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.
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