In honor of National Brother Day I thought I’d write about my brother, Brian.
Brian is two years younger than me, and two inches taller (which doesn’t seem right, but whatever) and is really one of the best guys I know. He’s always ready to help, and is cool under pressure which – if you had a childhood like ours – was a vital skill.
And by “childhood like ours” I don’t mean to imply our childhood wasn’t good, or healthy or loving. It was those things. But it was also dangerous, and daring, and exciting – mostly because we made it that way.
Here’s the sort of stuff I’m talking about:
Our parents were born in Ireland – and because they were they liked to go to Irish events to comingle with other Irish immigrants and do Irishy stuff.
One Saturday when I was about 12 and Brian 10, they piled us in the station wagon and took us to an Irish dancing competition at a local middle school (think Riverdance for 7th graders) so that we could watch the children of other Irish immigrants bounce up and down to really fast Celtic music.
Whatever. Continue reading →
What did you really like when you were a small child?
For me it was cars. From my earliest memory I recall being fascinated by cars and trucks. My Mom tells me some of my first recognizable words were “Big truck” – which I’d utter whenever I saw, well, a big truck.
Before school I used to sit at the kitchen table and draw cars over and over. If the school system back then had included a course of study in sketching cars I would probably now be a professor emeritus of car drawing.
Instead what I am is a guy who writes insights and advice – which sometimes needs to be amended. But I’m getting ahead of myself – first let me finish my story about a car… Continue reading →
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 →
I’m a skateboarder – and I’m almost 50.
Those two things don’t really seem to go together, do they? If I said “skateboarder” to you, you’d probably get an image in your head of a kid pushing his board down the road on his way to school. Which is funny because that’s exactly how I started – riding my Makaha Skateboard down Alkire Avenue on the way to my sixth grade classroom at St. Catherine’s.
I got that board for Christmas pretty much because I begged for it. That was in 1976 when skateboards were just coming on the scene in my home town of Morgan Hill. They’d been around for a while out closer to the beach – in places like Santa Cruz the surfers would use them to keep in practice because the skill sets were similar. But being 45 minutes inland meant not many surfers, and so, not many skateboards. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →