Stories From California

Sometimes I want to write more than just journalistically about my experiences as a reporter. That is why I started to write down my thoughts, observations and emotions beyond scripts for radio, print and TV. This experiment is a lot of fun and scary at the same time. But, as they say, you have to get out of your comfort zone.

By Heart - Culver City, CA

One of my favorite things about writing beyond journalism is: I never know where it takes me. Like when I answer prompts for writers' meetings. "What do you know by heart?" was one question. Minutes later, memories folded into spices on my tongue seasoned with lines from the morning's newspaper: 

My parents' phone number I know by heart: null sieben sechs drei eins, vier drei drei acht.

My school friend's number: null sieben sechs drei eins, sechs eins drei fünf.

My number in L.A.: three one zero, three eight three, one two five one.

 

I know by heart the feeling of sand between my toes on Venice Beach. I know by heart how to pick up a pen and write. And write. And write and write. I know by heart lyrics of ABBA songs, Smokie, Rolling Stones, Juanes, Kate Bush, Zara Leander, Blondie, Prince. I know by heart a lot of useless words like that. Not at all useless, because I'm very happy when I sing along.

I know by heart my favorite recipe: coconut ginger carrot soup. I always put more ginger than the recipe instructs.

Today I peel ginger, an extra portion on top of what I usually do. Ginger to burn away words, pictures, sounds of those killed

In Gilroy

In El Paso

In Dayton

To burn away thoughts of those left behind with candles, prayers, tears.

Award for A Story from the Heart - Los Angeles, CA

The words in the jury's comment that made me most happy were "with lots of heart".

I had hoped to show heart in the radio story that I wrote about high school students: children of immigrants who graduated five months after Donald Trump's inauguration. I followed them from June to Christmas of 2017. We had a text message group. The senior from Honduras created it with a title that summed up their spirits perfectly: "cool kidz".

I tasted birria for the first time in one of their homes, with a spoon directly from a big pot on the stove. I sat between stacks of tires in a car shop where another one was looking for a job, and on a wooden bench in the back of a court room listening to proceedings that determined her and her sibling's destinies. I was sweating on a desert campus as I watched how the third one started to fulfill her dreams.

They told me about hopes, goals and aspirations. They also talked about a shadow hovering over them because of rhetoric and actions from the White House against immigrants.

Reporter's Pledge - Los Angeles, CA

Last week I interviewed a couple whose 19 year old grandson was stabbed to death most likely because he was Jewish and gay. They told me about his love for food, for travel and for helping others. They described what it felt like to hold him in their arms for the first time. They remembered how they taught him to go down a slide on the playground head first and fast. They showed me a lemon tree he planted in the backyard and his recipe for spiced plum upside down cake.

They said the heavens opened after nine months of no rain to expose the shallow grave where the killer left their grandson, and that they are thankful to at least know what happened to him.

They told me what they say to him each night before they go to sleep.

The same day I tutored a high school junior to help with her college application essay. She told me about nights on the street being homeless, about her Mom not knowing where to take her kids, about sleeping among strangers and later in a crowded house with relatives she barely knew.

She described how she always makes sure to get her younger brother to school on time and why she misses early classes because of that. She asked how to best explain 'F's on her report card and whether she should still apply for a spot at the college of her dreams.

I would have never guessed any of this by seeing how they walk through life. Just regular folk, one couple close to 80, the young woman 17.

So, here's my pledge: Never will I forget that everyone I meet carries some kind of sorrow in their heart. Always will I remember not to judge by what I see. Each day I will talk and act accordingly.

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The River Calling - Esalen, CA

"Now, I want you to leave the yurt," our teacher said. She pointed to the windows as if we did not know what was outside: pine trees, eucalyptus, redwoods, the Pacific Ocean and clouds heavy with potential rain. "It is too beautiful to stay inside." She asked us to go towards what's calling us. She promised it would speak to us. She said it would tell us what to write. "It can be a flower, a tree, a bird, a wagon wheel. You will know."

We were in Esalen, Big Sur, a magic place, where people say those things and no one laughs. 

We put on our shoes and jackets, and off we went in all directions, notebooks and pens in our hands. Some of my fellow explorers seemed to know exactly where to go. One sat down next to a bush, one touched a tree. Most seemed a bit lost and still searching like me. We walked slowly, stopped, looked to the sky, into the distance, to the earth. 

Butterscotch Pines - Palm Springs, CA

We walk between the smell of butterscotch from pines. Snow swirls melt on my hair. A creek makes soft turns between red barked giants. Our steps are soft on paths moist from leaves and needles. In the distance water crashes over granite slabs into the gorge.

The light is soft beneath heavy clouds. The air is thin and cold. Each breath is precious. A tree with naked arms becomes a bridge across the flood. Silver, it pierces the sky. We cross, we smile, we laugh, take pictures. An adventure off the beaten path. My jacket is bright blue and warm. You carry our backpack and help me down the graveled rocks.