Friday, July 12, 2013

Return to Vienna

VIENNA, Va. __ For three years in the 1990s, I was assigned to cover the news in this small town in Northern Virginia. Looking back, the hours were long, the stories were small and the pay was meager, but these were the most successful and creative days of my news career. Why? I got to write about whatever I wished.

Now, of course, I had responsibilities. I had to cover the semi-weekly town council meetings, the schools and most police events. But on Fridays, I engineered the news cycle so I could hammer out feature stories. In retrospect, my life was pretty complete: I wrote hard news on Mondays and Tuesdays, breaking news on Wednesdays, and features on Fridays.

When the paper came out on Thursdays, I'd kick back, read it for errors and drink pots of coffee and shop around for stories to write.

But that was 20 years ago and the old news flag is gone. My old news bureau is a consignment shop, the trees in town are taller, the traffic is heavier and the businesses newer and corporate shiny.

This is a different place and I am merely a stranger here with a long memory for old stories and faded but familiar landmarks.

Location:Maple Ave W,Vienna,United States

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Return to Washington

WASHINGTON __ One of the things I gained with my new marriage was Washington DC. I used to live here in the 1990s but left for graduate school and I never found my way back. Until now.

Now, my wife is living and working in Gallery Place and I have the re-occurring opportunity to re-enter my life in the Capital. 

Of course, Washington is a great place to be a journalist. It's not the largest media market BUT because it is a "company town" everyone is fixated on the same subject: government!

Just last week, as I moved through the city, I ran into former US Senator Tom Daschel. We rode in the same elevator and when he caught me staring, he said hello. We chatted briefly and then I set off into the day again. DC is a small town with big stories.

It's good to be back!

Where: 20001

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cambridge Manhunt

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. __ The hunt for the remaining Boston Marathon bombing suspect continues this evening. The city has been on "red alert" all day; a security standing created when an MIT police officer was gunned down in his campus cruiser.

Just blocks from Inman Square, the media converge along Cambridge Street, the main thoroughfare of old Cambridge, at a point just blocks away from Norfolk Street and the home of the alleged bombers. The sun is setting, a light mist is falling, and law enforcement is in full charge. Right now, Boston area police are conducting door-to-door searches as they move methodically through nearby Watertown, Mass.

So far, one suspect is dead, the other is at large and possibly moving on foot through Boston's west suburbs. Earlier today, suspect's Dzhokar Tsarnaev uncle begged him to surrender himself and beg for forgiveness.

The 19-year-old suspect may still be enrolled at U-Mass Dartmouth.

For now, Cambridge is slowly coming back to life. All day, the streets were deserted. As the daylight fades, runners emerge for a quick jog as dog-owners break the curfew to walk the pooch.

Around Central Square, 7-Eleven appears to be the only store doing business. The remainder of the city remains dark and quiet.

Where: 02139

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Veteran's image haunts patriotic painter

'This Fourth of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom….'
   -- President George W. Bush, June 28th, Fort Bragg, N.C.
   Warwick, N.Y. __ On an easel inside Robert Fletcher's studio sits a work in progress, a portrait of a man he remembers only as "Sgt. Leach," a nearly forgotten veteran of World War I.
   The image is stark and distant and the work is only half done. In it, Sgt. Leach sits upright, leaning against a building. His khaki Army uniform appears nearly pristine, but his face is pinched and streaked with ashen gray and blue-gray watercolor brush strokes. Before him is an empty tin cup. And in the foreground is a little boy – about 7 – staring at him.
   "He used to just sit there ramrod straight … right there in the middle of the city," Fletcher said. "I remember his face was kind of bluish and pockmarked like those marks you get after smallpox … and I asked my mother what happened to this man and she said, 'He was gassed.' "
   Nearly seven decades later, that encounter in Paterson, N.J., continues to haunt the Warwick painter so much that he's taken brush in hand to capture the image. After nearly a year of work, Fletcher has finished only portions of Leach's face and uniform and the clothes on the little boy.
   Today, at 73, Fletcher continues to dedicate his life to painting. His work includes Hudson Valley landscapes and "scenes of Americana" but his real passion is for images featuring military traditions.
   "His work does great justice towards honoring our veterans and their sacrifices," said former Rep. Ben Gilman, who owns at least two of Fletcher's paintings. "He's got the Rockwell touch."
   In fact, like Norman Rockwell, Fletcher is an American realist who likes to work in watercolors and pencil. His work is honest and sober and reminiscent of works by other American realists, like Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth.
   These days, his workspace is inside a renovated barn. His studio is on the second floor with a northern exposure that overlooks a large, moss-green pond.
   He keeps his easel perpendicular to the windows to catch the light. He uses a Russell Stover candy box to keep a collection of 20 or so sable brushes organized, and he arranges his watercolors by pigment inside the 12 cups of an aluminum muffin pan.
   Beyond that, the space is simple but cluttered: There are etchings and photographs of pending projects.
   There's a loosely folded 48-star American flag stationed upon an antique filing cabinet. Nearby, a tailored World War II Marine uniform awaits attention behind the studio door.
   And then there is his work.
   Like the portrait of Sgt. Leach, the focus is more on the enlisted man and less on famous American officers such as Washington, Lee or Patton.
   "My work focuses more on the average guy … the sons of farmers and so on."
   His body of work covers all the American conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present, and he draws inspiration from events and people both near and far. Often, his faces are those of friends, neighbors and local veterans.
   One portrait features Warwick veteran Sgt. Robert P. Stewart Sr., his six sons and one grandson, all in military uniforms. Six of the men are in Army uniforms; the others are Marines.
   "That's three generations in the military," said Ralph "Chip" Stewart, one of the sons. "That's over 140 years of military service in my family."
   These are just some of the 63 paintings and illustrations included in a book Fletcher co-authored with his son, Robert B. Fletcher, entitled "Remembrance: A Tribute to America's Veterans."
   And his work continues. He's painting a landscape of a friend's farm. And then there's the unfinished portrait of Sgt. Leach.
   It's not clear who Leach was. Fletcher said Leach served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and it was there that a mustard gas attack scarred his face and blinded him. Fletcher remembers him as the lost veteran sitting and waiting for handouts.
   "I don't know what I'm going to do about that (painting) yet," Fletcher said. "But I can't forget him."

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Journalism at Roger Williams University

BRISTOL, RI __ I know that many high school students use Google to scout out potential colleges and I'm posting this note to let prospective students know that Roger Williams University DOES have a journalism program. 

If you're looking for an interesting place to study Journalism with an emphasis on news in the Digital Age, we're your match!

[where: 02809]

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