This time of year, I usually send out the same story about a little girl in a puffy pink jacket, who I sat next to on a flight around Christmastime.

She was an angel.

I’m actually on the same flight, all these years later, right now. 

But I’m not sitting next to a little girl in a puffy pink jacket.

I’m sitting next to a dude doing everything an angel wouldn’t. If you close your eyes and imagine a self-centered douchebag who doesn’t care about anyone else, especially this week, he’s that guy. We hadn’t even pushed back from the gate, and I was already practicing my best what can you do look, for when my face was caught on someone’s cell phone camera, as he was being dragged off the plane.

Hasn’t happened. Well, not yet, thanks to some very, very patient flight attendants, and his embarrassed wife. There’s already been a flight marshal summoned to the front of the plane, to address something else going on in the back of the plane, though. 

Anyone who travelled globally in the 80s and 90s will probably remember the term Ugly American, which is what we were told to avoid being in someone else’s country: disrespectful, entitled, unaware.

It’s not just in someone else’s country anymore, is it?

I know, you’re probably wishing I’d just copied and pasted the puffy pink jacket story.

Stay with me.

Before we took off, I’d been wandering around the airport and saw an end-cap displaying chocolate bars made by a friend’s company. I always love seeing these signs of him, in grocery stores or mini-marts or wherever, because he and his family are beautiful, giving, joyful humans. These pieces of their story are my reminders to be more like them. 

I talk about that family in Living Halfway, where I also tell the story of how my mom bought me Batman pajamas for my kindergarten Halloween. Pajamas were cheaper than the costume at the drugstore, and were dual purpose. I pulled them out of the box and was horrified to find they were missing the most crucial element, but my mom made a cape from blue nylon.

I wore that cape everywhere.

I loved Batman so much.

Anyway, back to the end-cap. Behind the display was a Christmas tree, which I noticed but promptly forgot about, because I heard the boarding call for my flight and rushed to join the rest of us, trying to get somewhere other than where we were.

And now, here I am, pushed over as far as possible in my seat, with Jabba the Hut having his way next to me.

Well, there I was, until I started fighting back tears behind my glasses.

Some of you may have already seen the story about the kid with leukemia who gets granted his wish to be Batman for a day, and what seems like the entire city of San Francisco comes together in the most incredible, one-loving-thing-leads-to-another fairytale. About halfway through, I noticed a Christmas tree, and realized the documentary was taking place around this time of year.

Batkid Begins.

Toward the beginning, the camera lands on the kid’s intake questionnaire, asking what kind of music he liked.


Really? This barely 5-year-old loves Springsteen? And Batman?

And just like that, he was me, our battles different but not, one fight in the blood, one in the weight of years passed.

Fighting back tears, next to Jabba the Hut.

By the last few breaths of the story, this year’s little girl in the puffy pink jacket had multiplied into all the human beings that came together to make this dream day happen. From the organizers, to the incredible man who helped Batkid through the day as the ‘real’ Batman… from the volunteers to the hundreds, then thousands of people who showed up as the ‘flash mob,’ rooting on their superhero at every turn.


Can you see all of them?

Those are the angels.

There, to give one kid fighting for his life a piece of his childhood back. 

Batkid, who has saved a damsel in distress, fought off The Riddler, rescued the SF Giants mascot from The Penguin, and is now standing with the real police chief and mayor of San Francisco on a stage built in the middle of town, getting the key to Gotham city.

A chocolate key, just for him.

Made by my friend’s company.

So I guess my friend is one of these angels, too.

I never knew.

Which means that maybe we have more of these angels among us, silent purveyors of joy and peace and love and everything good this season is about.

Jabba the Hut is no match for that kind of power.

Still can’t wait to get off this plane, though.

If You Listen

I wasn’t there when she was born. 

I didn’t even know she existed, not until a couple of months later, when I smiled at the mischievous glance from a bundle of fur, temporarily named Dancer.

Our politics tells us left or right. Our media tells us black or white. There’s no room for nuance, no allowance for “I don’t know,” no whisper audible in the din of dinging phones and shouting protests.

And yet every day, everywhere, you can still hear the quiet opening of hearts.

If you listen.

I heard it yesterday, in the silent passing of coffee and muffin from an older lady to the kid sitting with the sign outside Starbucks. 

And here, this morning, when I whispered to the tangle of dog on my bed.

Happy Birthday, Emma.

Thank you for the quiet opening of this heart.

You can hear it, you know.

If you listen. 

A Simple Twist of Fate

We went back to where we began.

Where, over twenty years ago, we were characters in a Bob Dylan song.
They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark
Tingle to his bones‘
Twas then he felt alone
And wished he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate

We sat together in the park, on wet benches overlooking the skyline, sharing the same small sandwich from the same small shop we always went to back then. 

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel
Where the neon burning bright
He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate 

We walked along by my old house with the ghosts of our first dogs, until we could see the roofline and windows that once framed our awkward, sometimes searing waltz. 

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate 

I thought she was the one when I randomly met her in a downtown bar after one of my shows, just before her spring birthday. I was born two years later than her, and I was young. So young, as to believe that my band’s opening set on a Friday night might offer, in a simple twist of fate, the one.  

But then life happened.

We went back to where we began.

Where, over 20 years ago, we were characters in a Bob Dylan song.

Where we stumbled toward and then past each other, into what we thought were the rest of our lives.

And where we collided now.

In a simple twist of fate.