Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

I wrote a Christmas letter back in 2007 that no one but me thought was amusing.   Thought I'd try again.

JANUARY – Celebrated the 2011 holidays by feigning illness.  Retired to bed with the sheets pulled over my head – stayed there for a 4 weeks communing with the dogs

FEBRUARY –  New stage play premieres in San Diego.  Have to be restrained from attacking leading man at opening night party.   Family not speaking to me.  Sweet!  

MARCH – Son’s birthday.  He wants a machine gun and a “scary” mask to take to school.    

APRIL – Decide to try a new anti-depressant which sends me on a screaming, spiraling descent into the black hole of hell.   Been there, done that.

MAY – Back to normal anti-depressants and successfully climb back to usual level of despair.  Challenged by daughter’s birthday.  She wants a “several thousand dollar shopping spree.  Got her chap stick – other than that, not much to report.

JUNE –Children get out of school for the summer.  While attempting to escape, slam car door on my head.   Amnesia, possibly beginning Alzheimer’s, for the rest of the month.

JULY – Turned 59.  Didn’t feel much different than 58 which, frankly, wasn’t all that great.  Wife adjourns to Switzerland for two weeks leaving me with the dogs and the kids.  There is no God.   

AUGUST– wife and God return.   However, am hospitalized for post traumatic stress.  To cover, I have left knee operated on.  Request for extra pain pills denied.

SEPTEMBER – Kids go back to school – I celebrate by drinking an entire case of two buck chuck white zinfandel in one sitting – the rest of the month is a total blur.   

OCTOBER -  For Halloween, daughter dresses – or undresses - as “Aphrodite, Goddess of Love”.   Son dresses as The Royal Huntsman and armed with bow, arrow and knife, insists I accompany him “into the woods as Snow White”.   Don’t remember the dress I wore. 
NOVEMBER– The march towards Christmas begins.   For Thanksgiving the wife serves salmon.   I hate fish.

DECEMBER – Fall off roof putting up Christmas lights and suffer a serious concussion so first two weeks are thankfully a blur.  Children get out of school. While hiding Christmas presents I inadvertently lock myself in the trunk of my car which is where I’m now writing from.    No one’s found me yet.   Am keeping fingers crossed. 

Till next year - Merry Christmas!!

(By the way, if you like Desperate Man become a follower and pass the link at to your friends.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


So it‘s early morning, like five, and I’m in bed half awake.   I’ve never been a late sleeper, have become even more the insomniac as I’ve gotten older.   I am, however, a very good dozer and I like to lie there in the early hours and muse.   I think about my work, I think about my life.   I contemplate my hangover if I have one.   It can be a pleasant time.   And so it can be especially disconcerting when your bedmate decides to stretch and out of nowhere, long toes and even longer toe nails pincushion into your nether regions.  And so you push them away and they push back.   And you push harder and they push back harder.   And finally you can’t take it any more and you say to the lovely wife in an aggrieved voice –

Will you do something about your stupid dog!   

Because, yes, it is a stupid dog that has usurped my bed and worse, is disturbing my reverie.

Juneau is a one year old Vizla – pronounced Veesh-la – and is a Hungarian hunting hound.    However something obviously went wrong with the breed early on.  Rather than flush birds and rabbits as it is supposed to do, it would rather curl up as a stole around its owner’s neck.   It has no fat, no fur and ears like Dumbo the elephant and the moment the temperature drops below fifty degrees, it begins to freeze to death.  Which brings up the question, since when is Hungary a Mediterranean climate?

Terrified of catching a chill, Juneau will begin to whimper piteously at around two in the morning.  The lovely wife, half asleep and obviously mistaking this faker for one of her children, will pull back the blankets.  Juneau will promptly leap up onto the bed and burrow down head first under the covers.   Between us. 

This is an issue.

The lovely wife and I are at a point in our lives where we don’t need immediate access to one another at all hours of the night.  No, the issue is noise.   Juneau snores like a drunken lumberjack. 

I am used to children in my bed.  Both would quietly sneak in on occasion until about the age of ten.   Neither of them took over the way Juneau does.   I inevitably lose the battle for territory and should I doze off, wake to find myself with half my butt hanging off the mattress

Most dogs don't sleep at night because they understand that you are asleep and they take the responsibility of watching over "their pack".  

Not this dog.  Should you wake Juneau up and tell him this – hey, get to work! -  he rises from under the covers, looks at you affronted, yawns - and then goes back under the covers and falls right back to sleep.

Upon arising it gets worse.  Juneau goes in search a discarded chew toy and brings it to you.  It is wet with slobber and chewed to pieces but the silly dog dances and circles as if to say – “This is yours  – friends right?”   The lovely wife thinks it’s adorable.  I think he’s feigning cuteness for food.  It works.

The other dogs have taken note.  Mully, at 75 pounds of solid lab muscle, brings you logs from the fireplace.  He drops them on your feet.   Louis the Dim, brings you his favorite ropey toy which is like a multi-colored hangman’s noose, and then refuses to actually give it to you.   Should you reach to take it, he holds on, backs up and growls deep in his throat.  As with most things, Louis is several cards short of a full deck.  Napoleon doesn’t bring you anything but himself.   This has always been the case and his attitude seems to suggest that this should be more than enough.

However, unlike the three of them, I sense that Juneau is often taking advantage of me.  The lovely wife has trained him to ring a hanging bell if he wishes to go out and take a leak.  When he knows she’s busy, he does this every six minutes.   It is left to me to open the door.  “And stay out,” I say.  Three minutes later he is whining to be let back in.  The temp hasn’t risen above fifty yet and he is shivering.  I let him whine until I can’t stand it – about 20 seconds – and I let him back in.   He doesn’t say thank you.

He chews shoes.  Leaping at flies, he knocks over lamps.   He eats bird shit and then, with great melodrama,  pukes it up in the living room.  Seeing that you’re having a glass of wine, he leaps up on the couch so you’ll spill it.

Why do I put up with all this abuse you ask?   Because much to my chagrin, I have fallen for the little bastard.   He has a face like silly putty.  When he shakes his head, his Dumbo ears flap as if he’s trying to slap himself silly.  He likes love more than food.

He is being trained to be a service dog.  He will be leaving in a year.  He will be given to a combat veteran in the Wounded Warrior group at Camp Pendleton.  He visits there often.  The Marines, most of whom suffer from post traumatic stress, call him @#$%&! Rubberface and they vie for his attention.   I have no doubt Juneau will find and become devoted to a new owner who will be equally devoted to him.   But I worry that a Marine will not allow a silly, snoring dog into his bed.  I worry Juneau will be cold.

I wonder if they’d like Louis instead.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Rancho Sante Fe

I've been conducting a playwrighting workshop with a group of enormoulsy talented writers.   They are writing scenes and monologes taken from the daily newspaper.  Newspaper Plays will have a public reading at the Moolelo Theatre in San Diego on 11/15.   I've found the work being done so inspirational I thought I'd write a scene myself.  See below.

Four people stand next together.  A woman, late twenties, a California surfer dude, a well dressed matron and a wizzened old man.
Occupy Rancho Sante Fe!  Occupy Rancho Sante Fe!  Occupy Rancho Sante Fe!  Occupy Rancho Sante Fe!
Not a great turnout, fellow politically idealistic dudes.
This is Rancho Sante Fe.  It's to be expected.  But they will learn
Occupy Rancho Sante Fe!
Uh... learn what?
That we, the 99%, take action against the greed and corruption of the 1%!  That we will only grow stronger in our solidarity!
(calling out)
Attention must be paid!
Attention must be paid!  Attention must be paid!  Attention must be paid!
To donuts!
To donuts - wait - what?
Donuts.  I'm here for the donuts.  Won't you be serving donuts?
We will not be serving donuts.
We will not be serving coffee.
A beat.
Wall Street stole my mortgage!
Wall street stole my mortgage!  Wall street stole my mortgage!  Wall street stole my mortgage!
Wall Street stole my donuts!
(to the old man)
Will you please?
(to the matron)
Tell them, citizen!  Tell Rancho Sante Fe exactly how Wall Street stole your mortgage.
Oh.  Well, dear, not exactly mine but they stole something and there are people who have something and that seems terribly wrong to me.  So here I am.
Totally bitchin’.
So you still have a job and a mortgage?
Oh, no, dear.  I’ve never had to work.  And we paid cash for our home.
And... where is your home?
Oh, about a mile from here.
Is it a... nice home?
Very nice.  We have horses.
And so you are... rich?
I have no idea.  You'd have to ask my husband.
And he is...?
The founding executive vice president of Qualcomm.
Party hard!
Serve donuts!
We are not serving donuts!
(to Matron)
Even though you represent everything we vilify and find reprehensible, we are glad you’re here.
Thank you.  You too, dear.
Now.  Where were we?
Occupying Rancho Sante Fe, dear.
Right.  We’re here to let Rancho Sante Fe know how we feel.
Corporations are not people!
Corporations are not people!  Corporations are not people!  Corporations are not people!
Corporations are not donuts!
Oh, for God sakes!  Can we please occupy something other than donuts?
Occupy onion bagels!
Occupy legal marijuana!
Occupy legal marijuana!  Occupy legal marijuana!  Occupy legal marijuana!
Occupy legal donuts!
Stop it!  Just stop!  No bagels and enough with the donuts!  And we are not occupying legal marijuana!  Legal marijuana is not the point of us being here!
Uh, attractive but badly dressed female dude?  Do you not realze how much money the red, whtie and blue could rake in and put to the public good if they legalized and taxed high quality weed?
Quite a lot, dear.  And it'd be nice to not have to buy it under the counter.
No!  We are here to end the monied corruption of our democracy.  Not to occupy donuts, not to occupy mortgages for people who don’t need mortgages and not to occupy legal marijuana!
Dude.  Please.  The personal preference of what a dude wishes to occupy is at the very heart of democracy.  Begrudge no one.  Nuff said.
It takes courage to stand up for what you believe, dear.  Land of the free.  Home of the brave.
And donuts!
No.  It is not - that - simple.  It can’t be.
Silence.  The elderly man raises his hand.
What now?
I occupied once before.
You did? 
Fifty years ago.  We called it protest then.  Tossed off the fabricated Ozzie and Harriet blinders and took to the streets.  Faced down the police, the National Guard, Kent State, Daly in Chicago.  Carried flowers, gave the peace sign and in return got sprayed with high power hoses, beat with night sticks, shot and arrested.  But we had a dream.  We went to the mountain top.  We saw the crooked places made straight.  And now they aren’t again.  Why?  We have seen the enemy too many times and we keep forgetting.  He is us!  Rancho Sante Fe!  Is this who and what you are?  Are you what we will always aspire to become?  Rich.  But hollow.  One nation divided under money.  You are a cook with nothing but a recipe for disaster.  I say no!  No to turning your back on the less fortunate.  No to not paying or playing fair.  No one left behind!  A soldier does not leave his brothers behind in battle.  I go to the mountain again.  I will make a difference again.  I occupy America!
Silence.  Then:
Make a difference again.  Make a difference again!
Make a difference again!  Make a diference again!
Go to the mountain!
Go to the mountain!  Go to the mountain!  Go to the mountain!
No one left behind!
No one left behind! No one left behind!  No one left behind!
Occupy America!
Occupy America!  Occupy America!  OCCUPY AMERICA!
A beat
And coffee and donuts for all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Youngsters

A mistake was made.  Yes.  The lovely wife had errands to run and left the youngsters at home alone.   Normally the youngsters are to be trusted.  They play, they sleep, they investigate.   This day  was different.

Dude, what is that?
I do not know.  I cannot see that far.   But... but it... it smells... good!
I dunno, Dude.  Lots of things smell good.  Some of’m don’t come out so nice.  Remember the salsa.
I do not know what this is but it is not salsa.  Oh!  Oh, dear.   My stomach is rumbling.
Dude, your stomach always rumbles.
I am drooling.
Dude, you are always drooling.  
I am hungry!
Dude... you are always hungry.
I think... I think we should have a taste.
I don’t think that’s a good idea.
A small one.
Dude, they’ll be pissed.
Please!!   A very small one.  It smells wonderful.   I am rumbling and drooling both at the same time.  I am getting an erection.
Spare me.  Trouble is, Dude, it’s up there.
You could get it.
I have seen you jump.  You jump high.   You could get it.  You could it bring it down.
I dunno, dude, this is pretty stiff  jump even for a junior stud like me.
You could vault off my back.
What?   Are you crazy?
No!  You can do it.  I know you can.  You will take a running start.  You will vault off my back!  You will get it!  And we will have a bite.  And then we will put it back.
A bite, huh?  Just a bite?
A small one.
All right.  I’m gonna regret this but... don’t move.

You have done it!   You are up there!  
Whoa, Dude,  this thing is unbelievable.
I know it is!  I can smell that it is!  Now bring it down and we will have a bite!   A small one!
I dunno, Dude.  Maybe I better extensively check it out first.
Aw, Dude, the juice is delicious.
Bring it down NOW!!!!

All right, all right, hold your waddles.   In coming!   Aw shit!  The plate.broke!
I do not care about the plate! 
Dude, you gonna help me down or what?   Dude?  Dude, come on,  leave me some.   At least a wing.
No!  All mine!  All for me!   Is this cilantro?!
What do you care?   You’re eating so fast, you’re not even tasting.
I am tasting!  I am taking small bites! 
Yeah, like a steam shovel.   Okay, coming down.   Ouch.  That hurt! 
Get back up on the counter.  Get away!
Dude, I’m not going near you, you might start eating me.
I am in ecstasy.  I am in heaven.  Is this the pope’s nose?
Dude, that’s a bone.  You are now offically eating bones.
They are delicious!
And you are a garbage disposal.
No, I am a Labrador. 
Same thing.
Oh, my goodness!  It is gone!  It is all gone!  What happened to it?
You ate it, Dude.
Dude, you're  insane.    We’ll put it in your papers.  Insane dog.  
There must be more!  Oooh!  Wait!  There is!
No, Dude, you’re licking the floor.

Oh!   Woe is me!   It is gone!  There is nothing left.  Woe is me, woe, woe!
You realize, Dude, you are now probably going to have diarrhea for a week.
I do not care.   I like it.
Nobody else does.
They will love me. We will play fetch with a tennis ball and they will love me!
Not when they see the plate.

Ooooh!   You are right!   The plate!
No!  Don’t eat it!
Oh!   What shall we do?  What shall we do?  You are smart.  You are a Hungarian hunting hound.  What shall we do?
Not my problem, Dude.  You're the one who ate it.
You helped me.   You got it down.   They know I cannot jump  high.   They will blame you.   You are a puppy and  they will blame you, not me.

Okay, look, we’re gonna blame it on the fat, furry idiots downstairs, okay?   Get'm up here and everybody'll blame them.
Oh!  That is smart!   You are smart.  That is why I like you.
Dude, you like everybody.
I cannot help it.  It is my nature.  And now I have to go to the bathroom.
First things first, dude.   You now know the plan.   Any questions?

Yes!  Yes!   What time is dinner?

Aw, Dude.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Tarheel and The Mayor

When contemplating the future of my surgically repaired knee I need look no further than The Tarheel and The Mayor.  Let me start by saying weekend tennis warriors only get better with age in Southern California.   It’s either in the weather or the water.    They’re like fine wine, they might pour slower, yes, but they get smoother.  They’re to be appreciated.

The Tarheel and The Mayor are perfect examples.   Both are in their 60’s, both are former basketball players – The Tarheel a guard, The Mayor a small forward – and both are still ridiculous competitors.

Off the court, both have been successful in business, both have loving if long suffering wives, and both are outgoing, friendly men.  The Tarheel is pretty much adored by all who know him.  The Mayor pretty much adores anybody he’s talking to at any given moment.   The Tarheel is prone to smiles and friendly waves when he passes in his BMW.   The Mayor is prone to earth shaking, heart lurching  blasts as he leans on the horn of his F-150 pick-up to announce his immediate arrival.

To a hacker’s annoyance, both have single digit handicaps.  The Tarheel, after pasting one 250 down the fairway, likes to turn and snicker at you like Muttley the dog in an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon  (he does the same thing after a winning drop shot).   The Mayor raises his arms in the air and shouts –“ Sixty-five years old!!!”  (he does the same after a cross court winner).

And here’s the thing.  Both sport enough amour on their broken down knees to make a knight in King Arthur’s court  jealous’ – really! - creaking black metal braces that start mid-thigh and drop to mid calf.   The Mayor takes it a step further, encasing most of his bowed legs in tight black plastic support. 

The other day I watched them play a baseline game.  This is a game played to ten that does away with the serve (serving takes away from the exercise and let’s face it, there are no good braces for shoulders).   As men who took up the game of tennis a bit late in life, both have excellent forehands and suspect backhands.   The mayor likes to pound the ball, the Tarheel like to mix it up.  The Mayor, who is Jesuit educated, is constantly yelling at the Tarheel to stop hitting it anywhere but down the middle as it is not in the spirit of the game and because “God doesn’t like a serious competitor”.  To which the Tarheel hits another drop shot and gives his trade mark snicker.  In response, the Mayor, who is obviously on God’s shit list because he is a rabid competitor, hits his forehand harder.

They are surprisingly well matched.  

Nothing will stop them.

Which means, as I approached my sixties with knee brace firmly in place -

- nothing - !

- will stop - !

- me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Italian Jobs

Russell is back.  You know, the dog from the frozen tundra north?  My mother in law’s mini-doodle?  The champion barker, yapper, ball chaser, bicycle biter, fight instigator who charges other dogs and then goes over to the side and sits, watching when my idiots go charging in after him.

However Russell has been getting his lately.   Russell is having to deal with the new kids on the block.

Luigi and Vito.      

They are Italian Greyhounds, one black, one grey and they look like your basic run of the mill greyhounds – long, sleek and furtive – only shrunk down to the size of a streamlined whippet.

Russell is terrified of them.   He doesn't seem to believe they're dogs.

Hey, Luig, looka, dere’s da little creep.”
I see’m, Vito, the little bastard he’sa lookin’ at us.
Who you lookin’ at, ya little bastard, are you-a lookin’ at us?!
You think we funny lookin’ a’ somethin’?
I say we put-a the freakin’ fear a’ God in him, Vito.
You-a said it, Luig, let’sa get’m.  
You bettah run, ya little bastard!

Russell is fast but Luigi and Vito are streaks.   They don’t run, they bound as if weightless, their legs a blur.  Russell sees them coming across the field and he immediately puts his tail between his legs and bolts.  The three of them go screaming towards the hill, Russell in forth gear, Luigi and Vito hardly in second.    It’s as if the roadrunner is chasing the coyote.

“How nice.  They playing.”, says the Italian Jobs owner.

Sure they are.

That’s-a right, you little bastard – you-a better run!
We--a gonna chew-a y’ balls off, ya little bastard!
He don’t even-a got-a balls, Luigi!  
Sa-right, he’sa freakin’ fixed, Vito!
We-a gonna fix you all over again, ya little creep!
You-a go for the legs, Vitoi, I-a go for his ears.
You got it!

My doodles, Luis and Napoleon, sit smiling and panting slightly as Russell goes down in a skidding heap.  Russell has gotten them into too many fights that they’re now willing to help out.  

Vito and Luigi race around Russell, a blur, digging their own racetrack, running faster and faster.   Russell cowers, yelps and barks and Luigi and Vito immediatly freeze, staring.

What’sa mattah? 
Why-a you cryin’ like a little girl?
Aw, come on, we-a just funnin’ wid you.
Dis-a stromboni, he got-ta no sense-a humor, Vito.
Hey!  We mean-a you no harm!
Yeh!   Sniff my butt!
Luig, I think this’s-a stromboli'sa havin’ a heart attack.
Okay, okay!   We leavin’ you alone, okay?  We goin’ now.
He’sa no fun, Vito.
You can-a say that again, Luigi. 

Luigi and Vito turn and bound away, leaving Russell panting in the dust.

“They love other dogs”, says the Italian Jobs owner.


Hey, Luigi, let’s get those two fat-a, furry ones over there.
You-a got it, Vito.
Run-a, you bastards!
What a great day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ode to a golfing friend

Good King Mike

King Mike was quite a good man but his golfing game was not.
If his swing had been his subject, than he’d have had the subject shot.
It was blasphemous, unforgivable!
That he stunk so on the links.
I shall ban the sport entirely if I can’t improve, methinks!

King Mike was quite a kind man but his golfing friends were not
Sir Steve was unpredictable and Sir Eric blew too hot.
Sir Paul was quite respectable and how Sir Dane’s ball flew!
(Sir Dane was quite the happy man having nothing else to do.)

And how King Mike did envy them
The way they strode the green
Paul’s easy smile, Dane’s golfing threads (the finest ever seen),
Sir Eric’s ball flies out of sight
King Mike thought with noble dread
Sir Stephen has a comely swing
It’s flat as matzo bread.

King Mike called the wizard dwarf, Phil Rodgers, to his castle.
I hear you are a golfing whiz, though surly and somewhat facile
I wish to be a golfing king.
I’ve built an indoor range
Make my balls go straight and long
And I’ll pay your daily wage.

They retired to the desert strands where King Mike had a home.
Try swinging with authority, said Phil, the wizard gnome. 
Load the shaft, release the hands
King Mike felt like an ass
The ball did dribble down the range
Cried the wizard dwarf – World class!

Now King Mike was quite a smart man but his golfing game was shit
King Mike had conquered companies
(Said the golfing gnome – that’s it!)
King Mike had dollars, gold and jewels
Beyond most mortal ken
(King Mike had also beer cans – he liked collecting them.)

King Mike and Phil went on the course
Oh, this would be the test.
For the gnome had brought his squire
A pro, the golfing best!
The pro did swing and knocked the ball a mile towards the green
King Mike released it from the top
And promptly burst his spleen

King Mike was quite a good man but his golfing game was not.
King Mike was kind and generous but with the golfing game besot.
The wizard dwarf Phil Rodgers, the royal gallows soon did claim
And as he died, he bellowed this!
You can’t buy a golfing game!!

Note: Phil Rodgers is a teacher to golf professionals.  He was runner up in a US Open to The Golden Bear.    He is about 5'8", weighs a good 250 and is, to put it mildly, gruff spoken.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I don’t remember exactly when I first met my friend, Bart O’Rourke, but I certainly remember where.  On a tennis court.  It was doubles, he was across the net, playing add and he had this crazy habit of turning his back to the court and sort of leaping sideways when taken wide on his backhand.   We were the same age and pretty much the same ability and played pretty much the same way meaning we both were erratic and liked to play the “great shot”.   Bart liked this even more than I did.  He would hit shots that even Roger Federer wouldn’t attempt.   He would also take a balloon ball down the middle, wind up and hit it over the fence.   (I would only hit it into the fence.) 

My brother, the eternal pusher, named Bart, The Human Highlight Film” aka Highlight for the sheer, insane, impossible  brilliance of some of his shots.   That my brother won their match 2 and 1 was irrelevant.  When you’re an insane artist who cares who wins?

We were a less than formidable doubles team, always cheerfully – okay, sometimes not so cheerfully – bringing out the worse in one another.   Some teams ham and egg it, meaning when one is off, the other picks up his game.  Bart and I hammed and hammed it.   Or egged and egged it because we usually came off the court with yolk on our face.  

Over the years, Bart and I had any number of post match beers, any number of discussions.  Bart had an opinion and a theory for everything.   Haberdashery, the law, medicine, the serve and back hand.   He’d be happy to tell you the inside scoop on anything.   I once heard him lecture Doctor Stu, my esteemed orthopod, on the proper remedy for a strained knee.   Bart, a staunch Republican, believed in the military and states rights and did not believe in Global Warming.    He could, as they say, sell ice cubes to Eskimos. 

Bart and I played tennis once or twice a week for a quarter of our lives.   

A little more than a year and half ago, life took Mr. O’Rourke down for the count.  He’d had a procedure for arrhythmia – rapid heart beat.  This is entailed send a tiny wire up through an artery and shocking the heart – rebooting it.   The one in ten thousand happened.  The wire nicked the esophagus just behind the heart.  As I understand it, a cyst formed and grew and three weeks later, burst, sending infection into the lungs, blood stream and brain.   Bart suffered not one but three stokes.

That he lived was considered a miracle.

The man we used to say would talk to a corpse now must deal with slurred speech.   The man who was a great surfer, skier, diver and yes, tennis player, must now use a walker.   Bart no longer plays tennis, he goes to therapy.

Much to my dismay, I don’t see him nearly as much as I should and would like to anymore.   I’m not sure any of us do.   People get busy.  People get swamped.   Oddly enough I think people can get afraid, wondering if tragedy is contagious, worried it could happen to them.


There was an inter-club tennis match in his honor this last weekend.  The Bart O’Rourke Clash between The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club where I play and the San Diego Racquet Club where Bart plays.  There were T-shirts, a trophy, food and drink and it’s going to become an annual thing.

Bart, of course, was there.   Wearing multi-colored Addidas tennis shoes.   Sitting and watching with his lovely wife, Jen, accepting handshakes and hugs from all the people who had come to play and/or watch tennis but mostly to see him.

He’s quieter now.  You get the sense he does a lot of listening,a lot of thinking.   He’s as positive as ever.   He says he’ll be biking, playing golf and tennis again and I believe him. 

You wonder though.  When I see him he often seems tired.   So much has been taken away. 

But then I remember he has a married son, Terence, in the Secret Service.   He has a son, John, just engaged, who flies planes for the Air Force.  He has a daughter who swims for her high school.  He has marriages and grandchildren and holidays to look forward to.  He has all these friends who came out to honor him.   

Too many people pass not knowing how much they meant to a lot of people. 

I think Bart knows.

Now if he’ll just stop dicking around and get his stubborn, Irish ass on the tennis court again.   I need to find someone I can beat. 

Preferably quiet.

Move it, Highlight.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So there I am the other day, sitting on a stationary bike at “Rehab United” trying, slowly, with great pain and no success, to get my surgically repaired knee to go 360 degrees around on the bike pedal, all the while watching young athletes and trainers and the seriously in shape,  dip and bend and stretch and flex.  Yes, there are some old people there but like me, they are watching the young people too, all of us wondering what the fuck happened?  We got old.

Really, there is nothing like a sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, doing effortless, jaw dropping lunges with 25 pound barbells, to make you feel like an orangutan at the zoo, sitting on a ragged blanket, with stomach folds like a dress and an itchy ass, chewing on a piece of limp grass, sticking your finger up your nose and occasionally scratching your pits for want of something better to do.

And there is nothing that makes you more wistful for your lost youth than watching a piece of steel in a UCD basketball shirt, bench press his own weight 28 times and then leap up and roar and slap palms and act as if he doesn’t notice the admiring glances of the ladies.  The pheromones are flying around here.   Unfortunately they wrinkle, crash and burn as soon as they get near me.

Perhaps this is because since 1980 I’ve gained about ten pounds a decade.   Hard to believe, I know (!), but true.   In 1980, I weighed about 175.  In 1990, I checked in at 185.  In 2000, yes, around 195.  In 2002, I went back to 180 but only because I started working out with a personal trainer two to three times a week.  It was boring, exhausting and painful and after two years of it, I decided I’d rather spend the money on good wine.  Now, in 2010, I hover close to 200.

It goes without saying the lovely wife hasn’t gained an oz. in the 25 years I’ve known her.   Call it a combination of good genetics, discipline and a vegetarian diet but if anything, she’s lost weight.   The lovely wife can still do lunges with the best of them and with a week’s notice, would be benching her own weight and more.   The lovely wife, of course, is German.  There is a reason they almost single handedly beat the world twice.  However, as I like to remind her, the English were on the winning side both times and I am of English heritage.   When I lived in London the idea of a sensible lunch was two pints of beer.   I felt very much at home.

But back to the orangutan.

Adult males have large cheek flaps which get larger as the ape ages. 

What a coincidence!  

The sagging cheeks show their dominance to other males and their readiness to mate.   My sagging cheeks show that I’m tired, hung over, constipated or all three.

Orangutans do not swim.   I don’t either.  I occasionally allow a wave to wash gently over me.

Orangutans eat dirt.   I only do when I’m drunk.

But back to my knee.  (Enough about my knee, let’s talk about my knee).

Dr. Stu tells me it looks pretty good.  He tells me I have good extension and only fair flexion.   I wonder if he’s talking about my knee.

Dr. Stu saw me on a tennis court the other day, standing in one place, feeding balls to my son.  He stopped his, car, waggled a finger at me and told me that in no uncertain terms I was being a “bad boy”.    I chewed on my limp blade of grass, stuck my finger in my nose and pretended I didn’t hear him.

Occasionally in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason, my knee locks and I howl – okay, bleat – in pain.   The lovely wife is sick of it.  It bothers her to no end that I immediately go back to sleep leaving her to worry about everything and nothing for the next hour or so.   And then, just as she begins to doze off, I do it again.  I don’t remember any of this in the morning but she does.  And to get even, she insists on cogent conversation before I’ve finished my coffee. 

Adult male orangutans are solitary and happiest alone.   They usually have three or four eligible females in the general area with which they get together only at breeding time.  The rest of the time the females take care of the young and leave the big guy to himself.

When the sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, glances in my direction, I immediately go from doing lackadaisical, slow motion, uncompleted pedals to a first time, full out, 360 degree burst.  This is against Dr. Stu’s orders and after the first go-round, it feels as if I’ve ripped out every stitch, torn all the scar tissue and have pulled my new enhanced ACL from its boney socket.  But stifling my bleat, I pedal on like Greg Lemonds.

Who says human beings are smarter than apes?

I’ll be playing tennis by December.

The sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard will remember me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dr. Stu - part 3

I am a terrible patient.  The lovely wife tells me this so it must be so.  She says I would try and micro-manage from my death bed.  I find this unfair.  I just want things the way I want them when I want them.  Especially when it comes to my own physical well being which is pretty much all the time.

I bring this up because, yes, I survived knee surgery.  Amazing!   One moment I was in the operating theatre, the next I was in a comfy bed with an ankle to thigh ace bandage and a Darth Veder-like contraction of black straps and metal brace surrounding my belabored joint. 

Dr. Stu had come to visit and because I wasn’t awake to interrupt, had had a nice conversation with the lovely wife. The procedure had gone well and Dr. Stu had taken a “really good tendon” from my hamstring.

I’m known for my tendons.

I vaguely remember getting to the car.  I don’t remember the ride home.  I vaguely remember the whole family spotting me, gathered in a weaving circle, as I wended my way up the front walk towards the door.  I remember telling them I was a whizz on crutches having broken my leg when I was 9 and 12 respectively. 

And then teasing them, I tripped and fell.

I was carried to the couch.  Give me a few minutes, I said and I’ll go downstairs.  I have work to do, people to call, art to create!  There’s also tennis to watch.  Somewhere in the middle of this, I decided to fall asleep for five hours.

When I awoke, the lovely wife insisted I drink water.  The lovely wife is a big proponents of water.  She says it flushes the system.  I would rather flush my system with beer. 

I drank some water.  The lovely wife suggested a pain pill.  Hah!  I said.  I am tough, I am already on the mend.  I fear no pain.  Pain fears me.  Unlike water, on this I stand fast.

An hour later, half of it spent whimpering and quivering like a dog trying to pass a tennis ball, I begged her for a pain pill.  How about two, I suggested.  No, I would have to wait three hours for the second.  As with water, the lovely wife is a big proponent of labels. 

Gah!  What to do?  I am not tough.  I hate pain.  Pain makes me a wimp.  Outraged, I called Dr. Stu and got his answering service.  Tell him this wasn’t supposed to hurt, I said and I indignantly hung up.  In short order, I called my friends, George, Adam and Lucia.  They had all gone through knee surgery.  They would tell me what to do.

You’re confusing me with George, said Adam.
It didn’t hurt a bit, said George.
They gave me a nerve block that lasted a week, said Lucia.

Where was a nerve block when I needed one?

I quickly called my friend and neighbor and internist, Dr. Colin.  Dr. Colin, who is an oenophile and gourmet of note, would know what to do.  What wine accompanies percocet, I asked him, certain he would have the properly expensive bottle in his vast cellar and would bring it over post haste because that’s the kind of healer he is.

Percocet is a narcotic, said Dr. Colin sternly, you should be drinking nothing but water.

Gah!  Determined now, to wipe out the pain with even a greater pain, I read an Entertainment Tonight that the sweet daughter had quietly put on the reading table for me.  George Clooney was breaking up with someone while in Italy.  Amazing!  Jennifer Aniston had a chin implant!  Who knew!   Transformers was an A+. 

Knee temporarily forgotten, I buried my head in my hands and wept.  It was working.

It’s Dr. Stu, said the lovely wife, handing me the phone along with a large glass of water. 

How’s it going, Steve, said Dr. Stu, sounding as enthusiastic as usual.  Boy, do you have great tendons!

I’m... just a bit uncomfortable.
Loosen the straps and bandage, said Dr. Stu.
I can do that, I said?
Of course.  We want you to feel good.  Oh - and make sure you drink lots of water.

The lovely wife seemingly having an unending supply, I drank some water.   Still hurting, I decided to take refuge, yet again, in sweet slumber.

I loosened the straps and bandage.  I took a pain pill, caged a second as back-up and waited for a narcotic euphoria that never came but if it did, came in the form of bad dreams.  I slept, fitfully at best

Three hours later, writhing dramatically in pain, I woke with a bladder-busting need to take a leak.

Next:  The lovely wife gets her whimpering, naked blob of a husband out of bed, onto his crutches and to the bathroom as he curses water.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dr. Stu - part 2

It’s come to this. 

I have reached that point in my life where I can toss and turn and stare at the ceiling at 2 am in the morning and yet put me in a recumbent position in the course of the day – the dentist chair for example, with the light in my face and the water gurgling and a metal pick in my mouth – and I’ll be asleep in a matter of moments.   So goes my experience with the MRI – magnetic resonance imaging – for my traitorous, injured knee.   The swelling has not gone down and the discomfort has increased and so the amazing Dr. Stu has suggested he “take a look”.  The machine, which they slide you into after asking if you’re claustrophobic and wouldn’t you rather go home is a huge donut that clanks and whistles and hums and burps and belches and is loud enough that they give you earphones to deaden the noise.  The earphones in this case are playing Barry Manlow – hardly an improvement on burps and belches – and I’m tempted to wildly wave at the technician to change the channel – but it’s too late, I’m already dozing off.   I wake up a half on hour later to Celine Dion

I am told Dr. Stu will have the results on Monday and will call.   Not one to sit on bad news, he calls me Sunday night and tells me that I have a torn meniscus and a partial tear of the ACL.   I know what these are by name only but am able to translate that my knee is seriously fucked up.   Not so, says Dr. Stu. 

“We’re going to fix you right back up, as good as new, Steve.”  

 I find this alarming.  “We” suggests that I’m going to be a part of this and as mentioned, I’m always more comfortable when other people do things for me.

The bad news, says Dr. Stu, is that we are going to be rehabilitating for six months.   

That, I realize, is where the “we” meaning “me” comes in.   As one who hates the monotony of repetitive exercise – I would rather trim toenails than lifts weights – this is going to be a bitch.


I’ve only had it once before – very simple carpel tunnel on the hand (knock wood) – but it involved general anesthesia and it made me realize I am one of those people who are afraid they won’t wake up.   I found it to be an acute form of airplane travel.  You’re pretty positive that nothing is going to happen, but at the same time you’re aware disasters do happen and you would find it very disconcerting if one should happen to you.  

In terms of general anesthesia, I also find it annoying to think that if I don’t wake up, there's the possibility I won’t even know that I didn’t wake up.   And this, of course, invariably gets me thinking/obsessing on the complexities of an unconfirmed afterlife.   Do plants believe in heaven?  If they don’t, why should I?   Do plants know they’ll be reborn again in the spring?  Even if they do, I don’t.  I want facts, not faith.

I arrive at the out patient clinic at for surgery.  I read a golf magazine which, after years obsessing about the game, I now find boring.  I read a men’s fitness magazine which features an article on a tattooed, cross training television actor who eats six small gluten free meals a day and drinks two gallons of water,   After years of working there, I now find Hollywood boring.

Forty minutes and three magazines later, one of them Popular Mechanics, I am taken to a small pre-op space where a no nonsense nurse, who I sense doesn't like me, asks me do I smoke, drink alcohol, have dentures, contacts, open sores, metal plates in my head, implants and when is the last you ate and/or drank water.

No, just a little, no, no, not presently, do loose screws count, HUH?, and as instructed, yesterday evening and before bedtime respectively.

She gives me a paper smock and booties, tells me to change and goes to talk to the patient on other side of the curtain.  In a matter of fact voice he tells her that he smokes two packs a day, goes through maybe a six pack or more every evening,  has several false teeth, wears a pacemaker and had juice, coffee and a breakfast bagel a little more than an hour ago.   When questioned further, he says it’s his shoulder being operated on, not his stomach.  

The plane is leaving the gate.

My anesthesiologist is Dr. Levine.   He is friendly and personable and far too cheerful, and I immediately suspect he’s not telling me something.  In a minute, says Dr. Levine, we’ll be going down the hall to the operating theatre where he’ll give me a little buurschh – he makes a sound effect - and voila, I’ll be out like a light.  It sounds ominous and I say so.   Dr. Levine just smiles and tells me to start “planning my dream”.    But first he has a few questions.   Do I smoke, drink alcohol, have dentures, pacemakers, metal plates in my head, implants and when did I eat and drink last?  

Inspired by my neighbor, this time I tell the truth about the alcohol.

When I get to operating room – it’s 20 yards away and they make me walk – Dr. Stu is waiting.   I greet him by his title – Doctor Stu, I say - it seems only appropriate in this, his work place.   Unlike me, he looks confident and rested and his blue scrubs emphasize his muscles.  You know he’s gotten in his five hundred push-ups and sit-ups before coming in this morning.   Dr. Stu looks like he’s been anticipating this one for months.

How we doing, Steve, we ready?   

Yes, I say.  We are.

I lay down on the operating table.  It is surprisingly comfortable.  Someone places a pillow beneath my head and wonderfully, warm blankets across my body.   The lights are bright, just like the dentist’s office.  Waitn a minute, I could sleep through this all by myself.   Who needs anesthesia?    I am just about to bring up the possibility –


                     (To be continued.  We hope)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flat Tire

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  If this is indeed the case, than I’m about as tough as a pancake because when the going gets tough, I’m prone to taking a seat, my brain stuck in neutral, unable to go anywhere.

The lovely wife calls it flat tire syndrome.

You’re driving along.  You get a flat tire.  You get out of the car and you look at the tire.   Yes, you have a flat tire, all right.  Cars do not move, at least not well, with flat tires.  In order for a car to move well, the tire must be changed.  The spare tire is in the trunk as are the tools – the lift, the wrench.   And yet....

Maybe it would be better to take a seat by the side of the road and watch the cars whiz by.   I don’t want to change the tire.  I’m not good at changing tires.  At this moment, I don’t even like the tire.  All I want is to be where I was going.  I’m not sure now where I was going but it’s got to be better than this.  This fucking flat tire is making me anxious.   It’s making me worried and nervous.   I don’t want to even think about the flat tire.  I want the flat tire and the car to go away and leave me alone. 

Where's a tow truck when you need one?    How much money will it take to get someone else to do this?   Why can't I afford it?

At this moment, as often as not, the lovely wife will open the passenger window and shout out –

Will you stop standing there like a somnambulist and change the tire!

To which I’ll reply –  

Why me?   Why can’t you do it?

To which she’ll reply –

Because I’m busy keeping the motor running!

Or the equivalent there of.

And I know I should get off my ass and do the job, I know it won’t be all that hard, that I’m semi-competent, in fact, when I put my mind to something, I’m more than  competent, that I’m fast and efficient and soon the tire will be changed and we’ll all be on our way again.

But dammit, before I grit my teeth and dive in, I want to go record as saying I still wish the @#$%^&*()&% tire would change itself!

But it won’t.  It never does.  The bills don’t pay themselves.  The health plan people, if they answer the phone, will not be clear and reasonable and you'll have to call again.   Walls will not paint themselves.   Floors replace themselves.  The information necessary for every day life will not effortlessly reveal itself.  That new story idea that will renew your career – if you even want one anymore - will refuse to write itself.   The world your children are going to inherit will continue to go to hell in a hand basket. 

Unless you at least try and do something about it.   You know you’ll feel better if you finally do.  

Flat tires must be changed.    Life isn’t always easy.   For anyone on the road.   Open the trunk.  Get out the wrench.   Try and laugh about it.

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
                         – William Hazlitt (1778-1830)