Monthly Archives September 2015

What Are We To Make of Pope Francis?

We are so used to schtick, spin and PR in this world that we hardly want to believe anything anymore. Or believe in anyone.

“What’s your game, and what are you trying to sell?” is our default stance, aided and abetted by a media inordinately pleased with itself in finding contradiction upon contradiction in every human being and endeavor. And truth to tell, that job is easy, because we are all as shot-through with contradiction as clay pigeons on a rifle range. Always have been.

All of which begets jaundice and jadedness as our modern coins of the realm, and everything that would attempt to circumvent them by a measure of sincerity or goodwill we either ignore, shout down, or almost worst of all, treat with an “Isn’t that precious?” irony that becomes virtually indistinguishable from cynicism, the last refuge of the fallen idealist.

So within that tableau of dialogue-stoppers and despair, what are ...

Read More

The Tides As Science and Metaphor

I’ve been steeped in tides on two different occasions over the past several months, luxuriating for several days each time on different coasts, watching the tides do what they seem to have been doing for quite some time now.

I’ll bet you know the drill:

The tides come in…

The tides go out…

Kind of repetitive and boring, eh?

Truth to tell, for all the time I’ve spent seaside, growing up in southern California and then living on the beach for a couple of years in my adult life, I haven’t investigated the science of tides all that much. I have always vaguely understood them to be controlled by the moon with some kind of mysterious gravitational push and pull, but beyond that, I have enjoyed tides mostly as a balm for my soul, a kind of hypnotic transitional happenstance resembling the passage from day to night and back again, summer to fall and so on.

The rhythms of nature.

But of course, science ...

Read More

Postcards From Puget Sound

I’m no photographer and my now hopelessly outdated iPhone 4S is not much of a camera, but when you’re on vacation at one of the many dazzling garden spots of our world, it is right and proper to send a few postcards to friends and loved ones. Since I didn’t quite get around to doing so on this past week’s journey to Puget Sound (you noticed your empty mailbox, did you?), I’ll make up for my oversight now with a few snapshots that I hope you’ll enjoy.

So without further ado (and with brief accompanying commentary):

Ebey’s Landing is part of the National Park Service outside the town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Among its delights: a fort, a trail that hugs spectacular coastal cliffs, and a rocky beach that at some points gives way to tiny stones which make the incoming tide sound like the world’s noisiest bowl of Rice Krispies.

Morning comes to Samish Bay…

I think these are lilies ...

Read More

Notes on That Man-Manly Stoic Thing

Up until last Thursday night, San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong had never hit a home run in a major league career that began in 2000 and has included long stints in the minor leagues and in the Japanese professional league. Then in a game against the Colorado Rockies in Denver, Vogelsong launched a ball over the right field fence for the First Home Run of His Major League Career.

That is always a seminal, uniquely gratifying moment in the life of anyone who has ever dared to dream of being a big league ballplayer.

As he circled the bases and began to approach the dugout where his giddy teammates waited for him with high-fives and backslaps at the ready, Giants announcers Mike Krukow and Duane Keiper had the following exchange:

    Krukow: Do you think he’ll smile?
    Keiper: “No.”
    Krukow: “Not even with his first big league home run…Down two runs, he will not smile…


Read More

My Early Jobs: A Labor Day Reflection

You know what book I’d buy? A collection of interviews about people’s first or early jobs. There are such riches to be gleaned from our employment histories, all those tales of burger flipping and cashiering, sheep-shearing and babysitting.

My first sort-of-real job was as understudy for my brother’s paper route. He was three years older than me and once he landed the job, he appointed himself CEO. Then he hired me, his 9-year-old younger brother, to get up with him twice a week at 5 a.m. to deliver the Eagle Rock Sentinel up one side of the street while he did the other. We did this over a whole bunch of streets.

For this, he paid me the princely sum of one dollar each day, $8 a month. He made some $30 or so as CEO, so this was my early introduction to capitalism, which is sometimes used as a synonym for “hire someone else to do a gob of work while you keep most of the money.”

Many other wonderful...

Read More