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..

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. ...

FINALLY - The RIAS Media Awards

RIAS Lachen

"We do not want you to give an aceptance speech. I will ask you a few questions after you receive the award." I was happy to hear what host Petra Gute had planned for the ceremony.

Acceptance speeches are landmines - not that I am talking from experience. But after covering award shows for many years I know that even the most experienced winners forget to thank people they really should not forget, or they are chased off the stage by random music before they can mention everybody, or worst of all: they are terribly boring.

The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION honored journalists from TV, radio and Online media, they chose very diverse stories about topics from the melting of glaciers in Alaska to the history of barbed wire and its meaning for US society. 

The award has special meaning for me because I started my career at RIAS, Radio In The American Sector, shortly after the Berlin wall came down. Maybe even more important: The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION changed my life. Really? Really! And I had to find a way to thank them without a speech ... 

Parker Day - West Adams, CA

Something really interesting happens when a person puts on a wig. 
They let go of their inhibitions.
They let go of holding up who they think they are supposed to be. ...
They almost become more themselves.

Parker Day, Photographer


I felt a little 'grey' in my Jeans, T-Shirt and comfy sandals when I entered Parker Day's studio. She was in the process of preparing a model for a photo shoot. A hair and make up artist had just put a blonde monster-wig on the young woman and curled her hair into eccentric fierce waves. An assistant in a zebra patterned mini skirt glued unbelievably real looking fake lips to the model's face while Parker was gliding through the studio on sparkly silver high heels to check out the lightning and select some final props. 

When she started talking about her art, candy colored portraits which attract and irritate me at the same time, I understood: