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Newport Beach

Volume 5, Issue 77  |  September 25, 2020


Walking Norm and a library update

By AMY SENK

Six months in semi-isolation, limited contact with friends (and almost none with professional acquaintances) – it’s not a recipe for meeting new and interesting people. But in Corona del Mar, if you keep your eyes open, you’re bound to find someone fascinating to talk to.

This summer, I was on a Corona del Mar Residents Association Zoom, and during the police department update, the lieutenant for Corona del Mar spoke to one of the other participants, a man called Norm who was new to the group since we had begun virtual meetings. They talked about the strange things one sees when one is out and about at 4 a.m. on a regular basis, and just like that, my nosy journalist instincts kicked in. I sought out Norm to set up a time to talk and get to know him better.

Norm Ellis, 67, resides in the Flower Streets – he’d lived here in the 1960s (CdMHS Class of ‘71) but then bounced around Southern California before moving back a year ago. We connected by phone this summer, and he explained his routine. 

Walking Norm closeup

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Norm Ellis

Norm Ellis

“I get up at 3, 3:30 in the morning, and I start walking five miles or so,” Ellis said. His path generally takes him through the village toward the beach, then to Balboa Island and back again.

His early morning walking habit began in the early days of his career in the aerospace industry, when he needed to be at Chino Airport by 7 a.m. He learned to love the peaceful solitude of those walks, typically seeing a newspaper delivery worker, or another regular early walker, like the retired nurse who used to work night shifts.

“If I see no human life form, I’m happy,” he said.

Nonetheless, he often sees signs of life – signs strange enough to warrant calls to the police department and frequent enough that the dispatchers know his voice and name.

“If I see something suspicious, I will call it in,” he said. “I’m not armed or equipped, so I will keep on walking – but I call it in.”

Recently, he saw border patrol agents while walking through town. Once, he said, he was by China Cove when he noticed several police officers and vehicles. “Have you seen a blonde in a pink bikini?” one asked him. “It’s 4:30 in the morning – I would not miss this,” he informed them at the time. “I hope they found her,” he said later.

He’s seen people sitting in the dark in running cars and called them in. “At 4:30 in the morning, I’m suspicious of everything,” he said. “People in the car with the motor running at that time of day – that spooks me.”

His instincts are sharp, honed by a stint as a volunteer in the mid-1970s in Israel, helping patrols on the lookout for terrorists with the Israeli Civil Guard.

“I pick up nuance,” he said.

• • •

In other news, as COVID restrictions ease a bit in Orange County, Newport Beach’s Central Library (NBPL) is scheduled to reopen on Monday, Sept. 21.

“The County moved from the purple to red category and capacity was increased to 50 percent for libraries, but we can’t exceed 100 people,” said Tim Hetherton, the City’s library director. Hours will be 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

“We will be using a grab-and-go business model with limited services,” he said. “Patrons can browse the shelves, check out materials, use the public computers on an appointment basis and manage their accounts.”

Walking Norm CdM Library

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Amy Senk

The Corona del Mar Library branch will continue to offer curbside service

Face masks will be required, hand sanitizer will be available, plexiglass has been installed at service desks and janitorial services have been increased in frequency and intensity, he said. But studying or reading at the library will not be allowed because of the capacity limits.

The Mariners, Balboa and Corona del Mar branches will continue to offer curbside service, and programs like story times that moved online will not resume until restrictions on gatherings are lifted.

The libraries in town may have been closed for six months, but Newport Beach began curbside pickup service in April – two months before most county public libraries, and also offered online curriculum support, virtual programing and outdoor WiFi access, Hetherton said.

From April 1 through the end of July, the library circulated 114,888 items through curbside services, he added.

“In the same period, NBPL patrons searched Library databases from their home or office 520,427 times and asked 18,459 reference questions over the telephone or through e-mail,” he said. “Library patrons have downloaded 75,479 e-books and e-magazines during this period and streamed 4,389 films.”

City staff also said that the OASIS Senior Center’s fitness center could open as soon as September 22, and indoor classes with limited capacity also could be opening soon at OASIS and other community centers.

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20+ years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association and the Corona del Mar High School PTA. She and her husband have two children attending college at the University of Missouri and Duke University.

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