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A day in Manteca: Me & my shadow on various assignments
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MJC journalism student Erica Hafer interviews Manteca Ambulance CEO Dana Solomon at the recently opened station on Airport Way. - photo by GLENN KAHL
It was probably the best single learning experience of my life when a city editor in Southern California called over to me when I returned from a meeting saying I had 20 minutes to give him a 12-inch-long story on the city council meeting.

My jaw dropped that first time that I heard this demand, but I quickly learned how it is done.  At this point in time at the end of the day I am giving myself about that same amount of time to turn out a short column with what’s on my mind dealing with current events.

While most folks know me as a photographer, there has been plenty of experience to go around in my favorite journalism past in both Northern and Southern California.

Probably the most enjoyable self-assignment in recent weeks was having Modesto Junior College student and Manteca resident Erica Hafer shadow me for a day on the police beat and a couple of other story assignments that took us to the new ambulance station on Airport Way and to a farm south of town.

Erica is headed for a degree in broadcast journalism but she took the newsprint version quickly when she interviewed Manteca Ambulance CEO Dana Solomon.  She voiced her surprise at the fast moving, multi-task  pace I enjoy throughout the day – an enjoyable day for both of us.  Erica may be back during her summer break, she says, to catch up on the news of the day at the Manteca Bulletin first hand.

As I have said before, every day is an adventure in this business – something that would be hard to experience by design.  On Tuesday there was something of a blessing in being able to cover the funeral of John Cambra who had touched so many lives in and around Manteca as he restored cars for the love and excitement of his profession.

It was easy to feel the love and electric aura in the air by the nearly a thousand mourners who filled St. Anthony’s Catholic Church.  They were there for John and his family – not just friends but all feeling they were family through their personal experiences with the man.

Aside from work I spent a couple of days helping my young son move in Southern California  – only a mile away from his home – but sometimes that is more work than moving cross country.  Hey – how fortunate could I be to learn how to put a prefab plastic utility shed together and to level the base out with bags of sand and rock from Home Depot?  

Heck, I even learned that you can throw your back out by picking up one of those 20-pound bags the wrong way.  Did I say every day is an education tacked on to the adventure that goes along with it?

During the same time, my wife flew to Texas to help son Scott and his children in another transition.  One of my blessings continues with my wife of 50 years – she never leaves without having enough prepared food in the refrigerator for my dinner every night.

 Nothing has changed as she is now helping with a new four-month-old grandson over San Jose Way.  She was home for a couple of days before being called away again – in the fridge is a finished crock pot of stew she prepared last night.  Lucky guy, wouldn’t you say?

The recent story we published in the Bulletin on the man at Bethany Convalescent Home in Ripon who has taken up Wii Bowling is still fresh in my mind.  He’s the chauffeur of his own wheel chair and loves to bowl scoring strike after strike and enjoying every minute of it.  Steve Guyett is really a man among men, but while Steve creates his own psychological environment others have to hope their friends from their past lives will take the time to visit and better fill their days.

Those residents living at Bethany have the support of the Ripon churches and the schools as well.  Many of the other skilled nursing facilities in the area have to depend on their own in-house activities and their activity directors.  It’s almost miraculous how much of a smile and a kind word will do for someone you don’t know in just walking through such a retirement facility and giving them a moment in time.

And, for a journalist, there’s excitement in knowing that everyone has a story to tell, stories that can reach back as far as a hundred years – a period many of them can still recall when they have a stranger with whom they can share their memories.

Well, there is my 30 minutes of effort.  It’s time to head for the door and cover Victoria Martin’s fund raising dinner at PaPa Joe’s on Alameda Street.  Victoria Martin is another hero in her own right in her dignified fight that she ultimately lost to cancer.