Category Archives: Lifes Mysteries
I know it may seem a bit unfair that Sam is getting a lot of coverage on the blog but it’s not everyday one graduates from college. I’ve also been a bit guilty of being delinquent in regular postings here too. I promise I’ll be more diligent in the future. This photo was taken on the morning of Sam’s graduation. Debbie and my mom and a couple of the boys went to get good seats and I went with Simon to take some pre graduation photos of Sam. Actually, we had to wake him up first.
After I shot a few more formal shots I caught this one of him coming down the stairs.
The default tone of my iPhone (radar) goes off at 6:00 am. I start my morning routines by walking upstairs to try to wake Henry and Theo up for school and rouse Simon as I tell him to, “Go cuddle with Momma.” I walk back downstairs to the kitchen and see the guinea pigs (Zsu- Zsu and Wayne) up on their hind legs begging for their vitamins. I dole out their dose as I turn on NPR and start up my espresso machine. My machine is warming up as I look outside the kitchen window. It’s still dark and hard to believe the sun will rise soon. In the eastern sky there’s a small light. I can’t tell if it’s a planet or a star. Is it emanating or reflecting light? I don’t know because I don’t have my glasses on. The voice on the radio, I can’t tell if it’s David Greene or Steve Inskeep, says that David Bowie has died of Cancer at the age of 69. I think to myself this must be a star.
Just like that it’s over. The struggle to swim upstream against the current of a home made time machine attempting to make the holidays, Christmas morning, have a bit of the magic you remembered as a kid. It was a struggle just to assemble the boys/men for a group shot. There was complaining, fighting, jockeying, crotch grabbing, gang signs but eventually I did get one shot that, like life, I can live with. The Christmas tree, undecorated like a soldier drummed out of the service lays propped against a grey wall awaiting the chainsaw, green bin and trash day.
There’s a surfboard amongst our quiver that doesn’t really get taken out much. It’s a custom Gordon & Smith 6′-2″ swallowtail made around 1973. It was my brothers’ board. We picked it up in La Jolla on on way to the Hawaiian Islands from Florida for a family vacation. I remember we took the board out at Wind and Sea the afternoon we left the surf shop. I was on my purple G&S which now resides in Lois’ garage on the north shore of Kauai and my brother Allan was on this board. I honestly don’t remember how we hauled those boards all over the islands back then, but I do remember Allan stepping on a sea urchin near Kona and peeing on the bottom of his foot. I’m not sure how I ended up with his board. I vaguely recall him handing it over to me the last time I saw him probably 10 years ago. It was all dinged up and I took it to Skip at Aquatech who said the board is great and belongs on a wall. Ollie took it out this morning at Bay Street. As he was walking into the water one of the other older guys who often stand on the beach looked at the G&S then at me and said, “Nice board.” I told him a brief history while Ollie caught a small right. “Looks, like he’s got it dialed in already.” he said.
Surfing is partially about texture. It’s about feeling. Feeling stripped down to the basics- you’re wearing baggies and a leash you’re tethered to your board. Smelling wax, salt water splashes in my face as Theo, Ollie and I make the long ass 1/2 mile paddle out to Tunnels and experience a true Hawaiian 6′- 8′ session. On the paddle in, my arms feeling like old dry rubber bands, flanked by my boys giggling, pulling on each others and my leash asking for a tow in, asking what’s for dinner. Back on the beach someone asks if there were waves out there. I say, “Yeah, we got a few.”
We take the road back instead of the beach our feet walking through mud puddles, pavement and pine needles. I’m pretty proud of these guys.
I’m not a huge horse racing fan, but when American Pharaoh won The Belmont Stakes he became the first horse to accomplish that feat since Affirmed in 1978. This weeks cover of Sports Illustrated portrays how we as spectators have changed in those 37 years. Hands held high not clapping or cheering American Pharaoh across the finish line, but arms outstreched weilding smart phones recording the event. Something to think about.
Like I do everyday, I shut the alarm off at 6:45 am. I opened the blinds to check on the hummingbird nest outside our bedroom window. The eggs hatched 2 days ago and we were all looking forward to seeing the babies. This morning, the mother was not in her nest but zipping around it in frantic patterns. Walking into the kitchen to turn on my espresso machine I thought that something didn’t feel right with the nest all weekend.
As the water was warming up in the machine I walked outside and watched the mother. She would sit on the nest for a few seconds then get up and circle it nervously. I got closer and climbed up a big wooden ladder to get a better look. As I got to the top the mother landed on a nearby branch and we looked at each other. Her breast was rising and falling quickly, her heart beating so fast, I swear that she had a sad look on her face.
As I leaned over, I saw ants crawling into the nest and only one baby. It was dead. I went back into our house, walked upstairs and got under the covers with Ollie.
I said, “It’s time to get up and go to school.”
Ollie asked, “What time is it?”
I told him, “It’s 7:00, you should get up now.”
Driving the boys to school, I thought about the hummingbird, how she built her nest from pieces of spider web, twigs, and cloth and how we watched it get bigger and bigger and how two tiny little eggs appeared magically- almost unbelievably and how she sat on her nest day and night in the wind and rain and how our lives went on inside our house.
After drop off, I walked into our yard and looked around for the mother but couldn’t find her anywhere. I dug a small hole under the sycamore tree, got a pair of clippers from the workshop and climbed the ladder one last time. I cut the branch the nest was resting in and as ants crawled over my hands I picked up the baby between my thumb and index finger and put it in the hole. As I was burying the baby hummingbird I got a text from Sam saying he just landed at LAX from Chicago. On the way to the airport I thought about Sam coming back home for the summer, how Henry is living with Debbie’s mother, thinking about the Beatles song “This Bird Has Flown,” but mainly I thought about what kind of dad I’ve been and what I’m going to tell Simon about the hummingbird.
Sometimes it’s hard to hold onto things and they just slip away. Stored in our basement, covered in dust, there was a bottle of 1982 Chateau Montrose it’s label molding with time. It’s the last bottle from an incredible year. It came from a time from when we didn’t have kids, and had a bit of money to spend on first growth Bordeaux wine. Also in our basement is the tricycle which all our kids rode on, a play wooden refrigerator and stove which I made and various pairs of training wheels from our boys bikes which they won’t ever need again. It’s about timing. This bottle should have been drank a few years ago and I wanted to save it for a special occasion. I brought this bottle up from the basement one night when our friend Bruce was over and we were having brisket Debbie looked at me and gave me a look that said, “Really?”
Sometimes, when you are on the roof or the basement there’s a feeling you get. You are in a place that isn’t used too much and doesn’t get much traffic. The kids love going to these places. There’s a different point of view I suppose but there’s also a feeling of danger- like I shouldn’t be here. I suppose It’s the in between areas that we live most of our lives.
Wearing bowling shoes purloined from the long since torn down Pickwood Lanes across the street, Debbie and I went to the Apple Pan on our first date together. We found two empty seats on Gordon’s side of the counter and ordered cheeseburgers, fries and coffee. Gordon is gone, Manny is gone, Isaac is gone but Victor is still making burgers behind the grill. He’s been there for over forty years making burgers for Carlos Castaneda, Don Knotts, and Davey Lopes. With every kid we’ve had our frequency visiting the Apple Pan has diminished- our family would take up 1/4 of the restaurant. We tend to go there in batches with Debbie and I taking one or two of our boys, or a friend taking one of our kids as a birthday present. But every time we stop in Victor takes a break and we chat. It’s small talk for sure but there’s something more to it then just that. There is a comfort in the endurance of time that we all acknowledge and respect but know it can’t last forever.
One Sunday I stopped by with my camera and Victor was there early to start his shift. I asked him if I could shoot his portrait. He got a big smile on his face and said, “Really!” We talked about where the hell the time went, he even dropped the “F” bomb. We talked about Manny who passed away a few months after he retired from the Apple Pan, we talked about our kids growing up and how he gets a kick when Sam comes in with one of his friends and says, “Hi.”
After I was done I said to Victor, I’ve never seen you without your hat- would you mind?” And he did-
I don’t know what it is. A pilgrimage of sorts. The beginning of spring, warm weather, rebirth and having the radio on in the background reminding me that somewhere baseball is being played. When Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012 I wrote this- http://the-white-album.com/2012/06/07/rocket-man/
Today I find myself staring at an empty lot on Cheviot Drive where Ray Bradburys’ house once stood. He lived and wrote here for many years. The house has been demolished, a fence put up around three sides of the property and a lone cinder block wall is all that remains.
Tread marks on the ground remind me of what Percival Lowell might have seen when when he aimed his telescope on the planet Mars and imagined canals diverting water to cities and farms. And, like Mars, there is nothing alive here anymore, just a bull dozer which created the tread marks and a porta- potty standing like sentinels over the empty lot.
On the parkway, beyond the fence, an old eucalyptus tree still stands that once created shade from the morning sun and privacy for the tenants of the house, now its roots push and break up the sidewalk, cracking it to make space for new growth and weeds unaware of the fate that awaits them.
I spend a half hour here, thinking about The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine. In the sky, there’s a contrail of a jet that I imagine is a rocket to Mars and I’m on it looking back towards Earth. But mainly, I’m thinking about of one of the last lines from Ray Bradbury’s story, There Will Come Soft Rains,
“Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble…”