Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
Editor’s note: Shelly’s Hardware on Greenbrae has opened for business since Karl’s last drive-by. Thanks to one of our readers for sharing that information!
This is not the column I was contemplating writing last Friday night or Saturday morning – I had had a bellyful of health, bad health, threats to my health insinuations about all my many bad habits and other indignities foistered upon me by the current buzzword of our lives.
I wanted to see a baseball game on TV; just a couple innings would be fine. Like most of us, I wanted to go out for a meal, not take home a couple plastic bags that were shedding heat at every stoplight and needing nuking upon arrival at my lonely writer’s garret. How many seconds? Who knows…
I watched the news – it was that or a 64th rerun of Two and a Half Men, my frequent TV fare when the news turns dismal and repetitive. Which it had. I was hoping for news of a re-kindling of a few service industries. If I can shop at Home Depot, why can’t I shop at Shelly’s Hardware on Greenbrae, where someone with a brain can help me?
But – it’s not gonna happen. And I’ll say right here: I like our governor. The person who can rein this cluster in hasn’t been born yet nor did Steve Sisolak ask for this duty when he ran for office. I’m seeing a health industry imbued with absolutely zero commonality of thought nor preparation for such a disease (which it is; many people are dying) – no equipment, no facilities, no nuttin’ – respected doctors in conflict with other respected doctors, albeit while a media circles over the train wreck and awaits the next medical gaffe to jump on. CDC says 71 died today; no wait – make that 31 died today.
That is not the level of expertise we expect from the CDC. Or the medical profession or the media or the federal government.
So I write. I promised Bob Conrad, publisher of This is Reno that I’d give him seven or eight hundred words a day, none of which was the Corona-word. And I love it. Dunno if he does or not. I’ve been tempted to get on the bully pulpit a time or two – like when a bunch of us just a year or so on the sunny side of 80 years old met at the parking lot of a certain business, stayed on the tailgates of our own trucks, used the phones our granddaughters programmed for us to call inside and get a can of beer and some chicken wings, then talked and laughed.
Yeah, one beer, maybe two, in and about a motor vehicle. A cop drove by, peered at the dozen of us and just shook his head, smiled, and shot us a thumb’s-up.
The next morning, one among us got a call: Do it again and the Law will get you all – knock off the tailgating. This is Reno’s readers almost read of it here, in much more hostile terms than those in that last graf.
We’re being had. Something’s haywire with the whole picture. And that’s about the strongest language I’ll muster up. I’ve a lot left to say, positive stuff; writing locally since 1986 has not emptied my fount of stuff to say about our valley, even although I can’t remember anymore half the time whether I’ve written about a topic or not.
Nevertheless a new column beckons daily. The six-year-old kid wrote last week about his bike trip to Hubbard Field and going up into the airport’s rudimentary cab. From that column came an invitation: Would you like to see the new control tower at RNO? In a heartbeat, I replied Yes! So, when the world gets back to normal, should that ever happen, up I’ll go to meet the man that invited me whose name I can’t use without his permission; I’ll tour the tower and you’ll read of my visit, right here.
I’ve still some friends I’d like you to meet – some names you’ll know, others maybe not until I write of them. Luther Mack. John Hesse. Valerie Estes. Norm Dianda. Red Kittell. Nettie Oliverio. Paul Meaney. Bob Conrad. A hundred others. Jus’ folks, but all part of the fabric of our valley. And right there I’ve committed an error all writers fall victim to: Mentioning half-a-dozen names while leaving a thousand more out of the text… if you’re in that 994 who didn’t get mentioned, you’re important also, and I’ll get to you eventually!
Yet I don’t write now with the ease I once enjoyed. The memory, while essentially intact, requires more periods of lifting my hands off the keyboard and staring up and across the room, groping mentally for just the right word, or year, or place. And the hands are just about shot and stiff (I started writing a column on a Korean-war era IBM typewriter that Rollan Melton gave me; electric, but archaic. When I turned it on, the streetlights dimmed, it required a warm-up period and I couldn’t hear a ball game over its motor!).
Now, you’ll note I seldom use words requiring the use of my baby fingers on the keys, like p and q and a and z. Soon the s and l fingers are giving up the ghost as well, which will take o and the period out of the available inventory. But, I have a secret weapon awaiting that eventuality.
Her name is Jody Rice. I know her dad Del. We all do. A friend, Karalea Clough, knew I was physically failing as a writer and introduced me to Jody. She has a quick wit and spark I was seeking; a way with words, and a knowledge of Reno that few writers who engage in writing have, and it shows. I wrote once that those kinds of history writers get the “steak” of a story, but miss the “sizzle.”
I’m editing a piece Jody wrote over the weekend about Carpeteria and it resonates. You’ll see it here tomorrow. While I seldom see her face-to-face, the electronic age enables a certain bonding, through email and text.
Anyhoo, all that said, I’m calmed down now about the current way of the world. And I now have a writing partner that will perpetuate, and probably surpass, my desire to memorialize the happenings and origins of our valley. I’ll not rock the boat nor use This Space for campaigning against the numbskulls running our lives. But come back daily – a promise made is a debt unpaid, and I made a promise to This is Reno, so you’re stuck with me, and Jody, and friends like Don Hartman who can write great guest columns like he did last week when goaded hard enough!
And I have a lotta friends and I’m a pretty good goader, so we’re in good shape for a while. And hey, by the way, c’mon back tomorrow, and be safe, huh?
Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.
Karl Breckenridge is slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally and loves to yak it up with friends…now sitting six feet apart.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.