Stories From California

Sometimes I want to write more than just journalistically about my experiences as a reporter. That is why I started to write down my thoughts, observations and emotions beyond scripts for radio, print and TV. This experiment is a lot of fun and scary at the same time. But, as they say, you have to get out of your comfort zone.

Ceola "Dice" Waddle - Downtown Los Angeles, CA

A Skid Row Hustle - From a Pack of Cigaretts To Bed and Breakfast on the Streets

While volunters are counting the homeless in Los Angeles County and will again arrive at a number unfathomably high, I was thinking of one of the men who talked with me about their life on Skid Row: Ceola "Dice" Waddle.

He stood out. Between camps made from tents, tarp, card board and rags he wore an ironed suit, a white apron, leather shoes and a cream colored fedora. He also had sizzling pots and pans on an improvised stove in front of him. Ceola was easy to approach, which cannot be said of most of the people I passed. He had a friendly smile, and something in his eyes told me he was ready to tell me his story. Or at least A story ...

Dentist Assistant - Santa Monica, CA

Today at the dentist, while he was digging into my jaw with his precision instruments making all kinds of disconcerting sounds (not he, the instruments), his assistant apparently was going on a dream vacation to Bavaria.

At least that's what she said while guiding me towards a 3-D-X-ray machine. Three dimensional pictures had to be taken of my lower skull because one of the three root canals in the molar with infection kept bending the precision instruments and the dentist could not figure out why.

Anyway, walking towards the X-Ray room, the assitant asked me. "Where do you come from?" My accent had once again given me away as an immigrant ...

Ramón, San Diego, CA

"It is like having chocolate right in front of you and not being allowed to eat it."

Ramon and wife

Ramón came to the United States from Michoácan, Mexico 20 years ago. He left his family behind to work, to give his wife and kids back home a roof over their heads, a good education, shoes and clothes to wear. The first three years it was easy for him to cross the border back and forth to visit. Stricter controls made it too dangerous and too expensive. He stopped the crossings and did not see his family for 17 years.

Until he came to friendship park at the US-Mexican border. I saw him there standing at the fence, looking through the tight mesh, speaking softly with his wife, then his daughters who brought husbands he never met and children he never saw. "The tears speak for themselves," daughter Priscilla said.

The Flower Lady, del Rey, L.A.

She stands there like a human statue for grace, strength, beauty and perseverance every weekend. Morning until dusk. Rain or sun. Heat or cold. Living and breathing, but not moving. Not when I wait for the light to change or drive by. Faded red visor, light jacket over a colorful skirt, pink crocs sandals, a bouquet of flowers in her hand and more bouquets in a basket next to her. White lilies mixed with bright red flowers. Always white lilies.  

Her spot is at the end of a freeway ramp. Exhaust fumes, speeding cars and customers in a hurry. I wonder when she eats and drinks. ...