Month: October 2014

In the Land of Giants.


Three World Series Championships in the last five years.  A dynasty, they say.  My kids have no idea how lucky they are to be living in this Land of Giants.  Their maternal grandfather — a lifelong, long-suffering Red Sox fan (still) — waited nearly 70 years to witness his hometown team win a World Series.  My kids have experienced three, count ’em three!  

And it’s not just the being a fan part.  Forty-thousand fans turn the turnstiles at AT&T Park for every home game.  We go to our fair share of games.  The four of us happened to be on-hand at the ballpark when Cain threw his perfect game.  And we watch or listen to just about all of them that we don’t attend.  Hanging on Kruk & Kuip’s every word while crammed into our Prius or piled on the floor at the foot of the television scratching our family dog’s belly.  We have shelled out our fair share of shekels, too, for the merch:  Orange panda hat, Giants flannel pajamas, “Always October” hoodies.  The whole sh-bang.  Our fandom bona fides are for real.

But the best part is the “hometown team” part.  We and our kids regularly bump into Giants players.  A couple years ago, I passed Brian Wilson walking on Sansome Street.  At the time, he lived around the corner from us, so I lamely offered up a quick, “Hey, you’re a long way from your neighborhood.”  Weezy dryly responded, “Everyplace is my neighborhood” without breaking stride.  Later that same year, he gamely signed autographs for my son Max’s San Francisco Little League All-Star team.  We had spotted him having dinner next to our team’s dinner one night, and after some cajoling, he came outside and made the kids’ day.  He even laughed aloud with Max when Max explained to Weezy that his broken wrist in a cast was caused by falling on the treadmill in our garage.  


A few years back, Everett was invited to say hello to Pat Burrell seated in the rear of the now-defunct Grove on Chestnut.  A quick conversation, but it left an impression:  Everett’s family drawing around Christmas-time that year included Pat the Bat.  And I’m OK with that.  We would regularly see Aubrey Huff at Max’s swim lessons in the Presidio.  I’d leave him alone, giving him his space.  But I couldn’t help myself on the morning after a particularly hard-fought post season win.  Striding out to the pool deck, Aubrey caught my eyes, and we both raised our arms and shook our fists at each other triumphantly.  It was genuine; I felt as if I had played a role in the win.  

A couple months ago, I was working at home and fully-engaged in a conference call.  Max stuck a piece of paper in my face with something about Jeremy Affeldt and coffee written on it.  I waved my hand, annoyed with the distraction.  Max disappeared, texting me this photo a few minutes later —


So net net, we’re pretty thrilled with the Giants’ success of-late, for sure.  But it’s the unexpected moments when our kids stumble into the players here and there that we appreciate the most.  We feel like we’re a part of something, rather than just witnessing something.  And we know we’re damned lucky to be living here in the Land of Giants.

Thanks for reading.

The Count of Monte Crisco.

Screenshot 2014-10-29 08.34.57

Yes, Crisco

My 8 year-old was up to his usual tricks with his line of questioning during the walk to the bus stop this morning.  First, he asked, “Dad, what is Crisco?”  Trust me, this question was out of the blue.  I can’t even imagine how that question would ever not be out of the blue.  I don’t cook with it.  I don’t know anyone else who does.  I don’t put it in my hair.  If someone else chooses to, that is their business.  And I don’t believe Everett has developed a taste for I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners or other TV shows of that era in which the word “Crisco” might be included in the script.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure how to answer the Crisco Question.  I caught myself wiggling my lips a bit to try to form a word, having a tough time pushing air up from my lungs to my mouth.  My brisk pace cut in half as I struggled for something sensible to say.  Fortunately, my wife Hilary jumped headlong into the breach.  As my head swirled in my moment of vulnerability, I vaguely heard her say the word “shortening,” and I knew that we would survive this.  Nevermind that my inner Rainman was now wrestling with the different meanings of “shortening,” and how they don’t seem to have anything to do with each other.  Or do they?

Regardless, I picked my pace back up, relieved that Hilary knew how to trot out the word “shortening” without skipping a beat, such that Everett did not likely see me staggering from his Crisco body blow.  Equilibrium now restored.

Once we arrived at the bus stop proper, however, the second shoe dropped.  Everett asked, “Dad, what is a finder’s fee?”  Now, I know what a “finder’s fee” is.  That wasn’t the issue here.  The issue was the close proximity in time between the Crisco Question and the Finder’s Fee Question.  Under a minute.  Maybe less.  So that meant that Everett somehow was connecting the two words.  This was not out of the blue.  Nothing out of the blue about this. 

But what was the connection?  Where in the hell did he hear this? Read this?  Get offered this?  Was he tipping his hand to some God-awful school playground prank to which he was privy?  I don’t recall seeing any substance on any of his clothes or in his hair that, upon reflection, could have been Crisco-esque in origin.  Then again, I don’t take a hard look.  And most stains are good news — suggesting that he actually did brush his teeth, did wash his hands this week, or did eat what he was supposed to eat from the school lunch.   So I have to concede that he could have walked into our house with a Crisco mohawk, and I may not have noticed. 

And I’m not sure, but isn’t this type of “shortening” frowned upon in cooking nowadays due to some mouse studies?  Our kids’ school is all about organic gardens, composting, and sourcing food locally.  So I can’t fathom that Everett would pay or be paid a finder’s fee for delivering up a barrel of Crisco to the school kitchen.  That would be scandalous.  Not the finder’s fee part, but the idea that someone at school was cooking with Crisco.  There would need to be a school-wide email from the head of school with a heartfelt apology and firm reassurance that our kids are safe.  That someone was fired.  And that a thorough search of the area found that NO CRISCO ever made it onto school grounds. 

As all this ran through my head, the school bus rolled up silently.  The kids were all sucked on board as if by some sort of powerful vacuum, scrambling up the stairs.  I managed a weak — and basically rhetorical under the circumstances — “Ev, um, are those two questions somehow connected??”  But by then he had been sucked up into the bus, halfway to his seat, and I could not decipher his facial expression through the tinted windows.  Why are the windows tinted?  As far as I knew, as the bus squeaked away from the curb, Ev was now passing a huge vat of the shortening around to his fellow students, who slathered themselves up with it, crazed.  And slapped dollar bills into my 8 year-old’s outstretched palm.

I expect a call from school any minute now.  Is that the phone ringing??

Thanks for reading.

Halloween City.


San Francisco turns orange about this time of year, every year, it seems. I don’t mean the Fall leaves. Fall doesn’t turn the leaves orange in these parts, for the most part. I satisfy that east coast craving by cruising foliage photos on Facebook. Apologies for the alliteration. Absolutely awful.

I associate all this annual orange with two things: The San Francisco Giants’ postseason success, and Halloween.

The former whips this town into a frenzy. I marvel as some of our more iconic pieces of architecture turn orange — City Hall, Coit Tower, the Embarcadero Buildings, the Ferry Building. The entire city loses its collective mind.

Case in point: My wife Hilary and I were drawing straws late last night over who would go investigate a loud banging in our garage. This morning’s Chronicle told me the clamor was due to fireworks set off on the waterfront at the end of a gala held last night for 2,000 Giants VIPs. Could’ve used a heads up, Mr. Baer. That way, I could’ve strode chest-puffed into my dark garage ready to take on the “intruder” with my bare hands and a half-chewed number 2 pencil, as my wife sat admiring her protector. “My hero.” Sigh.

Instead, I practically stuck my cold foot in Hilary’s low-back pushing her out of bed to go investigate. Think I also glowered at Wailea: “What the hell kind of watchdog are you? Don’t you hear that banging? Someone is out there! Sic ’em! Sic ’em!”

Alas, not a burglar. Nope. Just a couple thousand muckety-mucks getting their orange on. Tonight is game 3 of the 2014 World Series, after all. If the Giants win, I suppose I will gladly accept the ignominy of last night’s emasculation brought on by the fireworks masquerading as a neighborhood madman rummaging through our garage. Fair trade. No apology or reparations will be necessary, Mr. Baer.

The other thing I associate with all this orange is the season of Halloween. Man, I love it. I got it bad. After our family’s 3rd or 4th trip to one or another store, we finally had all the gear I needed to transform our postage-stamp sized front “lawn” into a terrifying graveyard: Three bags of spider webs stretched thinly. A dozen spiders scattered in threatening poses. Three spotlights (2 green). Three strobe lights, including one that blasts a looped sound recording imploring someone to “help me help me” every ten seconds or so. Three styrofoam headstones, one chiseled with a small skull, another with “RIP” and another in the shape of a medieval cross. A couple life-sized skulls, the deep-set eyes and broad foreheads a perfect surface on which to bounce the strobes’ blinking lights. And then the coup de grâce: Three black-hooded, hanging ghouls with blinking red eyes and upturned skeleton hands.

Used to be four ghouls, but one was stolen last Halloween. Cost of doing business; city living. And frankly, given that I deliberately affix and ensnare the ghouls deep into our prickly rose bushes, using a step ladder, no less, I have to tip my cap to the high-jumping bloody-handed thief who somehow managed to pilfer my ghoul. He must’ve wanted that red-eyed heebie jeebie pretty badly.

Just as I wanted that fog machine pretty badly. The one I stood before at the local Halloween City store yesterday afternoon, covetous. Practically drooling. Ignoring my 8 year-old’s plaintive half-whispers: “Dad, can we puuuleeeeazze get outta here? That clown is creeping me out.” I heard Everett, faintly, in the recesses of my mind. But I heard the word “clown” and figured Ev was overreacting. Or at least figured that he would not be permanently scarred by an encounter with a grinning clown. Not by the couple extra minutes I would need to do the math, weighing exactly how pissed Hilary would be by my introduction of an over-the-top fog machine against how ecstatic I would be to fire that bad boy up.

Everett’s increasingly-urgent tugs on my wrist snapped me back to reality. Reluctantly, I gave in to the sad fact that I would end up on the wrong side of the “greater than” sign as far as the fog machine calculus would go. So I satisfied myself by impulse-purchasing a couple black light spotlight bulbs. (The same ones that would later burn off my fingerprints in my ill-advised attempt to install the bulbs in our backyard.)

On the way out the front door, I followed Everett’s bugged out eyes and snuck a look at the creepy clown. I was wrong. Ev will definitely be scarred.


Thanks for reading.

The Wasco Clown Is a Friend of Mine.


The Wasco Clown is right in my wheelhouse. I rush to Instagram every morning hoping against hope that he or she has or they have posted something creepy from his or her or their overnight exploits. This spooky clown is in my head; it’s as if the clown is looking directly and only at me in these quietly disturbing photos.

I have long been a huge fan of Halloween and all that it entails. In grade school, my dad and I used to rig up a pumpkin-headed dummy on our front porch, raising the dummy’s skeleton hand via a fishing line pulley system when an unsuspecting trick-or-treater approached. Great results.

As I got a bit older, I would dress as a dummy myself, oversized shirt and pants stuffed with pillow innards, a nondescript mask covering my face. I would position myself limbs akimbo on the stairs leading to the skeleton-handed pumpkin. They would assess me on the way up the stairs, deciding I was indeed not real as they moved along up to the main attraction. They breathed a sigh of relief, maybe a small chuckle at the pedestrian skeleton hand with fishing line act on the porch. Their guard officially down, I would jump out at them on their way back down the stairs. Scared the bejesus out of them, without fail.

I made the annual pilgrimage to Syracuse’s JCC Haunted House with my wide-eyed school chums. The haunted house antics were only slightly more effective than my own, popping out at my buddies in one pitch black hallway or another.

I would never go to a haunted house with me. To this day, I don’t know why my friends agreed to go every year. And I’m surprised no one’s heart exploded along the way. Also surprised these friends of mine are still friends of mine, unfairly and repeatedly terrorized as they were.

As an “adult,” I’ve passed the Halloween Bug on to my boys, I think. They strategize about their costumes year-round. With a sense of pride, I rebuff their first choices — invariably one movie sequel horror killer guy or another. I don’t even know how they know who Freddy Kruger is.

We set up a green spotlit graveyard on our front walk. Three hanging ghouls have blinking red lights for eyeballs. Yesterday I bought some upside down hanging bat lanterns for our little inside patio. They look good surrounded by the dark purple string lights. That patio comes alive when the sun goes down.

Over the years, the boys have assembled piece-by-piece a little, automated Halloween Town on a table in our dining room. An overhead witch chasing a WW II-era girl around and around a circular graveyard. The Witches Brew Pub with its faux-neon sign and red-eyed monster waiting under the porch. A merry go ’round carnival swing chocked full of seated skeletons clutching the swing’s chains in their bony fingers.

It’s all very mesmerizing. At least to me.

Which is why I am agog at the Wasco Clown phenomenon. The clown apparently wanders around a Bakersfield-area town in the middle of the night, taking vaguely menacing photos of himself in familiar locales, posting them on Instagram later. He doesn’t bother with dramatic or threatening poses, he is just…there. Dead-eyed. Flat.

Allowing you, me, to project our own innermost fears onto him. He’s even added the brilliant stroke of clutching a gaggle of balloons in his right hand. So many things in these photos that appeal to a Halloween-ophile such as I. I stare at the photos as if I were examining a painterly van Gogh. Admiring this element or that one — the choice of mask or face paint, the odd contrapposto standing in the dewey grass of a children’s playground. The Michael Myers tilt of the head.


So touché, Wasco Clown. My Halloween karma has come home to roost. You have officially scared the bejesus out of me. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for reading.

El Vampiro in the Squat.

Timely. Go Giants!

The Lemonade Chronicles


Unless you have been living under a rock, you know something is amiss at this year’s World Cup. I just read an interesting re/code article giving us lay folk a glimpse inside Google’s World Cup War Room. They’re in that room crunching scads of real-time search data from real-time Google searches originating from Google searchers all over the planet. One of my main take-aways from said article?

People are fascinated by vampires. “Suarez bite” was evidently disproportionately queried when compared to, say, “flea bite,” “dog bite,” and other more innocuous Google searches about someone or something biting someone or something else.

It got me thinking: Might there be a competitive advantage, in certain settings, to having a reputation as “a biter?” As someone who, under the right circumstances, just might set his or her teeth to work on an unsuspecting–or better yet, suspecting–victim?

My mind goes first to other…

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I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

Reblog: Go Giants!

The Lemonade Chronicles


This is how nature is supposed to look.  Well, let me try that again:  Ignore the Snapseed and Instagram bells and whistles.  Ignore the posed look on Everett’s face.  He insisted.  Basically refused to move until I took the photo.  Ignore, too, the fact that the dog is over it.  Near impossible to get her to stand still on that small rock, with Everett stuck in time.  And she probably didn’t appreciate Everett’s left hand maybe grabbing a bit of skin to keep her in position. 

Ignore all that. 

Ahh, that’s better.  OK, so like I said, this is how nature is supposed to look.

I say “supposed” because I’m still trying to come to terms with what’s happening at this very moment in our backyard.  As Everett just pronounced when he stumbled into the living room this morning, “Are the guys still doing our turf?  Yeah, I heard…

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