In downtown Chico on Main Street between First and Second, there is a mural painted on a building’s side of a graphic rendering of an iconic photo of John, Ringo, barefoot Paul and George walking in a crosswalk. It is black and white on a soft yellow background.
I was watching two women taking turns posing with the one-dimensional Beatles while the other took photos when Tom Gascoyne came walking by.
For over a year, ever since I referred to Tom as a “schmuck” in print, I’ve managed in not the most mature of ways to avoid eye contact with him. What with the small confusion of the women taking photos and the cartoonish presence of the Beatles I said, “Hello Tom” in not a sheepish, more of a lamby kind of way.
We ended up talking for many minutes while the Beatles never went anywhere.
Tom Gascoyne teaches journalism at Butte College and is the former longtime news editor of the Chico News and Review. He told me he wasn’t writing for the CN&R any longer and I said I knew.
When he asked if I was doing any writing I told him about this blog (and the agony of the book project).
At some point we got on the subject of the Enterprise-Record’s editor, David Little and I said, “I adore David Little.”
Without missing a beat Tom concurred, “So do I.”
He mentioned that he sometimes disagreed with David politically, but that he was a very good editor.
And he is.
Tom first befriended me when I submitted a short piece to the CN & R about volunteering to be a census-taker for the biannual homeless census. The piece was a first person account from the perspective of actually being homeless myself and focused on a few of the interviews I conducted.
Tom took the photo of me which accompanied the published article. I remember saying to him as he pointed the camera, “Scarf, no hat, sunglasses and is a cigarette okay?” The cigarette was important to me as a sign of defiance.
He introduced me to the CN&R staff at their offices at Second and Flume Streets. Over time we would meet for coffee at Peet’s and talk shop, writing. His friendship, his brightness and that he was a writer were all very dear to me.
I referred to Tom as a “schmuck” (and made much worst references about the CN&R) in that the CN&R had rejected a piece I wrote focusing on Bill Such, the former executive director of the Jesus Center stating that I “was too close to homelessness”.
Even now the assessment that I, who has technically been homeless for over three years in Chico, am “too close to homelessness” makes me smirk with irony.
I would say that the CN&R is too close to bourgeoisness.
Anyway, that was then and this is now and it was swell talking with Tom in a water-under-the-bridge way. “You know, Don,” he said. “I’ve never crossed the street to avoid you.”
He said that he hadn’t been writing much and I said that’s too bad and encouraged him to do so.
I probably said something like, “Writing is therapy for me. It’s what keeps me alive.”
It is good that with humility and humanity, a transfusion of good blood to dilute the bad blood can repair a friendship.
Love and Peace,
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