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…)

My tale of baseball woe

As San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez tossed the team’s first no-hitter in 34 years, and 30,000 fans at AT&T Park screamed in ecstasy, I sat in a Palo Alto parking lot, listening to history on the car radio with mixed emotions. I was happy, but also distraught. That’s because five hours earlier, I had given away my tickets to the game.

Photo by artolog (www.flickr.com/photos/artolog)

The team mobs Sanchez after the final out. Photo by artolog. (www.flickr.com/photos/artolog)

That week in July, I had driven 800 miles from Arizona to California. And twice that week, I had already driven the 50 miles from San Jose to San Francisco to catch two games. So when Friday rolled around, after all that previous driving that week, I just couldn’t stomach driving up to the city again for a third game — and to see a guy with a 5.30 ERA to boot.

So my brother found a friend to take the tickets off my hands. And when he did, I actually joked, “What’s Sanchez going to do? Throw a no-hitter?” And then I said: “Watch him give up 4 runs in the first, and I’ll be glad I didn’t make the drive up.”

That evening, I stayed in the San Jose area. My wife dragged me to a tech party, and every half an hour, I “watched” the game with MLB.com’s real-time pitch-by-pitch application on my BlackBerry. When Sanchez tossed three no-hit innings, I texted my brother, half-joking that Sanchez was throwing a no-hitter. Then the 6th inning, seventh inning and eighth inning came, and still no hits. By that time, I had stopped being social at the party, and just stared at my BlackBerry. Thank goodness I had a drink in my hands. (more…)

The vet made me do it

Earlier this spring, Brandi, the min-pin, needed surgery to remove a benign tumor from her bottom. So Miiko and I bought a week’s worth of diapers to prevent her from trying to rub the stitches off — and they worked!

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…)