People frequently ask “how do you like working at the I-T?” The presumption that I work for the paper, flattered, as I am to be perceived as employable by a 135-year-old institution, is patently untrue. Of all the institutions in which I’ve done time, the Sonoma Index-Tribune has not been one of them. Sure, I toss a few hundred words over the transom every week but I’m seldom allowed in the building. The only time I’m invited in is when a suspicious package arrives for me from Vineburg and they want me to hand it to the bomb squad.
I am a mere columnist, or more broadly, a “contributor” though I anticipate that in some post-junta future, a military tribunal might someday declare me a “collaborator.” That’ll be a proud march to the gallows. As they slip the nooses around our necks, I’ll look to my fellow collaborators and quip, “J.M., look good in a tie,” and he’ll say, “So that’s what ‘gallows humor’ means? I thought it was a band we opened for in 80s!” and we’ll all laugh until some wag groans, “Hang in there” but it will be too late to kick their ass.
Until then, it’s a privilege to pen weekly columns for this paper of record and contribute, in some small way, to the timeline of the Sonoma Valley. Years from now, future historians may data-mine some cloud-based neuro-storage archival device and read these very words. What will they discover besides my long-forgotten genius? Perhaps they will find the dawning consciousness that will define their era; or, perhaps the seedlings of a cultural renaissance that will inspire generations? Or a typo. Odds are, only one will prove correct and I’m hesitant prognosticate about the futrue for fear of being… Right.
As regular readers can attest, this column has often served as whiteboard of sorts for its author. Here, I’m granted the opportunity to experiment, cogitate and commit within the relatively safe confines of our small town, before trouncing out and embarrassing myself on the world stage. You, darling, readers are the beta test, the 1.0, the early-adopters – in short, the Guinea pigs. Don’t take offense – in some countries you’re a delicacy. In time, Sonoma’s epicurea scene will catch up with these exotic locales, then we too will eat Guinea pig and think fondly of you. Yes, you put the “Mmm” in “Hmm,” which is better than putting the “uh” in “duh” or putting your money into real estate anywhere near Boyes Hot Springs.
What’s interesting about being a small town columnist is that readers will often take the time to share their observations about one’s work when recognized. Such is the utility of the mug-shot, which also serves those who wish to avoid me. Due to the fact that my name is unpronounceable outside of Ancient Greece, people frequently hear Daedalus Howell (pronounced “DAY-de-lus Howl”) when introduced as “David LaSalle.” Prior to my mug running with the column, I’d spend entire dinner parties chatting with people as Mr. LaSalle until someone said, “You know, whom I can’t stand reading is that egomaniac in the I-T.” I’ll say, “You mean J.M. Berry?” and they’d reply, “No, the narcissus who only writes about himself” and I’d realized they confused their Greek gods and explain, “I actually pronounced it ‘the Daedalus’” Dessert would be served in silence until I pointed out that “I don’t write about myself; I write about Sonoma – I just happen to be in it.” Then I’d be asked to leave without even having to help with the dishes. So, you see, I don’t work for the paper – it works for me.