Chad Condit introduced me several times to out-of-towners during last week's Ceres Chamber of Commerce forum on "fracking."
Actually, at first, he spun around and introduced himself to me. Whoa now. I must have seen Chad Condit more times than I can count over the past 20-plus years so his self-introduction was sort of an automatic thing that political types do. He is, after all, the son of a former congressman and a candidate for Congress himself. Chad realized what he'd done and smiled. I nodded and said, "I know who you are," with a sly smile.
He then introduced me to Catherine Reheis-Boyd and Tupper Hall, the top officials with the Western States Petroleum Association while small-talking that I had been writing for the Ceres Courier since he was a kid. Not quite since he's just six years younger. He ad-libbed that I still looked younger than he does.
Every time I see Chad Condit he reminds me that he has more gray hair than do I. I suspect it bothers him, although I've never asked. He may be like me in that advancing gray hair is a daily reminder that time is flying by. It belies our perception that we're not getting old. You see, in my mind, I graduated from high school a few years back when in reality it's been 35 years this June.
Of course, I didn't have a single gray hair when I started at the Courier nearly 27 years ago. I remember my very first day - Sept. 12, 1987. Tom Paradise, a very green newspaper manager, hired me, a very green community newspaper editor fresh out of a five-year stint at another local newspaper. Darrel Phillips, a local sports media legend, was publisher at the time.
Some people embrace gray hair as something one "earns," like a badge of honor. Proverbs may state that "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" but others conceal it and try to erase all signs of facial aging and so they go overboard with Botox and start looking ridiculous.
My gray hair is spreading from the temples to the point that my daughter suggested last week that I look like a "president." It was her way of saying I have as much gray as Mitt Romney. No comfort since Romney is 67 and I'll soon be 53. I don't even think President Obama - who was born 13 days before me - has as much concentrated gray as do I. At least his is scattered. Besides, Obama is a president and is supposed to age faster than the rest of us.
Lo, the gray has spread like wildfire over the past two and a half years - probably from enduring the lengthy disease and medical nightmare that led to the death of my wife.
I can't blame the gray on the kids - as some are in the habit of doing - because mine caused me little trouble. I do, however, remember feeling a pressure to do as much with them as possible while they were still "mine."
Indeed, years at the Courier has to account for much of the gray sprouting on my short mane. Gray brought on by an accumulation of 27 years spent producing a newspaper, (although I suppose a person can turn gray sitting on a couch). I did the math. The Courier was started in 1910, which makes this our 104th year. I have been here 27 out of 104 years, or 25.9 percent of the publication's existence (and 50.9 percent of my lifespan). As of September, I will have produced approximately 1,400 issues (make that 1,500 or 1,600 because for a while the Courier was putting out two issues per week.) So chock it up to each stressful deadline, weekends that were interrupted by events to cover, hours of night meetings that took me from home, countless hours paying attention to getting things right, and, yes, worries of making it on the salary of a hometown newspaper editor.
Compound that with a typically abbreviated vacation schedule and that might make anyone turn gray.
I pore over back issues and don't remember a lot of my mundane writing but then I remember things that stand out. You might say I have a history with the history I was there to witness.
I remember being with then Assemblyman Gary Condit who had no choice but chuckle at the wisecrack of a local good old boy who recounted the day Nixon came to town and offered that if maybe somebody had shot Nixon we would have been spared of Watergate. I remembered Condit's partaking of the laughter when he was undergoing his own personal scandal that forced him from office.
For years I'd stressed each time I'd go into an interview and coming up with questions on the fly, whether it was D.A. Donald Stahl, city managers in Jim Marshall, Gary Napper, Tim Kerr or Brad Kilger, or congressmen Coelho, Condit, Cardoza, and Denham, or Sheriff Les Weidman, or TV's Richard Simmons (who dropped by Walter White School), or George P. Bush, nephew of President Bush.
I suppose I derived some gray after seeing tragedy up-close and personal. I've watched frantic people rushing toward as their loved ones perish in a fire. I saw a young woman sitting dead in her seat because she passed a truck on a blind curve on Central Avenue and went head-on into a third vehicle. I saw girls mowed down in the street by Larry Dale Duke's truck. I've seen the corpses of drowning victims in the TID canals. I was between an angry crowd and the police after an officer mortally shot parolee Ronnie Dale Cadwell on Darrah Street. Those mental pictures never go away.
Then there's just plain old father time that tears down our DNA, that process that takes a fresh baby and turns him into wrinkled tissue. Ah, the passage of time. I remember watching the construction of the Ceres Walmart, Raley's, Staples and Home Depot. I've spent years writing about a Walmart Supercenter that we've yet to see for some knuckleheaded activists. But then again, I've written about exciting projects that never materialized, such as a 12-screen movie theater on Hatch Road and ice skating rinks.
There will be more years of more work and stress and gray hair. Time really does pass fast. The trick to life is making each day count and finding enjoyment about each day because the reality is, as reflected in the lyrics of a song by Hoobastank, that "Every second that we have is once in a lifetime, once in a lifetime."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org.