Sunday, December 28, 2008

'loves me loves me not'

I've just been published in the latest online edition of R.KV.R.Y. Quarterly Literary Journal. My good friend Victoria Pynchon is editor-in-chief of the online magazine she founded four years ago and has invited me in the past to submit something nonjournalistic. So I finally, last summer, got around to writing a literary nonfiction piece I'd been toying with for years. It's not that it was too lengthy to write; it was the topic that was difficult -- dredging up the past and all. After a couple false starts, I hunkered down and finished it. And then Vickie accepted it for inclusion in her quarterly. I'm thrilled to sit on a page beside Vickie and her esteemed stable of literary writers. My contribution is titled "Loves me loves me not." Writing it was definitely cathartic (which you'll understand once you've read it), while, at the same time, quite private. I feel a bit naked, now that it's in a quarterly and on the Internet for all to see. But, life and circumstances happen, and we move on. That's what I tried to do, successfully or not. Today, for me, it feels like it happened in another lifetime. C'est la vie. You can read it here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Letter from Laura Bush

Just before Thanksgiving, I received a letter from First Lady Laura Bush, thanking me for participating in the 2008 National Book Festival. What struck me about the letter was that it spoke directly to the 30-minute speech I gave -- one of several dozen given throughout the day on the National Mall. Originally, I thought the First Lady probably didn't write it herself -- that she just signed it -- but I was told by her former personal speech writer Charlie Fern that Mrs. Bush works side-by-side with writers and takes the time to personalize correspondence herself. Her letter mentioned that the Pavilion I was in was overflowing with people who listened to my speech that September day. The story of a 12-year-old boy and a dog named Cujo brought the audience to tears at the Eighth Annual National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Just retelling it brought me to tears as well. Cujo's is one of many stories in my book Pawprints of Katrina. I was one of 70 grateful authors, illustrators and poets invited to the weekend’s prestigious event, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush. I spent the weekend in the company of such authors, writers and poets as Salman Rushdie, Tiki Barber, Cokie Roberts, Kimberly Dozier, Jon Scieszka, Judith Viorst, Daniel Schorr, Bob Schieffer and Eleanor Clift. I spent time with Pauline Frommer, author with her father, Arthur, of Frommer's Travel Guides, because we share the same publisher -- John Wiley & Sons. We hung out in the Hospitality Pavilion with PJ Campbell and Keira Kordowski, in charge of events at Wiley, as we waited for our respective events to begin. All the writers ate breakfast in the State Dining Room in the East Wing of the White House. Afterward, Mrs. Bush went outside with us, on the White House steps, and a photographer took our photo (above; that's me, second row, fourth from the right wearing a white blouse with a Best Friends Animal Society logo). Having a book about the rescue of pets from Katrina included in the festival was special beyond words. And getting an acknowledgment, no matter our politics, from Laura Bush, who promotes reading through the Library of Congress, was the icing on the cake.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Time flies ... too fast

Time flies by, so much so that nearly 16 years passed before seeing school friend Noni McGowan's son again. Circumstances changed, and Morgan moved to Michigan when he was around 13. The last time I saw him he was 18; he was in town and showed up on a holiday, at my doorstep, to say goodbye before leaving for Michigan again. Growing up, he spent weekends at my beach house in South Mission Beach (San Diego) with my son, Raymond, and me. For a few months, he and his mom lived with me. Morgan loved hanging out at Hamel's Surf Shop, located on the boardwalk, to inline skate and skateboard just north of the lifeguard tower. Earlier this week, Morgan was in San Diego with his family, so I flew down for the day for a get-together at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza in Pt. Loma. It was great fun, reminiscing. It was as if no time at all had gone by. Morgan went on to college, graduated, moved to Kalamazoo, now works for a communications company and has a family of his own. I couldn't be more proud if he were my own son. Group photo (standing), Morgan, Emma, Drew, Cathy, Cordelia, Bob, Claire, Raymond, and (seated), Karen and Jake.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

NPR Features 'Beneath the Neon'

I stumbled across a front-page story on National Public Radio's site a couple days ago. To my pleasant surprise was a feature story and interview of my friend Matt O'Brien about his wanderings underground in Las Vegas. The story and radio interview, titled "Sucked Into The Tunnels Beneath Las Vegas," can be heard and read here.

Matt’s research is a five-year, hands-on study of a different kind for Las Vegas' underworld; this one isn't connected to the Mob. His book Beneath the Neon, released in 2007, was reviewed by local media as well as national, including Salon.com. And CBS weighed in too. Getting on NPR, however, was a real coup.

It's amazing what a national presence brings. Sales rankings on Amazon for Beneath the Neon rose to between 1,000 and 2,000, which is an incredible ruler for how it's doing online -- very well, in my book. A few days later, it was back down to 10,000 (which is still very much a respectable sales ranking).

Matt's a humble guy and kept the news of the story mostly to himself.

"Is it on your blog?" I asked him.

"Nah, I didn't want to look like I was bragging."

"Brag," I told him. "Post it."

Being the modest guy he is, the NPR story still isn't posted on his blog, so I'm blogging it for him by posting it to my own blog. Here's to you, Matt. Congratulations.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Not-so-distant look back at competitive news coverage

Charlie Fern, an editor in the early '90s at the now-closed Vista Press, a daily newspaper in North San Diego County, reminded me recently in a Twitter comment of the strong competitiveness we had in the newsroom in those days. The 50-year-old Vista Press was in direct competition with the San Diego Union's North County edition. The Union (this was before it merged to become the San Diego Union-Tribune) was huge by comparison. Still, Charlene, who was managing editor -- and my boss -- of the Vista Press, an Andrews McMeel Universal-owned paper, recalled that we scooped the SD Union on a regular basis. Maybe it was because the reporters all had fire in their bellies to get it first. This last weekend, she started a Twitter conversation about her view of some print reporters and their current complacency. ""Do what you say and say it in color," Charlene said, "because it matters." The Vista Press, she wrote on Twitter (quite complimentary), "was at its best (when Cathy Scott, Russell Klika, Leslie Hueholt, etc., were there), proving a small paper could run circles around a metro. We had a great, competitive staff, for the most part, and a lot of competition. That drives excellence." She also reminded me of a breaking story I wrote, on deadline and calling it in from the scene, of a garbage truck worker who, while standing behind a truck with a full load, was buried alive underneath garbage. It took an army of law enforcement -- and even medium-security California state prisoners -- 12 hours to locate his body. I remained at the scene and Charlene held the presses until the story was done. It made the first edition in the morning, beating the other papers in the area. "Holding the presses was thrilling, even if I got in trouble for it," she said. While at the Vista Press, I also covered Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, went on training missions with Marines on base and out to sea, and to Somalia to cover Operation Restore Hope. Fellow reporters and photogs at that small paper mostly moved on to bigger and better journalism jobs: Klika, for one, became a combat photographer, with two tours of duty in Iraq, and is now a civilian combat photo instructor for the National Guard; Leslie moved on to the Tulsa World; Deniene Husted to the Los Angeles Times, I went to the Las Vegas Sun, and Charlene, well, she went to work at the White House (after first going to the Texas governor's mansion) as Laura Bush's personal speechwriter. Many others who came before us have moved upward and onward too. North San Diego County was a fertile training ground for us. We worked our tails off, learned to crunch on deadline and also felt the sense of accomplishment with the occasional scoop over our seemingly giant neighbor, the SD Union. It was David and Goliath, and occasionally David won. Photo, by Russell Klika, of Cathy gearing up to board a military helicopter at Camp Pendleton to cover an exercise over the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reasons to be thankful

Three years ago this week I was at a Hurricane Katrina rescue center in Tylertown, Mississipi, covering the holiday for Best Friends Animal Society. Writing about rescued animals. Working with them. Writing about volunteers. Getting to know them. What a difference three years make. Animal consultant Sherry Woodard took time out to play with a dozen pups (pictured above) -- all post-Katrina victims, born on the streets. They were lucky. Last year I was in Pahrump, Nevada, spending an outdoor Thanksgiving (photo above) covering an unTurkey dinner (delicious) with volunteers who spent their holiday caring for 800 cats confiscated from a hoarding situation. Lots to be thankful for this year. Wonderful job with Best Friends as a staff writer. Nice gig in my spare time writing books. Great old friends. Great new friends. Great family. GREAT companion dogs. Speaking of, I'm taking my three critters hiking in Red Rock Canyon Thanksgiving morning -- just my dogs and me -- then to a friend's house for dinner with my good friend and fellow writer Chip. Good company with my dogs in the morning in a beautiful, quiet natural setting, then good company later with friends in a festive environment. Peace and a happy, safe Thanksgiving to one and all! Photos by me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Viva Santa Fe

I'm heading with my Katrina dog Mia to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a second book signing for Pawprints of Katrina with Ali MacGraw -- this one on her home turf. We leave tomorrow, arrive at the Albuquerque airport in the afternoon and wait for photographer Clay Myers and his wife Cathie to arrive. Then we'll drive to Santa Fe, check into our hotel and then meet Ali for dinner. The next day, we head to Garcia Street Books for a book signing (4 to 5 p.m.). I was on local public radio this morning in Santa Fe. A crowd is expected, so it should be fun. Will blog about it, plus Clay is taking photos (and his wife will be stepping in to take some of him with us as well). I'll post them here and also on Mia's blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cartoonist sues SoCal paper

Steve Kelley, one-time political and social cartoonist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, has sued his former employer. Kelley is claiming unfair competition after he says he was employed to sketch a joint comic strip -- scheduled to begin running in the Union-Trib this year -- with Steve Breen, the paper's current editorial cartoonist. The deal, however, fell flat. For its part, the paper has denied any wrongdoing, and its attorneys have countered by asking a San Diego County Superior Court judge to toss out the suit. The case is expected to be heard in February of next year. There's no love lost between Kelley and the Union-Trib. In May 2001, he was fired over a dispute about a drawing killed by the editorial-page editor before it was published because it showed partial butt cracks of two teenagers. After Kelley was sacked, he went to work as an editorial cartoonist for the New Orleans Times- Picayune while continuing to live in San Diego. Meanwhile, the family owned San Diego daily, affectionally known to locals as the U-T, is for sale. So far, three rounds of lay-offs and buy-outs have occurred as the paper tries to stay afloat during tough economic times. Cartoon by Steve Kelley, copyright The Times-Picayune To read more, click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red carpet Hollywood-style -- Behind-the-scenes

Late last week, I covered a celebrity event and found myself surrounded by paparazzi at a red-carpet affair in Hollywood. The media were there for the Best Friends' fundraiser, but as each celebrity appeared and walked down the red carpet, some reporters asked them about everything except the real reason they were there -- the cause for Los Angeles-area animals -- at the newly renovated Hollywood Palladium. "What do you think of the presidential election?" The Hollywood Reporter asked Rene Russo. Looking surprised, she paused for a second and said it was great, that she liked the outcome. Robert Culp said the same thing, then got down to the business at hand by talking about his cat and his wife, Candace Faulkner. "Candace and I got together because our cats hate each other," he told the reporter. They lived a few houses away from each other and their cats used to fight. "That was years ago," Culp continued. "Then we met again at a FedEx office, and here we are." Then he kissed her. Some celebrities brought their own dogs with them, to escort them on the red carpet. Those who didn't used prop dogs, like Fluffy, who appeared in several pics with celebrities. House's Lisa Edelstein carried her small dog in a handbag and Emmy Rossum held her small Yorkshire Terrier in her hand. The list of big-name celebrities was long. But for one paparazzo, they weren't enough -- until Rene Russo showed up. "Who's that," I asked a photographer when a female actress I didn't recognize walked down the carpet. "Nobody," he said. "I'm waiting for somebody." Then Russo arrived and he jumped around yelling out her name. "Somebody" had arrived. At one point, a paparazza's iPhone rang. She answered it, then said quietly to her neighbor, "There's been a sighting," because a star they were tracking was sighted somewhere in Hollywood. They stayed put, though, and didn't leave the red carpet as more celebrities began showing up right. When comedic actor Arte Johnson arrived, a young reporter told someone standing next to her, "He's on General Hospital." "And Laugh-In," I told them, dating myself, as they gave me blank looks, obviously not registering the 1970s TV show. Inside, veteran actress Cloris Leachman talked to me about animals. "I just rescued a dog two weeks ago," she said. "He was wandering on my street. The first thing I did was give him a bath." He was reunited with his person the next day, she told me. On stage, country blues singer Emmylou Harris performed, making a poised, regal appearance. "Remember," she told the audience, "animals are people too." I was nearby when a cameraman with x17 Video asked former Full House child actress Jodi Sweetin a question. "What brings you out tonight?" "Anything for the animals -- it stirs my heart," Sweetin told x17 Video. "To come out for a great cause tonight is a lot of fun." Indeed. Photos by Andy Sheng

Monday, November 10, 2008

Girard Avenue

Sunday in La Jolla. Nice. It was the annual Holiday Open House at Warwick's books, coinciding with my signing for Pawprints of Katrina. Tons of people stopped by -- including friends and family. It was a great day. Also stopping to say hello (and buy books -- (thanks very much, all) were a couple from New Orleans and another from Pennsylvania who adopted a Chow-Golden Retriever mix from Camp Tylertown, Best Friends Animal Society's rescue center in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Singers from a local school were there too, as were carolers at a shop next door to Warwick's. Wonderful early holiday ambiance. It felt like a mini reunion, with Linda and Roger from high school, and my step-mother's nephew and niece, and friends Nancy and John. My twin sister and her husband and my son and grandkids were there too., which made it even more special. Old friends from my days living in South Mission Beach were there too. Then dinner in La Jolla. Great evening too. Just glad to be back in San Diego again for a visit. Photo of Cathy with Mia by Susan McBeth, event planner at Warwick's

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

History in the making...

After the polls closed on election day, I attended a campaign party at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was there with my lifelong friend Vickie Pynchon and her husband Steve Goldberg, who joined her for the last few days of the campaign. Books will be written, analyses will be done, campaign strategies will be studied. On this night, November 4, 2008, the world witnessed a monumental, seminal moment in U.S. history. Vickie worked tirelessly for three nonstop weeks, knocking on doors, encouraging voters to go to the polls and help make a difference -- one vote at a time. Her efforts, along with thousands of others, clearly worked, as evidenced by overwhelming election results. Vickie was among 1,000 attorneys watching to make sure voting procedures were strictly followed and nothing was amiss. As I write this, Vickie and Steve are driving back to California -- leaving Las Vegas -- victorious. Also in town was my friend and fellow writer Susan Gembrowski with three other journalists who recently took buyouts from the San Diego Union-Tribune (I affectionately referred to them, while they were here, as Union-Trib refugees; the family owned paper from my hometown is being sold and each bailed ahead of the sale). Vickie, Steve and I watched President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech while standing in a bar at the Rio on our way from the buffet to the ballroom where Congresswoman Shelley Berkley was about to give her own acceptance speech. "We're missing it," Vickie said as we walked past the bar's widescreen TV. "Obama's speaking." We walked to the bar and stood mostly silent in front of the screen and listened to his acceptance. During his speech, Obama addressed people like Vickie when he described his grassroots campaign:
"It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy ... who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep. "It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth. "This is your victory."
It was, indeed, Vickie's victory. She owned it. I asked her why she did what she did -- left her life and her legal mediation practice temporarily to immerse herself -- on her own dime and without pay -- in the presidential run for office. It was the first time in 40 years she was moved to help with an election, she said. And this one was too important not to help. After Obama's speech, I told her, "He was talking to you." She smiled and quietly said, "He was." Vickie walked in October during record-breaking temperatures on the streets of Henderson, Nevada, getting out the vote. After the speech, she looked to be on the verge of tears. I've known her most of my life, since she was 5 and I was 8, and she is one of my dearest friends. I am so very proud of her. Way to go, Vickie. And way to go, America.

Monday, November 03, 2008

'Private and Pithy Lessons'

I was by accident at a book signing and lecture one evening this week. I was writing on my laptop at a Barnes & Nobel in Las Vegas when, next to the area I was sitting at, author Raymond Arroyo began speaking to a small group of people. He told them he'd done a book signing the day before in Thousand Oaks, California. "Three-hundred people were there," he told them. Amazing, considering about 25 showed up for this event. In a method that was reminiscent of stand-up comics -- but this one delivered by a religious writer who came across as a minister preaching at the pulpit -- Arroyo used a high woman's voice off and on throughout his talk, mimicking Mother Angelica, who is the subject of his new book by the same name (Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons), (Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons). The group seemed to enjoy it and laughed at the voice and his jokes. To his great credit, his book has reached the New York Times' bestseller list. He cut the evening short at just under an hour. Maybe he was disappointed at the turnout.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Shutters to the newsprint edition of the Monitor

Reading my morning fix of media news on mediabistro.com, I don't know why I was surprised with this week's announcement that the Christian Science Monitor, a magazine-like daily newspaper, was turning weekly to concentrate on producing Web news. Given the diminishing nature of the newspaper business, the Monitor is just one in a string of large dailies scaling back in one form or another. Over the years, I've freelanced my share of feature stories to the Monitor. The editors were on top of articles, always making suggestions to flesh out the stories even more. A few years ago, during an interview with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, he told me how much his elderly mother enjoyed the paper. "She's a subscriber," he said. She read the hard copy, of course, not the Web edition. Now, the Monitor, after 100 years of print journalism, will become the magazine it's felt like anyway for a long time -- in-depth coverage and think pieces with a wide appeal. They also like publishing international stories with a local flavor. I learned that in 1998 when I visited Rachael Levy -- a former reporter with me at the Las Vegas Sun -- who at the time was living in Amsterdam with her husband Marcel. Rachael had written a piece a couple months earlier about a Dutch version of Santa Claus that got a lot of notice. That was my real introduction to the Monitor, although I'd casually read it over the years. After I flew home from The Netherlands, I readied a pitch for an article for the Monitor. They took it, and I continued writing for them, off and on, for nearly a decade. I'll miss the daily Monitor. But I look forward to reading it online. Alas, the future of journalism is upon us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sex & Lies in a Lifetime movie

A Las Vegas movie that just aired on Lifetime is based -- loosely -- on a true story. Sex and Lies in Sin City is a made-for-TV film about the reckless life and death of Ted Binion, heir to the Binion Horseshoe Casino fortune. In September 1998, Binion was found dead in his Las Vegas estate by his live-in girlfriend Sandy Murphy. The media at the time made Sandy out to be a murderer. She along with her new boyfriend, Rick Tabish, were charged months later with killing Binion. The problem was, the coroner ruled the case a probable suicide and the police didn't cordone off the house and property to treat it like a crime scene. Binion, who'd been addicted to heroin since 1985, had enough drugs in his system to kill a horse. Then, six months after his death, in an unprecedented change of heart, the Clark County (Nevada) coroner ruled the death a homicide, despite a palpable lack of evidence against Murphy and Tabish. The first trial ended in murder convictions. But because the jury was not given certain instructions before deliberating -- vital information they needed -- the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the convictions and they were given a new trial. The second time around, with famous civil rights attorney (radical but respected) Tony Serra at the helm, along with co-counsel Michael Cristalli, the jury this time found them "not guilty." Justice prevailed, something the Lifetime movie barely touched on. Buffalo News Columnist Alan Pergament had this to say about the movie:
Speaking of embarrassments, the script chooses to use conversations between journalists to present several alternative and inconclusive theories about how Ted Binion died. The scenes are so stiffly played and presented -- it is reminiscent of a bad 'Murder, She Wrote' ending — that it almost is sinful. With all the talent wasted in 'Sin City,' this is one story that should have stayed in Vegas.
I covered both trials gavel to gavel, from the courtroom. The result is a book, Death in the Desert. The other result is a list of stories published in Las Vegas CityLife.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writers' groups

I just discovered a wonderful writers' group in San Diego (to where I'll eventually be moving). It's San Diego Writers, Ink. My lifelong friend Vickie Pynchon, an attorney-mediator, columnist and blogger extraordinaire, is a member of a close-knit writers' group in Los Angeles. Vickie was a part of my first group, Sisters of the Pen, when we were kids. Who knew then how much writing we both would go on to do? (My sister Cordelia, also a former member and now an antiques dealer, is also blogging). I wasn't in another group again until a couple years after I broke into the news business. Fellow journalist and friend Susan Gembrowski, who's now an editor on the metro desk at the San Diego Union-Tribune, once hosted a few writers' meetings in Ocean Beach for local freelancers. The meetings eventually dwindled as we all moved on with our respective journalism careers. The first time I participated (about five years ago) in the Authors of the Flathead conference in Whitefish, Montana, I was envious. The group is chock full of talented, aspiring authors who encourage and constructively critique their respective works. After giving a workshop at their annual conference last month, in early October, I told myself I was going to find a group of my own, even if I had to be the one to organize it. I haven't found a group in Las Vegas, although freelance writer Terrisa Meeks runs one in Vegas where I was once a speaker. When I worked at the Las Vegas Sun in the mid 1990s, a handful of reporters started a writers group there. We'd meet once a month at a local Starbucks and go over each other's lengthier feature pieces we each were working on. With time, those meetings, too, slowly dwindled. Then this week, on the Internet, I stumbled across the San Diego group. Writing is a craft; the more you do it, the better you get. Thus, I'm hoping to not only learn from other writers, but to help others as well. The goal is getting words on the page and getting feedback along the way for works in progress. Fellow writers' feedback is invaluable and a gift when you can get it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tour heads to La Jolla and Santa Fe

The book tour for Pawprints of Katrina is heading for, first, on Nov. 9, La Jolla, California, to Warwick's books. Then, on Nov. 22, photographer Clay Myers, his wife Cathie, and I are going to Santa Fe for a signing with Ali MacGraw at Garcia Street Books. My Katrina dog Mia will be with me again. I'm excited about, once again, sharing with readers the rescue and reunion stories of Hurricane Katrina -- this on the heels of teaching a workshop in Whitefish, Montana, at the Authors of The Flathead and then participating in the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., But I'm especially looking forward to visiting with Ali. She is a genuinely real person and very nice and giving of her time. While there, I'll be visiting a friend, artist and fellow writer, Paulette Frankl, who has a studio and home in Santa Fe. In the meantime, I'm pecking away at my computer on other writing projects (including articles for Best Friends magazine and a crime manuscript in my spare time!). Onward and upward.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Writers helping writers

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything. --John Irving (1942 - ) Having just spent six days in Whitefish, Montana, at the Authors of the Flathead writers' conference, I'm inspired. It wasn't supposed to be that way; I intended to inspire others when I taught a three-day workshop, then shorter sessions over the weekend, to conference attendees. But they, too, said they were inspired -- and that's what it's all about, writers helping writers. I wish I knew then what I know now when I wrote my first nonfiction book, The Killing of Tupac Shakur, in 1996 and '97. The writing transition, from newspaper stories to a book, was a struggle. And this was before full-on Internet use; my research came from libraries, book stores, magazine racks, newspaper clips and interviews -- the old-fashioned way. It was a crash course on becoming an author. Also teaching a three-day'r was screenwriter Rick Reichman. Presenting with us that Saturday and Sunday were Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist, blogger and soon-to-be-author John Woestendiek (very witty guy; check out his blog), and literary agent Stephanne Dennis, romantic suspense author Laura Hayden, and fiction editor Denise Little. Thoroughly enjoyable week!

Monday, September 29, 2008

National Book Fest a success!

I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Washington, D.C., in the company of 70 authors, illustrators and poets at the National Book Festival. Below is a videotape -- a webcast -- of my address in front of 250 people gathered in a pavillion on the National Mall last weekend (Sept. 27). I followed Eleanor Clift, a famous reporter with Newsweek, discussing her moving book, Two Weeks of Life, about hospice care. And following me were Pauline and Arthur Frommer, the famous father-daughter travel writing team (who gave a great talk and were wonderful to meet). The weekend for authors invited to participate in the eighth annual event started the night before at a gala event at the Library of Congress' Jefferson Building. Dinner was in the newly renovated Great Hall, whose sweeping marble steps we climbed to the second floor, with its painted domed ceilings, to get to our assigned tables. Joining us were President and Mrs. Bush and their daughter Jenna. It wasn't known in advance that the President would be there -- and, frankly, it was quite a surprise, especially since lawmakers were working through the weekend on Capitol Hill. On my way to the dinner that night -- after having stepped off the Metro train -- I saw the brightly lit building — you couldn’t miss it — and knew that they were all inside, working on a bailout plan. Whatever your politics and whatever you think of Bush, it was nice to see him support reading and the book festival. Before the First Lady's speech, a military band began playing "Hail to the Chief," then an announcer said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States." Mrs. Bush spoke and, after four authors also addressed the audience, Laura Bush was presented with a Living Legend award for her efforts throughout her stay as First Lady to promote public libraries and fight illiteracy. After breakfast the next day, in the State Dining Room inside the East Wing of the White House, I met Laura Bush. My good friend and former editor, Charlene (or Charlie) Fern, asked me to be sure and say "hello" to Mrs. Bush for her. Charlene was Mrs. Bush's speech writer for many years. I didn't have the chance; while Mrs. Bush shook my hand, she shook others' as well as she moved from one author to the next. I didn't want to keep her, so I simply said "Hello." Earlier, at 6:30 a.m. (I arrived early for breakfast, walking from Pennsylvania Avenue, where the taxi driver dropped me, to the southeast gate of the White House, where I was allowed through a guard shack (as employees call the gates) to the entrance of the East Wing. Another guard announced my presence and a Navy officer escorted me to the First Lady's official receiving room. It overlooked the White House lawn. I sat in an antique armchair and thumbed through a copy of Pawprints of Katrina and chose the passages I would read at my presentation on the Mall. I was there about 20 minutes when poet Michael Lind joined me, whom I'd never met before. We had a pleasant conversation as we waited to be called. A few minutes later, another officer opened the door to the receiving room and escorted us to the State Dining Room. We passed Jacqueline Kennedy's garden. The uniformed people -- from the black-and-white clad Secret Service people, to the Naval personnel in white and the White House employees in red, were friendly as they greeted us. I can't even describe the feeling of being in the White House. Simply put, I had a deep sense of those who had walked through those hallways in the very same rooms I stood in. A grand piano, where a military pianist played as we walked by, was emblazened with golden eagles. In the State Dining Room, where I sat with Library of Congress employees, I couldn't help but notice the green marble mantel, restored during the Kennedy renovation. My mother, author Eileen Rose Busby, went to the White House in 1977 for the inaugeration of CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner, my late-mother's brother-in-law. I would have loved for her to be with me last weekend. She would have enjoyed every minute. To view the webcast of my talk, go here, then click onto "webcast." And go here to read an article by writer Sandy Miller about the weekend in D.C.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book fest in Washington, D.C.

I had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the 2008 National Book Festival this weekend, Saturday, Sept. 27, in Washington, D.C. I'll be giving a 30-minute talk on the National Mall and signing books, plus there's a dinner and entertainment the night before with 70 authors and First Lady Laura Bush, along with her daughter, Jenna. Then there's breakfast the next morning at the White House. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Library of Congress. The Saturday book festival is open to the public. I'm really looking forward to spending time with fellow authors and hearing about their latest books. I'll write a blog or two from the Capitol, telling you all about it. --Cathy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Writer, novelist David Foster Wallace

Not much else for me to add about David Foster Wallace's recent suicide. Just very sad. His accomplishments weren't measured by the awards or accolades he accumulated; his readers to his body of work, instead, are a testament to his success. One of his statements, in an interview with Salon.com, is haunting: There's so much mass commercial entertainment that's so good and so slick, this is something that I don't think any other generation has confronted. That's what it's like to be a writer now. I think it's the best time to be alive ever and it's probably the best time to be a writer. I'm not sure it's the easiest time. ... I get the feeling that a lot of us, privileged Americans, as we enter our early 30s, have to find a way to put away childish things and confront stuff about spirituality and values." In 2005, he gave a speech at Kenyon College. In it, he said: Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. David Foster Wallace wrote his first novel at age 24. He hanged himself at 46. Very sad indeed. Illustration by Harry Aung

Friday, September 12, 2008

New interview: 'Calm After the Storm'

Here's the latest interview with me about Pawprints of Katrina, this one in Best Friends magazine in its Sept/Oct issue (circulation 300,000). To read the interview, click here. To learn more about the book, click here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Book review: 'Raw emotion'

Pawprints of Katrina Reviewed by Kathryn Reed Reprinted with permission by Mountain News Tears flowed nearly every time I picked up Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned. Part of it was the raw emotion of remembering driving around last summer during the Angora Fire with Bailey, my 14-year-old black Lab who I had to put down in February. Part of it was knowing this month marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and still New Orleans has only half the population it did prior to the catastrophe. And part of it was learning about the senseless loss of so many four-legged family members. Most of it was the incredible dedication of so many volunteers who spent hours helping save thousands of animals who otherwise would have perished. Cathy Scott, the author, captures the chaos, the love, the drama, the sense of urgency, the harrowing rescues and dedication like a true journalist. I suppose I'm a bit biased, but I think journalists write these sorts of books the best – they are trained to observe and then tell a story. Scott immersed herself in the rescue efforts, sleeping on the ground at Camp Tylertown, a refuge set up by Best Friends Animal Society. I’ve known Scott since we worked together at the Las Vegas Sun in the 1990s. She was a reporter, I was an editor. She’s written several books, though the only other one I’ve read of hers was about Tupac Shakur. Scott lived in Vegas when the rapper was killed. This book, about saving the pets of Katrina, is so much more compelling. Even though I had read countless newspaper stories and seen television coverage of the animal rescues, it wasn’t until I read this book that it sunk in how devastating and miraculous it truly was. Scott went to the hurricane ravaged region to write a story. She ended up staying. Working. Leaving. Returning. And finally she wound up with a full-time writing job for Best Friends Animal Society’s magazine and website. The book is not just about the animals. It also delves into who the rescuers are. The lengths rescuers went to to reunite people with their animals was incredible. The hours involved in nursing so many back to health. The foster families, the adopted families, the owner who didn’t give-up on finding their animals, the owners who knew it was better if someone else took over the caregiving. Pawprints of Katrina touches on the multitude of rescue organizations, though it focuses on Best Friends. And then it talks about lessons learned, including federal legislation that mandates animal shelters be set up when people shelters are erected. That was one of the horrors of Katrina, people being separated from their pets. Tears flowed for the happy stories – like Red, a disabled Staffordshire Terrier, who learned to get around with a cart. Not every story has a happy ending. But the struggles and heartache are real. They needed to be written about and need to be read. Amazon.com lists Pawprints of Katrina as one of its “Hot New Releases.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barbara Warren, ultra-athlete, author

It’s difficult to digest what happened to ultra-triathlete Barbara Warren last Saturday. Her bicycle accident and suffering a broken neck during the Santa Barbara triathlon on Aug. 23 has rocked the sports community. And her death Tuesday night is sad beyond words. I feel connected to Barbara. Maybe it’s because she was a fellow author. Or maybe it's because she was a fellow cyclist (although she was far above my league). Or that she lived in Cuyamaca part-time and I have a cabin in nearby Julian. Or that my twin sister, Cordelia, dated Barbara's husband, Tom Warren, for about four years (many years before Barbara and Tom married). I participated in Tom's swim-run-swims in Pacific Beach in the '70s and regularly went to his bar and restaurant, Tug's Tavern, also in PB, for the Thursday-night Mexican dinner specials. Or perhaps it's because Barbara had an identical twin, as do I. Cordelia and I rode the 76-mile Tecate-to-Ensenada bike ride together, hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, ran a 24-hour relay together, ran a half marathon and I don't know how many 10Ks together, and walked the 2006 Susan G. Komen 3-day, 60-mile walk. And, like us, Barbara and her twin are the youngest of five children. I understand the bond she had with her sister. I never met Barbara. But everything I’ve read about her indicates she was an incredible woman who had drive, passion and instincts and who poured her heart and soul into whatever she pursued. She was beyond brave, to the end. I'm truly sorry for Barbara’s twin sister, Angelika Castaneda Drake – I cannot imagine what she’s going through -- and for Tom. The world has lost a remarkable woman.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Book tour goes to Louisiana and Mississippi

I'll be on the road for Pawprints of Katrina for the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With me will be Mia (so named for MIA -- Missing In Action), rescued by Best Friends Animal Society after the storm from the American Can Company in New Orleans (her owners were never found).

On Aug. 29, the anniversary, I'm participating as an author at a vegetarian luncheon at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street in the French Quarter, for a memorial sponsored by the Humane Society of Louisiana. Then that evening, Mia and I will be at a super-sized Barnes & Noble on Veterans Boulevard in Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans).

On Saturday, Aug. 30, we'll be in Baton Rouge at Books-a-Million, at a new store on S. Mall Drive.

Then Sunday, the 31st, I'll be in Jackson, Mississippi, at Lemuria Book Store, an animal-loving independent book store. Leigh and Terry Breland, who volunteered after Katrina, are having a reception at their home in the town of Terry, Mississippi. (very rural with natural ponds dotting sprawling, southern, green-belt properties).

Then it will be home again until the next one!

Click here for the book events/signing schedule.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ali MacGraw helps launch 'Pawprints of Katrina'

By Sandy Miller Courtesy Bestfriends.org At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary last Saturday, July 26, a full day of activities celebrated the release of Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned, Cathy Scott’s moving book about the animals rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina three years ago. Cathy, a veteran journalist who covered the rescue for Best Friends’ magazine and Web site, was much more than just a casual observer with a notepad. She worked right alongside other Best Friends staffers and volunteers rescuing the pets left behind by Hurricane Katrina. It became the largest animal rescue effort in U.S. history, with approximately 15,000 animals saved. Best Friends played a major role in that effort, rescuing and helping to place roughly 7,000 animals, Cathy says. For the book, Cathy did hundreds of interviews to capture the animals’ journeys from the time they were rescued to their care by volunteers to their reunions with their people or placement in new forever homes. She also pays tribute to the incredible volunteers who left their homes and their jobs to go to New Orleans to rescue and care for other people’s pets. The book also features more than 70 touching photographs taken by Best Friends photographer Clay Myers. Like Cathy, Clay played an active part in the rescue. Cathy and Clay were joined Saturday afternoon by actress Ali MacGraw, who wrote the foreword to the book, and K-9 handler Cliff Deutsch, a Katrina rescuer featured on the book’s cover, for a book signing at the Best Friends Welcome Center. “I loved the book,” Ali says. “It made me weep.” Ali, who has starred in a number of stage and film productions, including the 1970 classic, “Love Story,” now makes her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She says she has been an animal lover her whole life. It was Ali’s first trip to Best Friends and she said she was impressed to see how happy and relaxed the animals were. Another cause for celebration that day was a $5,000 donation from the publisher of the book, Howell Book House, a division of Wiley Publishers. The money will help construct a new building for the potbellied pigs at Best Friends’ Piggy Paradise. Representatives from Howell presented the check to Best Friends at lunch Saturday at the sanctuary. It was a wonderful surprise for Yvonne McIntosh, manager of Piggy Paradise. “It’s awesome,” Yvonne says. “It’s just amazing!” At the book signing, Ali knelt down to pet Sprocket, one of the potbellied pigs at the sanctuary who spent most of the afternoon soaking up the attention and cooling off in a play pool in front of the Welcome Center. Also attending Saturday’s festivities were Ali’s son, filmmaker Josh Evans, and his wife, actress Charis Michelsen-Evans. “I got teary-eyed,” Charis says about touring the sanctuary. “To see all the animals so happy, well, it just touches my heart.” Pawprints of Katrina is quickly gathering nationwide attention. Cathy has been invited to participate in the 2008 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, which will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on September 27. Photos by Sarah Ause, Barbara Davis and Clay Myers Pictured in photos (top) Ali MacGraw, Clay Myers, Cathy Scott; (center) Ali MacGraw and rescued dog, Lois Lane; (bottom) Cliff Deutsch and Marina, Cathy and her dog, Mia, Clay Myers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Publicity flash: Cathy Scott, book in the news

Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal All rights reserved. ------------------------------ Pictured, columnist John L. Smith July 16, 2008 Adoptions can't keep pace with unwanted pets in a struggling economy By John L. Smith Las Vegas Review-Journal The dogs of recession are howling. Can you hear them? Chances are good you will hear their desperate call soon as they bark for relief. Consider it one of the unintended consequences of the mortgage crisis and economic slump: Dogs and cats are turning up in increasing numbers at local animal shelters. Some are rounded up off the street or from vacant lots by neighbors or strangers sensitive to the pets' plight. Others are turned in by owners who tell shelter officials they've lost their homes and can no longer keep their animals. Shelter officials commonly hear all sorts of excuses from owners who wish to give up their pets. But until recent months they rarely heard from so many people who had lost their homes to foreclosure or their jobs to layoffs. For photographer and animal lover Denise Truscello, her sister-in-law's recent discovery of an emaciated blue pit bull sent her out into the desert near Decatur Boulevard and I-215 in search of the animal. When Truscello brought the dog to a local emergency animal clinic, it was little more than skin stretched over a rack of bones. Although the animal has gained eight pounds in recent days, its chances of finding a home are slim. "How could anyone do this to an animal?" she asks. "They just drop their dogs off. They should bring them somewhere. What is the point of leaving them behind?" Over at the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption counselor D.J. Cogswell says the problem is the worst he's seen in the 10 years he's been associated with shelters. "It's sort of like this weird, double-edged sword," Cogswell says. "People are turning their animals in because they've lost their houses. And the houses are sitting empty and no one is moving in, so no one's adopting animals to give them new homes." Complicating matters is the fact the NSPCA has a no-kill policy, so when its kennel is full there's literally no room at the inn. Some pet owners, faced with taking their animal to a shelter that euthanizes unadoptable dogs and cats, leave them to fend for themselves. Cogswell first noticed the downward trend and common theme from distressed pet owners approximately six months ago. "We're taking in many more animals than we used to," he says. "With us, sometimes I have to say no because I'm crowded, and we don't have room, and we don't kill them here. "People get angry with me for not accepting their pet, but I'm just trying to do the best I can." At the Animal Foundation, co-director of operations Jim Seitz reports that surrenders and confiscations are up approximately 14 percent. Real estate agents have turned in pets left behind at abandoned homes. "Our adoptions are down," Seitz says. "We think it is primarily due to the economy, but a more global view is that they are moving into smaller places, and can't have an animal. The complex they're moving into doesn't allow pets." Author and journalist Cathy Scott, a longtime animal advocate, has experienced the trend personally. Her associates at Best Friends Animal Society recently received a spaniel and Maltese from a couple that had lost its home and jobs. The author of "Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned," a chronicle of the plight of the animals of New Orleans after the August 2005 hurricane and flood, Scott fostered the dogs until a permanent home could be found. "The fact is, you've got animals who had homes, and people with good intentions were taking care of them," Scott says. "Out of circumstances they couldn't control, they had to give up their animals. It inundates the shelters, and we already have a homeless (pet) population here in Las Vegas. When you have the economic problems in addition to it, it just exacerbates the problem. Unfortunately, we're a throwaway society, and animals are victims." For her part, Truscello continues to care for the abandoned pit bull. Trouble is, she already has a dog. She can't keep another. Sometimes, rescuing the animal is the easy part. With the economy flea-bitten, those real howls of desperation figure to only get louder. John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'A Winning Book'

The following review, posted on Amazon.com, is from author Norine Dresser, who for eight years wrote the "Multicultural Manners" column for the Los Angeles Times. Here's the review: Scott's book is completely absorbing. She reveals the astounding dedication to animals by humans who dedicate themselves to finding the separated and abandoned animals of the Katrina disaster and reuniting them with their bereft owners. This is an important social document. Above all, the book celebrates the human/animal bond. It's a must-read. To learn more about Norine's books, go here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Times-Picayune book review

Reunion photo in Tyertown, Miss., September 2005 Book editor Susan Larson with the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran nice review for Pawprints of Katrina book. To read it, go here (scroll down the page to find it). Photographer Clay Myers and I will be in New Orleans (at Barnes and Noble in the suburb of Metairie) for the third anniversary of Katrina at the end of August. I'm looking forward to seeing the city again and the rebuilding progress. Here's an excerpt from Susan's review: "Pawprints of Katrina describes the work of rescue in the flooded cities, paints vivid portraits of the animals and the rescue workers, and celebrates some of the joyous reunions that were made possible by Best Friends at what became known as Camp Tylertown."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

My Side of the Mountain

I recently stumbled across mention of one of my all-time favorite childhood books: My Side of the Mountain. I was captivated, literally, by 12-year-old Sam Gribley's year-long escape as a pre-teen to the Catskill Mountains. I devoured his descriptions of his hollowed-out tree home, picking berries, eating nuts and getting up close and personal with wildlife. My neighborhood friends, Vickie and Sharon, my sister, Cordelia, and I built (with help from older brother, Jon) what we called a fort in a canyon just behind our house. I loved the idea of living off the land. I must have been about 12 when I first read it. Every child daydreams about spending time on his or her own, and this was my dream, traveling to the mountains through Sam's mountain escape. I read the novel over and over when I should have instead been doing homework. I now have my own cabin in the mountains -- not the New York state Catskills, but in the Cuyamaca Mountains in southern California -- and will be living there eventually. It won't be quite like Sam's huge hollowed-out tree, but I do plan to be as green as I can -- including going off the grid and using solar energy. There are lots of oak trees, wonderful boulders and tons of birds on my property on my own side of a mountain. Now that I've been reminded of my escape into the pages of author Jean Craighead George's novel, I plan to re-read it. Just need to find a break between writing so I can read! EPILOGUE: Coudal Partners recently published my review of My Side of the Mountain. Also, childhood friend Vickie Pynchon reminded me in the summer that she was probably the one who loaned me a copy when we were kids. She was always ahead of the curve when it came to reading (still is).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Barbara Walters in Las Vegas

I was at Barnes and Noble on the westside of the Las Vegas valley this week when Barbara Walters stepped out of a limo for a one-hour book signing for her new book, Audition: A Memoir. It was held in the children's section of the store, and a line of people wrapped around the inside parameter about a quarter of the way. Around 200 people bought books and then stood in line for their turns to have their copies autographed by the author. Some interesting behind-the-scenes goings-on: Barbara had requested in advance that customers hand her their books from her right side, not her left. The talk-show host of ABC's "The View" also requested two other things: that fresh-sliced almonds and sliced apple ("No brown spots, please") be waiting for her in the store's employee lounge -- her makeshift personal green room -- where Barbara waited before venturing out onto the floor to sign books. One customer brought with her Barbara's first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything, which was first released in 1971. As the customer, who was with her granddaughter, approached the front of the line, a Walter's handler stopped her and said she couldn't hand any books to Barbara other than her new one. The woman said, "Okay," that she wouldn't do it. But when she got to the table, she presented both books to Barbara. She told Barbara that her daughter had bought the hard-cover book when she was 16 and asked if her mother could get it autographed for her. Barbara obliged and didn't say much, other than she ought to have it put back in print. I haven't yet attempted to tackle the latest book. If I do, I'll review it here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hurricane Katrina book in the news

Pawprints of Katrina is generating some news. Yesterday, Yahoo! ran the publisher's press release on its business news page. Here's the link. And here's an excerpt: Pawprints of Katrina will leave pawprints on your heart. You probably vividly remember the animal rescues you saw on television in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Veteran reporter and lifelong animal lover Cathy Scott covered the stories straight from the muck, the rubble, and a makeshift shelter. She witnessed dramatic rescues and joyful reunions firsthand. This book shares Cathy's stories and insight, poignant photographs from Clay Meyers, and follow up information about the animals today.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Remembering RFK

My lifelong friend Victoria Pynchon recently reminded me in her blog of a short but poignant phone conversation we had in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, when we were both teenagers. It was the day Bobby Kennedy was shot. Vickie, like so many other Americans, could not believe that yet another Kennedy brother had been gunned down. In 2002, before The Ambassador Hotel was razed so a public school could be built in its place, the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored a "Crime in the City" media tour of famous crime scenes. The site of the Kennedy shooting was on the route. So, on the morning of Saturday, November 9, I boarded a tour bus in Hollywood with fellow SPJ members. Linda Deutsch, longtime special correspondent for The Associated Press, led the tour to some of Los Angeles's more notorious crime scenes. We stopped outside the site where Las Vegas mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was murdered in a drive-by shooting in the palatial Beverly Hills home of his mistress, Virginia Hill. We also went to the spot where the Hillside Strangler dumped the body of his first victim and to the Brentwood home of Nicole Brown Simpson, who was stabbed to death along with Ron Goldman in her townhouse courtyard. One of the last stops along the route -- and the reason I took the tour -- was the landmark Ambassador Hotel, located on 20 acres on Wilshire Boulevard. The hotel had long been shuttered and was in disrepair, but we were allowed inside to tour the premises. We walked through the large canopied entrance, and then climbed the stairs to the Embassy Room ballroom where RFK had given his victory speech to supporters just after midnight and immediately following his Democratic presidential primary win. We stood in front of the podium where RFK had stood. It was a somber moment. We then walked through the main kitchen to the pantry and the scene of the crime -- the same route Kennedy had walked just before he was hit by an assassin's bullets. Back in 1968, in the early morning hours following the shooting, as I sat with my mother and twin sister Cordelia in front of our black-and-white TV and watched the shooting scene play over and over, a nation mourned. Remembering that day 40 years ago was best said in the lyrics, in part, by singer Dion about more-than significant American leaders murdered in their prime -- Abraham, Martin and John: Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby, Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill With Abraham, Martin and John Didn't you love the things they stood for? Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Buddy Blue and the Beat Farmers

By Cathy Scott

In journalism, we're fortunate enough to meet and work in newsrooms with extraordinary people from all walks of life. Such was the case at the La Jolla Light newspaper, where I worked with Buddy "Blue" Seigal for a year and a half, beginning in 1989. He was a features writer, and I was the business editor. He'd show up for work in upscale La Jolla, California, wearing a leather or black-denim vest over a black or faded T-shirt (revealing his tattoos), black jeans, chains hanging from his belt loop and pocket, black leather studded boots, and his trademark goatee and long sideburns. Occasionally he'd wear a hat. His writing gig, he'd regularly tell us all, was just temporary until his musical career took off.

While at the Light, he cut an album with the indie record label Rhino. A bunch of us -- reporters, editors and ad staff -- went to downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter to watch him play at a club there. Buddy wasn't fond of one of our editors, and he wasn't shy either about vocalizing his displeasure, often during our weekly editorial meetings. He had such a dry sense of humor, plus he was direct, and during the meetings we'd sometimes look at him with surprise. He'd look back at us and ask, "What?" Then, a few seconds later he'd start laughing.

The last time I saw Buddy was about 10 years ago at a Society of Professional Journalists conference in Ontario, California. I was a speaker at a writer's workshop, and Buddy was receiving a writing award. We ran into each other the first day, at a luncheon. He looked the same and said he had a regular writing stint for the alternative newspaper the Orange County Weekly.

I was searching for something online today and ran across an obit in the San Diego Union-Tribune. It was Buddy's. The headline read, "'Buddy' Seigal, 48; performer a mainstay of S.D. music scene." He died two years ago, in 2006. I didn't know about it until today. His early band, the Beat Farmers, made its mark in Southern California, and Buddy Blue left his mark on those of us who were lucky enough to have spent time with him.
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