Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to the gym I go

When children leave for college, some parents leave their kids’ rooms untouched, in pristine condition, so when they come back for the holidays or during summer vacation, it’s the same as they left it (without the piles of clothes on the floor, of course). But not us.

When little m went off to college, Miiko cleaned it out and moved all her stuff into the smallest bedroom, and turned her much bigger old room into a mini-home gym. That was in November, and incidentally, that was the last time we actually visited our regular gym. Why drive two miles to the gym when I can just walk across the hall from my home office and work out? When little m came home for the holidays last fall, and Miiko broke the news to her, I remember her saying in an annoyed tone of voice, “Uh, mo-ooom? Some parents leave their children’s rooms the same. Forever!”

Some do. But not us!

Her room is prime real estate. Two rooms, actually. A regular room with several steps that lead up to a second, octagon-shaped room, just big enough to fit her bed. Sunny. The highest point in the house. A princess in her castle. I would have been annoyed, too.

But now it was our gym. And we used it regularly. Months ticked by. Every month, our regular gym deducted our membership fees. We considered canceling our memberships, but in the back of my mind, I was going to go back. You know, next week. Some day. Real soon. (more…)

Dog Days of Summer

Last week, I strolled into PetSmart on a whim and walked out $21 poorer with a cute, little, round dog bed cradled in my arms. One of our miniature pinschers likes to sleep near my desk in my home office, even as I’m typing away into the wee hours, and for a dog that loyal, it should be rewarded with a comfy bed to sleep in.

I showed it to my wife. “OK. But the dog doesn’t really need it,” she says, as she pauses for a second for dramatic effect. “I know it’s really for you.


This weekend, she calls me from the esthetics, cosmetics and spa conference in Las Vegas, and says: “Guess what I just bought from the show floor? Organic toothpaste for the dogs!”

Ah, I haven’t even begun to give her grief.

Can I have your autograph?

It’s always cool to instantly bond with strangers – chatting with other dog owners at the park, befriending other backpackers in a foreign country, or simply bonding with the cashier at a store. The connection is always short, but it’s often about something you’re interested in or passionate about. Last night, I was at Barnes and Noble, picking up Lee Child’s latest thriller when the cashier goes, “I’ve read all his books!” So, that was my cue to say, “Yeah, isn’t he awesome?”

So we gabbed a bit, and I tell the cashier, “He was in town recently doing book signings at the Costco in Gilbert and the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. And I thought about going, but then I realized I’m too old to get autographs!” And once I said that, it slightly depressed me. I walked out of the bookstore, pondering what I just said and what it meant. Was I really too old? Growing up, I was an uber-fan and loved getting autographs of sports heroes and writers I admired.

When mom got me Willie Mays’ autograph in the fourth grade, it was my most prized posession until dad got me Willie McCovey’s autograph in the seventh grade. In my teens, I collected comic books and baseball cards, and got them signed. When I was 16 or 17, I wrote an eight-page letter – eight pages! – to mystery novelist Max Allan Collins, telling him how brilliant he was, how he inspired me to become a writer and how I’ve read everything he has written except his first two out-of-print paperbacks. A month later, a few days before Christmas, Collins sent me a brown package. I ripped it open, and it was copies of his first two books – and they were autographed! (more…)

The weed is dead

It’s over. I lost. My neighbor is the winner of the 2007 Tallest Weed Contest. This past week, I hired a new gardener, pointed to my tallest weed – about 4 1/2 feet tall – and told him not to rip it out. Well, this Saturday, during a two-hour cleanup, one of his workers pulled it out of the ground. The gardener rang the doorbell and told me the bad news afterward: “My worker just got really excited because it was so big – and those kinds of weeds are really easy to rip out, and he just….” (The gardener stopped talking and showed me the proper swoop-down-to pluck-a-weed-off-the-ground technique).

I shrugged my shoulders, and said, “Eh, no big deal.” At least my backyard is clean!

I can’t believe I’m blogging about weeds.

Art of the Interview

My San Francisco Giants book was recently republished in paperback, so the publisher had me do a few radio interviews this month to publicize it. Last Sunday night, while being interviewed live on a sports radio show, everything was going well until the host asked me a question I couldn’t possibly answer. The question was something like: “How would you compare Juan Marichal’s pitching style with other Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax?”

I had one or two seconds to comprehend the question, realize I had no answer, and to come up with an answer. My insides churned. So what did I do? I told him the truth. I recall laughing into the phone and saying, “Well, I wish I could answer that, but I can’t because I wasn’t alive when they pitched. Maybe you would be a better person to answer that for me?”

He had to answer his own question. The guy threw me a curveball and I hit it right back at him!