Dear John (or Dear Joan...or Dear Column in this case),
It has been nearly 3 years since we were introduced by friend Jason Campbell. Though he knew I was a man afraid of commitment, and one resolute within his state of bachelorhood. He saw something in you that I could not resist. A challenge. You’d been with men like Pat O’Leary and Carlon Perry in the past. A scary proposition for a man whose greatest claim to fame is going 10-0 as a sophomore quarterback, or that I’d never lost a fight to Tony Coit in our 40 years of friendship.
And so it began. Many wondered “Who does he think he is? He hasn’t the tact or gumption to be in a relationship with a high classed dame.”
“He’s had longer relationships with double scoop cones from Thrifty’s....I give it 3 months” — Lloyd Barbasol
The first few months were that awkward feeling out process. Just getting to know the ins-and-outs of you. I patterned our relationship out of the time you’d spent with the great Pat O’Leary. I knew in my heart that in order to win you over, I’d have to win over the people of the town. And never had you been happier than your time spent with Pat in the late 70s through 80s. I’d hoped we’d be able to rub elbows at coffee shops, and fill our page with curious day time adventures, the way you’d done in the past. The subtle way you two would cajole and prod the towns people back in the day, was the template by which I forged our love affair. It seemed to make both you and those around us feel safe, and even harken back to the days when you and Pat were the “it” couple. But I knew I could not keep up the facade for long. Though I was capable of cutting a rug in Pat’s shoes, the song and dance of my day is much different than his. He of the retired gentleman sort, while I’m more like a big dumb cat pawing at a ball of yarn. Incapable of creating something that isn’t already there and usually bored by time I’ve unraveled it completely.
Our relationship had to be different than the others. I was incapable of ushering you around town during the day. The burden of the dreaded job required my body be mired in a smelly tractor cab for 12 hours a day. How could I create new stories for us? Surely you – and those around us, would become bored of the monotony of “Today in the tractor.” So I took a chance, and listened to a man that has always helped to build up my relationships – and then ultimately destroy them.
“Ah, nobody really cares what you do anymore. And you’re stuck at work all day dummy. Just tell some of those old stories about the crazy crap you’ve done. If that doesn’t impress her, kick her to the curb!” — Tony Coit
Always a man of such graceful wordplay. I took a chance. Telling you tales of the great Ken Huckaby and me being an arrogant – yet loveable – high school athlete. Then I peppered in stories of orchard parties, and getting caught “in the act” on a ditch bank by my dad. It all felt a bit self serving. But when attempting to win the favor of a lovely column such as yourself, it’s horseshoes and hand grenades or nothing at all. And then I struck a chord. That moment you know a relationship has gone from cordial dating, to “It looks like I’m going to have to meet the parents.”
A column about getting kicked out of high school a week before graduation. An accusation of plagiarism, and a foul mouthed 17-year-old that thought he knew too much. I was afraid this story may alienate some that I didn’t want alienated. And those that I wanted to wouldn’t catch the dig. But I wrote it anyway. It was received with praise. Praise at candor. Praise at honesty. Praise at my willingness to expose my flaws and my past. But little did you know.......
I love attention. In all forms. So if exposing my past, present, and future misguided life decisions was entertaining, then so it shall be. And Manteca to a T became a dude four drinks in, telling bar stool stories from a newspaper.
It was a perfect relationship. Never forced. Never mistreated. Always a joy to coddle and dote upon...
…and though I knew you came from a family business, and in a field I quite enjoyed, I never pressed to hard to gain employment. I’d always assumed that hard work and nose to the grind would pay off. But this was never to come. I understood the need to keep me at arm’s length from the family business. A loose cannon is better to be shot and enjoyed from afar. Not to be given an official turret from which to fire my personal rancor. Her family was clear. I was not to be brought into the fold. Just a piece of arm candy for the masses.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Many of you know I’ve been writing this column for free. In some cases when questioned, I’d tell a person I was actually getting paid. Mostly to stave off that condescending and intolerable look that many give. Which inevitably is followed by “You write it for free?! Why aren’t they paying you?! I’d quit.”
For one, I wrote it because writing is my passion. There is a level of pleasure, therapy, and relief once a column is penned out completely. When you see a person returning from a golf outing, do you question why they just paid $85 to unsuccessfully knock a ball around for 3 hours?! No, because you know it’s something they enjoyed doing. This column has been my weekly 18 holes.
I had verbally committed to writing the column until New Years. But like many “couples”, I began to wake in the morning and question why we were still together. Was I willing to stick around the next 4 months? Like a couple going through the motions, because they are trapped in a shared apartment lease for the next few months?! Sometimes it is better to cut the cord, than play out the string.
And who knows? Had I been paid to write this column the last few years, the entire dynamic may have changed. There may have been apprehension on subject matter, in order to keep the status quo, and not ruffle or pluck feathers when I felt it necessary. Familiarity breeds contempt. So I appreciate the fact that I was never once given a directive by the Bulletin. Never once was I told what to write about. And was very rarely told, “We’re not printing that.”
But the unrequited grind of churning out a weekly has finally broken my desire. There are few things in my life I’ve been able to end on my own terms, relationships with women, friendships, jobs etc. So I am resolute, and quite relieved to say “Column, I’m leaving you.”
To those that have told me “I’m going to call the Bulletin and give them a piece of my mind about you not getting paid.” - DON’T. This paper was here a long time before me, and will be here long after. I take a lot of pride in knowing I’ve been a cog on the wheel of my hometown newspaper, and was able to do it of my own accord.
“Always leave them wanting more.” - PT Barnum
Thank yous...Thank you to Dennis Wyatt and the Manteca Bulletin for the opportunity to bend the ear of the town I love. It was Dennis that coined the title Manteca to a T. It was an honor to get to follow in the footsteps of Pat O’Leary.
Thank you to James Burns. He acted as my column editor for the first half of this ride. He was always encouraging, and took time from his busy schedule to remind me, that I can’t write an entire column using “...” as the only punctuation. We shared several funny moments.
“Was the lady putting her finger in your drink, and then sucking her finger a metaphor?” - J.B.
No that actually happened” - Me
“Ohhhh, then for sure we can’t print that.” - J.B.
Thank you to the wonderful Nina Frisby. It was her brainchild to compile some of the columns, and put them into book form. From the time she came up with the idea, until I first had a book in my hand – it was she that did it all. So now many generations from now, my ancestors will have documented proof that I hated horses, and was struck out (literally and figuratively) by Tisha Herzfeld my entire life.
Thank you to Jason Campbell. Were it not for you, Manteca to a T would’ve remained a bunch of tales told from a bar stool (and they still will be). You have been my go to therapist/editor/confidant/friend. Your encouraging manner and words have more than once talked me off the “I’m done with this column” ledge. It seems truly fitting that I walk away just as you celebrate the birth of your first child. Now you have a real diaper to wipe, not just the insecurities I’d soil myself with and hand to you on occasion.
But mostly I’d like to thank the town of Manteca and the people in it. There is no monetary value that can be placed on the friendships this column has opened up. The opportunity to meet and share with people from all walks of life in our community. Hearing weekly from my grandmother, June, that my old Spanish teacher Earl Pimentel couldn’t be happier that I’m writing. That is pure joy for me. He even called me the Mark Twain of Manteca. I’m still unsure if he was referring to being talented, or my propensity to speak at length about myself – but a compliment nonetheless.
Moments like a woman I didn’t know introducing herself inside Wal-Mart. Then giving me a big hug, because a column written about friends of mine that had died in a crash, reminded her of a daughter she’d lost the same way. Friends always quick to drop the line “Don’t go putting that in your column” as we cavort about town. Believe me dude, I’m not – you’re not that interesting.
Moments like my nephew seeing my face in the newspaper on his first day of kindergarten, and pointing it out to his new classmates, asking my sister when home “Is Uncle Chris famous?” To which she replied “Yes Bode, in his own head he is”
Most the time I didn’t have a clue what was to come next. Yet somehow, this town, these people, and this life, would drop a little nugget into the Manteca to a T basket.
“Do you think my cat knows that all three windows lead to the same backyard?” - Nina Frisby
I saw that written by Nina on Facebook last week. I think you could easily replace the word “cat” for Chris, or any of us for that matter. “Backyard” for Manteca. I’m very proud to be from Manteca. I know that no matter what roads I travel, misadventures I get into, or windows I look through - Manteca will always be my home. Manteca is the one woman I will always love above this column. And she will always have my heart.
We are no different than any small town. One transitioning into a large city. Hoping to bridge the gap between the Old Timers and their “This town sure isn’t like it used to be” mentality. And the youth of today and their “This town sucks, there’s nothing to do here” attitude. Though I find these blanket statements often to be precariously mutually inclusive. It doesn’t mean you should be the banner carrier for the “This is what is wrong with Manteca” parade. Nobody likes that parade.
Of course this town isn’t the way it used to be. That’s called progress. Even if at times that progress leads us down a negative avenue. The progress train stops for no one. I love being nostalgic. But wishing for the town of Manteca to function the way it did in 1950, when the town had 10,000 people, is ludicrous. We need the older generation to be willing to guide the new, all while giving up the reins of the town they love.
And for the “This town sucks” generation. You know what really sucks?! Your unoriginality and inability to find a way to make your own situation better. Blaming a town for your shortcomings is insane – get it together man. There are thousands of towns and cities, in other counties and states that you can languish and bemoan your position in just as easily. The next time you want to cry for yourself about what Manteca doesn’t do for you, ask yourself exactly what you are doing to improve your own situation. In most cases you will find out the problem is you – and not the town you live in.
I’ve tried my best with this column to bridge the gap between these two generations, and trains of thought. But all good things must come to an end. I hope that someone will take up the Manteca to a T helm. The column has been a wonderful forum. One that allows us to keep our small town roots, and on occasion pepper in some new histrionics. I wish I had the perfect line or turn of phrase to end this column. But I don’t. So in true Manteca to a T fashion I will leave you with this.
Manteca High Football Rules!
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”
Manteca to a T signing off.