Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stories right out the back door of my condo

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - A walk out the back door (ok, the only door) of my house into the neighborhood to take a stretch, reminded me that stories don't have to be dug up, sometimes they are right in front of your face.

I walked a half-mile to the Sacramento River, which looks ever-so placid these days (at least until the rain arrives this weekend), and while watching a ski boat glide across the water, spotted a river dweller, neatly hidden right at the water's edge.

Home along the river
A blue tarp to keep out the weather, a bicycle for transportation

Whoever is living underneath the tarp is also living below the radar of most of Sacramento. From time to time, the police raid along the river, chasing out people they call 'transients.' I say call transients, because there are some folks among these river dwellers who are there by choice, living as free as is possible in the USSA, way beyond credit checks, snooping landlords, police and the ever-present TSA.

This person - or persons - chose their spot well, as it's necessary to stand up on top of a concrete abutment to even see that there is a tarp and bicycle below.

My writer-hero, American author Jack London rode the rails of freight trains once, doing a chronicle of the lives of the men - and some women - who took to the road at the turn of the 20th century. They did so mostly because of tough economic times, but some just to escape from, well, whatever haunted them.

The River People.

Hmmm.... now there's an idea for a literary journalism piece.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Test posting on Backpack Journalist website seems to be working OK

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The business cards have printed and the backpack is ready to go with a digital camera, a Flip Video, a Mac laptop - and a reporter's notebook - to launch the Backpack Journalist project.

This website will be used as a log of activities, a news source, a compendium of useful links and a way to communicate with people about story ideas.

Stories under consideration include:

•  Corruption in the California State University system 
•  Capriciousness (and corruption) by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service's dealing with Mexican immigrants 
•  The timebomb of healthcare for poor Asian populations who rely on fish for protein

Those all sound pretty serious. And long term.

Less serious (perhaps) might be a story about life along the road between California and Mexico, based on a trip I expect to take in mid-December, retracing a road trip taken last year. Or about the resurgence of ukuleles in an era where the electronic game Guitar Hero sells hundreds of thousands of units. 

Yes, the ukulele is a piece of equipment that this Backpack Journalist carries along to remind that life isn't always serious. Plus, strumming on a ukulele is almost always a good way to get people talking, which leads to stories and more stories.