Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Bargain

News Headline: SF Giants reach agreement with outfielder Hunter Pence – winner of the 2013 Willie Mac award – on a 5-year contract extension.

My take on this story? He throws funny, his on-deck swing looks like he’s fighting thru a straight-jacket, and he’s an all-around one-of-a-kind odd bird. And I love the guy. The Giants haven’t had a player in their clubhouse during my lifetime who so demonstrably plays with as much commitment, desire, passion, and love of the game, his teammates, the fans, and the city of San Francisco as Hunter Pence displays each and every day he takes the field. His genuine love and kindness – which he isn’t shy about openly expressing – is of the variety that builds trust among teammates and inspires devotion within the community. It’s a great investment for the Giants in many ways that can’t simply be measured by traditional baseball statistics, yet it’s winner on that front too: after all, the guy did lead his team in home runs and RBI’s this season and he plays a tough right field as well as anyone ever has at AT&T Park. Hunter Pence plays for my team. I couldn’t be any happier.

Fibrolungofungusitis

It’s dawning on me that we are entering a new age of hypochondria, and I think the existence of social media is part of the problem. It’s now so easy to obtain emotional support, goodwill, and a mass outpouring of concern with the minimum of effort, as opposed to the pre-Facebook world where one would have to actually make a medical appointment and beg the indulgence of a licensed physician for a minor concern or imaginary life-threatening issue.

A sample conversation might now go something like this:

HYPO: Something’s not right. I think I might have fibrolungofungusitis. That’s what killed my cousin’s daughter’s best friend, ya know.

ME: That sounds serious. You better get it checked out.

HYPO: Nah, the doctor will either tell me it’s nothing serious, or put me on another medication I don’t need. The entire health care industry is totally run by the big pharmaceutical companies, ya know. That’s why were all sick all the time.

ME: You mean the doctor will either tell you you’re full of shit, or she will try to help you solve the problem?

HYPO: (walking off) Just keep me in your prayers, okay?

MJH 10-16-2013

Passion

Whatever it is you do, do it with passion. It doesn’t matter whether you paint, sing, write songs, make records, produce films, rhyme lyrics over beats or write novels for the masses, just give every effort your best. How do you expect others to give two shits about your work if it’s clear you’re phoning it in? Your audience is taking their cues from you. The one thing great artists like Bruce SpringsteenLucinda WilliamsAnna FerminJared Indaskyes LindoJoseph Gordon-LevittMichael ChabonShawna Moore and Tony Fitzpatrick all have in common is a genuine passion for what they do. They CARE at such a deep level and produce their live’s work with CONVICTION. If my continuing interest (and occasional business) is among your aims, you must tell the truth. Always. I can spot a con job, and that’s when I check out.

MJH Fun Facts #201-214

With one exception, everything that follows is true. Can you spot the one untrue statement below?

1. I once appeared in a film with Danny Glover.
2. I completed my first painting at age 50.
3. Before art, my real passion was baseball.  But before baseball, my first real passion was acting.
4. I once appeared in a film with Ruth Buzzi.
5. I was a terrible actor.
6. I missed my senior year with a broken wrist, went undrafted, but received a free agent invitation to the Philadelphia Phillies camp. Acquitted myself well, but was not signed.
7. I stand by their assessment.
8. The only photography lesson I ever received was given to me by Alan Arkin.
9. In my day job I help build robots that perform surgeries on human beings.
10. While working the game clock in the Final Four championship game one year, I accidentally started the clock one second early with only 4 seconds left in a 1-point game – and NOBODY NOTICED.
11. The only car accident I ever caused: Age 20. Brake failure. Rear-ended the owner of a brake repair shop.
12. Spoke in tongues and participated in Jericho marches at age 14.
13. Once, while listening to “Constant Craving” on the radio and waiting for the light to change at the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon, I looked over at the driver next to me and came face-to-face with a smiling k.d. Lang.
14. I no longer speak in tongues or participate in Jericho marches, but I still love Gospel music.

Can you spot the one and only untrue statement?

MJH 11-17-13

JFK

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the JFK murder.  There are two terrific books associated with the case that I highly recommend:

“CASE CLOSED” is investigative reporter Gerald Posner’s convincingly argued case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman. It tackles all the popular conspiracy theories head-on, corrects misinformation, and interprets the forensics in exacting detail. I was a long-time conspiracy believer before reading this fascinating study.

“11/22/63” is the novel Stephen King was born to write. His protagonist uses a worm hole to travel back in time to try to prevent the assassination – but at what cost? Simply the most enjoyable King novel ever, with a resolution that is both historically satisfying and emotionally rewarding on many levels.

Would love to hear your feedback on both.

MJH 11-22-13

Candlestick Memories

She’s not old – she opened in 1960, the year I was born. She’s not decrepit – she held her own against Loma Prieta at the 1989 World Series. But yes, she has outlived her time. The San Francisco 49ers, being the classy organization that they are, will certainly send the ‘Stick off in style next Monday.

My favorite Candlestick memory…

May 13, 1978. Three weeks shy of my graduation from high school and subsequent relocation to the Bay Area, my friend Jeff Battles and I road tripped to San Francisco for my first ever Giants game. I bought a program and secured autographs from a number of my baseball heroes that day: Willie McCovey, Jack Clark, Vida Blue, and John “The Count” Montefusco. Their opponent that weekend was the St. Louis Cardinals, and I was thrilled to have Lou Brock, Ted Simmons, and Claude Osteen all sign for me as well. If my memory serves me correctly, the Giants won that day in extra innings on a homerun by Marc Hill.

After the game, we talked our way into the player parking lot where more autographs ensued. When John Montefusco – who had pitched and won that day – emerged from the clubhouse, Jeff and I prevailed upon him for another autograph. He gave us a double-take and said “didn’t you guys already get me earlier today?” We were so impressed he remembered us. So, he struck a deal with us: if we would help him carry a few cases of champagne from the clubhouse to his car (a burgundy MG) then he would supply all the extra signatures we wanted. It was a bargain we couldn’t refuse, and we were beaming as we followed him into the Giant’s clubhouse deep within the bowels of The ‘Stick.

We hung out for a while just gazing out at the bay from Candlestick Point. We decided to spend the night in the Bay Area and return the next day for the Sunday double-header, and were rewarded with a sweep of the Cardinals as the Giants took over 1st place. Our box sets were $5 and beers were a buck – this is back when they’d pour ‘em two at a time right at your seat – no ID required!

The Giants teased us that summer with Pennant Fever, but the inevitable swoon brought them back to reality. Over the ensuing 35 years, I have attended dozens of great Giants & 49er games, tailgate parties, and championship celebrations, but no single Candlestick memory will ever match my first.

MJH 12-20-13

A Little Less Conversation

I spoke to God today. This is not a joke, and there is no punch line. I spoke to God today. I explained to Him (Her?) that my lack of regular communication in recent years is in direct proportion to the declining level of my faith. I had begun to feel silly offering prayers to an entity I had begun to doubt actually existed. I acknowledged in this one-way communication that if He actually does exist, I wasn’t telling Him something he didn’t already know. Just keeping it real, I told Him.

I shared with God that I had spent 40 years of my life as a believer. It all began as a terrified 7-year old child, hiding with my mother under my bed as my drunken father raged about the house looking for someone to pound into a bleeding mess. “God will protect us” she told me. “He will never put you in a situation that you can’t overcome – with His help.” She was dying of cancer at the time, and when she passed shortly thereafter she left a personal inscription for me her Bible. In the dark years that followed her death I would leaf reverently through the New Testament pages (where Christ’s words were printed in red), but I took the most spiritual comfort in the words my mother left for me. She expected to be in Heaven soon, and wrote with great anticipation “I will await your coming.” While these words gave me great comfort on many occasions, I have come to suspect that the good health, successful career, and happy life I’ve enjoyed since those early years has more to do with hard work, good choices, loving family & friends, and pure dumb luck than because of any divine intervention. Not everyone has been as lucky as I have, which lead me to question these inequities. Why, I asked God, do millions of children die each and every year due to war, famine, disease, inadequate healthcare, hunger, and pure human evil? Either you are incapable of stopping this, or you are indifferent to the suffering. Which one is it? Incapable or indifference? Neither sounds like the God I was sold in Sunday School. I asked God why he always gets praised when rubber checks don’t bounce, or car brakes fail in front of a brake shop, or my team scores the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, but when a young mother of seven children dies of breast cancer or hundreds of thousands perish in a tsunami, well, then it’s because He “works in mysterious ways.” You get credit for all the wins, and no blame for any of the losses, I told Him, it doesn’t work that way for us down here on earth – that great spiritual petri dish you created.

I was brutally honest with God: I even confessed my belief that He didn’t create us, we created Him. Of course, if I’m right on that note, then there was no Him there to hear me or respond to my claim. If you truly do exist, then which God are you? I pleaded. Over the course of recorded human history, we have believed in the existence of thousands of gods. So many gods. So many faiths. So many holy books and scriptures – with incompatible claims. How am I to know which is the correct God, the right holy book? That’s where my seeking of the truth began many years ago, I explained. I simply wanted to know whom the right God was, the correct path to spiritual enlightenment. I openly admitted that my seeking had led me to many learned people, ideas, and disciplines like astronomy, biology, genetics, and earth sciences which, ultimately, offered much more reasoned, elegant, and satisfying solutions to my questions. I had begun to value the scientific method and its rigorous demand for evidence. And philosophically speaking, it seemed like a far less dangerous place to begin any field of inquiry by saying “I don’t know, let’s work to find an answer” than by asserting absolute knowledge on the basis of faith.

As I continued unburdening myself to God, I hoped He understood and appreciated the dilemma He had created by creating human beings with brains and then demanding of them that they not use them to find answers. I told him about a recent conversation I had recently with a well-meaning family member who told me I wasn’t going to find answers or enlightenment in any book written by a non-Christian. “You’re thinking too much” she told me. “Don’t think. Just believe!” When I responded that blind faith in our leaders – spiritual or political – can get you killed, I was met with patronizing derision. Jonestown really happened, right? I didn’t just imagine that horrific tragedy in the jungles of Guyana in November of 1978, did I? Jim Jones plied his evil trade with the same King James Bible I suckled from in my Christian days. How do you explain that? I wondered aloud to God.

I rambled on for hours, but before I concluded my prayer, I appealed to God’s insecurity (read those 10 Commandments again) and reminded Him that I live in the age of social media and there is a great debate raging around the world as to the value of faith and validity of His existence. We’re killing each other down here, flying planes into buildings, judging each other because of the gender of those we love, and teaching our young to be intolerant on the basis of differences that have nothing to do with moral character – all because of religious differences. “Can’t we all just get along?” – that appeal so often repeated in the 1990’s, has never been more relevant than it is today. So, appealing to God’s desire to be worshipped above all others, I requested He make Himself visible to all, in the flesh, and to explain Himself to one and all. Come stop the madness! Why is it so important that we believe in Him with no evidence? Why is it so important that he be worshipped in the first place? And where the fuck is that secret decoder ring we need to establish which God, which book, which faith, which path is the right one? The world really could use an answer to this simple question. I told God that if He wishes to communicate only with me, this is fine with me on two conditions:

1. I speak English. Do me the courtesy of speaking and/or writing your response in the language I speak. I even offered to videotape the conversation to ensure there is nothing lost (or added) in translation.
2. I am morally and ethically bound to share his response with the rest of the world. I have no interest in exclusive access to our Creator. So, anything God deems worthy of sharing with me goes viral.

I did indeed speak to God today. If He is really out there somewhere, then He heard me and knows my heart is sincere.

I spoke to God today. I am still waiting for a response.

MJH 1-16-11

Nightmares

Are you familiar with that sleep phenomenon where you’re being chased by an axe murderer and you wake up in the middle of the nightmare with your heart racing, and when you close your eyes to go back to sleep you slip right back into the same frightening scenario? And then there is its corollary scenario where you’re in a private beach cabana in Tahiti and about to make love with Salma Hayek when the phone rings or the alarm goes off, and then when you try to go back to sleep in hopes of continuing your romantic quest, Salma’s gone – and she isn’t coming back. She may have even been replaced by that axe murderer.

Have you ever experienced this?  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Yeah?

Yeah…well…it sucks.

Being Bono

I heard “Ordinary Love”, the new U2 song from their forthcoming “Songs Of Ascent” while driving home today, and it got me thinking: It must be one helluva full-time job just BEING Bono. With all the time and energy he devotes to meeting Popes, corporate big wigs, and heads of state, while involving his band in myriad altruistic activities, when does he find the TIME for quiet reflection and creative endeavors like writing songs? He’s an amazing man, really. You say he’s pretty full of himself? Of course he is! It’s a job requirement. He wouldn’t BE who he is if he wasn’t full of himself. Thank God for extraordinary people with big egos. They help shine light into dark corners, shift resources to meet needs, and, on occasion, create art and write hit songs.