Doni’s Dish: Featuring Phil Fountain

Doni: Welcome, Phil, to Doni’s Dish. I’m pleased to feature you,’s intrepid cartoonist,  as my second Dish partner. This means you’re off the hook for a cartoon today. You’re welcome.

Phil: Did you say’s insipid cartoonist? I’m not arguing, just want to make sure the ol’ tin foil hat is working on all frequencies and that we’re on the same wavelength. You’re coming in loud and clear. Carry on.

Doni:  Roger that, tin man. Oh, by the way, thanks for starting work on my new Dish image. I loved that previous image, but I’m ready to move on. Besides, I was getting tired of having my eyes closed. I think I’m better off with them open. Makes driving and working on the computer a lot easier, too.

Phil: Well, heck. I was going to stick with the “closed eye” motif. Less work. Don’t have to draw the eyeballs and use up the brown crayon. But, I see what you mean. The “New Dish” is looking toward the future, scoping the landscape for new and exciting adventures, always on the lookout for interesting, entertaining and informative dish for its readers. Which begs the question… what am I doing here soiling an otherwise pleasant little feature with talk of tinfoil hats, eyeballs and non-two dimensional matters?

Doni: Are you kidding? I’m loathe to inflate your tin hat into an overheated Jiffy Pop container,  but you’re a very popular guy here at Sure,  I know I’m taking a huge risk by having you – a cartoonist – as my dish partner. Do you think you can do this, or are you going to want to sketch?

Phil: I think I’ll be OK. You, on the other hand, may have to start a new website under an assumed name after this little exercise, but my reputation can hardly be sullied. Besides, I’ve worked with you for a number of years now and I’d say you’ve nearly gotten me housebroken. I mean, I go “on the paper,” don’t I? (By the way, the paper isn’t nearly as absorbent as it used to be. Oooh, was that too “snarky”? I’d hate to be accused of being snarky. Of course, I’d hate to be accused of a lot of things but “snarky” seems especially inappropriate… unless there are city council members in the vicinity, then I reserve the right to resort to snarkinosity.)

Doni: Don’t go changin’ Phil. Your snarkinosity is part of what makes your cartoons so spot on. Course, it’s also what makes me and managing editor Kimberly Ross do Pepto Bismal shots when we get an especially – uh – spicey cartoon from you.

Phil: Spicey? Aw, my little doodles are the graphic equivalent of a bowl of Wheatena with a side of Ovaltine. And, depending on your computer’s printer and the paper you have loaded, provide nearly the recommended daily allowance of fiber. I can’t imagine you or our readers having trouble digesting my crudely rendered missives. I hear Patrick Jones prints them out for “recycling,” he’s very civic-minded that way.

Doni:  Well, no segue, but you’ve had a lot of major life changes lately, haven’t you?

Phil: Yes. Hot flashes, moodiness, the whole bit. Very insensitive of you to mention it, though. Snarkiness doesn’t become you, Doni. Leave the snide remarks to us experts.

Doni:  I hear flax seed works wonders. No, seriously, you’re’s pun for hire. You can have that job. Nobody does it better. But I was trying to give you an opening to share some exciting news. Joking aside. Just for a moment.

Phil: You may be referring to my recent foray into Grandparenthood, right? Of course you are! Yes, our daughter Hannah and her husband Ezra have blessed us with little Elias Vance Hemping, the world’s most perfect little grandson. He was born on 01/11/11, so we call him our “Little Binary Code Baby,” which elicits yuks from the geek contingent but, like grandpa’s cartoons, blank stares from the community at large. Still, he’s absolutely precious and I’ve taken to the whole concept much better than I thought I would. It’s so nice to hand a “loaded” baby to its parent without feeling the need to do any Toxic Waste Management on your own. That particular mantle has been dumped on the next generation. The circle of life, so to speak.

Doni: What a lucky little Elias to have a cartoonist grandfather to entertain him with a lifetime of drawings. I go by Noni Doni. What shall Elias call you?

Phil: I’ve always been partial to the name, “Hortense,” but he’ll probably just call me, “that smelly, bald guy who follows Grandma around.” We’ve already started rehearsing the old “pull my finger” bit, so far, he’s much better at it than I am. But I really am kind of liking the whole “Grandpa” thing. I figure my job is to sneak him candy bars and loud, annoying toys. His mother has some karma to work off.

Doni: Gosh, great idea. Wait a sec, I’m taking notes. OK, I’m back. Hey, have you noticed how things have changed since our kids were babies? This time around, with little grandson Austin, I’ve bought a baby-wipes warmer and an intercom system.  And Austin’s little infant seat has different bouncy settings, and while it bounces, there are also sound options, like crickets or ocean waves or  a lullaby. Plus, Austin’s car seat – that weighs a ton – includes a base into which the car seat snaps. The first time I took Austin somewhere I had to call Josh and get instructions about how to release the seat from the base.  Thank God Austin was sleeping.  From the neighbors’ vantage point I looked like the business end of Winnie the Pooh stuck in the honey tree.

Phil: We can’t even GET to the car seat. It’s been bolted into their car… well, the base, anyway. And yeah, the swings and napping utensils are great. The sound effects work on Grandpas too, by the way. When I’m around, I supervise “naptime” – me and the kid actually have a lot in common. Except he already has more hair… and better table manners.

Doni:  I don’t know about you, but when my kids were babies it was cloth diapers, diaper pins, diaper pails, glass rectal thermometers. No little foam bathtub inserts that they have now that come with built-in sensors that alert you when the water’s too hot or too cold.  Oh, and get this, Austin has “pee-pee tee-pees” – a little tent-like piece of cloth created just with baby boys in mind. It puts a lid on the the spray factor.  And I’m borrowing this stroller infrastructure contraption that holds the above-mentioned car seat (once I get it out of the car).

Phil: I have yet to receive formal accreditation on the proper use and operation of The Stroller. I am regulated to “non-mechanical transporting” – which means I can hold him to my shoulder for spit-ups, and that’s about it.

Doni: Well, I’m sure that you’ll eventually advance to overseeing The Stroller, then the Car Seat, and finally, you’ll have to put out an APB to locate your daughter and son-in-law so they can come get their baby.

Phil: Circle of Life. Now, in my dotage I’m grateful for the advances in diapers, etc. I just hope my HMO covers the new space-age rectal thermometers.

Doni: I deeply, truly regret mentioning rectal thermometers … Subject change, please. Now, not to hair-split, but although I don’t doubt  Elias is the worlds’ most perfect little grandson, you and I may have to stake more specific bragging claims. Can we stipulate that Elias is the most perfect baby born on 01/11/11, and my grandson Austin is the most perfect baby born on 12/01/10? After that, can we get back on track about your other news?

Phil:  Oh, right.  I think you may also be talking about the “life change” in our geographic whereabouts these days as well. It’s true, my lovely wife accepted a position with the City and County of San Francisco. Naturally, this necessitated her moving to The City. Being the mooch that I am, I tagged along. We are now housed on the 22nd floor of a high-rise apartment overlooking one of the planet’s great cities. Although I was born in San Francisco, I’ve never had the opportunity to live here as an adult. Of course, I’m still not really living here as an adult – but I meet the age requirement. My wife loves her new job and since I do all my damage from a computer, I can continue my assault on Redding’s sensibilities from a safe distance.

Doni: Wow. You’re on the 22nd floor?I feel dizzy just thinking of it. That’s like two Shasta County Jails high, with a penthouse and roof garden. I didn’t know you were born in San Francisco. So you’re coming home, in a way. I’m happy for you guys, I really am. But shoot, Adam moved to Portland, now you’ve left for San Francisco. But like Adam, you’re still part of our team, right? Phil? You still there?

Phil: I am, indeed, here. Wherever that is. Let me take a moment to drop the pants of pretense and speak from the heart. Chris and I are not “leaving Redding.” We’re just not living there at the moment. Life has afforded us an opportunity that we couldn’t in good conscience pass up. We have a son who lives in San Francisco so, despite his protests, he has the advantage of wallowing in our accumulated wisdom firsthand for a time. Technology allows me to do whatever it is I do from anywhere, and as far as “anywheres” go, San Francisco ain’t bad. But, we have three children, a grandson, many friends and several creditors right here (there) in River City. We love Redding. I think the hardest thing my wife has ever had to do was to say goodbye to her friends and coworkers at the city. For me, personally, there is no way I could willingly leave a town filled with the wealth of cartoon fodder that Redding provides. This town is a freakin’ goldmine for an editorial cartoonist! We have a guy on the city council who dresses up like George Washington fer cryin’ out loud! San Francisco has its share of eccentrics but can you imagine SF’s mayor refusing to cross their bridge? You can’t make this stuff up.

Doni:  I do hope someone notified San Francisco public officials that you’re on the loose and carrying a concealed sketch pad. Hey, maybe Patrick Jones pulled some strings to ensure Chris Fountain left Redding so you’d move on to fresh meat politicians and forget about him. Regarding your leaving,  I will not take it personally that you’re the third member of our team to move away. First Lauren Brooks from Chico to Washington state, then Adam Mankoski to Portland, and now you to San Francisco. <sniff, sniff>

Phil: Well, as Bob Dylan once crooned, “You ask why I don’t live here / Honey, how come you don’t move?” Jus’ kiddin’. Saw a chance to quote Dylan and had to oblige Dyar.

Doni: Well, as Benny Hill said, “Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.”


Phil: Where were we? Oh, yes, my move to San Franciso. It does seem like there’s a “Flight of the Weird” from Redding. But, I think that’s just how things go. I bet if you asked Lauren and Adam they’d say the same thing, it’s not leaving Redding that was intriguing, it was going somewhere new. There is too much to love about Redding and it will always be home… but, I gotta tell you, the vibe in San Francisco is pretty exciting. The creative juices just start flowing when you cross the Bay Bridge. It’s a magical place and I feel at home here, too.

Doni: I spent a lot of time in San Francisco when my dad lived there, and I loved that city. It’s still one of my favorite places. Speaking of which, do you want to talk about why you moved to San Francisco, or is that top secret? And this just occurred to me … don’t you and Chris have – uh, like – five kids? Did you leave a forwarding address so they could find you, or just race off in your U-Haul in the dead of night?

Phil: Sometimes the Universe just speaks to you, doesn’t it? I mean, a series of events transpired that really made it difficult to ignore certain paths and possibilities. None of it was “planned.” Chris and I moved to Redding from L.A. over 20 years ago to be near relatives and to raise our family in a more “manageable” environment. We tried to be involved with the kids’ school and sports and were lucky enough to land jobs that put us in close contact with the community. A great community. We were happily sailing along. Our youngest children (the twins, they know who they are) were graduating from high school and were hitting the magic “18” number age-wise. At around that time my wife got a “joke” email from her boss about an opening in San Francisco doing basically the same work she was currently employed doing in Redding… at a little more money. On a, let’s say calculated whim, she applied, all the while figuring it was a million-to-one shot that she’d even be interviewed. Well, suffice to say, be careful what you wish for sometimes. After a year of jumping through hoops, yesses, nos, maybes and everything in between, she got the job. I’m so very, very proud of her. She’s obviously the “capable” one in the relationship. I hurt myself trying to eat my Froot Loops in the morning, thank goodness she has a sense of humor when it comes to spouses.

So, with kids more-or-less “grown”… we decided to run away from home! San Fran-cisco, open your golden gate!

Doni:  I’m proud of Chris, too. She’s incredible, and I’m sure everyone at the Redding Police Department misses her already. So tell us about your new home. Any adjustments?

Phil: Well, we live near City Hall (the Civic Center) in a small, one-bedroom apartment with our little brown dog. I look out from our balcony at the skyline, the bay, Market Street, I can even see AT&T Park from just beyond my drapes. The Ferry Building is right down at the end of the avenue.

Doni: That’s really beautiful, Phil.

Our view, looking toward the Ferry Building. That's Market Street.

Phil: The F-line cars clang by, sirens howl, bums scream, sea gulls squawk, Chris works just a few blocks away and can get to her office in under ten minutes. I have the Main Library downstairs,  and an Internet connection. I don’t have to drive and food is everywhere! My son works a few blocks away in Union Square and stops by often. Despite the plethora of restaurants in our immediate vicinity, I’ve managed to lose about 20 pounds because there are all these great places to walk to – I must confess, though, when forced to drive I get a little hinky. I have a 5-speed and some of the hills are a bit difficult to navigate – I blame gravity. But, so far, no dings, dents or mangled pedestrians (not that they don’t test me). The absolute worst part of driving in The City is the parking insanity. We are becoming dedicated Muni-riders. It’s easier, cleaner and cheaper to make use of the excellent public transportation. I wish RABA could emulate the service here… not fair to compare, I know, but using the buses, street cars, trains, ferries and cable cars is so much fun. And, so much less stressful for a geezer with a slippery clutch.

The biggest adjustment for us personally has been being a bit detached from family and friends. We still drive back to Redding often and we have video chats on the computer, so we’re acclimating pretty well, but we do miss everyone. I miss the “group hugs” and all. Not enough to move back or anything, mind you, but enough for me to feel a pang of nostalgia.

Doni: I don’t want to know what “hinky” is. Really. Don’t. Want. To. Know. Moving right along, let’s not jump to conclusions, but have you noticed that since the Fountains moved to San Francisco, the City by the Bay has suffered forecasts for snow flurries and tornadoes … just an observation …

Phil: I think the Weather Gods just wanted us to ease into our new surroundings comfortably. Now, what I hope is that they knock it off before June… I don’t want it to hit 119 in San Francisco just to make me feel “at home.” There’s no air-conditioning in our building.

Doni: Is that legal?!!!

Phil: It is almost beyond the pale of believability, isn’t it? How can you have a building without air conditioning? Not a swamp cooler in sight, not anywhere in this crazy town! Apparently, denizens of San Francisco don’t believe in signaling for  lane changes,  non-organic foods, box stores, the Reagan Years or the need for habitat climate control-systems. Suffice to say, we’ve lived here through one of the colder, wetter winters in recent history and we paid our first utility bill with a pair of Jacksons and got change back. I’ll be thinking of you in July while your dashboard is melting and I’m being gently cooled by the coastal breezes out on my balcony, sipping an espresso and composing poetry.

That’s enough about my boring little existence. What about you? I haven’t had a chance to see the Un-Pink House yet.

Doni: My un-Pink House turned out great. Ron and Dave from Best Choice Home Improvements did an outstanding job, as did all the subs and suppliers. But boy, is it nice to sleep in and not worry about being greeted by a construction crew. Alan Philips will take photos soon of the finished product for my final Pink House Chronicles piece. Then landscape designer Karen McGrath will work on the outside, which, right now, is under water, probably because my lot is mostly concrete. But even without landscaping, that little house is my sweet sanctuary where I’m adjusting to living alone for the first time in my life, buying groceries for one and making all the decisions without anyone’s input. Being single wasn’t the life I’d planned, but I search for silver linings, like I never have to make the other side of the bed, and I don’t have to negotiate Netflixs picks, and I don’t have to sneak thrift-store purchases into the house, and I can keep the light on to read for as late as I want without disturbing anyone, and I can buy bleu cheese and mushrooms again. It makes me sad to think about it. Even so, I have married friends who think my single life looks pretty attractive, in that one-less-egg-to-fry, grass-is-greener way of thinking. It’s a huge change, for sure. ‘Epic’ – as the kids would say.

Phil: I guess a lot has changed. Just look at the short three years since we left the paper, eh? Who would have thought that I’d still be shooting spitwads at you all these years later. Granted, they’re cyber-spit wads, but you know what I mean. Change is indeed the only constant, isn’t it?

Doni: Amen to that. Oh, for the record, I prefer cyber-spit wads. They don’t sting. And the paper? Wow. That’s a blast from the past. I found an old RS staff directory the other day and nearly everybody who was there then has moved on. But you’re right,  change is constant, and crucial. I mean, to borrow the baby metaphor, imagine if nobody ever changed him. Oh. Em. Gee. The mess, the smell, the discomfort …

Phil: Much like Tuesday nights before my bath. I love change, though. I just wish I’d stop getting paid with it. (Snide alert #23)

Doni: (Snide alert ignore #23)  I’m glad for the chance to dish today because I keep meaning to mention the radio show, Doni and Friends, that we did for a while last year on KCNR. It was fun while it lasted, but the contract ended in December, and I decided not to renew it, for a couple of reasons. But I learned a lot, and at some point I realized that because is online, we really didn’t need a radio station to reach our readers/listeners, because most of us listen to radios on our computers. My dream is to eventually do podcasts that feature talent. But first things first. Right now our team is working hard on a re-design that will be more advertiser- and reader-friendly. And prettier. And easier to navigate. The change should allow yet more space for our great content. I’m pretty excited about it. We hope to roll it out in May. Oh, that reminds me; I wanted to see if you could re-do the contributors’ mug shots.

Phil: The re-design will be a welcome change for readers, and contributors as well. I’m looking forward to working with the staff in getting it online. As for the mugshots, I believe I can retrieve most of them from federal databases (the Patriot Act made getting those kinds of things much easier). But, yes, our bright, shiny faces will be out front for everyone to see.

Doni: Just one request. Eyes wide open, OK?

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Cherry says:

    What a treat.. waking up early, getting a cup of coffee and having you both waiting to entertain me. Great Dish, Doni and Phil. Good luck, Phil. You and Chris are living one our dreams. Terrific opportunity. Wear out lots of tennis shoes, just don't forget about us. And Doni, Good the new Dish.

  2. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Hahahar…Doni and Phil, ya had me laughing. I loved your dish!

    Grampa Phil, Enjoy the city. It's like another world down there. I too, left my heart in San Francisco. I also left my wallet there.

    Grannie Doni, enjoy your new digs. I like your attitude of, I can do any damn thing I wanna' do!

    Keep up the good work and I'll see you around

  3. Avatar Donna Dowling says:

    Okay, I admit I laughed my ass off while reading this. Wait, I just looked and it's still there (darn). The Winnie the Pooh image wouldn't leave my mind. You guys were great. I already knew Phil was an incredible comic, but if you quit your day job, Doni, I see stand-up comedy in your future. Phil, I seriously doubt I could live on the 22nd floor (I have vertigo issues) with 2 Australian Shepherds – one has a type of diabetes that makes her need to drink lots of water and pee a lot. It does, however, seem like a neat opportunity for you guys. Best of luck!

  4. Avatar Chris B. says:

    Thanks for bringing the newest Dish, Doni. It's like eavesdropping on interesting friends, something I always enjoy. Looking forward to the next installment, as well as the Pink House update (say it's not really the last!), as well as podcasts – great idea.

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I loved this "dish". Great writing will out. I enjoy the "visit" nature of this feature. Thank you both!