Category Archives: Childhood

Stolen Memories

stealing candy

One of my early boyhood heroes was Kevin Gaines.

If you haven’t heard of him that’s probably because he was a fourth grader who lived up the street from me.

That was 1973, when I lived in South San Jose and was in the third grade at Blossom Valley Elementary. Kevin went to Blossom Valley too, but I didn’t see him there much because the fourth graders were way on the other side of the school – and since the building was one of those giant round flying saucer shaped things you used to see back then, with all the classes in the same massive structure, the other side of the building was actually pretty far away.

Luckily he only lived four houses down from me. Continue reading

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Bee People

bee girl

Does anybody here remember the band Blind Melon?

Back in the early 90’s they had a song called No Rain. It was one of two singles from their self-titled debut album – and it wasn’t doing very well until the accompanying video went into heavy rotation on MTV. After that you would hear No Rain everywhere, which kept bringing the video back to mind for me.

But that was fine – because that video is one of the best metaphors for how we fit or don’t fit into our world, I think I’ve ever seen. Continue reading

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I don’t love basketball

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I love my Mom.

Anyone who knows me is aware that’s not earth-shattering news. She’s a great woman – with a big heart, who worries about all who are important to her. She’s loved or liked by probably everyone who knows her. She’s kind to strangers and always looks out for the underdog.  She’s a wonderful woman whom I find very easy to love.

But that was not always the case… Continue reading

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Semi-Superhero

 

I use to be a superhero.

Well, a semi-superhero, anyways. When my two sons were little – probably about eight and ten – I told them that the man they knew to be their dad was actually the mild mannered alter ego of a superhero named Bugflector. Continue reading

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Don’t Shoot

If you’ve read my column before you probably know that I spent chunks of my childhood in Ireland, where my family is from.

My parents would make the arrangements for my summer trips: where I’d stay, with whom, and for how long — and then take me up to SFO to board an Aer Lingus jet for the long flight to their homeland. Even though pretty young at the time (10 or 14 — or in there somewhere) I’d make the trip alone because, well, that’s what they could afford. But I wouldn’t really be alone. Back in those days you could pull aside a flight attendant and ask her to look after your kid, and she would. Or, she would as well as she was able between making coffee and bringing all the food they used to serve on airplanes to the throngs of hungry/thirsty/needy passengers.

On some flights I’d have an attendant checking on me every hour or two. And on some flights I’d actually have someone my parents knew, or maybe a friend of a friend, who happened to be going back for their summer in Ireland, who could watch over me. It was usually easier when I was actually with someone, especially when we got to New York, where sometimes I’d have to change planes.

But however the trip went, I always loved the part where we broke through the clouds over Ireland and there were green fields as far as the eye could see. It was both weird and wonderful, being from California, to see long green grass growing in the summer time, and it served as a reminder that I was travelling to a very different place that was sort of like a fairy-tale. People there spoke much differently than I did, and the steering wheels were all on the wrong side of the car, and there were donkeys on the roads and roofs made of thatch. It was sort of like being in Oz, only it was all the Emerald City. Continue reading

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I Try not to Eat Glass

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Charlie ate broken glass.

He’s my son, and was about 14 months old at the time and, if I recall correctly, that was his first trip to a hospital emergency room. By the age of six he would visit emergency rooms four more times, for things such as breaking his arm, knocking himself out, and cracking his skull.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – allow me to back up a bit and explain how it was that Charlie came to eat glass. Continue reading

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Beach Town Blue


I rode down to that beach town to meet a woman.

She was from L.A. somewhere (south of the Grapevine it’s all L.A. to me) and was looking forward to seeing me – as I her – but it didn’t go all that well. I mean how could it? We really knew nothing about each other aside from the pics we exchanged and the divorces we talked of.

When the weekend was over I rode off knowing I’d never see her again. I’m sure she drove off thinking the same. But the funniest thing happened as I headed back north across the streets of that sleepy little beach town. Continue reading

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Secret Life of Boys

When I was little I traveled to Ireland every few years or so.
My parents are from Ireland and took me and my brother and sisters back there during summers to stay with our grandparents. One morning, at Grandma Tierney’s house in Tipperary, my brother Brian and I decided to head down the fields in search of adventure. At the time I would have been about 12 and Brian maybe 10 or so. Continue reading

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I Was Afraid to Write this Column

The kids in the neighborhood I grew up in had a certain fearlessness about them.

Well most of them did – there was this one kid named Shawn Reilly who seemed to be afraid of everything. And because fear was such a big part of his daily life it kind of set him apart from the other kids. In fact even now when I think about the kids in the old neighborhood his face doesn’t always pop up. He was a bit player. Sort of like a lesser character in a favorite movie of yours – you don’t always remember right away that he was even in it. Continue reading

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The Truth about Flying

When I was a kid I loved airplanes.

The truth is I still do – and have my whole life. But when I was a kid I thought I wanted to fly them. You know how when you’re a kid you approximate, to the best of your kid abilities, those things that you think you want to do when you grow up?

Well my way of approximating piloting an airplane was to build models of them. And oh did I build a ton of model planes. Big ones, little ones, ones that I hung from my bedroom ceiling and ones that I used to simulate fiery crashes in my back yard (don’t tell my mom, but I discovered at a young age that model glue was a handy, and highly flammable, co-conspirator when re-enacting crash scenes from war movies). Continue reading

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