An Olympic Spirit

When I was a magazine writer, Olympic champion diver Victoria Manalo Draves was hands-down one of my favorite Olympians whom I had covered.  Delightful to speak with, she had the quintessential Olympic, as well as American, story.

In 2005, I got a call from the City College of San Francisco, asking for a copy of my article because it was honoring Mrs. Draves as outstanding alumna for that spring’s graduation class.  Five years later, she passed away at the age of 85.

All afternoon, I was looking for the beautifully handwritten card she sent me after my article was published that I kept on my desk, but I guess I had stored it when other things started to clutter up the space.  She was such a gracious person, and I am honored to have had gotten to know her, even for a moment for a little ole story.

Tongue Ties

I’ve always been meaning to learn a second language.  If not for journalism, I would have most likely majored in one, probably Spanish since I studied it for four years in high school.  Language itself is a fascination with me.  It reflects a culture, society and people into which their identities are wholly tied.  Without it, they are just a shell without meaning or understanding.   I don’t believe a classroom could teach me all that I need to know about another language.  More than likely it requires an immersion in another country or a native-speaking community.  But it is a start.

DCI Jane Tennison: Tough it Out

Top Cop: Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison (photo credit ©Granada Television)

I must be going out of my comfort zone, if I have to cull through my library of DVDs as a distraction or to find a video that mirrors the degree of difficulty I am experiencing.  My go-to last month was the series finale of “Prime Suspect,” the highly successful British crime drama starring Helen Mirren as, dare I say, her signature Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison.  For anyone who has followed the series on PBS since the early 1990s, it’s pretty heavy and, for lack of a better word, gritty—exactly what I needed.

In “The Final Act,” the top cop  is about to retire and barely hanging on as the toll of her long and arduous career in law enforcement has her hitting the bottle rather hard.  Her last case before she is thrown out to pasture, as she puts it, is solving the murder of a London teenager, Sallie Sturdy.  When it rains, especially in that city, it pours.   Not only handling a challenging case, she is also juggling her terminally-ill father and the guilt she carries for being an absentee daughter and not fulfilling her father’s wishes.  Jane later reveals to an admiring teenager that her father may have wanted her to go into painting and art—anything but a crime-stopping detective who must deal with human depravity regardless of how high she has climbed.

It was perhaps the fifth time watching this particular series, but this time around I actually felt every thought and emotion that ran across Jane’s face as though I was going through the journey with her.  She bottoms out after a critical error on her part in the investigation, which is tough-sledding at every turn.  She is spat on and called a bitch and drunk to her face, witnesses an old colleague fatally shot in her defense and chases clever yet dangerous teenagers around London.   As people in her life and her career peel away, she finally earnestly participates in an AA meeting—she is the only one who could rescue herself.  It’s a new reality for her, just as things are for me.  And I know, like her, I have to keep moving.  There is no such sweet sorrow saying goodbye to June.  As I start a spanking-new month, it spells relief.