Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embarrassing Conversations with My Children, Part XIV

Wendy's family just left town. Wendy is out of town on a business trip. My parents are coming in to visit on tomorrow. That means that for about 26 hours, the boys and I have the house to ourselves. To celebrate, we did our ritualistic trip to Barnes & Noble. First we eat lunch, and then we go into the Children's Literature section where we sit in our secret corner to read books.

To my sons' frustration, we don't make a direct route from the food area to the kids' books area. I stop by the Audiobooks section, the Fiction & Literature section*, and either the WWII section or the Adventure Books section, with Max grabbing my hand and saying, "Come on, Dad!"

Today, Luke pointed at the cover of a book and got excited.

"Dad! Dad!" he said. "M. C. Hammer! It's M. C. Hammer!"

"No, that's Barack Obama."


Two women laughed behind me. One of them was black. I was speechless.


* Barnes & Noble has a crappy Fiction & Literature section. Sure, it's about the same as Borders, but when you go into a decent bookstore, and I'm not talking about a fantastic bookstore like Powell's or Elliot Bay -- I'm just talking about your average independent bookstore -- the Fiction section is always richer.

And here's one of my pet peeves. Barnes & Noble puts in a ton of furniture when a store first opens, and then they slowly take most of the comfy chairs away. On the Soul Rating Scale, Burger King and Barnes & Noble are in the same category. Therefore, in honor of my sister-in-law who recently shaved her head bald to get a tattoo of a chakra pyramid that will open her third eye, I am hereby sending negative vibes towards the Barnes & Noble executives. Deal with that!


Friday, August 21, 2009

2009 MS Bike Ride

Besides doing a naked monkey dance, what could be more fun than doing a bike ride for a good cause?

I'm going to ride in the Mount Vernon 2009 Bike MS Ride on Sept. 12-13. If you’ve been itching to give money to a good cause but just can’t find the right charity, consider the National MS Society. If you’d like to contribute, here’s my page:

Bob's MS Donation Page

It's for a good cause. But you know, if you need your money for other things like gambling and prostitution, Jerry Lewis' kids will understand.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Swing and a Wiff

When I got the announcement that the Second Annual Adobe Wiffleball League was starting, I meant to join. I used to spend hours playing wiffleball in grade school and high school. And college. Unfortunately, a part of me resists Seattle in general and the Adobe culture in particular. For that reason or some other, I didn't sign up.

A member of the Knee Sox came into my office and said I needed to be on the team. "Sure." When I went to play in my first game, 18 players showed up for our team. Only 6 can play at one time. There's an old wiffleball saying, "Six is company, eighteen is a crowd," so I looked for a new team. A player on Ken Wiffey Jr Fan Club had just gotten injured, so the captain of the Knee Sox happily traded me to Ken Wiffey. He joked that I was being traded for a bag of peanuts.

Everyone thought this was a great solution except for Dylan. Dylan is the mentally challenged mail deliverer. And by "mentally challenged," I don't mean that he struggles with 4-star Sudoku puzzles. I mean he is mentally retarded. No matter where he is, he speaks loudly, slowly, and clearly.


That was the last thing Dylan said to me. Now he doesn't talk to me. You see, my new team, Ken Wiffey, played against my old team, the Knee Sox, and we destroyed them. Whenever I came up to bat, people made jokes about my being a traitor, and then I would crush the ball, and that would be followed by "enjoy your peanuts" humor.

The next time I saw Dylan, I told him it was very hot outside. Instead of saying, "YES, IT IS SO HOT I WOULD RATHER STAY INSIDE," he stared at the floor of the elevator. My friend who convinced me to join the league told me that Dylan was still upset that I switched teams.

Here's the odd thing. I really got into wiffleball, as challenged as that sounds. Our team won five games in a row and moved into playoff position. In last Thursday's game, with two out and two on in the top of the final inning of a tight game, I smacked a three-run homer that went over the bushes and landed on the Burke-Gilman Trail. And by smacked, I mean crushed, creamed, smeared, whacked, cold-cocked. I jogged around the bases, stepped on home plate, and bashed forearms with delighted teammates.

I know it's goofy, but I walked around after the last few games with a smile on my face. It put me in a good mood. When I saw a guy on my team, we stopped and chatted about the next game. All we had to do was win the final game -- against a team that was 1-9 -- and we're in the playoffs.

We played tight. In the last inning, we were down a run, and I was the first batter. I needed to get on base to start a rally. The pitcher threw two curves, both balls, and I knew he would come in with a fat pitch to get a strike. Instead of calmly waiting on the pitch and driving it, I opened my hips early, peeked at the Burke-Gilman Trail, and hit a dribbler. Out. Two batters later and our season was over.

Here's the thing. I'm going to have a difficult time sleeping tonight. I choked. I am going to toss and turn worse tonight than I did after the Colts lost to the Chargers in the playoffs last year.

I need to forget about the whole thing. I need to keep this failure in perspective. I need to settle my rift with Dylan and put it past me. I need to trick myself into believing that wiffleball isn't that important.

No way. Wait til next year.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Susan's Funeral

When Dug and I showed up at Elden's door for a Saturday morning ride, I'm not quite sure what I expected. I certainly didn't expect Elden to answer the door with a howdy-ho cheerfulness.

"Hey! I'll open the garage. Which bike do you want to use, Bobby? The Superfly or the Fisher? Do you have a helmet?"

Dug had just picked me up at the airport, and we weren't even sure Elden would be up for a ride. So we loaded our bike stuff onto Dug's car and drove up to a parking lot at the top of the Alpine Loop, where we waited for the other guys to show up.

Whenever you're waiting at a parking lot for other riders, you derby. It isn't even a question. No one says "Go!" and no one even says, "Derby on!" You just ride in front of someone and stop, or you t-bone someone, and that's the start. There are only two rules in derby -- 1) hands on handlebars, 2) feet on pedals. As long as you follow those rules, you do whatever you can to knock other guys off their bikes.

Dug has the most experience. His elbowing is adequate and his balance is above average, but it's his head-butting that gives him his edge. Elden is -- and always will be -- slightly clumsier than any other rider, and that can work to his advantage. He's capable of taking anyone down with him.

Kenny and Larry finally showed up, and the four of us rode through the mountains, chatting comfortably and joking.

During the whole ride -- in fact, during the whole weekend -- I thought about Susan's death. I thought about how much she meant to Elden, and how much she meant to her children, and how much they would miss her.

I thought about how the cancer destroyed her body and tortured her for months. For years. I wondered how helpless and heartsick her family had to have felt as they watched her battle.

While all these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, we talked about singlespeeds and Leadville and audiobooks.

The funeral service on Monday morning was packed with people who showed up to mourn Susan's death and support the people she left behind. The service itself was beautiful. Elden somehow managed to give a tribute without breaking down, and the other speakers conveyed a good sense of what made Susan unique.

Susan didn't just try to be good. She was good. Genuinely good. She was warm-hearted and selfless and sincere.

I'll miss her.

Something else that was rattling inside my head during the trip was how Elden and Susan and their friends and family fought so hard and gave so much to help each other. Witnessing all that love and sacrifice made me feel hope and -- something totally unexpected at a funeral -- joy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rest in Peace, Susan

Susan Nelson finally died tonight after a long battle with cancer. She and Elden inspired thousands of people and helped raise more than a half million dollars -- so far -- for the Livestrong Foundation. A great fight like that is always a victory.

On the flip side of the coin, my sister Lisa seems to have gotten rid of cancer. She's feeling much better.

I may be going out on a limb to say this, but I'll do it anyway. Cancer sucks.