This is a list of some of the people who are most important to me, along with a short description and a little background on how they figure into my life. This will help give you a little context when you run across them in my entries.

This is my youngest sister (well, really my half sister—she is the product of my father's second marriage. But I never thought of her or Dodd, her older brother, as half-siblings. They are my brother and my sister. Period.). She went to the North Carolina School of Science and Math, a two-year public high school with an emphasis on science and math (although the humanities departments are excellent also; a lot of the people I know who went there end up in humanities focused fields. Really, it's just a very creative place.) This is also where my wife and I went to high school (and where we met). Tori then spent a year at the University of Chicago before deciding it wasn't the place for her. She transferred to the University of Iowa to study art, but only spent a year there as well; technically, she's still enrolled there, and she's supposed to spend her senior year there, but she is currently in the midst of spending a year abroad in Austria.

I just love Tori to death. Although there is a significant age difference between us—11 years—she is just like any of my other friends. I really enjoy hanging out with her and talking to her. We've had a couple of rough spots over the last couple of years, but we remain incredibly close despite our occasional differences. It's hard having her so far away in Chicago, Iowa, or Austria, but she's the kind of girl who needs to have her adventures, and as long as she's happy, I'm happy for her.

My younger sister, the second child of my father and mother's marriage. I guess she was about two and I was about four when they got divorced. She hasn't finished colleged yet, despite 10 years of off and on attendance at various schools, and she still lives with my mother in Ft. Lauderdale. Carrie got stuck in that rut that a lot of people get into for a few months when they don't know exactly what to do with their lives, but I'm starting to worry that she'll never get out of it after all these year. She's smart, and I always believed that she could be good at something if she cared enough about it to really work at it, but I was getting increasingly concerned that she was going to waste all of her potential and float through life without ever establishing any kind of direction for herself. A year or so ago, however, she enrolled in a nine month program to learn medical coding (a field that I myself had considered if I had been unable to find new employment during the tech bust that started in 2001) and she did extremely well, graduating top in her class and immediately getting a full time job at the firm where she did her internship. When she's had a job for five years straight, then I'll feel like she's finally put her earlier lack of committment behind her, but she's definitely on the right track now.

My mother, of course. She lives in Ft. Lauderdale and works for a for-profit hospice organization in Miami. When she is well, she spends a lot of time in Chicago on business. In November of 2000 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a large tumor (about the size of an egg) and 19 lymph nodes removed. Four of the nodes were cancerous, but they think they got it all. It would have been better if none of the nodes had been cancerous, since that would mean there would be a much reduced chance of the cancer reoccuring. She finished her treatments in early June of 2001, and has had no recurrence of the cancer since then. She still has a long way to go til she's in the clear, but she's very optimistic about beating this thing in the long term.

My wife. She and I met in high school and also attended Davidson College together. Our first date in high school was on June 8. That became our anniversary, and eventually the day that we decided to get married on. Along the way, we found out that that date had special significance in my family: on a visit to see my grandmother on my father's side in Florida, my grandmother gave me a journal that my grandfather (who died when I was four or five years old) had kept during the first few months after my father was born. An entry for October 8 noted that it was their 16 month anniversary; counting backwards, I realized that they had gotten married on Julie's and my anniversary. I asked my grandmother about it, and she told me that yes, they had gotten married on June 8, but not only that, June 8 was the date that her own parents had gotten married on (it wasn't planned out by my grandmother and grandfather; they had a whirlwind romance and got married three weeks after they met). For our wedding gift, my dad gave me a crystal dish that belonged to my grandmother with the date June 8 and the names of the three couples that had gotten married on that date engraved on it.

Even though Julie and I knew that we were going to get married by the time we were seniors in college, we wanted to hold off on it until we were both a little more settled. She took a year off to work after college, while I started grad school at UVA. She joined me the next year, starting her first year in a Ph.D. psychology program while I finished my second year of my english masters program. Then while she finished her degree, I worked at Michie, a law publishing company in Charlottesville. We got married when she was a couple of years into her program. We eventually ended up in Maryland, where we live now.

Julie is the most important person in my life; every day I marvel that someone as intelligent, loving, and beautiful as she is has agreed to spend the rest of her life with me. I probably don't say that to her enough in the real world, and I know it's kind of a cop out to say it here. But there you have it.

This is my mom's best friend from nursing school and my godmother. She is married to a doctor and lives around D.C. I don't see her as much as I'd like, which is due wholly to my own problems with making the time to go see her. She's just a genuinely nice person who has always been supportive of me and my mom. The first airplane trip that I remember making by myself was to visit her in D.C. I must have been around seven or eight, and I remember flying in at night over the city and seeing all the monuments lit up, and wondering why the water was so close to the runway. I really wanted to go up in the Washington Monument, so we were going to save that for last on my trip. We spent a lot of the day at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which is still one of my favorite places to go, and then headed over to the Washington Monument.

Unfortunately, a storm warning was issued just as we got to the entrance, and they wouldn't allow any more visitors up. I was devastated. We just went back home, me thinking (with an eight-year old's ability to see only a few hours into the future) that I would never get to see the monument. I think that I had already gone to sleep when Jane woke me up at around 10 or 11 o'clock; she had been calling every hour to see if they had reopened the monument. At the time I didn't realize what a pain in the ass it was to drive all the way back into the city at that time of night just so I could go up in the Washington Monument, but I still knew that it was a really cool thing to do that most adults wouldn't have done.

I didn't live with my dad most of my life. My mother and sister and I lived in Fayetteville, N.C. (i.e., hell on earth—home of Ft. Bragg and way, way too many GIs) and he lived in Wilmington, a couple of hours away on the coast. He would come and pick us up once or twice a month and drive us back to Wilmington for a weekend visit. He the son of a social worker and a schoolteacher, who despite their meager incomes still managed to send my father to Duke University, a debt which my father has repaid by sending all of his children to college. He is a good man who I have a lot of respect for. I wish I knew him better, but like a lot of dads, he is fairly silent and hard to read. But I know that he loves me, and that's good enough.

Rachel and I didn't get along very well during my teenage years, which was probably equal parts me being a major pain in the ass when I was a teenager and her naturally paying more attention to her own children, Dodd and Tori. My relationships with all of my parental units improved dramatically when I moved out at 16 to attend NCSSM, and my relationship with Rachel in particular has slowly grown to the point where I think of her as another parent, just as I think of Dodd and Tori as my brother and sister—there is no longer a real need for the "step" or "half" prefixes in my familial descriptions.

Dodd is a tough one for me to figure out. He has inheirited his fair share of the male family trait of not talking, and since we don't seem to have a whole lot in common (like Tori and I—Rachel thinks that we share the same brain), we've never really bonded as adults. He is pretty smart (he eventually graduated from Duke after a couple of semesters off), but I don't think he's ever really found anything that really caught his interest in school—it's all just a means to an end to him. His current goal is to attend law school, but I'm not convinced that he really wants to do that. Again, it's a means to an end—after doing an internship at the DA's office in Wilmington, he decided that that was the job for him, but I'm not sure he really gets how much work it takes to get through law school. You're required to do tons of reading, research, and writing, things that he showed little interest in at Duke. Who knows, though—in his final semester at Duke he did pretty well, so maybe he's ready to focus and work hard at academics for once. In the end, my deepest wish is for him to find something that he loves and can make a living at, just as I eventually did.

While he figures out what his next step is, he's living in Baltimore, working a data entry job a Hopkins. It's been interesting having him up here—as I said, we've never been really close, although I think that's largely because it's hard to hold a conversation with him—but I haven't yet been able to spend as much time with him as I would like because January through March is our busiest time of year. He should stick around for at least another few months, and we are trying to have lunch together once a week, so hopefully we'll know each other a lot better by the time he leaves.

Regan is as close to me as a sister. In fact, she and my sister Tori remind me a lot of each other. I met her at NCSSM when I was a junior, but we didn't really become friends until we were seniors. It is hard for me to overstate how much I love her; we only see each other once or twice a year, and we don't talk on the phone that much, but I think about her every day. For a long time she was very restless, attending Dartmouth, taking a year off to be an au pair in Austria, then going back to the States, transferring to Yale, and spending several years in New Haven getting her degree (interspersed with trips of varying lenghths to places in Africa and South America). She followed her long-term boyfriend to Birmingham, Alabama, after he completed his Ph.D. in archaeology at Yale (she was offered a spot in the art history Ph.D. program at Yale, but turned it down because she didn't feel like that's really what she wanted to do long term). In Birmingham, she got a job designing exhibits for the McWane Center, a science museum type place, and was looking forward to a couple of years of quiet domesticity with Nick. But he was offered a tenure-track position at the University of Chicago about six months after they got to Birmingham (which he accepted, of course); Regan decided to stay in Birmingham for a while to finish her two-year contract with the McWane center and then join him in Chicago (which, coincidentally, is where her mother lives). But the long distance thing didn't work for some reason, and they broke up the next summer. She is still in Birmingham for the moment, but her life is a little up in the air, and she's not real sure where she's going to land.

She is one of those people who can pretty much do anything; she is exceptionally talented in science, math, physics, etc., and she is also a gifted poet and writer. As far as I can remember, she is a decent actress and can sing a little too. I don't remember if she plays an instrument, but I would bet that if she doesn't it's merely from a lack of desire. But being so blessed is almost a curse for her; if she had only been really good at one thing, it probably would have been easier for her to focus on that field. As it is, she still hasn't found anything that can hold her attention for longer than a couple of years. I tend to throw around the word genius pretty lightly, but if I had to pick one person I know who genuinely deserves that title, it would be Regan. I'm dumbfounded that she finds me so interesting, but I'm thankful every day that she is my friend.

She can really piss me off sometimes. But I still love her.

I met Tom when I was working for the Michie Company in Charlottesville, VA (Michie was a law publishing company owned by Lexis-Nexis—I think they have since changed their name to the more corporate Lexis-Nexis Law Publishing). He transferred into the department I was temping for about a week after I started there. A few months later, I was hired on full time, and about a year after that Tom started taking classes in the art department at UVA (he had graduated as an English major from UVA a few years earlier). Eventually he was able to get a paid intership in printmaking for a year, and followed that with a two year stay at Tyler, the art school for Temple University in Philadelphia. The second year of his program he spent in Rome. When he came home for Christmas, he discovered that a mole on his neck had turned cancerous, which was really devastating for me since he found this out just weeks after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He had it removed, and thankfully it looks like it hadn't spread (this wasn't just a simple little skin cancer—his doctors were very concerned about his chances). Tom is an Artist, with a capital "A". And I don't mean that in a bad way. He's not arrogant or self-important or any of the negative stereotypes you might have of artistic types. He's just so invested in his work, it's hard for me to remember him being a wage slave for all those years.

He's currently teaching at UVA in the second year of a two year grant. He really loves it there (his mentor, Dean Dass, is at UVA), but in all likelihood he's going to have to teach at some other places before he can secure a permanent position at UVA. He's just starting that process now, and it will be interesting to see where he ends up; hopefully it won't be too far away. He's done some really cool pieces recently, most notably a contribution to a portfolio called The End of Language. and a book called The Circular Ruins. I must admit I'm a little partial to these works because Tom used a dream fragment of mine in the first piece and three short pieces I submitted were used in the Ruins project.

CS/SF Jeff
I call him CS Jeff to distinguish him from CO2 Jeff, my boss. He is CS Jeff because he is currently in Colorado Springs (he used to be SF Jeff when he lived in San Francisco). He used to work with me at a company called Sycamore Associates, specifically for the media division called Buttonwood Media. Jeff and I were pretty good friends, playing cards with two other people in the company once a week and going out golfing once a week, in addition to all the time we spent together at work. I left Buttonwood to work for CO2 in July of 1999; the company was out of business by March of next year (I'm not trying to make a causal connection there, but my leaving was the beginning of an exodus of the talent from Buttonwood), and Jeff ended up working for an educational software company in San Francisco. In March of 2001, that company closed the office he was working for. Instead of joining the other dot-bomb victims in a California job search, he took a few months off, relaxing and spending the summer teaching at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. After that, he got serious about a job search again, and ended up at a company that provides information for people in Third World countries who want to start churches in their area.

CO2 Jeff
This was one of my bosses at CO2. We get along pretty well—we're both pretty laid back, and find the same things funny and interesting. We went golfing together every couple of weeks, and ate lunch together every day. We still get together for lunch or dinner every now and then, but if I lived closer and if he wasn't so busy with his family, we would probably hang out more.

Meeting Doug is one of the few good things that happened to me during my two years of graduate school at UVA. We met in a film theory class taught by a woman who, despite her obvious brilliance, chose to use her lecture time as a way to give herself therapy about her relationship with her father. Doug and I got along from the second that we met, and even though we don't see each other very often (he moved back to Long Island after finishing up his time at UVA), I still feel like we're on the same wavelength about a lot of stuff. The one bad thing about him: he's a Mets fan.

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