Barbara King author photo by Sarah Hogg(1)Your new book is titled not Do Animals Grieve? or A Few Big-Brained Mammals Grieve Once in a While but How Animals Grieve.  How come?

I wanted to telegraph what we now understand: a wide variety of animals mourn when a loved one dies. Scientists have known for years about elephants who stroke the bones of the dead, and chimpanzees who become greatly distressed at the body of a loved one.  And very recently, we’ve learned from up-close observations new details about how these big-brained mammals and others, like dolphins, grieve in the wild.

King How Animals coverStorm Warning was a beautiful thoroughbred with a challenging personality. So many things spooked the horse: umbrellas, bicycles, small dogs, ponies, even people who removed an item of clothing while riding him. Storm, as he was called, was just a bit neurotic. But he lucked out in one way: he enjoyed a fifteen-year close relationship with Mary Stapleton, who happens to be a psychologist. Acutely attuned to people’s fears and anxieties, Mary transferred her insights and calming abilities to the horse. Even as Mary and Storm competed in the dressage ring, they worked together on Storm’s fears. In Mary’s words, Storm “learned to jump and face all of his terrors with great courage.”

Your book is a synthesis of memoir and cultural critique. Why did you choose this form?

Because the material demanded it—isn’t this what writers usually say? Except in my case it was because the stand-alone memoir was going nowhere. The agents I sent it to all said the same thing: “I like it, but …” Then they couldn’t tell me what else was needed. So I hired an editor, sent her my chapters, and chewed my nails until we got on the phone. And the first words out of her mouth were, “The most interesting part of this book hasn’t been written yet.” Not what I wanted to hear when I was almost done with a full draft!


What was the “most interesting part” she was looking for?

It turned out to be connecting the dots between my personal experience and the larger culture. Some synthesizing of all those years I spent in grad school studying history and religion and anthropology.

Midnight blue water rested at the horizon under a brightening sky, framing shafts of pine and fir at shore’s edge. Here on the southern tip of Lopez Island, off the coast of Seattle, the dawn air was cool and still, the only sound a few songbirds calling far away. I headed across the needle-packed yard toward a clump of pines. The bald eagle nest was right over there, Anya had said; she’d seen the chicks fledging just days ago, and they couldn’t be far away now.

I turned my binoculars toward the pines, eager to spot that huge platform of sticks three to five feet across. Eagles use the same structure year after year, weaving in more and more sticks for support until the whole can weigh a ton or more. Surely a nest the size of a mattress should be easy to find! I scanned the trees in one direction. Nothing. Puzzled, I looked the other way. No nest anywhere in sight.

Soon my neck stiffened from the upward gaze. I lowered the glasses and headed across the thick carpet of pine needles. The eagles would have to show up soon. Anya had said they were here, so I might as well wait.

For my 10th birthday my family took me to a steakhouse. This was the last time in my childhood I really enjoyed eating meat. I ordered steak tips medium rare. Before they brought the food they brought out tin buckets full of peanuts. My brother and I finished an entire pail, cracking the shells open with our fists, crunching the remnants on the floor. When our meals came, I could still feel the empty shells crushed under my feet.


This month quite possibly marks the third birthday of my cat, Berry. Amy and I adopted her in December 2008 and we were told by a(n admittedly incompetent) vet that she was around seven months old.

We don’t know what happened to her in those seven months and we rarely speculate. She was found on the streets of Seoul by an insane American woman not long before we adopted her, and as she was healthy and fairly amicable towards people, we assume she wasn’t on the street for long. The first thing we ever knew about her was that she was playful; incredibly boundlessly energetically playful. We think she probably had a home but was thrown out on the street once she became too old to be considered cute.

This is the face of pure evil. Her name is Eddie. We call her Special Ed.

I know what you’re thinking. Ah, she’s soooo cute. Wrong. She’s deceiving. Those big dumb eyes are no more than fishing lures. She wants you to pet her, to feed her, to tolerate her. “Please,” she’s saying. “Treat me like a princess.”

Which is all well and good, you might say. She’s a cat. Cats are instinctively selfish beings. They do what it takes to make us love them, because love means food and warmth and tummy rubs. They feign interest because it gets them the attention they need.

Humans like to say things like ‘the human spirit’. They like to think it means something, that it’s what’s special about them. That it separates them from other animals. There’s that new movie out, 127 Hours, starring James Fracno, about that guy, Aron Ralston, who got his arm caught under a big rock when he fell into a canyon, and he had to cut the arm off with a really dull multi-purpose knife. The movie’s about, like, ‘the human spirit’.

Mother’s bleeding her dead children
single-celled, invertebrate
born in the water of her womb
after the Word, below the light
amniotic deaths, sand and silt shrouds
mass graves of viscous black rot

Mother’s bleeding, her dead children
finned, feathered, furred
still in the water where life began
anointed by the exhumed hemorrhage
innocent sacrifice of awakening
your sleeping terrestrial siblings

Mother’s bleeding her, dead, children
thin-skinned, thick-headed
water and oil have never mixed
excuses confuse a simple choice
eat, drink, breathe where if her wounds drain dry?
return to her—or return to her
She will welcome you, either way

What I discovered in my attempt to select books for this month’s column is that there are more books for me to read than I have time. So, I’ve decided this month’s focus would be about the “little press”. To me every independent press is a champion in its own right, but there were a couple presses in particular that stood out for me this month. While these two selections are only two among many worthy titles, I really felt like these were outstanding. I like books of all shapes, sizes, styles and (okay, sorry non-fiction, you . . . not so much) I try to be as well rounded as possible however; I do tend towards shorter books when in a pinch for time. I’ve come to learn though, shorter books are equal if not more time consuming than a novel or short-story because they are replete with thought-provoking sentences, images and often, complex paragraphs of poetry. A shorter text requires a bit more commitment from my brain. I cannot flip the pages as easily, partially because I want so much to savor the words and sentences, so I read slowly (that and I seem to have horrible reading comprehension or ADHD) and thus, a fifty page book takes me almost as long as if it were two hundred and fifty. What does all this mean? Quite simply put: Good writing is good writing regardless of length.

I confronted eschatology too young. Although benign compared to some beliefs, my Catholic upbringing placed me at the sidelines of Armageddon—strange references to a kingdom come, the Second Coming, Judgment Day. I got queasy at the mention of the Book of Revelations. Sermons and syntactically-strained Bible readings led me to infer a tremendous destructive end to all life, human, animal, insect, plant. There were drawings in books, filled with fire, angels and demons, a sea of the damned. For a child, it’s impossible to reconcile a loving Father with one who will kill every one of his children with wanton violence. Children also don’t grasp metaphor.

If I’d known the word vegetarian when I was a kid, I wonder if the shift would have happened sooner. Back then, there was no Lisa Simpson giving pop culture credence, no easily available information, and no role models in my social circle.

I was an unusual tyke in that I liked almost every fruit or vegetable I tried. Steamed artichokes, smooth avocadoes, fresh cherries with pit and stem, even maligned Brussels sprouts.

We recently went on a trip to Africa.  Plane one: we booked a private plane from Jettly, that flight took around three hours to get us to New York.  Plane two:  fourteen hours to Dubai.  Plane three:  ten hours to Johannesburg.  This does not include the waiting times between planes.  We all hoped to get some sleep, but it is not easy to sleep when your body says that it is daytime.  Victor decided that for the last flight, the ten hours to Johannesburg, he would insure his rest by taking a sleeping pill.  Victor had never taken a sleeping pill before, in fact, he rarely takes any medication except the very little prescribed by his doctor.

We were served a meal. (On these kinds of flights you are served meals on a regular basis. You eat these meals because they are right there in front of you. They taste like airplane food.)  Victor and I were sitting in the middle of the cabin in the middle of the plane in a four-seat row with our friends, Ken and Cindy.

“I’m going to take an Ambien,” Victor announced.

“Why?” I asked.  Victor is known by all who know him as a person who can sleep anywhere at any time under any conditions.

Here is some convincing photographic evidence of Victor’s aforementioned abilities:

Victor on the bed, before peeing, after work and before dinner


Victor asleep on the dog crate, after work, before peeing and before dinner


Victor in the airport in Bhutan

Victor on Safari at Kruger National Park

Please understand that there were lions and rhinos and hippos and warthogs and springboks and zebras and giraffes and, well, you get the idea….

Here is Victor on the bus traveling through the bush in Africa, where we passed ostriches and elephants and wild dogs and leopards and cape buffalo and hyenas and all flavor of monkeys….

I think it may be genetic.

Poor Benjamin!

“Because I want to be sure to be rested so I don’t miss anything,” he said.  “In fact, I’m going to take it with my meal.” He also had a glass of wine with his meal.  You don’t have to pay for wine on long flights, even back in steerage where we were.  Victor does not like to pass up anything that is free.  Another thing you should know about Victor is that he is virtually never publicly affectionate.  Our kids have named the hug they try to give him after not seeing him for a long time: “The Hug and Shove.”

On Emirates Airlines, there is a screen in front of each seat with hours of movies, TV shows, music and computer games. The lights had been dimmed to simulate nighttime.
I was watching a movie. Victor began poking me.  I used hand gestures to indicate I was watching a movie.  He continued to poke me.  I told him that I was watching a movie.  He poked me some more.  I took off my earphones and looked at him.  He was grinning.

“Let’s cuddle,” he said.

“Cuddle?” I asked.

We usually reserve our cuddling to the bedroom.  We were on an airbus with four to five hundred people.

Victor became quite insistent.  There began a tussle whereby I tried to hold his hands down while he made it quite clear that he needed his hands free to pursue certain maneuvers familiar to me, but only in the bedroom. Victor was amorous. The struggle went on for quite some time. It was a heated grappling. Spectators started gathering.  Our group assembled in the aisle.  More onlookers appeared.
We were quite the hit on a boring flight.  Finally I suggested that he put his blanket over his head, which is a trick he uses to breathe carbon dioxide and become sleepy.  Oddly, he reacted immediately by covering up his head. Ken and Cindy, both medical professionals, told me that he was actually quite asleep and to watch him carefully because there was no telling what he might do.  Ken and Cindy and I all stayed awake to watch him.

He took off the blanket and shouted: “Argentina!” He pulled his blanket back over his head. He took the blanket off several times to meticulously bite his nails and then covered himself back up.  He removed the blanket again saying: “Get in touch with Ken and Cindy and tell them it will be Wednesday, if that works for them.”  Back under the blanket he went.  Frequently, he would remove the blanket and either utter some gibberish or grin and wave giddily at the three of us with him in the row, eyes wide open.

After he had been quiet for awhile, I began to let my guard down and went back to my movie.  Ken pulled my sleeve.

“Victor has to stop that!  It isn’t safe.”

I looked at Victor. He had taken out all the cash for our vacation, which had been in the “secret” pouch around his neck, and was counting it out loud in his seat.

“Victor, stop that!”  I exclaimed.

“You are not the boss of me;” he replied, “you can’t tell me what to do.”

“I may not be your boss, but you need to put our money away now.”  I said.  He continued to count the money.  Out loud.

Ken said: “Victor!  Put that away now!”  Victor quietly put the money back in his “secret” neck wallet and went under the blanket again. Apparently, Ken’s advice was given more credence than mine.

This had been going on for hours.  It seemed a good time for me to get up and take a bathroom break.  Ken and Cindy got up and I exited that way, so as not to disturb Victor.  They took up watch.  I just made the turn to the bathroom when I heard Ken yell.


I hurried to the other aisle and found him wandering about.

“Where are you going?” I asked him.

“Nowhere.  Why are you following me? he asked.

“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”  I asked.

“Could be,” he replied.

I walked him to the bathroom and stood outside.  He was inside for a very long time.  The toilet never flushed.  I was beginning to think that I would have to send Ken or Cindy to get a cabin attendant to free him from the bathroom.  At long last, Victor emerged from the bathroom.  I was relieved to see that he was fully dressed, since one of the scenarios our friends and I had discussed was that he might just disrobe in the bathroom and come out buck-naked.  He had not used the toilet.  I can only assume he was making faces in the mirror.

When he saw me outside waiting for him, he asked:

“Why are you here?  You are always spying on me!”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that, honey,” I said, “I’ll try not to bother you.”

I maneuvered him back to his seat and told him to sit down. He was eerily compliant. He explained that he didn’t want to sit.  He wanted to take a walk.  I used my ace-in-the-hole and said:

“If you sit down, I’ll rub your head until you go to sleep.”

Victor will do close to anything to get his head rubbed, evidently even while asleep.  He sat down and I covered him with the blanket again.  He took it off and asked:

“Why are you covering me up?”

“Head rubs are better under the blanket,” I declared.

“Oh.  Okay,” he said, and settled into his seat.  I buckled him in, wishing I had handcuffs, and covered him with the blanket.  I stood in the aisle and rubbed his head continuously until I saw that he had finally stopped fidgeting.  Then I walked around to the other aisle and Ken and Cindy let me through to my seat.

After an endless wait, the lights came up slowly in the cabin and the cabin attendants came around with another meal.  Victor pulled off his blanket and proclaimed his vast hunger.

“I feel really rested,” he noted.

“Are you awake?” I asked.

“Of course I’m awake.  You are ridiculous,” he answered.

He had no memory of anything he had said or done, except, oddly, the counting of his money.

It is my heart-felt advice that you should not take your first Ambien on a plane.  First take it in bed, with someone carefully watching.



2009-03-04 16:57:45

Tears of laughter.

I want Ambien.

I read ”all flavour of monkeys” and thought it quite amusing. It did not adequately prepare me….

just awesome…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:39:05

Thanks, James D., There WERE all flavors. Many with swollen underparts.

Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:52:46

“swollen underparts” Heehee. That’s what I’d have after 28 hours of sitting on a plane!

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:58:12

Josie, are they surprisingly red, also?

2009-03-04 17:25:18

Oh Irene, how I have missed you so!

I think you and Victor should perform a reenactment and put it up on YouTube. Seriously. That would rule.

2009-03-04 17:26:40

Also, what is with that “face-down-flop”? That’s friggin’ HILARIOUS!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:42:29

Kimberly, I am VERY afraid that this is an inherited trait. As you can see, Benjamin shows the same tendencies. Genes will out, I’m afraid.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:40:58

Oh, Kimberly, we would if we could, but Victor remembers nothing but the money. If only we knew to have a movie camera at hand….
(I DO have LOTS of witnesses, though!)

Comment by Irene Zion elsewhere in the states |Edit This
2009-05-09 16:01:09

Sorry, Kimberly,
Victor remembers nothing about this except that he thinks he had a dream about counting money. Couldn’t reinact it. Impossibile.

Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:46:32

Victory on safari… wow – guess I could close my eyes and save myself the trip. lol

Oh gosh, I’m with Kimberly – why oh why isn’t there video? I think you’ve stumbled onto a brilliant new form of international flight entertainment. One or two passengers can just gobble an Ambien, wash it down with a glass of wine and… Voila! instant entertainment.

But until then blogs with photos will suffice.
Welcome home Irene )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:04:19

I have really missed you guys!
(I DO think that the wine had a part in the reaction, but what do I know?)

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:46:42

Once again you have me hysterical laughing. I take Ambien every night. Wonder what I might be doing in the middle of the night? Hmmmm. So far the dogs are keeping quiet.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:00:28

If you sleep at night and no one complains, what’s the harm?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:01:40

Melissa, I was typing away forever and nothing but the first sentence showed up. Now I’m too jet-lagged to remember what I was saying. Maybe tomorrow….

Comment by melissa (irene’s friend) |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:36:10

Irene, you know I have jet lag and I do not go anyplace but Publix. You must come back soon. Or I may be stuck in the elevator forgetting to push the floor number.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:10:05

Melissa, Remember. It’s the other floor. Just repeat that as if it were a mantra.

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2009-03-04 18:25:41

I’m headed to South Africa this May for six weeks– a 22-hour layover in Madrid. Thanks for the medicinal cautionary tale…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:48:57

Matthew Gavin,
The 22 hour layover will save you. Get a hotel and sleep. I promise you will be the better for it in the end. The trip is grueling without a break. It’s well worth it, though. Africa is amazing!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:11:45

On the other hand, Matthew Gavin, you could bring a pair of handcuffs and give the key to the cabin steward after you attach yourself to your seat. Be sure to use the bathroom first.

Comment by George |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:30:13

I want some Ambien — it’s the new Viagra.

Frankly, I don’t know if Irene is an unusually clever writer, or just surrounded by absolutely insane people who give her wonderful material.

I do think that the safest place to take Ambien is on a plane. There is a limit to how far you can go with sleepwalking.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:50:45

But George, there are doors that can be opened by civilians if there is an emergency. What if a sleepwalker decides to take a walk…outside?

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:57:52

oh my sweet jesus. that was the funniest thing ever. i was cracking up reading it. lisa and matt are here and they are desperate to read it next.

i so wish i’d have been there.
or maybe not for the part were he wanted to get it on with you, cause that’s weird.
but for the other stuff.

we’ll never know what he was doing in the bathroom. god, i wish we could know.

i love dad. he is my hero. i can’t wait to get a hug-and-shove from him.

see you in TWO WEEKS!

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:19:38

Like father, like daughter . . .

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:02:10

also, you are SO totally not the boss of dad.

i am the boss of dad.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:03:05

Oh Lenore, my pet, there is so much more that cannot be put into print. I’ll never say.
(Maybe you’ll be lucky and I’ll get demented and tell you one day.)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:05:13

Lenore, was not that the strangest thing for him to say? That is a KID’S thing to say, not a grown-up’s. I still cannot get over that.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:07:49

well, it’s not that strange. like i said, you aren’t the boss of him. i am. he wouldn’t have said it to me.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:10:27

You are a piece of work, chickenheart of my soul.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:27:36

When Ben and I went to France and to England, he just took Vicodin and went to sleep. I think that was probably for the best. When I went to Sweden, I drank a ton of free wine and just felt sick. That was not for the best.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:39:17

Kate, when you drink alcohol in an airplane for some reason it is as though you drank three times as much. I don’t understand why, but I know that it is so.
Where did he get vicodin? He should save that for real pain. Most people sleep when they take a sleeping pill. I’d recommend that instead. (But, I’d watch him….)

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-03-05 13:21:29

I got it for my wisdom teeth surgery, but I apparently am sensitive to it. It just made me vomit a lot. So we saved it for the plane trip.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-12 04:10:25

Kate, My doc gave me some oxycodone for my restless legs on the plane. I spent the whole trip in the bathroom vomiting. On the other hand, my restless legs went away. I can’t believe people take that for fun!

Comment by Phat B |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:15:56

The face down sleeping is unreal. Will Dr. Zion teach me how to do it? You know how many people could sleep in a suite in Vegas like that? I must know the secret.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:14:34

Phat B, Do you see that most of the time his face is in a down comforter? How he didn’t smother is beyond me. The genetic code for this only runs on the boy’s side of the family.

Comment by the kayak lady |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:19:05

too funny! totally believable! i saw part of this! it is a tru tale! glad it was irene and not me! anything to pass a looong flight.

victor can sleep anywhere. a talent i wish i could pick up from him.

write more! it made me smile.

the kayak lady )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:18:48

Sure, Kayak Lady, YOU SPECTATORS were having fun. I was working hard there. He is a persistent bugger, even in his sleep, apparently.
I am his complete opposite. I can’t sleep anywhere. The drugs work on me as they are supposed to but only in a good bed in a cool room in the complete darkness. Even a nightlight keeps me up. I would’ve been good in a submarine like Timothy. He takes after me. (Or in one of those underground houses dug out of rock or earth.) Don’t need window treatments if you don’t have windows.

Comment by Jim |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:22:34

Why “Argentina!”?

This is the best travel story I’ve ever read. The photos added to the hilarity.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:20:22

Exactly, Jim. Why ANY of this. He was the only totally rested person when we got to Johannesburg. Ready for bear, he was.

Comment by Marlene |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:55:23

we missed you so much! looking forward to seeing the pics of the trip…
What an entertaining and hilarious story! The face down sleeping pictures of Victor are a plus. I should learn how to fall sleep like that -the only problem would be my boyfriend not letting me get the needy rest…
The Ambien industry won’t appreciate the negative advertisement -or positive? The story sounds good for a movie script.
Can’t wait to see you and Brooklyn

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:24:16

You know, Marlene, I had heard about these things happening from time to time, but never thought they would happen in my family.

I guess as a periodic side effect is not up there with bleeding from the eyes or loss of bowel control.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:58:47

You’ve alluded to Victor’s uncanny ability to sleep before, but the Bhutan photo didn’t really make the case.

Now, seeing him standing hunched over the dog cage, I can truly appreciate what it is you intended to share.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:27:35

The problem with that photo, Adam, is that you can’t HEAR the airport “lounge” in Bhutan. It was very very noisy. Also you can’t FEEL how cold it is. Remember, the temperature OUTSIDE is the same as the temperature INSIDE a dwelling there. We learned that fact the hard way. We slept wearing everything in our suitcases every night.

Comment by keiko |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:12:40

i had to read this twice because i laughed so much the first time. see you tomorrow. woo hoo.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:29:27

Yeah, Keiko. Just remember you promised not to lick us or shoot snot rockets.

Also when you land I will be long asleep. Victor will stay up, but I’m just not able to yet. I’ll see you in the morning. About 3 AM.

Comment by bill |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:41:00

thank you for sharing your story….very entertaining. I suggest you keep some Ambien around the house for those quiet nights alone with nothing much to do…instant entertainment.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:48:08

…including, but not limited to, instant amorousness.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:32:04

Bill, I think you’ve got something there. They could market Ambien as an aphrodisiac!

I’ll have to write them a letter. Maybe I can get a percentage of the profits. (Be getting on the bread line soon.)

Comment by Matt |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:42:32

Great story Irene. Maybe I need ambien because I’m an insomniac. Then i will perhaps do crazy things in the middle of the night that creep Lenore out. Although, Hege and Wetzel already do their jobs of distracting our sleep with their antics, so Lenore would probably go crazy if i were also adding to the mix.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:36:46

Matt, driving Lenore crazy is one of my purposes in life.

You should absolutely get a prescription. If it works on you the way it worked on Victor, you’ll be dancing on the table and cooking with kleenex.

Hege and Wetzel need the entertainment, anyway. They are just bored.

Besides, Lenore could take pictures and feature you on TNB as I did Victor.

It’s too bad Victor never reads it. I bullied him into reading the very first one and that was it. Doesn’t even want to hear about it.

Comment by Dan |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:49:49

Brilliant. This had me weeping with laughter. The next time I’m on a plane, I hope to hear someone cry out, “HE’S ON THE MOVE, IRENE!”

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:38:34

Dan, you just have to have a very very good friend or two, like Ken and Cindy, who will stay up and be watchers even though they are so very tired.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-03-04 22:42:11

Ah Ambien.

I wrote my ode to Ambien Zombies back in the old TNB days.
It’s a hoot…

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 22:44:02


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:40:51

Your link doesn’t work, Lenore.

HA! “Ambien Zombies!” Got to love jmb!

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Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-05 10:50:05

I think the “LINK” is a demand.

Not a supply.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 11:47:29

OOOHHHH. Thanks, Adam, I’m clueless here.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 12:00:02

Folks, this was NOT at all easy. jmb has written at least a trillion posts on TNB. In any case, here is the zombie post:


He tries to fool you by using “zombie” in other posts, but, hey! I’ve got time on my hands.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:39:35

Oh! I will go searching for it. I’d love to see jmb’s take on this drug.

Comment by Christine W. |Edit This
2009-03-04 23:59:12

I am printing this and keeping it for handy reference. Apparently, you Zions have some sort of weird relationship with Ambien.

Give him some more and report back to us.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:43:34

Christine, he doesn’t do what I tell him to do. As you saw, even in his sleep this is true.

Perhaps if Ken tells him, he will.

I can sleep a good three hours with two, (at night, in a good bed, with no ambient sound, and in total darkness.)

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-03-05 00:40:21

“’Do you have to go to the bathroom?’ I asked.

‘Could be,’ he replied”

I laughed so hard. The intrigue! He may have had to go to the bathroom. He may not have. But he certainly wasn’t telling you, Irene, because you’re not the boss of him.

My father just completed a 12-hour flight to Tel Aviv but the only story I got out of him involved legal briefs and a mini book light.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:45:33

Aha, Marni, but was he alone? If he were, you wouldn’t really know WHAT happened, would you? Remember Victor recalled nothing but counting the money. (And if you knew Victor that would make total sense.)

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:30:31

nice recitation. you forgot that when he exited the bathroom his pants were at a strange angle and one of his shirt tails was out. it give one pause to consider the 8 ball in the corner pocket (or if you prefer taking the one eyed bald man to the optometrist)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:49:05

KEN! He did? I didn’t notice anything awry. I guess I was just so happy he finally emerged. The I covered him all up. Now that I know he was in disarray, that turned out to be a lucky move!

I know I should understand the rest of your comment. I know what the one eyed bald man is, but not the rest. My parents never taught me any sex education!

Comment by Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) |Edit This
2009-03-05 08:23:14

This may be the funniest thing you have ever written! It’s even funnier if you know Victor. (For those who don’t know him, think Alan Arkin or anyone else who is easily embarrassed.) Also great that you had witnesses because, of course, he would deny everything even if he could remember it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 09:30:02

Oh Marcia, you are so right! I have approximately 400 – 500 witnesses! (And several who know him personally!) He would be SOOOO embarrassed if he would only read this!

2009-03-05 12:30:34

Irene, I was cackling aloud the whole time reading this.
I have a friend who was actually arrested for shoplifting on Ambien. She did not even know she was in the store. It was the middle of the night. She had left her house and gone to the store and was walking up and down the aisles just obnoxiously and blatantly throwing things into her bag with no effort to hide it. I thought this sounded like a “likely excuse” for being busted stealing, but it turns out I guess that this sort of behavior isn’t uncommon on Ambien and she was actually let go once a doctor got involved.
Yeah, for long plane rides, try Valium. I am deeply suspicious of sleeping pills.
My husband David can also sleep anywhere. He once fell asleep at a rave while the police were busting up the place. He also once slept through a film while sitting in a seat with a spring poking out of it and boring into his ass cheek so violently that when he stood up he had a big blot of blood on the back pocket of his jeans and a hole in the fabric. He had not noticed. He was asleep.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:42:32

Gina, I also was leery of claims of “sleep eating” or “sleep driving” until this happened to the most staid of all men: Victor. I guess since Ambien has little or no effect on me, I sort of thought that I was the bellwether. But it appears I was wrong. (How can I NOT be the bellweather?)

I hope your friend got cleared of all charges. I will attempt to be more humble in the future. (Humble is not my natural state, so this is a real effort here.)

I don’t think you can get valium anymore. Isn’t that a drug from the 60’s? My mother-in-law used valium like candy.

Do you have any pictures of David sleeping in unlikely places? No one believes you if you don’t have proof. I (underlined, if I knew how to do that,) believe you, but I have found that the majority of people are disbelievers! I hope you put neosporin on his booboo and a bandaid. These poor men. They have to be taken care of, don’t they?

Comment by Ben |Edit This
2009-03-05 13:23:56

Man… Why does Dad only do embarrassing things when we’re not around? We need to sneak him some Ambien next time we’re all together.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:47:14

So let me get this straight. You all want to catch him doing embarrassing things? Sorry to say, but you are just not around enough. I am here 24/7 and I see all. That is why I have access to embarrassing material.

You will be able to get great stuff when we are both demented. I hope you don’t waste the material when it’s handed to you. Seriously.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:18:16

Airplanes suck. Fat people, sick people, babies, it’s always way too hot, the food tastes like shit. I’d rather get punched in the face than get on a damn plane. The only thing you can hope for is to pass the hell out and forget it’s happening to you. Alcohol and ambien are the only tools we have. Too bad ambien makes you all batty and out of control.
I agree with The Worm. We can grind some up and tell him that it’s part of a dryrub for a steak or something.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:52:00

You know, Tim, I believe that would actually work. We would all have to be careful that he ate the right pieces, though. What if WE ate the pieces and went bonkers for several hours and didn’t remember? Too bad Lonny won’t be there to film it for proof. I can take stills, but what if I go bonkers? It will have to be up to the last man standing to take the photos.
There. All figured out. I am so GOOD when I get on a problem!

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:03:26


I’m already so excited and you haven’t really even gotten into any details about the actual trip as far as arrival and ensuing occurrences. I believe that I too have the ability to sleep anywhere. At my sister’s in the middle of the living room amongst screaming toddlers. Just today in my grandmother’s hospital room. On a train, on a bus, etc.

Anyway, glad your back and hope you had a great trip. I can’t wait to read more about it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:18:43

Autumn, I cannot tell you how much I envy you! Sleeping is the hardest thing for me.
The trip was amazing in so many ways.
I’ll getto it, but I’m pretty jet-lagged now. (and company is coming.)

Comment by Cecile |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:06:40

This is indeed one of the funniest real life stories I have ever read. Victor was so out of character it sounds like fiction. You know you could have become a member Mile High Club with maybe just one more Ambien. Well you (he) made a memory!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:20:18

Cecile, we absolutely could have joined that club if I had no sense of propriety. Luckily for me, only Victor was loose and free. I was my usual buttoned-up self. It takes two to tango….

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-05 19:03:24


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:51:14


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Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2009-03-05 17:05:17

What a story. Victor who always seems so much in control. Your way of telling it is truly funny. Was he back to his old self when you landed, or did he think he had arrived in Argentina!! Glad you are back and looking forward to hearing more about your experience.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 18:13:10

Ursula, as soon as the next meal was served he was back in the land of reality. He was in Oz for hours before that. I think that’s what makes it so funny. Here’s this uptight guy who is always in control and he’s acting like he is controlled by Martians. It certainly came as a surprise to me!

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-03-05 19:34:59

What are all of these pictures of him sleeping face down at a 90 degree angle??? This has to be some kind of crazy sleeping disease. And here I am laughing my head off at him. Poor Victor. (And I can’t seem to stop laughing) This was just too funny.

Also, does the fact that it is “before peeing” have anything to do with the position? Is it that he can’t get comfortable enough to lie flat?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:44:01

No Erika Rae,
He would come home from work exhausted and on the way to changing his clothes and peeing to get ready for dinner, he would just fall asleep wherever he was. It happened all the time. I guess it was good to get a nap in before dinner and homework warden duties.

The 90 degree angle is ridiculous, but he managed to pass it along to Benjamin, who also can do the same thing.

Timothy fell asleep while marching in boot camp. Lots of people sleep standing up, but I was impressed with Timothy being able to do it while marching. My kids are so special!

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2009-03-05 20:01:31

Did he believe you when you told him that story? He is the only one who got rest, maybe you all should have taken it (he he).

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:47:02

Amy, he HAD to believe it. Everyone around him told him about it, plus some that had traelled the plane to watch him with his shenanigans. Plus he did recall the one fact of counting his money.

If we had gone to sleep, there is no telling who he would have accosted, or where he would have gone and what he would have done. I shudder at the thought!

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-03-06 03:23:03

That’s hysterical, ma.
I love that we now have a free sneak preview of what Dad will act like when he’s old and demented: stubborn but re-directable, and still a horny old goat.

(Someday you ought to write about your Thanksgiving visit when I walked in on you and Dad at SIX THIRTY IN THE MORNING IN MY GUEST BEDROOM while you were *busy*…)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:49:04

Sara, it is one thing to humiliate your father and a totally different thing to humiliate myself. Duh.
You need a lock on that door!

Comment by lonny zion |Edit This
2009-03-07 21:18:20

we are sleeping in that same bed tonight

hopefully sara changes her sheets at least once every 3 years

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 06:28:38

Sorry, Lonny, Sara’s a chip of the old block. She doesn’t KNOW how to change sheets. The old ones will do fine. Don’t fret, we showered.

Comment by Phat B |Edit This
2009-03-06 13:33:09

I have to join this family. How many goats for the hand of one of your daughters in marriage? I have lots of goats.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-06 18:38:36

i’ll marry you for a goat.
i’m not worth much more.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 19:05:58

Phat B, Sara is way too complicated, what with the husband and the two kids and a potential dog. You can’t have the number of goats necessary.
Lenore, on the other hand, is way unincumbered. Just two cats. She’s selling herself too cheap though. I’d ask for three goats.

Comment by Sara |Edit This
2009-03-07 08:46:46

Hilarious! That thing about being able to sleep anywhere, anytime – it’s a surgeon thing. I have it too.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-07 15:37:31

You know, Sara, that is the problem with TNB. Too many artsy types and not enough scientist types. As I said before, in an entirely different context, it takes two to tango.

Comment by lonny zion |Edit This
2009-03-07 21:16:33

i am no expert, mother, but it kinda sounds like dad was on something stronger than ambien

i have not taken ambien but this story kinda makes me want to
seeing that i will be on a measly 8 hour flight to paris in a few days it might even be appropriate

i really dont have a problem sleeping unless you count sleeping too much as a sleeping problem
and i must point out that i am not a doctor yet i have in the past fallen asleep before take off and been awakened by the plane landing – woohoo 10 minute flight across country!

is it hard for you to sleep on planes cuz of rls (restless leg syndrome)?
i am clearly a child of both of you because i can sleep anywhere but i wake up with crazy legs
which often bothers others a heck of a lot more than it does me

i guess that is about it – mom, you are funny – dad, you are a perv
not that i am judging you understand
go family!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 06:35:53

Lonny, if you sleep that easily you should REALLY not take a sleeping pill. What time of day are you flying? If it’s overnight, you’ll have no problem. If it’s daytime, you might.

Yes. I virtually never get any sleep on planes because of rls-plmd. I wander the aisles and dance at the bathrooms. If you go all the way to where the cabin attendants are, you can dance while talking to them. They are always interesting and they HAVE to stay awake, so they don’t mind the diversion. I always suggest to them that they should put a stair-climber in at the end of the plane for people like me. I don’t think it will happen, even though it is a really good idea.

Dad’s always been a perv. Duh.

Comment by Marty KC |Edit This
2009-03-08 09:54:13

Ah, to ‘get off’ so well on a legal over the counter drug.

I’m jealous.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 18:04:16

But Marty, is it really “getting off” if you don’t remember any of it? Granted, it was good fun for the audience, but for him, well, he thinks he just got a good night’s rest.

Comment by Sheree |Edit This
2009-03-08 11:00:23

I’m a sleep talker. I will tell you anything in a dead sleep. My husband finds this hilarious and uses it to bemuse his boredom. (we have different sleep patterns) He will have me say things like, Paw the well needs a fixin’. He’ll ask me nonsense questions like, Do you want some soupy salad, to which I apparently become unglued and give a good rant.

He can sleep through anything, anywhere, anytime. I do not have documentation to prove it though, but after reading your hilarious post I am definately investing in a good camera!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 18:11:56

Sheree, you have to get something to record what you say! I’ll bet it’ll be fun.
Victor says I talk in my sleep all the time. After I read your comment, I asked him what I say and he said that last night I said “what good is it to have something that is supposed to be Grandmother when it’s all in code and you can’t see it?” No clue what that was about. I’m going to start asking him more often. We need to get something to tape with also. We need our husbands to at least write down what we say. Maybe if we hear it all, and not just snippets, it will make sense.

Comment by Jack |Edit This
2009-03-09 07:44:26

When I take Ambien I just sleep!!!. What did he take it with?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-10 11:17:11

I think the TNB server is gummed up. Either that, or my computer is, and that would be worse for me. Anyway, I’ll try to answer this again.
Jack, I know! I take a double dose of Ambien and I might get three hours under perfect circumstances!
I think the thing that might have pushed him over the edge was the little mini bottle of airplane wine. It’s all I can think of for his idiosyncratic reaction.

Comment by reno |Edit This
2009-03-11 07:30:04


that was probably the funniest thing i read in a long time.

i love you irene.

but i may love your husband more.

but WHAT IS UP w/ that man sleeping while standing up? i have never, NEVER, in my life seen anything like that. too funny. a grown man bent over a dog crate snoozing.

oh, lord. this story is a keeper.

“you’re not the boss of me.”

ha! double ha!

oh, god. thanks, pal. that was great.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-11 16:50:54

Oh Reno, I’m so glad you came to visit.

I always thought victor’s sleeping while standing was a bit off, but I tried to believe it was normal when my very fabulous son, Benjamin, started doing it. I think they were both really, really tired. People get really, really tired, right?

My kids used to use that phrase on each other, but that Victor used it under the influence was hysterical to me. Especially because I had to play along and actually address that claim. This was a very unusual experience.

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-03-11 17:51:21

Fist, I am sure we could have sold tickets for the second hour . Second, THANK GOD for my extra blanket( since yours was covering the north pole and not the south!. And last but not least you forgot the part about Victor proclaiming you promising to not wear underpants— I thought the lady across from Victor was going to wet herself. caw P.S. who knew victor had such a long wing span!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-12 04:24:23


Some things I was not going to include here. Like the parts related to me and not wearing underpants and stuff. By the way, I NEVER promised not to wear underpants. That was part of his delusion! I love embarrassing Victor, but I can’t take it myself. You know how it is. Give it but not take it.
I am so glad that there is one thing he said that I am pretty sure you didn’t hear. You would obviously broadcast it!

The lady across the aisle was a big help when we were trying to lay him back, remember? It took the three of us. I am sincerely grateful for the use of your blanket for his southern regions, since I needed mine to cover my southern regions too.

What a ride!

Comment by the kayak lady |Edit This
2009-03-12 14:39:06

still funny and entertaining after i have read it twice. and i was there to watch this real live performance………

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-13 03:41:12

Dear the kayak lady,
This was before we got to know each other. It was really embarrassing in front of four to five hundred strangers! Embarrassing makes good material, though, eh?

Comment by Ruthie |Edit This
2009-03-17 16:45:58

This is hilarious. Where was the video camera when you needed it most? Oh, life is just one missed opportunity after another. Keep up the great writing.

Comment by Irene Zion on the road again |Edit This
2009-03-18 17:07:48

My camera has a video setting, Ruthie, but I never did learn how to use it.
I’m so lazy. I have no excuse.