The Death of a Department Store

Posted March 19, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Not long ago I found myself in Macy’s in Mission Valley just before the place would be shut down. They were having a going-out-of-business sale. Most of the display cases were empty and everything was 70 percent off, though there wasn’t much left you were likely to want. On the third floor there were odd supplies that were being kept in temporary storage, including a room full of nude manikins.

It’s sad to see a store go out of business. And it’s sad to look at a manikin that’s not in it’s natural state. It looks like a dead thing. And you’re reminded of the dreams they were supposed to suggest… dreams of fashion, sex and leisure. And none of them will come true as the manikin is frozen in an eternal pose.



Posted February 25, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

A Wednesday night in February and they’re playing music outside. But it’s San Diego and I’m wearing my Brooks Brothers overcoat watching the music at Panama 66. It’s the cool, historically correct name they gave to an open-sky courtyard adjacent to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Kids who were students of Gilbert Castellanos played first. One of them was a little guy who looked like he was 12. He WAS 12. He wore a dark suit and tie as he played an upright bass that was bigger than him. A singer in a minidress did scat and a 16-year-old blond kid who was 6-foot-4 played a drum solo that was so musical it knocked me out.

Gilbert Castellanos and his band at Panama 66.

Gilbert Castellanos and his band at Panama 66.

The adults took the stage later as Gilbert blew solos on the trumpet like Freddy Hubbard. A bar was serving beer and wine. It was a real jazz club full of elegant women and everybody was there.

They knew I was a journalist and I got business cards from people who ran a TED lecture series, the International Academy of Jazz and Martinis Above Fourth, a club. A programmer for the San Diego Symphony told me why a concert hall was the perfect place to hear jazz.

When I was a kid I thought jazz musicians were like gods for what they could do with their instruments.  I still think they define what it is to be hip. Because hip is not something merely fashionable. It’s the nexus of classy and crazy… of virtuosity and spontaneity. It’s knowing that you are hearing true art but it’s nothing strange and exotic it’s just a natural expression of the love of art. And you can dance to it.

I walked away through the halls of the Balboa Park Prado as the music was still playing and I was feeling young. I will always be a frustrated artist and it was good to be reminded of that. Back to Panama 66. The Panama part refers to the Panama-California Exposition that gave birth to Balboa Park. But where do they get 66?


A Watched Gauge Never Fills

Posted February 10, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized


Living in a coastal desert has made me obsess about rainfall. I started using a rain gauge more than ten years ago, knowing the average rainfall for a San Diego winter. I celebrated every quarter inch the thing got. But five years of drought in Southern California has made me realize I cannot make it rain, and a watched rain gauge never fills.

I leave rainfall to God. Whatever He provides will have to do. Maybe if I’m indifferent that will make what I desire actually come true. I will look at a rain gauge like the one I photographed a year ago and I’ll just say whatever. Because after that great downpour the skies turned blue and we were left again in a drought… fifth year in a row.

I’ll wish for sunny weather that doesn’t inconvenience anyone who wants to ride a bike or play a game of tennis. The outdoors will be as dry as the indoors and that will be great. Because I don’t want it to rain. Tell me whether the drought is done at the end of the rainy season and I’ll say whatever.


The Mendacity of Trump

Posted February 4, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I am journalist and the talk of my newsroom is the same that is going on at nearly every newsroom in the country. What do we do about the mendacity of Donald Trump?

When I say “what do we do” I obviously don’t mean what do we do to stop it. The question is how do we report it and write about it.

I’ve never known a president or a presidential candidate to tell untruths so frequently or so obviously as Trump. When other politicians would lie, and are caught in a lie, they would backpedal. They would send out a spokesperson to say, “What Senator Ingebretson really meant to say was this.”

But Trump simply refuses to acknowledge that any untruth has taken place. He denies it is untrue and repeats the lie over again. This is the case, even when proving him wrong is as easy as playing a recording of an interview he did, in which he’s saying the very thing he now claims he never said.

But there’s a problem with calling him a liar. Reporters only publish facts that can be backed up. A lie (look it up) is an untruth that is told with the intent of deceiving. We can’t look in his mind and see his intent. To call him a liar we would need a trusted source to tell us that Trump openly admitted (in private) that he made the false statement to deceive the public. Short of having that, we can only say his statement was untrue.

But trying to claim that the president is lying may be missing the point. After months of watching Trump I have become convinced that he simply has no understanding of an objective truth. There are assertions and conclusions that favor him and others that make him look bad. He accepts the former and rejects the latter. What actually happened — what is actually true — doesn’t concern him.

Trump is a narcissist. All people who run for president have outsized egos. But Donald Trump is far beyond that. His narcissism caused him to say that his old TV show, “The Apprentice,” was the biggest hit in television when it was not even close. His narcissism causes him to insist he lost the popular vote for president, by nearly three million votes, only because there was massive voter fraud. He said this when there was never any evidence of it.

Accepting the truth would destroy his cherished, fabricated reality. So here’s my question: Would you rather have a president who’s a liar, or one who is a little bit crazy? Ultimately, I leave it to others to decide for themselves which would be better, and which one we now have.


Chasing the Snow in San Diego

Posted February 3, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized


Sunday we got to the San Diego County mountains a week after it last snowed. But snow was still a foot deep. We made a snowman and sledded down slopes that had turned icy with lots of use and thaws that turned to freezes overnight.

snowmanThere was little snow below 4,000 feet but by 5,500 feet the ground was blanketed. The place was full of families and kids. By the way… that’s Nicholas and Sophie sitting on a gate.

January 3rd

Posted January 3, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

Today is the day before I turn 57 and it’s the day before I go back to work, after a week off. I’ve definitely reached the age when I don’t want people making a thing out of my birthday. No doubt some busybody at work will bring up the subject. I’ll get lots of “happy birthdays” on Facebook, which is fine since those are easy to ignore.

I was on the phone with Maya yesterday who told me she would miss some work because she just cut a huge gash in the palm of her hand while fileting a steak. The wound required nine stitches. She texted me pictures of it.

We got to talking about other things and I told her I’d just had a cello lesson and I was thinking of adopting cello playing as a serious hobby. I told her I hadn’t had a serious hobby since I stopped my training in traditional karate 12 years ago.

She disputed my claim to lack a hobby by telling about my gardening and bike riding. Aren’t those hobbies enough??

I thought about that and wondered if she was talking some sense into me. Do people really need serious hobbies when they’ve got a lot on their plate as it is? It’s true I once said my fallback position, if anyone asked me what my hobby is, would be gardening.

I do garden and I do enjoy it. But in the end it’s more a task than a passion. Tending the garden is a lot like cleaning and tidying the house. Someone has to it. I’ve gotten some knowledge of which plants work in this environment and what you do to keep them vigorous. But if I joined a gardening society I’m sure I’d be quickly humiliated, due to my minimal know-how and the shortage of time I actually devote to it.

No, a true hobbyist is like those people I see on my favorite reality TV show the Great British Baking Show. They work at other jobs but they are really good at baking. Most of them do it every day and they are renowned for their baking skills in their circles of friends and acquaintances.

So in my newly revised view of life, biking and gardening are not hobbies. They are simply stuff that I do. I bike for transportation and I garden to maintain my property. Yes, they are fun and they are good exercise but they’re not hobbies because I’m just not good enough at either one. We’ll see if I have the time and passion to make cello music a serious hobby.

There’s not much else on my mind this January 3rd. It’s a another day of gray skies after several rain storms. This is a strange thing in San Diego and it makes you eager to see the sun in spite of your better judgement. With the holidays past and the days starting to get longer, I’ll reenter life’s routine tomorrow, when I’ve become 57, and look forward to new days of planning and wondering.







San Diego Bay on a Bike

Posted December 29, 2016 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

There’s a route that people take when they want to see San Diego Bay and get some exercise. It starts at the central train station downtown, dips all the way down to Imperial Beach on the border with Tijuana and it travels back north on a spit of land called the Silver Strand, which ultimately runs into Coronado Island.

The words bay and bike are alliterative so coming up with a catchy name was easy. The Bayshore Bikeway. I rode the bikeway’s 24 miles yesterday. That may not sound like a huge distance but when I arrived in Coronado my legs and ass were sore and I was really ready to quit. Thankfully Orange Avenue in the tony seaside town is full of good places to get a beer and lunch.

The Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway

But… why was I doing this? Because I never had before. Also, I’m training to cycle across Iowa this summer in RAGBRAI, a bike journey I’ve known about since I was a kid, growing up in the state. I’ve been reconnected to the event (which I never took part in) by my buddy Scott Horsley who started doing it with other reporters for NPR who had to cover the Iowa Caucuses.

He told me their cycling team was known as “No Pie Refused,” which refers to the fact that locals who live along the RAGBRAI route across Iowa have a tradition of offering pies to the bike riders. It took me a while before I realized this was also their sad, lame joke about what NPR stood for.

Getting back to the Bayshore Bikeway. The upper part of the bay route coming out of downtown is dotted with hotels and other parts of the tourism/convention industry. Travel further south and you see shipyards, commercial port ops and the San Diego navy base. Lots of hardhats and uniforms.

Go further south near Imperial Beach and you see the saltworks, with huge piles of salt that are brilliant white in the sun that are extracted from seawater and sold to midwestern cities that use it to melt the snow and ice on their streets in winter.

As industry fades from the scene the southern part of the bay looks like a lagoon with a shoreline that fades into the water and you see small islands that are covered with reedy plants. Seabirds float on the water then disappear as they dive for food.

I’ll tell tourists who come to San Diego to do the Bayshore Bikeway. They have to be into biking — it is 24 miles — but they’ll see a lot of stuff tourists don’t normally see. And it’s flat. It’s along the shoreline so it’s flat and there are no hills to climb.

I returned to the mainland of San Diego on the Coronado Ferry. I chose not to go back the way I came and double my milage on the bikeway… for reasons stated. A woman on the ferry winked behind her sunglasses. On the trolley back to my neighborhood I saw a beautiful, cheerful couple who were in their late seventies. I imagined what they looked like 40 years ago.

Maybe I’m too old for this long-distance cycling shit. RAGBRAI is a big rolling party but it is about 60 miles a day. Next time I’ll try to turn around when I get to Coronado. It’ll be good for me.