Gotta be a silver lining in there somewhere.

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Gotta be a silver lining in there somewhere. But saturated as I am in this morning’s live coverage of Donald Trump’s inauguration, I’m having a great deal of trouble finding it.  I am squinting with great intensity at this image.  Not squinting of the fake variety, as if I were trying to manufacture a “this is my serious face” face.  Looks to me like someone was practicing his best Clint Eastwood grimace in a full length mirror at the Blair House last night.  Not me.  I gratuitously popped a NyQuil gelatinous pill.  What my wife and I euphemistically call “a vacation.” But I’m not sick, mind you.  I just wanted a little extra help sleeping through the night. 

This is a very hard day, there is just no way around it.  

This is a hard day to be a friend.  Today would feel a heavy one to me, even if someone’s hand other than Trump’s had found its way to holding that bible opposite Chief Justice Roberts’ hand. I learned last night that a dear college buddy of mine has recently been given a very challenging diagnosis.  He and is family will wake up this morning and find themselves in the midst of a genuine fight.  They are up for it. His wide circle of friends will be up to it, as well.  This development makes what I’m seeing on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn feel both far less important and far more important. 

This is a hard day to be a son. Lately, the first text message I see in the morning lets me know how many inches of snow fell during the night at a couple Tahoe ski resorts.  This morning’s first text reported precipitation of a different physical state and salinity.  My mom told me she found herself in tears dealing with the gravity of this morning’s proceedings. No doubt hundreds of thousands of gallons of tears will be shed this morning by millions of troubled souls. My mother’s tears, though, bring a particular sting.  They stung when I was 10 years old, sitting helplessly on our living room couch as she cried in pain for hours on the evening after a root canal operation.  And they sting now, as I sit in my own living room 3,000 miles away from her. I am that helpless 10 year-old once again. 

This is a hard day to be a husband. I vividly recall seeing my wife stumble into our living room on the morning of 9/11, the two of us making eye contact for the first time since the Twin Towers were struck.  Her grief was so raw, and my inability to say or do something in that moment to console her remains a painful memory.  I couldn’t protect my family from the hatred that led to 9/11; that is a gargantuan challenge.  But I couldn’t even assuage my wife’s acute feelings of loss standing in our pajamas all alone.  Helpless.  November 8 and 9 brought vaguely reminiscent emotions to the fore in our household.  And this morning’s inauguration came storming into our bedroom on our flatscreen TV.  Hilary’s face bore a thread of resemblance to her look on 9/11.  I found myself useless again, unable to make her pain go away in that moment. 

This is a hard day to be a dad.  If witnessing NBC News’ coverage standing by myself, in a vacuum, I would give George Carlin’s 7 dirty words some serious currency. Probably invent some new ones.  Switch up the order.  Get really into it, spittle flying, some wildly gesticulating arms that tested the integrity of my rotator cuffs.  But I’m not alone, of course.  Instead, I have to bite back that bile, and solemnly bear witness to the TV screen with my 5th grader, sending him off to school with, “well, buddy, this is going to be a tough day.” I think I told him I love him before he went off to the bus stop.  I hope I did. As for my 10th grader, I agreed to drive him to school today.  Beyond distracted while listening to NPR’s coverage on our local radio, I’m not sure I properly observed any traffic rules.  I do know that I managed somehow neither to betray my anger nor my angst.  I didn’t have that luxury.  Because attempting to fill the driver’s awkward silence, and stirred by the NPR commentary, Max announced, “He’s going to intern jews.” So I found myself suddenly and uncomfortably thrown in the position of being a Trump defender. And I tried to screw Max’s head on more tightly, before I dumped him into a sea of jelly-headed high schoolers. “The things Trump has said and done, and likely will say and do, are bad enough standing on their own.  Let’s not help him out by exaggerating things.  Try to keep it together today.” I probably should have added an “everything will be OK.” But I didn’t, on purpose, because I can’t control that particular outcome.  

I can, however, control my love.  How I dole it out.  To whom, and when.  And today I will make sure I leave no “I love you’s” unsaid or unwritten.  I love you, buddy, hang in there, I’m here for you.  I love you, mom, and I’m sorry this election didn’t turn out the way you hoped. I love you, Hilary,  I share and honor your emotions.  I love you, Max and Everett, and I hope you can find a way to rise above this nonsense as you make your way in this world.  

Gotta be a silver lining in there somewhere, good people.  There always is.  

Thanks for reading. 

These are extraordinary times….

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It must be nice to look at the world unconstrained by 48 years of experiences, conscious and sub-conscious biases, and with senses yet-to-be dulled by the slow march of neural degeneration. Take this iPhone photo above, for example, which I grabbed at the top of an unexpectedly rigorous Marin Headlands hike this past weekend.  In that moment, I assumed without even acknowledging the assumption that my 11 year-old son Everett was looking at what I was looking at, and saw it the exact same way.  But writing now, I have to admit there is just no way. 

I’m sure he could see bluer blues and a more vivid outline of Sutro Tower.  I struggle to decipher ingredient lists on food packaging. Manipulating the relevant variables: Distance between words and eyes, degree of squinting both eyes then one eye then the other eye, distance between words and nearby light source, color of light source, and so on.  I harassed my wife as recently as Saturday night for breaking out her iPhone flashlight to examine a dimly-lit restaurant’s menu.  The truth is, I’m not far off. 

I’m also sure that, although he complained vociferously about the poor snack choices available, Everett can taste that gooey granola bar in a way that I can’t.  Anything without tabasco, cayenne pepper flakes, wasabi, or Sriracha rarely makes it within my maw’s orbit.   According to the medical literature, my taste buds began dying off and shrinking five years ago. So I will soon be headed to Ghostpepper Ville, I fear. 

No doubt, too, Ev standing at that vista can hear soaring birds of prey, ocean breezes whipping through invasive scrub brush, overhead waves crashing off Ocean Beach in the distance, and probably even the annoyed accusations whispered by the young woman standing nearby concerned her boyfriend chose the wrong trail spur. My own slow decent to hard-hearing is like slowly drowning over the course of a few decades.  Realizing only when it’s too late that you’re underwater, and everyone else around you is speaking but no words come out.  Or maybe if you’re lucky, Charlie Brown’s teacher’s wah-wah-wah words are what you can still glean. For now, Ev will occasionally cup his ears in pain while crossing a neighborhood intersection, howling about “the squealing breaks on that car.” “What car?” I say.  I can no longer pick up those frequencies, apparently.

But most importantly, Everett can still enjoy the freedom of playing around with words with abandon. Approaching them without judgment.  Withholding his respect for them, even, unless and until they earn it.  Not intimidated in the least by Hammurabi’s Code’s bona fides, let alone cowed by Noah Webster’s dictionaries.  

Last night, Everett pronounced from the living room couch, “‘Extraordinary’ should mean very very normal, like super boring, not better than ordinary. I think people are using that word improperly.”  I’d like to think he’s both right, and wrong.  That way, I could say that we are both experiencing the world in our own extraordinary ways. Even if my “extraordinary” is the super boring one. 

Thanks for reading. 

And now, let the wild rumpus start….

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“Man I’m gonna miss this guy.”  This was the overwhelming thought dominating my sleep-deprived brain at 2:16 am this morning. But it goes deeper.

Normally and historically, I consider myself a healthy sleeper.  I can usually be counted on for 8 hours or more, no problema. But that bedrock trait apparently experienced a seismic jolt somewhere in the after midnight hours of November 8.  With unpleasant and unwelcome regularity, I now find myself perusing news sites bathed in the flicker of my iPhone’s screen.  Stretched out on the living room couch. Wrapped in a hodgepodge of whatever undersized throw blankets my sons have not smuggled off to their bedrooms for the evening. Shaping and pounding the couch pillows that are not made for sleeping into something more closely approximating pillows that are made for sleeping.  And there I lie, calm and with a heart rate in the mid 40s.  Burning through one after another well-written article published in credible and long-standing news media outlets.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for while ensconced in these strange, lonely hours.  Information, to be sure.  Turns out my brain craves it, and turns sclerotic without a steady flow of it.  But I suspect I search for something more.  Something meaningful.  Something on which I can seize to regain my equilibrium.  To hoist above my head with both hands as a means of clinging to what I hope is a healthy perspective.  Something that will justify an authentic show of optimism to my sons in the morning about the state of the world.  Something that makes me not sound like (or write like) a fool when I posit, “Things are going to be OK.” 

So in the three-hour Witching Hour of last night/this morning, I gobbled the latest information from the usual suspects.  Somewhat guiltily nibbled on a couple op-ed pieces (I always do so with a grain of salt, even if said pieces are preaching to the choir in which I stand nodding vigorously). And then I stumbled on the photo above, depicting President Obama reading “Where the Wild Things Are” to school children a few years back.  The image struck me.  I brought my finger-scrolling and all other voluntary bodily movements to an abrupt halt.  To study the image, let its comforting familiarity wash over me. Feel it sink in and take hold.  

I know this book.  Our firstborn son is named Max, and the book’s author unknowingly bequeathed us with a gift by naming his main character, “Max.”  Our copy was gifted to us by close family friends when our Max was born. They penned a thoughtful inscription to our day-old baby on the inside cover.  I can’t even begin to guess how many times my wife and I held open these pages for our Max in our lap, reading the narrative aloud and absolutely reveling in it. Contorting our faces, stretching our voices, and sprinkling in scene-appropriate hand gestures here and there.  And making that exact same face, with that exact same claw hand, as President Obama evidently conjures up in his own rendition.  Pretty simple, yet pretty profound, this newfound, very human connection. 

Mr. Sendak’s book has sold something like 20 million copies. That’s a lot of people reading and overacting to a lot of children half-asleep on a lot of laps.  I wonder whether any of them felt the same visceral reaction as I when they saw this image published in The New York Times. A gut feeling that somehow, some way, everything is going to be, in fact, OK.

Well then, let the wild rumpus start!

Thanks for reading. (And thanks, Frank and Noel — and Mason — for the gift 15 years ago).

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Field of Broken Dreams

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Well, that was awesome.  Or at least it should have been.  For someone who has been writing a little “Here’s How to Live Your Life and Enjoy Every Moment” blog for the past three years, I am often pisspoor when it comes to heeding my own advice. 

Take this past Sunday, for example. 

I’ve written in the past about this cool group of gents known as the Mission Baseball Club. They congregate weekly, throw together an entertaining and legit intrasquad scrimmage, and allow participants to relive past glories (or infamies) and create new ones.  And while I haven’t had the good fortune yet to join them, the Club also travels regularly to San Quentin State Prison for hard-fought games with the inmates.  “Hard-fought” is probably a poor word choice here, but the prisoners take their baseball seriously.  As do the umpires — themselves inmates, who wisely err on the side of their fellow inmates when any close calls arise. 

For a variety of legitimate and illegitimate reasons, I have not played a game with the Mission boys for perhaps two years.  Two long years.  During those two years, my stepped on ring finger, spiked during an ill-advised attempt at stretching a single into a double, has more or less healed.  This was, as I recall, the last game I played.  But also during those two years, my eldest son got two years older.  Two years stronger.  Two years more skilled at his old man’s game.  So when this Sunday rolled around, serendipity stepped in and delivered up a remarkable, Lemonade Chronicles-esque sitcheeashun:

Max and I playing a genuine baseball game on the same baseball diamond.  Together.  At several points, playing middle infield together. He batting immediately after I did, following me in the lineup.  Me scrambling from one base to another when Max’s bat struck the pitched ball.  Or me watching from the dugout due to my own inability to reach base (happened more often than not). 

All the ingredients for a magical and unforgettable father-son experience, right? But I think I blew it, more or less.  

I managed to sneak a few fleeting glances over at him at shortstop as I stood ready on the dirt between 1st and 2nd base.  And when sitting on the dugout’s green splintered bench, I watched Max in the batter’s box — as I have done from a similar vantage point since he was 5 years old.  And I doled out a handful of high-fives; but not nearly enough. 

As I reflect back, I realize that I was so wound up in my own head, that I neglected to truly appreciate what a lightning strike moment Sunday’s game represented. I’m nearly 50, so the mental gymnastics and emotional swings triggered unexpectedly by some otherwise innocuous event, smell, or feel are fairly overwhelming.  Bending a hard turn around 1st base after hitting a line drive will flash me back to a similar moment during a high school game.  Swinging stupidly at a pitch thrown enticingly near my eyes will drum up moments of doing the same damned thing, years ago, with equally shit consequences.  And then this can spiral into “no wonder you didn’t play at Duke, you never learned this lesson, if you had, maybe you would have played for a long time, you dipshit…” That sort of thing.  It’s debilitating, and compounded by the fact that my body simply can’t do what it could 30 years ago.  I am painfully aware of this when I play.  So I stand in the field with an 18 year-old’s brain, and a 48 year-old’s body.  Agonizing about that contradiction, more or less, for three hours until the game’s end.

None of this is conducive to “being in the moment.” When so self-absorbed with existential nonsense, there are simply no excess brain cycles to manifest gratitude over the imminent prospect of a father-son-turned double play.  Or the sublime satisfaction of immediately preceding my own son in the lineup — I’m digging into the batter’s box, while hearing the “whoosh” of his swing in the on-deck circle. Or watching my firstborn evolve into a young man, almost literally right before my eyes, on the same neighborhood ballfields he played ten years ago.  My failure to seize Sunday by the throat and bring myself to sentimental sniffles makes me want to spike my own finger.   

The good news is, the Mission Baseball Club plays every week.  Next time, I’ll try to get out of my own way and truly enjoy playing with my son on this remarkable field of dreams. Wish me luck with that…. 

Thanks for reading. 

Walking the Third of a Green Mile (No Rain, No Rainbows)

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Last night marked the beginning of an auspicious new chapter in my 11 year-old son’s life: Day One on my, I mean his, journey to becoming a rockstar. (Note to self: Remember to tag this blog post with #helicopterparenting.) After years of dinner table cajoling and backseat threats, I finally pulled the trigger and signed Everett up for piano lessons. It’s ridiculous that this has taken so long to come to fruition.  The music school is well-respected in these parts, and we know many families who swear by it.  More importantly, a 5-minute walk from our house delivers the student right into the studio.  Maybe less than 5 minutes, actually.

Though the walk felt more like an hour last night.  Because I spent the entire time engaged in an exhausting mental wrestling match with Everett as he struggled to shake free of this new obligation.  I had successfully entrapped him into agreeing to the lessons months earlier; the result of a sophisticated plan, at the end of which I basically had him painted into a corner. While wearing a straightjacket.  And blinders.  And a neck brace, nay, one of those halos affixed to the skulls of accident victims.  My point?  There was no getting out of this one — a realization with which Everett suddenly came to grips during our .3 mile walk. I half-expected him to mumble, “walkin’ the (third of a) mile, walkin’ the green (third of a) mile, walkin’ the (third of a) mile…”

It’s one of my principal regrets, as I approach the half century mark:  I rue the day when, as a jelly-headed high school senior, I impulsively elected to bail on band.  Early morning practice was just too early, I decided, and not worth the hour of sacrificed sleep.  So dumb. I had played trumpet for years, was actually pretty good, and experienced some success with it.  I still hold a tiny grudge against my mother for going along with this ill-informed decision.  I think a swift kick in the ass was in order rather than acquiescence.  (I am compounding things now, as my mom is my most loyal “Lemonade Chronicles” reader. So I sure hope my throwing her under the bus here does not mean my readership will conspicuously drop by one.  Hi mom.)

Therefore, some 30 years later, I pulled a well-used page from The Book of Helicopter Parenting, and essentially forced Everett to do something in order to fulfill my own unfulfilled aspirations. I admit it.  Of course I would never admit this to Everett. Zero indication of my own burning internal conflict over this decision.  Certainly not during our stroll down the Third of a Green Mile. 

The story does end well, however, at least as far as this particular first chapter goes. But, as is seemingly the case with everything else in life, not the way one might expect.  I had expended so much mental energy just getting Everett to “agree” once and for all to take a lesson, that I screwed up the scheduled time of the lesson.  I proudly presented myself at the front desk at 5:30pm with a self-satisfied smile.  Well, the lesson time was actually 5:00pm. I had practically dragged a dead-legged Everett along the sidewalk, scuffing his sneaker soles down to the nub on the concrete.  All for nothing. And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.  Even had to pay a fee for showing up late.  Probably should have been assessed yet another fee for “blatant and unforgivable helicopter parenting.”  Then again, that fee is called “adolescent psychotherapy” — a bill to be karmically incurred downstream, no doubt.

Everett, of course, was as elated as I deflated. Slump-shouldered, I salvaged my attempt to stimulate the part of his brain associated with artsy stuff and creativity by making an unscheduled stop at a nearby art supplies store. Ev practically waltzed around the aisles on his tiptoes, still euphoric over his near-death experience, professing his newfound love for everyone and everything. And somehow, a sketchpad and pack of felt-tipped markers caught Everett’s attention and ultimately made their way with us to the local burger joint. That’s where my helicopter parented son with greasy fingers managed to exercise his frontal and parietal regions without my forcing him to do so.  And that neat little patterned illustration at the top of this blog post was the result.

No rain, no rainbows.

Thanks for reading.

That’s a lot of copies of the U.S. Constitution….

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On the heels of an otherwise perfectly-choreographed PEOTUS press conference yesterday, there seems to be some question this morning regarding the folders.  More specifically, the folders jammed with reams of paper meant to underscore the steadfastness of Messr. Trump’s moral compass.  The blizzard of documentation intended to squelch even the whiff of impropriety.  Don’t even whisper the words “conflict of interest,” or “corruption.”  Come to think of it, don’t you dare even contemplate phrases that rhyme with those words.  Any of those words.  Clearly, Trump’s people are way ahead of you.  And the monument of documents splayed out before the press corps serves as a testament to the diligence and virtue of Trump’s team. End of story.  Move on, people. 

Not satisfied?  Well, what else in the wide wide world of sports would you expect to see in there?  OK, I will humor you ingrates. Allow me to address some theorized possibilities, in the hopes of setting you all straight.

Omarosa Headshot?

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This might seem like a logical assumption, since Ms. Manigault was evidently among the boisterously cheering staffers on the press conference’s sidelines, and has been identified as being particularly abusive to that well-known “fake news” outlet, CNN, and its Chief White House Correspondent.  I would argue that Mr. Trump and his crew took it easy on CNN.  He could have raised a leg and kicked over the rectangular tables, spilling 1,032,014 glossy copies of Omarosa Manigault headshots into their laps.  But no, as usual, my PEOTUS took the high road. 

Inspirational Fortune Cookie Fortune?

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I am sorry to disappoint all you conspiracy theorists looking to wrap up Mr. Trump’s zeitgeist with a clean little bow.  It is conceivable that Mr. Trump’s many yuge decisions have been guided by Far East wisdom stuffed in high fructose corn syrup crispy goodness. But I have done the math.  No Fortune Cookie manufacturer could possibly have whipped up a sufficient number of cookies with their little policy papers inside in such a short period of time to fill all of those folders.  Please note, however, that Mr. Trump intends to ramp up that manufacturing capacity during the early days of his administration.  Believe me. 

Twitter User Manual?

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Manual?  He don’t need no stinkin’ manual!  Mr. Trump is rewriting the rules of the Twitterverse.  Twitter etiquette, common sense digital citizenship?  That’s for you little people; not for my PEOTUS.  Perhaps Mr. Trump’s 34,300 tweets, printed out in toto, would fill up those manilla folder stacks.  But that would be foolish, since his team of brilliant advisors busily deletes and edits those tweets on a regular basis.  Depriving you luddites of the ability to search for imagined inconsistencies and misunderstood racist, bigoted, or misogynistic tweets taken totally out of context. 

Dollars (billions of them)? 

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WRONG!  As you well know, Mr. Trump’s wealth is practically unquantifiable.  Too bigly for you to even imagine.  So don’t even try.  Just know that on average, he turns down 3 to 7 one billion-dollar deals before you drag your sorry ass out of bed to clothe, feed and walk to school your insignificant children with weak chins. Trust me. 

Xerox of someone’s butt? 

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Absolutely not.  But not because Mr. Trump hasn’t inspired legions of followers who would gladly hop on the copying machine for him on a moment’s notice.  He could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, and they would all jump right up there, clicking away at that COPY button like telegraph operators.  I would do it for sure.  This theory’s downfall is the image’s subject.  I mean, look at that butt.  Clearly not up to Mr. Trump’s standards.  I mean, gimme a break.  Not to mention, he is not just automatically attracted to the bejeweled back pockets. Oh, and he has too much respect for women.  Yeah, that’s right.  Way too  much respect for women. 

A Prop from “The Shining”? 

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An interesting idea.  But a silly one.  First, this is the work product of yet another overrated Hollywood elite-type.  Total loser. Mr. Trump does not need to borrow ideas from that sort of person.  Second, as you all know by now, ordinary typewriter keys are wholly inadequate to accommodate Mr. Trump’s otherworldly digital endowment. Physically impossible. And third, Mr. Trump does not own or use a computer.  What’s that you say, a typewriter is not a computer?  Sit down, I didn’t give you a question.  Don’t be rude.

The Constitution of the United States?

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Bingo!  Exactly right.  My sources within the Team Trump confirm that yes, in fact, those folders contain a full and complete copy of the entirety of the U.S. Constitution.  Yep!  How do you like them apples?  How dare you, Mr. and Mrs. Khan, suggest that my PEOTUS has never actually read the Constitution.  I assure you, believe me, he has read every single page.  And to prove it, we’ve assembled photocopies of all 1,032,014 pages — most with Mr. Trump’s personal notations in the margins — right up here on the dais. OK, yes, the gentleman in the back from Heaping Pile of Garbage news outlet?  You say the Constitution is actually just 4 pages of parchment paper? Your organization is terrible, sir, and you are clearly fake news. Sit down.

So there you have it. Now that I have resolved this particular political witch hunt for you, I hope you people are happy.  You’re welcome.

Thanks for reading. 

 

PEOTUS Fixed the Drought!

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I awoke this morning to the most wonderful news:  The drought in California is, at long last, over.  There was only one person who could fix it.  And…he did!  I hereby rescind any and all written or oral statements I’ve ever made that could be viewed by my enemies as negative commentary on Messr. Trump.  Oh, and thoughts.  Any critical thoughts I may or may not have had, I disavow those too.  Actually, it doesn’t matter, because those alleged writings, verbal comments and thoughts are totally unsubstantiated.  Fake news.  Get over it, people.  Move on.  Because as of this morning, America — or at least the California part — is GREAT AGAIN!

I’m talking about the refreshed water table.  Now flush! Filled to the brim. Practically overflowing, thanks entirely to Donald Trump’s largesse.  Apparently, Mr. Trump orchestrated a wonderful climatic event in Russia awhile back, with the direct result of ending the drought here in California.  They even have a name for this sort of miraculous event — a “Golden Shower”!

And who would have thought that it would require British Intelligence to unearth Trump’s enormous contribution to righting my state’s long-standing ecological deficit?  Such modesty!  Rather than accept the well-deserved adulation, Mr. Trump humbly notes the revelation is “unsubstantiated.”  Oh Donald, there’s no need.  Like an anonymous donor writing a yuge check to a worthy charity, later discovered, please just bask in the glow of our unabashed appreciation. You have earned it, sir! 

Note: I grew up in a small town; the child of parents who grew up in smaller towns.  Arguably a bit of a Podunk kind of guy.  So I confess that “Golden Shower” is not a regularly occurring phrase in my lexicon.  And it’s been a busy morning in our household, so I haven’t had a chance yet to cruise around Wikipedia. Urban Dictionary.  Really get up into the etymology of it.  The way I like to when stumbling on a new and interesting turn of phrase.  I’ll get to that work right after my PEOTUS’ press conference. 

In the meantime, thank you, Mr. Trump, for the Golden Shower!  On behalf of my fellow Californians, thank you!   

Thanks for reading. 

Back in the Pool. 


I’m back in the pool again. As much as I’ve maligned pool-swimming versus swimming in San Francisco Bay, I’m back in the pool again. The non-stop rain storms have left me no choice. Though given my recent, ehm, performances in said pool, my privileges may soon be revoked. 

My crawl feels smooth as silk–totally efficient–in swirling seas. In a placid, rectangular pool, I find myself attracting unwelcome attention from the teenaged lifeguards. To them, it may well appear that I am in the throes of a Grand mal seizure. And that’s my pool-based freestyle. My other strokes — at least the ones I’ve thusfar mustered the courage to trot out — prompt the guards to post themselves up resting their arms on the emergency defibrillator boxes. 

Take the breaststroke. This is simply not done in the Bay. It would trigger immediate and merciless mocking from my swim buddies. Shoot, if one of my swim buddies dared a few breaststroke pulls on my watch, I would light into them like a rabid dog. Their only plausible excuse would be that they are deeply hypothermic, unable to perform basic arithmetic in their heads, and simply warming their brains for a stroke or two before resuming the cold water torture. 

So needless to say, my breaststroke leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, foolishly, I decided I’d break it out the other morning while following an old Masters swim workout I spied on the pool deck’s whiteboard. I have to admit, my push off the deep end wall felt pretty damned good. My mind flashed to images of Olympic breaststrokers. I lost track of time. And depth. And my lane. And thus committed an egregious breach of lap swimming etiquette. 

When I finally broke from my absolutely gorgeous streamlined position — because I was flat out of air and close to passing out — I smacked the top of my head on the underside of the lane line buoys. And came goggles-to-goggles with a startled woman minding her own business in her own lane. In her lane. Not my lane. I had less than zero business diverting into her lane. And I can’t fathom how I would have responded had the roles been reversed. 

So what did I do? I sprinted to the other end (freestyle, of course) and tried to pretend nothing happened. I glanced nervously around the pool expecting to be lifeguard-whistled at. To have one of those red Baywatch life preservers hurled in my direction. To bear the brunt of well-deserved obscenities screamed by the offended swimmer at the pool’s opposite end. 

Instead, nothing. No comeuppance of any kind. 

Still, when I head to the same pool 24 hours hence, believe me, I will be wearing a totally different color swim cap to hide my identity. May even get a full-body tattoo. And I damned sure won’t be breaking out my breaststroke again any time soon. 

Thanks for reading. 

A Tree Falls in the Forest

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The Pioneer Cabin Tree fell this weekend.  Hollowed out in the 1880s,  the still-living giant sequoia succumbed to the heavy storms currently pounding California.  According to the Chicago Tribune, generations of visitors etched their names on the tree’s hide over the past 137 or so years.  So that means that someone’s great grandfather’s hand-carved initials splintered and fell, too.  Family memories uprooted and toppled. Lying shattered now on the soaked forest floor.  

I stumbled on this news item in my morning Twitter feed, and it felt like a punch to the gut. (Actually, it felt like the latest in a series of punches to the gut delivered over the course of 2016’s entirety.  Only it’s 2017 now, and 2016 is supposed to be fading in the distance of our collective rear view mirror.  Right?)

It’s the type of unexpected gut punch that results from taking something or someone special for granted.  That sin is compounded when that something or someone special is irreplaceable, invaluable, and seemingly just going to be there forever. I’m guilty of presuming the permanence of many things and many people. Every day I do this.  It’s a constant struggle not to fall victim to this lazy, mind-numbing habit. I wish that a 150-foot tall tree likely alive during Lincoln’s presidency didn’t need to meet its end in order for me to wake up.  But it did.  And now I’m awake.  So today I’ll plan to make a couple long-overdue phone calls, hug my two sons a little longer whether they like it or not, look deeply into my wife’s eyes, and walk my dog in the pungent woods — taking a moment to see and appreciate the trees along the way. 

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  I think so.  Pretty sure I heard it. I hope you did too. 

Thanks for reading.  

 

Merely a Caveman.

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This ain’t sexy.  If anyone ever tells you writing a book is sexy, well, they are spinning a yarn right in front of your very eyes (ears?).  If someone at a cocktail party or school bus stop ever pronounces, “I am writing this book, and it feels sooooo good,” my advice is to spin on your heels unceremoniously and speed walk in the opposite direction.  That person isn’t right in the head. 

Because at least at this early stage, I feel more like an Australopithecus than a Renaissance painter.  Actually, that’s a crap analogy.  I sat in those Art History courses.  So I do recall that Michelangelo endured hellish conditions and physical suffering whilst painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, lying prone on rickety scaffolding for months at a time some 500 years ago.  This is Pre-Advil, mind you. Not to mention the mental angst associated with stressing over the integrity of “scaffolding” constructed in the 1500s.  Those houses of cards crash all the time, man, even the modern ones.  I refuse to walk underneath anything even resembling scaffolding for fear of the whole thing collapsing on my head.  Not a huge issue here in San Francisco.  But in NYC? My zigging and zagging on the bustling sidewalks is definitely outlying behavior. Deservedly triggering perturbed expressions from everyone else walking with purpose, regardless of the dangers lurking overhead.  

But I digress.  (Note:  “But I digress” would make a lovely book title, no?). 

I have roughly 200 pages of raw material already written for this book of mine.  But I have to identify some sort of viable infrastructure by which to organize this content.  So although typing away on a MacBook Air, I am actually reduced to using Stone Age tools.  Smashing blog posts together and ripping them apart, angrily expecting them to stick together by sheer force.  Only to have them fall to the floor when I separate my meaty caveman hands. “Aargh!”  “Ooooogh!”  Insert whatever caveman-type utterances you fancy here.  You get the picture.  It’s hard work.  But hopefully totally worth it.  And so, back to Olduvai Gorge….

Thanks for reading.