Friday, July 14, 2006

Good at Sports? You Must Be Black.
I had an interesting chat with a self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christian at the local pool this morning. She confessed to reading my columns and liking them, though she was quick to point out that she didn't always agree with them ( doubt).

During our talk, she mentioned to me that she was a single mother of 8 (!) kids; four are grown and out of the house, 2 are hers, and the other 2 at home are actually her grandchildren of whom she has legal custody. She started talking about one of her grandkids, a 5-year-old boy who shows great athletic promise. Then, she looked me in the eye and with all seriousness said, "His mother says it's because he's half black."

Holy mother of god, I didn't see that coming. There, under the crowded shelter of the public pool, I snorted. Loud. Ear-popping loud, so much so that people jumped. Do people really still attribute natural ability in sports to one's skin color? I couldn't believe my ears, and after snorting, I just stared at her, dumbfounded. When I could trust my voice to speak without laughing, I told her that I highly doubted his blackness, regardless of total percentage of ethnicity, had anything to do with it. She shrugged her shoulders. "You never know," she said. "No," I replied. "Some of us know."

"All I know," she continued, "is that he can't sit still and is always on the go. My other 5-year-old granchild (a white girl) is content to sit and color." In my mind, I was still trying to come to grips with the fact that this woman was serious. Out loud, I suggested, "Perhaps they just have completely different personalities. It does happen." She agreed that could actually be the case.

Cuz I guess black kids don't like to color, and white kids can't kick goals on the soccer field.

We are so doomed.
Former Coal-Mining Town More Progressive Than Windsor?
I just read a news article announcing that the town of Hazleton, PA (a place I know cuz I've been there), recently found a way to restrict immigration by requiring all legal documents to be written in English.

Aside from being impressed that this relatively small town could get its poop in a group to pass this law (4-1), I immediately thought of Windsor, and how we're not even able to develop ordinances to deal with the cats-at-large situation we've got going on.

Both papers in town have run articles about residents who are upset with all the cats that just roam through neighborhoods. One woman even found a cat corpse in her window well! Imagine how that animal suffered, especially in this searing heat we've been experiencing. That cat probably cooked from the inside. Other residents complain of finding cat poop in their sandboxes (been there) and on their lawns (been there, too). And what does our amazingly unenlightened police chief have to say? "What do you want, cats on leashes?"

Yes! Cats on leashes would be one option. A quick search on the Internet brings up cat ordinances from towns all across America. How is it those towns can devise guidelines and plans, but ours can't? Some towns require cats over the age of six months to be spayed and neutered. Others require leashes, nearly all require registration and collars. Cats that are allowed to roam freely are picked up by animal control, and owners are required to pay an impound fee if they want their pet back.

All of these laws make sense; surely Windsor can come up with something. Free-roaming cats are more than a nuisance. They can become dangerous because they carry and spread numerous diseases. With all the children this town is home to, do you want diseased cats running around? And let's look at it from the cat's perspective for a moment: The life of a free-roaming cat is shorter and harder than the life of one who is treated as a real pet (meaning, kept safe at home; well-fed; generally taken care of).

When people acquire pets, they assume an inherent responsibility for their well-being and safety. Let's hold them up to that responsibility. We wouldn't allow parents to let their babies and toddlers run through the streets, poop in neighbors' yards, or climb up someone's screen door. Why is it we allow pets to do that?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How I Got Here...What Really Happened
So I write a local newspaper column for three years here in Windsor, Colorado. It's popularity grows and my kids get frustrated because we can't go anywhere in town without some reader stopping me to tell me I made her cry or he liked the way I said what everyone in town was thinking but didn't dare say out loud. That column, published in The Windsor Tribune, was called The Family Room.

But then my very excellent editor had a baby and had the audacity to decide to stay home and raise her daughter with her own two hands (imagine!). So I was left with a reporter promoted to editor who I think is a control freak and who wanted to approve the topics I wrote about ahead of time. I got a healthy chuckle out of that idea, said "I don't think so," and wrote my last column for that paper.

Then I walk across the street to Windsor's other local paper, The Beacon, and I ask the editor there if he'd like to publish my column. He enthusiastically says yes, he would. So I rename the column The Front Porch, and I write my first one, published on Saturday, July 1. The column never made it to the online edition of the paper because, well, who knows why. What it did do is make the school board mad because I think they were spineless in how they handled a situation and I said that. Well, I actually said they "seemed to have misplaced their spines," but the meaning remains the same. I also said I believed another party involved in the situation used the influence and power of wealth to get the school board to roll over and play dead, and so I imagine that party was also pretty mad.

My esteemed editor calls me 2 days after my column was published to tell me he's "taking a lot of heat" on my column. Although he proofread the column before sending it to press, he managed somehow not to notice that I did not name a source who shared with me information, but who I instead called "a reliable source." During that phone conversation, the editor informed me that the paper's policy is to name all sources. Well, thanks for telling me that ahead of time, and for doing such a good proof job, I'm thinking. There's a reason sources don't want to be named, and it's because they're sources!

At any rate, my editor explains to me that he feels he must write a disclaimer saying my opinion is not necessarily that of the paper (and in this case, our opinions were completely opposite). I had no problem with that at all. But in reality, that's not what he did. Instead of doing as he said he would, he apologized to readers if they found my column offensive, and said the paper has a policy of not using unnamed sources. He then says, and I quote, "Valentine might not have been aware of that policy." Hmmm...ya think? Since he never told me about it, did not proofread carefully enough to catch it before going to print, and only told me about it 2 days after my column is published? Maybe I didn't know about it? Ironically enough, the morning of the day he published that smashing, butt-covering editorial, he sent me an email that said, and again, I quote,
As for your first column, I think we’re clear about unnamed sources now. I apologize for not making that point clear before. I also should have spent more time looking at your column last week. I was swamped with the launch and didn’t give it the close read I should have. If I had, we could have resolved that matter quickly.

So imagine my surprise when I realize he pinned his failure on me and hung me out to dry. My pseudo-editor at the
Trib got on my case because I wrote a column praising a local auto repair shop (Windsor Auto) and actually named it. How the hell am I supposed to share the news of great companies if I can't name them? He got a letter from a reader (affiliated, I suppose, with one of the other local auto shops that suck) who was miffed that I didn't talk about every other shop in town. But my column wasn't about every other shop, I don't like the other shops, I've had crappy service at the other shops. And now, at the Beacon, I'm being blamed because I did not provide a name.

My editor sends me an email, telling me he doesn't want my opinion columns, which floors me because The Front Porch is an op-ed column. He wants the feel-good stuff, the funny stuff. Reading between the lines, what he seems to not want is trouble, so I'm wondering why he hired me in the first place, especially when I made it a point to remind him that sometimes, my column is controversial, and he was okay with that.

So I give up. I had high hopes for the
Beacon, but when your editor so obviously doesn't have your back and caves under pressure from the powers that be, then tells me I'm relegated to writing fluff, what's the point of trying? So I'm starting this blog. I'll miss having print editions of my columns, but I think the tradeoff is worth it. Here I can say what I have to say, you can say stuff back to me, and we don't have to worry about editors who worry about pissing people off.

I hope you'll visit
The Front Porch frequently. I'll try to write at least weekly; more often if my kids are driving me insane (see my profile for pertinent info) or I'm feeling frustrated by the seeming abundance of people who can't commit to anything in this town. I welcome your comments and feedback. If you like what you read here, please tell your friends and invite them to join us. If you don't like what you read here, please tell your friends, too. Usually if someone gets mad at something I say, it's because there's some truth to it.

Thanks for stoppin' by...I'll leave the light on.