Thursday, July 29, 2010

22 days to Bar Mitzvah: still wandering around

Thirty-two years ago today, I was called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. And then, the following day, I woke up, my Sears-Roebuck rust-colored corduroy suit hung neatly in my closet, and looked into the mirror: still a boy, not a man, though $3,000 dollars richer, more concerned with the pending arrival of eighth grade than the after effects of the culmination of a big event.

That day, July 30, 1978, was my older sister's 16th birthday. Still reeling from the after-effects of our 1976 move west, she accepted a Sweet Sixteen party assembled from the still-standing building blocks of my big day (the tables and chairs set up in our backyard), rather than ditch us for a more debauched teenage version of the the celebration. So our family photo albums have two events, held back-to-back in the same setting, with the same people wearing different clothes. The effect is kind of surreal.

Bar Mitzvahs were different then. At least mine was. It was 32 years ago. The funny thing is that at the time we were certain they'd become gross parodies of the Bar Mitzvahs that happened 32 years before that. My cousin's Bar Mitzvah, held the year before mine, was an orgy of excess, a real "event" held at Leonard's of Great Neck with a band and a big cake. It more closely resembled a wedding than it did the party we threw a year later. It had no theme, however; no Godzillas in the middle of the tables.

Nor did mine have a theme, other than, "We're going to try to remind ourselves that we're Jewish, even though we're out here wandering in the wilderness, swarthy outsiders gasping for air in a blonde world." Something like that. And neither party had a DJ.

You want to stop dead in your tracks? 32 years before my Bar Mitzvah was 1946. The Vietnam war had been over for five years. Woodstock was less than a decade in the rearview. Mamie Eisenhower was still alive.

And still, it seems like last week.

Right now, if you flew me via Jet Blue to Long Beach, then drove me to Orange and put me in the middle of Santiago Junior High School (now Santiago Charter Middle School) and told me to find my eighth grade locker, I could approximate its location. It was on the wall between the Social Studies wing and the wing I now understand was devoted to languages; all languages, from Mr. Peralta's Spanish class to Don Sevier's eighth grade honors English class.

And if you then asked me to find where I was sitting in Mr. Peralta's class the day Jack Larson intimidated me into letting him cheat off my quiz, only to get caught by Ben Peralta himself, who busted Jack but not me because he probably, as an experienced teacher, understood that my options were limited: cheat, or risk getting pummelled by a guy reputed to have pulled a chain on Lane McAllister, I could show you.

It was the second seat in the second row of seats on the side of the room, near the door where the MECHA club used to set up a table and sell chips and salsa after school, except instead of selling the chips and salsa, they'd stand there and actually drink the salsa straight, like they were slamming Kamikazes, out of little water cooler cups. I sat there because Chariya Koepke was sitting in the seat at the front of the row and I had a mad but brief crush on Chariya Koepke, mostly because she was exotic and a cheerleader. Had I known that her vague connection to Jack Larson (a football player as well as aspiring juvenile delingquent) would also draw him into our row, leading to a semester of terror disguised as criminal abetting, I might have set my sights lower.

Today, on a Thursday, I went downtown to do some errands. I went to get my new suit altered and to buy the Jawa a birthday present, plus the book "This Boy's Life," required reading this summer for incoming eighth-graders. Forty-five years old and I'm walking up Polk Street on a Thursday past the apartment we lived in as newlyweds, in 1992. Same scene, same guy, different clothes.

I'm not sure if I should feel blessed, sheepish or defeated by the fact that I spent yet another workday out walking around, this time at age 45. As I passed our apartment building (in which a one-bedroom unit rented in 1992 for $550 per month), I tried to imagine what I might have been doing during the various July 29ths of my life. We already know what I was doing in 1978.

Twenty years ago, July 29, 1990, I was probably riding a mountain bike near Alki Beach in West Seattle, struggling to keep up with my girlfriend at the time, who took to that sort of thing naturally, forcing me to pretend I, too, was an outdoor enthusiast. Odds are good I worked that night at The Last Laugh, serving drinks to cigarette smokers while some comedian whose name is lost to history bombed onstage. I know one thing: I had no idea I was exactly five months away from meeting my future wife.

Ten years ago, July 29, 2000, I was sitting at a desk in a very cool-looking building in Chinatown, downloading songs from Napster and pretending that being a part of an early-stage startup that makes not only widgets to add to your company homepage that will allow you to sell items but also handles fulfillment and customer service was the culmination of a lifelong dream, even as the company's founder and CEO paced nervously outside his office, just a few feet behind me.

That I was worried he'd see me dowloading music instead of working shows how clueless I was. My job performance was the last thing on his mind.

He was pacing because the company he'd founded and sunk a bunch of his own money into was already circling the drain, soon to shutter its doors, leaving both me and the CEO on the street, him pacing, me wandering aimlessly.

Me wandering aimlessly. Every so often I google that guy to see which his entrepreneurial brass ring he's grabbed at this time. I just checked. He's the CEO of a company in Utah that sounds very much like a clone of Amway. Still selling things nobody really needs, though probably still making a ton of money.

Everyone picks their own kind of aimless wandering, I guess.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

24 days to Bar Mitzvah: Sid Berger and divine intervention

The Lord our God must have been looking over Sandra Bullock and I tonight as we capitalized on the Jawa's two-week camp trip to shop for appropriate Bar Mitzvah clothing. No way can science explain why we were so successful.

As you may already know, we are booked for the maximum Bar Mitzvah-related appearances on the weekend of August 20-22: the Friday night service, followed by dinner, the Saturday morning service (the actual Bar Mitzvah), the Saturday night party at the Golden Gate Yacht Club and the Sunday morning brunch at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero; an impressively full weekend requiring an impressive and potentially wallet-draining wardrobe of clothes.

While Sandra Bullock's approach has been to slowly accumulate a closet full of dresses, taking time to get to know the nuances of each garment before making a final decision to commit or move on to the next potential sartorial suitor, mine has been to wait until the last minute then try to get enough stuff for the whole weekend via one blitzkrieg-style shopping trip. Her long journey ended last weekend, with the help of a visit from her de facto personal shopper, known in this space as Butter Goats. They got together and nailed down the last outfit, leaving one to be returned this week. Mine took place tonight, between 6:00 and 7:30 PM.

Seeing as how my approach to this conundrum begged for a little divine help, I can only conclude that Adonai, the God of Abraham, had a hand in tonight's unprecedented downtown run. Why else would the majority of sales clerks helping us be Jewish? This is San Francisco, not Scarsdale.

Ninety minutes. That's all it took -- the same amount of time it takes to complete two Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles. During that very brief period of time, we visited four stores, buying something at each one. Absolutely no time was wasted browsing. We went in, found what we liked, tried it on and paid. And when the final bill was tallied -- in my head, while bombing up Sutter Street toward Van Ness -- our total outlay represented approximately 65% of the ticketed price of each item. Everything we bought was on sale by more than a third.

Sure, there were short periods of uncertainty. Was it was wise to buy the first suit I trid on? Is the perfect suit now sitting on its rack at Bloomingdales, neglected? Should I have recklessly dived into the Kenneth Cole store and emerged with two pairs of shoes (one for me, one for the Jawa) when I'd imagined myself finally making the jump to a more grown-up brand? Who was I kidding? Freelance writers don't wear Ferragamo.

Appropriate clothing seemed to be looking for us, rather than the other way around. I'd never considered a seersucker jacket until one my size suddenly appeared on the sale rack at J. Crew, marked down to a third of its original price. No way do I buy that thing at full price. Even at 25% off it doesn't make it from the rack to my shoulders, especially after pairing it with a white shirt and khaki pants that make me look like William F. Buckley's cavalierly overweight Jewish son.

Elohim once again had my back. Was it a coincidence that steered us toward the dark-colored pants and light blue polo shirt (both on sale, of course, for a combined 40% off) at Nordstrom's? Or that the nice girl who helped us was from Westchester County where, when you're 13, you go to "two or three Bar Mitzvahs a month?"

No. This was a reward of some kind. You don't just go out and nail down your Bar Mitzvah garb in 90 minutes, and the whole take doesn't add up to what you'd planned to spend just on a suit, especially when you leave the house having absolutely no idea of what you're looking for. It just doesn't happen.

That it did almost overshadows the weird fact that we ran into three of my former co-workers at The Examiner while downtown. One was the guy who you'd pass in the hall and he'd either look down or just raise his eyebrows instead of saying anything, so it didn't make me feel very guilty to not say "Hi" to him here in the outside world.

If there were there any doubt of the sectarian aspect to our trip, it was erased the minute we saw Sid Berger at the Vietnamese place downstairs from Bloomingdales (where we did not go). Sid Berger, who is almost always seen wearing a tweed sport coat and a tie, was a very visible Brandeis Hillel Day School parent before his daughter graduated and moved on to Lowell High School. While I run into Sid Berger everywhere, running into him tonight was a nice piece of punctuation for our evening.

As deep as we are into preparations, we've been working in a virtual vacuum for the past several weeks. Save for The Hammer, we've been living in a gentile world since early June, which has changed our approach to our big event in subtle, barely-perceptible but very significant ways.

For nine months we were surrounded by people focused on a common experience: the B'nai Mitzvah. Then, for two months, nothing; just us and a world of civilians, eager to learn about the process and meaning of our Bar Mitzvah but without the context of knowing its meaning. And we haven't helped. Most of what they've heard from us involves the massive preparations necessary to stage this event. "It's like a wedding," we've told many people, which is an unsatisfactorily partial explanation.

Tonight, when Sid Berger said, "Mazeltov!" before leaving us to our Vietnamese noodles, the term "joyous event" suddenly flashed into my head. For almost a year now, we've had our heads down, putting everything together to make this work. And over the next 26 days, it's only going to get worse. By August 20, we'll be right where my in-laws were on September 19, 1992, except we won't be slicing luncheon meat with an industrial slicer on our kitchen table. We'll be at this fever pitch, a black hole of intensity, ten million pounds of energy compressed to a single point.

But it's a joyous event, a rite of passage, something that happens only once in a (Jewish) person's life. Once the Jawa shuts the book on his Haftorah portion, he'll join an exclusive club. Twenty years from now, he could be talking to a co-worker. One of them will mention their Bar Mitzvah, and suddenly they'll have something to talk about for hours. I get you, buddy, because I'm one of you, too. Gabba Gabba Hey.

So thank you, Sid Berger and your tweed coat and tie, because after I heard you say "Mazeltov," I thought back and remembered that the two sales clerks had also congratulated us, and maybe the reason Yahweh smiled on us tonight was because in doing all we can to create the Jawa's special day, we're doing the right thing.

And if that means 40% off at Ted Baker, man, I'm right on board.

Monday, July 26, 2010

25 days to Bar Mitzvah: back home again

Last night, after four-plus hours on the road, Mark Gagan steered his Volvo XC90 off of the 280 freeway and onto the Monterey Boulevard off-ramp. His older brother Brian lounged in the front passenger's seat. In the back seat, metaphorically holding back a storage area full of luggage and golf clubs, were his other brother Kevin and me. It was closing in on eight o'clock, foggy and cool.

I was too busy thinking about how great it was going to be to sleep in my own bed, in my own bedroom, with the breeze blowing through my window, so I almost forgot to tell Mark to turn right at the bottom of the off-ramp. We almost went straight, to their parents' house, who live about a mile away from Sandra Bullock, the Jawa, Shack and me in a house they purchased for $33,000 about 40 years ago. "Turn right!" I said hurriedly. The panic was unnecessary. In front of us, also turning right, was a Subaru with two bumper stickers. One read, "END ISRAELI APARTHEID!" The other said, "PALESTINE WILL BE FREE!"

After a week away, I was home.

A few blocks away, at my house, all around was evidence of the limitless industriousness my wife is capable of when freed from the needs and wants of her husband and child. Twenty-five glass vases sat on the kitchen table. A mound of origami fish sat on the center island.

While you might think that a looming Bar Mitzvah would sap a person's energy, I am not relying on hyperbole when I say that I don't think I've ever left home for a significant amount of time and not returned to find something different about our house. This is not even considering the legendary Sunday morning, several years ago, when I awoke at 9:30 to find that she had demolished the downstairs bathroom. And she wasn't even mad.

This time, not much had changed. As we were talking about our respective weekends, though, for some reason she kept looking up toward the archway leading from the entryway to the living room. Finally, I followed her eyes to find a gigantic wall clock where before there had been only wall. "What do you think?" she asked enthusiastically.

"I think there's a big clock on the wall," I thought. "It will be nice to not have to go into the kitchen to see what time it is. How much did it cost?"

"You don't like it," she said while I was thinking this.

"No, no, I like it."

This morning at 10:45, I realized that I'd set up a meeting to see a house in Pacific Heights at 11:00, demonstrating again how little I know about the adult world. A normal, savvy adult would never have scheduled a meeting on Monday morning after being away for a week. He would have settled back into his routine first.

Not me. I schedule meetings based on how I feel at that moment, not how I might feel on the day of the meeting. So I had 15 minutes -- actually 10, after I found the car keys in my wife's big green bag, not on the hook in the kitchen -- to get to Pacific Heights. That's a 20-minute proposition on a good day.

Let me apologize in a public way to the visitor from Arizona who today endured five blocks of me looming large in the rearview mirror of his PT Cruiser. I know you were just trying to sightsee, or maybe you were looking for City Hall but weren't sure if it was on Van Ness or Polk. It's an honest error. Had it been an hour earlier, I would have been relaxed and charming, and in all probability would have patiently given you directions to whatever landmark you sought. I am not the monster you saw behind you, red with panic and rage, knifing in and out of traffic. Hopefully you watched me tailgate that little Mercedes after I passed you, sighed and said, "It's obviously not me. That guy's crazy."

I arrived at Jackson and Franklin at 11:09, parked and assumed the demeanor of someone who's been on the go all morning, instead of someone who woke up at 9:30 and read magazines in bed for an hour before checking his email, continually patting himself on the back for working the system to such a degree that he could return from a week away and sleep until 9:30 the following Monday while still making the same amount of money he'd be making were he obliged to get up at seven and ride BART downtown to an office.

"Sorry I'm late," I gasped, adding the winded effect for more legitimacy.

"No problem," said the Realtor.

If our Subaru-driving friend's Pro-terrorist bumper stickers hadn't been reminder enough, a quick trip across San Francisco in traffic while late clinched it: I was home.

And if that didn't make it clear enough, meeting the owner of the house I was looking at, a $5.8 million dollar rehab job with 6,700 square feet and an upstairs wet bar whose marble countertop came "from some post office in the Central Valley," did. He wiped out my smug self-satisfication by appearing in the huge, mahogany-paneled entryway of his $6 million house at 11:00 in the morning on a Monday wearing flowered shorts and a Champion sweatshirt, eating a bagel and spending an hour-and-a-half showing me around before finally saying, "Oh, yeah, I should get going. I've got some things I've got to take care of."

Did I mention that he was 35 and had a gloriously full head of hair? On Saturday he had about 75 people over "and the place still seemed empty." He was selling because his girlfriend had moved out. "I'm never living in a place this big again," he said.

Yes, I was home, where people who've made millions in the decade since they graduated from college are just as likely to be hanging out on a weekday, wearing flowered shorts, as self-styled rebels are to be eagerly tearing open envelopes from mail-order incendiary bumper sticker clearing houses, then lovingly affixing their "radical" message onto their vehicle before ducking back into Muddy Waters on Valencia Street for another black coffee, hold the capitalist oppression.

Just as there will be fog in July and I will find a new clock above the archway in the living room after being gone for a week. And there will be 25 glass vases on the kitchen table because there's only 25 freaking days until the Bar Mitzvah and we have a long list of things we have to do before it comes.

For example: my list is incomplete. Right now it reads --

1) Slide show (choose photos, scan photos, Jawa edits and adds music)
2) Speech
3) Candle-lighting (complete list of honorees, help the Jawa write a sentence about each, choose music for each)
4) Inform my father that he will have to say a few words when presenting the Jawa with his Tallit -- the one he wore at his Bar Mitzvah, in 1951.

Oh, hey, I guess I just did that. Dad, you need to say a few words when you present the Tallus.

Meanwhile, my wife is affixing Godzilla movie posters (in Japanese) to the glass vases and doing something with Chinese restaurant takeout boxes. It's as close as we can get to business as usual with the Jawa four hours away at camp, incommunicado except for a form postcard he sent early last week. According to it, he is currently rappelling down the face of a dam.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

27 days to Bar Mitzvah: gentlemen.

Right now, all over the U.S. middle-aged men like me are sending emails to each other, planning "guy weekends" involving golf. And whatever their walk of life, the emails all begin with the same word: gentlemen.

It doesn't matter who the group of guys is. Right now I'm in Lake Tahoe with about 20 other guys for four days of golf and poker. Well, for me it's four days of golf and trying to figure out what to do with myself while everyone else plays poker. One thing I know: I'm going to have to step up my evening game by this time next year. Hopefully, my present wet blanketness will be overlooked and I will be re-invited. It would suck to no longer be a gentleman.

This is not an unusual thing, this "guys weekend." As Peter Cetera once said so succinctly, everybody needs a little time away. Sandra Bullock sometimes disappears to Calistoga with a "girlfriend" or two, where they spend a weekend drinking wine and getting spa treatments. When this happens, I do not feel at all left out, as I am no less inclined to want a spa treatment than I am to want to play poker.

I am right now amidst a good cross-section of modern American men in their 40s. And I don't doubt that more than one person here this weekend has in the past gotten a spa treatment. However, I'd lay even odds that the mud bath or cucumber facial came at the request of their wives.

For today, at least, though, we are gentlemen. About a year ago, Roger Hunt forwarded me an email he was included on. A bunch of guys we went to high school with -- guys he, as a member of the football team knew and I did not -- were trying to plan a "guy's weekend away." And you guessed it: the first line of the email was, "Gentlemen."

When we arrive at the golf club, the guys in the pro shop greet us as "gentlemen." If it's not "gentlemen," it's "fellas" or "boys." It's never "guys," which is maybe a subtle admission that the only people who refer to a large group of men getting together as a "guy's weekend" are usually the women they left at home.

But gentlemen? It seems like this forced formality, to remind us that, freed from whatever yokes have been placed upon us by the lives we live 51 weekends out of the year, we should now be treated as though we were meeting for a fox hunt, followed by brandy and cigars. An event such as ours, which encourages the wearing of saddle shoes with spikes in the soles and misleadingly advertised "microfiber" golf shirts that, at least in my case, led to noticable body odor before the completing the front nine, is not so formal. And it's difficult to be a gentleman when you have B.O.

Meanwhile, only 27 days stand between now and my child's Bar Mitzvah. One of the golf courses we played this week was off the same exit on Highway 80 as Walton's Grizzly Lodge. "This is the closest I will be, geographically, to my son for the next week," I thought as we pulled off the freeway; then, like the socially retarded weirdo I am, I said it out loud. There was no response from anyone else in the car.

He's up there right now, probably asleep. I fully expect him to be changed when we pick him up next weekend. Two weeks on your own, when you're almost 13, is a big deal. When I went away to UC Irvine baseball camp at age 15, I came home a week later convinced that I was ready to go away to college right that minute. Come to think of it, I think that week was the last time I voluntarily played poker.

Is the Jawa playing poker this week? Is he water-skiing or shooting a bow-and-arrow? Has he met some 13 year-old girl camper and found that, for reasons that elude and confuse him, he wants to spend all of his time with her? How much of his experience at camp has he already decided we don't need to know about, for whatever reason? That's up to him, I guess.

Gentlemen. Someday, it's likely, my Jawa will be a middle-aged man, and you've got to wonder how closely his life then will resemble how he pictures it now. When I was thirteen, in 1978, I was positive that I would play first base for the New York Mets, even though Scott Moores had already taught me that I wasn't even good enough to play first base for Santiago Junior High School.

That year, we had to do a mock future timeline for U.S. History class. Mine, I remember, had me winning the A.L. Rookie of the Year trophy in 1988. (just to show how flexible I was about the future,I had me playing for the Boston Red Sox, wearing the same uniform number as Carl Yastrzemski.) Things didn't really pan out that way, unfortunately.

When Sandra Bullock was thirteen, she wanted to be a fish and game warden, I think. Something similar to that. Something that required being outdoors. Tellingly, she actually exceeded her childhood dream job, though the little khaki outfit would have been cute.

Once again, I hope my son takes after his mother. Right now his dream is to be a roller coaster designer. He's done all the research. He knows who the top companies are. He figures he'll first have to get a Civil Engineering degree, then a Masters. He wants to go to M.I.T., but is almost as sold on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (so he can visit his parents, who will be living in nearby Cayucos, frequently).

It's much more realistic than figuring you'll be Carl Yastrzemski's successor, playing caroms off the Green Monster and hitting dinky home runs over the Pesky Pole in right field, which is good and not good. I was positive I'd be a big leaguer when I was thirteen, a dream almost as big as the one I had today, when I was certain I'd be able to get that seven iron onto the green and putt out for par. Neither one happened, but I hope the Jawa doesn't grow up and wonder why his dreams weren't more fantastical as a young teen.

Incidentally, when he's approaching middle age and gets that email that starts out, "Gentlemen," I hope he already knows how to golf. Otherwise I'd advise him to budget an extra $100 for the four boxes of golf balls he's going to buy to replace the dozen or so he loses on the course each day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

30 days to Bar Mitzvah: out of place

What do you do when you find that you’ve become ineligible for night life? If you waltz into a bar and the bartenders ignore you because you’re 20 years older than they are, wearing a green polo shirt and shorts and do not want a Pabst Blue Ribbon? What then?

Do you will yourself to invisibility, silently staring ahead, noting that no one has bothered to tell the drummer from tonight’s band how badly his t-shirt (which ironically advertises a non-existent tavern in Ephrata, Washington) fits? Do you wonder how many people in the bar have actually been to Ephrata, Washington, home of former Oakland A’s relief pitcher Dave Heaverlo’s nationally-known summer baseball camp?

How long will you last? If you move around, maybe the motion will convince the bartenders that you are an actual person, not part of the Abraham Lincoln-themed artwork on the walls. Just five minutes ago, you were walking down the street, listening to Tom Waits on your iPod, stepping over homeless people and peering into an empty boxing gym, feeling pretty good about yourself for escaping the tourist-approved part of town. Now this.

You can tell yourself all you want that sitting in a bar on a Tuesday night in Reno, Nevada, waiting for a band with a fat drummer to play, is a pretty sad ceiling for self-styled 20-something hipsters. You can tell yourself that when you were their age, you were plumbing the depths of artistic meaning, reinventing the meaning of romance, doing things with the kind of great, dramatic feeling and soul that separates the run-of-the-mill from the truly special. You can tell yourself that 20 years from now, not a single one of them will try to enter a bar like this, having left that sort of silly adolescent whim behind the day they got that first job at the software firm.

You can pull aside one of the bartenders (blissfully involved in a vague conversation about the relative coolness of the guys working on the road outside; one of them has a Mohawk and is smoking a cigar: very cool), yank off his paperboy cap and say, “I’ve been around, buddy. You have no idea.” You can remind them that the real enemy is the mob of t-shirt-wearing tourists, crazy on buffet prime rib, pouring coins into slot machines a half-mile away, that what should really happen here is that they should form a semi-circle at your feet and listen as you explain the secrets to remaining vital way past your nightlife “sell-by” date, but none of it will matter. This is how it goes. You have your time. They have theirs. In the end, there’s nothing to do but drink about half of your beer and quietly slink out the side door.

Outside, it’s the same stretch of road that made you feel so alive a half hour before. There’s still the boxing gym, the poorly-lit Basque restaurant, the homeless encampment. The Tom Waits song is waiting for you to hit “play” on your iPod, but it doesn’t matter. It’s too late.

Better you should take a seat at Shooters, where the bartender looks like a tired P.J. Soles and will remove her fake ponytail to the great shock of about a dozen guys in tank tops who thought it was real. “Sometimes I wear the whole wig,” she’ll tell them. “Everyone calls me Bartender Barbie.”

Or maybe, 24 hours later, after the kind of relaxed and uniquely geeky day of driving around northern Nevada, taking pictures of ruined buildings and imagining what Nevada State Route 342 must have looked like in June, 1965, when the Charlatans drove from San Francisco to Virginia City for a six-week gig at the Red Dog Saloon that unofficially became the birth of the 1960s (None of these houses were here. That shopping center wasn’t here. This was probably a two-lane road.) that is only possible alone because you could never inflict it on your family, you decide that Reno’s nighttime scene has no openings for a bald, paunchy middle-aged Jewish guy in a polo shirt, so maybe it’s time to see a movie instead.

But not before enjoying one more bar scene, this time as a pizza-eating civilian, that involves a heavily-tattooed young mother – who, minus her three-year-old-looking kid, could easily have been slouched at a low table last night at the Lincoln Lounge.

In front of me in line to order was the usual Reno group of guys – tank-tops, weird, amateurish monochromatic tattoos, goatees, angry, “What are YOU looking at?” expressions, skateboarding shoes. One guy was wearing a t-shirt advertising the legendary Mustang Ranch. Pictured on it – naturally, for it represents the Mustang Ranch, the last bastion of the wide-open West -- was an almost-naked woman holding a rifle.

The mom noticed the guy’s shirt. “Look at the hot, hot lady,” she said to her child, using the same sing-song voice that drives many of us to distraction when it’s used to point out flowers, puppies and the ocean. “She’s so very hot!”

“What do you mean?” said her kid.

“I mean, she’s very pretty, isn’t she?”

“Why does she have a gun?”

“Well, sometimes Mommy has a gun. When Mommy goes out sometimes, she has a gun. Lots of people carry guns.”

Yup. Sometimes Mommy has a gun. And that Mustang Ranch lady? Very hot, for a cartoon. And yes, my fellow San Franciscans, Full democracy means these people deserve every bit as much of a voice in how they are governed as you do, no matter if you know better than they do what’s good for them. Very sobering, and a blaring reminder of why I think everyone who lives in my city should be forced to take at least one road trip per year.

Ten years ago, I used to measure success in a foreign environment by how many new people I met. After a few days in Reno, I’m starting to measure it by how long I can go without getting beat up. Or shot.

Who am I kidding? I looked as strange and out-of-place to the homeless guys on Fourth Street as I did to the neo-hipsters at the Lincoln Lounge. Any Wadsworth, Nevada locals who saw me get out of my rented Chrysler Sebring and walk around that ruined schoolhouse yesterday probably automatically spat out “tourist” and then went back to working on whatever broken-down car they had sitting in their front yard. And the gun-toting mother at the pizza place pegged me as an emissary from the planet white collar the moment I walked in.

The truth is that I spent most of my twenties walking around alone. Having neglected to start a career at that age, I had plenty of time and not much money. Walking around was all I could afford to do. I was alone because everyone else was at work. Most of my great emotional, romantic adventures were in my head, stuff I saw from far away while walking around alone. To the outside world I was this anonymous guy, a walk-on extra in the movie of their life, who, like everyone else I’ve always figured, was fighting wars, curing great illnesses, tilting at windmills, getting the girl and riding off in to the sunset, all in the privacy of his own mind. When you look at it that way, not much has changed since.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

33 days to Bar Mitzvah: Reno Reno Reno honey

Unlike Las Vegas, which wraps its entire self in a blanket of promises beyond your wildest dreams, Reno is up front about itself. The pawn shops sandwiched in between the casinos are Reno admitting that for every dream that comes true here, a thousand die undignified deaths. This is where I am until Thursday, when a Teduardo-led contingent picks me up and takes me to Lake Tahoe for three days of golf.

Actually, I prefer this kind of random and dark place over a five-star resort. I'm weird that way. Still, even I've got to be careful. Stepping over everyone's crushed dreams as you walk down the street can be challenging.

Not that the Silver Legacy, where I've hung my hat this week, claims to be anything less than four stars. It covers two city blocks and this week boasts an appearance in its main theater by Justin Beiber. How boring for Justin. He can't even go into the casino. Nor will I go into the casino, other than to watch. I don't gamble because I know I'd suck at it, and I've never had enough money to just write off a certain amount in the name of something other than food or beverage.

"Are you a gentleman who wears a size 20?" said the woman sitting on the street a block from the famous "Reno, Biggest Little City in the World" archway. "Do you wear a size 11 shoe? Together these will create an interesting look for the right man."

There was a hip-hop music and arts festival today in a part on the banks of the Truckee River. I walked through the festival on my way to see a minor league baseball game -- Reno versus the Tacoma Rainiers. Tacoma won, by the way.

Since it was about 100 degrees outside, the river was full of people swimming, floating on inner tubes and generally splashing around. Like the hip-hop festival attendees, most of them were covered with tattoos. Not cool, colorful tattoos; more like "I've been smoking crystal meth for the past 23 hours and can't sleep but can't think of anything to do" tattoos. And lots of low-hanging shorts; but not many shirts. Lots of fried blonde perms. It was a hard scene.

The scene was a little better at the baseball game. Reno built itself a new downtown stadium last year, with a bunch of overlapping bars and restaurants out beyond the left field wall. Earlier today, Sandra Bullock and I ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant there. While we were eating, two young guys came up and sat at a table near us. A few hours later, I recognized one of them playing first base for the Reno Aces. The other one was playing shortstop.

After the game, everyone who was there flooded into the bars behind left field. There was a band. Everyone under 40 in Reno who isn't worried about getting up early for work tomorrow was there. Three women with blindingly blonde hair were sitting at one of the bars doing shots. I watched as two guys who were around my age but looked to have grown up in an entirely different world tried to get friendly with them. One of the guys had slicked-back hair and a moustache. Other than me probably spending at least one night of my life trying to get friendly with women with blindingly blonde hair, our Venn diagrams overlapped not one bit. At least that's how it looked.

This morning, we dropped the Jawa off at Walton's Grizzly Lodge for two weeks of camp. It's his fourth year at Walton's. He was a little tentative, because I think he woke up this morning shocked to find that he was going to miss us. "I'm not going to see you for two weeks," he called out from the upstairs loft of our room at the Chalet View Lodge. "That's weird."

Walton's Grizzly Lodge is worth the approximately one month's mortgage payment it costs. For two weeks, he will have no iPod, no Droid, no TV. Instead, he'll swim, water ski, fish, shoot bb guns, ride skateboards and eat with scores of other kids in a big rustic dining hall. Every year since 2006 we've driven up here, some 40 miles north of Lake Tahoe, stayed in the Chalet View Lodge for a night, then traversed the narrow, winding road that has ended at Walton's Grizzly Lodge for something like 75 years.

This year, a bunch of counselors already knew the Jawa. It was pretty cool. We dropped him off and an hour later there we were, in Reno.

One of the best and worst things about traveling alone is that you're essentially invisible to everyone else, except bartenders. It's great if you want to eavesdrop on people's lives. If you can manage to conjure a voting interest in whether or not the quiet guy in Wrangler jeans will get through the ballgame double-date his girlfriend insisted on without her lecturing him on the way home about how he didn't even try to make conversation with her friend's boyfriend, time will pass very quickly. That guy had no chance, anyway. Her friend's boyfriend was a slick-talking city guy who'd recently moved to Reno from Los Angeles. The rest of them were from a Nevada town so small that their high school played eight-man football.

They were so young; this double-date could easily be lost to history. This time next year, those two girls could be back at the ballpark, double-dating with a pair of completely different guys. Still, I was rooting for the quiet guy, even though I'll never know how things turned out.

On my way back to the hotel (which doesn't have HBO. I left that bar -- and its almost all-female live band, "The Chick P's" -- hoping to get back here in time to watch "True Blood." I was here by 8:45. No HBO.), I poked my head into the most rundown-looking hotel I'd seen so far in Reno, The Santa Fe Hotel. The door swung open. About a dozen people were sitting at a bar. They all turned and looked at me. I wasn't in the mood. Maybe tomorrow.

In Las Vegas, people stay up all night. They emerge from casinos at 9 AM, shocked to find that it's morning. They walk around in packs, ready for anything since the Las Vegas bureau of tourism has been very successful in convincing people that the minute their plane lands at McCarron Airport, they have permission to essentially shed their "regular" personality and do whatever it is they think "wild" people do. It's amazing.

Here in Reno, people sleep. Sometimes in doorways.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

36 days to Bar Mitzvah: mood swings

Here I am, walking around thinking I remember exactly what it felt like to be 13, then being completely blindsided by the full range of emotions (and emotional distress) displayed by an almost-13-year-old Jawa during the course of a single day. Apologies to every adult who approached the 13 year-old me expecting one thing and getting another. You just never know what's coming next.

Take this evening, for example. Today was a good day, whose unexpected highlights included eating Panda Express in the middle of downtown Oakland. In the afternoon, we took Shack to the park and ran him until he practically collapsed, then sat on the pavement next to the tennis courts, waiting for him to gather enough strength to get up out of the shade and walk home. It was a day where time passed effortlessly, where enjoying the company of my child was a no-brainer, requiring no prerequisite body of knowledge or skillset; you can just be.

At five, we went to Pacifica. It was time for the Jawa's weekly swim lesson. Three years of swim lessons and the kid's practically a dolphin. A few weeks ago, I overheard him answer "swimming" when someone asked him what he was into. So I was quite surprised when, on the drive down Highway 1 into a fog bank, he said, "You know, you can stop my swim lessons whenever you want. I'd be okay with that."

Call that knockout blow #1. It wasn't exactly a mood change, but it was a hint, a reminder not to get too comfortable. Here I'd thought (and hoped) that he was going to choose something, some physical activity, by which to partially define himself. He would be a swimmer.

Instead, swimming has now begun its swerving drive down the familiar road of indifference, doomed to a slot in the Jawa's memory rather than a place in his present. It's crowded on that road, with bits and pieces of earlier efforts scattered along the median.

I made a mental note: "Swimming interest in danger."

"Those swimming skills will come in handy when you're surfing," I volunteered.

"I already know how to swim well enough to surf."

You see what I was doing there? Instead of lasering in on the slow death of interest in swimming, I went forward toward surfing, this summer's great new passion, instead. All summer he's been talking about surfing, so I'll jump on board with surfing, maybe also subtley working a swimming angle in there as well.

For the short-term, it didn't matter. It was 4:58 and his swim lesson began at five. No time for second-guessing. We pulled into the parking lot and leaped out of the car, pausing for a moment to wordlessly high-five each other as he went into Anderson's and I went into 24-Hour Fitness.

I think, though he would be loathe to admit it, he really likes swimming. He always comes out of there in a good mood. Which is why I was so surprised to feel the temperature in the car drop about 40 degrees without any warning twenty minutes later, after we picked up Sandra Bullock at work.

We do this every Thursday. He swims, I sweat, Sandra Bullock plays basketball at the "GenenGym," one of her employers' many little reminder to the rest of us that not every large corporation treats its workers like chattel. We pick her up and drive to La Corneta for burritos.

He was normal when she got in the car. At some point, though, I think one of us asked the wrong question. Something along the lines of "How was your day," but phrased wrong, touching on an incident or idea that reminded him of something he'd tried to forget, plunging him into sudden reticence. Without warning, his answers, usually expressed in his trademark run-on sentences, became economical and monosyllabic. Animated and engaged only a few minutes before, his voice was now dulled and monotonous.

"Is there something wrong?" I eventually asked, but not before I, not entirely realizing that the temperature inside the car had cooled, tried to good-naturedly make fun of his obsession with his new phone. His response to that had been, "Great. Sarcasm."

So finally, I asked, tentatively. "What's wrong?"


Something was wrong. And lucky for everyone else on the road, our windows were rolled up, so they couldn't hear my son's low opinion of them. "Don't let that guy in, Dad," he spat as a dented Toyota -- the kind of car you let do whatever it wants because you're pretty certain that if you don't, its driver will get out and shoot you in the face -- edged in front of us in the tangle of cars next to the BART station.

Finally, after Sandra Bullock returned from picking up our La Corneta stash, he told us that he'd "pictured something," then described a vision so clearly self-loathing, so horrible in its teenage angst and so detailed that it took us both aback for a moment. From our 45-year-old perch, we could see that it was the basic teenage "I'm a bad person" tableau, but that didn't make it any less deflating for the Jawa held prisoner by its image.

"You're not a bad person," Sandra Bullock said. And it was funny, because for the past couple of weeks he's been radically not a bad person. Part of it, he told me this morning, I think by accident, was that I had told him a month ago that I would not under any circumstances take a misbehaving, disrespectful child to a water park this summer. "It's been a month, Dad," he said. "Do you think we can go to a water park after I get back from camp?" Later, he rescinded. "No, no, I didn't even think about the water park thing until today."

His efforts at being easy to get along with, to not take our parental bait, to sit quietly and not complain while I subjected him to reruns of the Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary on PBS instead of a "never before seen" episode of "Mythbusters" have been very noticeable. At times, I can see him struggle, then tamp down his temper and move forward, almost like he's got visible cartoon thought balloons hovering over his head. It's admirable. And it must make suddenly getting a "you suck" message from your subconscious even more frustrating and strange.

By the time we got home, he was teetering on the edge of anarchy. Without asking, he snapped on the TV and turned to Cartoon Network, offering only grunts in response to questions. Then, I swear, less than ten minutes later, the little kids in the neighborhood knocked on our door, sprinkled fairy dust at his feet and immediately blew his Joe Btfsplk storm cloud harmlessly out to sea. He spent the next hour showing the six-year-old down the street how to operate a fishing pole.

Now he's watching a Godzilla movie, pointing out the cheap special effects, eating a popsicle, with his Lego robot-building materials spread out on the floor. I'd love to go in there and get him to put the Legos away, but I don't dare. And if you're shaking your head from side-to-side right now and smiling knowingly then you have way more experience as the parent of a just-about-teen than I do.

And so we beat on, boats against the current, and all that stuff. He gets bigger and I get older and all the memories in the world still leave little gaps in your skill set.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

37 days to Bar Mitzvah: whence, manhood?

According to Jewish tradition, your Bar or Bat Mitzvah is supposed to function as your official arrival at adulthood. Like many other religions, we have a formal ceremony to mark the end of childhood, although in my case, I suppose, the July 29, 1978 Bar Mitzvah was merely confirmation of a childhood that ended somewhere in the air between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Anaheim, California on March 21, 1976.

If I knew the actual theological thinking behind it, I could tell you all of the things Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are supposed to take on as evidence of their leap to the world of adults. It involves all sorts of things that are now unthinkable, because they were written down during biblical times, when people lived to be 40 and had their own flocks and harems by 16. I cannot imagine the Jawa tending to his own flock right now, unless that flock was comprised entirely by robots he'd programmed, or perhaps scaled-down Japanese monsters like Mecha Godzilla and Mothra.

And if I wanted to be honest, I'd have to admit that while my childhood ended on March 21, 1976, my adulthood really didn't start until I met Sandra Bullock, 14 years later. In-between there was this period of gray area, where the only way I knew to be an adult was to imitate my dad (which explains why my first teenage concert was Simon & Garfunkel) or pretend to be involved in very serious, adult-style romantic relationships. Everything else, all that boring stuff like assuming responsibility and being accountable for your actions I buried under an attractive pile of adult-like tics and poses.

In the end, what I had thought was acting like an adult was actually acting like that guy you date for two months until summer ends and you have to go back to school. I was in a constant loop, playing out the opening scenes of "Grease," kissing Sandy goodbye on the beach and wondering why, the next time I saw her, she was with some guy in a polo shirt while I sulked in the corner in my cool biker jacket.

Sandra Bullock must have decided that there was an adult at the end of that long, dark tunnel, which is pretty funny, since the first time she drove me home from the bar, one snowy late December 1990 night, I tried to impress her by showing her my motorcycle. Having just schooled me on the ins and outs of a 401(k) from the driver's seat of her new Toyota Corolla, her response was to smile politely and wait a few months before telling me how much motorcycles don't impress her.

So now we expect the Jawa to become an adult the minute he slings the tallit over his shoulders and wraps up the last lines of his haftorah? Not likely. If anything, he's lagging a bit behind his peers, maturity-wise, though to be fair, he's also lagging somewhere between six months and a year behind them, age-wise.

As of now, a little more than a month before his official adulthood date, the Jawa is at his best around little kids, making him an adult's dream (provided you're not his father and would rather not watch "Total Drama Island" at 9:00 on a Tuesday), a little kid's idol and slightly apart from the kids he really wants to hang around with -- his peers.

We never saw it coming. Or maybe Sandra Bullock did, but I didn't. Maybe it's an only child thing, though I've always been told that the Curse of the Only Child would have the exact opposite effect -- that the child in question wouldn't want to waste his time with a bunch of people aiming to invade his space, play with his stuff and leave him a mess to clean up.

Not our Jawa. All week I've been dropping him each morning at Tech Know How camp, a week-long day camp designed around Lego's NXT series, which use computer programming to make Legos function as robots.

As a side note, the camp is held at Brandeis Hillel Day School, in the old fifth grade classroom. It is terribly overshadowed by the other camp hq'ed at BHDS, Camp Galileo. Camp Galileo, as far as I can tell, targets little kids -- probably fourth or fifth grade at the oldest -- by enticing them with as over-the-top a display of counselor enthusiasm it can manage. How disturbing is it to roll up to Brandeis Hillel Day School, expecting to be greeted by Felicks and Anatoly, the omnipresent Russian security guards rumored to be registered with the Politburo as deadly weapons, and Robert, the long-suffering, sardonic school facilities guy, only to find in their place a lineup of college-age boys and girls, all wearing funny hats and dancing in place? To call it inappropriate is too kind.

And then to roll past them, privately miffed that they would feel it necessary to point you in the right direction because you come here 180-plus days a year already, only to find poor Felicks, clad in casualwear instead of his usual sportcoat and slacks, and Robert, trying in vain to restore order to Parking Lot Amateur Hour, while some 25-year-old kid stands in the middle of main lot, idly circling his arms around between dance steps? To enter Camp Galileo, you walk through what, during the school year, is a sober gray steel gate. This week, it is decorated with streamers and a sign reading, "Camp Galileo Amusement Park!"

The sidewalk chalk arrows pointing you in the right direction are probably necessary, as it is difficult to hear anything over the high-decibel dance music further desecrating the school.

It's awful. The Jawa, for his part, refuses to walk through the "Camp Galileo Amusement Park" gate. Instead, we ring the buzzer and walk through the school lobby, soaking up a few seconds of sanity before re-entering the chaos on the other side. The Tech Know How counselors, by way of great contrast, are neither singing nor dancing nor wearing funny hats. A few are wearing funny glasses, but I don't think they're funny on purpose.

Today, the Jawa said, the counselors told him he should come back next year as a Counselor-in-Training. "There's not much we can teach him," they told me when I arrived today for pickup. "He's pretty much on his own." The next oldest kid in the class in 11.

By the time I got there, he was sitting at a computer, surrounded by little kids -- in his preferred element, dishing out advice, being the expert. Not yet an actual "man," but "The Man," at least in Tech Know How camp.

As we navigate this difficult and eye-opening summer, that's going to have to be good enough. I don't expect him to suddenly stop leaving all his clothes all over the floor, inside-out, or to wake up tomorrow and realize that Disneyworld vacations cost more money than most people allot for yearly discretionary income. No, I expect him to continue digging his heels in whenever the opportunity to demonstrate newfound independence presents itself, and I expect him to continue to think roller coasters are an excellent conversation topic.

That's not going to change on August 21. Okay, maybe a little. Your Bar Mitzvah's a pretty big event. Even a stubborn Jawa would have trouble going through it completely unchanged.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

38 days to Bar Mitzvah: technology triumphs again

Why does it take an hour to buy a new phone? And once your almost-teenage child has a Droid, does punishing by restriction from electronics include taking away his phone?

According to him, no. "It's my phooonnne," he said as our quick trip to Verizon stretched to an hour.

"I'm not sure about that," I said.

Around here, it was starting to look like an act of God would be required before I'd break down and buy a new phone. My BlackBerry, which I'd hated from the outset, was sputtering toward death. Once loathed by me for its smug efficiency and message of self-importance, it now sought drawn-out revenge by only working intermittently. Without warning, several of the keys on its microscopic QWERTY keyboard would stop working, and they'd do it in particularly cruel and absurd fashion.

It became tempermental. Sometimes it would decide that the center ball cursor thing was no longer the button used to open emails. Instead, I eventually learned, emails would now be opened by pressing the arrow that normally returns you to the previous screen.

More annoyingly, it would randomly decide to replace typed letters with bizarre combinations of alternate ones. "N" became "RF;" "C" was now "AF." The "back" key would not only not erase a mistake, it would enter "WS" instead. "WS" may seem innocent enough, until you are frantically trying to go back a space and your mounting frustration makes you fill the entire screen with "WS."

The Jawa in particular was disgusted by my refusal to buy a new phone. His agenda barely hidden, he went on a campaign to convince me to ditch Verizon altogether and get an iPhone. "Why do I need an iPhone?" I'd ask.

"You can get all these great apps!"

"I don't need any apps. I just talk on the phone and read emails."

At that point, steam would begin to come out of his ears. He wanted me to get a new phone because, using infallible kid logic, he assumed that a new phone for me meant a new phone for him.

Sandra Bullock, though barely invested in the whole thing, also wanted me to get a new phone. To her, it seemed that I would rather curse the darkness than reach for the light switch. It wasn't that; I wouldn't pull the trigger because I knew what it would mean: ninety minutes standing around the Verizon store while some goateed salesguy secretly added charges in five dollar increments to my final bill. And I liked the ring tone the Jawa downloaded for me: LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk is Playing at My House.” I never missed a call.

Yesterday, I lost my BlackBerry. Somewhere between the car and the house, it vanished. In doing so, it followed a great tradition begun many years ago by my house keys and continued throughout the ensuing decades by several pairs of sunglasses, a few wallets and a shocking number of baseball caps.

Honestly, I didn't look too hard for it. I figured if it didn't turn up today, I'd go out and finally get a new phone. I spent more energy looking for the car keys when they disappeared as I was heading out to look for houses to write about. For a frantic ten minutes, I retraced my steps at least 25 times; no keys. They were in the little plate thing on my dresser, pretending that I'd put them there for the night.

With a sweating and unshowered (and frankly, needing a little father-son talk about the added personal hygeine responsiblities one assumes when they enter their teens) Jawa, it was with trepidation that I entered the Verizon store in Daly City, ready for the worst.

One hour later, we walked out of the Verizon store almost $500 lighter. The condition was temporary, we were told. As soon as Daniel, our "Retail Sales Representative," mailed in our mail-in rebates, we'd get back $250.

Why do they bother with this "mail-in rebate" nonsense? Buying a phone has turned into buying a car. Why can't they just tell me the Droid costs $75, instead of first quoting me $569, then displaying their magnanimity by assembling this melange of deals -- probably put together with only you in mind -- that will reduce the price to something that makes sense. In our case, we got the special Droid "buy one get one free" deal, plus a $200 mail-in rebate, plus a $100 price reduction whose origins remain mysterious.

On top of that, we got a thing to plug into my USB port that will allow me to have wi-fi access anywhere. That was $69.99... minus the $50 mail-in rebate and another $20 knocked off by Daniel, just between him and me, and the two-year service contract I signed. So it was free, sort of.

Perhaps there was a time when an almost-teenaged boy's face would light up at the mention of a new dirt bike or baseball glove. Perhaps that boy exists somewhere in the world, and he has already begun X'ing out days on a calendar, counting down to his 16th birthday when he gets his license. That boy does not live in our house.

Our boy could barely contain himself at the notion of getting a Driod. The iPhone? Quickly forgotten. Shoved aside with a cursory, "This is so much better than an iPhone," and a few disparaging comments about antenna placement.

"Let me know if there's anything else, any other questions," Daniel finally told us by way of goodbye. He'd already showed us how your Driod can respond to voice commands. "FIND 123 MARKET STREET," he said to my Droid. A few seconds later, a map popped up. "FIND PIZZA," he said next, holding my new phone up to show me a long list of area pizzerias.

"I think we've got it," I said. By now, I just wanted to get out of there. While I knew I'd be getting about half of what we spent back, I still felt like I'd dropped a ton of dough, signed my life away and been manipulated, despite Daniel's innnocent and low-key approach to sales. If I'd come home to find they'd rifled through my wallet and taken the $12 in my pocket, I wouldn't have been surprised.

But we had Droids, the Jawa and I, and we walked out into the sunlight, heads down, trying to figure out how our new phones worked.

"I can't get mine to unlock," I said.

"Push the button on the top." I pushed the button on the top. Nothing.

"Go back inside and ask them how it works. I'm too embarassed," I said, and God bless the tech generation as the Jawa marched back into Verizon wireless, full of curiosity and the total absence of fear, and figured out how to unlock my phone. You have to push the button and let go quickly. Otherwise, it turns itself off.

Three hours have passed since we returned home with our smart little treasures. The Jawa has already programmed a bunch of stuff into his. Me? I've been typing, old school-style.

Monday, July 12, 2010

39 days to Bar Mitzvah: boolian logic

I swear everything he does is a mystery to me these days. All I know is that you can't write stories about the performance of the real estate market in Woodside, California, when you have a bored Jawa sitting a few feet away, sending unspoken death rays you way in the hopes that you'll be suddenly stricken with stomach cramps or a migraine, whatever it would take to get you off of your laptop, leaving it free for his use.

The problem, as far as I can tell, is that his little tiny laptop -- the one we bought last spring to solve his poor handwriting dilemma, which I thought was pretty only-child over-the-top, only to find that (according to my child) a majority of his classmates had been using netbooks in class for months -- will not accept/run the software required to make certain Legos turn into robots. I may be simplifying. Or missing something entirely.

However much I've shanked my understanding of what he's doing down there, whatever it is made him so angry about an hour ago that he was on the verge of tears. Here's a quick definition of an almost-13-year-old: when they get frustrated, they don't know whether to cry or unleash a string of profanities. So what you get is, "FFFuuuudgggee! (sob)." A more patient parent would walk over and say, brightly, "Don't let that computer get you down! Lets work on this together!"

Thank you, Ned Flanders. But I am not this patient, saintly parent. By now you should all be very aware of that. I am the parent sitting at the kitchen table, dreaming of one day having a home office, trying to glean something interesting from several columns of statistics regarding the real estate market in Woodside, California. So instead of going all Flanders, I just look up, stop typing and say, succinctly, "Look, if that thing is going to make you that mad, then you should just stop using it."

And in return I expect what, logic? "You know, you're right, Dad." Somewhere between the age of 12 and 45 I managed to forget how obnoxious and unhelpful it is to respond to a bored child with "You say you're bored? Well, why don't you go clean up your room?" Or something like that.

Small books were thrown about the room. Shack went and hid in the corner. Sarcasm was employed, as were attempted guilt trips. "I could get this to work on your computer. It would only take a second."

Why the program won't work on the little computer (or the massively powerful desktop hidden under several layers of clothing in his bedroom) but would work on mine, which uses the EXACT SAME (deeply flawed) OPERATING SYSTEM remained as mysterious to me as Jack Nicholson's continued popularity with women.

This was an hour ago, an eternity in teen time. Thirty minutes ago, he brightened up. "I figured out how to do this," he said. "I can use a different programming language." And then, quoting from the how-to page for the different programming language, he mumbled something about boolians.

The kid tells me today that he'd really like to get one of those "build your first computer" kits, even though he is at a disadvantage when compared to his cousin and a friend at school. Their fathers are "into technology," he explained.

"They also probably have more room to build a computer," I countered, using all of the communicative savvy I have had the time to develop while those other fathers were helping their sons develop a love of technology.

This is a new issue, but one that has become very important -- at least to me -- over the past few months. After nine years in the same 1,100 square-foot (1,500 counting the unwarranted space downstairs), our home is too small to hold a Type-A person, a freelancer, a teenaged Jawa, a small but dense dog and a hamster. Every night, Sandra Bullock is faced with a decision: to eat at the table, and thus force me to remove the stuff I've spread out there during the day, which I do with as little grace as possible, since it's a big pain in the neck to have to set up my stuff day after day, or to acquiesce and eat dinner in front of the TV.

What if our house had two more rooms -- one would be an office, where I could go and not have to pretend I'm listening to people who start conversations with me when I'm deeply committed to making Woodside's real estate market a readable topic. Another would be a room for the Jawa, where he could build massive Lego projects, learn boolian logic and, yes, assemble a home computer.

And maybe a guest room, because Sandra Bullock has always wanted a "dedicated guest room."

We are as likely to get these things as we are to someday own a $3 million beachfront home in Cayucos. Instead, I think I will bring my laptop and various gridded notebooks to the Bar Mitzvah, since its cost is essentially the same as adding three rooms to our house. The living room floor is a fine place to apply boolian logic to Legos. Maybe he can build a Lego robot that knows carpentry.

Sandra Bullock just leaned over me and said, "Are you done with what you have to do? I mean, are you going to need to work at the table more? Because if you're done, you can put your stuff away and set the table." And then, wrongly assuming that my less-than-pleased response had something to do with me not wanting to set the table: "Or you can just put it away and I can set the table."

After that, she went back to the kitchen, where I caught her hyper-intensely focused, carefully wrapping what looks like flowered wallpaper around a tin can.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm trying to see if this double stick tape will work better than the single-sided tape." For the candles, you know. Turns out there are four kinds of Japanese candles, four candles per table for a total of 100 candles. All of them will be wrapped in Japanese wallpaper stuff. Remember this when you're sitting at a table, completely focused on trying to make conversation with the strangers sitting across from you, and your eyes settle on the little candle carefully placed next to the centerpiece.

It's the little things, you know.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

40 days to Bar Mitzvah: tick tick tick tick

Plenty of things can happen in 40 days. The moon will complete 1.4 cycles. I could grow a quite a beard. A home could close escrow.

According to Emcee A.J. Rogers, sent to our home this morning by his bosses at Denon & Doyle, the next forty days could see the release of many new, exciting, danceable songs, so don't make your 25-song "favorites" list until much closer to the 21st.

Two nights ago, as we wrapped up our vacation by sitting, completely ignored by the waitstaff at the Sea Shanty (contrasting explanations as to why: Me: we seated ourselves instead of waiting, so our karma bill has come due; the Jawa: everyone's out to get us; Sandra Bullock: What do you mean we're being ignored? Stop being so negative), it dawned on me that we were only 42 days to Bar Mitzvah. Fully aware that Sandra Bullock had woken up early the day before and created a new "Bar Mitzvah To-Do" list, I knew she'd freak out if she knew it was only 42 days away; so naturally, I had to say it: "Did you know that the Bar Mitzvah is in 42 days?"

The table froze. Temporarily forgotten was the terrible service we were getting at the Sea Shanty. "Forty-two days?" she said.


Do you want to know how to guarantee that you'll spend the entire four-hour drive from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco talking about seating arrangements? Tell you wife there're only 42 days until your Bar Mitzvah.

In 40 days, Noah managed to save several species of living being, cherry-picking the ones he like and inviting them onto his ark, where they'd stay for the duration of the great flood, God's beatdown on man. My belief in the validity of this story always runs into this: why'd he invite the mosquitoes?

Forty days ago, I posted in this blog while sitting in my cubicle, my back facing the newsroom, at The Examiner. At the time, I had no idea whether I'd be employed, freelancing or out on my tail 40 days later. Over the next 40 days, I'll probably go through two new sets of contact lenses.

Forty days is not enough time to lost a bunch of weight.

This morning, on my way out the door to look at houses, I grabbed my golf clubs from their usual spot. Since we have no "spare" rooms or storage space, their ad hoc roost is downstairs, on a chair next to the bed in our "guest alcove." When I came home a few hours later and went to return my sticks to their home, I found that someone had put two boxes of Bar Mitzvah-related stuff on the chair in their place. This left the grand total of downstairs flat surfaces not covered with boxes containing Bar Mitzvah stuff at three. I had to lean my clubs against the wall.

If I were to cut myself this week, the wound would still be healing on August 21. There's not even enough time left between us and the Bar Mitzvah for cuts to heal. The shirt I am wearing today? I might not wear it again before the Bar Mitzvah. The Jawa doesn't know it, but he might be seeing this blue polo shirt through the eyes of a child for the last time. The next time, he will be a man.

Not enough of a man for his parents to enjoy some time in the bar at the Schooner on a Friday night without freaking out because he won't answer his phone, though. Here we are on the last night of our vacation, thinking, "This town has a population of 2,000. Surely it is safe enough for the Jawa to go off on his own, buy some candy and play video games while we're dodging super-tan old guys in tank tops and flip-flops and looking out at the sunset at the Schooner."

This plan lasted the entire time it took us to walk from the candy store, where we'd spied a solo Jawa after our poor reception at the Sea Shanty, to the Schooner, three blocks away. By then I'd already concocted a scenario in which the Jawa is scooped up by some thrillseeking junkie surfers and shoved into the trunk of their 1964 Chevy Impala. Even as we ascend the stairs to the Schooner's outdoor deck, I am imagining my child's kidnappers tearing down Highway 1, our precious cargo terrified, banging on the inside of the trunk, even though no one can hear him over the hip-hop music. Why would they take him? Because we'd left him alone.

Naturally, you buy your child a phone for just this type of situation, or, as in the case of last night, to remind him to do his dishes after eating macaroni and cheese, but the kid never picks up. Three phone calls later, I'm sucking down my beer like Joey Chestnutt in front of a pyramid of hot dogs while simulataneously trying to continue to resemble a relaxed person so my wife won't pick up the vibe.

Too late. My phone suddenly rang once, then stopped. The Jawa's name popped up on my screen. It had to be his kidnappers. "Lets go," I said to Sandra Bullock.

I remember a situation like this several years ago, at the Brandeis Hillel Day School annual walk-a-thon. That time, at least five minutes passed while we frantically looked for our child who, we eventually found, was sitting in the cab of Charley Stern's vintage flatbed truck, along with a bunch of his friends.

For five minutes, though I tried to look cool, lest I end up to be that idiot who overreacted because his kid was out of his sight for 30 seconds, I was an a blind panic. "We're going to be those people," I thought, "whose kid disappeared during a school event."

Cayucos being a very small town, we had only a minute or so of utter hopelessness before reaching the video arcade, where the Jawa was busily playing that game where you try to snag a tiny bag of M & M's with a robotic arm.

"Why didn't you answer your phone!" we semi-shouted at him in unison.

"Huh? Oh, I don't get reception here. My phone sucks."

Forty days. That's one haircut away for the Jawa -- his last as a child, according to Jewish tradition. Over the next 40 days, if he's diligent, he'll change his hamster's bedding at least three times. Because he leaves for two weeks of camp on Saturday and we're going to Stinson Beach the weekend before the Bar Mitzvah, he has only one more weekend to hang out around the house before his Bar Mitzvah.

It also means I'll be posting a maximum of 40 more times. Then comes the difficult part.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

44 days to Bar Mitzvah: dream adjustment

I could live here.

Sandra Bullock decided that for herself last year. The Jawa (then 11 years old) and I came upon her one morning when she'd finished walking Shack. She was strolling past the small playground that's across the street from our hotel, the Cayucos Beach Inn. Shack was half-covered with sand and ocean water, smiling from ear to ear. In true Sandra Bullock fashion, she saw us, waved and, as she approached us, said, simply, "I want to retire here."

Sandra Bullock's plan for "retirement" depended on a few slightly uncertain factors -- primarily, the idea that I would, within the next decade, shed a lifetime of underacheiving to emerge as one of the most well-regarded (and well-compensated) authors of the 21st century.

I quickly got on board. Who doesn't love an idea predicated on their own potential success? "Sure," I told her Tuesday night, while we sat at the cramped second-story bar of Schooner's Wharf, looking out over the beach. "I'll be like Stephen King -- this famous guy living undercover in some small town. Esquire magazine will have to come here to interview me."

Nothing that has happened so far in my life suggests that this is a likely scenario, but where would we be without our dreams? Even if they're likely to dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Privately, I adjusted the picture to include a world where she continues to carry the burden of success for both of us, this seeming, based on past performance, the more likely outcome. Were we to sell our house -- someday, long after the market leaves its present doldrums behind -- we could maybe buy a modest home here. Not the incredible beachfront place she wants, but we'd be in town.

We first came to Cayucos, twenty miles northwest of San Luis Obispo, in 1991. We were 26 years old and new enough to each other that staying in a run-down room at the Dolphin Inn seemed romantic. Seventeen years later, our limited vacation budget brought us back to Cayucos and the Dolphin Inn, where we could approximate a beach vacation for a pittance. Four days at the Dolphin Inn cured us of any romantic notions about poverty that may have remained, but we were hooked on the town. We came back last year but did not stay at the Dolphin Inn.

This year, with an expanded budget but Bar Mitzvah-generated time limitations, we came back.

If I could get inside my wife's head, I'm pretty sure that whatever I'd find would be arranged in an orderly, intuitive fashion. Except for the part that controls spelling; that department would be a mess.

But over in the decision-making areas, everything would make perfect sense. Ideas would be neatly lined up, ready to take their turns in the spotlight. Clear evidence to support each decision would be easily accessible, stored away in a modern, accessible file system. There would be nothing, no scraps of plans or inspiration on the floor, lying around, unusable. It would be an efficient, user-friendly place.

This is why she appeared that one day last year and announced that she would like to retire here, in Cayucos, California, population 2,000. It simply added up.

Over here in my cabeza, things are not so copacetic. As anyone who's spoken to me more than once can attest, the place is a mess. Drawers are left open; ideas both great and ridiculous lie around, unused, inaccessible. The decision room is staffed by a bunch of incompetents. There are no logical practices in there; the staff simply grabs whatever flies by and throws it against a wall, hoping it will stick.

So you'll forgive me if my moments of clarity appear unannounced, their arrival the result of a seemingly unrelated, unimportant series of events.

I was driving up Highway 1 early last night, coming back from Morro Bay after spending two hours doing laundry. You go away for a week, you have to stop in the middle and do laundry. This is no problem for me. I don't mind doing laundry in strange places. It's sort of exotic. Sharing a run-down laundromat with two giant white beard guys, a couple of migrant workers, a nervous lady and her daughter and some poor guy carting around a cylinder of oxygen is okay with me. It's better, actually, than only seeing other people on vacation.

I guess there's a feeling of accomplishment that I get from completing ordinary tasks in unusual places. If memory serves, it was while doing laundry alone that I decided I wanted to live in Manhattan. That one is still (and may always be) pending, but you get the picture.

So it should come as no surprise that it was while driving back from doing laundry, clocking about 55 as the evening clouds began to roll in, that I committed to my wife's idea. Whether or not I die famous, that is.

Everyone goes on vacation and imagines themselves throwing their cell phones in the ocean, Corona Beer commercial-style. But really, what would Cancun be like when you run out of Benadryl or the first time it rains? Would you still want to chuck it all when you realized you wouldn't be going out for margaritas every night?

That's why I get these inspirations while doing laundry. Maybe it does make a kind of twisted, completely erratic sense. As I neared the Cayucos exit, I tried to picture myself here on a cold November, the town empty and quiet, the bright lights of the nearest city a 20-mile drive through the rain away.

I was listening to this great power pop song I'd recently dug up on iTunes. How would that play at 60 years old? Would I still be spending hours finding new songs on iTunes? Would I be doing it from my Cayucos living room, space-age laptop opened on the coffee table, everything slightly damp from living so close to the beach? Would I be alone, waiting for Sandra Bullock to come home from the retail job she would get to avoid going insane from lack of things to do?

Would we wake up, ride our bikes into town, sit at the Rogue Wave Cafe and read the San Francisco Chronicle, still keeping tabs on our old hometown? Would we drive into San Luis Obispo on Thursday nights for the Farmer's Market, or would that soon bore us?

Last night, I lay in bed listening to the sea lions. Today, the Jawa promises he'll teach me how to surf. One week of surf camp and he's a self-proclaimed expert. That's what happens when you're thirteen, I guess.

On Saturday, the sun will set on this year's beach vacation. Next year, though we'll be hamstrung by the Jawa's several-years-in-the-making demand for a Disneyworld trip, we'll carve out a few days to come down here, and maybe our now-passing interest in local real estate will ramp up just a bit, almost imperceptibly. I have a feeling that each year brings us closer to the time we drive down here, unpack and just stay.

Right after we close escrow on that place we bought with the advance from my second book.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

48 days to Bar Mitzvah: springsteen lost

It's almost nine and I'm running for my life. Actually, I'm not running for my life, I'm running for the bathroom. Not because I really have to go; more because I'm freezing. I'm running to keep warm.

I'm also running because I have the amount of time it takes to stand in line and ride the log ride, a five-ticket attraction at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, to copmlete my task. I have to get to the bathroom, do my business and return before the Jawa gets off the ride.

With him is some random little kid he met while destroying Sandra Bullock's digestive tract on the Tornado ten minutes ago. The kid can't be older than seven, but he's brimming with confidence. Completely elated at finding someone besides his parents to accompany him on rides, he's attached himself to the Jawa.

In an hour, I'll be standing next to our car in the dark, parked at the end of a pier, marveling at two things: first, I'll be continuing to be amazed that there are cars parked here on a pier, sticking out into the ocean. Most piers have wood slats. This one has asphalt and is lined with the type of restaurants that cater to tourists by pretending they cater to locals.

Second, I'll be amazed that I managed to make it all the way to the car before reaching into my pocket and finding no keys. Having exhausted my meager 15 ride tickets (I planned it that way) by riding the Double-Shot, the weird and surreal Mine Ride and the Giant Dipper, I was elected to cut out early and get the car while Sandra Bullock and the Jawa -- minus the random little kid, who was dismissed minutes before with a callous "I'm going to hang out with my family now -- rode one more roller coaster.

They were under great pressure to do this, since they'd each spent $30 on unlimited ride wristbands. On the drive back to our terrible (and terribly disappointing) hotel in Capitola, the Jawa would calculate the value of the wristbands. "You saved five dollars," he told his mother. "I saved $26."

I didn't really mind being locked out of the car. S. Bullock and the Jawa were already on their way, and they had the keys.

I liked the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk better at a distance, anyway. From here, several hundred feet away, across a body of water, the twinkling ferris wheel lights and distant rumble of a thousand shouts of joy were something out of Springsteen, circa "Greetings From Asbury Park." I don't know if anyone was chasing the factory girls underneath the boardwalk, but from here it was difficult to see why Bruce should decide that, for him, this boardwalk life was through.

In reality, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is perhaps the most remarkable combination of things I don't like since the time, fourteen years ago, that I was forced to spend a night at a Bed & Breakfast in Amherst, Massachusetts. "Wow," I thought, Sandra Bullock's large green bag slung over my arm as I waited for them to ride some spinning, octopus-looking thing, "Carnival rides, bad food and hordes of scary, hard-looking people. So many great things in once place."

From the pier, you could imagine teenagers creating life-lasting memories, like I once tried twenty-four years ago, when I brought my college girlfriend here. I think I'd expected to meet Bruce Springsteen that time, too.

It's 9:30 and we're sitting at a table, eating the worst vegetarian chow mein any of us has ever tasted. We bought it primarily to force the Jawa to eat something. He's so amped up from being around rides -- his natural habitat, he claims -- that he's forgotten to eat. The last thing he had was a hot dog at two p.m.

In a desperate and final attempt to convince myself and my bride that the Santa Cruz Mountain hamlet of Boulder Creek would be a fine place to buy a vacation home (they can be had for less than $100,000 there), we'd stopped there for lunch, only to find -- again -- that the place had long since been overrun with hippies. "You'd hate it here," my wife reminded me, pointing out that even though there was a brew pub, it was decorated in whimsically Victorian style. Tiffany lamps and boas being the enemy of all that is clear-thinking and righteous, I sighed, accepted her verdict, and drove on.

Sometime over the last 10 years, the people in charge of the Santa Cruz boardwalk decided to upgrade their employees, replacing all of the scary carnies with summering college students. Which put "Adventureland," one of my favorite movies from 2009, into my head. It stayed there all night.

"Have you seen "Adventureland'?" I asked the well-groomed fellow taking our cash at the chow mein booth.

"No. What's it about?"

"It's about a kid who graduates college and ends up working at a second-rate theme park to make enough money for grad school."

"Oh, so it's about me."

Shortly after that, I was on the pier, replacing reality with my own romantic notions of what a beach boardwalk should be. Out went the overweight teenage parents, taking their Mark Ecko tank tops with them. Gone, too, were the agressively drunk shirtless boys hanging out in the arcade, looking for someone, anyone to say something or even just look at them, giving them license to start messing with them and hopefully start a good beatdown.

"I don't like it here," I said to my wife when they finally arrived at the car.

"Why not?"

"It's full of people who want to screw with you." All of the frustration, those angry young men whose already short-circuited dreams have left them roaming aimlessly in packs, looking to find the guy responsible. And he could be anyone.

Add to them Santa Cruz' predictable clumps of burnouts, gathered in small groups, homemade tattoos faded after decades of hard living. On top of them, put the hard-partying vacationers standing cheek-to-jowl on second-floor verandes across the street, drunkenly shouting at each other and anyone else who comes into view and you can hear the clock ticking. Every minute longer that I'm here, it becomes more likely that they'll find me. It was better out on the pier.

And even better from the shore today, huddled and cold, sitting up and watching our Jawa out there with the surfers, bobbing up and down on his boogie board in his new O'Neill wetsuit and the booties his mother had to help him get on.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

51 days to Bar Mitzvah: less productive than the average bear

The golf gods have not been kind for the past two weeks. I curse them. Today they let me suffer an extended string of topspin-heavy shanks, skittering off to the right, witnessed by my child. You have to wonder how this is all going to work out the first time I actually step onto an actual golf course.

The campless week of summer is almost over. It's put a serious crimp in my productivity as a freelance writer, but as long as the Jawa is happy, I am happy. And I can tell he is happy because he's not rolling his eyes at me. All week I've been pretending that I can sit at the kitchen table and crank out newspaper stories while the Jawa entertains himself, sans computer and iPod(s), thanks to the edict that followed his most recent meltdown.

What a fool I was. I'm not exaggerating when I say that over the past 48 hours, I have not experienced a sustained period of longer than 15 minutes without hearing, "Dad?" San Francisco Examiner, I apologize for the quality of my work this week. Ah, who am I kidding. It was brilliant, anyway. There are things, a very few things, that I can do well, even when my concentration is broken because I have to pause every 90 seconds and say, "Please stop singing/humming/making that weird drum noise with your mouth."

Today, finally, I just gave up. Any work I was going to do would have to happen after Sandra Bullock came home. Instead of sitting at the table, I would force the Jawa to engage in out-of-the-house activities. We would go to the driving range, come home, eat lunch and then trundle off to see "The A Team" at the UA 20 in Daly City. We live in one of the world's favorite cities, but there are parking structures in Daly City.

My timing couldn't have been worse. Nobody had told me today would be the day I spend going back-and-forth with the production/design team about photos and captions to accompany my stories. Like everyone else, I saw the PSA about not talking on your phone or texting during the movie. I was the only guy to ignore it, though. In my defense, you can't walk out of "The A Team" for respond to an email, return five minutes later and expect to have any idea what's going on.

It's been several months since I last saw a movie I wanted to see. "The A Team," "The Karate Kid," "Avatar," are the last three movies I've seen. It's been even longer since I saw a movie I liked and it was night time and I wasn't alone. The good thing about all of these popcorn movies is that even at their worst -- and believe me, I could give you scathing reviews of all of them, including and perhaps especially "Avatar," is that unless you consider yourself too sophisticated to fall for that cheap stuff, it's really easy to get caught up in them, making the climactic scenes very satisfying. By the time the updated Daniel-San triumphed over the Asian Billy Zabka, to the great delight of Jackie Chan's Pat Morita impression, my heart was doing double-time.

Today, my morning began at 8 a.m. The Jawa stormed into my bedroom and announced, "We've got two options today. We can either go to Raging Waters or to the Alameda County Fair."

As obnoxious as that was, as badly as I wanted to deliver an improvised monologue on the dangers of entitlement, I still spent an hour this morning checking out the cost and feasibility of going to the fair. He wasn't getting me to Raging Waters, though. In the end, it simply wasn't going to work out. It would have involved a 45-minute drive and approximately $100 I didn't want to spend. On top of that, the Jawa would have spent the day riding rickety midway rides alone. No way are you getting me on The Zipper. I already did my time.

On Saturday, we leave for our week-long central coast vacation. In anticipation of the long car ride, Shack has been banished to his new collapsible dog crate for portions of the evening. He walks in, we zip it up, he stares at us through the mesh window, wondering what he did to wind up in jail. Everyone is hoping this preliminary walk-through will help him not freak out when he finds himself locked up in a hotel room in Capitola on Sunday, homemade fireworks bursting in the air all around him.

Tomorrow, the last day of camp no camp week, I will not buckle. I will sit at this table and get my work done in spite of interruptions. Is it easy to say something creative about Woodside, California, when you've already written about it three times and every five minutes a kid comes up to you, thrusts a small, gray hamster in your face and says, "Dad, look. It's Butters!"

No, it is not. Nor am I looking forward to my fourth consecutive day of laundry. How do three people generate so much laundry? Each time I pull out the lint trap I think of my former high school classmate Eleanor Mejia, now married and living in Utah with a staggering number of kids, eight, I think, or maybe ten. How many loads of laundry does the former Eleanor Mejia do in a normal week? If my family of three is producing approximately 1.7 loads per day, how much is made by a family of 12? I can't even imagine.

I was hoping to get downtown this week, maybe try on some suits and sportcoats for the Bar Mitzvah. Last week at Nordstom's, Sandra Bullock didn't blink when I tried on a slick, pin-striped Hugo Boss number. Maybe now is when I graduate from the ill-fitting one we bought at Nordstrom's Rack last summer. It's 2010. Nobody should have to show up in pleats.

Yes, this life of mine, it's a glamorous life. Sheila E. didn't know it, but she was singing about me all those years ago.