Thursday, October 31, 2013


Surely it's just me, detached from the dramedy of active parenting, but the thrill is gone from Hallowe'en.

The arc of anticipation is so long now, lifting off in late August, that it can't hold its own weight and collapses before today can arrive.

Is it about candy? Who can't get candy anymore?! Horror? Pick a channel, pick a theater, any day of the year: Torture porn to your heart's desire.

What makes Hallowe'en so special anymore?

I dreamed up this thesis last week walking the dog, working myself into a proper lather when I passed a duplex on a four-lane road near a busy intersection. The posted speed is 40 mph (25 when the school across the main road is open) but everyone goes 50 or faster. The sidewalk in front of the duplex suddenly disappears into a ditch.

Yet one apartment has each front window framed with little blinking orange lights, and paper decorations of ghosts and pumpkins.

Who in their right mind is gonna come to this house for trick or treat? Who's gonna navigate the nighttime dangers?

You can tell already my thesis dies for lack of support, which I realized with more dog walks. A kid probably lives there, or visits there, and the occupant has decorated for the kid's sake. If no one shows for trick or treat, it really doesn't matter.

Hallowe'en, as I've written before, remains for the kids.

So it really is just me. In the remove of children and childhood, the holiday for me has faded.

I'm one bad mother fuddy-duddy.

Still liking the adoption of El Dia de los Muertos
as an alternate celebration.
From my vantage, the holiday is temporary Hallowe'en superstores and their ghoulish business model of occupying the exoskeleton of whatever business failed during the year. 

By August their DayGlo®™ orange banners over the old store signs signal the occupation, and the selling of shock and schlock that will then ensue until today.

From my vantage, Hallowe'en is countless stories of inappropriate women's and children's costumes, stories meant for maximum tongue-cluck. If accurate, which I doubt, so what?! If no harm, then no foul. Let the day work its wiles, and tomorrow is another day.

From my vantage, Hallowe'en is a gun shop in town advertising a "Spooktacular" 50 percent off gun cleaning.

So very far from what I remember.

What I remember is that the night of Hallowe'en was a big letdown. The holiday was about imagining and planning costumes, about drawing spooky pictures, about the idea of candy and being attuned for imagined changes in the weather that day.

Actual trick-or-treating? It's cold and dark. No one can really see your costume long or well enough to appreciate it, and you certainly can't see out of it. Houses are scary enough at night without some jerk grownup spooking it up for the occasion, and I'm a big wuss. As a kid and then as a kid schlepper, I soon just wanted to go home.
(Here's my proposal: Each house buys three bags of bite-size candy … a kid comes to your house, give the kid one whole bag. After three kids, you're done. The kid's got all the candy he/she needs after five minutes of work, and we can call it a night.)
It's almost hard to imagine that at one point in our kids' lives — two actually! — we went over to another family's house for dinner, then joined them trick-or-treating in their neighborhood.

Our daughter had become friends with their youngest daughter through softball, and they were a close pair for a while. I think one year, in fact, they went out as a pair of dice. The family lived on the east side of Watt Avenue, a clear step or two higher in the economic strata from the west side where we lived. Maybe we believed the talk that the best candy came from that side of the street; whatever, it's instructive to note we didn't trick-or-treat in our neighborhood.

We're so far from that today. Nancy and I this morning realized we forgot even to buy Hallowe'en candy for the five or six groups that'll show. It'll be touch and go this afternoon.

Happy Hallowe'en, if you must. It's the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast, after all. 

And don't call me Shirley.

Addendum: Half a block past the mural I wrote about last week, someone firing a gun from a passing car killed one Hallowe'en party goer and wounded six others on Del Paso Boulevard Sunday. In scarcity we bare the teeth.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Speaking of murals

Once upon a time I thought it a good idea to offer my illustration services as an item for our kids' school auction. My work is mostly editorial illustration, but with a paucity of publishers and editors among school families, I suggested painting a mural.

I pictured bunnies and butterflies and sunshine for someone's child.

The winning child, or his family, wanted Spider-Man®™ and The Incredible Hulk™© instead.


Into the deep end of trademark violation I dove. Again. Instead of asking permission, like last time, I'd ask forgiveness should the moment warrant.

This is the final sketch I used for reference. I decided to place our superheroes high above our city, on a sort of busman's holiday, maybe fighting political crime in the capital. The Hulk©® is after Spider-Man®©, or maybe they're both chasing/escaping the same thing, I don't know.

The Hulk is clinging to the curved glass front of 300 Capitol Mall. Sacramento's iconic Tower Bridge, now painted gold, rises just behind him, spanning the lazy green Sacramento River.

The building that houses a branch of Drexel University and shores up the south end of Old Sacramento is right behind Spidey, with the Capitol Mall rolling by it and Interstate 5 going crossways underneath. On the Yolo County side of the Sacramento River is the ziggurat-shaped building that now houses state offices.

All of this performed without a safety net or the cool tool known as Google Maps®©™. Thank you, you're too kind.
(Aside No. 1: Research took me to many different iterations of Spider-Man®™, who changed proportions and outfit design with each new artist. No other superhero seems so malleable. Sometimes Spider-Man™® looked like the prototypical space alien with  oversized head; sometimes he seemed boneless. I went with a more wiry version over the Everyman shape from the 1960s Spider-Man®© cartoons, and the tendrilous gnarly twhippy web stuff.)
To prepare, I made a cartoon in the original sense, a giant drawing to fit the wall, made of big sheets from the end rolls of newsprint taped together. I blocked out the figures on the sheet of paper, then scribbled hard with dark graphite over the lines from the other side. The idea was to tape the cartoon to the wall, trace over the lines and transfer the image to the wall's surface. Michelangelo and those Renaissance dudes had apprentices punch holes along the drawing, and dab at the holes with little bags full of chalk dust, thus tracing the drawing to the wet plaster of a fresco.

Alas, no apprentices, plaster or patience.
(Aside No. 2: What is the story with these superheroes, anyway? Literally, what is the story? On the outside looking in, superheroes seems to live parallel and concurrent adventures, rather than a single story arcing from one comic book to the next. So when I read in the news that a major character will die or transform in some real-world headline grabbing way, I think, so what? Superman seems to be dying, marrying, divorcing or coming out of the closet simultaneously.
(Maybe — just maybe — those news stories are just ways to get people to buy $4 comic books.)
Halftone dots suggesting full color.
My original plan was to build the mural's color with dots to mimic the halftone dots used in printing comics. I would even paint the mural in the four core printing inks, cyan (a middling blue), magenta, yellow and black. Into thin plastic cutting board sheets I cut holes in a grid pattern with a die punch — hundreds of holes. The bulk of my time went into punching those damned holes.

On site, all these preparations went out the kid's bedroom window. The cartoon proved difficult to affix to the wall, so I ended up eyeballing from the sketch to block in the characters and the background.

The halftone dots wouldn't work, either, not without a lot of time and a lot more experience. In printing, the dots are laid down in precise grids, and the dots at differing sizes to create the illusion of image and density of color.

I painted the characters in full color instead, outlining them in black — ironically, the solid color that comic book publishers wished they could do. I painted the background a bit lighter, leaving large expanses of the pale yellow pulpy-paper color of the walls, and painted dots to suggest halftone dots. It became a little Roy Lichtenstein.
(Aside No. 3: It's been a whole year since the last creation myth movie for Spider-Man®©™. When's the next one coming out? Tick tock!

The same for the Hulk™®. Think of the three dozen A-list actors denied the right to star as David/Bruce Banner. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you're next, and hurry it up. Robert Redford ain't getting any younger.)
The project was at once fun and challenging and strange. Fun because it was drawing on a scale I rarely get; fine cramped gestures with a pencil became grand gestures of my arm, brush in hand, gliding paint along the wall. Challenging to handle all the logistics, preserving the perspective and life of the drawing at a large scale, keeping the carpet and furnishings clean, staying focused.

Strange because I was a fly on the wall, or rather bouncing about in angular patterns in a strange room in someone else's home.

Nothing weird, mind you. Just different. I was living each day to the cycles of other people's lives, hearing halves of ordinary phone conversations, trying to decipher noises. Did someone come into the house? Did someone leave? Is the house empty? What was that noise?

I don't know how tradespeople do it, working in others' homes. If I was smart I would have put on headphones and gotten lost in music. As it was, I became anxious for the school bell to ring and made sure to clean up early to get out of the family's house to retrieve my kids before they did.

Finally done, I got good reviews from the boy's mom.

Shortly after, she hired me to paint something for a daughter's room, something simpler: Silvery purple clouds drifting across the rose-colored ceiling, an unseen setting sun lighting their edges orange and pink. All gesture and scrubbing.

On the way up to the daughter's room the first day of painting, I passed the open door of the boy's room. The superhero mural was almost entirely obscured by stacks and stacks of bins for toys and odds and ends. Spidey looked like he was thwipping desperately to avoid the imminent suffocation by Legos™©. The Hulk® had already succumbed.

What none of us really worked out is that this mural wasn't a gallery piece but the periphery of a living, breathing, very active kid and all his stuff. Spider-Man™ and the Hulk©® proved no match.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not my own

On the road less traveled by, I found this.

It's near the corner of Arden Way and Del Paso Boulevard in north Sacramento. I don't know what it means or how long it's been there.

I'm hoping you'd know.

Glossy yellow, highlighted on the
right edges of the letterforms with
light yellow matte paint, pushed
off the wall with matte blue paint.
You'll find it on the wall of a building emptied but for a jewelry and loan on the opposite side. I'm reasonably certain the art will still be there when you go looking.

In a perpendicular city in a perpendicular valley, Del Paso is unusual for crossing Arden Way at about a 30-degree angle. This wall is on one of the resulting acute angles, right in front of a triangle-shaped gravel lot where a gas station and convenience store used to be. Travelers north on Del Paso and east on Arden get a lingering sweep of the art.

In scarcity of gas and convenience on this corner, we can see it and wonder.

Google Maps'®™ latest spy view shows the lot had been barricaded by temporary fencing and the wall was bare except for the mottled and white patches you see beneath the lettering. How long between then and now is a mystery.

Rust primer was used to sharpen lines
and knock back the brick.
So is its meaning. Research so far yields nothing. I misquoted it to my friend Bob, an artist and designer, as "in Scarcity we Bare our teeth," quite a different sentiment — a threat, maybe; a warning. The changes much. Maybe it's still a threat or challenge, but it reads more like a statement:

This is what happens when we are diminished. (?) We bare the teeth in anger? In a cry? In a smile? In hunger? In want? In longing?

Whose teeth? The community's? Real teeth, or something else, the buildings of a spare street? Someone's rawness?

It's a poem in itself — someone's poem — sounding obtusely as if translated into English. Its message may belie its art.

Is it a shrine, a talisman? Is it graffiti or commissioned art? Yellow and blue are the colors of Grant Union High School, a couple of miles up the street, plus beveled edges of light yellow and occasionally the rust of automotive primer. Is it protected by Pacer pride?

It is unsigned, as far as I can tell, and passersby so far leave it alone. Was it painted freehand, or made using a cartoon like the Renaissance muralists, or projected onto the wall? The edges are sharp, as if masked. Though the tiniest big clunky in the long swooshes, the letterforms are even and tight, with the liveliness of slight variation.  That's difficult to do, even in the best circumstances.

Two blocks up the street I found another mural without credit, its art cool and monochrome, its words beautiful and without reference:
She speaks to me about the mud dauber wasp, reciting all she had learned from Encyclopedia Brittanica 1970. The way it flies across the patio,/

Moving bits of earth larger than one would imagine. She watches it build a nest beneath the eaves, a thing of beauty, shining in her eyes.
Google Maps©®™ shows a bare wall where this image of delicate scroll, stolid yet dangerous, now shines.

I want to know what and why.

I'm a poor anthropologist for Del Paso Boulevard, a street I used to cross many times in past lives. Funny how one can mark the chunks of life by the roads traveled or avoided. I used to go through this intersection frequently many years ago, when I was helping teach English to a Hmong family that neither wanted it (the parents) nor needed it (the children).

Next, I drove here on the way to the elementary school where I was studying for my teaching credential at night.
(Now that I think of it, why did we spend our evenings at the school instead of the Sacramento State campus, where the credential was offered? We did nothing particularly teacher-y in those rooms; they were just meeting places, no different from Sac State classrooms except the desks were smaller. Maybe the teacher-teachers were just trying to get us used to the classroom environment. But the thing we most needed to realize — the sour playground sweat of children — had been wiped clean by custodians by then.)
I criss-crossed here when I was a substitute teacher, then a full-time teacher at a school a couple of miles north.

I was only traveling this route to run an errand, thinking it a shortcut from one part of my current life to another. It was long instead, and serendipitous.

Del Paso Boulevard was worn the first time I went through. Stopping once for an item in a drug store, I encountered someone in the parking lot who wanted to sell me crack.

The street hints of a vibrant, cosmopolitan past, its heyday brought by the war years, World War II and the Cold War, when Sacramento had two Air Force bases, an Army depot and a rocket engine builder going full swing. The street still holds touches of mid-century streamline architecture and Art Deco signage. It's a street George Lucas might have lionized as prime for cruising, when cars were king. But economic forces shifted and the street got forgotten.

Now new things dot the street, including a theater for young playwrights and an upscale restaurant and wine bar, and art galleries and artists' lofts, and revamped mid-century diners turned into new century eateries. Empty storefronts lodge between the new ventures. The city's weekly alternative newspaper, the Sacramento News & Review, moved there. The Del Paso Boulevard Partnership calls the place Old North Sacramento.

The street widens and narrows, providing herringbone parking spaces here and many many narrow crosswalks there, which cut in between medians planted full with shrubs and trees, and unexplained statuary every so often, and low walls filled with glass brick.

It has the feel of an absentee owner sweeping and primping without a sense for the place that it may have been.

And the mysterious murals: Commentary or more out-of-place tidying?

If you know, tell me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Un-editorial cartoonlike, this one went entirely unlabeled. The pancaked Cypress Freeway in West Oakland had
become an icon of the Loma Prieta earthquake by then, and I thought I'd drawn Gov. Deukmejian and his
Jimmy Durante nose and Dumbo ears often enough without tattooing him with "Duke." But I had also run my quota
of cartoons for
The Stockton Record, so this one never ran.
Twenty-four years ago last week, Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's at Candlestick Park. ABC was showing highlights (lowlights) of the A's beating the Giants in Game 2 when the screen went yellow, then screen-test splotchy, then black.

In a few seconds the living room of our suburban Sacramento home, 93 miles away from the ballpark, hopped up and down a couple of times. I walked fast into the next room to warn of an earthquake, where Nancy, pregnant with our son, thought she was just getting nauseous.

Measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale, the earthquake killed 63 people, injured nearly 4,000 and left 12,000 homeless. A section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, as did a long stretch of the elevated Interstate 880, called the Cypress Freeway. Fires spread wide through San Francisco's Marina District, old buildings falling over in the street and breaking gas lines. In Santa Cruz county at the earthquake's center, houses and churches and stores toppled.

Game 3 resumed a week later. The A's swept the Giants in four games.

We in Sacramento escaped the destruction, but two jobs connected me to the aftermath — commenting on it as a freelance editorial cartoonist and writing about its effects on California agriculture as a farm reporter.

On the former, my cartoon commentary followed the arc of a temblor.

First was happy complacency, life being to laugh, the only care in the world the conflicted loyalties of Stockton-area fans as the two Bay Area baseball teams met for the first time in the World Series. Thus:

Then the quake hit. Editorial cartoonists are at their worst in times of natural disasters, with no one to blame and no point in blaming while so many suffer. Often cartoonists play the God card — God or an angel weeping for the loss, or a giant arm dropping from the sky to comfort or smite. Or cartoonists lionize rescue workers, or isolate a suffering child, trying to commiserate or share the blow. This is what I did:

Probably no one saw it, or those who did thought, "Yeah, so?" or didn't know I had tried to render a seismograph's depiction of a quake. I might have been better off just scribbling the Red Cross phone number.

After the shock wore off came damage assessment. The earthquake raised questions about policy and procedure. Blame. Particularly over whether the state's infrastructure, the collapsed freeways, may have suffered from frugality and inattention:
By the time I had hit my stride and angst over the issue, I had also run out my quota of cartoons The Record, so the cartoon at the top, the one I'd preferred over all I did on the topic, didn't make print.

By many accounts, something had changed with Gov. Deukmejian in the earthquake. Whether the scope of the disaster changed him, or he wanted to tend to his legacy near the end of the term, or something else, is unknown. But he transformed from deflecting blame for some of the earthquake damage by his extreme fiscal conservatism (to which the cartoon at the top refers) to becoming an administrator who could work with both parties in crafting fairly quick and effective earthquake aid.

As a farm reporter, I was writing about the earthquake's effect on agriculture. In Watsonville in Santa Cruz County near the epicenter, I saw a massive tent city set up on the county fairgrounds, mostly farm workers driven from their homes by damage or fear of future damage.

Talking with a grower in an hilly apple orchard, I jumped at what sounded like cannon blast. It was an aftershock that felt like Earth had been kicked, hard. All the trees in the orchard rattled their leaves in one quick shake. The grower didn't even blink.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Straw constituents

red white and blue …
That was it?! One humongous, bloody, pustular, rancid, scabrous, infectious, horrid WTF?

One titanic time-wasting, money-wasting, attention-wasting exercise in venal, vain futility?

One mass demonstration to the world that we're a joke, and to ourselves that perhaps we are no longer equipped to handle this experiment in government.

Sixteen days of the federal government shutdown …
  • … millions and millions of dollars squandered (check your portfolio if you have one. That oughta be fun!)
  •  … have-not families wasting precious energy to find costly alternatives to Head Start (good for Laura and John Arnold, the billionaire couple who gave $10 million to keep the program going for 7,000 children! Shame on us they felt need to do so!) …
  • … medical research potentially set back for years … some of it gone for good …
  • … federally funded earth and climate science, like those shuttered in Antarctica, similarly damaged …
  • … startup small businesses on hold, awaiting federal OK …
  • … national parks and monuments closed, foods going uninspected, businesses in a teetering economy delaying hiring, all uncertain for the future …
  • … and much more besides, not to mention thousands of federal employees laid off, crippling their neighborhood economies.
What for? All because tea party-led Republicans maneuvered to drain funding from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare!) and bleed it dead, holding the entire government hostage over this one demand.

Which they didn't get! That's right, the congressional agreement, on the eve of sending the country into unprecedented default, essentially leaves alone the Affordable Care Act! After 16 days of stalemate, the issue was all piss and piffle. All over us!

Now it's over. We're back to where we started, poorer in almost every way possible. Except poor in spirit. We're dispirited.
Others lead, and we follow, on words anymore, not on deeds. And those words are an awful variation of the already awful Big Lie, attributed to Nazi propaganda that if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.

Instead, our leaders tell themselves the Big Lies early and often, then govern based on reactions to their own lies. And we put up with it.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, a chief engineer of the shutdown — and I'm not the first to say he looks, sounds and behaves unctuously like good ol' Sen. Joseph McCarthy — said yesterday: "It appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people. The deal that has been cut provides no relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of Obamacare."

Which American people? The ones who said the tea party should stand its ground, work its whiles and grind the country into the staggering irreparable effects of default? Those people? I'm confident those people are, as they say, few and far between. Too few and far between to merit closing the government and threatening default.

All of this — all of this — pivots on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act is a terrible law. Is it really? A major plank in the Obama presidency, aimed at making health care affordable overall and extending health insurance to people who had no access — is this law really so bad?

Rep. Todd Rokita, Republican of Indianapolis, called the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man." Secret boards that will condemn old people to early death! Forcibly implanted tracking microchips! Fabrications manufactured before the act was even presented. Rokita's characterization is just the latest in an unbroken chain of hyperbolic condemnations of the law.

Ben Carson, a celebrated neurosurgeon who is rising in right wing Republican circles as a possible political candidate, said, "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

Since slavery.

Hyperbole damns their own argument. Or should anyway, but we elect these people to office, and will likely send Dr. Carson into office somewhere, where he can enact his off-kilter ideas.

President Obama yesterday said: "There are things we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill, and with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hard working people all across this country."

Do you really believe that? Do you have any hope that will really happen — or that words and lies will continue to lead us? Is President Obama by definition lying?

Just a political generation ago — in what I thought were the dark days of the Reagan administration, now suddenly gleaming — foes negotiated, crafted, compromised, hammered out laws that worked.
The Affordable Care Act staggers under immense ineptitude and failures, the most recent being the glitchy online health care insurance exchanges. Some is the result of political sabotage and neglect. But it is hardly "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man." President Reagan and his clobbering foe, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, would have forged that law into something both sides of the aisle, and their constituents, could have lived and thrived with.

Not these folks. In a time when technology accelerates and we get the opportunity to know more and more about ourselves and the world, we seem to be getting stupider, retreating to the dark condemned ideas of the past. Maybe it's more comforting in the past. Maybe we want our mommies.

This reminds me of driving home from the grocery store a couple of nights back. I couldn't catch the playoff game on the car radio (yes, I'm paying attention, even though I said I wouldn't) for all the football going on, so I set the radio to scan. Soon I snagged a religious station.

The host of the show was explaining why "creation science" makes sense, and creating straw arguments for its enemies, the "evolutionists." The host spoke from the view that the Bible is literally true, the world is 4,500 years old, and Noah really did have an ark large enough to preserve the world's species from a great flood God unleashed upon the earth to destroy the wicked.

Straw argument example, "What about the dinosaurs?" The host explained that most of the dinosaurs were small, the size of goats, and that we are misled into believing that dinosaurs were gigantic because no one would pay to see a goat-sized dinosaur skeleton in a museum.

I had to drive around my block to listen more, stunned by incredulity.

Further, the host said, logic follows that Noah knew better than to risk havoc on the ark, so he made sure that the Tyrannosaurus Rexes that he ushered aboard were babies, easier to handle, and that they'd leave the boat as the floodwaters receded, before they got too big to handle.

The last of the dinosaurs, he said, died out about 700 years ago. No basis in fact, except that the Bible tells him so, or he infers it from the biblical timetable of so much begetting.

I respect people to follow their beliefs, no matter the intensity or variety — as long as interpretation of those beliefs don't harm or deprive others — but …

Is he serious? Are we serious?! Are we ready, now, to get serious?

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them," said Bill Nye, science educator and TV personality, responding to the argument for creationism. "We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future."

Will we get them, or will we continue to allow stupid people, lying in their mirrors, to lead us?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bad dad

Study for the mural for what was my study … for what never became a mural. Huh? Details below …
That's a scythemarked butterfly fish, in shape anyway. The colors are wrong. Gray whale in the back.

The first-born awoke hundreds of mornings and many dozens of naps to smiling, winking stars and a smiling crescent moon on the ceiling overhead, set in a carefully splotched sky of deep blue and periwinkle.

Across the room, he saw his abstracted self in red footie pajamas, brownish hair, back turned and androgynous (we didn't know if first-born would be boy or girl). The painted version was napping nestled in the thick roots of a tree lifting its leafy branches up the wall and across the ceiling, almost touching the night sky. The rest of the room was sunny yellow.

… the second-born got a beige room, hand-me-across furniture and plenty of good intentions, still tucked away in a green file folder in my cabinet.

Our daughter was to have floated in a forest of giant kelp, assembled vividly of species found off the coast. The long spike-edged, thick veined paddles of kelp would have swayed and folded and risen and reached to the ceiling. Everything would have been authentic.

Weaving tangled webs of seaweed, looking for style and color fits. Having fits.
Big fish would have woven about the kelp. Sheephead to glimmer like carbon fiber in faint light. Neon orange garibaldi, the state fish, to brighten the dark fronds, of course. Giant sea bass looking cratered as the moon.

For more color, I'd have dotted the forest with silvery Pacific spadefish and crimson popeye catalufa. Rockfish of many species, mottled red and brown, would have knocked the color back.

Across from the kelp forest, near a window suggesting the light of shallow water, would have blossomed a tidepool, creamsicle-colored starfish and anemones and urchins.

A school of Pacific mackerel would have passed in silhouette, dark against the darker distance, and more distant still, the pale shape of a gray whale descending.

I have page after page photocopied from guidebooks from the library, desired species circled, margins pocked with notes, environments planned, preliminary sketches in place — all long ago without the aid of the Internet. Appreciate my struggle.

The blackish blue of the deep would have lightened to blues and greens then almost white across the ceiling, which would have become the ocean's surface. A necklace of California pelicans would have skimmed above the surface, scattered and twisted and pulled apart by refraction and the folds of water. Their parts and pieces would have been lit from true east by the morning sun. Or maybe the sun would have dazzled like a disco ball through the water in one corner of the room. I couldn't decide.

Couldn't. Wouldn't.


Here's the thing:
  • Preparing for our first child was a months-long ritual, some invention, much convention. It was a vacuum into which we poured our energies — for all our children, no matter how many we'd have, not just the one. He/she would be the Everychild, the reason for us as parents, the source of our joy.

    It's not like we could have decided, OK, let's mete out this much energy, get this much done, then set aside some energy for the next, and then see what we have left in the tanks for succeeding children. It doesn't work that way. First one out gets all our marbles.

    When the first was born, the starter's gun went off and the race to Take Care of Everything had begun.

    With our daughter's birth, suddenly 1+1 became 6.72 and we were never getting anything done — let alone a mural — a new ritual that endured until their first years in college.

    Our son was lucky to get his mural while we were young and unwise. Poor succeeding children.
  • I planned to give our daughter something radically different from our son's room, more realistic like a museum mural. In fact, I was inspired for this one by a mural Robert Reynolds had painted of the Morro Bay Estuary at the natural history museum there. An art professor at Cal Poly, Reynolds gave the actual bay outside a daring scare, matching it for light and beauty.

    Talk about a man's reach exceeding his grasp.

    The enormity of planning, let alone painting, would have shunted our daughter to who-knows-where in the house for months while I attempted this mural. Imagine the peaceful household.

    Would that my first thought was this mural, then the first-born might have gotten it instead, and this room would still be bare for the second.
  • Maybe I wrestled with unreasonable resentment at the time, because the second bedroom had been my office until our daughter was born. It's a sunny square room, just snug enough to force me to have kept matters clean and efficient. My drawing table stood against one wall beside a window with northern light — where the tidepool would have been painted. The computer desk was a simple swivel of the chair behind me.

    Change meant moving my drawing table into a nook next to the washer and dryer, in a crooked room that could not have possibly passed building inspection when the previous owners built it. The computer went to a desk in the back corner of the dining room.

    It could just be I was dragging me feet.
  • Maybe the mural would scare our daughter. The dark forest, the hulking fish becoming phantoms at night, the illusion of being under water.
And. And. And. The excuses are tucked away in their own folder, right next to the notes and sketches for our daughter's room.

By high school, in a different house, our daughter directed the painting of her bedroom, with the chief help of Nancy. The irony is that the result evoked the ocean. East and west walls were painted in dark aquamarine, north and south walls slightly lighter in tone, window and door trim in sea green, her desk and closet trim in reddish coral.

I was brought in — or maybe wormed my way in — to paint her door and closet doors in yellow over layers of red and brown. I had painted them to look distressed, patches of dark peeking out from the yellow, bright as the sunny houses of sunny tropical islands. I painted light and shadow to create faux carved patterns on the flat doors, then painted a large slanting rust-colored blurry-edged shadow over all the doors — they meet in a corner — as of a rococo wrought-iron veranda looming hidden above.

Our son got walls of cream and coffee, trimmed in brick red. One wall had wide stripes of glazed off-white, suggesting the awning of a bistro. He had just returned from a high school trip to France. I had no hand in the painting.

I still dream of floating a kelp forest pelicans skimming above, wingtips to the water.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halcyon days

Thumbnail for a postcard to promote one
of the many business workshops ADAC
conducted for its members. I was a wannabe
designer trapped in a copywriter's body.
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end.

Halcyon days, I called them earlier this week. Days in the Art Directors and Artists Club, long gone and irretrievable.

My first experience with this remarkable club was late one night. At least a hundred people, loud in laughter and discussion, lined the ringing shiny concrete-and-cinderblock second-floor hallway of a re-purposed elementary school near downtown Sacramento. It was ADAC headquarters, and at the time it was the 800-pound gorilla of the resurrected art center, with access to rooms on both floors.

Everyone was at work measuring and cutting great slabs of foamboard or spraying adhesive glue to the backs of artwork — sometimes accidentally to the front of artwork — or scarfing pizza. Paper and pizza boxes covered the concrete floor from end to end, the space as loud and chaotic as the floor of a stock exchange.

I was in heaven, a place of odd belonging. Someone introduced herself, handed me an X-acto®© knife and told me to start cutting foamboard.

Never mind I was barely competent to wield a knife. It was all hands on deck.

At one point I helped chair the workshops program. These are thumbnails
for a series of breakfast workshops on business issues, designed to let
designers get a little information and nosh before going into work. Yes, those
are naked butts in the bottom thumbnails: I was really pushing "Feed
your bottom line" as the workshops' name. I may actually have succeeded,
but I lack printed evidence.
Though I was a reporter-turned-copywriter at this point, a status that served me well in business amid a multitude of graphic designers, I wanted to be like all these designers who were now elbow to elbow in a feverish race to set up ADAC's big three-day design conference known as Envision.

The conference was the annual and spiritual culmination of the club, which a group of designers had begun some 20 years before with a barely sustainable big idea: Let's celebrate design. Let's talk about it, share it, elevate it. Let's see if we can cajole the best designers in the world to come here to little ol' Sacramento and inspire us to be great.

Somehow the idea grew and blossomed and worked, solely because its membership wanted it to. Fees were extremely affordable, so many joined. Volunteers did all the work on shoestring budgets, afforded from the conference fees which were also reasonable. Speakers came to the conference for airfare and a hotel room and adulation.

In the early days graphic design came out of shops — 12 maybe? 15? — each with a principal or two and a staff of junior designers, almost in apprenticeship, back when they worked with technical pens and T-squares and rubylith and photo wheels. Back when cut-and-paste meant a No. 11 blade and hot wax and a knot between the shoulderblades from constant repositioning.

Many of the principals had started ADAC, nurturing their idea with borrowed meeting spaces and slide projectors, and strung-together extension cords and guerrilla marketing. The principals sent their staffs to ADAC to inspire and be inspired.

Computers had landed on designers' desks not 10 years before I showed up at ADAC, launching the democratization — or balkanization, take your pick — of design. The good news — everybody can be a designer now! — was also the bad news. None really knew its implications, certainly not me.

I could not know I had joined the club at the crest of its great wave, and that in the succeeding years it would weaken under competition from design publications' conferences, from an ability to look inward and on screen for inspiration, and from a flat lack of members' time and money.

We had become doers without dreams.
(It reminded me of my first days as a news reporter at a small newspaper. The managing editor gathered us reporters around his desk after deadline and we talked about the craft of writing, and what inspired us. If the editor had been a drinking man, we might have had tumblers in hand. Norman Rockwell could have painted us. But soon the editor left for another job out of state and his replacement decided we didn't have time for that crap, just get to work. We didn't know until then how good we had it.)
A study for announcing how I accepted nomination as ADAC president.
Time has eliminated any explanation why I chose this bizarre way to do it.
One version is my disembodied head, vertebrae exposed, rolling down the alley.
Maybe it was a premonition.
I became ADAC president during its waning days, and at the same time one of the chairs for the annual conference, blowing out the Peter Principle by several strata. I was way out of my league and ability.

The Old Guard had left by then, and I understood. I'm old enough to have walked away from several endeavors — hell, I walked away from ADAC! — brain baked and bones tired. One or two of the club's creators would show up at events and tell me about the old days, which I had a hard time taking as advice; their presence felt more like audits. Occasionally I would hear through back channels how some of the Old Guard thought we were— I was — ruining the club, which was also hard to take.

I loved and hated every minute of helping run ADAC. I stretched and grew and got to do everything, from budgeting and planning to designing promotional pieces to bolting in floor-to-ceiling shelves for years and years of posters and archived materials. In short time ADAC lost its run of the resurrected school … first the upper floor classrooms, then one classroom on the first floor, then the closet where the archived materials were kept (I don't know if those materials still exist), then the executive director's office. ADAC became a phone number.

At one point during my presidency we entertained a takeover by a national design organization, which would have quadrupled membership prices and squeezed many of us out of our own club. We turned down the offer, but we still didn't know how to adjust to the changing market, or didn't want to.

ADAC carried on, smaller, leaner, local, lectures by some of the original members, little art shows. Sometime in the last year even that ceased except for an email address. I wonder if anyone would respond to it.

We'd live the life we choose. We'd fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What's going on here?

Book clubs befuddle me, but I'd join a sketchbook club in the next heartbeat.

Groucho got it right: I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. The corollary trumps it: No book club would have me as a member — sitting snarky and sullen in the corner, muttering imprecations about why we're reading the same book at the same time and telling our synchronous thoughts in real time.

Besides, not three people in an hour's drive would read what I read, all how-to books and historical nonfiction. What's more, I'm a slow reader. A monthly book club would kill me. I'm not built for a book club.

A sketchbook club would be different. Instead of one book about which a group discusses, a sketchbook club would embrace each participant's book, and others would peruse your work as you discussed it with them.

It would have to have rules, mainly for me:
  • No judging. The mission of a sketchbook club would be for members to come away from each meeting inspired and encourage by each other.

    For a brief while, the defunct Art Directors and Artists Club in Sacramento tried an illustrator's guild which quickly became the Vito Corleone School, its motto: "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer." It comprised illustrators from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, from hobby scribblers to commissioned painters. The latter kept tabs on the former, decided they had nothing to worry about, and the guild soon collapsed.

    I'm aware of Sketch Bombs, and that Sacramento has one, but I prejudge them by not quite knowing what they are and whether I'd be intimidated, the resident old guy who needs validation. Somebody take me by the hand.
  • Meet at least one new person each time. No cliques here; community.
  • You could draw too, but draw with someone else drawing, and talk about what you're drawing, your media and method and madness. 
  • Start the conversation. Our purpose would be clear: I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
So we'd sit on comfortable chairs or couches or at nice old dining room tables with a lot of warm lighting. We'd swap one of your sketchbooks — I recommend an old random one — and take turns looking at and talking over pages.

Just a few pages. You wouldn't have to go through the whole portfolio. Simply open up a few pages and ask:

What's going on here?

There would begin a conversation about process and creativity and failure and change of mind and more creativity. It's not your thinking, it's someone else's, but it would inspire you to think different and new about your next project and problem. Maybe someone else's creative process is so alien to yours you can't relate. That's OK; it would cause you to sharpen your own process.

All of this came to mind stumbling across the page above while looking for something else.

It's from an early, early sketchbook, a touchstone of transition in my life. I had not yet cut the tether of working for someone else, but I was close, doing small writing and design and illustration jobs, getting my name out there.

Soon I would be loosed from the security of a full-time job and go through a full-on "What the hell have I done?!" phase, driving the town without aim, watching with longing the delivery trucks whizzing past, thinking that might be a good occupation instead.

At this point and on this page, all was warm and safe. So much going on here:
  • A dentist whose initials are W.M. wanted an identity and possibly a business system (card, letterhead, envelope).

    Here I'm playing with the letterforms as molars — even as fangs. Ultimately the solution evoked the architecture of his office, no teeth.

    It wasn't until sketches were made, solutions were approved, cards printed and paid for, that the dentist decided he didn't want it after all.

    Some clients are like that.
  • The next Envision conference, Envision 22, was coming up and I was helping organize it; we'd eventually enlist a real designer to come up with the identity, but this is me, wonderng what I'd do with the opportunity.

    Envision was a lovely event run by a lovely club, the aforementioned Art Directors and Artists Club, which were halcyon days for me but dying days, it turns out, for the club.

    Leading design publications stormed their way into the design conference market, crushing our little club and our shoestring efforts (though we made an amazing much out of frightening scarcity), and the graphic design industry fragmented and democratized into what it is now, with no real center.

    I checked the ADAC Website in search of information for this post, and learned the club of which I had been president is now no more than the Website page announcing its board's decision to dissolve.

    Few traces remain of anything ADAC, which is a great sadness. It would be nice to have an online archive of ADAC Envision and workshop posters, to mark a time when the club made strides in advancing visual communication. At one time the club had a physical archive of shelves I helped build, heaped with a great history of material.
  • A subsidiary where I worked at the time hired me to make line-art illustrations of agricultural safety practices, including demonstrations of the consequences for unsafe work.

    I think that's what's going on with this sketch of feet on a ladder rung. It's the only such sketch on this page, and more detailed drawings didn't show up until many many pages later in the book.
  • I was still working on a name for my upcoming business, which became somerset words and pictures co. Among options such as Tyrant Design and Industrial Cumquat, I liked the idea of Banana Bone. This is as far as I got on that.
  • The rest of the sketchbook page is a guess. I played with the word "exhibitionist," and the only reason I can think of is that for a couple of years I ran ADAC Envision's Exhibition, our word for the conference trade show; maybe I thought it would be cool to brand the event separately.

    I was designing some kind of portfolio, with a hunky Tab A for Slot A thingie. It never came to pass, whatever it was.

    Now with the miracle of the Internet I can see a lot of illustrators' sketchbooks in the isolation of my office … sketchbooks that in themselves are works of great art, some with fully formed illustrations that spill from page to page like sequential art — nothing like my randomness.
But it's not the same as a club, a time and place every rare often to share and think aloud and dislodge, person to person.

If you're nearby and have a sketchbook or two, let's talk. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Governments should be afraid of their people

An open letter to Sens. McConnell and Cruz, and Reps. Boehner, Bachmann, Cantor, et. al:

God damn your murderous hides! For you are murderers. You're killing this country.

You have let the federal government shut down for one simple insidious reason:

You don't like President Obama. Make that: You don't like the idea of a President Obama.

So from the beginning of the Obama administration, you have done all in your power, marshaled your forces, maneuvered your money to eviscerate anything (short of bombing another country, which of course you like!) Obama has endeavored.

You have spent all your energy, not on representing your states and districts, but on making sure the president fails.

You have fertilized fear and discomfort, you have worked hate to a heat, relentlessly, expertly. Policy became irrelevant because perception has become your wholehearted pursuit, to mold it and let its moldy spores spread.

Here is your reward. Congratulations! You have reached the pinnacle (or the abyss). The fallout of the government shutdown is wide and manifold and you know about them all — foods will not be inspected for safety, diseases will not be controlled, parks will not open, etc. Let me isolate just one; one is enough: Head Start programs are shutting down.

Some 1,600 federal Head Start programs operate through the country, to serve about 1 million children of low-income families with nutrition and pre-school education and other services. As the shut or cut services (and The Washington Post reports services have already been cut for 57,000 children this year under budget battles), picture thousands of families scrambling to find alternate plans for their children as they try to continue work for meager pay, and thousands of children losing out on a good meal each day for who knows how many days.

Children and their families who lose out, powerless against the fact that you simply do not like President Obama and don't care who suffers for it.

Sure, you say this is all about the Affordable Health Care Act, which you deftly branded "Obamacare" from the start. Maybe you didn't coin the term, but you knew the perception this brand would wield, and even before the text of the legislation reached your desks you denounced it as an imposition, as government control. As socialism.

It hasn't mattered whether the law would do any good [and for all its wild imperfections — millions will still not be able to afford insurance — even you have to admit — even if you never will — that it can reduce the overall costs of health care by enabling more Americans to buy health insurance] because its utility has been irrelevant. It's the president's Big Idea, and you will not abide it.
(I thought about writing your offices, but all I'd get in return is, "Thank you for your interest on this matter, Mr. Turner. Here is what I'm doing for you as a citizen," then a recitation of votes and political positions. Better others hear my vent. Maybe it moves someone. Maybe it moves me.)
You have worked your dark magic. "Obamacare" is evil and socialist, and the Affordable Health Care Act makes common sense, and you have made sure enough Americans are so confused they don't know it's one and the same. You have even managed to make some states refuse expanded federal health care programs that will help its citizens, because of course it's socialist. It bears Obama's stain.

I blame your Republican Party almost entirely for where we are. I'm old and wise enough to know you're not alone to blame, that the Democrats bobble and blunder and obfuscate plenty. Educated in journalism, I retain a vibrant cynicism and mistrust of all. But the Republican Party seems to possess the lion's share of hypocrisy and flag-waving legerdemain and newspeak and doublespeak. The Constitution is sacrosanct until and unless it becomes inconvenient. Freedom is slavery. Down is up; night is day. Love is hate.

Will the day ever return that our representatives use their philosophical differences to build legislation made from those differences — made better by those differences — made by compromise? Why did compromise become so evil?

I just doubt things will get better. We're getting stupider, more distant, more tired. The torrents of controlling money that gets shoved up our lawmakers' butts and come out their mouths is unrelenting and undiminished, overmatching what the rest of us can do.

God damn my hide most of all.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

And just like that, the inning is over

Artist's rendering of banners to be displayed along the Embarcadero near AT&T™© Park.
Memo to the San Francisco Giants' marketing folks: You're fired.

No, keep your jobs, I don't mean it. Just take the winter off, will ya? The point is, we won't need your services next year.

You do good work, no doubt. This year's slogan, "Together We're Giant"? Brilliant. Soaring and poetic, the loftiest of the soaring, poetic slogans over the years, going all the way back to "Humm Baby!" and including the guerrilla slogan for the 2010 World Series season, "Giants Baseball: Torture!"

Your slogans make us feel we're all in this together, and I almost wanted to climb onto the Internet  and buy the six-pack of season tickets, so I could quaff $8.75 Anchor Steams at the ballpark to help pay for, say, Hunter Pence's $90 million contract extension. Almost.

But we fans are done with soaring poetry for a while. We've become a pragmatic people. That which did not kill us — namely the 2013 season that ended Sunday in a glorious, hopeful fit — only made us stronger.

Thus the new slogan (above), free of charge, down to earth, plainly stated. What the Giants radio and TV broadcasters were wont to say multiple times per game, for many, many games: The Giants need baserunners.

Alternate slogans for the 2014 season will include:
  • See the ball, hit the ball
  • Get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in
  • Take a pitch, why doncha?!
  • Hit the cutoff!
  • That ball bounced a foot in front of the plate! Why're you swingin', for gawdsake!
We're smart, we Giants fans. We recognize a class organization, all the good the Giants do for various communities. You're wonderful with the ceremonies (the anthems are always over the top, but we love that it's fatuous and excessive, the whole "eat, drink and be merry" ethic) and the small careful touches you make to honor fallen fans or bygone players. The players all seem to say how well you treat them.

We don't have to be told that in high-minded mantras. We're focused entirely on the game itself, and we know the rest will follow.

Most of us fans — me included! — followed right along with the managerial strategy of keeping the 2012 team intact. It won once, we agreed, and most of the players were in a position to stick around: Let's watch 'em do it again.

We even blanched at the horror of losing key players. Tim Lincecum?! He can't go! He rose from the ashes of his terrible starts the middle of last season to emerge from the bullpen a dastardly magician. Marco Scutaro?! Where did this guy come from? He hits everything, whacking his way into the playoffs with the rest of the team on his back. Gotta keep him! Swing-at-anything Pablo Sandoval?! More like hit-everything Pablo, including three homers in a World Series Game 1. He's the essence of the free-wheeling love Giants fans shared.

The Giants, fortified with fan favorite Andres Torres taken back from the New York Mets, opened the season with abandon, giving credence to the keep-'em-all strategy. Then centerfielder Angel Pagan damaged his hamstring on a walkoff inside-the-park home run in late June, and the team seemed to feel the pain.

The Giants showed how difficult it is to repeat success.
(Though not impossible: The St. Louis Cardinals, who lost to the Giants last year in San Francisco's come-from-behind National League Pennant win, are back again. They've won their division seven times in the last 14 years. The Oakland A's are back, to take on the Detroit Tigers this week in the playoffs. The Tigers picked off the A's last year before losing four straight to the Giants in the World Series. Atlanta's in again, and the Boston Red Sox recovered from a horrible 2012 to take the American League East. The Rangers, in the playoffs the last three years, lost to Tampa Bay in a one-game wild card playoff last night.) 
Suddenly the Giants couldn't hold a lead for more than a half inning. Suddenly the Giants couldn't answer the other teams' offense. For the longest stretch of the season, when champions are made, Giants players got hurt, hitters couldn't hit and pitchers couldn't pitch.

San Francisco beat writer Henry Schulman said it best in late August after the Red Sox trounced the Giants:
"The difference in basic fundamentals was startling. The Red Sox can execute while the Giants continue to embarrass themselves with lapses that no team, least of all the defending World Series champs, should make."
In a typical Giants game this season:
  • The Giants scored early, often even in the first inning. Then that'd be it for the rest of the game, giving opponents most the game to win eventually.
  • Rallies started only after the team got two quick outs, then burned out on easy grounders to the infield.
  • A Giants hitter, when he did hit, would loft a long line drive that bounced on the warning track over the outfield fence, resulting in a rally-killing ground-rule double. Some fans have been clamoring to bring in AT&T™© Park's fences, and I'm inclined to support them now.
  • The starter pitched beautifully, but his team gave him no runs. The reliever would come in and ruin the fragile hold the Giants had on the otherguys. Or the starter just flat-out sucked.
  • An otherwise sure-handed Giant infielder bobbled the ball to let a run score.
  • Some Giants slugger, with rhythm in his favor, a rally in motion, a new pitcher in relief and the crowd shaking the rivets loose, swung at the first pitch for a popup to second base to end the rally/inning/game.
  • (And in the last month or so) even stoic, noncommittal MVP Buster Posey gave away through subtle body language that he wanted the season to be over.
"And just like that, the inning is over," said Giants broadcaster Jon Miller, way too many times.

Empty seats began revealing their dark green sheen on the telecasts. TV watchers could hear individual cheers and jeers now, not the solid wall of sound from the undying faithful. We showed our limits.

Now we're not nearly as romantic about keeping the team together. It didn't work this season. We fans can accept change.

Starter Barry Zito is likely to go. Though miraculously crafty in the playoffs and World Series last year, the former Cy Young winner, criticized for his huge contract during his Giants tenure, struggled this year. Manager Bruce Bochy had him pitch in the final game Sunday; he struck out the Padres' Mark Kotsay, who had announced his retirement and took his last at-bat as a Major Leaguer. The crowd roared for Barry as he returned to the dugout.
(I'd make a terrible general manager, trying to field a team out of good guys and locally-grown players. Zito's one of the good guys, giving up a great deal of time and money to Strikeouts for Troops aiding wounded warriors.)
No one's sure if Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who threw his first no-hitter this year, will return. The sports gossip holds that the Giants want to keep him. They already secured rightfielder Hunter Pence in a long-term contract that he allegedly negotiated with the team president in front of his locker the night he was given the Willie Mac award as the team's most inspirational player.

As for the rest, who knows? Giants fans have a shopping list ready. The team needs:
  • A left fielder who can hit for power. During the last week of the season, streaky Gregor Blanco and rookie Juan Perez matched hit for big hit indicating they'd like to get that consideration. Blanco shared left field with streaky Andres Torres for a large chunk of the season. But the Giants' minor-league rosters are largely thin or unready for the Major League.
  • At least one more starter. Journeymen Yusmeiro Petit got within one pitch of a perfect game this season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Maybe he's got a chance in the starting rotation if Lincecum goes.
  • Different pitchers in middle relief. Usually reliable bullpen operators blew up too many fragile leads this year.
The last game gave hope. Down 6-3 after Padres' Jedd Gyorko hit a grand slam, the Giants looked like they'd limp off along the dreary arc of the season. But Pence, who had just announced his new contract, singled in two runs in the seventh to make the game 6-5.

Then in the ninth, rookie Francisco Peguero, unlikely to hit a home run, did just that to tie the game. Padres closer Huston Street came apart, loading the bases with no outs and Pence up at the plate. He worked Street to a 3-2 count. The Padres line up six players along the infield and just two outfielders, daring Pence to hit the ball between them. The next moments could have gone many ways:
  • Pence could have walked and forced in the winning run, which would have been nice but unsatisfying.
  • He could have struck out or flied out, which would have symbolized the season, especially if the next Giants got out or hit into a double play to end the inning.
Instead, Pence swung at a very high pitch, clearly ball four, for a line drive to centerfield, over and between everyone, to drive in the winning run before a crowd renewed in number and spirit.

The Giants finished in third place, sharing it with the Padres, 16 games out of first place behind the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. They finish much closer to last place (the Colorado Rockies, 18 games out of first) than to first. But they didn't go from first to worst, at least. At least.

I may catch a few innings of postseason baseball, but not many. I'm a Giants fan, not a baseball fan. I'll stew during these bleak months, hoping for next year, hoping the Giants keep their eye on the ball and play the game right, at once sustained and deflated by former Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti's true and timeless words:
"(Baseball) breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."