Last weekend

If you don’t have anything bad to say, think of something good

Personally, I prefer my newspapers naked, hot and sweaty, like the ones in the sauna down at the Capital Athletic Club. You really haven’t lived until you’ve rummaged the gym’s luxurious spa area for the last few scraps of The Wall Street Journal or The Sacramento Bee that haven’t yet deteriorated beneath the deluge of perspiration visited upon them by the day’s previous readers. The yellowed, brittle leaves crinkle in your hands and have a dank, salty odor. This is news you can smell. Ahhhhh!

Which is marginally better than news that flat out stinks, I thought during my weekly sauna sojourn this past Saturday. I didn’t care that most of the stuff worth reading had already been yanked out of the paper. No doubt it was all bad news, anyway. War in the Middle East. Corruption on Wall Street. The Olsen Twins. Bad news is sort of my business, and having gorged myself on it all week, there was nothing I wanted to do more than boil it out of my system.

It worked, and I skipped out of the gym into a brilliant fall day, one of those days in Sacramento you want to keep secret in your mind, for those inevitable occasions when some wiseacre from an allegedly superior metropolis runs down the River City. If you’ve made it here, the gibe generally goes, it’s because you couldn’t make it anywhere else. They just don’t know, and I’m not going to be the one to tell them.

The air was crisp, scrubbed clean by the recent and somewhat unseasonable rain, considering the drought we’ve endured for the past three years. I fired up the motorcycle and cruised home beneath a canopy of green and gold and red, avoiding the slippery patches of fallen leaves plastered to the street, returning the waves of curious children, who always seem fascinated by the big Beemer roaring down the street.

I shot right past the house, got on the freeway and headed toward the foothills. The day was too good to waste. I took the Lincoln exit and headed north, and gradually the confined, narrow thoroughfare unwound into a curvaceous country road. I turned the throttle up a notch and the farms and horse ranches and golden hillsides flew by. Just before Penn Valley, I caught Pleasant Valley Road and really started leaning into the corners, thumbing my nose at Lake Wildwood’s forbidding, gated fortress, yanking the bars left and then right through the tight switchbacks descending to the South Yuba River.

At the river, I stopped and contemplated a hike. There’s a well-maintained trail that leads to a clothing-optional swimming area 2 miles east of the road. Summertime’s gone, so instead I sat on the bike and watched families traverse the Bridgeport Covered Bridge and kids gingerly dip their toes into the frigid water at the river’s edge. What with the colorful fall foliage, I could have been in New England as easily as Northern California.

The next day dawned just as beautifully, so I trekked down to the farmers’ market under the WX freeway. By now, my shopping routine is fairly well established. I hit the fruit stand right near the entrance for persimmons, pomegranates and whatever else is in season. Next I go to the counter where fresh-made dairy products are sold, because the butter is to die for. Then I go down to the far corner, just to see what sort of weird creatures the Asian seafood stand has hauled in this week.

Last weekend, it was stingray. Stingray! What the heck do you do with that? I made a mental note to look it up when I got home, and bought a pound of the best—and cheapest—shrimp in town. I was on my way out when I passed by the old man who sells pistachios. He’s a likeable codger, so I bought some chili lime pistachios from him. I had just paid up and was about to leave when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Hey! You forgot your shrimp!”

It was the old lady from the Asian seafood stand, holding my $3.50 bag of shrimp. She’d run about two blocks to catch me to make sure I got my money’s worth.

When I got home, I looked up “how to cook stingray” on the Internet, trying to avoid seeing any bad news headlines, but seeing them out of the corner of my eye anyway. A terrorist bomb blast in Iraq had killed more than 100 people. The chief executive of Goldman Sachs had declared income inequality is good for all of us. The late Michael Jackson’s children were in therapy.

I logged off and tried to put it all out of my mind. I thought of that old lady, running all that way to give me three bucks worth of shrimp. It doesn’t always have be bad news, I realized. Not when the days and the people are this nice.