. My kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card, “Ann tends to be somewhat bossy at times,” and I probably haven’t changed much.) And these unnamed clients accused me of being affiliated with those evil people of Village Laguna. (I believe those evil people have helped save Laguna, so that didn’t bother me either.) Probably there was more bad stuff that he was too polite to mention. Little did I know, I was such a subject of conversation in the fitness world . . . I’m glad Cliff is open-minded and believes in giving everyone a chance to prove themselves. Now I get to experience his endearing, encouraging and demanding nature twice a week.

Ray Pierson was not one to make comments like the fitness clients had. His favorite refrain was, “When are you going to run for city council again ?We need you on the council.” Barbara and Morrie Granger have regular neighborhood parties. Ray would be at every one, and every time he told me that same thing—for years! In 2018 I did decide to run for city council. Ray was 89 by then and was having trouble getting around. But there he was at my office door—reached by climbing a flight of stone steps—handing me a $100 bill for my campaign. “Thank you, Ray,” and he was gone. I gave my treasurer the cash, and she deposited it. 

Then she went to a seminar on how to be a campaign treasurer and learned we should not accept any cash. 

Drat! So we wrote Ray a check for a $100 refund, and I wrote a note about why we couldn’t take the cash and left it at his door. A couple of weeks later, he was again at my office door, having climbed the steps again with a check for $100. That is dedication.  

I first met Ray when we bought our house in 1980 and needed more keys for the front door. He was a locksmith who was an expert in the locks of Laguna’s elderly houses. Our house had the original 1933 hardware throughout. 

He duplicated the keys and checked out our locks. “Don’t lose these keys,” he emphasized. “Those require a blank that isn’t made anymore, and I just had a few left.” That was my only experience of Ray other than the parties. When I was on the council in the early 90s, he never called me about any problem to be solved. 

I don’t remember his ever testifying or writing in on any issue. Yet he had a favorable impression and was determined to support me—the opposite of my trainer’s clients, who had other views.  

In 2014, we were early in our fundraising campaign to purchase the South Laguna Community Garden Park and had one of our potlucks. Ray made one of the largest donations we had received at that point. 

“I don’t need that thousand dollars,” he said, “I want it to go toward the garden.” Ray died this month at 93. Quietly endearing. Remembered.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor. She’s also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.

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