A magician with words

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Al Martinez, left, with me. The famous newspaper columnist spoke Tuesday night as part of Cal State Fulleton’s Communications Week 2009.

He saw San Francisco as a dream cloaked in fog, a magic city part Paris and part Brigadoon that didn’t exist anywhere else in the world. (on Herb Caen, 1997)


I have pinned on the wall next to me a lined piece of notebook paper on which is printed, “I love you mom.” It is written in black crayon i nthe careful hand of a child who might be 7 or 8 years old. … the piece of paper is special to me. I found it one day at the northern end of the Long Beach Freeway, in a lot once occupied by a group of homeless people.


I have a friend in Topanga named Arlo who is an unemployed actor and an animal activist and who each Thanksgiving lobbies me to preach mercy for the unfortunate turkey. “Arlo,” I said to him the other day, “don’t bug me about brutality to turkeys. I have a cold and a sore throat and am not in the mood to be merciful to anyone. Ask my wife.” “If you are feeling lousy today, Arlo replied testily, “imagine how the bird feels.”
(written on Thanksgiving Day, 1988)


Homicide Detective John St. John used to say that murder has a smell that lingers long after the bodies have been removed and the crime scene cleared.


I keep seeing the face of the boy, a child of 3, looking out at the world through troubled eyes. His expression is pensive, a look caught in the mmicrosecond of reflection, a thought emulsified on film, trapped and frozen, the fading spirit of a young life ended. Who killed Joey Phelps? The question haunts me.


Those are excerpts from some of the best columns by Al Martinez, former Los Angeles Times’ columnist. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed hearing him talk about writing and his life during Comm. Week at Cal State Fullerton Tuesday night.

He has always been one of my favorite columnists, one who injected prose in between the gray and grime of a daily newspaper. He continues his work on his blog (Al Martinez On Everything Else).

This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena and tagged , , by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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