Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Knocking Down Qualcomm Stadium

January 4, 2021

Memories of a place depend on a lot of things. They depend on how and whereabouts you lived in that place. They depend on when you got there. And when I got to San Diego we had Qualcomm Stadium. In fact, I lived in Normal Heights and if I walked just a few blocks from my house I could stand on top of the ridge, overlooking Mission Valley, and I could see it just below me.

It was a huge concrete bowl with a green field in the middle, surrounded by an ocean of parking lot. Some say it was the biggest parking lot west of the Mississippi, though I couldn’t vouch for that. Old duffers who knew it by its old name, Jack Murphy Stadium, hated the corporate name. But I’d never known it as anything but Qualcomm. The Q, for short.

Qualcomm demolishing

By January 1, crews had begun demolishing the east end of Qualcomm stadium as they tore up the stadium’s huge parking lot and graded the land.

But now Qualcomm Stadium is being demolished. If you are a San Diegan and you don’t live in a cave, you probably know the story.

The San Diego Padres left when the city agreed to build them Petco Park downtown. Say what you want about the way Petco was built and whose money paid for it, but it’s a better baseball park than Qualcomm.

And what about the San Diego Chargers? They nagged taxpayers for a fancy new football stadium for years… something that would have ultimately cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion. The day came when a stadium referendum finally went on the ballot and San Diego voters (God bless em) said ‘not a chance.’

The Chargers moved to LA, where a revitalized Rams franchise already had plans to play and where the Chargers had literally dozens of fans.

I know. My sarcasm may show a bad attitude. But I was never angry about San Diego’s loss of the Chargers or the money-grubbing NFL they belong to.¬† What’s happening in Mission Valley–the creation of a satellite campus for San Diego State and a new collegiate-sized football stadium for the SDSU Aztecs– is clearly for the best. But while I don’t mourn the Chargers I do mourn the Q.

I watched Padres games at Qualcomm Stadium. I watched my first and only live NFL football game there with my dad. It was the Chargers versus the Saints… long before Drew Brees had any connection with either team. I saw light shows and fireworks displays at Qualcomm, some of them with Nicholas and Sophie when they were little.

I remember a guy I met asking me if I planned to watch the KGB Light show at the stadium. This was soon after I moved here and I’d never heard of such a thing. It was a time, in fact, when I still thought that KGB was a Soviet spy agency, not a San Diego rock & roll station.

Any structure or anything else that takes up a big part of your brain when you think about a place where you’ve lived, and where you’ve been happy, is something you’ll miss when it’s gone.

In the meantime, I’ll look forward to seeing games in the new college football stadium when it’s built. One problem with the Q is it was too damn big. Even a good-sized college crowd of 30,000 fans seemed small and silent when scattered around an NFL stadium meant for 70,000 people. I’ll also look forward to giving San Diego State some room to grow.

Yes, knocking down Qualcomm Stadium is for the best. All I’m saying is I’ll remember the place, and part of me will miss it when it’s all gone.

Christmas 2020 and Two Trees

January 1, 2021

The night before Christmas Eve I finally wrapped the presents I bought for my family. I was tired because I worked all that week. Like most men I just barely know how to wrap presents and I couldn’t find stuff.

I got the wrapping paper out of the garage. Do we have any of those bows you can stick on the top once it’s wrapped? No but I’ll manage. Where’s the Scotch tape? I had a pair of scissors… Where did I put the fucking scissors!

Fade Xmas tree

My first fake Christmas tree

Most of the time being a divorced man is not like being a single dad. My ex-wife is still in town and still helps with the kids. But she’s not here, and having a partner in the house means sharing tasks, like getting a Christmas tree, buying presents and wrapping presents. Having to do all that stuff yourself really sucks.

This year I bought a fake tree for the first time. I went to Lowe’s about a week before Christmas. I was first told that they had none remaining but was later told that they not only had one left – the gal gestured to a box on the floor – but it was small enough to fit in my living room. It had also been marked down to $70 and if I applied for a Lowe’s credit card I could get it for $20.

My son and I left the store with a $20 tree, which wasn’t the fullest and most lifelike fake tree I’d ever seen. But it came with lights already hung on the branches, and a remote control that would turn the lights white, colored, flashing or undulating from white to colored and with some options I’m sure I forget.

My mom’s Christmas gift to me was another tree.

It was a Tipu tree to replace the 80-year-old Pittosporum I had to remove just west of the house. I chose a Tipu because I planted one about six years ago that grew with such speed and vigor that it was sure to be the kind of tree that would soon replace the shade and beauty I was missing where the old tree used to be.

Ted picked it out at an Escondido nursery where I had earlier bought a Jacaranda, which he cursed because he didn’t pick that one or plant it. He was going to plant this one.

Ted is an arborist who I’ve known since moving to California, and in his 70’s he’s gotten more angry at the world. He arrived with two guys who dug a hole as Ted would hawk and spit and tell me how important it was to not bury the root crown. He told me (again) that this nursery (mentioned above) had to hire crews to replace trees they’d already put in because they planted them too deep or otherwise screwed it up.

Ted loves Tipus. Some people call em Tipuanas. They grow like weeds. They love the spare San Diego soil and bring orange flowers in the spring. The Tipu was finally planted and upright and Ted headed off to another client with my check in hand.

Planting tree

Ted and assistant ready to plant the Tipu

What else did I get for Christmas? Obama’s new book. A gym bag from my daughter that I could put my tennis stuff in and a cool plant – an aloe – from my son to also put in the garden.

It’s New Year’s Eve. The lights on the fake Christmas tree, and the ones we had time to set up outside, will glow tonight for probably the last time. We’re about to start a new year and get back to business. Planting a tree is a good way to start 2021. The fake tree will go back in a box and return, evergreen, when the season reappears.

The Summer of A Crazy Year

September 20, 2020

The sun sets in a cloud of smoke in California. But this picture of a filtered sun in San Diego is mild compared to the bizarre sunsets in the north of the state where wildfire has generated smoke that has has consumed whole cities.

It’s a very human thing to imagine the world’s end. When I was a kid it was nuclear armageddon. Now it’s global warming and that apocalypse is looking more and more familiar as we feel the rising heat and witness its many expressions on earth.

Not just California of course. Fires are burning up and down the west coast. The Seattle Mariners baseball team had to move their home games to San Diego because the smoke made the air quality so bad in Seattle. I got to see a funny thing. Seattle was playing in Petco Park, San Diego’s ballpark, and they were batting last in the inning.

It was technically a home game for the Mariners so, even though they were playing in San Diego, they were batting last, not first. Surely the end of the world is near when the rules of baseball are so messed up.

American adults grew up in a world where it seemed everything would be okay. That is still my hope. Donald Trump, that scourge on our democracy, will lose the election. The coronavirus will be tamed and people will try to create a promising future for my kids and grandkids.

I’ll stop thinking of doom. We’ll look back on this year and we’ll all have a good laugh.

Poem for Kevin Wilson

July 28, 2020

I was walking a block of my neighborhood when I noticed for the first time a telephone pole covered with poems and tributes and the photo of a man. It was a picture of our mailman who was killed while riding his bike. I thought I should write something too and tack it to the pole with the others. I did. And here’s a Poem for Kevin Wilson.

 

I finished the ride for you Kevin

You were riding your bike on Dehesa Road

When death came in the steel skin of a car.

Saturday I cycled that same road into Harbison Canyon

Then struggled up Mountain View Road to Crest

Thankful for the pain that showed me I was alive.

I’m older than you were then, and likely not so fit

But fortune is a bitch that fears not God nor justice

The priest says to believe in the life of the soul

But is that like believing in ghosts?

I will try to see your spirit walking to my house to bring the mail

And I’ll try to see your spirit where foolish men like you and me

Travel highways only on the power of our breakable bodies.

Maybe I’ll see you best when I am struggling to climb

And not knowing when I’ll arrive at the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs and Life

July 20, 2020

Cooper, the day after we brought him home.

Dogs have been a part of my life nearly all of my life. And two weeks ago I got a puppy.

It was a Brittany Spaniel. I was ready to adopt a dog and the Brittany had become my dream dog. But I’d briefly given up trying to find one since they weren’t that popular around here. But then I found some breeders in Arizona, and on July 4th, Nicholas and Sophie and I drove to Coolidge, AZ to pick up an 8-week old puppy we decided to name Cooper.

I thought Coolidge was going to be a tidy bedroom suburb of Phoenix. But it turned out to be a country town, if you could even call it a town, on a flat patch of desert that was quite a ways south of the metropolis. A dirt road took us over an irrigation ditch to the breeder’s rural house where she had a kennel of Brittanies out back. We paid $1300 for Cooper, who the breeder was clearly sorry to part with, then we put him in our car and drove away. The temperature was approaching 110 degrees.

Maybe the dogs in my life were evidence of my middle class existence. A family portrait from the mid-sixties shows my dad in a suit, my brother and me as little kids wearing jackets and ties, my mother looking beautiful in a red dress and, seated at her feet, our fox terrier Freddy.

In fact the presence of a dog at home became a cliche of family bliss. Right? A man’s got it made when he’s got a house, a wife, two kids and a dog. So it’s funny that I’m getting a dog as my marriage is falling apart. In my family picture the wife is a missing puzzle piece. But at least I’ve got a dog.

Cooper is orange and white, with a white stripe descending from the top of his head that broadens over his muzzle. The white stripe bisects the orange fur that surrounds his eyes and covers his ears. They’re the signature markings of a Brittany Spaniel. One reason I fell for Brittanies is they’re so damn handsome. And even though I’ve never hunted, I love gun dogs. Maybe their instinct to bond with a hunter makes it natural for them to bond with a family.

When you walk around the neighborhood with a puppy you attract attention. The same guy drove past us on two separate occasions as other people were admiring Cooper. The second time he stopped to tell me that I had become the most popular guy in the neighborhood. If you’re a single man, a puppy is the ultimate chick magnet. But they’re a magnet for pretty much anyone. It helps that Cooper seems to like anyone, dog or human.

I remember reading John Steinbeck’s book, Travels with Charley, about the time he toured the country in a camper with a standard poodle named Charley. He said he brought Charley with him for several reasons. The first was companionship. Also, he was going to be camping in a lot of dark, lonely places and standard poodles are good watch dogs. The other reason: Being with a dog is a great way to get people to talk to you.

The ice-breaking nature of a dog lets us connect with people, even those with opposing political views, and these days that’s saying a lot. The attitude of gratitude and the non-judging nature of a dog is something we can all agree to love. Even in my own home, Cooper has brought me and my two kids together.

I’m taking a couple weeks off from work. It’s been a summer vacation like I used to know, when school was out and you spent the summer around the house in idleness. The laptops and smartphones are still there, seeking our attention, but now there’s something else to we can do. We can watch Cooper’s antics and tell stories about him. We can wrestle with him and complain about him as he tries to nip our hands. We’ve focused our attention on the puppy, and he’s united us in that extraordinary way that a dog can do.

Am I?

June 6, 2020

Am I a racist

Am I afraid of young black men

Do I see a stranger when a black person stands before me

Are their thoughts and feelings a mystery that would shock me if I heard them

Am I a racist who thinks black people are superhuman or subhuman

Do I watch them play sports and believe they’re bonded for my entertainment

Have I seen them killed by police so often I believe it’s a natural state

Does my white skin make me a brick in a racist wall that cannot be knocked down

Am I a racist

Am I?

 

Moved to the Head of the Line

May 26, 2020

During the great sickness we stand in line at grocery stores, especially Trader Joe’s where there is rarely not a line. They fear if we’re too crammed into their space we’ll give each other Covid-19.

I was in line one day shortly before 9 a.m. but it seemed strange because the store was clearly open and the line was not moving. People would come out of the store and none in line would be let in.

The sign I must have missed

Then a woman approached me and said, ‘Are you in the senior line?’ It was a funny question since the other people in line were clearly NOT seniors. In fact, I didn’t know what she was talking about.

The woman went up to the Trader Joe’s maitre d’ who was standing outside the entry door. He nodded his head and sent her inside. I decided to make an inquiry and I learned that seniors had carte blanche on the place from 8 to 9.

‘You can go in,’ he said. That kind of pissed me off. How does he know I’m a senior?

What’s a senior? I asked, then learned that it was anyone 60 or older. I barely qualified, but I did qualify. I wondered why they didn’t card people. You card people if you think they’re too young to buy alcohol. How did he know I wasn’t actually 58 and was just lying so I could get in ahead of everyone in line?

He knew because people who are getting on in life don’t want to claim they’re older or pretend that they’re older. People who are young do want to claim the’re older, not just so they can buy booze but so they can enjoy greater status and respect. By the time you’re my age being older is something you dread, not desire.

But I took the chit and went in to gather bread and wine with the other old folks as the young and waited outside.

 

 

 

Gotcha

May 22, 2020

I work at a radio-TV station located on a college campus. It’s got a big staff and there are two people I’m thinking of. One is a man that’s an editor who’s been in journalism for a long time. The other is a female student employee. They both say Gotcha.

You know what I’m talking about. I tell them what I think about something, and they say Gotcha.

I’m not saying they give me a big exclamatory “Gotcha!!” They both say it in a sober, serious manner to tell me they get me. But Gotcha is a funny thing to say. Kind of old-fashioned, like something you’d hear from some colorful old codger. But the gal who says it to me is 21 years old.

The one thing I know these two people have in common is they’re from Kansas. He’s from Kansas City and she’s from a little town in the north-central part of the state. I thought maybe this could explain it. But then I was listening to a podcast of the show RadioLab, which is produced in New York.

The host was listening to the response of a guest on the show. The guest was done making her point. Gotcha, he said.

I actually looked up the guy’s bio on the show’s website, and he wasn’t from Kansas. It says he grew up mostly in Tennessee, and maybe that’s kind of like Kansas.

When I lived in Minnesota they’d answer in the affirmative by saying, You Betcha. You could compound the term by saying ‘Yah sure, you betcha’ or ‘You betcha, by golly.’

Maybe it’s just a part of the American language to take the word ‘you’ and turn it into ‘cha’ when the previous word ends with a T. And I guess we should make the most of it.

I heard that big dog bitcha. I knew he was gonna gitcha.

You should stay away from dogs like that.

Gotcha.

 

 

 

 

 

A Place without People

April 5, 2020

The barren heart of San Diego State.

I’ve worked on the campus on San Diego State ever since I moved to San Diego. And during the semester it’s a place that’s filled with people. When I got here it was full of kids walking and talking on their cell phones. Now it’s full of kids walking and staring at their cell phones.

But I shouldn’t say “now” because, once the great sickness spread across the world, SDSU students were sent home. So were their professors and everybody else who worked on campus. This place has the same shape with its paths, hills and buildings. But it no longer has a human spirit.

A place isn’t a place without people. Even in the summer, when class numbers shrunk to a minimum, there were still people in transit from the bookstore to the ATM’s and the food court then to some mysterious activity they had in some academic hall. You still heard music played by SDSU students who’d gathered to form ensembles in the music building, on the edge of an athletic field.

A couple days ago I stopped to take a photo of an empty campus (the one you see above) that I would have never been able to take in the daylight before this.

Nobody seems to know when we’ll be able to meet and touch each other again. Now we’re hiding from others to avoid infection. All of this virus avoidance makes me I wonder how we will be able to build up immunity and ultimately be protected from COVID-19. From what I hear a vaccine is years away.

Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing you in the line to enter the grocery store, though I probably won’t know it’s you unless I can recognize you behind a medical mask.

Knowing that it’s Over

April 4, 2020

My parents were married until death came, just like in the wedding vow. I have wondered whether people remaining in long marriages made perfect sense or required a huge act of will. My marriage has been a long one, 29 years, but now it’s breaking up.

I got married to a woman I fell in love with and we seemed very compatible. We were together for a long time and I was happy. I didn’t ever give much thought to whether I should get married to somebody. I just assumed that I would, and I did. In the same way I assumed I would have children, which we did.

Now that the marriage is done I still have two wonderful kids. They’re not little anymore. But the memories of holding their hands, throwing them up in the air and being greeted by them when I picked them up at daycare are like stones so precious I could never trade them or lose them.

I have never been a guy that made many friends. I don’t have a group of buddies I hang out with.¬†Sure, I’m social. Great at parties. Great at striking up conversations with people I don’t know. But forming strong friendships? For some reason, I’m not good at that. After I got married, my wife was kind of it for me. She was my lover and my best friend and I thought that she was enough. And now that’s over.

I guess what we think of marriage is a transitory thing. Maybe it’s crazy that I ever thought otherwise. We used to think marriage meant starting a new family. No longer the case. We used to think a marriage was a union between a man and a woman. No longer the case. I guess marriage means whatever we decide it means. If we decide marriage is a ham and cheese sandwich, then that’s what it is.

As for that “til death do us part” thing, you gotta admit that was a lot easier back when we didn’t live so long.

The woman I married is still in my life. When you have kids there’s no other choice, really. The divorce, which will soon be a reality, was not my idea. And for a long time all I wanted was to get her back… to somehow turn this ship around and make things the way they were, only better.

But I’m tired of wanting her back. The marriage is done and now even I know it’s done. And, you know, maybe that’s not so bad.