A Bump on the Head in Chico

Being knocked out cold, robbed

and not remembering any of it


I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk a…
My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
‘Til then I walk alone…
— Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day


After a six day stay, within two hours of being discharged from Enloe Medical Center I pretty much did everything I was instructed not to: I smoked a cigarette, got high on weed and went for a two mile walk. It wasn’t as though I was being defiant of my physicians and nurses, it was that I was in full panic mode and made not the best coping choices specific to my physical condition.
As a result, I got the intended effect of feeling stupid dizzy and tried really hard to cry. I thought it would do me good, but no tears came – just the hollowness of empty-feeling emotion.
On Sunday, March 27 between 9:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. while walking on Chestnut Street between 13th and 16th Streets I was knocked out cold when I was struck behind my left ear. I don’t recall the blow.
Whoever or whomever did it got my wallet (containing $16.00) and a small paper bag of low grade marijuana.
As an aside, I don’t mention smoking cigarettes or pot casually or in an advocacy manner. I’m not trying for cool affect. Cigarettes are bad for you and I have an on-again, off-again relationship to them.
Pot can be bad for you as well, but as I’ve written before, if it weren’t for pot I’d be dead.
My diagnosis is a concussion with a small brain bleed. My symptoms are constant light dizziness. I’m supposed to refrain from exertion, no more than half an hour reading or working on a computer at a time and a lot of bed rest.
I haven’t been the best post-hospitalization patient.
I’ve never been knocked out cold before. From what I’ve pieced together, a very kind woman named Carly found me and called 9-1-1. She also took my cell phone and called my friend Megan Schwartz to tell her what happened to me then handed the phone to a Chico police officer who told Megan I was okay and an ambulance was on the way.
I have no memory of the ambulance ride, but apparently a hydrating I.V. was administered. I have very limited memories of the ER at Enloe.
I do recall a man, presumably a paramedic or a police officer saying, “He was found laying on the street.” I also recall a neurosurgeon explaining to me that I had a small brain bleed and what that meant.
The next day I slept 20 hours and was surprised that I was kept at Enloe for six days. As I’ve come to expect, the care at Enloe was excellent. Funnily enough, my stay was in room 5551 where I spent a couple of weeks last August as part of a care team for a friend.

Right outside the window is the heliport for the Flight Care helicopters and watching them land and take off never gets old.

An affable Chico Police Officer, Nick Rush took a report in my room. He’s originally from London where he was a Bobby and has been in Chico for two years. We discussed that being physically assaulted and robbed in Chico is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence.

I would be remiss not to mention that if you walk alone day or night, be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. An error I made was that I was talking on my phone and not paying full attention as I walked alone at night.

The downside to all of this is that for the first time in my three and a half years of living in Chico, I feel a heightened sense of paranoia as I move about. Night is difficult and shadows frighten me. Post-trauma stuff.

This, too will probably pass.

Please leave a comment or contact me at dregisbilar@live.com

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My Life as a Bum at 62

My Bum Bucket List

The first time I met David Little, the esteemed editor of the Enterprise-Record over a couple of years ago, he asked me why I referred to myself as a ‘bum’. He asked a lot of insightful questions.
I’m not sure what I said, probably something along the lines of preferring it over ‘homeless’ as well as ‘crazy’ over mentally ill (i.e. ‘Crazy Bum’) and that I was carrying on the time-honored (think: Jack Kerouac) tradition of writerly bumdom.
Because he is ever-polite, David tried using the term in our initial dialogue and I distinctly remember his discomfort with it, as if he were using a discriminatory epitaph stumbling, “…b-b-bum…”.
He charmed me right there and then.
Today is my 62nd birthday. I spent my last birthday with the Popps, Heather and Eric, a young couple who befriended me in a fantastic way. Originally from Virginia, they’ve since moved from Chico to pursue their careers as organic farmers in Southern California.
Sitting in their kitchen I was explaining the time I spent sleeping under a bridge with a friend on a mattress of questionable cleanliness.
“It wasn’t very pleasant,” I said, “but it’s one more item ticked off my Bum Bucket List.”
“I can’t imagine anything on a Bum Bucket List is very pleasant,” Heather said.
Trolling under a bridge is a standard Bum Bucket List item. One of my other goals was accomplished last winter when I slept at the front entry to Bidwell Mansion during a driving rain. We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing (and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes), a friend and me pressing our backs together unsuccessfully for warmth.
Today’s birthday had a rocky start. A man I know peripherally accosted me on the street regarding my last post for portraying Tim, a chronically homeless man who regularly sleeps in downtown doorways and smells really badly in a humane light.
“See,” he said pointing at me and raising his voice to the woman he was with who was obviously uncomfortable with his confronting me, “he’s just one of those sensitive writers.”
My protocol in such situations is well-honed: don’t engage, get away.
“I’m very uncomfortable,” I said firmly, walking away.
A long string of profanities interspersed with ‘sensitive’ and ‘writer’ followed.
Such encounters go with the job of a writer, most people are kind and polite.
Downtown at Mr. Kopy where I often type my posts in on one of the computers, the staff – Samantha, Carlos and George – came up behind me singing Happy Birthday. George had a lighter in one hand to substitute for a candle and a foil wrapped, liquor-filled chocolate to substitute for a cake in the other.
Blowing out the lighter, I was touched and a little shy.
In awhile I’ll go to Madison Bear Garden for my free birthday burger which was a delight last year. To my relief, there was no cupcake with a pyrotechnic candle brought to my table, but the service and food were superb.
And no one treated me like a bum.

Love and Peace,


Please leave a comment or contact me a dregisbilar@live.com. Thank you.


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The Die, Die, Die Guy and the Goofy Panhandling Red Parking Meters

7 March 2016, Monday – 3:31 P.M.

Anyone who spends time in Chico’s downtown has probably run into the Die, Die, Die Guy. I’ve been told his real name is James, but nearly everyone refers to him as the Die, Die, Die Guy because he walks the streets saying in his scratchy, gravelly sharp voice, “Die, die, die.”
Why James says die, die, die over and over is a mystery. It’s easy to assume he means death, but I once suggested that maybe he had been living in a commune and his job was to dye the tie-dyed clothing and he overdosed on LSD and now all he says is, “Dye, dye, dye.”
Not a likely scenario.
James is tall, thin, lacking entirely in good hygiene and his pants are often falling off. Normative society would refer to James as “chronically homeless” which, I guess he is. I have no idea where he sleeps.
Nor do I have a clue to the parallel universe he largely inhabits. Most would say that James is mentally ill.
I thought he was harmless (albeit aggressive sometimes in his asking for money or cigarettes) until last summer. A young woman was walking by, James blocked her path asking for change and when she politely refused he said, “Then I’ll rape you.”
The young woman shouted at him, “What? What did you just say?”
I thought this was unwise, confronting James in such a way, but understood that the young woman was within her rights. I placed myself between she and James and said something like, “He’s very ill. I’m sorry for what he said.”
The tone of my voice suggested that she move on which she did.
Since that time I’ve seen James face down, spread-eagle on the sidewalk and surrounded by cops.
A couple of hours ago while I was sitting in Peets, James walked in and in between chanting ‘die, die, die’ (or ‘dye, dye, dye’) he asked a couple of customers for something. He then walked out. One of the customers called the Chico P.D.
When the officer rolled up, the customer walked outside to greet him and explain James’ behavior and, I presume, complain.
A few yards away sat Tim on the sidewalk in front of the closed storefront announcing Wolfe Electric will soon move in. He has been camping there for quite awhile with his dog, Maggie and is often surrounded by a lot of debris.
He too is tall, often wears a long stage coach sort of coat and has a mass of blonde matted hair. Tim is gentle, quiet and seems to be having a really hard time.
I give him a cigarette whenever I see him. While he is prone asleep, I’ve seen many people leave food, change, kibble for Maggie and other gifts. That is endlessly heartwarming.
The funny things is that at the corner of Main and Second Streets where so much of this action takes place stands one of those red parking meters meant to deter James’, Tim’s and dozens of others solicitations.
Since the red wannabe bell-ringer meters were installed last August, I’ve seen the one in front of Peets used once.
The blurbs on the “Make Change Count” meters tell us that it accepts coins or plastic and the funds go to local agencies which “…provide services to those in need.”
Subsequent media has explained that the chosen agencies are the Jesus Center and the Torres Shelter (What about the 6th Street Drop-In Center for Youth which also does so much good?) and that the North Valley Community Foundation is administering the funds which leaves me antsy.
To my knowledge and research, no report has been released on how much money the red meters have raised thus far.
Conversely, although the Make Change Count folks advertise, “Make your change count and help the homeless in a positive way, rather than enabling behaviors that are detrimental to both the individual and community”, I don’t think the campaign is very effective. Admittedly, my opinion is based on observation only.
Not all people asking for money in downtown Chico use it for drugs and alcohol, but I suspect most do. Nonetheless, and with no small irony, right in front of the red parking meters, people give money to panhandlers all day long. Others gift food, cigarettes or whatever.
Often I’ll say to the gifters, “That’s very kind.”
Usually the response is something to the affect of, “I just want to help or we’re all human or it could happen to me.”
It seems as though most folks would rather interact with a human being rather than a panhandling parking meter.
Such are some of the authentic charms of downtown Chico.

Love and Peace,

Please leave a comment or contact me at dregisbilar@live.com. Thank you.

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Molasess as Metaphor

It seems as though in much of my communication, email or verbal I’ve often been using the word ‘molasses’ – as in I often feel like I’m moving through molasses, that life seems slow and challenging and ever syrupy and sticky.
Most clinicians I’ve known (counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists) would call my state of mind depression and most would strongly suggest psychotropic pharmaceuticals which I would refuse.
What a racket.
I’ll agree I’m experiencing a heightened level of despondency and have since late December of last year, but it’s more than that. Two months of the new year have passed in the wink of an eye and in five days I’ll turn 62 which fits nicely with the molasses metaphor as I feel weary more than anything else. Think of moving through molasses.
Please save the platitudes on age just being a number or you’re-as-young-as-you-feel. Whatever the age of 62 is, beginning with six-plus decades of life, I feel it as if each decade span is an even heavier building block piled on.
I’m a highly functioning sad man and my dedication to physical activity (biking, walking, yoga), my love of reading and my compulsion to write are my therapies.
And then there are friends, wonderful people I’ve met in Chico whose intellects and warmth fill my human interaction needs and act as a tincture to my tendency to isolate.
It seems nuts to me not to feel sad for the world and the states of the earth, humanity as well as all the other life forms. As a writer, I try to sort my thoughts via the written word and that’s of immense help.
So, how do I close this somewhat lethargic piece, this effort to keep posting as a discipline and mental exercise?
I just went outside and watched as a man pulled up to the curb and offered Tim and his dog, Maggie some people and human food. Tim is one of the many people who make their home on the streets of downtown Chico, literally sleeping on pavement in doorways. He seems to be having a particularly hard time this winter season.
The man with the offerings talked with Tim for a few minutes, asking how he was and offering him a small amount of money.
I said to the man, “That was a beautiful thing to witness.”
To which he responded, “Hey, we’re all human.”
A good thing to keep in mind.


Please leave a comment or contact me at dregisbilar@live.com. Thank you.

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Tom Gascoyne

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,

Please leave a comment or contact me at dregisbilar@live.com. Thank you.

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Three Close Encounters of the Unsettling Kind

Downtown Chico

Spending an inordinate amount of time daily either at Peets Coffee and Tea or, as I am now, typing away at a key board at Mr. Kopy (both located at 2nd and Main Streets) I watch people striding, sauntering or shuffling by in their daily/nightly lives.
As an aside, I was just pacing the sidewalk as I am wont to do and a not very tall tattered man asked in a shaky voice, “Excuse me, sir I’m so hungry I could eat my own shoe.”
I responded with, “Dude, I’m a bum, too. I don’t have anything I can offer you. Sorry.”
On my way back, I saw a normie man handing a white paper bag to a beat up looking fellow sitting on the sidewalk. I heard him say, “It’s jalapeno. It’s really good.”
I said to the man as he got into his shiny vehicle, “That was very kind of you.”
“Of course,” he smiled.
[Awhile later, I ended up talking with the generous man who had returned and was loading a bike into his vehicle with his young son. He told me, as people often do, I don’t like giving money because of drugs and alcohol. He opened his wallet and showed me a small stack of $10 Safeway gift cards. “I wish,” he said, explaining that he gives out the gift cards instead of cash, “that they would just go for food…”].
I asked him for a gift card and he was happy to give it to me.
The thing is I absolutely believe that most people are not inured to the plight of homelessness and do not view the chronically downtown down and out with contempt – it’s more a matter of frustrated concern which often translates into the gifting of eatery leftovers, a cigarette or money.

Thus far this year, I’ve had three interactions with down and out men I did not know, the experiences of which, the memories, still occupy the back stages of my mind.
Recently after dark, near closing time at Peets, Claire who is its manager had come in as a customer along with her husband and young son.
Shortly thereafter, a tall white man in his 20s entered the outdoor seating area of Peets stumbling into a metal chair, fell over a matching table, knocked over a different chair and banged his head hard against the glass of a large window.
A couple of passersby stopped as did a minivan out on the street essentially to gawk helplessly. Everyone in Peets stopped what they were doing.
Claire’s husband, Brandon (we were about to meet for the first time) and I rushed out the double metal and glass double doors to assist the fellow I’ll call Fuller.
It was very cold that night. Fuller was wearing a light shirt, black trousers, no shoes or socks.
“Dude, what happened to your shoes?” I asked after the initial are-you-okays?
“My girlfriend stole them,” he answered his eyes rolling around in their sockets.
With few words exchanged between us, Brandon and I became an efficient team. Fuller had now gotten himself up and had entered Peets sitting precariously on a wood chair near the doors. Brandon got him several cups of water while I tried to engage him in conversation.
A quick huddle took place among staff and the non-emergency number for the Chico Police Department was called for a welfare check.
Fuller said over and over as he fumbled with bits of debris in his pockets, “I need to get to One Mile.”
Having been in Chico for just over three years and familiar with its street culture, I assumed he wanted to get to One Mile, specifically to an area known as ’12 Tables’, to score drugs.
“What are you on, Fuller?” I asked. I assumed it was methamphetamine by his behavior (arms flailing about, eyes darting, an acute state of stir-craziness) and Fuller verbally confirmed that.
He wanted to use a restroom and it was unanimously decided that was a bad idea. He ran out the door, stripped down to a purple thong and ran out onto Main Street, Brandon and I chasing after him and raising our hands for the traffic to stop.
He came back to the outdoor seating area, sat down and when the three police officers arrived I introduced them to Fuller and said he seemed to need help.
“Fuller, where are your clothes?” one of them asked.
By and large from what I’ve witnessed, the Chico Police Department, some of the officers undergoing Crisis Intervention training, handle such situations well albeit with a sense of resignation.
And why not? Even for me, there’s a part of my brain that wants to be doing pretty much anything else while the rest of my head was, in Fuller’s case, hyper-vigilante regarding the potential for violence. How many welfare checks do any one police officer perform on a given shift?
One of the officers came into the shop and bought a slice of banana bread saying, “He’s [Fuller] coming with us.
There was a collective exhale of relief and thank yous.
I’ve seen Fuller many times since on the streets literally spinning around, dragging a sleeping back, but he’s had shoes on.

About a week prior I was sitting on a stool at a window counter at Peets. A customer, male, middle-aged had walked in and asked barista Megan, “If you were going to die tonight, which of these chocolate bars would you buy?”
I’ve written much of my friendship with Megan. We’re close. She asked another barista to ask me if I would talk with the troubled customer.
My rote social behavior, honed over six decades seems sometimes comical.
I approached the man — I’ll call him Tom – thrust out my hand to shake his and said as if I were about to give a sales pitch, “Hey, Dude, how are you? Would you like to talk?”
He looked at me tearfully, nodded his head and hanging on to his hand, I escorted him outside where we sat on chairs.
We spoke for about 30 minutes. His plan was to kill himself by train.
A friend I was relating this story to later said, “Ah, yes, trains – the Golden Gate Bridges of Chico.” I thought that was clever.
“That’s kind of mean to the people who drive the trains,” I explained to Tom. “It must have a negative affect on them.”
Tom pondered this and his methodology turned to jumping off a bridge. He was sad. He was drunk. A tall plastic water bottle of vodka sat on the table before him.
“The staff inside is concerned about you, Tom,” I began my pitch. “I’m concerned about you. I don’t think you really want to die tonight.”
He uncertainly shook his head.
“So there are two options,” I went in for the close. “You can go off and jump off a bridge or I can ask staff to call the police for a welfare check.”
Tom looked at me with fear.
“They’ll be very nice. If they can, they’ll help you out and if you want I’ll stay by your side.”
When the officers arrived I introduced them to Tom as if I were a non-official host at a social gathering. “Thanks for coming,” I said. “Tom’s having a hard time.”
One of the officers asked me what Tom had been saying. “His theme was death by train, but I talked him out of that. Then his theme became jumping off a bridge.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the officer said.
They took Tom away as well. To where, I don’t know. Jail? Butte County’s Behavioral Health Crisis Unit for 23 hours of evaluation.
The tragedy in all of this is that the U.S. mental health system is entirely broken and there are scant services for those in trouble. And there’s a factory mind set to mental health systems manufacturing patients dependent on pharmaceuticals.
I often think that the only people who think mental health services work are those who receive a pay check from the system and even the insightful ones have their doubts.
These were unusual situations at Peets, but probably erratically common for many downtown businesses. Peets, with its corner location and, at night, brightly illuminated large windows appears inviting. And, I have to hand it to all of Peets’ staff, they handled these two anomalous situations professionally and humanely.

A Happy Ending

The third encounter was much more involved, salient and had a clear positive ending. It occurred on a Sunday in January.
I was sitting at a picnic bench in the grassy area off of Vallambrosa Avenue near the bronze sculpture on an erstwhile physician sitting on a bench and across from the Chipotle/Rite Aide shopping area. I was reading Michael Chabon’s ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
A young man (everyone below 60 seems young to me and this fellow turned out to be 30) approached me wearing a heavily textured red poncho, light-colored slacks and was carrying a copy of Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’. He asked me if I had a cigarette.
“Only if you’ll have a seat and engage in conversation,” I said to him.
With subdued enthusiasm he sat across from me and said, “I could use some conversation right now – someone to talk to.”
His story was harrowing. He had left his rehab three months prematurely, driven to Chico, got into a single vehicle accident (which destroyed an axle), scored some heroin at the Downtown City Plaza, spent the night in a motel room with his new junkie friends and was robbed of his wallet, computer and other valuables after he passed out.
He was sweating earnestness in the way that some people do when they’re desperate for help.
He was unusually articulate and I later learned he had a communications degree from one of the seaside Universities of California. I’ll call him Ed.
He had family who he hoped would help him, but his phone was stolen as well.
“You could have been killed, Dude,” I said.
“I know.”
“Or raped or beaten up. It happens.”
“I know,” Ed said hanging his head.
He explained that his broken-down auto was parked on Wall Street near Fourth – “By the Hands” – and he was planning to sleep in it that night.
“I’m really hungry and thirsty,” he told me. I’d never been around anyone coming off of heroin before, only knew what I’ve learned from reading, movies and TV.
I was wary. “Here’s the deal, Ed,” I said, “I’ll pick up some food and drink at Safeway. I’ll meet you at your car.”
He expressed gratitude sheepishly. 30 minutes later, there he was all forlorn sitting in his not-drivable vehicle. He looked at the sandwiches, Chip Ahoy Cookies and two liter bottle of ginger ale as if they were marvels. We ate.
“I have a phone,” I said. “You can use it to call your family, but if you try to score heroin, I’m out of here.”
For the next many hours I listened to him and the folks he was talking with. Bargaining. Apologies. Pleading. Shame.
The funny thing was that his mother was familiar with me as a writer and that gave some credibility to me as someone trying to help her son out.
A flat bed tow to storage was arranged for the next day. After a lot of finagling, the rehab agreed to accept him back ($650 a month picked up by his family) and a ride was arranged through an Uber-style service.
What kept me engaged was the conversation between us. He was intensely articulate, a great conversation. Withdrawing from heroin aside, the intellectual volley between us was thrilling for me who craves dialogue.
“Throughout my life many people have helped me when I was down and out and you seem worth the trouble,” I told him.
We spent 26 hours together, me trying to sleep next to him as, for a couple of hours he seemed to be crawling out of his own skin. I had been sleeping in a friend’s truck at the time, so this wasn’t a big inconvenience.
The next morning, Ed was able to draw some money out of his Wells Fargo checking account. He knew the PIN number. While I was sitting in the waiting area, three different staff people asked me brightly, “Do you need to see a banker?”
Ed wanted beer, something to settle his nerves. I went back into Safeway and got three Fosters which we split.
In the late afternoon the tow truck appeared and after a very satisfying hug good-bye, Ed was off.
His mother and I email.
Ed and I email as well in a pen pal fashion and he is doing really well. He writes about his NA and AA meetings, his sponsor and his house mates in the rehab, everyone working at staying clean.

Rescued in Italy

In July 1999, I got into journalistic trouble at the Croatian/Yugoslavian border shortly after NATO had bombed the heck out of Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia.
I was interrogated for several hours during which, with the Serbian’s guns always pointed at me I thought I might be killed. They wouldn’t let me drink water, but encouraged me to smoke cigarettes from the two cartons I had brought along as tips and trades.
I smoked 16 in the time I was there. It was really hot. I had never chain-smoked before and had been a light cigarette smoker.
Days earlier, on the train from Paris to Venice, I met a woman named Lella Bertaso who was a few years older than me. Unusually, we were the only occupants of our six berth sleeping car. We split a bottle of wine and feasted on the food Lella had brought along.
“You’re an idiot to go to Yugoslavia,” she told me matter-of- factly in her excellent English and French.”You’re an American. You’ll get into trouble. If you come back through Italy call me and I’ll take care of you.”
After the Serbs, I made my way back to Venice where I had friends who had gone on a many day hike in the Alps. I called Lella and she told me what train to take to get to her town of Ferarra.
That was when I learned that medical care, even for foreigners was free in Italy. I was treated with steroids and antibiotics for a 16-cigarette enhanced lung infection.
I met her adult daughter (an architect) and son (a tech guy) and they confirmed what Lella had told me, “For me this is normal. Helping strangers I meet on trains.”
Lella had a house on the Adriactic Coast (I mean on the coast) built out of stone by her father-in-law in a village called Bonelli.
During the day I would slowly walk to the beach and lie there in the lovely Adriatic sun which burned away my fever.
One of the most charming memories of my lifetime was Lella preparing a dinner, a carnival of fresh seafood (Bonelli’s main industry is mussel harvesting) and always wine.
Post-prandial, we sat next to one another watching a 1950s film on television, Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It was broadcast in English with Italian sub-titles.

There are many such examples of strangers who have helped me out in my life. That is why It was easy for me to become involved, to varying degrees, with the three encounters I’ve written about above.

Love and Peace,

Please leave a comment or contact me at dregisbilar@live.com.
Thank you.

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Writing as Therapy

At Winco last summer I ran into a woman named Terina Garron. She was with her husband, Tom whom I had never met before.
I met Terina, who I would guess is in her late 30s, about two and a half years ago when she was my social worker at the Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services (known in bureaucratic circles as the DESS).
Through some extremely difficult times, she has been of enormous help to me in her professionalism and saying just the right thing to help my muddled mind find some clarity.
All of the rooms at the DESS are named after trees. One waits in the Maple Room with a numbered ticket and a door at the back right corner opens and someone calls your number and you are walked through a maze of cubicles.
When Terina and I first met, I was sitting in her cubicle decorated with a sense of whimsy and commented on two posters of Hunter S. Thomspon. Terina said, I think, that he was a hero to her.
I mentioned that his ‘gonzo’ (sometimes considered a crazy and subjective method) style of journalism had greatly influenced me.
At the time, the Chico News and Review had just published a feature story I penned, “Searching for Snipes” (March 21, 2013) about my winding up in Chico and labeled ‘mentally ill’ and ‘homeless’. As I’ve often written, I prefer ‘crazy bum’.
A look of recognition came over Terina (my unsmiling face was on the cover of the CN&R) and she said something to the affect of, “That took a lot of courage. I saved it [the article].”
I probably rambled on about how I was pressured into writing it by my then services coordinator, Johnny Meehan at the Torres Community Shelter (he’s now at the 6th Street Center for Youth and we’ve maintained a friendly relationship) and others in that, well, I’m a writer. I also probably added that the notoriety ‘Snipes’ had brought me was unsettling in that, as disingenuine as it may sound, I’m uncomfortable with a lot of attention.
At Winco last summer Terina had said, “It must be very therapeutic for you.” We were talking about my writing and being published, primarily in the Enterprise-Record.
“It is,” I said. I explained to Tom that Terina had shown me a photo of him once on her phone long ago and said, “He’s a good-looking guy…” which caused them to smooch briefly and exhibit other light affection and that made me smile.
I had met their two young children at the Downton City Plaza a couple of summers back when Terina had taken them there for an event. I neither recall their names or the nature of the event, but I do recall stooping down to their smallnesses and shaking hands with each.
At some point in knowing Terina (ones social worker is periodically changed) she loaned me a copy of Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, stating that it was the best book she had read in 10 years.
I had never read anything by Gaiman before and the book, which became remarkably tattered and I never gave back for which I apologized, was a remarkable read: full of fictionally engaging weirdness, phantasmagorical fantasy and a plot that balanced humor, sadness and heart ache for a wonderful read.
The gesture, the inadvertent gifting of that book, was a big deal in relation to feeling validated. The majority of the staff at the DESS, including the security guards, display just enough humanity to make one feel less alien. In homelessness and mental illness, there is often a chasm between you and normative society.
While I was at the Torres, Johnny Mehan loaned me a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” which I read in my youth, but didn’t recall. One of Frankl’s best known quotes from that book is, “When we are no longer able to change a situation. We are challenged to change ourselves.”
Like Terina loaning me Gaiman’s novel, Johnny’s loaning me (I got it back to him) Frankl’s book had a profound impact.

Reading and writing (and as a kid, drawing) have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember.
As I sit here at a computer trying to breathe in a healthful way, I know that writing is therapeutic for me and, hence, I’m struggling to be more disciplined about it.
I just sent an email to an editor friend explaining that so much of what I’m producing is ‘drivel’. But, as it is often said to me and in general writing circles (and as I remind myself), the most important thing about being a writer is to write.

Writers write. That’s what we do.

Love and Peace,


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Stream of Consciousness

An Explanation

I have been staring at the cursor on the screen for an inordinate amount of time, long enough to feel sort of short of breath along with the consciousness that I just downed a cup of caffeinated coffee and am, on top of everything else, jittery.
Until yesterday’s post, a pretty straight forward business profile of Mr. Kopy, I hadn’t posted a blog in well over six months. It had been so long that I had to contact Ryan Olson ( I guess he’s the blogger helper outer) of the Enterprise-Record, first by email, then by phone, to help me re-navigate the process. As always, he was instructive and cheerful about the process.
As it is said, the reasons for my lack of blogging are complex, but simply put, creating the 750-word monthly North State Voices column in the E-R last year pretty much exhausted my ability to produce readable material.
There were other issues as well, of course, which would fall into the category of a middle aged man (who has described himself in print and in class room talks as a ‘crazy bum’ (aka homeless and mentally ill)) still experiencing periods of…disassociation from what is considered normative society.
In my blogs from long ago I made quite a few promises about topics/people I would be writing about and, well, I apologize for not coming through. Yet. I might, but I’ll be more careful about making print promises.

On Aging

It seems nearly impossible that I will turn 62 next month. Although I have my own tailored reasons for having had a fatalistic and gloomy outlook on a possibly longer life, it was generational as well.
Among many of my peers as a younger person, all of us affected by the societal pollen of the 1960s there was a sense, possibly extremely self-absorbed, that we would die young as if it was a generation-specific terminal allergen.
Maybe there’s a percentage, a demographic of all generations which feel that way as I certainly observe such in a lot of people I know younger than me. Some of the hard reasons – climate change, possible human extinction, economic catastrophe, massive annihilation for any number of historically established causes (famine, disease, war and now water) – are different from my youth. The major concern then was the Atomic Bomb or so it seemed.
It is part of my patter when advice is solicited from me by younger people to say, “One of the ironies of my life setting aside that I never thought I’d live for 60-plus years, is that I assumed as I got older, life would be easier – that there would be answers to the big questions, that I’d find some sort of existential peace within myself and neither has turned out to be true to in a sustained or profound manner.

On Writing

A tremendous comfort to me is that I have worked with an editor since 1985 whom I’ll call Lola. She knows me better than any other individual, has a better overall perspective of the person I am and is my biggest source of encouragement as a writer.
Lola and I have sustained a 31 year friendship and she, as well as anyone who comes to knows me understands that the act of writing can be debilitating and difficult for me.
It hasn’t always been that way, but it has been for many years and by blogging — well, it’s an attempt to overcome it.

So, there you have it.

Love and Peace,



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Chico Downtown Business Profile: Mr. Kopy

On any given day, I have the privilege of speaking with George whose last name I’ve never known or perhaps not remembered, but he is universally known as ‘Mr. Kopy’, the name of the family business (located on Main Street near Second, directly across from the Book Store) for which he helps out as the general manager.

Philosophers come in many forms and in my three years and two months of living in Chico, I’ve come across many deep thinkers in all sorts of circumstances and spanning the scale of demographics.

George, has become for me and is to many others, a Downtown Philosopher of the highly intellectual and deeply compassionate mold. He possesses a prerequisite for such a title: humility.

He is basically nose to the grindstone or in his case, nose to the modern day printing process in running a good business.

I spend enough time at Mr. Kopy writing on a computer (other services include a large stock of school and office supplies as well as private mail boxes) to get a strong sense of the excellent customer service he and his staff’s good front line behavior provides. It’s both a serious and happy place.

In existence as a locally owned, community-oriented business for 40 years, George’s family took over five years ago.

“We offer the best price, quality and experience in Chico,” he says proudly adding, “And one copy is always free.”

Mr. Kopy was hugely helpful with printing tickets, posters and flyers in ‘A Bridge for Books’, a fundraiser held for the Butte County Public Library in which I was involved and is how I got to know George.

One recent afternoon I was talking with him outside the shop. I don’t recall what I said, but it was self-deprecating and George surprised me by moderately raising his voice (he is a soft-spoken man), but being very precise, “Don’t put yourself down! You are a beautiful human being. Everyone is a beautiful human being, that is what I believe.”

It was a good thing for me to hear from someone I respect at a time when I was feeling unsure of myself. It happens.

It’s also an excellent and authentic philosophy on how to treat customers in a business very dependent on technology, but even more so on face to face, over-the-counter transactions.

Providing good service and viewing humanity as beautiful strikes this reporter as a win-win business model.

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The Dignified Death of ‘Synthesis’ and the Disappearance of Anthony Peyton Porter

The Discriminatory and Disgusting Practices of the Chico News and Review

Author’s Note 11 June 2015, Noon

Dear Readers,

I just got into town. Out at camp, reviewing this blog, I found, as usual typos and incomplete thoughts. I’m going through it now to fix the boo-boos and by using “[ ]” am entering a sort of running commentary on my own work, something I’ve not tried before. Minimizing the editorial additions, longer commentary will be included in a companion blog essay to be published next week, “Tommy Diestel: Writer for ‘Synethisis’, Chico Native Son and Great Friend”.

As I’ve written, blogdom is a totally new experience for me. I appreciate your patience and  feedback.




I had been admitted to the the Bum Suite of Enloe Hospital which is located on the roof next to the heliport. It’s a bit noisy at times, but, hey, bum beggars can’t be choosers. I like the mural wallpaper depicting woods, streams, blue skies, mountains and meadows.

My symptoms were severe nausea and dizziness, sweats, headaches, high fever and uncontrollable trembling.

The examining physician stood before me looking grim with several interns surrounding my bed. “I’m afraid, Don,” he began, “We have good news and bad news.”

“The bad news is that we’ve determined the source of your illness, an acute case of S-F Syndrome and have sent your blood work to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta,” he continued.

“Oh, my goodness, Doctor, what is S-F syndrome?” I asked.

“We’re seeing a lot of it in Chico,” the Doc responded. “It’s caused from reading the Chico News and Review’s editor, Melissa Daugherty’s column, Fifth and Flume, hence, ‘Double F-Syndrome’.

“And the good news, Doc?” I asked, devastated.

“The cure is simple: plenty of fluids and stop reading the CN&R,” he said with a reassuring smile.

Just kidding.

Ba da bump.

[The above joke — and humor, particularly my humor often misfires — is in no way meant to be a slam against Enloe. In subsequent blogs, I will detail my experiences there as a patient and as a witness. Superb treatment.]

Melissa Daugherty represents a dearth of editorial sophistication and professional prowess grievously bereft of journalistic ethics. In her approximately two years as editor-in-chief of the Chico News and Review her style can be easily construed as censoring and racist.

Daugherty has her hand out begging us to support the CNR’s arm of the non-profit North Valley Community Foundation stating that her publication is “…a go-to source for investigative journalism…” and that it is a “community watchdog”. Chico begs to differ.

She is asking her readers to hire an ‘investigate journalist’ whom she will oversee.

Daugherty reminds us ad nauseum that she is a product of Chico State University as if that means she’s smart. Instead of learning the standard five Ws of journalism — who, what, where, why and when — Daugherty only seems to know I, I, I, I and I. She doesn’t show. She tells us what to think.

In any investigative process, one should be concerned with facts and patterns.

In her disappearance of Anthony Peyton Porter, the revered nearly nine year CNR ‘From the Edge’ columnist, she hasn’t had the decency to explain to her readers her decision to ban it without warning.

Anthony Peyton Porter, as photographed by Carolina Rios

Anthony Peyton Porter, as photographed by Carolina Rios

According to Porter, he received an email from Daugherty, “Call me, and I’m sure you’re wise enough to know what this about.” His last three submissions to the CNR had been rejected, including one titled “Censorship”.

Similarly, Daugherty, in rejecting an essay I wrote on being a bum, sent emails stating that I am “too close to homelessness” and lecturing, “You were the editor of a newspaper.”

Porter is black. I am brown. Twice constitutes a pattern, a swatch of racism.

Of the last 10 covers of the CNR, whenever a photo illustration is of people, they are always white as are most of those in inside photos and ads. In the last 10 ‘Street Talk” columns, of the 47 individuals featured, only nine appear to be of color.

Race matters.

I was never the editor of a newspaper, as Daugherty who has a disregard for facts, states. I was publisher and majority shareholder of the ‘Tahoe Reader’ and what I learned was Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one.

As a former newspaper publisher, the problem at the CNR could be that its publisher is largely absentee, rarely in Chico and unaware that Double-F syndrome is dumbing-down its victims.

Daugherty implies that there is something progressive about the CNR. Truly liberal publications do not depend largely on advertisers who hawk alcohol, fast food, firearms, gambling or unsafe sexual practices. Nor do they utilize thinly-veiled marketing ploys such as the CNR’s ‘Best of Chico’ (inferring the rest of us are less) or events such as ‘Keep Chico Weird’. Take a peek in your looking glass, Daugherty.

She holds her Chico State education like a defensive crucifix, telling us what ‘real’ and ‘legitimate’ publications are, forecasting the demise of the Enterprise-Record as she dons her dancing shoes. Is she the best CSU has to offer?

The same can be said for the CNR’s news editor, Tom Gascoyne who teaches journalism at Butte College. He had befriended me as his token bum friend, superficially interested in what I had to say.

But then he dumped me without explanation and, literally crosses the street when he sees me coming. What a schmuck. He is the best Butte College has to offer?

The CNR continues to stereotype homelessness, acting as a virtual public relations/fundraising arm for the status quo of homeless politics, seldom looking below the surface.

Daugherty overreaches in referring to herself as an ‘outlier’ in her support of a downtown casino admitting she’s never actually been in Chico’s Casino 99 [actually, she wrote that she had never played cards inside a casino, not specifically casino 99. Unlike Daugherty, I believe printing corrections are important, ethical]. Does downtown need more problems? Is she just grasping for ad revenue?

If Melissa Daugherty is an outlier, then I’m a crazy bum who lives in the woods. Oh. Wait.

She writes that no one at the CNR is ‘tap-dancing’ on the grave of ‘Synthesis’ (which was simply brilliant) while she does a two-step stomp on the recently folded publication. Why?

Could it be that its editor, Amy Sandoval wrote circles around her and rescued the CNR’s ­black-listed Porter?

Daugherty infers that Synthesis’ large list of contributors weren’t ‘real’ writers because they were often paid with Madison Bear Garden and Duffy Bucks. Will she be willing to provide full disclosure financial statements of her non-profit grasp for funding? Will she provide donation refunds if the endeavor fails?

Should Madison Bear Garden and Duffy’s reconsider their advertising placement?

The cover illustration of the last issue of ‘Synthesis’ was simply brilliant, worthy of a New Yorker magazine cover: carved out of stone a newspaper vending machine stands angled on a white field, its screen cracked with “1994 – 2015” underneath.

[In my next blog, I’ll go on a bit more about the connectedness ‘Synthesis’ had to Chico. I really miss it.]

In the publishing trades, publications like the CNR are thought of as a free weekly advertising rag with light filler. In a recent column Daugherty bragged that a particularly obnoxious column of hers regarding her son, Henry had won some sort of vanity award.

In the piece she relates coming across unnamed staff in an unnamed grocery store telling jokes Daugherty found offensive and, on the spot, in her high and mighty tone, berated them.

She doesn’t name them to silence their voice. In investigation journalism you do your best to represent all sides. Did she not name the grocery store to protect ad revenue?

She’s way into putting people down like former Mayor Mary Goloff who Daugherty, in her consistent exhibitions of a lack of social skills and grace, kept kicking in column after column even when it was announced that Goloff was seriously ill.

Where’s your sisterhood, Sistuh?

It’s ironic that in considering the Enterprise-Record’s offer to me to write for them, that one of my hesitations was that Daugherty once worked there and I feared her mean-spiritedness might be systemic. It’s not.

Melissa Daugherty writes blithely from her white ivory tower office that it is ‘chilly’. Has it ever occurred to her that the rejecting and censoring frost of her public personality is pushing back?


I’ll be writing more of the CNR and its travesty of reporting in future blogs. The misinformation it provides our community is unconscionable not just from a journalistic sense, but in a moral sense as well. I’ll also be publishing the complete email correspondence between Daugherty and me as well as the list of questions the Jesus Center and Torres Shelter did not answer.

In a separate forthcoming blog, I’ll also publish the essay the CNR REFUSED TO PUBLISH!

As for the writers besides Daugherty and Gascoyne at the CNR, you’re only as good as your editors. Look at where I landed.

NOTE: The “-30-” above is an arcane journalistic (I’m an old writer) feature to denote ‘The End’. I don’t know if it’s still in common use.

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