Sunday, February 26, 2012

Drake's book changing lives with the written word

Two long-feuding kingdoms - Chubolia, a place where everyone is fat, and Thinsylvania, a country where everyone is thin - find themselves in the throes of battle when the prime minister of Thinsylvania, looking for someone to marry his prince, kidnaps the Chubolian princess. Hamilton Fatz, the charmingly romantic Chubolian captain of the guard, and Big Jim McBiggins, a roguish mountain man, set off to rescue her, and must overcome physical and psychological obstacles along the way.

It sounds ridiculous I know, but that is the description found in the web page for Phil Drake's book "Fat Chance."

A tongue in cheek story aimed at the tween audience, from master funny man Drake. Who is Phil Drake you may ask? If you live in the SGV and have done so for more than 15 years, you may recall Drake's funny columns appearing in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. He has long since left the paper and now lives in Montana, where he is the managing editor of the Montana Watchdog, a branch of the n independent newsgathering organization that shares its research and findings with the public and other media organizations. It is a branch of the Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan policy research center and an associate member of the Montana Newspaper Association.

Drake is an individual who has impacted a lot of people's lives, mostly in a positive manner either through imparting some humor into their lives with his columns, or by writing stories around the communities he served, writing features and stories about the SGV. I first met Mr. Drake around 7 years ago when I was taking journalism classes at Mt. SAC.

At the time, I knew I wanted to pursue journalism as a career choice, but I did know that much about the Tribune or its editors. Phil Drake changed all that. He came to speak to a class and spoke about his job. I distinctly remember sitting in the newsroom and fielding a call from him saying he was on his way to speak to one of the classes, but he was lost, he could not find the classroom. I don't blame him, at the time Mt. SAC had just reinstated its journalism program and was operating the student newspaper The Mountaineer, out of a bungalow adjacent to the tennis courts, making it almost impossible to find, unless you knew the campus.

Drake spoke about his job that day, about the people he interviewed while working as a beat reporter for the Tribune. I remember he was sweating profusely, (possibly due to his walking around campus on a hot summer day in a suit and maybe being a bit nervous speaking to a group of strangers) but he relaxed and gave the students glimpses of life as a journalist.

I have never forgotten Phil Drake, I read his columns every week after that and was saddened to read one day he was moving back to Montana and leaving California behind.

Apparently, he was well thought of by his peers, when the Tribune started a "Here and Now" page of Tribune staffers on Facebook, Drakes countenance was used as the profile pic.

He has returned to the San Gabriel valley since then, mostly to promote his literary projects, and I for one hope he gets to write another book. I have not read "Fat Chance" yet, but it's on my to do list. Knowing the affable disposition of Mr. Drake, and his propensity to entertain with his writing, it should be a fun lighthearted romp.

No comments: