Friday, February 27, 2009

Meet Woofit

There are conflicting stories as to the origin of my brother's name.

The one I grew up hearing goes something like this:

Alden, the oldest, could not - or would not - say the name "Allan" which is his real name. Allan Kent Turner.

Instead, Alden called him "Woofie" and it stuck.

The newest story, which I just heard in the past few years, is that my father gave him the nickname, but we're not sure why.

Either way, Woofie - or Woof or Woofit - is the name he's had since a toddler and it's what we've always called him. In fact, he had it legally changed to Woofit not too long ago.

Invariably, when I write or talk about Woofie, I always have to stop mid-story and explain that my brother is not a pet dog I had as a kid. He's my second-oldest brother, seven years my senior, and after whom we named our own son, Griffin.

Griffin Allan Kent Turner.

Not Griffin Woofit.

Try saying that without giggling.

Sounds like courderoy pants rubbing together when you run.

griffin-woofit, griffin-woofit

Woofie looks like a Woofie, not an Allan. He was a drummer in a rock-n-roll band. A few, actually, when I was growing up. But repeated surgeries on his shoulders fucked up his ability to play. Well, they fucked up his ability to do a lot.

But when I was a kid, everyone knew Woofie Turner. The blond drummer.

"You're Woofie's brother?" they would ask, the implication being that there's no way in hell that was possible. Woofie was cool and had beautiful girlfriends. I was not.

Woofie is stocky and, before the shoulder problems tore him down, was muscular and well-built.

I was not. In fact, I am more like my sister, Alison, whereas Alden and Woofie were closer in physical type. They got the muscular genes. Alison and I were short and skinny.

Today, Woofie is the father of three beautiful girls - seen by many as a cruel twist of fate for a man's man. Many in our tight family have agreed that the girls tempered his earlier wildness.

But really, to be honest, Woof is a poet and always has been, in the romantic sense of the word, not literally. He's always had the rough outer veneer but beneath it he's vanilla and banana pudding. I don't know a man more benevolent, nor anyone with a deeper sense of love and affecting warmth.

It is true, Woofie has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Or, as my mother would say, "March to the drum of a different beat."

But we love that about him, as much as we love that Alden is the oldest and smartest, Alison is the only sister and by far the prettiest, or that I'm ...

Not sure what I am to them. They'd have to tell you. I have my ideas. Something about youngest and most spoiled, which would be accurate probably.

Anyway, from now on, when I speak of Woof, Woofit, or Woofie, you know.

He's my second-oldest, former drumming, father of three girls, deep-souled, opinionated, sculpting, 48-year-old but still fucking cool, brother.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

15 Things I Love About You (Happy Birthday)


You were
A scowler, a searcher
Always looking into the meanings of things
A quiet curiosity


Your blond hair
As a child
Had a near-blinding luminescence


Everybody wants
You as a friend


Your relentless pursuit
To please me
No matter what


Your bowleggedness
When you were a toddler
Yet you could run like hell away from me


Your imagination is
Contagious and fills me
With hope


You on a playing field
On a court
Is poetry


Your vain attempts
To quell tears
Trying to be strong
Your quivering bottom lip was a beautiful thing


Whenever you said
Your voice was a cure
For everything that ailed me


People pay you a compliment
When they don't realize I'm your father
And I get goose bumps


You still come to me for answers
Even though "I don't know"
Is a more common reply than it used to be


You hug me
In front of your friends
And still tell me you love me
When it's time for bed


You're incapable of
Staying angry at me


You still laugh at my


You make a father
Feel loved

Monday, February 23, 2009

Random Notes

It snowed 24 inches - or more - last night.

We lost power at about 2 in the morning and didn't get it back until 10:30, which meant no heat and an awful lot of snow to shovel.

That heavy, rain-saturated snow too. Two feet of it.

Our porch leaks at the far end, even after I repaired the roof this past summer. Well, obviously I didn't repair it.

This means a serious roof rehabilitation project for the spring. The kind where you tear up shingles, pop out water-damaged wood, and replace flashing.

Of course, that will happen after we gut and redo our bathroom, the one in which a pipe froze and burst a couple months ago, saturating everything right down into the basement.


My last entry showed an image of the cover of Purple Holly, my latest not-yet-finished novel. I just wanted to share a moment for you. I think the Germans call it gestalt. It's when all the disparate parts of something click together to make something seamless and therefore greater than its parts.

In writing, the looser definition would be what occurred to me Friday and Saturday. The idea went from being a lot of interesting pieces - characters and their "actions", the setting, etc. - and then click it became a single story. One with meaning. That's one of my favorite early moments in writing.

That click is almost audible. when all the story elements dovetail together and a theme emerges. You look for it. If you set out in the beginning with a theme, you're doomed. When it hits you like this - through the characters - you know you're on the right track.

And no, I'm not telling you what the story is about. Or what happens.


Watched the Academy Awards last night with Corrine, Harrison, Gabi and Griffin. Loved it, for the most part. It had, these last few years, lost its luster for me, but redeemed itself last night. Hugh Jackman was great as the host, the winners were worthy of their awards - in my opinion - and there were lots of laughs. Can't beat that. Oh, and I didn't see any of the nominated movies last year. Well, except for Wall-E, which won, and deservedly so.


Harrison turns 15 Wednesday. Not sure what I'll get the kid. I have a couple ideas, including a digital camera.

Or a snow shovel.

Hey, didn't you read the first note?


My parents' 50th anniversary is this June. We (us four siblings) are beginning the planning. I'm in charge of designing the invitations and have come up with a couple great ideas. 50 years is something to aspire to. I will be 90 when Corrine and I reach that milestone.

And we will.

Friday, February 20, 2009


So, I get to a point in the creative process where I need to kick my own ass into gear. Give myself a creative incentive. Winter kills me creatively. There's just nothing romantic about banks of snow, cold drifts, ice dams, frozen pipes and empty oil tanks. These things, and many more, kill my creativity.

I get depressed. Clinically. Not "the blues" as Mom would call them. I'm talking about that ugly dark feeling, like you've swallowed a Stephen King novel and it's spreading inside of you. Taking over.

It's the end of February. I get to my birthday, on March 4th, and I always start to see better, emotionally. Winter is not over. I know this. But March 4th has always been that benchmark I always wait for, because it means in a month come the rains and the snow recedes and the temperature rises.

I can stand rainy days. I actually love rainy days. Ask Corrine.

But, today, February 20, I am giving myself a kick. In. The. Ass.

I designed the cover of my new novel, before the novel is finished. This sounds like putting the cart before the horse, but it isn't. And you probably already know where I'm going with this.

By designing it, and publishing it here, I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I'm saying, well, now I HAVE to finish it. I'm shaming myself into doing it.

Am I afraid I won't otherwise? Sort of. I have a love-hate relationship with my writing. I tend to start something and hate it before it's even out of the rough draft. Which is cruel. It's like throwing out a cake when you've just put the batter in the pan. How will you know it's any good unless you wait?

I have not given myself a deadline, but I'm pushing for the end of August, just like two years ago with Surfacing (the cover of which I also printed out before I was done with the book, and pinned it to my office wall).

So now I'm on the clock.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

To Do

  • A picnic together on Lake Auburn, like that time before
  • Another walk through a cemetery where we once kissed
  • Revisit the little league dugout where we ate lunch in May
  • Sit in a coffee shop together in the middle of a crowded mall, watching the shoppers and talking about nothing important
  • Dance slow. Anywhere. My hands on her hips
  • Dance fast, watching the light in her eyes
  • Swim in a heated pool in March
  • A drink together at the end of the pier at Old Orchard Beach
  • Walk behind her, she's wearing jeans, I don't care if it's only through the house
  • Ride horses together on a beach, somewhere tropical
  • A movie, holding hands

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If It Wasn't For Them ...

On my office wall hangs a framed parchment with a line of hand-drawn hieroglyphics across it. Harrison, now in the middle of his freshman year in high school, gave it to me when he was in sixth grade.

This would have been the spring of 2006. His mother and I were separated and heading for divorce. The upheaval, the constant confusion and turmoil in his life more than likely seemed insurmountable to him.

In a span of weeks he was experiencing the kind of domestic hell I never thought I would allow my children to experience. His notion of Family was turned on its ear. Out the window went security and safety and because of the circumstances surrounding the separation and divorce, his view of me was more than likely altered forever. I was certain it was probably the first time he ever looked at me in a purely negative way.

But if I've learned anything in the last few years, it's this: children may be affected by our actions deeply, they are still more resilient than we adults. Their idea about love of family trumps everything and their measure of forgiveness has no depth. Curiously, many people I've known since childhood - adults - still remain estranged from me to this day.

So back to the hieroglyphics.

I started writing Surfacing when our family was still a family. I used to read parts of it to the kids while camping. I continued to write it through the ensuing mess and came out at the other side with a published book. Harrison, as part of a classroom exercise about the Egyptians, was asked to write something in the language of the people of that time.

He chose the word "Surfacing".

And I framed it and hung on my wall where I see it every day, a reminder of the many ways my children's support of me is a great gift. It humbles and it uplifts. It re-educates me whenever I see it and it says to me:

I believe in you.
No matter.

You're still my father.

Don't forget it.

Harrison Scott, at the book signing, September, 2007. With his old man.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Me! Me! Me!

Pictures of Me. Below. As a kid.
My sister Alison got a new tricycle for Christmas. I needed a ride to the kitchen. I especially love this photo because A) It's a good one of us, B) She's doing all the work, which was always the case C) The tree is hilariously Charlie Brownish. It's like we all just took a handful of ornaments and tinsel and garland and just threw it at the poor tree.

Not sure how old I am. I think maybe fourth grade. That's a professional haircut, by the way. Called the Hedge-Trimmer in 1978 when this was taken.

Me at, like 5? 6? This is kindergarten sign-ups, or maybe Sunday School. I'm displaying my signature nervous habit: shit-eating grin and twiddling my fingers. I still do this even today.

Me and my brother, Woofie. (Yes, yes, for the 100th time, that's his real name) How do like my hair? Stop droolin, ladies. You know you want me. This is 1987, by the way. My senior year in kindergarten. What's remarkable is how much the hairstyles reflect the generation. Woof graduated in 1980, and looks like a member of Styx. I look like a member of New Kids on the Block.

I was left in this tree. The photographer (Dad) hoisted me, took the picture, then ran like hell, shouting "We're free! We're free! Get in the damn car, Alice!" I like the muscle shirt. And the crew cut. And the ... what the hell are those, windpants? On an August hike in New Hampshire. Jesus.

Another professional haircut. This was called the Wing Bowl. A bowl cut, but with a slight wing in the front. See it? On windy days it acted as a spoiler. I could run faster with this haircut. Of course, with this shirt on, I was launched like a kite on the playground. My friends loved that feature, and would shout "Okay, now let's hit him with rocks!"

Me and Alison again. The only time I ever had a decent haircut in my life. But again with the muscle shirt. And it looks like two dogs humping cigars on the front. Is it me, or does Alison's smile look a little apologetic? Like she's saying "He's not really a blood relative. We found him at an orphanage for special kids."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Question of Ethics

Let me pose a question, and you provide the response.

First, the scenario.

A writer composes a piece of non-fiction detailing a rather tumultuous time in his life as a teenager. The major players in the memoir are his parents, an older brother and his brother's girlfriend. The memoir is written in the same narrative non-fiction spirit as, say, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Meaning, it reads like a novel, but is in fact based on truth.

The memoir is not mean-spirited, nor does it aim to vilify or exact some sort of revenge. But it is brutally honest. It does not draw judgments of any family member's actions (e.g., My parents were mean. or My brother was a bad person)

The writer's opinion is that, because it is his story as much as it is theirs, he has the right to write about it, regardless of whether readers may cull from it negative opinions about his family members.

He defends using historical facts about the family by arguing that self-censorship for the sake of protecting people's feelings would be akin to Michelangelo leaving out David's penis so as to not offend members of the East Podunk Baptist Ladies Group.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from Biloxi Blues, a Neil Simon play that was turned into a movie.

Eugene Jerome is the main character, at basic training near the end of World War II. His single most dream is to be a writer. And as such, he keeps a journal. The journal is discovered by fellow privates in the barracks who read aloud to each other what Eugene has written about them. Candid things. Particularly comments about his friend, Arnold Epstein, whom he thinks, privately in his journal, is a homosexual.

When Eugene discovers that his journal has been discovered and read, he begins tearing out the "offending" pages.

That's when Arnold - who could argue had been hurt the most by Eugene's comments - says "Once you start compromising your thoughts, you become a candidate for mediocrity."

So I pose this question:

Does a writer's art transcend all, or are there just some things he should not be allowed to write about because they could potentially embarrass? And if the answer is the latter, then where is the line drawn?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Child, or Six, It Doesn't Matter

When you have children, and they get sick, you err on the side of caution. Always. Or at least we do. And we will continue to do so until we are dead and buried.

Gabrielle has been living with a low-grade fever and a dry cough since Saturday when, yesterday (Monday) her fever spiked and her cough turned mean.

That grouchy, wet cough that sounds like you've backed over seal. Her nose began running a lot more, her mood turned sour, and she didn't eat much.

After going to bed, she tossed and turned and refused to sleep by herself. She would wake up every half hour crying and coughing and gagging. Then, at 1 a.m., I woke up sweating and realized she was so hot she was giving ME a fever.

E.R. time.

For the number of children we share between us, Corrine and I have 62 years of collective experience. I'm not naive. Take that number and multiply by two for Corrine (or any mother, for that matter) and you have a more accurate accounting. Moms nurse the sick more than Dads, that's just a universal truth.

The point is, however, that even with the number of children we have, and the numerous times we've dealt with various types of colds, flus, fevers, vomiting episodes, lethargy and colds in our lives, there's always that doubt when it happens again.

You sit up in bed, it's dark in the room, and your child is so hot that she acts intoxicated. You just know that if you go to the E.R. they're going to tell you to pound sand. There's nothing really they can do.

But you also, in those moments, recall the stories shared by friends, relatives, acquaintances or you've read about in the grocery store tabloids about kids who just seemed to have a fever and that was it, but who ended up far worse.

My personal memory file cabinet always slides open to Jim Henson, Kermit's father, who thought he just had a really bad flu and it turned out to be pneumonia. He ended up dying.

And there's always that newspaper headline that pops up in your head that reads "Most Emergency Room Visits a Waste of Time, Drives up Insurance Costs"

The subtext being something about parents overreacting to every kid sniffle.

Corrine is probably the most adept at handling kid sicknesses. She was a nurse, once, and also worked in (I think) radiology. Don't quote me. My point is, she's seen a lot of sick folks. And I've never known anyone with quite her encyclopedic knowledge of rash, cut, bruise, cold, flu, bump, or hair loss remedies.

So when she's on the fence about something, then the caution flag goes up in my head.

So I took Gabrielle to the E.R. at 1:30, knowing that E.R.s are the only places that have waiting lines when there's no one there.

We actually got in fairly swiftly. But still didn't leave for another 4 hours.

Gabrielle, who is a girl, in case you missed it, was referred to as "Gabriel" right off the bat.

To us, her parents, that's like calling Marie "Mike" or Donald "Debbie."

But I digress.

Gabrielle, with very little experience with doctors under her young belt, got the full assault.

She was forced to wear this plastic sandwich bag device that they place on children when they need a urine sample. Okay, bear with me and I will explain this thing. Think of a clear plastic freezer bag. Remove the zip lock and replace it with Scotch Tape on the inside edge of the opening. Then stick that to your child's crotch.

It's effective, to be sure, but not until your child, who is potty trained, understands that it's now okay to pee while not sitting on porcelain.

"I gotta go peeeeeee!"

"'Kay, just go"

And she would try to jump off the examining room table to actually GO to the bathroom.

"No, stay here. Pee in your diaper."

And she would give me the "Dad, you need a drug intervention" look.

All I could think was that the nurse was undoing months of training by traumatizing her with the plastic sticky crotch bag. (Which, incidentally, is a name I secretly assigned to one of the nurses. You'll know which one soon. Keep reading)

Gabrielle then needed a chest X-ray. Her first. That, thank Christ, went okay. I told her that she was having her pictures taken. I just know that somehow that's going to come back to haunt me. Like, now when she has her school pictures taken, she'll strip to her panties and expect the Iron Man steel plated vest they put in her lap to protect her from scrambling her internal girl parts.

Blood was drawn next.

This. Was. Hell.

The nurses marched into the exam room in a single formation carrying battlefield equipment. One nurse tied a rubber tourniquet around her bicep, making sure to pinch a pound of skin while doing it. The other nurse grabbed her by the elbow and shoulder while her fellow torturer swabbed a spot on her arm with turpentine or tree pitch or sewage. Not really sure what that was.

Then, pretending to be gentle, she inserted a needle into my 2-year-old's arm and proceeded to "try to find the little bugger" which I assume is med school vernacular for "vein." I knew I should have finished college.

Either way, they could never find the "little bugger" - I think I'm spelling that correctly - but not from a lack of trying. I mean, I could SEE the needle moving beneath her skin, in search of the "little bugger" (so THIS is Latin?) and it looked like something from one of the Mummy movies.

They gave up on that arm.

And moved to the OTHER arm. The same damn sequence. And again, to no avail.

Have you ever heard your child scream in terror? Not whining. Not "I bumped my head on the table" crying. Not "There's a monster in my closet" screaming.

Bloody. Freakin. Jami Lee Curtis in "Halloween" terror?

Legs kicking, mouth wide open, eyes closed, tears pooling in the folds of her neck, which has turned purple from the strain.

I'm telling you, had Corrine gone (she stayed home because she is breastfeeding Griffin -WHO IS ALSO SICK) she would have turned the hospital into a parking lot. That fierce, nuclear bomb-like explosive reaction would have leveled everything in northern New England.

When the sadists left, they had finally found "the little bugger" in my daughter's hand. Leaving her looking like a heroin junky with all the bruising.


And then the wait. The infernal, staring at the same leaf-patterned curtain, listening to the old urine-smelling man down the hall yell about his Aunt Gloria's roses, smelling the hospital antiseptic/sick-people smell kind of wait.

Four hours.

Gabrielle, when she had come out of her trauma-induced, coma, wiled away the hours playing with my wallet and asking me "Is the doctor mad?"

"No, honey. The doctor is not mad. He is happy to make you feel better. The nurse is a Nazi. Stay away from her."


"Right on, little lady."

"Can we go home now?"

"Sorry. We have to wait a little longer."

And then she would resign herself to putting on the latex-free gloves the doctor had "gifted" to her (cha-ching!!) and play pretend some more with her toy stuffed buffalo.

"Okay. Hold still. This. Won't. Hurt. A little. Bit. Ouch! Oh, are you 'kay?"

So, our fears were assuaged after all. The doctor, after his computer solitaire tournament was over, finally came over and said she merely had a common "three out of five children get this" viral thing.

Yes, I felt relief. Despite the hassle of waiting, I knew it was going to be this way. It always does. And regardless of the feelings of inadequacy (E.R. doctors just have a way of making you remember your 1.2 college GPA don't they??) as a parent, I do not regret taking her.

And when I told Gabrielle it was time to finally go home, she beamed.

"I love you, Andrew," she said.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cleaning Out The Film Drawer

So, like many of you, we take a lot of photos, and then forget we take the photos, and the canisters of 35mm film start to collect in a drawer, along with the bills we were sure got paid, but never did.

Okay, maybe that last part isn't you.

And most of you probably don't use a 35mm. Or ever heard of one.

Either way ... I take 35mm and then have Wal-Mart develop them as CDs only, that way I can load them right up onto the old 'puter and share them with y'all.

Most of these were from 2007.

Member 2007? When we all had jobs?

Anyway, enjoy!

Ty makes his pick for the next play. "Quarterback Wedge on 2! On 2! Break!"

Harrison looks like a soccer player when he's sleeping, let alone on the field.

Fight the Power! (or...wake me, get the hammer!)

Heh heh heh .. just tooted and blamed it on Sis... heh heh heh.

Temperpedic Butt. Ahhhhhh.

"Daaaad! I peedin here!"

"Can I have this dance, Daddy?"

Fallon gave up cheering this year, even though she was a FANTASTIC flier (that's cheerleader code for Chuck My Daughter In The Air) She couldn't stand the bitchiness that comes with the role.

My daughter is too attractive. How the fuck did this happen?

My baby with her baby.

My favorite picture of these two. She's actually choking him. He just doesn't realize it.

Gimli gettin some lovin. That's Gabi, believe it or not.

I have three beautiful daughters, and they're all different. That's called an embarrassment of riches.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The List

A Johnson's First Touch
clear plastic bag sits
in a wicker basket on the bathroom floor

Empty, the First Touch bag is
except for a child's toothbrush
a small bottle of teething tablets
and a list marked by asterisks

1 1/2 droppers full
(0.08 & then 0.04)

*Teething tablets

They will dissolve!

Reads the list
from my wife
to a sitter long ago

This is a mother's life
distilled into a handwritten catalog
of instructions to keep her baby safe
from the pain of pressing incisors

She is intent
to mark her time making lists
for groceries
sitters instructions
appointments to doctors

While in her own
her list of needs grows
but goes mostly unread

Wants and desires
inner prescriptions
put aside, yellowing in their own transparent bag

And I wonder
what I would put
if given the chance
in her Johnson's First Touch bag


1 1/2 kisses
(press lips gently upon hers)

*Moments of embrace
2-3 per day

She will respond in kind, 2x over!

Cover Girl

Fallon took this picture of herself and I had to share it. She could be in a freakin' magazine with this picture.