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 It’s the same smell I Iater found at a university’s library in Oxford, one that outdated, oh, America.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

A 5-year-old & the Meaning of Jeter

This entry was originally written in July 2011 as New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter approached his 3,000th career hit, a milestone that the boy wonder, Ian, had become transfixed by the number, why it was such a big deal, and how one player could possible have that many base hits all by himself.

***

TOWER GROVE — The difference between 2,999 hits and 3,000 could be the reaction time of one third baseman, the decision of an official scorer, or the deluge that washes out a first-inning single. In the scope of a career, it’s infinitesimal, and yet 3,000 looms so large, so historically significant, so, well, round that the distance between 2,999 and 3,000 is a hundred hits if it’s one.

Ask a 5-year-old.

My son Ian and I were walking to a nearby park this past week with our baseball gloves for a throw. Each glove had a baseball tucked inside because, you know, keeping a pocket formed is something we’re required to pass from generation to generation. From the night I came home from the 2006 World Series reeking of champagne crossfire to a visit to condemned Yankee Stadium to the spring trainings spent away, baseball has always been a presence in my son’s life. Only recently has baseball become an interest. He asks a lot about the players. He offers play-by-play during games. He wants to know what team to root for when Arizona and Minnesota meet in interleague play (don’t we all?). And several times in the past month, he’s stirred in the middle of the night to creep downstairs and watch the late game with me.

One recent night he poked me on the shoulder until I woke up so he could ask, “Daddy, can we go watch the highlights?”

It was 3:15 a.m. Continue reading

An Experiment in Experience Journalism

JUPITER, Fla. — During my senior year at Mizzou, I finally got to take a class I’d been eying since entering the School of Journalism. I don’t recall the number — it was somewhere in the 300s — but I do remember the unofficial title we had for it: our immersion project.

An exercise in long-form journalism, the semester’s assignment was to plant yourself inside a story, wallow in it for more than a month, and then emerge with a deep, penetrating and, in some cases, personal story about the experience. In short, the idea was to immerse yourself in the story. Today, we might call this embedding. Students would work at shelters. They would ride along with a high school team for a season. They’d go through a round of cancer treatments with the family of a patient. I spent my semester entrenched in the Kenny Hulshof campaign for Congress, and by the end I was able to chronicle from behind closed doors how a Republican won Missouri’s ninth district for the first time in more than Continue reading

Quotable Ian: Is “Mad Men” Good for Me?

Originally done for Tumblr but, in hindsight, a bad fit there, this is a transcription of an actual exchange my young son, Ian, the boy wonder, and I had on the way to lunch one day after we stopped at the post office to drop a Netflix envelope into the mailbox.

SCENE: Ian is seated in the back seat of my sedan, and as I get in the car and turn the key, he begins the conversation like he always does — with a question, or two dozen.Ian: “Is that Mad Men?”

Me: “No. It’s a movie I watched last night.”

Ian: “Did you watch it On Demand?”

Me: “No. It’s Netflix.”

Ian: “Oh, on the Wii …”

Me: “No. It was a disc.”

Ian: “A BluRay?”

Me: “Nope, just DVD.”

Ian: “Should have got the BluRay.”

Me: “It wasn’t that important …”

Ian: “What was it?” Continue reading