September 19, 2019

The Creative Spark: New interview collection coming this fall

Creative people have a certain spark: a brightness in their eyes, an inquisitive way of looking at the world, a desire to make things. But that spark doesn’t reside solely in people seen as creators. It’s in all of us, just waiting to break out.
In this collection of interviews with some of the most creative people of our time — musicians, authors, explorers, and chefs — these makers speak about what drives them, what helps them to see the world in fresh ways, and what inspires them turn their visions into art.
During the past decade, Michael Shapiro has interviewed some of our most creative luminaries. Yet it’s not simply that Shapiro has had access to so many supremely talented people — it’s that he gets them to go deep. These interviews serve as a gateway for each one of us to chart our own creative paths, enrich our lives, and bring our true selves into the world.

Giant Among Giants: Mike Krukow, Alaska Beyond, August 2019

“There’s a responsibility to tell the story of the team. You have to make these players come to life to the listening audience,” Krukow says. Baseball is “a volatile, ever-changing story. When somebody’s red-hot, there are two guys who are stone cold. When somebody’s just coming into his prime, there are two guys who are just hanging on by their fingernails.”
Some years ago, Krukow, 67, began to notice his strength declining. Initially he attributed that to aging, but when he had difficulty with stairs and started tripping over curbs, he saw a neurologist. He feared that he had ALS, a fatal disease, so was relieved when he learned he had a rare condition called inclusion-body myositis (IBM), an inflammatory ailment that’s not curable but not fatal. Though Krukow can no longer call every game of the season, a marathon of long days that lasts at least six months, he works almost all home games and goes on some road trips. “I’m not able to do 162 (games a season). I can do 110 now,” he says. “We love our time here and we really take it seriously.”

Boys of Winter: Playing baseball with my heroes at SF Giants fantasy camp, Lexus magazine

Excerpt: When I see my locker, with the uniform bearing my name in an arc across the back, the feeling is electric. I dress from cap to high socks in professional gear, making sure I don’t miss a belt loop or leave a pocket out, infractions that would get me rung up in Kangaroo Court (more on this baseball tradition later).
I’m dressing across from legendary pitcher Vida Blue, who was almost unhittable in his prime. “Hey Vida, I saw you beat the Cubs in 1986 at Wrigley Field,” I tell the still-fit pitcher, recalling that he only gave up one run on that perfect summer day in Chicago. And he hit a home run – a rarity for a pitcher – in that game. “You remember that homer!” Vida, now in his late 50s, exclaims. “Down the line, baby. Down the line.”
Dozens of my fellow campers and I lace up our turf shoes and head to the batting cages behind the right-field wall for instruction from veteran Giants infielder Joel Youngblood. As bats crack against machine-pitched balls in the cage, he tells us to “hit (swing) horizontal to the ground. You want a straight ball to give fielders the least time to get there. If you hit it correct, you always hit the ball hard. If you try to hit it hard, you won’t always hit it correct.”
Darrell Evans, whose nickname is “Doody” due to his facial resemblence to “Howdy,” strides in front of the batting cages. “I don’t understand a thing he (Youngblood) just said,” jokes the burly third baseman. “You always hear, keep your eye on the ball — the guys who say that, they couldn’t hit either!”
As we circle Evans, now in his early 60s, he takes a poke at the conventional wisdom of hitting up the middle: “Who are the best fielders? The shortstop and center fielder. And where’s the deepest part of the park? Center field,” he says. “So why the hell would you want to hit it up the middle?!” His final targets are TV announcers who say a batter swung too hard. “You never hear them say that when they hit it.” Two guys driving a garbage cart out of the stadium roll by: “Those guys couldn’t hit,” Evans cracks, “and look what they’re doing!”

Tracking elusive pumas in Patagonia, Summer 2016

Typically when traveling overseas I like to stay a while. But when an editor emailed and asked if I’d be willilng to travel to Patagonia to track pumas for a week in the dead of the southern hemisphere’s winter, I leapt at the chance even though I couldn’t extend my stay. The journey involved an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile, another flight south to almost polar town Punta Arenas and then a four-hour drive north to Torres del Paine, the national park in Chilean Patagonia. It was a long way to go but well worth it to see the park’s legendary mountains, cobalt lakes, ubiquitous guanaco, and to wake before dawn in hopes of sighting a puma.

By Michael Shapiro

Well before dawn our Jeep crawls over the deserted roads that traverse southern Chile’s Torres del Paine national park, searching for pumas. The day before, my guide and I had spotted puma tracks and scat while hiking, lending support to another guide’s comment that “puma are everywhere” in this park, the jewel of Chile’s Patagonia region.

To read the full story, click the link above.

Seeing Yosemite through a blind man’s vision, Alaska Beyond, April 2016

“Close your eyes and you’ll see what I mean,” says my skiing companion Walt as we traverse the 10-mile trail to Yosemite’s Glacier Point. My friend Walt is legally blind, unable to see the grandeur of Half Dome and the park’s other landmarks. But on that day in February 2009, he showed me that there are many ways of seeing, feeling and sensing the park’s majesty. When my editor at Alaska Beyond (Alaska Airlines’ inflight magazine) asked me to write an essay for a special feature last April to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, skiing with Walt was the first thing that came to mind.

Kayaking to see bears at Alaska’s Pack Creek, Alaska magazine, Aug. 2015

Our guide had us check every pocket to make sure we weren’t carrying any food that might attract bears. Yet the grizzlies seem to be running through the drizzly afternoon straight at us.

Sweet home Chicago: Blues, baseball and barbecue, Inspirato, Summer 2015

Sometimes, if you’ve worked with an editor for a while, she approaches you with an assignment. And occasionally she opens the door to your dream story. When my editor at Inspirato suddenly had an opening for a feature and asked me to pitch a story about Chicago, I sent in essence a three-word reply: “Blues, baseball, barbecue.” Ultimately I got the assignmet and wrote about my favorite aspects of the City of Big Shoulders.
Here’s an excerpt from the story: Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”
That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

Anti-cyclist rant by Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meat in Sebastopol

“I have some suggestions for these Tour de Speedbump contestants. First, anyone not in single file and/or on the right side of the solid white line is fair game.” -Adam Parks

Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully suspended for PEDs

LOS ANGELES — Veteran Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was suspended today by Major League Baseball for 50 games after performance enhancing drugs were found in the announcer’s booth at the Dodgers’ spring training stadium in Glendale, Ariz. A random search found No Doz and Sudafed in Scully’s section of the booth, which contain […]

SF Chronicle: Holding on to a travel companion who wouldn’t let go

“Michael!” my father shouted, shattering my reverie. Behind me, I saw him and the biggest wave I’d ever witnessed, both zooming toward me. My father grabbed my hand — we were too far out to beat the wave to shore. After a few terrifying seconds, the wave began to curl over us in slow motion and enveloped us with unrelenting force. The surf spun us around like driftwood; my father’s grip tightened. As the wave slammed us into the scabrous ocean floor, he held on. And when the undertow began to suck us out to sea, his grip remained strong as he swam us — with his one free arm — toward the shore.