Monday, August 27, 2012

Pavlov's Dog

It's not my wife's birthday or anything. I just came across this video we made for her birthday several years ago, and it made me smile. Actually, it made me cry, but we've already established I'm like Pavlov's dog in that regard.  At any rate, it's very sweet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I went shopping for school clothes with eldest daughter last week. First time ever. I figured it would be a cakewalk, her school has uniforms, all the choices have already been made, how hard can this be? We'll be in and out in fifteen minutes.


Within minutes I was plunged into a netherworld of hemlines and bras and collars and newly found modesty and unknowably arcane fastening devices. Disorienting and disturbing.

I was arguing with eldest - she on one side of the dressing room curtain, I on the other, poking my head in - about the shirt she wanted to buy being too tight (and it was), when an older woman who worked there stepped up beside me and gently asked, "Can I help?" and I all but hugged her in reply and my daughter was whisked away to the area by the sewing machine to confer about whatever is was that needed to be conferred about.

She agreed with me about the shirt.

She effortlessly picked out a few shirts, a few skirts, a few pairs of pants, chatted amiably with me while my daughter tried them on, about her daughters and granddaughters and the drama involved in the choosing of clothes by preteen girls. Ten minutes later we were at the cash register and ready to pay up. We left the pants with her so they could be hemmed to the correct length.

Crisis averted, eldest and I had ice cream to crown our successful afternoon. I pick up the pants this weekend. I may bring that woman flowers.

Of course, next weekend I get to go clothes shopping with youngest.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I cry a lot.

I've never been exactly stoic, but my mid-Western upbringing has resulted in a certain reserve.  Since the arrival of the Golem, I cry more.  Not a sad, life-is-hopeless, Lifetime Movie of the Week, Church of Perpetual Victimhood sort of cry.  In fact sometimes it seems more physical than emotional, my body telling me: you need to do this to be healthy, don't fight it, just accept it, get a kleenex, ride it out.  So.  I cry at parent-teacher conferences. I cry at the doctor's office.  I cry during corny movies.  I cry during the Olympics.

I've told friends only half jokingly that my internal no-crying-in-public editor is broken.  There is some truth in that.

At Rockygrass, last week, my wife and I were toward the front of the stage, dancing to a string of bluegrass Dead covers, having a wonderful time, quite literally perfect, and suddenly the moment bifurcated, split in two, we were living two lives, the perfect moment in front of us and its shadow: the daunting and bittersweet realization that we might not have too many more of these together.

We quit dancing. We cried for awhile together, went back to our spot by the water, watched the river flow.  The idea of the world splitting in two, forming the real world and the shadow world, remains.

There's a great line from Bernard Malamud's The Natural that comes to mind.  "We have two lives... the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us towards happiness."


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More than his belly can

We were at Yellowstone a couple weeks back.  Deep weirdness, which as a family we appreciate.  We stopped by the Yellowstone River to eat lunch, saw two gorgeous pelicans flying up the river as we sat down.  About ten minutes later we saw them floating down the rover together, like they were tubing it.  Ten-ish minutes later, they were flying back up.  And then, floating back down.

We talked to a guy there who told us they'd been doing it all afternoon.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  Or a life.

Slackers.  Here they are:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Soda Pop

KK found a baby kitten in the alley behind our house about two weeks ago.  I was in the kitchen making dinner when she brought it in, curled in her hand, tiny, near death.  There was a crust over one eye.  It was skinny, dirty, barely able to stand.  I said no immediately, and firmly.  I figured it wouldn't live and they'd have to watch it die, that it might infect the other cats, yada, yada, yada, but how can you say no?  You can't say no.

The Pet ER said he might not survive the first night, but he did, and he almost didn't survive the first weekend either, due to problems I won't go into here (other than to say the vet had me cleaning his butt for him, and at one point actually dabbing his butt with sugar, to reduce inflammation).

So.  He's growing like a weed.  Probably weighs three times as much as he did when  KK brought him in.  The other cats are not too happy about this turn of events, but they'll get over it.

His name is Ginger Ale.  I call him Soda Pop.  Mostly we just call him baby kitty.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fathers! Grow Giant Daughters in Your Living Room!*

Ray Bradbury died last week. I blathered on about it on Facebook and elsewhere and don't wish to revisit any of that here, other that to say he was a great writer, and probably held more sway over my early writing imagination than any other one writer. Until I discovered Vonnegut, anyway (and thanks for that, Mrs. Helms, an Ankeny, Iowa English teacher extraordinaire).

After he died I started reading him to the kids. First The Lake, then The Wind, then the Dwarf, all from The October Country (we took a break during the debacle that was the Mets-Yankees series). When I tell them "scary story" they think of giant flame-throwing robots riding dinosaurs and such. Bradbury's bag of tricks is, of course, more subtle, so it's taken them a little while to understand his effects. The Dwarf has been the most successful read of the four, and it has no supernatural elements at all. But the image of the antagonist at the end is so deftly drawn, so chilling, they got it.

Youngest fidgets constantly but hangs onto every word as I read, and asks questions after, and shoots up her hand when I ask things like "so what the heck happened at the end, anyway?" Eldest lies on the floor, seemingly barely awake, and while she'll answer any question I ask, she tells me what she likes about me reading to them at night is just the sound of my voice, while she nestles into the couch, the carpet, her Mom's lap.

 She says it makes her feel safe.

 I can live with that.

*a clumsy reference to one of my favorites: Boys! Grow Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Thing With Feathers

Well, the bad news is we have head lice in the house.  I'm not easily disgusted by that kind of thing.  They're bugs.  But it means a great deal of the Memorial Day weekend will be spent washing and drying pretty much everything in the house.  As well as shampooing ourselves with a substance that smells like battery acid.

But peer into the dross and you discover this pearl: I walked into the bathroom yesterday to find my wife with her head in the sink, covered in suds, as youngest massaged her head, gently working the shampoo into her scalp, checking for bugs as she did so, handling my wife's head with the same care she'd give to a kitten.  A heart-tugging reversal of roles that leaves me with a small, hard nugget of hope for the future of this weary world.  

I can't leave comments on anyone else's blog, or even return comments on my own. My apologies. I'm out there, lurking, faithfully reading your posts, even if I can leave no evidence of it.

Off to New Orleans on Monday for a tech conference. Hopefully lice-free. See you upon my return.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Yeah, I don't like the title either.  But it's better than the original, which was Mothballs.

Recap: I held a contest over at the Clowncar Publishing Facebook page last week. The winner won a flash fiction based on the winner's Facebook page.  Anne Fontaine won, and it was enjoyable to scour her page looking for breadcrumbs that would lead me to the story.  What I found: she was in her attic recently, her daughter is in her first year of college, she named her Esty shop after her grandfather.  The result:

by Jeff Wood
 As she opened the splintered door to the attic a cloud of miller moths burst into the air, motes of dust trembling in their wake as she climbed the stairs, every Spring now for twelve years: putting up the heavy quilts, the coats and sweaters, taking down the summer clothes and light blankets. She looked forward to it, yearly. The theater of memory, the lure of the closed box. First one right up near the door, old Christmas lights, the ones her husband had drunkenly attempted to disentangle on the naked hardwood floor that last Christmas together. She never bothered to disentangle things, she put them in a box and trucked them to the attic: out of sight, out of mind. Put away the winter things, bring in the summer. Dust devils swirled at her feet as she walked, moths like flocks of birds. Next up, boxes from her daughter’s room. She had left for college nine months ago, come home hurriedly for Thanksgiving and Christmas, was due for summer break in a scant few days. She had intended her daughter’s room to be kept the same, a diorama, a tar pit, but life moves on and she soon learned there is no such thing as an unused room, even if all it holds is memory.  The bed soon became covered with fabric, the end-table a space for needle and thread, yarn and loom. She had needed room and so packed up some the clutter and moved it up here. Trophies. Video games. Orphaned cards from the Sorry board. She pulled out a favored stuffed monkey and tried to remember what her daughter had named it—Ferfy, Foofy, Floopy—and as she tilted her head to ponder a familiar shape peered from around another box: a worn wooden crate belonging to her Grandfather Wright, a relic from his merchant days.

Moths fluttered, dust settled on cardboard. She was not much tempted to open it, content in the comfort of her daughter’s things, the smell of them, the touch. Grandpa Wright had built raised flowerbeds for his wife using the same wood the crate was built from, and his wife had coaxed a garden from it what, forty years ago? And decades later, with his wife passed and his children scattered, they had pleaded with him to stay at the hospital but he insisted on going home, insisted upon the garden, surrounded by his wife’s flowers, butterflies and bees humming among the petals, the sky full of magpies. She had been with him out in the garden that afternoon, not very old, ten maybe, eleven. He had been showing her a daylily and in mid-sentence seemed to simply go to sleep, his eyes closing, and she caught a notion of what might be happening and his head tilted to the side and his jaw dropped open and the air was suddenly alive with birdsong, she had never heard so many birds before, how could the world contain so many birds, so much song? She ran to tell her parents, sat on the porch with them waiting for the ambulance. Flashing red and blue lights strobed in the trees as they rolled him out of the house on a stretcher. The magpies had been long ago scared away by the siren. The ambulance rushed away in a loud blare of horn and they all walked back inside the silent house. Her father closed the front door solidly and began to weep.

She snapped back to the present with a sneeze, clearing her nose of dust. There is no such thing as an unused room. She began to repack her daughter’s things, readying her home for the coming visit, moths above her like birds on the wing, motes dancing in the attic light like kites.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prince Albert in a Can

This is one of those stories that attempts to capture a specific time, a specific place: a moment caught in amber like some prehistoric mosquito.  The story is fiction but the events are more or less true, I squeezed the events of a few years into a couple of months when I wrote this, about a decade after the fact.  I was trying to document my life at the time, not so much the details as the sense that events are moving too fast to be properly grasped or weighed.  Time moving past like a wind in your face.

Anyway.  You can buy it for a dollar at the Kindle store, assuming you have a Kindle, or the Kindle apps for PC or Ipad here:

The most excellent cover is by the most excellent Jo Seaquist.

And by the way, I keep trying to respond to folks in the comments, but Blogger is eating my words.  I will respond when the glitches allow.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I said here recently that I thought kids were hard-wired to be religious.  Let me modify that: I think they are hard-wired to believe in heaven.  They can't grok death without a heaven to follow.

Let me back up.  This Saturday was the "supermoon" full moon.  I had put the kids and my wife to bed, then went out to close the back gate and saw the damned thing looming huge in the sky, like a ghost dirigible.  So, me being a Dad and stuff like this being my job, I woke everyone up and we walked out on the second floor balcony to see Ms. Moon.  After ten minutes or so my wife went back to bed, but the girls and I hung out for awhile, and I listened to all the goofy sh!t that bounces around inside their heads pretty much 24/7. 

School.  Mean kids.  Dinosaurs.  Boys.  Tornadoes and floods.  Cats.

And then we started talking about religion and church.  My wife and I are not Christian, nor even particularly religious, but we're pretty open with the girls about their own beliefs, and we go to a Christian Church now and again, especially since the arrival of the Golem.

So we sat on the balcony and talked about things.  They asked me what I believe in (we get this question on a pretty regular basis). I said I didn't believe in Jesus as the son of God, though he probably existed and was a great man.  I said I believed in heaven in a way, that the atoms of are body will end up as the center of stars billions of years from now and be born again someday as something else.  They understand that, but prefer to think of heaven as an actual place, with clouds and angels, pandas and unicorns and a giant Wii with limitless games.  

Then they asked me if I believed in hell, and I sad no, unequivocally.  I explained that I didn't believe in a God who would punish people just for not believing in him.  That people had unequal opportunities to believe.

And they bought it.  They almost never turn back on what they've learned in church, even knowing we don't believe it.  But they bought the no-hell idea in a flash. There not being a hell seemed as natural to them as there being a heaven.

Youngest said this (and I'm doing my best to present it verbatim):  I think people say there's a hell to scare them into doing things.  Like, if you don't pray you'll go to hell.

Smart girl.