nonBlog: April 2006

Click here for a possibly gratuitous explanation of why my blog is called "nonBlog" and my site is titled "Ceci n'est pas un blog."


Outing the God—I Mean Margo's—Father—Sunday, April 30, 2006

The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine published my story today about Bay Area author Margo Perin and her work teaching inmates in the SF County Jail. I also wrote about her father Arden Perin, a career criminal who kept the family on the run while Margo was growing up. Margo doesn’t know if her father is dead or alive, but her siblings are still so frightened of him and his cronies that Margo uses pseudonyms for them in her writing.

Before the story came out, the Chronicle Magazine's editor, Alison Biggar, asked me if we should really go through with this. What if we are responsible for Margo’s father finding her and hurting her? I told her that Margo isn’t afraid and that she has written about her childhood quite extensively. In fact, the article’s release coincides with the publication of a book of works by Margo and her inmate students in which Margo discusses her father’s behavior in some detail. So the article went forward.

Still, I’m always surprised by the unexpected consequences of the written word, my written words in particular. I find myself hoping that the unexpected consequence of this story is that Margo Perin becomes so famous that she gets too busy to return my calls and not that her father comes out of hiding to suggest some consequences he intends if she doesn’t stop writing about him.


Marshmallow Jurist—Monday, April 22, 2006

Greta, who is now six, has an extremely well-developed sense of injustice. I suspect it comes of being a little sister, Olivia’s little sister in particular. Anyone would cling to her rights when faced with a force of nature of Olivia’s magnitude.

Recently we made yet another visit to the chocolate café near our house whose opening, I might add, is the best (or worst) thing to happen to me in 2006. I bought Greta three hand-cut homemade marshmallows. When she didn’t volunteer a thank-you, I asked her for one. She scowled and said, with a total absence of irony, “Mommy, I have to thank you for something at least two times a day!”

This is the story I am planning to throw up to her roughly 30 years from now when she is the mother of a six-year old.


Hexed, or Maybe Not So Much—Monday, April 17, 2006

I have decided that something absolutely wonderful is going to happen. Any second now.

Here's how I know. After we missed our flight to North Carolina (see post below) and had to cough up nearly twice our original fare to fly the next day, and after Delta left our biggest piece of luggage off the plane and then told us that if we wanted it sooner than halfway through our vacation we'd have to drive three hours round-trip to get it, the following events took place:

  • Tom got a sinus infection;
  • We arrived at the Norfolk, Virginia airport at the end of the week to discover that Delta had inadvertently canceled our return flight when they re-issued our outgoing tickets, stranding us;
  • Continental explained that if we didn't want to miss our flight home we'd have to fork over yet another $1,500 for a grand total of-drumroll please-$4,440 round-trip;
  • Our baby Ava was possessed by demonic forces on the plane and spent the entire ride home alternately puking and pooping yellow liquid;
  • The shuttle driver who picked us up at the Oakland airport arrived late, took us to the highway, and then tried to turn around and start all over again to pick up another fare; and
  • The next morning Delta informed us that although the ticketing disaster was their mistake it was-you guessed it-our problem (again, see below for Delta's corporate policy).

So how do I know that something wonderful is about to happen? Because, as all parents know, every child decompensates right before making a developmental leap. They stop sleeping right before they take their first steps. Or they start throwing tantrums right before they learn to read. And all of the above clearly signifies that our life is currently decompensating. Thus our life must be on the verge of making a developmental leap. Something wonderful is going to happen.

Or maybe it already has. Because, in addition to the above vacation mishaps, we also got to:

  • Drive on the beach, which I have never done before in my life;
  • See the tallest lighthouse in the U.S.;
  • Relax in our friends’ glorious four-story beach house and enjoy their company, along with rather a lot of beer, wine and laughs;
  • Walk on the site of the Lost Colony of settlers who came to Roanoke Island long before the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock;
  • Shop at the pirate store on Okracoke Island, not to mention learning how to say "Okracoke Island";
  • Eat an egg salad sandwich, which in my opinion no one on the west coast knows how to make properly; and
  • Explore the Kitty Hawk site of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flights.

I’d say all of that constitutes a development leap. Nobody ever said developmental leaps come cheap.


It's Your Fault No Matter What—Monday, April 10, 2006

Flying always involves a certain amount of mishigos, but this trip to North Carolina reached a new high, or low. We went to the wrong airport, figured it out only after putting our car in long-term parking, missed check-in by four minutes, and had to pay double to get tickets on another flight the next day. But wait, there’s more. When we got on the puddle-jumper to go from Atlanta to Norfolk, Virginia, Delta decided to balance the plane by removing all the oversized baggage and not mentioning it to the vacationers within. They told us this when we arrived in Norfolk after midnight, with a 2 ½-hour drive ahead of us.

We didn’t have our main bag. It was still in Atlanta. We’re a family of five traveling with a baby and two of us didn’t have a single pair of underwear or a change of clothes. But Delta refused to deliver the bag to us because we were staying too far from the airport. Instead they were going to put it in the mail and we’d have it in a few days. We asked them the difference in cost between the place they were willing to bring the bag and the place where we were staying, and they said a hundred bucks. I reminded them that we paid full fare and perhaps they could spring for the extra hundred. Sorry, they said, it’s corporate policy. So Delta had no problem making us pay full fare when we missed our flight, and they had no problem balancing the plane by removing our luggage, but they had a problem paying an extra hundred to get it to us sooner than halfway through our vacation. Delta’s corporate policy seems to be that if something is your fault it’s your problem, and if it’s their fault it’s your problem too. This may be one reason why Delta is on the verge of bankruptcy.

So we offered to slip the courier 50 bucks and he brought our bag to a brewery a half hour away from our friends’ beach house. Today I awoke to a perfect, sunny morning on the Outer Banks of the North Carolina shore. There is ocean on one side of us and sound on the other, and although it is spring break and prime time to be vacationing on any shore south of the Mason Dixon line, the place is deserted. The only sound is that of the waves—in, out, in, out. In the aftermath of mishigos, you always take its measure. This time the mishigos was worth it.


Infinite Slippers—Sunday, April 9, 2006

We were on our way to the San Francisco Airport on Friday night to fly to the North Carolina shore for spring break when Greta started asking existential questions about heaven again. It turned out our flight was actually leaving from Oakland and we were about to miss it, but that’s another story.

Greta, who just turned six, has been fixating on heaven ever since she computed that because everybody dies, that means her father and mother, her goldfish, and eventually Greta herself will go the way of all flesh. So she’s focusing on her contingency plan: heaven. She wants to know what to expect when she gets there and asks us questions about the details regularly. Friday night she wanted to know, if she was flying in heaven and her slipper fell off, would it land on a town? And if so, would God give her another slipper? We told her that God had an infinite amount of slippers. Then we had to explain what infinite meant. Tom said it was like having the biggest closet you can imagine full of slippers. That seemed to satisfy her.

Then she wanted to know if, in heaven, she would have arms and wings. We said she’d have both, which seemed to come as a relief. Then she said, “I really want to go to heaven.” This statement represented a decided change of heart. So we asked her why she now wants to go to heaven, and she said, in a low, conspiratorial voice, “Because I want to see God’s big eyes.


Opening Day, Sort Of—Saturday, April 1, 2006

Tom and I had tickets to the exhibition game between the SF Giants and the Oakland A’s last night. His parents are in town so we brought them along. The season hath begun.


It is hard to explain why I love this team so much, or this stadium so much, or even this game so much. My dad never took me to a baseball game, I’m not from San Francisco, and the Giants are about the sorriest and losingest team in the league. Actually, that’s the only part of the equation that makes sense, because I have this affinity for the underdog. I always think of myself as belonging to whichever tribe has the least chance of prevailing on Survivor, for example. I believe this comes of having been reviled for my freaky albino looks in the sixth grade, which is one of those things from which you never recover. So it was weird that I ever started loving the Giants because back then they were World Series material. Of course, my adoration of them took care of that.

So it was about three degrees above freezing on Friday night and Barry Bonds was home resting his bum knee and Noah Lowry gave up four runs in short order and Tom’s parents thought it might be nice to leave early and get a steak. So we passed on our usual sublime hot dog with kraut and spent a small fortune on Niman beef at the Acme Chophouse nearby. But for a few innings before we left I got to sit outside, and talk to Tom with no children around, and drink a Lagunitas pale ale in a plastic cup, and look across the water through the drizzle at the lights on the Oakland hills. And for whatever reason I really can’t think of a better way to spend an evening. The fact that I was not raised to feel this way is probably part of the attraction, which makes me the only baseball fan in America for whom loving the sport is a form of post-adolescent rebellion.



  • Story in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine about English Channel swimmers who train in the Bay area.
  • KQED Radio Perspective about how Florida has gone into the bumper-sticker business with "Choose Life" license plates.
  • Eat the Press piece in The Huffington Post about Jon Krakauer's curious absence from Outside Magazine's 10th anniversary issue on the 1996 Everest disaster.
  • Double-top-secret book due out fall 2007
    from Adams Media.
  • Fame and fortune; date TBA

2006 Archives






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