Northside SF  

The Final Word
By Bruce Bellingham

The other day, Tom Ridge, former head of Homeland Security, admitted that he was under pressure by Republicans to manipulate the color-coded terror alerts in order to play politics with the 2004 presidential election. He says he did not acquiesce. Maybe he just stuck to his favorite colors. Or maybe his true colors. I go to San Francisco International Airport every month. I can tell you that the terror alerts have been at level orange for years. That means “high,” a condition that limits coffee breaks for the legions of TSA workers at the airport when they’re not taking away your might-have-been-explosive Ralph Lauren body lotion. I wonder what happens to all of that pricey cosmetic stuff that they seize at the airport. It must account for that sweet smell of security that lingers in the air.
Lots of things are arbitrary these days. How about the overworked term in broadcasting – “breaking news”? When breaking stories break, what do they break? Hearts? Furniture? Fine china? New ground? Or just break wind? Just as capricious as the breeze. It seems breaking news can describe anything, from a backup on the Bay Bridge to a catastrophe at the airport. That’s when the media rushto find a grief counselor to put on the air. That’s the heart-breaking news. 
Curious career, grief counseling, no? Imagine the little tyke suddenly uttering at the kitchen table, “You know, Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking about it. I really don’t think I’m cut out to be an astronaut or a fireman or a surgeon or a hacker or even the president of the United States. I want to be a grief counselor! I’d get to be on TV a lot, too.”
Being a Sherpa guide in this treacherous world seems to be big business. Half of the people I see on Twitter are offering their service as “life coaches.” Look at Jayson Blair, the most famous plagiarist at The New York Times. He’s now a life coach in Virginia. And I thought they were all in Southern California. Maybe Jayson’s trying to do something original for a change. No, being a life coach is not all that original, no matter where you are. Not so long ago, I encountered a woman who called herself a life coach. Surely she’s on the Greyhound to Inner Growth. I’ll be in the back of the bus until I get off in Paso Robles. Inner Growth is on the itinerary for next year.
She explained to me, with all dead seriousness, “My work involves a muscular training of the mind and heart to get one in better shape for a direction in life.”
There’s nothing too original about that, either. The Jesuits have been doing that for centuries. Jesuits do it, even overeducated fleas do it. Speaking of Cole Porter, do you think he could find a rhyme for “Jesuit”? Something other than, “A Jesuit. No matter how you measu-it.”
Now that Norm Howard has been retired from KQED-FM, he’s looking for a new career. Life coaching is not out of the question. Norm’s starting with an advice column that might fit in well in Parade magazine called, “Too Much Self-Esteem? Try This Quiz.”
I always thought that there’s nothing really intrinsically bad about having self-esteem. It just tends to fall into the wrong hands.
I’m sure my life coach would object to a negative affirmation like that. 

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. He loves hanging out at the airport. He doesn’t really go anywhere. He accompanies his girlfriend as she gets on the plane to Los Angeles. Bellingham likes the transitory nature of the air terminal. Later, when he gets off the BART train at Powell Street in San Francisco, he invariably sighs, “Ah, it’s so good to be home again.”
E-mail him at

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