And Now A Few Words About The Little Sunflower That Could

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been focused on the biggest blooms of my bunch of backyard sunflowers, but all the while I’ve kept an admiring eye on the runt of the litter, who as nothing more than a sprout got ravaged by some critter that tore off its starter leaves, leaving little more than a stalk.

I thought it for sure a goner, but since then while the other sunflowers around it have grown tall and strong, I’ve watered and watched in awe this spunky little plant that wouldn’t say die and instead found a way to keep on going, albeit in a decidedly minaturized state.

Sure enough, this morning, I gave it a look and found it’s about to beautifully blossom and I couldn’t be prouder to have the lessons of resilience and perseverance taught to me once more by so excellent teacher (click it for the bigger picture):

A Show Of Admiration & Support

Yesterday, a new newspaper hit the streets of Los Angeles for the first time in the form of blogdowntownWeekly. This is important to me not just because I will always be a fan of ink and paper — especially in this age of contraction in which I absolutely  love to see new incarnations of the format born — but more directly because it was started by my friends Eric and Kathy Richardson as a physical companion to their long-running and popular blogdowntown blog.

And frankly while I’ve known a bunch of publishers of the various magazines and newspapers that I’ve worked on throughout my career, I haven’t known anyone who started a newspaper from the ground up before, let alone been acquainted with them on anything beyond a business level. Certainly I’ve never gone bike riding with them like I have had occasion to do with Eric and Kathy.

So in thinking about that unique distinction and connection, I decided I had to do something more than just rah-rah the first issue’s arrival here in my blog. I had to go physical with my cheerleading and be an actual supportive part of that first edition. So I put my money where my mouthpiece is and did something that in itself was a first for me: I bought an ad — a small one that looks a little something like this*:

The picture is one I snapped of Kathy and Eric and other cyclists in the background during the inaugural “Ten Bridges” ride I put together waaaaay back in 2007. It’s not the best image owing to us all being in motion on our bikes at dusk, but what it lacks in clarity it makes up for symbolically to me in that they’re both captured side by side coming westward along the historic 6th Street Bridge toward downtown. Toward the place that would define their future. And now that future is here.

Maybe I’m working to hard to contrive a connection between the photo and their new endeavor, but the sentiment I express is sincere.

* I haven’t had a chance to get downtown yet and grab me an actual copy so I’m not sure how the ad looks in real life, but that’s what my questionable graphic design skills hath wrought.

Will Campbell Goes To City Hall

When it was announced that LAPD Chief Charles Beck was to be in attendance at this week’s City Council Transportation Committee meeting Wednesday, I would have bet good money that he wouldn’t show. Nothing against Beck, it’s just that in the recent past there have been blow-offs by the department to requests by the committee for reports and presentations, so it wouldn’t surprise me if its chief suddenly found something more productive to do than placate a passel of cycling types.

Then I heard that that Carmen Trutanich’s office had declined to file charges against the suspect who struck cyclist Ed Magos on January 6 and then, after getting out and observing a seriously injured Magos on the ground pleading for help, got back in her Porsche Cayenne and left the scene. This absolution against someone so criminally culpable and morally bankrupt compounded the frustration I was already feeling when I’d heard that the suspect later turned herself in to police telling them that “I may have hit something,” only to have the police for all intents and purposes condone such reprehensible behavior by sending her on her way instead of arresting her for felony hit and run.

Come the morning of the committee meeting I was pretty much the grumbliest cyclist in the city and made the snap decision to take a personal day, telling my boss something along the lines that “an important and pressing matter needs my immediate and direct attention.”

Then at noon I pedaled over to Heliotrope and Melrose in East Hollywood to meet up with a group of cyclists organized by the L.A. County Bike Coalition who were heading to City Hall and the committee meeting via the route that Magos took the day he got hit.

One of the items on my agenda as an Angeleno has been to visit City Council chambers, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever task myself with speaking there. But despite how much I hate doing so, I knew I had to do more than represent physically. For better or worse I had to verbalize it as well.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the lectern mic with all the bombast I’d been planning to drop. Beck took the wind totally out of my sails by addressing the Magos incident specifically in his opening statement at the beginning of the meeting. He said he recognized that the ball got dropped and that people were pissed and as such had spoken with Trutanich’s office, which had agreed to take another look at the issue (whatever that means).

So whereas I had been planning on using loaded words like “abomination,” “insulting,” “ignorant,” and “wouldn’t know justice if it hit them from behind and fled the scene” to characterize what I saw as uninvolved and uncommitted police and prosecution departments, I toned it down a bit, as follows:

Ol’ Grandad

It was back in April of last year that I got the surprise of a lifetime via email from my daughter who shared that I had been a grandfather for several weeks. “Aiden Kristopher Coy Campbell,” she wrote, “was born March 20, 2009 at 7:25 a.m.”

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt at being entirely left out of what was not only such a momentous and miraculous period in Katie’s life, but also must’ve been a frightening one, too.

Shocked as I was at the news I was not at all surprised at being left so completely unaware. Katie and I are still slow and tentative in rebuilding our fractured relationship, and the process has certainly not been helped by people in her life who’d rather not see us succeed.

But out of my love and respect for Katie I won’t rehash the past. All I’ll say is had I been included, Katie would have had my support and love at a time when she could have most certainly used it.

In the months that followed I was hesitant to meet the baby. I chalk it up to lingering disappointment, coupled to a basic inability to wrap my head around the reality that at such a tender stage of middle age I was now a grandfather.

Well, both that denial and dejection were officially retired yesterday afternoon. Katie had texted me on Valentine’s Day weekend that she hoped we could get together soon and I texted her back asking about coming over this weekend.  One thing led to another and she was able to drive her and Aiden over and Susan and I spent the next several hours falling in love with my grandson, who’ll turn 1 next month.

Here he is with Jiggy, the first cat he’s ever seen, according to his momma. Aiden’s pretty much the first baby Jiggy’s ever seen so there was mutual curiosity and appreciation:

(click for the bigger pictures)

What a remarkable mom my Katie is, and what a wonderful little soldier he is. Aiden’s not just the Second Cutest Tyke Ever (behind Katie, of course), but he’s super energetic, curious with a ready smile or a stern look of reproach and a tremendous level of tolerance and poise in the midst of Ranger’s inevitable rowdy/barky wariness to new peeps. Plus he’s absolutely adorable. Or did I say that already?

Well if those pictures above aren’t proof enough, I’ll leave you with this quick vid of Aiden with Ranger discovering that the taste of dog nose is definitely an aquired one:

It’s Time To Get Busy Getting Ready

Haiti’s got me dwelling and waking up. The quake, it’s terrifying devastation and its chaotic aftermath have all served  to show me how ill-equipped our household is and will be when an epic disaster strikes Los Angeles.

When. Not if.

Sure, we’ve got emergency food/supply backpacks in each of our cars. Plus there’s an emergency container in the backyard. We’ve got sturdy shoes and flashlights and a transistor radio and spare batteries and about five gallons of drinking water. But we are so seriously lacking in other essential aspects and a comprehensive emergency plan that for the first time in my life as an L.A. native who’s been through every temblor since the 1971 Sylmar quake, I am just now finally recognizing how such an abject lack of planning and preparation can make a bad situation worse and a catastrophic situation potentially devastating.

So now it’s time to go full-stop and reverse that trend. It’s time to quit allowing all that negative potential the opportunity to be realized, and instead go about covering all the bases as best I can. Not so much for any peace of mind beforehand, but for the chance at a better ability to cope and survive in the inevitable nightmarish aftermath.

UPDATED (01.17): On this the 16th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake, I secured our first bookcase — the one that stands inside the front entrance. My original intent was simply to dust it and its contents for the first time in waaaaay too long, but in the course of doing that I realized attaching it to the wall to be a simple matter of driving three long screws through a crosspiece supporting one of its shelves into the plaster behind it. Voila! One down, maaaaany more to go.

Unhooked! Or How I Greatly Improved And Perhaps Even Saved A Gull’s Life Today

UPDATED (November 28, 2020): So eleven full years after this encounter, something extraordinary has happened concerning the videos I posted about it over on YouTube. Seemingly out of nowhere those clips that I hung up over at my quiet little YouTube channel have for reasons beyond my understanding suddenly found their way onto the screens of thousands upon thousands. I kid you not, according to analytics of my channel, viewership has rocketed — to date — more than 9000%, with more than 300,000 views in literally the last few days. With that has come a level of appreciation that has been amazing. I have been entirely blown away and moved by the positive, thoughtful and considerate responses from people all over the world. – WC

It was supposed to be a few serene and sunshiny moments this morning spent before work on the north bank of Ballona Creek tossing old bread that Susan had disposed of in the trash can to the pigeons, ducks, coots, gulls and crows seemingly ever-present by the Centinela overpass. And as you can see from the timelapse below caught by the cam I set up where I sat, it started off as such until the pigeons and ducks made room for a gull who stepped before me front and center clearly in dire straits from a three-pronged fishhook embedded deep in its mouth that prevented it from closing its beak. Or eating, or at least eating regularly and properly.

As the first birds on scene frantically closed in gulping my first lobs of bread bits, I saw the gull about 20 yards away and I was curious as to why its beak was open, then it moved a bit and the sun glinted off a cut strand of fishing line dangling out its mouth and my heart sank knowing that unless this bird got assistance in removing the hook — and fast — the poor thing was very much at risk of a horrible death by starvation, or perhaps freezing or drowning since it couldn’t pay the meticulous attention to its feathers that birds must in order to survive.


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