Good Egg

Seattle, 1987 an old stone church somewhere around Capitol Hill: I woke up. 
My first job out of high school I worked as a freelance television production field assistant for David, a producer who had, what was called, “an account” with CNN.  David had a working relationship with the network to provide feature stories from the Northwest corridor that included Northwest Oregon, Washington and Alaska.  It was one of the most life changing jobs I ever held.  One experience I had in the field has recently resurfaced in my thoughts.  It has made me consider the heavy responsibility writers, communicators, reporters and producers have to the public.
Me and the Bates Quad Tape Machines,
possibly cueing up some Paul Anka
KBTC TV, Tacoma
I first met David in the hallway at my school, L.H. Bates Technical located in downtown Tacoma on Yakima Street.    David was looking for an assistant, gave me his card, I took the job.  It was brilliant on-the-job training while I finished up my degree.
David had a small upstairs office off Broadway, above a restaurant called “The Good Egg”, just a block or so down from the QFC Grocery.  Nothing glamorous, as you may think.  It was a lonely gray room, bare walls and the only office furniture was shelves that held the tape library, two desks and two chairs.  One desk had a ¾ inch tape editing system on it, the other had stacks of papers and the only good chair. When I was called in for a shoot, THIS was headquarters.  Running downtown 20 minutes from my home in south Seattle, I never had a place to sit.  That was fine because I never was there for more than a half hour at a time.  Headquarters to me was the place to load up the car for a shoot with boxes of tapes, batteries, the lighting kit and mics, nothing more.
One half of a Sony 3/4 inch editor
One day I was called in to do errands.  When I arrived David was reading a newspaper, from a stack at least a foot thick.  He gave me a list of places to purchase new tape stock, ship some things out, and an order for lunch and mochas.  When I returned, he was more than half way through the pile, as he gleamed each page for future features he wanted to cover. 
“This is how it starts,” he told me, “research.”  His job seemed boring and tedious.
Many of the stories we covered were moving,  but none more than the musician   It was one of my first assignments.  A standard shoot: interview and B-roll.  Usually, I did not know what we were shooting until the drive over.  This evening David was covering a local musician who was performing at an old church.  
The musician was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, who, I was shocked to discover, also in a wheelchair!   He was a little person with a malformed spine that kept him from walking.  Despite his height and limited mobility, his arms and shoulders allowed him to play a guitar with ease.  (I have tried unsuccessfully to find him online, so my apologies that I cannot credit his name for this article.)  His message was an inspiring one.  The doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live more than ten years, yet here he was in his mid-thirties.  His band traveled around sharing original music with hopes to encourage, enlighten, and increase social awareness about the handicap.      
Host/Producer Denny, me (grip/assistant)
and a new cameraman
Ketchikan, Alaska
My main job during an interview was to monitor the audio. Once everything was set up, David sat down with the guest and the two started to talk.  I sat there, in the shadows as it were, large headphones over my ears, listening to the audio, adjusting it as needed.  Then I started to not just listen, but to HEAR and understand.  The musician’s voice, with its rich warm tones, flowed directly into my ears, brain and heart.  With eyes closed I could not hear his disability, only his spirit!  Memory, however, is a strange beast.  I cannot remember one word he said!  I DO remember feeling moved to tears by his story.  Those words, not words spoken, but the spirit in which they were expressed, moved me.  It seemed like for the first time in my life I was standing before a true warrior; a man who fought real battles every day.  Yet instead of being bitter and angry about his handicap he simply celebrated life, seemed thankful for every breath. Thankful for his family, his music, his life!  My impression of the physically handicapped changed from fear and uncertainty, to the realization that a full spirit lives inside the shell we call “Body”, a full complete person, despite any disfigurements, limps, or mutations of the flesh. 
I understood why David found his job so exciting.  Why he searched the newspapers for remarkable stories.  These were voices that needed to be shared with everyone.  He was a good egg.  
~   ~   ~
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death. 
~Leonardo da Vinci

Girlfriends

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than 
walking alone in the light.”
-Helen Keller


Girlfriends are important. Might be old news to you, but it’s new to me. Acquaintances worked just fine for many years, or so I thought. My home and work life kept me distracted from having close friends. Woman, especially moms, do this to themselves, too often. Perhaps it’s because as modern woman we are encouraged to be independent, strong, and sometimes that’s interpreted to… BE ALONE.

 It’s no wonder how some of us wake up one morning with a big chip on our shoulder. Well, guess what girlfriend, you did that to yourself, because you always think you have to do everything BY yourself. Life is a burden and joy that should be shared. This is what I’m learning.

My Grandma Mimi shared one of her favorite “girlfriend stories” that happened during her 50 year career as a Registered Nurse. From 1966 to 1970 Grandma was looking for adventure. She applied to work at a remote family care facility outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The patients were mostly Native Eskimo, Yupik or Inuit woman and their children, plus various locals who worked in the nearby towns. Although located in the “wild frontier” the rules at the clinic were anything but wild, especially for the woman. All the nurses, candy strippers to RN’s, were housed in a dorm-like wing of the hospital. It felt more like a prison that home.

At the end of day, these young ladies wanted to get out and go have fun in town.  However, the stern Head Nurse forbid the nurses from drinking in public, dancing, and held them to an early curfew. Nurses back then had an image to uphold.  If nurses broke the rules they could be seriously reprimanded and even fired, their professional and personal reputation stained for life!

These 10-15 ladies in Mimi’s dorm, all strangers, brought together for work decided to make the most of their situation. Some quietly gathered up cigarettes, cards, liquor, one figured out the perfect volume level for the phonograph.

 At the end of a long day, after curfew, and once the Head Nurse had left the building, they’d all crawl out of bed; sit on the floor, room lit only by a few flashlights, played cards, smoked and listen to music!  They never got caught.  They were working girls, and friends.

Girlfriends are important to have in the best and worst of times. Having a card party on the floor may not of been the adventure Grandma was looking for when she went to Alaska, but the friendships she made during those years lasted long into her life.  The memories of those times, good times with good friends, I’m sure carried her through the many trails in the years to come.

Girlfriends rule!