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8 Aug


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From her house on house on Echo Lake outside of Big Fork, Montana, mom’s friend Jetta takes us the next morning to meet her friends.

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Today they are hiking at Wayfarer State Park.  Karine and Julie,

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Mom, Jetta and Karen.

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But there’s more than hiking.  There is an ease and a joy.

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Glen helps us with our route, and as I learn more about them all, I find I have misjudged everyone’s age by about 15 years.

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In the afternoon, we go kayaking, something I never thought I’d do with my mom.

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She continues to surprise me.


It’s Not About Me

31 May

Great wine requires poor soil and difficult weather.

My son is me without the filters.

But he’s also like no one I’ve ever met.

I like people who struggle.

I don’t want to talk about things in the morning.  At least not before coffee.

My friends have begun to get vasectomies.  I’m hoping it’s not a thing.

I like to bring order.

Pulling weeds makes me happy.

I have little patience for chaos.

I tend to blame others.

There is a theory that at some point during our evolution we were actually amphibious, hence the webbing between our thumb and forefingers, our relative hairlessness, and the happiness we find near water.

I regularly dream of the ocean, although it is usually dangerously turbulent.

Bread dough, forced by cold air to rise slowly , creates a richer, more flavorful bread.

I can walk into a bar, and in thirty minutes have a new friend.

Of course, I’ll probably never see them again.

Which brings us back to the whole friend issue.

Wines produced at high altitudes, on cold, barren outcrops, and in the least promising soil, seem to be the ones I like best.

Cold showers always make for a better day.

As does a morning run.

I rarely do either.

I find wine both delicious and fascinating.

I find Amy both delicious and fascinating.

I have no desire to sleep with wine.

If I go from running not at all, to running a lot, I get injured.

If I build up slowly, I’m OK.

It is possible that a lovely mansion built on a rise overlooking a bay will, in a hundred and fifty years, stand empty amidst warehouses, garbage trucks, and sewage treatment facilities, impossible to sell.

Time is fleeting and context is all.

I love the idea of sourdough more than the actual bread.

The process is more interesting than the taste.

My son is smart.

He may be smarter than me.

But he is not as smart as he thinks.

When it comes to people, Hallie may be smarter than us all.

The very word, disability, is limiting.

What does it mean?

I may not be a Bordeaux guy.

I may actually lean Pinot.

But, of course, Italy will always have my heart.

Up north.  In the mountains.

Marriage improves with struggle.

Maybe all things do.

Although it’s a fine line.

I can no longer read by the light of my bedside lamp without holding the book up to my nose.

And then I have to squint.

It is possible to drink wine just about every night.

But not advisable.

It is possible to do sit-ups with your daughter sitting on your belly.

As long as there’s no jumping up and down.

I am a good parent.

I’m a pretty good husband.

I suspect I’ve become a better actor while acting not at all.

My emotions have become more accessible.

In fact, I’m often so tired I cry.

Money is not as important as it seems.

It is, however, addictive.

I’ve made good choices.

I have good instincts.

I am horrible with names.

I’m a creature of routine.

Gifts are tough.

They mean less and less to me.  There’s not that much I want.

And I certainly don’t want to give something meaningless to others.

When I’m ebullient I feel I say too much.

When I’m not I say too little.

Silence is comfortable.  But things seem to build up, like water behind a dam.

Today is my father’s birthday.  He would have been seventy-three.

OK, maybe it is about me.

Ruby & Pam

13 Aug

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.

Hitched, united, tied, coupled, bound, wedded and joined in Holy Matrimony.  It makes me happy just to think about it, which is odd, because I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always taken marriage for granted. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Amy is the best thing that ever happened to me and I’d be a very lost soul without her.  But I’ve never been sure that we actually needed the marriage.  

You see, I have a great relationship with my heart.  It speaks the truth very clearly and I, for the most part, listen.  Shortly after meeting Amy it grabbed me by the front of the shirt and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that I would be an idiot to let her go.  Luckily, she agreed, and we’ve been together ever since.  I’ve never been sure we needed anything more than that. 

And yet, and yet…Our wedding was one of the most joyous moments of my life. 

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.  For I know few people who more richly deserve such a moment than Ruby and Pam.  After more than a decade of building a life together, of raising a son, of doing good work and being great friends, they are what a marriage should be.   And now they have traveled half way across the country to honor that commitment. 

So in away, it matters little that they’ll be returning to a state which, like a child who closes his eyes against something he doesn’t wish to see, will refuse to recognize their union.  The union exists.  It always has.  And the joy of this day will be theirs forever.  No willful blindness can ever take that away.

So that’s why I’m happy.

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.



First, Crazy & True

1 May

First love, crazy love and true love.

I had a crush on Kelly from the first time I met her.  Acting class, 9th grade, I must have been fourteen years old.  She was the classic older woman,  being fifteen, and seemed to possess all the knowledge and sophistication which that age implied.  She was out of my league and I knew it.   So we became friends.   Friends amongst friends, actually, as her basement became the de facto clubhouse for a whole group of us, a great place for Doritos and Cokes and Saturday Night Live.  

During Kelly’s first year of college a bunch of us drove down for the weekend.  We laughed, we drank, and Kelly and I took a late night walk.  We sat on the steps of a quiet building and I told her about the death of my father, talking about it for the first time with anyone.  Shortly thereafter we had a date.  I took her home, I said good night and there was a kiss.  A kiss in the cold night air that was so long wished for and yet so utterly surprising that I could feel the thrill of it right down to my toes.  I can feel that kiss to this day.  First love.

The thing about Becky was that she picked me.  Yet another acting class, this one in college.  The teacher divided us into two groups, putting us on opposite sides of the room, and asked us to communicate with someone.  As the exercise began and the resulting noise ensued I realized that a very cute girl with long, dark hair was trying to talk to me!  I couldn’t believe my luck!  Of course, she already had a boyfriend who she’d been dating since she was fourteen and who she just couldn’t break up with because it would kill him!  She also scratched her shoulders until they bled and I once made her so angry that I got up in the middle of the night and hid the scissors.  Oh yeah, and the boyfriend never went away.  But these were all minor impediments.  Our relationship continued its ragged course as we chased each other around the midwest for the better part of nine years.  Thank god she finally decided to hate me.  Crazy love.

Amy was different.  As was I, by that time.  I’d been in the wilderness for a while.  I had turned thirty.  We met, we went out.  She liked me, but I wasn’t sure.  Then I liked her and she wasn’t sure.  

But then she invited me to a play.  It was long and tedious and on our way to a party afterward we got caught in the rain.    As we sat in our damp clothes in a slightly shabby Chicago hotel suite and sipped our drinks, I felt a subtle glow, and from within this quiet moment of contentment I heard myself say “What are we doing?” 

She smiled a rather bewitching smile and asked me what I thought we were doing. 

“I think we’re dating.” I replied. 

And so we were.  We’ve been together ever since and I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else.  She is, by my definition, true love. 

And from that love has grown a family, and a whole new set of definitions.

My child snuggling into my chest.  First love.

Heath insisting on wearing his underwear backwards and frequently eating his own boogers.  Crazy love. 

The absolute joy I get from making my daughter smile.  True love.

First love, crazy love and true love.  They make me who I am.



Mad Men

6 Feb

The Mad Men were out this clear, cold afternoon on Park Avenue.  They moved with a certain grace for ones so old, and in their trenchcoats and fedoras they maintained an air of courtly, no nonsense elegance that their younger colleagues cannot begin to match.

Any vestige of old New York is a joy to stumble upon.  So much so that I, never a fan of businessmen or their mode of dress, was warmed by the site of these guys.  In a city that buries it’s history with the glee of a child at the beach, any continuity, any connection to what came before is both a comfort and a balm.   

As was Monday’s warmth.  Granting an unexpected reprieve from the winter’s chill, the sun appeared and drove the temperature well into the fifties, creating a glorious day that drew everyone to Steinway Park.  Friends that Heath, Hallie and I had not seen in months reappeared, escaping their apartments to bask in the spring-like warmth.  Heath and his buddies, John Peter and Max, crashed into and piled on top of each other like the puppies they are and, despite all the little boy bumps and bangs, nobody cried, which may be a first.

Hallie sat in the sun and played with her brother’s trains, then rested in my arms and finally laid her head on my shoulder and went to sleep.  With one eye on Heath, I held my daughter and talked with Asja, Sonia and especially Jenny, who did so much for us during Hallie’s first days, and who never fails to make me laugh.  It was one of the nicest afternoons of my life.

I love my neighborhood.  I love the bakeries and the bars, the delis and the diners, the library and the parks.  But most of all I love the people,  the friends and acquaintances who share our little patch of Astoria, and whose paths cross ours every day.  This tightly woven tapestry of lives is another remnant of old New York, one that struggles on despite the TVs, computers and busy schedules that contrive to keep us isolated from one and other.  And never is the vibrance of this tapestry more evident than on those days when the weather, and the kids and everybody’s mood combines to create a gentle party, where we all slow down, love our kids and enjoy our friends.

With little warning the sun began to fade and after a short time it was gone.  Snow clouds arose in the west and their approach brought cooling air and a desire for home.  And so we all departed, pulling our reluctant offspring in various directions, making our way down the familiar streets, racing the cold.

As we crossed Steinway and headed down 23rd Avenue I spotted Jenny’s husband Pete crossing the street a block up.

“Look,”  I said, “It’s Pete.”

“Where?”  Heath said, looking at the sidewalk.

“There!” I said, getting down to his level so he could follow the direction of my finger.

“Where?” He asked again, looking up at the clouds.

“THERE!” I said, turning his head with both my hands.

“Where?” he replied, staring off into some vague middle distance.

As this was going on Pete, a tall thin man with very long arms, standing on a street corner, progressed from a mere wave to something akin to jumping jacks in an attempt to draw Heath’s attention. 

Heath never saw him, but I did, and it made me smile all the way home.



Best Cup of Coffee

4 Aug

It was beautiful this morning.  Early sunrise, cool breeze and the sound of leaves dancing.  Not quite enough to get me out of bed for a run, but enough to make me thoroughly enjoy Hallie cuddling against my chest after her 6 am feeding and the both of us crawling back into bed with Amy for a little more sleep.  Heath stumbled in a few minutes later and as all four of us lay in the early morning light things seemed just about perfect.

The city has moods.  I notice this most on days when the mood is dark.  But today the city was serene, it’s people calm and polite, as if all New York had enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  And it probably had, the heat and humidity having broke with Saturday’s storms, leaving the days comfortable and the nights cool.  My dreams, lately a jumbled mass of high school reunions and old girlfriends, grew quiet, and last night I simply slept.  But, having a newborn in the house, I did not sleep enough.

And so I needed coffee, which I picked up from my favorite cart at the corner of Lexington & 52nd.  I don’t know her name, but I love the woman who runs this cart.  She has taken wonderful care of me these past few weeks as I stumble sleep deprived into the city for another day of temping. 

I discovered her one morning when the nearest Starbucks locked it’s outside door.  You see, I know it’s crazy, but I had actually made peace with popping the five dollars for a Venti Decaf Mocha with skim milk and no whipped cream.  In my defense, I had a rule.  No more than once a week, with exceptions for days when it’s raining (as it was on this particular morning).  But the street door I always used was locked.  I could see customers inside, but the door wouldn’t budge.  Then I saw the little sign.  For security reasons I was required to enter from inside the building.  Which meant going through security.  Metal detector, bag check, the whole nine yards.  Ten minutes before I’m supposed to be at work.  For the privilege of paying FIVE DOLLARS FOR A CUP OF COFFEE!  No. Absolutely not!  I stood out in the rain as people hurried past and I scanned the horizon for a coffee cart until BAM!  I saw one directly across Lexington.  I ran across the street and bought a cup of coffee for one dollar!  And it was goooooooood!  And the woman was nice!  We chatted, we laughed, we became, in a small way, friends.  For whatever reason, she was wearing a head scarf, and somehow that made it even better.  Completely restored my faith in humanity.

This morning the prices had gone up.  That medium coffee is now $1.25.  But despite its having been a couple weeks, my newfound coffee friend remembered that I like skim milk and two sugars.  I gave her two singles and she pushed one back. 

“Just give me a quarter next time.” 

“Are you sure?”, I asked.

“Yes, it’s so much easier.” 

And so it is. 

I walked up toward Park Avenue, smiling in the morning sun, breathing in the air of a happy, well rested city.



Kind Words

15 Jul

I have never really trusted kind words. Fearing false emotion and cheap platitudes, I shrugged them off as politely as possible and moved on, never giving them their due.

I was wrong.

Not to avoid cheap emotion, please… God save us from Oprah’s couch. But I was wrong not to listen. Not to hear. Not to recognize the truth that is almost always there.

The responses to my first post, Gifts from My Daughter, have been an amazing lesson in the power of a kind word at a difficult time. Such words, I have learned, do not lose, but rather gain with repetition the power to comfort, attaining a warm glow, the softness of a favorite blanket, the smell of woodsmoke. I cannot hear them enough.

Surprisingly many of these words have come from old friends, people I really didn’t expect to hear much from again. And yet here they are, sharing their own lives and stories as if the time and distance that separates us does not exist.

Why did I ever let such amazing friends drift away?.

The answer, I know, is mostly geography. When you pick up and move every decade or so, you cut a lot of ties. Hell, in my youth I thought this was healthy, something everyone should do. As if uprooting all the trees in a forest every ten years and moving them all around could somehow be good land management.


I should never have let it happen. These people are too valuable. I should have brought them with me. Forcibly if necessary. And we should all now live within blocks of each other, having coffee in the morning, beers at night, and barbecues on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren should all be the best of friends and have the run of each others houses. We should be there for each other all the time, sharing the seasons of our lives.

Idiocy as well, I suppose. But, understandable idiocy, which is usually the best I can plead.

So, I throw myself upon the mercy of my friends. And be they in Perrysburg, Chicago, New York, or Steamboat Springs, I have no doubt they will catch me. Most likely with a kind word at a difficult time. Which I will value above gold.