I used to drive down the streets in the neighborhood, thinking it would be a dream come true to live here.
"That a doofus like me could live in a neighborhood like this," I thought that morning while walking the dogs, "shows how great our country is."
Dreams do come true in our great nation.
My thoughts continued that way for hours and days, about the things that make America special, the things for which others say they despise us but deep down envy us.
"That an overly opinionated, publicly venting, satirically bent wise-ass such as myself is still doing his thing, and is still alive, shows how great our country is.
"That people, raging and blaming and vilifying on the pages of this newspaper, including a prominent local minister who took the opportunity of a national tragedy in which thousands died to take a public and published political shot at our Congress, shows how great our country is.
"That those who raged and blamed and vilified are now being rebuked and discredited in this newspaper and beyond, and will lose standing in this community and beyond, shows how great our country is.
"That little Fresno State, my alma mater, all spite and speed and vinegar, is ranked in the top 10 in college football, among the Nebraskas and Oklahomas and Texases and Floridas, and that some of us still care, if a little less, shows how great our country is.
"That white folks are joining hands with black and brown folks and folks of every other color and creed to sing ‘We Shall Overcome' and ‘Amazing Grace' shows how great our country is.
"That my extended family could gather on a recent Saturday night to watch a videotape of my son and his fellow bandmates in the Great Spartan Band play both "God Bless America" and "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" in the same halftime program shows how great our country is.
"That our extended family could watch the same videotape and see how my son was ripped off when he was called for pass interference in his freshman football game and agree it is the worst call in the history of football, then do nothing about it, specifically not kill the ref, shows how great our country is.
"That scores of people recently gathered in a local nightspot to celebrate the 40th birthday of my friend Ruben Avila, his twin sister and another friend, and that people ranging in age from their 20s and 60s and beyond were gyrating to a reggae band from Yuma (a reggae band from Yuma. What a country!) shows how great our country is.
"That friends from the neighborhood and the workplace would gather at our home for a house-warming party (scheduled before Sept. 11), when many in this nation only want to see a house warmed if Osama bin Laden is in it, and that they could enjoy a spread of food and drinks and beer if they so desired, and that they could meet and laugh and smile and tell dumb old stories despite the sorrow around us, shows how great our country is.
"That people are nicer, more patient and more polite — well, most people, anyway — and that people are more willing to talk to strangers in grocery lines and wave people through with a smile at four-way stops during such a national crisis shows how great our country is.
"That life is good and fulfilling and fun for a doofus like me, and for all my fellow doofuses here and beyond, even in such tenuous and sad times, shows how great our great country is."