Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comfort Food

I’m in Mesa and I’m not really supposed to be here.
No, it’s not as though that I have been banned from Mesa or anything sinister like that. (On second thought, who knows, maybe I am banned from Mesa; I haven’t looked at my court papers in a while).
It’s just that I was supposed to be back at home in Tempe after back-to-back house/animal-sitting engagements in Mesa, then Ahwatukee.
But the day I left Mesa, the folks I was house-sitting for - Ron and Joanie Newth - were involved in a pretty bad crash on the interstate. Ron suffered broken ribs, broken bones in one hand, a couple of broken fingers on the other and a concussion. He was released from the hospital Monday (July 21). Joanie is still in the hospital where she is recovering from broken ribs, punctured lungs and a stubborn infection in her leg.
'Since I’m in a position to help out, I returned to the Newths home here in Mesa on Friday and will be here until Ron runs me off. Presumably, the idea was that I would be handy to help Ron with things while he continues to recover.
But Saturday morning, Ron was busy making French toast for our breakfast while I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper. Can you spot what’s wrong with this picture?
Anyway, any of you who know the Newths will be relieved to know that Ron is taking excellent care of me.
In my defense, I will say that I mowed the lawn. So there.
Of course, I stand ready to help, should Ron need it.
It would be difficult for me to deny Ron and Joan anything, to be honest. Of course, I don't actually HAVE anything, so there's no real internal conflict on my part, if you know what I mean.
The larger point I am trying to make here is that the Newths were there for me in my most difficult days.
On April 21, 2007 (coincidentally that was also the anniversary date of my mother’s death), I received a letter from The Tribune saying that the paper had changed its mind and decided to fire me. In an instant, I was just another incarcerated convict, with nothing much waiting for me outside the prison gate - no home, no job, no plans. The next day, I wrote a terrified letter to Ron and Joanie, asking them to put the word out that I would need a place to stay and a job. Did they know anyone who could help?
They were the one couple that I somehow knew would be there to help. This, despite the fact that I had only known them for a few years and we were more acquaintances than close friends.
A lot of people that I knew much better than the Newths didn‘t waste any time in putting some distance between themselves and me. Not the Newths.
Looking back, there were a handful of truly supportive people who held me up when I was sinking - when, in fact, I sorta wanted to sink. I am referring to folks like Mark and Ranae Salem, Matt and Billye Paulson, Rex Griswold (he offered to let me stay in his home: Imagine THAT conversation: “Honey, get the guest bedroom ready! A convicted felon is coming to live with us!), Geri Koeppel and, of course, my brothers and sister.
So, I will be forever indebted to the folks like the Newths. Ron can make me French toast as long as he wants, as far as I’m concerned.
Funny, our whole relationship started with food.
Back in December of 2005, I wrote a column satirizing a meeting of the Mesa City Council. (if you want to read that column you can find it at:
A couple of days later, I arrived at the office to find a fresh loaf of homemade banana nut bread on my desk with a note from Joanie, a woman I had never met, saying how much she enjoyed my column. That still stands out as one of my favorite memories of my days as the Metro Columnist at the Tribune. It is not for me to say how good that column was, but I bet Hemingway never got homemade banana nut bread for anything he wrote. I’m just saying, you know?
Anyway, like so many people in this part of the world, I’ve grown to love and admire the Newths. They are kind and thoughtful and generous. They’re bright, articulate and hospitable.
During the time I’ve spent with Ron here, I have witnessed how deeply moved he has been by the many expressions of sympathy he has received as he and Joanie recuperate. But that kind of outpouring of affection doesn’t surprise me at all. The Newths have been sowing kindness for years. The crop is coming in, now that they need that sort of nourishment.
I don’t necessarily eye-to-eye with Ron and Joanie on everthing, of course. When it comes to politics they are a little more liberal than I am. For example, they have two miniature schnauzers. Their names are Barack and Hillary.
Of course, while I was house-sitting I called them Ron and Nancy.
But, please, don’t tell the Newths.
I’ve grown quite fond of Ron’s French toast.


Keith said...

Now that Slim...was a damn funny post. Barack and Hillary. I had to laugh.

But there was serious stuff in your post too. Like folks helping one another out. That's what it's about brother.

We're still on for lunch whenever you're ready. I'll be out of town Aug 4th through the 8th. But shoot me an email so we can find a time and place that will work.


Claudia said...

Great column, Slim! Please give Ron and Joanie big hugs from me. Claudia