Posts Tagged ‘1997’

The tornado story

June 10, 2013

Five tornados touched down in Colorado the other day. This reminds me of two months before we left Boulder, when a tornado was a block from my house.

I was home alone with the kids, who were 2 and 4.

There were siren horns in every neighborhood, and of late they had been testing them, in anticipation of the 100-year flood. In an actual flood, the sirens would sound continuously, alerting us to get as high as we could, (which in Boulder meant different things to different people.)

Suddenly the sky went dark. I was folding laundry in the living room, which had a whole wall of windows and had been awash in natural light. Within a moment I could see only the flickering of The Magic School Bus.

Then the sirens sounded — continuously. I called the newsroom to find out what was going on, and learned a funnel cloud looked about to touch down around 30th and Iris. That’s where my house was.

I was told to get under my house. Fine system they have, I thought, where the same siren either means to get on or under your house.

I called my husband and unfairly begged him to come home. He was in the middle of getting a sixth-grade science class into the hallway in the center of the school.

I sent my kids into the area that was too deep to call a crawlspace and too shallow to call a basement. They took the cordless phone and a flashlight while I scurried to gather supplies. I tried to pretend this was a fun adventure. I showed up in one minute with kid chairs, shoes, books, snacks and the potty.

I read to them by flashlight, but could barely contain my fear. It was so totally dark, and the sirens were so loud.

After a half an hour of books I shone the light around. I had never been under there before. There was a lot of space. We had dining chairs stacked that I had forgotten about, and some old baby furniture.

My son said, “Want to see where Daddy and I fixed the pipes for the bathtub?”

“I do,” I said as I offered him the flashlight.

“I don’t need that.” He walked past me and flipped the light switch.

For Pete’s sake, I should have put him in charge in the first place.

The penis-on-the-front-page story

May 8, 2013

I volunteer guest-teaching journalism for various school newspaper programs. Today I gave my popular ethics presentation.

I show photos that may or not be ethical to run. They deal with issues like invasion of privacy, gore and the moment before death. I give them what-would-you-do scenarios.

And we talk about the difference between libel and ethics. I have lots of newsroom stories where my paper violated ethical standards, but not the law.

One ethical guideline that’s pretty much universal in newsrooms is avoiding photos of dead or nude people.

When I worked at the paper in Boulder, we would get the paper to bed about midnight and wait about an hour to proof the first copies off the press.

Each proofer took a job — page numbers, jumps, headlines, etc.

The longer the proofs took, the less thorough we were.

If they came to us after 2 a.m., we did was called a ‘f**k check’: We were to scan for the F word and approve the edition in its absence.

When we proofed with care, it seemed we never found anything that needed changing, but when we ran a f**k check, we ran a lot of corrections.

One such time got us into hot water.

The centerpiece photo on the front page went with a big feature we did on health care for the elderly. I remember glancing at it and thinking the photo felt washed in orange. I didn’t like the way it made the page look.

At a glance, it was an old man on a bed or gurney in a busy facility.

At a post-lawsuit-threat inspection, it was an old man inadequately covered by a thin sheet. His penis was exposed.

To add insult to infirmity, the man died during the night we were printing that paper.

The family’s grief was met first thing in the morning with this ignominious final photo.

With one feature, we proved both Murphy Law’s and Andy Warhol were right.

The movie date story

March 8, 2013

When the biopic The People Vs. Larry Flynt, came out in theaters, my husband and I went to see it on a date.

We’re big into dates. When we’re out, my husband refers to me as his best girl.

The theater was nigh on sold out, and we had to sit in the middle of the front row.

In one scene Mr. Flynt made a return appearance in a courtroom where he’d been scolded for disrespectful behavior.

He wheeled his chair in and took his place behind the defendant table. His T-shirt said, “F*** this court.”

The movie in no way addresses the shirt.

My husband and I were consumed with laughter.

Throughout the scene we would settle down when the camera cut away, only to start up again when it showed him presenting his defense in that shirt we were bending our necks to see.

Today we refer to that as the night we knew we were growing old with the right person.

Because throughout that whole scene, in that crowded room, no one else laughed.

My son took his best girl to the movies this afternoon. He came into the kitchen with wet hair, buttoning his cuffs and smelling like Axe.

He was ready.

Copy editor miss

March 6, 2013

During my last week at the paper in Boulder, heads had to roll.

A factbox that put Roger Ebert’s review in a nutshell announced the movie ‘Fools Rush In’ was rated PG-13.

It should have proceded to explain that there was some sexual content.

Instead it explained that the movie contained ‘some sexual contentment.’

I hadn’t worked that night. You can check my schedule.

Copy editor catch

February 19, 2013

In Boulder we ran a factbox in the sports section called ‘How the Women Fared.’ It had basketball scores.

My eyes were usually the last ones on the paper before they went to print, because I hand carried the pasted-up page to the camera.

Last-minute items like sport scores are always typed in a rush. We have to get this stuff done in time to get it printed in time to get it delivered by sunrise, but games run late and throw us in all into a panic. Elections do the same thing.

So you can imagine how easy it would be to hit that ‘T’ next to the ‘R’ and type ‘How the Women Farted.’

It’s great to save the day.


November 23, 2012

Beatle George has an 8-year-old son. They were over for Monday Night Football tonight.

My son discovered with an outburst that the child has never seen Jaws.

How does this happen? I’ve insisted George bring the boy to me Wednesday so I can fix him.

To my mind, 4 is the right age for Jaws watchin’.

This decision came by happenstance. Uncle Jer and I were upstairs in the Boulder house, flipping through the channels on a Saturday afternoon, when we saw that the movie was about to start.

We looked at each other with excitement. “Pop some corn!”

Then my son wandered in.

Badda bing badda boom. Four was the right age.

We initiated him carefully. We told him what to expect. “Hear the music? That means you’ll see some red spots in the water. Here’s a scary part.”

Then I couldn’t wait for The Baby to turn 4. I stood by the set with the unpopped corn counting down the days from her third birthday.

We had left Uncle Jer behind in Colorado, but acquired the flick on VHS. My son and I popped corn and brought her into the club.

Now it’s Bennett’s turn. 

My kids know the routine by now. We’ll pop the corn, give the warnings, and as one, we’ll shout, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

I’m thinkin’ since the kid’s 8, we’ll have to watch it twice.

The engagement ring story

October 26, 2012

You don’t want my daughter in on your secret.

We were in the car this week, looking for the new high school, and my daughter said to my son, “Remember you drove there before? Myles was with us.”

My son made a low growl at her.

“You drove Myles when you had the car?” I was shocked.

A louder growl, with a dirty look at sis.

In California, a newly-licensed 16-year-old cannot drive a non-sibling teen to band practice.

I’m not as strict about this rule as I am about talking to non-siblings’ moms before I allow my son to drive them anywhere. I had not yet talked to Myles’ mom.

I was more surprised than anything. I thought my son was perfect.

But this story is about my daughter and her loose tongue.

I had been a pregnant college student when I got married.

We had no kind of money, and I had no kind of engagement ring.

For our fifth anniversary we planned a weekend alone in the mountains.

A few days before the occasion, I had worked late. This was during my husband’s two-year turn as the stay-at-home parent.

After dinner I dragged myself into the bathroom to brush teeth. My daughter followed me in. She was 3 1/2.

My son, then 5 1/2, was trying to drag her off to get jammies on.

They were both acting strange.

I pulled out the lotion box I kept my jewelry in to drop in my earrings. She snatched it away and rummaged through it.

“Come on,” said my son


“Let’s go.” Pulling on her arm.

“Wait! I wanna see the diamond ring Daddy bought today.”

I froze. My son pulled his own hair. My daughter said, “What?”

I begged her not to tell Daddy she blew the secret, but she is who she is.

She ran into the kitchen and tattled on her own self.


October 19, 2012

My friend Kevin from Boulder sent me this e-mail after my post about Peter Bonerz. It appears to be the cover of a sports section from June of 2001 in the Orange County Register.

It’s about Angels player Bartolo Colon.

The headline reads “Colon takes another pounding.”

I rooted around and learned they did it again in 2004, using the word ‘absorbs’ instead of ‘takes,’ and WSOC TV ran this 2007 teaser: Royals to get a taste of Angels’ Colon.

As a headline writer, I know how hard it is to put the gist of a story into a short sentence with landmines like double-entendre names.

We used to have a local politician in Boulder name of Hyman. He was busted one night in the back seat with a prostitute.

I tried not to write a funny headline. We all tried.


October 18, 2012

I woke up in the dark hours of this morning with a migraine.

Somehow I made it to the bedroom doorway, but couldn’t get farther. My husband woke up and got me an Excedrin Migraine pill and some water.

Let me give a free ad to this product. You’re about to read what my migraines are like. Nothing else works. Since it was invented I’ve kept a bottle in the car, my purse, and several places in the house. It’s made a big difference in my life.

I was 17 when I got my first attack. I had come home from work with just a bad headache, but by the time I had gotten upstairs it was so bad I couldn’t get to my bedroom. I lay in the hallway, thinking there was no way I could survive another 10 seconds of that pain, as it went on for minute after minute.

The second one started while I was playing Trivial Pursuit at my family reunion, which you read about in Sonnets. It rained that day, and the whole fam damily was packed in Auntie Barbara’s great room, which I ended up lying in the middle of with my arms pressed over my eyes before my boyfriend peeled me up and drove me to the hotel. I was 20.

My third struck when I was 24, and my fourth when I was 27. But the summer I turned 28 I had a bunch of them. I ended up in a CAT scan machine.

Over the years, my husband has found me on the kitchen floor, the front lawn; once I got one while I was driving home from the grocery store. I was around the corner from home when it got bad enough I had to pull over. I had toddlers strapped in th back seat wondering what was going on.

This morning’s was one of the worst I’ve ever had. My husband gave me a pill and some water, and I waited, chewing that familiar dread of an in surmountable few more seconds of pain. I tried to come up with ways to cope until the medicine broke through. That’s what it’s like, a balloon bursting. Excedrin is the cavalry, ride in to save.

I tried to think about lying on a beach, watching football, being hit on.

It didn’t come. Twenty-six minutes went by, and the relief didn’t come. I sent my husband to get me another pill.

Sitting up to swallow makes it worse for a little while. I’m a rational woman, but while I waited for the second one to work I was thinking about having my husband take me to the hospital to have me put down.

Then it washed it over me — freedom from pain. It brought its buddy, the will to live.

And here I am, woke to blog another day.

The time my daughter went missing

September 15, 2012

The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard is tormenting me.

I must watch or listen to every drip of news coverage I can find. My husband seems to be avoiding it.

Once we were in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and a woman went past us in the hall looking frantic and calling a child’s name. My husband took in a steadying breath, went glassy eyed and dropped my hand to join the search.

He was emotional when he came back. He told me he can’t handle seeing a parent looking for a lost kid. He said it puts him right back in the moment when he lost our daughter.

She was 2.

I had gone to a party at Kevin’s house. Kevin had been one of my closest friends before I left the Sink and had a baby. We ran into each other in town after my plans to move back to California were set.

He told me he was having a to-do at his parents’ house. It was a reunion for us, and an unusual kid-free afternoon for me.

I came home before evening. Everything seemed normal.

Later my husband and I were watching TV. He hit the mute button suddenly, and told me he had had to look for the baby while I was gone.

He said he had tried to call me on Jer’s cell phone, which I had taken with me for some reason.

I hadn’t kept close to my purse at Kevin’s. This was before caller ID and cellular voicemail. This is one of two times I had had Jer’s cell.

My husband put the sound back on the TV and the night went on.

When it was time to go upstairs, he turned the set off and put his forehead on my shoulder. “My God, I was so scared,” he said. He started sobbing.

This was uncharacteristic. I became scared.

He told me he had realized the baby wasn’t there, and checked around the house. The yard was empty, so he walked our quiet block calling for her. Ultimately people all over the neighborhood were searching.

She had wandered next door and was trying on another little girl’s roller skates in a garage.

It was the worst suffering my husband has ever known.

The time my son went missing

June 18, 2012

I just read on about a boy who went missing in 1955. It seems he’s just turned up.

His mother had parked her kids outside a bakery. After she paid for her cinnamon rolls she discovered an empty stroller. Her 2-year-old son and infant daughter were missing.

The baby was found a couple blocks away. I imagine the fruitless search for her son destroyed her. She must have had the worst kind of guilt.

When we see a parent looking for her child, my husband’s eyes well up. He’s been there once with each of ours, and the emotion of it comes right back to him.

I used to work nights at the newspaper in Boulder. One night we put the paper to bed before last call. A gang of us went across the street to Old Chicago.

For some reason I had Uncle Jer’s cell phone. It was one of two times I had it, and he was the only cell-phone owner I knew. By coincidence, the second time will be in the story of when my daughter went missing.

I had barely taken a sip of my Guinness when my husband called. Our 4-year-old wasn’t in his bed, or anywhere else my husband could see.

Then he made a confession. He had gone against my wishes and opened my son’s window to cool the room.

I was uptight about open windows in the kids’ rooms, or anywhere in the house if we were sleeping. JonBenet had just been abducted in December, a couple of Hop stops from our house.

I abandoned my beer and my friends. I could barely get my bike unlocked. My hands started shaking when I realized my husband wouldn’t have called until he had been looking a long time. He would have been sure the child was gone before scaring me.

Ultimately we found him. He had snuggled under the overhang on the foot of his bed, and was curtained in by his bedspread.

Having never slept near an open window before, he wasn’t used to the breeze.

That ended one of the worst hours of my life. I can’t figure how the Damman parents lived with that feeling for 54 years.

Boulder weather

May 4, 2012

We’ve just pulled into the driveway from my daughter’s Bach concert this morning.

As we wended our way home through the palm trees and orange blossoms, a hawk soared above us. The sky is a perfect blue. People are out walking their dogs.

It’s 83 degrees.

As I got out of the car I heard maybe four varieties of birds singing. Our property is in full bloom, and the greenery is lush.

According to the Internet, it’s 41 degrees in Boulder, Colo. There’s a little picture of an angry cloud spraying a black sky.

I lived there for nine years.

That’s a solid 3,287 days I was a complaint machine.

In the winter, which begins in September, it’s cold. We had a heating system, but it was not possible to warm the house. In season, the best we could do was keep it warmer than outside.

When I have to wear a coat in my home, I get pissy.

Then summer comes. It’s miserably hot, and the only air conditioning is at the grocery store.

It’s not sunny heat, either. The days are gray, and there’s a thunderstorm at 3 p.m., come hell with high water.

I have nothing nice to say.

Compounding my thermal discomfort were all the people from Minnesota — how can so many people be from Minnesota? — who found Colorado weather mild. That was their favorite conversation topic.

When we started talking about moving back to California, which you may remember was largely because of the JonBenet Ramsey murder, it was January. The temperature had not reached zero in 16 days. And by ‘reached,’ I don’t mean ‘dipped to.’

There’s also something called ‘wind chill,’ which I do not fully understand, but I get that I don’t want any part of it.

Then one day in March the thermostat hit 60. Everyone went outside.

People put on shorts and grabbed their Frisbees.

I needed a sweatshirt. I can’t think of how to phrase how crabby this made me.

My girlfriend and I put the babies in the stroller and went for a walk. I was thinking, ‘Why do I live here?’

There was a 60-something woman on her knees, gardening in a sun hat and Mickey Mouse gloves.

She looked up and smiled at us. She said, “Isn’t this wonderful? Days like this remind us why we live here.”

I hope I didn’t growl at her, but I kind of think I remember a growl.

Now that we’re back in Paradise, I think about that nutcase 330 days a year.

I think, ‘Days like today remind me why I don’t live there.”

Boom Boom cracks me up

April 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Boom Boom.

One year, when my goddaughter was 6, I flew out from Colorado with the kids for Boom Boom’s birthday.

We showed up at my goddaughter’s school, pulled her out of class and went to Disneyland. My son was 4.

It was the perfect day — a drizzly weekday, just like today.

There were no lines. The children behaved.

I spent most of the day laughing, because Boom Boom cracks me up.

On the way home Boom Boom was looking out the window. Comet Hale-Bopp was supposed to be in the sky that night, and was hot news at the time. We wanted to catch a glimpse.

Suddenly Boom Boom yelled, “I see it. I see it.”

“What does it look like?”

“It’s really fast,” she described. “And it has red flashing lights.”