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‘Grad school’ Category

  1. Disembodied voices of the ancestors

    April 4, 2012 by Kaitlin

    So, I know it’s not really good blog etiquette to post promises of exciting stories, not deliver on those promises and instead drop in with reminiscences about a deceased grandparent, but that’s what happening.

    My paternal grandmother, Grandma Parker, died a year ago today, and I’ve thought a lot about her in recent weeks. She was always the grandparent I felt closest to. When I was younger, this closeness came from shared activities like reading and baking bread and everyone always telling me I got my blue eyes from her.

    A young Grandma Parker, sunning with her sisters at Lake Titus

    As I got older though, I came to realize we really were kindred spirits in a lot of ways. We both loved being outdoors and had a real curiosity about other countries and cultures. She always encouraged my writing and was quite the writer herself. We’d have lengthy email exchanges (she also LOVED technology and was rockin’ Apple computers and digital cameras way before they were cool) about our lives past and present.

    But it wasn’t just with me—she took a real interest in all her eight grandchildren’s lives. She was always emailing, Skyping, and in the later years, even Facebooking. She wanted to be up to date on our most recent achievements so she could brag to her bridge group. More than that though, she loved people and she loved being in contact and making connections with them.

    Looking back on one of those emails, sent shortly after I had moved to LA, I’m struck by what a forward-thinking, open-minded woman she was, especially given the time period and her surroundings. I don’t think she ever led any marches, but she lived her life in a way I really admire–a kind of quiet rebellion against the norm:

    When I hear about the experiences you have had and are having, I can’t help but contrast them with mine.  Born in 1922, I grew up in a town with about 6 Jewish families and no blacks.  When I was in high school our sponsor teacher resigned from our sorority because we invited Sara Cohen to join!!  When our Congregational church invited the Jubilee Singers to come to town, the local hotel wouldn’t put them up because they were black.  Church members took them into their homes.  I got through college without ever hearing the word “lesbian”, and gay meant we were happy.  I knew a couple of boys we called “sissies” but I never dreamed there was anything sexual about it.

    I was a part of the 60’s revolution when I went back to college for my Master’s and started working with disadvantaged children in the inner city, mostly black.  I started thinking for myself rather late in life and searched for a church that I could accept. I came to think that each person has to find his/her own spiritual path, and I believe now that the Universe (God) operates on basic principles that we have to discover. The law of gravity and laws of magnetism operate for everyone whether we believe in them or not!! I think there are many principles that we are discovering with our own bodies, even, and perhaps Yoga addresses some of these.  Now that I am facing the last years, months, days of my life, I will soon discover the answer to the final mystery.  I’m willing to take my chances thinking that I have lived a life full of love, have never knowingly done harm to anyone and strongly believe that my spirit will live on in some form.  If I’m wrong, so be it!!!  Sorry I can’t let you know!!

    There have been so many ups and downs in both Cape Town and London that I wish I could have shared with her. I had just started to really get into radio reporting before she died, and she’d always remind me to enunciate so her old ears would be able to understand. I think about her now, every time I step into a recording booth or struggle with some script writing: word it so Grandma Parker would get it.

    My time in London is drawing to a close, and I’m not sure what the next step will be, but whatever it is, my ultimate hope is that it will involve creating radio that will do justice to her spirit.

    It seemed fitting then, that during a Xhosa language lesson in Cape Town, we learned that when the Xhosa people first saw and heard radio, they called it “unomathotholo” or, roughly, “the disembodied voices of the ancestors.” In Xhosa culture, the spirits of one’s ancestors play an important role in daily life, so it makes sense that lacking any context, the voices coming from the radio could well be voices of their deceased relatives. In a way, they weren’t far off. There’s so much of what we do say and what we’re even allowed to say that’s owed to the voices of those who came before.

  2. Fernandomania and the Dog Whisperer

    September 16, 2011 by Kaitlin

    This morning I covered a special presentation at City Hall in connection with Latino Heritage Month. You can read the whole write-up over at Intersections.

    Mayor Villaraigosa gave awards to Sal Castro, Fernando Valenzuela and Cesar Millan.

    Three super cool dudes. No, really.

    For a quick reference, Castro was the teacher who helped lead the 1968 East LA walkouts. HBO made a movie about him and his students.

    Mayor Villaraigosa and Fernando Valenzuela

    Valenzuela is the only baseball player in Major League history to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same year. I admit I didn’t know this until this morning, but several baseball fans have since confirmed that this is a big freakin’ deal. He started a craze called Fernandomania.

    And Millan is the Dog Whisperer. Duh. I’ve seen Councilman Bill Rosendahl speak at lots of events, but until today, I had never heard him address anyone by saying, “Cesar! Woof! Woof! That’s from my dog! He’s a German shepherd. He loves you! Woof, woof!” Later, I saw a man RUNNING up to Millan, holding two Chihuahuas, one wearing a mini Mexican flag like a cape and the other donning a sombrero.

    In some ways, it was a weird day. In other ways, it’s just LA.

    Thumbs up for calm-assertive energy

    As I was walking back to my car, a guy in a gray sweatsuit kinda jogged up to me and started chatting. He asked if I was from LA (nope) and how long I had lived here (just over a year). He said he was LA born and raised. Then he asked if I knew where the closest Wendy’s was. The look on my face must have betrayed my thoughts (if you’re the one who was born and raised here, why are you asking me where to get a Frosty?), and he explained. “I just got done doing time, and the Wendy’s I used to go isn’t there any more.”

    Suddenly the (county-issued) gray sweatsuit made sense. When he said just got done serving time, he really meant JUST GOT DONE. I felt bad that I didn’t know where a Wendy’s was. And I wasn’t even able to offer him a good alternative. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m not all that familiar with downtown.”

    “Me neither, anymore,” he said.

    For a moment, it felt very “Strangers in a Strange Land.” Then we made it to my car. I wished him well and got in, feeling kind of hollow, wishing that as one of the first people he interacted with post-incarceration, I had been able to offer him something more.

    But before shit got all depressing, I took some fun pictures at the Latino Heritage Month event. After the jump, you’ll see that I wasn’t lying about those Chihuahuas.


  3. A few good interns?

    August 30, 2011 by Kaitlin

    I can’t believe I didn’t link to this sooner.

    Before I left Cape Town, Mike Rahfaldt, the executive director of the Children’s Radio Foundation, asked me to write a little bit about my experience as an intern at CRF.

    The piece ended up getting posted on, which is super cool because Transom is the place to go to find out what’s new in public radio and also to read priceless bits of radio storytelling advice from industry veterans like Chris Brooks and Alex Blumberg.

    I understand if you don’t want to read the whole sidebar—it’s a little on the long side (Me? Wordy? Never!)–but I’ll issue the same plea here that I did there. If you’re at all interested in youth radio, Africa or experimental storytelling, please shoot an email to Mike or me. Even if you’re not in a situation where you could go to Cape Town right now, CRF has a great radio family around the world, and they’re always looking to add members.

  4. Signs and sprawl: Back in Los Angeles

    August 30, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Welp, a couple plane rides and a 1,400 mile road trip later, I’m back in LA. To prove it, here’s the Hollywood sign as seen (OK, there’s some zoom involved here) from our Echo Park porch. Granted, me saying I can see Hollywood is a little like Sarah Palin saying she can see Russia. Yeah, it’s there, but that realm of LA is pretty far-removed from where I function.

    Mmm, Hollywood and smog

    Reporting in LA, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on unique parts of the city, and every so often I’ll stumble across something in the periphery of working on a story that makes me think, “Now there’s a good insider tip!” But then I remember that knowing which kind of burrito to order from the Compton Courthouse cafeteria (one of them is actually good, I promise!) is not the kind of info most Angelinos or visitors seek. But I’m alright with that.

    I was reminded of the scope of LA sprawl and the diversity it creates while visiting former Cape Town roommate Mary Beth in Marina del Ray, 20 miles across town. Even with no traffic, it’s a bit of a trek. She lives in this great community right by the water that has this whole nautical resort theme going on—very different than the hipster/taco truck/discount store mash-up that pervades Echo Park. Funny that now that we’re back in the States but no longer living together, it feels like we’re functioning on separate continents.