Monday, May 30, 2011

Fiddler’s Green

I was on assignment today covering the Memorial Day service at the Tracy Public Cemetery when I heard something that made me think.  The ceremony was done, the speeches were finished, the echoes of the rifle volleys fired in salute to the honored dead had faded away and the sound of Taps waned in the wind fluttering the hundreds of American flags placed around the cemetery grounds. 

I was heading back to my car and I stopped to take a few last pictures of the Little Arlington section of the cemetery.  This is an area reserved for veterans and their family and one man stood there patiently waiting for me to finish taking pictures.  I took the camera down from eyes and watched as he walked among the rows of grave markers to one and then knelt down in front of it.  He paused for a moment, placed his hand on the marker and then knelt down and kissed the marker and turned to leave the cemetery grounds.
I felt bad for a couple of reason.  First I had inadvertently made this man wait to pay his respects to a family member or friend I thought.  Then as I watched him make the visit to grave marker I took his picture.

I know it may sound dumb but I felt bad about taking the picture.  It was a quiet moment, a private moment of remembrance and I felt I had intruded.  I caught up with the man as he headed for the parking lot and introduced myself.  He already knew me and I remembered him.  His name was Charlie Norton, a Vietnam veteran who wrote a column for the Our Town section of the newspaper about dogs called Paws for Thought. 
I told him I was sorry I didn’t mean to make him wait t and asked him who he was visiting.  He said it was his wife Betty Jean who passed away four years ago.  I told him I was sorry to hear of his loss and he said it was all right, talking about her he said she was a true Marine’s wife.  As we were walking he said the thing that left me thinking all day long.  Heading out looking around the cemetery grounds he said it was just Fiddler’s Green.
Now I thought I misheard him but he was trying to explain the term, it was where the soldiers go when they pass on.  Later I looked up the phrase and found it referred to a view of the afterlife where there is happiness where a fiddle never stops playing and the dancers never tire.  In the military cavalry units use the phrase to memorialize the dead and it is part of the Cavalrymen’s Poem, one verse goes as follows; 

Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.

I have thought about this all day and not really sure why.  Today on Memorial Day we remember the service and sacrifices of the men and women in the military.  Those who gave their life in service and defense of this country are inscribed in our hearts and minds forever.  The losses are more than we can ever imagine for their families and loved ones.  And then there are those who still serve, protecting borders, putting themselves in harm’s way day after day without thanks.  Putting burdens on their family and friends who pray and wait for their safe return.   And sometimes it doesn’t happen.
Fiddler’s Green.  I imagine rolling hills with a soft warm wind blowing across it.  Flags unfurl in the breeze as the music wafts through the air.  And these soldiers-young and old alike- who fought to defend our freedom, those men and women who sacrificed so much for us, who suffered so much for us, taken from us can dance again with their loved ones in the warmth of the afternoon sunlight one more time.  I hope there really is a Fiddler’s Green somewhere for them, they deserve a chance for rest.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 Professional Development Workshop Series

As part of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts 2011 Professional Workshop Series I'll be teaching a session on photojournalism.  if you are interested in how news photography works and learn about the nuts and bolts of photojournalism please sign up!

The Grand has a host of other workshops covering dance, music, drawing and ceramics to name a few.  Stop by the Grand at 715 Central Avenue in downtown to pick up some brochures and see if they have a workshop your interested in!
For more information or to register 209.831.6858 or visit the Grand Theatre website. or email

Hope to see you at the Grand in July!


I love it when I see a letter to the editor like this morning's "Tracy Press Strikes Again".  A West High parent whining about how I covered the Tracy High Senior Beach Day and didn't cover the one at West High.  Wahhhh.  You want to know why there wasn't anyone there?  No one told us.

That's right, no one called, emailed, faxed, texted or even sent up a smoke signal to tell us it was going on.  Not the principal, assistant principal, activities director, security guard or even the "concerned parent"  who sent the whiny letter.  No one.  Nada, nobody.  F for effort on your part.

Unlike Tracy High who actually CONTACTED me and told me the event was going to happen rain or shine.  Fancy that, you let me know something is happening and we show up.  Wow, must be a miracle.  Kimball High got coverage of their one One Wish Japan Project and you know why?  They EMAILED me and told me about it.  Wowsers again!

Because West High's administration and staff  never want to call or make any effort to let us know what's going on we'll just show up to the events I hear over the police scanner. But then don't cry about the lack of coverage in the paper, that is getting old with me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One wish

We profiled the Kimball High School students One Wish Japan project recently and at the school I found hundreds of the brightly colored cranes on display in the school lobby.

What I found the most interesting was the reference to an old Japanese tradition that one wish is granted for every 1,000 origami cranes folded one wish would be granted.
I like that idea, I might have to start folding some myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Leash law

Officers at the Tracy Animal Shelter have a secret trick they use for uncooperative dogs who want to fuss and fight during their photo for pet of the week.  They use a leash made from Red Vines Licorice.  Instead of trying to chew me they get preoccupied chewing away on their edible leash.  And they are low in calories too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The road to nowhere

Once the new asphalt and lane stripping was down on Grant Line Road you think things would be better there right?  Wrong.  Take a drive down east Grant Line Road between Holly Drive and East Avenue if you want to see a messed up section of roadway.
 Now the road itself isn't too bad but it’s the marking they put down are horrendous.  The four lane stretch of road has been marked for one lane only heading east and west.  A vast no-mans land occupies the center area. A myriad of cones, double yellow lines and turn lanes that looked like they were drawn in by a 4-year-old with a box of crayons adds to the roadway confusion. I’m not sure if this is permanent, maybe this is just to punish residents and business owners for being foolish enough to want to drive Grant Line Road.  It is a bit disheartening after months and months of having the crappiest roads in Tracy to now having the crappiest marked roads in Tracy.  How do I know we have the worst you ask?  Let’s look at the turn lanes.

I’m not sure who put these turn lanes in or why but they suck.  I think some contractor looked at the plans and said “screw it throw some paint down there” and then walked away.  There wasn’t much care taken.  How do I know?  The turn lanes don’t lead anywhere.  Honest to God they lead to stone walls.
 Not sure who was in charge, maybe it  was a blind man but the turn lane openings send drivers heading into stone walls at apartment complexes.  Between the slalom courses of traffic cones, the mysterious lane lines and the half assessed turn lanes Grant Line Road is an accident waiting to happen.  Drivers have no idea where to turn into the driveways; they just cross the yellow lines and dive through the asphalt expanse where they see an opening.  No signs to guide them, no nothing.  It’s Grant Line Road so you know it’s not a high priority.  I talked to a driver the other day who was confused she ended up doing a U-turn through an opening that was there.  No marking lead to anything just confusion.  And it’s not like the construction crews are there to lend you a hand.  When they aren't busy cutting up the road they just laid down the day before they are turning off water to the area residents without any notice. 

Yes it stinks to have to drive down Grant Line Road, it’s even  worse if you live or work there and have to drive it on a daily basis.  Just when they promise us a smooth ride ahead they drop this lane disaster on us. Whenever I think of the Grant Line Road project I remember what they say at sporting events; “Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts, we got SCREWED!”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Last sights of spring

With all of the recent rain Alice and I decided to take a chance and head to Mount Diablo and take a hike to Donner Falls before summer weather sets in and clears us off the mountain.

Donner Falls is usually a hike to make in winter just after a good rainfall.  Donner Creek meanders along the trail and it can make for some good photos.  Heading out we knew this late in the season there would be a good chance there would be no water in the falls but we headed to the Regency Drive gate for a start through the canyon.

At the start of the hike there was certainly a good amount of water coursing through the creek.  We headed out and at the junction for Middle Trail we began our ascent up the canyon walls.  We could hear the sound of water around us as he made our way along the trail studded with the last wildflowers of the season.

Monkey heads, poppies, Chinese lanterns and even a thistle provided bright color along the trail and hillside that is slowly succumbing to the heat as the grasses fade to a golden hue.  The waterfalls along the trail were barely a trickle as storm debris and rockslides looked to have choked off most of the flow.

We made our loop passing slate walls along the cliff face and cool groves of manzanita.  Aside from a minor disappointment in the amount of water and two encounters with rattlesnakes it was wonderful hike filled with last vestiges of color on the mountain.  Soon the colors will wither in the summer heat and Diablo will become too hot for pleasant day hikes.

This might be the last hike on Mount Diablo until the cool breezes of fall greet us on the trail.  Alice and I will shift our hikes to the cooler trails of the coastal area as the summer months broil the valley.  Our last glimpse of the sights of spring were great as we head into the summer hiking season.