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.

Turbulences - Memories From Germany

My last trip through Germany was intense. There was the weather: October, cold and rainy mostly. Then there were my parents: fragile, sick, needing help. For a while I was sure, we would not make it to my nephew's wedding, a seven hour car ride up north. But we did! We celebrated through the night, our hearts full of love and gratitude. Then we drove back to my parents' house. The next day I spent ten hours on trains to Berlin and arrived just in time for the annual weltreporter meeting. "The vanishing world" was our main event, discussing the future of foreign correspondents. Nothing lighthearted and not a lot uplifting here ;-) Three days later I was back on a train to see my parents once again before my flight home to LA. A vacation it was not. 

Back at home I sat at my desk looking at familiar houses across the street, birds in the bushes, and cats on the prowl. I started writing. My memories from this trip boiled down into a story-dream.

Turbulences

     "Hang up your coats, enjoy the ride," says the conductress. "Here we go." I hang onto my armrest. I focus on the fields of harvested corn race by. I unwrap my liverwurst-pickle-sandwich and take a big bite. Then I delete thoughts, plans and memories with one blink of my left eye. Fog moves in. Layers of future, past and present.

     "Hopelessness is the path to presence," a message pops up on my screen. Mind readers are hiding on my wrist.

To-Do-List For Real Love - Santa Monica, CA

Last week end we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, and I thought back to how we met more than 20 years ago. I thought about how on paper it looked like this relationship could never work. Not only because we lived on separate continents in different time zones and had grown up in different worlds. I thought about how my future husband checked only a few boxes I had come up with for my next boyfriend after the last breakup. I thought about how happy I still am that I did neither follow reasonable advice friends gave me nor serious warnings that I gave myself.

Then, I wrote this poem: 

To-Do-List For Real Love

Go ahead! Make your list of what your next companion has to be:

Nice, strong, filthy rich

A traveler of the world

A savvy business woman

A race car driver with a mansion

A nomad creating poems in a van

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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