Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

This was our holiday card. It pretty much sums up our 2013. We sold our house in Arizona in February and moved into a quaint rental in California. In September, we began house shopping, found one we loved, bought it in October and we’ve been remodeling ever since.




Who needs to watch HGTV and its house-selling, house-hunting and remodeling shows? I’m living it. Moving twice and doing house renovations twice in one year (once to sell, once after purchasing) is exhausting!

We moved into our new house the day before Thanksgiving and even managed to host Thanksgiving dinner. But we’re still living among boxes as renovations reach its 10th week. We do see light at the end of the tunnel. The last remodeling project, our master bathroom, should be completed within the next two weeks and we can finally get settled.

A good friend, Pete Hammer, emailed me yesterday with some good analysis about our year. He wrote, “So you’ve done a ton of work this year getting yourselves re-established. 2014 will be a time to reap the harvest. A lot less work and more time to enjoy yourselves.”

I like that. It’s true. We moved back home to California, so we could be among family and friends. The year 2013 was about transitioning back. I look forward to 2014, and I look forward to using this new space — our courtyard. We plan to string up lights, put in furniture and have movie nights on warm, summer evenings.


You Can Go Home Again


After ten years in Arizona, I’ve moved back to California.

The Grand Canyon State served its purpose. In 2002, after years of working crazy, insane hours during the Internet boom, my wife and I craved a quieter, more peaceful lifestyle, so we moved to the desert.

We loved it.

Then life got too quiet and peaceful. Our batteries were recharged many times over.

So here we are, back home in the Bay Area, spending quality time with family and slowly, but surely reconnecting with old friends – and old landmarks, too.

Professor Humor

After the waitress seats us, the professor’s wife leans in and asks if we’ve ever eaten at the restaurant before. When we say no, she squeals, “Oh, you’re going to love it” and recommends a drink on the menu: hot ginger lemon apple cider. You can also add bourbon to it and it’s delicious, she says.

My daughter – Little M – and I hadn’t planned on having dinner with her professor and his wife. But the quaint, tiny neighborhood restaurant near Ocean Beach in San Francisco was packed tonight. We were next in line for a table when the professor, sporting a fedora and full gray beard, and his wife, petite and full of positive energy, walked in through the front door and smacked into a wall of people on the waiting list. So we offered to have them join us for dinner.

I know my daughter was nervous. Our plans for a laid-back dinner suddenly became a high-stress situation, where she felt compelled to impress. I was fine with it. The prof taught Asian American studies, a subject I care about and was well-versed in. Thank goodness, he didn’t teach physics or math.

“I’ll have the hot ginger lemon apple cider,” Little M says. “But no alcohol, please.”

I waited for the others to order.

“I’ll have the same,” the professor says. “But I’m going to have the bourbon because I’m grading papers tonight.”

And without missing a beat, he looks at my daughter, smiles and adds: “Expect your paper back tomorrow.”

It was funny. I laughed out loud. I didn’t look at Little M’s reaction (she was sitting beside me on a bench), but I didn’t have to. I knew she smiled, but inside, she was dying. But for me, the joke eased any tension there was. It was good to know the old prof has a sense of humor. It told me dinner was going to be all right.

And it was. The prof and his wife were delightful, the food was delicious and the conversation was stimulating.

About two hours later, as we parted ways, and Little M and I walked back to our car, I told her I was confident that she did impress. She was on. She did great.

Goodbye, Snow Girl

Snowy, our 16- or 17-year-old cat, passed away today. She had begun fading about two months ago, so we knew this day was coming. Doesn’t make it easier. I’ll miss the days when I’d walk into the kitchen around noon, and yell “Scooby Snack.” The dogs would come running for their lunch. Snowy, usually hanging out at Miiko’s office at the other end of the house, would trail behind. She knew Scooby Snack meant it was lunch time, too. So she’d hop up a step ladder and onto the small kitchen counter space between our refrigerator and cupboard, her private eating place, and wait patiently to be fed.

I’ll miss the days late at night, when I’d go to bed, and she’d jump on the bed, too, and climb on my chest, and demand to be petted. So I’d pet her for a bit and when I drifted off to sleep, she’d climb off and curl up close by.

One thing about Snowy. She knew how to tell you she was pissed off. I think we had been traveling a lot at one point. And she didn’t like it, so when we returned, she peed on my trusty Eagle Creek travel backpack that had been with me forever — multiple trips through Asia. Parts of Europe. Lots of camping and rock climbing trips in the U.S. I loved that bag. I washed it three times in the washer, but her pee was so potent, I had to toss it. It took me a few years, but I think I finally got over it. (more…)

Waiting for 6/11

I can’t wait for June 2011. I tell everyone about that date. In fact, I often joke that I will print up T-shirts with the number “6/11” emblazoned across the front. That’s the date Little M is supposed to graduate from college. That’s the date I get my financial freedom. No more having to pay a weekly allowance and no more outrageous out-of-state college tuition fees and overpriced text books – or so I hope.

When I tell this story to friends, they always laugh. And that’s exactly what a friendly, retired couple did as we walked our dogs together this past week. Because of summer travels, we hadn’t seen each other for months. So we caught up with each others lives in the neighborhood greenbelt as our dogs got their exercise. And that’s when I told them about 6/11.

They laughed. And then the wife gave me a reality check.

“Dream on!” she said, smiling.

Excuse me?

They are in their 60s, with eight grown children and lots of grandchildren. And they clearly were about to school me. (more…)

Remembering two great journalists

In January, Bay Area journalism lost Dan Reed. And today, we lost Bill Brand, a longtime Oakland Tribune reporter who penned a popular beer blog in his retirement. I’m saddened by their deaths and as I read their obituaries and online guest books, I’m reminded of the impact they had on local journalism and what great people they were.

Journalism is a small world, and in the mid-1990s, when I was a young, impressionable, sometimes naive journalist, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with them. They didn’t know me very well, but nonetheless, they took time to help and mentor me, and for that, I’m forever grateful to them.

I first met Brand in 1996 when I was a reporter for the West County Times, in Richmond, Calif. At the time, my newspaper chain was trying to make inroads into Berkeley, and was offering a crazy deal – $10 for a year’s subscription – to drive readers and compete against the Oakland Tribune. Brand was a grizzled newspaper vet who covered Berkeley for the Tribune, and one afternoon, he and I were stuck at City Hall, waiting for a city official to emerge from a locked office to give us additional details for a story.

He knew I was on deadline before a Berkeley City Council meeting, and that I was angsting. I hadn’t yet developed the skill to pump out a 12-inch story in mere minutes. I needed time – at least a good hour – to write the story, and needed to rush home to file the story before the meeting, or I was hosed. This was before Wi-Fi, back in the day when we needed phone lines to dial into the newsroom computer system. Brand took pity on me and said something like: “You go home and write your story. I’ll wait here and when I get the information, I will call you and share it with you.”

I was surprised. I was taught in journalism school that you simply don’t share information with your competitors. I didn’t trust him. But I was also relieved that he gave me an out. So I took it. An hour later, he did call. He shared all the information he had. He saved my ass.

I’ve never forgotten his kind act. We were competitors and he didn’t care. He taught me a good lesson in journalism: the difference between competition for scoops, which this was not, and being a nice guy to a fellow colleague. (more…)