JULY 22ND is my birthday, and if any of you say, "I knew you were a Cancer!" you are permanently prohibited from reading this newspaper. I'm way, way too old to care about birthdays. They seem to come faster and faster as the abyss grows closer and closer, so I'm just pleased as heck to wake up for another one.
ANYHOO, last Tuesday was July 22, my birthday. Like every Tuesday it was a work day. As usual, I rose at five. Put the coffee on. Tottered out to get the morning paper which, in Boonville, is the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. I can't help but note that there's a story about my attempt to stop the county from paying public money to a private lawyer to defend a lunatic the county hired. A picture of a man who isn't me sits in the middle of the story. The photo is of one of the pedophile priests the paper is always writing about. I'm not a priest, and I'm not a pedophile. And how did the Press Democrat know it was my birthday?
SO, I've been awake for ten minutes and I've already been defamed. We're off to a bad start, birthday boy. The mail arrives. I receive a single birthday card. It's a computer-generated congratulation from my insurance agent, a person I've never met. The day grows warm, then hot. The work day grows long, then longer. But Tuesdays are always long. So are Mondays and Sundays and most other days in this business. Outback newspaper publishing is a fool's game. I'm right where I should be -- old and broke in Boonville. Nevertheless, I anticipate a slab of Safeway birthday cake on which I'd planned to erect a single candle and sing happy birthday to myself and my wife. But she's watching the Fox Network and says she can hear me from where she is if I feel like singing happy birthday. I look for the cake. It's not where a cake should be. It's outside on the porch where it was 105 two hours ago. The cake is a pile of grease. My colleague, The Major, "forgot" to bring it inside.
TO REDEEM what's left of the day, and just as O'Reilly begins barking in the next room, I decide to take my dog Perro up into the hills for a quick, restorative, pre-sunset hike. My birthday wasn't over yet! Pleasure was still a possibility! (Fox Network's Greta Van Susteren is my wife's fave, but she invariably stays around for O'Reilly, too. I like Greta, but Bill......)
DEEP IN THE EAST HILLS above Boonville, in the middle of literal nowhere, a dog the size of a small bear suddenly appears! Bear-Dog charges straight at Perro. Perro's not very smart, and he's no fighter. He sticks around like he thinks Bear-Dog is going to be his new friend. Bear-Dog's intentions are hostile. He barrels into Perro and they're immediately locked in mortal combat. Perro is up on his hind legs fighting a rear guard action. The lady with Bear-Dog is tiny. She tries to separate the animals. Even if she weren't tiny, and even if I weren't mesmerized by the fight raging around us, both of us couldn't get the dogs apart. Perro is very strong. Bear-Dog is even stronger. I'm watching the fight and waving my walking stick around as if I'm somehow helping restore order when it occurs to me that my pathetic gesturing is not only ineffective, it's inane.
BY NOW, Perro is fighting for his life. He has no choice. Bear-Dog is trying to kill him. Perro's got about half of Bear-Dog's huge head locked in his jaws. Bear-Dog has his mammoth jaws sunk bone deep in Perro's bad leg. The snarling combatants tumble down an embankment and into a stream. The tiny lady follows them, still trying to restrain her Bear-Dog. I remain above the fray on the road and resume waving my walking stick. Bear-Dog tires. He's old, fortunately. If he were young Perro would be a goner. Me too, probably. Bear-Dog un-jaws Perro. Perro un-jaws Bear Dog. Perro runs off on his three functioning legs as Bear-Dog sucks in restorative oxygen. I catch up with Perro and hide him in a copse of young fir. Bear-Dog has gotten his second wind and is jogging up the road looking for us. Bear-Dog wants another round. Perro and I are well-hidden a couple of hundred yards away. Bear-Dog can't see us. He turns around and jogs off towards his apologetic owner. Perro's beat up pretty good. Bear-Dog is beat up, too, especially his face. Perro's exhausted. I lift him into the truck and we drive home. Perro immediately goes to sleep. I head for the freezer for some birthday ice cream.
THERE WAS NO ICE CREAM.
THE NEXT DAY I call the Press Democrat's corrections desk. "That wasn't me in yesterday's paper," I said to the lady who answered the phone. "That was a child molester." She laughs. "Are you sure?" I can check with my wife again if you want, I reply. She laughs again. "We'll certainly print a correction," she says. For the next five days I look for the correction. The correction appears on the fifth day after my name had appeared beneath the perv's photo. Here's what it said: "A photograph accompanying a story about Anderson Valley Advertiser publisher Bruce Anderson that ran in Tuesday's Empire section was misidentified as Anderson. The photo was supplied by the Los Angeles Times."
SURE IT WAS. Santa Rosa called LA and said, "We need a picture of Anderson. He's in the big file just before Bush and Kobe Bryant." The PD is run by true idiots. They blame the LA Times for something like this?
THE LA TIMES my patootie. That very day I happen to encounter a PD staffer. PD people are under strict orders not to be seen with me, not to communicate with me, not to associate themselves with me in any way. I'm a one-man no-go zone, and may the newspaper gods keep it that way. But PD reporters often communicate with me on the qt. This one says, "I heard that photo was a picture of some guy we took at the California Newspaper Publisher's Association meeting." I'll stay with the perv jacket, thank you. Newspaper publishers these days are a lot worse than any perv I can think of.