Sunday, December 13, 2009

First of many trips to Home Depot

Jen and I are officially in escrow on our first home! We found out late last week and our heads have been swimming ever since with floor plans, paint colors and loan paperwork.

Should be a great adventure, though I sense we will have to pace ourselves -- so much to do, so many HGTV shows Jen wants to watch!

While Jen is especially happy we found a place with a large, bright kitchen and open floor plan, I'm pretty taken with the location. We've got a true oak forest just yards from our back door. It stretches several hundred yards over a creek at the base of boulder filled mountains. Looks as if there was a ranch or roadway running through at one time, as several stone walls are visible through the undergrowth.

This must be the open space preserved by our subdivision, Woods Valley, which includes an 18-hole golf course and about 270 homes. The development is in Valley Center, a small, country town about 10 minutes from Escondido.

The home was a short sale Jen and I waited on for more than two months. Its spacious and checked out well during its inspection Saturday. Just one drain to work on, an AC to have serviced, and some sealant to apply outside.

And, yes, we made our first trip to Home Depot today to pick up paint chips and a book on interior design -- I imagine we'll be back there again soon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Racing to hear "death"

I didn't need any more caffeine after the call.

It was 9:30 a.m., I had just parked my car at work when my boss called my cell phone:

"I need you to go to the Vista courthouse -- the verdict in the Threats case is about to be read," she said, leaving me with less than 30 minutes to grab a notebook, race down Highway 78 and immerse myself in the gruesome murder case involving a former Marine Corps sergeant and a young Vista mother.

Derlyn Ray Threats, 28, had already been convicted last month of murdering and torturing Carolyn Neville, the popular 24-year-old country club employee.

Neville's body was found with upwards of 70 stab wounds. Authorities believe she interrupted a would-be burglary at her home.

My job was to record whether the jury recommended Threats be executed, or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Eyeing my rear view mirror for cops, and the needle on my odometer as it flirted with trouble, I hustled west under a sunny December sky.

I knew the 13-mile route well having covered the crime beat the past year for the paper. I just hadn't expected this date with the justice system given that I now write about buses, roads and bridges as the paper's transportation reporter. One of our two court reporters was sick Friday, it was the day off for the other.

At a stoplight two blocks from the court complex, I lucked out finding a newspaper hawker just yards from my car. I paid $0.50 for a copy of today's paper -- I'd forgotten to take one from the office. It had a short blurb on the case -- all I needed to decipher which family had already lost a loved one and which one might lose one next.

Moments later, I had a front row seat to the verdict: It was "death."

Aside from the desperate look Threats gave his family as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, there weren't many outward signs of emotion Friday.

This case had dragged on more than four years. Isabel Threats, the convicted man's wife, told me matter-of-factly she knew he'd be recommended for death, citing what she called an unfair trial.

The victim's husband told me in a near-monotone that his family was extremely happy with the verdict.

A judge is expected to make the death recommendation official next month.

Next Monday, it's back to buses, roads and bridges, for me.

Here's the story:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My part in tearing down Tiger Woods

"Zoology major catches a Tiger," I joked.

The quip popped out of my mouth as quickly as it had entered my mind. It bounced out seconds after a coworker found Tiger Woods' latest apparent mistress was from right here in Escondido, our paper's headquarters -- and had hoped to study animals in college.

I had no idea my words would spread across the newsroom like wildfire -- and end up as the lead of my coworker's story. But now, just a few hours later and the story already on our Web site, I fear I've unwittingly slung one more arrow in Tiger Woods wounded image.

The image of the world's greatest golfer has been torn to pieces since the day after Thanksgiving, when he crashed his car outside his Florida mansion. Subsequent rumors say he was speeding away after a fight with his wife over his infidelity.

Now, granted, if the rumors are true, I won't worry so much about Woods' wounded image -- he'll deserve at least some wounds.

But no one, no matter how unfaithful they might have been, deserves the frenetic feeding the media and its consumers have unleashed on Tiger Woods.

I admit I'm fascinated by it all. In a very sick way. I had been trying to avoid the story, but I found myself this afternoon Googling away about it -- even ventured to the website to find out about our local angle.

But where should all this curiosity end? Will it end?

There was even a media stakeout today at the childhood home of this second alleged mistress, Jaime Grubbs, an Escondido High School graduate.

I feel conflicted in that my industry is leading the charge on destroying Woods. And while that pains me, I'm as guilty as anyone now with my quip and my fascination for the story.

I'm not sure how I'll respond should my editor ask that I follow up on this supposed local mistress. I do think reporters can covers these high-profile stories with class -- just reporting the facts, and acknowledging that there are rumors but not repeating them in detail or giving them inflated significance.

I guess I'll have to cross that Tiger when it comes.

Here's our story, notice the first sentence.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

my humbling ride

A short, first-person news story from earlier this month: An insurance company strapped me in a heavy, restrictive suit to mimic the challenges older drivers face as their bodies and reflexes fail them.

Several older readers of the newspaper I write for, the North County Times, told me the story was an unfair shot at them. That's not what I intended, of course. Still, the messenger is sometimes left bleeding. At least one commenter on the story online thought I should have died in the car I drove. Would have made for a more interesting story, he said.

I thought it was pretty interesting as is. Take a look:

Venturing into the blogosphere

Feels like I'm jumping off a cliff, hoping the water below is deep and not too cold. I guess I'll know soon enough.
Of course, sitting on the rock while others leap wildly isn't fun. It's safe. And typically you live to see another day. But can one truly live that way?
I don't really know what I'll write here. Or why I feel compelled to start.
But I figure I'll pass along some of what I believe is a blessed life -- one that finds me spending much of my time with my wife Jennifer, my dog Copper, family and friends across San Diego County, California and sometimes beyond.
Should be a fun leap!