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spacer Brandon McLaughlin • Honolulu, Oahu, 1997
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Brandon McLaughlin, Honolulu, Oahu, 1997

I never wanted to have children. I was convinced that I would be an impatient, self-absorbed parent. And then on Easter of 1992 – Russian Easter of 1992, to be precise – I held Brandon, who was then six months old, for the first time. I was visiting him and his now single mother Johanna at the home of her parents. At one point I heard someone quietly ask Johanna’s mom, a Russian emigrant, who I was. “I have no idea,” she said in a very loud stage whisper. “But my daughter has the worst taste in men.” As for the son, I can only say that he chose me and has taught me more about being a mindful person than a slew of Buddhist monks. I have taken many pictures of Brandon; this is one of his favorites, because he is standing next to his beloved warm pool at Indian Springs, a spa in Calistoga. The pool is filled with 100-degree water that comes from a spring, and he has always thought of it as a large hot tub. Brandon was born and raised in Marin County, which some think is the birthplace of the hot tub. When he was five, and we first visited my sister Mary Ann in her 19th floor New York apartment, he knocked on the door. When she answered, he said, “Hi. I’m Brandon. Where’s the hot tub?”

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