Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Game: Draw

The Seals came from behind to take a 2-1 lead in the second half but a bad call by a ref in the final minute changed the outcome to a tie, 2-2.

Disappointing but it happens in soccer, and all sports. A few years ago, an umpire made a mistake that cost a young Detroit Tigers pitcher what otherwise would have been a perfect game.

It's just part of competitive sports.

Today's was an enjoyable game anyway, despite what grew to 104 degrees of heat.

We're here for one more game tomorrow afternoon.


Deep in the Valley

Here in Turlock, in Central California, where it's 97 degrees headed for 102 at game time (4:30). Seals v. Pumas. This the first round of the Western Regionals for the U.S. National Cup, a big deal for the boys (and their parents).

We're chillin' in our hotel, staying out of the sun for now. This is probably the most important tournament I've ever had a kid play in, so it's exciting -- almost as much a the city high school championship game two years back.

As his adrenaline kicks in, I know Aidan will get nervous, as he always does before games. This is a college showcase tournament, so presumably lots of college coaches will be watching.

But it's just a game, he's still a kid, and I'm his Dad. Spending Father's Day weekend here with him is just fine by me.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Day in a Life

This blog is turning into a journal, which is a substitution for writing a memoir. I apologize for that. I promise to get back to memoir-writing once things seem to get better -- if they get better.

Then again, maybe this is as good as it gets. Not knowing the good things yet to come any more than the bad. Not knowing anything.

We never know anything about the future.

What we do know is now. And quite honestly, that's all I can handle anyway.

Today meant driving to the east bay to water my daughter's garden, while she is out of town. I did it, but it was lonely being there without her and her wonderful kids.

Deer have apparently been chewing down many of the plants she has placed in the soil, so we have a problem. What to do about the deer?

The subway system, which hereabouts is called Bart, was down, and the traffic back to the city from there was horrible -- a parking lot from El Cerrito to the toll plaza on the Bay Bridge,

So I headed west, to Marin, crossing two bridges and past the part of Marin where my older kids grew up. I glanced right to view Tam Valley for a second as I passed heading south.

Back in the city, I took my youngest son to a doctor appointment. Later, a friend who is tutoring my oldest son and I checked out, with him, an online math learning program.

Our hope is that we may better prepare him an his younger brother for their tough courses starting up all too soon, when fall arrives.

But this is still summer.

This weekend, my soccer star plays in the National Cup. More on that soon.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Frown to Smile

Her lost phone hasn't turned up, and since there was a promotion at the cell phone company, my youngest got an iPhone today.

Her smile says it all.

She's the last one in the immediate family to get an iPhone, or a smartphone of any type. She had settled on an Android, but they had none in stock. For a bit more money, a white iPhone became hers.

We're not particularly possession-oriented in this family, I believe, and none of us is the type to really be into gadgets.

But these powerful smartphones are changing the way we do almost everything. Being able to send and receive emails anywhere and anytime is a fabulous convenience -- and in some ways, even a necessity now.

The range of free apps available is impressive. Wow, this sounds like I'm writing an ad for Apple!

Actually, if anything, it's an ad for family and for love. It gives me so much pleasure to be able to buy these devices for my kids, and to network them into the entire world of iOS.

We are all each other's most frequent texters and callers. A family of iPhoners.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Lost Phone Syndrome

Busy day, hilarious phone call from a grandson, nice brunch with my teen boys, and a call from my youngest that she'd lost her cell phone.

The last surprised both her and me so much that all I could do is smile. Unlike most kids her age, she has never really lost anything before.

Thus I hadn't even bothered to purchase insurance on her phone.

My loss this time.

Frankly, I don't think she would have lost it at all but for the fact she was working as a junior counselor at the SPCA, escorting younger kids to and from the park for lunch, along busy streets and intersections, requiring her to stay focused on their safety.

Somewhere, along the way, holding a child's hand, or making sure they didn't wander out into traffic, or pushing them on a swing, or whatever, her phone slipped away.

It was no doubt picked up by someone. If so, maybe it will still be returned. But by five hours after it disappeared, no sign of it had appeared, so it is probable that a kid or one of the many homeless people who frequent that park ended up with it.

Not to badmouth or imply anything about the homeless or kids, but a free phone might have proved to be a temptation one of them couldn't resist.

One way or another, whatever the phone's fate, it's not a very big deal to any of us. I'll get her a new one tomorrow after camp.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Guitar String Blues

Our heat wave continues, and according to what my youngest told me when I picked her up from the SPCA this afternoon, where she works as a Junior Counselor, we should expect no relief this week. When it comes to the weather, or news in general, I've learned that my teens are as plugged in as I am, especially on days when I did not listen to NPR in the background.

Since one of my sons is starting up guitar lessons again, we made our way to a music store and had a string on his instrument repaired. Seven dollars and fifty cents -- two-thirds of it labor. That seemed pretty reasonable to me, although I know if we lived in Appalachia, we'd be doing the repair work ourselves, or paying considerably less for someone to fix it for us.

At some point in the past, I did have a fantasy of living out my life in a rural setting, far from the noisy, dirty, dangerous city. But another part of me feeds off the city's energy, its people and the exchange of ideas available here.

The rest of the country, in ignorance, may consider San Francisco a marginal zone, and I can understand their perspective. As a native Midwesterner myself, the way we do things out here can appear strange from a distance. But I've been here so long that our culture in this place is the norm by which I judge other places; thus we have it more or less right here, from my POV (except for high housing prices) and those other regions look pretty damn weird.


Music is good for the soul. It doesn't matter what kind of music, whatever kind of music floats your kayak is just fine. But music is the equivalent of non-intuitive math flowing from our brain cells (when we write it) through our vocal chords (when we sing it) through our ears (when we hear it.)

I'm happy my son will be able to play a few chords and riffs when he moves away to college somewhere next year. That's a very good skill to have, the guitar, and not just to get girls!


Talking with other parents, I often find myself in a familiar conversation. The choices, challenges and opportunities facing our young adults today are so radically different from what we knew at their age.

Disruptive changes undermine a parent's confidence in knowing how to advise her child. The basics remain clear -- be honest, kind, generous, work hard, be persistent, stay hopeful -- but the specifics have become confused. Societies changing as rapidly as ours is create new hazards we never had to deal with, such as video game addiction or dealers spiking the weed that courses through this city's streets like a green river with other addictive substances like meth.

These things scare us.

On the other hand, our kids who are on the verge of becoming adults may find opportunities never available to us when young. Like starting a company that revolutionizes how millions of others live their lives going forward. Generating untold wealth. Or -- much more importantly -- helping to find solutions to our worst collective problems, like climate change, that might help preserve life for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren going forward.

In that sense, it is all about hope, isn't it?

That's where music comes back into focus. The best music, even the blues, gives you hope. At least that is what I think. Same with gospel, rock, folk, pop, classical, jazz, whatever...

What do you think?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

In the Heat of the Night

It's a hot night in San Francisco, a rarity around here.

Funny thing about hot weather. If you are in a happy mood, say you recently met someone who might prove to be special, and you decide to sit out on the back porch, sip ice tea or something stronger, and look up at the stars -- when that's going on, you love this weather.

But say you're down on your luck, running out of money and friends, feeling alone and isolated, worried about the future, worried about how you can support the ones you love -- that's when this weather is oppressive and unwelcome.


Then again, life isn't always at the extremes. Sometimes, things are mixed. When that's the case, which is more realistic and common than great happiness or depression, the heat is just heat. We have fans, windows that open, and ice.

Today, my son's team won their third straight game, 2-1, coming from behind. They are undefeated, in first place, and off to their best start ever.

Other parents and I, coated in sunscreen and wearing hats, talked about endings. Our sons are "aging out" of soccer; they are high school juniors who soon will be too old to continue playing at the level they now compete at.

We all will miss it, these games, the excitement, the many big moments, sad and happy. The extremes.

And yes the ordinariness of it all. Just being parents rooting for our kids.

But wouldn't it be special, if just this one last time, if they won a championship?

That thought alone makes this heat bearable for me tonight.