Secret Message in a Bottle — About Tim

It takes a lickin' and keeps tickin'.Traditionally, “Dear John” letters are written from the person departing a relationship to the soon to be soon-to-be departed (not to be confused with the “dearly departed,” in which case the letter is actually an obituary). Today, however, I will invert the model and direct my “Dear John” to the departing party seeing as they didn’t bother to send me a letter. I know this 180-degree twist on convention might rile the purists among you, but considering that neither of the parties is named John, any notion of purity is a charade. One is me and the other is former Sonoma Valley Sun managing editor Tim Omarzu. And the break-up isn’t romantic despite all the ouzo we’ve shared. It’s, as my uncle Luigi used to say, “Just business.”

Yesterday was Omarzu’s last day at the helm of this paper, and seeing as I missed his going-away party (my massage and chardonnay-scrub at MacArthur Place went long – sorry!), I am compelled to address his departure frankly and forthrightly in this column. Tim is in the CIA.

Well, not the CIA as such, but rather a rogue counter-intelligence outfit funded by the CIA for the purpose of ferreting out rogue counter-intelligence outfits in the CIA. In short, he is his own worst enemy, which I suppose makes me his best. Of course, close readers of the Sun have long suspected Tim’s ties to the intelligence community. Even the most amateur of cryptographers, armed with little more than a pencil and mild paranoia, could decode the secret messages in Tim’s various “news” pieces. Consider this brazen missive encoded into an innocuous headline published two weeks ago: “Measure approved by City.” By merely rearranging the letters, Tim was able to print “A Cab Redemptive Your Spy” right under our noses. What does it mean? Nothing – unless you know that Tim has frequently relied upon Vern’s Taxi to ferret him home after a night of surveilling local taverns. Clearly, he was planning a night of binge spying. Decoding a teenager’s text message is more challenging. And don’t get me started on the so-called “typos” that have appeared in these pages – secret communiqués, every one of them. I before E except after CIA, my friends.

How Tim was able to use the paper to send instructions to his operatives for so long is beyond me. Ditto his seeming reliance on the contributions of two writers whose bylines are clearly concoctions of an intrigue-addled mind. “Staff Report” and the even more unlikely “Submitted Material” are clearly pennames of agents in Tim’s devious employ. All I have to say to Messrs. Report and Material is watch your backs, Jacks! Without Tim as your human shield, you’ll be dispatched faster than one can say “microfilm.”

Mind you, I don’t fancy myself the Robert Novak to Tim’s Valerie Plame, nor is this a leak devised to elevate my career (though I understand there is now an opening in the newsroom). I’m just trying to be a friend to Tim the way he’s been a friend to me when he wasn’t spying on me. Frankly, why anyone would leave the staid lifestyle of a small town newspaperman for the thrill and adventure of international skullduggery is beyond me. To wit, Tim’s covert shenanigans are really a cry for help, though “covert” is really an overstatement, seeing as one can seldom be both covert and so blatantly obvious at the same time. But then, Tim is not your average managing editor-cum-super-spy. He’s truth’s own blue-eyed boy. I’ll leave it to him to decode the secret meaning in my “Dear John” letter to him:

“Dear Tim – I swear to God it was sambuca.”