Month: March 2018

Go Syraduke Orangebluedevilmen (Part 2)


Well hello there, milestone.  How you been, life signpost?

Duke and Syracuse University square off tonight in a March Madness’ Sweet Sixteen matchup. I last wrote about this spine-tingling college hoops rivalry a little over 4 years ago.  At the time, I was raw and reeling from my grandmother’s sudden death, and yet newly-inspired, too, to create this here blog and start documenting my day-to-day.  Trying to emulate my grandmother’s inexhaustible good humor and optimism.  I called it a “quixotic quest for the bright side.” At the time, my sons were 12 and 8 years old, in people years.  Our dog was 1, also in people years.  My wife and I were, ehm, younger, too.

That was four years and a couple hundred Lemonade Chronicles blog posts ago. So the game got me thinking: What has happened in my life since then? Well, on the negative side (and it remains difficult not to tackle this end of the ledger first), my family and I have lost loved ones and dear friends. Some older and therefore perhaps not entirely surprising.  Some far younger, and therefore entirely surprising.  Neither category seems fair, of course.  And while these people are gone, it’s safe to say we think about them all, just about every day.  Still, these heartbreaking losses have served as rallying calls for my tribes: My college buddies, my wife’s family.  We have grown tighter and more appreciative of one another as a result.  Doesn’t make it hurt any less, I suppose, but it is something to grab onto while staring at the ceiling at 2 in the morning.  Or while stumbling over an old Facebook photo depicting a smiling face that smiles no more.

My kids have gotten older.  One has moved away, willingly, to a boarding school on the east coast.  Max is trudging through his 4th Nor’easter at the moment, as I type on my MacBook Air sitting in our San Francisco backyard, pant legs rolled up since it’s a little warm in the sun. Our younger son Everett is in 6th grade and none-too-happy about the fact that the white hot parental spotlight shines only in his direction. At least it seems that way to him. And my wife and I probably want to perpetuate this myth, because Everett is the sneaky one.

I’ve continued to coach Little League teams for as long as my sons’ birth certificates allow. I’m in my last season right now, in fact.  The number of times I’ll get to remind a player to tie his shoes or to show me where her baby tooth recently fell out? Dwindling. Honestly, this coaching thing has been going on so long (13 or 14 years now), I verge on panic when contemplating its sudden absence from my identity.  At times, I find myself fantasizing about returning to the pitching mound someday to coach my grandchildren’s Little League teams.  This gives you an idea of how bent I am about this phase of my life coming to an abrupt halt in a couple months.

I’ve been writing a book inspired in-part by my Lemonade Chronicles blog.  I wrote a 500+ paged manuscript, covering 4 years, then cut it down to 8 months, in the process realizing that a health scare had played a more prominent role in my psyche than I knew.  The manuscript is currently in the hands of a half-dozen “beta readers” from whom I fear I will learn that my book is actually awful.  Even if they like it and their constructive criticism doesn’t leave me dry-heaving, there is still the matter of finding a literary agent, publishing house, and readers willing to pay to read what I write. Wish me luck.

Since my first Duke-SU post, I have worked at three startups, none of which left me with a feeling of doing something meaningful.  Which probably explains, in part, why I have taken the past year off to focus on writing this book.  The book is now “written” — or at least the hard part of putting something together that lasts 254 pages and has pretty pictures such that I can hand it to someone with sort of a straight face.  So suddenly, the gobs of time each day spent pulling my hair out and shuffling around hundreds of pages of draft writing lies empty.  So I find myself, tentatively, exploring the possibility of a new adventure. Something ideally complementing this dream of mine to be a guy who regularly writes and publishes books that people want to read, and maybe goes to neat little bookstores all over the place to meet and talk with those people.

A large part of my family has, rather surprisingly, left Syracuse altogether.  My sister, mother and step-father, all gone. Living in North Carolina. A good example of how things you assume will last forever, well, they usually don’t. I have been trying to figure out how to go to North Carolina to visit, and while I have been doing so, my nephews are getting older in their Instagram photos. I have yet to step foot in my mother’s year-old house, to say nothing of the home my sister and brother in-law have lived in for several years now.  I tell myself that I am busy with book writing, and being a husband and a dad, and coaching Little League, and walking the dog. But perhaps I am simply not a very good son or big brother.

Both may be true.  Take tonight:  As an example of how far things have come, I actually will miss watching this milestone college hoops game.  I won’t be watching it live in a bar downtown with a couple college buddies, backslapping each other and yelling.  I won’t be the object of some purportedly good-natured text taunting from my far-flung, Syracuse born-and-bred, family members. I won’t be giggling over funny texts shared among a sizable group of other college buddies, each live-texting the game with relevant comments and with totally irrelevant comments of the sort I dare not publish here (or anywhere for that matter).  In fact, I will take the extreme step of shutting down my iPhone and burying it in a backpack until later this evening.  Or perhaps until tomorrow morning.  Because I won’t see this game until my rendezvous with TiVo ’round about 9pm tonight.

Instead, I’ll be standing in the third base coaches box, cheering on my Little League team’s players.  It’s not even a real game; just a hastily-arranged scrimmage.  Earlier today, I contemplated skipping the scrimmage myself in favor of the yelling and backslapping and harried texting. For about 15 minutes.  But then I thought about my Little Leaguers, down in the mouth from their 3rd consecutive rained-out game. And I knew where I belonged: On the field with my gaggle of 11- and 12-year olds, shoelaces untied and baby teeth still rooted. The hoops game can wait.

Thanks for reading.


My Final Season (and So It Begins….)


This is what Opening Day looks like in San Francisco.  Technically not “Opening Day.” That event and its annual parade was actually cancelled a weekend ago. The rainy conditions introduced the unpleasant prospect of baseball-cleated pre-teens sliding around in the payload of rented pickup trucks like a pile of slippery mackerel.  This would have been my last San Francisco Little League Opening Day Parade, since my younger son will graduate out at the end of the current season.  I’ll get over it, but I would have liked just one more trip around the block with a pile of fish. 

Even after 12 or 13 years of these rides, I can almost remember each.  When loaded with a dozen 50-pound first-graders, space comes at a premium back there for coaches who haven’t seen first grade and 50 pounds since 1975. Sixth-graders now, the players on my Majors A’s team this year have doubled in size from their first-grade selves. We coaches have, maybe, added a few pounds here and there as well. Sitting in the open air on the bump of a metal wheel well, pinching one’s knees together as the driver careens around the Marina, the players rhythmically banging their fists on the quarter panels, sounds, objectively speaking, undesirable. But I would have liked to take one more spin around the neighborhood, my own hand stinging at the end of it (it’s not just the kids that do the banging). 

Thankfully, lightning and sneakers losing purchase and liability did not come into play for our team’s actual first game, which transpired this past weekend.  This is not to say that my boys (it’s only boys this season) pranced around in the bluebird skies, blazing sunshine, and fresh cut grass from my youth. Nope. I suspect our field had recently played host to a lacrosse game or rugby match or Friday evening adult softball game featuring a keg drained down in the visitor’s dugout. The field has seen better days. I can’t blame the outfield, pockmarked with ankle-twisting gopher holes, on those other folks, though.  That’s just nature.  The kids have been navigating those vermin-built land mines for so long, we don’t even bother mentioning this hazard to our right fielders anymore. 

Gopher holes? What gopher holes?  

The unusually heavy fog added an interesting variable to the mix. The Golden Gate Bridge’s fog horn moaned the entire night before our game.  The late evening news weatherman, his opinion seconded by the opposing team’s head coach, said it would be thick.  He was right.  At 7:15am on Saturday morning, the fog bank operated as a de facto outfield fence.  If any player was able to jack one out into the fog, literally hitting the ball out of sight, I suspect the home plate umpire would happily circle his index finger in the air.  That would be a very cool sight, and I wouldn’t care whether our team did it, or their team did. 

Fog? What fog?

Given the paucity of playable fields within the 7 mile by 7 mile footprint of San Francisco proper, the League struggles mightily to accommodate the 1,000+ rabid little leaguers with crooked caps and untied shoelaces. Hence our 8am game on Saturday.  My team’s players, presumably still bleary-eyed from an all-night Fortnight video game bender, drifted onto the field one and two and three at-a-time; eventually comprising a full quorum by the time the umpire requested my hand-written lineup. Our pre-game drills turned just-unwrapped official league baseballs into the heavy dirty gummy dun spheres on display at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I whack a brand-spanking new ball with my fungo bat out into the outfield, someone (hopefully, eventually, corrals it), and throws back to me an unrecognizeable ball covered in mud as though it had time-traveled (backwards or forwards, I’m not sure which).  But none of the players and none of the coaches complained about the mud balls.   

Mud balls? What mud balls?

As it turns out, we got our butts kicked on Saturday morning.  Wasn’t much of a contest, really. Sure, we talked about it after the game.  A little bit. The strikeouts and botched plays and missed steal signs and such.  But that stuff hardly mattered as we all knelt in the still-wet grass surrounded by the still-lingering fog. I glanced around this semi-circle of boys, ready smiles on their faces, some giggling and poking at each other, no hints of dejection or disappointment over why didn’t I swing at that third strike. In that moment, I thought to myself, “getting our butts kicked never felt so good.” 

This is my last season, and I’ve resolved to savor every moment of it.  So bring on the rain and fog and gophers and mud balls.