Monday, December 28, 2015


     Memories seem to escape when the brain is between taking balance of the past year and resolving for the new year, about to dawn.
      I think when we get to a certain age we need to just let them fly, enjoy what they bring and leave their significance to the Fates. Our threads are woven as they are.
     A raw damp chill had descended like a shroud over the city, locked in winter's bleakness, painted by dirty snow and dark gray skies. It made the old wood framed house with peeling paint and a tilting porch look more desperate. It was a neighborhood in decline. Once big old homes were now boarded, abandoned or cut into squalid apartments. We'd come to the right address.
     We were making a benevolence delivery. Weeks of food supplies, clothing and gifts for a matriarch, her grand children and her mostly absent daughter, fighting addiction. I heard commotion as I knocked on the door, some desperate voices then in a flash the front door opened and a tall, stout man-boy grunted something at me and ran off into the snow and street without  shoes, wearing only a t-shirt and underwear. 
    "Oh my God, he's running" a small and worn older woman yelled. "Get him, don't let him get away!" 
     A sad eyed little girl, our delivery sheet listed her as 7, looked out from behind the frantic woman standing in the doorway. "Please help!"
     Lana, standing by the car holding the first box to be delivered was startled as I ran down the steps and gave chase.
     The lad ran with a strange gait and yelled something guttural as he zig-zagged into the street then into piles of dirty snow. Not sure what to do, I caught up with him and found that standing in front of him caused him to turn and run back the other way.  
      "Hey, we've got presents for you. Let's get back inside" I chided as he loped. He stopped and I was able to put a hand on his shoulder and take an elbow to guide him back to the house.
      Grandmother was relieved but confessed as to how she could no longer handle him. I was concerned she was near collapse. Lana tended her and got her to sit. I stood by the front door and the man child went to a chair and sat looking at  the television.
      "He can't help himself" the sweet brown eyed girl said.
"He was born that way. He gets too excited sometimes." In that moment something deep inside convinced me she spoke with a wisdom that far surpassed her years. "Gramma does the best she can."
      We made the delivery, bringing in the other boxes and food. Handed out the gifts. Gramma made tea and offered us a cup as she related the heart breaking history that brought us all to this moment. The girl helped her brother open a gift. Calm returned and there was food and a modicum of cheer in the threadbare home.
      "Now we'll have a beautiful Christmas and this house will be happy" the little girl said as we departed. She hugged Lana and shook my hand.

      That precious child came to mind as I watched JOY the remarkable David Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano who went from a tough beginning to being a successful inventor and entrepreneur. 
       Russell says he drew not only from Mangano's life but also from other extraordinary women. It's a powerful film and certainly the story of perseverance and overcoming. Mangano is pleased with the film. Even though creative liberties are taken, it hews closely to fact. 
       Jennifer Lawrence is again brilliant. She's on a path to be the Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren of her generation. Robert Di Niro, Diane Ladd as grandmother, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco as Joy's life long friend, Virginia Madsen, and Bradley Cooper are all wonderful in major roles.  Isabella Crovetti-Cramp as the young Joy makes a stirring debut.
      Joy is superbly entertaining, funny, poignant, informative and fresh.
     Michael Caine says his work in YOUTH is his best ever.
It could be. He is compelling in his every scene in Paolo Sorrentino's art film of finding meaning or significance regardless of age. This is not your typical movie. An Italian director, Sorrentino brings an artistic and creative tool set to the film. It is the best of a European sensitivity with Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda. 
      This is not a film everyone will enjoy, but if you like creative and artistic uses of cinema and solid acting this is worth your time. Men of certain age will find some of the Caine and Keitel exchanges hilarious. 
     We found that seeing YOUTH which is really about age and hope, certainly appropriate as we approach the turn of the calendar. 
Time does fly

      Photo by Bruce Taylor aka Catalyst
A kid version of Lana and Tom 
    I've often spoken of perhaps the most beautiful snow fall. It was in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. The flakes dropped silently, peacefully as we drove into the canyon, covering the ground in a blanket and filling the pine and oak boughs without wind. It was all gentle and serene as though being in a snow globe. It was in the winter of 1973. When I touch that memory it seems as close as a couple of months ago, certainly not 42 years. A vivid moment of life.
    Ah, yes. The closing of a year when memories break loose.

    See you down the trail.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


    Christmas dinner was cleared from the table and we were ready for a walk on the beach when we spotted this from the front deck. At some point there was even a small pop up shower. All interpreted as a good sign.
     The plastic icicle below is from Lana's childhood. She remembers when her mother brought home the glow in the dark speciality. It was 1950 and 65 years later both of our daughters have expressed an interest. Looks like the items are on the way to being antiques.
     The somewhat worn angel below is a second generation tree topper and comes with a bit of mystery. 
  It is a "new" version of the angel that topped the Christmas trees of my youth. It was my dad's favorite ornament and each year it was placed atop the pine with appropriate decorum and good vibes. I inherited the original, taped together, the spun glass barely recognizable and really a somewhat pathetic sight. Then in a Christmas shop with the kids one year I found her, the only one in inventory and even a mystery to the manager who was unsure of the price.
I took that to be a bit of Christmas magic. She has taken her place of honor for many years.
    A couple of years ago our eldest, Kristin, produced a heavenly batch of Yorkshire Pudding popovers. They immediately became one of her dad's favorites. Younger sister Katherine, who share's Kristin's culinary talents, has followed suit.  Though Kristin, weeks from becoming a mommy, could join us only by phone, those of us on the West coast enjoyed her recipe done expertly by Katherine. 


    See you down the trail.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Peace and Cheer
    Wrapped up in this time of year is the annual palaver-how much Christmas is in Christmas?
     There's revulsion by some about commercializing  Christmas. Keep Christ in Christmas is a generational mantra. Of recent we hear volumes on the propriety of wishing a Merry Christmas instead of the neutral "happy holiday." None of this would assail our ears if not for the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus. All of it from decking halls, festive celebrations, gift buying and giving, faith observances, choirs, carols, Frosty the Snowman to Rudolph and parties and more share a nexus.
     Christmas observances this year vary widely from 1915 as it did from 1815 and so on for 2000 years. Culture changes how we celebrate and remember. 
     An offer of "Merry Christmas" is both aspirational and universal. Everyone is entitled to hear or wish and to enjoy a Merry Christmas. One need not be Christian to have a Merry Christmas nor even to wish that for others be they Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Sikh, Wiccan, agnostic, Deist, atheist, Christian or whatever.
     Merry Christmas are not fighting words, they are words of peace.
  Christmas 1863 was hard for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The poet's wife died in a fire and his son, against his admonition, went to the Civil War. Longfellow wrote CHRISTMAS BELLS that year. The poem was published in 1865. Despair, loss of faith and hope and then something in the bells….
   It has become an oft recorded carol, though unlike most.

      Merry Christmas!  PEACE.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, December 21, 2015


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
     Not sure what the stats show but it's my hunch fewer Christmas cards are being sent via US Mail. A) some folks no longer send cards and B) like so many things in life cards have also moved to cyberspace.
Snow Angel by Jacquie Lawson
          Lana has made our cards since we've been married. For several years she laments, "this is the last time I'm going to do it," but each year she is grabbed again by the old tradition. She creates the card and I write the message.
      I am a great fan of the tradition. I love receiving the beautiful works of art and am moved by the sentiment and message. Like my father before me and his before him, I love the Christmas Season, everything about it and especially the cards. Here is a chance to think about each of the recipients and to recall their role in your life and memories. As a youngster I didn't "get" the idea of the Christmas letter, of course the writer, the events and people were known by parents, for whom the message had significance. Now I look forward to the letters and notes and feel a special connection and bond.
       When the season ends, we put the cards away and then in June get them out and after dinner for a week or two read a few of the cards and messages again. 
     There is something good about the care, selection and pause in life for reflection that Christmas cards signify. Addressing envelopes, signing and adding messages, taking them to the mail box or selecting electronic cards and entering personal emails are an act of thoughtfulness, caring and decency.
     It is a simple thing in an increasingly complicated world. But for that moment that we gaze at a scene or read the words we may feel something, remember, connect and have a good human moment. That is something extraordinary.
     It is thought the first Christmas cards were sent in the 1840's in England. An industry and a culture has followed. What do you think about cards?  
And There Is Also This….
     There is a beautiful rhythm to the story behind this. My friend Ray calls and asks if we'll be around in the next day or two.  "I have a little something to drop by," he says.
     After our years in Cambria I know what that means, and I start salivating immediately.
    Terri, Ray's better half, could well be the undisputed Cheesecake champion of California and all points east. Her creations are tastes of heaven! I consider myself a bit of a Cheesecake connoisseur and Terri's are in a league all of their own.
     I'm not sure Ray had cleared the end of our driveway before I was untying the bow, had plates on the counter and the pie cutter ready to go to work.
     Yea, there's a lot to make this the most wonderful time of the year!

    See you down the trail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


    An eerie thought occurred as I watched the meteor shower splashing the sky. While it's not for everyone, I'm lucky to live where it is dark, very dark with a minimum of light and light pollution. I joke with my friend Frank, back in beautiful Falls Church Va, that I moved west to watch rockets being launched (Vandenberg AFB) a particularly spectacular sight because of the dark sky. Actually the sky is not dark, it's deep and rich and so full of stars it has dimension and space has a shape and texture. So on a recent evening I'm on the deck watching the zips and streaks and the next night I'm soaking in the spa when it dawns on me how extraordinary it is that we escape being hit by all of these flying icebergs and chunks of rock.
    It's not the kind of thought you want to sneak into your brain before bed time, especially if you tend to be anxious I suppose. There is a ton of stuff flying out there and of course science tells us this blue planet has been nailed before, probably several times. So from this land where you watch rockets, real cowboys, surfers, enjoy the beauty of vineyards and breathe Pacific air it might not be surprising that one begins to contemplate space ship earth and it's delicate fragility in a cosmos that goes beyond the bounds of rational and finite thought. Beyond finite, that presents a problem so we come up with infinite. Where precisely does infinite begin to be infinite, and what does it mean that it never ends?  Actually, don't give either of those much thought or you may find yourself drooling in your shoes. Still we can ponder how lucky we are that our course has, for the last few thousand years at least, kept us from a head on collision with a space brick or mountain.
     I wonder if we spent more time looking up, or wondering about cosmic eventualities, if we wouldn't be a little nicer to each other and to our planet and its limited resources. Greed, malice, hate, anger, war, zealotry and all of that kind of behavior would look pretty barbaric and primitive to someone looking in from way up high. In however long we humans have been jogging around this globe we never get far from acting like lower animals hanging around a swamp. Despite what our better minds and loving souls have done, a lot of homo sapiens act like thugs or brain washed lab animals. I saw a great cartoon that had God sitting and looking through a scope at planet earth.  He says to Jesus or an attending angel-"If it weren't for the dogs, I'd have blown up that place  long ago."
      Well, it seems we got lucky in this last Geminid meteor shower, spared again.  Wonder if we could evolve a bit more or make some personality improvement this Christmas season?
    Once the kids are no longer in the house a little of the Christmas magic goes with them. Still we pull down the boxes  from the attic and Lana transforms normal to the festive spirit of the season. She's talked about getting a smaller tree and we may do that, someday. The tree is a direct cerebral link to family Christmas' past and especially one on South Ebright Street in Muncie. 
     I must have been six. It was the first year the big time magic of the season etched into my little brain. The scenes are still indelible. Our little two bedroom VA financed home looked out at a street light that during this season seemed always to be wrapped in swirling snow. A real life snow globe! The tree was strung in those big old fashioned colored lights. Mom, no real artist created a Bon ami snow scape scene on the living room mirror and the window in the front door. I thought they were shear beauty. We had a record player, not a high fi, but a little player with speakers attached and I played needle drop over and over and over on Silent Night and Gene Autry's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Life could never be more perfect, so full of pure joy and wonder.
     So, I still like Christmas trees. When we were first married we could spend hours, canvassing several lots for the "right tree."  Now we go the garden center, look for one in our height range and bingo bango pick a tree with almost no hesitation.
A little crooked? No trouble. A little uneven? No problem.  
  No matter, the noble green is worthy of holding the ornaments and memories and taking its place in the long line of trees in our Christmas dreams. There was a time we  planted live trees. It's rewarding to think of how tall they've become and how many seasons of light and hope they've shared. 
  Rainy season has begun and with promise we'll make a dent in the drought.  Here Santa Rosa Creek makes entry into the Pacific on Moonstone Beach in Cambria.
       Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo is enough reason to see this film. He's extraordinary, again. But so is the film about the tyranny of the "black list," right wing thought police, cowards and hate mongers and the courage to speak your mind. 
       The bad guys, as they truly were in the dark era, are John Wayne, Ronnie Reagan, Hedda Hopper and weasel politicians on the House Un American Activities Committee.
      Unexpected heroes are Lucille Ball, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger. This film, based on fact, is full of great performances including, Helen Mirren, Louis CK, Diane Lane, John Goodman and Elle Fanning. Director Jay Roach and screenwriter John McNamara attack the difficult question of how free can and should we be to think and speak. This is an intelligent script and is probably too much for some to think about it. But has history reveals, it should be thought about. As some current politicians demonstrate, maybe it could happen again.
       Trumbo is American history and civics, warts and all.

       As Lana told our daughters, "This is the kind of love story I like."
       It is also a great telling of the kind of transitions many of our relatives made, though this time the back drop is 1950's Brooklyn. 
       A splendid cast makes every moment a delight. Saoirse Ronan as the Irish lass is magnificent and those blue eyes are hypnotic. Jim Broadbent is a quiet master as his Father Flood is proof. Julie Walters as boardinghouse manager Mrs. Kehoe and Emory Cohen as the boy friend Tony both fill the screen-Walters with those darting dark eyed looks and Cohen with a smile that shines.
       Sweet, tender and uplifting-Brooklyn is a perfect "date night" film.

      See you down the trail.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Between Indianapolis and Phoenix
    7:40 AM and I'm sitting at the bar, the only seat available in  the crowded airport restaurant. My wake up call had come at Midnight on my body clock, 3:00 AM in Indianapolis.
     "What'll you have to drink?" the bartender asks after putting out another gin to the guy sitting at my left and another beer to the guy two spaces down on the right.
      "Coffee" I say watching the constant milling of people in and out of the tight space between tables and the shifting of spots at the bar.
       The guy to my immediate right asks to be topped off on coffee as he holds a paperback in his left hand, his right hand working on an omelet.
      I'm looking around and amazed at how young these travelers are, most of them are on business. After the years I've logged you can spot the road warriors from the tourists. 
      In that moment a switch that had begun to turn a few nights ago, completed its click.

      The flight got in at 1:15 AM. For years I've used a particular car rental agency that offers something called a rapid rez so you bypass lines, go immediately to the garage get your car and on your way. A breakfast meeting awaited after what would be the usual first night of battle with hotel pillows and bed, heating system and the likely impossibility of opening a window for real air. Sleep would be a challenge, but the rapid rez would get me moving that way. Wrong! There was not a waiting car. A lot attendant broke the news the computers crashed and I'd have to go back to the terminal and wait in line. Guess she see could the color drain. 
      She said "I'll be over in a couple of minutes to help you."
      No one is happy at the counter, especially the folks waiting in line. The clerks are doing the best they can, filling forms by long hand and swiping credit cards, but as the clock ticks and sleep disappears, the best laid plans are washing away as though being soaked by the cold rain outside.
     The young lady arrives, takes my credit card and disappears to the office behind the counter. Several minutes later she reappears with temporary paperwork explaining the form that would need to be explained in turn to the gate keeper.
     Loaded, seats adjusted, trying to figure out the heating and defrost controls, I roll up on the gate man who seems more perplexed than anything, but lifts the bar and I'm out into a driving rain at a temperature hovering above freezing.
     It's funny but after you've been away from a place for a while you begin to doubt your directions. I thread the on and off ramps and follow the signs to the downtown trying to remember my old short cuts, but loosing confidence as I drive. That and the place continues to be built and changed for SuperBowls, and NCAA Final Fours and myriad conventions.  My destination is a grand hotel I've been in more times than I could recall, but I couldn't recall where in the hell the entrance was. 
     The clock is running on me and chance of sleep is flying away as I circumnavigate the block a couple of times, cursing about what have they done with the entrance. Then I remember, though new buildings conspired against a clear vista.
      The car has been sent to the valet garage and I've been given keys that must be swiped before the elevator will assign my floor. This is new and requires a juggling act of shoulder bag, plastic bag with water, suitcase and keys.
      Ah, into the room, suits and shirts hung up, dob kit out and it looks like there may be a decent pillow on the bed. Still sleep time is being chewed up and that breakfast meeting is getting closer. Teeth are brushed and I reach for my mouth wash wondering the moment it hits my tongue why it had become like a gel.  I didn't have time to riddle that before the taste slammed me in the head with a realization-I had just taken a big swig of shampoo. Have you tried to rinse out a mouthful of shampoo?  I hope you never must.  That is when the switch began to click down.

     Now sitting here marveling at the youth of the road warriors, my nostrils assaulted by a few nights of dry hotel air, and damp chill of Indianapolis winter, my throat equally scratchy I knew definitively the road has passed me by. Even for vacation travel, I get a big sense of dread whenever I think about the packing, airports, the transfers, the hotels and what have you. I love to jump into the car and go explore, but it is the airports and the planes and not being in control that is the problem. 
    On this morning I'm listening to several weaves of conversation-missed connections, mechanical delays, scrambling to reschedule meetings, security clearance nightmares and etc. Been there and done that. I logged many thousands of miles at 36 thousand feet, all around this blue marble. There was a time I thought I could do it forever. On this morning, that seemed like a lifetime ago.  
      All I wanted now was to hug Lana, pet the cats, see the big Pacific and rolling Santa Lucia Mountains, smell fresh air, real air and be with others who also appreciate an eclectic little village, miles from roaring semis, hotel air and shampoo for mouth wash. Guess I should surrender my road warrior credentials.  
      There's a post script though, since life is not a fairy tale.
The light rain falling as we deplaned down the steps and walked across the runway felt good in this drought inflicted state. The snafu in this land of contentment was a baggage conveyor that broke down as several of us seemed eager to end our individual odysseys. Oh well, the video loop that kept playing over the bag less conveyor featured the scenic best of the coast, vineyards, hiking trails and at least, we were home.
      And the soaking my bag got, waiting to take its turn in the tunnel seemed to have dissolved those road warrior credentials. Amen!
    For many of us who were Ball State University students, the above was probably a staple of our diet.  Pizza King was a local enterprise that etched itself into our history. This particular 8 inch personal creation is one of our favorites, eccentric though it may be. Hamburger with barbecue sauce.
It must be tasted to be appreciated.
   Anyone who has visited Indianapolis will recognize this as the century old and venerable Shapiro's Deli. The number of lunches I enjoyed here, and even a few dinner breaks with my Mom is incalculable. After spending a day shooting video on this last trip, being outside in a chill, though locals said it was a "nice" day, I stopped in for a bowl of their warming Matza Ball soup.
    There were a couple of other memory moments-below a plaque at the Indiana State Museum.

   We would never visit the cemetery that mom did not want to pause at this sculpture. It was one of her favorite places.  The title is Innocence. Over the years it has become one of those special places for me.
    Now it is a place where I remember and in a very real
way, feel my mother's presence. Moment's like this can make the travel worthwhile.

    See you down the trail.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


    Being a bit vague here so as to respect privacy and embarrass no one, but wanted to share gratitude and admiration for some wonderful Cambria women who recently hosted a baby shower for my daughter and her mother. 
    The nickname for the little person in gestation, as suggested by these creative folks, is Strawberry. Thus the motif. I was not there of course, but Lana was overwhelmed by the class and loving spirit of it all. Daughter is in Florida but made an appearance via phone video.
    I thought something charming with a warm back story might be a nice placement.
    Decades of political reporting has more than likely tooled a warp to my sense of things. Years ago I heard the late John Chancellor of NBC news say it well; a lot of us (reporters) have a bias toward problem solving and pragmatism. It makes sense.
     Many of us start-or at least our generation started, on the police beat, seeing the Charles Dickens underbelly of the American dream. We covered school boards, zoning hearings, council meetings, legislatures and saw the anguish of decision making and compromise. In political campaigns we often saw the difference between promise and performance. So many of us skew toward practicality and are skeptical about ideologues and demagogues. Sadly this is a season for that in a kind of perverted populism.
     So with political shills in the background here are a few notions that are not likely to end up in a candidates platform, but they are least pragmatic and deserve our attention.
      No civilian needs an assault weapon. Those are tools for  professionals. Shot guns, hunting rifles, pistols are another matter. Being lethal, weapons should be licensed, users should be trained and tested. There are places where guns should be off limits, like in the old west stories, check your gun at the door.
      The Supreme Court, not the NRA should interpret the Second Amendment. Frankly too many are simply wrong, unstudied and lack an historical perspective when they start spouting Second amendment arguments.
      A basic component of all public education should be teaching the value of human life.
      As a follow up, this is especially so in an age when so many children grow up gaming where death, dismemberment, combat and other violence is part of "play." This affects judgment and sensitivities. 
      Education should begin in the first two years of life. The brain is ready and their are more neurons to be trained. Human potential and fulfillment can be nurtured by a holistic approach to learning. Parents should be trained as to how to enable their children's learning and development at an earlier stage. This would include intellectual, physical, nutritional and emotional development.  Yea, I know it's radical but in the last two thousand years how much have we advanced? When did warfare, starvation, crime, brutality, and other such human behavior go out of fashion? We know more now about brain function than at any time in history and to ignore it is, well, stupid. Stupid is as stupid does. Learning in the 21st Century could/should contribute to advancement. 
       In the extraordinary air time and media space given political talk, couldn't we benefit by a little more pragmatism? And just maybe there would be fewer mass shootings.

      The "World's tallest Christmas Tree" 
Monument Circle, Indianapolis

     See you down the trail.


Thursday, December 3, 2015


Awaiting the Light
December Sunrise in Cambria
   Our good friend Jim asked the other night, "Can you imagine how our parents felt? The Depression happened, a world war was underway, millions were being killed, everything was affected and no one knew how it would turn out."
    Our world, with Isis, mass shootings, discord and division and changing nature falls into a perspective doesn't it? "Was ever such!" There has always been trouble, trials and tribulations. Isn't that why this season is so precious? One need not be a Christian to find a cause for cheer, merriment, hope and joy at Christmas time.That's part of the magic.
      That magic was at work as we sat in historic Santa Rosa Chapel. Listening to the rich strings and angelic voices I thought how wonderful it would be if the moment could go on forever.
      Frequent readers may recall this candle lit night in the 145 year old Chapel on a hill overlooking Cambria's east village is a definition of sublime. Enveloped by sound and the good cheer of those fortunate enough to crowd in, something is triggered. It is as though this night is a portal to all good Christmas memories and feelings.

      It happens now as Bruce Black begins with hilarious tales of his little grandmother and then launches into his annual recitation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I hear a second audio track, my fathers deep voice and inflection as he reads the story to my brothers and me. It is a memory cell in my brain. I love to hear it, again.
     The finest gift of the evening is Judith Larmore's Christmas Reflections. 
      She grew up in my mother's Indiana hometown and recounts places, things and feelings of home. This year's story, A Handsome Marine at the Door was exquisite and  again dampened my cheeks. Happy tears that added luster to the glow of candles. As Lana said her description of Christmas displays and the wooden floors in the Five and Dime take you back. She even made the glistening of snow and icy Indiana winters appealing. As Judith noted it's just not fair, the evening must end.
      So much of the transcendence of the evening is the music, simply world class.  Vocalists Molly Pasutti and Helen Robillard. 1st Violin Brynn Albanese, 2nd Violin Mario Ojedo, Viola Peter Jandula, Cello Grant Chase, Bass Ken Hustad, 1st Flute Suzanne Duffy, 2nd Flute Maria Apostoles,
Harp, Hammered Dulcimer, Button Accordion Jill Poulous. Guitar Justin Robillard, Banjo and Guitar Eric Williams, Bells Tim Novoa, Mandolin, Tenor Recorder Grand Chase. Cambria resident and composer John Neufeld provided a special arrangement of Pie Jesu. 
    I repeat myself, but I wish everyone could experience the unique magic that happens in this little chapel in the Santa Lucia mountain and sea side village of Cambria. It is an evening that should never end. I suspect that is the kind of thing Charles Dickens had in mind when he said we should keep Christmas in our heart all year.
    The madness of war, hate, the uncertainty of change, the suffering of loss will not abate, but neither will hope or chains of memories made on nights like this.

     "God rest ye merry folk, let nothing ye dismay."

     See you down the trail

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


   The Back Story
     Huddled together as a group of freshmen we thought it was an odd order. As new pledges we were told that in a few weeks we would be required to sing WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH A STORM. Really?  Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1965? The Beatles, Rolling Stones and 60's Rock was more our tune. But we learned it. We sang it and 50 years later those once reluctant college boys have repeatedly drawn strength from those lyrics.

When you walk through a storm
keep your chin up high
and don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a Lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown,
Walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

    This time of year is an emotional fountain. Difficult and taxing in the best of times and health, but crushing and bruising for those who struggle.
      Someone dear to us has suffered a horrible betrayal and a loss of dreams.  She hurts, so do we  and we know so do countless others for many reasons.  Loss, illness, change, devastation and fear also stalk this season of joy, merriment and memories.  
       As we usher in a season of light and hope, we offer these as an early gift and just maybe a guiding light.

 This year as we encounter realities we would not seek,
we find solace also in the continuum of life.
   One may draw from the quiet wisdom of age and stamina evident in nature.
   Moments of serenity and memory.
  Storms in nature and in human emotion pass, in time.
   On the other side are beginnings, buds of newness and often a renewal.
  Walk on, with hope in your heart.  You'll never walk alone.

  See you down the trail.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


    It's a great idea isn't it? A day devoted to gratitude. Among the blessings I count this year is investigative reporting. Yea, a little out of the mainstream, but still appreciative enough to share a post.
     It started when a legendary radio newsman Fred Heckman hired me from a little station in Muncie Indiana to join his 50 thousand watt "Voice of News" market leader in Indianapolis.
     As a young reporter I "went back to high school," undercover, to document drug and gang problems. Later, the Black Panthers, New Mobilization Committee to End the War, Beaver 55 (draft  board vandals), SDS, Weather Underground and others were part of my assignment, so was fraud in public demolition projects, religious cults, corruption in the police department, doctors making mistakes and more. Thanks to Bruce Taylor for mentoring and editing my first investigative documentary.
     Thanks to Chris Duffy for hiring me to set up an investigative team at the NBC station and to my news boss Bob Campbell for giving us time and resources to do the job of investigating the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and their paramilitary operations and recruitment of students, medical straight jacketing and neglect in state mental hospitals, fraud in public housing, the political use of Grand Juries, more police corruption in yet other communities, toxic waste dumping involving mobsters and a well known trucking union, illegal chemical recycling, the failures of busing to end segregation, drug smuggling, another round with a religious cult, criminal motor cycle gangs, Soviet and Chinese spying on defense contractors and in University research labs, lagging efforts at locating MIA's, Muslim "charitable" groups as cover for bringing "students" to the US and more. My trusted colleagues were Ben Strout and Steve Starnes. We had each other's back more times than I wish to recall.
     Thanks to John Hendricks founder of Discovery and TLC and program executive Steve Cheskin for buying and commissioning programs from my documentary company ranging from political assassins, training with Snipers, training with FBI Agents, to archaeological digs in the jungles of the Caribbean and work in Africa. Thanks to Mark Nisenbaum, Megan Fisher, Alan Bucksot, Brian Ho, Jung Park, Ted Coats and Eric Harvey.
     Thanks to Scott Blumenthal for hiring me into LIN Television and permitting me to set up a CBS affiliate investigative team where we pursued Department of Transportation practices and costs, laxity of security in airports, airlines and freight haulers, security weaknesses at federal installations including the world's largest nerve gas depot, security gaps and lack of oversight in the commercial food chain, and many more. It was in this posting I directed my last investigative effort that won a Peabody and alerted the world to military command decisions that resulted going for the cheap in the head gear worn by US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq where brain injuries and head trauma sky rocketed. Thanks to Doug Garrison a former FBI agent who I appointed to run the team that included Karen Hensel, Loni McKown, Rick Dawson, Pam Elliot with help from my Assistant News Director Kevin Finch and Executive Producer Stacy Conrad and editor Doug Moon.
       I'm on this memory lane because of the great film Lana and I watched with our youngest daughter. SPOTLIGHT tells the story of the Boston Globe's I-Team's breaking of the Catholic Priest pedophile epidemic and the role of the Church, and others in Boston, in covering it up. It is an extraordinary film and features brilliant performances by Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Mark Ruffalo. I think Ruffalo and Keaton deserve Oscar nominations. 
       I hope tens of millions of people see it, not only to memorialize the valiant efforts of the Boston Globe team, but also to pay tribute to real journalism, which seems to be shrinking in the face of modern media penchant for hype hustle, personality, bombast and shill. 
       Like my colleagues those who engage in investigative reporting sacrifice a lot, endure unique pressures and put a lot on the line. Those executives who permitted time and resources could have made other choices that would have been easier, cheaper and not fraught with legal reviews. Instead they trusted. That is special.
      In this season of gratitude I wish to thank my wife Lana and daughters Kristin and Katherine for "sharing me" with years of reporting, pre-occupation, missed family time, stress, risk and immersion in the belief that trying to get at the truth and reporting facts makes a difference in the world.
      Investigative reporting is important. It is hard work, costly, risky and there is much less of it now than there used to be. That is a shame. I'm grateful for what there is of it and for my small role in having been about that kind of work.
   See you down the trail.