Tuesday, June 20, 2006


In Which I Am Just Going Outside...

When I first started in magazines, one of the great perks--actually, pretty much the only perk--was the opportunity for travel. Oh, I had been around the country as a freelancer, driving an assortment of cars into the ground in order to chase stories, but these were nearly always under an expense allotment of, say, $100 or $200, which was never enough for a plane ticket and often barely enough for gas and one meal a day. If I wanted to, say, sleep in a bed instead of my car, or enjoy supper (or breakfast) I had to pay for it (but it made for good deductions come tax time).

Then I got an actual staff job and suddenly I had a company card and a travel budget and everything except a private jet. In my first job, I traveled probably 5 or 6 times a year on assignment, and another 3 to 4 times a year to attend assorted trade shows.

I loved the excitement and glamour (well, sort of glamour) of it and it would have been a perfect little career. But then I had to go and fall in love and every time I went on assignment and was away from Her Lovely Self for so much as a weekend, I got lonely and annoyed.

Getting married and having kids did nothing to change this, except for the worse. Now, instead of being merely lonely and irritated, I'm downright sad and bereft. Which is odd, because in truth there are days when I could really use a break and have some peace and quiet. But I mean around the house, not in the Best Western in Duluth.

Thus it is that where I once traveled almost every month on some magazine errand or other, I now travel less than once a year. And usually it's just for an overnight. And that's by choice.

Not this week.

This week, I'm off on a fairly long, arduous, and mandatory round of trips around the country to see what groups of five people selected at random think of our magazine. Somehow, the opinion of each of these five people is meant to have some bearing on the course of a publication that has millions of readers, or so you'd think afterwards, the way you hear some editors and executives spout about the valuable input we just got from less than a hundredth of 1 percent of our reading audience.

I know there's a valid statistical and psychological model for doing focus groups, it's just that no one has ever explained it to my satisfaction. As for me, I just like to go to focus groups because I get to sit in a soundproofed room behind mirrored glass and play peeping Tom, eavesdropping on these folks while they spout for better and worse about my magazine (makes you wish you could get folks you know--all your old girlfriends, maybe--and have someone lead a focus group about ex-boyfriends, just to see if your name comes up). And to be frank, even though it's a small group, it's interesting and no small amount of refreshing to hear people just unload about your work in a state of naked honesty. Except they're not really naked. I'll have to tell you more when I get back.

But even though I'm looking forward to the focus groups, it's a bit of a barnstorming trip--12 individual groups in 3 states in 5 days, with barely time built in for sleeping or eating. The inconvenience I can live with.

Leaving the kiddos, though, has become increasingly difficult.

Already tonight the Brownie had a tearful moment when she realized I was leaving in the morning and it just about killed me. And her. Being gone overnight is one thing. Being in the hospital for three days is another--at least I was in town. But I'll be gone all week--the longest I've been away in her memory--and it's totally throwing her out of whack.

"But...but I LIKE you HERE! At HOME!!" she insisted, confident that this should settle the thing. "You CAN'T go because I need you to STAY. Who will find Pinky Bear and Foxo at night?" (She loses them daily and every fucking night I have to perform a basement-to-attic search before finally finding them in unlikely places such as the back of the dishwasher, or the middle of the raspberry bushes). And then she did the thing with the quivering lip where you'll promise anything to make her smile again, except for the fact that the tickets are nonrefundable and anyway my boss is sitting next to me on the plane, so he'll notice if I'm not there.

After letting this reality sink in for a bit, the Brownie returned to me just before bed, somewhat more composed, hands behind her back. "I've decided to let you go, Dad," she announced. "But you have to take this with you!"

And she did a dramatic reveal.


This is not Foxo, by the way, but one of the Lesser Foxes, named Jenny. Still, to be given any fox by my daughter, who loves foxes...well, it was so sweet a moment that the very air around us suddenly turned into fine particules of sugar that encrusted my eyes and caused the room to become very blurry.

"Well, thank you honey. I'm sure Jenny will keep an eye on me," I said hoarsely, gently taking and packing the little fox next to my socks.

"You can sleep with him on your pillow every night and think of me so you won't get lonely," she said.

"Him?" I asked.

"Yes," she nodded. "Jenny can be a boy's name too."

Oh God, how I have come to hate traveling without my family. Even with a fox for company.

But enough whining. With that I am officially packed and ready to leave tomorrow. I may be some time, and if there's Web access from wherever I end up, I may make a brief post or two. Otherwise, Jenny and I hope to see you this weekend, if not sooner.

Stay out of trouble while I'm gone.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Have a good trip, MM! I would say, I'm sure that Jenny will help you fall asleep at night, but I'm not sure how that comment would be interpreted by random blog readers. Anyhow, hope it's a productive trip and that time FLIES by for ya. See you soon.
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I can only imagine your boss' face when he sees you have Jenny for a companion.

And I deleted my earlier post because I'm retarded and can't spell.
Wow! The Brownie looks EXACTLY LIKE YOU in that picture. Strong genes.

Have a great trip and bring back some stories!
Have a good trip MM, may the time away pass quickly for you.

On a selfish note, I hope you come back with some great blog fodder.
Have a good trip and come back with some great stories to share with us!
Your daughter is precious. Foxes, huh? It's always the difficult to find stuffed animals kids get attached to. It's stuffed frogs that my son loves and they get tough to find. I've tried to sell him on teddy bears, but he's just not interested. We lose MR. Pickles (the head frog) every night as well and since he can't sleep without him, a mighty hunt always ensues. Thank God we don't have a basement...or rasberry bushes!
My little bro used to have this ratty, pathetic little stuffed bear named "Baby." Once Baby got left at the daycare, and all hell broke loose. Luckily the head of the daycare had a good sense of humor and let my dad in to rescue Baby at about 7pm.

Have a safe, fun trip, and come back soon!
Hmm, so there's a Boy Named Sue from Johnny Cash, a guy named Jayne from the show Firefly, and now a boy fox named Jenny from the Brownie.

Anyhow, hope your trip proves productive and insightful enough to have been worthwhile. Maybe you should pick up a new stuffed fox to bring back. You can say it followed Jenny and wanted to meet the Brownie :-)
Aw, have a good trip, MM. May HBO be playing something good that you haven't already seen.
I travel nearly every week. Take time to meet people, and enjoy the trip.

If the Brownie's into foxes, she must check out the Ozark Foxes site: http://www.ozfoxes.com/

There's a great comic there, Faux Pas, about a human-raised stunt fox.
my hubby travels almost every week.He's been doing this since our girls were in kinder and third grade...now their 8th and Junior in High School respectively. My youngest used to wail,it was hard...My husband feels the same as you...and he doesn't even get to peep at people!! Be glad of the break neck pace...idle time, he tells me, is the worst. Also, in a strange way..I think a little seperation is good for the kids. It gets them ready for growing up..a little more...and thats why it makes you so sad....
my father took frequent trips when I was growing up, and the biggest memory I have is of eating out every single night, haha..

he asked me to get something out of his wallet for him recently, and there was an old folded paper in there. Being nosy, I pulled it out and looked at it, and it was a note I wrote him when I was about 8, telling him to be safe and telling him I loved him. He kept it all these years..
Have a safe trip!
good luck. I echo you on the travel part. I really hate leaving my love of life when I go out station for work.
Ooh...she's good! My niece did something similar to my brother recently. He moved to New Mexico about two months ago and my sister-in-law and niece can't go for another month-ish (because she's pregnant, and has to see a specialist who doesn't exist where they'll be living)...and when he left, already sad, my niece walked up to him and pulled her favorite stuffed animal out from behind her before saying, as she extended it toward him, "daddy take Mumps -- then you won't cry when you can't hug Kendal". Which naturally, made him tear up.
maybe one of the test subjects will be a reader of your blog as well!
The Brownie is undoubtedly the cutest child I have ever seen.

back from the trip? update, please!
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