Saturday, April 14, 2012


This birthday included first soccer game of the final season for the Palominos, my daughter's soccer team these past four years or so. She walked to the field at Beach Chalet with her brother and head coach on a sunny, clear morning.

The setting was lovely as her coach roamed the sideline, urging his players on.

She played well, and with her recent growth, can hold her own with most onrushing attackers.

He instructed the team on a strategy to win, and win they did, a 4-0 shutout that may presage a successful season ahead. They have never had this convincing a victory in their entire team history, over seven fall and spring seasons.

Afterward, we drove to my oldest daughter and family's new home in the East Bay hills. My grandchildren were there, filled with the energy of the very young.

As my teens and the young ones explored the large new yard, I learned that 3-year-old Luca determined that as of this birthday, I must be six-and-a-half.

I'll take it. That must be the right point for Medicare to kick in...



Friday, April 13, 2012


At a conference today, I bumped into two fellow journalists I haven't seen since we were all in college, writing for The Michigan Daily in the Sixties. The decades have passed quickly; one spent them becoming a star at NPR, another becoming a star writer at The New York Times (she's recently been teaching), and the third, me, has had a patchwork career, not with one company but with many.

Yesterday and today I also talked with lots of people I've known over the years, most of whom I've spent little time with in recent times. These are fellow journalists, and the reason I have rarely seen them for a while is I have been doing other work than traditional journalism.

Recently, however, I'm feeling drawn to returning to my roots, professionally,and in the process reconnect with a community that is probably far larger and more supportive than I realize.

A half dozen younger reporters came up to me over these two days to thank me for launching their careers. I haven't seen any of them since working with them, eight to 15 years ago.

The problem with a life like mine, broken up into multiple parts that shift every year or two, is that living in a seismic zone of changing roles and organizations prevents me from maintaining very much consistency among the people in my world.

If I can find a way back into the ecosystem where I spent the majority of my working years, maybe some of the alienation and dislocation I've felt lately will dissipate. The trick, of course, is precisely where in that journalistic ecosystem is a place for me?

That's what I'm on the search for.


P.S. Tomorrow is my birthday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Power Storms

A delightfully hellacious thunderstorm and downpour occurred tonight in the Bay Area, and I was helpless to escape its fury. I'd chosen to drive to Berkeley first thing this morning to commute with a friend in his car to a conference down on Google's campus.

I left my car parked on his street.

Halfway down the peninsula, he found out he would have to be returning early. So I joined a group of participants driving back north tonight by bus.

Another friend offered to drive me from where the bus left us off to where I had parked.

All good so far.

As she dropped me off and drove away, I noticed something awry. The driver's side door had not closed properly. A flaw in my car's design is that the seat belt sometimes gets caught in the door when you close it.

This had happened this morning, obviously, though I hadn't noticed it at the time.

The consequence was a dead battery.

As I stood in the rain and the dark, I cursed myself for such a foolish mistake. But I also couldn't help but appreciate the moment.

A massive rainstorm, quite rare for this area, had moved in, soaking me to the skin in the few moments that I stood under a nearby tree, dialing my roadside assistance emergency number.

Once that was done, and my long wait had begun, I dialed my two younger sons and chatted with them. We were all excited by the weather.

After what seemed an interminable wait, the truck showed up and I was soon on my way. Driving across the Bay Bridge was like no previous adventure there any of the past 41 years I've been traversing it.

Lightning bolts and thunderous echoes plus high winds and standing water so deep it felt like a shallow river made this familiar passage strangely wonderful.

When I finally got home, there was a parking place a few steps from my front door!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

War Then and Now

I don't know if this happens to anyone but me but sometimes I just have to slow way down, take a deep breath, and p a u s e.

Doesn't matter so much if these are good times or bad times, because everything is relative. I'm reading a history of World War I these days, which was a very bad time for millions of people.

It's awful to read about the senseless slaughter of millions of people. But much of history is replete with such accountings.

I love history, not so much when it's about wars, but you can't avoid war in history. What I love is the context -- the economics, the politics, the personalities, and the astonishing (to me) details of daily life.

People lived so differently then than they do now, no matter where in the world you consider to focus. The little Belgian town devoted to art, literature and culture that was demolished by an early German assault serves as an object lesson to all who would preserve human knowledge for the ages.

Everything comes and everything goes.

Including, most certainly, us.

All we have is now. Make the most of it!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rainy Day (Non) Funds

A day and night of pouring rain; I'm finally settling in for the night after a dozen driving excursions in bad conditions over the past ten hours, all shuttling the kids this way and that.

Two days after his sixteenth birthday, I had a sick boy on my hands today. He had a sore throat, upset stomach, fevers, chills, no appetite and extreme lethargy. Once I had gotten him over here by late morning, he cuddled under a blanket on one of our couches and rarely got up the rest of the day.

He says he's feeling a bit better tonight.

I also took my daughter for a haircut today; she always knows exactly what she wants and the women who cut her hair comply. The new haircut looks great on her.

A sweet friend dropped by a birthday gift for me today -- cookies. She is so thoughtful; I'm always happy to see her and hear how her own sweet daughter is doing.

I shipped off another long interview with an ebook author today. At some point I must link to these pieces from here, in case anyone stopping by here does not have easy access to them.

They are extraordinary, these authors, and an inspiration to anyone wishing to try out writing in the new way that can turn into a self-sustaining career.

My oldest teen continues his devotion to working out at a nearby gym. The line of muscles along his shoulders, upper arms and back is increasingly impressive. I trust it helps him hold the line as a defensive soccer player.

The audit preparation continues. So much stress is generated by an audit. I wonder if anyone in the IRS has any empathy for those ordinary taxpayers like us who end up getting audited not because we have done anything wrong but because their automatic red-flag system is deeply flawed.

Incomplete, duplicate, and confusing documents arrived by the dozens from bank of America. It is my task to organize all of these on behalf of my ex-wife, who is the subject of this audit, so that I can match every deposit into her accounts with its source.

It is a thankless, painstaking process.

But I want to help lift some of her burdens these days, because she is going through a rough stretch for sure.

Our little broken family is under a huge load of stress, truth be told. I can't really blame the kids when their grades start falling at a time like this. Teenagers of highly educated and (previously) successful parents who are now struggling mightily to pay their bills can't help but question what value is an education, really?

Of course, it is of the utmost value, the most important one thing they can achieve at their age is to become as well-educated as possible.

But in today's America, "middle-class" kids are questioning higher education, especially when they realize it will send them potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get an undergraduate degree.

This is one of the toughest battles us parents face, and one I never hear politicians like Obama or Romney address. How do we convince our children to believe that getting an education actually matters?

They see different evidence from their vantage points than we see. They've really not known anything but an endless recession.

I've made the decision to sit out this year's election as a voter. If I hold to that, it will be the first time since I gained the right to vote, in 1968. But no political party or leader holds out anything to help me or my family right now.

This makes me sad. It represents a retreat into cynicism, something I'd vowed to avoid. I don't want to be a bitter old man, but increasingly I understand why so many turn out that way...


Monday, April 09, 2012

No Rest for the Wicked

On and on it goes.

Life, this blog, the problems and fears. The hopes. And now and again, still, a fleeting dream.

As a writer, I readily admit I'm facing a crisis of confidence. It's not that I doubt my skill or my talent. It's rather that I doubt my viability.

What I mean by that is that every time I sit down and begin to write something that really matters to me, I start to feel guilty because I am not working for money.

At first, I didn't recognize this problem, but lately it has become undeniable.

Take today. After a decidedly lackluster day in many respects, I finally gave myself permission to work on a short story that, if I should publish it, will be under a pseudonym.

That was fine.

Then, I turned to a novel I've been writing over the past year and a half.

After one brief chapter, I abandoned ship.

"What about the financial pressures?" screamed a voice in my head. "What about the audit, for christfuckingsake?"

Suddenly, any hope of further progress was lost. Back to the real world, with my hopes dragging behind like chains, I started remembering that someone in my position has almost no right to dream.

I need to be working and finding money, no matter how hard that may prove to be.

No rest for the wicked.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Up, Down, Down, Up

My son picked his new favorite restaurant, an Asian place on Potrero Hill, where we gathered for his birthday dinner tonight. Earlier in the day, I interviewed an optimistic couple in their 80s -- he writes and self-publishes novels, and she helps him. Their positive take on life was invigorating.

Earlier I embraced an old friend whose aged mother recently died of a terrible disease. Then, by prior arrangement, his father, though extremely healthy, committed suicide.

My son, still struggling with losing his friend last year at this time to suicide, strongly defended those who choose to end their lives. I remember feeling the same way he feels at his age, but I contested his view.


It's spring and that means it's baseball season. Our Giants are off to a horrendous start, losing their first three games by one run each. But it is a long season.

My fantasy team sits in fourth place so far. But it's early.

So there you have it. Down but maybe headed up. Up but maybe headed down. Life is dynamic. Feelings come and go.

Telling the story; that is my challenge.