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.

Anything But Safe - Mar Vista, CA

"Every time, I come to this school," our volunteer coordinator said, "I'm surprised to see all the students hang out on the front lawn."

I didn't get it. "What's wrong with that?" I thought. The lawn in front of this school is beautiful, with flower bushes on the sides and between them a gorgeous statue of a women reaching towards the sky. Her body is bent almost like she is ready to fly. It's a lawn I would love to have picnics on.  

We had come to support students with their college applications and were now waiting between green bungalows that serve as classrooms for the seniors to arrive. 

"Anyone can step right onto the campus," our coordinator added. "Anyone can walk through the hallways and into classrooms."

That's when I got it. 

She looked worried while she pointed to small paths between the white main building, side walks, green grass and the spot that we were standing at. Students kept walking past us towards class. Some had books clutched to their chests.

Still-Life With Gardener - del Rey, CA

So, I'm sitting in front of my little meditation setup. Candle, shells, smooth rocks, tiny buddha, smoldering sage. I am ready to focus on my breath. It's a little cold this morning and I am wearing my fat winter socks, the ones I bought for North Dakota, when I was reporting about Standing Rock and how the Native Americans were trying to protect their sacred land from building the pipeline, trying to protect their water. Our water. Mni Wiconi. Water is Life. Now I feel like I'm a little bit like back there in the blizzard, feeling those socks warming my feet. I wonder how the tribes are doing who came together, now that Trump allowed for the pipeline to be built after all.

See! That's how it goes with me and meditating. My mind strays. It wanders all over the place. I know the meditation teachers say that that's ok. I'm not supposed to be trying to get into a certain state of mind when I'm meditating. But honestly, I'm still sitting down every frigging morning to figure out how to get some kind of peace of mind into my life. I know, I shouldn't. I should just sit down and breathe. In. And out. Be present. That's it. It kinda works.

But it's really not that simple. I am confused even before I sit down. One teacher on my meditation app tells me to breathe in through my nose and then push the air out through my mouth. Another one says: 

Young Women Stepping Up, Simi Valley, CA

One by one, the young women step up, onto the black plastic folding chair. Each of them mutters something addressing its flimsiness.

"I will fall off this thing."

"I hope I don't break this chair!"

"I am going to trip!"

They didn't trip or fall or break the thing. No, they stood up and spoke eloquently about voter registration, about poll numbers, and about the power of unified action. The field organizer had asked them to share some fun facts. His being that he is an aeronautical engineer who shot and starred in a movie in Romania. 

The young women's fun facts: one is a classical trained sushi-chef, one speaks three Roman languages and another one is an award winning athlete.

The athlete introduces herself as "Cat". She is 16 years old. She has been volunteering for this campaign since March. She makes phone calls. She canvasses. She puts signs in front yards. She updates the office-calendar.

Now she takes a deep breath and puts her feet firmly on the folding chair. Her wide smile exposes the wires of her braces.

Coming Home, Germany-LA

How do you know, you are coming home?

I think, I finally know what it means for me: 

Smelling the familiar scent of last night's pizza, mixed with the aroma of my companion's after shave and linen washed just in time to put them on the bed before I arrive, are part of it. The filled fruit bowl and the colorful key-box on the countertop. Light coming through big windows, marine layer grey in the morning, in the evenings a pink-golden sunset shimmer. Broken shells, soft dark rocks and a dried chestnut on the windowsill. Birds taking a dirt bath in the dry front yard, others humming between roses and purple flowers in the bushes. Even the pack of chewing gum lying on the kitchen desk.

Opening my arms and falling into my companion's hug is home. 

I smell. I see. I hear. I feel.

My heart slows down. My mind relaxes.

I feel grounded. I feel still. I feel at ease.

I'm home.

But didn't I just come from home? Didn't I just travel back from my real, my childhood home?

Cornelia Funke, Malibu CA

The adress was in Malibu, close to Zuma Beach, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world! Just before getting there the GPS told me to turn right. I crossed a dry river bed and arrived at a big gate. After passing that it was only a short drive to Cornelia Funke's house. I was there to interview the bestselling and award winning writer and illustrator about the Book Truck.

The Book Truck brings brand new Young Adult books to teenagers in Los Angeles who have never owned a book. Cornelia sponsors the truck and was happy to talk with me about the importance of reading, of having a friendly, knowledgable, and well read book seller at its helm and about writing for young adults. But before we got into all this, two big puppy dogs welcomed me at the door. ...

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