Doma India

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Snobbery

I’ve long been a snob for various reasons. I used to be an intellectual snob based on school performance and being assigned the highest intelligence quotient in my cohort.  I was quick to spot a dummy—and still am, for that matter—and probably insufferable. I don’t think so much of witty sarcasm as I did, nor so much of thinking and knowing stuff.

I’m still addicted to thinking—so are you—and at least now I know it and can sometimes slow it down or stop it altogether for a time. I think I’m sometimes kinda smug about that.

I’m mostly a language snob. When I read text with misspellings, bad grammar, and silly punctuation, I deduce imagine things about the person responsible, sincerely and erroneously.  I don’t expect most people to be experts in English, and I expect them to know that they aren’t and to get help when they need it, which they seem seldom to do, naturally. Most of us don’t know how wrong we are.

Organizations with missing or misplaced apostrophes must do without my custom or participation.  If the parking lot’s sign says “. . . at owners expense.” I don’t want to park my car there, even legally.

I don’t mind the occasional typo or even poor usage, but there’s a level of technical sloppiness that will cause me not to read something, not an easy task because I want to read enough to know whether I want to read the rest. I’m always pulling for the writer because I’m the reader, and I want the best experience the two of us can manage.  The writer is done with it, so whether I understand it or not I’m not getting any extra help. It may be drivel, but my deep desire is that what I’m reading not let me put it down. I want to be swept away. I don’t mind waking up in the wee hours because I’ve got sixteen volumes of P. G. Wodehouse within reach.

I have no truck with silly writers who won’t capitalize words or eschew punctuation. What ninnies . . .

That’s how far I had got when I realized that I had been straining.  Last year I noticed a quality about the light that seemed to make me sad. It’s back, and I didn’t care about snobbery, even my own.

All summer the overhang outside my bedroom blocks direct sun so the various crystals hanging in the window don’t have much to do. Now the sun is low enough to put spectra on the wall over my bed and on the duvet we bought at Ikea just before we picked up Ade at a BART station in Berkeley. That’s the kind of stuff I think about, how much I say “we” about what happened.

Janice Porter left us to our own devices almost two years ago, and I still don’t know how she can not be here. How can she be gone forever? I dread sounding like a weepy old man, although that’s clearly what I am.

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Smack the Pony

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Never

At this stage of my life, the number of things I realize that I’ll never do steadily increases. I don’t know when I began to notice the deadlines that were slipping past except it was years ago. Some things could still happen, and I’ve given up anyway, as a precaution I suppose.

By the time I discovered bicycle racing it was already too late for me to be in the Olympics. I won’t be a sprint or points or roadrace champion. I’ll never run a 4-minute mile either, or a 10-minute mile for that matter. My six-and-a half-minute mile will have to do.

I’ll never play for the N.B.A. or the N.F.L. or the the N.H.L. or major league baseball. I’ll never win Wimbleton or the Masters. I’ll never get a black belt in anything but a thrift store. I’m probably never gonna climb a mountain, unless I could do it over a period of weeks.

I’m never gonna win a Nobel prize or save a child from drowning or rescue a damsel in distress. I’m never gonna be with a woman more than twenty-two years. In fact, I may not be with another woman at all, a most depressing thought since I seem to be part dog.

I’m not gonna be a hero to anybody, although I realize that the phenomena I know about are few and probably trivial.

I’ve forgotten his name now, but soon after we moved to Chico, I took a workshop with a guy who talked about people wearing metaphorical sunglasses that filtered out some wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, so that we simply aren’t aware of some things. I’ve discovered enough of my filters to think that I’ll never know about all of them. Giving up on perfect knowledge is a relief and seems to go along with a willingness to accept whatever shows up without any particular expectations or prerequisites for happiness. Following a star doesn’t mean you expect to get there, just that you’ve picked a direction.

I’ve also abandoned the idea of being a grandfather, which not long ago was a life goal for me. Grandfatherhood is clearly beyond my influence, much less control. Our eldest son recently became a father, but that doesn’t count. Although I call him my son on Facebook, that’s only because there’s no “stepson” option, and he and I have long been clear that he has a father, and it ain’t Anthony.

I’m also never gonna win an Academy Award for anything, having stumbled on those possibilities way too late to start such a journey.

I don’t suppose I’m ever gonna explore much beyond my inner life or discover anything important past my eyelids, which seems to be quite enough, thank You very much.

And I’m never gonna get used to Janice not being here. I try now and then, and occasionally I think I’m moving on, but only for a little while. Sometimes it seems like she’s everywhere, but mostly she’s just not here with me.

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Money and Debt: Crash Course World History 202

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Breasts

When I was a photographer in the ’70s I spent a lot of time trying to shoot young would-be models nude. Of course. As an incentive I’d shoot head shots or whatever she wanted and give her prints for her book. It worked fairly well. I didn’t ask just anybody, since just any body wouldn’t do for my purposes. Her body didn’t have to be wonderful, it just had to be what I wanted.

At first I had only the vaguest idea what she would look like naked, and I shot several who turned out to be a waste of my time—she got good prints, I got nothing I could use. This was the era of pantyhose and pushup bras—evil technology. I’d have her undress as soon as she got there, because it takes a while for skin to recover from the constriction. I learned the differences between a clothed body and that same body without clothes, and my percentages improved.

I’ve been imagining what women look like naked since forever, and I’ve had a few chances to compare what I expected to what they turned out to be. For me, breasts are the toughest to predict. They’re usually cradled one way or another, and if they’re free they’re usually covered loosely, making a careful examination impossible. And nipples are hopeless.

I’ve been trying to get to Topless Day in Chico for years, and last Sunday I remembered and actually went. My hope was that some of the women I know would show up and I’d get to further my research with some eyeball verification. I had no sexual interest, really. Although I remember getting hard as Chinese arithmetic just seeing “breast” in print, I’ve now seen enough breasts that the thought of random bare breasts holds no interest for me, except as a visual experience, like cloud formations or a landscape.

I love breasts along with the rest of the human female form and still recognize that breasts are for babies. The rest we made up. I grew up in breasts’ heyday—Joi Lansing, Jayne Mansfield, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors, and many more. I figured the prevalence of breast worship in the media was because of the immaturity of the average white man. I was just guessing, though.

I liked the assortment of breasts at the Topless Day observance near One Mile in Chico, from perky to floppy to barely there. Everything was very easygoing and loving with good food and great vibes. You should go next year.

I had hoped for a lot more women I know. That’s who I want to see. Of the ones I did know, I was on the money.

Among all the equality and camaraderie and skin that hardly ever sees daylight, one pair of breasts was the clear winner, and yes I know I made that up. So what. They were exquisite. If you were there, you know who I’m talking about.

I feel obligated to say that Janice’s mid-nineties breasts were magnificent. God is great.

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David Mitchell

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Pet care

Some years ago a Gentle Reader took me to task for not sterilizing a family of cats that had appeared under our deck. Not only did I not have their sexual organs removed, I even gave them water, though not food. My position at the time was that if it was my responsibility to sterilize the uninvited cats, I should also sterilize the equally uninvited squirrels, the occasional raccoon, and perhaps the possum next door. I was unwilling to maim another species and didn’t do anything, and the cats eventually moved out intact.

Spock, our late dog, was unfixed to the end. Spock’s life was no doubt affected by his whole genitals, and I have no reason to think the experience was anything but positive. I’ve certainly enjoyed having my genitals on me at all times—I think a little empathy warranted here—and I expect Spock did, too. I know he did at least once, and the puppies were stunning.

Now I’ve got this kitten, see—Hobbes. My son got him from a guy with three of them in a cardboard box at the Farmers Market. I’m the grownup, though, and I feed Hobbes and maintain his litter box, and it was immediately clear that if Hobbes is to have any care beyond cuddling I’ve got to do it.

My son thinks shots are unnecessary, and of course he’s right. Hobbes might do just fine with no shots. I guess that’s what my parents thought about Tag.

Oddly, I’m not crystal clear about what went on when I was nine or so, after Penny, our Cocker Spaniel, had puppies presumably sired by King, the Alpha free dog in our neighborhood. Anyhow, Penny whelped and I ended up with a puppy, Tag, who was black and white and managed to look a lot like Tippy, a stuffed animal from earlier in my saga.

After several weeks Tag stopped eating, his eyes got rheumy, and the vet in Roseland said it was distemper and there was nothing he could do for Tag but put him to sleep. He said that all Tag had needed was a shot and he would’ve been all right. He never got the shot, though, and the vet said we probably picked up germs on our shoes or something and the germs made Tag so sick that it was better to kill him than let him suffer, and he was gonna die either way. We left him there on that steel table, and my father stayed while my mother and I went out and waited in the car.

Janice and I resisted inoculations for the boys for a few years, until the system wore us down, and we gave in. I think human inoculations far more likely to be vehicles for totalitarian mischief than cat shots, and I remember the heartbreak of leaving Tag on that table in that room, so I got Hobbes the recommended injections. He may be a zombie for the government, but he’ll be a healthy zombie. Sterilization is a separate issue. I hear that males’ spraying is fairly stinky, which sounds unpleasant and yet may be bearable. We’ll see.

I have six lines in the Butcher Shop Theatre Festival at eight pee em August 29, 30, and 31, 2500 Estes Road, at the end of Normal Street at an almond orchard near the creek, just follow the road.  Free parking for bicycles.  Look at http://www.slowtheatre.com/.

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The Soul Stirrers

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Stigma

My son and I were talking not long ago about his brother’s mental illness, and it came out that we both had noticed unusual and unfortunate behavior last year and said nothing because we didn’t want others to judge him harshly, which seemed inevitable to us and still does. I just wanted whatever was making him act like that to go away. I still do.

I understand the stigma of mental illness. It doesn’t make sense, and I still get it. When somebody seems unreasonable and unreasoning, many of us think “Crazy.” Over the past year or so, many, many times out of frustration I’ve reacted to something my son did or said by thinking, “Have you lost your mind?” or “Are you nuts?” Ordinarily I would have asked it aloud, but now I know that such a question is still rhetorical, although now the answer is “Yes,” rather than “No.”

I went on the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) walk this year, and the theme was “Stomp the Stigma.” I think stigma is a big problem for people with mental illness, in that people’s prejudices and biases adversely affect the way we deal with mental patients. “Stomp the Stigma” strikes me as a silly metaphor for a worthwhile objective. I’m not aware of any stigma associated with diabetes, for instance, and I don’t think arthritis or cancer or heart disease carry the same burden of shame and ostracism. Still, stomping won’t help anybody.

I remember how reluctant I was to see a therapist the first time. Two of my best friends had told me I ought to, which of course made it that much worse. I did it, though. Those sessions didn’t amount to much—I was extremely wary, and my therapist wasn’t good enough to see through me. I was quite pleased, though, and actually stumbled on an insight or two that later proved useful, so I guess it worked after all.

It took me a while to be comfortable talking to a therapist, and it wasn’t until I started working in book publishing that I found my current simile for therapy—a therapist is like an editor. A trained editor can see qualities in a manuscript that the writer can’t, being on the inside, so to speak. Another metaphor: You can’t see what a house looks like to others if you’re inside it. Likewise, a therapist can see things about a personality of which the person inside the personality is unaware. It’s not a shortcoming; it’s just the way it is.

Some mental patients become slovens, some become actors, some politicians. All of them can be hard to be around for long and seem often to be a pain in the ass. They may not observe social conventions that most of us don’t even think about until somebody ignores the little niceties that help keep us from biting each other. If a crippled woman bumps into you, you wouldn’t be angry with her, would you?

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Hobbes

Ruth was an animal freak. The first time she was gonna sleep at my place she asked if she could bring her dog. Dog dander wasn’t as bad for my allergies as cat dander, but it wasn’t good. I had had a tableau in mind for a couple of years by then, though, and I already had the glass vase and the black sheets. I just needed Ruth. God, I LOVE antihistamines.

Being around cats was way worse—my eyes teared and itched, my nose sneezed and ran, and everything wheezed. Once my body recognized a cat house I had to decide if my discomfort outweighed my imagined payoff, which would have to be sex or a really good drug to warrant consideration.

Ruth found some expensive potion said to eliminate the allergic effects of animal dander and rubbed it on her cat and dog to good effect. It got me through the night and helped me add to my trove of pleasant memories, which now can make all the difference.

I’ve never had anything against cats themselves, and some of the ones I’ve run across actually sought me out. I’m a little catlike myself, though not graceful or dignified.

A few weeks ago my son got a kitten from some guy at the Farmers’ Market, and I figured it was fate. After our dog Spock died, Janice and I had talked sporadically about getting a pet, but neither of us wanted anything else to do. I thought of the kitten as therapeutic, and that was enough.

I was right, too. Hobbes has indeed been therapeutic as all get-out and as cute as required. He’s friendly and affectionate and not a bit standoffish, just what was needed.

He also took to his litter box right away. That may be run-of-the-mill behavior for a cat, but I’ve never lived with a cat, and I was impressed and reassured by Hobbes’s grasp of things.

Then there’s the dark side. A woman was the first to succumb to talking baby talk, and then there was no containing its insidious spread to her grandson, though little more than a baby himself, and then to her daughter and everybody around.

I’ve so far resisted talking baby talk to Hobbes, and I should say here that I didn’t talk baby talk to my own babies. To be virtually driven to talk drivel by another species is alarming, let me tell you.

I am not a babbler yet, neither a blatherer nor a ditherer, for which I’m not so much proud as grateful, because I don’t know that we have a choice in such matters. Some do this, some that. I can’t deny my own fall from grace, though, and I freely admit my current state. Recently basking in the satisfaction of not babbling to Hobbes, I noticed my voice sounding remarkably like Miss Moreland’s, my kindergarten teacher, when she read to us. I still don’t babble, but I do coo.

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Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist

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Back again

At the end of April when I wrote about my son’s mental illness he had been in and out of the Butte County Psychiatric Health Facility (The Puff) four times since October. Make that five times.

In June he was at home and had been steadily improving for three weeks or so. The long-acting drug he finally consented to seemed to be helping. He was a lot more present and responsive to his surroundings, including people. I started to think he might win his conservatorship trial at the end of July and get to stay out of the county’s custody.

He refused to get his next monthly injection or talk to anyone from Butte County, though, even when they came to him, and so the bureaucracy stumbled into action. What I thought would be a meeting with his Public Guardian turned out to be an ambush with four or five people from the county and four Chico police.

That he had been behaving reasonably and said he felt better didn’t mean squat. Because he’s technically an adult, I have no clout. For Butte County, the prescribed drug was the mandatory minimum— take it voluntarily or they’ll make you take it.

The county people arrived sporadically and milled around in the street and our front yard until the straggler showed up. Meanwhile the police and people from Butte County tried to persuade him to accept the injection. So did I. The nurse was right there with the stuff. He could do it and all those other people would go away, and he could stay at home, but he wasn’t having any of it.

Since he wouldn’t agree to be injected, my son was eventually handcuffed and taken away, restrained, and given Invega Sustenna, a popular monthly injectable.

He’s back at home now, and because I’m willing to provide him with the necessities of life, as long as he stays on his drug he can stay out of custody, and Butte County is dropping its conservatorship effort. Whew, maybe.

At the July meeting of the Butte County Behavioral Health Advisory Board several people, including Board members, spoke out against renewing the contract of the California Forensic Medical Group, the corporation paid to deal with mental health issues at the Butte County Jail. A mentally and physically ill inmate died recently in flaky circumstances, and I look forward to hearing CFMG’s story.

I was elected to the Board at the July meeting. I know I’ve said more than once that I’m through with boards and had even arranged for a buddy of mine to stage an intervention if I start making any Board noises, but this is important.
— 30 —

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The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Maria Bamford

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Madness

Six months or so after Janice found out she had breast cancer, my youngest boy began complaining of headaches and later other ailments. We did many tests and treatments including diet, conventional medicine, chiropractic, massage, and various kinds of energy work.

The next year he gradually stopped going to school and passed the California High School Proficiency Examination halfway through his sophomore year, getting out of high school at fifteen. For two years he holed up in his room playing video games while his mother died slowly down the hall.

Janice had been dead about a year last fall when my son told me that he was aware of channels that were giving him information as sentences and images. He believed that the channels came from people he knew and that they told the truth. Since the channels always promised him torture and doom, he was always fearful. That was his life.

At the end of October, to feel safe he signed himself into a Butte County facility for assessment and got out three days later with a prescription for Abilify, which also provided the intake worker’s clipboard. My son was just as fearful when he got out, just calmer.

He stopped taking the prescribed drug after a couple of weeks, and in a few days became convinced that he had a brain aneurysm, eventually persuading a neighbor to take him to an emergency room. By the time I found out and got to Enloe someone from Butte County Behavioral Health had claimed him under a 5150, the law that allows such an action when a mental patient is thought to be a danger to himself or others.

He soon got arrested for shoplifting and then alarmed some people in the neighborhood by standing around in their yards, and ended up back at the Puff. That time at the Psychiatric Health Facility (“the Puff”) he didn’t get out after the initial 72-hour period and stayed another fortnight until he was discharged with three prescriptions on New Year’s Day and directed to the Shalom Clinic for follow-up. God bless the Shalom Clinic.

He stayed on drugs a couple of weeks and then quit because he thought they hurt his brain, which could easily be the case.

He got out for a while and now my baby boy—born in the bed where I sleep and where his mother died—is again at the Puff. God bless the Puff, too.

I’d like to say my contact with the mental health system was satisfactory, but there is no mental health system. There are services here and there, but nothing that deserves to be called a system. More on this later.

Meanwhile my son sleeps in a hallway under 24-hour fluorescent lights, a type of sensory bombardment sometimes used as torture.

And God bless NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness.

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Corpse in the street

The last time I wrote about a cat, a reader was upset because she felt I showed insufficient respect because the cat was dead. I admit speculating about the possibility of my being able to swing it around in my front yard, which is smaller than many living rooms, “room enough to swing a dead cat” being a unit of volume I seem to remember from the works of Mark Twain, the specifics of which I had often wondered about.

This time I was in my room about to go out front to wait for a ride to see Sorin at 1078 Gallery when I heard a cat scream, a fairly common occurrence in my neighborhood. Sometimes they fight just outside my bedroom window, and I didn’t pay much attention to the yowl.

When I went out on the porch, I could see that my ride wasn’t there yet and that in the street directly in front of me was dark mass with a small, blurry white something slightly waving to and fro. It was a rather large cat, and one of its white paws was still moving. I say still moving because by the time I’d gotten a flashlight and went out to it, the only movement was its fur blowing in the breeze.

I could see all the blood around its head and that its essence had moved on and left a bloody corpse in front of my house. Damn. My ride was due any minute, and I wanted just to leave it, but there was no way it wasn’t gonna be run over soon and make a much bigger mess than it was already, and my ride would be aiming for just that spot. It was one of those times when I wished I had a husband to do the dirty work.

So I found the right shovel and while I was struggling to scrape, shove, and lug it out of the way yet visible to passersby, a fresh corpse being remarkably limp and pliable and hard to deal with—dead weight—a cyclist rode slowly by. He noticed what was going on and continued on his way.

While I was standing in my driveway leaning on the shovel, the cyclist came back and asked me if I was all right. Maybe he thought it had been my cat, maybe not, but that a stranger, probably not even a perfect one, had enough compassion and kindness to find out whether I was managing to handle an ex-cat touched me, and I thanked him.

The next day I learned that my immediate neighbors’ cats were all accounted for, and that night when I took the bins out to the street I laid the stiffened corpse on top of our trash headed for the Neal Road landfill, my cat cemetery of choice. I hope it wasn’t your cat.

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Acting

In keeping with my intention to do what I’ve so far avoided for no good reason, I’m taking an acting class. Far fucking out.

I like the theater, I’ve been a theater critic, and Janice’s family is thoroughly theatrical in a professional kind of way.

Acting is very difficult and very far from anything I’ve done. I knew that. My producer once sent me out to do a walk-and-talk commentary on Lake Street in South Minneapolis. I only had to walk about 30 yards and say maybe a hundred words, which I had written. Walking and talking ain’t easy, I found.

Try talking to somebody you hardly know about gut issues using the words of somebody you’ve never even seen and moving around doing stuff at the same time. And you have to memorize all of the words and say them with all the pauses and emphases that the writer put in like you just thought them on the spot because you’re involved with this other person onstage with you, and you don’t know from moment to moment what she’s gonna do, except you damn well better know. Or he.

I’m also doing it because I’m old enough not to care about looking like a ninny. At this point it doesn’t matter what kind of fool I look like, or what kind of fool I am, for that matter, which is quite pleasant. I didn’t realize how much energy I used up trying not to look silly until I stopped, which works out pretty good because I need all the energy I can scare up. I’m gonna practice my lines now.

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Sid Lewis

It’s too bad about Sid Lewis. No matter how things shake out with the corporal injury and assault charges from 2013, this silly reckless-masturbation charge is likely to do him in professionally.

Lewis is apparently a great music teacher, and a lot of people really like him, although I expect that’ll change, because some people are obsessive about sex of any kind, especially if it has anything to do with children and even if it’s imaginary. I think laws about sex, including age restrictions, are automatically unnatural and give too much influence to the most neurotic and fearful among us. The goddamned Puritans are everywhere.

I can see how a 17-year-old girl would be alarmed at finding her employer looking at her while he masturbated, and one source says her reaction was to look away. Smooth move. She looked again, of course, and she says he was still at it. Sid apparently takes masturbation seriously, which I respect.

Actually, I don’t know if any of this is true. I read a couple of articles online, and one said that when the girl saw him she “walked away.” The Enterprise-Record site says she “looked away,” so who the hell knows the details? Not me.

There’s something wrong with a society where a man can’t jack off in his own home. Whether the girl walked away or looked away doesn’t matter. She was free to go. There’s no good reason for Butte County to be involved.

Lewis apparently has his full complement of demons, and now he’s looking at hard time. I feel for him. He and the girl have known each other for years. He surely knew the risk, and yet he trusted her enough to rub one out in front of her. I suspect he’s made other bone-headed decisions.

I also feel for the girl, and I’m glad she needn’t be damaged by all this. The damage has been done to conventional wisdom over many years by punk-assed, fear-mongering legislators. A heterosexual man who isn’t attracted to 17-year-old girls is unusual.

Rather than laughing at Lewis, which he totally deserved, or rolling her eyes and finishing her work, or asking her family to take care of it, or storming out in a huff, or any other way she could respond, these days it makes some kind of sense for a young woman in that situation to call in the government.

I’ve read that he didn’t touch her or try to coerce her, and her psychic burden is whatever she makes it out to be. She’s still in charge of her experience, and that’s good for her; for Lewis, not so much. We could just make him go to therapy and a shaman and maybe do some Reiki. It’d be cheaper than prison and might actually help him.

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Censorship

The Chico News & Review has refused to print From the Edge twice in two months. Do you think they’re trying to tell me something?

The first time an editor rejected my work was in late ’97. Minnesota Law & Politics had recently published a piece about cops, but when I submitted an article about parent’s rights the editor decided it was way more than the lawyerly community could stand. The magazine has since gone out of business.

I started writing From the Edge in 1998, and when we moved to California I’d phone them in to KFAI radio. My producer refused to broadcast one because I had absent-mindedly used one of the words the Federal Communications Commission bans. My bad.

A while back whoever was my editor then—I’m on my eighth—refused to print a column I’d written about clemency for Roman Polanski. The editor said the whole staff agreed with him.

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece about my recent experiences with mental illness and the way mentally ill people are treated in Butte County, one person in particular. That time CNR staff decided that what I’d written might get the paper sued, and they refused to print it. Fine. Wussy, but fine.

This last refusal takes the cake. I wrote about the Sid Lewis mess, based entirely on published accounts on web sites of the Chico Enterprise-Record and KRCR television, and I referenced nothing that wasn’t available around the world. I didn’t think privacy would be an issue, and it wasn’t.

I’m usually way behind the news cycle, but Lewis had only recently been arrested for masturbating in front of a 17-year-old girl, and I had something to say about both him and the girl. I didn’t know anything about Lewis’s arrest last year on charges of assault with a firearm and corporal injury to a spouse until I read about it in the CNR. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for being up to date when actually I wasn’t so much current as too soon. Unbeknownst to me, there’s apparently a limit on these things.

Here’s what my editor said, in part, “It’s a brand new case and there is way too little information available to be putting out opinions in the paper as to what’s going on with either Sid or especially the girl who made the allegation.”

I’m not a reporter, and I feel no obligation to be fair or balanced. I never thought anybody would expect me to toe the CNR’s editorial line in any way out here on the edge, because I haven’t and I don’t. I guess that’s the problem.

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Dating

A couple of months after I graduated to widowerhood, a friend of mine in Minneapolis sent me a link to a dating web site. I have good friends who have been together for many years and who met that way. I can understand how it could work just fine. I tried a personal ad once in Chicago in the early eighties and once in the Twin Cities, with poor results, and I know that’s not much of a sample.

I’m not looking. I was curious, though, so I signed up, and let me tell you, there are a lot of women on the hunt between Sacramento and Redding, which is where most of my candidates live. Every day I get an email with nine little profile pictures of women, usually of her though sometimes obscuring her face, which I don’t quite get. One woman’s picture was of only the top half of her face. Why would she do that? Maybe she has a beard.

Most of the images are slapdash snapshots and don’t do their subjects any favors, which is good. Give me the truth right away. With each picture is the woman’s screen name, home city, and age. So far they’ve been mostly in their 50s and 60s, which makes sense, now and then a 40- or 70-something, and once a lost 38. Now and then there’s a picture of an obviously younger woman that’s apparently how she still thinks of herself. I don’t want to fool anybody, though, and I think I’d use the ugliest photo of me I could manage, so if we picked each other maybe she’d be pleasantly surprised.

For the compatibility questions, I was to answer for myself and also say what I’d want my date to pick. So I could value appearance and want my date to value personality. Some criteria, like smoking or drinking, could be reasonable starting points for winnowing the crop. Others might easily be irrelevant. I’ve been involved with women with children and, believe me, whether a relationship would be hindered by having children at home depends entirely on the children in question.

All that’s academic, because I’m not ready to take an online plunge like that. I don’t know that I’ll ever be. So far the whole process feels too strange and removed to be engaging, but I’m not ruling it out. I love women and enjoy their company. That’s been true forever and has nothing to do with my emotional state. Maybe I’ll put that in my profile, except I’m not looking.

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