Tuesday, June 27, 2006


In Which I Am 0 for 2...

If you're reading this, you'll know I survived my trip--after a fashion.

As ever, I'm amazed at how tired one can be after traveling, even though you spend most of that travel time sitting around on your ass. I spent the better part of my quality ass time in four hotels (or was it 5?), in the viewing rooms of 10 focus groups, on roughly 12 planes (though one was really small enough to qualify as an SUV with wings and a shitload of horsepower), and on an uncountable number of airport lounge chairs. (Except at Newark where my connecting flight, rather than simply being delayed three hours, was delayed AND moved to six different gates, two of which were at the very Ass End of two different concourses. So instead of waiting in any one place, I was doing the airline equivalent of a circuit training course).

The highlight of my travels was the moment in the Memphis airport when I was randomly selected for the full security screening and pat-down, a first for me and boy, wasn't it a treat. A large and jovial fellow pulled me aside and began feeling me in places that even Her Lovely Self hasn't touched in months, then waved his Garrett metal-detecting wand at me, which reminded me of when I was little and how my mother used to assault me from head to toe with a lint brush (I tended to accumulate a lot of hair that wasn't my own).

My jovial security man turned briefly serious when his wand began beeping wildly every time he passed it over my face. Although not a trained security professional myself, I offered the uninformed opinion that the cause of the disquieting alarm was most likely due to my glasses. My metal-framed glasses. I removed them and handed them to the gentleman. He set them aside very seriously and waved the wand over my face again--just in case I had a tactical nuclear device in a nostril. Then he inspected the glasses as though he had never seen metal-framed eyewear before. Or perhaps I am having too much fun at his expense. After all, Archimedes allegedly burned up an entire fleet of ships with a polished mirror. Imagine the destructive power I could bring to bear if I were able to use my lenses to focus sunlight into laser-intense beams. He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it, right?

I didn't mention this, of course, because it's against the law to have a sense of humor at any airport screening section, as one long ago boss found out when he joked that his 5-day old socks were "dirty bombs" and spent the next 12 hours as a guest of the federal government. But he was an ass, so that's okay.

The very best part of the experience, though, was the inspection of my baggage. If you've had this experience, you know that Murphy's Law dictates that the most embarrassing things will unfailingly fall out of your bag and perhaps even travel some distance across the floor, the better for more people to see.

In my case, of course, the item that popped out was Jenny, the small stuffed fox that the Brownie had sent traveling with me.


To the security officer's great credit, he didn't laugh or point or say anything, even as he carefully squeezed and massaged Jenny for possible plush breaches of security. Myself, I managed to muster every scintilla of restraint so as to resist blurting out some kind of explanation. After all, it's nobody's business, is it? So I stood there, smiling benignly, looking for all the world as though I traveled with stuffed foxes every day. Finally, the officer returned Jenny to her resting place and I was allowed to continue on my travels.

Sorry, his resting place. I keep forgetting Jenny is a boy (according to my daughter).

So it was too bad, really, that on the last leg of my journey, as I sat in yet another uncomfortable chair in yet another airline terminal, waiting for yet another connecting flight, I was wading through my carry-on bag for a book and realized that I was quite unable to account for Jenny.

My casual sifting became a frenzied rooting as wrinkled shirts, wadded socks, undies in bunches and more traveling detritus were all hurled from the bag in an increasingly desperate attempt to locate the precious Jenny. But after an inspection so detailed and invasive it would have qualified me for an airport security job, I was forced to conclude the unthinkable: that fucking fox was gone.

I laid back in my lounge seat and summoned what few wits I had left, trying to remember the last time I'd seen the damn thing. It had been the night before, at the Marriott hotel in Charlotte. I had been packing my clothes for an early check-out the next day--we had an 8 AM focus group to attend and were leaving for the airport straight after, so my bags were going with me. I distinctly remembered seeing--even holding--Jenny. I was 99 percent certain I had stuffed him in the side pouch where I keep my good shoes. But I had checked both shoes--two or three times, if you want to know the truth--and there was nothing.

So here's me at an airport phone kiosk, calling the hotel in Charlotte. It wasn't too late, but the very sleepy sounding young man who answered would have begged to differ, had he been capable of it. "Marrya Charla. Howmydreck yer call?" he slurred into the receiver.

It took several tries, but I finally managed to convey to the night manager that I was trying to locate a stuffed fox, which would have been in Room 230 and was there any chance that some kind-hearted chambermaid might have found the fox and put it into some kind of lost-and-found box?

Eventually, I was able to the discern from his mumbled replies that corralling wayward plush toys for traveling businessmen was not in his job description, and that I would do well to call during normal business hours, when the housekeeping manager would be on duty and could look in the lost-and-found box located in the housekeeping office.

Except that, having just been there, I knew the housekeeping office was about 10 feet behind the night manager (I went there myself the night before to request some extra towels. I like extra towels). And so, through a combination of groveling and what, given his state of consciousness, could only have been the power of suggestion, I managed to compel the increasingly surly fellow to traverse the 10-foot distance and confirm that the lost-and-found box in the housekeeping office contained no stuffed animals, only the usual contents of lost-and-found boxes the world over: dark wool caps bearing the logos of sports team, an empty fanny pack, assorted cosmetics well past their used-by date, and an Isotoner glove missing its mate.

The night manager hung up on me, thus saving me the trouble of thanking him for nothing.

I sat for a moment, drumming my fingers on my carry-on bag, trying to figure out a Plan B which, it turned out, was staring me in the face. For, across the concourse from me was one of many airport gift shops.

That's right, sports fans, in addition to overpriced soda and breath mints, you can also find a wide and astonishing assortment of shut-the-kid-up products in most major airport gift shops. Coloring books, Matchbox cars, video games, and shelf after shelf of stuffed animals. In one shop, ostensibly a news agent's, they had more plush toys than magazines or newspapers. I suppose it makes sense: you get to the airport and your little tyke suddenly goes into hysterics because That Special Bear/Bunny/Wolverine was accidentally left at home. No one wants a screaming kid on a plane, so the gift shops perform the admirable--if pricey--public service of stocking every kind of stuffed animal imaginable.


I know, because I looked. In the 45 minutes I had before my flight left, I personally handled every plush toy in the airport. They had every species of creature represented--alligators, cardinals, platypuses (platypi?), rattlesnakes, even--and I swear I'm not making this up--giant dust mites. But not one single fox.

Then I realized the background noise I'd been hearing for a few minutes was somebody making final boarding calls for my plane, and I had to run.

Once I was aboard, it occurred to me that finding toy foxes has always been something of a struggle for my family. I remember well when the Brownie asked for her first one some time around the age of three and Her Lovely Self and I turned every store in a hundred-mile radius upside down. We did find a giant and scarily life-sized fox puppet for sale online, but it was around 40 bucks and it was as big as the child herself, so we opted not to pursue it. We finally found a Beanie Baby fox and thought that would do.

As usual, though, my parents trumped us. When the Brownie's birthday arrived, my mom gave her an enormous wrapped box that contained--natch--the giant fox puppet and a slightly smaller stuffed fox that my dad had found in some godforsaken Vermont gift shop in the middle of nowhere. The giant fox puppet became known as Big Mama Fox and today generally resides in the Foxhole (the Brownie's secret room behind her closet), while the other fox from my parents became the famous Foxo. Our pitiful little Beanie Fox became Jenny, and for a while he spent most of his time inside the puppet handhole of Big Mama who, with the aid of my daughter, would "give birth" to him several times a day (she watches a lot of Animal Planet so she knows the rudiments of mammal reproduction).

Jenny was entrusted to me for the precise reason that he was the least favorite of the foxes, but as I flew towards home in an emotional state that can only be called growing dread, I knew his absence would nevertheless be detected immediately. The Brownie knew these foxes were hard to come by, and every night when I called from the hotel, she'd ask if Jenny was all right. I'd stare at him poking out of my carry-on and assure her that he was safe and sound. "Good," she'd say. "He's very special." And what had I done? I'd lost him. And I just knew it would be the first thing the Brownie would ask me in the morning, when she woke up.

As it turned out, I was wrong about that.

Because when I finally got home after dark and sheepishly let myself in, I was somewhat astonished to discover that my 5-year-old daughter was still up, well past her bedtime. When she saw me, she rushed from the sofa, yelling my name over and over. I was briefly elated--it's always nice to have someone be happy to see you (besides our dog Blaze, I mean). Then I remembered my terrible sin and braced myself for the inevitable question.

But it never came.

For after she hugged me, she stepped away, looked at me with glistening eyes and said something that made me realize I wouldn't have to worry about Jenny coming up in conversation any time soon.

"Dad," she said, her face very serious. "Somebody came and stole Blazey away...


I actually took in a sharp breath! I hope this turns out well. *hug* to the family.
Clearly it was the same suspect that abducted Jenny.

I hope there's a happy ending to this story.
NO! NO! NO!!
This HAS to be just one of those cliffhanger things where there's a twist in the story and this turns out not to be true. Has. to. be.

[Glad you're home safe, btw.]

*deep breath*

My hair is going to fall out from the suspense!
No! I was expecting the loss of Jenny---really, I was---but not Blaze!! Please let us know everything is okay.

(I just finished duly reading Marley and Me and desperately need a happy ending.)
Ooooohhhhh Maaaaaannnn... Dude, that is not good. I said a prayer for Blazey Bellow Hoska Boo Boo Ba Doo, although I am to guess that this adventure is already over, save the telling. Still, I'm really nervous.

Also, what Shafa said, I said it too, except I used many of my favorite curse words.

I'll keep saying it until you get the book contract: You are an astonishing talent, a writer who is the painted bunting.
Count me in on the praying for the (please, please already) safe return of Master Blaze. Don't keep us hanging on this one, Also, add me to that list of "waiting for a book we can actually obtain".

And, speaking of fun things to have seen in your luggage, (I was fortunate enough that it wasn't during a search, so there was no rolling), it's a barrel of laughs when they see your, ummmm, older people toys requiring batteries in their x-ray machine thingy. He pressed his little pause button, got closer, closer still, closer one more time, then smirked as he looked at me and said "Ohhh, that's yours". Fun times, fun times.
BLAZEY!!!!!! :(
ok my heart is in my throat.

I am just gonna sit here and hit refresh until you tell me it's all ok now...
Man, I hope Blaze turned up ok. My parents' dog passed on a few years ago...and I still really miss him. He had a full life, though. I hope it's GOOD news in the next chapter.

He has to be ok. He just has to be.

Tell me he's ok, will ya? And if not, then do your MM magic and just lie to us.
That made me want to go and hug my cats!
OMG! Not Blaze! Another one of your cliff hangers. You do realize you're evil right?

On Father's Day Evan and I listened to "This American Life" on NPR and there was a story about a family stuffed animal that was left behind. You should go on Audible and check it out - I'm not saying you should do what that father did, but it's a great story.
Blaze better be okay...he is irreplacable. As for Jenny, well, let's hope she...he...finds his way home to. Lord knows I know all about impossible-to-replace (or FIND) stuffed animals!
NOOOOOOOOOO! Hurry! Write, man, write!!


Hope this has a happy and/or funny ending...
Oh no! Blaze! I'm with the others and keeping my fingers crossed that this has a happy ending. Please don't keep us in suspense too long, this one time it could kill the masses!
For days I was anxiously waiting for your update, now, I am not so sure I like it when you update. Stupid elipses...
I can't even try to be flip....such a soft spot for animals. I hope it is all ok
Yeah, no smart ass comment here, just hope he's OK.

have you considered the Belfrey and/or a connection to the disappearance of your neighbor's Buddy?

I have a beanie fox(model name Sly) who would be honored to join your family if that would help.

And dont feel bad abpout having a travel mascot. lots of peaople do, usually inflicted on them by children or spouses.
"my kid insisted I take him with me" will be enough explanation for almost anyone.

I never let my husband travel without taking Alfee the rubber gator.
Somebody stole Blazey?!?! WTF!?!?! What kind of sick bastard do you have to be to do that to a kid?

Here's hoping the Blaze shows up. And Jenny.

Now I'm going to be preoccupied until I find out Blaze is safe and sound and it was all a big misunderstanding. If not... well, damn it, it had better just be one big misunderstanding...
I was good, and I was patient, but here it is, LUNCHTIME on Wednesday, and there is still no update!!! MM!! COme on!! We all love Blaze, and want to know he is okay!! We are dyin' here man!!
As an aside, if you go to the "Dolls And Bears" section of ebay, you can find a nice assortment of foxes.

Also, seriously, would you please update. I am certain that all this holding my breath business is no good for my health.
I will be quite unhappy of Blaze isn't sitting on your could at your home this VERY MINUTE.

First thought that pops to mind: has a little black car been lurking around your neighbourhood lately? Did your neighbours dog ever turn up again?

Second thought: How's the unstable neighbour doing lately? I doubt that she's capable of actually medling with your dog but.....

I love that your readers are so kind and helpful offering foxes or places to find new ones! What a great bunch of people.

Let's just hope Blaze is just out for a bit of a walk about! Though if he has, shame on him abandoning his post when you are away!
Add me to the "no smart-ass comments" group. I care about the wonderful Blaze as much as I have cared about any animal in literature. My prayers also, if they are not belated.
Someone TOOK Blaze?? Gone? WTF? Please let this have a happy ending!!

Glad you made it back okay. Once I'm assured that Blaze is okay, I'll hope that you used the time to go find another Jenny.

My productivity at work is going to keep declining 'till there's an update.
Ok - since I've been infected with your Jr. detective, I'd start with the last place you saw Jenny: The full security screening.

As for Blaze; my first thought was the manic depressive-poop-on-the-stoop-leaving-neighbor.

I'm not too worried though. Blaze is a master-escape-artist-Superhero. He's going to come charging into the yard, cape flapping in the wind, dragging the bad guy behind him.

very nice post... enjoyed it very much.

Thank you
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