The Last Day of a 5-Year-Old

TOWER GROVE – The day began like any other morning during those months that baseball season overlaps with the school year. I’m up with the boy wonder, flip on the TV, and wait for the inevitable request that comes during the commercials.

“Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Is Morning Joe over? Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Baseball highlights, again? When can we turn on my cartoons?”

On this particularly morning, I had a co-conspirator. Rain was falling outside and steadily gaining intensity. While I kept the news on, Ian climbed up – half on the couch, half on my shoulder – to look out the window and provide moment-by-moment weather update. His legs, lanky and lean, draped off the couch, because while he still tries to squeeze into small spaces like a small kid, he is outgrowing them rapidly, like another pair of footie jammies. And that’s when I realized: This was not a normal, standard-issue morning of wrestling for channel superiority.

This was my last morning as the father of a 5-year-old.

“Don’t you want me to get older, Daddy?” Continue reading

“Meet Me in Dyersville”

This entry was written on Father’s Day 2011 at Busch Stadium while the Cardinals played the Kansas City Royals.

ST. LOUIS – My plan was to spend the entire summer of 1994 establishing residency in Missouri and take full advantage of living in a college town without, you know, having to attend those pesky classes that interrupt college.

I spent my mornings teaching swim lessons, my days working as a pool manager (read: lifeguard, but with better pay), and my nights sharing a house with a couple pals from the student newspaper, The Maneater. There wasn’t much sleep that summer, nor much money, but there was always something happening. My parents expected me to leave that for … Ten thousand lakes, the Mall of America, and free-range mosquitoes? They had moved from Colorado to Minnesota, officially, the previous summer and few conversations passed that year without a question about when I planned to drive up to Rochester, Minn., for a visit. I’d blame my work schedule, I’d waffle, I’d ignore their invites. It was their home, not mine. I had no emotional ties to the place, no friends to see when I got there and, selfishly, no reason to go back once I drove away for college.

If I had to visit, I suggested a neutral site. We’d meet at the midpoint.

There was this baseball field, in Iowa, Continue reading

A Freedom to Frag

This entry comes from June 2011, when a Supreme Court decision announced the day before allowed me a chance to exercise that political science degree and civil liberties muscle with this (too long) essay.

TOWER GROVE — The government can fine a store for selling a minor Camels, can punish a shopkeeper for passing a Playboy across the counter to an adolescent, and can revoke an exemption for a bar that lets a toddler stop by for fried chicken. But when it comes to violent video games, the Supreme Court assured this week that the government can do nothing but grin and frag it.

The message is clear when it comes to slaughtering zombies, knifing drug dealers and celebrating the virtual brutality of Duke Nukem.

Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, kids. Continue reading

A Guiding Star Behind “Star Wars”

JUPITER, Fla. — When we first moved to Colorado, we lived for a stretch at the Hotel Boulderado and Pearl Street Mall was my backyard.

The hotel and my tiny room may or may not have been referenced in Stephen King’s book Misery — as a kid I swear it was; as an adult I doubt it — and it had the wonderful grand, historic feel with that little twinge of unsettling gothic-ness. We’d breakfast at the restaurant on the first floor. We’d stroll Pearl Street in the afternoon. I learned how to leapfrog on these metal pylons that were designed to keep cars from barreling into the pedestrian mall. And we made a second home of the nearby used bookstore. It wasn’t too far from The Daily Camera, right down by the top shoppe Grand Rabbits, and just past the place we’d later go to get my violin repaired — several times.

This bookshop, Boulder Used Books (I think), had the classic smell and look of its name. The main room was a jumble of misfit shelves, drooping with the weight of paperbacks stuffed at various angles. The place reeked of old paper, ink, dust and that slightly vinegary mix of all three that can only can described as wisdom. It’s the same smell I Iater found at a university’s library in Oxford, one that outdated, oh, America. And picking through this island of misfit books and dog-eared novels one day I found a treasure that inspired.

I was 7.

And it wasn’t a book. Continue reading

The Promised Pujols Cartoon

JUPITER, Fla. — It was so long ago that I’ve forgotten exactly how it came up, but it happened not to far from here — down Interstate 95 and just south of West Palm Beach, Fla. I grabbed a fistful of white paper from the Xerox machine nearest by desk at The Palm Bach Post. I raided an art supply store for some sketching pencils, a trusty pica pole, an industrial-strength eraser, a Uni-Ball pen, and fine-point detailing pens. I set up a rather low-frills drawing studio at a glass coffee table. And I started drawing.

It might have been the small self portrait I included on my resume, or the line about drawing a twice-weekly cartoon at The Maneater. Regardless, the sports editors at the PB-Post had a challenge and an offer for their eager intern.

There was a spot in the Sunday paper for a cartoon, if I wanted to draw them.

(Scroll down if you’re tired of reading and just want to look at the pretty drawing.) Continue reading

The Wisdom of the Wizard

JUPITER, Fla. — For the first time in 16 years, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith returned to the fields of Roger Dean Stadium in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, and it took him less than four hours and all of seven words to capture what keeps so many of us coming back year after year after year to spring training and the game that captivates us.

He took a deep sniff and told a few of us, “It is nice breathing good baseball air.”

(56/366)

-30-

Et Tu, Mark

As I finish up some new entries for here — I’m making my way through the Curacao trip and all the notes I took there — I’ve been sorting through things (call them short essays… sashays?) that wrote in the past year. This is from late July 2011, and it’s fitting because in a month I plan to call in my first exemption from Book Fast 2012 and purchase the new Mark Leyner book.

***

TOWER GROVE — In the wilderness of read, half-read and unread books that are piling up on and all around the bookshelves of my office, I found this morning a thumbed-over copy of a book that I abused in college: Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner. I’ve read stories of writers, like Hunter S. Thompson, who would retype their favorite books to get a feel for how sentences created rhythm, momentum, and the changes in tempo that powered a story. Judging by the dog ears in the book and Post-It notes that fell out of it when I pulled it off the shelf, that’s what I did with Et Tu. Guess that says a lot about what I was thinking at the time. I read some of the pages right out of the binding, apparently, and recently realized a quote from the book has been taped to my desk for, oh, about 18 years now. Continue reading