A few seconds with Stephen King by Josh Trudell

I am sitting in a line in Austin, Texas, on a gray and misty November day – the kind that makes you want to curl up with a good book. I’ve got a good book on my phone’s Kindle app, and I’m reading and waiting.

I am eight years old, and I’m sitting on a porch swing at my parent’s house in the New Hampshire woods. The Kindle won’t be invented for another cough-cough years. I’ve got a quart Mason jar filled with ice cubes, but it is beading and dripping on the floor untouched as I turn the pages of a book where a five-year-old - just a kid to my advanced years - faces unspeakable monsters.

I am rubbing the sleep from my eyes. It is long before the sun rises in still-steamy September, but I am on my way to Austin to get in line for tickets to see the writer of that book. My wife sleepily rolls out and joins me, and we sit in line for three hours before the store where he's appearing opens. By the time the doors open, the line stretches around the block. 

I am in high school, and I’m wondering out loud – as know-it-all high schoolers are wont to do – why we have to read depressing, dry tomes by the likes of Dickens and Hawthorne. I’m immersed in books about worldwide plagues and evil incarnate, chewing them up relentlessly. Depressing? Nah – bring it on! My English teachers aren't impressed – dismissing my favorite purveyor of scary tales as a hack.

I smile a bit when I find out he’s won the National Book Award, thinking back to those conversations.

Years later, I shut a book and probably will never read it again. The darkness is total, with not even the light of stars to brighten the way.

I’m about to start my sophomore year of high school, and I’m scribbling on a pad one afternoon in my room. (No, that’s not a euphemism.) It’s summer vacation, but instead of swimming or goofing off, I’m deep in this story, figuring out how our hero was going crazy and why. Later, after people read it, I get some odd looks and questions about if I’m feeling all right. I’m fine, I say, wondering if this kind of reaction is always what it is like.

The story becomes one of my first positive experiences while writing when I use it (with the prodding of one of those English teachers) to gain acceptance to a long weekend writing program at Middlebury College.

I look at a picture of the writer when he was young, with a full black beard covering his face, and see a strong resemblance to my dad, whose thick beard would smell of sawdust and chainsaw oil at the end of a long day in the woods.

I am attending college in the nearest major city, and I know this writer occasionally drops in and speaks to a certain professor’s class. With high hopes of meeting him, I take the class – no dice. I keep an eye on any news bulletins from the English department for five years – no dice. The idea of meeting him takes hold as a bucket list idea.

I start working at newspapers, and before long I am working nights as a copy editor/designer. One night I come home after midnight to find my wife sitting in a pool of light, a book clutched tightly in her lap. “Oh, thank God you’re home,” she says, dashing up the stairs she was afraid to climb in the dark, heading for the only bathroom in the house.

It might have been waiting.

I move through life on my track, and he moves through on his – I read about him online now. We're both apparently fascinated by the Harry Potter novels. I start to move away from writing full-time, resuming my on-again, off-again, on-again relationship with my camera that finally seems to blossom. He has a horrific car accident - I hope for his healthy recovery.

There's talk of retirement, but every eight months to a year, there's a new book on the shelf or on the Kindle. I read every one. He's revisiting some old favorite characters now - such that five-year-old boy who faced his monsters and won.  

I’m in Austin, and the line moves forward, and before long I see the person I’ve come to see. He’s thinner now, with a clean-shaven face – the beard has long since gone away.    

So many things to say, and so little time. I look at him and smile, and say "Thanks for not retiring."

He looks back, tired from meeting hundreds of people and a busy book touring schedule, and smiles. "Well, I'm not so sure about that," Stephen King leans back and says, in that New England way that means "Boy, sometimes that sounds like a good idea." ...and then he hands me an autographed copy of his new book. 

I walk back to my life, and he bends over his next book, scribbling with his Coke-bottle glasses close to the paper. 

Thanks, Stephen.

Magazine Cover Shot! by Josh Trudell

Today’s lesson: Don’t be afraid of taking on something that’s going to push you – it can lead to some really good things.

Such as the magazine cover above – my first magazine cover shot, hitting stores in the next week or so.

Late in the fall of 2013, I was asked if I had any ideas for this issue. I pitched five ideas, hoping they would pick one. Instead I discovered they were a bit short on copy – and they wanted all five – plus a sixth - with photos.

Three months of interviewing and photographing later, I had a phone full of stories and memory cards full of images. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all in print.

Even though each piece in the magazine runs well over 2,000 words (in some cases too far over, the inner editor says), there were some anecdotes I had to leave out, either because of length or because they didn’t speak to the story I was writing.

John Clark of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association was one of the people I spoke with. Standing in his garage as he carefully rebuilt a 1949 M-38 Jeep, John shared some of his experiences in the Air Force and then rebuilding old Jeeps and trucks at his home.

This is one of his stories – it’s one I couldn’t use in the magazine, but it is a good story about a good deed, and it was worth sharing.

(Edited lightly for clarity)

“There was a World War II veteran named James Priddy from over in Lockhart, Texas. He was really a good friend of mine. He and his wife did a lot for the community of Lockhart. They were up in their 80s.

Mrs. Priddy had passed away…this was a couple of years ago.

We were at a memorial service for Mrs. Priddy. And I said to his daughter. “You know we put our military vehicles in the Chisholm Trail Roundup Parade, and I want to ask your dad if he’ll honor us with his presence.”

And at the time, Mr. Priddy was about 84, he was getting dialysis three times a week, he was suffering from the frostbite he had gotten on his feet in World War II, he had everything in the world wrong with him, but he was just the kindest, gentlest, most cheerful man.

No matter how bad he felt, if you asked him how he was, he’d say, “’Bout fair to middlin.’”

His daughter talked to him and she said, “Yeah, Daddy would kind of like to be in the parade.”

I said, “Well, I’ve got to talk to him first and let him know what we’re going to do, because going from a wheelchair to riding in one of those M-37s on a 100-degree day is not easy, especially for someone in his condition.

I went to him in the nursing home and said, “Mr. Priddy, what do you think about riding with us in the parade. You think you can do it?” and he said, “Well, I will if I can.” I knew when he said that that if it was at all possible, he was going to make it.

I had just finished redoing that blue truck (an Air Force truck for one of the other members). And I was talking with Priddy’s daughter and she said, “This isn’t going to work.”

“What do you mean this isn’t going to work?”

She said, “Daddy was in the Army. He wasn’t in the Air Force. He’s not going to want to ride in an Air Force truck.”

And I thought, Oh, no. After all this we went through, which was nothing compared to what he went through.

But I called Danny (Kaiser, another member of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association) and I told him what the problem was. He said, “What’s the problem?”

I said ‘Danny, we’ve got to have an Army truck.’ ”

And he said, “Well, Madison’s got an Army M-37. And Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, it will show up in front of the nursing home to pick up Mr. Priddy.”

I went with Madison (Hughes, another Lone Star MVPA member), and we pulled up in front of the nursing home, and sure enough, there was Jim sitting there in his wheelchair, ready to go, with his VFW cap on.

We got him in the truck, and I said, “Mr. Priddy, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you.”

He said, ‘What’s that?”

I said, “Well, I wanted to find you a nice blue Air Force hat to wear in the parade, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. The only thing I could find for you to wear is this old black hat.”

He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I pulled out a new black cap that said US Army: World War II. He put the cap on.

“Mr. Priddy was sitting there in the truck, waiting for the parade to start. He never complained or anything. He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I didn’t disturb him, and he’d just look off in the distance for three or four minutes, then he’d look down at that hat again, and turn it around and put it back on his head.”

He was riding in the passenger seat of that M-37 with signs on the truck that said Jim Priddy, U.S. Army, World War II, and I thought, ‘What if nobody cares? What if they’re just sitting there and say, ‘There’s another parade vehicle.’

Big mistake on my part. The people started cheering. One old guy was in a wheelchair, and stood up, and saluted. That sure makes it all worthwhile.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I had known Mr. Priddy for years, had known he was in World War II, but didn’t know anything about it.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, “Jim and his wife were over in our house the other night, and did you know, Jim was in some big battle in World War II. I think he might have been on Normandy Beach or something.”

That got me interested in finding out what he’d actually done. He was a Purple Heart veteran, and nobody knew it. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded there Dec. 24, 1944 in the Ardenne Forest. He never talked about it much.

What people knew about Jim Priddy and his wife, they were very active in the Lions Club, He was in the Masonic Lodge, and he had run a feed and grain store in Lockhart for several years.

Anytime people needed help in Lockhart with any kind of civil program, they were always ready to step up and help out.

That Saturday, the people of Lockhart saw the whole story.

Two judges stands, one in the middle of the parade, and one that the end. When we got to the first one, they made a special announcement, “This is our Jim Priddy, from Lockhart.” Everybody cheered that day.

His daughter said, “With the state he’s in, I figured he’d be dog-tired and sleep for a week. I never saw so lively and animated and feeling so good as he did that day.”

He passed away six months later.

He never had a chance to see the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, but he had his day in Lockhart.

Note: James Priddy passed away in January 2012.

Glacier National Park, Day 5 by Josh Trudell


Sometimes, when everything else fails, you just have to go over the fence. We started our next to last day with plans to hike the Grinnell Glacier trail. Unfortunately, we found that once up on the side of the mountain, our plans were thwarted: Photographically by haze from wildfires and physically by 80-mph gusts swirling around the mountain.

With the scenic lookout hazed out, we walked down the trail to Grinnell Lake, where we had some lunch as the ground squirrels tried to cute their way into some crumbs. (I cannot confirm or deny if they succeeded.)

Hiking back, we wandered up a small side trail to Hidden Falls, a tight little gorge. Sensing an opportunity, we slid a little closer to the falls than might have been prescribed by fences and captured several frames.

Camping out on the edge while we shot was a little interesting, but thankfully the ground wasn’t wet enough for us to slide.

After making our way back to the hotel, we walked outside again to the little creek joining Swiftcurrent Lake to Lake Sherburne, which has a dynamic waterfall rushing through several tiers.

One of the things I worked on this trip was my use of neutral density filters, and this was one place where I felt it really made a difference having one on my camera. The hot whites in the foam were calmed down, and being able to create a two or three second exposure created that silky look.

In the photo at the top, I'm experimenting with black and white conversions with that photo. I may end up making it available as a print, once I fine tune it some more - the dark area in the middle could use more detail.

After another evening enjoying our balcony view of the mountains, we hit the sack early – preparing for our longest hike of the trip.

A conversation I wish I was having by Josh Trudell

Transcript of a conversation:Happy birthday, Dad!

It looks like you got snow for your birthday – just what you always wanted, right? I’m telling you – it doesn’t snow here. It’s got to be at least a little tempting…

Work is good – I’m keeping busy. The real job, working part-time at the newspaper, and freelance work on top of that. You know how it goes – I’ve got these expensive habits. This new camera I’ve got is pretty awesome, though. And I’m going on this photo workshop in Arizona in May – that’s going to be spectacular. We’re going into these narrow slot canyons where they get these shafts of light coming in – I bet you’ve seen pictures of it on TV.

What about you? (listens) 3 a.m.? Whew - no rest for the snowplow men.  Man - every time I think I'm getting up early, you tell me you're up at three to plow snow. Whew.

I’m taking care of the blood sugar, don’t worry. It’s actually been lower since the new year – I’ve cut way back on Diet Cokes and junk food, and I’m already feeling better. I still haven’t picked up coffee – I’m experimenting with these all-natural energy drinks. They aren’t bad.

How's your health doing? Ha! Slow and steady - all we can ask for, right?

I haven’t paid much attention to the Sox this offseason, to tell you the truth. I kind of like what I have seen, though. It seems like they got themselves some dirt dogs, Trot Nixon types. No, Youkilis isn’t coming back – he signed with the Yankees, can you believe it? Have you read Francona's book? Yeah, he wrote a book - I haven't read it either, but he takes some big shots at the Sox, according to the excerpts. Oh, he absolutely should.

Speaking of which – keep June 15 free on your calendar. This is actually your birthday present - we’re going to a game this summer. Yes, I know we tried that before, but I’m taking care of it this time. You won’t have to drive OR park in the city, I promise. We’ll have a car picking us up in Lisbon – yes, that’s both of us – driving us down, waiting for us after the game, then driving us back. What’s that? Don’t worry about how I paid for it – I told you, I’m working plenty of hours. It’s all taken care of.

Are you and Mom going anywhere this year? Nova Scotia? Cool – Tapley and I have been talking about going there. Ha! Yeah, pretty much everywhere. Italy this year, New Hampshire next year, then Australia. Yeah, we’ll be up for about a week next year. I’m sure I’ll be up in the meantime for a weekend here or there.

Yeah, I can hear my sister talking about cake – must be that time. Have a great afternoon, and give Mom a hug for me. I’ll see you guys soon, I promise. Okay. Bye.

My dad would have been 63 today. He’s been gone for a little more than two years now. Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

Big Bend IV - Or, A Little Banjo Music by Josh Trudell

When we walked into the Starlight Theater in Terlingua after our rafting trip, I thought they’d play both kinds of music there – country AND western.

Then the cowboy-hat wearing guitarslinger behind the mic started playing Cole Porter songs. The stuffed goat with a Lone Star in its jaws seemed unimpressed.

Terlingua is one of the more interesting small towns I’ve ever visited. As it was described by one person, it’s where the hippies from Austin came after life started getting too intense there.

Bikers, tourists, river guides and others hung out on the porch connecting the Starlight with the Terlingua General Store, a small town scene if I’ve ever seen one. Strangers five minutes ago, we chewed the fat with another transplanted New Englander who was attracted by my New Hampshire t-shirt.

After a steak, we sat on the porch for a bit as the sun started to set behind us, lighting the Chisos Mountains in golden tones. A pickup band of banjo pickers brought back the country sound, with classic Willie and Waylon tunes.

Terlingua was originally a mining town, and the ghost-filled remains of ruined stone huts sit in front of the general store, covering the slope down to the graveyard.

The scattered piles of stones glowed in the evening light, the yellow and orange rocks keeping their warm hue. Fresh wood and plastic toys showed that a few huts are still being used, even with roofs held down by tires and rope to keep them from blowing away.

Rubble sprawled across the ground, spraying in worn and weathered lumps. Walls yawned from fatigue, getting a little closer to joining those on the earth. The rocks leaned downhill, as if all they wanted was to roll off the hillside and down into the cinnebar mines.

The wear of desert wind and weather is visible on every surface. Some of the older graves are as featureless as if they had endured decades of New England winters, but here they’ve been wiped clean by the sand. Splintered and shattered crosses lean defiantly – others lie broken, their post lost. In the fading light, it’s a mournful vision.

And yet…the banjo notes float across these tombs, calling the workers to come up from the mines and out from their huts, calling the children to laugh and run and play, calling us to dance, to love, to live.

Next up: Climbing the peaks

Big Bend, Part III - Rafting, Rafting on the River.... by Josh Trudell

As we sat in the Chisos Mountain Lodge and watched it storm, one thought kept running through my head.

“There’s going to be enough water for rafting tomorrow! Awesome!”

The rafting trip on the Rio Grande had been one of the planned highlights of this trip – I had been dying to photograph the steep walls of Santa Elena Canyon, in particular.

Most rafting trips on the Rio Grande leave from Terlingua, about 45 minutes from the lodge.

With the lodge restaurant not open yet, we had an 0-dark-thirty start, and stopped at India’s Coffee Shop and Bakery for breakfast.

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, the scene changes, but the morning formalities remain the same. Here, we sat out on a patio framed by Christmas lights, and listened to the locals bullshit each other as they sipped coffee. An Australian drawl added a little flavor to the fluent Texan being spoken.

As the sun drew a line across the mountains in front of us and slid down, we loaded up on fantastic homemade tacos and a breakfast burrito like no other.

The peaceful easy feeling from the great breakfast and the sunrise was dinged a bit, however, when we found that Santa Elena Canyon was not available for our rafting trip. Not because the river was too high – but because the road to the take-out point had been washed away.

We would, however, float Colorado Canyon, which was not as dramatic.

I’ve got to admit – I was a little disappointed at this point. This trip had been up and down a little too much for my taste so far. But, buckling up, and renewing determination to enjoy what I could get at, we jumped in the van and headed out.

Bouncing down the bumpy roads on our way to the river, the burrito might have momentarily felt like a bad idea. But it, and we, survived, and before long we were loading onto rafts and into the river.

With all the hot air and self-importance about borders, it seems natural to think of rivers that serve as borders as huge bodies of water. The reality is much humbler – for virtually all of this trip, I could have walked across the Rio Grande and not gotten my belt wet.

The guides told us of often meeting the vaqueros who herd cattle on the Mexican side, occasionally in the sights of border guards who hadn’t counted on the people who lived on the river when the political walls grew higher.

As we rafted, we looked up at the hundreds of feet of canyon wall and couldn’t help but wonder why exactly politicians thought we needed a manmade wall. Kids occasionally hopped over to the Mexico side and then giggled back to their rafts.

While the canyon wasn’t the one I hoped for, being there for the rain showed how quickly the river can be reborn. Thick green sheaves of river cane flourished on banks that had been brown or yellow just a week ago. Our guide said it was the greenest he had seen it in three years.

As we pulled the rafts out, I looked at the river – both life force and barrier. Living here means living on the edge – if the water goes dry, you’re done. But on this day, the river offered stillness, peace and a snapshot of the rebirth simple water can bring – more valuable than any photograph I could hope to take.

Faith in the trip – renewed.

Next: The ruins of Terlingua.

Gimme a beat... by Josh Trudell

The Beat Dolls

Pardon the domination takes time. Or as a more evil man than I once said, “I’ve got  my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped.”

Luckily, what I’ve been most swamped with has been work. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull photographer, so I took a night last week for some play time.

I’ve been looking for opportunities for more indoor and modeling photography for some time, both to broaden my portfolio and for a change of pace in my shooting.

Behold, the wonder of Meetup.

Superwife and I signed up for Meetup a while back to find things to do. We hadn’t taken advantage of it yet, but while browsing possibilities, I found the Juju Foto Factory in Austin regularly hosts band photography nights. The band gets free publicity photos, we – the shoot allows for eight photographers -  get experience using lights and working with models.


The subject on this night was The Beat Dolls, a rockabilly band based in Austin. I had my usual new experience jitters – new place, new environment, hadn’t been through this before – but the studio owner, Juju, was very welcoming and helpful, especially after finding that my Sony camera was incompatible with the remote controls for their lights.

Saving me from some embarrassment and a long fruitless drive home, she let me borrow her Nikon for the shoot.

Going through three rounds of shooting – each photographer got 5-10 minutes with the band in three different setups – gave me a whole new appreciation for photographers who have to shoot a lot in a limited time, such as the meat grinder for photographers shooting the Olympic athletes

The band members were great to work with - projecting several difference vibes that made for interesting shots.  Sitting and watching other photographers work with them was a lesson, too – seeing how different ideas were put into play and executed.

The photo above was, for what it’s worth, my original idea. Frontwoman Angie Munsey and I talked about her dislike of posed photos of musicians and their instruments. My answer was a photo where you didn’t see her face – just the guitar and her trademark hair.

It’s not perfect on a technical sense, but I think it’s interesting and could be used in a lot of different ways – a flyer or an album cover, with the right typography backing it.

The rest of my favorites from the shoot can be seen here.

Catch this doubleheader by Josh Trudell

The dog days of summer are my least favorite time of year. Everything feels like it’s moving in slow motion – the 95-degree sun across the sky, me at the gym, Jon Lester’s fastball… you get the idea.

Baseball slogs through these days. Trying to take my mind off the Red Sox, who are slogging their way to oblivion, I’ve been listening to books about baseball.

My most recent doubleheader has been The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach and Calico Joe, by John Grisham.

The difference between the two is the difference between a 90-mph fastball down the middle and an artfully shaped curveball thrown by a lefty – one of those that when you see it on TV, it looks as if it is going to wander out past the first base batter’s box and hit the on-deck batter. Then it snaps back and thumps into the catcher’s mitt.

Harbach’s book is a lyric little bandbox of a novel, detailing the struggles of several figures brought together around a phenom dealing with confidence issues.

This could easily devolve into a paint-by-numbers jock book, but Harbach brings a sense of depth and reality to his characters that far surpasses the situation.

Baseball is the nominal backdrop – Grisham’s novel has more recognizable baseball moments – but Harbach crafts his story so well, the characters could have been playing cricket or sitting on a raft in the ocean.

He crafts several viewpoints, all dealing with different issues. I identified with some, didn’t with others, but couldn’t tear myself away from any of their stories.

Read it. Today.

Grisham’s novel, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same surprise or craft of language – it’s a simple little tale around a bitter father, an angry son, and what, at least partially, heals the gap between them.

I found the bitterness between the son and father so harsh as to be almost unreadable – my father and I bonded over baseball more than anything else.

It’s a decent read (or listen, in this case – both of these were on audiobooks), but it’s a John Burkett to Marbach’s Pedro Martinez.

Work:I've got a new piece in the San Antonio Express-News about Corpus Christi. Another piece is coming soon about the turtle release I wrote about here. The photo show at the San Antonio Public Library is still ongoing.

Movies: Plenty of thoughts about The Dark Knight Rises, which was epically long and included plenty of awesome, but was tragically overshadowed by a mass murder at a Denver theater. Still working out some thoughts about this.

Crazier things have happened... by Josh Trudell

It had been four years almost to the day since I walked out of a newsroom.

I had been a working journalist for almost 15 years, and a copy editor/designer for eight of those (meaning night and weekend duty), when an opportunity arose to start working days again. It came with more money, better hours and actually seeing my wife every day instead of being ships in the night five days out of seven.

The catch - leave newspapers and go to work for a sporting-goods company and design catalogs.

I took the job - quality of life is important, after all - and watched from afar as my last newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, and other papers around the country were shredded by layoffs. Mentors and inspirations alike were left to scramble through the wreckage for new jobs.

Every time I saw another revered figure get cut down, I thanked whatever deities there may be for my safe little corporate position.


I found the inkstains didn't just wash off. After about a year, during which my Diet Coke consumption was cut by two-thirds, I started getting the newspaper itch again. It's been incredibly hard to walk away from having a hand on that first draft of history, whether it's a city falling in war or a basketball championship.

There's something about the immediacy of being there when big things are happening that satisfied a need - something monthly deadlines changed at someone's whim by days or weeks didn't reach. I watched Obama get elected, Hussein and bin Laden get cut down, and itched on the sidelines, trying to convincing myself that I was doing the right thing.

I picked up photography again, shooting photos that would result in my first art show. Superwife and I traveled, visiting Europe and Maui and the Canadian Rockies. I started taking classes.

Then I started quietly dipping my toe back in here and there. It started with freelancing travel stories. Then I started working a night or two every few months for the San Antonio Current, an alternative weekly that needed help with ad design. The creative director there is another newspaper veteran, and we'd commiserate about the business, then go home and see our families.

Working at home or in an ad department isn't the same as actually producing pages on deadline, but it was enough, I told myself.

Then, the San Antonio Spurs went on a playoff run, and the Express-News got in touch through Facebook (which had just under 100 million users when I left newspapers, and over 900 million when they called).

Did I want to come in on a part-time basis while the Spurs were in the playoffs?

To coin a popular Sunnydale phrase, duh.

So, four years and six days after I walked out of a newsroom for what I had almost convinced myself was the last time, I walked back in.

There was a little trepidation - it had been four years, after all, and I hadn't touched the pagination system once since then. (If you know CCI, you understand why I'd approach with some fear.)

But familiar faces welcomed me back, and I was introduced to the two or three people hired to replace those that were gone. And before long, I'd been enveloped in the ongoing conversation that's part of any night crew - the 20-minute debate on the artistic merits of Jean-Claude Van Damme's theatrical stylings felt like I had heard it yesterday.

The next day had the predictable side effects - I was more than a little groggy from lack of sleep, and hitting the soda machine like Manny Pacquiao.

I ended up being a cooler for the Spurs - I worked two nights, and they lost two games, and their series, to the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the quiet of summertime now taking over the paper, I'm not sure when I'll hear another request for help.

But I'll keep an extra Diet Coke cold...just in case.

Playing a home-and-home by Josh Trudell

You can't go home again. - Thomas Wolfe Who says you can't go home? - Jon Bon Jovi

After moving thousands of miles from where I grew up, I've found home has several meanings.

There's the home where I live now. There's home in the sense of the region I grew up in.

And then there's the actual home I grew up in - a cabin deep in the woods of northern New Hampshire. Only one or two of my oldest friends have ever seen that house - we moved when I was 12, and the memory most of my high school friends have of my house is the place we moved to (which hosted a tremendous high school graduation party, but that's a story for another day).

This house was our first home. My father, uncles and grandfather carved a road into the woods and built all the homes on it (except for the newest one, which my aunt lives in). My mother and father built this house when they were young - my dad laughs as he builds in yellowed Kodachromes.

I'm home this week - visiting my mother, and helping my sister with her wedding plans. She's getting married tomorrow, and the chaos has been, well, chaotic. But it's (mostly) been the happy kind of chaos.

I escaped for a bit yesterday afternoon and drove out to the old house, along winding gravel roads and through thick pine forests. The trees looked bigger and the road smaller than I remembered them.

I've still got family on this road, but that house - sold, then abandoned - is going to rack and ruin. Some holes in the roof are covered with blue and gray tarpaulin - others sag open, filled with leaves and pine needles.

A family of satellite dishes is aging in the front yard - two small ones, and one big, black pterodactyl - all postdating our time there. Some goober cut down the giant pine tree in the back yard that I used for a rope swing, dropping the top of the tree on the barn and crushing the side where Mom raised rabbits and pigs. The side that held cows and horses is still standing, but time and weather have taken their toll on the glass.

(I still remember my dad climbing that tree to hang the rope - now I can imagine him ripping into the joker who misplaced the tree's landing spot. "Pretty friggin' poor," he'd say.)

Old nails still jut out of a beam in a shed where I'd hang a punching bag after watching one of the Rocky movies on one of our three channels. A section of wall on the front porch is still scarred from where I was careless with the front porch swing while daydreaming of Prydain or Narnia.

Inside, ticks scurry about, looking for legs to latch onto. (There was an Army-style scrubdown after we got back to the "new" house.) The bookshelves in my old bedroom are empty, with only dust where my pre-teenager baseball cards, books and music once were.

The strongest memories are around the kitchen island - made by my dad, a thick block of wood, dark with oil and Crisco before people worried about cholesterol and grooved from mom's kitchen knife peeling vegetables she just picked out of her garden (with my help).

The wall where I raced Tyco cars with my uncle - the hallway where dad and I would wrestle - the fireplace mom and dad built with granite rocks and's been 25 years since I've been in this house, but every piece still holds a story.



October 27, 2004 by Josh Trudell

The radio whispered in time with the soft whistle of air through tubes, rising, falling and rising again. Outside, the season’s first snow fluttered down, catching the window’s glow before landing on maple leaves still tinged with orange and red. They would be brown and dead when the snow melt uncovered them in the spring.

Inside, framed yellowing photos of men in wool uniforms, wearing caps at the jaunty angle of a seven-year-old boy, covered the walls. Neat stacks of plastic cubes, each holding a ball with faded blue ink on one side, lined a bookcase.

The radio sputtered a bit, and his rheumy eyes rolled in response. “Foulke…” he muttered, squinting in pain and frustration.

A crumpled blue cap with a spoked red B hung from the top right corner bedpost, where it had been religiously placed every night for the last three weeks, after being thrown and catching there during a blowout loss. The effort had cost him a bloody coughing fit, but he couldn’t stand it any longer.

The next night, a miracle had happened, and like people all over New England, he didn’t change a thing for the next three weeks, so the cap stayed where it was.

Now, he couldn’t change anything. He listened, but his eyelids grew heavier and heavier. They settled closed as the radio sputtered again.

“…"Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's world championship. Can you believe it?"

The roar of the crowd was as loud as if he was sitting at the game…and then it broke off into static, which died out.

The growing storm whipped away the signal, leaving him silent, in silence.