Author Archives: Papa Bradstein

Green is the new khaki

Since my bike helmet was flat in the driveway, the first stop in our five-hour journey was five minutes away, at my local bike shop. There are many things to love about a good local bike shop, the first of which is that they’re local.

Other things to love include a good stock of supplies from small items like energy drink powder and socks to new bikes and…well…helmets. I wasn’t surprised to find one in my size, although I wasn’t entirely pleased that it was green and white. The Pilot pointed out that it was cool because nobody else would be wearing a green helmet.

Yeah, and yellow is the new khaki.

But nice of him to try. He also pointed out that it would match the Mardi Gras decorations I put on my helmet as a part of Team PHAT Tuesday. I’m not sure it’s a sign of high fashion that my helmet matches green, purple and gold felt harlequin masks, but it’s not there to make me look good; it’s there to keep me safe. Although I never really got it fitting right, the new lid was much more comfortable than my old one, and I didn’t hurt my head on the ride. OK, mostly because I didn’t bump it, but still, just for comfort, it’s an improvement.

Bike shops are our toy stores, and we were like five-year-olds with credit cards in FAO Schwartz, but we did finally manage to make it to our extraction point with minimal financial collateral damage. We pitched everything in the back of the truck with the bikes and hit the road.

There was nothing to do but drive and talk. We have a little practice with the latter, spending hours riding bikes together. As we drove, we talked about all manner of topics, but the further we went, the more we focused on one topic, which would be the talk of the town when we arrived…and all weekend, really.

Safety–and disaster–first

With a sickening crunch and a bumping jerk to a stop is how my 200-mile, 2-day bike ride to make cancer history started.

We hadn’t even left my driveway, but that’s where I’d left my bike helmet–in the driveway, on the ground, behind The Pilot’s truck. So as we waved goodbye and backed out, we rolled right over my helmet. I left it on the kitchen counter as a reminder to the kids not to leave anything behind a car, ever, not even for a moment while loading or unloading. Mom used to say it. I say it to myself. But an example is worth 1,000 reminders.

It was a good way to start the weekend, remembering my ABC’s–Always Be Careful–because it was one full of dangerous situations, each coming and going by in a flash. It was also a reminder to think about the consequences of every action–how will this affect those around me? What happens next? What would I do in the worst case scenario? It was also a reminder that when it comes to safety, it’s best to do it now, now get around to it later.

And that’s what we did.

We went straight to my LBS–local bike shop–and got a new lid for me. It was for the best. That helmet was old and worn out and may not have protected me when I needed it to, and you never know when you’ll need it the most, as The Pilot found out on day 2 of the ride.

He felt bad about backing over my helmet, but I’m the one who left it on the ground, and it was for the best, I’m sure.

Thanks! …and a hot new opportunity

Thanks to each of you who gave last week to meet my match–and if you didn’t have a chance to donate yet, I have a hot new opportunity for you to fight cancer…and make me sweat.

Together with the match from my sponsor, you gave $2,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which just announced a new prostate cancer treatment that extends patients’ lives on average by one year. Your donations fund their research, so you’ve extended the lives of thousands of dads through next Father’s Day.

My wife’s uncle was one such dad, but this spring she had to travel home to the family farm for his funeral. He had long fought cancer, and his kids lost their dad far too early. I lost my dad to cancer when I was just 16, denying my kids the chance to visit their grandfather and play catch, go for a bike ride or sail a boat with him.

If you missed the match and still want to give, I’m honoring my Dad and all fathers with a mileage match:

For every dollar you give between now and Father’s Day, I’ll ride a mile in July. (Up to 500 miles. I am only human, after all.)

Donate today.

This won’t be easy. This May I rode almost 400 miles and it just about wiped me out, so 500 will really stretch me–and in the heat of July it will really make me sweat. But it’s worth it if we can work together to let another dad live to see Fathers’ Day next year.

Let’s sweat the big stuff–curing cancer–so dads everywhere can sweat the small stuff, like thanking their kids for another tie or bottle of Old Spice.

Donate today.

Again, thanks to those who already gave. If you’ve already donated, please consider sharing this message with a friend…or 12. You can also follow me on twitter and friend me on Facebook.

30 Fathers’ Days without Dad

I want the same thing every year: A voice on the other end of the phone line. A house to send a card to rather than a cemetery to send flowers to. An ugly tie or some ticky tacky electronics from Brookstone.

I want my Dad back.

Then again, I’ve got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.

This will be my 30th Fathers’ Days without him, so I’ve gotten used to it, but I will always miss him. Dad would have been 87 this year, so there’s no guarantee that even if a brain tumor didn’t kill him when he was 57 he would still be alive, but I wish I could know rather than having to guess.

Some things I do know about him

  • He had brown eyes, like my brother and my son.
  • He was left-handed, like me.
  • He was bald. No comment.
  • He loved sailing, riding his bike* and James Bond.

He also loved to be clean shaven. A story Mom told about him was that when she went into labor with her first baby, my oldest brother, she and Dad went to the hospital immediately. And waited. And waited. And waited.

By the time my brother arrived and my Dad could go back home it had been over a day and my Dad was disturbed–Mom’s word, not mine–that he had a day’s growth of beard. Disturbed enough that when Mom’s water broke for their second child, my oldest sister, the first thing Dad did was go into the bathroom, fill the sink with hot water and start shaving.

This is how I know that Dad would love knowing that you made me shave my beard.

I recall sitting across the dining room table from him at dinner while he angrily pulled out a clump of what little hair he had, showing me what the radiation treatments for his brain tumor were doing to him. So, I’d love to shave my head in solidarity with him–make me do it. Donate now.

Dad would probably hate to see me shave my legs. On the other hand, Dad loved all of his kids, so I’m pretty sure he would have loved to meet and play with 3B and Jewel. Throw a ball. Ride a bike.* Take them for a sail in his boat.

It makes me cry just to write that.

And so, if shaving my legs means that a Dad could meet his grandkids, means that a baby could see his brown eyes reflected in his grandfather’s brown eyes, Dad would be all for it.

After all, wherever he is, he’d love to get a phone call from me too, if only to talk to his grandkids. He’d much rather get a card scrawled all over with markers than flowers on his grave. While it’s too late for him, we can stop this same fate befalling other dads and their kids by fighting cancer in any way we can.

That would be a gift my dad would love to get almost as an ugly tie, and you can give it to him.

Support my ride to make cancer history and you’ll make more Fathers’ Days possible.

Donate today.

* Mileage match
Since Dad loved riding his bike, I’m announcing a mileage match in his honor. For every dollar donated between June 9 and Fathers’ Day, I’ll ride a mile on my bike in July…up to 500 miles. I am only human, after all.

This won’t be easy, if you match me up to 500 miles. This May I rode almost 400 miles and it just about wiped me out, so 500 will really stretch me out. But I’ll do it for Dad, and for all the other dads out there who deserve to live to see another Fathers’ Day.

Donate today.

A sponsor doubles your donation to make cancer history – this week only

You met the match! Together, you donated $1,000 to make cancer history – congratulations! On behalf of the cancer researchers, patients and caregivers who got 100 percent of your donation, thank you.

There’s still time to donate to fight cancer, even if this match is over. Remember, if you donate enough, I’ll even shave my legs on Father’s Day, so donate now.

My friends and family have lost their hair, their breasts and their siblings to cancer. I, of course, lost my Dad when he was 57 and I was just 16. So my 200-mile ride to support cancer researchers, patients and caregivers is deeply personal.

You likely already know that 100 percent of every donation goes directly to those doctors and their patients. This week, thanks to a generous sponsor, I can double your donation–but only for this week, so donate now.

1538809_10151930638677585_1261980255_nA generous donor has offered to match all donations this week up to $1,000. As always, 100 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which has

I’m sure that you would love to live in a world free from the fear of cancer; where every case of this now dread disease can be prevented, treated or cured. Dana-Farber works 24 hours a day, every day of the year to make that future happen now. Please support their work and donate now.

As an added bonus, if you meet this match, you’ll make me shave my head on Father’s Day … so what are you waiting for? Make cancer history and donate now.

So, you didn’t die?

It’s only a tragedy if we don’t learn something from it.

I’m sure I said that to my kids at some point over the weekend, passing on to them the wisdom of Riff Markowitz, Producer, Master of Ceremonies, &c. of the Palm Springs Follies, which gave its final performance this weekend.

I endured many near-tragedies at the Follies, learning many lessons that I not only carry with me, but also put into action at every job I’ve had since then. Of course, the greatest gift I got from the Follies was my wife, who I hired as my Assistant Stage Manager, thanks to a recommendation from my friend. Unlike the many employees I had to let go from the Follies, she walked out on us, mid-season, just after we had finally gotten her trained–a months long process.

Obviously, I didn’t hold it against her, especially since she was leaving to travel around the world for a year on a paid research fellowship. I’d have gone too, if I could.

But I couldn’t, since I was finishing out my final season at the Follies as the Stage Manager, a job that I had backed into the same way one backs down into a cannon before being shot through the smoke, spotlights and cacophony of a three-ring circus. In my three-year trajectory at the Follies, I learned many things:

  • Never trust a monkey on stage.
  • Firing someone is never easy. It sticks with you for the rest of your life, no matter how necessary and justified it might have been.
  • It didn’t happen if you didn’t see it.
  • You’re responsible for it, even if you didn’t see it, so look harder, closer and everywhere.
  • Checklists are your friends, but never your salvation.
  • Nobody can make smoke hit a spike mark…but that doesn’t mean they can’t try, try, try, try, try, try again. And one more time, just for good measure.
  • Homing pigeons will get lost in the dark.
  • There is no detail too small.
  • Don’t be late to a meeting with the boss, if you like your job.
  • Friends are your salvation.
  • Given the means and the opportunity, there’s nothing that motivated people can’t achieve.
  • A man can fit inside a balloon.
  • Pigeons can live for days without food or water.
  • Grandmothers can be strippers.
  • You can always be kind. Always. No matter how you’re being treated.
  • 80-hour work weeks are possible without medication, so long as you don’t count coffee as medicine.
  • The ideal location for a coffee bar is next to a theater.
  • Eight-hour days seem like days off when your standard day is 15 hours.
  • The guy who leaves first isn’t always a slacker. He’s sometimes just the best organized.
  • 24-hour supermarkets are a thing of beauty.
  • You can stay calm while firing a headline act between the matinee and evening show, but the strain will still keep you awake for days, like an overwound watch spring.
  • The screamers and drama queens are loud, but watch out for the ones who are too kind. They’ll kill you with a smile.
  • It pays to plan and practice for what everyone else says could never happen.
  • Test everything.
  • Twice.
  • Never drink tequila with a man who sips it to cure his colds.
  • Everybody poops. Pigeons poop more.
  • If you’re kind, when you go over the inevitable cliff, people will throw you ropes. If you’re unkind, I hope you packed your parachute.
  • It’s better to test safety nets with sandbags than with your own body.
  • Friends will always catch you, no matter how far you fall.
  • Manners matter.
  • Texans talk a good game, but when you’re messin’ with people, remember that Missouri rolls deep.

Our profession was drama and our average employee was like me–a little too young and a little too male. This meant there were many tales told to Mr. Markowitz about hijinks and high perils engaged in on our one day off each week. He would let the tale teller get into the thick of the plot and then suddenly raise his hand to stop them, then say, “So, you didn’t die, then?” After the teller confirmed their current status among the living, Mr. Markowitz would wave them onward with his hand, “OK, then. Proceed.”

Just as we pushed ourselves hard on our “weekend,” we pushed hard at work–ourselves and each other. Because everyone was performing beyond what they previously thought they were capable of, they could get pissed–with good reason–at someone else on the show who let them down by not working up to that level. We all raised each other’s game to new heights.

We also all knew the tremendous strain the show put on us–on our relationships, our sanity–such as it was, our health. It shaped our entire lives. The first Thanksgiving in my life that I missed having dinner with my family was because I had to run shows at the Follies. And yet, I got from that time lifelong friends. They saved my ass more times than I can count–until now I just count on them like I count on the sun by day and the stars at night. And when I fall down, I look back up to them and start climbing again, always attempting to get to their level.

Because we knew the weight, we forgave and picked each other up when the load was too great.

At the start of another day in the grinder, Mr. Markowitz and I were standing in the house right aisle, discussing the events of the upcoming day, when the taciturn Audio Engineer entered the theater at his call time and walked past us up the aisle without a word, just a quick nod of the head. “Good morning, Mr. __________,” said Mr. Markowitz and I at the same time. We got a quick wave of the hand as the Audio Engineer proceeded up the aisle. As we watched, I said quietly, “It’s all about personality, isn’t it?” Mr. Markowitz nodded and said words that I can still hear, to this day.

No matter how geekish my jobs have been since then, no matter how far behind the scenes, no matter how much technology has been between me and the people I serve, that’s always been true, along with two other lessons I learned from my two boothmates. You can guess who said which.

  • Yes. It’s all about the people.
  • Never let your ass shit you out of a job.
  • First there’s a booger in the sugar and then there’snot.

After all the years, we didn’t die. Instead, we met our wives, forged our careers, started–or restarted–our lives, and we all rose higher than we thought we could. Yes, there were the dark times, the low moments–literally, when the stage lift wouldn’t $%^&ing lift for anything–and the bad times too. But let’s leave that offstage for now. Let’s live in the light, where we smile to make the audience smile with us. Where we dazzle to make them believe that the impossible isn’t. Where we do our best, because that’s what we do for friends.

The house may be dark now, and the stage barren, but the light still shines within each of us every time we do our best…and know that tomorrow we’ll do even better than that.

–Thanks to Mr. Markowitz, the entire Jardin family–Mary, Dan & Terry for the opportunities you gave and the lessons you taught. Thanks, also, to John Finkler for reminding me to laugh at least once a month.

Bouncing back

Two weeks ago, I was bouncing on the trampoline with 3B when I felt something let go in my back. On that first bounce, it was just below my left shoulder blade. On the next bounce something let go below my right shoulder blade.

The pain was as if a sword had sliced out across my back from my shoulder blades down to my hips. I immediately sat down and asked 3B to stop bouncing while I crept off the trampoline. I haven’t been back on since, and my back hasn’t been the same since.

It’s too bad, since one of the kids’ favorite activities has been bouncing together on the trampoline–with each other, with one parent or all of us together for a family bounce. The kids do most of the bouncing, but it’s a good way to be outside, active, interacting and (mostly) enjoying ourselves.

Now when they go out, I try to do other things around them, like weed the lawn, pick up dog poop, set up the deer fence around our garden–you know, other fun stuff. At least I’m close enough to talk with. It is a reminder, however, that I’m not getting any younger and that I don’t recover as quickly as I used to.

I used to be able to go on a 25-mile bike ride without food or water, come home, work in the yard, then go out with friends until 2 a.m. and still get up at the hour of…well, noonish. Hey, I was a teenager. But any one of those activities–the ride, the yard work or the going out–is a full day for me.

Just this week, a friend asked me to go to Two Trains Running with him–a chance I leapt at. I’ve loved the show since I saw it in Los Angeles with Laurence Fishburne, courtesy of my aunt and uncle some 20 years ago…that can’t be right, can it? It can’t have been 20 years…right? Maybe that’s why after this performance my friend and I went home to our wives and kids and sleep rather than going out for coffee and pie and a long discussion of the show, as I did with my roommate who was my date for the show 20 years ago.

This week, however, after getting a sound three hours of sleep and going to work the next day, it was all I could do when I got home to immediately sit down for dinner and creep off to bed.

I can still do it at my age, but the bouncing back, well, it’s not so bouncy anymore.

Dude, where’s my jersey?


2013 Team Bradstein jersey

Update: Whit asked good questions.

Answers: No donations are spent on jerseys. 100 percent of every donation goes straight from you to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Even if I wanted to use donations to pay for jerseys–which I don’t–I can’t.

To let me know you’re donating on Whit’s behalf, mention him in the comments field when you donate.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog post…


I’ll shave my legs for Whit Honea, and he’ll wear a skintight spandex shirt…but you have to help get us both there.

I’ve always been a fan of Whit’s as one of the best dad bloggers out there. My criteria for good dad bloggers are pretty simple:

  • Be a good dad.
  • Be a good blogger, which means you have to know how to write.

It helps if you make me laugh. Or cry. Or both. Seriously, if your writing about your experiences moves me to a PDE–public display of emotion–you win. Five extra Bradstein points for you. Going by this scale, Whit’s near the top of the leaderboard.

In his race to the top, Whit wisely bought off the judge–that would be me–by donating to my favorite charity. That would be my Pan-Mass Challenge ride to make cancer history.

What he’s really trying to do is make me shave my legs for Father’s Day.

To help Whit out in his race to the top, I’m going to issue a little challenge to him and maybe turn the tables a little. See, by continuing to write regularly, unlike other unnamed slacker dad bloggers–that would be me–Whit has developed fans, followers, twitterati, if you will, who stalk him throughout the series of tubes we call the innernetz.

I’m sure that Whit’s fans, friends, stalkers, etc. would love to see him in a skintight spandex shirt, so if they collectively…

  • Donate a total of $100 by May 15, I’ll put a picture of Whit’s choosing on my jersey (has to be of someone affected by cancer).
  • Donate a total of $250 by May 15, I’ll send Whit the jersey off my back (I’ll probably wash it first, because sweat)…seriously, he’ll get his own jersey. Clean. New.

Here’s the deal…

  1. Donate to my Pan-Mass Challenge ride to make cancer history.
  2. Mention Whit, Honea Express or ponies in the comments field in your donation.
  3. Live vicariously through Whit as he earns Bradstein points as fast as a pony chases a rainbow.
  4. Whit gets a jersey of his own to wear anywhere that full-zip spandex photo jersey with back pockets are allowed–which is to say nowhere around well mannered civilized folks, but anywhere that cyclists gather.

You give. I shave my legs. Whit wears spandex. We all kick cancer’s ass.

Because you love him, that’s why you do it.

Also, because you donate $500 on Whit’s behalf by May 15, I’ll send him two jerseys and he might give one to you.

Let the giving and shaving and spandexing begin.

It’s too late to save me

Carefully aiming the electric knife around my eye, the dermatologist slowly sliced away another growth from my face.

“Most people wouldn’t tolerate that like you did. Redheads have a higher pain threshold than most other people,” he said, when he was finally done with the knife and the can full of liquid nitrogen that he’d used to freeze off the other growths he’d found.

Jewel had accompanied me to this appointment, and the doctor turned to her. “So your daughter here and your son will have that too.”

Skin full of cells that are more likely to become cancerous, even in the total absence of exposure to sun, is their other inheritance from me. That trait was exposed recently by research into the causes of skin cancer, and knowing it could save their lives.

It could save my kids from the knife around their eye, at least.

My skin is already beyond its lifetime limit for exposure to sun, according to the dermatologist, so I go in every six months so he can lay into my face, arms, legs and any other place where my skin has turned on me and is now attacking me rather than protecting me. To be fair, I failed to protect my skin for about 40 years, allowing the sun to beat on it every day–but I didn’t know that would kill it.

Maybe my skin doesn’t know that what it’s doing will kill me.

But I do. And I know that 3B’s and Jewel’s skin, even if they lived out their days in a lightless cave, is likely to turn on them too. It’s too late for me, but maybe by the time this happens to them, there will be a treatment, a vaccine, a cure.

That’s why I ride–to save my kids.

Even with my higher tolerance for pain, I couldn’t bear to see them under the knife or worse. I’ll do whatever it takes to save them, as any parent would. Part of that is simply insisting on sunscreen, hats and protective clothing when they’re out in the sun, just as I wear a hat on every sunny day when I remember–I am an old dog, after all.

I’ll also continue to work for more research for prevention methods, treatments and a cure and I’d love your support. Please donate today.

And if you don’t think cancer can be cured, you haven’t met Charlie.

You can make me shave my legs on Father’s Day


This could be me on Father’s Day.

I’m keeping it simple this year…If I raise, for my PMC ride, by Father’s Day

  • $3,500, I will shave my beard
  • $4,000, I will shave my head
  • $4,500, I will shave my legs

Donate today to make cancer history.
100 percent of your donation goes directly to cancer researchers, caregivers and patients.

Why would I do this?

  • Because cancer killed my father, and I have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.
  • Because cancer killed my uncle.
  • I could go on, but I’m sure you have your own list…

And because it doesn’t have to be like this. Every year, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute develops new treatments and cures for a variety of cancers. It can’t do it without your donations.

Donations from the PMC provide over $40 million annually in unrestricted funds, allowing researchers to pursue treatments that government, insurance and pharmaceutical companies won’t. These treatments save lives.

Your donations save lives. Your donations cure cancer, like four-year-old Charlie’s leukemia.