Where were you in 2010? What were you doing? What was going on in the country that year? San Francisco writer Joseph Sutton, who’s been keeping a journal since 1970, tells you what he was doing and what was going on in the country in 2010. It was the year he decided to become a self-publisher. It was the year of the Great Recession, Obamacare, ongoing climate change, and the continuing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sutton also writes of his days growing up in Hollywood, of his athletic days in high school, and of his days playing football for the University of Oregon. He writes about the first year the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Journal 2010 is the story of a dedicated writer, married man, father, sports fan, and lover of democracy.
Friday, January 8, 2010 – Me and My Editor
All I’ve been doing for the past several months is revising and proofreading two novels of mine. I just finished going over the galley proof of Highway Sailor with graphic designer Wayne Pope. Wayne is close to getting dementia and he’s worried about it. How would I feel if I was coming down with dementia? I’d be worried and feel terrible, just like Wayne.
My two novels, A Class of Leaders and Highway Sailor, are almost ready to be sent to the printer. My editor Don Ellis and I have decided that we’ll print A Class of Leaders first. How long after that for Highway Sailor? We don’t know yet. Right now Don and I are trying to figure out how to get the name of A Class of Leaders out into the world.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – Producing Books
What is going on in the world? A 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti the other day and devastated the whole country. I don’t even want to watch the news of the aftermath, it’s that bad. I hear a half million people are now homeless. Haiti’s parliament building crumbled. They’re the poorest people in the western hemisphere, and now they’re even poorer.
I met with Don Ellis today. We got a lot done. We figured out a plan for a film clip (a book trailer) on YouTube for A Class of Leaders. Maybe 45 seconds to a minute to market my book about a white teacher in a black ghetto high school who lets his students teach.
Don and I are going to meet once a week. We’re producing books is what it’s all about.
Friday, February 5, 2010 – Being Yourself
I went over the galleys today of My Writing Year: Making Sense of Being a Writer. The book is me. You can’t ask for more from a writer or any other artist—being yourself, being who you are instead of imitating another writer, teacher, preacher, or sportscaster.
Jon Miller, the San Francisco Giants’ sportscaster, when he found out he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, said that at the beginning of his career he tried to emulate Giants’ sportscasters of the past, Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons. He decided early on that he couldn’t be either Hodges or Simmons, that he had to be himself completely. Because of that, Miller is now a living legend and he’s only in his 50s. He’s the consummate announcer—knowledgeable, humorous, modest, honest, and possesses a voice as smooth and mellow as a fine red wine. He’s the Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Barry Bonds, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice of sports announcers.
I’m sitting at my desk right now, writing down my thoughts in a spiral notebook that happens to be Journal #35. I started Journal #1 a month after I turned 30 in 1970. In six months I’ll be 70. That’s almost forty years of journal writing and I’m still going strong.
Two nights ago, Joan and I saw the New York Metropolitan Opera production of Bizet’s Carmen at our neighborhood movie theater in the West Portal District of San Francisco. We loved the production, especially Elina Garanca. I can’t conceive of a better Carmen than Garanca. She’s extremely attractive, sexy, sensual, she possesses a beautiful voice, plus she can dance. No other woman can beat a Carmen like that. No one.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 – The Plot Line of My Life
There’s a plot line to everyone’s life. We are created by a man and woman. We go through the stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adult, and end up a mature adult. We human beings are a plot line from the beginning of life to ending up in a plot six feet under. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to everyone’s life.
So what’s the plot line of my life? I was born in Brooklyn in 1940. A year later our large family moved to Hollywood. I grew up in the heart of Hollywood, across the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles, behind the Hollywood Police Station and Emergency Hospital, and around the block from the Hollywood Fire Station. I’m a Hollywoodian. It would have been apropos for me to have gone to Hollywood High like three of my older brothers, but I went to crosstown rival Fairfax High like two of my other brothers. I played football at Fairfax High and L.A. Valley Junior College. The University of Oregon gave me a football scholarship, but it didn’t work out as we had planned. I played sporadically for two years. After graduating from Oregon with a B.A. in philosophy in 1963, I served six months active duty in the Coast Guard reserve.
It was in the Coast Guard that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I went to Cal State University Los Angeles and earned a teaching credential and a degree in history. I became a social studies teacher in the Los Angeles school system in 1965. In 1969 I gave my students a chance to teach in all five of my classes. Out of that experience I decided to quit the teaching profession and write a book about it. I moved from L.A. to Berkeley to write A Class of Leaders. While living in Berkeley, I met Sharon Murphy and lived with her while I worked on my teacher novel. We broke up in 1974, which I took very hard. To overcome the loss, I traveled around the country in my VW bus. That four-month adventure gave rise to my settling in Portland, Oregon, to write my second novel, Highway Sailor: A Rollicking American Journey. I lived in Portland for three years and moved to San Francisco in 1977 to finish the novel. I met Joan Bransten at a mutual friend’s party. Joan already had a six-year-old son, Sol. After we married, we had our own son Raymond in 1981. I returned to teaching full-time to support my family. In 1984 I again quit the teaching profession because I contracted asthma due to the stress it caused me. With the help of my brother Maurice, I landed a job selling costume jewelry. I sold costume jewelry (earning twice as much than I had as a teacher) for four years until I quit to compile a book of quotations on health: Words of Wellness: A Treasury of Quotations for Well-Being. It was published in 1991 by Hay House. The third novel I wrote, Morning Pages: The Almost True Story of My Life, was the first of my fiction to find a publisher in 2000. The same publisher also bought my short story collection, The Immortal Mouth and Other Stories. My first self-published book, Write Now!: On the Road to Getting Published or How I Learned to Sell My Book, came out in 2008. I now have three more books ready to self-publish: A Class of Leaders, Highway Sailor, and My Writing Year.
Saturday, February 27, 2010 – The Sharers and the Me’s
We the people are nearing a depression due to greed and power in politics. One side’s philosophy wants those with enormous wealth to pay their fair share in taxes; the other side believes in a dog-eat-dog philosophy of “If you can’t make it on your own, good luck, sucker, ’cause we ain’t gonna help you if you’re in trouble, we’re just gonna watch out for the rich and powerful.” Which philosophy, the Sharers or the Me’s, is winning out? The Sharers elected Obama after we went through eight years of Me’s with George W. Bush. Bush ran roughshod over everything he put his hands into. He got us into an unending war halfway around the world because he and top officials of his administration lied to us about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. He lowered the taxes on the wealthy. He let the environment go to pot. He eased regulations on the banks, who in turn took advantage of it by bringing us close to a depression.
So now it’s up to the Democrats to rectify all the wrongs that the Bush2 administration got us into.
Sunday, February 28, 2010 – I Tried My Best
I’m in Java Beach coffeehouse, thinking of the disastrous earthquakes that took place in Haiti last month and Chile yesterday. It must be hell for the people whose lives have been displaced. It’s a reminder that Joan and I have to be prepared for the next big earthquake in the Bay Area. The last Big One was in 1989.
This coffeehouse today is filled with a bunch of kids. They’re making lot of noise. It seems that they all came from the Zoo across the street.
Kids. I was once a kid. I’m now considered an Old Man as I near the age of 70. We old ones have to give the younger generation a chance. I had my chance as a football player at the University of Oregon, which didn’t turn out like I wanted. I had my chance as a history teacher in L.A. and wrote a novel where I experimented one semester in running a participatory democracy in all five of my classes. That novel, 40 years later, is about to debut in a week or two. I tried my best to be a great writer and didn’t come anywhere near to succeeding or gaining the recognition I sought. But that’s OK. I’ve turned to publishing my own books instead. I published Write Now! in 2008. I’m going to publish A Class of Leaders any day now, My Writing Year in 2011, and Highway Sailor in 2012.
Monday, March 22, 2010 – Obsessed
I’ve been stressed out since I picked up 250 copies of A Class of Leaders from the printer. Stressed because it’s promotion time. Writing an email to all my friends, relatives, and acquaintances, going to the post office and mailing a book if someone orders it, meeting with my editor Don Ellis, and I’m about to mail 10 books to reviewers.
Busy is what I am. Every waking minute is taken up with selling my book. This morning I sold a book to my mechanic, Al Reno. Just a couple of hours ago I sold a book to Jocelyn, my hearing aid lady at Costco. This past Saturday I sold five copies at the YMCA Creative Arts Faire, and yesterday I gave my business card to everyone I talked to at Marcy Ballard’s house party.
Go, go, go. Sell, sell, sell. It’s hard for me to stop when a book of mine comes out. I want to get the ball rolling down the hill and picking up momentum. The Internet is the key. I’ve got to start thinking how to get the Internet working for me.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Orders for my book are trickling in at the rate of two or three a day. I’m about ready to send the book and a press release to a dozen book reviewers. First class postage is $2.75 for each book. I’m going to visit all the bookstores in San Francisco and hope they’ll take my book on consignment.
What else do I have to do in my pursuit of selling a book?
The word “pursuit” reminds me of the Preamble to Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It was Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and a few others who worked on the Declaration, but it was Jefferson who did the brunt of the writing. I love what the Framers of the Declaration and Constitution stood for: free speech, free press, equality, no state-run religion, freedom to peaceably assemble, and so on and so forth. It’s all in the Constitution. My rights, our rights, as citizens of this country are guaranteed. But there are violence-makers and rabble rousers who believe in making people’s lives uncomfortable in the name of freedom. Today they threw bricks into the windows of several congress peoples’ homes and offices who voted for Obama’s health care bill.
This type of mob rule sickens me. They’re saying, “We will gather our guns and rifles and damage property if you don’t believe what we believe. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep you from intruding into our lives.”
Thursday, March 25, 2010 – A Black Man in the White House
The Republicans are totally against everything Barack Obama is for. People’s health and the Earth’s health is a must, and they’re against it. They hate Obama and everything he stands for. The president is for cutting down on fossil fuels, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s for universal health care, banning assault weapons, keeping abortion rights intact, and allowing gays in the armed services. Close to half the people in this country are against those programs. What is wrong in having a more humane society? I don’t understand the thinking of these people. Is it that they hate seeing a black man in the White House? That’s probably the main reason. We live in a sick, unthinking country. Thank goodness a majority of people are for Obama and his programs. Thank goodness.
Friday, April 9, 2010 – The Life and Times of a Self-Publisher
I went to the San Francisco State University bookstore to see if they’d carry A Class of Leaders, but the book buyer wasn’t in. The same with Green Apple Books in the Richmond District—buyer not in. This is what a man who publishes his own books has to go through, which is to schlep around town and maybe leave 3 or 4 books on consignment at bookstores…when the buyer is in.
But guess what, folks? Do you think I’d let a book sit on my computer’s desktop and not do anything about it? Hell no! I’m a writer. Every book I’ve written or will write is going to be published.
It doesn’t matter how hard I work on writing a book or how much it costs to self-publish it, the thing that matters is that I’m writing and producing.
Saturday, April 10, 2010 – My Generation
I’m going to be leaving for Los Angeles this coming Wednesday for a family reunion. While down there, Don Ellis wants me to call the principal where I taught and wrote about in A Class of Leaders and set up a reading there.
Life goes on. People of my generation will die and leave it up to the next generation to run things. As for my generation, we screwed up in Vietnam. But we did a good thing by ousting Tricky Dick Nixon from office. We let George W. Bush run things for eight years. He might not have been president if it wasn’t for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court who put party over country and wouldn’t allow a recount of all of Florida’s votes, as the Florida Supreme Court had ruled. We’re still occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve seen greed overtake this country and consume it. We build and sell powerful weapons instead of beating them into plowshares. What will future generations think of this time in our country’s history?
Joan and I try our best to stand up for the good of humanity by being fair and honest with others. We think of the environment by recycling, by not wasting water, by growing leafy greens in our backyard, and by eating very little red meat.
We believe Obama is mainly on the right track except for the two occupations going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we can still be wiretapped without a court order.
Monday, April 19, 2010 – Fremont High School
I spent a couple of hours at Fremont High School in South Central L.A today.
How did it go? I think I could have done better in the 50 minutes I talked about A Class of Leaders in the library. There were about 40 students present, a couple of librarians, three teachers, and the principal, Rafael Balderas.
I introduced my book and read a short chapter, “A Peaceful Revolution,” which explained how I hit upon the idea of letting my students teach. Questions were then asked by several students and a couple of teachers.
One librarian asked if she could have four copies of my book, which I gladly gave her. One of the teachers, Bill Parmenteer, treated me to lunch in the teacher’s cafeteria. Bill looked beatdown by the teaching profession. He’s been at Fremont for 23 years. He’s surely on his last leg. His voice was a soft monotone. I had to strain to hear him.
After lunch he took me to the main office to find a student to show me around campus. Joanne, a heavy-set 11th grade Hispanic student, was my guide. The school is now 98% Hispanic. When I taught there in the late-’60s, it was 98% African American.
Thursday, April 22, 2010 – Zilch for Results
I’m back in San Francisco. I just sent three books (30 copies each) to BCH Fulfillment in Harrison, New York. The company distributes books through the two biggest book distributors in the U.S.: Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
I’d love to get back to the simple life of writing where I can just sit down and write every day, but promoting my book is on my mind. I’ve tried a lot of different ways and nothing has worked so far. This past December I sent pre-publication galley proofs of A Class of Leaders to about ten reviewers of books, such as Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. Nothing. Three weeks ago I sent my book and press release to 10 newspaper reviewers, the New York Times and Washington Post being two of them. No dice. I sent my book to Gloria Allred, a famous lawyer in L.A. who I used to teach with at Fremont High. No reply. I sent a book to Will Russell-Shapiro, a movie producer in L.A. whose parents I know. Nothing. I’ve queried 50 literary agents on the Internet. Zippo, nothing. I sent my book to Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle. No response.
I know people are busy with their lives and professions. But what do I have to do—jump off the Empire State Building to get someone’s attention?
Is it that I’m just a mediocre writer? I don’t think I’m mediocre, but with all these non-responses, what am I to think?
I’ll tell you what I think. Fuck ’em all. Fuck anyone and everyone who has rejected me in one form or another about my writing. The only publisher who took a chance and actually paid me to publish a novel and short story collection of mine was Don Ellis. At the time, Don was the owner and publisher of Creative Arts Book Company in Berkeley. He is now my editor and designated publicity man who has given me all these ideas as to who to send my book to, and none of those ideas has worked. I’m just doling out money left and right and have gotten zilch for it.
So, what do I have to do? I have to put my book on Amazon as an e-book. I have to go to bookstores and persuade the book buyers to carry more copies of my book and make a display of them. I have to get my son Ray to make a short trailer of A Class of Leaders and put it on YouTube. I have to send out a second letter to those people on my e-mail list who didn’t buy my book.
Monday, April 27, 2010 – The True Fascists
As I was about to walk into Books Inc. in Laurel Village to see if any of A Class of Leaders has sold, there were two Lyndon LaRouche men outside the bookstore with a large poster of President Obama in a Hitler moustache. They were trying to recruit people to their cause, telling passersby that Obama was a fascist. It’s people like that who twist the truth who are the true fascists. Obama is doing everything in his power to help people instead of helping corporations or militias or ignorant asses like those LaRouche followers. Don’t those LaRouche people know that the corporations, the banks, the Hannitys, the Limbaughs, the multitude of lobbyists in D.C. with Big Money behind them, don’t people know it’s those people who are the true enemies of the people. The corporations are slowly taking over this country. When corporations do this, it is known as fascism, not democracy. Corporations are the culprit. They exploit tax loopholes. This is happening in my country on my watch! Damn, damn, damn. I feel powerless with this tidal wave of greed, lies, and power going on.
What can I do? I sign petitions and listen to reasonable people delivering the news on radio and TV. I vote. But I see Big Money twisting the truth and I cringe for myself and for future generations. Will the tide ever turn? We thought Obama could turn it around, but he can’t. The Supreme Court, five of them have ruled that corporations are people. Can you believe that? They’ve opened the floodgates for more greed, lies, and power of, by, and for corporations.
I swore at those misinformed human beings touting LaRouche and fascism outside Books Inc. Am I becoming a minority in a country that’s breeding ignoramuses, racists, and fascists? I hope the side I’m on prevails. But I’m losing faith that my side, the side who thinks of others, who cares for others, who seeks the truth, who isn’t greedy or power hungry, who believes in democracy, I’m losing faith that we won’t prevail.
I walked into Books Inc. in Laurel Village and found the four books I left there last month still on the shelf. What do I have to do to get people to buy my book? Do I have to smash in a window of a famous women’s clothing store like Salvador Dali did in 1939 to make the headlines? Or do I do what Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti says, which is to create art and not try to make a splash in the world but to make only a splash within myself? Live for the moment and not the future, he says. He who strives for success or fame is only prolonging violence and greed in the world, is only prolonging conflict and polarization in the world, is only prolonging the LaRouches and fascism and corporations and consumerism and waste and all the other ills of the world to take place.
Is J. Krishnamurti right?
Monday, May 31, 2010 – The Dinosaur
The streets are empty. It’s Memorial Day weekend. The BP oil spill is still spewing from a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, damaging the southeast coast of the U.S. It started over a month ago and might last another two or three months till they can cap the flow that’s going on 50 miles off the Coast of Louisiana.
And then there are wars, mainly occupations, going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is over 10% unemployment in the country. We’re still trying to dig ourselves out of what is now known as The Great Recession.
I’m finally recovering from a cold that wouldn’t go away. Although I didn’t spend a day in bed, my strength was way below par. I went for a 25-minute walk yesterday and kept coughing and spitting out phlegm that had accumulated in my chest. I did the same thing today and the congestion wasn’t a tenth as bad. In other words, yesterday’s walk was good for me in that it helped clear my congested chest. I’ll be going to my water aerobics class at the YMCA tomorrow for the first time in almost two weeks.
I’m starting to get that feeling of working on another book. Here’s what I’ve been asking myself: “What project can I put my energy into? What subject will give meaning to my being a writer?” All I know is, I love writing in this journal. I’ve always come up with a subject to write about from either writing in my journal or reading through my journals. Actually, all the books I’ve ever written are extracted from my ongoing journal of 40 years.
I live a very quiet existence. I spend a lot of time on the Internet—actually way too much time reading emails, sending them out, and going from one website to another. The Internet is so damn time-consuming. The same goes for watching baseball on TV, where the San Francisco Giants have completely grabbed my attention. What I should be doing is writing more and getting out into the world more often.
I got out in the world today. I just finished a long walk along the Pacific shore and am now writing this entry three blocks from the ocean and across the street from the San Francisco Zoo at Java Beach Cafe.
The girl sitting to my left won’t stop coughing. I hope I don’t catch any of her germs. It’s overcast and foggy outside. Kind of depressing. But I’m not depressed. I’m writing. Whatever it is I write is nourishment for my soul.
People in coffeehouses don’t bring a pen and notebook like I do; they bring their laptops. They must perceive me as being a dinosaur. We pen and paper people are surely a dying breed. From the few observations I’ve made, laptop people don’t know what cursive writing is. If perchance I ever see them with a pen or pencil, they print.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 – The Sporting Life
The Giants lost an eleven-inning game last night. Too bad, because Barry Zito, whose curveball was working like magic for him, pitched a hell of a game through seven innings. Final score: Colorado 2, Giants 1. Two loses in a row to a visiting team is not a good sign. Out of five teams in their division, the Giants are in fourth-place, trailing first-place San Diego by 3 1/2 games, which means they’re still in the hunt and within striking distance.
Speaking of Barry Zito and curveballs, it was a curveball that hit me in the head in batting practice at Fairfax High that ended my baseball career. I was 15 years old and hadn’t seen many curves up until that time. I stood my ground and didn’t get out of the way in time. Bam! I dropped to the ground. We didn’t have batting helmets in the spring of 1956. Little did I know what the future held in store for me as I lay on the ground. The next day, I was standing in the same batter’s box facing a red-headed pitcher from Hollywood High. That damn redhead kept throwing me curveball after curveball, or so I think he did. I, the leading hitter on our team, struck out five times that day because I was terrified of getting beaned again. Coach Marty Biegel wouldn’t start me the next game. I had some heated words with him. I wanted to start at shortstop, to get my confidence back, but he wouldn’t listen to me, and probably rightfully so. I demanded, “If you don’t start me today, Coach, I’m walking off this field.” Coach Biegel said, “Sit down, Sutton. You’ve got to have patience.”
I walked off the field, never to play another hardball game in my life.
I’ve written about that incident many times in my ongoing journal and in a couple of my books. Whatever happened that day happened. Life moves on. Instead of concentrating on baseball in the spring, I concentrated on running track. I won a couple of medals that season in the Western League finals, one for placing in the 100-yard dash and one for running on the relay team. Our relay team ended up in the 1956 City Finals at the L.A. Coliseum, but we didn’t place. In my junior year, I tore a muscle in my hip early on and was out for the season. My senior year, 1958, I was the sprint champion of the Western League in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Our relay team also took first place. All that track experience came from not playing baseball, the sport, before I got hit in the head, that I thought I had the greatest potential. But that’s OK. I went on to Los Angeles Valley Junior College and played football. After playing two seasons at Valley, I received a football scholarship to the University of Oregon, where I played sparingly as a running back for two years. That football scholarship got me through college and made me what I am today, a writer.
All of the above took place because I got hit in the head by a curveball that didn’t curve as much as I thought it would when I was 15 years old.
I’m thinking of a very stupid football incident that took place. I wrote about it in my first published novel, Morning Pages. I was Fairfax High’s quarterback my senior year and we were threatening to score the winning touchdown in the closing minute against Hollywood High. I had just thrown a beautiful 45-yard pass to Eddie Lingo, who was immediately tackled on Hollywood’s three-yard line. I was so elated with my great feat that I said to my teammates in the huddle, “I got us down here. I’m taking it in.” I called my play and the next thing I knew I was tackled in the right thigh with such great force that I barely made it back to the huddle. (It turned out to be a thigh contusion.) The next play, I handed the ball to Bill Peters who carried it in for the winning touchdown.
“I got us down here. I’m taking it in.” Pure stupidity on my part.
Thursday, June 3, 2010 – No Typos
Robert Harden, a wonderful African American man who was crippled in a gymnastic accident in college over 30 years ago, a man I play poker with at my editor Don Ellis’ office once a month, said to me last night, “I read all of A Class of Leaders and didn’t find one typo.” That was a great compliment because I made sure, after going over the manuscript many times, that there wouldn’t be one typo in my book.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 – The Giants
The Giants have won five of their last six games. They’re on a roll. Marvin Gaye sang in his song “What’s Happening Brother” on his album What’s Going On, “Will my ball club win the pennant—do you think they have a chance?” Well, my ball club is surely in the pennant race. They’ve played a little over 50 games and they’re 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers. As long as they’re in contention, I’m a happy man.
As I was sitting to wait my turn to talk to a clerk in a very crowded Department of Motor Vehicles today, I observed the humanity that was around me. Young women with babies, everyone casually dressed, everyone understanding that we all had to be patient and wait for our number to come up on the screen if there was to be peace and order. All of America was there: white, brown, black, Asian, young and old. I didn’t have to wait long because I made an appointment on the Internet instead of walking into the DMV cold.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 – My Cherie Amour
I’m sitting in the North Berkeley Library before going to meet with Don Ellis.
I used to live a mile from this library where I’m sitting now. I lived with a librarian. Sharon Murphy was her name. For a split second I thought I saw her when I entered the library. But then this woman with red flowing hair, the same color and length as Sharon’s, looked up from reading a book. , and I saw it wasn’t her.
Yesterday I looked up and found 20 former students of mine on Classmates.com. I sent each of them a note about A Class of Leaders. I also found a few of my students on Facebook. One of them, Linda Vann, is married, has three kids, is now a grandmother, and lives in Texas. Her Facebook account says she’s been married since 1972 and works at FedEx.
Linda was in my American history class in 1969 and is a character (Nancy Vellon) in my novel A Class of Leaders. I also wrote a chapter about her years later in my first published novel, Morning Pages, using her fictionalized name, Nancy Vellon. It was sort of a tragic story of her wanting to be with me and me with her.
On the night of July 4, 1969, two months after she turned 18, a month after she graduated and after I quit teaching, I picked her up at her home in South Central L.A. and drove back to my apartment in Hollywood. It had taken me eight hours to drive down from Alameda to L.A. that day after finishing my two-week Coast Guard reserve summer camp. I was exhausted, but Linda talked me into picking her up. When we got back to my apartment, I presented her with a gift, a 45 RPM record of Stevie Wonder singing “My Cherie Amour.” We sat on my couch and started kissing and cuddling as we listened to Stevie’s record over and over again. I occasionally hear that record from time to time and it always reminds me of Linda. It was late and I was tired from not sleeping well the night before and driving all day. We both dozed off on the couch. I awoke around 2:30 a.m. and drove her home. I was totally exhausted when I got home around 4:00 a.m. I undressed and got in bed. Ten minutes later there was a knock on my door. I slowly got up and opened the door in my shorts. “Where’s my sister, white man?” said Linda’s brother, a tall, solidly built man, as he barged past me into my apartment. “She’s not here,” I said, following him as he stomped around my small apartment looking for his sister. We were about to duke it out, but thank God Mike Simon, who had heard the commotion in his apartment next door, was standing at the open door. As soon as Linda’s brother saw Mike, he quickly left. Mike had saved my ass.
The next day Linda and I talked on the phone. We decided that the world wasn’t ready for an affair between a white man and a black woman. Three weeks later, as planned, I moved to Berkeley to start writing A Class of Leaders. It took me 2 1/2 years to finish and 40 years to finally get it published.
Sunday, June 13, 2010 – The Earth and the Pennant Race Are Heating Up
It’s a fact that climate change is taking place on our planet and the so-called leaders of our country and the countries around the world are sitting on their rear ends instead of mobilizing us to do something about it. A good number of people don’t even believe the Earth is warming. Life is in peril for future generations and these climate-deniers say, “There is no scientific evidence to justify it.” They’re wrong. There is unequivocal evidence that the Earth is warming: glaciers are retreating in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa (the snowcap on Mt Kilimanjaro is fast disappearing); the oceans are warming and rising; the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have receded in size; the loss of ice in the Arctic is roughly the size of Texas and California combined; eleven of the hottest years on record have taken place in the last thirteen years; and 90% of the climate scientists believe that human-caused carbon emissions will disrupt Earth’s climate this century. “No evidence,” they say. My ass, no evidence. The climate-deniers don’t want to believe our planet is convulsing. They don’t want to believe we have to do something about it right now, pronto.
After playing 62 games, the Giants are 1 1/2 games out of first place. There are 100 more games left to play in the regular season. They’re in the hunt and getting better as each day passes. Since the season began there have been several position changes. Andres Torres has replaced Aaron Rowand in center field. Buster Posey has been brought up from the minors to play catcher and first base. Aubrey Huff has moved from first base to right field. Juan Uribe has moved from second base to shortstop, taking over for the injured Edgar Renteria. Freddy Sanchez has come off the disabled list and is playing second base. Pat Burrell has just signed to play left field. The Giants are starting to make their move. Matt Cain is coming into his own as a pitcher. Barry Zito, thank goodness, is pitching well for the first time since he signed with the Giants three years ago. Tim Lincecum was in a funk for three games and it seems like he’s breaking out of it. Brian Wilson is becoming a force in closing out games. “Will my ball club win the pennant—do you think they have a chance?” We don’t know yet, but it seems like it’s going to be an exciting race to the finish.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 – Cut Out Carbs
Lou Berman and I were walking in a forested area on the old Folgers estate in Woodside, when this idea struck me: I need to lose weight. Here’s my idea: go on a diet for one month. Just one month. I have to cut out carbs. No bread, no rice, no potatoes. Eat mostly fresh vegetables and fruit. “Everything in moderation,” said the Greeks. Joan tells me it was originally a Spartan philosophy. The saying is inscribed in stone at a little town in the mountains of Greece called Delphi, which Joan and I visited several years ago and stayed one night. My wife was and still is so much into the ancient Greeks that she ran around the Delphi track to see what it felt like to be a Greek athlete in ancient times. The track is located at the top of Mt. Parnassus, where they held the Pythian Games that took place two years before and two years after the ancient Olympic games.
That’s my plan, man, “Everything in moderation.” If I keep a record of what I eat, like I’ve done a couple of times in the past, I automatically lose weight. Today, for breakfast, I cut up an apple and banana and topped it with a dollop of cottage cheese. I hadn’t decided to lose weight this morning. By lunchtime, though, eating with Lou at Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, I knew I wanted to lose, and what better time than now. I had a cup of very tasty chili along with a non-alcoholic beer. That’s it. I felt lighter as I drove home. Yesterday I would have eaten the crackers and cheese that were served with the chili. In all likelihood I would have ordered a bowl instead of a cup.
Tonight, for dinner, I’ll eat moderately instead of stuffing myself. I wonder if I can do it. Right now, as I write, I’m saying to myself, “You’re going to do it, Joe.” I’ve got to have a positive attitude. Will I be able to follow through with what I’ve set out to do? Of course I can. I don’t want to be a burden to my family in old age. I want to be healthy when I die.
Sunday, June 27, 2010 – A Sunday Afternoon
The sun is out for the first time in a week. We live in the western part of San Francisco where it’s mainly overcast in the summer. It’s absolutely marvelous today—70 degrees, no clouds, blue sky. I just finished an hour walk along the Great Highway trail, a two-mile walking and running trail that parallels the Pacific Ocean. It was the fifth time this week that I’ve done an aerobic exercise. Gotta get the heart pumping. I find, though, that I have cravings for bread. Instead of picking up a carbohydrate, I’ve been picking up an apple, pear, carrot, or celery.
I was talking to Don Ellis the other day. “I can’t figure out what my next writing project should be,” I said. His answer: “Why don’t you follow your own advice from your two writing books and look through your journal and find material there?”
He’s right. There must be a vein of gold somewhere in my 35 journal notebooks. But I have a million things to do to get the names of my published books out into the world. I feel overwhelmed. For instance, I want to get all five of my books on Amazon Kindle. That could take a few weeks to format and go over all of them for any errors.
I sit in Java Beach coffeehouse on a beautiful day, people coming and going, people on their cell phones and laptops, one guy reading, a young couple playing Scrabble. That’s what I’m observing from the back of Java Beach. Up front, people are ordering food and drinks. Cars are streaming by outside. It’s a busy day at the beach because of the weather.
Yesterday I went to an event at Ocean Beach called “Hands Across the Sand.” All 700 of us formed a large circle lying on our backs. Inside the circle were bodies of people spelling out the word “OIL” with a red sash/slash going through it. It is now time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country and start transitioning from oil to renewable energy sources.
A photographer took pictures from a helicopter of the anti-oil symbol. Pictures of the event were displayed on slashoil.blogspot.com. Will our demonstration change anything? Probably not, but you have to start somewhere to wean this country, and the world, off of oil.
Monday, June 28, 2010 – Letter to Oprah
Every time I see my editor Don Ellis, I get stoked. We’re going to promote A Class of Leaders by writing letters and sending the book out to such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Tavis Smiley, and John Singleton, the director of Boyz in the Hood. And then we decided that I would spend an hour each day writing in my journal. Don said, “Don’t try figuring out what your next book will be. Do your water exercise in the morning, work on promoting in the afternoon, and write in your journal after dinner. Get a routine going, Joe.”
Hours later, after working on the letter:
A Class of Leaders is a novel about a white teacher in a black ghetto high school who allows his students to teach. It’s based on my experience as a high school teacher in South Central Los Angeles in 1969.
Joshua Sampson tries the conventional method of teaching American history but hits a brick wall of apathy. He finds the only way he can reach his students is to let them teach. Due to the democratic format in the classroom, Sampson’s students lead discussions on Black Power, the Vietnam War, capital punishment, premarital sex, the grading system, drugs, freedom, and even if Sampson is teaching them or not. They hold trials, have weekly debates, sign petitions, and of their own accord they drop notes and essays into the Ideas and/or Complaints box on Sampson’s desk.
A Class of Leaders is a bright shining light amidst the plagues of poverty, drugs, violence, and police harassment that African American students had to endure in 1969, and endure to this day.
Saturday, July 3, 2010 –A Blessing in Disguise
The sun has been out for a whole week in San Francisco. Truly amazing. Could it be global warming that’s causing the sun to shine seven days in a row in the western section of the city that’s usually overcast from June through August?
I’m writing as fast as I can without stopping, trying to bring my subconscious to the fore. I’ve written very fast in the past and have gotten writing ideas doing it. So why not go for it now as I sit at an outside table at Java Beach Cafe, cars zooming by on this beautiful 70 degree Saturday? It’s July 4th weekend: beach time, relax time, barbeque time, sunshine time.
I watched two films on HBO before going to bed at 2 a.m. last night. The first was with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, both great actors, in a very tense movie called Training Day. Denzel plays an evil and corrupt undercover narcotics cop who sets up his new partner, Hawke, for a fall. The movie takes place in one day in Los Angeles, and in that one day there’s enough action to last a whole year.
The other movie, a quiet, slow-moving film made especially for HBO was called Sugar, about a teenager being bred in the Dominican Republic to become a professional baseball pitcher. It showed what it is to be Latin with baseball talent and what these young men have to go through to break into the minor leagues in the U.S. and possibly the majors. Only a small percentage of Latin players make it to the majors. The Sugar character was one who didn’t make it. It takes talent, fortitude, determination, perseverance, and luck to reach the majors.
It reminded me of my time at the University of Oregon where I injured my knee early on as a running back, which led to my downfall. It was demeaning to sit on the bench on Saturday afternoons in front of large crowds. It would have been nice to have carried the ball, scored touchdowns, and gotten cheers for it, but, as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t get to play that much. My body and brain would have taken a great toll in the violent sport of college football. Thank goodness I’m able, on the eve of my 70th birthday, to walk without pain, but most importantly, I’m able to think straight and write coherently.
I lost consciousness once in a junior college football game. We, Valley Junior College, were ahead by one point and I was handed the ball on the last play of the game. A swarm of San Diego Junior College players gang-tackled me and I lost consciousness. What would have happened if I had played regularly at Oregon amongst more fierce competition? I surely would have gotten banged up. What do I have to show for all my athletic endeavors? Two hip replacements, although Dr. Kiest, my orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser, says my arthritic hips were due to heredity (from my mother) and not from playing football.
I’ve also inherited high cholesterol from my mother, although I’m taking a pill for it now. I know that someday my heart will literally be the death of me, especially if I don’t lose weight. But I haven’t lost anywhere near what I want to in the two weeks I’ve been on this low carb diet. I eat too much is why, even if I don’t eat bread, rice, potatoes, or processed foods. I’ve lost only five or six pounds and weigh 211 when I should be around 205 for going off carbs.
The Giants have lost seven games in a row. They’re eight games out of first place. Question: How can they be on such a terrible losing streak? Answer: They’re in a slump, which occasionally happens to a team during a long baseball season.
Thursday, July 8, 2010 – Still Reaching for the Brass Ring
I’ve been getting to bed late lately—either past midnight or at 1:00 a.m. There are a million things for a self-publishing writer to do. This past month I worked on putting two e-books on Amazon. Barnes & Noble has come out with an e-book called Nook. Apple has iPad. So I’m working to get my books on those sites so people can read my books for $2.99. The digital world is taking over the world. I recently found this one site, Smashwords, that can get my books on all e-book sites, but their formatting guide is 40 pages long. If I do it correctly, I can get each of my books on seven or eight sites through Smashwords.
I’ve been going to the website Classmates.com and have connected with two of my former students from 41 years ago. Don Ellis thinks we’ll have a chance to get on the Tavis Smiley show if I can connect with a few of my former students.
The Giants won four straight games in Milwaukee this week. I hope they can keep the streak going. They’re five games behind San Diego, a team that was picked to come in last in the West Division this year. The Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants are 3, 4, and 5 games out, respectively. At least the Giants are starting to hit the ball. Their pitching is a little wobbly at present. The Giants haven’t hit their stride yet. They’re an up and down team. A week ago they lost three home games against the Dodgers. I gave up on them when that happened. But now they’re winning and I’m with them and rooting for them as I sit at my desk listening to the games. There’s nothing like baseball on radio. All four announcers—Jon Miller, Dave Fleming, Dwayne Kuiper, and Mike Krukow—make every game interesting. All four are knowledgeable, humorous, and descriptive. It’s a pleasure listening to them.
As for my diet, I’m back up to 213. I was down to 209 a couple of weeks ago.
I called or emailed all the bookstores in San Francisco that carry my book. Only two copies of A Class of Leaders have sold. That’s not a good sign. But I’m still reaching for the brass ring.
Sunday, July 11, 2010 – Books of the Future
Sunday is a day of rest for me. I get out of bed late, make a breakfast of shredded wheat, apple, banana, and coffee while I simultaneously read two Sunday papers and listen to the pre-game radio broadcast of the upcoming Giants game. I read Frank Rich, Thomas Freidman, and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times in the editorial and opinion section and then go to the comics and sports page of the San Francisco Chronicle. After breakfast, I get to my desk and listen to the game on radio while I’m reading my email and getting caught up in the sticky web of the Internet. Whoever thought of email, which pulls people to their computers, is a genius. I do everything on the computer except what I was meant to do: write. All I do is get my books on different sites so people can read them for $2.99. I know that people like the feel of a book in their hands, but the computer screen, large or small, is the future. The next generation, or the one after that, will know very little about holding a physical book in their hands, just like they’ll know very little about this pen I’m writing with.
Today I watched the World Cup soccer championship game between Spain and the Netherlands that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa,. The score was tied 0-0 after regulation play expired. It was an interesting game in that Spain kept threatening and the Dutch held them back by playing dirty. The man who scored the winning goal for Spain in overtime, Andrés Iniesta, will probably become a national hero.
Monday, July 12, 2010 – What I Have to Do in My Life
I’m at Tart to Tart coffeehouse on Judah Street and 8th Avenue in the Inner Sunset District, sitting close to the large window facing the street. I usually sit in the semi-darkness of the back, but today I chose to sit up front in the light. I need light, literally and figuratively.
I have publicity to work on. I have two short stories to revise. I have short stories to create. I have to exercise every day. I have to write in my journal. I have to experience and chronicle my life. That’s what I have to do for the rest of my life, which could come to an end tomorrow, in 10 years, or 20 years down the line. No one knows when one is going to die. The hope is that it won’t be a long, suffering death like my father or Joan’s father and mother, but an instant death like my mother in her sleep and my oldest brother Charles who had a massive heart attack chasing after a thief.
Yes, when one reaches the age of 70, one starts thinking of death. What will it be like? What will I say on my deathbed? Who will be with me?
We, all of us human beings, are here on Earth for only a fleeting instant in Earth or universe time. How did we get here? Was it from organisms that were on a meteorite that crashed into Earth? Or was it water that spawned all life on this planet? All I know is, I’m here, from thousands, maybe millions of ancestors before me. And before them, simple organisms from billions of years ago.
Here I am, a man of the 21st century, pen in hand, facing a large window as cars, streetcars, and people with cell phones to their ears are passing by. A black man, sitting in a chair with his back to me, on the other side of this window, is munching on potato chips and listening to something on his earphones.
As soon as I get home I have to pack 10 books of A Class of Leaders to send to Brodart, a company that distributes books to libraries across the country. I wonder how they found out about my book.
Monday, July 19, 2010 – My Neighbor’s Pine Tree
Yesterday Joan and I crossed over the Bay Bridge to go to George and Doris Krevsky’s house in the Oakland hills. They were holding a reception for Jerry Brown, hopefully the next governor of California. I’d say about 75 people were there. George told me they were shooting for $50,000 in contributions but came out with about half that much. Jerry Brown spoke and answered questions for about a half hour. He was honest with us. He said it was going to be a tough campaign to defeat the multi-millions that his opponent Meg Whitman is going to put into her campaign. He spoke to us about doing his best to change things, explaining it’s always a rough go because it’s hard to raise taxes when there’s an opposition party that puts up a fierce fight. He said it’s also hard to pass things with a 2/3 majority vote needed to pass a tax bill. But Jerry seemed on the right track. He said something that struck the hearts of us all. “Democracy is being threatened now that big money can wield so much power.” Meg Whitman is a billionaire. She’s inundating radio, TV, and the Internet with her ads. Jerry can’t afford to do that. He said, “I’ll have about $30 million to Whitman’s $150 million. I’ve got to put my money in the right place at the right time. Whitman, on the other hand, can advertise non-stop till election day in November.”
On Saturday I found out from our next door neighbor, Tim Chang, that if he and his wife want to sell their house they’re going to have to cut down the tall pine tree in his backyard, a tree that umbrellas four backyards. When he asked if I would contribute to the expense of cutting down the tree, I told him I would. However, when Joan came home and I told her about contributing to the tree’s demise, she went ballistic. For three hours she wouldn’t let go of the fact that the tree was coming down, that she would fight it, and that she wouldn’t contribute to its downfall. She blamed Tim and his wife Debbie for not pruning the tree since they moved in three years ago. She was heartbroken, not only for a living organism that creates its own microclimate, but for the birds and squirrels that inhabit it. It got to the point where I had to say, “Enough already, Joan. I don’t want to hear anymore. Please stop.”
Yesterday morning, before we left for the East Bay to attend Jerry Brown’s reception, Joan went to the house of our neighbor who lives behind us. When she came home, she understood a little better why those neighbors were for the tree coming down. The pine tree’s roots have completely taken over their backyard. Joan said the neighbor felt sorry about the tree coming down but that she wanted her backyard back.
Last night we went to Cobb’s Comedy Club to watch Richard Lewis of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. Richard, with his long hair and all black garb, was something else. He went on for an hour about religion, his health, his new wife, their sex life, God, death, politics, his birth, and his parents. He let it all hang out. He was like a pinball, in constant mental and physical motion, going from one thing to another and back again. To us, he’s a completely unique comedian. It was a joy watching his intellect at work and his self-deprecating humor.
As for today, I woke up with a sore lower back for the third day in a row. I still went to the YMCA, did my water aerobics with the class, dressed, then called my chiropractor, David York. He adjusted my back and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 – Dictators
My back is better.
Last night I rang the bell of the Chang house and asked Tim if he would step outside with me. “I hate to go back on my word,” I told him, “but my relationship with my wife is more important than contributing to the pine tree coming down. If the money were for pruning the tree, Joan wouldn’t mind. But she’s dead set against contributing to the death of a living tree. I’m sorry about this, Tim, but I can’t give you anything for the tree.” He seemed to understand how important my marriage was and didn’t say anything about my going against what I told him a couple of days earlier.
Today I went on a walk with my good friend Lou Berman (we’ve known each other since junior high) on a very overcast day. We walked along Crissy Field to under the Golden Gate Bridge. Lou talked about buying property for McDonald’s when they started expanding to other countries in the mid- to late-’60s, and the intrigue he encountered in Indonesia and the Philippines in his talks with each of their dictators (Sukarno of Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines). Lou was treated like royalty from the moment he stepped off the plane, riding with military escorts to the palaces, and dining with each dictator, both of whom made sure they would personally be compensated for allowing McDonald’s to do business in their countries.
Friday, July 23, 2010 – A Little Accident
It’s a hot day in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s 90 degrees, the sky is blue, the air is clean. While I write, Joan is sitting at another table preparing for her “Close Encounters with Six Greek Gods” course that she’ll be teaching at San Francisco State Extension this Fall. Every time I write about my wife I think of this book title I thought up for her: From Apron to PowerPoint. Joan used to be a children’s storyteller. She had an apron with a whole bunch of pockets that was made especially for her by a seamstress. The apron went all the way down to her ankles. She mainly taught pre-school children. She used all kinds of props like whistles, flutes, stars, hats, and puppets in the telling of her stories and needed quick access to them. Hence, an apron with many pockets. PowerPoint is included in the book title because it’s a visual aid she now uses to teach her ancient Greek courses.
Joan and I are sitting at an outdoor coffeehouse on Broad Street in the gold-country town of Nevada City. We’re here for our fourth Sierra Storytelling Festival.
We had a little accident last night. Joan was out of the car as I started rolling up my power windows, and somehow one of her fingers got caught. She yelled and I immediately rolled the window down. She said her finger was all right, but I insisted we get some ice to put on it. We walked into a small market on Broad Street, picked up a chunk of ice in the freezer, asked the clerk for a plastic bag, then went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. It seems like her finger will be all right.
We’re going to start out any minute for our favorite swim hole along the Yuba River, located near the festival.
Saturday, July 24, 2010 – Rent an Ambulance
We attended the opening of the festival last night. It was great storytelling by all six tellers.
Yesterday, while hiking along the Yuba River to reach our favorite swim hole, I bumped my head against a huge boulder. Bang! Ouch! Bruise. Joan is calling me Mini-Gorby because I now have a mark on my forehead like Russia’s former president, Mikhail Gorbachev. The night before it was Joan’s finger getting caught in the window and then a dog scraping her hand at the festival with his teeth, making the back of her hand bleed. After all the injuries inflicted upon us, we decided to rent an ambulance the next time we’re up here for the festival.
I asked Gay Ducey, storyteller par excellence, last night: “Was that story you told about stealing Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations true?” Her answer: “Totally true. I stole it from the library when I was eight and returned it when I was sixty.”
Sunday, July 25, 2010 – Gerald Rosen
We’re about ready to leave for home, which is about a three-hour drive to the cool of San Francisco.
I wonder how the Giants did yesterday. I hope they won. The last I read, they were right behind San Diego, a team that won’t budge from first place. Every sportswriter and analyst predicted the Padres would end up last in the West Division, but they’re still clinging to first place. They’re going to be hard to overtake.
My friend Gerald Rosen is dying of leukemia. I wish I could talk more with him, but he’s very weak. Gerald knows what this country is all about. He’s written many books, his most famous being The Carmen Miranda Memorial Flagpole. His last book, Cold Eye, Warm Heart, explains it all—that we Americans live in a consumer society of buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell, profit, profit, profit, greed, greed, greed. Screw the weak and the meek. It’s a dog-eat-dog, survival-of -the-fittest society we live in.
Monday, July 26, 2010 – Saved by the Giants
While driving home from Nevada City yesterday, Joan and I were listening to the Giants playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tim Lincecum was not having his best day pitching, but he was keeping the Giants in the game. When nearing the Sacramento area on a 95 degree Sunday afternoon, we came upon a traffic jam. We were barely crawling along as the Giants were behind 2-1. Listening to the game was my only solace. “The Giants better win this game,” I told Joan. “If they don’t, I’m going to go out of my mind with this heat and traffic.”
The Giants tied it up in the ninth. Sergio Romo replaced Lincecum in the bottom of the ninth. Romo loaded the bases, scaring the daylights out of me, but somehow he struck out the last two batters and got out of the inning unscathed. I kept saying to myself, “Don’t lose this game, Giants. Make me smile about one thing in the worst traffic jam of my life.”
The cause of the congestion was the traffic returning to the Bay Area from Lake Tahoe. All told, it took six hours to travel a total of 140 miles.
Who won the game? The Giants! In the eleventh inning Buster Posey batted in the winning run. Final score 3-2.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 – The Lone Ranger and Tonto
Joan and I grew up with The Lone Ranger and Tonto on radio, and then TV. The Lone Ranger and Tonto fought injustice in the Old West. The bad guys were never killed, but always ended up in jail. Clayton Moore played the Lone Ranger, and Jay Silverheels was Tonto. I loved Tonto. He was one proud Native American who always called the Lone Ranger kemo sabe, “loyal friend.” Neither of them, by the way, ever sought or received a woman’s attention. No one has ever talked or written about the sexuality of those two loyal and brave friends. I’d like to think that they didn’t have time to think of sex, that they were always fighting injustice. Before the two rode off into the sunset, you’d always hear the Lone Ranger in that unique voice of his say, “Hi-yo, Silver. Away!”
Thinking of the Lone Ranger and Tonto has brought me back to 1948 Los Angeles, after a rain, at our house in the middle of Hollywood, on the corner of Homewood Avenue and Wilcox. I see myself running out of the front door, down the red steps, wearing jeans and a long-sleeve pullover shirt. The sun is shining. The air is fresh and clean. There’s a rainbow in the western sky. I’m eight years old. It’s a Saturday morning around 8 or 9. A few cars are on the street. There aren’t crowds of people or cars waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the next block east of us. That’s right, I grew up watching people taking their driver’s test during the week. Inside the DMV they were marking off their answers to turn in for the first part of the test, or maybe it was the second part before taking their driving test.
It was 62 years ago that I ran out of our three-bedroom house where my mother, father, my five brothers, and I lived. Saturday. Quiet. The sun shining, with vapors rising off the wet streets and pavement in the heart of Hollywood. I can see the Hollywood Police Station and Emergency Hospital up the block, and the back of the Fire Station around the corner from us. I’m talking about growing up smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. North of us was Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard, two and four blocks, respectively, from where we lived. Selma Avenue School was located a block below Hollywood Boulevard and across the street from the Hollywood YMCA. It was at the Y, at the age of eight, where I discovered my athletic ability. I went to Selma from kindergarten to a month and a half into the fourth grade. My fourth grade teacher was Miss Snyder. Oh how I wish I could have had her for a full school year. I sensed her greatness in the short time I had her because she praised and encouraged me. She was the exact opposite of my third grade teacher, Miss Seenor, that crabby old witch. The city bought our house in 1949 so as to remove it and make a parking lot for the policemen to park their cars. With the money my parents received, we moved to a larger house in a nicer neighborhood, 1632 North Fairfax Avenue, cross street Hollywood Boulevard. The school I attended was Gardner Street School. I had a very decent education there for three years.
Earlier I was listening to the Giants game on radio. The last I heard they were ahead of the Colorado Rockies 6-0 in the sixth inning. As of tonight, the Giants are the hottest team in all of baseball. They’re two games in back of the first place Padres, a team that has yet to experience a slump this season.
The Giants, I just heard, beat the Rockies 10-0. I love it. I’ve either listened or watched most of their games on TV this year. They have Aubrey Huff, the enthusiastic veteran at first base and their power hitter; Buster Posey, the rookie sensation at catcher; Andres Torres, a terror in center field and on the base paths; Pablo “The Panda” Sandoval handles third base; they have a very capable pitching staff of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Jonathon Sanchez, Matt Cain, and the new, young lefty, Madison Bumgarner; they have steady Freddy Sanchez at second base; Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria share shortstop duties; and they have power hitter Pat “The Bat” Burrell in left field. There’s the leadership of Uribe, Renteria, Burrell, and Huff. There’s the spirit of Huff and the consistency of Posey. And lastly, we mustn’t forget manager Bruce Bochy and his staff.
The world is moving faster and faster in this Digital Age. What I’m saying is, with one click, or maybe just thinking about it, someone in the future will be able see the words I’m typing this very minute.
Here’s what I’d like to say to you, person of the future. Be like the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Be fair. Be aware. Be courteous. Stand tall against injustice.
What am I thinking of the future for? I have maybe 15 or 20 years left to live. But I have two sons who will have children, and their children will have children. I would like to believe that we humans will someday live in peace and harmony. But I’m reminded of Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, who said, and I paraphrase, “The only way we humans will ever get together is when we’re threatened by creatures from another planet.”
Friday, August 6, 2010 – Too Busy
Today, 65 years ago, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Today is also my editor Don Ellis’ birthday. He’s 69. I’ll be 70 in 14 days. Numbers: 65, 69, 70, 14 What do numbers mean in this whole vast universe we live in? Our planet is so miniscule, it’s like a piece of sand in just our galaxy alone. Plus, there are billions of galaxies in the universe. So who in the universe cares what happens here on Earth? The only beings who care are those who live on this planet, and most of us don’t even care about that because we’re too busy trying to survive or working ourselves to the bone.
Saturday, August 7, 2010 – Socrates
I am now sitting at my desk after eating dinner and conversing with Joan. We were talking about Socrates. Growing up, I loved the thought of Socrates as a wise man who always asked questions. Due to the politics of his time, he was found guilty by a majority of 500 jurors, 280-220. His punishment was to be put to death by hemlock. He actually willed his own death while defending himself, as Plato depicts in The Apology.
Socrates was a man who pursued truth and was considered the wisest man of his time by the Oracle of Delphi. He was considered wise because, after thinking about it, he knew he wasn’t wise. He was a man who constantly asked questions of supposed learned men that made them shrink from their arguments. Socrates, the wisest man in all of Athens—a supposedly thriving and energetic city-state at the time, with its arts, philosophy, and democracy all going on simultaneously—died for his beliefs. He was brought to trial and accused of corrupting the youth of Athens because of his anti-democratic views and for believing in gods that Athens did not recognize. It didn’t help that he was also considered an annoying person, a gadfly. Did a majority of the jury of 500 Athenian men really want Socrates to die, or did he goad them into it by saying, “I’ve always meant to awaken Athens rather than to put her to sleep. Therefore, I should be paid for my service and given a free meal every day for the remainder of my life.” If he hadn’t said that, the jurors most likely would not have been given him the death sentence. When Socrates found out he was to die by drinking hemlock, he said, “People will find out some day that this great experiment in democracy, this freedom to think and speak, did not live up to its principles.”
I go to I.F. Stone’s book, The Trial of Socrates, whenever I need more insight into Socrates and why he told the jury that his punishment should be payment from the city-state and a lifetime of free meals. I’m sure Socrates, at the age of 70, meant what he said, because he really thought he was benefitting Athens and surely thought the charges of corrupting the youth and downgrading the gods of the city-state were false.
But what if he did ask for the jury’s forgiveness? His tongue would have been silenced from that day forth. Hence, Socrates would have found it extremely hard in his later years to be his curious and questioning-self.
Thursday, August 12, 2010 – Elementary School Days
My first four school years were spent at Selma Avenue School, from 1945-1949. After we moved, I attended Gardner Street School for three years, from 1949-1952. Both schools are located in Hollywood. I had Miss Gehling in the fourth grade, Miss Kelly and Miss Mozart in the fifth, and Miss Sullivan and Mr. Sparti in the sixth grade. I remember Miss Kelly took the class to a bank on Sunset Boulevard and Stanley, where each one of us opened a savings account. Mr. Sparti was my first male teacher and also one of my favorites. He played his luscious-sounding viola once a week for us. Miss Sullivan recognized some talent in me and is therefore, in my opinion, a good teacher. But the one who praised me in front of the whole fourth grade class one day was my teacher for only a month and a half at Selma Avenue School, Miss Snyder. “Look, everyone,” she told the class one day, “this is Joseph’s writing. Look how neat it is.” That was enough for me to love Miss Snyder. Sorrowfully we moved and Miss Gehling became my fourth grade teacher at Gardner Street School. She had my new friend and fellow student, Barry Russell, teach me how to separate my cursive m’s from n’s. Barry also taught me how to create my own burps. The day he was teaching me, I accidentally let loose a very loud burp in class. Miss Gehling lost her cool and hit me on top of my head with her black whistle for doing that.
Friday, August 13, 2010 – The Internet
I’m sitting at my desk with the radio on the Giants-Padres game. Both teams battling it out for first place. The Padres are 2 1/2 games up on the Giants. Right now they are leading the Giants 3-2 in the 8th inning.
It is definitely the Digital Age. We Americans (and probably the world) are constantly on cell phones, listening to radios, watching TV, and going from one thing to another on the Internet. Our thought processes are going at a very swift clip. Every 10-15 seconds my thoughts are going from one thing to another while on the Internet. The Internet takes up a lot of my time. How is one to write a book or short story nowadays? There’s too much stimulation from the Internet and the Digital Age we live in. My attention span has gone south. I’d have to stop using the Internet if I wanted to write a novel or book. The damn Internet is also ruining my relationship with my wife. We don’t eat dinner together anymore. She’s eating dinner while on her computer and I’m eating dinner while watching the news or a baseball game on TV. What’s going on? How can we break away from this obsession of the computer, the Internet, and TV? Every day when I come home from the YMCA, I say to myself, “Joe, you’re going to write in your journal today.” My thoughts, however, don’t coincide with my actions. “I’ll just check my emails first,” I say to myself. But then, four or five hours later, I’m still on the Internet. It’s too much for my brain to take, this constantly going from one thing to another on the Internet. It’s not right. It’s not human. It’s killing the creative instinct in me. It’s a drug. We’re all connected to the Internet by an umbilical cord that keeps feeding us this drug of instant information or else we’re trying to advertise ourselves. Damn.
The Giants lost to the Padres and are now 3 1/2 games out of first place.
Saturday, August 14, 2010 – Dear President Obama
Here’s a letter I worked on today before sending it to the White House:
Dear President Obama,
The world is experiencing global warming because of what is being spewed into the Earth’s atmosphere. Oil, gas, and coal are causing heatwaves in New York, heavy rains in India and China, floods, hurricanes, droughts, forest fires in Russia, icebergs melting, a bald Mt. Kilimanjaro, and polar bears disappearing. BP and Chevron are fighting for their lives by lobbying and paying off politicians. Their lobbying and payoffs are saying, “We will not help humanity break away from oil addiction, we’re going to hold off renewable energy sources as long as possible. We don’t care about human suffering or the future, we only care what’s in our wallets and our stockholders wallets.”
Present day propagandists and prostitutes—Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and many politicians—are catering to the fossil fuel industries. These liars and deniers are saying there’s no global warming going on. Although “we the people” can see with our eyes that the icebergs are melting at a rapid rate, the oceans rising, and climate conditions are unstable, we are being blindsided by these propagandists and the industries they represent.
Mr. President, we’ve got to start doing something about this, something on the scale of the Manhattan Project during World War II. We need a massive and immediate push toward renewable energy or else it’s going to get fatally worse and there will be droughts, famines, floods, wildfires, and human migrations that are already starting to destabilize life on Earth. We are on the brink of a hell of our own making until all the nations of the world start working together to preserve mother Earth.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 – Politically Speaking
Right now, politically speaking, there are a bunch of things on everyone’s mind.
(1) Afghanistan—leave or stay? I say get the hell out. We are not the world’s policemen. The U.S. is only making it worse for itself in that more men and women in that part of the world are joining ranks trying to defeat us.
(2) Should the Muslims build a community center two blocks from what is now known as Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers came crashing down on September 11, 2001? A lot of Americans are against it, but since the Constitution cannot be tampered with, the Muslims have a right to build anything they so desire on land that they own. But I say, “Screw all religions.” Organized religion is baloney to me. Fundamentalists of all religions believe their superstitious way of thinking is THE ONLY WAY. To think that a great majority of people on Earth believe that God hears their prayers. If I prayed and God heard my prayers, I wouldn’t have an arthritic shoulder, I’d be skinnier, and I wouldn’t have to get out of bed three times every night to go to the bathroom.
(3) Gay marriage is another thing being discussed in this country. Why shouldn’t people of the same sex marry and share a bond with each other? A great number of people with backward-thinking minds believe same sex marriage should not be allowed.
(4) And then there’s the Immigration problem. Racists want to kick the Latin people out of this country if they are here illegally. They think the immigrants are taking jobs from Americans and living off the dole of the U.S. government and should go back to where they came from. The Latin people are the ones who pick our crops in sweltering heat, who clean our houses, who take care of our pre-school children, and who work at manual labor jobs most white Americans don’t want to do.
My father came to this country and peddled linens and hosiery in New York City. He eventually married, had six boys, ran a retail linen store, and was a good citizen and a hardworking man his whole life. He started at the bottom and worked his way up, just like the immigrants of today who want the opportunity to do the same as my father.
(5) Should pot be legalized? Of course it should be legalized. A lot of people are against it, but they fail to realize that weed is being treated like alcohol during Prohibition. There are gangs in both Mexico and the U.S. that are making money on weed. A lot of killings and arrests and a waste of police time is involved with the prohibition of pot. Open it up. Let the states make money on this crop instead of keeping it illegal and letting mafia-type gangs wield so much power.
(6) Climate change. We’re seeing its effects in China, India, and especially in Pakistan, where 20 million people are homeless because of floods, and then there’s drought in Russia, where huge swaths of their forests have burned down. My wife Joan and I have personally felt the effect of climate change. There’s a window behind our bed that I used to tack a blanket over during the winter months because it got so cold in our bedroom (we don’t like to turn the heat on when sleeping). For the past two winters I haven’t had to do that because our room doesn’t get as cold anymore.
(7) We live in hard times. We don’t see much of it today compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s, because people who lose their jobs are not out in the streets like they were back then. People out of jobs today are receiving unemployment checks and food stamps. In the 1930s those safety nets didn’t exist. The only thing I actually see during this Great Recession is that three families on our block had to move out because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.
Saturday, September 4, 2010 – The Giants
All is right with the world tonight. The Giants came from behind to beat the Dodgers 5-4. They were down 4-0 when I gave up on them in the sixth inning and started surfing a bunch of TV channels. When I turned back to the game, which was over by then, the Giants announcers were summarizing the game and I was completely taken aback to find out that they actually won 5-4. Buster Posey, Edgar Renteria, and Pat Burrell each hit one-run homers. In the bottom of the ninth, Juan Uribe hit a two-run homer to put them over the top. I guess that saying by Yogi Berra still stands: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The Giants are now two games out of first place because the Padres have lost nine games in a row. Everyone predicted they would hit a bump in the road, but no one would have ever predicted a 9-game losing streak. There are 25 games left to play.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 – The Tea Party
I now have an ad on Google. They’re giving me $100 to put an ad that will pop up if people hit 1 of 15 keywords. It costs me a dollar each time someone goes to my website from Google. The first day, yesterday, 11 people went to my website, but no one bought any of my books. When my $100 is up, I think I’ll quit the ad.
My next project is to put my other books (Words of Wellness, The Immortal Mouth, My Writing Year,and Highway Sailor) on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, and Scribd. People can read my books on those online sites from $1.99 to $2.99.
Small publisher distributor, BCH Fulfillment, has sold 45 of my books to Ingram, the biggest book distributor in the country. This is good news to me. It means my books are being disseminated throughout the country.
The mid-term elections will take place in early November. The Tea Party is getting most of the media’s attention. They’re making all the headlines instead of the Democrats. They’re starting to turn the Republican Party into a bunch of reactionaries. A large percentage of the Tea Party believes President Obama was born in another country and that he’s a Muslim. These false accusations were started by Donald Trump. Screwy is too soft of a word for those white, unthinking, racists. They’re out of their minds is what they are. And so what does the media do? They give those spoiled brats the attention they want.
Monday, October 4, 2010 – West Division Champs
The Giants, on the last day of the regular season yesterday, defeated the San Diego Padres 3-0 to win the West Division by two games. If they win three out of five games against the Atlanta Braves, they’ll play for the National League pennant with the winner of the Philadelphia-Cincinnati series, and then go on to the World Series. All is right with the baseball gods of San Francisco.
Thursday, October 14, 2010 – My Son Ray’s Creation
The Giants beat Atlanta three games to one and will now face the Philadelphia Phillies to see which team will represent the National League in the World Series.
The seven-game series with the Phillies begins Saturday in Philadelphia. Both teams have great pitching staffs. The Giants have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner. (Thank God they left Barry Zito, the highest paid pitcher in the majors, off the 25-man roster. He pitched poorly in the second half of the season.) Philadelphia has Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Joe Blanton. It should be quite a series.
My son Ray is starting to make money with his T-shirt creation: Croix de Candlestick, originally a button given to anyone who stayed at any extra inning game at cold, frigid Candlestick Park in the 1980s and 1990s. Veni, Vidi, Vixi—I came, I saw, I survived—along with Croix de Candlestick is printed on the shirt. Ray has sold over a hundred shirts so far. With the Phillies series and possibly a World Series in our grasp, Ray could sell a lot more shirts.
I meant to write a couple of days this week, but the world just wouldn’t let me. Either it’s the Internet, email, someone knocking on the front door, the garden, someone phoning, or going somewhere with Joan. Writing has taken second fiddle to all these things. In the Chronicle today, author Dave Eggers says he doesn’t have an Internet connection at home or else he’d be on it all day. He goes to a business next door to check his email or get on the Internet. It takes great discipline to be a writer in this age of instant communication, what with emails, Twitter, Facebook, going from one website to another, cell phones, etc.
I’ve gone to the YMCA four days in a row this week to do water aerobics. I might go tomorrow also. I’ve never gone four days in a row before. But I’ve got to lose weight. My stomach will be the death of me if I don’t lose some pounds and belly fat. Everything else on my body looks fine except my stomach; it sticks out too much.
Saturday, October 16, 2010 – Game One: Giants
It must be deja vu all over again?
Cody Ross just hit his second home run of the game off of Roy Halladay of the Phillies. Halladay’s pitch was the same exact pitch, in the exact same spot as Cody’s first home run, and Cody hit it into the exact same spot in Philadelphia’s left field bleachers. Unbelievable. The Giants go ahead 2-1. Cody breaks Halladay’s spell. They now know they can hit him even though Halladay pitched a no-hitter in his last game against Cincinnati. You could see the Giants’ confidence rising after the second home run. “We can beat this guy,” they’re saying to themselves.
The Giants will come to bat in the top of the sixth—that is, after five minutes of the same damn commercials I’ve been watching for the past two weeks.
Freddy Sanchez, a fellow Hollywoodian, is at bat for the Giants…and grounds out.
Aubrey Huff grounds out.
Buster Posey is up. I predict he at least gets his bat on the ball…and it’s a solid single over the shortstop’s reaching glove.
Pat “The Bat” Burrell at bat. He doubles off the left field wall. Posey scores from first. 3-1 Giants. I love it.
Juan Uribe hits another double. 4-1.
I’ve been into every pitch since the Giants played the Padres in the last three games of the regular season to decide the winner of the West Division. Then came Atlanta. And now Philly, to see which team will go to the World Series. God, it would be absolutely glorious to see the Giants in the World Series.
Bottom of the sixth.
Chase Utley vs. Tim “The Freak” Lincecum, all of 5’10” and 160-pounds of him. Utley hits a grounder up the middle that Lincecum deflects. Uribe picks it up but his throw to first is too late.
The Phillies top RBI man, Big Ryan Howard, just like the mighty “Casey at Bat” strikes out for the second time tonight.
Jayson Werth at bat. “Let’s go, Timmy. Get ‘im out!” Werth connects. Home run. Goddammit.
Jimmy Rollins strikes out.
Raul Ibanez draws a two-out walk.
Carlos Ruiz, who hit a home run his first at bat, strikes out.
Every pitch is so important. Both teams have scored with two outs in the sixth. The Giants are up 4-3.
Bottom of the eighth. Manager Bruce Bochy replaces “The Freak” with Javier Lopez, a lefty sidearm reliever who specializes in getting lefties out.
Utley, a lefty, grounds out. Ryan Howard, a lefty, strikes out for the third time.
Brian Wilson replaces Lopez to face the man who hit a two-run homer his last at bat, and Jayson Werth singles but is stranded on first as Jimmy Rollins strikes out.
The Giants loaded the bases in the top of the ninth and didn’t score. It’s still 4-3 Giants. Three more outs to go.
Wilson faces Raul Ibanez and strikes him out.
Carlos Ruiz is hit by a pitch.
This is absolute torture for me.
Pinch-hitter Ross Gload strikes out.
Shane Victorino swings. Three strikes and you’re out!!
Game one: Giants.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 – Giants Lead Series
Last night in game two, Matt Cain pitched seven strong innings and the Giants won 3-0.
Tonight was a tug of war, an ebb and flow game. The Giants won in the bottom of the ninth 6-5 when Juan Uribe hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Aubrey Huff from third base. Buster “The Real Hero of the Night” Posey set it up with his fourth hit, a double, that got Huff to third.
The Giants lead the series 3 games to 1.
San Francisco has a chance to get into the World Series and win it for the first time since they moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958.
Saturday, October 23, 2010 – The Giants Win the Pennant
It’s two hours before game six begins in Philadelphia. The Giants lost game five 5-3. They had one poor inning on defense and the Phillies took advantage of it and scored three runs. One pitch, one bad inning, one of anything can win or lose a game. The Giants looked lackadaisical and made too many errors. Hence, a loss.
This coming week, on October 28, it will be our 31st wedding anniversary. Joan is totally prepared to teach “Close Encounters with Six Greek Gods” this semester at San Francisco State Extension. This will be her third 6-week course I’ll be taking.
My son Ray is 29 now. He’s a busy person, what with taking classes at San Francisco State for a master’s degree in counseling, doing intern counseling at San Francisco Community College and being an entrepreneur with the “Croix de Candlestick” T-shirt he created. He’s sold a couple of hundred so far. Ray, a giant Giants fan, could sell more if he focused on the T-shirts alone, but he has his counseling responsibilities to take care of.
Jerry Lipkin, Alan Blum, and I have vowed to propel the Giants into the World Series by calling each other the day of the game and wearing our Giants caps while watching each game. If things are looking bad for the Giants, we turn our caps 90 degrees to the right. If things are looking bleak, we turn our caps 180 degrees.
The Giants have won the National League Pennant four times in the 52 years they’ve been in San Francisco: 1962, 1989, 2002, and 2010. It was a real nail-biter tonight. The score was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, two outs, and Juan Uribe with no balls and two strikes on him hit a solo home run that barely made it over the right field wall in Philadelphia. The Giants won 3-2 and took the series 4 games to 2. Oooooo-ribe was tonight’s hero.
And so was the whole team: Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, Jeremy Affelt, Madison Bumgarner, Edgar Renteria, Pat Burrell, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Mike Fontenot, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Eli Whiteside, Sergio Romo, Guillermo Mota, Aaron Rowand, and none other than the Giants fabulous closer, Brian Wilson, who struck out big, powerful Ryan Howard looking at a third strike with two men on base for the final out.
I feel compelled to quote the closing lines of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s famous “Casey at the Bat”:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land [San Francisco] the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville [Philadelphia]—mighty Casey [Ryan Howard]
has struck out.
The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant because Jerry, Alan, and I turned out caps 90 degrees to the right when Ryan Howard was at bat!
Thursday, October 28, 2010 – Average Joes
It’s our 31st anniversary today. I’m about to leave the house to attend Joan’s once a week class for six weeks, “Close Encounters with Six Greek Gods.” After class, and Joan thoroughly understands, I’ll be driving to the East Bay to watch the second World Series game with my poker group, The Royal Flush. We might even find time to play some poker after the game.
The opening game of the World Series against the Texas Rangers last night was won by the Giants 11-7. All their hits seemed like doubles, with Freddy Sanchez hitting three of them. The other big hit was a three-run homer by non-other than Juan “Clutch” Uribe. Everyone, as usual, contributed.
Ray called me on my cell phone as I was playing poker after the game. He got caught selling his T-shirts outside the ballpark. The authorities confiscated 20 of his shirts. He could have sold those shirts at $15 apiece. That’s $300 down the drain. He seemed to have taken it philosophically, though.
The Giants won the second game of the Series 9-0. As Giants announcer Mike Krukow sometimes says, “It was a laugher.” It was a tight game (2-0 in favor of the Giants) up until the eighth inning. In that inning the Giants scored seven runs, as three Rangers relief pitchers couldn’t get the ball over the plate and walked four batters. There were only two hits that inning for the Giants, one being a bases-loaded triple by Aaron Rowand. In the fifth inning, the score 0-0, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers got good wood on a ball that hit the top of the padded center field wall for an apparent go ahead home run…but the ball, miraculously for Giants fans, bounced back of its own accord for a double. That apparent home run could have changed the whole complexion of the game, but somehow the baseball gods were on San Francisco’s side tonight. Matt Cain, who hasn’t been scored upon in three post-season games, pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings before the bullpen took over for him.
The Giants are a metaphor for America. They are a bunch of unknowns getting to where they are right now, two wins away from winning the 2010 World Series. San Francisco has been waiting 52 years for a World Series championship, and they are on the brink of obtaining it.
The Giants’ metaphor is that no one outside of Tim Lincecum is known in the baseball world. They have no superstars like Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez. They’re like your average Joe in any profession, but somehow they blended perfectly together and became a TEAM. The baseball gods and destiny are on their side.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 – World Champions
Where do I begin? Two days ago? Today? Does it matter that the Giants won the World Series? Of course it does. But today my son and I went to the victory parade downtown where it was estimated that over a million people attended. This is what a World Series championship brings to a city: a stream of joy, celebration, and togetherness.
My son Ray and I got on a very crowded Muni streetcar at West Portal station. A man dressed in Giants colors orange and black like everyone else on the car, had an accordion with him and kept playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” All those in the packed streetcar sang along with him. This is what the whole day was about: bringing people together to celebrate the World Series champions.
Ray and I got off at Civic Center station, climbed the stairs to street level, and came upon a mass of people, all of them wearing something Giants. The shirts had everything from “World Series Champions” on them, to Brian Wilson’s face with a beard, to “Torture,” to what Tim Lincecum said in an interview, “Fuck Yeah.” My son and I were wearing his orange “Croix de Candlestick” T-shirts. Luckily, for Ray and me, a man who was the janitor of a building we were standing in front of, let us take an elevator to the second floor so we could have a better view of the parade. Ten other people were up there with us.
And then the parade began. Motorized cable cars with the players in them passed by and everyone cheered wildly. Every Giants player must have been in heaven hearing such thunderous adulation. Willie Mays passed by in a convertible, as did Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Giants announcers Mike Krukow, Dwayne Kuiper, John Miller, and Dave Fleming (whose voice cracked while calling Edgar Renteria’s home run that won the 5th and final game of the World Series). The Cal marching band and the Riordan High School marching band passed by. Principal owner Bill Neukom and general manager Brian Sabean were cheered. Bruce Bochy, the Giants manager who was a genius in his decision-making, held the World Series trophy as he rode in a convertible with his wife by his side. I never heard so much cheering. I never was part of such a huge gathering as this in my life. Why? Because the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in five games with a starting lineup of unknowns, a team that’s been called “misfits” and “a motley crew,” a team that truly was a TEAM, where their main goal was to win the highest honor a baseball team can win. It didn’t matter who played in a game or not, just as long as they thought of the TEAM and not the individual, they were going to win. It was truly a remarkable year for them, always underdogs, never giving up, starting two-out rallies, eking out many games by one run was torture to them and their fans. You knew the baseball gods were on the Giants’ side when a sure fire home run hit by Ian Kinsler of Texas hit the top of the center field wall padding and came bouncing back to the field of play. That “almost” home run could have changed the whole complexion of the game and the Series, but it turned out to be a double that left Kinsler stranded on second base. The Giants went on to win four of five games, the last two games outstandingly pitched by Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum. Great pitching, great defense, great effort, and great spirit is unbeatable.
That’s the year of the Giants, except for one thing. Jerry Lipkin, Alan Blum, and I made a pact that we’d call each other before each game, starting with the first playoff game against Atlanta, to the National League championship series with the Phillies, to the World Series games to remind each other about wearing our Giants caps during the games and to turn them to the right if the Giants were in trouble. Our superstitious ritual worked, taking the Giants to the mountaintop of baseball. I’m sure that thousands of Giants fans had their own superstitions and rituals that helped the team win. The Giants win the World Series!!
Ray and I decided to hang around Civic Center Plaza after the rally and sell the dozen T-shirts he brought along in his backpack. We sold out in 20 minutes. $15 x 12 = $180. The Giants will be our bond till the day I die.
Yesterday the country had its mid-term election. The Republicans took back the House of Representatives. The Tea Party was sort of successful, which means we’re now more of a divided nation. What I’m trying to say is, people don’t vote for what’s in their best interests, they’ve been propagandized to believe in less regulation (which got us into this Great Recession in the first place) and that wealthy people shouldn’t have to pay their fair share in taxes. They want to go back to the Bush years, which cleaned us out financially. Our country is brain dead, wanting to return to what brought us down: less regulation, no medical coverage for 40 million people, and less taxes on the wealthy. We Americans are so manipulated that it boggles my mind. But today the whole Bay Area forgot about the election and had only one thing in mind, and that was to celebrate the Giants, a team without any superstars like Willie Mays or Barry Bonds, a team that symbolizes what a democracy can accomplish when everyone forgets their own selfish interests and works together to reach a goal.
Journal 2010: Self-Publishing, Politics, and Baseball gave birth to the biggest best-seller of all my self-published books: The Year the Giants Won the Series. I got the idea from the notes I made during the baseball season, plus I did a ton of research. My editor Don Ellis suggested that I intersperse the book with notes I already had of my son’s two Little League baseball seasons 20 years earlier. The book was published in 2011.