Thursday, January 18, 2018


Dear Spike:

The other day I was at a restaurant a few miles west of Boston. I was seated in a booth next to a boy and his father. The boy was about 14, I guess.

He looked terrified.

It wasn’t my business. I know it wasn’t. But I listened in on their conversation. I couldn’t really help it, actually. The dad was a loud guy with a thick Boston accent. He was talking about football. The New England Patriots were in the playoffs. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, had the rest he needed after coming off the injured reserve.

“This could be a really special year,” the dad said.

The kid kept trying, and failing, to break into the conversation, and I could hear his voice becoming more and more agitated. The dad, it seemed, was clueless.=

And then, finally, this:

“Dad… just… I need you to hear something from me.”

The dad shut up just long enough for his kid to blurt out:

“I-think-you-already-know-but-I-needed-to-make-sure-because… I’m-dating-a-boy.”

The dad fell silent. He was quiet for a really long time. An uncomfortably long time. A terrifyingly long time.

The boy said “Dad, are you OK?” and there was no response.

I peeked over the booth. The dad was looking down at his phone, tapping away at something. He wasn’t even looking at his kid. And I just wanted to stand up and punch him. Or maybe not to punch him but scream at him. Or maybe not to scream at him but to at least put my hand on the boy’s shoulder and say, “this is not what you deserve,” and "it gets better," and "I promise you that this is not how everyone will react." 

But I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t but I didn’t. It wasn’t my business, I told myself.

“Dad,” the boy said again, and his voice was growing more desperate. “Are you OK?”

The man remained quiet. Kept tapping away at his god-forsaken phone. And then the kid said, “just say something, OK? It’s OK if you’re mad.”

And the dad finally replied, “just give me a second here, OK?” and then he said, “does the 30-yard line sound good?”

And the boy said, “what?”

Then the dad was crying. And he said, “Joey, that was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m really proud of you. And if we can get these tickets and leave right now, we can totally make the game tonight.”

“Because this is a big day. You’re… well, shit… I guess you’re a man today. Because men do brave things. And I’d really like to celebrate that with you.”

Then the kid was crying. And I was crying. And there was a guy at the bar, across from us, who had obviously also been listening in because he was crying, too. The server came over to my table; there were tears in his eyes.

And just like that, they were gone. I’m actually not even sure they paid for their food, which was sort of awkward, but whatever.

I can’t even imagine what last-minute tickets to an NFL playoff game must have cost. But I really hope they made it to the game.

I grew up rooting for the 49ers. I'm not much on an NFL fan these days, and I sure as heck am no fan of Tom Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick, but that night I watched the game and I cheered for New England. For Joey and his dad. 

The Patriots won, by the way. The score was 35-14.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Dear Spike,

I’m sitting at a coffee shop across the street from one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals. I should be writing a book right now. But I’m distracted. I’m in awe.


Because of superheroes, that’s why.

A woman just walked in, wearing a bright blue jacket and matching pants, with reflective striping on the side. The patch on her sleeve said “children’s emergency transportation.” It might as well have said “Justice League.”

Another woman just came in; a doctor, I gathered, from the conversation she had with a colleague about a girl brought in last night. They didn’t know what was wrong. The doctor was heading back to keep working. She looked so tired.

Somebody just came in and bought all of the cake pops. For one of the kids to give to some of the other kids, she told the barista.

There’s a girl in an oversized coat and a knit hat. She’s probably about 13 or 14. I just struck up a quick conversation. She has appointments all day long. Her mom has to work, so the hospital has assigned someone to be with her today.

I’m at the window. Almost all of the people passing by have nametags hanging on lanyards. They’re doctors, nurses, techs, orderlies. They’re all part of this everyday fight for kids.

I remember Fred Rogers once saying that when he was a boy and he would see scary things in the news, his mother would tell him “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

I still follow Mr. Rogers’ advice when bad things happen. When there are attacks. When there are disasters. When there are terrible accidents. I look for the helpers and I know that the bad things don’t define us.

But lately, God, you know, it’s felt like the whole world is a bad thing happening. I wonder what’s happened to my country. I don’t recognize it. It feels sad. It feels scary.

We don’t have to wait for acutely bad things to happen to look for the helpers, and to be comforted when we find them. That doesn’t change the bad things, but it gives me hope.

There are superheroes all around us. And THEY define us.