Month: April 2014

Sanctuary: “State Anthem of the USSR” on my sidewalk.



Ahh, city living.  It’s amazing what seemingly meaningless, insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things things prove themselves invaluable when living on a speck of San Francisco land approximately the size of a basketball court.  

Take the “firebrick red” and “sunglow gold” stripe of paint captured in my photo above.  This sweet piece of Jesus is hard to come by in the City of San Francisco.  Maybe it is equally sweet, righteous, and elusive in other cities.  I can’t speak to that.  Here in San Francisco, for the bargain basement price of $130, you too can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a driveway properly protected by six inches of official sidewalk paint.  

And as an extra bonus, what home would not benefit from a nice splash of curbside color reminiscent of the former Soviet Union’s red star hammer and sickle?


I’ve always had a thing for Sergey Mikhalkov’s “State Anthem of the USSR,” and now I have this handy visual prompt to remind me of that catchy little ditty a dozen or so times each day.  So I’ve got that going for me now; which is nice. 

Honestly, though?  I don’t care if the end result of San Francisco’s Official “Curb Painting Process” was a splash of Hockney, striped with the Minnesota Viking colors, or “King of the Hill” red and white polka-dotted. Small price to pay for raising two kids and a dog in the city, trying to keep (politely) sharp elbows protecting our tiny plot of poised-for-liquefaction heaven.

You see, my wife and I had long grown weary of shoe-horning our car through the impossibly narrow space between the car bumpers in our rear view and side view mirrors at the end of our driveway.  Juggling the distractions of a looming Little League practice, sons ripping in competition at a bag of Goldfish in the back seat, a puppy demanding an immediate belly-scratch via a firm paw pushing down on a wrist desperately trying to preserve that wrist’s purchase on the steering wheel’s 3 o’clock position, slipping in a click of the garage door opener (closer?) somewhere in the midst of this chaos to ensure our fortress is impenetrable — none of these things are part of the proper recipe for defensive driving.  

Instead, cringing, we blindly nudged our own car’s rear end out into our quiet street, hoping the passersby would see us and come to a gradual, sympathetic stop.  Fully prepared to overdo the obligatory wave of the hand and forced-friendly smile, acknowledging the other driver’s observance of driveway etiquette.  Even if raising a waving meant a scratch from Wailea’s nails, since that hand is supposed to be scratching her belly in the passenger seat, not following some unwritten rule of the city living code.  

On more than one occasion, we were nearly t-boned by a passing car.  Stomping on our brakes and suddenly halting our backward progress, the pup lurching backwards, the Goldfish bag ripping and spilling its contents on the backseat, the random gathering of baseballs in the trunk rolling about frenetically like billiard balls sunk in corner pockets and rolling back to the start position within the pool table’s unseen innards.  Screech. 

That life-flashing-before-your-eyes experience gets old in a hurry.  The quick mental calculus can be debilitating: “Had I not took the time to fill that Sigg bottle to the top, we would have been smashed to smithereens.”  Not to mention, on this point, how far back do I go?  Should I give myself a congratulatory slap on the back, 27 years after oversleeping on my Psych 101 Final at Duke? Sure, I may have taken the exam whilst sitting uncomfortably in the carpeted aisle, hunched over for a couple hours.  But that extra 5 minutes spared my family from certain death years at the end of our driveway in a burning inferno.  Right?  Or perhaps I should thank my stubborn, in utero self. Had I not been born a couple weeks past my due date, the whole Beadling clan expires right there on Beach Street at the end of our little driveway.  No?  

Like I said, debilitating.  

So spare yourself and your family from this same awful fate and the accompanying mental gymnastics.  Get yourself a nice piece of the former Soviet Union (or whatever color scheme applies to your particular municipality).  Small price to pay for sanctuary.  Ahh, city living. 

Thanks for reading.


My Black Lab-ish Training Buddy.


I don’t know if I’ll be ready for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in about a month, but Wailea is in ridonculous shape. Our one year-old lab-ish rescue puppy is in the best shape of her life.

My right knee and left Achilles are banged up from our week-long trip to Zion. Ample doses of canyoneering in knee-deep river water, ascending and descending stairs carved in steep rock, sprinting serpentine down a paintball field to avoid being shot — these all require recovery beyond what fistfuls of Advils washed down with Uinta Cutthroat Pale Ales every evening can offer. But I’m not feeling like I have the luxury of time to recover, given that I only have about a month to bank some training so that I don’t keel over into some trailside pricker bushes on race day. No thank you.

So I rode yesterday. And swam and ran today. The run is the painful piece, and that’s what my knee and Achilles reminded me at the outset this morning. Wailea weighs about 70 pounds now, and she pulls on the leash like a rhino. Because neither of my legs is capable of moving in a natural way at the moment, or at least not until I’m warm, I must have looked ridiculous trying to catch my stride while being yanked along by my dog. A few nannies and homeless gents, even, gave me sideways glances as I peg-legged awkwardly around Mountain Lake Park yelling, “Heel! Heel! Heel, damnit!” My periods of yelling at the dog punctuated by periods of “ooh, ouch, ooh,” each step causing a stabbing pain in one leg, then the other. Wailea kept looking back and up at me, trying to decipher a command she could recognize somewhere in the midst of my speaking in tongues.

Not an auspicious start to a run just one month away from Alcatraz.

Within a few minutes, though, blood flow allowed my right knee to track properly and my left Achilles to loosen up. By then, we’ve managed to snake our way up through the Presidio a bit such that Wailea’s leash can come off. And that’s when the fun starts.

The Presidio Trust has done a remarkable job of making the Presidio and its 24 or 25 miles of trails very accessible while still preserving a sense of remoteness. There are periods like what is shown in the photo below when it feels like you’re running through a far off jungle —


And there are loads of sturdy wooden stairways dug into the cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean outside the Golden Gate Bridge. Scrambling down these steps several hundred feet, encountering essentially no one along the way, with a blistering offshore wind gusting at 30 MPH stirring up menacing chop out in the Pacific, my black dog leading the way — what’s better than this?


Not much. Add in fleeting glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge’s North Tower on the way back up from Marshall Beach, and it’s almost enough to forget the burning lungs and concrete quads.


Of course, Wailea is in every one of these photos. She is just…there. I have friends who never quite clicked with their dogs, but that has fortunately never been an issue for me. She completes our family. And she has become, at least for the running part, my training buddy. Never complaining, always happy to run with me no matter what new trail or cliff side steps I introduce–simply thrilled to be alive and sharing that moment with me.

And I feel exactly the same way.

Thanks for reading.

Hello, my name is Keir. And I am a Paintballoholic.


I’m not a fan of guns. Of any kind. The kind in video games, the kind in movies, the kind that are fake and given to kids as gifts by faraway aunts or uncles. Even the bars of soap carved and painted black to look like guns in television shows shot in black and white. Not a fan of those either.

I have long frowned, even, on my kids’ making their fingers and hands into pretend guns. That kind of behavior triggers long, dreaded sermons about violence through the course of human history. Admiring the “Charlie’s Angels” logo will trigger the same sermon. If I spy a “Ducks Unlimited” bumper sticker on a bumper in my neighborhood, I have to resist the powerful urge to hawk a loogie on said bumper. My upstairs neighbor’s quarterly American Rifleman rubber-banded in with my own stack of mail makes the veins in my neck pulse with self-righteous rage.

My own father, who owns guns and espouses their virtues, regularly pushes my buttons on this hot button issue of mine. Most recently, he surreptitiously “gifted” my youngest son with an NRA belt buckle, stuffing it into Everett’s little hand while I was visiting the men’s room at a Denny’s.

So imagine my chagrin at finding myself suddenly gun-crazy. Or more accurately, fake gun crazy. Or maybe it’s gun fake crazy.

What I’m trying to say is this: I have a sneaking suspicion that I just might be a Paintballoholic.

You see, I just cannot stop thinking about the two hours of paintball I played the other day. Over the past week, my family, our friends, and I experienced some of the most amazing bike rides, river walks, and death-defying hikes delivering once-in-a-lifetime vistas that the National Parks system has to offer.

And yet, all I can think about is the double body shot I delivered to a 13 year-old that would have helped my team of two win the final paintball round, had the 13 year-old admitted to being hit. I mean, the double body shot was a remarkable feat of marksmanship. I slid two neon yellow gumballs through a 3-inch wide gap in the clubhouse wall. From 30 yards away. Despite labored breathing, cement thighs and a visor fogged up from the previous 60 minutes of completely losing my mind.

I keep replaying my ill-advised bull rush on the clubhouse full of snipers over and over again in my head. Nevermind that the snipers were 8, 12 and 13, or that two of them were my sons. In the heat of battle, it’s every man for himself, even if that means “offing” that man’s own progeny or the progeny of his friends.

Plus, I had already been humiliated in earlier rounds by the same sweet children whom I had helped guide up and down Angels Landing just 24 hours earlier. The same children who had galloped around the rental home’s environs this very morning, ecstatically collecting Peeps and Hershey’s Kisses encased in blue, plastic eggs and hidden by the Easter Bunny. The same kids who had traipsed around the house in pajama bottoms bearing patterns of a smiling Buzz Lightyear.

Cold-blooded assassins on the field of battle, I tell you.

One snuck up on me with impossible stealth, yelling “Mercy!” (she meant to say “Surrender!”) before popping a painful, yellow pellet onto my right buttock, forcing me to make the long walk of shame, hands held high, up the middle of the battlefield to the Safe House. The shame hurt nearly as much as the red, yellow, black and blue bruise still flowering on my butt 3 days later.

I still cannot comprehend how this sweet little angel caught me so completely off guard or what sort of evil lurks behind those blue eyes that gave her the preternatural skill to eliminate me from the game with ruthless efficiency. I’m pretty sure she was smiling, too, but I couldn’t see that part of her face under the black, protective mask. Come to think of it, the mask itself seemed to be grinning a sick grin, mocking me. Pure evil, I tell you.

So I had that humiliating experience poisoning my head as I stormed my own sons’ clubhouse the next round at a full sprint. Hell-bent on exacting revenge on anyone of roughly the same generation as my blue-eyed, thirteen year-old assassin. High-stepping over clumps of brush, leaping over a man-made ditch cartoonishly. My wife later remarked in a fit of laughter that she saw the orange soles on the bottom of my shoes from 150 yards away. I was evidently channeling Bozo the Clown instead of Rambo.

But in the moment, bitter taste of adrenaline on my tongue, I was desperate to hit the clubhouse wall with full force, dodging a spray of gumball bullets en route, then tip my muzzle expertly over the top of the wall, squeezing off a barrage of my own to dispose of the hornets in the hornets nest.

Ah, the glory that would be showered upon me by the entire group as I marched triumphantly back up that same middle path of the battlefield. My battlefield. Victorious. Probably our paintball guide would marvel at my skill, inquire whether I was involved with Seal Team Six’s Bin Laden operation, beg for an autograph.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like…victory.

My delusions of grandeur exploded with the first yellow gumball that plunked off the top of my skull, feeling as though an egg had been smashed on my head. I later learned that my 8 year-old had delivered this kill shot. He bragged about it to our friends during the minivan ride back to the rental house. Basking in the glory that should have been mine alone. Smelling my napalm. Stealing my victory.

Everett claims this moment was the high point of his entire Zion National Park vacation. I’m afraid to ask the obvious follow up question, but if I did, I think Everett might claim that this was the proudest moment of his entire life to this point.

I will have my revenge. I must have my revenge. It is my destiny. As is the case with any true Paintballoholic.

Thanks for reading.

Stairway to Heaven.



Turns out I’m actually not afraid of heights.  Rather, my fear stems from concern about my companions’ well-being at great heights.  I stumbled upon this discovery yesterday, while hiking an especially infamous, anxiety-provoking rock feature in Zion National Park — Angels Landing. 

Known earlier as the Temple of Aeolus, Angels Landing juts up from Zion Canyon to 1,488-feet.  That’s not a particularly daunting data point, though.  Even considering that the Canyon floor itself sits at 4,300 feet above sea level, so the summit tops out at about 5,790 feet.   A bit of altitude is at play, for sure, but it’s a minor player in this drama, at best.  And it is definitely a drama.  The National Park Service website officially recognizes five, non-suspicious fatalities along Angels Landing.  And at least 7 additional deaths have been reported here and there.  I’m amazed this number isn’t 7 per day

The main protagonists at work here, in my view, are (a) the haphazard collection of tools to deliver a hiker to the summit, and (b) the ridiculous frequency of hair-raising exposures over the course of maybe 90 minutes.  

As for protagonist (a), someone indeed cut steps into solid rock circa 1926, but the stairs hardly make for a staircase. Uneven, scattered, leaving off here and picking up there.  I cannot recall more than 30 or 40 features that I could honestly characterize as “steps.” On the other hand, I am grateful for the black chains and stanchions spread, more or less, continuously from the start of the final push to the summit.  I am absolutely bewildered, however, about the handful of naked stretches between chain sections, leaving the hiker totally exposed, almost literally grasping at thin air, all concentration focused on getting within arms’ length of the next section of chain.  Check out this short video from my Facebook page–taken during a fairly “safe” section heading back from the summit–and you’ll see what I mean.

 Gratitude and bewilderment are a heady mix; all the better to make one’s head swim.

This brings me to the second primary factor that makes Angels Landing one of the most feared hikes in the National Parks system:  The exposures.  I never truly comprehended the meaning of the phrase, “my head is swimming” until my head swam yesterday afternoon. Each time I made the mistake of lifting my gaze beyond the relative psychic safety of the 3-foot circumference around my feet, my brain wrestled to compute the impossibly grand scale, the layers upon layers of foreground and background, the unfathomable drops straight down to the clearly visible canyon floor, and the incredibly poor judgment being exercised by the body carrying the brain into this scenario.  Makes me a bit queasy just calling back up these little glimpses.   

Strangely enough, though, I was OK with all of this.  OK because I had figured out that by operating only in the throw of my own headlights, I could reduce the otherwise overwhelming to bite-sized pieces.  Not once did I pause, take in a self-satisfied breath, scan my lofty surroundings proudly, and admire the beauty of it all.  That is a bad strategy.  I didn’t see anyone else do this, either. Rather, I stared mostly at my feet, lifting my iPhone up quickly here and there to snap a picture, paying very little attention to framing, focus, lighting, etc.  I photographed almost apologetically. “Don’t hurt me, Angels Landing.” Remember the scene in Dumb and Dumber in which Lloyd sheepishly and surreptitiously points at Harry when asked by Sea Bass who had just thrown a salt shaker at Sea Bass? 



I snuck in iPhone camera clicks of my environs the way that Lloyd threw Harry under the bus to Sea Bass in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to avoid getting his ass kicked by Sea Bass.  My Sea Bass was Angels Landing, and I wanted to avoid offending my Sea Bass with brazen picture-taking.  My shitty photos are a testament to my observance of the proper degree of respect.  I’m OK with the poor quality of my little mementos.

The trickiest part for me on this hike was coming to grips with the fact that my hiking companions were all grappling with these same hair-raising dynamics (though probably not analogizing them to a Dumb and Dumber scene).   And while I can control the throw of my own headlights, I can’t control the throw of my companions’ headlights.  Not to mention, several of those companions are years away from their learners permits.  

I can conquer–or at least tame for a time–my own fears.  I am powerless with respect to others’.  

And that is the part that knotted my innards and made me take short little breaths along the spine of Angels Landing. Sure, I deliberately hiked at the front of our group of ten, reassuring myself that I would be able to call out to the others regarding one or another tricky spots, encouraging all to follow a slow and measured pace, maybe communicating with my own body language some sense of calm via my own (seemingly) confident movements from one chain section to another, one carved stone step to another.  

But if I am being honest, they were all on their own.  Every one, ultimately on his or her own. 

Things could have easily gone very wrong on innumerable occasions very quickly, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about that.  Nothing.  That plain truth was at work in my head during the entire hike up and down Angels Landing.  I calculated the odds tied to every sketchy stretch, steep drop, clumsy hiker above us, etc., doing the math on whether the members of my group could accommodate each new risk factor.  

At times, the extent of my inability to avoid something terrible happening to someone I cared about at any moment was near-paralyzing.  I had to regain control of my breath, lower my focus back down to my feet, and resume my plodding course one step at a time.  More importantly, I had to let go.  I had to trust that the others would do the same; that they would figure out on their own how to make it up and back down this very real challenge without experiencing very real consequences.  This, for me, was the hardest part. 

So that’s my main takeaway:  I’m good with heights, it turns out.  I’m not nearly as good with others being good with heights.  But I can’t always control that.  Maybe I can’t control that at all.  So that’s the part I’ll keep working on.  

Thanks for reading.  

Oompa-Loompas Float (in Zion, at least).



My family and I are tagging along this week with friends who rented a fabulous home outside Zion National Park. Three days in, and we are officially smitten with Zion.

Once the largest wind-swept collection of sand dunes on the planet (think Lawrence of Arabia), Zion Canyon’s present features have been slowly carved, squeezed and watered down over the course of something like 150 million years.  We arrived on the scene only 8,000 years ago.  By “we” I mean humans.

More recently, a handful of particularly influential humans have played a key role–directly or indirectly–in preserving this remarkable region.  People like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, and Barack Obama.

Thanks, guys.

There is an especially intriguing feature of Zion known as “The Narrows.”  First shared with Mormons by Paiute guides more than 150 years ago, National Geographic ranks this hike today in its top-5 “best adventures” in the United States.  For good reason, from my point of view.

We all “hiked” The Narrows yesterday, and it took us about five chilly hours.  I say “hiked” because 80% of the trip involves sloshing, wading, or swimming through 46 degree river water moving at 55 cubic feet per second. That kind of trek requires special gear, apparently.

So all of the kids were properly geared up in full dry suits.  While watching them splash and stumble on one or another slippery rock, I spent the next several hours trying to put my finger on what or whom their bloated and colorful outfits reminded me of. 

Maybe the Monsters, Inc. Child Detection Agency officials?



Or the Despicable Me minions?



Or perhaps the much-maligned Teletubbies?




In the end, I settled on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Ooompa-Loompas.  These guys —


Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 9.08.57 AM


I haven’t had sufficient time to digest fully our five hour adventure in The Narrows.  That particular adventure was yesterday, you see, and we have all been on the move since then, when not sleeping. Plenty of grist for the blog mill downstream.  In the meantime, one key observation I can share is this: Oompa-Loompas float.  How can I claim this with such certainty? I have some incredibly rare video footage to prove it —


Thanks for reading.

On the Road to Zion (Going to Hell in a Bucket).


We are officially on the road. Ninety minutes into a 10-hour drive to Zion National Park. Technically, through Zion National Park, since the place we rented is on the other side. We’ll pull into the rental pad at about midnight, I reckon. Hilary has taken the first shift, leaving my hands free to DJ and blog. So during my shift in the passenger seat round about Madera, California, a few observations —

Observation Number One: It is very difficult to select songs from the Spotify iPhone app that will please all four of us. Mommy is belting out “Rocketman” pretty much in tune, the boys sit in the back seat looking every bit as though they are getting a tooth filled.

Observation Number Two: Happy Wife, Happy Drive. Feed her a steady diet of “Benny and the Jets,” “Piano Man,” and anything by Tears for Fears. These are direct deposits into the bank of marital goodwill. I will intentionally or otherwise be drawing down from the bank later in the trip, I’m sure of it.

Observation Number Three: Sonic is a salt lick. Much as I love that Giorgio loves Sonic, this place is to be avoided. Save yourself the $34, and achieve the same dietary benefits by pulling over at one of the many farms along Route 99, and sidle up to the Heifers’ salt lick. I ate 12 tater tots 10 minutes ago, and I’m so sodium-bloated that I can’t make a fist. Also, Sonic’s printed collateral bears a claim of over 1 million potential drink combinations. This boast made my head hurt, I tried too hard to argue successfully that the claim is not mathematically possible. It just can’t be, but I have to save my energy for my upcoming shift behind the wheel.

Observation Number Four: “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” is a surprisingly appealing ditty across generations. The lyrics might be a downer for adults who recognize a toxic relationship when they see it (or hear a song about it), but the chorus is still catchy. Eight year-olds and 12 year-olds will repeat the chorus long after the song is over, in an operatic voice no less, until interrupted by hiccup/burp combinations brought on by the Sonic Salt Lick.

Observation Number Five: The over-sized, flavored limeades are to be avoided. My kids’ sugar levels are spiking off the charts at this moment. My wife is keeping it together, reminding the boys about the importance of “respecting each other.” I’m so wound up from my own over-sized Cherry Coke that I am this close to crawling into the backseat at 80 MPH and just ending both of them. Net net, back away from the styrofoamed sugar bomb drinks. Not a single one of those one million flavors will produce good outcomes.

Observation Number Six: We are punching our own personal hole in the Ozone. All of that diligent recycling and composting at home? Perpetual use of stainless steel or BPA-free drinking bottles? Salvaging of escaped ice cubes by popping them into a houseplant pot? All shot to shit, completely undone by all the otherwise recyclable or compostable stuff we will throw out in gas station cans and McDonald’s rest rooms. The locals are getting a good laugh at our expense, as we step out from our eco-friendly Prius, wearing our eco-friendly Patagonia gear, with armfuls of landfill-bound bags, cups and napkins spilling all over the pavement. My “Landfill Guilt” is palpable. We are going to have to buy a shitload of carbon offset credits when we get back home, or maybe orchestrate a neighborhood tire drive or newspaper drive. Then again, our environmental sins committed between now and then may set off such a horrific karmic backlash, we might as well just throw everything out the window as we speed south east (toward a National Park, no less).

Going to hell in a bucket; but at least we’ll enjoy the ride. Which gives me an idea about the next song this DJ will force feed on my road weary family.

Thanks for reading.

Werewolves of Corte Madera.


Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a ridiculously beautiful trail run above our kids’ school in Marin. I had about 2 hours to burn between the 2nd grade’s “Did You Know Medicine Show” and a meeting in SoMa that did not involve 2nd graders. Have trail running shoes in trunk, will travel.

Look at that photo at the top of this blog. Are you kidding me? Wow!

Marin Country Day School’s environs are about as bucolic as they come, as the school is nestled in the hollow of Ring Mountain. As Bay Area Hiker reports, “[the] grassy slopes afford fantastic views of Mount Tamalpais, the bay, and San Francisco. Trails wind through rock formations, across tiny creeks, through wildflower-dotted hillsides, and under old coast live oaks and California bays. Petroglyph Rock, near the preserve’s highest spot, has rock carvings created by Native Americans. And the unusual geology of the preserve supports plants that grow nowhere else, most prominently the Tiburon mariposa lily, which blooms in May. All this in a setting just a few miles north of San Francisco makes Ring Mountain a perfect choice for a quick hike, or for more advanced nature study.”

And, I might add, a great place to be stalked by werewolves.

A couple years back, as I bounded around up there from one trail to another, in a “The Hills Are Alive” euphoria, I stopped short. Not easy to do running downhill on whipped quads. I spied a werewolf maybe 25 yards below. That would put him about 150 yards above the Upper School Field teeming with my boys’ schoolmates and perhaps one or both of my boys, as well.

The problem was that the werewolf spied me, and didn’t adhere to the Field Guide etiquette. He didn’t break eye contact, whimper, and run off with his matted tail between his legs. Terrified by my clearly dominant physical presence and superior prefrontal cortex allowing for sophisticated metacognition — I am aware that I am thinking, and the varmin is supposedly not aware of being aware.

The varmin didn’t run. He didn’t budge. More likely, he was computing whether he would eat my sweaty little Clifbar visor along with the sweaty rest of me. I was computing, too, though. My prefrontal cortex foresaw the werewolf ripping me limb from limb. So I picked up a baseball-sized rock with one of those limbs. I was no longer tapping into my superior intelligence; that which allows me to ponder whether the epic blocks on Ring Mountain were squeezed up from miles beneath the Earth’s surface millions of years ago like Playdoh through fingers and/or lay on the Ocean floor at some point. All I knew in my now-Caveman brain was that I needed a big rock I could throw at the Saber-Toothed Tiger so my kids and their school chums wouldn’t be traumatized by the sight of me eviscerated on a bed of purple Brodiaea Appendiculata.

In my half-panicked state, I scraped up several rocks. The photo below captures the moment. I threw the first one. He flinched. I threw another. He ran. I didn’t take any more photos. I was too busy riding my adrenaline down the rock-studded trail back to the safety of my Jeep.

I was appropriate freaked out, however. From my bucket seat, I breathlessly emailed the Upper School Head about my werewolf encounter. I wanted to ensure that MCDS took the proper precautions. Silver bullets, silver walking canes, pretty much anything silver and sharp. Silver lunchroom sporks in a pinch, if that’s all the townspeople could scrounge up on such short notice.

Only I never saw the school-wide email bulletin, never received the school emergency system phone chain voicemail, never even caught a blurb in the weekly digital newsletter. I felt a little miffed. And perplexed. There’s no mention in the MCDS application materials about werewolves running amok just a stone’s throw off campus. There are no references on the school website to the mythic beasts patrolling the area where our kids parade around looking for Monarch butterflies. How could this be?

Curious. Very curious indeed.

This allows for only one logical conclusion: The Assistant Upper School Head is one of them. Matt is a werewolf. I suggest you arm your children with an arsenal of silver sporks, as I have done. I also stuff one in my running sock, whenever I venture back up Ring Mountain. I am fully-prepared for my next encounter with the beast, my pre-frontal cortex and I. I’m ready for you, Matt!

Thanks for reading.


Everybody Was Fitbit Fighting (Part 3)



Those cats are no longer fast as lightning.  I am sad to report that my Fitbit died on Monday, April 7, 2014, at approximately 2:19pm.  The cause of death is still under investigation. 

I can honestly write that so far as I can tell, I did not knowingly contribute to my Fitbit’s death.  That is to say, scrolling through the Fitbit FAQs and Fitbit Community Health Forums, I didn’t kill my Fitbit.  Or at least not via means foretold by the company that makes and sells Fitbits, nor via any means admitted to by unwitting (former) Fitbit owners.  As an aside, I am struggling to get past Fitbit, Inc.’s use of “Forums” rather than “Fora.”  There is evidently a movement afoot (afeet?) to adopt “forums” as a proper plural alternative to the traditional “fora.”  I’m OK with movements afeet (afoot?), so I will let this slide.

Anyhow, perusing these online channels, I’ve inventoried the Fitbit murderers’ and manslaughterers’ confessions:  Death by washing machine. Death by passing through a pet dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Death by unintentional backyard burial in backyard garden. Death by rubber car tire crushing “accident.”  

I have no such confessions to offer.  I remain nonplussed.  So far as I can tell, fairly wracking my brain, I didn’t do anything other than use my Fitbit Flex as it was intended to be used.

And therein lies the problem.  I think I may have worked my Fitbit to death.  In my well-documented overzealousness and hyper-competitiveness, I neglected to ensure that my Fitbit Flex had fully bought in to my “victory above all else” campaign.  I took my Fitbit for granted.  Over the last few months, I have suffered through blisters on my feet, salt rings on my biking shorts, mini-rivers of sweat trickling in my eyes from my bike helmet, holes in the soles of my neoprene swimming booties from the home-to-Marina Green steps walks, a half-dozen curious harbor seals and sea lions, and a bonk or two.  But ultimately, I am more or less in complete control of all of these to-be-expected maladies.  Cost of doing business. 

Alas, it was all just too much for the little black plastic strap on my wrist and it’s pea pod accelerometer.  And I think I know exactly where my little buddy bought the farm.  For the first time in a long time, I swam in San Francisco Bay on two consecutive mornings.  This is typically to be avoided, particularly during Little League season, which generally entails a throbbing right shoulder for a 5-month period.  And rather than leave the Fitbit at home, I had gotten into the habit of bringing it along for the ride, er, swim.  I assuaged my inner “this is probably not a good idea” thoughts with Fitbit, Inc.’s boast that the “[d]evice is water-resistent, and can be submerged up to 10 meters.” For good measure, I also sealed my Fitbit in a sort of neoprene cocoon, covering it up tightly under my wetsuit sleeve.  Perhaps “neoprene casket” would be a more appropriate term, in retrospect.

That second consecutive swim proved too much to take.  Even though I just did a simple half-hour crawl at the water’s surface, rather than swimming like a frog submerged 30-feet under, the Fitbit’s little imaginary heart gave out.  I’m sorry, little Fitbit imaginary heart.  I didn’t know.  RIP.

And now I’ve had to endure 36 hours of movement data blackout.  Sure, I’ve continued to run, swim, walk and ride.  I managed to pull myself together and carry on.  But my Fitbit is long since gone, lifeless.  No matter how many times I’ve forcefully pecked a forefinger on it’s little noggin, hoping for a miracle.  Some sign of life.  Nothing.  I might as well have watched TV from the couch, fist buried in a bag of Cheetos, slurping Cherry Coke after Cherry Coke.  My sweating the last few days has fallen in the woods, completely silent, completely, gasp, unrecorded. 

Re-reading the last few sentences, this is starting to sound a bit creepy, overly-obsessive.  I’m a man, after all, skin and bones, and bow down to no machine!  Maybe my Fitbit’s death by overexertion is the best thing that has ever happened to me!  I’m free!!! 

Or at least free for another 72 hours — until Fitbit, Inc. finishes processing my warranty claim. 🙂 

Thanks for reading.

Buried on a Motorcycle.



Two nights ago, 8 year-old Everett informed his parents over pesto chicken precisely how he expects his body to be handled upon his death: 

“I don’t want to be cremated. Or buried.  I want to be standing up or on a motorcycle.  With sunglasses.”


As I have mentioned before, many of Everett’s dinner table comments are out-of-the-blue.  Non sequiturs.  The sort of statements that can make a parent’s fingers loose, releasing a suddenly heavy fork to plonk on a plate, loudly.  Or make a parent’s head snap upwards while driving, to search for Everett’s face in the rear view mirror.  The parent must assess Everett’s facial expression to confirm — savant or psychopath?  Obama or Gallagher (the melon-smashing, bald comedian)?  Maybe all of the above?

The burial discussion, though, fell perfectly in context. Not because we enjoy stewing about death over pesto chicken.  Not because we love to insert terrifying thoughts into our kids’ heads shortly before bedtime.  And not because we are, in general, just terrible parents who say whatever the hell we want to at our own damned dinner table, regardless of who the hell is listening and how the hell old they are or are not.

None of that.  At least not in this particular situation.

I started blogging in January, a few days after my 90 year-old grandmother’s sudden passing.  My first post was entitled “Grandma’s Lemonade,” and as you can see if you scroll up a bit to the top of this page, I’ve called my blog The Lemonade Chronicles.  My grandmother (unknowingly) inspired me to always search the bright side in all things (and people), and to start writing about it. My older son, Max, loves to read my blog posts.  Or at least he says he does.  The informed questions he’ll pose from time-to-time suggest that he is at least skimming.  Everett, however, stopped reading my blog when he recognized himself as a recurring character in the narrative.  Unlike Max, Ev has zero interest in the limelight.  My grandmother, who also had zero interest in the limelight, is mentioned regularly in my posts.  When I first started writing, my wife, unbeknownst to me, sent to my mom and her siblings big, antique-looking lemonade dispensers.  This way, they and we could all drink “Grandma’s Lemonade” by the gallon, whenever we wanted. 

And we still talk about all this stuff, mostly at dinner time, at our flat in San Francisco. Including two nights ago, when I raised the subject of what kind of “ceremony” Everett thought we should have when we scatter some of his great grandmother’s ashes in and around San Francisco Bay near our home. So there you have it.  This context fully explains Everett’s seemingly-strange comment about being buried on a motorcycle wearing sunglasses. 

Sort of. 

Because now, his mother and I are left dealing with the consequences of Everett’s instructions.  My wife is an estate planner, so we have to take this kind of thing seriously.  Was there any ambiguity in his directions?  Nope, crystal clear.  Was he of sound mind and body?  Hmm, depends on your definition of “sound.”  If you asked him yourself, I’m sure he’d convince you that you were the unsound one, not he.  Did he propose something illegal?  No, although we don’t own a motorcycle, probably never will, and the powder blue Vespa that Hilary has been coveting for years will most likely not cut it for Everett.  So that means that we may need to “borrow” a neighbor’s motorcycle.  Arguably illegal, I suppose.  The sunglasses we can handle, plenty of those lying around the house.  So yes, we could probably accommodate his wishes, and those wishes might even be reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.

Wait, wait, wait.  I just remembered that he is only 8 years-old.  No judge or jury would force his mother and I to accede to this ridiculous request, clearly made by a 2nd grader with no real sense of what he was saying.  How could an 8 year-old be expected to comprehend abstract notions of death, burial, cremation, etc.?  I’m going to go with this argument for the time being.  And hope that Everett forgets about the whole crazy idea as he gets older.  If he reads this post, he won’t get much farther than the serene photo pasted at the top of our dog swimming in the Bay. 

But just in case he makes it all the way through, and indeed gets this far —

Evie, my boy, whatever you want.  For your final resting place, if you really want to be this guy in the stock photo pasted just below, you got it.  Your wish is our command.  🙂

Thanks for reading.



Winter Is Coming.


“Hello, my name is Keir, and I’m a binge-watcher.”

“Hiiiii, Keir!”

And so begins another meeting of Binge-Watchers Anonymous.

“If I think about it, I got my first taste of binge-watching 12 years ago, shortly after the birth of our first son. Few things properly accompany cradling one’s child for hours on end as well as murderous mobsters do. Somehow Hilary and I had managed to miss The Sopranos train. Fortunately for us, Netflix (our first “dealer,” in retrospect) happily stuffed our skinny mailbox with season after season of DVDs.

Odd to play “Baby Einstein” in one room, and hear Tony and Paulie cut down Big Pussy in a hail of bullets in another room? Indeed. And that’s how I got hooked.

Once we made it out of the new baby/nesting phase, we kicked the habit. For a time. We returned to mainstream society, watching our weekly shows as they aired. Curb Your Enthusiasm. The Ali G. Show. Grey’s Anatomy. One week at a time, one episode at the time, for the most part. But the habit had already taken hold, poised to rear its ugly head at the first opportunity.

Then came Breaking Bad. The irony of binge-watching a show about methamphetamine was not lost on me. But I couldn’t help myself. In Jessie’s strung out periods, I saw myself. His floor was littered with drug paraphernalia. Mine was littered with iPhone and iPad charger cords, twisted with earbud cords. Both of us junkies. Mercifully, the show’s producers released their hold on me. Walter White kicked the bucket.

The Game of Thrones producers show no such mercy. They have delivered unto me a substance more addictive than anything I’ve experienced before. So mind-bending as to render me senseless, ending my sentences with prepositions, even.

The “Red Wedding”? Fuhgetaboutit. I was in a funk for a week.

Somehow, I pulled myself together, took a breather after the end of last season. Got back on the wagon. Cleaned up.

But now I see that the new Game of Thrones season premieres this weekend. I glimpse each new piece of advertising–Facebook posts, tweets, YouTube trailers–knowing that I won’t be able to resist the urge to binge once more. Fortunately for me, I’m all caught up on GOT. I have resolved to blend in with the “normal people,” watching the Imp and Littlefinger in bite-sized pieces. One episode at a time.

But I know that sooner or later, my binge-watching will get the better of me. Winter is coming.”

[Sound of clapping as my fellow addicts applaud my honesty, and bring another meeting of Binge-Watchers Anonymous to a close.]

Thanks for reading.