New Chicken Eggs

Posted February 10, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

It’s February and the sun has started taking a longer path through the sky. Longer days means chickens laying more eggs. For a while they were laying one a day or less. The green eggs laid by the Ameraucanas were the most dependable, still coming in the dark December solstice. Eggs are cool. Especially when they don’t all look the same. Version 2







Shedding Memories

Posted February 8, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Prents Wedding

As you get old you downsize from the house to the condo to the apartment in the old folks home. All the old pans and plates, tools you don’t use, the old clothes that have lain in closets, basements and garages… they get tossed, sold or donated.

My parents just made the last move of their lives. I ended up with some of their stuff, including 40 photo albums. I was told to keep the pictures I wanted and get rid of the rest.

There were endless snapshots of vacations and events they considered important, friends of theirs I never knew and didn’t recognize. My father took most of the photographs and he was a terrible photographer. If there was a way to make a handsome person look bad he found it. He seemed to take pictures of everything, including maids and cooks at hotels where he stayed.

The things we have, including our keepsakes, are destined for the landfill just as we will be rendered unto dust. The same was true of these photos. About 90 percent of them ended up in the trash.  No loss.

I kept the photos that told the story of my family’s past. I also kept photos I just happened to like. Like I said, with my dad taking most of the pictures there were not a lot of those but they did crop up. As for my family’s past… There were snapshots of my mother’s farm family in depression-era Kansas. Girls in dresses made from flour sacks and boys in overalls.

There were the shots of my dad during WWII. Staged pictures of him in his blue navy uniform, and one with two buddies on a New York sidewalk right before they shipped out. There were two shots of the dance band he played in and the one of him smiling in a shop door in Southhampton, England, where he was stationed.

There were pictures of mom and dad in college and the pictures of their wedding, like the one above. Slowly the black-and-white photos turned to color, though they were colors that faded with the years.

When I threw away all of those old photos I was shedding memories but you don’t remember everything, and it seems like most of the photos we take are good to keep for a year or two. I think of this when I delete old photos I’ve kept on my iPhone. There comes a point when you’ve looked at a photo long enough and it no longer warrants the divot in your soul.

Now, those 40 photo albums have been reduced to two-and-a-half. I think it’s all we need.

Here’s a few more that I kept:

My Grandparents

War photos

Mom's old pics


More recent photos

Why We Love Our Cars

Posted January 27, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Communities are built around getting around. And we live in a world of cars.

It means we can travel hundreds of miles in a day, if we want, going wherever we want to go. We can travel in isolation and comfort, not having to break a sweat. It’s almost as if we can be at home while in transit, since we turn our cars into dwellings with our stuff, our music and our beverages.

There are some things to consider. The places where we live become places not for people but for cars. Shops you drive up to. Thousands of square miles of pavement. Huge multistory parking structures to store our cars when we’re not using them. Human contact becomes infrequent. Contact with nature becomes infrequent, unless you count the vistas of countryside that sweep past us as we’re in motion. But maybe strip malls are beautiful. Maybe concrete isn’t so bad. Traffic jams suck but you can’t have everything.

The only thing that makes car transportation bad is environmental damage. Greenhouse gas emissions queer the climate. Runoff from all that cement washes pollution into our waterways with no chance for the soil to filter them. But what if we all had electric cars? What if we had porous pavement where the rain sinks in and doesn’t run off? If we did all that we could still drive ’til we drop.

This yearning for compact villages and streets filled with people is sentimental nonsense. Do we have to think of suburbs, big-box retail and expansive parking lots as something unpleasant?

A guy once said the natural world to him was the hundred feet of space between his back door and his car. When we get in our cars we are mobile and we are in a protected space. We travel at the speed of birds and the place is all ours. There’s no need to agree with other people about where we want to go.

Who wouldn’t want to live like that?


Posted January 18, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

In the morning I get out of bed, make coffee and walk outside to let the chickens our of their coop. Sometimes I hear the Mockingbird. I don’t know if they sing more in the morning or in late afternoon but morning is when I notice them.

When I first heard one I didn’t know what it was. But compared the homely sounds of the common birds it sounded like a pop star in a third-grade talent show.

too-too-TEE. too-too-TEE. trrrr-IH. dih-dih-dih-dih-dih. brrrrrrr. to-WIT to-WIT to-WIT.

MockingbirdI was stunned by the music of this bird. Lately I’ve become accustomed to hearing it but I still cannot anticipate where her song will go next.  The more astounding thing for me was learning what the bird actually looked like. I expected awesome colors. Maybe not an artsy mosaic but at least a brilliant red or blue.

The bird I finally spotted in the tree was not what I expected. I thought I must be seeing the wrong bird, not the one that was really making those sounds. But a computer search of images confirmed it. The Mockingbird looked as plain as her song was glorious. Grey with some black and white spots.

The name Mockingbird suggests it is just mimicking the sound of other birds. But I don’t hear those songs from anything else. Maybe it is trying to imitate the others. It’s just not a very good impressionist. Maybe in struggling to hear and imitate the rest of the world the Mockingbird is creating a rare beauty it never could have achieved if that had been its goal. Mockingbirds come and go from my neighborhood. I’ll smile when I hear it again.






Thinking about Trees

Posted January 11, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

If you see a tree in San Diego it doesn’t belong here. Aside from the riparian oaks along the San Diego River and the pines high in the mountains, our trees are transplants from other places. Urbanization, paradoxically, has given San Diego a forest. And nowhere is our man-made forest more wonderfully contrived than in Balboa Park.

Different people have different ideas of what a park is supposed to be. Some think it’s a piece of nature in the middle of the city. Go to Mission Trails Park (not really in the middle of the city, but close) and that’s what you’ll find. But most parks are better described as green spaces where we find recreation and contemplation.

Balboa Park is San Diego’s most prized possession and there’s nothing natural or native about it. That’s true of its displays of Spanish renaissance architecture and its conglomeration of exotic fauna (at the Zoo) and flora. Mike Marika told me they have about 500 species of trees in the park.

Mike is a city arborist who takes care of the trees. He’s got a sunburned complexion and an absent-minded way of speaking that makes him fit right in with the park’s casual air. Still, when you’re waiting to meet a park official he’s not the person you expect will show up.

We met in the park’s desert garden on Park Boulevard and we spoke as Mike wandered around turning on water spigots. I asked him to stop calling the plants by their Latin names. This was a problem because many of the plants in Balboa Park are so rare they don’t have common names.

He pointed out a jumping cactus. There was a palm, which looked pretty ordinary to me, that he said was grown from seeds found in the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs. He told me about the park’s aloe bainesii that Ted Geisel (Dr. Suess) would sketch during his many visits. Look at enough of Geisel’s cartoons and you’ll eventually see it.

I asked him what was the horticultural mission of Balboa Park. Mike said he knew the park had one but he couldn’t remember what it was, though it had something to do with introducing new varieties of trees.

“If there’s something out there, somebody has probably tried it here,” said Marika.

As we stood on the edge of Florida canyon, Mike stopped talking mid-sentence to point out a tarantula hawk wasp as it wandered along the ground in search of prey. A large black bug that’s brilliant orange along the top, it captures tarantulas and lays eggs in them.

“So there are tarantulas in Balboa Park?” I asked.

“Apparently so,” he said.

The desert garden pretty much takes care of itself and it’s emblematic of a shift in focus toward drought-tolerant plants. The water expenditure to maintain Balboa Park is great. And some of the non-native trees are victims of deadly pests. Eucalyptus trees are under constant assault by the lurp psyllid. Predatory insects have been introduced to kill the lurp psyllids, but Mike said they can be slow to catch up.

I asked Mike Marika what was his favorite tree in the park. He said, not surprisingly, it was the almost 100-year-old ficus macrophylla, A.K.A. Moreton Bay Fig, that sits near the front entrance of the Natural History Museum.

The park has put up a fence around the tree to prevent compaction of soil and, Mike said, to prevent kids from carving their initials in it. I told him I loved the ficus trees near the San Diego Historical Society whose roots reach like fingers down a nearby hill.

The urban forest has many charms. It’s our erratic skyline and our shield to the sun.

Editor’s Note: This visit with Mike Marika was first published in 2011.

Is that a Quote, a Bite or a SOT?

Posted December 21, 2015 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m a journalist and I work in a newsroom that isn’t print or broadcast. It’s both. In fact it’s all three. Every reporter, who does a story, is expected to produce it for television and radio, and they have to write a print version for the station’s website. If this sounds crazy you may have a point and reporting on three platforms has its challenges.

Here’s one. Cultures are different from one medium to the next. So is the lingo.

A verbatim quotation from a source you’ve interviewed is called a “quote,” but only in print. On radio, that quote is reproduced in audio and it’s called a “bite,” as in soundbite. But in TV it’s called a SOT. A what? SOT is an acronym that stands for Sound On Tape, even though nobody uses tape anymore (all modern technology is digital) and on TV it’s not just sound, it’s video too.

So what do you call a quotation from a source? Where I work it depends who you’re talking to.

After we started producing our daily evening television show I learned another piece of TV jargon. Pop. This refers to a piece of environmental sound you use to lend a story information or atmosphere. In radio we called it ambience. A normal human would call it… well, I guess they’d just call it sound.

There are other differences in jargon that are even more back-office. A short, produced broadcast story is called a package or a “mini” among the TV people. Radio people a superspot, not to be confused with a mere spot. By the way, if a radio story (spot news or otherwise) doesn’t have any ambient sound it’s just acts and tracks. Acts means actualities (soundbites in other words) and tracks are the reporter’s recorded voice tracks.

A “pinwheel” is a collection of stories by different reporters that are linked in a single broadcast. One reporter does her SOQ (Standard Outcue) then the next reporter states his name and launches the next story.

A similarly connected collection of voices of interviewees (on radio) is called a VOXPOP, and of course you can’t do your VOXPOP until you do you gather your MOS. Those are Man On the Street interviews, in case you wondered.

The former newspaper reporters in our newsroom are typically old dogs who think journalism is going to hell and their jargon is the most exotic. We give them puzzled looks when they ask why your story doesn’t have a nut graph. You can prewrite most stories, they say, just assemble the A-matter and fill in the news at the top when it arrives.

Okay, a nut graph is the paragraph in a feature story that tells what the story is about, and it typically follows the anecdote or scene-setter that opens the piece. A-matter is background information on a subject that remains the same whether the subject is current or past, alive or dead.

Obits are assemblies of prewritten A-matter that are just waiting for someone to die. Was it cancer or heart disease? That’s the news you fill in at the top of the piece. Did I explain what a piece is? You know what I mean.

The language that we call jargon serves a purpose. It’s conversational shorthand, of course. But it also tells us who’s in and who’s out. If you know the jargon you’re a member of the club. And the inability to agree on what you call a quote means you’ve got a workplace with social schisms.

Will the TV, radio and newspaper people at KPBS ever forge a common language? I dunno.

Let me say one more thing. There’s one old newspaper expression I’ve always loved. The highest compliment you can pay a reporter’s writing is to tell them their copy sings. Hearing that would be music to my ears! But that’s a cliche. Shit.



My Father is Lost

Posted December 17, 2015 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

You want to trust what your brain tells you. But my father is delusional. That’s his doctor said.

He has reached his 90th birthday but not with everything intact. I look at a photo of him and my mother, taken three years ago when my daughter had her first communion. And I remember that as a time when he was still himself. He looks a long way away in that picture.

Now he doesn’t recognize my mother most of the time. I didn’t know this until about a month ago when he called me at home.

“Is mom there?” he asked me. I told him she wasn’t and asked why he wondered. Wasn’t she at home in their condo?

“I haven’t seen her for several days,” he said. She was in the next room. I know because I called a few minutes later and she picked up the phone.

A long time ago he joked that if he became senile one day, “Just give me a sandbox to play in.” It would be easy if we could just humor him. Sure dad. There are three other women who say they’re my mom. That’s okay. Sure dad. You got on a plane this morning and ended up in a strange place even though it looks just like your bedroom. But don’t worry.

It isn’t an old man re-entering the sweet innocence of childhood. It’s a former adult insisting what he thinks is true. He argues about it and my mother is getting tired of the arguments. I’m getting tired of the arguments.

He doesn’t have far to go in this life and I want him to be in a peaceful place while it lasts. Jim Fudge isn’t himself anymore. And I don’t know what to do about it.

Dad & Mom

Update Feb. 2016: This story has had a happy ending. Some trial and error in the use of medication has made my dad better. He recognizes my mom now, and seems to be his old self; his old old self at least. Though when you talk about happy endings you’ve got to remember Yogi Berra said it ain’t over ’til it’s over. That’s true of baseball games and of life.





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