Dude from the Past

Posted June 25, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

I ran into Jonathan last week. He was standing in front of the building where my chiropractor does his business. I didn’t remember his name of course, and at first I didn’t recognize him.

He was talking on a cell phone next to a workman painting a wall and as I approached he pointed at me as he stared down the length of his arm, like he was pointing a gun. I thought he was crazy or obnoxious. But then his face came into the focus of my memory. I used to train with him in karate.

He’s a little older than me (at least I think he is) and he was a lower belt at the time, and the time was at least 12 years ago. He had gained some weight and gotten older, but still had the aggressive wise-guy personality. He was there because he managed the building.

So what was new?

We talked about kids. He has a daughter and a son in their 20’s. The son is going to law school in Vermont where his dad said he’d become a communist. I remembered that Jonathan was a Republican. I told him about Nicholas and Sophie.

Actually, before we talked about kids we talked about our old karate sensei, who Jonathan knew a lot better than me because they were neighbors when they both lived in Clairemont. Sounds like this guy suffered from some bad fortune and bad judgement. He screw around on his wife, who left him. He also lost his new house in… was it Santa Luz? Jonathan wasn’t sure.

After my chiropractic visit he and I talked some more and I said goodbye. I quit karate when I ran out of time. It was a pain in the ass, getting to and from training, and though I respected our sensei I never much liked him.

Why then does it mean so much to me, a dozen years after I stopped doing it? Why are the people I met and the memories I have still so meaningful? Maybe it’s the beauty of ordinary life and the life you reach out for, and we don’t see it until it’s gone.




A Lesson I Suddenly Remember

Posted May 29, 2017 by tomfudge
Categories: Uncategorized

It must have been 25 years ago. I was in Minneapolis being a reporter and covering an appearance by Justice Harry Blackmun who grew up on Dayton’s Bluff in St. Paul. He gave a speech, then took questions.

Justice Harry Blackmun

It was one of those times (isn’t it always one of those times) when there was a vacancy or soon-to-be vacancy on the Supreme Court. Someone asked him what a new member of the Supreme Court needs to have.

We probably all expected him to give us a little lecture. That’s why we came, right? He would say, “Well, a nominee for the Supreme Court must have a respect for precedent.” Or he’d say, “The nominee must have the judicial sense to balance a need for this with the need for that.”

But he gave us a one-word answer. Integrity.

That’s what a justice has to have. I think about that in the time of Trump because I realize that’s also what a President needs. We never talk about it but when we get someone who doesn’t have it, that sucks.


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.