Greetings from Cowtown,
From then and across all the years as a family man and an information worker I've been lucky enough to have known some interesting people, and there have been a few adventures, real and imagined. The collection of stories below tracks that life, an Everyman record I’ve been keeping, at least as he lives in my own mind—maybe the overly sentimental musings of a middle aged guy.
Like some kind of tourist, I’ve been collecting these souvenirs hiding in the plain sight of quotidian life. They are mostly shorter accessible pieces, mashups of memoir and essay, a wide variety of subjects and formats: sketches, vignettes, travelogs, family tales, histories, rants, and even an old west ghost story.
As the years pile up I look back on my little stories like some kind of proof of life: all of this really happened and we were here—right here in Flatland Cowtown Sacramento, center of the known universe!
AN UNSUNG AMERICAN HERO
This is an unknown story of a former neighbor of mine named Pat Patterson, who was the bodyguard and driver for California Governor Earl Warren back in the late 1940s. He and Warren had a kindred relationship, unlikely in that era, since Pat was African American and of minor rank. Their relationship actually played a small part in the history of the U.S. civil rights movement. Read the story
Ghost Town, Nevada
I am part of a group of people who like to get out into the Nevada desert backcountry, out to one little remote ghost town. It started with a love of the desolate landscape and of western lore, but it turned into a freewheeling experience with wild parties and daredevil antics. These are recollections of those times. Read the story.
Little League Odyessy
I coached my son's baseball teams from pee wee ball up through Little League. At the start of my final year coaching him, I wrote this reflection on the times we shared together, and on the game of baseball. Read the story
Rust Belt Kitchen
RANK & FILE RECIPES FROM THE INDUSTRIAL AGE
The Rust Belt Kitchen is where my mom, grandma and Aunt LaVerne used to cook the old Croatian dishes back in our hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s a mythical place that lives on in my imagination, and in a cookbook I'm working on that spans central and eastern European ethnicities from the industrial age. It's part recipes, part family story, and part about our blue collar town back in the last century—the dark, smoky landscape of steel mills, railroads, rivers and brick row houses lining the hillside neighborhoods. Read the introduction here , and check back soon to buy the cookbook.
Ride or Die - Easter 2022
That buttoned down guy with the sensible shoes is gone. The skull ring has changed everything. It’s the center of a whole new alter ego and sense of meaning for me. It stands for everything I’m all about: kicking ass, freedom, riding my 10-speed...Fuck it. It's a good day for a resurrection. Read the story.
Scenes from a Funeral Day
My father in law's funeral brought together the story of an everyman hero who had all the right stuff, and left an incredible human legacy. At a time when people are fixated on superheroes and icons, Asa's story is about what matters most.
Recipes from a Rancho Cordova Kitchen
After Meg's mom moved out of the family home we ended up with her old recipe box and binders. Holding these fragile, beautiful pieces of paper you feel the power they have to tell the story of a woman who raised five kids and held the family enterprise together with a largely unsung determination. You think about her sense of care in the handwritten pages, messy with notes in the margins, annotations and measurements. This is a tangible record of a near past that lies just out of our reach. Read the story.
Action Heroes on Mount Parnassus
When you are young, healthy and invincible you do not give much thought to the medical world. But with Megan being treated by Dr. Wolf at UCSF for blood cancer, I have a new sense of gratitude for healers and medicine men and women. As a culture we are fascinated with comic book action heroes. This story is about coming to realize the real action heroes are the researchers, doctors, nurses and teachers who do the important work—without an audience, in relative obscurity—the life and death work of everyday.
August Slipped Away Like a Moment in Time
Beam me up to the mothership, Taylor Swift, I am powerless to resist your spell! This August our family got to witness what might be the most epic live music show we will ever see—the first night of her six performances in LA. Despite being well familiar with all the superlatives surrounding this historic billion dollar tour, when you hear 70,000 fans singing all the words so passionately, it sort of knocks you back—you feel the power, and you realize there’s something going on here beyond just pop music. Read the story.
The Carter Family Right Down in Your Blood
A chance discovery prompted a deeper dive into what turns out to be the most amazing story: How this family from the remote hill country of southern Virginia became a sensation after a longshot audition. It's about the song collecting of A.P. carter who single-handedly assembled what remains a defining catalog of American music. It's a love story that ends in heartbreak. And it's about the Carter Family's distinctive mountain gospel sound, the lonesome plaintive harmonies that have transfixed generations of fans on the radio and across the country. Read the story.
The Gods Speak Thru Emmylou
A HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS SCRAPBOOK
The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is a family tradition established by my nephew Quinn back when he was this adorably precocious young kid with a mop of red hair. Over twenty years we've seen so many great bands, including the Queen of Country Music herself, Emmylou Harris, and her Sunday morning sound check in front of an intimate gathering of true believers. Read the story.
Neverland, Midtown Sacramento 1990s
In the early 90s Midtown Sacramento was a sleepy government town of low-rise bureaucratic buildings, victorians, bungalows and a dense canopy of oaks and sycamores. It was a bohemian paradise full of weirdos, hipsters, punks, musicians, slackers, scenesters, freaks, bicycle heads... and we broke-ass, punk-ass townies had dumb youth on our side, and we had the run of the place. Read the story.
Fear & Loathing in Carmichael
A Savage journey into the heart of the suburban dream
Novotny and I rode the dirt track upriver along the northern bank of the American passing lovely vistas of the serene river at dusk. We spotted river creatures and wildlife of all kinds. After many “refreshment” stops along the route we detoured into the low-intensity suburban heart of Carmichael where another menagerie awaited our inspection. Read the story.
Airplane Wreck, 1986
My dad has been fascinated with aviation since he was a kid. He eventually got his pilot's license and spent many years flying. This is his story, and the story of an ill-fated flight we took over central Pennsylvania farm country on Thanksgiving Day, 1986. Read the story
Avalanche on Mount Tallac, 2005
Even a guy who toils in cubicleland has a few tales to tell, a few of his own adventures he carries around like currency from another era. He begins, in his best mock heroic voice, "the mountain was angry that day, my friend." And then tells of the day he and his friends blundered into peril in the high Sierra. Read the story.
Lost & Found in the Black Rock
We came to the Nevada badlands seeking adventure, with our fancy notions and city folk hubris. But we got more adventure than we bargained for. The desert trapped us, swallowed us up. And then fucked with us again and again. When it briefly lost interest in its pitiful captives, we managed to beat a hasty escape. Read the story
Jimmy Bravo's Big Pitch
AN APPRECIATION OF POWERPOINT
Deep in the heart of corporate America, our young protagonist hosts a highly unorthodox meeting. He's a guy trying to get out of his comfort zone and find a new tribe. This is the story of an especially great use of Microsoft PowerPoint, possibly our most accessible medium for aspirational expression. Read the story.
The Quiet Wisdom of Miss Betsy
She was the preschool teacher for all three of our children. But to say that she was just a preschool teacher misses the whole point. This short, diminutive, cheerful woman is connected to the deepest and most powerful things in life. Read the story
The modern life arc is an artful fiction of positivity and hopefulness. When old age finally arrives, it can be a difficult reckoning. This is the chronicle of our family helping our dad move into a senior community. Along the way, we run a logistical gauntlet and reckon with mortality, memory loss and notions of who our dad really is. Read the story:
Part 1 — A Memory Care Story
Part 2 — The Move
Huck Finn Fever Dream
NIGHT OF THE ANGRY BEAVER ATTACK
One summer evening my friend Bauer joined us on the American River for a little paddle. This story celebrates a cool urban experience, and our band of canoe club nerds...with a little B movie creature element thrown in for good measure. Read the story
A Hungry Dog Goes Farther
Just a little memory from back in the college days, about hitchhiking, the friends you make, and the fragmentary pieces of advice you happen to remember after all the years. Read the story
The Sages of L.A. Nightlife
This travelogue details how we gained an unlikely bit of urban zen wisdom from a Hollywood character named Jimmy Swan. This is paired with the story of a more recent Los Angeles nightlife odyssey, where we learned the value of confident improvisation . Read the story
Independence Day, 2016
This year our family reached a big milestone when our oldest daughter Audrey went off to college. As exciting as it was, it was also fraught with all kinds of life reckonings for parents. This story recalls three moments when we began to grasp the fleeting nature of our own family enterprise. Read the story
BOY MEETS GIRL:
Dumb Luck Happenstance
of the Universe
It’s only in hindsight sometimes that you see the larger story arc and understand the moments that may have gone unappreciated at the time. Such was the case in August of 1991 when a foolish young guy was out for the evening and did not realize his life was about to change forever. Read the story
The Fable of Orson Grisby
Orson Grisby was a washed up old prospector in the waning days of the California Gold Rush. This is the story of his last ditch attempt to strike it rich, a tale of greed and miscalculation set in the foreboding 40-Mile desert of central Nevada. There's a lot of historical detail. It's based on a campfire story I made up for my kids a few years ago. Read the story.
Ichiro, What is the Meaning of Life?
One day several years ago some buddies and I played hooky from work and took in an Oakland As game. We got to see a singular performance by Ichiro Suzuki, then on the Seattle Mariners. This is a celebration of an afternoon at the ballpark and of the great Japanese right fielder. Read the story
Chasing the Ghost of Clemente
If you grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s you were a Roberto Clemente fan. For me, like many, Clemente remains a haunted, mythical figure who transcends baseball and sports. This piece attempts to get at what makes Clemente such an enduring worldwide hero and why he was a rare human spirit. Read the story
Ball Games & Clocks
In an age of rapid fire gratification, baseball adds a clock in order to stay relevant to a younger generation. Here's the traditionalist response, a case for seeking refuge from the exhausting modern world. Read the story.
Diary of a Career Path Death Wish
A savage first person account of working for a business visionary in his dysfunctional corporate hellscape. The Silicon Valley line about innovation is “move fast and break things.” It has an aphoristic sexiness to it, as long as you don’t get caught in the path of forward progress. Read the story, if you dare.
A LIFETIME HOBBY: FUN WITH ALCOHOL ABUSE
Looking backward, it seems booze has been something of a glue holding my life story together. And you wouldn't be wrong to say, “get a life you pathetic sauce hound!” Touché. Here's a wide ranging memoir of things liquor-related: confessions of a drinker, an appreciation of all the drunks I've partied with, a cry for help, whatever. Read the damn story!
Double Down Throwdown, Bro!
My friend Der Skipper and I have a strange interest in cult fast food items, so when KFC brought back the infamous Double Down sandwich we had to try it. This low rent stunt food is a fearsome protein bomb with an alarming calorie count. It is designed to disgust civilized people who believe in moderation and making good decisions. Perfect! Read the story.
The Anti-Epiphany of Raider Fan
A Christmas Eve fable, after Dickens, on the occasion of the end of pro football in the town of Oakland. Although I poke fun at the Raiders, this story is born of my respect for and fascination with Raider fans and their deeply felt enthusiasms. Read the story
The Colonel's Epic Round
Our friend, affectionately called "The Colonel," won a local golf tourney with a championship round can only be characterized as unorthodox, better understood by the likes of John Daley than golf traditionalists like Jim Nance...unless old Jimmy has us all fooled with a sack of chronic hidden up in the Butler Cabin. Read the story.
Fragments & Memories
Here are some odds and ends, short pieces, sketches, vignettes. There's one about a legendary midtown character named Bobby Burns, and another about little memory of halloweens gone by...and several others. Read the stories.