Your birth is a mistake you’ll spend your whole life trying to correct.
PART OF being a respectable columnist is to exhibit a strong degree of self-confidence and integrity when admitting one’s mistakes. Since I have committed more than my share of embarrassing howlers over the years, I feel the time is right to do just that. So here are a few to get us started.
In August of 2007, I suggested that both the Santa Clara County Fair and the Berryessa Flea Market should be moved into the empty retail space at City Hall. I thought it was a perfect idea, given that the futures of both the flea market and the fair are in jeopardy, and in pure downtown San Jose fashion, it really looked like nothing would ever move into the empty ground-level retail spaces of City Hall and the parking garage next door at Fourth and San Fernando. But since I had lumped both those buildings under the banner of “City Hall retail,” it took a respectful call from Tom Manheim in the city manager’s office to remind me that the garage building is not part of City Hall, that it’s a completely different building. Fair enough.
In a similar faux pas, a column last January found me conversing with Jeffrey Deane Turner, the alleged Tiffany stalker and conspiracy theorist, one of the heroes depicted in Sean Donnelly’s independent film I Think We’re Alone Now. In the column I reported about Turner’s take on the battle between the Illuminati and what I thought he referred to as the “Old secular right/international fascism.” Well, that was wrong. Before Turner’s autograph session at the Cinequest showing, he informed me that the Old Secular Right and the International Fascism strains of the conspiracy are not on the same side. They are actually at war with each other instead. “You missed that one,” he told me.
In yet another colossal blunder, just three weeks ago, in a piece titled, “Backwater Renaissance,” I mixed up Eddie Albert from Green Acres with country music legend Eddy Arnold. When describing a certain house, I said it was like “stepping into an episode of Green Acres and you’re just waiting for Eddie Arnold to walk out with a pitchfork.” This was a quintessential brain fart, as I absolutely knew the difference between the two, but some synapse in my brain just temporarily disconnected itself. One reader immediately chimed in with this gem: “I’m sure, however, that Mr. Arnold knows his way around a pitchfork a damned sight better than Mr. Albert.” I totally agree and I think what happened is that I unconsciously mixed up Albert’s character with that of Arnold the Pig, also a personality from Green Acres.
Finally, for the cover story on the Lake Cunningham Skate Park two weeks ago, I recklessly described the “fields of dandelions” surrounding the asphalt skatepark. Well, turns out they’re not dandelions after all, and Arvind Kumar of the Santa Clara County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society informed me that “the lovely yellow flowers at the skate park are not dandelions, pesky invasive plants from Europe. They are California goldfields (Lasthenia californica), a lovely native annual that was once common in the Santa Clara Valley until the advent of agriculture, ploughing, orchards and later asphalt.”
Touché. That was a gaffe of the highest order. I was nowhere near the mark on that one. I guess the only cornball explanation I can manufacture is this: Those skaters in that story, as well as myself, are originally from San Jose, Calif., so much of what we know, naturally, is concrete and weeds. In fact, we’ve been pesky, invasive dudes for most of our lives. We probably are the weeds in this town, for crying out loud. Ultimately, to err can be human and inhuman, natural and unnatural. In my case, it’s probably all of the above.