NAM 7 week update

I think I missed a great editorial meeting last week. As I tried to get off the phone with Dell tech support, I wandered in and out of the meeting and heard something about an upsurge in leg extensions and other cosmetic surgery among Asians – someone asked how they did it, and someone else explained that she thought they broke the leg, and then added titanium piping. Then Dell told me I had to install something I didn’t need on my computer. (It turned out that one of our writers is working on a story about a dramatic increase in middle-aged Chinese-American men getting plastic surgery to compete better in a difficult job market. Their wives used to encourage them to come in – now they’re doing it on their own!)

When I got back to the meeting, I heard someone saying, “It’s a little late. I mean the movie came out two weeks ago,” and someone else saying, “Yeah, but he has a pretty unique perspective as a bank robber himself.” I correctly concluded NAM has connections with a bank robber who reviewed Public Enemies:

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=919ce62e8dfd7bacffeb666a487d15af

I recently had to do a lot of outreach for these roundtable discussions on women immigrants that New America Media was hosting in Washington, D.C., Chicago, LA, New York, and Miami. As an offshoot of the discussion, NAM decided to post blog entries by various contributors about their women immigrant relatives. Since I’d written about my grandma leaving China after World War II in my Writing About War journalism class last semester, I modified that piece and they posted it:

http://blogwire.newamericamedia.org/2009/07/justine-drennan-on-pei-fen-koo.php

I mentioned looking for a family to interview about long-term care of a family member. I arranged to go meet the Waltons in Berkeley – Carol takes care of her husband Ortiz – and went to interview them last Friday with Paul on the video team. We got there 30 minutes early, and as we were waiting outside the house, a firetruck and ambulance came speeding down the street. Paul said, “They better not be coming here,” but sure enough, they stopped right next to us and five or six officers and medics went into the house.

They came out a few minutes later – it turned out the husband had had a fall, and then the wife had passed out as she was trying to help him. They were okay now, but we told Carol we’d come back and interview them another day, after they’d got some rest. That this had all happened just when we came to interview them about the difficulties of being old and ailing without support.

We came back on Monday, and in our interview, we learned that Ortiz Walton is a fairly famous jazz bassist – the youngest person and first African American to play in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, who has since then written about called Music: Black, White, and Blue in America, and held benefit concerts to raise money to support voting rights, and started a foundation for vulnerable students with his wife, and received a doctorate in Sociology from Berkeley, and been mentioned by Duke Ellington in his book, and been called by Max Roach “the greatest jazz bassist of all time.” And so on. My feature on them will be going up soon, but it was an all-around surreal experience.

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