Everyday, noted.


There are two kinds of people, my mother told me;

the ones who love Jane Eyre

and those loving Wuthering Heights.

I, a quivering blob of unbridled emotion,

craved the ascetic honesty of Jane,

while my mother, pragmatic, prone to habit-formation,

sought the messy passion of Katherine.

(Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff are oddly interchangeable).

I considered this

an idiosyncratic line of demarcation,

its application peculiar to the two of us,

but now I see

a universal truth:

We want what is wanting.

Our dual allegiances were never bones of contention,

or flashpoints for literary argument.

My mother and I were staunch allies,

drifting off to our bedrooms,

books in hand.

My mother dreamed of pepper while I craved salt.

We both needed to eat.

You Haven’t Lived If You’ve Never…

  1. Cut across the lawn.
  2. Stopped to help.
  3. Succumbed to peer pressure.
  4. Lost a friend.
  5. Grown out bangs.
  6. Pretended not to see.
  7. Wished you could take it back.
  8. Prayed for something.
  9. Cried yourself to sleep.
  10. Had your breath taken away.

Home Before Dinner

When I was around seven or eight, I got mad at my parents, and wrote them a note saying this was goodbye, they would never see me again. I packed my Barbie suitcase and set off. I walked off down the street, wondering when they would see my note, imagining their shock and subsequent frantic search efforts, but I would be gone by then. Long gone, never to return. I walked a bit further and noticed that the sun was getting low in the sky. It was pretty close to dinner time. The suitcase, though small, was kind of heavy. I sat down on the curb for a while and rested, thinking even if I didn’t go away forever, I could at least give them a good scare. I waited for a while longer. Then, I went back home. As it turned out my parents hadn’t discovered the note and had no idea I was missing, which was perhaps not surprising since I’d only been gone around fifteen minutes.

History, even personal history, repeats itself. Apparently, I am still drawn to over-dramatically announced exits, and my time estimates continue to be way off. But today, I am not just tossing out a note and frantically unpacking a Barbie suitcase. I actually finished my first revision. It’s good to be back home.

On Quitting

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?
You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.
How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.

“On Quitting” by Edgar Guest nails how hard it is, generally, to quit something you love, and specifically, how hard it is for me to quit y’all, even on a temporary basis.

Don Pardo

Maybe it’s fitting that the silencing of someone else’s voice should be the reason for breaking my self-imposed posting silence. I’m talking about Don Pardo, the sonorous voice of NBC, who died yesterday at the age of 96.

Pardo’s voice, deep timbered with a slight quaver, preceded things I have held dear for pretty much my entire life. His was the voice that introduced Jeopardy, the game show that not only shaped my existence, but respects the value of generalized miscellaneous knowledge. His was also the voice that introduced Saturday Night Live, the show that began my still extant adoration of topical, irreverent sketch comedy.

My response to Pardo’s voice was purely Pavlovian. I heard it, and was immediately suffused with anticipation. I heard it and knew I was about to learn something, or I’m going to laugh, or both. His voice held the gravitas of history and the sweetness of youth, both well and misspent. In his voice I heard my mother and loud, late nights in the TV lounge in my college dorm. In his voice I once again saw Art Fleming, Gilda Radner, John Belushi.

Mr. Pardo spoke not only for NBC but for the generations raised on the promise of television. His voice represented the golden age of that still-evolving medium, flush with content that was smart and creative. For millions of us, Pardo’s unique voice resonates in our collective cultural consciousness, forever in that moment of blissful expectation that something wonderful is about to begin, after this commercial break.

Sweet Sorrow

It’s finally happening. My editor gave me the list of revisions I need to make on my novel. Happily, I think they’re spot-on, and will make the plot more exciting without altering the story’s heart. My deadline is just three weeks away.

It is causing me to panic slightly. I know I’ll get the job done, but I want to accomplish this not merely passably but really well. I am not thinking of the edits as a laundry list of required changes, but as an opportunity to implement some great ideas. So basically, along with the aforementioned panic, I feel genuine excitement.

I know I’ll be giving up stuff, like strolling aimlessly around the neighborhood or meeting friends for coffee. Laundry will get done, and I’ll still go for a run every morning. But the toughest thing for me to forego is posting here, at least on a daily basis. Just thinking about it causes what can best be described as separation anxiety.

Trust me, I know this is not normal. I also know you all will survive the three week blog hiatus just fine, but I’m a little bit worried about me. This is going to sound weird, but I have always felt the designation “followers” to describe those of you willing to read what I write is a misnomer. I consider you friends, and what I write feels like starting up a daily conversation that for some reason doesn’t seem delusional or one-sided.

I told you this would sound weird, but I could point out that many things that sound weird at first, like Pythagoras’s assertion that the earth was round, turn out to be totally true.

This past week I was told that my approach to pretty much everything is all or nothing. I agree. That’s why I can’t just slap stuff up here over the next few weeks like a place holder. I have to think our relationship matters too much. I know it does to me.

I will miss you, my friends, but I’ll be back.

Saw this on the street the other day. Please tell me they meant “poignant”.

Saw this on the street the other day. Please tell me they meant “poignant”.

Five Subjects Best Avoided At the Dinner Table

My parents forbade discussing politics or religion at the dinner table, probably because I was an argumentative liberal agnostic in a conservative church-going household, plus my father had high blood pressure.

My dinner table rules are different, and include the right to free speech, with a few amendments, designed to steer clear of boredom and safeguard digestion. Speaking of digestion, the first topic to avoid is:

  1. Digestion. Specifically, the disgusting ways it can backfire. Diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, gas, heartburn, bloating. You get the picture, and it’s not pretty.
  2. Any protracted discourse about a person or persons you work with/used to know/met once at a party unknown to all those seated at the table.
  3. The plots to movies your table companions haven’t seen or books they haven’t read. Not only is there the spoiler effect, it’s lazy and derivative. Come up with your own narrative.
  4. Reality television, unless accompanied by the adjective “soul-killing”. Fact: ten minutes of earnest reality show patter has been known to cause a condition known as “non-surgical lobotomy”.
  5. Stories detailing the adorable antics of babies or pets, absent fellow diners’ vested interest in said babies or pets, especially if these antics involve vomit, poop, or any digestive matter as outlined in item #1.


Yesterday I was talking to my daughter Rachael, who said she’d been feeling anxious. I asked her why, and she said she can’t shake this feeling that she’s always waiting for her life to start.

I told her I feel the same way, which probably came as a surprise, seeing as I have a few decades on her and one would assume I would be well past feeling like that by now. But I have never permanently shed that expectant feeling, like I’m waiting backstage for my cue. The stage-taking I’ve accomplished turns out to be only temporary; invariably, I find myself back to breathlessly waiting in the wings. And actually, I’ve grown to like this feeling of anticipation.

I think maybe the trick is not to feel duped or bitter, but ever hopeful. In a sense it’s a tease, because life never does just begin all of a sudden like that, but in another sense the feeling of waiting is the truest thing you’ll ever feel, because life never stops beginning over and over and over again.

Momentous, generally not, but it’s also not monotonous. It’s waiting for that next wave. I tell Rachael it never gets old, this feeling of being poised at the edge of whatever comes next, when you think today my life begins, and then it does. Again.

Controlling Camelot

There’s a certain type of woman (I resist pigeonholing, but we’re talking observable truth) who is brisk and efficient, taut as an Army bed sheet that has just passed inspection. We sat next to one such specimen at the beach the other day. She was a married mother of two: a boy who looked around four, and girl, I’m guessing two. Her husband sat inert on a beach chair, reading The New York Times, while the woman sat next to him commandeering the action. She told her son, named Chip, not to get sand on “those people” (a.k.a. us) and not to go out in the water “past where that boy with the orange boogie board is.” It was as if our family and the boogie board boy were lines of demarcation rather than people.

They had set up one of those beach tents, and the woman instructed her two year old, named Maddie, to climb inside and take a nap. There was no nonsense in her tone, no chance of softening, but it seemed that Maddie was used to this, because she did as she was told. So did Chip, walking three feet or so into the water, then about-facing like a little soldier to play in the sand with a plastic truck.

Suddenly, the woman jumped up and sprinted to the nearby parking lot, returning a couple of minutes later. “I called that nanny person,” she told her husband. “She didn’t pick up.”

She sighed, returning to her book. Chip played with his truck; Maddie, I presume, slept. I had no doubt that eventually the nanny person would be reached, and all would be right with the world. I looked at the woman, all of a piece, sun hat on her head, water bottle by her side, and I hoped quite sincerely she was enjoying this moment. Life being what it is, unless I miss my guess, there will come a time when little Maddie will not be the only one waking up.