Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, February 4, 2023

MVNews this week:  Page 13



Mountain Views-News Saturday, February 4, 2023 






Susan Henderson


Dean Lee 



Patricia Colonello




John Aveny 


Peter Lamendola


Stuart Tolchin 

Audrey Swanson

Meghan Malooley

Mary Lou Caldwell

Kevin McGuire

Chris Leclerc

Dinah Chong Watkins

Howard Hays

Paul Carpenter

Kim Clymer-Kelley

Christopher Nyerges

Peter Dills 

Rich Johnson

Lori Ann Harris

Rev. James Snyder

Katie Hopkins

Deanne Davis

Despina Arouzman

Jeff Brown

Marc Garlett

Keely Toten

Dan Golden

Rebecca Wright

Hail Hamilton

Joan Schmidt

LaQuetta Shamblee





 Tough question, isn’t it? I was very saddened (I guess 
that’s the opposite of being happy even though there is no 
specific word for it) when I read that the United States is 
ranked nineteenth in terms of overall population happiness. 
I know that such a ranking makes little sense. Populations 
are composed of separate individuals whose actual feelings 
change from moment to moment. What is happiness anyway? 
I know that it is much easier to recognize unhappiness 
than it is to recognize its opposite. David Foster Wallace described 
this dilemma in what is famously called The Fish 
Story in a part of a commencement speech. The gist of the story is that “there are 
these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming 
the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ 
And the two young fish swim on for a bit. And then eventually one of them looks 
over at the other and goes, ‘WHAT THE HELL IS WATER?” 

 I think Wallace was reminding graduating seniors and himself in The Fish 
Story that their future experience of life will have little to do with knowledge and 
everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, 
so hidden in plain sight all around us that we have to keep reminding ourselves over 
and over: “This is water.” This is “keeping your eye on the ball” and this is happiness. 

 Of course a few years after the speech Wallace committed suicide by hanging 
himself at his house in Claremont. For some important reason which I cannot identify 
I went and took a picture of his house. Wallace was a wonderful comic writer 
whose suicide emphasizes to me that there are many sides to the same coin. I am 
pretty certain that he did his very best to stay cognizant of what was best in his life 
but although doing his best he could not fight off the depression that plagued him. It 
is a sad truth that when we are happy we are often unaware of the feeling and notice 
it much more in its absence. 

 For the past three weeks I have been invaded by the Covid virus. Many people 
describe it as being simply like a bad cold. For me, although the symptoms included 
respiratory and bronchial problems these were not the worst of the problems. 
My sense of taste and smell was affected but that too was tolerable. The worst thing 
was that my mind was affected and as I have written in my past two articles, I am 
confused and remain so.

 By the way, I don’t really pretend to know what a mind or my mind is. It’s 
not something physically identifiable like a nose, or a mouth, or a brain. What we 
refer to as the mind is a whole series of connections and messages pulsating through 
us, some of which actually reach consciousness. Sometimes we even know what 
actual life experiences influenced our ideas but that is rare. Do I create my ideas or 
do they create me? Who cares about such questions? I do! I want to be aware of the 
“water” around me and the “water” inside me. I want to be in charge of my own life-
experience and yet during my Covid experience and even now, I have trouble finding 
my way home. I want to notice the beauty around me, after the rains the hills are so 
beautiful and I love hearing the sounds of the water in the channel right next to our 
house and up above the cloud formations are so interesting and beautiful and, all at 
once, I notice that I am lost.

 Maybe it’s the “mind fog” associated with the Covid that will linger on, or 
maybe it is symptoms which are associated with old age eventually leading to Alzheimers 
and dementia. For years I have lost my wallet and my keys and my calendars 
but I don’t want to lose my mind. I had my hearing tested today and was 
told that because I have neglected to wear my hearing aids this may well contribute 
to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. How much money am I willing to spend on 
expensive hearing aids rather that use the money for travel or other emergencies? I 
am now a retired person and really miss the social interaction that was a part of my 
daily life for seventy years. The world has changed as it always does and I gather that 
that today everyone feels pretty vulnerable and would rather not talk about personal 
things or ponder philosophical questions.

 I try with my failing eyesight to keep my eye on the ball and report on what I 
still see as “truth” I wish that you and David Foster Wallace were around so we could 
talk about it; but I will continue to do the best I can and hope you do the same.

 Maybe by next week I will be less confused. Happy Valentine’s Day! 

One of the great joys in my life is stumbling 
upon unintentional humor…in 
my reading that is.


The enemies of unintentional humor are editors and proofreaders. In a 
perfect world they should be banned…with all due respect to my brilliant, 
beautiful, bewitching publisher and editor “Siouxsin Hendorsin”.


Advertising often offers a cornucopia of wonderful misprints. Take restaurants 
for example:


“Try Our Homemade Pies – They Are a Real Threat!”

“Customers who consider our waitresses uncivil ought to see our 

“Open seven days a week and weekends.”


Advertising about clothing can always be fitting or not.


“We do not tear your clothing with machinery. No, we do it carefully 
by hand.”

“We will oil your sewing machine and adjust tension in your home for 
only one dollar.”

“Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops!”

“Men’s wool suits, $3.00! They won’t last an hour!”


Laundromat sign: “Automatic washing machines. Please remove all 
your clothes when the light goes out.”


Sign in an auto repair garage: “Free pickup and delivery. Try us once 
and you’ll never go anywhere again.”


Sign outside a radiator repair shop: “The best place in town to take a 


Sign on a plumber's van: “We repair what your husband fixed.”


In a Florida hospital maternity ward: “No children allowed.”


Church sign: “For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we 
have a nursery downstairs.”


Of course, want ads have always been a hot bed of misprints (no editors 

“Dog for sale: eats anything, fond of children.”

“Snow blower for sale – only used on snowy days.”

“Free puppies: Half cocker spaniel and half sneaky neighbor’s dog.”


Ear Piercing Shop: “Ear piercing while you wait.”

 “Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to 
take home too.”


And talk about compassion: “We note with regret that Mrs. Calhoun is 
recuperating from an automobile accident. (Drat)”


Sign in a loan company office: “Ask about our plans for owning your 


And there are always some notable headlines:


“Chef Throws Heart Into Helping Feed Needy.”

“Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted.”

“Police Found Safe Under Blanket.”


Here is a scientific find worth noting:


“Infertility unlikely to be passed on.”


Life is meant to be enjoyed even while it’s being endured. I hope in some 
small way I help bring a smile to your faces. 


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It was my first coming of age rite. I could feel the rapid 
palpitations of my heart and growing dampness in my 
armpits. Silently I cursed the discount store solid stick deodorant 
my mother always bought. I had changed my outfit 
three times before settling on my DIY bleached bell bottom 
jeans with my KC and the Sunshine Band, “Shake Your 
Booty Tour” t-shirt. 

We had met once before, briefly, but then there were dozens of people chatting and 
distractions abounded everywhere.

It was just after lunch on an Indian summer afternoon, the leaves were beginning to 
burnish into their amber hue. His car pulled up in front of my house. I ran down from 
my porch and he, very gentlemanly, opened the car door for me. Nervously, I climbed 
into the front seat, he closed my door and got in beside me.

I was elated yet dreaded the “what if’s” to come. He turned to me, his deeply set hazel 
eyes barely peeked out from the furry unibrow that dominated his balding pate. 

“Turn the key and start the car.” he said.

For the next 30 minutes I tortured that stick shift Volkswagen Beetle, grinding the 
camshaft as I shifted again and again into the wrong gear. I waited too long to turn left 
and almost hit a pedestrian when I turned right.

Four weeks later and a newly diagnosed case of peptic ulcer for my driving instructor 
Mr. Papadopoulos, I passed my driving test and became another wayfarer on the 
turnpike of life.

In the decades since, I’ve had my fair share of one-finger salutes. I’ve contributed to 
the livelihoods of mom and pop body shops with a running tab of minor dents, curbside 
scratches and the occasional side mirror replacement, but it wasn’t until I moved 
abroad that I experienced truly bad driving; drivers that make LA traffic look like the 
Radiator Springs Racers at Disneyland.

Paris, Rome, New Delhi, Tijuana, Saigon, Bangkok - the only rule that counts is Darwin's 
Rule - survival of the fittest. Tailgating, cutting in, using the emergency shoulder 
as a HOV lane - it’s basically the “I gotta be in front” mode.

But what happens when you take a nation of 1.3 billion bicyclists and let loose 400 million 
of them in cars? In the mid 90’s with the blind leading the blind, official driving 
tests were an easy pass - if you were a car mechanic. The majority of the test focused 
on the inner workings of the vehicle, but a little grease goes a long way and suddenly 
the roads were full of drivers randomly weaving through traffic, ignoring pedestrians, 
stop signs, and not bothering to signal - just like bicyclists.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of drivers all with the minimal skills and experience 
of your neighborhood teenager. Even road rage looked very different in a country 
where firearms are restricted only to government personnel.

I witnessed an incident on a four lane highway where a hulking grey Mercedes cut 
off a mid-size Peugeot. The Peugeot sped up but didn’t have the horsepower to match 
the German velocity of the Mercedes. Then suddenly, a car in front of the Mercedes 
missed its exit and reversed back into oncoming traffic. The Mercedes swerved, putting 
it within a hand's width of the Peugeot, a broomstick popped out of the Peugeot's 
passenger window and swung wildly at the Mercedes. The Mercedes dropped behind, 
letting it pass only to be hit with a bushel of seasonal melons launched from the back 
of the Peugeot. The damage to the melons were irreversible, the Mercedes required a 
full car detail, even today, the odd melon seed makes its way up from inside the grill.

And the insights I captured from all this global driving experience?

Use your turn signals or reap the whirlwind of - seasonal melons.

Dinah Chong Watkins column appears every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month.

Mountain Views News

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