Missed It by That Much

Silicon Alleys

Your birth is a mistake you’ll spend your whole life trying to correct.
—Chuck Palahniuk

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.


  1. Gary,
    I really like your column. It has always intrigued me that some people seem to look for ways to find fault with everything, or everyone. You can be talking about a very important topic, and make a comment that was misconstrued by a few, and the critics of the world will twist that one small thing into a huge debate that eventually becomes a personal assault. Look at Obama, Clinton, and others who say one thing but didn’t mean it in the context people take it. I guess it is easy to criticize others rather than finding compassion for them, or looking at the topic or point being made. Having a thick skin is probably a must in your business!

  2. “Missed It By That Much” reminds me of the 1957 song “Silhouettes” by The Rays, which reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Harold Miller (lead), Walter Ford (tenor), David Jones (tenor) and Harry James (baritone) sang the lyrics:

    Lost control and rang your bell, I was sore
    Let me in or else I’ll beat down your door
    When two strangers who had been, two silhouettes on the shade
    Said to my shock, you’re on the WRONG block
    Rushed down to your house with wings on my feet
    Loved you like I never loved you, my sweet
    Vowed that you and I would be two silhouettes on the shade
    All of our days, two silhouettes on the shade

  3. Gary’s column rocks on a fairly consistent basis.  I suspect there has been mixing and matching going on for decades regarding Eddie Arnold and Eddie Albert so Gary is hardly the first to suffer this lapse.  Throw in Arnold the pig and you’ve got regular rubix cube scene going.  And I’ll bet Gary is proud to know there are some sharp people reading his column and keeping him on his toes.  What if he wrote a column full of mistakes and nobody noticed?  I think he prefers to know that people are taking the time to read his column carefully. Maybe the Metro is “just” a weekly alternative paper but there’s nothing wrong with holding them to a certain standard of accuracy in what all contributors are reporting on or otherwise writing about.

  4. Don’t worry about a few mistakes, Mr. Singh. As a journalist, you’re expected to be ignorant of the fundamentals of the subject about which you are writing.
    Keep it up and some day you’ll land a good job at the local major newspaper!

  5. Gary –
      It could be worse.
      The Merc has a regular feature called “Setting The Record Straight.”