These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Friday, August 18, 2006


i saw my niece emma when she was two weeks old back in early april. she was a thin, long shape with a pointy head and the tip of one ear folded (from her time in the womb). she was wrinkly and a little red. she cried and wasnt' terribly active.

now, she's on her way to five months. she's a filled-out baby, with her mama's plump thighs (according to my sister), has a cute little smile (toothless to date), loves to grab onto things, takes hold of her bottle, uses her flexibility to put her toes in her mouth, is temperamental at times, takes cat naps and seems to be head strong.

none of these things i get to see and only experience second hand through my sister, mother, father or aunt. she's growing up 2,000 miles away. that's the price one pays in these situations.

however, there is one thing i do get to experience when i'm on the phone with my sister and she has emma in her arms. the baby gets the hiccups once a day or so and it happens that i've been on the phone with my sister the past few times and emma's had the hiccups.

i think it's so funny to hear that sound that is recognizable around the world, whether in an adult or child. my sister and i began a conversation and then the hiccups begin. it's the coolest thing -- maybe so because it's not happening to me and i hate it when i get the hiccups. but when my niece gets them it's such a lovely sound to hear and it's my connection to her at this point.

i imagine her tiny body in my sister's arms and as one of the hiccups comes, her mouth opens, slightly, and he body convulses upward, then it relaxes. it's not a prety image and it's not the action that endears me to it but the sound over the wireless phone into which i'm listening.

love you little emma grace.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

gender bender

the other night i went to a meeting out of the town. i was covering the meeting and writing on a topic for another reporter who is out of town.

dawn and i get there and there arent' but four cars in the parking lot. it's a sign that the issue isnt' a big one. we go inside and ther are two people inside sitting in the visitors' section.

one of the people sitting in visitors' section asks my wife if she's the reporter who covered the story. i explained that i was covering the meeting and that the other reporter was out of town.

i soon realize this is someone who's there to protest the issue. the person is short (even though they are sitting down), older (in their 60s) and a bit round.

the person mumbles out a name an d i hear mears (made up name), which is one of the names in the preview story. i am on the right track. the person is talking to me and i'm writing stuff down.

then it occurs to me that that it is a john mears (again not real name) who's quoted in the paper and not this woman. i figured maybe john was sick or couldn't make the meeting and he got his wife to show up in support.

so i ask,"is john your husband?"

the person replies, "i'm john."

OOPS!! whoa doggie!

i've related this story several times to coworkers and of course my wife while we were driving back to town. my wife asked if i didn't hear him say john mears. i said no. others said maybe it's your eye sight that caused you to not see properly.

well, it was more than just my bad vision. i honestly thought i was interviewing a woman. one of my strongest senses is my hearing and i usually pick up a person's voice and will recognize it even after one conversation. and i thought john was a woman because the voice was feminine, a little high-pitched and crackly.

so i was going on voice alone and even discounting appearance. boy was i off. but i had his voice on tape because i recorded some of the meeting while he was talking on the podium. i replayed it to my friends at the office and they all agreed that it did sound like a woman.

i was embarrassed, but i did keep on talking. i am unsure if i even apologized or not. john kept on talking, so i guess he was cool with it.

i know this has happened to people on the phone. i've actually asked if so-and-so is someone's daughter and they turn out to be a son (that happened a few months ago). but i person, i can't say it's happened before.

an oddly appropriate lyric from a song:
"man, i feel like a woman."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

robbins' got a fast car

monday night the call came in through the scanner of a possible plane down at tulip city. holy crap. it was 11:15 p.m. and too late to do much of anything.

there was no panic, though. i think in the back of my mind i knew it was bullshit. the vibe just wasn't there for a plane crash. still, all the city's fire stations were called out. we called out two photographers (we couldn't reach the first one and called a second one).

jcr and i were discussing a matter by my cubicle when the call came in. after a quick consultation of some maps, we were off.

we jumped in his black car and sped off, down washington and through the tunnel, the famous holland tunnel. no call came in from the office that they'd called off the search. but it's dark and you just never know.

we wound our way to the right place, encountered a police car, lights flashing, flying by. we followed it. we ran into some fire trucks at the airport. we could see them running around, but we couldnt' get in.

so off we sped, made our way back into town and down lincoln. i got on the cell with a photographer and he pointed out where we needed to go.

as we raced along, jcr suddenly swerved, saving the life of a poor oppossum on the road. his quick reflexes prevented what could have been a messy situation. i have visions of "the rime of the ancient mariner" running through my head, where we'd be punished by god for hurting one of his creatures.

we went on, still racing, coming upon a train, matchingit speed for was on our left. we went around a curve and the train sped off in another direction. we came across the photographer. both, in fact, were there.

as we pulled up, i had thoughts of high school flashing in my head. i thought, the gang's here. it's a rural-ish area. all we need is a cooler full of beer and we're in good shape. when i aproached one of the photographers (dennis), he asked me, "where's the beer?" he had similar thoughts, too.

as fire trucks raced in and out of the airport runway area, it became apparent nothing waas up, no plane down. we packed up and headed back to the office, wind pouring in through the open windows and us talking about plane crashes, me saying i'd never covered a plane crash and jcr saying he'd been at two of them.

we zipped through an seemingly empty town and cruised on over to the office just in time to head back out the door at midnight.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Oh Efrafan, Efrafan, your people live in despair,
Suffering under a controlling one,
Who goes by the name of Woundwart, like a large hare,
It is the place where all around shun.

Your runs cut into the hillside deep,
Made sure to be separated one from another,
So all are kept apart when they sleep,
Disuading conversation between a son and a mother.

An uprising easily is quelled,
A traitor's ears clipped,
For Woundwart sall does smell,
And everyone fooled and slipped.

Woundwart sits atop the heap,
His angry swowl across his face,
Ready to stomp on anyone and leap,
Even though deep down he's full of disgrace.

For Woundwart's tact is that of a bully,
One whose childhood marked by pain,
Never understanding he's foolish ways fully,
He knows one tact and continues it again and again.

Never seeing those within feel morale is low,
Thinking all is well since he runs the show,
Days go by and it all seems to flow,
But the ones within despise, but he doesn't know.

But the time comes when Woundwart falls,
For all bullies topple like a coward,
With the warren's runs amuck and also halls,
It's time to move forward.

And the time comes nay for the revolt,
At the hands of an unexpected foe,
when all will leave their quarters and bolt,
Nary will remain a buck or doe.

Defeated, lowly Woundwart, you cry aloud,
'Why has this plan come to be for me so big?'
If you sit still, you'll see the all the crowd,
It's Hazel, Fiver and that slayer of all, Bigwig.

Lifeless Efrafan, you will be no more,
Runs crumble and dens fall to waste,
Efrafan you were rotten to the core,
Now, we all run off to Wastership Down in haste.