Bob, Mieka, Piete, Suzanne @ San Diego Zoo, 2002

Wednesday, March, 2002. Wheeler Creek Trail head parking area, with 10 minutes to kill on my way to work.

On Saturday, I was at the San Diego Zoo with Suzanne, Mieka, and newly fledged U.S. Marine Corps Private Pieter Thor Sawatzki. Born on a stormy day, we named him after the god of thunder and lightning. Eighteen years later he joined the military. That was last summer, a month and a half before 9-11.

While his comrades  partied their brains out, Piete just wanted to get away. The zoo was his choice to celebrate our day together, partly because as an active duty serviceman he got free admission. Our first stop was the gift shop, to buy a civilian “cover” for his shaved head.

Piete’s feet were aching from the parade ground exercises, marching about in drill formations wearing ill-fitting boots under the brilliant sun. All he wanted was to sit on a quiet bench under the shade of a tree and read a book. We agreed to meet for lunch at food outlet #3: The Treehouse Cafe.

S. wanted to graze at the salad bar. I wanted meatloaf and garlic potatoes. But it all looked like monkey chow to me.


Tuesday, April 2, while waiting in line for the automatic car wash.

Yesterday was Day 2 of Anger Management, a 12-step program I am now enrolled in. This chain of events started when I was joking on the phone with a trusted co-worker about an Item Request.

“That item is unavailable,” I said, “due to the item record being all fucked up.”

T.D., our new assistant Librarian overheard me speaking rudely of an item record. If there’s one thing all librarians are obsessed about, it’s item records. But instead of talking to me about it, T.D. sent me a sternly worded e-mail, followed up by a brief meeting with her and the branch manager, K.B.

T.D., newly divorced, middle-aged single mother and recent graduate of library school anxious to try out her newly-fledged managerial wings by practicing on me.

A few days later, I discovered T.D. had set up a test of my thoroughness in a cart of books I was spiffing-up: cleaning covers, sanding edges, repairing torn pages. There was a book with an item record I was supposed to “discover” and correct. In absolute dereliction of duty, I left the item record uncorrected.

Sure enough, I received an e-mail from T.D. about it. Unfortunately, we were alone that day. After reading T.D.’s e-mail, I responded by shoving the cart across the room at her, speaking harsh words I deeply regret.

Just the two of us at a branch library up in the piney woods, me and this little lady, trying to re-invent herself in a very strange state, at her first professional post. Terrified of me, I realize now. Size and sex had everything to do with it.

T.D. locked herself in the back office and called the branch manager at her home for advice. I went back to work at the front desk, cleaning and sanding volumes. Pretty soon, the phone rang and I answered.

“What’s going on?” said K.B. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I said, “but I think T.D. needs to go home for the day. She’s locked herself in the office.”

“I know,” said K.M. “She told me all about it. But you’re the one who has to go home. Right now. You’re on Administrative Leave.”


There was a meeting with K.B. and legal counsel for the county. I was encouraged to shop around for an Anger Management class that I thought best for me. I called several places, visiting locations and collecting brochures.

I was on my lunch break in the kitchen at work when T.J., the anger management counselor from New Horizons returned my call. He had questions about my situation–did I really work in a library? Located in beautiful, scenic, serene Ogden Valley?

“What do you have to be stressed about?” the voice on the phone laughed out loud. “You’re up there in Happy Valley–working in a library!”

That’s when I knew I had found the right place. Soon after the call, my intuition was  re-enforced when I met T.J. in person. A subsequent meeting was arranged for K.B. to meet him and make her own determination.

On the day of the meeting, I drove up, up, up Ogden Canyon and worked at the counter for 45 minutes. Then I drove down, down, down the canyon to New Horizons at 30th and Grant…followed by my boss. We met in the parking lot and entered the shabby-looking, two-story anonymous stucco box.

“I’ve got a one-thirty with T.J.,” I said to the receptionist. Then we sat side by side on the tacky old sofa. I had my big folder of Anger Issues and a paperback copy of Working Together: A Personality Centered Approach to Management, provided by the HR dept. of the place where I work.

Beasley, the office cat, came right to us, rubbing up first against K.B., and then against me.

“Do you think he knows we’re cat people?” said K.B.

Beasley went over the to reception desk, flopped over on a throw rug, and rolled himself up like a taco. Just then, T.J. walked out to greet us. Short and stocky, compensating for small stature by always wearing a trucker cap. There were a number of caps, I came to learn over the course of our classes and in the decade and a half since those tumultuous days, all of them well-used.

I introduced K.B. to T.J. and then we all went upstairs to talk.

Poster on the wall: There are no bad apples, there’s just misunderstood fruit.

There were 10 to 12 of us in the Anger Management Class, mostly angry, white males. Attendance varied because of drop-outs and work schedules. Just 2 or 3 women. Some of us were there for problems at work, but most people had been court-ordered by a judge for spousal abuse. One of these was a handsome young latino police officer, giant-size, a brown Achilles. We all had a moment to share our stories, but his testimony was the one that really slapped me in the face–you might say–because of his sincere contrition. He loved his job yet was in danger of losing it. He loved his wife and yet he beat her. How the hell, he wondered out loud, did he end up here with all us losers? He got a big laugh for that.

What I noticed right away was these were my kind of people. Opinionated, sarcastic, plain-speaking, working class citizens–no shrinking violets here. Leave your pc-manners and politesse at the door. In many respects it was like being in high school detention again with all your favorite trouble-makers. If they had served alcohol it would have been just like hanging out in a bar. I took careful notes and came out of each meeting totally jazzed, learning a new language.

I was ready to acknowledge being unhappy and causing grief for people I loved, along with innocent bystanders such as T.D. And I was ready to do whatever was necessary to change. But after only three classes, I had to take a previously scheduled week-long getaway around southern Utah.




Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon

Wednesday, April 24. Just around the bend from “The Great Gallery” in Horseshoe Canyon.

Today’s Ranger looks to be about 19 or 20 years old–a summer job for a college kid. He had big gaps between yellow teeth and food on his face.

“I’m about to take a group up to the ledge,” he said. “If you’d like a closer look.”

“I’d better not,” I said.

He looked crestfallen, like he had failed miserably again.



“Holy Ghost” panel, Horseshoe Canyon