Not so positive.

Sunday, March 31st, 1996

It’s still March as I write this, so it’s no April fool. We were robbed yesterday, Saturday. Broken in on. We went to have a nice dinner with my brother and his wife, and when we returned, around ten in the evening, sat down to watch a video for a while.

I went into the downstairs bathroom. Odd, the linen cabinet was open. Back to the movie. Went into my office. Odd, the window is open, just a bit. The room is even sloppier than usual. There’s a faint outline of a footprint on my computer’s tower case. This is not good.

Went upstairs. Carefully. Someone had distributed the contents–damn near all the contents–of our dresser drawers freely around, in search of valuables.

We don’t have a lot that falls into that category (very little of the traditional Rolexes and jewels that crooks favor.) So he–I’m assuming here–settled for a few little portable things. A watch belonging to my grandfather. A necklace of Sammy’s. A video camera.

It almost seems as if we scared this person off in the act, because he exited, abruptly it appears, from our upstairs bedroom, into the rains and cold mist that pervaded our town last night.

We called 911. Of course. It didn’t take long for an Atlanta Police cruiser to show up on our street, spotlight ablaze, searching for our address. He overshot the house, realized his mistake, slammed into reverse, and…backed into our neighbor Chris’s Dodge Dakota at a fair rate of speed.

This seemed, at darn near midnight, quite funny to Sammy and me. (Later, I apologized to Chris with ‘I’m sorry our cop hit your car.’)
The accident was something the police could do something about, and it attracted another four cruisers loaded with supervisors and accident investigators. The cop that hit the truck eventually came over, contrite, apologetic. He seemed like a nice guy. He also could do little more than take down our information.

So that’s how we spent a good deal of last night.

I’m not going to go on at length about the feelings that wash over you when this kind of violation happens. The end result was not nearly as catastrophic as the 1991 oak tree that bisected our house. But still. This may well have happened to you in one form or another–it happens a lot, especially here in the big city. But it also happened once to my wife’s parents living in rural Michigan. So go figure.

We’ll go figure, and we’ll go clean things up and try to get back into the groove, with deadlines to meet, work to be done, television and taxes and academia. Sitting here in my office looking at the window where someone entered 24 hours ago, it’s just…a bit…jarring.

Here’s hoping for a better start to your week.

Smiths in the springtime.

Saturday, March 16th, 1996

The house is crawling with Smiths. Well, perhaps that’s not the nicest way to put it. They are, after all a rather agreeable bunch, well-mannered, well-educated. They clean up after themselves. They get into relatively few fistfights. They read the daily New York Times. They are, after all, Sammy‘s parents and brother.

Her parents, Nick and Manette, are a nomadic people, heading South at the first sign of cold weather in their RV, a small one, based on a Toyota pickup truck body. They winter in extreme south Texas, and when the blooms first appear on the trees around here they return, following the migratory patterns of many a Michigander (that would be I-75) back to their non-mobile home near East Lansing, Michigan.

Her brother, who flew in last night from Seattle, is on a much tighter schedule, and we’re glad he could forge a break in it to fly east and spend a long weekend with his parents and sister. Gordon Smith (Sammy and her parents use a more familiar form of that name, but I’ll be polite) is, like Sammy, going for ‘that terminal degree’ at the University of Washington (in Seattle) and spends a lot of time worrying about forest management and public policy and the places where one gets in the way of the other. Trees. The things that live in trees. And the people who would cut them down. On the next Geraldo!

We’re planning a weekend in and out of thundsertorms that will give the Smiths plenty of time to trade stories and see some Atlanta stuff and generally have a good, relaxed time.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m out and about with the Smiths is to watch them all exhibit behaviors that I’m very familiar with through close observation of Sammy. Say we’ve got to find our way, out in the woods of North Georgia or somewhere. Out come the maps! A different (possibly conflicting one) for each Smith! A spirited discussion ensues! A lively exchange of ideas! Me, I sit back, smug in the knowledge that I really know the best way to go, but have no problem being led, or misled, in the interests of a good adventure and a good time.

In and around that I’m trying to get a tiny bit of television done, conscious again of the need, as a freelancer, to balance one’s time between work and not-work. But as a television freelancer, toiling in a field where equipment breaks and things change at the last minute and everything pivots around ‘now,’ it’s hard to strike that balance, and I feel as if I inevitably end up disappointing someone. Sometimes, it’s just me.

I said last time that soon, everyone I know will have a page on the WWW for their creative outlets. The newest member of that club is Bruce Graham, another Ohio University graduate, more of a success than most. Bruce has spent a lot of time doing (let’s eee, how do I simplify this?) some high-tech engineering for a firm that makes very high-tech television and film equipment, and now he’s entered a chapter of his life where he isn’t quite the work, work, work guy he used to be. He’s got some interests and pursuits that are, well, interesting, and he does a good job of leading you through them live, from his home in Coral Gables, Florida. Positively.

I’ve had projects of late that take me to extreme suburban Atlanta&emdash;south of the airport, to Peachtree City, Georgia, and way northeast of town, up by Lake Lanier, in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Way more of a commute than I’m used to. Lots of good radio time. When NPR doesn’t have any decent news programming (midday), my auto radio companion has been 99x’s House of Retro Pleasure, hosted by some guy named Steve who apparently studied archaeology, only to end up in diskjockeydom. (Did I say only!? Want to compare salaries between radio folk and archaeo folk?) At any rate, I think of this as a potential career path for my dear spouse, who is only slightly more tone-deaf than I. And back to the music: that show has provided the early 80s songs that run annoyingly through the back of my mind: Ebn-Ozn’s ‘A E I O U’ and, yes, ‘Safety Dance’ from Men Without Hats (or as I like to refer to them, Hommes Sans Chapeaux).

And sometimes Y.

Now, let’s open the emailbag:
James Holle of Cincinnati writes:

It’s 5:30 am (even the new puppy is still asleep), I’m preparing to go out the door to work, and yet I’m curiously drawn to check out JC’s home page and see if he’s making use of applets yet. In an early morning fog I’m unable to come up with a good use for the word trenchant. But seeing Sammy in that ball cap makes me think…if Sammy had her own home page would I find it on "Charlotte’s Web"???

No applets yet. Most people don’t even like these frames. And now you’ve done it, Jim, you’ve revealed Sammy’s real, on-her-birth-certificate, first name. (Oh, wait, I mention it elsewhere on these pages. Charlotte it is.) And after my comments on Pat and Bob and those other debating Republicans, one Rebecca Poynor Burns of Decatur, Georgia comments:

Well, your unreconstructed liberal tirade makes James‘ seem almost, well, conservative…Next time you point out the ironies of the Republican candidates speaking for the average folks, you might mention that Dole’s divorced and estranged from his children, Buchanan has no kids, etc…maybe you lifestyle liberals don’t find these tidbits amusing, but as a self proclaimed suburban housewife…I find it distressing.

I’ll say it again. Bob Dole will not make it through this campaign. He’s going to spring a political leak and tumble off the podium, spraying tired rhetoric everywhere.

Enjoy your week. Write when you have a moment.