1/366/2012 Gotta Start Somewhere

TOWER GROVE — The challenge came from the most unexpected source.

At Busch Stadium, a few weeks ago, new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took me through his normal day — from his meetings with clubhouse staff to his time spent re-watching the games of the 2011 season. He said he arrives at his office each morning early enough to get some time to himself. Before the days spins out of control he reads and “journals.” He writes these thoughts in the margins of a book he carries, and while the entries aren’t always elaborate or long but they are enough to have filled the open spaces of a few book.

“I want to keep track of my thoughts,” he said, “and there has been a lot going on in my life that I want to remember. You know. A writer like yourself — you journal, right?”

“Not really,” I replied. “I write so much for work that when it comes to personal stuff …”

The sentence sort of lost its substance there because the explanation never really had it. Truth is, I have tried to do so. I’ve got false starts stacked up on my desk. There’s the journal from New Orleans, which I restarted when I went back to New Orleans for the Super Bowl in 2002. There’s the journal from 2006, which lost momentum but picked back up briefly in 2009. There’s the journal from our trip to Barcelona and the Mediterranean. It cuts off a few days after visiting Egypt. There’s a small reporters notebook from Ireland. There’s some scraps of spiral notebook paper from Cleveland, I think. And so on. All stop abruptly because I do write so much for work that I don’t take time for the personal stuff.

The manager is right. I should.

Tumblr offered a nice trial run. The longer entries didn’t quite fit the scrolling nature of Tumblr, but it proved a snazzy place for quotes from the boy wonder and snapshots of comic book covers. It’s an online scrapbook, not a journal. This may be — out here on the margins of WordPress. The entries don’t have to be long.

“You really should,” Matheny said. “As much as you see.”

So here goes. New Year’s Day. Good time as any to start. And what better way to start then a quick story about a dead squirrel.

For a few months now there’s been a flattened squirrel on the sidewalk near our house. There’s no blood. From what I can tell, the poor fellow has kept his brains where they belong. The gore seems to have been pounded out of it. Yet, the squirrel scares the acorns out of Ian, my 5-year-old, the boy wonder. (When the squirrel wasn’t in its usual corner one day I said maybe the city moved it. “Why would Sid D. want a dead squirrel?” Ian asked.) It’s only recently that we can get him to walk that direction on the block. And only then he’ll walk by if I carry him and he buries his head into my collarbone. That’s how we passed the squirrel tonight, twice.

“Do you see it there, Daddy?” he said into my shoulder.

“Not yet.”

“Look in the dirt. It’s in the dirt. Do you see it?”

“Yes. There it is.”

“You can see its skull.”

“Yes. Maybe we should name it, buddy.”

“Flat Stanley,” the wife suggests.

“Rocky the Squirrel, maybe,” the boy wonder suggest. “Or, just Rocky. Or Rocky Flats.”

“There’s a place in Colorado named that. Well done, Ian.”

“Daddy, have we passed it?”

“Yes, we’ve passed it, buddy. We’ve passed it.”

With that he lifted his head and let me put him back on the ground and picked up a conversation about “Pirates of the Caribbean” and whether or not Netflix available for instant viewing. He’s a big boy and the reasons he wants me to carry him are fleeting. But as long as Rocky Flats is around the corner he’ll need me, and those times are worth writing about while they’re still happening. Matheny’s right. I really should make the time.

So far, so good.

Looks like I’m going to beat deadline for getting this up on Jan. 1 by 37 minutes.



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