Saturday, September 26, 2009

My other soccer star

Her team has never won a game but they have great spirit. Last spring they were 0-5 with a rain-out and they were outscored 2-29.

Partly they are extremely inexperienced, and partly they are in a division with older (and much bigger) girls. At this stage, the difference between 10 and 12 years old is 20 percent of your entire lifespan to date.

So they are a young, small team, and today looked like another blowout (0-3) when in the second half they scored two goals to make it close. At that point, my daughter raised her hands over her head in a first-ever victory pose.

They didn't win in the end; in fact it wasn't close at the end, but the improvement was so great that I rather expect to see that victory pose again one of these upcoming Saturdays.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Harvard in the Afternoon

A photo documentary, earlier today:

This, of course, is one of our greatest centers of learning. But we are a people so stuck on political divisions and intellectual trivialities that we almost always forget why a place like this matters.

It matters not because the people who are students here soon will be rich and powerful.

That indeed is a triviality.

It matters because some students will have revelations, as they pursue their studies, and some of those revelations may help reshape our society, and save things of value that otherwise will be lost irretrievably.

There is both hope and grief at loss embedded in this campus. My weak attempt at capturing this with my little camera resulted in this post.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long Distance Yearnings


The sun set here tonight with a lovely display of pink, orange, gray, pure white, blue and purple tones, a reminder that nature is far better at many of the things any of us mere humans try to do with our arts, our businesses, or even our words than we will ever be.

Chalk that up to a religious insight, if you wish.

This city amazes me. It is filled with friendly people, yet its streets and infrastructure, downtown, are geared to killing unwary pedestrians. Much like in London.

Where else does the safe-to-walk sign flash white while cars are still spilling into the relevant zone in such a manner that, should you walk, you will be hit?

What's with this, Boston? Do you not want those of us from kindlier realms to survive our touch of your inner folds?

As usual, I've had more experiences in the past 24 hours in this metropolis than I could ever chronicle. Walking here, at this time of year, is a bit laborious, not only because of the Darwinian traffic configuration, but because of the lingering humidity, that for a Californian, produces much unwanted sweat.

I'm sure Boston is a perfectly good place, in fact from experience I know it is, but I do not really want to be here tonight. Where I wish to be is a continent away, at a windy, sunny, unkempt field called Crocker-Amazon, high above the outer Mission in San Francisco, to see my 15-year-old play soccer in yet another difficult confrontation.

When I posted recently about "losing" and "winning," I didn't know what lay in store for me, personally.

Today I found out. It's time now for me to learn from the messages I unwittingly inserted into that post; how once again to be resilient, on the professional side, even though, due to childhood illness, I never got to play sports, so I never internalized those lessons myself.

Which is precisely why I wish I were watching my son play soccer tonight, win or lose, rather than sitting in this hotel room, contemplating my own sordid fate.

As a student of life, I still have so much to learn. But there is nothing here, in this place or this time, to teach me.

In that sense, we are all prisoners of our pasts. You cannot form out of emptiness something of substance. You just have to confront the gaping holes of loss and move forward, hoping somehow to play another day, even though no one has invited you to the game.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

His Heart's in the Highlands

Boston Town

I've always been a fitful traveler. I absolutely hate air travel; always have. Crammed in among unpleasantness of every variety, especially people who try to bring too much stuff, jamming every nook and cranny of the airplane with their worthless crap.

I'm at the other extreme: One briefcase.

Who needs more for a two-night trip?

Shoes, jeans, a couple shirts, a baseball cap in case of rain or sun.

My laptop, my phone, the power cord, the charger, a few books, some toothpaste and a brush.

Hell, even forgot the toothpaste.

People around me sneezing and hacking. I'm sure they all have swine flu. There's too much turbulence. Flying is unnatural.

I read one book.

I was bored beyond belief most of the time. I mean the book was fine but the company wasn't. I can never remember at such times why I agreed to leave the comfort of my home to endure these travails. I'm not young. My body doesn't appreciate the strain. I'm a nervous flier, and I've never enjoyed traveling anywhere alone. I like companionship on the road -- a need that has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion when away.

My reward was a stroll down Charles Street, then another down Cambridge Street, with a glance up Revere Street on a pleasantly-warm night.

But I couldn't stop thinking about Dylan -- Bob, that is, and his song set here. Thus the title.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Losing" vs. "Winning"

Life brings lots of opportunities for growth. Some of them come at the most unexpected of moments.

Think about it.

You get a job, and you are ecstatic.

You get laid off, and you are depressed.

You fall in love, and you feel amazed this has happened to you.

You break up, and you become suicidal.

You make a bunch of money, and think "This is cool, maybe I can retire young."

Then, you lose it all, and think, "I'm never going to be able to retire."

Slowly, drip by drip, with the awful grace of knowledge slowly gained, which experience actually makes you stronger, wiser, more resilient?

It's the losing moments.

That is the beauty of what my 15-year-old experienced today, as his soccer team lost their first game of the season to a bigger, stronger, better team, 5-1. His team made mistakes.

A loss is hardly the end of the world. As he said, "We'll play them again. And revenge is a sweet feeling." Of course, he has been playing soccer competitively for ten years now, since he was five, so he wise beyond his years. He knows you win some and you lose some, but you always get to play again.

That's what youth athletics offers a kid. If only all of us went through that kind of training. It toughens you up.

He was happy after this game. No tears, no regrets. Just lots of laughs, and an eye toward the future. He played very well. And he knows there will be a next time.

If you lose your job, your marriage or your savings, please remember this: There will be a next time for you too.

And, odds are, the outcome will be in your favor. Because that's the way the law of averages works it all out.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Everybody Is A Winner

I blog so often about his brother, who's 19 months and a day older, that I often feel bad that I get only rare chances to brag about my youngest son. He is one of the most precocious, brilliant boys you could ever meet, and also one of the sweetest. At 13, he still hugs and kisses me in public, which is as rare as winning the lottery for a loving parent.

He is also funny and irreverent, ironic, and idiosyncratic. He's way deeper into Medieval history than soccer, though he enjoys cheering for his brother and sister as they compete on the pitch.

He claims that he is "unathletic," but I have a different view. He is strong and fast, but he just chooses not to spend his time playing sports.

Nevertheless, in our family, we require every kid to play at least one sport, so he agreed to join his team's cross country team. Prior to today's all-city private school race at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park, he stretched.

Once the race of the 7th and 8th grade boys was underway, Dylan was back in the pack.

But as they made their way around the oval, Dylan kept gaining.

By the finish line, he was on the leader board, coming in as #23. Best of all, as he crossed, a bunch of the crowd was chanting "D Y L A N, D Y L A N,
D Y L A N!"

That is the very first time he has ever had the chance to feel what it is like to be a hero. My suspicion is that in the next race, he'll be running harder and faster. I am SO proud of him.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Raising Teenagers

The best way to start this is to apologize to all of my visitors who think they do not like to read about sports, and to assure them that this post will not really be about sports, even if the photos make it seem that way.

Nope, this isn't about sports, this is about emotions. Today's venue: Another soccer field, another team, another coach, another league. Also, another number. Now he is #1, but he still is the only tall redhead out on the pitch.

Talking with your teenager is a big part of the deal, for parents. It's a time of secrets, huge fears, huge hopes, discoveries, experiments and a ton of mistakes.

Time is so different for teens. Nothing like the concept of time we adults think we know. It's more like the next 15 minutes could be a volcano.

If they choose to talk to you, as a parent, you know you've got to be doing something right. Today, I had the enduring pleasure of talking with other soccer parents -- Moms and Dads --as our kids competed in a practice scrimmage on the pitch.

All of us like soccer and enjoy watching our sons and daughters compete. But way beyond that we are keenly aware of how vulnerable they are and of the terrible limitations at this point for us to influence how things turn out for them.

You can't take a test for them, you can't play the game. You can't be there when the wrong kind of peer pressure pops up or the right kind goes away.

You especially cannot help being yourself, the deeply flawed parent who has already exerted so many influences, good and bad. All you can hope to do is be able to talk with him or her.

That's the sum of it all.