Do As I Say, Not As I Advertise

(One of my Beach Reporter columns from June 6, 1991. Still current today, except for the part about the Lakers…)

We don’t normally watch much television at our house, but with the Lakers in the playoffs, we’ve been watching more than usual. Watching sports is great family entertainment. That is, if you can’t read the lips of the players and coaches when they are upset, and you don’t watch the commercials.

Unfortunately, during the average basketball game there are approximately 1,700,000 commercials, mostly advertising beer.

Obviously the networks who air the games and sell advertising space think that basketball and beer ads go together. So do baseball and beer ads, and likewise hockey and football and beer ads.
There is nothing inherently wrong with beer ads. I’ve been known to quaff a few brewskies in my time. But the network executives must realize that there are huge numbers of children watching these sports events, and seeing these beer ads. Continue reading

The Crazy Grandpa With the Alligator Shorts

(For Father’s Day… This essay appeared in The Beach Reporter on 6/13/91. )

Shortly before my parents’ last visit here from Washington, I told my children that Grandma and Grandpa would be coming down for a week or so. They asked, “Is that the crazy grandpa or the regular one?”

I had to pause for a moment. After all, this was my own father they were talking about. “Why do you call him crazy?” I was curious as to what they would say, although I knew there could be many answers.

“Because he wears alligator shorts and he watches the Weather Channel and he plays funny games with us,” was the matter-of-fact reply of my children.

True, true. He does wear alligator shorts, only not the Izod kind. His alligator shorts are bright green and they have little dancing alligators with sunglasses on them. It’s just one of his ways of making a fashion statement.

He also loves to watch the Weather Channel, which to me is about as fascinating as watching your fingernails grow. But if you have a daughter who is a flight attendant, like my father does, you need to know the weather all over the world because you can fly for free. You never know when you might get the itch to fly to Cabo or Vegas and you would need to know if you should bring your alligator shorts. Continue reading

Cake Baking and Other Luxuries of Summer

(Originally published on July 4, 1991 in The Beach Reporter.)

Yesterday morning we baked a chocolate cake. Nothing unusual in that, you might say. Except for the fact that it made me stop and think that most of us don’t have many mornings when we can just bake a chocolate cake if we want to.

Normal mornings are spent in a frenzy of getting kids to school on time, the breakfast dishes done, the beds made, the laundry started, the pets fed, and getting myself either to my computer, the grocery store, or the gym. On normal mornings I barely have time to buy a chocolate cake, let alone make one from scratch.

Actually, we used a cake mix, but that’s close enough. Any time you get to break eggs into a bowl, lick the beaters, and use an oven, I count that as making from scratch. We did make the frosting ourselves though. I would never buy frosting in a can. Continue reading

The Art of Place

(Every story takes place somewhere… In my work I often go back to Golden, Colorado, where I spent most of my childhood.  Here is an excerpt about Golden from The Queen of Everything.)

The town of Golden still has a nicely kitschy sign arching boldly over the center of Washington Street, the main thoroughfare that runs north to south, paralleling the Coors brewery. It states Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden, Where the West Lives!

To our family, hailing all the way across the country from Plainfield, New Jersey in our cruise-ship-like Plymouth, this Howdy Folks! sign was exciting and exotic stuff. We had left the gritty, grimy, graffitied city life behind; left behind our Irish and Polish relatives, and arrived in the Wild West.

Lookout Mountain rises hugely and majestically out of the western plains that slope immediately upward out of Golden’s city limits. The Table Mountains – North and South – form flat, dusty sentinels on the town’s northeastern and southeastern edges, and the powerful fist of Castle Rock looms over the sprawling Coors plant. You can see the outline of its distinctive shape on cans and bottles of Coors beer.

Our family took a collective breath of the clear, piney Colorado air and noticed something else. Another smell. Something slightly yeasty and malty, cloying and sweet. This odor, the distinct odor of the brewery, belching out steam clouds of its processed hops and barley into the dizzyingly thin mile-high air, was a sense memory my sisters and I would forever associate with Golden, and with our childhood there.

That day though, that first day, the brewery – a few blocks east of downtown – was just part of the exciting sights, sounds, and smells of our new Golden life.