Sunday, July 20, 2014


It started with the atomic bomb. I was just a child when I learned that our U.S. scientists had figured out how, with one finger on one button (or maybe several buttons), to drop a bomb out of an airplane and annihilate half a country.

The knowledge got to me. For years I had childish nightmares, woke up sweating because I’d dreamed that the world around me was exploding in a mass of flame.

Ever since, I’ve argued with everyone, including my husband, that this was the worst sin any country could commit—developing, then using, a weapon that had the potential of destroying half the world. “But it saved endless American lives,” Rob said, “maybe even mine. All the men who would have died invading Japan.” 


This week it happened again. Suddenly my computer screen came alive with horrifying news. “A Malaysian passenger jet has been shot down over Ukraine.”

My first thought: What was a passenger plane doing, flying that low? 

The awfulness arrived in stages. Within an hour we learned it wasn’t THAT LOW.  The plane was flying at 33,000 feet!  Then another brutal fact:  298 Souls On Board.  (An NTSB term)

The final stage arrived several days later, via the Los Angeles Times. The missile developed by Russia can reach a target at 70,000 feet!  Higher than any passenger jet ever flies.  

Is this terrible news common knowledge? I wondered. “Did you know that such a weapon existed?” I asked Rob, who reads everything, and all the time.

“No,” he said. “I only knew about shoulder launchers that could catch a plane on takeoff or landing. I’ve worried about them—how easy it would be.”

“You know what this means,” I said, and all my warm feelings about the NTSB and TSA and how they constantly protect airplanes began sliding away. “No plane, anywhere, is safe from its enemies.”   

“That’s about right,” he said. And neither of us mentioned our airline tickets, already purchased, for flights over Europe. When you lose your innocence it’s a hard thing to talk about.        

Suddenly Pandora’s Box is once again wide open.  (For just a second, there, I felt like dropping an atomic bomb on Russia.) 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


       The other day, late June, I came downstairs from several hours in my office to find Rob sitting in a sauna. Well, it was our family room, supposedly, but I could almost see a  pile of glowing stones in a corner. It’s a wonder the windows weren’t fogged up from his overheated breath. There sat Bob in his chair, oblivious . . . perfectly content, apparently, that the ceiling fan was still propelling hot vapors over his body. But the cats were lying under the fan, their legs splayed out to catch whatever moving air was available--even air that was seemingly out of an oven.

            I stood at the threshold, incredulous.  How long had Rob been cooking in his chair? And the cats nearly comatose under the fan? When, if ever, was Rob going to make his way to the air-conditioning switch in the next room?

I didn’t have to think long. The answer was never.

Rob likes most things hot: Caribbean beaches, coffee, his car, and women.   

I prefer everything cool or cold—like skiing in Sierra blizzards, where I was often the only nut on the chair lift. For me, bedrooms should be frosty, maybe 55 degrees. (Rob would prefer 80.) Since childhood I’ve reasoned, You can add extra clothes when it’s cold, but how far can you strip when it’s hot?     

When it comes to vacations, Rob studies brochures that feature palm trees, tropical seas, and blasting sun, while I read about overcast skies and alpine villages. Usually Rob wins. I once talked him into an Alaskan cruise, thinking “Ah!  Sweaters!”  But he prevailed anyway. When we arrived, Fairbanks was having a heat wave!    

How does a marriage accommodate one person who sweats, is constantly wet, and thus remains cool, and the other who doesn’t sweat at all and accumulates heat like a black car left in the sun? 

            Until this summer we mostly accepted what California had to offer—a few cold nights and lots of hot nights. And then we got air-conditioning in the bedroom, and our marriage took on a nasty blip. After I turned the air to 70, Rob growled, “I was cold all night. I can see right now--we’re going to have a bad summer!”

            Oh Lord, I thought, summer in California is forever. By August we’ll be divorced.  I changed the air conditioning to 74. Neither of us is perfectly happy--but at least we’re still sleeping in the same house.