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!