Dream Baby

Dream Baby

The miraculous story of our daughter Maggie’s birth

Almost immediately Yvonne began to dream—big, vivid, wonderful dreams, like water gushing over a dam. It was the beginning of a remarkable adventure. We didn’t know it, but it was also the beginning of Maggie.

Dreams are what brought her here. Dreams raised our hopes, sent them crashing down again, then at the last minute opened a window for the briefest possible instant, and our sweet daughter came tumbling through.

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Asses Anonymous

Asses Anonymous

Boyhood friends on a harrowing journey

It started as a way to get to school. We trudged through suburban neighborhoods, lugging our books and lunches, laughing, arguing, becoming friends in that edgy, uncomfortable way that boys do.

Next came the hikes, not on mountain trails but through the streets of Los Angeles, past twenty miles of gas stations, liquor stores, discarded magazines, and old tires, a series of trips so obviously ridiculous that we called them Ass Hikes.

Our journey together ended with a walk that was longer than any of the others, into a chapel, down an aisle, toward a box that contained unthinkable things and unknowable questions, questions that I still am asking today.

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Searching for strength in a trumpet

For fifteen years the trumpet was the central fact of my life. It represented all the things I wanted most: strength, courage, drama, adventure, and a kind of shimmering beauty that was so perfect it made me ache.

Also, it was loud. It commanded attention in a way that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t. I was shy and soft-spoken, a quiet boy who did as he was told. But deep inside, in a place I never talked about, I wanted to be rowdy. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be dangerous. With a trumpet, I thought I could be all those things.

From Chops

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Forced Air

Forced Air

A crazed and troubling tour of duty with the 562nd Air National Guard Band

The Vietnam War was many things to many people. For me, it took place miles from Southeast Asia, from Washington, from Kent State. 

My Vietnam War happened in a forgotten corner of a suburban airport in Van Nuys, California, where, one weekend a month, forty musicians would fall in, sometimes literally, to do their patriotic duty, which consisted of playing highlights from “My Fair Lady” and sleeping on the floor. My Vietnam involved, among other things, a brewery, a mental hospital, IBM punch cards, a 1962 Ford Falcon, the bubonic plague, and a very bad wig.

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Words and Music

Words and Music

Best friends and musical partners

“Our careers are parallel,” he often says, and they are. We built them, side by side like train rails, first one inching ahead and then the other, headed toward the horizon.

Parallel tracks never touch, and for years our careers didn’t. He asked me dozens of times to collaborate, and until recently I said no. To be honest, I was afraid of what might happen. I’d been taught never to borrow money or go into business with friends, because friendship is too valuable to risk.

Professionally he is known as Anthony Plog. That’s how his name is shown on concert programs around the world. On my books, I’m Ronald Kidd. But for fifty years we’ve been Tony and Ron.

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Dream Girl

Dream Girl

Growing up with Maggie

As Maggie dances, I notice a kindergartener with red hair dancing next to her. The kindergartener grins, and for a moment she is five-year-old Maggie, moving in sync with seventeen-year-old Maggie. The two of them flap their wings, mirror images reflected across time, each about to begin a journey.

We don’t know yet where big Maggie’s journey will take her, but we know little Maggie’s journey because we have been privileged to travel with her. We have watched, encouraged, and comforted, like gardeners tending a plant, trying our best to help but knowing that the miracle at the heart of it is miles beyond us.

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My Life with Books

My Life with Books

Trips to the library and beyond

Maybe we all have a Mrs. Bruce—a teacher who fires our imagination and sends us off on life adventures. A tall, handsome woman, she taught eleventh-grade English, a class my friends and I found ourselves eagerly hurrying to each morning.

Mrs. Bruce was full of aphorisms; in fact, we began writing down her sayings so we would remember them. One stuck with me and may have changed my life: “Writing is reading turned inside out.”

What a thought! The authors I loved didn’t live in a different world, doing rare things in unimaginable ways. They inhabited my world. My reading was the mirror image of their writing. They pushed out words, and I pulled them in. The stories lay between us, connecting us in deep and important ways.

I was a reader. Could I be a writer?

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I Believe in I Don’t Know

I Believe in I Don’t Know

Adventures in faith

I was brought up in the church. It was like a room in our house. We moved in and out, carrying casseroles, talking with friends, going to class, sitting in the sanctuary, singing hymns, listening to sermons, praying.

As a child, I never questioned what we learned there, any more than I would have doubted the wallpaper or furniture. At age twelve I was baptized, lowered into the water by our pastor, Bob Danner, who wore hip waders and a tie. I came up wet and sputtering, thankful that he hadn’t said a prayer while I was underwater as my brother had warned.

Once baptized, I figured I was a Christian for life. Soon, though, I started asking questions. I’ve been asking them ever since.

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