Saturday, October 14, 2006

Just Another Soccer Mom

This is my 250th post. I doubt there is a reader anywhere who has read all of them. Or would ever care to reread any of them. I certainly haven't, so I have no perspective on whether this blog has been a good thing at all -- a question that I'll return to in a moment.

This is the 195th day in this little blog's life. So, we are averaging about 1.3 posts per day. I am not sure what kind of word count lives here, but I'm guessing 175,000, more than enough to qualify as a book. But few of these words qualify for my unfulfilled book contract, a biography of Jann Wenner. I don't feel like getting into that.

I do get emails, as well as comments, about my writing. Here is one I got last night: (your blog is)...self-serving, maudlin, self-pitying and plain dishonest -- but that's another story... why don't you just keep a private journal instead of
telling the world all your problems????)

Besides hurting my feelings (no, I do not have skin as thick as a whale's), this message made me once again wonder whether I should be doing this. It all started out with my broken heart. I did not know what to do. Blogging seemed to help. Some friends and many strangers read what I wrote and contacted me, saying that they, too, had experienced similar feelings, and that my writings were helpful to them.

In addition, I made some new friends through my blog. But tonight, I am feeling paranoid, as if this whole venture has been a bad idea. I don't know what to do now. I have to write; I know that much. I want to have an audience, because I am not an amateur. Any feedback, no matter how brief, matters enormously to me. I could make this blog private, as my critic suggested.

If you are reading this and have a personal opinion, please post an anonymous comment below. (Anyone who asks me can receive a password to keep reading my blog if I take this private.)


My odometer reports I logged 25 hard miles today, criss-crossing town to attend soccer games. My own two players share a number -- 16 -- which we all realized today.

This is a big day in sports for the Weir family, not so much in terms of what happened on the soccer fields, but what we all know happened on the baseball and football fields. The Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant! Cal won its football game. Michigan is also ahead in its game at halftime.


One common feature of Saturday nights for me is that I am almost always spend them home alone. This is a "date night," and since I almost never have "dates," most Saturday nights are spent here alone, watching some TV, reading, blogging, and cooking leftovers into something vaguely edible.

Despite attempts to change, I realize I simply do not know how to make a plan for Saturday nights. It must be a skill only someone who has never been married knows.

Not a problem. I am following my college team's football game online. I am exchanging emails with friends and writing this blog. Soon, I'll cook myself dinner.

Life is good. I just hope I have not been "self-serving, maudlin, self-pitying and plain dishonest" here tonight. If so, I trust someone will tell me that.


Friday, October 13, 2006

I'll be watching you 1.1

This is about being an investigative reporter.

First, we all know the pop song with the title I chose for this post; it's a nice song. My main motivation in using it is that there's a killer on the loose here in the Bay Area. A middle-aged man trying to present himself as a respectable person, an author. He is appearing at a bookstore this weekend, to much fanfare.

He has written a book that would have you believe he had a difficult past, where he had to make difficult decisions. But he claims to be an honest man now. He's timed his visit to overlap with a nostalgic celebration of a famous Sixties radical group, the one he joined. There are movies, plays, books galore about this group and its exceptionally famous leaders, most of whom I happened to know personally.

All nice. Problem is this guy probably is the man who killed my friend's mother, who worked for the group. He did so, apparently, at the behest of his group's leader. He bashed this woman over the head with something, probably his gun, so hard that it killed her. Then he dumped her body in the Bay.

Six long weeks later, while her daughter endured an agony few can imagine, her partially eaten (by sea creatures), decomposed body washed up a long way from where he dumped her.

My friend has spent the past 30+ years wondering why her mother was killed. She has heard so many rumors. But some of the people who know the truth have told her that her mother she was indeed killed by this group and almost certainly by this very man.

So when he appears in the bookstore for his moment of fame, we will be there. We'll be watching you. You will be asked the question. Cameras will record your answer, your expression. Maybe you, and the person who ordered you to do it, think you have both gotten away with murder. And maybe you have, so far.

But we'll be there.

And we'll be watching you.


When girls visit bachelor pads

There have been times these past six months when all three of my sons and I all were stumbling around in the morning light, wearing boxers, a game on in the background on TV, someone's music playing, all four laptops open. "Hey, anyone want eggs and sausage?" Loud burps were not unknown. Back door open; basketball hoop beckoning. Gadgets everywhere -- Sleek black Razors, conventional cells, iPods, digital cameras, a video camera, a scanner, a printer, a shredder (that came from a girl), CD players, TVs, videogames, rented movies, wireless telephones, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, bikes, baseball bats, lots of balls -- basketballs, baseballs, footballs, golf balls, softballs, soccer balls. Boys and their balls.

The only regular female guest was my seven-year-old. In this environment, she has to be tough. Compared to the rest of us, she seemed to change clothes six times as often, and talk ten times as much. I believe she was the only one who brushed her hair; and the main one who looked in the mirror. Especially on weekends, none of us was likely to change, shower, shave or bother to pick up the shoes and socks that littered the living room at the precise points they had been shed upon entering.

Of course, we had lots of guests, so we cleaned up then; stacking dirty plates in the dishwasher (otherwise we just left them out), recycling newspapers and magazines, hanging up towels in the bathroom -- all the normal stuff.

We all had the occasional sleepover. The little guys had their friends; Peter and I had our friends. The adult sleepovers were rather different than the children's sleepovers. Peter eventually installed a door lock on my room, in place of the gaping hole that had been there since whenever the last lock had fallen out, in some sort of row or another.

He and I would leave each other notes on the kitchen table late at night if it was best to knock first the folowing morning.

Anyway, sometime around mid-summer a new neighbor moved in upstairs; an attractive, friendly, enterprising woman who likes to grill big steaks for her boyfriends, play soft music, and walk around barefoot. She doesn't subscribe to any newspapers, and she has a small nose ring.

You know how it is, let a woman in your life and get ready for changes. All of a sudden, they hang their underwear in your bathroom, and their tiny shirts that cannot be machine-dried over the backs of your kitchen chairs. They tend to insist that basic sanitary standards be observed, something I remember anew every time I find a new girlfriend. They borrow your razor blade and wear your XL T-shirts to sleep in. Mind you, none of this bothers me. I love it. I love women, period.

So, my point here is that all of us guys were away for a few days, and lo and behold, when we returned, what do you think we found? Our messy backyard had been totally cleaned up. And our neighbor had draped her tents and camping gear all over the backstairs, the chairs and grills and basketball paraphernalia. The place looked like Sports Basement. I'm sure she was airing out her stuff after Burning Man.

I think we all just stared at the yard for a few minutes, and none of us said anything. After all, we are guys. We went back to shuffling sleepily around the apartment, drinking beer, bubbly water, or orange juice, according to our preferences, and considered whether there might be a better way to go camping than airing out the stuff at the last minute -- you know, after it had been safely fermenting in bags ever since the last time you came home from the woods.

After a while, one of us said, laconically, "Guess we won't be playing basketball today."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Night Walking

First, these old photos, one of my Dad and his sister Edna, in a field on their farm in Ontario in the early '20s. They are each holding a kitten. I think this is the only photograph I have of my father when he was a child.

The top one shows Dad four decades later, at the head of the family table in the late '60s. His first two grandchildren, Jim and Cara, are in this one.

It's now forty years later. He died in the early days of 1999.


I have reached the age my father was the year before I first became a father. By my age he had been a grandfather for fifteen years. I am scheduled to become one for the first time somewhere around the seventh anniversary of his death, quite possibly to the precise day.

A few days ago, the fourth anniversary of my mother's death came and went. It was also her own mother's birthday. She died in the middle of the day. He died in the middle of night.

My dad died the night before he was to meet my youngest child, Julia, who had been born two months earlier. On our recent trip to New York, she told me she is sad she never got to meet "Grandpa Tom." The morning after kissing her husband of 56.5 years goodbye, my mother came across the bridge from Ft. Myers to Sanibel and eagerly hugged little baby Julia...this was their first meeting.

Life and death, all compressed into such a short period. My mother didn't know it, but my second wife and I were fighting the night before, and she said she wanted to leave me; that she was never happy with me. I had gotten so depressed that I went out to a place to get something to salve my pain.

It was hard to wake up at 2 a.m. when the hotel manager banged loudly on our door. Her eyes were wide with terror as she told me: "It's your father. He's been taken to the hospital. It sounds serious."

It was serious. As I reached his bedside in the emergency room, he was unconscious, his body still convulsing leftward...a telltale sign that he had suffered a massive stroke. My Mom was there, frightened and disoriented. She had wakened up to the sound of him writhing on the floor, having been hurled out of bed by the violence of the stroke. He just kept repeating over and over one phrase: "I have to go...I have to go...I have to go."

She was so sleepy and confused that for a while, who knows how long, she just said, "You have to go where, Tom?" She didn't get what had happened, or why he wouldn't just stand up and get back into bed. Finally, still uncomprehending, she called her next-door neighbors. They rushed over, looked at my Dad, and called 9-1-1. They also called my hotel.

The doctors were relieved to see me arrive at the hospital, even in as disheveled a state as I obviously was. I had broken every NASCAR speed record over that causeway and over to Old Highway 49, one of my favorite roads in this country.

They didn't know how to tell my mother that her husband had absolutely no chance of surviving. After all, she was still at his side, talking to him, as if he would wake up soon and make everything okay. The head doctor took me aside and showed me the brain scans. The stroke was so extensive it had pushed his brain away from where it should have been; even if he somehow survived, he would have been no more than a vegetable.

So it was my job to explain this to my mother.

My mind drifted back to the drive there, before I knew that this was the end. I had so many memories of Highway 49 from so many years. Finally getting out of Georgia (where my only pleasure was "boiled peanuts") and into Florida! Finally streaking through the warm night with the windows down. The towns passing in the night. Towns that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (author of Cross Creek) had immortalized for me.

Then, nearer the coast, where the night air gets heavier and the ground fog starts to shroud travelers in mystery, other towns, some with marinas that had been the destination for sailboat races I'd participated in; offshore islands where I'd fished, eaten pink, fleshy, prickly pear fruit off cactuses (one of the most sensuous eating experiences you can ever have), while my lean, brown body was coated with sweat.

After almost dying in India from some combination of Typhoid Fever and Salmonella, I had been fortunate enough to retreat to these islands, courtesy of my first wife's family history. They had homesteaded a chunk of Sanibel Island. Her mother lived in the family cottage, on the Bay, facing the mainland.

Every afternoon that summer, I would drive across the island to the longest beach, which in those years, was always empty of people. I walked and walked, under the summer sun, rebuilding my strength. When I got too hot, I simply dipped into the Gulf of Mexico to cool off. Most of my body, except the part under my shorts, turned very brown. But one part of my body could not tan. It was my right rear thigh. Here, such huge doses of penicillin had been injected over and over, by Indian physicians, that I sported a huge purple bruise that I was very embarrassed about.

I'd weighed 160 pounds when I went into the Peace Crops; 133 pounds a year later, courtesy of all the dysentery that was inevitable in the Afghanistan of 1970. The diseases that ravished me in India left me weighing 97 pounds. The tiny nurses in Kerala nicknamed me "Gandhi."

Now, back in the U.S., walking the empty Bowman's Beach on Sanibel Island, I was rebuilding my strength so I could go forward and live -- for what, I suppose I was not sure. But this much I know. When my first wife said she wanted to have babies, I complied.

Later, when my second wife said she wanted to have babies, I complied.

Someone yesterday told me I must be a crazy man to have had six children.

Actually, if you believe in God, I came within a hair's breadth of dying in February 1971. For some reason, I did not die. My belief is that I saved myself. I did this by purposely slowing my heart rate (which was way over 200 -- I could hear the nurses' worried talking) to a level that wouldn't kill me. And somehow, magically, my body also stopped emitting fluids from every exit point, and also stopped rejecting the life-saving "drip" (intravenous fluids) that the doctors were desperately using to rehydrate me.

After all of this, and so much more (it took half a year to recover), I figured I was here for a purpose. Religion didn't grab me, but story telling did. For the longest time I have been a storyteller. I really hope these stories help other people surmount challenges and go on.

I did. And, miraculously, from a medical perspective, I'm still here, 35 years after I should by all accounts have perished.

That is the reason I have six kids. Do you now understand?

Tonight, as I walked two miles to and from another "curriculum night" at the school, these were the thoughts that came to me...


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What you alone know

One of my activities the past few years has been teaching memoir writing. It is odd that I have been doing this because I have never written a memoir myself, nor do I plan to. On the other hand, this blog has taken on a life of its own, which I have recognized recently, so I am now calling it a "life journal." So, maybe this is as close to a memoir as I will ever get around to writing.

One thing I picked up from someone, maybe William Zinsser or Natalie Goldberg, both of whom are far more qualified than I to talk about memoirs, is the notion that each of us is uniquely the sole custodian of our own memory. We own our own impressions of our own lives, and yes, I have always wished to write a sentence that used the word "own" three times, with two distinct meanings, but that is nothing more than an example of my own peculiar proclivities.

Write what you know. It can be oddly liberating when a person realizes that she can tell the story of her own life strictly from her own point-of-view, ignoring finally all the other voices -- of her parents, siblings, lovers, partners, bosses, friends -- that create so much background noise she can barely make out her own faint voice (and, yes, I did it again, a sentence with three uses of "own," this time with only one meaning.)

Many of us fail to develop enough confidence in our uniqueness to find a way to express it to others, so that they might benefit from our experiences and insights. We remain bottled up our whole lives, assuming no one would be interested enough in what we are thinking or feeling to read our words or glimpse our pain.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Summon your memory, tell your story, and strive to be emotionally honest. People will respond to people who tell their truth.


Which reminds me of the disturbing news that there is a killer on the loose. A man who is currently making the rounds, reading at bookstores, positioning himself as a thoughtful middle-aged man who has come clean about the sins of his youth.

But he has not come clean. He is the chief suspect in the murder of a woman who was the mother of a friend of mine. We have plenty of reasons to believe he indeed is the killer. No charges have ever been brought, and it is unlikely that any ever will be.

But this man should know that there are those of us watching his every move, and when he slips, as murderers always do, we'll try to make sure that justice will finally catch up to him. His book is an insult to the memory of my friend's mother; the money he makes on it is blood money.


Wednesday nights around here are spaghetti nights. We make it with ground turkey meatballs. But tonight, Dylan informed me that he is not comfortable eating birds, with the exception of chicken, which he believes is such a big part of the diets available to him that it is not practical to eliminate it from his diet just now.

This is a kid who absolutely loves spaghetti and meatballs, especially my version served these many Wednesdays the past three+ years. But tonight, true to his word, he ate the pasta and the red sauce, but not the meatballs.

So, accordingly, I will start buying ground beef or buffalo on Wednesdays. I'm not about to undermine my ten-year-old's passion for birds. He has already taught me about how intelligent pigeons are and how stupid owls are -- facts I never would otherwise have known.


I have an idea for a social networking website that just might be a big success. Repeat visitors to this space know that I have highlighted demographic trends that suggest that more Americans (and probably other nationalities as well) now live most of their lives as single people rather than as part of a couple.

This creates an opportunity. As my regular readers also know, I love to cook myself meals on nights when I can do that. What if all of us who find ourselves living alone posted photos and stories of the meals we made ourselves every night? Don't you think that would be a cool network to join?

Of course, the big winners among websites in the social networking space revolve around dating --, yahoo personals, craigslist, etc. But there is a bit more to life than love and sex, actually, great as they may be, such as the deeply sensuous nature of food.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Art, what it is

Tonight's dinner -- ginger slices, Kuro Goma, pearl onions, garlic, green pepper, zucchini, chicken slices, red potatoes, spices. Smoke rising from the stove. This has precious little to do with what follows...

My life bounces around like a billiard ball, from my work in a technology startup trying to figure out what opportunities are emerging with Web 2.0; to my Monday night class teaching memoir writing through San Francisco State's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; to my own writing, including what appears here in this blog; to my personal life as a single parent and a man who likes women. Oh yes, and a sports fan, whose boyhood heroes -- the Detroit Tigers -- are on track to do what they haven't done since 1984. Plus, a self-styled cook, who brews meals each night he can, using as many fresh ingredients as he can gather; and a gardener who failed to produce his one crop this year (pumpkins) and feels really bad about that. Oh, also a Little League baseball coach, whose team is 1-4 so far this fall. And, a member of several boards and advisory boards, where so many brilliant people share insights about what a mess this world of ours is in.

Tonight was "curriculum night" at school, and there is a new art teacher, a slender, attractive young blond woman who had to speak before the assembled group of parents. She gave a nice presentation, but no one had any comments or questions, so she retreated to the rear of the room so the next "specialist" could give it a try. I always feel for teachers talking to parents. Mind you, this is a good school (private, alternative, progressive, kid-friendly, teacher-driven, socially conscious) but parents as a group seem to have trouble smiling at teachers addressing them. I don't know why that is, but I have attended enough such events to have ascertained that this is generally the case.

I sought out the young art teacher afterwards, because something she said triggered a memory. She is intending to tie her art class into one of this year's fifth grade themes -- Native American Tribes in California -- by assigning the kids to create shields with power animals on them.

Now, if you have visited my bedroom in the past three-plus years, which I realize very few readers of this blog have, you will recognize the artwork pictured above. This is "Power Cat," as Sarah Daisy executed her similar art assignment some 20 years ago. Yes, she picked a tiny, white kitten as her power animal. Look at that mouth!

I had to fight her school to get this painting away from them, they loved it so much.

Dylan doesn't even know about this future assignment from his new art teacher yet. But I'm anticipating a possible new painting for my bedroom wall, perhaps just in time, as Sarah may wish to take Power Cat into her house for her new little son, once he arrives next January.

What goes around...

Last night: garlic, onion, ginger, kuro goma, green pepper, green beans, zucchini, sausages, spices. But this is unrelated to the rant below.


In an age of rapid globalization, it is ironic that we Americans find ourselves subject to some of the same trade practices that previously were reserved for the underdeveloped countries of the Third World. My first book, Circle of Poison: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World, by David Weir & Mark Schapiro, was published over a quarter-century ago.

It concerned the practice by which many pesticides banned or heavily regulated in the U.S. due to evidence they may cause cancer, birth defects or sterility, were being systematically exported to poor countries, where few if any regulatory restrictions were in place. (Most of these pesticides were being used on cash crops that were then re-exported back to the U.S. Thus, the "circle.")

Over the years, whenever I've checked into this issue, it's become clear that not much has changed substantively. The U.S. may have stopped manufacturing DDT, for example, but other companies stepped into the vacuum and the dangerous trade in hazardous chemicals continues, unabated. Many countries now have laws on the books to prevent or at least limit the use of some of the better-known pesticides, but enforcement is a problem, especially in poor countries.

Meanwhile, the tables are turning. Yesterday, a friend, Mark Dowie, emailed me this link to a story in the L.A. Times. It documents how wood, toys, electronics, pesticides and cosmetics are among the products being imported from overseas with toxic chemical ingredients that are banned or restricted in Japan or Europe, but still are legal for sale here.

Among the reasons these chemicals banned in other countries is evidence that they may raise the risk of cancer, alter hormones, or damage the reproductive and neurological systems.

Karma? Maybe. What's apparent is that the global market adjusts to new initiatives to protect consumers and the environment by redirecting dangerous products to the destinations with the lowest barriers to trade. That the U.S. is becoming a "dumping ground" for goods that are illegal elsewhere in the world is beyond irony. It seems an affirmation of the dark side of the Golden Rule: Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.

In this column pictured above, back in 1978, my brother-in-law Ty Symroski mentioned some of the environmental consequences that concerned us in the late Seventies. He also references work by our mutual brother-in-law, John Culliney, a marine scientist and author who lives in Hawaii. In a way, our mutual concern over these global environmental issues was a question of family values -- the kind of world we as family members hoped to see in the future in contrast to what we feared would happen.

The frightening data that is emerging almost daily in 2006 about the pace of global warming reminds me that our generation, the Baby Boomers, fought to surface these complex issues but we did not succeed in reversing the trends that we opposed so vociferously. It is hard to measure change to a geological timeline when we are a species that has such a short lifespan, relative to the planet we inhabit.

It is a major disappointment to those of us who devoted years to researching, writing, and speaking out about these problems that they have only grown worse during the past few decades. We are leaving a huge mess behind for our children and grandchildren to cope with, and the worst of it is, there may be no way out. No solution. No escape.

I hope that does not prove to be the case. My hope is that the human brain can and will prove capable to meet this challenge to our survival as a species. We cannot take the future for granted. We all share custody of the future while we are alive.

What has each of us done today on behalf of our common global home? That is the question that should hang above our front doors and kitchen windowws, where the wild things know as homilies live...


Monday, October 09, 2006

In the moment of truth

I returned home to San Francisco to discover that my extremely sweet 12-year-old son, with his baby face, his earring, and his sense of protectiveness for his family members, is now reaching that inevitable tipping point into teenagerdom.

I was told this by his mother, with him present. She said he has new moods now, and is hard to reach sometimes. As if to illustrate his new reality, Aidan started withdrawing then and there, looking sulky, refusing to say what he wanted to eat though he was hungry, and not getting his act together to leave his mother's house with me according to the timeline I had clearly spelt out for him.

Therefore, I walked out the door and down the stairs, got into my car and drove off.

Later in the afternoon, I returned with his baseball uniform in the front seat of my car, and we drove off together to the Sunset District, where his game was to be played in the rarest of weather -- hot, still, under a blue sky and the strange slant of autumn sunlight, which ended up affecting the outcome of the game, adversely.

As we drove, I got right to the point. "Is it true you are you changing?"

First, he apologized for how he had acted earlier, saying that he was tired from two straight late nights out and also that he had been hungrier than he had realized. After he ate, he explained, he felt better.

Then he said that he does feel like he is different now...that he wants more independence from us, his parents. And that he now feels new moods that he never felt before. He said he is not interested in girls yet but he understands why some of his friends are. And so forth. It was a good conversation. I told him that whatever happens, please remember he can always talk with me.

At the game, we had our normal interactions -- me rooting him on as one of the key members of our team, even as we went down to a one-sided defeat, 3-0. Afterward, we fetched his little brother and headed to my house for dinner and sleep.

I fell asleep wondering whether this really is the big transition for Aidan and me, the one I experienced with Laila, Sarah, and Peter. The one where it feels like your kid disappears for a decade or so, you know?

In Aidan's case, I realized, this stage will be especially difficult for me, because he has been a pillar of emotional support over the years, even as I know how inappropriate that is to describe one of your children that way. I hope I have been the same for him.

The most important indication of what he has been for me is this story:

I learned my mother was dying one afternoon in 2002. I drove home and told my family (I was still in the same house with the kids and their mother then)...they all drove me to the Oakland airport for my red-eye Jet Blue flight to Detroit. When we got to the airport, Aidan suddenly insisted he was going to go with me.

He was a freshly minted 8-year-old at the time. Neither his mother nor I had the power of will to resist him, so I bought him a ticket at the counter, and off we flew into the night, him and me.

When we landed and headed north to Lansing, and the hospice where my mother lay dying, I pulled out my brand new cellphone, which I had bought the day before precisely for this purpose, and dialed the hospice number nervously, asking for my mother's room.

One of my sisters answered and said Mom was indeed still alive, but sleeping deeply.

Aidan and I arrived, ahead of most of her other grandchildren. She talked to us a while and then said she was too weak and tired to continue.

I badgered her to hang on. My older kids were enroute, as were many of my sisters' kids, and they all wanted the chance to say goodbye to their grandma.

"I don't think I can hang on," my mother said, her voice thick with age, pain, medication, and the resolve only the dying know.

But I kept badgering her to "hang on, hang on."

Little Aidan witnessed all of this; I don't know how much he remembers. That night, in our hotel, he counseled me: "Dad, I don't think Grandma wants to hang on. Maybe you should stop telling her to."

It was the wisest advice I have ever received, and it came from the lips of an 8-year-old.


Last night, my sleep was fitful. The boys were sleeping soundly in the other room, but I was restless. I tossed and turned, reviewing so many parts of my complicated and uneasy, unresolved life.

Somewhere around 5 a.m., my door pushed open and somebody climbed into bed next to me. It was Aidan. I stroked his red hair and his freckled cheek. I hugged him, knowing this isn't going to happen very many more times. He truly stands on the edge of his teens, where my role is to be the one rebelled against, not the one who shares intimacies wth him.

So this time together side by side was special. We got up eventually, had our breakfast, and went off to our separate days.

Anyone who has had dinner with me for the past few years knows that one of the few constants in my life is Aidan's good-night call to me, somewhere around 9 or 9:30, every night. It has been the most reliable esolement of my life for some years now, through relationships with several girlfriends, job changes, and the like. He always ends our calls with this, "I love you so much, Dad."

Tonight, I thought he forgot to call. Then, I checked my messages at midnight, and it turned out I had had my phone on "vibrate," so I never heard his call. When I replayed the message, it was Aidan, reiterating that he loves me so much.

I suspect it doesn't get any better than this.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Time Traveling

Hugs the dog went missing on the plane home, but then reappeared, luckily. This strange on-again, off-again Indian Summer is back in San Francisco. It's hot! Windows are open, fans are on, ice is in the glass and there may be a full moon rising.

If not, we saw one from our plane this morning. "What?" remarked Julia. "It's still up?" Hell, I can't remember how exactly this moon rising and setting business goes. We did, however, have what I believe to have been a scientifically accurate discussion of how it could be a different time in New York than in San Francisco, not to mention Tokyo, Paris, Moscow or Perth. I think it was the turning motions I kept making with my hands that did the trick. At least she nodded and said, "a ha," which is usually a good sign for comprehension.

Of course, there's an equally good chance she was not so much enlightened as flummoxed by my odd teaching methods, and was making affirmation noises more out of pity for her teacher than confirming our moment of intellectual breakthrough.

Anyway, I decided not to push my luck by attempting to explain what that huge moon was doing over Manhattan in the broad daylight of this morning. Instead, I mumbled something like "I'll get back to you on that," and quickly changed the subject.

Hugs went with us everywhere in New York, from the top of the Empire State Building to the crowded rush-hour subway. Julia decided early in our journey that it might be wise to remember all the random numbers that were being generated. ("Our car is parked at 7B," she repeated frequently; and "Our room is number 312.")

I had the vague feeling of what it must be like to be in the early stages of senility, when your children start remembering things for you, because they sense you can no longer quite manage to remember them for yourself. I'll admit at this stage only to being somewhat absent-minded.


Not that he would ever consult me about his future, but as an old sports writer, investigative reporter, and baseball fan, I think Barry Bonds should come back next year and break Hank Aaron's career home run record. Aaron hit 755; Bonds needs only one more mediocre year like this past one to reach 760. Then he would have sole possession of the single-season and the career home run records, regardless of how much controversy swirls around him.

He took a lot of abuse from fans in other cities this season. You can say he deserves whatever he gets. But if you feel that way, I wonder about the precise components of your resentment. Is it because you believe he cheated? To this day, the only evidence of that is leaked grand jury testimony, which is supposed to be kept secret.

Anyone who has ever worked as an investigative reporter is familiar with the problems involved in grand jury testimony. It is too technical to get into here, but suffice it to say I would not hinge a story over my byline on partial transcripts leaked to me by someone whose confidentiality I had to protect, unless I could assure myself of that source's utter impartiality in the matters at hand.

There is no way that that is what has happened in this case, and I say that with all respect for the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who have quoted such testimony in their dogged pursuit of the Balco scandal. The problem here, IMHO, is that we are only glimpsing the tip of enormous iceberg. That the national anger over the use of "performance-enhancing" drugs in baseball is directed at Bonds tells us volumes about our national character.

Why him? Because he has the audacity to rewrite the record book? Because he thumbs his nose at a press he doesn't trust or understand? Because he isn't always well liked by teammates or others, like Jeff Kent, who may, BTW, have their own "personality" issues? Because he's black?

Don't forget that in this era of medicinally assisted athleticism, Bonds hardly stands alone. Every major sport is involved; many prominent athletes have been implicated, if only (like Bonds) by rumor and innuendo.

No, I think Barry should come back one more season, break the record, and retire. If he lives long enough or even if he doesn't, his children will see the day when baseball historians finally get enough distance on the confusing maze of issues surrounding how reliably comparable statistics in this era are with former eras.

I'm pretty confident when everything has been said and all had been done, Barry Bonds will be considered one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. There will be no need of an asterisk next to his name.

The only asterisk will have to be placed next to Major League Baseball itself, not to mention Track and Field, Football, Bicycling, and a host of other sports not yet revealed to be part of the ever-widening doping investigations.

Bonds will have to endure the cold shoulder of our culture. There is to be no standing ovation when he breaks Aaron's record. But he'll do it, and have to leave it for historians to figure out.

And, they, I believe, will finally give him the respect he deserves. No one could turn on an inside fastball like Bonds, and send it soaring into the night sky over China Basin. What he has done is remarkable. Like so many others who achieved greatness in any field, he is being punished by a culture that first builds you up, only to tear you down.

I vastly prefer the dreamy world of 12-year-olds, who still play the game as it always should be played -- for the fun of it.

Turn anything into a big-money endeavor and you will inherit the consequences. Forget about Bonds; look closely at television revenues and sponsorship campaigns. In America, you are what you can sell.

Period, end of story.