Saturday, December 25, 2010

He has the golden touch

Terry Whyte found his calling when he watched a teacher demonstrate silver soldering during a class in college. From that point on, he's made jewelry of all kinds, while getting much of his inspiration from the world around him -- particularly the ocean. His profile, for my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keeping up with the Smiths

Alex Smith and Troy Smith, quarterbacks for the San Francisco 49ers, are a one-of-a-kind combo in the NFL. Check out this item that ran on's Page 2:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Remembering "San Diego Stinkin' State" ...

Before SDSU tasted its success in both football and basketball under coaches Brady Hoke and Steve Fisher, it went through some tough times and a lot of dissing. Remembering some of those embarrassing moments on's Page 2 blog:

The former Brown still bleeds Red & Black ...

Brian Sipe once was an All-America quarterback at SDSU and the MVP of the National Football League with the Cleveland Browns. Now, he's back at San Diego State as quarterbacks coach and the Aztecs are in their first bowl games since 1998.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The place to go for a cup of Joe...

Jitters is a cool name for a coffee shop. It's an old-fashioned little neighborhood place in downtown La Mesa with a lot of character. And Jessica Beedy, a barista at Jitters, is a fun woman with a lot of character herself, who feeds the caffeine cravings of her customers. My profile of her for my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Man in the Red Suit

Sean Celecki has been playing Santa Claus for 24 years, the last 14 in the same mall. You wear the red suit that long, you have some stories. My profile of him in my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Padres' "Curse of the Iguana"

With the trading of Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres have protected one of the longest records in the major leagues: Nate Colbert's puny team home record of 163, set back in the early '70s. My item on the "Curse of the Iguana" that ran on's Page 2:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A place to run wild

For almost 10 years now, Canine Corners has been the place to be if you're a dog owner in the La Mesa area, a leash-free, fenced-in park where owners can let their friends safely run wild. A look at the park, its people and its dogs in my "Faces and Places" column:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Comic Book Guy

Since Fred Adair opened up his own store four years ago -- Crazy Fred's -- it's been a haven for fans of comic books abd the game "Magic: The Gathering." Here's the profile of "Crazy Fred" for my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"#@^*&! The Writers Write," Part III

More fun with words (spelling/word-choice mistakes I've found recently in the stories I edit for websites):

-- An exercise regiment. (The whole 7th Cavalry was doing push-ups!)
-- Add a little Cheyenne pepper. (Those Indian spices can be hot.)
-- Horizontal Airlines. (I wonder if Horizon Air knows it's gone flat?)
-- The Straight of Magellan. (He just sailed ... well, straight, I guess.)
-- Use course sandpaper. (Of coarse!)
-- This is suburb to cook with ... (Especially outside the city.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

San Diego's Winter Wonderland

Winter in San Diego sometimes is more beautiful than summer. There's no June Gloom and the crowds are down, so locals and visitors often go camping at the state beach parks in Carlsbad and Cardiff. My feature on those winter beach campers in the Union-Tribune:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Queen of the water

Becky Jackman has swum the English Channel, the Catalina Channel and the 28.5-mile circuit around Manhattan to complete the "triple crown" of open-water ocean swimming. She also runs the La Mesa aquatic program. Her story, which ran as part of the "A Living in La Mesa" series:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Calm, cool and collected in the operating room

When I met Liz Mourar  for the first time, she was in cycling gear, wheeling her bike through the main lobby at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Cycling, cooking, the beach, golf and her animals keep her balanced after stressful days running an operating room all day long. Her story, for my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bill Walton on "Billy Walton"

Bill Walton has had an amazing career, first as a basketball player -- perhaps the finest, most dominating college player of all time -- and then as a sports commentator. He very graciously took time to talk with me at his beautiful home near Balboa Park in San Diego, where he described what it was like to grow up in La Mesa in the 1950s and '60s.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

La Mesa's history hidden in park

Collier Park is a little shabby around its edges, a park that's a bit hidden and out of the way for most folks to visit or use. But it's truly at the heart of La Mesa's history. This is another in my "Faces and Places" columns about La Mesa.

Monday, November 1, 2010

He's the King of the Kitchen

Larry Lewis is a master chef, and the instructor and program director of the San Diego Culinary Institute. I really enjoyed my time speaking with him for this profile for "A Living in La Mesa."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vexing varmints vs. vegetables

If you're a gardener, you know how frustrating it is to have your prized produce ruined or eaten by some varmint that thinks your back yard is a salad bar. This story ran as the centerpiece in the San Diego Union-Tribune's Smart Living section, with a great illustration by Cristina Martinez Byviik:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Look into my eyes ..."

Judy Callihan Warfield is a hypnotherapist who works with people to help them lose weight, quit smoking, sleep better or deal with severe health problems. Here's her profile that ran in my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hiking the Double Peak Trail

The Double Peak Trail in San Marcos is a 5-mile roundtripper to one of North County San Diego's highest peaks. The only real challenge is if you're not paying attention and almost step on a rattlesnake. Here's the story I did for the San Diego Union-Tribune's regular hiking feature:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

He delivers

For more than 20 years, Robb Vermeyen has delivered the mail in La Mesa. He's also a non-stop activity addict who's always on the move. Here's his profile in my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"#@^*&! The Writers Write," Part II

More fun fodder from funny folks who write for the websites I edit:

"Vegetable-friendly restaurants" (instead of vegetarian-friendly): Well hello there Mr. Carrot!
"The menu includes fried plantations": Just a guess, but I think that's plantains.
"They stalk the cupboards": Using very stealthy chefs, I suppose.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Just a day at the park ...

La Mesa is filled with parks and places where people regularly gather. One of those places, little-known Aztec Park, is the subject of my first "Faces and Places" column that will run on the La Mesa Patch site:

He does organ transplants

Randy Jarvis has carved out a niche career, specializing in restoring the types of Hammond organs used by 1960s and '70s rock bands. Now that musicans again want that sound, he's selling those instruments around the world. Here's the story on him for my "A Living in La Mesa" column:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hey, it's "A Living..."

I'll be doing a weekly column called "A Living in La Mesa" where I talk to people about their jobs, what they entail, how they got into their careers and what they like (and don't like) about them. Here's the first one, about the head librarian in La Mesa, Liz Hildreth:

A coach on a mission

There are some football coaches who win no matter where they go. Troy Starr, who coaches at Helix High in La Mesa, is one of those. Here's my profile of Starr:

Friday, September 24, 2010

"#@^*&! The Writers Write," Part I

One of my jobs is to work as a copy editor for several websites. Often, the material is dry. But it brings a bit of joy to my day to be able to fix the hanging fruit of stupid or lazy mistakes. (I think, "Well, at least I'm smarter than that guy!") In the last couple of weeks, for instance, I came across these rotten peaches:

Marine Core (they're looking for a few good apples?)
Statue of limitations (what, the statue had no arms?)
Great Smokey Mountains (nope, no "e" in Smoky... and the entire story was about this misspelled region)

Also, one story about the best bike tours of D.C. included a whole section on Segway rentals (ahh, Segways are those motorized stand-up scooters. D'oh!).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Snark attack

This was a short blog item I did for's Page 2. It's snarky, sure, but if anybody ever deserved a little snark, it's Shawne Merriman.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From the 2004 Olympics: "Impossible is nothing"

Dimas can't quite give Greek fans golden goodbye
By Doug Williams
August 22, 2004
ATHENS, Greece – Impossible was saying goodbye.
Impossible was saying thank you.
Impossible, for Greece, was this ending to a glorious career.
Last night at Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall, Greek superstar Pyrros Dimas came up short in his quest to become the first man to win four consecutive weightlifting gold medals.
He had been the gold standard for his sport, a man whose face is on billboards across this city with his motto, "Impossible is nothing." A man who twice has carried the nation's banner in Opening Ceremonies and took gold in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. A man the Greeks refer to only as Pyrros – no last name needed.
But on this night – when nearly 5,000 people jammed into this cozy new double-decked building – Pyrros won bronze in the 187-pound class.
But no matter. The people had come to cheer him, and that's what they did.
They waved flags. They sang songs. They chanted his name and applauded his every move. And, when he stood on the podium to receive his bronze medal and his olive wreath, they didn't stop.
For more than four minutes, as he stood with moist eyes and touched his heart in a gesture of appreciation, the Greeks chanted "Pyrros!" and "Hellas!"
Finally, weightlifting officials stepped in to present the silver medal to Andrei Rybakou of Belarus and the gold to George Asanidze of Georgia.
Afterward, Asanidze was asked what it was like to have to wait and watch while the bronze medalist was showered with the kind of cheers athletes only dream of.
"I want to say Pyrros Dimas is not the bronze medal winner," Asanidze said. "He is a three-time Olympic champion."
After the ceremony, after he had climbed into the stands to kiss his wife and three children – then brought the little ones to the medal stand, each clad in a T-shirt with a giant "4" (for a hoped-for fourth gold) – Dimas was appreciative and understanding of his fans' affection.
"The Games are in Greece," he said through an interpreter at a news conference. "The stands are packed by Greeks. They knew what I've been going through with medical problems and surgeries (since Sydney) and in the last few days (an injured wrist that had to be wrapped last night).
"They showed me their love and affection and I dearly thank them for that."
Added Asanidze, explaining the Greeks' relationship with Dimas: "He has an aura around him."
If this sports story had had a perfect ending, of course, it would have been Dimas with the gold around his neck, not bronze.
But on his final try in the clean-and-jerk, in a lift of 457.5 pounds that would have put him in first place, Dimas could not pull off the miracle.
He lifted the bar to his chest but couldn't raise it above his head. He fell backward, the weights falling in front of him. He stayed on his back for a moment, then got up and took off his shoes deliberately. He set them to the side of the mat, and walked away.
From a gold medal, from the Olympics, from his career.
At 32, Dimas is retiring.
It has been a long, circuitous career.
He was born in Albania but is of Greek heritage (his grandparents were Greek). He began his international career lifting for Albania, competing as Pirro Dhima until 1990. But that year, he approached the president of the Greek weightlifting federation about moving to Greece, and he did so later that year.
Since then, Dimas has become a superstar.
Three Olympic golds, including his first in 1992 when his shout of "For Greece!" after his winning lift forever captured the hearts of Hellas. Seven World Championship golds. He has a stadium named in his honor.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Greece essentially had three comets it was riding into these Games: sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, and Dimas. Two of those comets exploded before Opening Ceremonies. But Dimas remained, although in the past three years he has been beset with injuries to both shoulders and a leg.
Then he suffered a wrist injury this week but said he would compete anyway.
Last night, in the two disciplines combined in the weightlifting finals, the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, Dimas lifted a total of 832 pounds, 5.5 pounds shy of the silver, 13 pounds light of tying for the gold.
He did his best, and that seemed good enough, for both him and his fans.
It was impossible for the cheers to stop.

Of juiced players and juicy baseball stories

 A 2005 story from the San Diego Union-Tribune about the best baseball books ever:
By Doug Williams
It was a big league ballplayer writing a book about drugs, late-night carousing, infidelity, locker-room mischief, contract squabbles and his struggle to keep alive a fading career.
It knocked the cover off baseball and made its author a cover story.
The writer?  Jim Bouton, not Jose Canseco.
Almost 35 years before Canseco's "Juiced" helped spur Congressional hearings about drugs and steroids in baseball, Bouton's "Ball Four" was baseball's first book of revelations.
"It certainly started the whole genre of tell-all sports books," said Jim Gates, library director for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. "And it's one of the most-known baseball books."
In a sport buried in books -- everyone from George Will to Lenny Dykstra has written one, and Gates says there are 100-400 new titles each year -- it could be argued "Ball Four" ranks among the most influential.
Influential doesn't necessarily mean best, of course, although "Ball Four" would probably make a top 10 for both, with its humor, clarity and relevance.  The New York Public Library put it on its 100 "Books of the Century" list, and Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary called it "arguably the most influential baseball book ever written, and one which changed the face of sportswriting and our conception of what it means to be a professional athlete."
Rating the most influential books may be more of an art than a science.
Gates, when asked his opinion, has what he calls his "big five": "The Glory of Their Times," the "Boys of Summer," "Only the Ball Was White," the "Baseball Encyclopedia" and "Play Ball."
Only one thing is certain: baseball inspires writers.
"Baseball, boxing, golf and fly fishing produce the greatest (sports) literature," Gates said, citing perhaps the "contemplative time" those sports have.
A closer look at baseball's most influential books:
Ball Four
Author/published: Jim Bouton/1970
Synopsis: Former Yankees star Bouton kept a diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, as he tried to hang on as a knuckleball pitcher.  In the process, he didn't pull punches.  He talked about Mickey Mantle's drinking, Whitey Ford's cheating, players' widespread use of "greenies" (amphetamines) and the unfairness of the reserve clause that restricted player movement.
Impact: For the first time, fans found out their "heroes" were human, and Bouton provided the spark for later tell-alls.  It also has been suggested that Bouton, by peeling the cover off the reserve clause, helped kill it.
The Baseball Encyclopedia
Author/published: Macmillan Publishing/1969
Synopsis: For the first time, baseball geeks had an ultimate reference book.  Anybody who had ever appeared in a big league game could be looked up, along with year-by-year lineups, league leaders, individual stats and trades.
Impact: For nearly 30 years, "The Baseball Encyclopedia" was the official record book of Major League Baseball.  It sparked a generation of number-crazed fans -- Bill James and the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) types -- to pore over numbers, and it was the source for settling bets and proving points.  And, after watching "Field of Dreams," looking up Moonlight Graham.  It no longer is published, but it begat other baseball bibles, such as "Total Baseball," now MLB's official source.
Baseball Abstract
Author/published: Bill James/1977
Synopsis: At first, a newsletter; then a thick, annual book, looking at baseball numbers and challenging long-held tenets.  In his first "Abstract," James challenged the way fielding stats were collected and interpreted and examined which catchers allowed the most stolen bases.
Impact: Even baseball executives began to read James and embrace his theories.  The Red Sox eventually hired him as an adviser.
Author/published: Michael Lewis/2003
Synopsis: Lewis studied how the business practices of the small-revenue Oakland A's allowed them to compete against large-revenue teams.  How GM Billy Beane got the most from the least, by embracing valuable and often-overlooked qualities in ballplayers not valued by other organizations.
Impact: In a copycat culture, other organizations began to think like the A's. GMs in Los Angeles, Toronto and Boston are "Moneyball" disciples.  The Hall of Fame's Gates, for one, isn't willing to put it on his list yet, because every book should be given time.  "Let's wait and see," he said.

Rotisserie League Baseball
Editor/published: Glen Waggoner/1984
Synopsis: Waggoner and Daniel Okrent spelled out rules and regs for Rotisserie baseball, in which fans can draft players and create their own teams, with results based on actual MLB player performances.
Impact: Casual fans became hooked on box scores; newspapers, Web sites, magazines and networks now cater to Roto fans' hunger for stats; and now we have fantasy football, NASCAR, basketball, etc.  "It's withstood the test of time," said Gates, who says its birth came at the perfect time; in the era of free agency when your hometown team can trade your favorite player, a fan can control his Roto players.
Author/published: Jose Canseco/2005
Synopsis: One of baseball's best power hitters admits he used steroids, and says many others did, too.  He names lots of names and offers a tribute to the benefits of steroids.
Impact: Following Ken Caminiti's death and the BALCO revelations, Canseco's book prompted Congress to hold hearings on baseball's drug testing, which resulted in proposed stiffer drug-use penalties.
The Glory of their Times
Author/published: Lawrence S. Ritter / 1966
Synopsis: Players of the early 20th century tell their tales.
Impact: It's important, says Gates, because of its sheer popularity and its continuing strong sales.  The book paints human pictures not only of stars but, more importantly, everyday players and the game as it was.

The Boys of Summer
Author/published: Roger Kahn/ 1972
Synopsis: A tribute to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the '50s by a newspaper reporter who covered the team.
Impact: Same as "The Glory of their Times."  Said Gates: "Everybody could relate to it."
Only the Ball Was White
Author/published: Robert W. Peterson / 1970
Synopsis: The story of the Negro Leagues and its stars.
Impact: Peterson exposed the public to the exploits of wonderful players overshadowed by white baseball.  Many of Peterson's subjects became Hall of Famers over the next decade, such as "Cool Papa" Bell, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston.
Play Ball
Author/published: Mike "King" Kelly / 1888
Synopsis: The Hall of Famer's story of baseball and 19th-century America.
Impact: The first baseball autobiography, and a popular book at the time. Kelly was the No. 1 star of his era, a man who transcended his game, went into Vaudeville, battled alcoholism and died before age 40.

Olympic softball comeback

 From the 2000 Olympics in Sydney:
By Doug Williams
SYDNEY -- It has come to this: The best women's softball team in the world, winner of 112 straight, gold medalist in Atlanta, winner of every world championship since 1986, was overjoyed just to get a win.
"Yeah, we're on a winning streak!" shouted Dot Richardson, fist raised, after the United States' 2-0 victory over New Zealand yesterday at the Olympic Softball Center in Blacktown.
A loss yesterday -- after a shocking three straight losses in this tournament -- likely would have been the kiss of death for the Americans' medal hopes.
But the U.S. win enables Dot and her cohorts to control their own destiny.
The top four teams in the eight-team tournament make Monday's semifinals. The final spot will go to either the United States (now 3-3) or Italy (2-3 entering last night's game with undefeated Japan).
The Americans play Italy tomorrow night in the final preliminary-round game.  If they win, they're in.  If Italy upsets Japan and then beats the Americans, Team USA goes home.  Right now, the Americans are hoping for a little help from Japan to straighten things out.

They figure they've already gotten a little help from the softball gods.
After Thursday's third straight loss, this one to Australia, the American team had a cleansing -- literally.
Players, dressed in the white uniforms they wore yesterday, all jumped into a big shower at the Athletes Village, turned on the jets and washed away all the bad.  They tossed a softball around the room, each player taking her turn to say something positive when the ball came her way.
"Whatever it takes to win," said third baseman Lisa Fernandez, who finally got her first hit of this Olympics, breaking an 0-for-20 slump.  "Like Dot said: `The voodoo's gone.' We're ready to rock 'n' roll."
The U.S. team rocked early, taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a home run Jennifer Brundage pulled down the left-field line, then went up 2-0 in the fourth when Brundage singled and came around on a single, a wild pitch and Richardson's groundout.
That was enough for U.S. pitchers Lori Harrigan and Christa Williams, who combined to shut out New Zealand on one hit while striking out eight.
It was a nice change for Team USA. A win, and a win in just seven innings after going 0-3 over 38 innings the previous three days against Australia (13 innings), China (14) and Japan (11).
Now, Italy awaits.  Win, and Team USA is in medal play.  The win against New Zealand, plus another over Italy, would put the U.S. in a fourth-place vs. third-place game.  The winner of that would play the loser of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 semifinal.  And then: the final.
"Right now we just want five in a row," said Richardson.  "We want five a lot more than we did 112."

Willie Mays' 600th home run ball

This story was about a San Diego man recalling the night in 1969 when he caught Willie Mays' 600th career home run ball at San Diego Stadium. The story appearedin the San Diego Union-Tribune in August of 2002:

Al Frolander didn't see Barry Bonds' 600th home run.

It would have been hard for Frolander to relate to the scene of a melee 10 days ago in the center-field stands at Pac Bell Park, the writhing scrum of
fans fighting to retrieve the ball.

Jay Arsenault of Vacaville eventually emerged with the treasure held high, his face bloody.  It was a souvenir worth fighting for, valued by some
estimates anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million.

But it was a scene 33 years -- and light years, culturally -- removed from the moment Frolander held aloft Willie Mays' 600th home run ball at what
was then known as San Diego Stadium.

There was no scrambling, no fighting, no vision of an instant cash payoff. There was ... no problem.

"No, there weren't many people at the ballpark that night," said Frolander, 47, now a stockbroker in Encinitas.  In an era before players became
millionaires and their memorabilia could be cashed in like stock options, just 4,779 fans showed up that night to see the Giants and Mays, locked on
599 homers, play the Padres.

Mays, in fact, wasn't supposed to play that night, Sept. 22, 1969, because of a sore knee.  But with the Giants in the pennant race, he was sent up as
a pinch hitter with the score 2-2 in the seventh inning to face the Padres' Mike Corkins.

And because Al's dad, Al Frolander Sr., knew baseball and guessed that Mays would be coming on, young Al got to share in Mays' moment.

Frolander, then 15, was at the game with his dad, sister Coral and brother John, sitting in their season seats in the front row of the Field Level,
near third base.

"My dad told me a batter or two before that Willie might be coming up," said Frolander.  "So I took off running with my brother.  Up from Field Level, down the stairs, up the long cement stairs to Plaza Level, then out and around to left field.

"Just as I got there I heard cheers, then saw the ball flying into the seats."

Al had gotten a lead on his brother by sliding under a barrier.  As he zeroed in on the ball, an usher beat him to it ... but then flipped it to him.

But he didn't keep it.  He quickly gave the ball up to several Padres officials who converged on him, saying the ball "was going straight to the Hall of Fame."  In return, they promised him bats, balls and a hat from the Giants and Mays. He was also hoping to get Padres season tickets for 1970.

Frolander was taken down to the Giants dugout and clubhouse after the game, an experience that was like a blur as he was "whisked around."

The Giants, he said, were excited about the 4-2 win courtesy of Mays' two-run shot, some chanting, "We beat the spoilers," in reference to the expansion Padres.  In the clubhouse, Frolander and Mays were brought together, and Mays signed a baseball for him ("Best wishes, Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants") and they had their picture taken together.  Frolander
also received another ball signed by the entire team, and a hat.

But the promised bats never came ... and neither did the season tickets.

"They had a promotion the next night, when Willie was supposed to play," Frolander said.  "Whoever caught Mays' 600th home run that night was going to win two season tickets for the next year.  In those days, because the crowds were small, the left-field stands weren't even open.  But they were going to open them up."

He'd hoped that catching the ball a night early would still count.  It didn't.

Today, he's still a big baseball fan.  His daughter, Hayley, 10, has become a fan as well, and in fact just recently got a player at a Padres game to
flip her a ball.

The two balls Frolander received that night are displayed in his office at his home, as is the picture of him and Mays after the game that ran on the
front page of the San Diego Evening Tribune the next day.  A few years after the 600th home run, in fact, Frolander's mother, Cora, was able to get Mays to autograph the photo (again, "Best wishes, Willie Mays").

Frolander knows that if he'd kept the home run ball back then, it would be worth a small (or maybe even medium-size) fortune today.  But the thought
never occurred to him to keep it.

"Afterward, maybe.  But not then," he said.  "It wasn't really that big a deal then."

He has, however, visited the ball.

At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., a few years ago, he had his picture taken in front of the display of the ball and the bat Mays used
that night.

As he thinks about what might have been, though -- if he'd kept the ball -- he laughs.  Because he knows what he might have done with it.

These days, the ball Mays signed for him that night is a bit hard to read.

"I was only 15 when I got it," he says.  "I think I played catch with it a few times."

Eating kangaroo

In 2000, I covered the Olympics in Sydney, Australia.  This story appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Sept. 17, 2000:

SYDNEY -- I had to choke me kangaroo down, sport.
Before me was a beautiful dish, elegantly presented.  Grilled meat, covered in Japanese ponzu dressing, on a bed of native Australian beets, warrigl greens and kumera, a kind of sweet potato.
It looked like any other red meat, but this was kangaroo, the meat I – and many other foreigners here -- had been hearing about ... and thinking of trying.
So I stared it down, put the thoughts of what I was eating in the back of my brain and dug in.  I didn't savor it, I just tried to get it down as fast
as I could.  But guess what -- it wasn't bad.  Nothing special, a little gamey.  But not bad.
A lot of other visitors to the Olympics have tried it, too, probably as much out of curiosity as anything.
Jennice Kersh is the owner of The Press Table at Olympic Park, which is an offshoot of her rather famous (or infamous) restaurant in Sydney called Edna's Table that specializes in indigenous Australian foods: kangaroo, crocodile, wallaby and emu, along with native vegetables, herbs and spices.
Kersh says foreigners have been flocking to her restaurant.
"The kangaroo is just walking out the door," she said.
That it's not walking out on its own two legs is what's causing a bit of a ruckus down here.
People think Australia, they think kangaroo, all furry and big-eyed.  They don't think about it sliced, with beets.
The World League for Protection of Animals is distributing flyers at Olympic Park and in Sydney, urging people to stay away from kangaroo meat. Tying it in with the Games, the WLPA folks are saying it's a crime to eat the Aussies' best athlete (the greatest jumper and runner on the continent, they say in their flyers). And killing or maiming the animals – the nation's symbol -- is needless and cruel.
Paul McCartney and Brigitte Bardot led a campaign to stop Kersh from being allowed to sell kangaroo at Olympic Park, a completely inappropriate place to push the Australians' "new" meat, they say.
Kersh, who grew up eating kangaroo stew, dismisses them both as "middle-aged carrot-killers."
"There's just great sentiment because of Skippy," she said, referring to a popular Aussie cartoon character.  "It's an emotional issue. (This controversy) is all Skippy's fault."  Kersh and other Aussies who want to see a boom in commercial kangaroo meat praise it for being low in cholesterol and a healthy alternative to beef or mutton.
Halina Thompson of the WLPA claims the killing of kangaroos is just plain brutal.
No matter the controversy, though, people keep walking into Kersh's restaurants and ordering 'roo.
Damn the sacrilege, full speed ahead.
"One of my friends, an Australian, came in and ordered the emu and the kangaroo," said Press Table chef Stuart Daly.  "His comment was, `I just ate both animals in our coat of arms.'"