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Friday

Chunky Chocolate on the radio

Door’s open, come in.

Stolen couch, well, not stolen, re-appropriated

sit.

 

Week’s done, what’s going on?

Oh man, Funk oozes

Hungry.

Grab a tray, grab a bowl, pile it on.

Where’s that at, what time?

Her smile laughs, he sits down

Next to him and her and him

share.

 

Let’s roll; see you there.

We breathe in the night and exhale youthful adventures

Window’s down, volume’s up.

I think I saw you there

You laughed at me.

Take some

Leave some

together.

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Today

Woke up in the mornin’ not ready at all
Doesn’t really matter ’cause it’s not your call
Three little mouths to feed, ready to play
“Wake up Papa, what’re we doin’ today?”

Got 9 scoops in, brewin’ away
Got a million songs, but nothin’ to say
Even with the music on it’s all up hill
Just keep on cookin’, got those stomachs to fill

Papa’s in the yard blowin’, metal to mouth
Water’s drippin’ from a leaky spout
Kids are paintin’, baby’s in the pool
Papa’s wound tight on an empty spool

Breakfast’s done but now Mama’s gotta go
Baby’s cryin’ and tears start to flow
Papa says, “Baby she’ll be back”
Round and round, same old track

But the sun shines down it’s a beautiful day
Papa takes a breath and begins to play
Paint coats the paper, table, and skin
The water’s cool and clear, and baby jumps in

Papa’s in the yard blowin’, metal to mouth
Water’s drippin’ from a leaky spout
Kids are paintin’, baby’s in the pool
Papa’s wound tight on an empty spool

Time to lift that weight, gotta stay strong
Children are happy, gettin’ along
Sweat and struggle, muscle and steel
Laugh and cry, and shoulder that wheel

So that was today, tomorrow will follow
Wasn’t ready now it’s over, sometimes hard to swallow
Tryin’ to let go of mistakes and blame
Over and over, different and the same

Papa’s in the yard blowin’, metal to mouth
Water’s drippin’ from a leaky spout
Kids are paintin’, baby’s in the pool
Papa’s wound tight on an empty spool

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The Hot Corner: Third Base

This recent article on ESPN, There’s Nothing Easy About Playing Third Basebrought a flood of terrifying memories back. Even in my best baseball seasons, I was nowhere near a Hanley Ramirez or Miguel Cabrera, but I know even these guys must have some nerves about switching from their more comfortable positions on the field to the hot corner in this upcoming season.

As the article illustrates, when you’re playing third, there is often zero time to react. There are even times when you don’t even see the ball, but somehow your animal instincts of survival kick in and by some magic or stroke of God, your glove stops the ball before it tears a hole through you. Either that or it just streaks past you leaving you on your heels, with no way of covering your dumbfoundedness. Or there is another possibility…

I was 13 or 14 and I didn’t play a whole lot of infield, but one year during all-star practice, the coach wanted to try me out at third because I had fast feet and a strong arm. For most of the week I played well in that position, even with an all dirt infield (which allows the ball travel that much faster without grass to slow it down). It was Friday and we were taking our final workout for the day. The way we did it, as each position fielded their last round cleanly, they left the feild. 1st and 3rd were the last positions, all the other infielders and outfilders were sitting on the bench, watching the final round. I squatted slightly in a ready position, trying to ignore the knot in my stomach that formed every time just before the swing of that bat. The coach hitting infield pactice that day was Bret, a lean, salty contstruction worker with an out-of-date mullet, a mustache, and 3 wive’s names—2 of them ex-wives—tattooed on his right pec. (Yes, he showed his tats to us, and yes, the ex’s names were crossed out in ink.) He tossed the ball in the air and brought the bat’s head swiftly down on it. There was less than a second before that ball flew through the air and bounced on the ground right in front of me. I wasn’t thinking, I was reacting. My mechanics kicked in and I got the glove down to keep the ball from sailing into left field. It hit the heel of the glove though and shot straight up to my throat. The next few moments were really blur. I heard a muffled chorus of “Ooohhhhhh!” from the bench, and I couldn’t breathe with pain shooting all around my throat and neck. Bret was yelling, “Take another! Take another! C’mon!!!” and I was trying to signal I couldn’t breathe while bending over and feeling scared and sick. Finally, my hand felt it’s way to the spot the ball hit and there was an indentation where my trachea was. I squeezed on either side and it popped right back out like a plastic pipe. Air rushed in followed by an immediate burning sensation and the worst sore throat I had ever experienced. I wasn’t crying—which is a very important point if you know baseball—but my eyes were watering from the few moments of missing oxygen. I wiped them down though, got back into position, and fielded another one cleanly because I knew Bret wasn’t going to stop yelling at me until I did.

When I came into the dugout, the usually ruthless group of guys showed serious concern. They knew baseball and they knew that third base is no joke. You take your lumps at that position and you have instant, lasting respect, even from the biggest shit-talkers. Bret, of course, blew it off. He said, “Ah, that’s nothing, come here, feel this,” putting his hand on his windpipe. I, naturally, was reluctant to put my hands on any grown man, and Bret seemed especially unsafe. He didn’t wait though and grabbed my hand and placed it on his throat, moving it side to side. I felt a strange, clicking as he moved his throat with my hand and he said, “Yeah, see?! Plastic baby! Had part of it removed from chewing too much tobacco!” He was actually proud and I was actually grossed out and a little thankful that I was me, and not him.

About an hour after practice, not only did a massive bruise appear, and a really, really sore throat, but so did the seams of the ball. A perfect, purplish-burgundy print that made me feel pretty damn special. I didn’t end up playing third for the all-star games and that was fine. For a brief minute in high school I tried to overcome my fear and try out at that devlish position, but ultimately stuck to pitching and outfield. I wasn’t cut out for it and few really are. Third base is no joke and I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to play there, even if they are getting paid a couple million a year.

 

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The Beach (or Time Also Passes)

Today, after work, i was drawn to the beach. I live in Fresno, central Cali, but I used to live in the bay and I’m back for a work trip here in Berkeley. I’m fortunate enough to be back about once a month, and what I’ve noticed is that all the things I miss about the bay, I realize I didn’t really take advantage of when I was here. The beach is one of these things. Sure we went from time to time, but you know how it is: when you can go any time, you don’t go very often.

So I picked up a pizza and some libations and headed out towards Muir Beach. Even though I’ve been gone a couple years, I still knew the roads, handling each turn with that sense of comfort that only experience brings. Big Boi and Beyonce backed my mood during the drive, and I was excited to have beat the sunset, catching the last tip of the sun as it passed over the hill, just to the left of where I sat on the sandy shore.

Muir Beach was always a favorite of ours when we lived here, because it’s sheltered in a cove in a way, so it doesn’t seem as windy or cold as other beaches. Plus, it’s smaller than say, Stinson, so it felt more special in a way, like a secret, even though it’s totally not. But i was surprised at the changes. In my mind, I had just been there. I remember our last trip as a family as if it were just last weekend. Maia was a year-and-a-half, she was dressed in a red onesie with strawberries on it. She was laying on Sarah’s back and cuddled her as Sarah soaked up the heat from the sand through the towel. Keana was all play: running wildly around, chasing the ocean in her yellow bikini with blue polkadots, screaming, “C’mon Papa! Come with me into the ocean!!!” We knew it was our last trip before the move to Fresno and we longed to make it last. I think each of us fantasized about being able to buy one of those weather-worn houses on the hill some day, so we could have that moment every day. But those were just dreams, years ago now, and things change.

Today though, I was struck by the obvious, but terribly tangible reality that time also passes where you are not. Our reality progressed in Fresno and so did reality at Muir. It sounds almost stupid saying that, but i guess what I realized was how magical memories are.

A path was being built from the parking lot to the beach to “preserve nature”. There was now a warning about swimming in the ocean due to an unsafe level of bacteria. Fires were now allowed on the beach I guess, so there were charred leftovers strewn about. The brightness of that memory two years made this beach, today, look tarnished, and I had to wonder if it really was a little shittier, or was it just real compared to my memory? Either way, it was still gorgeous to be back at the ocean where I’ve alway felt I belonged.

I sat down, opened my beer, opened my box, and took out a thick, heavy slice of pizza. As I ate, I watched. To my left was a huge Russian family, speaking the mother tongue, kids running and crying and playing. One of the twin boys came to dance around in front me, showing off his quick-steps and seeing if I’d take notice I think. A lone fisherman about 30, set up his pole and cast his line far into the ocean. I wondered if he knew what he was doing and if he worried about the bacteria in whatever he caught. I got the sense though that he didn’t need to worry because he knew he wouldn’t catch anything. He was simply there to be there. To cast his line, wait, reel it in, and do it again. There would be no fish today.

A mother and her three young, but grown children arrived. All blonde, the boy being a bit older than the two sisters. He kicked around for a minute then headed off down the shoreline on his own, thinking. The girls remained and the mom took pictures of the prettier one. I thought it was weird. Not long after, the other girl walked off, I thought to catch up with her brother, but no. She walked inland, to a corner of the cove, to make a call on her cell. A boyfriend back home? She looked about the age to be that kind of in love. The brother walked on. The pretty one began to draw in the sand and I could tell the mom wanted to check on the other two. She began to lean away but didn’t want to leave the child she was closest to at the moment. Where was dad? Was he at home, somewhere far away working while mom and the kids took a “most-of-the-family vacation”? I also imagined that maybe he had just died and the three of them came to the beach to remember something, sort of like I was doing, but inverse of me, my wife and three kids being at home, far away. The mom eventually positioned herself in the middle of the triangle of kids, still hundreds of yards away from all of them, and it was interesting to see the oldest boy and the pretty one eventually gravitate toward her. The other one was still on the phone, but then the other three gravitated toward her, as if to nudge her “Hey, get off the phone. We’re here to be together.”

I was stuffed. It was getting dark. I got what I came for so it was time to head back to the hotel. Sure, I still wanted to live in one of those houses. It’s my kind of climate. But I also remembered that if you can just go any time, do you really go just “any time”? Would things be different if we moved back? What are the things that I take for granted now where I live? What needs to be done to enjoy this moment in time while still moving towards the next, and while the memory of those that have passed remain as well? Or does each moment just appear instantly beneath us and we make up the distance between each point in polished memories and dreams?

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Want vs. Expect

The Mrs. and I just got season four of Mad Men from Netflix. Needless to say, there are some aspects of Don Draper that I can totally relate to. I’m not the cheating, distant dad type, but I do relate to what I see as his internal struggle between who he really is, how he was raised, who he wants to be, and who he is expected to be (at home and in the office).

In the last episode we watched, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”, Don has a conversation with a woman psychologist who had helped devise a test to help his firm gauge what their audience wants. He opted out of taking the test and she confronted him. In the conversation she said, “[Life is basically] What I want versus what is expected of me.” (or something to that degree). Don agreed and I think, so do I.

On and off I’ve struggled with this. I often know what’s expected of me—from my family, from work, from friends—and I usually know what I want. But the two, especially with seemingly always-increasing demands on my time, rarely seem to balance out; the expectations feel like they outweigh the wants and I get stuck in funkage.

Sometimes I get around this by staying up late. After the kids are in bed, and things are cleaned up, and preparations for the next day are somewhat done, I feel like I have space to do what I want. Only problem is, it’s usually fairly late in the evening and that first call from a kid in the middle of the night or early morning is already weighing on my mind.

So I’m curious, do you agree? Is life simply what we want versus what’s expected of us? How do you deal with this in your life? How do you balance the two?
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