Archive for November, 2009

November 27, 2009

a black friday grateful list

Jim Scolari waxed slightly cyncial this week in the Reporter about gratitude in the age of excess following the peak of prosperity in  mid-century America. It makes me wonder if the more we have, the less we have. As our embrace of materialsm gets tighter and our identities further defined by what accumulates in our garages and around our waistlines, it seems to be at the peril of our humanity. This is not new thought, but it’s what’s on my mind today, as the hordes rush to the mall for cheap stuff often without regard for the one in line behind them. It’s a good time not to defer to the bad habits of consumer consciousness, but instead to take advantage of the opportunity at hand: compassionate connection with strangers. We should not underestimate the power of a kind word, a helpful gesture, a smile or even eye contact. As I venture out today I will likely fail to practice this in every situation, but with each new person I encounter I get to try again. With that all said, I’ve compiled a list of what I’m grateful for today.

1. That I don’t have credit to blow on stuff I can’t afford

2. I don’t have a big house to furnish and friggin’ clean.

3. Every silly construction paper Christmas ornament I saved.

4. The kindness of the dude who fixed my screens the other day.

5. The grace of strangers.

6. Second chances.

7. Handle shopping bags and ziplocks.

8. The 99 cent store.

9. The musicians who save my life on a daily basis.

10. Friends, new and old.

November 19, 2009

On his flickr, he finished the photo caption with: "I'm not dead. Just gone for a while."

Last weekend a sizable crowd gathered to remember artist Donald Cecil who passed away suddenly at only 52 years of age.

I worked with Donald for a year, maybe longer, when he was art director at VCReporter.  In those days, the editorial and art departments shared tight quarters in our office at the Harbor, yet despite what could be a tense, deadline-driven environment, laughter and creativity seemed to eclipse the negatives, thanks mostly to Donald’s wicked sense of humor and infinite stream of ideas. Besides being a gifted painter, he was also a master of Photoshop and created some breathtaking, surreal works in that medium.  Memories of time shared with Donald continue to pop into my head without context: our shared enthusiasm for the Strokes when their first record came out; how he would hide a little cat face on every single cover and those of us who knew about it had the privilege of finding it; his quiet faith; how he would say “dude” and then apologize for it; that he actually liked Kid Rock; brainstorming with him on cover ideas; his kindness to my son who, when he was five, sometimes had to come to work with me; how he burned me a copy of the Vines’ first cd with the caveat that it wasn’t as groundbreaking as the Strokes, but it was still damn good; his passion for Jujubees (had to be the name) and his hilarious entry, under a nom de plume, in one of our Flash Fiction contests. Donald was extremely well-read and literary and when he decided to try his hand at super-short fiction not only did we all have a good laugh, but he placed in the contest. If memory serves (see above) I was the only judge who knew which entry was his. To wit:


by W. Smith, Ventura

The Man In The Big Yellow Hat was sick and tired of all their stupid jokes. And he was drunk. And hungry.

“My glass is empty,” he belched to himself. In an act of self preservation he closed one eye.  Everyone in the bar watched him in the mirror, except for the lady he punched, she was still on the floor.

He felt his pockets for money. “Damned stinky ape,” he said. His furry wallet was empty and his monkey skin boots were scuffed and damp. The gravy train was gone.


See you on the other side, Don. You are missed.

November 6, 2009

Daily paper turning yellow? (Not because it’s been on the doorstep for two weeks)

We’ve all noticed the changes, some of them quite severe, to the Ventura County Star in the past 6 months or so. Sections cut, thinner editions overall and to their credit, a reorganized Web site with a lot of fat trimmed away. But leaner, it seams has also turned meaner, and as an editor for the county’s only weekly–historically a venue with a sharper tongue than its daily counterparts–even I find myself wincing.

In her most recent “Cafe Society” column, Lisa McKinnon’s snarky commentary about Hush Lounge (For the record: we reported on Hush’s closing and possible reopening long before the folks at the Star got wind of it) makes me wonder what her intentions are.

Over the years, I’ve had my own epiphanies about this type of “journalism.” Occasionally it’s called for, but for for the most part I no longer find it necessary to wax bitchy in print.

When I was younger and VCReporter was only beginning to find its identity as something other than a vacant community throwaway, and we were finding our alt-weekly voice, it was tempting to approach EVERYTHING from a cynical perspective. We took no prisoners and everyone was fair game.

But time offers perspective and (hopefully) maturity. So a decade later, I’m no longer interested in negative portrayals, with one exception: When justice is served by fearless reporting. Chit chat about the politics and culture of local small business does not qualify.

I can’t help but wonder if the Star is resorting to unfortunate tactics to gain readership. It’s a tough time and I don’t envy the staff there, I empathize. But, it seems to me, in an increasingly hostile and competitive world, isn’t it better to be nice? Choosing kindness and compassion can only benefit everyone.

Ms. McKinnon: Lighten up sister, it’s not easy for anyone right now. Use the power of your pen for good. Everyone has a story and everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

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