El Cajon, CA
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Articles by BJ Coleman

Robert Allen Shepherd hasn’t been around the East County music scene for a while. Not long ago, he was known around local live performance venues as a dead ringer for singer-songwriter-guitar-player Willie Nelson, with a tribute show that pleased all-ages listeners, by appearing in full “Willie” costume, signature braids, flag bandanna and all.

Brandon Acosta was relatively young, and definitely too young to be sidelined from his active life by serious, lasting back pain. Acosta is a local firefighter-paramedic, now 31 years old. The first real sign he had of looming trouble came in 2009 while he was washing household dishes. The position of extending his arms over the sink started a “peculiar time” in his life, he says.

Memorial Day at this month’s end is a time for reflection and honoring those whose lives were sacrificed in military service for defense of this country. But there are other former military troops whose lives are still at risk, through homelessness entwined with service-related medical and psychological conditions that render these veterans less able to cope with life’s challenges.

After trauma, recovering healthy ways of living can be difficult and delayed. The road to recovery, leading to restoration of balance in body, mind and spirit, can be especially troublesome for those who have been among the strongest—as protectors and warriors—but who have become injured or ill along the way.

¿Sombreros, serapes, fiesta … y los gatos? ¡Si, si, si!

While the party may have looked like a typical Cinco de Mayo event commemorating the Mexican Army’s surprising victory over French troops at the 1862 Battle of Puebla, instead the Cinco de Meow celebration at Friends of Cats was about gaining victories to help diminish homelessness among feline companion animals.

Mary England, president and CEO of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, knows how to throw a business-friendly party. The second annual Spring Fling Business Expo on April 28 was proof of that.

The festive evening gathering, held at the La Mesa Community Center, brought together guests and members of the chamber, who provided drawing prizes to attendees who dropped off business cards at their display tables.

Mission Federal Credit Union has sponsored the annual ArtWalk in Little Italy for 32 years. The 2016 staging of the event occurred over the weekend of April 30-May 1, taking over 15 street blocks for a free, festive and fun showing of artworks from over 350 local, national and international artists. Several artists from East County were there, showing impressive displays of a variety of art pieces.

Where does inspiration for good artwork come from these days? Try asking that question of a budding youthful artist from El Cajon named Jayden Crenshaw. Recently turned 11, Crenshaw might say that inspired art comes from those experiences you enjoy most from living.

Crenshaw loves gaming. And he loves the imagery and graphics he sees as he plays.

Artists, quite notoriously, must take on other jobs in addition to their true passion for creating art, at least until their artwork becomes famous. But local artist Mikaela McLeish discovered an ingenious way to combine the two, earning money from a paying job that allows her to paint at work. In her position as an artist for the business Paints Uncorked, she leads events that make a social occasion out of an evening of art lessons, often staged as fundraisers for charities.

The Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving and extending appreciation of Western art and culture. In service of programs forwarding that mission, on the evening of April 19, the museum hosted its “Off the Wall Party” gala.