SWM seeks concrete island

Jerky Bites: Is it just Bites, or is the Sacramento singles scene getting bleaker and bleaker? Granted, Bites’ approach may be a bit off: The whole approaching-attractive-widows-at-funerals thing really isn’t panning out. So, exactly where does a sensitive soul go to find like-minded companions?

Enter “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette,” a daylong seminar to be held June 4 at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. Carolyn Curtis, executive director of the Sacramento Healthy Marriage Project, will be guiding curious singles in the fine art of avoiding Bites-like people. Curtis defines a jerk as a “male or female who resists change regarding some problem in their life and demonstrates behavior that hinders intimacy in a developing relationship.”

And lest you think that Curtis is making this stuff up, you should know that her seminar is based upon a curriculum of the very same name developed by Ohio marriage counselor John Van Epp. A book, of course, is on the way, and according to a recent Wall Street Journal story, the Army is planning to repurpose the course and rename it “Premarital Interpersonal Choice and Knowledge” for the military.

According to Curtis’ agency, the 2002 divorce rate for Sacramento was 81 percent, compared with a national average of 50 percent. As to whether this means Sacramento has more jerks, a choosier population or just no goddamned family values, your guess is as good as Bites’. But avoiding jerks is probably still a good idea. And if you happen to see a set of disembodied teeth sitting in the back row drooling, be sure to say hello.

Bee gone: With both Josh Freedom du Lac and Diana Griego Erwin gone from The Sacramento Bee, Bites has been going through heavy withdrawal symptoms. Who will fly off to Vegas to interview disappointed Celine Dion fans? Who will stay home and talk to “Courtney,” a wayward teen whose story is uniquely her own yet representative of thousands of teens across the country?

Happily, Bites all-time favorite Bee columnist, hero and role model is still living large right here in River City. We’re talking, of course, about Walt Wiley, whose column in the City section is must reading for those in the know. Sure, Wiley doesn’t use his middle name like his fancier colleagues, but he has been contributing his down-home wisdom to the Bee since the late 13th century. And throughout that time, his columns have imbued otherwise horrifying realities like the bubonic plague and the existence of Good Day Sacramento with a folksy levity they would not otherwise have.

Yet, even Bites was taken aback by our hero’s sanctioning of the city council’s move to divert money from the Pops in the Park program for the improvement of an East Sac traffic island. “It’s a delight to see the work going on at 48th and M streets,” writes Wiley, “where a little plaza complete with three trees, benches, a drinking fountain and a decorative fountain is going into that triangular traffic island there.” (See, even when completely off base, Wiley’s words flow like honey.)

Maybe it’s from reading J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island one too many times, but the whole idea of hanging out on a traffic island and watching the sun set really doesn’t appeal to Bites. But, hey, if the city’s got cash to burn, surely there could be no better use.

Time traveling: Turns out it’s just a stone’s throw—or a drunken lurch—from Wiley’s beloved traffic island to the Coloma Community Center, where Bites caught Alexander Cockburn’s lecture on “How to Change the World in Six Easy Lessons.” (See “Advice for the left-lorn” by Bill Forman, SN&R News, May 12.) Among the highlights were Cockburn’s remarks on stubbornly maverick (a.k.a. Scots-born) U.K. Member of Parliament George Galloway, whose testimony on Iraq before the U.S. Senate told the truth with a passion rarely heard on these shores. (Cockburn probably likes him most because he dissed Christopher Hitchens; in any event, the speech can be found on Cockburn’s CounterPunch Web site.) By comparison, said Cockburn, watching most American politicians orate is like “watching a boat slowly maneuvering in a yacht basin.” Bites also liked Cockburn’s six easy lessons for changing the world, especially Lesson No. 1: Make sure you’ve got the right world.