Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘newspaper

Thanks for the Facebook love

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FB as Barbie diaryDear Facebook friends: Thanks for all my birthday wishes, and, more importantly, thanks for coming back into my life. As a writer and diarist, Facebook is one of my favorite activities. Reminds me of these blue, green, purple books with hearts and keys that I have in my writing chest and I have kept since sixth grade, writing on every single page in most years. I have shelves and shelves of diaries/journals/
notebooks/whatever you call them until I got onto Facebook.

I make time for FB – morning and night — just like I journaled all those years before Facebook. I’m not too busy. I’m not embarrassed. Yes, I have a life, but I’m a writer, formerly a reporter, and I continue to report. Every day, I do this.

The other best thing about Facebook besides reconnecting with friends is: No editors. Ha!! Take that you Texas magazine editor who wanted me to change and change my Rayburn Dam story about growing up on the Angelina River until I couldn’t recognize it and – even I who love to get paid for what I write – refused to let it be published.

Even better, I can take photos of what I see and post. Yes, I was that kind of reporter, meaning I was the kind of reporter who worked at many small-town dailies and biweeklies so that I can get as good of a tornado shot as anyone. My eye sees the action in the crowd, just like my mind knows who the story-maker is in the room.

Because of FB, I don’t have to try to get my husband or kids or friends to come see the . . . sunrise, sunset, moon, Orion, Venus, Blood Blue Moon, four-leaf clover, turtles in the gully, deer, trashy graffiti, misspelled graffiti, bad punctuation on signs, snakes, Madonnas in the back of the pickup, terrible traffic on Texas 59. Or especially Ben doing something incredibly cute; Lucy doing something incredibly cute; their over-the-top cuteness when they do something together that just makes my day.

What I wanted to say today, on my birthday, as my friends write on my timeline is how proud I am of my life because of my friends and the people along my way. They are different and they are the same – these days we certainly know their differences but we don’t often talk about their sameness.

Most of my friends have pets, adore their pets and seem to love them more and more as they age. All the grandparents understand my doting adoration of Ben and forgive me for the over-sharing of his photos.

You wouldn’t believe the number of writers on my friends list including, naturally, folks from my reporter days but also from my girlhood. Port Neches, Groves and nearby were ripe for gritty stories. Heck, I even have two Pulitzer Prize winners among my friends, one of whom has won two Pulitzers.

FB keeps me in touch with my longest ago friend, Pattie, who I met the first day of first grade. And my bestie from teen-age years, Cyndy, who helped me meet my husband when she was being so charming at freshmen orientation at Lamar University. And my lifelong friend Lynn who has been in every part of my life from girlhood carpool, to living behind me at Lamar University, to now, now. We even spoke on the phone this week.

My friends include my babysitting co-op from 30 years ago when I was first in Kingwood, had only Laura and was freelancing without many friends. I’m even friends with many of my kids’ friends from their teen-age days. I really like them all better as adults.

My very favorite friends from our life in Michigan are on my list including Lynne who was the angel sent to be by my side when Trav was being diagnosed with his childhood heart problem – now cured because we moved back here to go to Texas Children’s. Without that huge glitch, we might still be wearing snow shoes and digging out our driveway.

Then, I’ve managed to reconnect with far-flung family members and watch my niece’s adventures in Alaska and my nephew who is living a nomad life as a photographer and driver in North Carolina. And, even if they don’t post every day, I get a glimpse into their lives, find out they are OK and the most important events happening with them.

Via Facebook, I’ve found out about the deaths of three good friends and my beloved niece who was named for me. I know that sounds cold and isolated from society as it used to be, but I’m so glad I found out so soon after their unexpected deaths. I wonder and worry about my wild family pretty routinely and start reaching out when I don’t hear from someone or something new is happening with them.

I have excellent cooks in my repertoire who share great and easy recipes. I have crafty folks including several quilters. Friends are building homes, raising chickens, running marathons, lifting weights, sitting by pools and beaches and drinking wine with me many evenings.

My tennis friends, my work friends, my new friends, my old friends. Wait!! I’m starting to sound like Dr Seuss.  So, I’ll stop now. Thanks for the birthday wishes but thanks more for being on Facebook and keeping in touch. I love every one of your posts and read you daily. You make my life fuller and my journaling easier. Thumbs up, heart and emotional face.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

February 6, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Homeless on the big city streets for the sake of a story

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I have respect for all human life and have a particularly soft heart for the homeless. I believe that’s always been true because I’m a chameleon and an empath.  But it may have teetered toward obsession in my reporter days when my newspaper at the time did a series entitled “The Haves and the Have Nots.” I, of course, had taken the “have not” position and actually spent three days as a homeless person on the streets of a big city where the homeless problem was growing. It changed me forever, as did most every story I wrote where I sometimes spent weeks of interviews, trying to put myself in another’s shoes – whether it was victim or culprit.

In this case, the memory I still hold most upsetting is of a friend I made at one of the soup kitchens who I saw occasionally while frequenting the common places for the homeless – street corners, underpasses, parks and public attractions. Eventually, we spoke a few times after I’d made him comfortable with my regular presence.

It was one of my few assignments where I had to keep my pencil far from reach and in the bottom of a deep dusty bag that was my constant companion. My suffering over those homeless days came mostly because I didn’t have a sharpened pencil in my hands, behind my ear, twirling unconsciously from finger to finger. Ironically, I never was as attached to paper and didn’t mind writing on anything at hand – envelope, napkin, back of a check book, although when I left the profession, I still preferred the skinny reporter’s notebooks that fit easily in a jeans pocket or skirt.

On the night of my memory, I had come to a high school football stadium to hear a preacher who would then serve us supper. I got there early to soak up the atmosphere and potentially sneak out the pencil for some details that I might not remember later.  My new friend came near and but sat several feet away. I was up a couple of rows higher than the seat of his choosing, but we were nearer to each other than any of the other homeless people who came eventually to somewhat fill the stadium.

He was dirtier than me, literally. More smudged and smelly, always with a bit of a runny nose. I never quite got homeless dirty but had found some battered jeans (not hard to find in those days), kept my hair unwashed and never tucked in my shirt (not blouse.) He, likewise, was in jeans and was pretty much blue all over. His bluejeans, his work shirt, his bizarre and ruddy blue complexion. He had some wire-rimmed glasses that sat askew on his face and were in fashion at least a decade ago.

What overwhelmed me and has stuck to me over the years was the simple fact of his age. He said he was 17 years old. He looked like a man of maybe 40. Not a day younger. And I didn’t remotely detect a lie nor any realization on his part of how old he looked.

His face was lined and rough from outdoor living but also from something deep and desperate. He was a runaway, he said. He said he had no one and nowhere to go. He’d been on the streets of Fort Worth for at least five years. (I calculated when he was 12.) He mostly slept in vacant cars and in junkyards. I simply couldn’t believe it.  I always expect tragic stories when I take on an assignment like the homeless, but somehow I am never quite prepared for reality. Facts are always worse than the fiction we conjure.

My second most haunting memory comes to me almost daily.  It is the face of a beautiful dark-haired girl of about 4 years old. She wields a soup spoon in her fist and shovels almost clear broth into her too-hungry mouth. She’s so heartbreakingly pretty and so sweet mannered and inviting that I want to sit by her immediately. She has a beautifully smooth complexion and long silky brunette hair that curls a little at the ends.  I want to touch its perfection. I wonder this decade or so later, “Is this truly how my homeless, hungry girl looked?” Or is she forever superimposed over my same dark-haired daughter who was about 18 months old at the time I was doing this backgrounder for the newspaper series. I see my own child, sitting at the kitchen table with her similarly dark-haired doll, and the two merge in my memory. It makes me weep and weep again.

I was a relatively new mother and all my feelings and empathy had been turned on its head by the experience of being a mom. My homeless child’s parents spoke only Spanish, and I practiced my Texas public school and state college training on them when I joined them at their table. We could talk about hunger, what they were eating, how beautiful their daughter was in her pretty dress. But the emotional details escaped me. I couldn’t get to the root of their pain at being on the streets. “Only three days,” the mom said.  The cultural difference, “I have work,” the father said. Clearly, this little family was simply pleased to be in the United States and what I considered suffering was not even on their radar.

So, I settled for telling the little girl that I had a daughter “la misma” as her.  Both she and my daughter were both “muy bonita” and I liked my new little friend very much.

Later, and after a six-month series I did on teen-age suicide, I’d be offered a transfer to Washington, D.C., or New York -– a reporter’s ultimate goal back in those days. I was eventually to turn down the offer so that I could spend more time at home with my baby girl and later her younger brother.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

February 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for playing

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More than 1,000 views of Commuter Chronicles. Quite a landmark day for me. I never knew this would be so easy and fun. I actually started this series of columns for my friends when I started commuting to Houston about 15 years ago and after the economy got tight for my corporate journalism business. So I have been doing it before blogging was even a word much less a trend.

I had been freelancing and driving to Houston only a couple of times a week or in the evenings when I taught news writing at University of Houston.  Then, college started looming for my kids and my best seller boat had not come in. Besides, my tennis career seemed to be coming to an end with my Baby Boomer knees.

I like to think I was never a sellout from the Fourth Estate to the better paid world of hack journalism — first of all because I always have writing jobs of high interest and worthy public good and secondly because I have never been paid well enough to establish myself as a true hack.

Instead, I have changed with the times and left the world of journalism to a new generation of less objective and more visually pleasing folks. In my heyday of covering presidents and presidential campaigns, I hung out with famous television folks  Connie Chung and Leslie Stahl. It is ironic to look back on those days and tell those stories. Friends are surprised and want to know my opinion of such famous journalists.  Guess I can say it now. They were great and certainly beautiful. But truly, back in the day, I considered them lucky to be hanging out with me and not vice versa. I was the newspaper journalist of the Walter Cronkite variety. I knew the local traps to run and folks in the know. I was well read and objective. They needed my help. And, when I was too busy with some real reporting, I had to ditch coffee with Connie.  She needed to head over to makeup anyway.

Blogging is so much better than daily newspaper writing, though. No snarky editors to question your subject matter; no true deadlines except your own urge to write. I say. “cool beans” and recommend blogging for everyone.

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