Thursday, February 26, 2009


Dear Spike:

Back when I was in the Navy, sailing on the Persian Gulf thousands of miles from my home, I received a Christmas card from a woman I'd never met. It wasn't long, and I can't even remember the exact words, but I remember feeling much better about the world, knowing that someone out there had taken the time to tell me that she cared.

I'm telling you this to explain why I wrote to another little girl this evening. Her name is Clara Anderson. She's four years old. And both of her parents lost their jobs this morning when the owners of The Rocky Mountain News announced that they were shutting down the newspaper.

I've never met Clara, but I just happen to know a bit about what her family is going through right now. And so I thought that Clara and her parents might like to know that someone out there cares.

Don't be afraid to reach out, even to strangers. It always feels good. And sometimes it helps other people feel good, too.


Dear Clara:

At the moment, we’re strangers, but I don’t think that should bother you too much. After all, your mother and father have built their lives on talking to strangers and sharing their stories with others. I’m sure that hasn’t always turned those strangers into friends, but it makes the world a bit less strange.

That’s good work. It’s important work. And even though I’m confident your parents both know that what they do for a living is good and important work, it won’t hurt if you tell them, too. And tell them with a hug. Parents really like that.

Your mom and dad were among the hundreds of people who lost their jobs today when The Rocky Mountain News shut down after nearly 150 years. The newspaper business is in quite a bit of trouble right now, so the Rocky’s closure wasn’t a big surprise, even if it was extremely sad.

But something struck me when I saw a picture of you and your father on the Rocky’s Website, this evening. I think it was the look on his face. I think I’ve seen that look before. I was just a few years older than you when my father’s newspaper closed, but I can still remember the way he looked when he told us what had happened. He was frightened and heartbroken and outraged and probably a little bit nauseous. I’m guessing it felt as though the entire world had collapsed. I’m guessing he could have used a hug. And I can’t remember, but I sure hope I gave him one.

I’m sure that, at the time, my father would have had a very difficult time believing that someday his son would grow up to be a newspaperman. And I’m certain that, for your parents today, the future of newspapers looks even more uncertain. I won’t pretend to know what the years ahead will bring for your family. It’s possible that your folks will find work at another newspaper and they’ll be chasing deadlines for the rest of their lives. And it’s possible that they’ll never slug another story.

Whatever happens, you can be certain that your parents built their lives doing good and important work. This world is a place full of strangers. And they helped make it a bit less strange. You can be proud of them — and you should tell them so.

And when you do, don’t forget the hug.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Dear Spike:

First I read the book to you.

And then you read it to me.

And now you're wandering around your bedroom, reading it to all of your stuffed animals.

I love watching you learn, play and grow.


Saturday, February 21, 2009


Dear Spike:

Today, we recognize the practice of segregation for what it was – an abhorrent system of discrimination that continued to tarnish our nation long after we abolished slavery. And it is hard to believe that decent people could have ever thought differently.

In 30 years, I assure you, we will recognize laws preventing the legal union of loving partners with comparable dose of historical repulsion. And it will be difficult to understand how good people ever believed otherwise.

And so it is, I believe, that by the time your children are having children, we will have come to a similar conclusion about another practice that we fail to recognize for its obvious iniquity — placing upon our children and their children the burden of our fiscal irresponsibility.

Although it is suddenly en vogue for conservative pundits to wag their fingers at “generational theft,” this is not a problem of the left or the right. The national debt has risen and fallen under Democrats and Republicans alike. It has grown and shrunk — but never disappeared — through bull markets and bear markets, during war and peace, in prosperity and recession. In this republic, we all share the shame of believing that today’s needs — however pressing they may seem at the time — are of greater importance than the needs of our children.

So it was that, before you’d even learned to speak, you were indebted to the tune of $35,000 — the per capita cost of generations of deficit spending for guns, butter and trips to the moon. And so it is that, in the past few months, that debt has soared still higher, most recently with the passage of a $787 billion stimulus bill that, if successful, will create 3.5 million new jobs.

That’s borrowed money, of course. And although you and your children were not permitted to sign for the loan, you’ll be responsible for paying it back — a quarter-million dollars from your generation for each new job for my generation.

In 50 years, I believe, we’ll all recognize these practices as an arrogant and cruel assault from the past upon the future.
Perhaps then it will draw comparison to other errant chapters of our nation’s history. And perhaps we will wonder how decent people could ever have acted with such contempt for their own children.

In the meantime, I’m simply sorry. So very sorry.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Dear Spike:

It’s the dead of winter, but you still remember the names of kids you met only briefly on the playground back when the weather was nice. Two months after our trip to Disneyland, you can still recall what rides we went on — and in what order.

You’ve got your numbers down and will proudly sing your ABCs for anyone willing to listen.

You know all the colors. And your command of animal taxonomy would make Carl Linneaus jealous.

“Isn’t that a pretty bird, Spike?”


“How about that over there? See that lizard?”


“Um, that’s a cute monkey…”


You make small talk — in Mandarin — with the folks at the Asian foods market, down the street.

And that little Bugsbunnian reverse-psychology trick we were using on you last week to get you to do things you didn’t want to do? You’ve pretty much turned the tables on us. (And, come to think of it, that may be why your mother and I ended up reading you books tonight a full hour after we told you “no more books, it’s time for bed.”)

I couldn’t be prouder of you, but I’m also feeling a bit panicked.

Because now it’s game time.

It’s not the intellectual curiosity that has me worried — it’s what that sponge-like nature of yours compels of me as I try to teach you to be as decent as you are smart.

I can’t just say “don’t lie,” because you’re watching. And you’re smart, so you’re going to know when I’m not telling the truth.

I can’t just say “be polite,” because you’re listening. And you’re perceptive, so you’re going to know when I’m being rude.

I can’t just say “respect your mother,” because you’re soaking it all in. And you’re sensitive, so you’re going to know when I fail in that regard.

I’m supposed to be teaching you. But in a really big way, you’re teaching me. You’re holding me accountable to the things I ask of you but don’t demand of myself.

You’re making me a better person.

I just hope I can keep up as a father, too.


Friday, February 13, 2009


Dear Spike:

I could have turned down the assignment. My job description has gotten a bit broader, over the years, but 'men's fashion reporter' still isn't on my business card.

But I'm not really a 'no' guy.

And that's how I ended up standing in the middle of my office in a skirt.

You can call it a kilt if you'd like. Some people even prefer the term "Men's Unbifurcated Garment" or "MUG." But it's a skirt. Pleats and all. I wore it for a week at the request of an editor from my newspaper who knows good story fodder when she sees it.

Life is going to offer you plenty of opportunities to say 'no.' And in many cases, that is the right answer. When you might hurt someone or hurt yourself, I expect you to say 'no.' Loud and clear.

But when you're given an opportunity to do something fun, adventurous or educational — and even if that opportunity pushes against your usual comfort zone — 'no' is a good way to miss out on a good time.

You're not always going to love everything you try (the kilt is comfy, but I'm not sure I really need to be the guy everyone stares at in the market) but the more experiences you can stuff into this life, the better.

So take the scary. Take the silly. Take the artistic and the edifying and the enlightening.

Take the drafty.

As much as you can, say 'yes.' To pleats and all.


Friday, February 6, 2009


Dear Spike:

Among the ugliest words in the English language is one that describes a condition that is among the nastiest symptoms of human infirmity.


And yet somehow, when you say it, with big sad eyes and quivering lips, it's really just one of the cutest things in the world.

Get well soon.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Dear Spike:

We read books. We talk about your day. We listen to Teddy Ruxpin tell a story. We sing a few songs.

All told, it generally takes about an hour to put you to sleep at night.

But with 20 minutes to go before LOST, this evening, you started asking for your bedtime routine.

"Big girl bed?" you pleaded. "Big girl bed! Please! Please! Big girl bed!"

This is a problem. Your mother and I haven't watched television since we moved in together. But then we obtained a DVD recording of LOST. And, well, we sort of got lost.

I mean, how can you say no to a show that combines religion and science and mystery and polar bears all into one fabulous hour a week?

So you can understand our dilemma as the clock ticked down to 8 p.m.

"Big girl bed!" you continued. "Please! Please! Big girl bed!"

"How about we go play in mommy and daddy's bed?" I asked.

"No. No! Big girl bed! Pleeeeeeeeaaaaase!"

You mother lifted her finger at me and flashed me a "watch this" grin.

"Oh no," she told you, shaking her head disapprovingly. "I'm sorry, but you can't go to mommy and daddy's bed."

"Big girl bed?" you begged.

"No, I'm sorry," she said. "You have to go to sleep now, and you can't go to mommy and daddy's bed."

"Big.... girl...."

"There just won't be any mommy and daddy bed time tonight," she continued.

"Mommy and daddy bed?"


"Mommy and daddy bed, please?"


"Mommy and daddy bed, pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaase?"

"Oh, alright."

It's now 8 minutes 'til LOST, and you're nestled in our bed with a menagerie of stuffed animals.

And you mother is my hero.