Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Dear Spike:

I was 16 or 17, I suppose. I can't remember for sure, but I know it was some time shortly after I had my second ear pierced, since that's apparently what prompted the whole conversation.

I was sitting at the kitchen bar in my grandparents' home in Santa Clara. Grandma was on the other side of the bar, probably diddling about on one of those hand-held video poker games that she enjoyed so much. We were making small talk. This and that. School and work. Soccer and girls.

She asked about the new stud in my right ear. "You don't see that on boys much, do you?" she said.

No, I told her, you don't. That's one of the things I liked about it.

She looked at me and smiled. And then she reached across the table and placed her hand on top of mine.

"You know," she said, "I will always love you — no matter who you choose to love."

"Um...." I said. "Yeah, I know."

"I mean it dear. No matter who."

"Grandma..." I said. "Are you suggesting... What I mean is... I appreciate that but... I'm not gay."

She just smiled and looked at me with a look that said, "I know a lot more about you than you think."

Whatever. It was the thought that counted. And it was a lovely thought.

She was the product of an old-school Catholic upbringing. She was a strongly opinionated woman. Her sons didn't always make the decisions she would have made. Her grandchildren even less so. And while she didn't always approve — and often let us know it — she never failed to remind us that, above it all, what was most important for her was that we were happy.

Your great-grandmother, Doreen Ann LaPlante, died Nov. 4 — just about six months after her beloved husband passed away. On the day after Thanksgiving, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered together at her favorite restaurant for an old-fashioned Irish wake.

We drank. We sang songs. And we told stories.

And we remembered a woman who loved us just the way we were.

Even if we weren't.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


Dear Spike:

I'm writing to you from somewhere over the U.S. Midwest, en route to Philadelphia for a conference. 

It all seems so technologically fantastic to me: pecking away at the keyboard on my phone which is connected to the airplane's wireless Internet system. But, as is the case with pretty much all new technology, the gee-whiz factor is going to go away quite quickly. Eventually, this will all be old-hat -- or even obsolete. 

Things change. That's the way things are in this world. 

That also happens to be the reason why I'm on this airplane to begin with -- because my life is changing, too. 

While I'm still employed at the same job I've been at since hour mother and I moved to Salt Lake City in 2003 -- and while I enjoy that job quite a bit -- I'm growing more and more aware that it's unlikely that I'll still have a viable newspaper career in 10 years. That's a big part of the reason why I went back to school, a few years ago. And it's a big part of the reason why I have begun working, part-time in a few other capacities in the world of education. 

So this week, I'm headed to Philly to learn more about how to prevent dropouts as part of my job with a group that works to give struggling kids a second chance at school. And next month, I'll start commuting once a week to Utah Valley University, where I'm teaching a class on crisis reporting. 

One of these things is a stepping stone to my professional future, I suppose. Or maybe I'll be doing something entirely different -- something I haven't even thought of and could nary conceive of at this time. 

Or maybe, just maybe, I'll find some way to continue doing what I've been doing for the past decade: Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, as we journalists like to imagine it is our job to do. 

The future used to be scary to me. Now it's simply fascinating. I enjoy all of this. Whatever direction the world takes me, I have you and your mother. And whatever I do, I'll always look at this world with a gee-whiz awe. 


Monday, November 1, 2010


Dear Spike:

Here's to the misfits. The outcasts. The freaks.

Here's to surprise. To passion. To dreams.

Here's to the team that made me believe, again, in baseball.

Here's to the San Francisco Giants.

You'll not likely remember this moment, but I'd like you to understand it, so I'll fill you in on the particulars: You were sitting in your high chair, eating some bananas and chocolate chips, when Brian Wilson blew a fastball past Nelson Cruz to give the Giants their first championship since your grandfather was still in diapers.

You, your mother and I all exploded into cheers. Foot stomping. Hallelujah-making. Whooping and hollering and laughing and crying.

Yes, a little bit of crying.

Why should I care like this? About a game? About a game played by millionaires?

Well, maybe I shouldn't. And for a long time I didn't.

I grew up on this game, following the Giants and the more successful band of Bash Brothers on the opposite side of the Bay. I can still remember the lineups of both the teams that faced off in the 1989 "Bay Bridge" World Series. That series was interrupted by an incredible earthquake — but when it finally ended with an Oakland A's victory, I remember wishing that it could have gone on forever, so that night after night I could hide under my covers and tune my little red radio in to listen to Will Clark knock a Dave Stewart pitch over the center field fence, or to hear about how Carney Lansford snagged a rocket-shot off Matt Williams' bat that just should have gone up the third base line for a double. I had it all planned out: The A's would win a game, and then the Giants would win a game. And they'd just keep playing, forever and ever, marching from one side of the bay to the other, and back again.

Four years later, the players — many of them millionaires, many times over — stopped putting on their spikes over a dispute regarding revenue sharing with team owners. For the record, I think the owners were greedy pigs, but it was still a strike over a game played by rich men. And it resulted in the cancellation of a large part of the 1994 season, including the playoffs and World Series.


After that, it almost didn't matter when I learned that many of the players I'd cheered for in that all-too-short World Series in 1989 were using steroids. Mark McGwire. Jose Canseco. Traitors. Scum. Cheaters.

But I didn't need to know that Barry Bonds was on the juice to know that guy was a complete horse's ass. For 14 years, I couldn't look at The Giants.

But I fell in love again last year during a date with your mother at the Giants' beautiful ballpark at Willie Mays Plaza, right across the street from where your great grandfather once worked as a copy editor off Mission Bay. We ate hot dogs and Crackerjack and watched Tim Lincecum pitch a less-than-perfect game. Still, to watch that young man, uniform hanging off his skinny frame, hurl a baseball that fast. Incredible.

What a freak.

And a completely likable freak at that. Sure enough, as manager Bruce Bochy pieced together a ragtag gang of players for the 2010 season, they were all just...

... so damn likable.

Oh, they're still millionaires. And some of them are scoundrels, no doubt. But they keep it to themselves. And that's really all I've ever asked of my professional athletes.

So there was Edger Renteria, an aging and injury-prone infielder who not so long ago had been relegated to the minor leagues.

And there was Buster Posey, a 23-going-on-14-year-old kid with a swing as sweet as a honey-dipped Baby Ruth.

And there was Aubrey Huff, the veteran who had never even been to the playoffs and who didn't even have a team to play for nine months ago.

And then, this evening, there was Lincecum, pitching as perfect a game as I've ever seen in the Series. Eight innings against one of the best hitting teams in the big leagues. Ten strikeouts. Just three hits.

Oh, I could go on. And I will. Again and again. Not all bedtime stories are fairy tales, but this one will surely sound like one.