When you build a fence, you want to make it strong to keep some things in and to keep others out.
Ours has to be sturdy enough to confine three dogs, one them a wanderer and another with really big teeth. It has to be solid enough to keep basketball players, bottles and bullets out. Fences don't make good neighbors, they say. On South Lorimier Street, fences make neighborliness possible.
The boards in our fences have been sliding toward the city dump for years. We replaced a few of them one Saturday a few months ago but gave up when we realized how many of our Saturdays it was going to take. Some guys are builders, some women are doomed not to be married to one of them.
Fortunately, we found Frank. Frank is from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he was an electrician. The North American electrical system is so different he can't be one here, so Frank is resurrecting our fence.
Measuring, sawing and hammering, he works with a cool competence I've never known with tools in my hand. Every morning I bring him coffee and more planks and nails if he needs them and admire the work he has done. We talk a bit. He wonders why people break glass in the park and throw paper cups on the ground. "Don't they know that what they do comes back to them?" he asks.
I also admire something about the new governor-elect of California. New Age adherents would call it his ability to manifest. The old-fashioned term is willpower. Whatever Arnold wants -- muscles, Mr. Universe titles, group sex, movie stardom, a beautiful and accomplished wife from one of the America's best families, a governorship -- he gets.
Arnold grabs life by the throat. Sometimes he misses and gets breasts instead.
But beating Gray Davis was no contest. Give Californians a choice between a wimp or a bully who's also a celebrity, and they're going to get rid of the guy who'd be no fun at a party. Wimps don't ride waves, they don't drive Humvees and they don't feel up babes without permission.
When Davis pumped his fist to show enthusiasm during the campaign it looked like the swing of somebody who had never punched anybody. Schwarzenegger has been pumping iron and throwing punches since he was a teenager. His fearsome image is mostly Hollywood hokum, but he is someone to reckon with.
He'll probably fix some of what's wrong in California before getting dumped himself. Maybe his approach would work in Cape Girardeau. Maybe we're too nice.
We're paying a consultant to figure out a way to attract tourists.
Arnold to tourists: "You will come."
A wealthy businessman in the city has delayed an arts development by filing lawsuits.
Arnold, who can afford a few lawyers himself, to rich man: "Sue this."
Catchy taglines work in the movies. Maybe they'll work for Arnold in Sacramento.
The man building our fence makes much more sense to me.
I lived in California through most of the 1980s, so I have seen freakier things than Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor. I just can't remember what they were.
Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.