Month: January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No rain, no rainbows.

Thanks for reading.

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

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

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

Omarosa Headshot?

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

Inspirational Fortune Cookie Fortune?

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

Twitter User Manual?

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

Dollars (billions of them)? 

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

Xerox of someone’s butt? 

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

A Prop from “The Shining”? 

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

The Constitution of the United States?

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

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

Thanks for reading. 

 

PEOTUS Fixed the Drought!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. 

Back in the Pool. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, nothing. No comeuppance of any kind. 

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

Thanks for reading. 

A Tree Falls in the Forest

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.  

 

Merely a Caveman.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.  

Book-Writing Observation #1: I’m Gonna Leave You Out

Lots of hand-wringing going on here this morning.  I’m making solid progress at this phase of slapping small pieces of clay together so as to start from a big lumpy mess of stories ready for the carving. I find myself re-reading blog posts from years ago or months ago and sniffling back tears or chortling aloud. The dog, lying prone on the living room carpet this morning, is thoroughly confused by my sudden demonstrations of emotion in an otherwise empty room. Like I said, the actual writing part seems to come easily.  Not wringing my hands over that, at least not yet.  

It’s the “Acknowledgements” section that puts a pit in my stomach. Ties me in knots. Paralyzed. 

No matter how much thought I put into this as-yet-unwritten area, I know for a fact that I will leave someone out.  Not on purpose, mind you.  But it will feel like on purpose to them.  And this absolutely terrifies me. 

So I should apologize in advance, right now, to all the important people who have come and gone or stayed in my life since, well, probably well before I was ever alive.  I  mean, how deep does this go?  Do we go back to my father’s father?  Homo Erectus? The single-celled organism popping up at the start of the evolutionary chain? The “Big Bang” that allegedly created the planet on which I sit? Pottery Barn for the chair I’m sitting on, for that matter?

If I really think about it, doesn’t just about everyone and everything have an arguably legitimate claim to have played some role in who I am and what I write? That is a shit-ton of people who will proudly turn to the “Acknowledgments” section with pride in their chests and knowing grins, fully and justifiably expecting their names to appear. They scan slowly at first, then picking up speed, the knowing grin disappearing and replaced by furrowed brow.  Then they will run out of words to read, the final period essentially serving as a cliff.  First I ignore them and now I’ve thrown them off a cliff!  See what I mean?  Totally debilitating. How does anyone get to the actual business of writing a book, with this particular weight of the world draped about the shoulders?

And don’t get me started on the “Dedication” page at the front of the book….

Thanks for reading.

Over My Skis in 2017: I’m Writing a Book

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No doubt I’m “over my skis” on this one.  But I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been over my skis, in truth.  So here goes:  I’ve resolved to write and publish a book in 2017.  The writing part seems pretty easy, surprisingly.  As for the publishing part, well, we’ll have to wait and see about that.  

A book about what? Looking back, I’ve put together nearly 200 blog posts since starting The Lemonade Chronicles three years ago this month. So, plenty of fodder.  I suspect there’s at least one book lying dormant in there. Waiting for me to tease it out, prop it up, press down a cowlick or two, give it some shape and an unwelcome shove in the low back, arriving unceremoniously on some bookshelf somewhere.  I do in fact have an inkling as to a reasonably plausible theme —

Baseball.

Likely something to do with my experiences over the past 10 years coaching Little League baseball here in San Francisco.  And probably reaching back much earlier, since baseball, as it turns out, has been an important thread of my life for as long as I can remember.  I vividly recall the knee-patched bluejeans (dungarees?), stiff red t-shirt, and “Southside American” Little League trucker cap that comprised my first Opening Day uniform.  

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That’s me in the left foreground, with the Shaun Cassidy locks and $5 K-Mart glove. Ready–whether I knew it or not at the time–to let baseball have its way with me over the next 40-plus years. To deliver seared memories of walk-off wins.  And more hotly-seared memories of still-painful losses.  A line drive straight into, and promptly out of, my glove at second base as the winning (losing) run sprinted ecstatically across the plate.  And the kind words and hand on my back offered by my New York State Hall of Fame high school coach during the long team bus ride home.  

Merely holding a worn baseball in my palm triggers a flood of recollections and a weak effort at holding back tears. The day 35 years ago when my father begged off from playing catch with me, realizing I threw harder than he.  This introduced new dangers of broken hands, bruised eyes and egos.  I am beginning to glimpse a flicker of those same dangers now when throwing with my own 15 year-old son.  The dozens of unforgettable moments I’ve experienced over the past decade with a couple hundred earnest Little Leaguers on baseball diamonds sprawled all over San Francisco.  The profound experience of raising my family in a baseball-crazed town featuring 3 World Series titles in the last few years. It’s one thing to listen to the games on the local AM radio station or to sit cheering in the seats with 40,000 other souls.  It’s another to smile watching your son exchange high fives with a Giants pitcher working as a guest barista at a local coffee shop one random morning. Baseball keeps on creating new memories across generations. 

I have zero business taking on this book project, by the way.  I know that.  I’m embarking on a new business venture, helping to raise my kids and dog and all that involves, and still learning what it means to be a good husband to my wife.  Oh, and my 13th season of Little League starts in 59 days, 14 hours, and 40 minutes.  So I will need to create some time where there isn’t any.  Because I think I have something to say.  Wish me luck. 

Thanks for reading.