My First Time


Most of us remember our first kiss, our first job, our first broken bone. These rites of passage leave an indelible punctuation mark on the scripts of our lives. Which got us to thinking: Wouldn’t it be fascinating to round up a handful of notable locals and learn about the memorable firsts in their lives? We did just that&emdash;and they were more than happy to share. 

Greg Alexander, writer/actor/director

My first speeding ticket

On June 6, 2007, I was making the 67-mile commute to Nevada City to direct a production of Corpse! for the Foothill Theatre Company when I got my first speeding ticket. I was stuck behind a truck on one of those two-lane stretches of Highway 49 when I finally saw a passing lane ahead sign. I accelerated, passed the truck, and zoomed up and over the crest of the hill. Off to my right, lined up along the shoulder of the highway, were four California Highway Patrol cars. While doing 75 mph in a 55-mph zone, I made eye contact with an officer just as he was about to take a sip of coffee. Maybe he wouldn’t notice? No such luck. I slowed down, pulled over and provided all the paperwork.

As he handed me the ticket, the officer explained that I could avoid an insurance bump by paying the fine and enrolling in an online traffic school. Then he added, Happy birthday. I was disappointed he hadn’t felt compelled to give me a break, it being my 48th birthday and my first ticket ever.
In retrospect, my first ticket ever was a gift. I enrolled in an online traffic school and learned a lot. For example: What distinguishes a courteous driver? The courteous driver respects himself and others. Courteous drivers consider what other people may be up against in their daily lives and try to decrease the faceless chaos on our roadways.

So now I try to be courteous. It might take me a little longer to get where I’m going, but it’s a lot less stressful. It feels safer, too.
Miss Manners would be pleased.

Photo by

Edie Lambert, anchor, KCRA 3

My first time anchoring a live newscast

The first time I ever anchored a live newscast, I was petrified. I was 21 and working for the ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara. I had an opportunity to anchor the five-minute local cut-in during Good Morning America. The cut-in aired at 7:25 a.m., and when I headed out to the studio at 7:15, I was delighted to discover the station cat snoozing on our news set. It was exactly the calming presence I thought I needed.
I sat and petted the cat while reviewing my scripts, until finally the director announced we were 10 seconds away. With my heart pounding, I began reading my short newscast. In the meantime, after I’d stopped scratching him, the cat got bored. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see him get up and stretch&emdash;and then walk toward the camera! The director rolled video, and as I continued to read the news I thought, Sorry, kitty! and gave him a quick shove to get him off the desk. He was having none of it. He dug in. By the time I was back on camera, the cat had made it most of the way past me except for a big, final flourish of his tail, which ended up on live TV.
We got one phone call, someone reporting what looked like a furry worm on their screen. My news director was one of those kind men who assume you learn from your mistakes. He didn’t say anything to me, but he did issue a memo banning all pets from the studio.

Photo by Norma Cordova Photography

Jessica Horton, owner, Dara Denim

My First Jeans

It was my birthday, 1986, and my mom had given me a wonderful pair of Jordache jeans. I had just turned 11 and was starting to want to look cool at school. The jeans were the most beautiful piece of clothing I had ever seen. They were light-gray-wash denim with rainbow-colored thread pinstripes. At the time, I couldn’t believe that I owned my very own pair of Jordache jeans. I’m sure I thought I was the coolest girl at school. I probably wore those jeans every chance I got. I can’t imagine how I matched them with any tops, but I’m sure I pulled it together nicely. I know that first pair of Jordache jeans started my love affair with denim. To this day, I feel like I’m 11 again when I purchase a new pair of great jeans, which is often.

Photo by Roy Wilcox




Rick Brazeil, Sacramento Police Chief

First Time Getting Shot At

The first time I was shot at was in 1984 or ’85. I was out in North Sac working a K-9 unit with my four-legged partner, Erich. We were dispatched to a burglary in progress at a residence off North Avenue. I got to the home and it was all dark; I was the only one there. For some reason, I left the dog in the car.
I heard glass breaking from the back of the house, and as I started to go around the back along the side, I saw something in the dark coming toward me. And then gunfire started. I was definitely getting shot at; I heard the bullets go whizzing by. I stepped behind a tree and a person came running toward me with something in his hand. I yelled at him to get down, so he got down, and right behind him was a gentleman with a gun in his hand. I realized then that the guy who was shooting wasn’t shooting at me; it was the homeowner shooting at the burglar.
When all is said and done, I’m glad I didn’t shoot, because no matter what I did it would’ve been wrong: either shot an unarmed burglar or the homeowner. 

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Kevin Johnson, former NBA star and founder and CEO, St. HOPE Public Schools

My first time on HBO

The first time I was on HBO was in 2000, when I was invited to be a guest on The Chris Rock Show. When I walked out onstage, Rock whispered in my ear, What’s up with you beating up on my Knicks? He was referring to a fight I’d gotten into with his team, so he had me laughing from the moment I got out there. I had recently attended the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and Chris was in rare form, saying, Now, what was a brother doing at the Republican National Convention? I know you are a Democrat, so I get that one, but what were you doing hanging out with the Republicans?

Hard as I tried to espouse the importance of bipartisan work on social-sector issues, I was unable to get past Chris’ disbelief that a black man had gone to the Republican National Convention and lived to tell about it.

Photo by Rochelle Pastor



Kelly Chapman, anchor, Good Day Sacramento weekend edition

My first time competing in the Miss USA pageant

Coming from a large family in Utah, I was a senior in high school looking for scholarship opportunities when a guidance counselor handed me an application for the Junior Miss Utah scholarship program. That was the start of a five-year run in the pageant world, which included the Miss America system and eventually the Miss USA circuit. I won Miss Utah USA on my third try.

In 2003, the Miss USA pageant was held in San Antonio, Texas. I got to spend three thrilling weeks dressing up, going to events and speaking engagements, and living with 50 other girls. We were treated like celebrities and had a motorcade following us wherever we went. I got free clothes, jewelry and lots of new pairs of shoes.

I did not win the Miss USA pageant but returned to Utah with a new sense of confidence and the urge to be more than I ever expected of myself while helping others along the way.
I am now just weeks away from giving birth to my second child. Nothing compares to the title of Mom, and there could be no better prize. Just the other day, I pulled out my Miss Utah crown from an old, tattered box in the garage. I hadn’t looked at that thing in years, and my 18-month-old daughter found it pretty cool. The crown reminded me of my first time and got me excited for all of my kids’ firsts that I will experience with them.

Photo by Norma Cordova Photography

John Lescroart, Author

My first fish

I remember the first fish I ever caught. I was 4 years old, and I went with my family and my godfather’s family to Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island. My dad and my godfather asked me if I wanted to try fishing, so we went out in the boat, out in the middle of what seemed to me then like an ocean. They had a little fishing rod for me, and they showed me how to bait the hook and do all the things fishermen do. I threw the rod out, and a fish jumped out of the water while the worm was in the air and grabbed it in midair. It was a good-size bass, and it was a magical moment. Of course it never happened again, but that’s what hooked me on fishing.






Donald Kendrick, music director, Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra; director of choral activities, Sacramento State; and director of music, Sacred Heart Church

My first time conducting at Carnegie Hall

The concert was on Saturday, May 13, 1995, at 7:30 p.m., and the featured work was Verdi’s Requiem. The soloists were from the Metropolitan Opera and the chorus consisted of various singers from different groups that I conducted in Sacramento. I didn’t really think about the huge pressure of conducting from memory for 90 minutes nonstop in this venerable hall until the last minute, when I glanced at my dressing-room wall pictures of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Toscanini, who seemed to be glaring at me in frozen disbelief. Then my blood rushed and my pulse quickened. Had I gone mad? What was I thinking? I was gasping for breath as the stage manager led me to that magic door and pushed us onstage to overwhelming applause. Everything suddenly changed to a slow-motion dream as I turned back to the musicians and raised my hand quietly to start.

Photo by Maggie McGurk



Cristina Mendonsa, anchor, News10

My first overseas assignment

The first time I traveled out of the country on a story was to Israel in 1996. I was only nervous twice. We were shooting some video in the desert near the Golan Heights. A jeep full of panicked Israeli soldiers rolled up on us, shouting that there were snipers picking people off in that area and that we needed to leave. The other time is when photographer Tony Cisneros and I were held at a Palestinian compound near Bethlehem for a few hours, surrounded by young men with very large guns. Since then, I’ve been to Europe and China, but nothing left an impact on me like my time in Israel.

Photo by Roy Wilcox






Joseph Bellacera, Artist

My first time seeing the mosaic floor at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice

It is the wondrous, golden ceiling that usually captivates visitors at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. But that day in the church, I was awe-struck by the optically dizzying mosaic floor. Colorful polished stones were set against white marble tiles in complex, rhythmic patterns that made me lightheaded and wanting more.

The experience created an obsession, resulting in my seeing the world as a mosaic of patterns. In Pompeii, I discovered Roman floors where craftsmen delighted in both lyrical and geometric abstract patterns. In Turkey, I explored ancient Phrygian ruins where devotion to the goddess was expressed in vertical and horizontal linear patterns inscribed on the rock facades. Even flying into Sacramento provides a feast for the eyes: Colorful rice fields blend together to create a quilted mosaic filled with alternating sections of contoured and straight lines. Today, these cultural expressions of patterning provide a profound influence on my artwork.



Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, owner, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates

My first time seeing a cocoa tree

About two years ago, when I was 24, I was traveling around Nicaragua. I stopped in a little town called Masaya, which is known for its beautiful nurseries, and took a private tour of a local farmer’s garden. We walked past banana and mango trees and rows of flowering ginger until we came upon it: the cocoa tree. Tears filled my eyes as I examined the beautiful tree filled with cacao pods. At that point, I had been working with chocolate professionally for about six years, and it was a surreal experience to finally be in front of the tree that produces, in my opinion, the most fascinating food in the world. The scientific name for the cocoa tree is Theobroma cacao, which means food of the gods. This summer, I will be traveling to Belize and visiting a cocoa farm, where I’ll have an opportunity to harvest cacao and make chocolate with the locals.

Photo by

Ken Morton Sr., golf pro, Haggin Oaks

My first hole-in-one

Having made four holes-in-one throughout a lifetime of golf, I can remember each one as if it were yesterday. The hole-in-one that stands out to me most is the first. It was in 1954, when I was a freshman at El Camino High School. I was going out for the golf team and was struggling to make the team with another freshman golfer by the name of Skip King. The coach wouldn’t make a decision which of us would make varsity, so he asked us to go out and play off for the position. He played the round with us as a referee. Both Skip and I were playing pretty well, and we got to what was then the fifth hole of the original Haggin Oaks golf course. Skip and I were even up to that point. I hit first and pushed the shot to the right of the green and was very disappointed. As I anxiously watched the ball in flight, it landed on a hill to the right of the green, bounded left and rolled right into the cup. Poor Skip was so rattled with that shot that his game blew up for the rest of the round, and I made varsity as a freshman.

Sonia Chaidez, co-owner, Tres Hermanas restaurant

My first day at my restaurant

The first day we opened the restaurant was Friday, Oct. 18, 1996. We didn’t do any advertising, so I didn’t think it was going to get busy. I was waiting tables by myself, my sister was in the kitchen and my friend was supposed to come and help, but he showed up late. At lunchtime, I got busy. I had probably six or eight tables at the same time. I remember we served tortilla soup, which is hard because the server has to put in chips and avocado, which takes a long time.

It was the hardest day of my life. But I would not change anything. I think in life you have to go through hard times in order to become successful. If everything comes easy, you don’t appreciate what you have.

Photo by Roy Wilcox






Sotiris Kolokotronis, developer

My first soccer ball

I remember my first real-leather soccer ball, which I got when I was 9 in Greece, where I grew up. That made me the most popular guy in the neighborhood. We were not poor but we were not wealthy, and a soccer ball like that was such a great thing.

Photo by Roy Wilcox









Monica Lowe, radio host, 100.5 FM The Zone

My first time discovering I was my own person

The first time it dawned on me that I was my own person, I was 2 years old. I was sitting in the back seat of the car on the way to preschool. My brother, who was 4, was sitting next to me, and my mom was singing along to the radio. I was kind of just looking down at myself, and then I looked at my arm and noticed the hair on my arm. Then I looked at my skin and just started thinking, Wow, I’m in here! And then I looked at my mom and thought, And she’s in that skin and she’s not in my skin! I thought, Wow! I am my own person. And this voice is coming out of my body and not anybody else’s.

It was very profound at the time. After that, I remember distinctly being more independent as a child and a freethinker. I became a thorn in my mother’s side thereafter.

Photo by Norma Cordova Photography


Chris Webster, lead singer, Mumbo Gumbo

My first time singing in public

I learned how to sing when I was a little kid sitting on the bench next to my mom while she played piano. For me, it was the best thing in the world. But when my parents suggested I sing at the church talent show, I said no. My mom and dad said they would each give me a dollar bill if I would sing at the talent show. For my birthday I had gotten a shiny black leatherette wallet, and the desire to have something to put in it must have been pretty powerful.

So there I sat, on the bench next to my mom, staring at her hands on the keys of that old spinet piano on the church stage, too scared to look out at the audience, singing Edelweiss. Sitting as close to my mom as I could, I ran out of air on the last note: Bless my homeland forev&emdash;er&emdash; (breath) &emdash;er.  But I tried to make it sound like I meant to do it that way.

I’m embarrassed to admit that what got me out there was the cold, hard cash. But a kid’s gotta make a living.
Photo by Norma Cordova Photography