Friday, August 17, 2012

Biggie's Arrival

The kids had their way, finally, and now have a new pet. A four-year-old male, adopted from the SPCA today. A very calm and friendly cat, sweet with everybody so far.

This is the culmination of a long campaign; in the end I gave in. There hasn't been a lot special I have been able to do for them lately -- no trips or vacations or surprises.

A few movies, meals out, some small treats. But nothing really, truly special.

Biggie (yep, named after the late rapper) is special. All three love cats, and I mean really love cats.

I've been to the SPCA, looking at the cats up for adoption there probably 20 times over the past few years. My ex-girlfriend wanted one also.

Today, in the same room with Biggie was a two-year-old yellow female, extremely playful, slender, babyish.

We decided she deserved a home where she would have more attention than one where the only one around most of the time is an older writer, focused on his computer screen, unlikely to have a lot of extra energy to throw toys or play kitten games.

So we let the female stay (she'll be adopted in no time) and took JFK, aka Biggie.

The biggest change will be for me -- now I won't be quite so much alone all the time that the kids aren't here. And since school is about to start up again, that will be a lot more of the time than has been the case over the summer.

So we'll have to see how Biggie and I get along.

The cat hasn't meowed once so far. He does purr. I'm not any kind of expert on cats, but I imagine he's just getting oriented. What is noticeable is that he sticks close to where the kids are, and doesn't seem too motivated to explore the place, beyond an initial trip around the flat, sniffing every corner.

Maybe after we go to sleep, he'll take another cruise around the place. I'm relying on the kids, and their knowledge about cats, to figure him out.


People like to have pets, generally. Having a pet is good for your health, they say -- physically, mentally, and emotionally.

If they are right, I should soon begin to get healthier, right?

Certainly, cats are low-maintenance pets, requiring very little care. Biggie has his litter box, food, water, and a little bed in a cardboard box my daughter created for him.

He's got three extremely attentive teenagers who think he's adorable. In other words, he will be well-loved. Since he seems to like affection, he'll get plenty of that from them.

Me? Sure, I like cats. I'm happy to rub their heads if they like that, or pet them, and so on. I'll probably end up talking to the guy.

After all, what I like is conversation.

What I miss most not having a partner is the utter lack of adult conversation that can characterize all too much of the time I spend alone.

There are plenty of professional conversations, almost every day -- I don't lack for that. So many startups are seeking coverage on my blog at 7x7 that I'm backlogged, with around a dozen or more waiting in the wings.

And I love those conversations.

But there are precious few personal conversations. Hardly any ever.

Maybe Biggie will be interested in that kind of talking...


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How Hearts Get Broken

This isn't a post about adult relationships or lost love, which I've often written about before. My mind is far from that topic tonight.

Nope, something else.

This was such a hugely deflating day for my family. The leading hitter for the San Francisco Giants, Melky Cabrera, was suspended for the rest of this season after testing positive for a "performance-enhancing drug," in this case testosterone, of all things.

When the news broke, my young sons and I were shocked, like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, they're just kids (17, 16). Plus the older one is himself an all-city athlete, who works out every day, including in gyms, to maximize his performance in soccer, and is trying to figure out how important athletics should be in his life.

He's been educated to never take performance enhancing drugs, which are readily available in high school and at the gyms, and has trouble comprehending why anyone would.

He's also on the precise cusp of making life choices. He could be recruited as a soccer player by colleges, but he is not sure he wants to be. He truly hates the "win at all cost" mentality.

Which is why some athletes cheat and take drugs.

I had to go to a lunch meeting today, just as the Giants game started, and when I got back home, it turned out they had chosen to not even watch the game at all. Spongebob Squarepants was a far more attractive option for them.

Fantasy as opposed to reality.

All of which broke my heart, yet again, on their behalf.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012


There are always going to be days like this.

I showed up for my first work meeting across town at 10 am, only to discover it was scheduled to begin at 11 am. My youngest son showed up for his piano lesson at 3 pm, only to discover it had been scheduled for 2 pm. His slightly older brother and I showed up for his doctor's appointment at 4 pm, only to discover it had been scheduled for 4 pm yesterday.

All we could do was laugh. Pretty much everything that could have been screwed up today got screwed up. It doesn't matter who made the errors -- this kind of thing happens. At the end of it all, no harm done.

Not that anyone reading this will care, or even know why they should care, but my fantasy baseball team is failing after an unprecedented run in first place in a fourteen-team league.

The past two weeks have seen my team's collapse, which, I'm sad to say, has removed a certain portion of joy from my life.

To compete in fantasy sports, you have to have some confidence in your ability in math, statistics, as well as in the nuances of the sport itself. When it comes to baseball, I think I may know a thing or two.

I've played it, coached it, written about it, and watched a ton of it.

This year, for the first time ever, my team, called the Mud Lake Mafia, has dominated the league week after week for months. Now, we are on the verge of falling into second place.

That makes me sad.

In the real world, however, one of my sons and I watched our Giants win a big game tonight in their quest to return to the playoffs as they did two years ago, in the summer and fall of 2012.

Nothing binds a city together like a sports team's success. And many of us in San Francisco love the Giants -- they are an especially loveable group. They face a rough path to getting there by early October, but if they do, tonight's game will have been one of the key moments in their journey.


Journeys. Far afield from sports, we all are on journeys. Every single one of us is progressing in one way or another.

The key is being able to recognize which of the many possible trajectories our lives might take we are on at the moment. Which vector? And how can we adjust out own personal algorithm to achieve the desired results?

Assuming we know what we presently want, but that is an entirely other discussion altogether.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Pink Rose and White Jasmine

We are all a function of our times. Only a few of us escape the boundaries of time to live more in the past, or more in the future, than is our allotted fate. I think about this every day, as I go about the prosaic tasks of this particular moment, regardless of what yesterday might have been, or what tomorrow may become.

Today was another ordinary, and therefore special day. A hot one here. We had a meeting about my youngest daughter's high school prospects, now she is about to begin (gasp) 8th grade! The director of her school loves her and believes she can go anywhere, including Lowell, which only admits students on the basis of very high merit scores on specialized tests only a few can achieve.

But my daughter has set herself on an even harder task, getting into the public school dedicated only to the arts. In a place like San Francisco, that's like getting into a school only dedicated to football in, say, Pittsburgh.

It is hard to make that work out.

But she is a determined young woman, and I believe she will accomplish this goal, as long as it is truly what she wants to do.

After all, how many at the age of 13 truly know what they want to do?

She works with a tutor and her techniques are steadily improving; I'll post some more of her work here eventually.

But as I told her today, wanting to pursue art as your focus is much more than working at it; it's about loving it and needing to do it.

Absently, I suggested why not use some free time now to begin an art project?

She shook her head and only then did I notice what she was doing -- making a lovely little sign explaining that the doorbell on her mom's house doesn't work.

Such, of course, is the nature of an artist.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

A View With a Room

One big delight is my youngest spending the entire weekend with me, while her brothers are mostly otherwise occupied. We rented a movie she likes and watched it together last night; today she helped me at the grocery store identify and purchase a bunch of foods all three like -- I'm such a smarter shopper when she's along.

Late this afternoon, we went to her favorite shoe shop and got some black Converse high tops, and a new set of colorful socks. She loves to mix and match them, as opposed to wearing them in matching pairs.

Tonight, we'll have a pasta dinner she located at the store, and relax. She's also planning to bake for her brothers a breakfast treat from a mix she also found at the store.

Domestic moments like this are as good as it gets for a father. I've always enjoyed shopping with my daughters. Clothes with my oldest daughter; music with my middle daughter; and pretty much everything with my youngest.

Being the father of girls has taught me a lot and helped shape many of my perspectives about society. I've become an even bigger advocate of equal opportunities than I already was, as an early supporter of the women's rights movements that exploded in the '60s.

It always was a natural for me, due to the influence of my mother and three sisters, and the absence of any brothers in my childhood. From the start, I could empathize with the lives of girls, and later, women.

Many, many subtleties escaped me, however, because I'm a typical man in many ways. I like sports and business and technology and all the usual guy things. I'm not any good at fashion, shopping, cooking, cleaning, socializing, or true emotional intimacy.

I wish I were good at intimacy. I can write about it, I can feel it, and I can describe the pain of losing it, but a quick glance at my relational history shows I'm no good at creating and maintaining it.

This is probably my greatest failure and sadness in life. Outside of my family, I've forged dozens of friendships but few that really last or could be called intimate.

Not that I haven't had the opportunity.


News came today, sad news, about the death of a former Rolling Stone colleague and friend. She died from brain cancer.


Since we all end up the same way, as we age there are a couple things about death that change for us. First, its inevitability. Young people cannot perceive that, fully. Second, the importance of really being present and alive while we are still here. Time passes all too quickly. Third, the importance of telling each other how much we love one another before that can no longer be heard. Don't leave your feelings unstated.


Actually, a few old friends have reaffirmed their love for me lately, and I appreciate that. I hope I've done a reasonable job of returning the favor, but I know I've been self-centered this year.

Although there is no excuse for this, living alone, two audits, and other challenges, plus age have all been pushing me toward an awful fate -- isolating myself from others.

This is the one fate that I must avoid, at all costs.

Connecting is radical and saves our lives, and makes them meaningful. Isolating will kill us prematurely.

Writers write alone. We have to be alone to write. At least in a room with enough silence to think.

But outside of that room there must be others who care about us if we are not to succumb to the awful disease of isolation.

Thankfully, tonight, I have my young daughter, just a door away.