Your Friendly Neighborhood Gazeteers

Wilma Porter: I grew up in Ebb, Nebraska, where I raised two daughters, divorced my first husband, and buried my second. I can tell you from experience that running a household with children in it is a 30-hour-per-day job, eight days a week. I have no idea why working parents don’t go batty these days.

I owned the only bed and breakfast in Ebb after Mona, my youngest, left the nest. I guess I didn’t feel right unless I had a spoon in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other. I sold the business 11 years ago and followed Mona out to Washington state, so I could help with my grandkids while she and Francine, her eldest, work fulltime. Turns out divorce is an inheritable gene.

I still like to cook and quilt, and I’m never happier than when I’m within hugging distance of my children and grandchildren, or absent that when we’re on the telephone. If one of them called while my stove was on fire, I’d just perambulate into my parlor and chat until the house burned down.

To be clear, that was an exaggeration. Probably.

Hugh Griffin-Banerjee: Hugh was the only child of English and Indian parents who owned a pizza restaurant in Bagshot, England, which is not far from London. I expect his mom waited a few years after his birth to see how he worked out, and then she decided that one kid was enough.

Hugh was a smarty-pants from the get-go. He graduated from Oxford with a first in political science and ended up a professor at Western Washington University, which is about 15 minutes due west of Kokanee River.

He matriculated to the United States just before the turn of the century, because he was as mad as a wet cat that the United Kingdom had joined the European Union. Thing is, he’s a late-onset socialist. He’s come to believe that unbridled capitalism is a disease that spreads into politics and creates an economic caste system that rents the fabric of society. Don’t tell him so, but the older I get the more I agree with him. Anyway, I asked him once why he didn’t pull up stakes again and move to Denmark. Turns out he’s not fond of high taxes either (or pizza).

Fun fact: Hugh eats exactly one glazed donut per week—with a fork.

Miranda Park: Miranda is the only child of parents who immigrated to the United States after somebody tore Korea in half. She worked for a big accounting firm in Silicon Valley for 20 years, where her main job was auditing high-tech companies. That turned out to be demoralizing, literally. Half the companies she audited had fiddled their books. The company CEOs and chief financial officers were in on it every time, and the partners at her audit firm told her to cover it up most of the time, because they didn’t want to lose clients over trifles like lying to investors and the US government.

Now she has a small tax practice up here in the scenic northwest, but sometimes she writes about another bee in her bonnet: the destruction of our middle class by computers and robots. I used to think that was a farfetched notion, but Melvin was in the high-tech business, too, and he says the same thing. Now I worry for my grandchildren’s futures.

Fun fact: Miranda says she is ambisinstrous, which means equally clumsy with either hand. I don’t let her touch anything sharp when she’s in my kitchen.

Melvin Bass: If there is a person on Earth who needs to be taking pills for schizophrenia, it’s Melvin. We call him Mister Extrovert and Mister Introvert.

Mister Extrovert was an Air Force brat before he got a degree in math (!), and then he joined the Air Force himself. He was afraid he’d be sent to Vietnam, but they sent him to Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a technical person and a salesman for a giant computer company after that, and then he was a marketing executive for half a dozen high-tech companies in the US and Europe. That was the right occupation for his outgoing self; he’s a natural talker. He traveled the world when he was attached to the Air Force, and he did it again during his sales career. I’m jealous; he’s seen more of the planet than any two people I know.

Then there’s Mister Introvert, who can hide in his den for days on end listening to Shania Twain and writing books under the pen name George Shaffner. God knows why I’m the editor of the gazette and he’s not. Five of his books have been published: The Arithmetic of Life and Death, In the Land of Second Chances, One Part Angel, The Widows of Eden, and The Apex Child. Second Chances was an honest-to-goodness best seller, cross my heart.

Editor’s note: Melvin claims he has heard every joke there is about fish. I bet he hasn’t.