Kindness Amidst Chaos


There were two news stories yesterday about air travel. One was about the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The other was about a man who had a heart attack during a flight he was taking with his wife and her friend. Which one would you guess had the most emotional impact on me?

It was the one about the man who had the heart attack.

The reason is that the man’s fellow passengers on the plane tried to help him. In particular, the former football player, now sports broadcaster, Tim Tebow, left his seat in business class and came to the man’s aid. He led prayers for the man along with other passengers around him while the man’s wife and her friend cried on his shoulders, picked up the family’s luggage when the plane landed and went with them to the hospital, staying until the family was told that the man had passed away.

You might think that it’s insensitive to not have a more emotional reaction to the terrorist attack. In fact, I thought that to myself after reading both stories. I think the reason the Tebow story impacted me more is because the terrorist attacks have become routine and have numbed my senses. Also, because there are so few positive stories that make the news. Indeed, I wonder if this story would have made the news were it not for the fact that a celebrity was involved. I suspect that there are many such occurrences every day that go unreported because the people engaging in such acts of kindness are regular, ordinary people, doing the right thing in obscurity.

That’s a shame, because I think that reading about acts of kindness promotes that type of behavior, just as the terrorists think that media coverage of their doings recruits some people to that type of behavior.

I wish the media would run a story about an act of kindness every day, not just when it involves a famous person. Maybe doing that would balance out the negative stuff and encourage the type of behavior the world desperately needs right now.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences to all affected by the attack in Turkey.

Until the End of the World

Bono Paris

This is a photograph of Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, performing in Paris on December 7, 2015. U2 was originally scheduled to perform in Paris in November, with the concert to be broadcast on HBO, but the band had to postpone due to the terrorist attacks in Paris, which included an attack on a rock concert featuring the California band The Eagles of Death Metal.

The rescheduled concert was broadcast on HBO the evening of December 7th and I watched it and recorded it for repeat viewing. Of course, the terrorist attacks upped the ante for the rescheduled show and created, at least for me, an expectation that it would be in some way more meaningful, especially given the band’s tendency to wade into political matters. So I was anticipating a great performance, but was also a bit cynical about the prospect of these wealthy rock stars getting paid a ton of money to play a show and thinking they could somehow convey something more than the pleasant buzz one might associate with popular musical performances.

The show started out quite serious, with a mix of new and old material and plenty of seemingly heartfelt pronouncements, such as we are all Parisians tonight. A standout was the U2 standard Sunday Bloody Sunday, which evokes the period of Irish troubles deriving from religious and political conflict between north and south. The band had the good sense to have the members line up at the front of the stage, with the drummer playing a shoulder-hung drum like in a marching band. The visual was like something out of Les Miserable; the revolutionaries pushed up against the barricades.

Then things became even more serious, with Bono explaining the genesis of the material on the band’s new album and drawing a loose connection between experiences the members had growing up during the troubles and current events. This part of the show ended with Bono imploring a higher power to bring comfort. At this point I was thinking that the show was doomed to linger in a tone of sadness and maudlin pomposity. But then a curious thing happened. A full on rock concert broke through the gloom.

The band’s guitarist, known as The Edge, launched into one of my favorite U2 songs, Until the End of the World. The opening lyrics are as follows:

Haven’t seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world

The implicit message was that despite all that had happened, it wasn’t (isn’t) the end of the world. During the guitar break, The Edge was performing behind a scrim, onto which Bono was projected larger than life, drinking water from a bottle and seeming to spray it out of his mouth onto The Edge. He says, “I’m sorry, Edge.” Then he says, “No, I’m not sorry.” A moment of humor that pierced the sanctimony. The song continued, until the final verse, which goes:

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You…you said you’d wait
’til the end of the world

That line: I reached out for the one I tried to destroy. It was a transcendent moment; at once a battle call and a moment of tenderness.

I’ve been thinking for a couple days now whether this concert was important. It occurs to me that the terrorists thought it was important to kill a lot of people at another concert, and not because they were pissed off that the band made money off it. Maybe that’s because they realize that music does have meaning beyond the business side of things. On that note, U2 struck a blow for the good.

The Road Trip, 2


I took this photo in Glacier National Park, Montana. This is Lake Josephine, in the area of the park called Many Glacier. We were in the park July 9 & 10. The timing was fortuitous because a fire required closure of some areas shortly after we left, including part of Going to the Sun Road. As is so often the case, this photo doesn’t really capture the beauty. My daughter and I agreed that Glacier National Park was a highlight of the trip.

We didn’t have reservations for lodging in the park itself, so instead we stayed nearby in an old school hotel called the Glacier Park Lodge, which opened in 1913. The lodge was constructed by the Great Northern Railroad as part of an effort to bring tourists to the park by train. The rail line still runs right by the hotel. Here’s a photo I took of the lobby.


Those giant columns that look like tree trunks…are tree trunks. Most of the structural supports are timbers of varying sizes. When we checked into the hotel there were a few details that went unmentioned. For example, there are no televisions in the rooms. Also, no phones. There is wi-fi, but the signal is weak, so if you want to use it you need to go to the public areas. This lack of technology creates a time warp effect and the guests resort to Victorian entertainments like board games, cards, and jigsaw puzzles that are scattered throughout the public areas. Also, many of the guests sit in the public areas and read, or admire the view from the back veranda. For the typical guest who has never been deprived of tech it is jarring at first, but I was surprised at how quickly I adapted to this slower paced environment. It was relaxing and eventually quite charming.

Oh, did I mention that it was Native American week? There was a large pow-wow scheduled in a nearby town, and since the park and the hotel are located on the Blackfoot reservation, no alcohol was served at the hotels and restaurants. So, if you were thinking, well, there’s no TV or internet so I’ll just belly up to the bar and soothe my  tech withdrawal, think again. The old-timey environment and lack of booze combined to make it seem like you might be staying at the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. You’ll recall that Jack Nicholson’s character fell off the wagon chatting it up with the ghost bartender in the hotel lounge. We only stayed at the lodge one night. Then it was on to Canada.

By the way, my apologies for the long absence of posts. I had some things going on that required my full attention for awhile.

The Road Trip


This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago on Interstate 395 in eastern Oregon. As you can see, you won’t have many fellow travelers on this particular road. It’s a good route if you like to drive fast and you’re driving from California to Alberta in Canada.

It’s also a good route if you’re driving with your kid(s) and you want to use the drive time to talk with them, because there’s no cell phone coverage at all.  No irritating data to distract them. It’s amazing how much you can catch up when their electronics are out of the way. As a single parent I recommend road trips as a way to reconnect.

It rained just as the sun was setting, so we stopped the car and caught some good moments, like this one, which I took with the panorama functionality on my IPhone. If you look carefully at the extreme right of the photo you can see the front end of my car, which faithfully executed a 5K (that’s five thousand miles) without any problems. It’s an Inifiniti FX50S, which is somewhat rare. I’ve only seen two others since I bought it in 2012.


The main destination of the trip was Calgary, but there were many stops along the way. Why Calgary? Because there’s a very large rodeo there called The Stampede. I have a fond memory of attending the Calgary Stampede on a road trip with my dad when I was about my daughter’s age and I wanted to pass that memory along.

I’ll be blogging about the road trip for the next few weeks, along with some other cool stuff. I’ve been on radio silence for the past few months, for reasons I won’t go into. The good news is that now I have a lot of things to write about. Thanks for reading.

Don’t Talk About This, Talk About That


I never submit my tax return until the last day, unless I’m getting a refund, which is not the case this year. It’s a bummer having to shell out extra money at tax time, so instead of writing about that, I’m going to write about my favorite poet, T. S. Eliot, whose epic poem The Wasteland is often quoted around the tax deadline. It’s just the first line of the poem: April is the cruelest month.

Here’s the first four lines of the poem to provide a little context.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain

Eliot wrote notes for the poem at the request of the publisher, but later disavowed them as bogus, so it’s not clear what the poem refers to. When I first read it I thought it was about Europe emerging from the dark winter of world war. Here’s one of my favorite lines:

There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust

This seems to refer to the dawn of nuclear weapons, but the poem was written in 1922. Come in under the shadow of this red rock. Gives me chills.

David Bowie is reported to have said that when fans would meet him they’d often quote his lyrics and offer an explanation of their meaning. He would always listen to the explanation and say “Yes, that’s it exactly,” even if he didn’t have that explanation in mind when he wrote the lyrics. He said he did that  because it’s fun for people to project their own meaning into art and by so doing make it more meaningful for them.

T. S. Eliot is probably best known for his series of poems about cats, which served as inspiration for the musical play, “Cats.” The cool thing about the cat poems is you can match your cat to one of them. My cat’s name is Rocky and I’ve matched him with the poem Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town. Here’s an excerpt.

Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones–
In fact he’s remarkably fat.
He doesn’t haunt pubs–he has eight or nine clubs,
For he’s the St. James’s Street Cat!
He’s the cat we all greet as he walks down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back.

Rocky’s old now, but when he was younger he weighed about twenty pounds. Now he’s down below ten pounds, but still hanging in there. Speaking of cats…


There’s a business near where I work called RAWR. I’ve walked by it a few times but never stopped to figure out what it was. At first I thought it was a restaurant, but then noticed there are no tables; just a service counter and a cold box with neatly aligned cylindrical containers, so I thought maybe it was a grab and go lunch place.

One day I decided to end the mystery and as I went inside I noticed that the door had the phrase “Eat Like A Lion” stenciled on it. The nice lady at the counter explained that RAWR sells cat food. RAWR is a boutique cat food outlet. Seriously. According to the nice lady at the counter they source chickens and fish locally and use the entire animal. You buy the food frozen and let it defrost before feeding it to ditty fuzz. I was going to buy some, but my cat is on a prescription diet.

Poor Rocky. I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Baseball 2015


It’s a little hard to see in the twilight, but that’s a baseball on the seal’s nose. The statue is in the plaza at the rear of AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. I went there last week to see a pre-season game featuring my hometown team, the Oakland Athletics, who won handily. It was pre-season so it’s meaningless, except that the Giants are the reigning world champions, so it might say something about the A’s prospects for the regular season.

Then on Monday I went to opening night at the Oakland Coliseum. People complain about the Coliseum  for many reasons. For one thing, the Oakland Raiders also use it for football. But mostly they complain because it’s an old facility that lacks the glamour of AT&T Park, which is widely considered to be one of the premier facilities in the majors. Here are dueling photos from the seats at both parks.

Here’s AT&T. If the photo was enlarged you could see the splash counter, which shows the number of times players have hit a home run out of the park and into San Francisco Bay, or what the locals call McCovey Cove.


Here’s the Coliseum. It’s earlier in the evening, so it’s not an apples-to-apples since you can see the beautiful sunset.


OK. Let’s just acknowledge that the Giants have a nicer house. In defense of the Coliseum, it is a serviceable facility that has its charms. For example, true A’s fans know what is meant by the phrase “sun hit.” You see, during day games there is a fair probability that an outfielder on the opposing team will lose a lazy fly ball in the sun. During mid-season the sun goes down behind home plate, so the hapless opposing outfielder, who is not used to playing at the Coliseum, will have to battle the sun to try and catch a fly ball. I’ve seen a lot of sun hits.

Another advantage of the Coliseum is that it is in Oakland, which means that the ambient temperature at game time will be much more comfortable than at AT&T. Here’s a tip: if you go to a night game at AT&T, dress warmly; wear layers. It doesn’t matter the time of year, or what the daytime temperature is. Once I went to a night game at AT&T in the middle of July when the daytime temperature was in the mid-80s. I arrived at the game dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. In the third inning I had to go the team store to buy something; anything, to keep warm. $100 later I was swaddled in Giants gear (oh the humiliation) and still freezing.

But the best thing about the Coliseum is that it embodies the spirit of the team that plays there. It resides next to railroad tracks in what used to be an industrial corridor. It is the blue-collar counterpoint to everything that goes on at AT&T, with its damnable wine and crab cake concessions and clam chowder sourdough bread bowls. At the Coliseum no self-respecting A’s fan would be caught dead eating a crab cake while sipping on a fine Chardonnay. No, we prefer the very large corn dogs that are called “Actual Size.” I’m not a Giants hater, even though they have an irritating tendency to win championships when their regular season play suggests they should collapse in the playoffs.

Man, I love baseball. I love this time of year, when everything is fresh and new and you don’t have to worry about the playoffs because everyone has a shot.

Let’s Go Oakland!

Next to Godliness

lava mae

I’ve been avoiding posts about negative stuff and waiting to find positive stuff to share, which is why I’ve been sort of radio silence for the past couple of weeks. Well, I’ve found something positive, sort of.

I live across the bay from San Francisco, which has a lot of homeless people living there. When you visit you see them on the streets a lot, begging for spare change. You also (ahem) smell them, because they don’t have access to bathing facilities. But now that’s changing as a result of one woman’s great idea and ingenuity. Her name is Doniece Sandoval and her great idea is a bus that has been retrofitted to provide mobile showers  for homeless people.

Homelessness is not a positive thing to write about, but shower facilities for homeless people provided by a non-profit organization called Lava Mae is a good and positive thing. At least I think so, but if you check the comments following the article on SFGate about Lava Mae it becomes apparent that not everyone agrees. The reason is that some people think that San Francisco creates too many programs to help the homeless and the programs become a magnet that attracts more homeless people, which in turn increases the need for more programs for the homeless people; kind of a vicious cycle.

My own views on homelessness have evolved over the past thirty years. I used to have a neutral stance of grudging tolerance toward the homeless, balancing sympathy with a feeling that people often make bad choices in life. San Francisco and Silicon Valley have been very successful and created enormous wealth. It seemed odd to me that anyone could be homeless in the context of such wealth. Then we experienced the great recession and there were a lot of people who got swept up in the negative tide of choices that other people made. Whole families were living in tents in camping grounds and I realized that people become homeless for a variety of reasons and it’s wrong to put them all in the same category.

I see Lava Mae as an unqualified good and I love their motto: Delivering Dignity, One Shower At A Time.



In a prior post I made some predictions about the NFL playoffs and said if I was wrong I’d blog with my tail between my legs. But…but…I’ve decided to blog with partly deflated balls between my legs instead.

Why? Because the Green Bay Packers were leading their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, by 19 to 7 with a little more than two minutes left in the game. 999 times out of 1000, the Packers win that game. And my predictions regarding their quarterback, Russell Wilson, and their star cornerback, Richard Sherman, came true. Wilson game sacked real good early in the game and proceeded to throw six interceptions. Talk about a pick six. Sherman got burned by a touchdown pass, too, and looked none to happy about it.

So I don’t feel like I got that one wrong, really. Except the Packers didn’t win. Watching the Seahawks come back the way they did had a surreal quality to it. It never should have happened. Still, I guess I have to accept that I got that one wrong.

I had also predicted the Colts would beat the Patriots. But you know what? The Patriots are cheating scum! Cheaters! It turns out that the Patriots used partially deflated footballs in the game, in clear violation of league rules. You could give them the benefit of the doubt were this an isolated incident, but the Patriots have been caught cheating before, so it seems to be part of their DNA. When a team is cheating and wins the game, it doesn’t really count, or at least the win deserves an asterisk.

I’m going to Las Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday, as I’ve done for the last five years, but I’m not going to bet on the game. Not only do I not like the Seahawks, but they looked terrible for most of the game against the Packers. And how can you bet on a Patriots team that cheats?

I’ll leave my gambling for the card tables, after I watch this Super Bowl matchup with morbid fascination.

The Dumbest Traffic Light in the World


Do you notice something odd about the placement of this traffic light? That’s right. There’s no cross street.

The light resides in the middle of a standard, otherwise unremarkable, city block, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland, California. You’ll notice the crosswalk markings in the street. The building I work in is on this street and I can tell you from experience that very few people cross the street there. There’s a garage entrance on the other side of the street, out of view, but it’s presence doesn’t warrant a traffic light.

Just so you know I haven’t gone crazy or succumbed to dementia, there’s a reason I’m writing about this. Have you ever driven a car in Oakland’s Chinatown? If not, I can share that traffic laws are not enforced there.

People double-park in Chinatown all the time. People jay-walk and even the city-provided walk signs are set up to allow people to cross the street diagonally. I have no problem with any of that. It’s well established that different cultures have different traffic practices. I live in a diverse region so I accept it.

Except that the dumbest traffic light in the world exists in the context of what is otherwise a traffic-law-free zone. My solution is to ignore the traffic light and pay attention to any stray pedestrians who happen to be in the crosswalk.

Running a red light on the way to work each day is a liberating experience.

All Things Football

Ghost Duck

I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been pre-occupied with other things. I’ve had plenty to write about, so daily posts will follow until I’m caught up.

Take for example the college football championship game. For those following this blog who don’t follow American college football, there used to be a very odd, opaque process for determining the top college football team that did not involve an elimination tournament. I never fully understood the old process, so I won’t bore you trying to explain it. Let’s just say that it was very controversial and, more to the point, boring.

Americans are used to playoff games, like they have in the National Football League. The top teams play each other, with the winners eliminating the losers until the last two teams standing play each other for the championship, otherwise known as the Super Bowl. College football didn’t have a corollary, until Monday.

On Monday, fans got to see the first college equivalent of the Super Bowl, with the Oregon Ducks taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes. I watched the game, as did millions of others. It was a ratings blow-out.

Ohio State won the game convincingly and were anointed the champions of college football. It’s worth pointing out that, under the previous system, Ohio State would not have been the championship team.

It’s also worth pointing out that when I began watching the game, before any play had been run, I texted a relative to predict that the Ducks were doomed to lose because of their uniforms. The Ducks weren’t wearing the traditional Oregon colors, which feature green and yellow. Instead, they were wearing a special uniform designed by Nike that made them look like ghost Ducks (see the photo, above). Sure enough, they performed like ghosts of their former selves.

I had a minor rooting interest because the Ducks are a Pacific coast team and my relative has a close friend who is an Oregon alumni. So I take no joy in pointing out the issue with the uniforms, but let’s hope that next year the Ducks stick with the traditional colors instead of shilling for Nike. It’s like putting your champion hound in an ugly Christmas sweater at the Westminster dog show. Even a dog knows when it’s wearing inappropriate attire, not to mention an elite college football player.

Switching gears, the local pro football teams have hired new head coaches. The 49ers went for an inside candidate, Jim Tomsula, while the Raiders went with an outside candidate, Jack Del Rio.

I mention this, in part, because I met Jack once very briefly. His girlfriend at the time was a member of my cover band. He seemed like a nice guy. Good luck, man. As a Raiders fan, I hope it all works out. Reportedly, Jack grew up a Raiders fan, too, so that’s a plus. The reality is that the Raiders have fired a lot of head coaches in the past few years, so I appreciate the fact that Jack decided to take the Raiders up on their offer. It’s not like people are breaking down their door to get into that organization, given the track record. Maybe he’ll help to convince other serious football people to sign up for the Raiders’ program.

As for Tomsula, it seems a bit pathetic. I don’t mean he’s pathetic, but when you fire a guy that took you to the brink of a championship three out of the last four years, it seems like promoting a guy into that spot who’s obscure by comparison shouldn’t be seen as an obvious, genius move. Whatever.

I’m going to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, so I’m going to predict the whole thing, right now. I’ll blog with my tail between my legs if any part of this doesn’t come true.

I can’t possibly predict that the Patriots will defeat the Colts. I’m still mad about the Patriots beating the Raiders in the AFC championship, even though their quarterback fumbled the ball toward the end of the game. There was so much controversy about that call it resulted in a new rule; the “tuck” rule. Total BS. So Colts go to the Super Bowl.

The other game is a coin-toss. Green Bay against Seattle. If there’s any justice in this world, Aaron Rogers and Green Bay will torch Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. Why? Because Sherman has been begging for a comeuppance, and because Seattle’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, is one good sack away from being exposed as the overrated player that he is.

So it’s the Packers vs the Colts for the Super Bowl. In my opinion the Colts will win that battle because Peyton Manning needs to end his career and a Colts win will be a bittersweet salve to heal his many wounds.

Thanks for your continued interest in this blog.