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Friday, May 2, 2003

My isolation is self-inflicted, and mostly welcome. I don't go out much, and I have ways of keeping people at a distance. I have an unlisted phone number, and I live at the distant end of a muddy rutted driveway, far enough outside of town that it's inconvenient for casual visitors.

The fortress isn't exactly impenetrable, though. My "unlisted" number is also the phone number that's on the company's letterhead and business cards. There's even a toll free number that rings on my home line, so business calls are always jangling the walls around here. That's why I sometimes screen my calls and turn the ringer off every night.

Even if I didn't work at home, an unlisted number still wouldn't keep the credit card companies, newspapers, record clubs and charities from finding me. You can't keep away from some telemarketers even if you're on the no-call list, because the lobbyists have managed to get so many exceptions written into the laws.

In fact, I'm not sure what advantage there is to an unlisted number. Maybe I still don't want the people who tortured me in high school to know how to find me. You know, there are so many bullies in their mid-fifties running up and down the halls looking for someone to smack down. And they all remember my name, because they were so careful to get to know me when they were beating me up back in 1965.

As for visitors, I have to give directions to people who are trying to find me, like auditors and delivery people, even if they've been here before. Nobody shows up at my door unannounced or unexpected. I think even the weeds help discourage the odd stranger from taking a chance on coming up the drive. Maybe that's why I don't put forth much of an effort toward making the place look inviting, or even friendly.

The two exceptions are the guy who brings my bottled water every other Friday morning, and the mail carrier who manages to find my end of the driveway whenever I have a package. Sometimes I think I only order stuff so that she has to bring the mail all the way to the door. Today, when she delivered the two aquarium books I ordered, it saved me a walk in the rain and mud.

You can imagine my surprise when there was a second knock on my door this afternoon. It was the fellow who'd cut my weeds down last summer. I guess he couldn't help noticing that I needed help again. He's going to come by some time next week, assuming it stops raining one of these days. We didn't talk price, but I'll probably voluntarily give him at least twenty bucks more than he asks for, as I did the last time.

Isn't that great, though? Yesterday, two big problems semi-solved. Today, one more major demon on the verge of being neutralized. Plus, I have my two new aquarium books to peruse and devour as I get the tank ready for the long-awaited fish. And all of this is happening because I let myself open the door. Who knew?

1 May 03

The top of the young oak in the garden.

Weirdly, I not only had an unexpected visitor today, I also got a phone call that didn't fall into any of the usual categories. The woman asked for me by name, and then she told me there was a man in her restaurant who had forgotten his wallet. She described him and told me his name, and I confirmed that he was, indeed, the Boss, and that he was good for the check. "Thank you," she said. "I'll let him go."

I thought he might call me back later, at least to reassure me that he'd found his wallet, but I had to hear that from his ex-wife. She phoned to talk about her health insurance, which is handled through the company, and I told her the story. She immediately decided to phone him in San Diego, where's he's currently bivouacked, and hear his side.

She called back later to tell me he'd left the wallet at his daughter's house there, as I'd assumed, and not at a gas station in Bakersfield, as she thought might be the case.

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Tonight was the final play in the Santa Rosa JC Theatre Art Department's season. This being the end of the school year, they got ambitious and tried out Kaufman and Hart's "Once in a Lifetime," a broad farce about the dawn of the talking picture era in Hollywood.

There were some terrific performances, and at times the play snapped along as crisply as you'd expect a Kaufman and Hart show to move. But at other points the timing was off and the dialog was allowed to trickle and sputter, when it's supposed to flow like a torrent. There's room for improvement, but this was opening night of a student production which I expect will get better by the end of the run.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Unhappy Returns
"I'm out of it, and on the sidelines is where I plan to stay. I'm sure I'll get to hear about it until I know more than I want to."

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