Mathew D John is Having a Bad Day

There are many wonderful things about being married. In fact, I've found myself over the years being a marriage embassador extolling the virtues of wedlock. But there are fundamental differences between the way men and women view the world and relationships. At times this is something we can laugh about and sometimes it isn't. A dozen times in our 22 years of marriage I've found myself thinking "Wow, things are going pretty well right now" only to find that I'm living in an artificial reality bubble. There have been plenty of times when I've had the same thought and been right, but when I'm not, the collision of realities is shattering.

Here is one of the many indicators that you've got a problem. If you're sound asleep in bed and your spouse walks into the room, turns on the light and starts speaking in an angry voice while you are still trying to get yourself out of sleep, things aren't good. There have been times when I honestly had no idea what was wrong or what I had done. If you have to ask, it just makes the situation worse.

I've really been trying to avoid these situations. For the past 6 months or so, I've made it an goal of mine to think more about how my actions affect people around me. I have been trying to not assume that things are well, I've been actively trying to make them better. Part of this is just being more self-aware and actually dedicating part of your thought processes to examining your relationship. I know that this may be foreign to men, but it can be done. Well, I think it can be done. I guess the results of my experiment are still pending.

Last night Pamela slept downstairs in the living room with Colin who is suffering from the flu. She was going to keep him company and to be there in case he needed anything. I've learned that doing the "nightly" things like putting the dogs away, locking up the house and helping carry things upstairs is critical to marital happiness. So, I made sure things were settled and asked if it was ok for me to go to bed upstairs. I received assurances that it was fine, so I headed off to bed.

I've taken to listening to podcasts to get to sleep. This is partially due to the novelty of the thousands of podcasts that exist in the world and partially due to the lack of an engaging book on my nightstand. I usually use only one earphone so I can hear what's going on in the room, but even at that, it takes me a bit to hear something going on in the room. I don't think that Pamela likes this. I think she would much prefer that I become engrossed in a good book. Anyway, it's possible that I missed some activity downstairs, but I don't know.

What I do know is that at 6:00am, the house phone started ringing. I groped around in the darkness to find the phone. When I managed to get the phone to my ear and mutter a very sleep "Hello" there was a moment of silence. And then she said "So, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?" I snap awake immediately. Adrenaline rushes through my system and I search for my failure. The earphones, the list of "nightly" things and snippets of our conversations all pass fleetingly through my brain as I try to make sense of this question.

Then, I hear another sleepy "Hello" as Pamela answers the downstairs phone. Whoa. The light is starting to come on. "Who is this?", I ask. Pamela, who hasn't heard our mystery caller speak answers, "It's me!". Then there's a long pause and the woman on the phone asks "Is this 707-431-1043?" I tell her that it isn't and she quickly appologizes and hangs-up leaving Pamela and I talking to ourselves in the same house. It isn't much of a conversation as we hang up and try to get back to sleep.

In the morning, I do a reverse number lookup for the phone number she gave me. A house on Haydon Street with a phone number one digit different than ours. It's registered to Mathew D John and I head off to work thinking that he's not having a good day. Pamela and I have a good day.

The Town I Grew Up In

When people complain about changes in Healdsburg, I often tell them that they wouldn't have wanted to live in the town that I grew up in. That isn't to say that it was bad, it just isn't the thriving town that people see today. But, there are things that I miss and things that I think i would miss if I were older. Every Halloween, the local merchants would donate their windows for the window painting contest. As I kid, I never thought about who organized it, or who provided the supplies. All I remember is that each team was assigned to a window and the paint and paint brushes were waiting. After we did our best to draw witches, ghosts and pumpkins the adults would take over and judge all the windows in town. We never won, but we had fun. When and why this tradition stopped, I don't know. I just miss it and the festively painted windows around town.

I've seen plenty of pictures of the water parade that was an annual event in Healdsburg long before my time. Water Floats resplendid with flowers and decorations dotted the river at Memorial Beach with thousands watching on the beaches and bridges. I never saw it, but I would have like to.

Water Carnival
Water Carnival

On Easter there was also a parade and this I'll never forget.  I don't remember the particulars of the parade, only that it was on a weekday because my parents were at work.  Both my parents worked, but the four brother's were never at a loss for something to do.  We gave our parents a call and told them that we were going to dress up and enter the parade.  We also told them that we were going to win the first prize for the best costumes. They told us to go ahead - we've always had supportive parents.

For a bunch of kids, there isn't any way to describe the decision making process.  Was it Steve who decided to use the wagon?  Bruce who thought a Mexican Easter Bunny would be funny?  Maybe I'm the one that thought of using the sarape and sombrero that we had from our trips to Mexico.  One thing that I'm sure of; it wasn't Michael's idea to be the Mexican Easter Bunny. 

So, at midday, we found ourselves pulling 4 year old Michael in the Red Flyer wagon.  He had painted wiskers, and was dressed in every piece of Mexican clothing that we had.  He looked great.

We showed up at the office with the first prize Easter Basket in the wagon because it was bigger than Michael.  Our parents stared, open mouthed and speechless.  We weren't sure if they were in awe of the prize or our creation, but it didn't matter.  We just did what we set out to do.

Maybe that's what Healdsburg has done.  Back in the days when store windows had kid drawings at Halloween, our town plaza looked quite different.  The south side of the plaza was dominated by Garrett's Hardware Store.  An old fashioned hardware story with wooden floors and large nail bins.  They kept the rope downstairs and threaded the ends through holes in the floors where they were tied off.  From the top, there were just dozens of different size knots that could be pulled, measured and cut-off when needed. 

The U.S. Post office was on the east side of the plaza in the current Center Street Deli.  Observant visitors today notice the mail drop at the entrance which is the only clue to the former occupant.  A few doors down was Western Auto, which held much more interest for us kids.  Western Auto was the home off all new bikes.  Shiny and bright, these were such a focus of our attention that, athough I was in the store often, I can't tell you if they sold anything else.  I'm sure that they did, but all I remember are the bikes.

The side of the plaza that has gone through the largest transformation is the entire western block.  Nothing remains of what was there.  On the site of the Hotel Healdsburg was the Healdsburg Hotel.  A multi-story brick structure that I never set a foot inside.  I have a vague recollection that seedy types lives in this Hotel and that it was a Hotel only in name.  But I did spend a lot of time in the various retail establishments that occupied the streetfront.

Montgomery Wards had a "store" there.  It wasn't much of a store.  Just a small thing with nothing but catalogs and a large counter for picking up stuff.  The best part of Montgomery Wards were the cool stamp books that I got to paste stamps into.  Don't ask me how my Mom earned the stamps, I just know that my job was to paste the into the book.  When we collected enough books, we could order stuff from the catalog.  What a great business model these guys had, and so far ahead of their time.  It was on-line buying before the Internet was even a twinkle in someone's eye.  The history of Montgomery Wards is fascinating, but their failure to adapt to changing times was it's downfall.  They kept their downtime stores and pickup locations while the big box stores moved to malls.  Ironically, many of these big box stores like Sears, J.C. Penneys are now having a hard time competing in the on-line world of today.  If Montgomery Wards could have survived, they would have found that their centralized warehousing and nationwide shipping model would have proven successful.

The Office Cafe, Medico Drug store (with it's long, wooden back door hallway) were also in that block.  Perhaps a bar or two, but I wouldn't have paid any attention.  In fact, I think that there were a lot of bars downtown in those days.  And, when the Hells Angels came to town with seemly hundreds of motorcycles, we stayed away.  I think they were here for the bars.

So, our little plaza was practical and small town.  But, seldom exciting and certainly not vibrant.  Most of the weekends and evenings, the sidewalks were rolled up and there wasn't much activity.  That's a far cry from the tourist town that we have today with world-class restaurants and bookstores open until 10pm.  Sure, on a Friday or Saturday night you can’t eat downtown without having reservations.  But, during the week, they are all ours! 

Healdsburg General

I feel like I'm one of the few who both lives in Healdsburg and was born here. Of course, that's not really the case, this town has a long history of local families and generations of familial branches. It's just that this town is so different from the one that I grew up in, that it sometimes seems like even the inhabitants are new. The little green buildings in the middle of old residences are now in disrepair. The small loading dock where the ambulances unloaded their hurting cargo seems impossibly small. I remember visiting my mother here. We were building a deck around our above-group swimming pool when she tried to walk on deck that wasn't there yet. She fell a few across one of the deck supports which cause internal injuries. At the time, I don't think I knew this. I was just a frightened 9 year old.

In those days, Doctors still did house calls. My mother didn't go to the hospital immediately. the doctor came to see her. She was pale and in bed. After a night at home, she was admitted to the hospital. My brother's didn't get to see her, just me. My dad called me the worrier and knew that I was scared and worried about my mom. So, I got to visit. With no MRI or CAT scans, it was a wait and see approach to medicine and her body did fine with that. She recovered nicely, but that was the last time I set foot in the hospital. The next time I visited, it was my school.

But that wasn't my first visit either. The first visit was my birth. My parents wanted us to all be born in the same place and our family doctor, Dr. Thorton, was here in Healdsburg. For my two older brothers this mean a long car ride from Albany when the signs of labor came. But, when I was born, we were finally living in Healdsburg. In 1960, we lived on Twin Oaks way a few houses down from my paternal grandparents. Presumably, this made for a bit more leisurely trip from home to hospital.

When I was 5, my parents lied to me. From early on, I was known as the kid who always had his mouth open and drooled like crazy. Turns out tonsils and adenoids were a bit of a problem for me and by the time I was 5, it was clear that they needed to come out. So my parents told me that it wouldn't hurt and that I could have as much ice cream as i wanted. Seemed like a great adventure for me, so into the green hospital I went.

I remember fragments of this visit. I remember leaving our home on Coghlan and standing in the entry way in my pajamas. I remember the ether filled mask that they put over my mouth and nose. They told me to breathe deeply, but I tried to hold my breath because it smelled funny. That didn't work for long.

My parents tell me that when I woke up, I had a rough time. Almost immediately, the stitches came lose and a scary amount of blood issued forth. After another visit to the operating room, things progressed better. But ice cream? Well, ok, technically I could have as much as I wanted, but I didn't want any. And, well, it hurt a lot.

So, two visits as a patient and one as a visitor was all I had before they closed the hospital and opened a new one to the north. Then came the year that I was to enter Junior High. The old, beautiful Healdsburg Junior High classroom building was scheduled to be demolished the summer before my 7th grade year. The classic, two story concrete building was deemed an earthquake hazard and, in typical short-sighted view of the era, was to be replaced by a modern structure.

Two things about this event are worth noting. First, the old building wouldn't come down. It resisted the wrecking ball and even a large D-9's exterior attacks. Finally, they had to drive the bulldozers inside the gutted building and push the walls out from the inside. For an earthquake hazard, it did a remarkable job standing up to man's assaults.

Second, the new building was not classic, beautiful or modern. In a striking parallel to the demolition of the original Healdsburg City Hall, our leaders destroyed part of our history to create something that nobody treasures.

In those days, school didn't start until the prune picking was done. Unlike today when school schedules are negotiated with Teacher's unions and set in stone the previous year, we just started when we were ready. So, when the prunes were picked and the farmer kids ready to move on, we showed up at our new school. Only it was gone.

Without the main classroom building, our Junior High consisted of two rows of portable classrooms on the fields. But even that wasn't enough, so the school rented the recently vacated little green former "Healdsburg General" that was a couple of blocks to the west. They increased the time between periods just enough to allow kids to walk back and forth. First period in the gym, second in portable 3, and third period in room 1 at the hospital.

This is how I ended up taking 7th Grady history in the same room that I was born in. People say that I'm well grounded. I don't argue.