Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That Damned, Unnerving Uncertainty of It All
— A Miniseries (Part 4 of 4)

Love’s Labor’s Lost
In my research of the major stories written about Penner’s death, including an unexpected conversation I had a few weeks ago with yet another of he and my brother’s co-workers at the O.C. L.A. Times, it is clear to me, if not to all who have commented on this sad tale, that perhaps the linchpin of Penner/Daniel’s ultimate demise was the one thing he couldn’t reverse; the devastation of the loss of his ten-year partner in marriage, fellow Times sportswriter, Lisa Dillman.

On July 19, 2007, exactly twelve weeks after Penner’s groundbreaking coming-out article, he legally changed his name to Christine Michelle Daniels. That same day, Dillman filed for divorce. Throughout the year in which Mike was Christine, those close to him indicate that he honestly thought the marriage could somehow be reconciled; that Dillman could eventually embrace his decision to live as a woman.

That reconciliation never came.

According to Friess, during the summer of 2008, as Daniels detransitioned back to Penner, he repeatedly told friends that it was his last-ditch effort to somehow reunite with Dillman.

Nevertheless, the divorce decree became final on October 24, 2008. The disenchantment and frustration endured as the impact of his life-decision registered, coupled with the reality that his true love would no longer be a part of his life, appears to have been the ultimate blow to Penner’s will.

A little more than a year later, the holiday shopping season’s official beginning would also be Mike Penner’s ultimate end. On the day after Thanksgiving — now so commonly referred to as, Black Friday — November 26, 2009, in his apartment building’s parking garage, Penner rigged a vacuum hose attached to the tailpipe of his running, parked car through a window, into the passenger compartment, ending his previously very vocal life in silence.

WHY? Can somebody just tell me, please, why??
It’s okay with me if you tune me out at this point, because I’ll give fair warning: I’m gonna wax quite a bit philosophical/metaphysical here.

The human interest aspect of the death of Mike Penner, as well as that which is imminent for my brother Alex, really have only the slightest of true relationships — that being that they were friends and that their lives ended or will end far too early.

I don’t really know why I was so compelled to spend the inordinate amount of time I did writing this post. I don’t know if it was simply because I felt the need to mourn the loss of Penner; someone I felt a great deal of respect for; someone I sort of felt I knew via association with my brother. Perhaps it’s just that it’s such a tremendously story, and it makes me realize how much I already miss Alex.

How very fragile, our existence seems at times; and though we actively acknowledge that this is true, we still ask, “why?”

Why am I losing my brother years — even decades too soon?

Why has the world lost a great writer and a great person in Mike Penner?

Why did Penner feel such despair in his life that he couldn’t bear to go on living?

It's almost poetic that prior to his death, Penner’s final regular assignment at The Times was writing the Morning Briefing column’s “Totally Random” feature. It seems the inexplicable machinations of fate that caused whatever physiological affectations responsible for laying askew my brother’s brain through Alzheimer’s and Penner’s self-image through his condition, known as dissociative gender identification, were equally ‘random.’

I mean, think about it. These were two people in the prime of their careers, who literally had the world by the tail. Only good things appeared to lie ahead for each of them.

How does any of this make sense?

Both were betrayed by genetics — my brother, with absolutely no recourse. As for Penner’s circumstance, if you choose to judge him, that’s your business. I choose to judge neither his choices nor his biological reality, but only to regret his tragically mistaken notion that you can go home again, because truly, more often than not, Thomas Wolfe was right.

Who would have ever thought 25 years ago that anything so tragic could become the current reality for each of these talented and cherished individuals?

Why it happened, and to what purpose we can never know.

The only correct response, I believe, is to remember both of them for who they were, to say a prayer in support of their families, and realize for yourself that each day, each moment, each simple pleasure we experience in this life is a gift.

Never take it for granted; never assume it’s deserved.

Be grateful for it. Savor it, lest that damned unnerving uncertainty that stalks us all, be allowed to steal our joy.

Life is not fair. The sun is caused to rise on the evil and the good, and rain upon the righteous and unrighteous alike.

Here’s hoping that each of us can make the most of things while we’re still high and dry.

* * * * * *


That Damned, Unnerving Uncertainty of It All
— A Miniseries (Part 3 of 4)

Old Mike, New Christine, Same Demons
It was...a curiosity when I first discovered on that morning of April 26, 2007, the article Penner wrote, proclaiming to the world that he was finally coming out of the closet. He was a transsexual, and would in fact shortly thereafter be officially transitioning from male to female; from Mike Penner to Christine Daniels.
Penner/DanielsAlex’s former L.A. Times, Orange County Edition colleage, as Mike Penner (left), and in 2007,
as Christine Daniels (right). (Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)

He wrote, “I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. I realize many readers and colleagues and friends will be shocked to read them.”

Oh yeah, I was shocked. And my first thought was obvious: “Did Alex know?”

So I created a PDF of the story and emailed it to Seraph.

She said that she too had no idea but didn’t seem to be too surprised, from what she could remember of Penner’s demeanor in person. However she was ultimately saddened for the obvious anguish he/she must have experienced over the course of living, breathing, and being attached to what was decidedly a “boy’s club” atmosphere in his profession as a sportswriter.

When presented to Alex, she said he offered no reaction. Seraph would go on to explain that as being pretty much the norm for him at that point in his condition, now three-plus years ago. Although still somewhat conversant, he rarely spoke and was constantly distracted. However, as I would witness when I visited him later that September, he was even then, still capable of short bursts of semi-clarity; he may or may not have comprehended the article as Seraph read it aloud to him, but I’m certain that he thought about it, at least a little bit.

Late the next day, in another follow-up email, Seraph recounted a phone conversation she’d had with Alex earlier in the evening, trying to get him to put one of their kids on the horn to discuss dinner plans:

Seraph: Hi baby.
Alex: Good!
Seraph: How are you?
Alex: Yes!
Seraph: Who is home with you?
Alex: Uh, uh, (long pause) Mike Penner.
(ok, so he WAS listening)

Public triumph, private torment
To their ultimate credit, Penner’s peers and bosses at The Times were as completely supportive as could have been imagined. The respect he had gained as a writer trumped any difference of worldview he might have otherwise encountered in a different workplace or setting.

Penner’s family at the paper didn’t abandon him, but embraced his decision to embrace his inner reality.

Christine Daniels arrived on the scene just a few weeks later, and all seemed well. The transformation from Penner-to-Daniels was in full bloom, appearance-wise, aided by hormones and electrolysis. However, the surgery necessary for completion of her physical transformation would have to wait a full year. Transgender-related law specifies that prospective trans-surgery candidates must live as their new gender, full-time, for twelve months prior to the surgery being conducted.

In May 2007 Daniels began a blog on (which about a year later mysteriously disappeared, both online and from the Times’ electronic archives) entitled, “Woman in Progress”, in which she documented her journey.

According to Times' writer, Christopher Goffard in a well-written but perhaps unnecessarily harsh essay this past March 27th, Public triumph, private torment:
"Daniels underwent electrolysis to have facial hair burned out at the root, took hormones, amassed a shoe collection and experimented with a variety of wigs: short, long, blond, brunet. She spoke in a soft, high voice, cried frequently, happy or sad. Daniels was "exuberant, dynamic, touchy, hugging, a vibrant, vivacious person," said (Randy) Harvey" (former Sports editor, now an associate editor at The Times).
With the obvious publicity of her new profile on brilliant display, Daniels became instantly adopted as an advocate and spokesperson for the transgender community and had already become close friends with a few trans male-to-females who helped to counsel her through the rapid changes flowing in and around her.

She was an instant celebrity and appeared to be extremely happy with the attention that seemingly followed her every step. She spoke and appeared at Transgender and LGBT conferences, gave numerous interviews, and continued on as an exceptional sportswriter; covering soccer and other sports just as Penner had done previously. And though the recognition seemed to be the tonic that Daniels needed to negotiate her transition, in retrospect, it was apparently way too much, way too soon.

The external pressures exerted by the transgender community as well as those applied internally by her personal life, were greater than she expected and ultimately more than she could bear.

A series of events, including a controversial and highly uncomplimentary characterization of her physical appearance at a press function, written by a local Southern California sportswriter, landed a painful blow to her still-fragile transitional psyche.

Lost in Trans-lation
Later in the fall of ’07, Daniels experienced a disastrous photo shoot for a Vanity Fair feature that was eventually aborted. She would later assert that she was convinced the photographer, “wanted to portray me as a man in a dress, my worst fear, as I expressed numerous times...I felt betrayed, totally abused, and very, very vulnerable and exposed and alone in the world.”

Things would only get worse. The Vanity Fair debacle resulted in Daniels drawing criticism from some in the Trans community for being unrealistic about her femininity; overly concerned about appearance as opposed to being true to who she was and to the political causes for which she was now their poster-child.

This too did not sit well with Christine. In the L.A. Weekly account, according to Friess, Daniels took umbrage to the idea of her being anyone “...who needs to ‘quote-unquote’ represent some undefined community,” and that according to her friends, “[Daniels] said she felt used by the trans community.”

Daniels soon began backing away from commitments, and later, asked The Times to discontinue her blog. She generally began to withdraw from the trappings that had made her an overnight sensation; the speaking engagements and conference appearances that just months before had offered so much confirmation of the legitimacy of her journey, now began to be replaced by depression, doubt, and seclusion.

Things finally came to an end for Christine Daniels, the reporter, in April 2008. She took medical leave from The Times, complaining of abdominal pain and additional emotional stress over the recent death of her elderly mother. She posted her final story under the Daniels byline on April 4th.

In June she entered the hospital and was diagnosed with severe depression. The stress of her previous year’s post-transgender announcement, coupled with the death of her mother had manifest itself in the intense stomach pain she’d been experiencing.

Apparently, it was all too much.

Fifteen months after coming out of the closet, Penner/Daniels began the process of attempting to un-ring the bell. She made the decision to cancel her sex-change surgery. She cut off all of her transgender friends, save for her closest throughout the experience, Amy LeCoe, who had herself been inspired by Daniels’ journey, to embark on her own. Daniels began the process of detransitioning.

LaCoe was closest to Daniels throughout that critical summer of 2008, when Christine’s tower of triumph began its steady and unrelenting crumble beneath her feet.

Friess quotes LeCoe’s recounting of the conversation in which Daniels admits that her life as a woman wasn’t working, and reveals what was certainly the ultimate devastation of her new reality.
Daniels shut out virtually every other transgender friend except LeCoe, who struck a nonjudgmental tone and persisted in demanding that Daniels let her help. Deep inside, LeCoe struggled to reconcile what it meant that the woman who had once been the role model for her own transition was crumbling. But she did her best not to let her doubts show.

“Don't decide so quickly,” LeCoe said. “Maybe you'll reconsider it when you feel better."

“I have been feeling this way for a while,” Daniels gasped through tears. “I can't do it anymore.”

“Which part can't you do?” LeCoe asked.

More silence, then: “I had the perfect life with Lisa, and I threw it all away.”
Upon returning to work at The Times, in October 2008, without comment or explanation, she dropped the Christine Daniels byline and returned to being Mike Penner, both in print and in person.

She eschewed the hormones, electrolysis and high heels of Christine, giving away her clothes, jewelry and wigs, and returning to the appearance, dress and demeanor of a male. However the single most important thing that the ‘new, old Mike’ wished to restore, he could not.

Next: Love’s Labor’s Lost

That Damned, Unnerving Uncertainty of It All
— A Miniseries (Part 2 of 4)

A Long, Long Times Ago...
Following the aforementioned email I rediscovered, I made a pointed search for a particular byline on the Los Angeles Times website. I was interested in learning about the current disposition of a writer who had been the subject of that email exchange I’d had with Alex’s wife in late April, 2007, when he had written a most unusual article about himself.

To my utter chagrin, instead of finding one of his current articles to catch up on, I discovered that Mike Penner, one of The Times’ best and brightest sportswriters by acclamation of all who knew and worked with him, following a tumultuous and very public two and-a-half year period in both his personal and professional life, committed suicide the day after Thanksgiving last year, November 27, 2009. It was Black Friday in more ways than one.

I was crushed, not only in stumbling upon the sad news, but even more so in the unjustifiable guilt I felt for having learned it so far after the fact.

Even more ironic, I thought, was that even coming in so late, the more I read, the more it seemed that I really wasn’t all that far behind others in commenting on what has rightfully become a blockbuster of a human interest story.

The saga of Penner's demise has obviously been big news at The Times, which published an expose on it this past March, but it has also been well-presented in major pieces by GQ Magazine in June of this year and, most recently, in last month’s article by Steve Friess in L.A. Weekly, posted on August 19, 2010.

Right about now you may be wondering why an L.A. Times sportswriter who who took his own life nine months ago has anything to do with a story about my brother Alex — or perhaps, why you should really even care. Well, the latter is up to you, but former, that's my bad.

I wasn’t aware of if, but apparently in writing about my little brother over the years, I’ve neglected to mention the career that he almost had; the one he dabbled in previous to his decision to make the practice of law his ultimate profession.

The Young Sportswriters of Orange County
While still a college student, Alex worked as a sportswriter for the now-defunct L.A. Times’ Orange County Edition from the early-to-mid 1980s. The late Mike Penner was one of his closest colleagues in that effort. They were good friends, well-respected, and appeared to both be on the fast track to local stardom as sportswriters in Southern California.

Penner actually came on a bit later, in 1983 and worked with Alex, often side-by-side, covering the local Orange County high school and junior college sports beats out of the L.A. Times Orange County offices in Costa Mesa.

My brother was a part of the same group of writers from which would emerge such current notables as Rick Reilly, Chris Dufresne, and of course, Penner; who went on to be a tremendous writer, and in most any other environment would have likely risen to the station of lead columnist.

However, due to the glut of organizational talent surrounding him at The Times, Penner had to settle for being just another great sportswriter in a department of great sportswriters. Nothing I have ever read or heard would indicate that he ever chafed at that status. That’s the kind of team player and non-assuming person he was.

Though their early roles on the high school/JUCO beat weren’t always sexy, both Penner and Alex were from time-to-time, given opportunities to write feature articles that appeared in both the Times L.A. Edition as well as its O.C. counterpart. Most involved the California Angels baseball and/or the Los Angeles Rams NFL football teams, both of which played in nearby Anaheim.

For Alex’s part, however, among his bigger splashes were a pair of rather controversial circumstances that didn’t necessarily feature his name in the byline.

The first occurred in 1983, when California Angels slugger Reggie Jackson was struggling through one of his worst seasons ever. Alex was gathering quotes for an article that would actually be written by another Times sportswriter, and in the course of the interview, asked Reggie a question that Mr.October apparently didn’t like.

The exchange quickly developed into a shouting match of apparently such epic proportion that the Hall-of-Famer to-be threatened to kick the young scribe’s ass.

But that was Alex. He was brash, confident, and knew B.S. when he smelled it (...and Reggie was usually full of it).

Then in August 1984, one of my brother's pet peeves, the Olympics came to town, being hosted in Los Angeles. In the midst of a sarcastic rant in the newsroom one day, a Times columnist absconded a quote from Alex that landed in a notes column appearing in the main paper’s sports section.

In it, Alex chirped, “The bad thing about the Olympics is that it legitimizes trash sports every four years.” It was but one sentence in a brief 61-word paragraph buried in a lengthy, four-column article, but the response to Alex’s statement ended up dominating the Times Sports ‘Letters’ section that week, as a host of angry readers took him to task for his contentious stance.

Yep. The boy was opinionated.

It’s important to note, however, that Alex wasn’t merely a shit-stirrer; that part of his persona wasn’t the norm. However he did have the balls as a writer to go with his gut wherever he saw fit; he wasn’t a yes-man; he couldn’t care less about being politically correct. he called it like he saw it.

He was as nice and as charming as anyone you’d ever meet, but cross him in an argument and you’d better remember to bring you’re ‘A’ Game. He was as skilled a debater as anyone I’ve ever witnessed — and as opinionated. His intelligence was almost annoying, but always as irrepressible as his vibrant personality.

When Alex went to work for The Times, huge sports fan that I am, I was as jealously proud as a big brother could possibly be for the direction his career seemed to be taking.

However after a few years, particularly when he and his wife decided it was time to start a family, Alex determined that the late nights, deadlines, and bar closings weren’t the ingredients of a future he wished to pursue.

He announced that he was leaving sportswriting behind in favor of a law career. He was subsequently accepted into a leading California Law school, where he went on to finish second in his class and serve as President of the Law Review his graduating year.
My initial reaction was mild disappointment over what I selfishly considered to be his giving up on a career at which he was obviously a natural to excel. However my disappointment quickly gave way to the awe and respect I felt in seeing him set his sights so high — and then going out and achieving them.

But then again, when he was a little boy, he always proclaimed that someday he’d be the President of the United States. Perhaps this was a logical first step, I remember thinking.

However if public office was an actual goal that he wished to pursue, it never got beyond the dream stage. He was indeed an outstanding attorney for 15 years, but appeared to be happy doing just that, while building a family and a life together with his wife, Saraph, including no further political aspirations (that he spoke of anyway).

Tragically that all changed once he began to succumb to the effects of Alzheimer’s. He officially resigned from the Bar Association in 2005.

Alex’s O.C. L.A. Times colleague, Mike Penner, on the other hand, would go on to great success with the paper. His life seemed to be the envy of anyone in his profession, with respect, great exposure, even the happiness of his apparent marriage-made-in-heaven to fellow Times sportswriter, Lisa Dillman.

But obviously things aren’t always what they seem; and as with my brother, Penner’s own set of demons would make themselves manifest a few years later.

Although I never met him personally, Alex’s numerous accounts involving the exploits of ‘The Penman’ (as they all called him), along with those of others in that stable of young sportswriters that now-Times Deputy Chief Sports Editor, John Cherwa had assembled in Orange County, made me feel as though I’d known him — and them — for years.

However the affinity I felt toward Penner was strongest for a couple of reasons; one being the fact that he and Alex were more or less partners in their duties during the entirety of the time they worked together. Just as importantly, Penner, went on to be The Times’ beat writer for my favorite baseball team, the somewhat schizophrenically-named California/Anaheim (and now, Los Angeles) Angels — which also meant that I read him religiously, even after I left Southern California.

I know how good he was and I know what a loss his departure truly is to the collective, quality fabric that makes up that outstanding newspaper.

But if you’re at all any kind of L.A. Times Sports aficionado, you likely also know that Penner’s intrigue as a person of interest didn’t just end with him being a fabulous writer; it quite literally ended with him being a tortured soul; it ended with him terminating his own life — as a man, when in fact he had lived most of the previous two years as a woman.

Next: Old Mike, New Christine, Same Demons

That Damned, Unnerving Uncertainty of It All
— A Miniseries (Part 1 of 4)

NOTE: I’m all about full disclosure, and if the title of this miniseries hasn’t at least given you a clue, I’ll just go ahead and say it: this is not a happy story, and I make no apologies for that.

This is a tribute to two people (…or is it three?); one you know — if you’re a friend of this blog — and another you might know — if you’re an enthusiast of Southern California sports media. What you don’t know, is that the principals are related — in more ways than one.

That being said, it has taken me just over three weeks to ponder, research and write this story, and now that I’m finished, not only am I drained, emotionally, I’m sorta asking myself why I did it, because it really isn’t anything other than bad news. However bad news still needs to be told, and sometimes, even bares positive fruit.

So go pop a Zoloft, put away the sharp instruments, and pardon my melancholy as you learn a little more about a couple of outstanding and complicated people.

Rude Awakening
Ever the electronic packrat, I have genuine difficulty in erasing personal emails. I have nearly every meaningful one I’ve either sent or received since about 1999 — and probably many more than that stored within even earlier system backups. They’re holed up somewhere in some old backup program’s format that I likely no longer have the software for, on ancient DAT tapes that will probably never again be restored.

However I just can’t bear to toss those old tapes, y’know? I keep thinking, “maybe someday…”

Emails are like electronic time capsules; some providing more valuable information than others, but for me, even the most mundane trivia of my past is something I can lose myself in for hours.

The problem is that I don’t spend nearly the time I should, sorting through and determining what deserves to be kept and what should have never made it to my inbox in the first place.

Three weeks ago this past Sunday, however, I was engaged in the semi-regular activity of weeding through some of those old emails; judiciously purging the inevitable junk mail and other useless noise that I’d unintentionally saved over the years.

In the course of that process, I came across an exchange of emails I’d had with my sister in-law, Seraph, back in late April 2007, some five months prior to my most recent — and likely, my final — visit to Dallas to see my brother Alex.

The email made me smile; but it was a smile wrapped in sadness. It returned to mind a bittersweet moment in both the life of my brother as well as that of a friend of his, who was actually the subject of that communication.

Following up on that discovery of a few Sundays ago, I was curious to find out about the current status of Alex’s friend, so I investigated further to hopefully gain some kind of idea of that person’s current standing, as it occurred to me that I hadn’t read or heard anything about them in quite awhile.

There was a good reason that I hadn’t, but it wasn’t because no one else was talking about it.

Stop me if you’ve read this already…
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written anything about my brother, whom If you’re unaware, is in the final stages of the insidious strain of Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease that has plagued my family for more than two generations (probably a lot more).

Although several maternal-side family members (including my grandfather, aunt, uncle, and mother) succumbed to the disease, we didn’t know a lot about the nature of how it was passed on until 1992, when my family took part in extensive genetic testing at the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Alzheimer Disease Center, in an effort to find a means to test for it.

Heretofore there had never been any reliable way to even detect Alzheimer’s prior to physical onset, which in the case of our family’s “pre-senile” variety, usually becomes manifest during the victim’s late 30s-to-early-40s. Even then, the disease generally takes a couple of years more to present itself to the point that the victim or family members become aware that something is truly wrong.

Fortunately, identification of the causal genetic mutation responsible for our particular brand of AD came to light a year later, based in large part upon the comparative research of our family’s genetic material, including that of my second-eldest brother, David, who was in mid-to-late onset at the time but would become my immediate family's second victim just two years hence.

The results of the research were published in a 1993 Lancet medical journal article. My family reveled in the joy that we had helped accomplish something that would not only serve our progeny, but that of generations to come, both within and outside of our family.

However, that joy was later all but totally mitigated when we discovered that we’d misinterpreted the test results, which had seemed to indicate (unofficially) that we were all in the clear, but in fact had thrown out several family members by necessity of the rules of blind clinical trial method; a fact that we hadn’t noticed, but which simple arithmetic would have been revealed, had we’d been paying attention.

Sadder still was the reality that one of the two family members who fell between the cracks was Alex, who began showing signs that no one acknowledged — the least of whom being himself — back in the early 2000s. By the time we allowed ourselves to consider that Alzheimer’s could be the cause of Alex’s rapidly-decreasing ability to function normally, it was already too late. He was positively diagnosed in November 2004, a year or more beyond the disease’s initial onset.

Although the introduction of recent Alzheimer's drugs Aracept and Namenda have slowed the progress of the disease’s advance and in have fact likely added at least two years to Alex’s lifespan, they have only postponed the inevitable.

[It’s a subject that one glance at my tag cloud (in the left sidebar) will tell you I’ve written a lot about, so I’ll dispense with any more re-hashing and refer you here, here, and here if you’re interested in learning the lion’s share of background info regarding the family curse.]

Though four years my junior, Alex was someone I revered like an elder brother. He was my lifelong best friend. Although I helped raise him as a child, there was never anything but total acceptance as equals between us once we became adults. We married the same year, spent time together both alone and with our families, and never hesitated to constantly affirm to one another how much they were loved.

Alex was my chief confidante; we trusted each other with personal details that will never reach the ears of another living soul. Knowing that I have now lost that outlet has been more than sad for me, so much more than a simple loss, but infinitely less than that which has been experienced and will forever be felt by the wife and three children he’ll leave behind.

Alex is now in hospice care and has been for several months. It is a general rule that hospice enters when the patient has a year or less to live, and so that would indeed indicate that the end is near for my beloved little brother.

He is truly a shell of his former self; unable to speak, feed, clothe, or bathe himself. He still lives at home, as he has from the beginning, a triumph of determination that my sister in-law set forth from the outset; that her husband would not die in a nursing home or other undignified facility as did all in my family who preceded him in this supremely unceremonious terminus of life. Her circumstances have been immeasurably trying and she deserves so much more credit than could ever be given her.

However my intent wasn’t to make this entry a premature obituary for my brother, but to also acknowledge my sadness over the other sobering news that I learned that late August Sunday afternoon.

Next: A Long, Long Times Ago...

Monday, September 06, 2010


Nope…not gunna duuh it…Wudn’t be prudent
Believe me, I know. I know my tendencies. And if you’ve read this blog or have known me for any length of time, you know ‘em too. But I’m not gonna do what I normally do in this circumstance; I’m goin’ a different way.

Once again, it’s been a while — like five and-a-half weeks — since my last post; in baseball terms I did an ‘oh-fer’ the month of August, and as you may know, my oft-repeated wont after such a lapse in content is to come out spewing apologies for my absence, particularly in view of the fact that as recently as June I publically ‘rededicated’ myself to more regular blogging.

Yeah, I know. “Wolf.”

However I’m not feeling particularly apologetic today. In fact, as much as I would like to have done the opposite, I more-or-less voluntarily took a break from social media the past month or so, partially out of necessity — and partially to see if I could really pull it off.

In retrospect, I’m kinda proud of myself for doing the right thing.

The hardest part was reducing my Twitter stream to less than a trickle. To their credit, several people actually did miss me and expressed some concern that I was in fact alright, physically, which I appreciated a great deal.

But no, I wasn’t abducted by aliens or in the hospital doin’ the H1N1 tango.

I was workin’ like a mofo.

I chose to pour all my time into two freelance web design projects I’ve been working on, the proceeds from which are vital to my family’s bottom line. I decided to give them nearly all of my attention and I must say the results have been extremely positive.

I’ll be back with links when everything is finalized (I’m still in the very final stages of wrapping up both sites), but I can’t help but admit that I’m really proud of how everything is turning out.

In the Pipeline
I’ll have to admit, however, I did cheat — just a little. I spent a couple days two weekends ago, writing the lion’s share of what will be my next multi-part post — a miniseries on the death of a well-known journalist who was a longtime friend and colleague of my brother Alex.

Hopefully, shortly thereafter, I’ll have a belatedly-posted, Mowerly Musings piece of as-yet indeterminate length, that really, I’ve been thinking about for most of this long, dreadfully hot and humid summer that we’ve had here in Middle Tennessee. It’s part ‘tolerate thy neighbor’ rant and part moral object lesson; and I hope it sounds as interesting on paper as it does right now, rattling around here inside my head. You be the judge.

Then there’s hockey. Training Camp for the Nashville Predators starts in a week-and-a-half, and the regular season, just a little more than a month from today. I’ll definitely be jumping back up on the Zamboni and previewing the Preds’ upcoming 2010-11 season on my hockey blog as well.

Ohhh…and I may have a few things to say about my daughter, Amy, and a gentleman friend of hers whom we met this Labor Day Weekend...

So yeah, I’ve been away, but it was an absence with a purpose, and my focus on work, I believe has indeed paid off (no pun intended). I look forward to engaging your comments either here, on PMFF, or on Facebook and Twitter.

The summer of my dis-CONtent, for the most part, is over.

Catch ya again real soon.