Saturday, July 25, 2009


Dear Spike:

Our Mormon friends would argue that it was a matter of divine inspiration. I'm in no position to say they're wrong, though I've got another theory.

The Day was July 24, 1847. The Mormon leader Brigham Young had just crossed over the Wasatch Mountain range with his band of religious refugees. Looking out over the desert that would become Salt Lake City, Young said, "this is the right place."

The place where Young's party rested when he made the decision to make this place his church's Zion is just a few miles up the road from our home. And until I stood there — and in lieu of any better explanation — I was willing to go with the "divine inspiration" theory.

But from that spot, what you see is miles and miles of desert — followed by another range of rugged mountains. I think Young — who was sick with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and unable to even walk for himself — had simply had enough. And so this was the place.

One hundred and sixty-two years later, the state of Utah still pauses each July 24 to celebrate Pioneer Day (or, as it was once called, The Day of Deliverance) — a day that is met with greater revelry and far greater reverence than the day that marks our nation's independence, three weeks earlier.

There are festivals and fireworks and a parade so grand that thousands of people camp out the previous night to ensure a spot along the miles-long route.

This was all quite difficult for us to understand when we moved here. And even today your mother and I still marvel at the spectacle. Each year on Pioneer's Eve, we ride the parade route on my motorcycle in order to better appreciate the throngs of people sleeping in tents and lounging on blow-up mattresses. And we shake our heads in wonder.

The next morning, scores of church-sponsored parade floats, all celebrating the virtues of the pioneers (though conspicuously disregarding the role that polygamy played in the founding of this state) roll right by our home. Bands play. Soldiers march. Missionaries strut in their starched white shirts and ties. And Brigham Young's most recent successor — at the moment a curmudgeonly looking guy named Thomas Monson — gets a standing ovation as his convertible rolls down the road with the Latter-day version of the Secret Service jogging alongside.

It's all so easy to mock. And we do.

But there's also a lesson to be learned from Young, his polygamous tribe and the worldwide religious movement it spawned.

Young's followers could have noted — just as easily as I did when I first stood at the mouth of what has come to be known as Emigration Canyon — the dubiousness of their leader's choice of the Salt Lake Valley as their new home. Instead they built a city – one of the most beautiful in this nation.

However they got here, they were here. And they made due.

We could spend each July 24 decrying the ridiculous spectacle and the farcical way it came into existence. Instead we celebrate. We gather our friends for mimosas and bloody marys. Your mother cooks up some Jell-O.* And after a few belts we saunter down to watch the parade and cheer the Saints as they go Marchin'.

However we got here, we're here. And we make due.

Life doesn't always makes sense. And whether that's divine inspiration or dumb luck, it doesn't really matter.

No matter how you got here, you're here. So make due.


* The official desert of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Dear Spike:

When I tell you, one day, that we went to the moon, I wonder if you’ll think I’m just sharing a story.

This is, after all, a once-upon-a-time tale. And it has been since before I was born.

Man’s first small steps on the Sea of Tranquility came on July 20, 1969. Our last giant leap came on Dec. 7, 1972.

Since then we’ve sent hundreds of astronauts into orbit. We’ve dispatched robots to explore Mars. And we’ve built telescopes that can see billions of years into the past in hopes of learning something about our future.

But we've never returned to the moon. Nor have we made any substantial movement toward sending someone to Mars — which was largely considered to be the logical next step when the Apollo program ended.

So it’s still uncertain what that future holds for us outside our own orbit. Space exploration is dangerous and expensive work. And, alas, we have so many pressing problems here on Earth.

Yet I will not tell you not to dream of running on the moon. I will not tell you not to hope to take that next great leap to Mars. And if you seek to soar beyond our solar system, I will not tell you it cannot be done.

You can do anything. I know this to be true.

Because there was a time when we decided we’d walk upon the moon. And when we went, the world stood still to watch. Hearts raced. Imaginations soared. Untold dreams were realized. And untold more were born.

Perhaps it’s true that we have lost our way, a bit. But there is nothing that you have ever lost that you cannot find once again, if that is what you want to do.

Yes, you can do anything. Yes, I know this to be true.

Because, once upon a time, we walked upon the moon.


Thursday, July 16, 2009


Dear Spike:

Visiting a flock of friends at the aviary yesterday, we came upon the southern ground hornbill habitat.

"The hornbill is from Africa," I read aloud from the sign on the cage. "It eats reptiles, frogs, insects and small mammals."

I turned to you. "What does the hornbill eat?"

"Milk, like me!" you said.

Funny, albeit incorrect. Problem was, I misheard you. I though you said, "Mammals, like me!"

"That's right!" I said, giving you a big hug. "You're so smart."

Just then, a group of older children walked by.

"Hornbills eat milk, like me!" you told them, obviously impressed with this new piece of information. "Hey kids. Hey kids! Hornbills eat milk, like me."

It took some time to explain to you that, in the animal kingdom, only mammals drink milk.

By then it was too late.

"Did you know those birds over there drink milk?" I overheard one of the kids tell him mom.

"Really?" the mom said. "I thought that only mammals drink milk. I tell you, I learn something new every time I come here."


Thursday, July 9, 2009


Dear Spike:

Today you bit your mother so hard that she bled.

Tomorrow you will get nothing resembling lenience from me. You'll get one chance to do everything your mother and I tell you to do. And if you don't, you'll be singing the boo-hoo song in the time-out chair. And if that doesn't work, we'll start taking your stuffed animals hostage.

Oh yeah, that's how I roll.



Dear Spike:

I hear you were very brave — and I couldn't be prouder. But I am very sorry you had to meet the business end of a honey bee earlier this week.

You were on a walk with your mother clear on the other side of the park when it happened. You were batting away some nasty summer gnats when a bee landed on your hand. When you tried to swat it away, too, it sank its stinger into you.

You were still sobbing, a bit, when you finally made it home, but you held up your hand rather proudly to show off a tiny red spot on your finger.

You held out that same hand, yesterday, as I was pouring some honey into a coffee mug.

"Some honey, daddy?" you asked.

I obliged, dropping a dab on your finger.

"Mmmmmm," you said as you tasted the thick golden liquid. "Some more?"

For a moment, I felt like helping you make the connection between two moments — one sweet and one painful.

But then I thought better of it.

"Here you go," I said, squeezing another drop from the bottle. "Enjoy."


Monday, July 6, 2009


Dear Spike:

From one day to the next, you look and seem the same to me. I know that you're growing bigger and bigger, smarter and smarter, but I cannot see it.

But, as they say, pictures don't lie. And the ones your mother shared with me recently told a thousand words about how you've grown over the past year.

In the first, taken just after your first birthday, you walk through a narrow waterpark stream aided by your grandmother's hand. You're cautious, feet fixed in the water and weight low to the ground. Your hair is soft, short and swept to the side.

In the second, taken just after your second birthday, you navigate the same stream all alone. You're confident, tip-toeing through the water with carefree abandon. Your hair is set up in pig tails.

My how you've grown. My how you have changed. I can only imagine what next year's photos might reveal.

But I'm happy to wait to find out.

I love this moment in your life, just as I did the last. And I am savoring every moment.

And taking lots of photos.


Friday, July 3, 2009


Dear Spike:

Last week, inexplicably, you demanded that we start calling you by your real name...



... Banana Dog.

"Banana Dog?" you mother asked.

"Uh huh, Banana Dog," you replied.

"Um, OK. Hello Banana Dog," she said.

"That's right!" you beamed.

This morning, you decided, you needed a new name.

"I'm Walrus the Fob," you explained.

"Um, OK," I said. "Good morning Walrus the Fob."

"Good morning, daddy," you replied.

I think I like this.

Buck Duck Brahma