James and Patricia Calbreath, pictured above on their wedding day. When I was growing up, my dad was a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from a cattlehand on a ranch in San Luis Obispo to a fundamentalist minister in rural Redwood Valley, just around the corner from Jim Jones' People's Temple.
I'm the second of four siblings nicknamed "The Four Ds" (Dawn, Dean, Debbie and David). We've had a total of 10 children, and the next generation has already begun.
I was born in Southern California, but thanks to my father's wanderlust, we lived in 16 houses by the time I was 16, ranging from Anaheim, where we were frequent visitors to Disneyland, to Redwood Valley, just north of Ukiah.
After a brief bout of poverty - living on food stamps and welfare in a very poor area of Berkeley, where my father once found a dead body on our front lawn - we somehow managed to move to the wealthy of enclave of Piedmont, living there long enough for my sister Debbie and I to graduate high school before my parents went bankrupt and moved to neighboring Oakland.
I was always interested in writing. My goal in high school was to write a book, be a foreign correspondent and win the Pulitzer by the age of 25 - all of which I missed by a couple decades.
My first real job was as a low-paid intern at the long-defunct Oakland Times, fresh out of high school. While going to Laney College in Oakland, where I eventually got an AA in social sciences, I began my career writing for student publications at UC Berkeley, including writing for The Daily Californian and the Pelican Magazine. Here I am with the Pelican's editor, John Stodder.
By the time I was 21, my topics included reports on the rise of the radical right in California, allegations of wrongdoings at the CIA, the Patty Hearst trial, the 1976 Presidential election and interviews with people like Robert Redford.
During my early years, I freelanced for a variety of publications, including San Francisco Magazine, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Oakland Tribune and the Berkeley Barb, including a profile of Timothy Leary and coverage of the Republican National Convention. At New West Magazine, I wrote an article on the Ku Klux Klan that was picke
During my early years, I freelanced for a variety of publications, including San Francisco Magazine, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Oakland Tribune and the Berkeley Barb, including a profile of Timothy Leary and coverage of the Republican National Convention. At New West Magazine, I wrote an article on the Ku Klux Klan that was picked up by the newsletter of Jim Jones' Peoples Temple, so I have the dubious distinction of having a byline there.
I married Sarah Thailing (a Nebraska-born Yale graduate) in Prague's Old Town Hall in 1994
Ian, a recent San Diego State University grad, was born in 1999 and Ava, a UCLA student, in 2002.
Mostly as a journalist, I have traveled through 42 countries (marked in red on this map), as well as all 50 of the United States., filing stories from five continents. Besides living for most of my life in California, I have also lived in Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, the Czech Republic and Japan. If you click on the map, you'll find a list with the names of the countries.