Month: April 2014

Ring of Fire.



What, you mean to tell me you don’t have “Karaoke Song List” as one of your iPhone Notes?  

Even if you don’t relish the karaoke mic as I do, believe me, at some point you will wish you had such a list of your very own. Assign this list to the highest priority, too, right up there with your earthquake preparedness kit.  Statistically speaking, you are way more likely to suffer severe, negative consequences from not having a Karaoke Song List than to experience a quake requiring you to crack open those iodine tablets.

So why is the Karaoke Song List so mission-critical?  Allow me to elaborate…. 

Reason #1:  The Karaoke Song List will save you from the worst karaoke nightmare:  The dreaded song out of one’s range.  There are few experiences promising long-term emotional trauma that can compare with finding yourself onstage, mic in-hand, with five minutes remaining on your hastily-selected “Bohemian Rhapsody” rendition.  Nothing good can come from this.  Nothing.  Freddy Mercury’s voice was ridiculous; out of this world.  If you had Freddy Mercury’s singing voice, you wouldn’t be up on that stage right now with your feet sticking to the floor from spilled PBRs.  Let me save you this ignominy — get thee a Karaoke Song List.  

Note:  If for some reason you scoff at this Reason #1, and find yourself in the middle of this particular rock opera, the lyric is “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?”  Still, good luck with that.  

Reason #2:  A corollary to Reason #1, Reason #2 will develop and refine your song-selection palate such that you will be well-armed in a game of “Karaoke Roulette.”  This game has several iterations, but my favorite version is a simple one.  I agree to sing any song you pick for me, and you do the same.  My advantage is the years of hard-earned research sunk into my Karaoke Song List.  You see, by identifying those songs that I can actually sing in karaoke, I have learned which songs neither I nor anyone else (save Freddy Mercury) has any business singing.  I have a keen sense, now, for which songs offer the maximum potential for spirit-crushing embarrassment.  

Want a taste?  “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” (Sophie B. Hawkins) and “Rock Me Like A Hurricane” (Scorpions).  When the karoke DJ announces one of these songs and beckons your karaoke roulette challenger up to the mic, your challenger will be feeling pretty good.  At first.  They’ll be thinking to themselves, “Hey, I know this song, I don’t even need the prompter for the words.  I love this song.  This song is awesome!  I am going to crush it!!”

No.  They’re not going to crush anything.  You are going to do the crushing.  

When it suddenly dawns on them how God-awful these songs are to sing.  In front of complete strangers.  Who think that your challenger deliberately chose that song to sing.  To complete strangers.  Imagine the hushed silence and stares from those strangers as your challenger exits the stage, sweating, red-cheeked, thoroughly humiliated. A far cry from shouting the melody while listening to the radio in whatever car they drove in the 80s or 90s, eh?  

Congratulations, your Karaoke Song List just made you the victor.   

Reason #3: If you find a handful of songs that you can actually sing, that don’t require “Ice Ice Baby” enunciation, that don’t last longer than a couple minutes, then you have found your karaoke sweet spot.  This list above has never failed me, for example.  I’m safe. I’ve learned to control the fight or flight response triggered by hearing the DJ say my name. I’ve learned to stare into the beast’s eyes, confident that my Karaoke Song List will protect me. 

Provisos:  Now, to be perfectly candid, there a few provisos of which you should be aware, even if you have decided to cultivate your very own, bulletproof Karaoke Song List at my urging….

Proviso #1: The Karaoke Song List will not protect you against group performances.  Unless you have a group song on your list, do not do it.  Those never work out.  And for God’s sake, do not get involved with any spontaneous choreography.  That will only make it worse.  Stick to your list.  A proviso to this proviso:  If your wife begs you to do a “Journey” duet, just do it.  Not because it’s part of my Karaoke Song List theory.  No.  Because you want to stay married.  Marriage trumps the Karaoke Song List.  “Don’t Stop Believin'” will be painful.  It will hurt.  You will want to deliberately fall backwards off the stage, feign a grand mal seizure, anything, to get out your piece of this song half way through it.  Stick it out.  And then get right back on the horse — your Karaoke Song List. 

Proviso #2:  Know your audience.  The audience is comprised not only of the people who will heckle or embrace you, but also of the people that will sing right after you do.  For example, if you happen to notice an all-male a capella group in the audience, put away your Karaoke Song List.  You are not going to sing tonight.  I don’t care how badly you want to sing tonight, how desperately you want these people to love you, to marvel at your Karaoke Song List.  No. You want to live to fight another day.  

Now, if you have some self-destructive urge to ignore this particular proviso, know that your mistake will set you back years with your karaoke confidence.   So please, scan the audience before you fill out those little pieces of paper.  Your Johnny Cash is no match for the a capella magic dropped on me, I mean, um, you, by Tufts University’s “Beelzebubs,” or whoever the hell that was on that dreadful night last summer.  

So there you have it.  Now get working on your very own Karaoke Song List!  You’re even welcome to borrow a few from my list. Although, can you really be sure that I haven’t popped a couple in there from my Karaoke Roulette List??

Thanks for reading. 

Yuppie Hunger Strike



Half-eaten, gluten-free Gorilla Munch, organic banana slices (also half-eaten), Trader Joe’s multigrain O’s (half-eaten, too), all swimming in a small puddle of organic, reduced fat milk.  

This is what a Yuppie Hunger Strike looks like.  

Our 8 year-old son, Everett, apparently feels he doesn’t have much power around here.  His older brother is a force of nature.  His mother is a high-powered law partner wearing pants suits and working in a downtown high rise.  His father traffics in a prodigious collection of curse words, some of which seem like they might be made up, but Dad is ready, willing, and able to drop them on anyone at even the slightest provocation.  Even our black lab (ish) puppy, barely a year-old, now outweighs Everett and tries to eat Everett on occasion (in a puppy-like way).

The roles of Governor, Warden, Prison Guard, Cell Block Boss — these are all taken.  Whatever authority or power Everett wants around these parts, he has to take with his own two hands.  Or not take them, as the case may be. 

You see, Everett has been quietly stringing together what I’m now realizing could arguably be called a Hunger Strike.  He has been weaving this tapestry for years.  Short of pooping his pants–which I’m sure is a weapon he is holding back, the “nuclear option,” if ever called for–Everett’s sole means of exerting control is what he puts in his mouth and what he refuses to put in his mouth.  

Sidenote: Everett doesn’t often read these blog posts; particularly the ones in which he is featured.  He shuns the spotlight.  But just in case he does stumble on this particular post — Hello son.  Before you start seriously exploring the “nuclear option” I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, I would encourage you to Google “mutually assured destruction.”

Everett eats what he wants to eat.  At his own pace.  Regardless of his parents’ (apparently hollow) threats about what will happen if Everett leaves a half-eaten bowl of cereal at the breakfast table just one more time.  His big, round eyes hold mine, giving me the certain impression that he understands what horrible consequences will come his way.  I am convinced that, this time, he will leave no banana slice behind.  

But he has proven himself a master of deception.  Professional magicians are expert at distracting their audience with a theatrical wave of one hand, while dropping a quarter down a sleeve with the other, unseen.  Everett has perfected the same technique.  But rather than outstretched fingers swiping the air, Everett deploys all manner of infuriating, stalling techniques that serve to drive his parents into a blind rage as we try to get him and his brother to the morning bus stop on time.  

“Everett, you can’t wear that sweatshirt for the 7th day in a row!  Wait, did you sleep in that sweatshirt instead of wearing pajamas last night?! Again?! Everett!!”

“Everett, there’s no way you brushed your teeth.  No one could possibly ‘brush their teeth’ in 10-seconds as you just did.  I don’t think anyone could claim to have brushed even one tooth in that time.  Get back upstairs, Mister, and brush your teeth!”

“Everett, where is your homework binder?  What do you mean, you ‘don’t know’?  How could you not know, didn’t you need the binder in order to do your homework last night?  You did do your homework last night, didn’t you?! Everett!”

“Everett, you cannot wear that beanie again today.  You just can’t.  I haven’t seen your actual hair in weeks.  Your teacher keeps sending home pictures of you from class wearing that hat, which is no longer so subtle.  This is “No Hat Tuesday,” anyhow, remember?  Everett, don’t you stuff that beanie in your school bag!  If I see that in the class pictures emailed to me this afternoon, you are in big trouble!”

Everett masterfully stirs up this swirl of chaos, lathers us all up into a fervor, knowing that we will temporarily lose our minds in a desperate, panicked attempt to make it to the bus stop on time.  We are fairly terrified of the shame associated with missing the bus.  We can’t bear the stigma.  So we are laser-focused in the time between 7:40am and 7:43am on only the bare necessities;  Principally, delivering our youngest son to the bus stop with no justifiable basis for a visit later that day from Child Protective Services.  

Everett knows this. 

Hilary waves “goodbye” to the bus, jogging the dog back to our house, then shooting off to work in the Financial District.  I get back to the business of whatever my day brings.  We both breath a sigh of relief, impressed with ourselves.  Once more, we haven’t missed the bus.  Everything is in perfect order, and we are in control.

Just then, Hilary begins replaying in her mind the funny little smile on Everett’s lips, barely perceptible behind the dark window at his seat towards the back of the bus.  Why was he smiling that smug little smile?  Her suspicion grows.  At exactly the same moment, I am turning the corner in the kitchen, catching sight of the breakfast table for the first time in 10 minutes.   


He got us again.  In all the excitement and yelling, Everett had managed to leave behind a subtle reminder of who is really in charge around here:  The cereal bowl pictured above. 

The Yuppie Hunger Strike continues, Day 3003.

Thanks for reading.  


Something Wicked This Way Came. And Went.


Turns out that orange radar blurb marks a very cool spot to swim in the Bay. Most interesting swim I can recall in a long time. We didn’t draw it up that way, and that’s probably perfect.

First thing we noticed was legitimately crashing surf onto the beach at Crissy. The surf never crashes at Crissy. In fact, no one would ever refer to the beach conditions in this particular spot as “surf” at all, for that matter. The beach at Crissy looked very much like Baker Beach. No one swims at Baker Beach. There is a reason for that. Baker Beach is better known for pulling people and pets out to sea with its strong rip currents. Not a good spot for a swim.

So for Crissy to look like Baker Beach — that was the first indication of some odd juju.

The second indicator was the swell energy in the water further out, more like the heaving seas of the open ocean. The rolling waves would gurgle to a peak, even, in certain spots. Like when they pushed up against that cement channel marker about 150 yards off the beach. Waves are not supposed to break there, ever. There shouldn’t even be ribs of swell rolling through this far into the Bay. Fort Point? Absolutely. Off the Warming Hut? Once in a blue moon. Off the beach at Crissy? Never.

Fortunately, the Bay’s frigid winter temperatures are in the rear view mirror now, replaced by 57s, 58s, and 59s. If this were January, I’d like to think we wouldn’t venture out into conditions like today’s. A little extra time than planned in 48-degree water is not something to be trifled with; the difference between “my toes are cold” and “look at that beautiful mermaid, she’s beckoning me, I’m going to go with her and we will make a life together!” So it’s good that cold water wasn’t really a factor today.

But rapidly changing and extreme weather conditions were definitely at play.


The shallower spots on the Bay floor pushed the swell up and rolled us around a bit. Maybe a bit like swimming in a big washing machine. Probably nauseating if we weren’t somewhat accustomed to the sensation. The sudden and dramatic darkening of the skies overhead, followed by pelting rain — pretty awesome display of nature.

At one point I held up the palm of my hand above the water, convinced I would feel the sting of hailstones. My hands were numb, as is usually the case, so I couldn’t distinguish between hard rain and hail anyhow. But the notion of swimming in the Bay — probably the only 2 people swimming in the Bay at that moment, judging by the Coast Guard helicopter hovering curiously nearby — hailstones splashing into the Bay all around us? Surreal.

We didn’t want to get out of the water. The land could offer nothing even remotely close to what San Francisco Bay had just unexpectedly delivered up. Reluctantly, we stumbled back onto the beach, presumably looking like Creatures of the Black Lagoon to the couple dogs that “greeted” us at the water’s edge. A dog bite would have taken the swim in a different karmic direction altogether.

I grabbed one last photo of the stormy skies as they rolled on down the Bay, passing over Alcatraz now (posted below).

I haven’t had a swim like this in the 15 years we’ve lived here; and it’s possible I won’t ever again. I suppose that’s part of the reason I can’t stop thinking about it.

Thanks for reading.