2019: A Reader’s Digest


If you’re taking the time to read this, I’d like to commend you. While 2019 was a year of many events— on the local, national and international levels— there’s one activity that didn’t rank too highly in our collective lives this year. Reading. You know, the process by which the brain computes letters into words that eventually become ideas that we can think about inside our brains?

Frankly, it’s not surprising that no one reads anymore. Given our online world, if something can’t be shared in a meme, a 30 second video, or a 140-character Tweet, we are not interested. We’ve conditioned ourselves to only digest information in small amounts— like penguins regurgitating fish guts to baby chicks. So, to that end, I’ll try to keep this year-end summary brief.

On the international front, once again it was a great year for dictatorships. Vladimir Putin expanded his sphere of influence in Syria, Turkey and Ukraine, bringing Russia into a golden era of power not seen since Comrade Stalin gobbled up Eastern Europe like PAC-Man.

But, the real power-player of the year was Xi Jinping of China. After previously declaring himself the Wizard of Middle Earth, Jinping contained a huge public protest in Hong Kong, all while secretly detaining over a million people from ethnic minority groups into concentration camps— which the Chinese government lovingly call “Education Centers for Naughty Hobbits.” It’s very important, though, that no one talk or write about any of these events in Middle Earth because no one wants to pay more than $5 for a bottle of aspirin.

Science made a lot of discoveries in 2019. Astronomers released the first-ever photograph of a massive black hole captured by an intricate system of telescopes. Black holes are described as having gravitational forces so intense that nothing can escape— including light, atomic particles and Lori Loughlin’s career.

In New Zealand, biologists discovered ancient fossils from an unknown species of giant parrot that could grow to be three feet tall. That’s a really big bird. I bet it’d be a challenge to find a cage large enough for a parrot that is the size of a human toddler.

But, hey, maybe US Immigration could part with a few of theirs?

On the domestic front, the news-cycle has been dominated by tweets written by President Donald Trump at 3 o’clock in the morning. These tweets are widely shared because, as we established earlier, 140-characters is the maximum amount that most Americans can read at one time. This short-attention span has been very beneficial to the president because when Robert Mueller’s long-awaited 448-page report was finally released in April, no one actually read it.

In Hollywood, movie adaptations of the Avengers, Spider-Man and Captain Marvel all raked in the most cash at the box office. There are only two possible reasons for this. Either Americans can’t be bothered to read books made of cartoon drawings, or we’re desperate for a hero to save the world from certain doom.

In political news, we began 2019 with 25 Democratic candidates running for president. In the months since, an additional 379 people have joined the race. This includes a surprising number of billionaires— like Mike Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck. The candidates all claim to be able to beat Donald Trump, but their platforms and ideas exceed 140-characters, so I fear their chances of holding onto an audience are pretty slim.

Meanwhile, Congress has been awash with hearings of all kinds— hearings on presidential impeachment, hearings about executive abuses of power, and hearings about whether using the Oxford Comma would be seen as too socialist. No one knows how it will all turn out, but it still remains that less than 20% of Americans can find Ukraine on a map.

Back here at home, California is still no closer to building the high-speed train that was begun during the Millard Fillmore administration. Budget and cost overruns have plagued the high-speed rail process. Yet, at the same time, Governor Gavin Newsom’s pearly white smile remains suspiciously well-maintained. I don’t know if these two things are related, but I once bought Crest tooth whitening strips at Target and they cost more than the pair of pants I’m currently wearing.

In Patterson, it’s been an eventful year, too. As the revitalized Patterson Family Pharmacy is constructed, several new establishments have opened, as well— including a Starbucks and a Round Table Pizza. The latter establishment unfortunately joins the 692 other places that sell pizza in town. But, the new Round Table does distinguish itself by giving customers cool space-age wristbands. After these high-tech wristbands precisely dispense beer into cups, customers have the option of getting beamed onto the Starship Enterprise.

As 2019 comes to a close, we have much for which to be thankful. We can be thankful for our family, our friends and our great community. Lastly, we can also rejoice that we won’t often need to use those reading glasses we bought at Walgreens.

After all, it’s pretty easy to squint or trombone-through something that’s 140-characters, or less.

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy 2020.


That October I devoured the entire Harry Potter series


October is my favorite month. I like the windy days, the pumpkin treats and the slightly nauseated feeling you get when you eat all the Halloween candy you bought days before the trick-or-treaters even arrive at your doorstep.

As I flipped my calendar, my mind flashed back to many of the Octobers of my past. While most of the memories were pleasant, there were a couple that I’d like to forget. Like when I was a sophomore at Patterson High and suddenly vomited all over my typewriter in Mr. Pate’s first-period keyboarding class. Luckily, the sound was covered by the clattering of 35 typewriters that never managed to type in unison – despite Mr. Pate’s best efforts. Not only was it totally embarrassing, but I ended up being too sick to attend football homecoming that week – major bummer.

Thankfully, most of my Octobers have been much better than that one. Especially the one back in 2007, when I spent the entire month reading the Harry Potter series from beginning to end.

The seven-book series by J.K. Rowling was published over the course of ten years – beginning in 1997. As each book was released, readers of all ages impatiently pre-ordered their copies online or waited in line at bookstores. It was a publishing juggernaut. The book world hadn’t seen these kinds of bestselling numbers since King James decided to jazz up the Bible in 1611.

I’m a certified bookworm. In elementary school, I was the kid that always won the Reading Award. I don’t mean just sometimes. … I mean all the time. No one could approach my fearsome reading skills. I was a book ninja, a literary Bruce Lee – only not so flexible.

But faced with a phenomenon like Harry Potter, I knew I couldn’t patiently wait for each book. It was an excruciating prospect. Thus, I made a decision. I would wait to begin reading the books until all seven had been published – even if I had to wait years to do it.

In October of 2007, I took the plunge. And it was glorious. For that month, when I wasn’t sleeping or showering, I was reading Harry Potter. I lived it, breathed it – and when I grew sleepy at night, I cursed my eyelids for refusing to stay open. Did Harry fall asleep during his quest to bring down Voldemort? No, he didn’t. But unlike Harry and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix, I’m a damn Muggle. And Muggles need sleep. Blast it, anyway.

When I finished reading the last book, I cried. I’m not sure whether it was out of joy, sadness, or grief for the fact that I would never again be able to read Harry Potter for the first time. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

If only all Octobers could be so great.