17 February 2014

"Big Fish in a Small Pond" Part Nine of My Month Long Autobiographical Series - Countdown to 60



I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva

I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me

I'm burning through the sky yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Don't stop me now
I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
- Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen

There I was on top of the world. The big fish in the little pond. I was in my early twenties handsome healthy and in a career I loved and was good at. Social occasions were second nature to me. Especially those that involved alcohol. I had friends and lovers galore and not a care in the world. It felt like unbridled joy was my new lot in life. Mom was hundreds of miles and years away. Step mom was a nuisance but she too lived far away. Big brother was back after several years in Finland and he now boasted a Finnish wife of great charm and intelligence.

In the Chico of the late Seventies I was something of a celebrity. My byline dominated the pages of the nascent Chico News & Review. I had even been the answer to a popular local radio show’s quiz. I was sportswriter extraordinaire but also a fearless news reporter likening myself to Woodward and Bernstein who through their exposure of Watergate and subsequent book and the film starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford (All the President’s Men) were heroes to all fledging reporters.

My attire was carefully planned each day to look as cool and cute and yet professional as possible. Long blonde locks kissed my shoulders and I generally wore a sly smile. Ever present was a natty jacket with big pockets. In one I kept my ever handy spiral notebook in another a pint of whiskey. In an inside pocket was a pack of smokes. My diet consisted mostly of coffee booze and cigarettes with occasional big meals thrown in. Sleep was not indulged in except for prolonged weekend hibernations to catch up. Any form of exercise was now eschewed though I did not hesitate to boast of my past athletic accomplishments complete with exaggerations.

There was never any problem finding dates. I was also part of a social whirl which included eligible women in my age group. I had no inclination to settle on one in particular. If you said I was a cad I’d not argue. But to most I was a wit and dazzling conversationalist. (It was at this time that I met the woman who nine years later I would marry. But that relationship shall not be discussed here. Suffice to say however that it -- along with the children resulting from it -- are the great joys of my life.)

The fact is that I was a damn good reporter being diligent persistent clever and unafraid. If nothing else it fed my enormous ego to write a good story and receive the subsequent encomiums. A particular talent was interviews. I knew how to charm or cajole or probe as the subject and person required. I was fair and balanced long before an entire network pretended to be. No one was better aware of my talents than I. Depending on how one looks at it I was at my best/worst. I certainly had a high opinion of myself which in some respects wasn’t the worst possible circumstance I could place myself in. But I had no sense of balance no perspective and not an ounce of humility. One looks back at such a lad and sees him headed for a rather dramatic fall. What a surprise then that -- as will be recounted in the next installment -- the fall was so slow self inflicted and strange and utterly lacking in drama.

Meanwhile the newspaper was a vibrant part of an energetic town. I thought I was living in the center of the universe. Previously Berkeley had been the coolest place in the world but now it was Chico. Everything about my circumstances in the first few months of 1979 were perfect. I was even trying to quit smoking. So why did I leave this eden?

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