I'm an input junky with a buoyant fix threshold. Tied off and leaning over an array of digismack syringes, I taste the news from whichever blinks most anxiously. Lately, though, I resent my reliance on real-time remote, a good first step on separating habit from need. I mean, those sound like the right words to say.

I've grown ambivalent about More. Outside of a few techy gadgets, MoreStuff faded a while back. MoreCleaning, MoreFixing…MoreBatteries, more space in my head cataloging where I put it all. I have an iPhone app that GPS marks where I park my car in alien garages. I used it the other day to store where I put my powerdrill when I was done fixing that day's dose of MoreStuff because I spent way too much of that same day trying to remember where I left the damn drill in the haze of the last fix.

Yup. I am summoning the lazy pulses of orbiting spy satellites to keep track of where I leave my tools. In my own house. That's my life.

Like its analog analogue, the digismack is a pose. I've known that. But I am only now in full admission that my use had gone beyond weekend recreation. As I write, Facebook is a furry something-or-other skipping its smug, warm-blooded ass right by puzzled Googleraptors and 'Softisaurs chilly and staring at a comet in the night sky. Zuckerberg and Co. have mashed up every one of the world's high school cafs, college bars, coffee houses and office hallways, now cramming them all into Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Kids devices that we check anywhere and anywhen. Practically everyone we have ever known, for better or for worse, is real-time remote (pants and hygiene optional).

Of course, your lap's highest and best use is not shelf for a keyboard. Somewhere there is a child with a book in need of a perch, a lover in need of a nap. A lap may not even be justifiable when a dog needs a good run. Nevertheless, we are a closer world for our digital connections -- that is undeniable. But lately, I am sensing a lack of balance, realizing that my habit fell into need, evolved from feeding a John Nash intellectual curiosity to a Sally Field need for...reassurance. Hell, these innerwebz are cheaper than therapy, arguably more effective, but whatever the approved medicinal uses for MoreInput, pure uncut digismack is toxic in the long run.

So how to solve for MoreX? With six bright eyes trained on my every move, surely there is MoreDad. Entering my PrimeEarningYears with finances still reeling a bit from divorce and recession, surely I must figure out a little MoreJob.

But what seems like a simple bit of GrownUp calculus exposes the essential tension in the demands of being a GrownUp. On the one hand, the simple sum (MoreDad + MoreJob) turns out to be > the number of hours in the known human week. Solving for other variables, however, it appears < the stuff that fills a human soul.

Perhaps showing my work in GrownUp math is just making clear flaws in my time management or my values. I'm confident in my work ethic, but I get a little nervous around the Saint or Soldier who fills their own soul through sacrifice and service, especially when my particular call to service and sacrifice includes a well-heated house, a Volvo and an office with a window. I've got some thoughts on how this all shakes out. Next entry. For those that like to read ahead, I'd suggest taking a listen...here.

For now, however, some socks need a-sorting...


Looking Up Through a Hole in the Ice

There's something real in the fact that we first know a child
through their expressions of wants and fears.

There's something real in the way that our holy emerge --
denying their wants, allaying our fears.

There's something real in fact that I'm mostly aware
of laundry,
and spreadsheets,
and metal on metal
as brake pads wear away.


Dog Bowls


I'm not cynical enough to dismiss the notion of free will. I am, however, saying that it belongs more on a box score than a lineup card.


Having spent their whole lives in a city on the backside of its history, my parents left Akron as soon as chance allowed. Having spent only a couple years at the end of high school in a Bay Area on the rise, I have found myself wandering back, in both thought and U-Haul.

This past summer brought family trips, extended and immediate, Ohio and California, respectively. Forty years and a cloud of dust out of Akron, my Dad still finds an old friend on every corner, many of those corners still recognizable from a distant and apparently slightly misspent youth. In contrast, only a few years removed from my last attempt to return, I got lost driving on a hasty web of fresh pavement just a few blocks from my old home, an erstwhile hometown buzzing with so many people I don't know, better-heeled replacements for my dispersed generation unable or unwilling to shoulder a cost of living that quickly outran most of our career paths.


For all intents and purposes, I grew up in the Metroplex, surfing the forces of adolescent impulses as Bedford stamped rolling horse farms into metered-out lots of Edward Scissorhands sprawl. I was therefore surprised when my first reaction to the news we were moving was excitement. I loved Texas. I was hitting a stride with a Breakfast Club stew of school and friends and sports that was filling my days with fewer hours dropping dice behind a Dungeon Master's Screen, more testing chance with girls, some who even smiled back. But DFW back in the day was a community for migrant workers in the burgeoning cube farms. We stayed, but every year or two my best friends seemed to leave for some reason or another: corporate whims pulling dads elsewhere, family ties pulling moms back, a brother's addictions spilling their bounds, an asshole father avoiding responsibility with a surprise enrollment in a remote and religious boarding school. I guess I wanted to stay, finish out my last two years of high school there, but I also guess that I expected that one way or another I would succumb to the varied polarities that so rapidly pushed and pulled people through the Mid-Cities.

A few months from having exchanged top-siders and pegged acid-wash for Jams and flip-flops, I decided that my purportedly annoying penchant for "back-in-Texas" stories was a sign that I should be back in Texas. I filled out all the right bubbles in #2 lead and all the right forms in blue or black ink, and was on track to return to Dallas thanks to the generous and proud SMU alumni and their well-funded scholarship programs. My first Evil Plan was playing out quite nicely, thankyouverymuch, when grumblings about some if-ya-ain't-cheatin'-ya-ain't-tryin' problems with SMU football recruiting exploded into revelations of systemic corruption that dropped the NCAA's first "death penalty" on the entire football program.

A couple weeks later, still confident that the Evil of my Plan trumped the evil of some boosters, I was on campus to finalize and accept the scholarship...on the very day that the SMU Board of Governors was forced to admit they not only knew of, but actually approved and somewhat oversaw some of the most egregious violations. The football team had gotten the death penalty, but the school had lost it's soul.

The Back-to-Texas Evil Plan in shambles, I got an excited call at an inappropriate hour a few weeks later from a proud UCLA booster letting me know that because the initial winners of that year's Bruin nerd-off were forgoing Westwood for more Ivy-covered climes, I was officially the top consolation nerd. I took a trip south. I stayed for the next four years.


Evil Plan: The Sequel, now had me studying economics while captaining the nationally renowned UCLA debate team in nerdgasmic glory as I constructed the ultimate application to some or another law school run by demons actually listed by name in the Bible.

I dropped off the debate team, ditched economics when the math got hard and came out the other end with a degree in philosophy, hair to my shoulders, a love of teaching, and a fairly potent jump serve that once scored a point on Karch Kiraly (and to be clear, it was the only point we scored out on Venice Beach that day.)

I got rejected to every graduate program in philosophy I applied to. Except one.

I did well enough in grad school to likely secure one of the scarce academic positions that pop up each year. But as I was reading in library basements, those positions got stripped of tenure, benefits and much of their already modest pay. Finally, common sense was surgically removed when I was courted to teach paying college students classes I had never taken myself from books I had never read on subjects I had never studied.

Grad school side jobs morphed into a scheme to open a restaurant in Providence. I was out-eviled once again when my partner and I got hit up for a shockingly large bribe to secure a liquor license. It didn't help that while managing a joint I had also pissed off some low-level mob dude whose waste management company would regularly, though "accidentally," flip my dumpsters.

Late-'90's Evil began wafting in on breezes from the west, so I loaded up the eight or nine things I was able to purchase as a grad student and headed back to NorCal to cash in on the dotcom boondoggle. Through old buddies and fast talking, I was quickly working South of Market.

Selling life insurance.

I was told I would never finish the dissertation if I left. I did.


I had always laughed at anyone who would be foolish enough to plan a wedding outside, leaving already unrealistic expectations and emotions bare to the fickle weather whims. I got married, beautifully, outside bare to the the sun cutting through remnant haze of night-before rain.

I always wanted some undefined number of kids, but felt pretty strongly that they should be spawned at a reasonable pace, allowing space for each soul to grow, time for each parent to recover. My three kids tumbled into the world all within 24 months (plus 5 days!). Now I can't imagine it any other way.

My old school Evil Plans turned on a dime, desperate as I was to avoid the corporate world. I now work in a beige cubicle tucked in a Connecticut suburb for a once and future Fortune 100 insurance company that just took TARP funds. I've learned far more in my many-colored workplaces than in my decades of school.

I spent most of my life unnaturally intimidated by cheerleaders.


I have a thing about keeping the dog's water dish cold and full, but nine times out of ten, I find myself merely swapping stale water for fresh, a whole bowl at a time. Nevertheless, the dog never seems thirsty. Oddly, my toilets are never full.




My dog has been sleeping around. I can't say I blame him. In fact, he wandered off Thursday morning, and I haven't seen him since. Last night I got an email saying he was having a good time. I don't think he wrote it, though.


A calendar view of the last few years would show a semi-automatic splatter pattern of life events, often leaving me with an image of whoever is on the cosmic trigger sporting smeared clown makeup. Good, bad and otherwise, the moments that define a life have been holding the door for one another, the redshift of one blending into the the blueshift of the next so that a crack in my skull would leak its uniformly purple ambient light.

(Max's favorite color is purple. That cannot be an accident.)

I have settled into two primary coping behaviors. First, I take a lot of pictures. Most days require a second look. Second, I triage and cross my fingers. I've been picking a handful of things, focusing on them, hoping the rest don't flat line by the time I get back around to them. I run hard for a few months, then sequester myself for a long weekend to do my best to catch up on all the things I have ignored, thus far not uncovering anything fatal or criminal (knock wood).

While the dog's basic bio inputs and outputs have been met, a lingering point of stress and regret has been that he has not had the attention a border collie demands and deserves. An earthbound floppy frisbee is a sad and unnatural sight.


Flat paint and kids work together roughly as well as Sarah Palin and Perez Hilton on a blind date. Trust me. I tried (at least the paint/kids part). Each glimpse revealed some new stain or scratch or minor impressionistic masterpiece bringing wedgies of frustration that I had never replaced the thin dusting of pale yellow chalk my corner-cutting builder had left on the walls as the last check cleared.

As the kids steadily worked their unique take on wainscoting the halls, that fucking paint became the sole object of misdirected and mounting stresses. A rational person would have simply repainted the walls, but that's not where I was at the time. That cheap paint refactored itself into a bright line in my mind, the boundary of what I could handle on my own, the exact point where I needed someone else -- God only knows who -- to come in and fix it. I resented and fumed about those walls because it was safer than resenting the whole house, because that might force me to consider how I was feeling about the whole set of broader duties and responsibilities that was overwhelming me. I was a real peach.

A new batch of fun soon made my event horizon again glow purple, illuminating the likelihood that I would soon be free of that paint, those walls, the house, swapping one batch of overwhelming for another. Somewhat ironically, the logistics of getting out forced me to finally break down and paint those walls. But now the task had become an assertive act of reclaiming some manner of control in my life, no longer a concession to the responsibilities I had not been able to live up to. As such, I embraced it. I took a week off and went scorched-earth on the various Lowe's paint chip stands. I started painting.

Early mornings slid into late nights for days on end, draining and refilling an iPod battery. Hours passed anonymously on a step-ladder edging the ceiling, lying on my side surgically painting trim, wielding a roller Daniel-san style, patiently up and down, up and down. Annoying holes and nicks were filled and sanded pleasingly smooth. The angry splatter of stains and markers and crayons gave way to rich monotones. Chalky flat was buried beneath washable eggshells and satins. That carpal tunnel week became a meditation on textures and drips, edges and corners. Somewhere in all those moments of tactile contact, of constant attention, one of them was the inflection point where my relationship with those walls, that house, flipped from resentment to pride.

Several, though not too many moments later, I made the never-since-doubted decision that I was not leaving the house.


If business books included dragons, aliens, wizards -- or at least a lot more shit blowing up -- I am sure I would be running a company by now. (Business books, by the way, are the plankton of the literature food chain -- a couple cave trolls couldn't hurt.) But beyond the tickling of the reptilian brain, good fantasy and sci-fi is a wonderful vehicle for morality tales.

The Harry Potter books do a masterful job of laying bare the evolution of of Voldemort's evil, weaving a slow, deliberate path from a popular but troubled Tom Riddle to a splintered and murderous soul. His unique intellect and talents build his belief that he is an exception to common sense and civility, fomenting an ever-uglier view of those not like him (the basely named mudbloods and muggles). Disrespect hardens into resentment, and resentment descends into a denial that those not like him are worthy even of the basics of human dignity, leaving them fair game for horrific acts. Rowling carefully exposes the twisted logic of the racist through a story compelling to teen minds -- minds working in fits and starts to construct their own views of character. Plus, the monsters are cool as hell and lots of shit gets blown up.

Where racism insinuates itself in Rowling's fantasy, lust for power subtly corrupts Anakin into Vader in Lucas' universe. The outlandish extremes of sci-fi provides stark relief to expose the details of how racism and narcissism can invade intelligent but troubled minds, how untreated disrespect hardens into resentment, and how, by then, you are on the fast track to the center of all that is evil across multiple universes.


Clear Connecticut weekends fill our cul-de-sac with kids -- and now teens -- aimlessly pursuing impulses, loosely overseen by us older folks tending our yards. Short of adding a small flock of sheep to the mix, the scene could not be better for an obsessive border collie trolling for someone to kick a ball or toss a frisbee. Jax's play time has been crowdsourced all his life, but lately, on my kid-free days, he has been taking his more serious canine duties on the road, cleaning the scraps from underneath other kitchen tables, barking at other doorbells, and diligently guarding the feet of other kids' beds. He has even headed to work with some of the kinder neighborfolks during the day. All in, it is a great set up as he has lost weight, perfected his frisbee technique and still takes his full shift here when the kids are on my watch.

The other day, Jax' new sugar-momma offered to take him to the vet as she had an appointment for her biological pet. Wincing as I admitted how long it had been since I had taken him in, I thanked her for her kindness. When she further suggested that I get his blood tested for Lyme disease, I winced again at my recent neglect of his required regimine of Frontline and powders and sprays. When you live mere miles from Lyme, CT, this is pretty damn important.

Turns out Jax has Lyme disease. He'll be fine after the antibiotics work their alchemy. But I'm an ass.


While I am fairly confident that I am not yet on the short list to take my turn as the Source of All Evil, the comic book exaggeration of how resentment eats away at judgment and character does strike the fleeting wonder whether The Empire ever thought of building a Death Star from composite beams and vinyl siding.

The twisted cosmic clown is either tiring or popping in another clip, but whatever the reason, purple haze seems to be resolving into more discreet reds and blues. With a little more time to reflect, I see resentments I am not proud of and judgments influenced by them. I neglected and resented those walls because I (wrongly) felt that the burden of fixing them was something that had been put on me, done to me -- a normally (over)rational guy twisting resentments into misplaced anger.

Some shrink might even look at me and my dog and make an absurd claim that I hadn't gotten him to the vet because that was the sort of thing someone else used to do, an extra task now thrown on an already overburdened me, something I could triage out because it would be somehow less my fault if something went wrong. I mean, I could see how someone else might think that. I, of course, never could. That would make me an ass.

While I don't think I am on the verge of storming the Jedi Temple quite yet, I do need to get some things in order. My guess is that the list of things I most should be doing right now is precisely the same as the list of the things I least want to do. I mean, just a hunch...

But for now, I need to fire up the iPod and get a couple chores done, including a popping a couple antibiotics into a hot dog and tossing it to a dog who just lazily strolled back in, frisbee in his mouth, pissed off that I am still typing.


Peanut Butter Jelly Time


I am an absolutely miserable judge of my own stress. In real time, I am generally blind to what might be bothering me, as well as how much. In many regards, this weakness has served me well. If, in fact, my lens on the causes and levels of stress was clear and focused, at some point in the first six months of having twins I am positive I would have bored a hole in the back hatch of the minivan and gone Malvo. Hell, if my internal View-Master was in good order I am not sure Max would have made it through this last weekend.

I like to view mild dissociative disorders as evolutionary, not psychotic. I am, of course, in no way qualified to hold such views.

Amid modular, air-conditioned, ergonomically correct work spaces, a disconnect between the causes and effects of stress is actually quite useful. As crises arise, I can absorb the initial blows, stuffing them deep inside my organs where they can fester into some unnamed mid-life ailment while I address the immediate issue with an unhealthy level of calm. Sometimes, I sort of feel like Kobe dribbling up the floor with 7.3 seconds left in the fourth, no doubt that some seam is going to open up for that game winning shot. Of course, Kobe sucks at PowerPoint and I lost my three-point touch a decade ago, so that arrogant fantasy really does no one much good.

On the flip side, each significant mistake in my life has occurred under the influence of misdirected stress. Eventually the seams on over-stuffed and forgotten mental Space Bags start to leak, and the evil little Pressure Gnomes glom on to some completely unrelated, and usually minor, stress of the day, piling on -- my view askew to what does and doesn't matter, my judgment poor on how to react. I stub my toe on some forgotten corner of metastacized stress poking out from under the bed, and some unrelated decision or reaction inevitably goes really bad.

That's just how I roll.

There are these moments, though, when the Pressure Gnomes get a little too cocky and their usually silent mocking laughter blows their cover. Having spent the better part of the last month navigating a swirl of airports, cars and train stations, my filters got reset. Walking through my front door and back into My Life, the stresses hit me as palpably as those curtains of hot air that office buildings throw down as you enter on cold days. I spent last night staring at the ceiling, a little stunned by it all, suddenly feeling the true weight of things left for another day.


The latter part of high school and pretty much all of college was spent tripping merrily down what seemed a clear, noble -- somehow inevitable -- path toward one or another well-known law school. At some point along the way, however, opportunities to teach and counsel combined with some truly amazing teachers to plant doubts, to insert buggy code into this program. A more self-actualized person would have thoughfully considered these nascent misalignments among outside expectations and internal drives, but I grew my hair out and joined a fraternity.

I still wince at many of the decisions and misguided goofiness of the Late College Era. I am sure I owe several apologies, and I can think of at least one situation for which I solemnly bow my head and thank our Founding Fathers for their wise and righteous insistence on the statute of limitations. My insides had gyroscoped to face a completely different direction than my outsides and I was a mess. Those more qualified might have some more technical term for it, like, "growing up."

One morning, mid-senior year, I inexplicably woke up around 5am (you'll have to trust me on how truly miraculous such an event was...and is), made some tea and went, for the first time ever, and sat on the front steps of my deco Westwood apartment building. I had an oddly clear head, but no thoughts to fill it. As LA began to pulse and shake off its collective hangover, I wandered back inside (of course, as a sensible senior, my earliest class was, always, like, the next day or something).

To this moment, I remember each step of the walk down the hall, up the stairs, fumbling with the lock that never worked right. I stepped into the tiny but functional kitchen, mechanically pulled out some bread, Jif, and Welch's grape. I assembled them according to the Ancient and Honored Rites of PB+J...took a bite. With no connection to the usual flows of causes and effects, at that precise moment, my Space Bagged anxiety about what I did not want to do took an Escher turn to something I...did...want to do. Within 24 hours, I had shelved the Law School applications and had the duck-and-cover conversation with my dad to let him know I was going to apply to grad school.

In philosophy.

(Oh, and I will need a year off to do that, so if you could clear out my old room, that would be much appreciated, kthxbye.)

I still remember everything about that mouthful of peanut butter and jelly.


Being a grown up requires energy and will, and I am generally willing to drink it from whatever well ain't yet dry. With no regard for the consistency of metaphor, I have spent a couple decades running rich on stores of misdirected stress. But, inexplicably waking up at 5am today, I am equally without cause recalling how much more octane is found in moving-toward than can be sucked out of running-away.

I hate to overplay coincidences, but as someone who has lived with little regard for sensible expectations of cause-and-effect I would be somehow hypocritical if I simply wrote them off. While Max was not conscious even ten minutes this morning before his first time out, his absolute most favorite food in the world is peanut butter and jelly. Welch's grape.

Has to be Welch's grape.


A Whale in My Bathtub


At this moment, my only contribution to the right and proper functioning of the world is the addition of a little extra gravity to the considerable task of tugging the tidal covers up to the chin of California's central coast. I am pretty sure my help is going unnoticed, and I expect not even a hint of a thank you. The moon is a bit of an ass that way.

As my physical activity descends into the minimal set of causes and effects that modern physics requires of even the most inert mass, my head is enjoying a rare freedom to assemble the anime flashes of my recent life into steady thoughts and stable memories. Vague yearnings resolve into clear goals and slight discomforts become clear opinions, neatly filed alongside others in my evolving, although still Pleistocene, view of the world. At the moment, I am coalescing a certainty that square coffee mugs are an abomination. Without constant attention to the precise configurations of the lips and tongue, neither the flat edges nor the angled corners rise above the usefulness of a cheap prank dribble cup.

Which reminds me, why hasn't some home office Yoda up in Seattle aligned her metachloria around the fact that all of the untold millions of dollars spent over the last few decades in refining the Starbuck's experience are wasted dozens of times each and every moment by a barrista cluelessly aligning a plastic lid so the drinking hole lands dead on the seam of the cup? I'm not sure how you would do the math, but I am confident that at least 100% of the righteous positivity delivered by the sum total of all the frothy sugary caffeine delivery systems Starbucks served over the years has been sucked from the world by the uncountable ties, blouses, dress shirts and sweaters ruined by the pale brown sputum of a poorly engineered cuppa. Just think of how much early-morning self confidence has been replaced by coffee-stained self doubt? How many sales pitches just missed, how many presentations fell just a little flat? How many interviews tailed off into awkward banter ten minutes early and how many raises went unrequested simply because amid all of the other pomp and circumstance that is Starbucks none of their millions of employees has ever had the combination of insight and voice to end the borderline criminal negligence of aligning the sipper and the seam?

I mean...really?

This has gotten me so worked up that I am ditching coffee for a bloody. The moon will have to work this next set into the shore on her own, ungrateful bitch that she is.


Unavoidable demands and inexcusable procrastination have combined into a five-year gap since the last time I was back in California. The first few hours were spent in the trite reflection of how much the store fronts and mailbox names have changed, running the course of the obligatory musings well-captured in Barenaked Ladies and Nickelback songs. A few days into it, I am finally decompressing enough that my west coast eyes can see without the distractions of my east coast worries. In a couple days, I will switch from sorting through kelp beds for a glimpse of a sea otter to sorting through attic boxes for any remnants of my past that I might want to preserve as a condiment for my own kids' ever-growing stock of memories. Such is a necessary task when your folks' home ends a 25 year run with a July 1st closing date. I am sure there is reverie to spare a couple days and a couple hundred miles up the road.


I need to figure out the whole church thing. My reasons are merely excuses, but I have not reliably added my more-than-it-should-be gravitational force to a church pew for some time now. Of course, a solo attempt to bathe, dress and wrangle a couple four-year olds and a six-year old into an hour of Rome's current-and-best thinking is understandably daunting, but that at best excuses me only one Sunday in two. It's on the to-do list, but there is some attic-cleaning in the headspace that needs to get done on this one first.

I spent my first Sunday morning here at the Pope's local franchise, and amid all of the catching-up and polite waves to people that could not remember my name if their salvation depended on it, I was actually quite stunned by the physical transformation the church had taken on. The pulpit was now bigger than the altar and the trappings of the Eucharistic metaphysics were now pulled back to a small table. The stations of the cross were moved to the back, and the choir was moved more front and center. The traditional gold and gilt were not to be found in the new decor, but the offering and guilt remained reliably represented in the Mass. Most strikingly, the image of the cross was no longer the dominant visual cue, the Friday part of that original Easter weekend consciously and prominently replaced by reminders of what followed three days later. All of the changes summed to an overt attempt to humanize an institution two millenia into distancing itself from the flaws of humanity. Being well-schooled in the details of why everything in the Catholic church had always been thus-and-so, seeing it so clearly otherwise was, frankly, stunning. I may have my issues with how spirituality has been institutionalized, but I am not sure that us Catholics can solve our relavance simply by becoming more Protestant-like. I mean, strong coffee has its place. Water it down too much and folks are likely to simply prefer strong tea. I need to do some more thinking on all this. For sure.


We definitely have something deeply, seriously backward in our day-to-day pursuit of health. Once again, I am feeling -- by far -- the most healthy when I am explicitly trying not to be. My caloric intake over the last few days has been astronomical, a nap beats a run as consistently as rock beats scissors, and I am held in a quasi-conscious stasis by a slow, steady alternation of caffeine and alcohol. I have not walked more than 50 yards in a row for nearly a week. And yet I feel like I could go run a marathon, perhaps do some of that new math -- or maybe even one of those sudoku thingies. Sleep and fresh air mix up one powerful cocktail.


My grandfather passed away last winter, leaving my dad as the family elder and me, as his eldest son, as no one of consequence. He outlived his wife, whom he doted on and took care of in every way he knew how, and was outlived by everyone of his children and grandchildren. He passed comfortably with all of his kids by his side to say goodbye. Lay that deal in front of me and give me a pen, please. Along the always surprisingly long Pennsylvania interstate, I popped in some Dylan in hopes that last generation's incarnation of The Bard would inspire some thoughts for the words I would contribute to the services. Somewhere about Scranton/Wilkes-Barre the meatspace got rolling and by the time I hit the Ohio border I had notes written down (while safely pulled to the side of the road, of course) and had moved on to music that has been scientifically proven to kill brain cells. All good.

My oratory, however, lasted less than two hours after arriving at my uncle's place, flush with lasagnas and mayonnaise-laden salads and sodas and beers which turned into nice bourbons as the night wore on. I owed my grandfather more than I had come up with on the ride down. More particularly, I owed this goofy and amazing family that he and my grandmother had built more than I had jotted down. I just didn't know what it was.

My parents ran from Akron as soon as they could. College done, marriage blessed, first-born delivered and overseas military assignment looming, the three of us left, so far never to return to live in our shared hometown. Despite being the birthplace of arguably the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century and perhaps the greatest basktball player ever, Akron is pretty goddam cold. It may not be the worst place to live, but there are, alas, plenty better.

Nevertheless, my extended family escaped the decaying rust belt city for the bucolic northern Ohio countryside, and over the years my trips back have served as a reflective touchstone for me. My family has had it's fair share of trial and tragedy, but all in, both sides dot the Ohio countryside with a bunch of pretty happy folks, generally sporting shit-eating grins at the accomplishments of those that followed them. It is Middle America to its core. The morning of my grandfather's funeral I realized, so am I.

I hastily scribbled some notes on the back of a mimeographed (yes, mimeographed) hymnal, and delivered them when the time came to do so. After stumbling over how to express how I saw my reflection in a the faces and rolling hills that surrounded us, I concluded, simply, "Thank you, Grandpa. Thank you for...Ohio."


I own a pretty nice pup tent and most of the equipment necessary for a fairly ambitious hike into some less than hospitable woods. One of my lingering regrets of late is that most of those provisions still lie in unopened boxes, although the tent has served some good time as a playhouse for the kids. Now, to be clear, when it comes to outdoorsieness I am much more Bryson than Krakauer (and for those who have read the former, more Katz than even Bryson). That said, I can absolutely correlate the velocity of my inner unrest to how long it has been since I have had a long stare at something truly elemental, like this Pacific tide currently swelling toward my feet. Thinking back on this, my rucksack affinity for the outdoors bloomed when I moved to Northern California back in high school. In LA, you cannot go a hundred yards without being overwhelmed by the crush of the manmade; once you get north of San Luis, you can't go a hundred yards without being awed by some force of nature, however many folks might be scampering about it.

The other day, I leaned back in a bathtub behind a glass of local wine and a view of the rising surf. Suddenly, the lazy two-tone blue horizon was broken by the breach of a blue whale, white spray reaching to where clouds blur with fog. Whatever makes a whale dance, I need to find mine.

I have always been thankful for California, too. Watching that whale perfectly framed in a picture window, now I am sure why.


A Finger on the Wrist

I did it nearly every summer night, a simple secret bearing out-sized importance to an even simpler mind. Claiming to go to bed, I would merely lay down with an old transistor radio hidden beneath my pillow, 8-year-old-nervous that the steady static of WBAP would sneak under my door and betray my con. But I had to listen. One night, early on in my stealthy solution to Ranger games that ran late on school nights, those voices, sonorous even on AM, dropped their polish and screamed as fans when Bump Wills and Toby Harrah ripped two consecutive pitches for inside-the-park home runs -- back-to-back for the only the second time in the history of baseball. I pulled the radio out from under my pillow, as if somehow watching the sound would make the images more clear. I didn't miss another game for years.


Booting up my pimped out Firefox unfolds an elaborate Skynet of jumbled, poorly organized information that strangely, and perhaps pathologically, reflects how I process the world around me. An ad hoc jumble of media pumps real-time into one or another laptop always close at hand. The sources range from old, weathered institutional rocks to voices with half-lives barely longer than the time it takes to download them. News and friends and work and family are all mashed into a single big ball of brown Play-Doh. And lately, it rocks with a soundtrack of Pandora's tangents and suggestions replacing the pressure of constantly having to choose that right song from a static pile of music that my best guesses built.

Taken all together, there is a pulse to the feed, a collective nervousness or anxiety or hope or wonder, and sometimes it is just feet in the pool on a sunny day. Importance and connections these days seem to come less and less from the pedigree of the source, and more and more from the audience's level of attention. We are a fickle and petty bunch, but now that the audience is author, though, this seems more...ok...than it used to.


Starting in Rochester, with the Red Wings, and continuing with the Rangers after we moved north of Arlington, several times a summer, Dad would cut out of work early so we we could head to the park for a game. There, I would harvest and pack away images to bring life to the crackle of an AM radio. Each game required its own program, and every pitch had to be meticulously documented. I loved how a small collection of simple symbols and lines could come together to represent every subtle shift and twist of this incredibly nuanced game. I could go back to those scorecards and recreate the entire arc of a game, pitch by pitch, swing by swing, so many moments and decisions and heroic efforts strung together among an encyclopedia of rules all synthesized into a single view that could be created by a 8-year-old. I vote that any tin can we send into deep space must have a baseball scorecard on it as a proof of our vast intelligence.


By day, I am an ambiguous piece of corporate overhead, wandering home office hallways while folks in the field that actually sell our stuff and service our customers puzzle over why money is spent conditioning my air. My title is vague, my tasks varied, and on good days I am contributing ideas that fall on others to execute...hell, usually to even make sense of. Being ad hoc is an interesting way to live, but these days I am just a little nervous that I might be seen as a nice-to-have at a company struggling to support all of it's have-to-haves.

The last couple weeks, I have been focused on a single arcane task supporting a broader effort to make sense of our long-term strategies and all the things we are doing to fufill them. Working with a bunch of folks who have actually been schooled in how this business stuff works, I have had the task of gathering together what each group aspires to do over the next five years and lay it out on a single page so we could see where we are, where we are going, and all of the things we planned to do to get there. Now, I am not the person choosing the strategies or discerning the necessary tasks at hand, I've been just sort of running a different game in parallel to the real one, that odd pitcher out in bullpen throwing a side-session at the same time the starting nine are fighting for a win. It's brought some late nights with several (alas, metaphorical) transistors stacked up under my pillow, but these days they seem tuned to some scintillating all-insurance talk stations. My task is to create and fill out some sort of baseball scorecard for a $4B company playing a five-year long game. On one sheet of paper.

I am using really big paper. And really small fonts.


It was an Indian Summer morning a couple hundred yards from the Pacific, a week before our wedding overlooking the Atlantic. Demanding as it was, our world was clear, and it brought lots to do and a long way to go in the next ten days. As the shower steamed up our tiny apartment bathroom, I flicked on the old radio that always balanced badly on the back of the toilet. Hmmm... Sarah & Vinnie, mindless morning banter talking over the latest plastic pop. No will to change it, I let it drone on, hoping only that could provide some white noise to tamp down a head swirling with today's work and the upcoming event.

In the shower, although I couldn't hear the words, I sensed that the tone had changed. The rhythms and pulse had...slowed. When I got out, the self-congratulatory laughing and faux sexual tension between the mannequin hosts was replaced by increasing periods of dead-air that had not been heard on morning radio in decades. Something about a plane. Maybe two. No, one. Wait... It was three. My morning pace slowed as the information accelerated. I don't know why I stayed there, sitting on the edge of my bathtub, witnessing our world shift fourteenth hand, a cheap morning show on cheap radio on a cheap toilet delivering history. By 6:45 am, PDT, it was clear enough that even 3000 miles away, I wasn't going in to work that day. That day, neither sardining into a ferry nor chancing the Golden Gate seemed to be...prudent.

Half an hour later, needing supplies for a day at home, half-dressed, slacks and button down, never-finished tie, my bare feet in flip-flops, I wandered through the grocery store across the street among a couple dozen other refugees from the ferry that would not run for several more days. We zombied through aisles, idly picking off whatever the hell you buy on a morning like that. We looked up at speakers that usually provided only a pillow of pop music, as if seeing the staticky sounds from these unexpected sources of news would some how make their meaning clear, help us synthesize these random bits of information that none of us had ever thought could be combined in quite this way.


My Blackberry has a little light that beats green...green...green as it sits alert awaiting anything new from one of the many sources it continuously scans for even the most subtle shifts in my ever-widening world. Email, gmail, Twitter, Facebook, God only knows how many news alerts, a Bertie Bott's selection of IMs, texting, and, of course, an old school phone for engaging with closer to a human voice. If the quiet green makes me a little anxious, I can turn it to a blue-green alternation by slipping a BlueTooth into my ear, ready for that next call, maybe scanning a Skynet mini-me on the small screen. If it stays green too long to be believed, I might pop out the battery and reboot it. Just to check.

A red shift rarely indicates any sort of world shift. But that is ok. That just means planes are drifting lazy -- and aloft -- against a crystal blue sky. Today's home runs so far are all of the standard, muscular style. (I was there when Ellsbury stole home -- pure -- against the Yankees.)

So far, the pulse of this Memorial Day weekend assures that come Tuesday, the right folks will retain their faith that they should provide gainful employment for an info junky with the attention span of a housefly. And although a pulse of red let me know that an old cheerleader crush forgot cream for her coffee this morning, I can't help but smile that the world is gentle enough today for that to be worth talking about.