I am working on a story about Seal Beach Leisure World that isn’t quite ready for press yet. While I was working on it, I got a call from Tim Bolton, president of the Golden Rain Foundation (the non-profit entity that runs the retirement community) and he answered those questions he felt he could answer. (Answering questions about a former employee is a tricky affair, so I can’t fault him for being cautious.)

I mention this, because Mr. Bolton apologized when he learned I did not receive a message that ought to have been sent.

That simple courtesy was a pleasant surprise. It isn’t unusual for people to simply ignore my calls and e-mails—sometimes because they are too busy and sometimes because they think if they ignore me the story won’t be covered by the press. That later reason for not responding does little good. If the press wants a story, the press will find that story and tell that story.

What makes Mr. Bolton’s apology for what was clearly an honest oversight important is this: unlike the house organ that is published by the Golden Rain Foundation, the Sun sometimes publishes negative news stories about Leisure World and we print letters to the editor criticizing the Foundation or one of the mutual benefit corporations that make up the community of Leisure World. Mr. Bolton could have simply ignored me.

I don’t know him very well. I cannot say we have a working relationship at all—I believe we’ve spoken three or four times, if that much. But so far, he has behaved graciously and professionally. That’s not true of everyone a reporter encounters. I thought the fact should be acknowledged.

This blog does not mean I’m going to change the way I cover Leisure World. Far from it. I’ll still be the outsider looking in. That’s my job. I only hope I can do it as courteously as Mr. Bolton has done his.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to reach that former employee.

From time to time, people don’t want to talk to me.

Fair enough. I have neither the power, nor the desire, to force people to speak to me if they don’t want to.

That said, it is my job to gather information and pass it along to readers. Reporters who fail at that task can quickly find themselves looking for other work. So what does a reporter do if sources don’t want to talk to him or her?

Giving up is seldom an option. Editors don’t like that. Giving up is not a good career move. Sometimes limits of time or other resources make it impossible to continue with a research project—but you really don’t want to make a habit of failure.

However, pestering sources can cause the permanent loss of a source who might be reluctant to speak on just one or two occasions. To land one good story at the cost of future stories is not good reporting.

An unwritten rule I personally follow is ask three times. If you get “no” three times in a row, chances are you’ll get “no” 30 times in a row and so you might as well stop. I’ve also found that the more people you can find who are willing to talk to you, the less reluctant other sources are to talk to you.

And there is usually another source of information to talk to if one particular source is unwilling to speak.

Sometimes it is necessary to be blunt. If there’s a legal dispute brewing, some sources may be understandably reluctant to talk for fear of making a bad situation worse. (I’ve been both a plaintiff and a defendant in litigation and I understand that fear.) But those are the times when a reporter absolutely must give all sides an opportunity to speak. In those cases, it is best to let the source know that you are going to file a story whether they speak to you or not.

That’s the truth, by the way. My deadlines don’t change because other people would like them to change.

There’s another reason to be blunt with a source. Some individuals think that if one source doesn’t talk to a reporter, the story will be killed. That is seldom true.

I dislike confrontation. (Odd considering my line of work.) I dislike pushing my weight around. But there are times, especially when dealing with public officials, when a reporter can’t take the first no for an answer.

And media-savvy individuals know an unpleasant truth: “No comment” is, in fact, a comment—an on the record comment.

I strolled up to Ruby’s the last day they were serving customers to take a few pictures and conduct a few interviews. I figured I could put together a nice little story.

It turned out there were two stories at play, one public and the other private. The private story was the better one. The public story was that a landmark business was closing. The private story was that a 10-year-old girl named Brooke Wenger went to Ruby’s with her mother and aunt to celebrate Brooke’s birthday. It was her birthday treat to go there.

No one in her family knew that Ruby’s was closing that very day. (I’m glad for Brooke’s sake that she got there while they were still serving food. A sign would have been a poor substitute for a sundae.)

Brooke’s family will find another place to celebrate her birthday. She’ll develop an attachment to another restaurant. She wouldn’t have believed me if I told her—adults are always boring children with their grown up perspectives on life’s imperfect experiences. Yet I could have told her this was true because I was once quite fond of a restaurant called Mama’s Best Cafe, which was owned by Brooke’s mother back when her mom had a different surname.

I ate there twice a day. Granted, there were few choices in the neighborhood where I worked. Yet I could have easily brown bagged my meals. The main attractions of the place were the food, the staff and the other customers.

Perhaps Brooke’s next favorite restaurant will be another Ruby’s—but a part of Brooke will say, “It isn’t MY Ruby’s.”

I’ve found other restaurants. They aren’t Mama’s Best. When I was Brooke’s age, one of my favorite places to go was Disneyland. My favorite ride: the submarine ride. That ride was torn down years ago and eventually replaced with a “Finding Nemo” submarine ride. I’ve never taken that ride. Fifty-one-year-old bachelors generally don’t visit the Magic Kingdom.

I’m sure “Finding Nemo” is a pleasing ride, but it isn’t my ride. That’s OK. It’s an annoying part of being a grown up—and becoming one—that some of your favorite places cease to exist. Nothing is forever. Dwelling on that fact can only lead to chronic depression. Best to enjoy things while they last and cherish what you’ve got rather than waste time mourning losses that haven’t yet occurred.

Some day, Brooke Wenger will be a mom. (Knowing her mother, I’d be willing to bet Brooke is likely to pretty good at it when her time comes.) Some day, she’ll take her own daughter (or son) to that child’s favorite place. Her child will beam and talk about how great the place is. Brooke will smile and agree.

And say to herself: “But it’s not MY place.”

Yet she won’t mind a bit. Birthdays, after all, are more important that places. Which is why, when the adults stopped talking about times old and new, Brooke Wenger returned to the business of celebrating her birthday with a bright smile on her face and a paper hat on her head.

Another restaurant will one day take Ruby’s place on the Seal Beach Pier. Some folks will say it isn’t their place. But it will be someone else’s place for an unknown period of time.

I’ve never liked change. The smallest change in my routine annoys me. Yet I’ve never been able to avoid or evade change, either—and I’ve tried. I stayed in a house I hated for many years because I was reluctant to change addresses. Ultimately, though, the change was for the better: I like my condo more than ever I liked my detached house. I like Seal Beach much better than ever I liked Long Beach.

Main Street, the most consistent and recognizable part of Seal Beach, is changing as we enter a new year. The Harvey Girls Gallery has relocated to another block of Main Street, where Belinda used to operate her glass business.

A new building is going up next door to the Sun office. (I’m looking forward to the stillness that will follow the conclusion of construction.) This has to be a good sign—no one would go to the trouble of a radical remodel unless they believed it was worth the investment of time and money. I’m hoping the new location will prove to be a huge success. Only time will tell.

Ruby’s Diner will leave the Seal Beach Pier to be replaced by … something else. (Am I the only one who thinks the end of the pier would be a good spot for another sushi restaurant? I couldn’t afford to eat there, but the meeting of location and product would be almost too perfect.)

The Crime Log is changing, too. It’ll be shorter. But some things won’t change. The Sun will continue to try to reflect the community you life in. If the story seems to change, remember this: while the names and addresses of stores may change; while zoning codes may change, Seal Beach will essentially remain the same. I can tell you from personal experience. My first journalism job out of college was at what was then called the Seal Beach Journal, now the Sun. Fate forced me to leave and I endured an exile in advertising and public relations before I returned. When I left, the use of the Hellman Ranch property was the biggest controversy in the area.

When I returned, the residential height limit was the hot issue. Land use seems to be the fundamental issue for Seal Beach. The specific real estate parcels change, but the issues do not. Which proves that while some things change, other things do not change. I’m rather glad Seal Beach is one of them.

Off topic: I’m still struggling with my New Year’s resolution to be more positive. Let me know if you think I’m succeeding or failing.