Month: May 2014

Make Way for Beadlings.


I stumbled on this scene yesterday along Crissy Field in the midst of a slow afternoon run.

The run was my first in nearly 3 weeks. For the past 40 minutes, I had been shuffling along distractedly, constantly evaluating my body’s feedback. Can I pull off this race in 10 days or not? Has this sneaky virus robbed me of the training I dutifully banked in recent months? Or did I have enough in my account to avoid being overdrawn on race day? If the latter, I could probably still grind through the day. It would just be more painful than I had originally bargained for, most likely. But I hadn’t felt that sort of “make you want to quit after the next step” pain in over 10 years.

That’s a long time. Perhaps too long. I once knew exactly when to expect the pain, or at least recognized the early signs of its headlong rush in my direction. Could steel myself for what was about to come, confident that I could manage the suffering. Maybe even welcome the suffering. Pass through it on the other side and be on my way.

So these were the types of self-absorbed, myopic notions with which I was wrestling when I came upon the ducks.

I stopped in my tracks at the sight of them. Quite a scene. Mama duck with a half-dozen fuzzy ducklings at her webbed heels. All the inconsequential thoughts about an upcoming triathlon disappeared from my mind. Replaced in a heartbeat by an out-of-place duck and her kids zig-zagging right in front of me. And of course I didn’t just see ducklings.

I saw Beadlings. My Beadlings.

The ones that started out as these little ducklings did, fast on my heels, trusting my every move, every choice. Going wherever I led them, serpentine, through the formative stages of their young lives.

If I sneak a quick look behind me, Everett is still there in my wake. So long as he doesn’t expect me to sneak that look. If I telegraph it, I will see a seemingly older boy, walking casually with his flat brim capped-head down, hands stuffed firmly into his pockets, choosing his own path. Nevermind that his path happens to be in the shadow of his dad’s. That’s just coincidence.

My older duckling, Max, is not such a duckling anymore. When I glance back, he’s not there. He’s followed me just about as far as he’s going to. Splitting off now at a curl, investigating a broader path than the one I’ve thusfar led him down.

On two occasions this past week, I caught myself staring at Max from a close distance. Both times I hadn’t seen him all day. The image of him burned into my mind’s eye did not match the young man now standing before me.

The piercing blue eyes remained, the same ones that have always unsettled adults since they give the impression that the adults are looking into the eyes of another adult. But now he’s a bit taller, his face taking on a new angularity, his body language giving off the air of being comfortable in his own skin and silently encouraging me to do the same. I see now the young man he is becoming, and it steals my breath away.

The suddenness of this. The realization that he is on his own path now. That hopefully the initial trajectory we set will propel him in the right direction, if only slightly. All of our Herculean pushes and pulls seem to have only amounted to releasing him into space. Moving in slow motion now, beyond our gravitational pull. Hopefully capable of navigating his way.

“Dad, why aren’t you talking?” This is how Max jars me from my trance, a subtle hint that I’ve been staring at him again. I say, “Sorry, son, I just saw very clearly the young man you are becoming. Right before my eyes.”

That might be a bit deep for a still-12 year-old. Could even be categorized as goofy, reminiscent of my 7th grade self being at a loss for (intelligible) words to woo a young lady into a “moonlight skate” at the indoor rink. Disco Ball spinning overhead, Little River Band’s “Reminiscing” flowing through the overhead speakers. I feel those same butterflies now, when I see Max after not seeing him for a full day.

So thank you, world, for not stepping on my little ducklings underfoot. One is now off on his own little trail. The other, I think, is still right behind me. Just don’t tell him I know he’s still there. Make way for Beadlings.

Thanks for reading.

At the Hair Salon with My 100 Year-Old Landlady.



Yesterday I got a haircut for the first time in maybe four months.  I just generally object to the whole practice.  If my teeth ache, I go to the dentist.  That seems logical.  If my shoulder hurts, I visit my doctor.  Of course.  If the Prius inexplicably refuses to start, I call AAA.  Naturally.

But when my hair grows for too long, I need to pay an expert to fix it?  Really?

I yearn for the brief periods of nirvana — every 5 years or so — when my wife tolerates my getting a buzz cut.  Down to the nubs.  Bar of soap for shampoo.  No bed head.  No hair products.  No need to pay a hair expert.  I have accumulated a small arsenal of store-bought clippers that work just fine, thank you very much.  I buzz my own hair, re-buzz it myself for as long as the haircut is tolerated, and skip giddily past all the haircut experts on Chestnut Street.  Big smile on my face.  “Sorry, no, won’t be handing over $50 today for you to work your black magic sorcery on my locks.  All good!”

Eventually, though, the look evolves from Aryan Brotherhood to Little Lord Fauntleroy to Hugh Jackman’s “Wolverine” to Jackson Teller.  When the parents of the Little League kids I coach start scanning the parking lot looking for coach’s Harley — he must have one — that’s when I know it’s time to return to the hair expert.  

Fortunately for me, by now, my hair has grown out so much that said hair expert could not possibly remember me as the skin-headed weirdo blissfully skipping past their storefront.  Repeatedly. 

So, I act like I come here all the time.  I absolutely cannot have my cover blown.  Absolutely must avoid having done to me whatever hair experts do to non-believers like me. I fall in line with the regular people, like the time I took Communion to impress my high school girlfriend’s parents.  Ignore the fact that I am not now, nor have I ever been Catholic (or anything else, really).  Desperate times.

So there I am sitting in the black, faux-leather swivel chair.  Pungent scent of vinegar in the air.  Clumps of dark hair clippings scattered on the tile floor. I’ve managed to avoid suspicion, just a regular among regulars, my ongoing pedestrian chit-chat preserving my cover.  “Oh, same as last time, I guess.”  “Just a little trim.”  “How have you been?”  “The place looks great.”  “Your son sure has gotten big.” That type-deal. 

Settled in now, I glance in the mirror at the true believer sitting to my left.  At first glance, I identify that she’s quite old, has likely had one of those space helmet hair dryers on for some time, and is now having metal or foil clips plucked from her hair, one at a time.  Her lips are pursed, not in an unpleasant way, but in a way that indicates this is old hat for her.  She comes here all the time, probably has for years.  And is treated by the hair experts with deference.  Respect.  As if they were tending to royalty, even.  

My first reaction is, wow, I’m not sure this place has the right kind of hair experts for my particular needs.  What the hell am I doing here? That’s a pretty broad skill set, after all — primping an elderly woman’s ‘do for the second time this week and then evening out a haircut I’ve been giving myself for the past few months as if I had been living in the deep woods.  None of the Yelp reviews said anything about this. And I start to spiral downwards.  Feeling foolish for giving in to the hair expert’s siren song. For not just opening up my back of clippers in-need-of-a-charge at home.  For a moment, I even entertain faking a phone call, manufacturing a phony emergency to extract myself from this ill-fitting situation before I end up under the space helmet. 

And then I return my glance in the mirror, eyes angled back to the chair on my left. 

My second reaction, after studying the familiar-looking face a bit longer, is the spirit-lifting realization that she is alive!  Our former landlord of 13 years is sitting right next to me.  Her husband, a former New York Yankees shortstop whom we met only once, passed away 12 years ago at the age of 91.  We met the sprite, twinkling-eyed gentlemen on just one occasion.  We still talk about that visit.  

Fifteen years ago, Hilary and I slept on the bare wooden floor of our flat (their flat) on our first night here.  Duraflame log crackling in the fireplace that did not yet have a screen.  Chewing on our first of many Pizza Orgasmica pies cradled on bent paper plates.  Thrilled to have found this modest flat as a start to our new lives out here.  Heads fairly spinning with what the future would bring.  

Hilary went into labor with both of our boys in that flat.  Our oldest’s first month at home sadly coincided with the horrors of 9/11.  We cradled him on the living room couch while buildings fell down on the other side of the country and everything changed for every side of the country.

Memorable Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas mornings, gatherings of life-long friends and new friends, and birthday cakes bearing one more candle than last year.  Countless games of backyard catch.  Max demanding that I toss fly balls to the very edges of our ridiculously narrow lawn, allowing him to make spectacular leaping catches just before landing in a patch of flowers.  (His younger brother now demands the same, but in a different backyard venue.)  

All of these things swirled around in my head as I stared at our former landlady in the mirror.  I was still watching these images on “play” in my mind’s eye when she stood up from her chair with a some ceremony.  Grabbed a metal handle and whipped it only slightly such that gleaming black plastic segments snapped together magically with a “whew-CLICK” into a sturdy walking stick.  Same pursed lips and dignified look of indifference during this particular trick, by the way.  

She passed behind my chair, on a mission to whatever was supposed to be next on the agenda that day.  She looked so…graceful, humble, experienced, satisfied.  I was dumbstruck, trying to calculate her age now, while also trying to figure out whether and how I could get her attention to say “hello” without interrupting her elegance.  It almost seemed wrong to insert myself.  

I managed to croak, “Mrs. Crosetti?  Norma?” a couple times as she passed, oblivious.  I began to lose hope, until her hair expert tapped politely on Norma’s shoulder and pointed to me in the mirror; the man with another hair expert’s fingers stuffed in his ungainly tufts of hair.  I’m sure I surprised her.  As I’ve mentioned, this is probably not the kind of place a lady like her would expect to see a gent like me.  

But a couple quick prompts from me, and a hint of recognition lit up her marbled eyes and the corners of her mouth tilted up just a bit.  She asked if we still lived in the neighborhood. I answered, “We sure do, on the same block!”  Somehow, I thought she needed to understand how much we valued our neighborhood.  Her neighborhood.  And that we will continue to raise our family here and take care of the neighborhood as she had.  “That’s nice.  Nice to see you.”  

I tried to communicate with my own eyes and a perhaps-overdone smile of my own a sense of appreciation for her long life, and gratitude for the role she played in my own family’s life.  Whether she picked up on that, I don’t know.  She was already in motion towards whatever item was next on her agenda.  

When I asked a couple minutes later, one of the hair experts told me Norma is 100.  “One hundred,” I gasped.  And still living in this neighborhood.  Still living on her own.  Still moving with so much dignity.  With a presence well-earned from 100 years of walking this earth.  

“Does this mean I’m not even halfway to where I’ll end up?” I thought to myself.  

A half-century from now, will I be roaming the streets of my neighborhood with a snap-together walking cane, too? Will Hilary meet me for a coffee?  Or will I be alone, our coffees over with, as Norma and Frank no longer share coffees?  Children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren scattered about?  Or maybe even close by?  

Who knows.  

But I do know that I’m grateful for my serendipitous meeting with Norma.   Maybe I need to visit the hair expert more often.  

Thanks for reading. 

I am not an animal.


I think I know how the “Elephant Man” felt.

The Englishman Joseph Carey Merrick suffered from a rare, never-quite-determined illness or two that caused a number of grotesque deformities, formed the basis of a traveling show featuring Joseph as a human curiosity, and later inspired at least one theatrical plan and feature film.  Joseph was evidently miserable, and evidently also of enormous interest to showmen, doctors, royalty, and ticket-holding penny gaff patrons.

For nearly two weeks, I’ve been staggering through my days trying to remember when, exactly, I was struck by a car while riding my bike.  Or tackled unexpectedly by an overzealous, old friend.  Or inadvertently struck in the side of the head with an aluminum baseball bat.  Or maybe bitten by a blood-thirsty tick carrying one or another malevolent species of bacteria. Those are the only logical explanations I can can conjure up to explain how I’ve been feeling. But as far as I can remember, none of those potential explanations are based in reality.  None of them happened.

I have been knocked sideways by what feels like a dislocated shoulder, a sore sternocleidomastoid neck muscle consistent with the aftermath of swimming the English Channel, and an intermittent throbbing below my ear.  There are far worse health problems than mine, absolutely.  But I am not accustomed to this.

I haven’t taken a stroke in the Bay, a jogging step in my zero drop shoes, or a spin on my bike for nearly two weeks.  I have a race less than two weeks from today.  It’s not that I’m worried about finishing the race, or being adequately trained.  It’s that whatever ails me is preventing me from moving my body the way it has to move for a couple hours to even do the race.  I couldn’t zip up my wetsuit right now if my life depended upon it, for example, let alone go out and crawl around the Bay with 1,000 others.

More importantly, we’re in the heart of Little League playoffs season right now.  Both of my sons’ teams are playing.  They and all of their teammates are all kinds of fired up.  I live for this time of year.  In my current condition, if I foolishly burn through a bucket of ground balls with my fungo, the next morning will give me a hint of what it must feel like to be shot in the shoulder.  So I don’t hit infield.  Normally, my throwing shoulder is bone-weary by now, just from the sheer number of balls thrown during batting practice and father-son games of “catch” over the past few months.  In the past, I’ve complained about that seasonal ache.  I now ache for that trivial, seasonal ache.  At the moment, I am unable to raise my hand above my shoulder without wincing in pain.  So that means no throwing BP, no “coach-pitch” relief during my Little League games when our pitcher has been overly wild on the mound, and no easy game of catch with my boys.  Sure, I can catch just fine.  It’s the throwing part.  I’m reduced to underhand tosses.  And even those don’t feel particularly good.

In short, I’m miserable.

And apparently, like Joe Merrick, quite a curiosity to doctors.

My own doctor has been a champ through this.  Chatting with me after-hours on the phone. Speeding blood work results through the lab’s otherwise arthritic process.  Assuring me that eating ibuprofen like M&Ms is OK for the time being.  And showing genuine empathy for my situation, even though I know she has patients with far more serious maladies.

All of that is true.

But I am now beginning to suspect that I’m not far from the penny gaff myself.   This mysterious, pain-inducing thing knocking around inside of me is a Rubic’s Cube for my doctor.   I just want it to go away.   But my doctor has begun saying things like “infectious disease specialists,” “more blood work,” and “my colleagues.” Saying those words with a barely-detectible hint of excitement in her voice that I would rather not be detecting.

I think she is already working on the creative brief for the P. T. Barnum-style poster announcing my imminent arrival in your town.  I think she has begun drafting the speech for the barker posturing out in front of the tent.

“Step right up, folks.  You won’t want to miss this.  We have the death-defying Human Cannonball.  See him shot right out of a cannon before your very eyes.  We have Fire-Boy. The man who eats and drinks fire same as you and I eat a hearty meal.  We have Billy, the famous two-headed goat. And get this folks, for the first time ever, we bring you our newest, feature attraction:  The Whimpering Little League Coach. Reduced to throwing underhand!  That’s right, you’ll have to see it to believe it!  Has the devil taken hold of him?  Could be, folks, could be. Step right up!”

So like I said.  Miserable.  But evidently, too, of enormous interest.  Step right up.

Thanks for reading.

I Empathize with the Imp.




Game of Thrones delivered up another blog-worthy scene in its most recent episode.  The manipulative and compassionate “Imp” let fly a raging rant against, well, pretty much everyone — 

I saved you. I saved this city. All your worthless lives. I should’ve let Stannis kill you all. Yes, father. I’m guilty. Guilty. Is that what you want to hear? No, of that I’m innocent. I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I’m guilty of being a dwarf. Oh? Yes I am. I’ve been on trial for that my ENTIRE LIFE! I did not do it. I did NOT KILL JOFFREY BUT I WISH THAT I HAD! Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores! I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it. I will NOT give my life for Joffrey’s murder, and I know I’ll get no justice here so I will let the Gods decide my fate. I demand trial by combat!

I know how he feels.

Not the unappreciated city-saving part, the scornful father part, nor the years of persecution part.  Just the diffuse anger and rage part.  The reason for my own, current anger management problem is admittedly not the stuff of an HBO episodic series.  Nevertheless, when I saw Peter Dinklage’s character go off on this psychotic bender the other night, I saw myself.

Some sort of virus or another has been having its way with me for about a week or so.  This truth is of course heavy with irony, given that I’ve written so dismissively of Slapped Cheek, Meningitis, Chicken Pox, and the rest.  Turns out those bad boys don’t take well to being openly mocked on a WordPress blog.  My bad. 

How could I have been knocked sideways by something so random, something that more than likely found its way to me via a sick child?  Or more specifically, cough droplets from a sick child that ended up transferred over to me?  My kids haven’t been sick in weeks; maybe months.  I don’t work in an office.  I am outside in the fresh air constantly, never cooped up on a MUNI bus eyeing my warm grip on a germ-slathered strap-hanger’s pole. How in the world did I end up on the wrong side of the game of virus roulette?

Yep, whatever locked on to me has a vicious sense of irony.

My risky behavior, my undoing — and here comes the second dose of irony — was most likely Little League baseball.  More specifically, my Norman Rockwellian insistence on post-game hand shakes and high-fives has come home to roost, apparently.

Let’s do the math:  First, each of my Little League teams is comprised of 12 boys.  That’s 24 potential Typhoid Marys whose hands I grip, slap, or bump in a closed fist at least three times each week.  That’s 72 weekly roles of the dice right there, at minimum.  And I should probably add in a multiple here, seeing’s how the high fives are rarely a one-time thing.  I’ll connect hands with my players, each of them, probably several times during each practice, each game.  I’ve even, gasp, encouraged my younger team to hold a high-five contest with their teammates, in a contrived attempt to gin up some good sportsmanship on our own team.  And yes, I myself have participated in said contest(s), racking up points for each hand slap in a loud voice!  Bragging about it, even — “One! Two! Twelve!  Fifty Seven!”  

Oh the hubris

That hubris probably gets me 500 rolls of the viral dice weekly, and that’s just from my own guys.  Add in all the games we’ve played over the past couple weeks, and the exposure potential balloons exponentially.  I count approximately seven to ten games within my “catch and incubate” window.  Now we’re up to thousands of little hands, unknowingly passing a small infectious agent around that will ultimately set up shop in me.  

And of course, I write regularly about how much I swim, run, ride, yada yada.  Look at me, such a physical specimen! Well, my immune system has evidently been feeling the strain of trying to jam that extra mileage into an aging body so as to survive the upcoming Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.  I suppose this marks the third heavy dose of irony here. That small infectious agent had me and my shaved legs in its little viral cross hairs, just rubbing its fuzzy little infectious claws together, hardly able to contain his excitement at the prospect of tossing me around for a week or so, slamming me cartoonishly from one side of the ring floor to another.  Bam! Wham! Bam! 

The chronic and barely manageable pain in my head, neck, shoulder and chest over the past week has not brought out the best in me.  Particularly by the end of the day, when my neck has had enough of supporting my head all day, when my shoulder wants to remind me that I’m not supposed to be throwing batting practice or hitting ground balls, when a pedestrian sneeze feels like a battering ram to my chest, I become a Monster of Impian Proportions.

I rail against whomever thought that “Horsehead Kid and baseball into the ump’s nuts” Giants television commercial is a good idea.  I have wished that person dead, aloud, from a prone position on my living room floor, head propped up with a boiling heating pad, popping Advil from the plastic pill container always within arm’s reach.  

I caught myself spitting venom, almost literally (the spitting part for sure), when the Giants’ young shortstop Ehire Adrianza struck out looking, leaving the bat on his shoulder.  Pop another Advil.  

My wife and children, even my dog, now step warily around me.  Avoiding direct eye contact (not just the dog).  Steering clear of anything even remotely resembling a provocative comment.  Quickly leaving the room in a jog, high-stepping from their heels with a nervous giggle if the Monster begins to gurgle up some sort of bile-laden rant.  Same technique used when walking by a frothing, growling Doberman behind a fence.  “Tee hee hee, nice doggie,” while stage-marching it the hell away from there.  

The cute little birds in our neighborhood, protecting their cute little babies in their cute little nests?  When they wing themselves in my direction while out for a dog-walk, I grind my teeth and imagine them all vaporized.  Neighborhood lore has it that a neighbor once ended an unreasonably loud crow with an expert pluck of the crossbow.  I want a crossbow, and I want it now.  Now, I said!

Yeah, it’s been like that.  

I should probably apologize to everyone with whom I’ve had any contact of any kind over the past 7 days.  On the other hand, I think I have a couple days left with this.  A few more days of swinging my wrecking ball with abandon.  Hulk SMASH! Probably best to wait until the full extent of my pain-induced frenzy has run its course.  Free of my tiny infectious tormentor, I can then lift  my head among the smoldering ruins, survey the damage, do a quick head count, and begin the business of apologizing. 

Until then, I empathize with the Imp. 

Thanks for reading. 

I prefer my Phlebotomists be Catholics.



I had some blood drawn yesterday at my friendly, neighborhood lab.  I was greeted by a very pleasant woman with an angelic smile, standing at a podium aligned perfectly with the entrance door.  As if she’d been expecting me for days, knowing everything there was to know about me.  But would keep all those things a secret between us.  That kind of smile.  Changing the bend of her smile slightly, she gently advised me that I’d be waiting 25 minutes before my name was called.  No problem, I thought, scanning the crowded room for a seat least likely to bear Legionnaire’s disease cough droplets on the armrests.  

Within two minutes of finding my little sanctuary and settling in, another lab worker stepped to the center of the room, cleared her throat, and announced my name.  Her own cherubic smile strained at one corner by the effort of attempting to pronounce my name properly.  I have learned to recognize that look before I even hear my name, often popping to my feet with my own smile, granting instant clemency to my obviously relieved, new friend.  This time, though, I’m not feeling great, and couldn’t spare the energy to save her.  I don’t remember what she said, exactly.  I think I heard at least one “s” although there is no “s” to be found in my name save for my middle name.  And if she had announced my middle name, I probably would have snapped to attention, marched towards her like an automaton, and reached out for a diploma while wincing in anticipation of a flashbulb flashing.  

This second lab worker was not the maître d’ at the podium, who continued masterfully to welcome each new patient through the door.  Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, you might say.  This second woman’s role was to ensure the lab has all of my information entered into the lab’s database, before the lab does any actual work on me.  The second worker — I wish I remembered her name — was equally lovely.  Laughing generously at my weak attempts to break the mundane, digital form filing out with dark humor.  At the end of our time together, she let me know that this was just her 3rd day on the job.  So perhaps her laughter was genuine.  Or perhaps she, like the others, knew exactly how to handle me so that I would leave the lab chest puffed out.  Thinking I’m damned funny.  Probably the most handsome man to grace that lab in quite some time, too.  Fully expecting the lab workers to make little  necklaces carrying a drop of my blood in pebble-sized capsules around their necks; a memento of that afternoon in May when that otherworldly being (me) graced their presences.  

But I digress.

In the midst of my polite interrogation at the hands of Angel Number Two, Angel Number Two asked, “Do you have a religious preference?”  Given the nature of the questions previous to this one, I assumed she meant my preference as to the religious affiliation of my blood-taker, not my own religious preference.  I said, “You mean the religion of the person who will be sticking a needle in my arm and taking my blood?”  Expecting her to giggle at my misunderstanding and correct me, I got the giggle but not the rest.  “Yes. It’s just something they want us to ask.  Some people do have a preference.”  

Even in my achey state, this sent me off on a bit of a riff:  “I hadn’t thought about it, no.  But now that you mention it, are the people who follow a particular religion better than others at this?  You would know, right?  You can tell me.  Let me guess:  Catholics, right?  It has to be Catholics?”  

A few questions later Angel Number Two asked if I wanted to provide an emergency contact.  She asked this question with the most solemn look she had mustered to this point.  Sitting here now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the text of Question Number 17 pulled up on her computer screen was followed by a parenthetical stage direction —

(Note: effect solemn look on your face, make deep eye contact with your interviewee, consider dropping the frequency of your voice a half-octave and reduce its intensity (volume) by one-half).

If those were the directions, she followed them perfectly.  

I froze in her gaze only momentarily, though, still emboldened by my real or imagined comedic success in this venue; the faux-wooden booth we had been sharing for the last five minutes.  “You mean, in case I choose the wrong religion and the person bleeds me out back there behind those curtains??  Now I really really need to know which religion to pick.  C’mon, this is serious business now, you just raised the stakes!”  I lean in a bit, lower my own voice’s frequency and reduce my own voice’s intensity halfway to a whisper:  “It’s got to be Catholic, right?!?” 

I survived the blood-letting…er…blood-taking.  And I honestly do not know whether my blood-taker practiced Catholicism, Hinduism, Shintoism, or whatever else there might be to choose from in there.  It turns out I am agnostic when it comes to my phlebotomist.  To each his (or her) own.

Thanks for reading. 

Dog Ate My Walkathon.



The latest entry in the Godzilla franchise is evidently set in San Francisco.  I know this because I’ve seen the ad campaigns illuminated in MUNI shelters and plastered on the sides of buildings near the Bay Bridge on ramps.  

Actually, I know this because our 8 year-old, Everett, has himself convinced that he is qualified to sit in the theater audience when the film premiers here in a week or so. He has deployed practically every manipulative technique in his growing arsenal  in a desperate bid to bend his parents’ will to his own regarding this issue.  

For example, he has trotted out the tool of attempting to demonstrate maturity beyond his years in a casual manner, such that no parent in their right mind would think this 8 year-old has no business watching Godzilla lay siege to the 8 year-old’s city:  From his backseat throne the other day, Everett pronounced that Godzilla could not possibly have been filmed here in San Francisco.  The prehistoric creature is far too large, you see.  Had the beast trampled and scorched our fair city as the movie posters depict, Everett observed coolly, we surely would have seen this happen with our own eyes.  Hence, the movie was not filmed in San Francisco.

The subtext here, the one that took me a couple days to figure out, is that Everett is attempting subtly to indicate his own precocious ability to distinguish fact from fiction.  He is mature enough to appreciate the film is fake — this is the logical conclusion to which he is attempting to lead his parents.  The violence is computer-generated.  It’s all just good entertainment.  Not something that will trigger sweaty nightmares, a long-lasting fear of buildings toppling in the Financial District, or a phobia associated with the newts and salamanders that frequent the trails we hike.  There is but one logical conclusion here, right?

Nice effort, young man.  Futile, but nice.

Here’s the problem:  The film is rated PG-13.  Everett is rated 8.  He can absolutely watch the film, we’ve informed him.  In 5 years. Maybe fewer for good behavior.  Maybe. 

I mention Godzilla because our dog Wailea achieved a Godzillian feat yesterday.  She ate our Walkathon.  Or rather, our kids’ school’s Walkathon.  

This annual event is a magical piece of Americana that our family has enjoyed for the past 8 years now. Our boys and their schoolmates run, walk or skip as many laps around the Lower School Soccer Field as they can manage in one hour.  The proceeds help cover tuition for families that need a little help and contribute to a service organization of the students’ choosing.  

It’s not a scientific affair.  Marker-wielding parent volunteers slash a quick black stripe on the child’s shirt for each lap as the child runs past a fixed position on the field.  The parent and child occasionally run in tandem for a moment like sprinters exchanging a baton.  It is important, albeit difficult in practice, to make a legible mark that can be distinguished from the others.  Black slashes are tallied up at the end.

Friends and family who have knowingly or unknowingly pledged financial support to the runner are then hectored for a few weeks until they pay up. “Grammie, you owe me $20.”  That sort of thing.  (By the way, Grammie, this is your notice, thanks for the pledge!)

Only this year, our Godzilla-minded pup apparently has other plans.  She has laid waste to our Walkathon.  That may be a bit of an exaggeration.  But she did eat Everett’s Walkathon Pledge Form.  Or at least she ate approximately 65% of said Pledge Form, rendering said Pledge Form effectively useless.  


As you can see from the empty boxes, we’re a little behind with soliciting pledges this year.  Presumably, Wailea does not want the Walkathon to happen ten days from now, and she is evidently willing to go to extreme measures to stop it.  

Regardless, we must carry on!  Wailea’s evil gesture will be for naught. (Grammie, do you hear me?  I said “for naught.”  Get ready to pay up!)  The Walkathon will go forward. Everett and his school chums will cut corners to achieve an impossibly high number of “laps.”  And we will then get on to the business of breaking knee caps to collect.  It doesn’t matter if you knew that you made a pledge or not.  And “the dog ate my Walkathon Pledge Form,” as you can see, clearly is not a credible defense.  (Grammie, are you listening?).

Thanks for reading.

There Is Crying in Baseball.



I’m aware of milestones, especially the ones that mark the end of something or the beginning of something.  Sometimes the same stone marks both.  The end of one journey overlaps completely with the start of a new one. One such milestone is on my mind this morning: The end of the regular season for one of my San Francisco Little League teams.  We played our final regular season game yesterday afternoon.  

These are 8 and 9 years olds, for the most part, and my youngest son Everett is among them. Now two or three months into this, the boys are finally starting to show signs of “getting” the system we’ve been trying to impress upon them with every practice, every game.

On a macro level, they will answer, “Hustle,” to the question, “What is always in our control?”  And they can rattle off pretty easily a handful of concrete examples of what hustle looks like on a baseball field.  That’s different than just repeating back some memorized mantra by rote.  For example, the team has embraced what we’ve coined as “Show and Tell.”  In the field, all of our players now communicate with all of their teammates before each opposing batter steps up to the plate.  The know to “show” the number of outs to each other, holding aloft a fist or maybe horns to every player, and to “tell” the situation — shout out the outs and what the infielders and outfielders should do with a ball hit their way.  They’ve moved beyond giving me the horns and shouts as if they’re being quizzed.  They now seek out their teammates’ eyes in a genuine quest to communicate something important.  

The first baseman knows he is accountable for the left fielder who has his hand jammed in his back pocket; knows it’s his job to inspire that chilly hand out of the pocket and up into the air to signal an awareness of the game situation.  The on-deck guy knows he is responsible for grabbing a discarded bat at the plate, and that he needs to handle this task in a jog if not a sprint.  Everybody nods when I remind them to get their bare hand involved in receiving the ball, and their once melodramatic reactions to a stung hand have given way to barely perceptible winces.  That gloveless hand is their best friend, and the sting means they’ve done something right.  

The once comically long-winded instructions doled out from my 3rd base coaches’ box are now staccato short.  One or two words chiseled down to capture something each batter is working on.  A quick trigger to remind one to loosen up, another to align his grip, another to keep his head and eyes still and quiet on the swing, another to keep both hands on the bat until those hands have done their jobs and the top one can let go.  “Two hands,” “fix your fingers,” “fix your foot,” “wider,” “see it.” It’s a thing of beauty by this stage, watching a player make an adjustment at the plate with a knowing head nod, in response to only a word or two.  

So on a macro level, it’s fair to say these boys as a group have learned a considerable amount about the nuts and bolts and how to play together as a team.  Not just saying it, but doing it, or at least recognizing what that is supposed to look like. 

On a micro level, almost everyone has cried.  I’m including myself in that group. The characteristically flat affect ever present on all their faces masks a tempest of emotions ready to explode or implode at any moment.  I’ve learned to pick up on each player’s body language to learn what’s inside at that moment. Eye-balling them as they run across the grass towards me to join a just-starting practice, water-bottle sloshing with each stride.  Peeking at their eyes as they get a look at the day’s lineup on the clipboard for the first time.  Listening to how they speak to one another, with particular attention to whether they are being kind — being “a good teammate.”  I have zero tolerance for experienced players speaking harshly to the less experienced.  Unfortunately for the more experienced players, I have zero tolerance for them not developing thick skin when the less experienced don’t always follow this same rule.  The more skilled players by now understand they have a key role in helping the less skilled become more skilled. Within reason, if a less skilled player razzes (intentionally or otherwise) a more skilled player, I’d like for that skilled player to take it in stride.  They can handle it.  

And there is most definitely crying in baseball.  

A genuine show of emotion in our post-game circle will move me.  I’ll take a breath to fill my lungs full for a planned, long-winded answer but my breath will catch.  A little constriction in my own throat reminds me how much I care about these boys, those tears, and this moment.  Particularly on milestone days like yesterday, I am grateful and feel incredibly fulfilled.  I heard myself yesterday, unprompted, telling one of my boys (my assistant coach’s son), “Hey, you are a good kid and I am very lucky to be your coach. Thank you.”  Not the kind of advice base runners on 3rd base are expecting from their coaches at that moment.  But that’s how I felt, and I wanted him to know it.  

I live for these moments.  

And I am agonizingly aware of the finite number of such moments that remain.  I feel the sand slipping through my fingers.  I see the boys looking forward with their eyes, focused solely on what will happen next.  Not so much, anymore, looking at me for direction or for acknowledgement of a right answer.  They are ready to move on.  And whether I am ready or not ready isn’t the point.  If I’ve done this right, they have no idea about my own state of readiness — ranging from non-existent to fragile at best.  Well we have at least a couple more games to ride out together before these moments are a collection of memories captured in a team photo.  I have a stack of them (memories and team photos).  So bring on the playoffs!

Thanks for reading.