Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Poem: You were my planets, but I was just a star

I still love you,
but I've stopped calling,
because I finally realized
that you were my planets, while I was just a star.

You came into my sky after my first sun died,
and I revolved around you
as my new source of warmth and light.
But to you I was just one of millions 
already burned out.

So I've stopped calling,
while I remap my solar system,
until you're no longer the planets,
you never wanted to be for me.
And I'm sorry it took me so long to realize
that you were my planets, while I was just a star.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I love reporting small-town news. And this photo might be why.

One summer when we were kids, my sister and I read so many books at our town library that we made the local newspaper. 

That was cool.

I remember meeting the photographer at the library, and how instead of just snapping our photo, he asked to stack up a bunch of books to make the shot more interesting. As a third-grader I hadn't yet learned the term "grip and grin" that newsrooms used to describe static photos of people holding trophies or donation checks, but I could appreciate that this photographer was trying to be creative. And it was certainly fun to stand next to a tower of  books taller than us kids, as the big grin on my face can attest.

My sister (left) was 10 and I was 8.

I don't remember the skirt I am wearing in the photo; I remember being such a tomboy that I never wore skirts or blouses, so maybe I was talked into dressing up that day. But I do remember those tennis shoes. They were the first brand-name shoes I owned because my father got them cheap at a fire sale: A local store had literally sold off its inventory after a fire, but those shoes were perfectly good except for a small melted spot and some soot.

My sister and I had fallen in love with books and the places they could take you when my mother read to us each night at our bunk beds. I especially remember her reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and how we would beg her every night to read another chapter.

Once I could read for myself, I lived at the library during the summer, checking out all the books I could at a time and begging my mother to let me stay up longer to read them. Then sneaking a flashlight into my room when she wouldn't.

Once school started again I lived for three things: The days we had Fiesta Pizza, a strange mix of pizza and tostada served on soft dough shaped like a Stop sign; the day my teacher handed out the new Scholastic book catalogs that I poured over to carefully choose as many as my mother would let me buy; and, finally, the day the boxes of new books came into the classroom and I could bring all mine home.

I'll bet reading 100 books one summer wasn't even a big number for me, but as the only kids we knew who didn't have a television set in our house, my sister and I easily read more books than the other kids signed up for the library's reading program that summer. So we made the paper that year in what newsrooms call "refrigerator news": Something that parents, or in our case, my grandmother, cut out of the paper and put on the fridge.

Decades later, I was in my first job as a full-time reporter at a small newspaper near Seattle that published twice a week. And one of my favorite tasks there was compiling a page called "Scene and Heard," which featured all the "grip-and-grin" photos people sent in of graduations, engagements and even the hole-in-one they just made at the golf course. 

But I knew it was very important to someone, so I loved trying to crop the photos and wordsmith the information to make it as exciting and attractive as possible -- never forgetting that photographer who made my first refrigerator news more interesting.

And I knew he came with me on every writing assignment, too, when my editor paid me a rare compliment after I returned from what could have been the most static of stories: A small group of senior citizens standing around practicing dialogue for an upcoming play reading at the local Senior Center.

The photographer I was with could have taken a very boring photo of people standing in a small, windowless room reading from scripts. But he got up close to one man, carefully angling the shot to create a dynamic photo of him reading with a great expression on his face.

When the story and photos were done, my editor flipped off his light and hurried out of his office to his car as usual, but as he passed my desk he said, with no trace of sarcasm, "You got far more out of that than I ever could."

I smiled. It was the first completely unsolicited feedback I had gotten from him; but more importantly, I knew I was doing for others what that photographer had done for my family: Painting even the smallest achievements of others in the best light I could.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

My Grandmother's Journals: May, 1995

Every day my grandmother wrote down what time she woke up, where she ate breakfast, what movie she went to see, what mail and phone calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before going to sleep.

My grandmother in French class in Paris, 1979. Behind her is a British woman she befriended.  

In 1995, she was 79 years old and living alone in a mobile home park, but I wouldn't describe her as lonely; she was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. At that age she was still traveling alone, corresponding with people across the globe she befriended on her trips, and always keeping up with current events. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.)  

Close to her home in Santa Cruz, Calif., was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking near the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.

That was cool.

In May of 1995, she was returning from her latest trip to France and catching back up with the O.J. Simpson trial. She was also spending too much time landscaping around her mobile home, since she hurt her back pulling weeds.

Wednesday, May 3, 1995
(Note at top of page: No one buys wine!)
In Lourdes, walked a bit.
To Rosarie, got candle for Sy, put out to burn. 
Got ice cream. Rain. 
Hotel 7:45 p.m., I paid for drink for Lloyd.
Mailed postcards.

Thursday, May 4, 1995
No paper for two days!
Tour of Biarritz and Bourdeaux, both interesting. 
Lunch in tiny cobblestone village, overcharged!
To hotel, tried to find an International Herald Tribune, no dice.
Washed all underthings. Bed, slept good.

Friday, May 5, 1995
Tours, ate lunch with McCoy sisters. Good food!
Warm day, looked for paper -- always a day late!
Mailed cards to Mina and Justine.
Evening meal, Freda discussed my feelings! {This was underlined in red.}
Hot, hot.

Saturday, May 6, 1995
Tours, up 6:30 a.m. Hot.
Got Saturday paper, trimmed hair. 
Got dish towels to give to Justine and H, ate quiche Lorraine and tea, 34.50 ($7.20)
Dinner, dry potatoes and overdone chicken. Asked for catsup.

Monday, May 8, 1995
Paris. Breakfast 6:45 a.m..
To Jeanne d'Arc, cathedral. 
Had drink in bar with Joan and Sally.
Called Sy and Mimi, took water to Sy.
Finally bed 11:30 p.m. 
No air conditioning, window nailed shut. Shower does not work!

Tuesday, May 9, 1995
Leave 1:25 p.m. Told man at desk, he said "I know!"
5:45 a.m., bag out, down stairs.
Much turbulence, flight arrived SFO at 4:20 p.m.
Greyhound at 6:35 p.m., in Santa Cruz 8:40 p.m.  Bus 9 p.m., home 9:45 p.m.

Wednesday, May 10, 1995
Slept until 6 a.m., breakfast at McDonald's.
Got gas at Shell, washed car.
Got mail, then milk and fruit at Albertsons. Longs, got two TV Guides and cookies.
Watched O.J. trial, sorted mail. Mary Cooper came by.
To Kmart, ate, got coin purse.
Home, to bed 4 p.m.

Thursday, May 11, 1995
Breakfast at McDonald's. 
To post office, mailed card to Sy, got stamps.
To Burger King, ate fish and chips and chocolate milkshake.
Home, some O.J.
Called Justine four times {I was flying home from Chile, she wanted to make sure I arrived safely.}
Bed 8 p.m., slept better. 

Friday, May 12, 1995
Awake 4 a.m., up 5:30 a.m. Some straightening, breakfast at Lyon's.
Walked Capitola, tried Justine many times, no answer.
Rested some, to show: "French Kiss," Kevin Kline, Meg Ryan. Started funny, then changed!
Called Justine again, decided to call San Luis Obispo -- she was there! Just arrived! Pleased with trip, may come up this weekend.
Me to bed, up at 9 p.m.  X-Files half hour, back to bed.

Saturday, May 13, 1995
Awake three times, up 6 a.m. Cold, rainy.
No call from Justine, some yard work. Put plants back, still damp.
Where is pendant from Venice?
Coffee weak now! Ate McDonald's, pancakes!
Albertsons, carrots cost 10 cents more than label!
Some TV, no mail.
Need to iron clothes! Bed 10 p.m.

Sunday, May 14, 1995
Awake early, to McDonald's. Open 7 a.m., not 6! To Burger King, got sausage!
Walked around, many cars parked at Trader Joe's?
To ducks, not hungry?? Got good sense -- bread not good.
Found pendant - in purse!
Some TV, Phantom of the Opera. 
Justine called, will be up tomorrow.

Monday, May 15, 1995
Call at 5:30 a.m. for Elsa! Up 6:30 a.m., ate McDonald's. No coffee.
Garbage late; called at 8:10 a.m., came by 8:30.
Yard work 1 hour, showered, washed hair.
 Ate lunch - tuna steak!
To Drug Emporium, no diuretic. To Longs, same, got some at Shermans; no potassium.
Justine called at 3:30 p.m.. Raining, will wait until tomorrow.
Started letter to Mina.

Tuesday, May 16, 1995
Awake 5:30! Up 6:30 a.m. Checked oil, low.
Breakfast at donut for good coffee.
Haircut at 9:30 a.m., started letter to Mina again. 
Justine arrived about 12 p.m. To town, put in 10 rolls of film.
Lunch at Pizza My Heart, then coffee and mousse tart at Santa Cruz Coffee.
Justine looked for books at Logo's, got two books on California, me Paris.
Home, looked at film.

Saturday, May 20, 1995
Up 6:30 a.m., watered roses and lawn.
Breakfast at McDonald's. Home, finished letter to Mina. 
Washed clothes. Watched "Rear Window." 
To Aptos to see "Don Juan DeMarco." Great.
Ate home, pulled weeds near carport.
Read "That Damn Cat," finished. Some TV.
Up in night, nerve/muscle problem!

Sunday, May 21, 1995
Up 8 a.m. Watched Bay to Breakers. Read, rested, did not go out.
Cloudy, foggy all day.  Bravo ran Track 29, taped it again!
Not much done, hope back better.
Watched 60 Minutes and part of Barbara Walters.

Monday, May 22, 1995
Up 8ish. Breakfast Carl's Jr. 
Laundromat, talked to blonde woman (who) loaned money to brothers-in-law who did not pay back!
Home, showered, washed hair. Watered lawn.
Ate Burger King - fat!!
Had cereal at 8 p.m.
Bed 9 p.m., did x-word. Sleep 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 23, 1995
Breakfast McDonald's. Longs, TV Guide.
To Orchard Supply, got plant and Roundup for dandelions.
To show, "Kiss of Death." I was the only viewer!
Home, Justine called. She was in the Bay to Breakers! Had fun.
TV, Wings and Frasier.

Thursday, May 25, 1995
Dentist cleaning at 2 p.m., call Carol re dinner.
Up 8 a.m., breakfast at McDonald's. Home, yard work. Fertilized rose bushes, cleaned top shelf of small shed.
To dentist, then got ice cream cone!
Carol called, met at Carpo's. Soup and potato, $3.95. {Her daughter} has warrants for meth, theft and solicitation. Left 6:55 p.m.
Watched "Prime Suspect" 9 to 11 p.m.

Saturday, May 27, 1995
Up 7:30 a.m., breakfast McDonald's. Got gas, not crowded, thought would be.
Home, yard work, sprayed roses again, trimmed jasmine. Careful with back!
To Bakers Square, got Lemon Supreme.
To show, "Search and Destroy." Odd, but good.
Home 5:30 p.m., Some "One-Eyed Jack" and "Cocoon."
Bed 10 p.m., slept deep.

Sunday, May 28, 1995 
Awake 6:30, back to sleep until 9 a.m. Breakfast Kmart. Got two cassettes, $3.99 each.
No yard work, rested. Read, ate lunch and dinner here. 
Some TV, reruns. Old Cybill {Shepherd movie} "Stormy Weather." She PI, wears ridiculous clothes.
Took shower, washed hair.

Monday, May 29, 1995
Up 8 a.m., Breakfast McDonald's. Foggy, got salad for lunch.
Home, yard work. Dandelions in Larry's lawn.
To show, "Priest." Good, sad.
Home 3:30 p.m., got hot dog.
Read, watched some baseball: Phillies and Dodgers.
News, Matlock, "The Man Who Would Not Die," Roger Moore.

Tuesday, May 30, 1995
Awake 6 a.m. Fog, cold. Breakfast McDonald's.
Wrote letter to Prudy, read letter from Freda. 
To mall. Mary C. at mall, showed me her footstool in process. Got candy at See's!
Home, read. TV: Frost 6 to 8 p.m.
Bed 9:30 p.m. Tired, slept good.

Wednesday, May 31, 1995
Up 7:55 a.m. Breakfast McDonald's. Put quilt out to air while washed pink pillow covers.
French Open 10 a.m., Sampras out! 
Lunch snack here, then to show, "Forget Paris." Usual tourist pictures! Plot is marital discord.
Home, Larry is pulling weeds.
Looked at TV some, lights out 8:45 p.m.