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Elliott Flies Foster is the co-author of the memoir Retrieving Isaac & Jason, published by Hiawatha Press in 2012.
His debut novel, Whispering Pines - Tales From a Northwoods Cabin, will be released by Wise Ink Publishing
in the Spring of 2015. He has also written numerous short stories and essays, including works published in
The Huffington Post and in Southern California's Daily Journal. He is is currently working on a second novel,
In the Heart of Everett Falls, a coming of age story set in far northern Minnesota near the Superior National Forest.

Elliott is an emerging Minnesota writer with a passion for writing stories connected to the people and places
of the upper Midwest. He grew up in the Twin Cities but spent his summer vacations camping in the Boundary
Waters Canoe Area, visiting his cousins in the hill country in the southeast corner of the state, and as often as
possible at the family cabin in the Chippewa National Forest.  These are the settings that have inspired many
of his works.  Elliott's perspective and appreciation for the unique characters and landscapes of his native state
were made clear to him during the decade he lived in Southern California pursuing a career in law. He now lives
in St. Paul with his family, and he once again travels to the varied, far reaches of the upper Midwest, always in
search of the next story worth telling.

reviews
JUMP TO:
Whispering Pines
Retrieving Isaac & Jason
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whispering pines cover

Reviews for Whispering Pines:

cabin life image    Elliott Foster
   Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views
   “Whispering Pines” by Elliott Foster is beautifully
   written story about several generations of one
   family who enjoy their family cabin along the
   shores of Lake Dunbar, in rural Minnesota. Part of
   what makes this story special is that it is written
   from the perspective of several family members, all
   of different generations, providing unique
   viewpoints from each individual.

Isabelle is the first narrator, and she is the matriarch of the family. She and her husband built the cabin
on Lake Dunbar, and thus begins the many trips up north for fishing, hunting, playing, bonding, and so
much more. Isabelle and her husband, Sam, took many trips north to their cabin on the lake. They
often would take other family members as well, including their children, and grandchildren, once they
came into the picture. They were known as the loud and boisterous family, always looking for a good
time. Most of the family members loved to fish, and that was the main activity that took place while at
the cabin. There were good times and heartbreaking events that make the reader laugh, as well as cry.

Ruth is the next narrator, and she is the daughter of Isabelle. When Isabelle is ready to sell the cabin,
Ruth and her husband, Ted step in to buy it from her, and keep it in the family. While many of the past
visitors of the Lake Dunbar cabin have slowed their visits due to life getting in the way, Ruth and Ted
find times to make it up to the cabin with their own children. Ted likes to keep a forest growing at the
cabin, so he and his family plant many seedlings in the hopes of creating a beautiful and rich forest
one day.

Eddie, Ruth’s son is the last narrator of the story, and he is a lawyer who also wants to keep the cabin
in the family. He loves to spend time at the cabin to fish as well as relax.

The author does a wonderful job of inviting the reader into the Travis family. I felt like I belonged,
and I had to double check to make sure this was a novel, and not a true story! Although there were
hardships in the family, they were there for each other, and cared for each other in a beautiful way.
Its simplicity is what drew me to this story, and I hope to ready many more novels by Elliott Foster!
I highly recommend “Whispering Pines” to anyone looking for delightful and easy read."
                                                                                                                                                                   — ReaderViews.com


cabin life image   "Whispering Pines: Tales from a Northwoods Cabin
  
takes place in September of 1993. The Travis family
   have come together to celebrate the birthday of
   their matriarch; Isabella Travis. Different members
   of the family share touching stories about growing
   up, hunting and fishing, and other antics they have
   gotten into in the past. The narration is shared by
   Isabella, her daughter Ruth, and grandson Eddie.
   Each story unravels memories long forgotten.
   It all begins with theories of how Lake Dunbar was
created and progresses to how the family found their way to Whispering Pine, the family name for their
cabin. It’s a fantastic story of building life, making new friends and memories, as well as the changing
of traditions to adapt with the times. It is a story of family, faith, and above all, love.

The novel opens with exquisite descriptions of the history and landscape of Lake Dunbar. Readers are
able to imagine the giant foot shaped lake Foster describes. The first segment depicts life in the small
town Isabella lived in and then how her time was spent at Lake Dunbar which required them to hunt
and gather. Foster captures the hardships and emotions the family had to endure such as Stella’s
death after her appendix rupturing and Sam’s early death from a heart attack. One of the elements
of the novel that was very well done was the different viewpoints. The novel is broken up into three
parts, three different generations talking about the family, and reminiscing on their lives together.
While each section is from another perspective, the fluidity and tone of the novel remains the same.
One can almost picture a soft smile on each narrator’s face. It seems as though Isabella and Ruth had
grand ideas of adventure and leaving the area, where as Eddie wanted to preserve the memories he
had growing up. This shows how things can change; Isabella and Ruth wanted to travel away from
where they grew up and away from the lake altogether. While Eddie realized the beauty and
importance of the area where his family started their legacy. Foster has created a compelling story
about family, and the places that shape who we become."
                                                                                                                                                                   — Red City Review


cabin life image     "Loosely based on both the author's own experiences
      and his family's cabin journal entries dating back to
      the 1950s, this novel paints a vivid picture of cabin
      living on Lake Dunbar in northern Minnesota.
      Go ahead; immerse yourself in four genrations of
      cabin tales. We recommend getting comfy in a
      hammock on a breezy summer day with this one."
                                           — Cabin Life Magazine


"In Whispering Pines, Foster unearths some of the greatest treasures of Minnesota—her wilderness, history, icons
of time and place, and the characters depicted within generations of the Travis family. In this soulful journey, you
travel like a ghost, never having to go very far, yet intimately entering the landscape of memories, folklore, and
understated Midwestern culture. As a love that comes softly and grows in its magnitude and scope, this vacation place
in the Northland beckons stewardship and preservation from all its partakers, readers included."
                                           — Carolyn Bizien, The Rural America Writers Center

 

 "A truly Minnesota story, with universal footings for anyone who loves the lake, the woods, the cabin—
and the characters who inhabit those places.”
                                           — Peter Anthony, author of A Town Called Immaculate

 

"If Henry David Thoreau made an American icon of the cabin in the Walden Pond woods where he stayed off and on
for about two years, Elliott Foster’s cabin is a grittier place in Minnesota’s Northwoods enjoyed by a family for several
generations. In writing that is as fresh and clear as the cabin’s lake waters, Foster recalls the simple pleasures and
setbacks that make the experience in his beloved “Whispering Pines” getaway not only memorable, but vital to the
family’s identity, unity, and durability.”
                                           — Emilio Degrazia, Minnesota Book Award Winner

 

"Elliott Foster paints a detailed picture of cabin life as experienced by three generations of the Travis family.
You'll feel like you are one of the family.”
                                            — Teresa Thomas, author of How to Tap Into the Power of Win/Win Connections

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retrieving isaac & jason
retrievingisaacandjason.com

Review for Retrieving Isaac & Jason:
A deeply personal and very human story of two dads adopting two Asian boys, filtered through the pen - and
point-of view – of Kai, the most erudite Labrador Retriever punster to fill a page. Kai writes about her "pack"
with unconditional love, lacing her story with joy and wit, as her two dads (whom she calls "the leader" and
"the writer") drop her off with Gramps and Granny in Trout Valley while they travel to Cambodia to "retrieve"
their first son, Isaac. In using a dog's voice to tell their story, the father-son writing team avoids any tendency
toward cuteness.  In their hands, it is a clever conceit by which they fully dramatize the need of gay couples to
gain recognition as a family without making speeches, waving banners, or occupying any public places. Readers
will fall in love with this non-traditional family, and may find themselves becoming very careful of what they say
in front of their pets, especially Labrador Retrievers.
 
   ~ Sally Childs, founding director of the Jon Hassler Theater and Rural America Writers' Center


Amazon reviews for Retrieving Isaac & Jason:

                                                                                                      flag
This is a beautiful tale about the desire to build a family. The story, written through the eyes of Kai takes your breath
away. You feel like you are on a fantastic treck with the main characters to create a family. For adults
and children, a beautiful read.


                                                                                                      flag

Put this book on your "must read" list. It is a treat. A story of love, commitment and determination told through the
eyes of Kai, a gorgeous and witty labrador retriever. Whether you love children, animals, or just want to laugh and
cry, you will not be disappointed. What an amazing bond there is between the members of the "pack", it really
warms the heart.


                                                                                                      flag

This is a story written by one adorably clever dog. She clearly loves her human "pack", including the two orpahaned
boys that she "helped" her human dads adopt from Southeast Asia. You'll laugh, you'll cry and in the end you'll feel as
though you accompanied Kai on her amazing and true journey to create a family!


                                                                                                      flag

I just finished reading Retrieving Isaac & Jason, and absolutely loved it. It is a such a beautiful, heartwarming story...
I laughed, I cried, and I didn't want it to end. There is so much love in this family, and it is told with a perfect mix of
education (about the adoption process), humor (by the adorable pup narrator, Kai), and emotion (about the joy of
having Isaac & Jason join the family). This story has such great life lessons, and I highly recommend it!


                                                                                                      flag

The sign of a good book for me is one that I cannot put down, can't wait to pick back up, and where I feel a connection
with the story in some way. This wonderful book is all of those things and more! Even though I do not have adopted
children, I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the adoption process as well as the selfless and amazing act
of love adoption represents. I laughed out loud during some parts of this amazing story and I cried during many other
parts. This is a beautifully and articulately written book filled with a perfect combination of wisdom and humor. This is
a story of life's struggles and challenges, but mostly this is a story of love; unconditional, amazing love. This is not just a
book for people who have adopted children, it's a book for anyone who is looking for a heartwarming story that
celebrates life, love, family and being yourself. Enjoy!



Barnes & Noble review for Retrieving Isaac & Jason:

Great book. Hated to put it down. I laughed and cried in reading it. The love in this family is true. I recommend it
for all ages to read.


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short form writing

JUMP TO:
Things that go Bump in the Night
The Minnesota 'Modern Family'
A Personal Perspective of an Earthquake and Its Aftermath
A Short Story, a True Story, a Love Story
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elliott fliés foster

Things That Go Bump In The Night

By Elliott Michael Fliés

It was the worst sound I have ever heard. I still cringe at the thought of it, every gut-wrenching half second
which were, at the same time, the fastest and slowest single moments of my life. We left home at 4:30 on
Sunday evening and after a brief stop at my office to jettison my last remaining work product, we hit the
road going north by 5:15, almost exactly. I tend to notice the precise time at which we depart on these
long driving journeys, perhaps to test how this trip compares to the next, and to the last. We were at the
beginning of a week-long vacation at the lake– a break I had been longing for all through a terribly busy
and stressful summer season.

We drove for 75 minutes before stopping for dinner at Tobies in Hinckley. My little son ate a big meal
of hot dogs, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. My partner and I had unimpressive grilled
sandwiches with seasoned fries. I'm still not sure with what they were seasoned, if anything at all. I noticed
a handsome young couple eating the same unimpressive meal over by the window. They had been in our
puppy obedience class two and a half years ago. We lingered at Tobies for roughly sixty three minutes.
I didn't watch the time passing all that closely. I can only hope that I am not that compulsive. But the
sequence of time, in retrospect, was vitally important. Every passing second hung in the balance between
life and death and nothing at all.

We resumed our northward trek and Randy completed his 2 ¼ hours of driving as we arrived in Cloquet.
Cars lined the highway like ants on the march, but thankfully heading toward a picnic in the opposite direction. Apparently many holiday vacationers sought to avoid the gridlock inherent in the run of
lemmings returning seaward on Labor Day. We pulled into a Country Kitchen in Cloquet, ostensibly
to change Isaac into his pajamas and pour us each of us a cup of coffee. Quite fortuitously, they also had
some apple pie remaining so we split a piece to go. The lady in Country Kitchen fell in love with Isaac,
who was at his usual animated best. She handed him a small packet of Teddy Grahams which he gleefully
ate one piece at a time. Fifteen minutes passed by the time we resumed our journey. Or was it sixteen
minutes?

It was my turn at the wheel, just shy of eight o'clock. In another 2 ¼ hours we would be at the lake and I
was looking forward to that like a tall pitcher of cool spring water after a long dry season of deep thirst.
I didn't mention it to Randy earlier, though in hindsight I should have, but during our decision process
earlier in the day of whether to leave Sunday evening or Monday morning, I had a quiet yet nagging feeling
that we were supposed to depart the next morning because something dark and undefined would prevent
us from arriving safely Sunday night. However, I chalked the feeling up to my ever-present foreboding
when it comes to long-distance travel, like the fear that every plane I am about to board will crash and
that I should just take the next one (which will crash as well?).

I drove the fully-loaded car north out of Cloquet on Minnesota 33 and slowed as we exited for the
turn-off to Duluth or Bemidji. I had to wait ten seconds, perhaps twelve, for an eastbound truck to pass by
before I could turn west onto U.S. 2 headed toward Grand Rapids. Isaac was sound asleep by the time we
reached Floodwood and I was driving a little slower than normal, though still close to 60, because of the
darkness of this moonless night which was hefting a stuttering mist off of its brooding shoulders. We had
also seen half a dozen deer alongside the road just between Hinckley and Cloquet so my eyes were kept
constantly darting from one side of the highway to the other. There we were driving along contentedly
with the radio tuned softly to our favorite northern Minnesota station 96.1, KGPZ.

Within no more than thee seconds it happened and was over. Time allowed no opportunity to even slam
on the brakes before we hit him, a beautiful, full-grown Minnesota Black Bear. He had presumably come
rumbling out of the dark, thick woods like a narrow gauge railroad car, gaining speed as he ascended the
slope of the steep ditch to cross the highway and disappear into the symmetrical forest on the other side.
But that strong, vibrant creature did not equal the fate of the proverbial chicken. It was not meant to be.
I saw him for a split second, Randy for perhaps a split more because he came at us from the passenger side
of the car. We hit him with the front right-center of the vehicle against, I assume, his head and left shoulder.

In less than an instant he flew over the right side of the hood, off into the ditch along with some
undetermined parts of our car. All that I remember is a flash of black fur, though Randy recalls seeing
the entire black bear. I immediately felt sick, numb and in some degree of shock. The collision had
sounded a "thud" unlike any I had heard before. My foot must have instinctively lifted from the accelerator
because we began to slow down. There were no vehicles behind or ahead and none coming toward us
in the opposite lane. Randy urged me to "keep going" on toward the small gas station we could see in the
distance, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. What if the bear were hurt? Should we have stopped?
What if it weren't a bear? (I never saw enough to confirm what exactly we hit.)

Getting out at the dimly lit station, we quickly witnessed the damage wrought to our car – minimal in my
estimation given the "thud" of the impact and the certain fatal injury inflicted upon the ill-fated bear. The
grille was completely gone, along with busted headlights and other hardware from the right front side. The
bumper was also slightly indented. After securing a flashlight from inside (note: always carry a flashlight
in you car!), we investigated the constant "hiss" from somewhere inside the surprised engine.

After consulting with two local men, we decided to drive the final ten miles to Grand Rapids in order to get
the car examined further. Foregoing a return to the scene of the calamity, we nervously drove on amidst
the deepening darkness of the night. My eyes' attention was fleetingly divided between the heat and oil
gauges on the dash and the edges of the now dangerous highway. We had not punctured the radiator, as
best we could tell, and the young men at Jack's Amoco in Grand Rapids confirmed as much. Though they
offered the gratuitous opinion that it would be safe to drive the final fifty miles to our lake, we preferred to
stay the night in a local hotel and search out a more expert opinion in the morning. It was now ten o'clock
and I was in no mood to drive on. Besides, we each had a moral or perhaps morbid desire to return to the
scene of the accident in daylight hours.

Despite the lateness of the hour, and it being the middle of a long holiday weekend, we found a suitable
room at the Sawmill Inn on the south side of town. Neither Randy nor I slept very well. Our thoughts were
consumed with that poor creature out on the highway in the fast-cooling night and with morbid
apprehension of what could have been even worse, from a human perspective that is. We later learned
that collisions with bears are not as rare as we'd suspected, but that the result was oftentimes a totaled car
and severe personal injury. Bears are so solidly compact that a collision is akin to smacking into a brick
wall, at least that was the analogy I had expected to hear. The lady at the hotel desk confirmed at least one
case she'd heard of where someone had hit a bear head-on and barely lived to tell about it. "Yeah," she
volunteered, "they say that hitting a black bear is like hitting a full-grown pig!" Hitting a full-grown pig?
'Is that really a helpful frame of reference?' I thought, condescendingly. Are collisions with black bears
that much more rare than collisions with full-grown swine? Especially in northern Minnesota?

I let our dog Kai out early the next morning and she spent an unusual amount of time sniffing the front
right side of the car. She knew the scent of an animal was there, perhaps even the scent of death. Randy
then took the Volvo into a shop and the mechanic confirmed that indeed it was driveable. The mechanic
expressed that we were lucky in many ways – that we had such a solid, heavy vehicle, that we had hit the
bear less than head-on, and that I didn't have time to see him, swerve and possibly roll the vehicle inflicting
unimaginable harm to my loved ones.

While Randy was gone, I ordered a room service breakfast for Isaac – blueberry pancakes, a scrambled egg
and milk. I also switched on the local morning newscast. The lead story froze me in my tracks and sank my
stomach all the way to the ground for about three seconds, two seconds longer than last night's collision
with the bear which will forever remain ingrained in my memory. "Duluth police are searching for clues
this morning in a fatal hit and run accident west of Duluth on Highway 2." My mind flashed instantaneously
to the events twelve hours ago. I had never really seen the bear. My mind tells me that I saw a flash of
black fur, but was that only because Randy had said it was a bear? Was it a bear? The newscaster provided
a more precise location of the human fatality and I was instantly relieved for my own sake. For the shortest
of moments, however, I was certain that officials were combing the state for a Volvo whose front grille and
other assorted pieces surrounded the innocent victim of this horrible tragedy.

After packing up our stuff and stopping for a few groceries, we were back on the road at 9 a.m. Before
driving the final fifty miles, we returned to the fateful small patch of highway just east of Blackberry,
a booming town of 50 people. First we noticed the shiny silver pieces of our car strewn about the right
shoulder of the westbound lane. From our vantage point, there was no animal in sight. We turned the car
around in a private drive and pulled up along the highway's edge as the principal evidence of last night's
drama came slowly into view. He lay there in the ditch, a mere twelve feet from the road, a mere five feet
or five seconds from the freedom of continued life. We alighted from the car and descended into the ditch
for a closer look. The bear's corpse lay on his left side, covering up any trace of impact with our car. He was
a beautiful beast with coal-black fur and the long snout of a large dog.

Soon we were heading back west and slightly north toward our cabin on the lake. I was driving for the
final hour of our journey which took a bit longer than normal given my average speed of 50 m.p.h. Every
shadow or bump in the ditch was a bear and my nerves were still a bit shot. We made it to the lake without
further incident and were greatly relieved to see the old place. We unpacked and settled in. It was cool
but refreshing and I breathed deeply, both to take in the stimulating northwoods air and to release as
much stress and regret as I could.

On Tuesday we took a family walk down to the end of our road. The Meyers are building a new cabin on
the site of their old one. They had moved their old red place back a hundred feet, dug out a full basement
and then purchased a quaint modular home instead. I wondered what they had planned for that old red
one. As we turned to walk toward home, Randy said that he and Isaac would stay on the gravel road
because it was too buggy along the trail through the woods. So, Kai and I turned up the old grassy lane
which now stands as one of the most beautiful hiking trails that I know. We hiked up and up the slight
incline on the dividing line between private property to the north and federal land to the south. I've hiked
the trail a hundred times before, but it never fails to impress and thrill me with its natural beauty and
opportunity for a glimpse of wildlife. Cousin Robbea even saw a bear back there once.

As I walked along, I became certain that another black bear lurked somewhere behind a fallen pine log
or in a shallow divet on the ground. He was waiting there in a sort of Animal-Karma state, ready to effect
upon me the punishment I had unwittingly but perhaps carelessly inflicted upon one of his bretheren.
But I did not fear and I did not run (and not because I was protected by a Labrador Retriever who was
useless as a guard dog). I was feeling that guilty and ashamed of killing one of God's finest creatures – the
fast, agile, strong, berry-eating, fish-catching, harmless, innocent black bear. An eye for an eye would not
have been completely unjust, if that is what was called for.

Of course, that did not happen, and why would it? Except for extremely rare instances (one reported
black bear attack on humans in 20 years of northern Minnesota monitoring), these placid beasts simply
do not hurt people. Black Bears do all they can to avoid us humans who have fully invaded this majestic
animal's beloved northern woodlands with our lives, our homes and our machines. The black bear is
reportedly more afraid of us than we are of him. And with good reason.

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family

The Minnesota 'Modern Family'
from an essay by Ellitott Fliés in the Huffington Post: www.huffingtonpost.com

After my son's third birthday party, his best friend began to cry. When his mother asked him what was
wrong, he said, "I want two dads just like Isaac has!" He said he had so much fun at the party because there
was always one dad to have fun with while another dad does the work.

That was the first moment when I realized my family was unique.

My partner Randy and I moved to Minnesota from California to be closer to our extended families.
We have supportive, loving families, and we wanted to raise our families in America's heartland. Upon
our return, Randy and I had intentions of adopting a child and building a family. I knew the nine-year
foundation of our relationship would enable us to love, care for and have children.

I grew up with a family who believed in adoption. My parents adopted my brother, Phun, from Cambodia
in the 1970s. So I was surprised when Randy and I started the adoption process and discovered that
Cambodia was one of only five countries from which a male partner could adopt a child in 1999. I knew
we would help a child from Cambodia.

My next step was to research adoption laws. Surprisingly, I discovered that no country outside the U.S.
will permit a same-sex couple to adopt a child. As a result, we knew one of us would need to adopt as a
single parent overseas and then apply for re-adoption in Minnesota.

We traveled to Cambodia and visited an orphanage in Cham Chou. The poverty was unreal, and the hope
was inspiring. We knew our goal was to help a child who lost his mother by a tragic death. Isaac was a happy
baby from the very first moment we held him. I don't think either Randy or I slept a wink that first night in
our Phnom Penh hotel. We nervously watched our son's every breath as he slept and worried about how
much or how often to offer him a bottle. Despite being college-educated, it took us several days to master
the art of an efficient diaper change.

After we adopted our second son from Vietnam, international adoption laws changed. Cambodia closed its
borders to international adoption, and Vietnam was soon to follow. In addition, there were rumblings
questioning the validity of same-sex parenting.

Today we have tremendous love and support from our families. After 13 years in an "unconventional
family," I never felt different. Now, popular culture is embracing same-sex adoption with television
programs like Modern Family and The New Normal. I have the same hopes and dreams of other families:
good health for my children, a strong education and a bright future.

I would not change a thing and often reflect on that 3-year-old's perspective from so many years ago.
I doubt my sons' now-teenage friends would cry aloud anymore about not having two dads, but I know
how lucky I am for the privilege of parenting two sons like Isaac and Jason.
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la quake

A Personal Perspective of an Earthquake and Its Aftermath
By Elliott Michael Fliés Foster
West Los Angeles, California.
It was 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, January 17, 1994.  I was soundly asleep. Within sixty seconds my
world would change, violently.  I vaulted from my bed as the floor shook beneath me. Rand and I met
in the doorway where we held on to the door frame, and to each other.

For the ensuing thirty seconds, I prayed, trembled and feared being crushed under a pile of wood,
steel and concrete. That extraordinary half-minute was the longest and most terrifying of my life, just
as it was for millions of my fellow Angelenos. Our two-story apartment complex bounced and swayed
as if some leviathan were tossing us from side to side. Windows rattled, shelves emptied their contents,
and a china closet crashed to the floor, shattering in the unit above us.

Almost as horrifying as the feeling of this earthquake was its inescapable sounds. Water from the pool
sloshed as if waves on the beach at the end of San Vicente. Wood beams in our building cried and
moaned while pulled away from their foundation like a newborn being torn away from its mother.
Dishes, pictures and knickknacks crashed to the floor in seemingly utter chaos. And yet, my mind
focused solely on my own survival. Is this the Big One?  Is the building coming down?  Will I be
crushed to oblivion?  It was the only time in my life facing thoughts of imminent death. I waited for my
last breath, resigned to a frightening fate.

Soon the shaking stopped, yet my heart raced on as the building continued to roll to an eventual stop.
Surrounded by total darkness, there was no power and no natural light. Having ignored common
warnings, we were not prepared for this disaster, fumbling around barefoot in the pitch blackness
searching for a flashlight and portable radio all the while knowing that an aftershock or more violent
temblor could hit at any moment.

With flashlight in hand, and battery-powered radio on the counter, we surveyed our home. Small
items such as books and pictures were scatted, yet the big objects were still in place. All the water had
splashed out of the toilet and onto the bathroom floor.  The piano had crashed into the wall busting the
piano frame and leaving a large dent in the plaster.  And there were cracks in nearly every room, some
from floor to ceiling. We were the lucky ones indeed.

Watching the news broadcasts later, it was apparent that we had been spared the much greater damage
suffered by our San Fernando Valley neighbors, five miles to the north. I quickly called Cousin Jane in
Agoura. The damage to her townhouse included broken glass, a busted water heater and more. Uncle
Dale and Aunt Millie experienced even greater destruction to the point that they could not remain in
their Calabasas home for some time. I could not reach Uncle Herb in Canoga Park, a mere mile or so
from the epicenter.

Soon we ventured out on our bikes to survey our own neighborhood, discovering what the newscasts
had overlooked in their concentration on the devastation of Northridge. On nearby San Vicente
Boulevard, the street was littered with glass from the shattered storefront and restaurant windows.
On Barrington Avenue, half a mile away, a six story office building was now reduced to five, with the
third floor crunched to almost nothing.

On Santa Monica Boulevard, a mile from home, businesses on every street corner experienced
structural damage ranging from broken windows and crumbled bricks at the deli to a total collapse of
the Mazda dealership building. Heading back toward our apartment, we passed through Santa Monica's
residential district. On every block there was at least one building that suffered irreparable injury and
would be condemned. On Fourth Street, we saw an apartment house whose entire front façade had
collapsed.   Looking to the top floor, we noticed a ceiling fan that turned round and round in an empty,
ruined apartment.

So now a great city rebuilds its homes, its infrastructure and its lives. That is not an easy task, as so
many are on edge with strong aftershocks and ever-present fears of The Big One.  We've lived through a
6.6 earthquake. I cannot fathom what an 8.0 would be like and I don't want to know. In the last two
years we've experienced riots, fires and floods here in Los Angeles. But those disasters occurred in the
streets and in other people's neighborhoods. This disaster invaded us in the very place we are
supposed to feel secure–our homes.

All around me there is damage, yet I survived as did my apartment and place of work. So many others
were not as fortunate. Over fifty people died, thousands were injured and many more are without
shelter, water and other basic necessities. It all seems so random. One apartment building will have a
few cracks while its next door neighbor has collapsed. My office building in Santa Monica was deemed
safe, yet I watch the MGM Plaza across the street being evacuated, partially torn down and rebuilt.
How do we make sense of all this?  One man in Northridge explained why he lived through the
infamous apartment building collapse that we have all seen on television: "It's God."  I believe he is right.                                                                                                                                                                    
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ranger

A Short Story, a True Story, a Love Story
By Elliott Michael Fliés Foster

I fell in love the minute I laid eyes on her in a seedy part of town. Handing over the requested cash right
there on the spot, I took her home to my apartment in Redondo Beach. Oh, how many love stories have
started off exactly that same way…

We met back in ’95; I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was young, she even younger.
Although I was on the rebound from the painful loss of my first love, this new situation unexpectedly
felt right, even destined. I covered her backside which was too exposed to public view, for my tastes.
She wore it with pride as we literally rode off into the California sunset.

For me it was a match made in Heaven. For her, I’m not so sure. But this is what I wanted, and how I
wanted it. A man has needs, you know. Some will judge me, of course, gently suggesting that perhaps
there was another option, another way. Others will be more blunt. No matter. This is my life, my money, and I can spend them any way I see fit, the critics be damned. What do they know anyway? Everyone
has a vice, no one is perfect. He without sin can cast the very first stone.

Our relationship endured far longer, and in more surprising ways, than I ever expected all those years
ago in the California sunshine. When I moved to Minnesota, some were surprised to see that she came along too. It had only been a year since we’d met, but the bond was already strong-at least for me, that is. Maintaining this relationship continued to cost me some dough, but I never regretted spending one
single cent.

After a few years back in the Midwest, things got a bit complicated. First I had a spouse, and soon after
that a baby, then another child two years later. There just wasn’t room for all of it, and something had
to give.  So, she went to live with my father who paid handsomely for her in the Spring of ‘02.

Oh, the naysayers will snicker, saying behind our backs that the apple truly falls not far from its tree.
“He’s just like his old man,” they’ll say.  Or, perhaps they’ll point out that dad’s decision was selfish, for
he was already married, and my mom wanted no part of this. It’s a funny thing about long-term
relationships, however. You’d be surprised what you’re willing to put up with after all those years with
someone. And so “she” did. Put up with it. Both her and my mother.

I admired her from afar after that, whenever I caught a glimpse of her and dad out together, just driving
around town. Sure, I was jealous. But it didn’t prevent me from finding a replacement, a newer model. 
In all honesty, I must confess that I never met her equal yet still progressed through a series of déjà vu
encounters that all began in euphoric, but temporary bliss. It’s only human nature to tire of the one
you’re with after a while, and yearn for something exciting, fresh, and different.

Ultimately, that cycle itself bored me, and I once again found myself thinking about her, yearning to be
together yet again.  I’m sure it sounds crazy, but only if you have no sense of romance. My story is the
story of countless men across the ages, though most of theirs end sadly, never reuniting with their first
true love, paid for with hard-earned money.

My ending? Happiness. You see, my father himself soon tired of her as well, opting for something
exciting, fresh, and different, just like all the others. And so he gave her to me-free of charge-this past
November, almost twenty years to the day since we first met, half a continent away within reach of the
Pacific Ocean. We now spend every day together, much to the chagrin of my spouse and my children.
They'll just have to get used to it. 

This time our ending will be different. I won’t let her go, until she says it’s time, or until time itself tells
us that the end is near.  After that, I’ll have nothing more than my memories of that sleek, powerful
figure and a single picture of us together that I’ve included below. Happy Valentine’s Day.

                                                                                                                                                                   
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