First Week In

Three things:

– My beats: fire, cops, breaking news, and meetings as needed.
– I work with some freakishly smart, amazingly creative people; two of whom I have now dueled with a lightsaber.
– The Game hasn’t changed much — get it fast, get it right, and get it (or a different part of it) first. Many of the players have also changed, but the ones who haven’t seem as happy to seem me as I am to see them.

Last week also found me chasing a fire, investigating a vehicle crash (no injuries, thank Gd), touring a local farm, and chatting with a now-retiring fire chief friend. It’s great to “be” a small-town newspaperman.


And so, to work.

It was four-and-a-half months since I was laid off from the sasonal office-manager position at a local nursery, and longer still since I worked in my official profession, when I picked up the phone to call Sonoma Valley’s newest newspaper. The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’ve been out of work for five years but I think I can help. Do you need any reporters?”


Well, not exactly like that. But pretty close. Anyway, I started yesterday at the Sonoma Valley Sun, and will be covering fires, cops/courts, and breaking news. (In addition to whatever else is needful, like features and (I hope!) columns.) Also, I’ve reclaimed the byline “Neal Ross” (which I adopted for radio back in 1995 since nobody can seem to spell or pronounce “Attinson,” and kept for newspapering since that’s how all my contacts knew me. They still do).

There’s a saying that the One rewards men only for the merit of their wives. I don’t generally hold with Deuteronomic reward/punishment theology, but seeing the relief on Ann‘s face makes me agree with at least a small part of it … Blessed is the One who makes our wives happy.

As for me, I feel as though I’m walking in a dream. But I’d better wake up before the deadline. ;-)

Thump, Flutter, Gak

I looked up from the computer, wondering about the “thump.” Then I saw the robin on the patio — fluttering wings outspread, struggling to get up.

Outside, through the gate, into the side-yard. “Are you okay?” I asked reflexively.

She wasn’t, at least at first. Her beak and eyes were wide open, and she was panting — or do robins always breathe that way? She seemed dazed but unhurt (no broken legs or anything), so I sat down next to her and babbled softly: “You poor thing. We’ll get you fixed up, give you some nice worm broth and pyracantha cobbler,” etc.

After about ten minutes (during which I wondered what I could wrap her in for transport to the local bird-rescue center), she closed her beak and blinked at me. Then she stood up, wobbled, and hopped away.

“Good! You’re okay!” I said, relief warming me more than the chill morning air. “But can you fly?”

She flapped her wings a couple of times, then rose from the patio and soared across the creek. I don’t think she saw the hawk. It took her in midflight and a cloud of feathers, with no sound but a faint rustle.


Natural Machines

A number of years ago, I got into a cocktail-party argument (or its boho-pomo equivalent, since we were in San Francisco in the 1980s) with someone who decried the “unnaturalness” of spaceflight. Her thesis, IIRC, was that humans were somehow apart from and opposed to Nature, as evidenced by the fact that “we make stuff instead of using what’s already there.” I asked, “What about beavewr dams and birds’ nests?” She got mad and found another people-knot. Would but that I could have steered her!

Process Served

One of the reasons I was ringing a stranger’s doorbell at 7 a.m. concerned a New Year’s resolution to “do something new each day.”

Another is that, as I’m currently on layoff, I could use the money.

My partner, Ann, has worked as a legal assistant for 25+ years (and is now working toward a career-changing BA). Occasionally her employer needs to serve process on someone (i.e., deliver the “We need you in court” papers), and if the regular guy isn’t around they ask someone else.

Today, I was the “someone else.”

Now, on the anti-authoritarian level I wasn’t too keen on the karmic consequences of hauling someone before The Man.

Exploring Mind

WHAT DIFFERENTIATES THE EXPLORER FROM other humans is his answer to the following question:

“If you could experience something that no one else ever had, but the cost was your own life, would it be worth it?”

Hiding the Hidden

Last week, we read in Parsha Beshallach about the departure from Egypt (Heb. “Mitzrayim”, or “narrows,” which the mystical tradition identifies with the forces of constraint and bad-habitry). Among the other nifty details is this one, from Exodus 13:21: “And YHVH went before them by day in pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light.”

This is traditionally seen as a cloud shot through with flame — one phenomenon (or metaphor-target) with two aspects. At our post-Shabbat Dinner chevrusa, Ann & I proposed this:

– When things go well, it’s easy to see the Path. When they don’t, we need a reminder that it’s there at all.

– The cloud also figures in this week’s portion, Yitro, where it surrounds Mt. Sinai prior to the Ten Statements. Perhaps this is one of Torah’s (not-so-)subtle Hints that, as Heraclitus put it (init caps added by me]: “The Nature of things is in the habit of concealing Itself.” In other words, that G!d can only manifest in hiddenness — in the mystery of direct experience.

I think this is one of the many, many things ungotten by Christopher Hitchens, Pat Robertson and other dogmatists: “If you can figure God out, what you’ve figured out isn’t God.” Buncha weenies — cluttering up the Godscape with conditions and qualifications, as though the primate brain has an exclusive on Truth…