Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Being a Motor Doll

It's all about Motor Doll stuff for me right now:  Working with the Gasoline Girls to get all of our cars going. Getting my '48 Ford back on the road. Making plans for the Winslow Motor Palace. During my vacation last week, I spent all of my time on those three pursuits.

The week began in Mojave to finish the job we started on Kristin's Studebaker. A couple weeks ago, we put in a new transmission, but there were some bugs... so we couldn't bring Stude home. Clearly you can see from her smile, Kristin is a very happy girl now. With the help of "Big Daddy" Bart, we finished all of the fine-tuning, and got her rolling again. Kristin even drove her to Vegas this week! Success!!

Next on the agenda? Get Bondorella rollin', too.

A couple Saturdays ago, Kristin, Rosa, and I had a strip party and got most of the green paint off the cab of my '48. From there, I had to get it down to bare metal, which is how I spent mid-week of my vacation: Grinding bondo off of Bondorella, with the help of Kristin, and a little bonus help from Hells Belle, Kat.

The goal is to get Bondorella back on the road ASAP so she'll be ready for Ventura Nationals the beginning of September. It would be my first outing in the new and improved pickup, and our first event together as a car club. Bondorella still needs a couple of holes patched, her taillights wired, and  her front end reassembled. Plus, we need to put some miles on her to make sure all is good before I make such a long trek. Wish us luck.

I finished off the week with a trip to Winslow to do some work on the Motor Palace. We're still waiting on permits to start construction on our "motel room," but in the meantime, we need to fix some issues highlighted by the structural engineer, like "pointing" bricks (filling in the mortar where it's gone), which is what we did--thanks to the fine teachings of Glenn, a steeple-jack who specializes in historic brick buildings, and who will being doing the bulk of the work on the Palace.

Don't you love this great plaster found under the insulation?? We're going to try and leave as much visible as possible. The former owners framed in the entire building and insulated it, hiding all of this wonderful, textural material. Our goal is to have tons of "truth windows" so we can see the history of the building right there on the walls. I think the Palace will be quite a sight when it's done. Be sure to add it to your list of "must sees" along Route 66. And check out our new website! We'll post regular updates there.

So last week was all about getting dirty and getting things done. Would I have rather been sipping a fruity beverage on an exotic beach? Maybe... but I did have a heck of a lot of fun just being a Motor Doll.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The week in summary...

Last Friday I wrote a blog and never posted it. Ha! Silly me. The reason I'm posting it now? I'm too crunched to write up an entirely new entry, and I wanted to share the news!! Stacy Doss, the woman trying to adopt two year old Vanessa and hitting roadblocks, won her appeal! She has a stay on the order to turn Vanessa over. Granted, it's not a conclusion to the story, but at least she can keep Vanessa for now. I'm so, so happy for them.

I had an amazing weekend at Gene Winfield's place out in the desert putting a transmission in fellow Gasoline Girl Kristin's Studebaker. Look for a post soon over at Motor Dolls.

And now, here is last weeks, week in summary:

Monday: Big Waves at the Wedge
Tuesday: New local-boy player for the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Team
Wednesday: Off work to wait for the refrigerator repairman
Thursday: Preview of Fan Fest for the Allstar Baseball game
Friday: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

I'm gonna say right now... this is probably the most boring post I've ever made. So why not delete it? Well... I like to torture my readers.  ;)

There it is! Not too bad of week. No huge, tragic stories. Shooting high waves at the famous Wedge surf spot is always a thrill. They got to about fourteen feet on Monday. Too big for boards, but a few crazy dudes went out to body surf. And the crowds! Of course, the lifeguards blamed them on us for reporting the heck out of the high surf. Hundreds of people headed out to the end of the Balboa Pennisula to take a gander. Of course, they all found it pretty amusing when one of the big waves doused me! Luckily, I kept the camera dry. Sometimes in order to get the most dynamic shot, the photographer has to get into some funky positions.

Generally, along with our news story, we have to shoot a tease. That's where the reporter gets on camera and says, "I'm blah blah at the Anaheim Convention center, where you too can be an All Star! I'll tell you more, coming up at six." or something like that. I've got to give kudos to my reporter who donned a batting hat, got in front of the pitching machine, and managed to get her spiel out PLUS give a holy whack to the ball flying her way. Pretty impressive.

Today's story, medical marijuana. There's been an ongoing battle in a few municipalities to keep medical marijuana dispensaries out of their cities. Lake Forest gave a shut down order about a month ago based on some zoning issue. Today, the appellate court ruled in favor of the dispensaries, and they were allowed to reopen. It's a weird thing shooting inside a dispensary. Many don't want to be seen in there, even though they are legally there with their prescription (although I do sometimes question whether some of these people are really sick).

But I'm over work for the week, and ready for the weekend! Tomorrow, I'm heading to Gene Winfield's place in Mojave to help fellow Gasoline Girl Kristin put a new transmission in her '55 Studebaker. Granted, I have to get up at like four a.m. to try and beat the heat, but it should be a really interesting day.

Sunday, it's off to the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally! Woo hoo!

Later gators!

Friday, July 2, 2010

I know there must be a legal reason, but...

...can't Judges just use common sense sometimes???

Yes, I'm going to rant a bit. When a story touches me this much, I can't help it.

A couple of days ago, I told you about Stacie and her struggles to adopt Vanessa, a baby she's had since birth.

Today, Stacie made yet another court appearance. Friends and family showed up outside the court to support her. It took about forty-five minutes behind closed doors before Stacie emerged. It was clear from her face the news wasn't good. The judge decided to hand the case over to Ohio, which means Vanessa will be taken from the only mother she's ever known, and put into foster care until an adoption hearing which is scheduled for the end of the month. At that time, she will more than likely be given to the paternal grandmother.

My goal with this blog is to share what it's like to be behind the camera while covering a news story. In a case like this, it's hard not to show emotion, even though as a photojournalist, I should hold it together. The pain and anguish in Stacie's voice when she relayed what happened in the court room was palpable. I couldn't help but cry. Everyone did. At least I could hide behind sunglasses and a camera. I can't imagine how devastated she must feel knowing she's sending her daughter into the unknown, and there's nothing she can do about it. And what about this innocent little two-year-old? How will she survive being ripped from her family and given to strangers?

Yes. There are two sides to the story. Mr. Mills is the birth father and has rights. But the birth mother made a hard decision to protect her child and give her child the chance of a better life. Her other two children with Mr. Mills are being raised by his mother. After she had the baby, and gave her to Stacie, she had her tubes tied. She's trying to do the right thing. Even her parents (who we interviewed via phone) agreed Vanessa should stay with Stacie in California, not be brought back to Ohio and a dysfunctional family.

 Here's the deal with the father, Benjamin Mills Jr. He was convicted of domestic violence (mug shot above). He has four (five counting Vanessa) children, none of which he has custody. According to court docs, he dragged Vanessa's birth mother by the hair and beat her until she was unconscious. The police found clumps of her bloody hair around the house. How could a judge in his right mind rule to take this kid away from a situation where she is adored and will have the opportunity for a wonderful life and throw her back into a potentially dangerous situation with a man proven to show violence toward women?

It makes zero sense.

There's still hope. Stacie has already filed an appeal. The birth mother and the birth mother's parents believe it is unsafe to bring the baby back to Ohio. They want Vanessa to stay with Stacie.

But as it stands, in 16 days, Stacy has to hand over her daughter to strangers, and never see her again.

The website again if you want to help:  Operation Vanessa

This is one of those situations where I hope the media can stimulate enough attention to maybe help.

Later gators...

OMG!!! As I'm sitting here writing this, some idiot on his way to turn himself in to parole just punched and then slammed the doors of my van. Dang!! What's wrong with people???

Weekend. Weekend. Yes, it's the weekend. Tomorrow I get to be a Motor Doll and play with my '48 Ford.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Woo hoo!!

The beginning of May, I hit a wall. I'd been working non-stop on my novels for six years, had signed with an agent for one of them, did seven rewrites for her (including converting it to Young Adult), went through the whole publisher submission process--only to realize, it wasn't quite working in its new form. Agent and I parted ways. I didn't like what the novel had become. I tried to get back to it, and rewrite the novel in the true spirit I'd intended, but for the first time in my life, I hit major writer's block. I'd rewritten the book too many times, to the point I just couldn't see it anymore.

So I gave myself a break.

My one month rest turned into two. I was beginning to doubt if I'd ever be able to get back into it. Over the last couple of weeks I tried to dive in, but was basically just rearranging words. This morning, it hit. Not just inspiration, but the solution. I figured out what was wrong.


I can't express enough how relieved I am. I love this project. I can't give up on it. For the first time in months, I'm eager to write. Can you believe it???

Just wanted to share. Now... I have work to do.  :)

Later gators!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wipe out!!

Wow. Somehow (and I'm baffled how) when my reporter went to log the media for our story today (we shoot on P2 cards, kind of like your digital camera card but bigger) she accidentally wiped out the card. Nothing. Nada. Which was a major bummer, not only because we (obviously) couldn't put the story together for the five o'clock news, but because we had to go reshoot it.

To the interviewee: "Ummm... hi.... remember us? The news crew from early that tormented your two-year-old daughter with the giant news camera? Yeah. Well, we'd like to come back and do it all again."

Embarrassing? Nah. My reporter had to make the call! But seriously. Trying to videotape a two-year old is like trying to wash a car with a mad-cat as a rag. It's really tough. Don't get me wrong, this kid was adorable, but she was past due for her nap and didn't want to do anything I wanted her to do. After much chasing (and a whole bunch of cookies--for her, not me) I finally got enough shots to tell the story. We interviewed the mom and headed out. While I lunched, my reporter sat down to log the material. And that was when it happened. Poof! All our hard work gone.

But it was important to tell this story, which was why we went back. It was about adoption, and what happens when the birth father decides he wants to keep the child.

Two years ago, an Orange County woman got a call from the agency she was working with that a birth mother had chosen her from the web data base as the person she wanted to adopt her yet-to-be-born daughter. Stacy was elated. She'd been trying for ten years to have a child, with no luck. After splitting with her husband, she decided to adopt on her own. Two weeks later, she was flying to Ohio to pick up her new daughter. The birth-mother claimed the father wasn't in the picture and that the child was a product of a one night stand.

But that wasn't the case.

She knew the birth-father, in fact, had two other children with him. But he was an abusive man. The mother wanted the baby out of the cycle of violence. Problem was, Stacy had already taken the child back to Orange County. She'd fallen in love with little Vanessa (a name she chose while flying out to pick her up). She couldn't imagine giving this child up.

Two years later, she's still fighting the battle. She refuses to give up her child. Taking a two year old away from the only mother she's ever known would be devastating to both.

It's an incredibly tough situation, because legally, Stacy can't be Vanessa mother until the father gives up his rights, and he refuses to do so. It would be one thing if he was an upstanding citizen, but he has four other children who he does not have custody of, and has a history of domestic abuse.

If you're interested in Stacy and Vanessa's story, check out the website. Hopefully tomorrow, all the news gods will be with us and we can air the story without any more problems.

Ahhh... technology. Remember the good old days with tape?

Until tomorrow...

Later gators

Monday, June 28, 2010

Responsibility... and taking it.

Okay. So you're a girl. You have two small kids, ages 2 and 5, and you start dating some dude. He's really good to you. Takes care of things. Finds you an apartment in a house after you get laid off. Gives you advice on how to take care of your kids. Do you listen even if he tells you to tie them up and give them only two glasses of water a day and nothing else???

Come on!

That was my story today (last Friday's too). Twenty-five year old chick arrested for child abuse after her landlord (who also lives in the house) reported her. Turns out the chick's boyfriend sent her 850 texts explaining how to discipline her kids. 850 TEXTS!!! Seriously? Is he a thirteen year old girl?? No! Even better. He's a behavior technician employed by a school to help mentally disabled children. What the hell is wrong with this guy? Oh! But it gets better! He's also married and has two kids. The name he gave the girlfriend? Not his real name. Mr. Double-Life. What a scumbag, eh?

So then here's the question: Who is more at fault? The man who directed her what to do? Or the woman who did it?

We've got to take responsibility for our own decisions. According to the girl's family, her children are her life. She's never been abusive in any way until "Angelo" came into her life. But if her children truly were her life, why would she listen to a man instructing her to hurt them? It makes no sense. Much as she and her family might like to blame it all on him, ultimately she chained her children to their beds and starved them.

According to officers,  the 2-year-old had severe bruising to his face, forehead and cheek and dry, cracked, bloody lips and bruising that appeared to be at varying stages. The 5-year-old had swollen arms and was extremely dehydrated. Both boys had bruises and knots on their heads. Both boys were taken to a hospital to be treated for dehydration, malnutrition and injuries. The boys, whose ribs were showing through their skin, are expected to recover.


Venting over. Tomorrow is another news day, hopefully one with something a little more uplifting. If you're lookin' for some fun, check out my blog on our latest Winslow trip here.

Until then...

Later gators

Friday, June 25, 2010


Yes. I am still alive, despite the death of my blog. I've said it before; I'll say it again: been majorly slackin' on all writing fronts. Facebook has been the only writing I've done, but that can hardly be called writing. Sometimes it's good to step away and let the brain relax for a while. My novel Motor Dolls needs a major overhaul, and I wasn't quite in the frame of mind to do it. I'm still not sure I am, but the story is creeping back into my head, so it must mean something, right?

So what have I been up to? All kinds of stuff, mostly motorcycle and car related.

Let's see... got these way cool ABC Bones leathers, circa 1960-something.

Had a swell weekend in Santa Barbara for my bff's (?0) birthday.

Spent the weekend at the Queen Mary for the Ink N Iron show.

Did a moto-trip to Winslow to check on the Motor Palace, taking as much of old Route 66 as possible. There's something really cool about spending a bunch of consecutive hours on a motorcycle riding through the desert. We did it in one shot on the way back, nearly twelve hours, although it didn't feel like it. Amazingly, we both felt great when we got back to the OC.

My '48 Ford is coming along. All of the mechanical is done, so now we're moving along to the cosmetics. I've decided to bead blast all the paint off, clear coat the bare metal, and pinstripe the heck out of it. The bed is blasted. This weekend I hope to get the frame and drive shaft painted. Charles is finishing the exhaust. Hopefully we're inching closer to the day I can drive her again.

The yet-to-be-named all girls car club has a name! The Gasoline Girls. We'll be meeting again next week at my shop, and each girl will give an oral history on her car--which is great. It's forced me to  get to know my truck on a deeper level. The theory behind the assignment is so that when someone comes up to us at a car show and asks a question, we'll be able to "wow!" them with our answers. After all, we're not just pretty faces!


Yeah, uhh.... the usual. Some great days with fun stories, some depressing days. Over the last few weeks I've done everything from a local Glee club winning worldwide awards to a murder suicide where a man shot his two year old multiple times (he survived), shot at his five year old (and missed), killed his wife and then himself.  See? The full spectrum.

So, you ask, "Are you getting to back to it?" I think so. I make no promises (to myself). If the inspiration hits, then I'll be here. But I do seriously want to get my writing mojo back. Anyone seen it? If so, send it packin' back my way.

Thanks for listenin'.

Later gators!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poor Wandering Whale

Here's a fascinating fact: Did you know whales can shut off half their brains? That way, they can sleep and still swim. Man! How I would love to accomplish stuff while sleeping.... Hey. I heard that. I do not sleepwalk through life. Anyway.

This poor whale today. I hope when I'm old and ready to die, that I'm not a spectacle like him, wandering around Dana Harbor, separated from the migrating herd, left to drift and be ogled by masses of people. This morning, he wandered into the harbor, but the folks from the Ocean Institute coaxed him back to open water using sounds. They worried boats might run him over inside. Now, he just hovers near the jetty.

I gotta say it was pretty interesting to see a gray whale up close. Marine Biologists can tell it's old by the *ahem*--wait for it--whale lice. Ew. Yes. Whale Lice. And the barnacles. I've gotta say, it wasn't a pretty beast. As one little girl put it, "CREEPY!!!" Then again, I'm not sure which was more disgusting. The whale, or this man's feet. I won't disgust you further with a closeup. Trust me on this one.

People brought cameras and kids, and oohed and aaahhhed every time the whale came up for air and blew air out it's blow hole. Not a shabby assignment today. Gorgeous ocean views. Cool (a little too cool) ocean breezes. Amazing feats of nature. And a bird up in a tree that I swear sounded like a shrill little barking dog.

All in all a pretty good day, at least for me and for the spectators. Not so much for the whale. Although... maybe he's a showboat. Maybe he wants to go out a celebrity. Considering he's been on every station in every newscast today, I think he's done just that.

Happy journey, whale, wherever that next journey might be.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pretty views and Pretty motorcycles

Wanna see the view from my "office" today?

Not too shabby, eh? I'm not sure how I would handle being confined to a building all day. I love being out and about. While up at the "Top of the World" in Laguna Beach, I saw bunnies and hawks and pretty flowers and sparkly water...

...okay. You get what I'm sayin'. So why was I on "Top of the World" today? Because Laguna Beach is in a dead zone. In order to feed back our signal live, we have to have line of sight with a microwave tower, and since Laguna is surrounded by hills, that can't be done. The solution? Drive up the to "Top of the World" park. Complaining? Not me.

And why were we in Laguna? To interview a family member of one of the American hikers detained in Iran. (See Richard? Real news!) They've been actively campaigning to get Visas for the mothers of the three detainees so they can at least go see their kids, but have been continually denied. Finally today, the Iranian government said they will be issued, but the family is hesitant to believe. They've been told this before. Only when the Visas are in hand, will they allow themselves to get excited. If you're interested in reading more about their story, check out the website, www.freethe hikers.org.

Now I'm going to blather on about my weekend. Work has been stressful the last couple of weeks, so instead of doing what I should have done this weekend--like laundry and grocery shopping (who needs clean clothes and food?)--I instead chose to be completely self-indulgent and just have fun. Saturday I went riding with a friend, Shannon, who just got her motorcycle license and her first motorcycle, a Honda Rebel (well, kind of her first bike. She bought a Yamaha, but it had issues to the point of being unrideable, so our good pal Spider hooked her up with the Rebel). We did 100 miles through the canyons and around Orange County. She did great!! You'd never know she'd been on a bike only a handful of times. Go Shannon!

Sunday, I took the '67 CT 90 out for some exercise. Poor little thing doesn't get much road time with all the other bikes in the garage. I had SO much fun! Seriously! I don't know how many laps I did through Old Town Orange, blazing (okay, maybe not blazing) down street after street ogling the "downtown charmers" (old houses, in cheesy realtor talk). On about my bazillionth time rounding the traffic circle, people started to point and laugh. But we didn't give a rat's ass! We knew we were cool!

When I got back to the shop, my feller had taken the fairing and touring trunk off of MoJoe's old sidecar rig. I couldn't believe how much better it looked! So of course we had to take that out for a spin to make sure everything still functioned right. I swear, people on the streets can't help but smile when they see a sidecar rig. See? I bet you're smiling now!

Okay, okay. I'll stop blabbering on about motorcycles. But I'm a Motor Doll! What do you expect??

Oh! And speaking of Motor Doll stuff! Wednesday, I meet again with the yet-to-be-named all girl car club! And this weekend Mae (my '48 Ford), gets her newly-purchased front fenders! Maw and Paw are dragging the trailer here since I haven't been able to make it out to get them. Thanks Maw and Paw! Wanna read the full story on her face-lift? Go here. Woo hoo!! Maybe Mae will someday be back on the road again!

And now... it's time to eat dinner. Maybe it will dilute the caffeine in my system.

Later gators!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Never forget...

Yeah, I know. I've been seriously slackin' on the Blog front, but it's not as if I've been off counting dust motes. For one, I had some Motor Doll bloggin' to do over on the MD site, you know, motor-related stuff after a busy, super-fun-motor-weekend a while back. Don't believe me? Go check it out.

Plus, I've been workin' on the Winslow building (newly named the WINSLOW MOTOR PALACE). We went there last weekend for the first time as owners--scary, but oh so cool. We put together plans for our "motel room" in the mudroom/shanty off the main building. Sounds charming, eh? Really... it is. I just like the word shanty. And our contractor likes the word mudroom. It's an East-Coast thing. Anyway...

Of course, I could have sneaked in time to write about my daily news stories (what this blog is supposed to be about, right?) but frankly, couldn't get motivated. The stories haven't been at all inspiring. I did an entire week on the federal appliance rebate. All week, pictures of washers and dryers and refrigerators--oh my! Write about that? I don't think so.

And... oh yeah! My house was burglarized. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say knowing someone came into your home and took things you worked hard to buy, stinks. Most of the stuff they stole insurance will cover and can be replaced. One thing for me, though, can't.

For those of you who've read MOTOR DOLLS, you know Benny gets thrown for a loop when her camera gear is stolen, not because she can't go buy new ones, but because the memories evoked from each camera are irreplaceable. The camera stolen from me wasn't particularly sentimental, and because it's no longer made, I got an upgrade as a replacement (thanks, super-cool-and-mega-swell-Richard. See? I mentioned you in my blog. Happy now?).  What really tweaked me was my camera strap. Yep. The strap.

When I was thirteen, I borrowed my dad's SLR to get some shots for a magazine put together by my AP English class. My subject? Arcosanti, an experimental town in the middle of the Arizona desert. I shot two rolls of black-and-white and fell in love with the process and how life looked through a viewfinder. Because I'd developed such a passion (and borrowed my dad's camera way too often) my parents bought me my own, a used Pentax K1000, with a "professional" looking camera strap, much like the one in the picture here. I felt so hip and cool with my bitchin' strap. A couple years after I got the camera, my brother's dog, Red, knocked over my tripod with the Pentax, splitting the body. The only thing salvagable was the strap.

Over the years, I moved that silly strap from camera to camera. It didn't feel like "my" camera unless it wore that strap. When I realized my camera had been taken in the burglary, my first thought was the strap. They stole a piece of my photographic history that can never be replaced.

How did I respond? I kinda took a time-out on life, which is why I haven't kept up on this blog. I felt  zapped but couldn't completely explain why. Yes, work kept me insanely busy. Yes, I felt overloaded. Yes, the theft bummed me out. But totally checking out didn't fit me.

About a week after the theft (while doing yet another ridiculous appliance story) I met a very interesting man: A sixty-something out of work construction inspector living in a Hollywood Hills apartment.  He'd taken advantage of the rebate program and was waiting for his new washing machine to be delivered--and we planned to be there to capture the moment. Of course, the delivery truck was late. Really late. In fact, we had to leave before it arrived in order to make our air slot. While waiting, we stood around and talked. He said he had a gift of seeing truth and gave us some examples that seemed pretty insightful, especially about the reporter I was working with. Somehow we got on the subject of the burglary, and I mentioned the strap. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "It wasn't the strap that was special. It was the way you felt about it. You still have those feelings."

Whoa. He was totally right. His advice?

"When you walk into the store to buy a new strap, transfer all of those emotions and memories into the new strap. Remember, the strap doesn't matter. What's in your head and heart does."

Here I'd been fretting about this silly thing for a week, and a few words from a stranger made me feel a bazillion times better. So you know what I did? I went on ebay and found an old strap like mine and bought it. When it arrives, I'll take his advice and transfer all of the youthful love and enthusiasm I felt the first time I slung my "professional" camera 'round my neck into the new one and create a whole new set of memories to add to it.

Mr. Hollywood Hills Man, I don't remember your name, but I will never forget your eyes or your words. Thank you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

There's no such thing as ugly or stupid... at least in motorcycles.

So I popped into Coffee Bean for my daily fix of green tea and had an interesting conversation that led me to think about judgment in motorcycling.

The guy behind the counter looked totally hip in his clear Ray-Bans, shaved head, and tattoos. Super friendly guy. And a tea drinker, too. Anyway, so I was wearing my favorite Triumph t-shirt from Glory (great store with a vintage vibe, check it out), and the counter guy asked if I rode a Triumph. So I answered, “Yes!” He then asked if I had one of the new ones that looked old. Again, I answered, “Yes, an ’04, but I also have a ’77.” So we talked about the woes of kick-starting an old machine and he mentioned how much he’d like to get one of the new ones.Since he showed an interest in motorcycles, I, of course, asked if he rode.

That’s when it happened. Something I hate to see. He turned his eyes away, got uncomfortable, and answered that he had… a scooter. “Cool!” I said. “I love scooters. I’m in the market for an old Vespa.”

Then he got even more embarrassed. “Oh, yeah… well… I just have a Yamaha Vino.”

A Vino. Vintage inspired. Inexpensive. Nothing to be ashamed of, so why was he?

He should have been proud.

Because I always get excited talking bikes, I asked him a couple of questions, which got him talking and he totally lit up and told me about all the modifications he’d made and how fun it was. Just like that, he shifted from shame to enthusiasm. He wants to get a Bonnie someday, but an upcoming wedding and European honeymoon have priority right now. Point is, he’s a future motorcyclist. And that’s way cool.

Our conversation led me to think about judgment in general. There’s way too much of it in the world. Hell, I’m as guilty as the next Doll. But here’s the deal: scooter or motorcycle, the guy is riding. He’s young. He shares a passion. He’s in the game. Should he feel embarrassed or ashamed just because he’s still working toward his dream bike? Granted, we all have tastes and preferences. I like the old beasts that barely run, which is pretty stupid. If I had half a brain I wouldn’t mess with them (like my poor little ’66 Yamaha YM1). Some riders appreciate fancy paint jobs, or ape-hangers, or carbon fiber. Some don’t. Our motorcycles are an expression of personal style. Or, they’re a reflection of our current situation. Regardless. Riding is what it’s about.

So I have a goal and a challenge: to put aside personal bias and love the fact that someone else has found the passion--even if they pull up on a Pacific Coast with a chopper kit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Angels and Gondolas

When asked about my favorite element of being a photojournalist, the answer is easy. Getting to do all the things I do. How many people can say they've been hung out the back of a Chinook helicopter? Or gone inside top-secret government sites? Or met three presidents? The list goes on and on. I've had the opportunity to do so many amazing things in my career.

Like this week so far. Small things, but pretty cool.


I have to admit. I don't follow baseball. I know, I know. It's the great all-American past time. But I've just never been a sports fan. Even so, it's still pretty fun to be down on the field with the players on opening day. There's an energy buzzing around as they come out for pre-game practice. It's hard not to get caught up in it.

Even the team manger, Mike Scioscia, waxed nostalgic about his favorite opening days both as a player and as a manager.

And wow! What an armada of Japanese media for new angel Hideki Matsui! 104 credentialed Japanese media compared to our usual twenty or so.


I got to ride in a Gondola. And I got paid to do it. In Long Beach, there's a lovely area called Naples featuring homes on a canal. It's a popular place for tourists and locals alike to kayak, and boat, or simply walk along the lovely paths lining the canals. And yes. There are gondola rides.

But the sea walls keeping the water and the homes separated is in serious need of repair. It was built as a '50 year wall,' 70 years ago, and after last Sunday's quake in Baja, experienced some damage. The fear now is that if a quake hits closer to home, the walls could crumble and put the homes in jeopardy. It's an expensive fix, though, and some Long Beach residents feel millions of dollars shouldn't be spent to repair "rich people's back yards." Instead, they'd like to see the money spent on fixing roads and other infrastructure.

It was an exceptionally beautifully day in Long Beach: Blue skies, lovely breeze, colorful and clear. I couldn't imagine being inside an office on a day like that--another great perk of the job. For all of the downsides, there are also a heck of a lot of benefits. I can truly say I've experienced the world.

Today? Who knows what today will bring. Every day is different. But even if it's a lousy story, I have to remember how much fun I had Monday and Tuesday, and balance the good with the bad.

Later gators!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes you've just gotta be a Motor Doll...

A very wise feller had a talk with me this week about balance, something I've been struggling a lot with lately. I tend to dive into things full force when I'm on a mission, and neglect everything around me. Problem is right now, I have several things I'm diving full force into, in addition to a demanding job. I guess my facade started to crack, and he noticed.

So I listened to him.

What's the point of writing about a lifestyle if I'm not living it? On his advice, I put aside my many projects (or at least cut back), and went and had some fun. Thursday night, even though my brain kept reminding me of all the things I needed to do, I ignored the annoying voice in my head and went for a motorcycle ride, meeting up with two other Motor Dolls at a club meeting for a group of Triumph riders. And you know what? I had a blast being a Motor Doll again. It became very clear how much I've been neglecting what I love.

So I carried that feeling through the weekend. 

Saturdays I usually go to the gym, clean house, then write for the rest of the day. Instead, I went to the gym, then hopped on my motorcycle and rode for a while, ending up at my favorite coffeehouse (one that doesn't have WiFi) and wrote a new opening chapter for my novel MOTOR DOLLS--or at least tried to in between conversations about motorcycles with guys coming and going from the place. It felt good to get out of my cave and write in a different environment. It felt great being on my Triumph and once again being a Motor Doll.

Saturday night, we rode out to a great restaurant in the canyons. Sunday we took the old Corvette out. And now Monday morning, I actually feel rested instead of stressed.    

Nathan Brandsford, a literary agent who blogs, posted Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer. Sadly, I was seriously breaking three of them: Enjoy the Present, Don't Neglect Friends and Family, and Recognize the Forces that are Out of Your Control. Writing becomes an obsession, especially when you're balancing a few projects in various stages. Because of the current state of the publishing industry, debut authors are responsible for marketing, for getting themselves out there. That means maintaining a strong web presence and finding your fans. It's extremely time consuming. In addition to that, a writer still needs to write. And when you're working twelve hour days, it becomes incredibly difficult to fit all of that in, plus still be a good wife and friend and maintain the basics like paying bills and buying groceries. And oh yeah. Having fun.

         (Lady Luck, Kitty Kat, and Nate from BA Moto)

Thanks Feller, for recalibrating me and putting things in perspective. You're super swell.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The news week in summary

Mommy reprimanded me for not updated my blogs, so here I am. It’s been a busy week.

Let’s see… Monday. Hmmm. I don’t remember Monday. I had a migraine and the whole day is sort of a blur. I’m sure we covered a news story, I just don’t remember what. Sad, huh?

Tuesday. Ah… the Alcala sentencing. This is the case I blogged about a while back. He was given the death sentence for the third time, but because all death sentences can be appealed, I’m sure he’ll appeal just as he did the last two times. The sadist will probably out live us all. More details came out in this case regarding how the women died. The man truly is the devil.

Wednesday. Here’s a provocative one. Gay Jesus. Told you it was provocative. There’s a play written by Terrance McNally called CORPUS CHRISTI. It’s the retelling of the Jesus story, with Jesus as a gay man living in 1950s Corpus Christi, and is obviously, very controversial—especially this particular performance taking place Easter Sunday at a progressive Christian church. I won’t pass judgment one way or another on the topic. But I do want to talk about judgment of a different kind. Right before our live shot outside the church, a man came up and said to be sure to point out that the church isn’t a Christian church. Oh, but it is. They consider themselves Christian. We can’t contradict that in our story and say they’re not. When my reporter explained this to him, he got angry because it’s not HIS idea of Christianity.

Immediately after our live shot, I noticed a woman standing near our truck scowling. The second we wrapped, she stomped up to us and said, “I can’t believe you’re exploiting this.” Then she went on to criticize our story for being one-sided. Our story was most certainly NOT one-sided. We talked to people on both sides of the issue. When we asked her what she thought of the sound bytes from the Faith Coalition and from the two college students opposed to it, she admitted she didn’t watch our whole story, that the moment she saw what our story was about, she rushed out of the house to our location to give her opinion. So she passed judgment without even knowing the facts. She walked away saying she had no respect for us as individuals.

It’s one of the weird things about working in this field. As an office worker, it’s doubtful you’ll have people walk into your workspace and personally attack you—something I get on a pretty regular basis. Another example: If we cover a Republican event (like the McCain/Palin event I just cover), they blast the liberal media and we get booed. Covering Democratic events, they refer to us as right wing conspirators and we get booed. We can’t be both, people! We try our best to be neutral, and for that neutrality, get blasted. Granted, there are definitely journalists with a slant. But that’s not the spirit of our profession.

THURSDAY: An arrest on a kidnapping plot.
FRIDAY: The economic effect on large churches and their Easter celebrations

Okay. I’ve rambled enough. Clearly, you can see what story got to me this week. As journalists, are we supposed to steer clear of controversial issues? Or explore them? If we lean to one side or the other, we’d be biased, right?

I’ll shut up now.

Later gators!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Home Again, Home Again!

(A disclaimer: I'm sleep deprived, so don't expect clever writing, proper spelling, or fascinating tales.)

I've finally wandered back to Southern California after my time on the road.

Friday we covered the McCain/Palin event in Tucson. The day started with a six a.m. live shot--and it was cold (45 degrees)! Who would've expected Tucson to be cold! Thankfully, my pal Allen (a photographer for the Today show) loaned me a jacket. Thanks, Allen!

The event started around 12:30. Most of the 1000 guests told us they mainly came to see Sarah Palin--and she didn't disappoint the crowd. But I won't discuss politics here. I'm all about the behind the scenes, right? Other than clueless reporters stepping on and off our platform during the event (shaking the platform, thus making the shot shake) the event went nice and smooth.

By the time we did our liveshot at five o'clock. most everyone had already gone. Five minutes until air, one of the deconstruction crew comes over and tells me they need to take the platform down. He said he'd wait until after our shots, but the guys actually started taking it down around us. Yikes! With only a half an hour to get ready for the six, I had move everything off, quickly slam together (edit) our 6 o'clock piece, and reset the shot. Run! Run! Run! Weirdly, I kinda enjoy the pressure. I know, I know. That's messed up, right?

The downside of the day? The lack of food and sleep. The night before, we got to squeeze in three hours sleep before getting up for the early show. Once we got to the fairgrounds where the event took place, we were locked down for the day, and there was no food anywhere to be found! Luckily I carry Cliff Bars in my bag. It's weird though. When you're working and have deadlines to meet, the hunger and fatigue move to the backseat. It's not until later you start to crash. Around seven thirty, we finally got a bite to eat, then shot our piece for the 11pm. To bed by midnight. Yay!

From there, instead of heading back to SoCal, I took a little detour to Phoenix to spend the day with my family. My pretty mommy and I went to a wedding.

I watched my twin nieces ride horses.

Saw all the cool things my nephew builds.

Met their cool tree frog "Gummy" (aptly named since everything sticks to him). They also had several hamsters and dogs. They love critters. Reckon it runs in the family.

Visited my 91-year-old "Nannie."

Of course got the best daddy hug in the world. All in all, a fine day trip on the way back home.

Thanks for indulging my family photos. Tomorrow, back to work! And now... it's time to SLEEP. Ah... sleep. How I've missed you.