OPINIONS…..Breaking the Myth of San Jose, Costa Rica

Downtown bus station, in San Jose, Costa Rica, where a transport employee announces upcoming departures and arrivals for those in transit. (Photo by sallyricefotos ©2012)

In the morning I talked with Fabrizio about the global economy. He and his wife and child had immigrated to Costa Rica a few years ago, following “the crash.”  They came here to escape a failing economy, just like the rest of us. Distraught and confused in a world that is falling apart at the seams, his family found prosperity in San Jose.

I shared with him my fear of returning to Italy, because having lived there in the 70’s and 80’s, when life was like a freshly opened bottle of champagne, I feared returning to a culture I suspected would not handle an economic downfall easily.  The Italians would be a miserable lot to deal with when the glass was half empty, when doom was lingering on the horizon.  There was no way I wanted to be there to witness its demise.

“Oh absolutely, the Italians are very depressed right now. They have so many problems, with what is happening in Greece, and Spain, well the mood is very bad.” Fabrizio said shaking his head and releasing a heavy sigh.

“Yeah, I don’t want to be around them when they’re in a bad mood. It can’t be pretty.” We both laughed.

Holding onto warm and fuzzy thoughts of Italy in its prime (and my prime) I headed for new frontiers.  Since Sarah had announced so matter of fact that Costa Rica was the new Mecca, a paradise far removed from the rat race – hell, I was all over it.

“Well, I’m off to explore San Jose, see ya’ later.” I said throwing my camera on, with a heavy 200 mm lens.

“Watch out with that camera of yours,” said Eduardo, the manager on duty at the front desk.

“Of course, but, like, what are they going to do to me? Shoot me?” I asked, wanting to get to the bottom of the warning.

Eduardo, a 20-something and dressed in a crisp white dress shirt and black slacks burst out laughing.

“Oh no, there’s no guns here. People don’t do that,” he grinned.

“OK, great. So what, are they going to Stab me with a Knife then?”

“No no no. There’s no violence like that here. No, that would never happen.” He added still laughing at the absurdity of the question.

“So what’s the big deal? I don’t get it?”

“Because some times someone might take something if you leave it, or they might try to grab it if you are not paying attention.”

“Well, duh, that’s just common sense.” I answered.

“Here, I’m going to give you this map to show you where to go to get good pictures. Here we are in Barrio Amon, and here is Barrio Otoya. These are very nice areas, but don’t go over here, or here.” Eduardo made two big X’s on the map north and south of the Hospital Blanco Cervantes.

“Ok,” I said.  “I’ll make sure to avoid those areas.” I stuffed the map into my backpack for safekeeping, and headed out the door.

“Yeah right. I’ll make sure I don’t go there!” Heavens, if I’d followed that advice any time I wouldn’t have seen half the world. Especially Buenos Aires, when my girlfriend told me not to go into the barrio where even the police warned me not to go.  I got my best shots there. Never listen to that crap. It’s so paranoid.

I wandered through the streets aimlessly, just following my instincts. It felt a lot like Palermo, circa 1978.  The whole mood, the colorful buildings, and the way people were dressed. The people on the street, and in the shops were very friendly.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable for a second.  A few people stopped me on the street and with a gentle arm, touching my shoulder said: “Be careful with your camera.” I thanked them for their concern.  Mothers and their babies were everywhere, with happy smiling faces.

The streets were busy with lots of traffic, and some areas were a bit run down. But I noticed how clean the streets were. It was an immaculate city, if you could look beyond what can only be described as certain “third world elements,” although I really don’t like that expression.

After a few hours, and thoroughly lost, I pulled out the map Eduardo had given me.  Of course I was smack in the middle of one of the X’d out neighborhoods which only made me laugh.  I made my way towards the city center, aiming for Plaza de la Cultura.

Whenever I go to a new country, or a new city, one of the first things I do is find a central crossroad, preferably in the heart of the city, where I can people watch, to get a good perspective of what the local culture is all about.  Plaza de la Cultura, in front of the Teatro Nacional, and flanked by the Hotel Grand, with its elegant Café Parisienne is the perfect vantage point to study the cultural vibe.

A man was playing 50’s musical soundtracks on a baby grand piano in the lobby while I sat at a patio table with white linen watching classic waiters dressed in black and white scurry about giving 5 star service.  The mood was so Casablanca. I ordered gazpacho soup. It was delicious.  After a few hours studying the people, I was beginning to get a better sense of what ‘Pura Vida’ was all about.

I confess, the term had eluded me till now. Yes everyone says “Costa Rica is Pura Vida,” and before coming here, I’d heard it a million times.  But I really didn’t get it beyond the literal translation “Pure life” and the assumption that Costa Rica was all about Chill.

scenes from san jose, costa rica

Pura Vida

Before coming here, I’d combed the Internet and travel guides for images of Costa Rica, and San Jose. It was very disappointing indeed. I never felt satisfied in my search. Despite all the homework, I didn’t get sense of the place. There were nice photos of the beaches, and some historical monuments, but I definitely didn’t have a real sense of the country I was about to visit.  And Pura Vida? It didn’t translate through the images and YouTube videos I’d watched online.

But now, I was beginning to get it.

Saturday in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The Costa Ricans, or Ticos, are very gentle people, and very loving.  That is in their core spirit. You can see it manifest in many ways.  They are extremely affectionate and attentive to their children – to all children.  Strangers respond to other people’s babies with charm and concern. It feels as if all children here are held in the collective arms of its citizens.  It’s obvious through the body language, and the facial expressions, and how the children are ‘handled.’ There is so much love it oozes out of people.

Now let’s talk about the elderly. Lots of old people walking around, fit and smiling. The ones who are really getting up in age have a lot of obvious support. Young teenagers escorting their grandparents gently by the arm across the street is commonplace.  Elderly people get hugs often, and the youth talk to them with care and respect. It’s awe-inspiring.  The young people are very affectionate and cautious with the seniors, and it’s quite obvious the family structure is thoroughly intact and well supported by all.

August in San Jose, Costa Rica

There’s also an overall lack of ‘stress’ in people’s faces. It’s just not there. Also, you know how you can tell if someone is all agro, or wigged out, or in a bad way? Well there is absolutely none of that here. I don’t care if the person is poor, or seems down on their luck. There is no sense, no element of distress in their faces.  There is an overall feeling of contentment, and lack of pressure in everyone – young and old.

Strangers are friendly. Old men without teeth, a few who looked potentially homeless (but only a few of those), beamed with joy and enthusiasm when I engaged them in a conversation about their day.  Everyone just seems….happy.

I am embarrassed for the people who told me how scary San Jose is, and to “leave the city a.s.a.p.”

 Silly Americans.  San Jose dangerous? Bah Humbug.

One more critical factor that deserves noting.  The bathrooms:  This is an important and critical factor when observing the “cultural health” of a society. It’s part of my three-ring circus to test whether a country is safe and well-balanced. It sounds nuts but I assure you it really works.  You just have to look at three things:  How the people treat their children. How the people treat the women and elderly, and finally, how the people maintain their bathrooms. Don’t laugh, it’s true.

I don’t care what kind of business, how run down or poor, I’ve seen a ton of bathrooms, and every one is absolutely immaculate. There is pride, and attention to cleanliness and plain old decency.  I can name several countries where that is not the case, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Since everyone had warned me about how San Jose had nothing to see, I’d scheduled my departure with the Interbus for the next day at 2:30 p.m.  That night I went to Club Jazz in the Escazu district – an upscale suburb outside the boundaries of San Jose – reputed to be the best jazz club in the country. There was a cool tribute band playing Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I sat next to an American guy who had bailed from a high paying job as an engineer in the US, only to become a lowly English teacher at a local language school making one-tenth of his prior salary.

“I’m happy here. Wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m so happy here. I’m done with that American rat race,” Mark said.

Yellow House San JoseThe next morning I was up early because I only had a few hours to canvas the city before leaving for Manuel Antonio in the south-west.  I took a different route and found out that the Yellow House was right across the street from the hotel, and in front of that was a whole other world completely different from the city scape I saw yesterday.  The Yellow House occupies the Embassy of Foreign Relations for Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful building with a sweet guard who mans the front entrance.

 “Damn. This is all messed up. Why do I listen to people?” I went inside a restaurant/casino (yes there is ample gambling in Costa Rica), and after ordering a sandwich, I asked the waiter if he could call my hotel, since I didn’t have my phone hooked up here.

“No problema Signora, con mucho gusto.” He handed me the phone after dialing the hotel number.

“Ciao, ciao. Hi. Listen, I know I’m scheduled to leave at 2:30 on the bus, but can you cancel it? There is no way I’m leaving today. There is so much to see in this city, and the people are so amazing, there’s no way I’m going anywhere today.”

“No problema, con mucho gusto.” And I was good for another 24 hours in the capital city.  Whew.

Silly Americans, I’ve got to stop listening to them. They can be so culturally retarded.

* * * *

After another day hoofing it through the streets of San Jose, and falling upon street fairs galore – and the National Museum – I wanted to grab a bite before the bus arrived to transport me south to the National Park Manuel Antonio, three hours south-west, on the Pacific coast.

“Eduardo, where can I grab a bite at this hour?”

“There is nothing nearby, I’m sorry. Perhaps down the street near the Hemingway Hotel?” He answered, with an air of apology.

I didn’t want to go there. Didn’t feel right, so I headed around the corner where, halfway down the street I saw the sign: Sportsman Lodge.  Outside, there was a security guard with a pistol strapped to his waist.

“Hum. What’s this all about?”  I said in a whisper.  Acting as if I owned the place, I walked past the guard with authority, and saluted him “Bon Dia.”

Inside was an open patio, and a check-in desk with a woman in fancy clothes who asked me if I wanted a room. “No thanks,” but seeing a restaurant and bar in the center of the patio, I answered “I’m here to eat.”  She motioned me ahead with a smile, while the guard eyed me with curiosity.

Seated at the bar, which was a horseshoe in the center, surrounded by small round tables with high chairs where men and women giggled and touched, I immediately knew I’d fallen into a brothel.

OK, got it. Now I knew why Eduardo had not mentioned this location as an option for food – it was probably against policy to support this business, despite the fact it had a restaurant, and was around the corner from the hotel. I get it.

I had read that Costa Rica ranks no. 3 in the world for childhood prostitution – that is, girls under 18 years of age who are engaging in the business of sex and companionship. It’s almost counterintuitive, because the family structure is so intact here, and I don’t see any obvious issues with the women, or the girls for that matter.  Being pro-prostitution, in terms of legalization of the business, I got the impression from the Sportsman Lounge that there might be girls 16 or 17, maybe…

For the most part, the girls looked beautiful (all 8 of them- I asked) and quite content in their job making sad American men who are alone in the world happy to have company with a beautiful girl for a few hours. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. It’s fine in my book.  Now 12 or 14- year-olds would make my hair stand on edge, and I would probably do something drastic. But here, at the Sportsman Lounge, it was all-cool; a good business worth maintaining, in my opinion.

All these men, they looked so sad and lonely, like they needed help. The girls were beautiful, well manicured and proud, and they seemed smart.  That was my impression.

“So, how much does a girl cost here?” I asked my waitress who served me the chicken sandwich.

“Well, it works like this. You can have a girl for an entire day for $100. Or, if you don’t have that much, say you have only $80? Most of the girls will work with you, and give you a break. But say you only have $60? The girls will work with you just the same. You just have to make a few adjustments about what she will do and what you want. It can all be worked out. The girls are very flexible,” she said with the authority of a Madame although she was only 20 and change. It was obviously a business run with strictly loose boundaries.

“Do you want a girl?” she asked me.

“No no, I’m just curious how it works. That’s all.”

“Ah, bien,” she smiled, in her cute tank top and hot pant jeans. “So, what’s with the soldier man with the piece at the front? Are you expecting a raid?” I asked half joking/serious. “No not at all. It’s in case someone gets upset. Usually it’s the girls fighting over a man. The gun calms them down when they’re upset. It’s for intimidation only, because it never gets used. Just to make the girls calm down when they’re arguing. You know how girls can be.”

“I sure as hell do. Girls can be nasty mean,” I said laughing.

Back at the Mansion Bolivar, I chatted with Eduardo before the bus arrived. “I love this country. It’s perfect for me. I should live here. But I need a job. I think I should work for the Tourist Authority, writing and taking pictures of all the beautiful places, because I was a tour guide, and now I’m a writer, and this seems like the perfect country to write travel stories about your country, because let me tell you how bad the PR about Costa Rica is – on the internet. I didn’t see anything that I considered really helpful. It definitely needs work, the PR department for this country. Geese.”

It was a verbal hemorrhage, but Eduardo got the drift.

“For example, I didn’t understand Pura Vida before I came here,  but now I do…” I stressed with enthusiasm.  “I want to work here!” Eduardo was exhausted listening to me ramble on about publicity shots for the nation.

The bus arrived 20 minutes late. No biggie, obviously. It was a small 15-person pass van, and for $45 I had a ride across the country to Manuel Antonio National Park, smack in middle/edge of  the rainforest.

“How many people will be traveling  together today?” I asked. “Four. One person down the way, and the other three much later on the drive south,” Manuel answered.

Traveling out-of-town, I almost climbed out of the window to escape leaving San Jose. Crossing through neighborhoods surrounding the city center, I saw people and buildings I wanted to photograph.  I almost died.  “Oh my god, this is soooo amazing,” I said jumping back and forth from one end of the bus to the other to grab shots outside the windows. “I have to come back here. I shouldn’t have left so soon…”

About an hour later, the bus stopped in front of a hotel in the town of Orotina.  A woman got on board dressed in professional attire and carrying an elegant bag. I introduced myself, and inquired about her voyage.  Her name was Emilia. She told me she worked for the Costa Rica Tourist Board, in the department of international public relations.

“Really? Wow. That’s amazing,” I answered, in awe.

San Jose, Costa Rica – Images | sallyricefotos

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OPINIONS….On the Road Again, and Other Tales of Life Post Nest

            OK, let’s get one thing straight before passing Go. I’m no novice to global travel – been working at it all my life.  For a solid 11 years, beginning when I was 19 years old, I landed a position as an international tour guide, back in the 1970’s.  I was based in Italy: Florence in the winter, and Rome during the summer months.

In that capacity I toured Europe, North Africa, and many parts of the Middle East.  Later, I scoped out Argentina and Brazil.  As a California native, Mexico was a mere skip and jump, so I put that country under my belt long ago too.

One might say then, that I’m fairly well traveled, and honestly, there’s not much that I find intimidating. Dark alleys in strange countries in the middle of the night don’t ruffle my feathers.  I’m confident, and fearless, in most areas. The only time I was frightened was back in 1970, in southern Tunisia, when a gang of local men tried to stone my sister and me to death for intruding on their town of inbreeds, but that’s another story.

Yet, despite my solid upbringing as a globetrotter, nothing had quite prepared me for the shock of traveling post ‘empty-nest,’ as I ventured out into the world alone, after 27 years of child rearing, and an a-typical American divorce.

  And that’s another story too. (See MakingSenseofMonsters.com)

Of course, as a family we traveled. In fact, beginning when my three children were six months old, a month long holiday to a foreign country was on calendar every summer, just to integrate my kids into the world, to insure that they understood that the USA was not the center of the universe.

Indeed, this was a brand new experience, traveling solo without my clan, alone in the world for the first time since I was a young girl, only 25 years old. Now with camouflaged grey, a bit of uninvited gut and an occasional stiff hip, this experience was already proving to be a great new adventure.

“I’m going to help you pack Mom!” My daughter Sarah, 26, said, as she analyzed the pile of ragged clothes I had piled on her living room floor.

“What do you mean? I know what I’m doing.” I answered with insincere confidence.  After all, I was traveling to virgin territory, new frontiers, and on top of that I was traveling at the worst time of year, the Costa Rican winter, when oppressive humidity and rainstorms were the daily grind.  In addition, since I’d changed careers from tour guide, to the film industry, to my current role as photojournalist, I was carrying a load of expensive gear: cameras, recorders, computer, and other expensive electronic crap.  It all needed special attention and protection from the elements.

All of the sources I’d checked had a long laundry list of “what to do in a storm,” or “when bugs bite,” or “when you’re ripped off…” The lists were endless, and more importantly, intimidating!  Had the world changed so much since I’d traveled solo?

And the warnings! So many people whom I thought I could trust had cautioned me about Costa Rica, especially San Jose, the capital city.

“Get out of there as soon as possible. It’s a mess, and the crime is horrible. Watch your back, there are thieves everywhere, ready to grab your gear.” said one friend who shall remain anonymous, for his own security.  But I trusted them, the whole lot. After all, they had been to Costa Rica. I had not.

After Sarah packed my suitcase, rolling the scraps of clothing into small cannoli shaped bars of cotton while omitting half my wardrobe, I sighed.  “I guess this is it?”  I threw the backpack on and rolled my new pelican case out the door and we headed for the airport:  Me nervous and forlorn from the aloneness, and Sarah saying “Don’t worry mom, you’ll be fine.”

Per tradition, I made no plans past booking one night in a hotel following the arrival. Incoming flights to Costa Rica traditionally land at night, regardless of the airline. It seems there is no choice in this arena. So, when you arrive at night, it’s easier to have a fallout home since looking for a hotel in the dark can be annoying.  Especially when you are tired after a long flight.

I’d found Mansion del Parque Bolivar online. I was careful to select a hotel that promised great architecture and character. Parque Bolivar was located in the historical district.  I knew nothing about it past this online description. Beyond that, all was a mystery. I preferred it that way. There is nothing worse than planning and pre-booking places that you’ve never seen before. How does anyone do that?  Those “programmers” who travel with an itinerary are poison to me. I can’t imagine traveling like that.  Hideous.  That kind of travel absolutely defeats the whole purpose of adventure.  It’s a Duh Factor.  Alias  ‘DF.’

God is good.  The hotel was a gem, but more importantly, the owner was hot.  I’m telling you, HOT, baby HOT HOT. Fabrizio is a transplant from Rome. Ah such sweet relief from the American boys who so lack the intoxicating flame that comes naturally to Italians.  Bring it on brotha! Beyond his beauty, Fabrizio runs a tight ship. I give  Mansion del Parque Bolivar a 5 star rating, even though I paid only 70 $ per night for what I consider deluxe conditions and outstanding service.

The following days were pure bliss, as I discovered a glorious new city.

(See photos of San Jose by clicking the link below)

sallyricefotos

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Author Event at APOSTROPHE BOOKS, Long Beach, Ca. August 19, 2012

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IMAGES OF TAHI – photo courtesy of Karina Duffy

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TAHI, The Human Journey

 EXPOSING THE ANCIENT ROOTS OF ONE

Traveling the globe filming 21 indigenous tribes, filmmakers Karina Duffy, David Prusmack, and Bjorn Ahman share the ancient tribal wisdom of ‘Oneness’ in their documentary film  TAHI

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VENTANA MONTHLY – story and photos of carolina gramm by sally rice

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Natural By Design

With effortless grace, supermodel-turned-interior designer Carolina Gramm created a Renaissance-style villa in Ojai that reflects her European sensibilities.

By Sally Rice—Principal Photography by Gaszton Gal

Anyone exposed to television advertising during the ‘80s remembers the landmark spot. A surreal graphic landscape of piano keys fills the frame while the background soundtrack plays “I Want to Set the World on Fire,” by the Ink Spots. A slow dissolve reveals a wide shot of a jetliner’s reflection climbing the face of the Transamerica building, that glorious San Franciscan pyramid. Fade to black.

“Charles,” says a masculine voice.

“Katherine,” replies the voice-over dialogue seductively.

“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

She saunters slowly toward camera on an invisible catwalk, with sophisticated poise, dressed to the nines in a classically tailored crimson suit. “No, what is it?”

Then the close-up: dreamy eyes, glossy red lips open in slow motion. The tag line captures the essence. Share the Fantasy, Chanel no. 5.

“Katherine” is actually Carolina Gramm, the beauty behind the blockbuster ad campaign that rocked the ‘80s and put Ridley Scott on the map as an A-list commercial director just after he formed the production company RSA. The spot ran for years. Back in the days of healthy residuals, it was nothing short of a cash cow for all the commercial talent that booked the gig.

Cut to the present.

From her residential villa tucked away in the hills of Upper Ojai, the supermodel-turned-interior designer is remarkably laidback. “I can’t find my hairbrush today. I think my son must have taken it,” she says, referring to her 16-year-old, who is still at school. Laughing, she twists shoulder length chestnut brown hair into a clip at the base of her neck and plops easily into white linen cushions on the sofa that adorns the second story balcony overlooking the swimming pool.

Despite her easygoing air, Carolina Gramm still carries herself with the elegant savoir-faire of an Elite model, a career that spanned a few decades beginning in her late-teens. But in these modern times, her attention to beauty has turned inside out. Now, she doesn’t bother with much makeup, favoring a more natural, organic look, and her attention to fashion and design is geared toward architectural projects and the luxurious fabrics she uses to dress sofas and chairs.

Photo by Sally Rice.

Gramm’s home in Ojai—“Villa DeLa Roche,” reads the stone tablet at the front gate—is her pride and joy. She and her husband, Jack, a retired racecar driver and airline pilot, purchased the property in 2001. The original owners had designed the structure to replicate a villa at St. Jean Cap-Ferrat, on the French Riviera. And though its footprint remains unchanged, Gramm incorporated the perfect details to transform it into a Renaissance-style villa that feels authentic. The color palette incorporates the holy trinity of classic tones: ochre, umber, and sienna, the chromatic blueprint of 15th century Italian architecture.

Outside, thick vines of bougainvillea exploding in color define the trellised arches that form a portico under the balcony. Classic Mexican pavers flow inside and out, a floor plan that invites dining and entertaining al fresco.

Inside the residence, Gramm paid special attention to maintaining the original esthetic whenever possible—as long as it was worth saving. “The hardware on the main doors is the same, it works just fine,” she points out as an example.

When asked how she approaches furnishings and interior décor, Gramm bursts out laughing and points to a chair with a circular back. “I found that chair on the side of the road. It was just sitting there; I felt sorry for it,” she says. “I’m a scavenger. Someone made that chair, so I picked it up, polished it off, and delivered it to L.A. to be recovered. There it is, good as new. Everything I find has a memory attached and a story.”

Nearby, a rectangular wooden box with short legs serves as a coffee table and holds a collection of art books and magazines. “I found that in a small shop in the Hudson Valley,” she tells me. “It was once a child’s bed, but I decided it would make a better table. So where the mattress was, I put books and magazines.” Indeed, Gramm has an eclectic design sense about her, a culmination of a past deep-rooted in European culture.

“I was raised in Italy, in Bressanone, and I have always loved architecture,” she explains, her accent laced with multi-cultural threads. “I grew up in the mountains, just below the ski lift,” she adds, sounding more German than Italian.

Bressanone sits in the foothills below the Italian Alps and the Dolomites in the northern region of Alto Adige. The area was ceded to Austria in 1918. Not surprisingly, in this area of Italy, German is spoken as commonly as native Italian. “Unfortunately, I don’t speak much [Italian] anymore,” Gramm laments. “But, I am happy my son is learning Spanish in school; I want him to be bilingual.”

It was a long road that led Gramm to America, following a challenging, somewhat turbulent youth. “I began working when I was 13, as a hairdresser. I worked six days a week, Monday to Saturday,” she says, reminiscing. “It was very hard, but then I got discovered by Gianni Versace, when I went to Portofino one weekend with a friend.” Gramm describes the life-changing event with an air of nonchalance: “Versace hired me on the spot and gave me a solid two months of work for his new line. He liked me because I could do many hairstyles, since we did not have a hairstylist on the job.”

After that, Gramm traveled to England to hone her English language skills. But she “didn’t make it to many classes because the agency found me and gave me more [modeling] work. I worked every day after that.”

Eventually she ended up in New York City, where she met her husband, Jack, who was also modeling at the time. “I met him through a photographer friend who was shooting a test. He was a racecar driver, and to support himself he did modeling on the side.”

After apartment living in New York, the couple bought a country house and Carolina fell in love with antiquing. When her purchases began to overflow the space, it was time to go into business; there just wasn’t enough room to store all the collectables. Gramm partnered with a fellow designer, and together they opened an antique store under the name Gramm and Ivy. The business lasted a little over a year, until her partner adopted a baby and found that the combination of business and parenthood “was just too much.”

After that, Gramm got into interior design, working with realtors, decorating model homes. “We bought another country house, and I designed that too,” she says. “I put in 28 antique wooden doors and cherry wood floors. We sold it to Roy Lichtenstein’s son. But one day it burned down.”

And then she got pregnant. Shortly thereafter, Jack’s job as a G5 pilot led the family to California—and eventually to Ventura County and Villa DeLa Roche, where a new life chapter began.

Currently, Gramm works with clients on both coasts as she juggles interior design and family responsibilities. Her passion for architecture and creative design is rooted in her childhood, she says. “I learned to work hard when I was very young, and I have always been stubborn, which I think is a good thing. It helps you to never give up.” 

Visit Carolina Gramm online at grammdesign.com.

06-01-2012

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APRIL is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Allure of Sexual Predators …why do they get away with their crimes so easily?

by sally rice       

Sexual abusers are hard to see, and the pain they inflict is ethereal. It is almost invisible. Sexual abusers like to give hugs, and say, “I love you.” They remember your birthday, and they seem “normal” on so many other levels.

After they have committed their crime, the abusers can be kind and gentle, and often are helpful around the house – and they seem to care about the ones they’ve abused.

Meanwhile, their damage seeps into the heart and soul of their sweet prey, who feel toxic and heavy from silent woeful pain, while the abuser brings them flowers, and tells them how they are so special…..

This is the sickness that penetrates so deep, and hides under the covers of illusions of trust and safety. It is so terribly confusing for the victims, especially the children, who live in the house with the abuser. It’s not like a broken arm or a black eye.  The violence is presented as a gift.

Sexual abuse is masked more than any other form of violence, and yet it is perhaps the most damaging, because like cancer, it is the silent killer.

Asking a victim to come forward and confess the crimes of a parent who has just fed them dinner, or taken them to the zoo, or given them flowers, is equally as painful and distressing for the poor soul who must then try to hold on to their inner sanity, as reality slips through their fingers and truth unravels from a rich tapestry to a shroud of thin strands of twine that disintegrate into a ball of tangled, broken dreams and illusions of a former reality.

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