Stories From California

I fell in love with being a reporter when I got an internship at the RIAS in Berlin, weeks after die Berliner Mauer between East und West came down. I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 when I was assigned to be the head of German public radio’s West coast studio. In 2008, I became the California correspondent for Weltreporter, the largest network of German freelance foreign correspondents. I mostly work for Deutsches Public Radio, LA’s NPR station KCRW, and the journalism collective RiffReporter. If you want me to write a story for your publication, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Into the Night With The Flying Infrared Observatory

There are observatories on the ground gathering data from our neighboring galaxies, and we just got a glimpse of stunning images the James Webb Space Telescope sent from space to NASA. But: there is only one observatory on board a vintage 70s Jumbo-Jet. A flying Boeing 747 SP with a gigantic hole in its fuselage—SOFIA, short for Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy. The program might come to an early end this year, which made me even happier to get one of the rare SOFIA boarding passes.

Memorial Day - My Uncle Niels

I wish I met my uncle Niels. We have the same birthday. May 23rd.

My uncle Niels was four years older than my dad. He was born in 1933 when birthdays of boys with blond hair and blue eyes like his were celebrated in Germany more than others.

My grandparents started a photo album on his birthday. "For our crown prince Niels," it says in handwritten Art Deco letters on the first page. "A document of his life, his travels, and his big adventures."

My uncle Niels was the first of three siblings. Five years after my dad, my aunt Swantje arrived. All of them had pearly skin, were blond and had blue eyes. My uncle Niels was the only one with a straight nose and straight short hair. They combed it Hitler-style across his head. In pictures, he wears short lederhosen, my dad sailor suits, and my aunt white dresses.

The pictures from his first two years show my uncle Niels looking curious at the photographer and the world around him, mostly wide beaches and happy-looking people posing in old-fashioned swimsuits. Later, there is a sense of distrust in his piercing eyes.

Fluffed Pillows

It was way after midnight in a fancy hotel room near Florence, Italy: marble floor and countertops in the bathroom, golden toilet-paper-roll-holder, golden faucets at the sink and the deep bathtub, extra-plush white bathrobe with matching extra-plush white slippers. Two bottles of water on the cherry-wood dresser, one still, one sparkling. The scent of orange blossoms coming through the open window with a view over green hills covered in olive trees and blooming oleander bushes.

#morningwalkswithesty - Green Grass

"You like this grass?" I ask my eleven-month-old puppy.

Esty is rolling in the dark green blades, she switches back and forth from her white belly onto her brown-and-white marbled back. Her black snout digs into the dirt.

"Wait a second. Is there something stinky?" I pull the leash

"Don't worry," Esty says. "This is wonderful grass. Wet, juicy, morning grass. You should try it."

"Try what?"

"Smell it. Roll in it. Play with it. Feels good. Smells delicious."

I pull the leash again. I see no poop, no mount of dirt. Just grass. Green grass.

"What's your problem?" Esty asks "Don't be so prissy-sissy!"

One Twenty, Twenty-one

Is the sun brighter? The air lighter? The sky wider?

A blanket I did not know I carried was lifted.

The first tears roll down my cheek when a woman in uniform pledges allegiance to this country not only in words but in sign language.

I watch in awe the young poet, fierce, in a yellow coat and red headband, her hands punctuating every line like birds in the winter air.

Her words and voice pierce through my heart, they sever and slash, soothe and caress, whip me awake.

Tell me to take

responsibility and help make

this world whole and united.

Remember her name

not just her fame

or her performing

It is Amanda Gorman.

She makes me want to be better, choose my clothes more wisely and my words, comb my hair with