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..

Fires and Butterflies - Culver City, CA

For the first time in more than a week I am sitting in the backyard. For the first time in more than a week I tell myself I have nothing to do. For the first time in more than a week I decide I have nowhere to go. 

I did not turn on the radio. I did not check my phone. I did not read the news. 

I did morning yoga stretches again. I lit a candle again. I burnt sage again. I meditated again. I made breakfast with oatmeal, apple slices, cinnamon, toasted almond slivers and sunflower seeds. 

I am watching hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. The sun is warm on my bare feet. I rest my back against the chair. I look at oranges on our tree. I look at purple flowers on bushes in the back and red ones in hedges next to me. I look at rosemary in the shade and pink bougainvillea blossoms covering the fence. 

I am finally calm again, finally at ease again, finally me again.

A squirrel darts down the orange tree, hops towards me like a rabbit, stands on its hind feet and stares right into my eyes.

Caravan - Los Angeles, CA

I am getting back into the creative writing thing, something I enjoyed a lot as a child and teenager.

I put it aside for journalism. These days, I return to my first writing love, and one morning I wrote this text.

It is a poem of thoughts and images that came up when I was watching the news and remembered interviews I made.



Our weeping skies and calloused earths we leave behind

Our midnight serenades and drunkard beatings 

Our first breaths, first steps, first melodies of words 

First funerals of marigolds, bread, candles and tequila

First mango kisses

Behind we leave them in the mud of heavens and hells

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.