Saturday, December 28, 2013

History's Echoes in a Garage

I spent most of today helping other friends clean out boxes and boxes of papers from my late friend Raul's garage in Berkeley. It was a sobering experience, as I have been trying to get rid of my stuff for years now, and have succeeded in reducing the pure volume of material by maybe 25 percent.

But what should be saved? And who should decide?

Pack-rats like Raul and me save all sorts of things, some trivial, some no doubt important from some perspectives.

A century from now all of this would be invaluable. Now?

Among the things I found was an old rolodex from the '80s. My home number was in there from where I lived at the time -- in the Haight.

I also found a paper written by one of Raul's students at SF State 28 years ago. She is now a senior editor at the station.

Plus a copy of "Raising Hell," the textbook Dan Noyes and I wrote 32 years ago. Raul had it marked for use in the classes he was already teaching three decades ago at SF State.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Visualize the Wind

Look at this very cool wind map of our planet. It is mesmerizing.

I have always been fascinated by the very basics of things around me: the air, the sky, the moon, the sun, the soil, flowers, trees, animals, birds, the light, and sounds, and the strange feelings all of these elements evoke inside us.

This one is about the wind.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day After Christmas

Merry Christmas

Spot the tiny helicopter in the last photo, flying off into the sunset. Hint: Click on photo to enlarge...


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Post

The kids and I went to our favorite brunch place today, and then Julia and I finished up our Christmas shopping. It's a lovely afternoon here with temps in the 70s. I was able to buy my children and their children many more presents this year now that I'm employed.

What a blessing that is!

Recently we celebrated pie day at KQED (above).

Tonight I plan on going to a party for a little while. Tomorrow, Christams, across the Bay to gather with the family.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Monday, December 23, 2013

From My Neighborhood to Yours

This is always an odd time of year, with time suddenly hard to measure -- did it speed up or slow down? --, nostalgia in the air, and people on the move.

There is no time like Christmas in American culture.

In my neighborhood tonight, as I walked home after dark, I noticed for the first time since I started working at KQED, that there was abundant parking everywhere. Many residents are traveling and many people who work around here, including at KQED, are not coming to work these days.

So it is a different feeling in this place tonight. Much like during Burning Man, the local equivalent of Christmas.

There are lights in some of the windows around here, and trees in some houses. Not in mine; the kids and I just didn't get to it this year, which I regret. Too much homework, too many college applications and too many conflicts with their jobs, parties, and other commitments.

So my house remains undecorated. Maybe tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I'll make an effort to dress up the place a bit.

Time is running out, obviously, on the year. As I look back on it, it was a great year. I got my financial house in order. My kids are all fine.

But there were tragedies. My sweet middle daughter's marriage collapsed. I lost two sweet friends, Raul and Michael.

So as I mourn these losses and celebrate these successes, I wish everyone and anyone who reads these words a very merry Christmas! Who know whether we will have any more together, so let's enjoy this one, best that we can.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Saturday

A great day, as they go. The kids all here and we did some Christmas shopping and then (photo above) went to a movie late this afternoon in Daly City. I love the way the three of them enjoy doing things together -- just like their older siblings.

Within families there are competitions, of course, and sometimes negative consequences. But overall I have to say both of my wives (and I hope I) have done a pretty good job of raising six wonderful kids who love and appreciate each other.

Overall, it felt like a special day to me.

It's chilly in San Francisco. Christmas lights adorn many of the houses around here. Everyone's buying presents for each other.

There are many dark things and sad things and unfair things all around, but tonight I'm focused on the more hopeful lights in our lives.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ups and the Downs

I apologize to anyone who checks this blog as I no longer have the energy to update it very often. I'm working very long hours at KQED, where we once again today broke an investigative story online.

Also, today brought a call from my youngest child nearly in tears. She'd lost her cellphone. I told her it was okay, and to use her friend's phone to dial her lost phone, just in case someone nice had found it, here in this mixed neighborhood, of rich, poor, and desperate people, the Mission.

She did and guess what? A store owner answered. Someone had found her phone and turned it in.

One of my holiday gifts for Julia is a new phone case for that lost and now found phone.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

With the Angels

At the memorial service for Michael Goodman in San Anselmo this afternoon, as she was singing a traditional prayer, it struck me what a beautiful voice the rabbi has. People talked about Michael; I was one of them. They talked about his kind face, his warm smile, his generous nature.

This is how we remember each other. We remember the good that is in each of us.

Michael's oldest son, Elliott, spoke for a bit. He seemed so grown up, eloquent and so much his father's son.

Many of us in that little chapel were in the same room for the first, and probably only time of our lives. Michael brought us together -- grieving for him.

I miss my friend, his warm nature, the way he was always so supportive of me and my challenges.

Elliott said his father is an angel now, with the other angels.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bad Neighborhood

How much do you tell your kids?

I've always wanted them to feel safe here in my neighborhood, when they visit me, but the truth is that this is not a safe neighborhood. Some of the things they like here -- including visiting the corner store -- are problematic.

It turns out that the nice family running that store was busted last year for passing off counterfeit $50 bills as change.

Across the street, the Chinese family that runs a never-ending garage sale, has some sort of scam going on that the police are aware of. When neighbors complain, they slash their tires.

Two blocks away, yesterday in mid afternoon, a man shot another man over some sort of dispute. The proprietor says it was a case of outsiders encountering each other in our neighborhood.

Muggings, shootings, break-ins, burglaries of cars, stolen cars, gun violence -- all of these are common crimes here now.

As our society devolves into a Third World nation of haves and have-nots, my children are among those caught in-between. We are neither rich nor poor.

It is scary here.

I am no longer at all happy in this place, living alone, trying to help my kids stay safe. This is a very lonely place to be. I do not like the America I see emerging as I approach my final years. I do not like this place at all. I do not like being all alone, with no partner to talk to or hold. I never expected my old age to be so lonely. Now that two of the friends I would have talked this through with are gone, I feel even more alone. No Raul. No Michael. No one to answer my phone calls. No one at all.


Monday, December 09, 2013

This is our (new) family tradition

Aidan, Dylan and Julia with James and Leif singing Karaoke on Thanksgiving night.

This is our Family.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Cold Outside, Warm In

Watching my childhood team, the Detroit Lions, on TV play in heavy snow in Philadelphia, is a reminder of what winter is like in the Midwest. The snow is up to six inches thick and the players fumbled eight times in the first half.

As a kid I played football in the snow, and hockey. It's cold but you get used to it.

Out here, walking several blocks to visit friends last night, I shivered, as the temperature dipped into the 40's, which is extremely cold for us. We don't have the right clothes for cold snaps.

As I sipped hot tea and my friends build a fire in the fireplace, it was nice to be inside in a warm place, having an animated conversation for a couple hours.

It's 11 am and 42 degrees in San Francisco. My heater works and I've located a sweater.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Goodbye to a Sweet Friend, Michael

My youngest son called me tonight with the very sad news that our friend Michael Goodman died Saturday of a heart attack.

We've known Michael since Dylan and Aidan were young. We all met when the boys were in preschool together. Over the years, his sons, Elliott and Julian, and mine became fast friends of a rare sort. The sort that showed up at each others' sports games, cheering for one another.

The type that enjoyed weeks together at Camp Mather.

The sort who had sleepovers, played video games, and spent precious times together, as a foursome. Most often, when they did so, the next morning Michael was there cooking them a big, delicious breakfast.

This was a man who struggled to support his family, just as I did mine. He was thrown out of work, thanks to the economic changes that are strangling what used to be our middle class dreams. But he never gave up hope that he would find the next job.

Over and over he kept trying to do the right thing for his family.

He ended up losing his marriage, much as I lost mine. Still, he kept on being a great Dad, a great friend, and a wonderful host to my boys whenever our kids got together.

Tonight I am in mourning for Michael Goodman. I am a better person for having had the privilege of knowing him.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Family Thanksgiving in our State Capitol

The second from the top is my favorite. Look at the caring! That is our definition of family.

Family Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Warm Holiday Wishes

Easing into the Thanksgiving holiday, one of my favorites when I can be with family. This year I can be, The teens and I will drive up to Sacramento Thursday morning and spend that night with a large group of our family, including all six of my kids, all five grandchildren, my son-in-law, Loic, and a few other relatives and friends.

Today, my youngest's latest order from an online outlet arrived -- including a cozy sweatshirt she is very proud of and her first watch.

Think about that -- a watch. She bought a big, golden colored watch with real numbers, because she (and her whole generation) have no idea how to read a watch without numbers.

This is a good lesson about technology. My generation grew up with pre-digital watches and clocks. Of course we knew how to read the time whether the numbers were there or not.

Julia's generation does not know how to do that. Some critical information is missing for them. She said that although she could not find a watch featuring all of the numbers, this one has enough that she can figure out the rest.

We've all looked at interfaces like that.

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Hanukkah. They are more or less converging (Hanukkah starts tomorrow night) but won't again for 78,000 years.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ticket to Ride

This is the airline ticket that brought my friend Raul to America, and freedom, 51 years ago.

This is evidence of how saving things can help your survivors better understand your life after you are gone. So it is my way to encourage the pack rats among us.

To Raul's husband, Tony, and others, this was a precious find. To his future biographer, it is priceless.


p.s. Save important documents.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Our Newsroom is starting to take on the feeling of a memorial to Raul, and that is only fitting. He built this place. I love how staffers are finding their ways to assert their connection with Raul. KQED is the house that Raul built.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

God's Final Tears

It rained last night and it rained today. Maybe because both days for me were devoted in so many ways to my dear lost friend, Raul, it felt like God might be crying. I certainly have no relationship with God myself. I tried some years back, but that brief episode utterly failed. Everything about it backfired, and has left me more determined than ever to live out whatever time I may have left Godless.

Excuse my French, but Fuck God.

I no longer can pray. But I can and do chant fake prayers, most days, based on my fears. Every day I ask "God" to protect my children and my loved ones. That is actually a long list of people, most of whom probably do not know they are on my list. Anyone reading these pathetic words is on it. But I will never abandon anyone I have loved. I remember you all. My fake prayer includes you. But not me. I do not want God's protection.

Does that scare me? Of course. What is a mere human being on his own? I still purchase a yearly amulet from Japan that supposedly protects me in some way I do not understand, but that, for me, is superstition, not religion, and is nothing more than some strange last connection to my last girlfriend, who left me utterly without warning. In other words, Godless.

But I buy that amulet to stay within the orbit of her religion. Maybe some errant truck will not gun me down as a result. Because I have aged a lot since she last saw me. I move along the street slowly now, and I am scared to be alone after dark. I never know what to do as I try to cross a street. I am an old man, with terrible back pain, and poor balance.

You see, when those close to you fail you when you need them most, your connection to whatever God is rides sweetly away like a ghost on the wind.

Just like Raul is now gone. He is gone with the wind.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend in the City

A quiet, busy weekend of all our normal activities. Today was the last game of the soccer season; pizza party afterward in the Mission.

Family breakfast yesterday morning. The teens all hugged me and said they were so sorry about losing Raul.

They watched the tributes and talked to me about my friend and his life.

Then we went on with ours.