Thursday, April 26, 2007



You'd better sit down for this.

God, I don't even know how to say this, although I've said it a thousand times today--to friends and neighbors, over the phone, in my head, endlessly.

My parents. They're dead.

Mom and Dad. Both gone.

They were on their way here. To meet their new granddaughter, to watch as Thomas made his first Holy Communion, and to celebrate the Brownie's 6th birthday. At 6:40 this morning, they were on the highway. In front of them, some hours earlier, a tractor-trailer had jack-knifed and a wrecker was pulling it off the road. Traffic was temporarily stopped as the tow-truck did its work. My parents were at the head of a line of cars, right in front of the jack-knifed semi.

Behind them, though, another semi came upon the scene. For reasons known only to the driver, it didn't slow down, but slammed full speed into the line of stopped cars. The accident was so bad, it made it briefly onto the morning news cycle on CNN. Eight people were killed in the ensuing pile-up, my parents last of all. Their Jeep was driven into and under the stopped semi in front of them. Mom and Dad were killed on impact.

The state police called the house in New Hampshire, but when my Big Brother didn't answer, they called the next person in the phone book with my family's last name. They got my uncle (my dad's brother) and he got his sister's husband (my uncle David) and together they went looking for BB, finding him at the post office at around 10, where he was getting the mail. BB slumped on the hood of his car and called me on his cell phone. I was at work when I got the call. When he told me, I didn't cry or scream or collapse. Everything just went numb. My face, my tongue, my hands and feet. Everything.

Ten hours later, and after about 50 phone calls, including one with the state trooper who was on the scene, and one with the county coroner who needs to perform an autopsy (they're filing criminal charges against the driver of the semi that failed to slow down. He survived the crash. Insert ironic comment here); after calling my aunt Cathy and telling her her only sister is dead; after calling my boss and telling her I'll be out of the office for a while because I have to bury my parents; after getting my kids out school early and, oh God, sitting them down and telling them Grandma and Papa won't be coming to visit after all, or ever again; after all of that, I still feel numb. I'm still in shock. Still waiting for it to hit. Like a semi.

I have so much to say I find that the words are logjammed and nothing's getting out. Those of you who read here regularly know how much I loved my parents, what joy it gave me to tell stories of them, what pride I took in seeing the pleasure they got from being with my children. Growing up, I did not always have the best relationship with them, especially my Dad. But that was years in the past and I was looking forward to decades more of being with them. They were not meant to die like this, not before I got the chance to introduce them to their new granddaughter; not before I got the chance to repay just a small fraction of the countless kindnesses they performed for me; not before I got a chance to tell my Mom one more time how much I loved her; not before I got a chance to tell my Dad one more time how much I admired him; not before I got the chance to tell them both how lucky and proud I am to be their son.

I can't say for sure when I'll be back--there's just too much going on right now and still very little that's been settled. Eventually, there will be a service and a burial in New Hampshire, but not yet. For now, I have to wait while investigations are concluded, coroners and funeral homes conduct their business, and my brother and I are told at last that we can take Mom and Dad home.

If you're the praying kind, please say a prayer for my parents, and for the six other people who died today. Say a prayer for their families, too. And while you're at it, say a prayer for the driver of that semi. Pray that God will forgive him. I can't quite bring myself to.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Monday, April 23, 2007


In Which the Siblings Have A Sniff...

Glad you enjoyed the images--the maternity ward has a WiFi connection that was working yesterday (but crashed today) which is why you and everyone else were able to get such breaking news. But the full story will have to wait until everyone is back under one roof and I have a moment to get some sleep. I'll need it before I revisit the events of the past 10 days again.

Lord, how time flies. It's been only a little over 24 hours, but already I've taken to calling my new daughter The Eclair, which as you all know, is a delicate little pastry.

Filled with messy goo.

In her short life so far, she has proven to be a prodigy in two areas. Feeding is one (our newborns have historically struggled to get the knack of breast-feeding, but at 15 minutes old, this kid latched herself on and has since showed no desire to break the seal if she can help it). Voiding her tiny little mint-condition bowels is her other area of personal excellence. Already I am sick of those tiny little cute diapers. To me, they're miniscule hand grenades. I grant you, there's a minimum of odor at this age, but that does very little to overcome the voice in my head that cries, Heavens! but that's nasty! at two-hour intervals.

Count on her brother to be impressed by her output, though. He and the Big Sister arrived last night with a dewy-eyed enthusiasm and nigh-reverence that almost brought me to tears (and if your own eyes aren't too brimming, you might spot a little hint as to the Eclair's real name, below).


I was expecting Thomas to be excited and in that regard I was not disappointed. What I didn't expect was that he would end up arguing with the Brownie over rights to hold their little sister. As I've indicated, and as last week's video demonstrated, the Brownie was at best reserved about the arrival of the creature who would soon turn her into a middle child. Evidently, one look at the Eclair was enough to change her mind.


Before they left, Thomas had the clever idea of taking some item of his new sister's clothing home to the one member of the family who couldn't make it to the hospital.

"I read where if dogs sniff a new baby it helps them get ready to have the baby come live with them," Thomas said sagely, as I handed over an absurdly large stretchy cap that contained Essence of Perfect Smelling Baby Head. "I bet Blaze will really like sniffing it," he concluded.

I guess so. According to Thomas, who took the photos, Blaze did this for about an hour.


Then he did this. And has been lying like that ever since.


Luckily, his vigil won't last much longer. Her Lovely Self and the Eclair are scheduled to come home from the hospital tomorrow. But for tonight, they're still there. And since I must be where they are, that's where I'm off to as well.

More tomorrow, once we're home.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Saturday, April 21, 2007


In Which I'd Like You to Meet Someone...

My friends, may I present to you my daughter, born at 2:36 this afternoon?


That's her, at 52 seconds old.

She weighs a smidge over 6 pounds and came out purple and whimpering, then pink and screaming. Currently, she is bellied up to the snack bar at the Pregnant Self Bistro.

Her Lovely Not So Pregnant Self is positively exhausted, drained of energy and strength, as unbathed as I am. She's never looked so beautiful. She is my Amazon queen, that woman. She did the deed with no epidural, but plenty of back labor, followed by lots of tearing. I would be dead by now after such trauma, but she is merely lying in repose, telling me who to call next and working out the details of how her daughter will meet her big brother and sister.


There is so much more to tell--my God but did we have a week of pre-labor awfulness--but somehow it all just blends into the background of just another story.

With one hell of an ending.

More to come. But for now, I have to see to my daughter. Thanks to you all for you good wishes and support.

From Somewhere on the Masthead


In Which We Have Breaking News...

Her Lovely Enormously Pregnant Self is still lovely, of course. She is also still enormously pregnant.

But not for much longer.

The doctor just broke her water.

More as we know it.

From Somewhere on the Maternity Ward

Friday, April 13, 2007


In Which We Say Goodbye...

Oh God.

I feel just awful about this.

Especially since I just cleaned the tank. Not nearly as disastrous as last time. But...why did she have to wait til after I'd cleaned it?

I know, I know, shitty thing to say. I guess she deserved to go out in a clean tank.

I'm just glad that straw-hickey on her fin finally went away.

And NO, I did not drop her in a pot of boiling water.

So...moment of silence, please.


And head on over to Art Lad for the memorial service.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


In Which We Break the News...

Last week, Suldog asked:

How are Thomas and The Brownie handling all of this? With grace and aplomb, no doubt, but just wondering.

Funny you should ask, Jim. Over the weekend, while we were searching for home video of a recent school recital to show to neighbors, I came across this, which I enjoyed mostly because of Thomas' excitement--he's beyond excited about a new sib and his reaction is so damn sincere, you can't help but laugh and cry to watch it.

(Indeed, Thomas is SO enthusiastic about his sister's arrival that when I told him I was posting this video, he suddenly found the energy to compose his first new blog post in months. So, fresh Art Lad, for them as wants it.)

But even funnier, upon second viewing, is the Brownie's near absence of enthusiasm. Her expressions and her body language--note the slumped posture when Thomas lays out his plan for the sleeping arrangements. For the record, she HAS recovered from her shock and talks of nothing but her new sister and how forward she's looking to teaching this angelic child ALL of her tricks and secrets. God help us.

For your edification (after watching the clip): Jenny is the name the Brownie gives to every single one of her stuffed animals. All Jennies, every damn one of them.

We have NO idea where Thomas came up with his choice for the baby's name. And perhaps that's just as well.


From Somewhere on the Masthead

Thursday, April 05, 2007


In Which We Begin the Countdown...

This morning, half-past the crack of dawn, I came downstairs to find Her Lovely Enormously Pregnant Self thrashing and moaning on the couch. Her belly was hard as a rock.

"It's just gas pains," she huffed.

Gas pains that were 9 minutes apart.

Then 7 minutes apart.

Then 5.

(oh fuck)

Then...back up to 7 minutes.

Then 8.

Then 10. Then...gone.

(oh thank you god and sonny jesus cos it's just a little too soon thank you just another three weeks or even two please oh pretty please)

Well I was one nervous wreck, let me tell you. I wasn't going to go to work, until two of the Yummy Mummies from next door and across the street promised to look in regularly and deliver HLEPS to the hospital, if such delivery was called for (oh, and call me too). And anyway, HLEPS made it nakedly clear that she didn't want me hovering around her all day.

"I'm hosting the book club tonight and I have a lot to get done," she said as I pulled her off the couch.

"What?!?" I shrieked in such an incredulously high pitch that Blaze yelped. When it comes to hosting book club, my wife doesn't just crack a bottle of wine and lay out some Ritz and a couple of cans of cheese spray. She makes nibbly bits. Five kinds of them. From scratch. It's an afternoon of bending over a hot stove. And she already has something in the oven that she's working on, you know?

"You are NOT hosting book club!" I said, putting on the voice of The Man.

She just laughed and hugged me around the waist--as far as she could reach, anyway--and waddled off into the kitchen.

"I'm serious!" I said.

"Okay, okay," she said.

But do you think she listened to The Man?

Put it this way: It's 14 hours later, and as I type, I can hear the muffled laughter of eight women talking about Shopaholic & Baby.

Me? I'm upstairs in the guest room watching war movies and eating a supper of Nibbly Bits That Didn't Quite Work Out.

And I think I'm having gas pains.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


In Which We Peer Into My Dreams...

I know I should be writing more about what life is like at the Magazine Mansion as we head into our final weeks as a perfect (hah!) nuclear family with the requisite 2.5 kids. But with the level of discomfort Her Lovely Enormously Pregnant Self is in, I'm afraid most of my entries would be about, well, how uncomfortable HLEPS is and how she copes with it by enumerating my flaws, of which I already knew there were a great deal, but which seeing me reminds her of anyway, and you can only get so much reading value out of that in a given week.

So in lieu of anything meaningful, I offer you the following.

I have started keeping a dream journal again for the first time in probably 15 years. I used to have many varied and intricate dreams from a very young age (vivid recurring ones of the Aubuchon Hardware elephant--he didn't look so fucking happy 30 years ago, I'll tell you--coming down the hall to devour me). These continued well into early adulthood (favorites included the time I was on a railroad track pumping a handcart so quickly that I became airborne, and the one where I was an experiment subject in a study about psychic powers and found myself reading the dishy research assistant's mind. She was SO hot for me. Both, I feel compelled to add for you Freudian analysts out there, were emission-free. So are all the dreams that follow. I swear.).

I can't explain why, but somewhere around the age of 25, the dreams became less frequent--at least, I stopped remembering them as frequently. Oh, I still have one or two that I recall, but mostly it was a gift I seemed to have lost.

Until about 10 days ago, when I started having a wide range of extremely vivid and detailed dreams every night. Some quite uncomfortably vivid. As in nightmares. Here are just a few. Make of them what you will.

Home Delivery: In this dream, Her Lovely Enormously Pregnant Self's best friend from childhood has arrived for a visit. I am walking down the hall to the linen closet, looking for fresh towels to put in the bathroom for our guest, but there are no towels anywhere. In fact, the linen closet appears to be devoid of sheets, towels, blankets--everything but a little pile of Christmas hand towels that we have never ever used, but can't throw away because HLEPS's grandmother made them.

Perplexed, I just happen to poke my head in the guest room, and there are all the sheets and towels, some on the bed, some hanging on the windows, some in a giant pot of boiling water that is setting on a small stovetop that does not actually exist in our real guest room. HLEPS is lying on the bed, hooking herself into two makeshift stirrups that have been fashioned out of bedsheets tied to the ceiling fan. Her friend is stirring the sheets, then sees me and waves me into the room.

"We've decided to have the baby at home," HLEPS tells me matter-of-factly as she finally gets herself into the stirrups (the fan creaks dangerously and bits of drywall dust flutter down from the ceiling.)

"Women used to have babies at home all the time," her friend reassures me."

"What?!?" I shriek, and wake up sweating...

Orchestrated Death: In this dream, I have returned to Kansas for a high school reunion, which itself is odd because I never went to high school in Kansas. However, all the people I went to grade school with are here, so I guess that makes it okay. It is an unexpectedly large turnout and so we have all had to move out of the small restaurant where the event was scheduled and instead find ourselves dancing to groovy 70s disco music in a kind of open-air loading bay that has a view of a grain elevator that has been converted into condo lofts.

I am dancing with Melinda, the girl whose stuffed dog I once found and who has turned out not too badly at all, thanks (I went to the reunion by myself. In fact, I'm not even sure I was married in the dream). She stops dancing, puts a hand to her mouth and points. "Omigod," she says. "It's Mr. Flatt."

I turn to look and coming out of the grain elevator condos is an old but spry-looking man, his hair in a severe gray crewcut, his old-style horn-rimmed glasses glinting in the streetlights. He is wearing his signature tweed jacket and twirling a small baton. It is indeed Mr. Flatt (his real name) my old music instructor and band leader from the painful three years that I strove to play the flute and participate in school band. I haven't thought of him in almost 30 years, but here he is in my dream, looking just a little bit older.

The music cuts out suddenly and everyone stops dancing. There are more murmurs and everyone turns to watch as Mr. Flatt walks by. He gives us all a sharp salute with his baton, then tucks it under his arm like a riding crop and keeps walking.

Slowly the murmurs subside and the music comes back on. As everyone resumes dancing, I ask Melinda what that was about.

She makes a scowling face. "Do you remember Kaylene?" she asks. I didn't until that moment, but suddenly my memory supplies the image: a 7th grade classmate who sat behind me in band. Played the clarinet. Pretty little blonde-haired girl.

"Well, a few years ago she was found at the dump, crushed to death in a car. And Mr. Flatt did it," Melinda tells me.

"What?" I cry.

She nods furiously and points to a wall that I am only just noticing. It is a kind of memorial for classmates who have died. On it are three large photos: One is of somebody I never heard of before, a Tommy Teeba, (killed in a freak lawn-mower accident in 1986); one is my friend Shawn; and the last is Kaylene (champion clarinetist, crushed to death in her car, 2002).

"Mr. Flatt had trained her up. She was the best clarinet player in the state. And word is they had an affair that ended bad, so he killed her. They found her handcuffed to the steering wheel of the car they pulled out of the crusher," Melinda continues, as I stare at the memorial wall, particularly at my friend.

I find out more, lots more, but the upshot is that there wasn't enough evidence to convict Mr. Flatt and he got off scot-free, even though everyone in town knows he committed this terrible crime. There apparently was even a book written about him by some local journalist, who later disappeared under mysterious circumstances (as opposed to those disappearances under ordinary circumstances that everyone knows about).

(At this juncture, I feel compelled to point out that lots of my dreams tend to have this kind of detail, and I don't recall most of it til after I've awakened. I once interviewed a dream expert about this and he had a name for this kind of dreaming--I forget the term now--but basically what happens is your subconscious front-loads a glop of information into your memory, so you come into the dream--which really only lasts a few seconds--having tricked yourself into believing all this stuff has already occurred, even though it really hasn't. Onward!)

The night wears on and I offer to drive Melinda home (she has had a little too much punch. I have abstained because I promised HLEPS I wouldn't drink while she was pregnant, a little gesture of solidarity that I suddenly remember in the middle of this dream where I'm not at all certain about my marital status).

Next thing I know, we're on the far side of town, driving down a lonely, dark dirt road when Melinda stirs from her stupor and begins shrieking. I glance into the rearview mirror in time to catch a flash of tweed. Suddenly there is a clicking sound and I look down to discover I've been handcuffed to my own steering wheel!

I look over and Melinda is pushed back against the seat. A hand from the back has got her by the neck. Another hand is pushing a band conductor's baton into Melinda's ear.

"Look straight ahead," a voice from the back says. "Or I'll jam this baton right into her brain."

We drive for what seems like a long time, me following directions from our mysterious back-seat driver (it must be Mr. Flatt, although I never see his face). Eventually, it dawns on me that he is driving us to the town dump where he's planning to finish us off, just like Kaylene.

At this moment, I'm just freaked out enough that I realize I'm dreaming and yet I can't wake myself up. Instead, I try directed-dreaming, which was explained to me by that dream expert I'd interviewed so long ago. I try to imagine that I'm driving my old Ford Galaxie, which among its many faults had a crack in the steering wheel. I could probably yank the handcuffs out through the crack.

Except it doesn't work. I'm still driving a crappy rental.

Flatt directs us through a graveyard of flattened, rusty cars, until I see the car crusher straight ahead.

"Drive right into it or she's dead, MM," Flatt says, jabbing his baton for emphasis. "I'll let her go once you drive in there. You're the one I want."

It dawns on me that he has no intention of leaving either of us alive so...what the hell? I jam on the brakes and Flatt lurches forward. I grab his tweed collar with my free hand and yank him into my lap. "You're coming with us!" I yell, because, even though I've hit the brakes, the crusher looms ever closer, closer...

And then I wake up and realize I have to take a ferocious tinkle.

She Likes to Watch: Well, there's nothing to interpret here. I'm in a hotel room, having sex with my old girlfriend Gretchen, when I suddenly notice that my sister-in-law just happens to be lying next to us in bed, watching. But this is a dream, of course, and so instead of uttering what any normal man would utter in the circumstance ("Threesome! Excellent!") I find myself asking my sister-in-law how she's doing and we're having a rather protracted conversation even though I am still, um, in flagrante. At some point, sis-in-law starts interviewing me and my partner about our technique and I turn to look at Gretchen to see what her answer will be...except Gretchen is gone and in her place is Her Lovely Self, no longer pregnant.

For some reason, it was fine having my sister-in-law in bed with me when I was with an old girlfriend, but now that I'm having conjugal relations with my wife--her sister--only NOW am I weirded out. Indeed, at that moment, I turn to both of them and say, "I'm outta here." I wake up and discover that I'm in the guest room. Blaze is next to me, right where my sister-in-law was, staring at me with a face that seem to say What the fuck is your problem?

I wish I knew.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

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