Monday, March 31, 2008


Dear Spike:

Your smile is pure magic. Magic, I say.

Simple, innocent, unbeguiling and contagious. A two-toothed truth beyond any measure I've ever known. No tricks. No smoke. No mirrors. Just real, old-fashioned enchantment.

I must have forgotten what it was like to see such a pure expression of happiness. Or maybe I never knew. For although we all smile — far more than we frown — we're all just a bit jaded, just a bit guarded, just a bit cautious. We wear our smiles as masks. We flash our smiles as weapons. We use our smiles as ploys.

But you don't. Not yet, anyway. For now — and I don't know how much longer — your smile simply means what it most simply means.

"I am happy. I am happy to see you. I love you."

It is an incredible thing, being greeted by your child in this way. No one can love anything more than I love you. And when you smile at me I sense the reciprocal is true. And nothing can be better than that feeling. Nothing in the world.

I am practicing smiling back at you with all the honesty you give to me, and without regard for the rather sad certainty that one day, perhaps one day soon, your smile will reveal more teeth — and more nuance.

Maybe a little flattery. Maybe a little charm. Maybe a little Oh-Daddy-Please-Can-I—?.

Yes, you may. Just one more smile, please. As real and true and magical as you can muster.

Just one more smile, please.



Dear Spike:

It's Monday morning, about 9 a.m., and you're asleep on my lap.

Your head is resting on my left arm, rendering it unusable, which makes typing quite a chore. I could risk moving you to your nap mat, but I fear you'll wake -- and after the restless night you had, last night, I know you need your sleep.

All this likely will set me back a few hours of work today, but I really don't care.

Right now I'm holding my sleeping daughter in my arms. And I know this is a special opportunity that won't be around forever.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


Dear Spike:

You don't have a lot of words.

You say "mama" a lot. And "phapa" (dad?) sometimes.

Occassionally you ask to be picked "up" and once in a while, when we leave the grocery store or a friend's home, you say "bye bye."

And that was about it until late last week, when just after a bath, your mother and I were commenting on what a cute little bottom you have.

"Butt!" you cried.

"What?!" we asked.

"Butt! Butt! Butt!!!!!!" you squealed.

The average adult knows tens of thousands of words. And so I realize that this is just one of many, many words you will one day come to use in conversation. So I don't mind — not really.

After all, we've all got one. And I suppose you're going to need to know what to call it.


Sunday, March 23, 2008


Dear Spike:

Your Uncle Eric came up for a visit this weekend. We spent Thursday at the Jazz-Lakers game and Friday snowboarding at Brighton. The day was beautiful and the snow was amazing and we had a wonderful time.

I was amazed by many things on the mountain, but perhaps most striking was the number of kids up there.

And when I say "kids," I don't mean it in the same way that I have of referring to anyone who is more than a day younger than I am as "kids."

Oh no. I mean kids. Four. Five. Six years old. Kids.

These little rascals were tearing it up. Totally fearless. Doing things on a snowboard that I know I'll never, ever, ever be able to do — as though they were born with a board strapped to their feet.

And I suppose a lot of them nearly were.

Our little family is fortunate in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that we live less than a half-hour away from several world-class ski parks and "the greatest snow on earth." That being the case, I suppose, you may end up a lot like those kids I saw at Brighton. Indeed, I can almost picture you in a pair of baggy snowboarding pants and a bright snow jacket, turning tricks on the half-pipe, tearing it up.

Or not.

See, I'm tying to set some boundaries for my expectations.

A few things are non-negotiable: You will work hard in school. You will treat your peers, teachers, neighbors and elders with respect. You will eat well and exercise every day.

Then there are those things that you've got a choice in, things you mother and I hope that you will do but won't force you to do (not repeatedly, anyway.) I'd like you to try your hand at snowboarding. Your mother likes the idea of speed skating. We both want you to learn an instrument and a foreign language — preferably one that you actually might one day use (sorry, Esperanto teachers of the world.)

And then there is soccer. Your mother insists that, like any other recreational activity, you should be given a choice in whether you want to be fanatical about The Beautiful Game. I disagree. I believe it is possible to be forced to love something, and still end up truly loving that something (take siblings, for instance.)

I suppose I would still have to love you if you don't love soccer. But let's just keep that a hypothetical, OK? And if not, it would help matters if you were a totally rad snowboarder.


Saturday, March 22, 2008


Dear Spike:

Our relationship changed today.

You, your mother and I were all playing together in your room. She was reading you a story. I was sitting on the floor with a set of blocks that your grandparents gave to you for Easter, trying to figure out if you really could get a round peg into square hole.

All of the sudden, your mother screamed.

"What!?" I cried.

"She bit me!"

You mom held out a finger, as though to present evidence of the crime. I looked down at you and frowned.

"No." I said.

You smiled — exposing your pearly white weapons of choice — and laughed.

"No!" I repeated, as sternly as I could, jabbing a finger into the air for emphasis.

You stopped laughing and paused for a moment. Your bottom lip began to tremble. Your chin dropped to your chest. Your eyes welled up with tears. You gasped for breath as you sobbed. You looked up at me in absolute horror and pain.

It was, without a doubt, one of the worst moments of my life.

I know that it is part of my job, as your father, to teach you right from wrong. And I know that isn't always going to be as simple as sitting down to reason with you. Sometimes, I'm sure, it will be enough to praise you for doing good. But sometimes, I understand, I'll have to scold you for doing wrong, like I did this afternoon.

And sometimes, I dread, I'll have to punish you.

Your mother and I haven't yet worked out all the details. I'd like to leave all options on the table, including spanking, manual labor and waterboarding. She'd like us to stick to the Geneva Conventions. And as this is an area of parenting in which we absolutely must agree... well... you're just lucky that I can't extradite you to a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

In truth, given how awful I felt today, I'm really not sure I could stomach taking a hand to your backside. Just watching your reaction to what was a pretty moderate scolding simply broke my heart. And so I'm not looking forward to ever having to so much as lift my voice to you again.

After it was all over, I took you up into my arms. I hugged you and kissed your cheek. I wiped away your tears. I told you I loved you, again and again. Eventually, the sobbing subsided.

"I know you don't understand all of this," I whispered into your ear. "But you just can't bite mommy."

You looked up at me and smiled, once again displaying the two porcelain steak knives God has chosen to give you as bottom teeth.

I sighed.

Life is simply never going to be the same.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Dear Spike:

I’ve avoided mentioning it, so far, because I know how these things work.

In the movie business, it’s called the cutting room floor. In the sports world it’s called getting cut from the team. In the publishing industry, I suppose, it’s just called “the edit.”

But today I received in the mail a clean, crisp check and a copy of a signed contract, so I suppose it’s safe to assume that you and I are about to find ourselves in fine bookstores everywhere — and between hard covers, no less.

I get published nearly every day, of course, but as newspaper journalism is about as ephemeral an exercise as has ever existed, this experience feels just a little bit different to me. And I guess, more than anything, it was simply a very nice compliment to have been asked to contribute to a book about fatherhood.

Truth be told, of course, I didn’t feel I had much to contribute. After all, you hadn’t even yet arrived when this whole thing was proposed to me. And even after I began writing, shortly after you were born, I felt nothing that remotely seemed like being qualified for the task of being a father — much less the task of writing about being a father.

But then, who ever has been? I mean, there’s not exactly a handbook for being a good dad — everyone is pretty much just left to figure it out on their own.

And I suppose that’s kind of the point of “Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy,)” which is edited by Heather B. Armstrong, a fellow Salt Lake City inmate who writes an endearingly funny and exceptionally popular blog called “Dooce.” The book features Heather and a bunch of other bloggers in (and here I quote from the promotional materials) “a unique, no-holds-barred glimpse into the quirks and candid moments of modern dads.”

It goes on sale in late April and, on that day, I thought you and I could sneak into the local bookstore early, buy all the available copies, then return later and make a big, loud, stinky ordeal about how disappointed we are that the book was ALREADY SOLD OUT.

I suppose that wouldn’t be a very good fatherly lesson for you. But then, you know, there’s not exactly a handbook for being a good dad.

And it sure would be fun.


Dear Spike’s friends:
Should you so desire, you can order the book here,here,here,here and here.
Love, Spike’s Dad

Monday, March 17, 2008


Dear Spike:

I think I was about seven or eight years old when I first saw the Blue Angels fly. The U.S. Navy’s jet acrobatic demonstration team was practicing for an air show at Moffet Field, not far from where your great grandparents live. I don’t remember much about that day, other than being completely spellbound by the idea that anything in the world could move that fast while being that close to something else moving that fast.

And I wanted to try it out.

It was a few weeks later that I blew all of my toy money on a blow-up, blue A-4 Skyhawk fighter in an elementary class auction. Somewhere around that same time, I picked up a Blue Angels ball cap and a poster for my bedroom.

I’m not sure how long my fascination lasted, but it couldn’t have been more than a few months. My parents used to joke that I moved from ambition to ambition every week. And indeed, I can distinctly remember desperately wanting to be a firefighter, a soccer player, a preacher, a teacher, a professional wrestler, a dolphin trainer, an astronaut, a gymnast, a pool hustler, a comic book artist, a graphic designer, a bar tender, an architect, president of the United States, a physician, an archeologist and an inventor.

Oh... and a rapper. (Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.)

Most of us don’t get to do all the things we dreamed about as kids. And as children, we scarcely can imagine all the things we’ll do as adults. The career I finally settled upon has taken me to mountain villages and desert warzones, to the tops of the redwoods and the bottom of the ocean, inside the minds of the most depraved criminals and into the lives of the most devoted families.

And so, in trade, I’m quite content with the knowledge that I’m unlikely to ever visit the moon, design a skyscraper or body slam a 350-pound goliath. (All those other things, I’m still holding out for — including being a rapper. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.)

The truth is that life takes us in many strange and wonderful directions, cutting paths that render old dreams obsolete and make new dreams complete.

And sometimes, just sometimes, those paths collide.

Today was one of those days.

I almost turned down the opportunity. I pride myself on writing news that means something when it is painted into the great big picture of our world, and I just didn’t see how I was going to do that in this instance. Still, I had no other plans for my Monday, so I accepted the invitation of a local Air National Guard unit to fly with the crew of a KC-135 Stratotanker as they refeuled the Blue Angels, which were making a cross-country trip from California to Florida.

I don’t wow easily, but staring out the tanker’s tiny window at those shiny blue airplanes was a pretty amazing thing. I’m told we were doing about 450 miles an hour. And we flew at that speed, wingtip to wingtip, for a good hour.

For one morning, I was moving that fast while being that close to something else moving that fast.

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s probably not a bad idea to hold onto a dream or two...

... or ten or twenty...

... you really never know how or when or why your old dreams and your new dreams might collide.

But they just might.

(Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.)


Friday, March 14, 2008


Dear Spike:

My office is just across the street from the downtown sports arena, which means awful traffic on NBA game days, a yearly parade of elephants and clowns when the circus comes to town, and then, yesterday...

... an army of princeses.

It took me a while to understand exactly what was happening. I was walking to my car when I saw two young girls in tiaras. Then, as I rounded the corner, there were two more — these ones sporting tiaras and brightly colored ballroom dresses.

That's when I looked around and realized that I was completely surrounded by little girls in pink, yellow and blue gowns, prancing merrily toward the arena gates with their parents in tow.

Finally, it struck me...

Disney on Ice.

I mentioned this to a friend today, and I guess I must have had a bit of a scowl on my face.

"Oh, you just wait — that'll be your daughter soon enough."

I doubt it.

I've got nothing against Disney, really. Your mother and I have a pretty sweet collection of Disney movies, in fact — everything from 1937's Snow White to 2007's Ratatouille. I grew up watching Disney's Rescue Rangers and Duck Tales in the afternoons after school. And Disneyland may really, truly, genuinely be the happiest place on Earth.

So why would I put my foot down on Princesses on Ice? Call it intuition.

Playing princess is one thing. I hope we do. I'd like to pretend to be your Prince Charming and help you slay a dragon or two. Or maybe you and your mother could be a crime-fighting princess duo — like Cagney and Lacey, but with ball gowns.

But given that my paramount duty is to help you grow up to be a strong, unspoiled and independent woman, I guess I'm just not sold on the idea of letting the whole princess thing go too far.

Thing is, I'm still trying to figure out how to know what, exactly, is "too far" — so for now I'm sticking to a simple rule:

Princesses on Ice?

Probably not.

Nobel Laureates on Ice?

I'll get us front row seats.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Dear Spike:

I'm hesitant about saying so, but I really think you're growing.

We've been stuffing you so full of food, lately, that I can't imagine that we havn't had some success. And today I noticed, when I lifted you from your crib, that I grunted a bit in the effort.

That can only be good.

Keep chowing down, baby. Weigh in is in two more weeks.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Dear Spike:

A potty strike?

I'm a big supporter of labor. Big.

But you're no Joe Hill.


Monday, March 10, 2008


Dear Spike:

As I slipped into our bedroom, late last night, your mother lifted her head from her pillow and blinked some of the sleep from her eyes.

“I was dreaming that I was having a conversation with Richard Nixon,” she said.

“Really? What did he say ?” I asked.

She shrunk her head into her shoulders, shifted her voice into a quivering barritone and said: “Hello, this is Richard Nixon.”

“And that was it?” I asked.

She mumbled something about a telephone call, but I couldn’t understand it. Soon, she was back asleep and snoring.

Your mother’s always had a rather perplexing fetish for our 37th president. In fact, it used to be that whenever she was having trouble sleeping, she would ask me to tell her about Watergate.

No kidding. It was like singing her a lullaby, only this song was about a group of third-rate burglars known as plumbers, a disgruntled FBI agent known as Deep Throat and a slush fund known as CREEP.

After a while, though, she knew the story better than I. And so that was that.

I never really understood your mom’s fascination with Tricky Dick. She’s about as liberal as they come, after all, and he was, well, Tricky Dick. And yet I think if he were still alive and running for office this year, he’d have her vote (and probably a lot of our money, as well.)

She’s a strange creature, your mother.

Or maybe she simply understands that history can be crueler than it needs to be.

The first thing I learned about Herbert Hoover was that he was President of the United States during the Great Depression and that the shanty towns that sprung up across America during this time were known as “Hoovervilles” — so named in deference to the perception that the president was particularly callous and uncaring about the plight of his poorest fellow countrymen during those terrible years.

And that was it. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I managed to graduate high school without learning a single additional fact about the 31st president.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned that Hoover was perhaps the most compassionate and experienced economist ever to sit in the Oval Office, that he had been largely responsible for keeping Europe fed in the wake of World War I, that he had in fact made it a point of his presidency to battle poverty in America and that the Great Depression was caused by a great and horrible confluence of domestic and international factors, none of which had anything to do with Hoover’s presidency.

Hoover died just about 14 years before I was born, and yet my entire formal education about his legacy was that he had a bunch of slums named after him. Talk about a bum rap.

By some matter of coincidence, Nixon died just about 14 years before you were born. And such as it is, I don’t expect your formal education about him to include much more than the fact that he was forced to resign due to his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Alas, you’re less likely to learn that Nixon crafted an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, negotiated with Russia for a historic reduction in nuclear weapons, opened China to the world community and oversaw unprecedented environmental reforms.

That said, I’m certainly not going to tell you that you should kneel down next to your mother at the altar of Nixon. But I guess I hope you’ll learn more than a few rote facts about the men (and women?) who lead our nation.

To that end, I won’t mind one bit telling you a bedtime story, or two, about Watergate and Stagflation, Iran-Contra and The Blue Dress...

... then again, perhaps that last story might have to wait until you’re a bit older.

In any case, I think what you’ll find is that no one can be so simply defined.

That’s true for presidents.

And for me.

And for you.

And for anyone else about whom we might dream.


Friday, March 7, 2008


Dear Spike:

I dropped my computer the other day.

It broke.

You laughed.



Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Dear Spike:

You’re still not crawling. Rather, you’ve found your own very... um... unique way of getting from Point A to Point B.

It sort of starts as a crawl, but then you push up on all fours, slide down onto your belly, roll over and squirm sideways, then roll a few more times before getting up into a crawling position and starting again.

“What the hell is she doing?” I asked your mother last week.

“Oh that? That’s her Lieutenant Dan crawl.”

“Lieutenant Dan?”

“Yeah, like in Forest Gump — the part after he loses his legs.”