Tag Archives: Life

Road Trip

29 Jul

Todd 4 folks 2 Mom and Dad, 1967

When I was four years old my mother gave me my first camera.  It was made of plastic and took 120 mm film, which I had to mail off along with a small amount cash to have developed.  Later that year we took our first family vacation, driving from Michigan to New England.  It was there I took these pictures.

Todd 5 Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Todd 2 docks

My Mom and little brother David at The Mayflower

Todd 6 Kennedy's Grave

Kennedy’s grave

When Amy’s father passed this spring, I was talking to my mom and she mentioned that she had planned a trip to Montana, but her friend had backed out because she didn’t want to drive.  She thought it would be boring.  Mom disagreed.  She wanted to get out on the back roads, eat at little diners, see something of the country.  But she didn’t want to go alone

“Wow,  I should go with you.”

“Oh that would be great.  Would you?”

Um… I would.

So, this coming Friday I fly to Michigan and we hit the road.  I have a new camera, and hopefully some time to write.  So I’ll be posting on the fly, doing my best to keep you all informed.

I have not spent this much time with my mom in 35 years, and though I’m looking forward to it, I already miss my family.  And both the world and my mother are far from predictable.

So check in frequently, keep me in your thoughts, and prayers would not be turned away.


Winter Rain

5 Mar


Morning darkness, and the house is at its most gentle, whispering me awake.  Amy has gone upstairs to prepare for her shower while I lie warm beneath the covers, listening for the water, shaken by a dream.

I’m on a ramshackle camping trip, a bunch of us kids unloading gear from our beat up cars and station wagons, carrying it through the grounds of a small carnival to the old houses beyond the fairground.  And somewhere on this journey, it seems, I have made a friend.  She has short dark hair and great big eyes, and although we’ve just met, we’re like puppies in the back seat, leaning into each other, shoulder to shoulder, heads close, laughing, and then going quiet as the miles roll by because nothing has ever felt this good.

Then it begins to rain, and everyone’s a step ahead.

Tents have gone up, a garage floor has been cleared, and while I stand outside, my ratty, unrolled sleeping bag growing heavier by the minute, I realize I have nowhere to go.  She stands at the door of her tent, wringing water from a cloth, and even though she has plenty of room, there’s no way I can ask.  It’s embarrassing just to be standing there.  I move away, into the garage, out of the rain.  But looking around I see all the spaces have been taken.  Busy strangers ignore me as they smooth their pallets across the floor.

And then she’s there, her sleeping bag spread out, and she’s inviting me to join her.


“Yes!” she says, smiling, shaking her head.  I step lightly on the sleeping bag, and we laugh because it’s a little squishy from the rain.

Suddenly my knowledge accelerates, and in a flash, I see everything that’s about to happen . The longing, the intensity, and the unbearable sweetness of this friendship going somewhere I had never thought possible.

And then, for the first time, I remember my kids.  And Amy.  She would know.  And even were I willing to risk that, this young woman clearly has no idea I’m married.  My ring has been lost.  I’d be lying to her as well.

Morning comes.  The rain has stopped.  Friends and neighbors appear.  We share a big box of raisin bran.  It’s the best raisin bran I’ve ever tasted.  Revelatory.  As people pack all around us, I look for her, but she’s nowhere to be found.  Maybe she’s in the car.

The water downshifts to the low hum of the shower, and I have to get up.  Leaving the warmth of the bed for the cool morning air, the anger builds like a cloud in my head.  Tight and sore, my achilles tendons play hell with my balance as I head down the hallway, passing all the stuff we don’t really need.

She took me in out of the rain.

Hand on the rail, I climb the stairs,  squinting and unsure; not yet ready for the light of day.

B&W Rain

Best Cup of Coffee

4 Aug

It was beautiful this morning.  Early sunrise, cool breeze and the sound of leaves dancing.  Not quite enough to get me out of bed for a run, but enough to make me thoroughly enjoy Hallie cuddling against my chest after her 6 am feeding and the both of us crawling back into bed with Amy for a little more sleep.  Heath stumbled in a few minutes later and as all four of us lay in the early morning light things seemed just about perfect.

The city has moods.  I notice this most on days when the mood is dark.  But today the city was serene, it’s people calm and polite, as if all New York had enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  And it probably had, the heat and humidity having broke with Saturday’s storms, leaving the days comfortable and the nights cool.  My dreams, lately a jumbled mass of high school reunions and old girlfriends, grew quiet, and last night I simply slept.  But, having a newborn in the house, I did not sleep enough.

And so I needed coffee, which I picked up from my favorite cart at the corner of Lexington & 52nd.  I don’t know her name, but I love the woman who runs this cart.  She has taken wonderful care of me these past few weeks as I stumble sleep deprived into the city for another day of temping. 

I discovered her one morning when the nearest Starbucks locked it’s outside door.  You see, I know it’s crazy, but I had actually made peace with popping the five dollars for a Venti Decaf Mocha with skim milk and no whipped cream.  In my defense, I had a rule.  No more than once a week, with exceptions for days when it’s raining (as it was on this particular morning).  But the street door I always used was locked.  I could see customers inside, but the door wouldn’t budge.  Then I saw the little sign.  For security reasons I was required to enter from inside the building.  Which meant going through security.  Metal detector, bag check, the whole nine yards.  Ten minutes before I’m supposed to be at work.  For the privilege of paying FIVE DOLLARS FOR A CUP OF COFFEE!  No. Absolutely not!  I stood out in the rain as people hurried past and I scanned the horizon for a coffee cart until BAM!  I saw one directly across Lexington.  I ran across the street and bought a cup of coffee for one dollar!  And it was goooooooood!  And the woman was nice!  We chatted, we laughed, we became, in a small way, friends.  For whatever reason, she was wearing a head scarf, and somehow that made it even better.  Completely restored my faith in humanity.

This morning the prices had gone up.  That medium coffee is now $1.25.  But despite its having been a couple weeks, my newfound coffee friend remembered that I like skim milk and two sugars.  I gave her two singles and she pushed one back. 

“Just give me a quarter next time.” 

“Are you sure?”, I asked.

“Yes, it’s so much easier.” 

And so it is. 

I walked up toward Park Avenue, smiling in the morning sun, breathing in the air of a happy, well rested city.



Kind Words

15 Jul

I have never really trusted kind words. Fearing false emotion and cheap platitudes, I shrugged them off as politely as possible and moved on, never giving them their due.

I was wrong.

Not to avoid cheap emotion, please… God save us from Oprah’s couch. But I was wrong not to listen. Not to hear. Not to recognize the truth that is almost always there.

The responses to my first post, Gifts from My Daughter, have been an amazing lesson in the power of a kind word at a difficult time. Such words, I have learned, do not lose, but rather gain with repetition the power to comfort, attaining a warm glow, the softness of a favorite blanket, the smell of woodsmoke. I cannot hear them enough.

Surprisingly many of these words have come from old friends, people I really didn’t expect to hear much from again. And yet here they are, sharing their own lives and stories as if the time and distance that separates us does not exist.

Why did I ever let such amazing friends drift away?.

The answer, I know, is mostly geography. When you pick up and move every decade or so, you cut a lot of ties. Hell, in my youth I thought this was healthy, something everyone should do. As if uprooting all the trees in a forest every ten years and moving them all around could somehow be good land management.


I should never have let it happen. These people are too valuable. I should have brought them with me. Forcibly if necessary. And we should all now live within blocks of each other, having coffee in the morning, beers at night, and barbecues on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren should all be the best of friends and have the run of each others houses. We should be there for each other all the time, sharing the seasons of our lives.

Idiocy as well, I suppose. But, understandable idiocy, which is usually the best I can plead.

So, I throw myself upon the mercy of my friends. And be they in Perrysburg, Chicago, New York, or Steamboat Springs, I have no doubt they will catch me. Most likely with a kind word at a difficult time. Which I will value above gold.



Gifts from my Daughter

9 Jul

Where to begin. That’s always the question, isn’t it? Every blessed day. Where to begin.

Hopefully this will be an exercise in finding my voice. An exercise in truth, hopefully. Although already I can feel the siren song of various personas calling. The terse, hardbitten realist, the wounded romantic, the hyped up Hunter Thompsonesque truth teller. Bullshit, all. Me. Just me.

I used to tell people I was an actor. That really doesn’t seem to work anymore. Not because I haven’t worked on anything for a while (although I haven’t), but because it’s not enough. People are not their jobs. Their lives are richer than that.

Four weeks ago my wife Amy gave birth to our second child, a beautiful little girl named Hallie Jake. She has my blue eyes, her mothers dark hair, her brother’s temper and an extra chromosome that has changed all our lives in ways I have barely begun to comprehend. As a result, it’s not easy to think very far into the future. I keep bumping into dreams that I fear will never come true. So it’s a day at a time. And in that time things are good. Their is a great deal of love in our little family, and beauty, and strength (especially in Amy, who amazes and inspires me every day).

And Hallie brings gifts.

In the days immediately following her birth, when my mind would not stop trying to somehow fix things, I couldn’t shake the image of myself standing between two sets of trap doors – one above and another both below and within me. Through the door above me came light, and I knew that through that door was my future, my infinitely simple future had Hallie been born normal. The other door, which had dropped open in the operating room the second the neo-natalist said “I’m going to do some chromosome tests,” and then avoided both my questions and my eyes, opened into a deep vast well of emotion that even now I have a hard time controlling. For the first three days I was a raw nerve walking the streets, and my mere gaze would back people down. I was also as clear, honest, empathetic and as deeply human as I have ever been. There’s power in that. And as the door above me closed and faded, there was also peace. These are the gifts my daughter has given me.

And this is where I begin.