Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chick thing

I can pretty well judge my mood – along a bipolar disorder scale of deeply depressed on one end and manic-and-will-soon-be-conquerer-of-the-world-or-at-least-president-by-acclamation on the other end – by how much I look forward to going to the barber.

It’s not that when I’m depressed I don’t want to get my hair cut or when I am manic that I’m likely to come back with my head shaved…though in October 1994 I did exactly that, for I felt I was about to go out and get drunk after being sober for a month and I didn’t want to blow my clean living. It wasn’t totally shaved, but within an eighth of an inch. That’s the only time I’ve had my hair like that; made my morning oblations a cinch. It cost $8, and I figured it was a dramatic result for very little money.

So it’s not about the hair.

It’s how much I anticipate enjoying or dreading forced conversation for 15 minutes – 16 minutes if you count payment and tip. It’s sitting in a chair next to someone I barely know – because I go to a place where I pretty much get a different person each time from among four barbers, so there’s little relationship building – and trying to make conversation. Writing in this blog, I can often go on a riff and have a ball, going this way and that way and taking it on a tangent and heading down the rosy path. But I can always come back and edit, and I do. I can always pause on a word for a minute or so. To do that in conversation is to do violence to Firmly-Held Barbershop Social Folkways.

I recall early in knowing the Lovely K, overhearing her calling a girlfriend and starting the conversation, “Hey, [Insert Name], what’s going on?”

Afterwards, I asked her, “Why do you start your conversations like that?”

“Cuz you just never know.” Stupid question, simple answer.

A week later, I decide to test whether this is peculiar to K or whether it’s a broader chick thing. I ask her close friend Tonya the same question.

She says, “Because you just never know.”

Must be a chick thing. Conversations take on a life of their own.

My father never really liked the phone that much, neither did my grandfather. I knew when my dad was finished talking when he’d say, “You’re good to call.” That was a kind way of saying, Done talking, friend.

My mom must have talked on the phone quite a bit because – tethered to the wall in pre-cordless days – she had a marble-top and gilt leg telephone table in the hall with a eight-inch diameter Chinese ceramic bowl that she used as an ashtray. It never got filled, but just the concept of a receptacle that could hold about eleven packs worth of Virginia Slim butts must have put her mind at ease for those…longer conversations with the friend one building over whom she hadn’t seen since going to the 96th Street playground in Central Park that morning.

“You just never know.”

photo: andrewmill

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Carter has asked that I re-write “Jack and the Beanstalk” to read to his second grade class on Authors’ Day. I am stuck.

I am actually thinking of a re-write for adults and another for 8-year-olds. I want to recast Jack as a somewhat nebbish Woody Allen-esque character, you know, still lives with his mother, never gets anything right, gets swindled out of his cows, knows how to sweet talk the giant’s wife. (In case you wondered, the word nebbish comes from the Yiddish nebekh, meaning poor, unfortunate, and before that from the Czech nebohý. I love words, and I have always thought of Jack as nebbish, even though I didn’t have the word for him.)

So here’s where you come in.

What kinds of new plot twists or characters could we derive to make the story fun for second graders? Or for adults?

Add your ideas to the Comments section or email me at “lullabyemail (at) gmail dot com.”

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Black Cat

At about seven o’clock in the morning on September 1, 1994, I crawled into bed, alone. The next half hour was to be, in retrospect, the eye of the hurricane. Still, but uncomfortably so. Calm, but deceptive. Not really safe.

[Those of you who read here regularly need to know that on that date I happened to be married to someone other than the “Lovely K” whom you read about from time to time.]

This was a Thursday morning. That Wednesday wasn’t anything special, except that my buddy and erstwhile colleague – and quasi-partner in crime – Jack had invited me to go drinking with him. We were to meet up with one of his clients to whom he sold time management seminars. Jack was everybody’s best friend, and this client was everybody. In many ways that night and perhaps for many nights leading up to it, so was I.

We were having a grand old time at the first bar, which was on the north side of Atlanta, somewhere in the Sandy Springs section. Problem was, I was due home in Morrow, on the south side, about an hour before. I went outside and called from a payphone – this was in my pre-cellphone days – and spoke to the woman who answered.

She was a good woman, not always nice and not always sweet, but good. And kind. She was long-suffering, perhaps too much so. Her father had died when she was a teenager, and now her mother lived alone in Morrow. She had a sister at Auburn University; another sister who was married to a brickmason and lived in Kansas; another sister who married a former Iranian soldier who had served under the Shah and was living in Houston and whom I was quite scared of because he talked drunk about killing all his wife’s former boyfriends; and a brother, divorced, who also lived near Morrow. This brother had custody of the one child from his marriage, a daughter, who was nine at the time. He was a good father.

This woman was the middle child in her family and had been divorced once already. She was a modern dancer and also taught dance to children. At one point she had been performing internationally. When I met her, she had been performing with second-tier companies and other companies on the rise, and every now and then her name appeared in a New York Times dance review, always favorably. She was passionate about what she did, and she was a superior dancer and a gifted teacher. Parents of dance students adored her.

“Are you on the way home?” she asked, understandably. It was about eight at night.

I decided to lie.

Now you have to understand that the decision to lie at that moment was actually the turning point for everything else. It wasn’t the first time I had lied to her, of course. In fact, I had lied pathologically about my actions and my thoughts and feelings hundreds of times in the past. We had met on a blind date in September 1990, and the next morning I had left for a 17-day vacation in Spain. When I returned, I was overjoyed to see her, but I quite naturally lied about my activities during my vacation, which had been a bachelor’s jaunt through some of Europe’s more raucous nightlife spots. She had always figured I was keeping something from her about that trip, but she eventually dropped the occasional interrogation because I was not about to start telling the truth once we were in an ostensibly committed relationship. I had lied in the months leading up to August 31 of the year of the events described here, 1994, but the late spring and summer leading up to that night had been a little different. And that difference is what made my lie on August 31 a turning point.

In May I had attended my friend Jon’s wedding, and his brother, a missionary living in Japan, had officiated and had given a brief sermon from one of the books of the Bible, St. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. This missionary had talked about wives loving their husbands and husbands loving their wives. The wedding had taken place in Philadelphia, and since I had driven north alone from Atlanta, I had a long car trip home to consider whether I indeed loved my wife. It often takes longer to come to a negative conclusion about a matter than it does to a positive one.

I was convinced I needed to “try harder.”

So she, long-suffering and good, found us a marriage counselor. His name was Gary, and the odd part was that he was an evangelical Protestant minister at a local church off State Route 1941. She was a lapsed Catholic, and I was a perpetual seeker and quite antagonistic toward “god.”

We went to see him twice a week, and around the fourth time or so of meeting him he asked me a simple question about life and death and eternity.

“If you were to die today and go to heaven,” he started, “and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”

Fair enough. I know this game, and I have the right answer.

“I’d tell him—“ I am answering him seriously now, with a straight face, meaning each word, “—that I tried to do good and that I loved others and was a loving person.”

Gary looked back at me with love.

“Well, based on your answer, God wouldn’t let you in.”


I was floored. She sat there, I’m sure staring at me, wondering what my next move would be. Since college, I had been interested in spiritual matters. I had first heard people talk about Jesus during my sophomore year and wondered what it all meant. How was I to live? To respond to people? To think and believe? I searched and searched, and for ten years I went through all sorts of cosmological arguments for and against the existence of God. I had been active in a large New York City religious institution and helped build a singles group from seven people to over 300. I wound up on the national Singles/”Young Adult” committee of this institution and got to know people around North America who were – like me – worshiping a question mark. Three weeks or so before the date of the fourth counseling session, I had heard in Philadelphia – The City of Brotherly Love – about husbands loving their wives and wives loving their husbands and had had many hours of driving to consider that. And, as I mentioned, to consider how perhaps I was falling short.

I cried.

And I wish I could say I was crying because I wanted so much to go to heaven to be with God. No. I was crying because I was terrified about the alternative. So Gary told me what I needed to do to have a relationship with this God.

That afternoon, after our counseling session, alone in the spare bedroom at home, at about 2:30, I knelt and prayed. I had never really prayed to anyone before. I didn’t know what to expect. I prayed what Gary told me to pray, even though I didn’t really believe it all 100 percent and because I didn’t know what else to pray.

But then I added a “rider,” you know, like you see at the bottom of an apartment rental contract where it says you can keep your pet ferret as long as it doesn’t chew up the doorframe to the bathroom. My rider was, “And, Jesus, change me however you want to change me.” That was the most terrifying part of it all. Change me.

See, for the longest time, I thought men who followed Jesus had wispy hair and Jerry Lewis glasses and wore white sweatshirts with air-brushed pictures of dolphins jumping through surreal crystal-blue ocean water at sunset. Not a flattering image in my mind. (Sorry if this describes you; no offense, dude.) I thought these men talked only about “Jesus my Lord this…” and “Jesus my savior that…,” but to tell the truth, at that point on June 14, 1994, I didn’t care.

So I added the rider because it was what I feared the most about God, that he would change me the way he wanted to and I wouldn’t have control anymore. Like I had ever had it.

I finished the prayer, and not much was different that I could tell. No thunder sounded.

There was some positive movement toward what I had committed to in the weeks following, but there was still an old self hanging on, wrestling with the new self. Over the summer, I changed jobs several times – though I hardly considered as jobs these commissioned sales “opportunities,” and neither did she, for they brought in next to no income and we were living off her fees as a self-employed dance instructor and the unemployment checks that I was still collecting because none of these opportunities lasted long – and I continued to live largely as though June 14 didn’t happen.

Yet it nagged.

So on August 31, when I decided to lie, something inside me snapped. Like I crossed a line that was new territory even for a veteran liar, even for a soured relationship recidivist whose past was littered with human debris and whose integrity was as tangled as last year’s fishing line from a summer home tackle box. I decided to resist and even kill this nagging for good. It had loitered in front of me like an unwanted pet, and I decided to put it down instead of accept its love and blind devotion.

She asked when I was going to be home, and I answered, “My contact lenses are messed up and I can’t see well to drive–” lies. I wanted to go back inside the bar.

At that point I knew, inside, that I had ended all that was real up to then. I had called it quits. I had turned away from all that was beautiful and redemptive. I had a couple beers in me, and the scenery looked good, and I was staying. That was that. I knew then that our relationship was over, and I didn’t frankly think too much about God. Who was he? Where was he? Kill the pet; it’s a nuisance. I want to live my life. It’s mine.

She didn’t sound overly convinced, yet still sounded a bit worried. She didn’t let on. I hung up the phone and went back inside the bar with Jack. He was my best friend at the time.

The next several hours included multiple stops at establishments whose female employees were held to a lax dress code policy that pertained only to the waist down. At the first of these, we met up with Jack’s client, a sturdily built 30-something who was Vice President for Sales of a fitness chain in Atlanta and whose month of August had been quite productive. He was ready to let off some steam. Married with kids, he apparently did what he wanted to on the 31st of the month. He was stuffing 20-dollar bills into bikini bottoms right and left, and his wallet wasn’t getting any thinner. Soon, Jack and I were in his brand new silver Infiniti, and they decided to go to the ‘hood.

Three white guys in a luxury car in the Atlanta ‘hood, looking for crack cocaine for the fitness executive. I won’t tell you what transpired, since I believe in the right not to incriminate myself. Yes, someone selling actually got in the car with us on one dark corner, but I will say no more. Through the fog of many drinks, I was seeing in my mind the headlines in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the next morning.

Some time later, around 5:30 a.m., Jack and the fitness guy were stoned out of their minds and we all needed to get home. We had families and responsibilities that all three of us had completely disregarded for the previous ten hours. I insisted on driving, because the beers had largely worn off at this point and I had abstained from what the other two didn’t – probably my one good decision that night – and we headed back to Sandy Springs.

By the time I got my car and drove back to Morrow, it was 7:00 a.m., and I entered the apartment, with only the cat, Bandol, greeting me. Unconditional love…ignorant, blind devotion from an animal who didn’t know better.

It brought me back to Poe.

When I was in eighth grade, I read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat.” The only detail from the story that sticks in my mind to this day – in fact, it was the only thing in all of eighth grade I recall reading – was this section, which I recently looked up: “One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; - hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; - hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; - hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin - a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it - if such a thing were possible - even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.”

When I read those words, as a 14-year-old, I wept. Weeping over literature as a teenager is not cool. But the sheer act of soul lost-ness struck me at my core. The line “hung it because I knew that it had loved me” seemed to be the ultimate summation of a lost soul – like Nietzsche – it was the cry of a man who had killed God and knew it. God who had loved him and only loved him, and had only wanted to be loved in return. And in killing God, the man killed hope and killed his soul with it, for his soul had life only through its connection to its Creator.

Yes, I had love for this cat, Bandol, but I had no soul to give it. I had killed all that was dear to me, because I knew that I had been loved, and no one had given me reason of offence.

Somewhere in my mind, I figured that this all-nighter wasn’t going to be a big deal. I had done this kind of thing to the woman previously including, in New York City, going out to a similar establishment and coming back in the wee hours after a champagne-induced blackout with my inside suit coat pocket stuffed with American Express receipts totaling more than $1000.

So this day I crawled into bed and tried to sleep, but did so fitfully for only 30 minutes during this deceptive calm, this false safety, when busting through the door – for she had seen my car out front – came the good woman. The woman whom I had lied to for four years. Had my wedding vows in December 1991 been lies? A rhetorical question, you correctly point out, Dear Reader.

For once, she was inarticulate. She was crying and screaming and talking and trying to make me understand that she had called the-police-the-area-hospitals-the-morgue-friends-everybody-and-anybody, all looking for me since I called nearly 12 hours earlier and had not checked in since. All of which meant that after my call she still trusted me that I was possibly telling her the truth. For all she knew, my contact lenses were bothering me and I could not in fact drive. She trusted me, and that was her mistake. But her mistake did not come on August 31, 1994. It came in September 1990 when after a few glasses of red wine in a West Village restaurant she gave me her heart. Never trust a criminal with jewels.

I hung it because I knew it had loved me

Not five minutes later, her sister, the one at Auburn whose will was almost as steely as her mother, whose husband died of cancer in his 40s and left her to raise five children by herself with only a military pension and some life insurance, also came racing through the door and marched loudly upstairs – and this was on carpet, so she was really stomping – where the argument was taking place.

The sister yelled at me, and the other woman melted, became inconsolable, became like jelly, for the fine china of her being had been shattered into a hundred pieces by a cold hard hammer. She wept and heaved in her breath and stared at a wall, not knowing what to do or say next.

The sister, all five feet of her, looked up at me and yelled, “YOU ARE TOTALLY FU@#ED UP!” She said I needed to get out now or she would call the police.

I left carrying my toothbrush.

I drove through rush hour traffic back to Jack’s house on the north side of the city and woke him up, told him I needed to stay there a few days. I had no idea how long; I just needed time to think. From Wednesday the 1st until Friday the 3rd, I stayed inside his apartment. I barely ate. I watched TV. Jack came and went, seemed to go about his life as usual, offering few words other maybe than “fu@# her.” This was his outlook on life in general.

To say I felt empty is to say that the sun is bright when you stare at it. Brightness is correct, but it is not enough. You need a new word to go further, to a next level, in your description. A word to describe the pain you feel staring at that kind of brightness, to describe the after-effects on your eyes, the light-dark shadows.

On August 31, I had turned my back not only on her, but I had turned my back on God’s grace. I had experienced earlier that summer a moment of grace on the part of the One who created me, and yet I turned away from it. I had said, No, I will not enter heaven even when the door has been flung open to me. I had experienced the clasp of forgiveness and then had bitten the hand. I had put myself outside the reach of the infinite mercy of God.

I called my dad, and he said, “Have you considered AA?”

It was like a clear bell ringing in the crisp nighttime air.

That Friday evening, September 3, I walked into an AA meeting room near Hammond Drive just north of the 285 beltway. There were faces I knew because they were like me – people who themselves had turned away. Turned away from loved ones, from themselves, from the One who created them. They were liars, thieves; they stole precious jewels and hearts. They rent others’ most cherished beliefs and securities. They stole others’ very lives and ruined them. They ran from God or they cursed God, waiting to die. They killed that which loved them. They had separated their souls from God through lies and pride and selfishness.

But in seeing each other, in telling their stories, in promising to each other not to drink that day, in turning over control to Someone greater, they found salvation and a new life. They made a pledge to each other and they kept it. And when they failed to keep it, they told each other they had failed. I walked into that room and saw them.

And they saw me.

On June 14 I had come to God open-minded and with a sincere heart, but I was not ready for his love because I was not ready to be honest. On August 31, I killed honesty. On September 3, Truth pervaded my life again and pulled me up from below the surface of the water, where I had sunk, drowning.

And I did not drink that day. Nor the next day. Nor the next 4,652 days, which brings me to today. And there has been darkness and light. But there has not been black. And there has never again been emptiness.

That which I killed has come back to life and come back to me. Yet it did not come back to haunt and expose the guilt of the narrator as it did in Poe’s story. It has come back to rub up against me and purr. It trusts me. It loves me.

And I love it.

photos: rgageler (wine), beriliu (star)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Nevski Prospekt

“You are too young to have eyebrows like that,” she said with her Russian accent. “You look like Brezhnev.” So Irena, one of forty or so barbers at Astor Place Hairstylists, always remembered to cut them.

Now, living outside of Boston, I have no one who is sensitive about Brezhnev eyebrows, and I always have to ask twice to have them cut, once at the outset and once before the barber finishes and forgets. For a long time I would joke with the barbers around here about Brezhnev eyebrows, and they just kind of stared at me like I was naming a Yankees relief pitcher.

The building I grew up in – all 18 years and then a few after college here and there when I was “in transition” – had all sorts: we had Russian revolution-era nobility who lived on the 4th and 2nd floors (matronly grandmother on 2, her son and his family on 4). The daughter-in-law on 4 was a princess by birth. She died of cancer in her early 40s and left four kids. They all spoke English like an educated American, but also Russian, as well as the language of their French nanny.

Because of the number of Russians who had relocated there after fleeing from the Communists in the early 20th Century, our neighborhood had been written up in New York magazine or something and dubbed “Nevski Prospekt,” which was the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg. The onion dome of an Eastern Orthodox church on 97th Street was visible from my bedroom window.

Another couple lived in 5C. The man was the chief curator for arms and armor at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. He and his wife died in a car accident when their children were 16 and 14.

We had a Circassian in 2D. She was Muslim, smoked cigars and played poker. Her brand of Islam was definitely not up to Al-Qaeda standards.

But dearest to me was Mrs. Ziffer, Polish, who lived in 6C, next to our apartment in 6B. She was Jewish and had escaped her country in 1939, moving to London and getting bombed by the Germans a short time later. She was married to a doctor, who died when I was only eight or so, and they moved to New York City, to Nevski Prospekt, to 6C.

Jim and I would give Mrs. Ziffer a Christmas present each year, usually Jean Nate bath products, which she loved, and which Mom either picked out or gave us money to buy from Gimbles department store on 86th and Lexington. Mrs. Ziffer’s perfume always smelled awful, but she gave us candy each time we visited her, and she had a high, cackling, true laugh which made her seem like a second grandmother or a fairy godmother.

I cried when she died.

photo of Hermitage Museum: wikipedia

Friday, May 25, 2007


Eddie’s white stretch limo glided by around 5:30 in the opposite lane heading toward campus to pick up him and his girlfriend Ann.

My colleague Terry’s eldest child has his prom tonight. Since Terry lives on the school property, Eddie and his date will take their pictures on the grounds, probably standing somewhere in the meadow that used to be a practice polo field when the 117 acres was owned by the publisher of the Boston Globe back in the early 20th century.

My prom, in New York City in 1981, was not so bucolic, nor so romantic.

I had been attempting to date two different girls and, as you know, you generally bring only one date to the prom. This attempt was borne of impetuousness and pride and stupidity.

The summer before my senior year, I had been madly in love with Didi. I was 17. (What’s “love” at that age?) But come autumn, I had already asked her to the prom and arranged to have her photo – she was an occasional model – printed in my senior class yearbook page. The deadline for submissions was November or something and once it was turned into the yearbook editor, it was a done deal. No backs. Never mind, I adored her, and I wanted her everywhere I was.

However, somewhere along January of senior year she started to blow me off, didn’t return my calls for some mysterious reason, and somewhere along March and a few thousand hormones later, I started wanting a new girlfriend.

So I started going out with Lynn.

We went everywhere together and I started to forget about Didi until somebody – a friend, a parent, her parent, her, somebody…-- reminded me that I had made the commitment to take Didi to the prom. She had, in fact, purchased her dress. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if her mother had reminded me about that detail.

Lynn did not like this.

Lynn was not someone to hold back her feelings either. I heard about it. She agreed to let my friend J.M. take her. I was actually relieved. Problem solved.

So prom night arrived, and we all showed up at Tavern on the Green, which my classmate’s father owned then and still does, and I arrive with Didi, and J.M. arrives with Lynn. At the time, the appearance of this didn’t strike me as odd. I mean, I did what I wanted to.

Looking back, I am surprised that Lynn didn’t pack a Glock and silencer to quietly take care of her…boy problem.

But we all danced and drank – it was 1981 and before Reagan raised the drinking age to 21 or withhold from states federal highway funds if they refused – and then about twenty of us sat under the stars in Central Park and then went to have breakfast at The Plaza, like $20 for eggs benedict, and these were 1981 dollars during supply side times.

Didi went on to marry a man who is making millions in the medical records business. Lynn saw me at a class reunion about two years after college and was cordial, but I have not seen her since. That wasn’t the first time J.M. had got me out of a bind.

But then again, I had helped clean up when we had the secret party in his apartment in 9th grade while his mom was away, and Steve Kirn knocked the bathroom sink off the wall.
photo: gunner07


"Brevity is the soul of wit" and "Necessity is the mother of invention" are two of my favorite aphorisms. I quote them to myself, if not aloud, often.

Seems there's a pattern, though, so much so that the person(s) who coined them may not have been that witty or that needy.

Each aphorism follows this formula: "[Concept ending in -ity] is the [core of a matter or relational identity] of [intangible principle]." Hey, folks, we can come up with our own! So I wrote down like 20-30 words in three separate columns, and here are a few new aphorisms for you to use in daily life:

"Hyperactivity is the offspring of fear."
"Fidelity is the keeper of contentment."
"Frigidity is the killer of happiness."
"Identity is the mistress of wonder." (Can't figure that one out, but it sure sounds cool.)
"Timidity is the enemy of love."
"Destiny is the attendant of mystery."

You get the picture.

This is what I do on a Friday afternoon after I get off work and my air conditioner has not been installed by maintenance yet.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Keats said it

I cry at beauty.

What I mean by that is when I come across a truth, whether profound or simple, I cry. I may not shed tears, but there is a great heaving in my soul that is cathartic and deep and cherished and pleasing, and this Truth-Moment that makes me experience all that, is beauty.

For example, I am having lunch today with a friend who is also a work client of sorts, but a friend first and foremost, and we are sitting at a table on the sidewalk outside a restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. It is probably 80 degrees in the direct sun, but a six-foot wide black canvas umbrella partially shades me, which is good, because I’m in long sleeves because this is, after all, a little bit about business. He is in short sleeves, feeling really relaxed, sunglasses on. He is drinking an iced tea, me an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade mixed – love it; another friend/business client introduced me to the drink in Baltimore at Legal Seafood). We order our lunches – he is having a Cobb Salad, I the blackened chicken alfredo.

So we start to catch each other up on family matters and work matters. And conversation flows between what our kids are doing in school – he has four, I have three – whether their teachers are great or awful and should be fired-and-the-principal-is-not-much-better, and then we talk about what our wives are up to, his went to Las Vegas for a business conference; “isn’t Las Vegas such a bizarre place,” “yes, it is,” and then we get into work matters and what is going on at my institution now that my boss (the leader) resigned, what was it like working for him, what do you think is going to happen now; no, really, everything is really cool right now because we have an interim chief executive who is steady at the helm…

…and we’re sitting talking while the sun is bearing down for which all New Englanders are eternally grateful and, yes, the Sox are still in first place, and we are shooting the breeze and our food takes forever to come, but it doesn’t matter, because this guy and I – who knew each other first as friends when our families hung together in the dorms of the graduate school that we went to – are just … hanging out. Talking. Under the canvas umbrella. And nothing else mattered. And it was sheer bliss.

And after our lunch I am driving back to the North Shore and listening to Faith Hill pour her heart out on the “Cry” CD and then Phil Vassar on his Greatest Hits album which is the best greatest hits album because it’s not just a re-mix and it’s got a lot of nifty little piano segues, and I am just musing on life while I drive.

And I get to the office and work a bit and then work is over and I call my buddy in Colorado and we have a very cool chat. It is actually very high energy because things have just changed professionally on his end, and he’s not sure whether he likes it all but he’s kinda taking it day by day and we’re, too, just kinda shooting the breeze, and he is saying things that are so TRUE, and I am just laughing my head off cuz he’s cussing like a sailor and he doesn’t realize how funny he is and it is beauty in a way because he is truth embodied and is so unaware of how much I am enjoying this conversation and so unaware of himself; he is totally unpretentious – NObody would ever accuse him of pretentiousness, they’d as soon accuse him of being the King of Siam…and at this burst – this five- or six-hour burst – of humanity and love between friends and truth about kids and families and work and life and hearing him curse and just making me belly laugh…

I cry.

Not out loud. And not with tears.

But I am just so grateful to have these two men to talk to, and just so grateful to have a family and a job to talk about, and just so…grateful.

I cry.

It’s at beauty.

Which is truth.

photo: alixmorse

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A blatant but hopefully temporary disregard for humility

I actually used "pneumonaultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" in a sentence yesterday, a sentence in which I didn't just spout the word out of context like I was trying to show off, like I kinda did back in April when I posted on this.

A friend stopped by the office and mentioned that his brother-in-law was having a beer recently with a physician who is somewhat of a world-renowned specialist in the field of understanding the epidemiology of people who live in areas subject to volcanic activity.

As I sat listening, I just about salivated. This was the moment I had waited for since about 1973.

"You mean," I started with trepidation, "that he deals with people who have pneumonaultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?"

A blank stare. Then a bewildered smile. This, from an attorney who could normally run verbal circles around me with two lobes tied behind his...cortex. He did our estate plan, and all he needs to say is "testator" and I go running for the Webster's.

"People who have 'black lung.' " I tell him. "It's a coal miner's disease for which they coined a term in the early 1900s, and I heard that word on 'ZOOM' on public television when I was a kid and have always wanted to use it in a sentence, and now I have. THANK YOU!"

Never thought I'd see the day. Now I have seen it.

Autumn 1994

Bandol, the black-and-white cat I grew to love as my own, unexpectedly had to go to the vet. It was not good news.

I had first encountered the feline when I started to date the woman. We were eating Chinese food in her Astoria, Queens apartment and I had given Bandol a taste of my eggroll. She jested, in a mock fortune-cookie tone of voice, “Feed cat. Take home.”

Four years later we were in Atlanta, and the cat was sick, very sick. Something was wrong with his white cells. Something that wouldn’t get better, and he would get sick all over again soon and be in pain. He was only five years old, and the decision was made to put him down. She looked at me in the car and said, “I’m losing you, and now I’m losing him. My two boys.”

This was the fall of 1994.

photo: Wazari

Friday, May 18, 2007


Walking down the hall in front of me at the south Charlotte Hampton Inn with a rolling cart stacked with suitcases was a family of four including two boys about 10 and 14.

The 14-year-old was almost as tall as his father. I thought, God willing, in a few years my three sons will be as tall or taller than I am (which is not unlikely since I am 5’9”). It was a pleasant – very pleasant – thought.

I missed Carter’s bo promotion tonight because I’m traveling through tomorrow afternoon. Bo, for the uninitiated, is one of the tools in kobudo, martial arts weapons training, and is a 1-inch diameter rod about as tall as you are made of Japanese oak (in the case of Carter’s), which he twirls around and jabs and strikes with. I was able to attend his most recent karate belt promotion (to brown belt, two steps below junior black belt) last Saturday. Tonight was only the second of his ten promotions he’s had over two years that I’ve missed. My dad saw me wrestle only once over the six years and hundreds of matches during junior high and high school; I’m determined to let Carter know that I’m watching. And that I’m a fan.

I called home a few minutes ago to get the end-of-day-report. I listen intently to how bo promotion went and am eager to know how K is faring alone with the boys, but at one point my brain sidles sideways while my eyes drift over to the muted television where the Spurs are playing the Suns in Game Six of their series. She tells me that Teak scraped himself on some rusty nails on the underside of the old couch.

But I miss this.

When I miss something she says on the phone and realize that I’ve missed something, I give off a little laugh, like it’s machine gun cover fire in advance of the enemy’s return fire I know is to come. However, this was not a story to give off machine gun laughter. It was a story to “Is he all right?” at. Or, “What?! So what happened next?” at.

I start to sink below the surface.

She knows this and gives me some grief, but I cower enough to be allowed to remove tail from between legs.

The report goes on. So far, our basement is dry – we’ve been flooded twice in the last several years and lost our wall-to-wall carpeting in the playroom. There is supposed to be up to six inches of rain in some parts near us overnight. Help me.

The last time our basement flooded, Mother’s Day 2006, we lost a carpet that had been down only about two years. I remember cutting it up with a utility knife: each stroke was like $50 coming out of my body. Following was the carpet pad. I duct taped about a dozen 4-foot long sections of soggy carpet and padding and set them out on the back patio. Fifteen hundred dollars sitting outside, getting ready to be thrown out during the next large item trash day. Just take my paycheck, please, and chop it into little pieces and blow them into the wind.

Tomorrow morning’s t-ball game for Bennett is cancelled because Buker Elementary School’s field, where they play, is a lake. So the lovely K checked the website and found that the game had been called.

Oh. She and the boys threw me a birthday party yesterday – 44 years of life, the last 13 of them joyous, the last 10 of them priceless.

We ordered pizza and had cheesecake for dessert. K bought three presents, wisely, one for each boy to give me. One was a bag with Triscuits and Irish Cheddar cheese in it, which Teak very excitedly gave me. Didn’t matter if it was on our grocery list anyway…it was a present from my little one. Earl and Ginger sent along a card and a gift. Brother Jim called this morning to wish me a happy one.

I can’t help but marvel at how much I am blessed. I’ll be bummed if our new $1500 carpet gets ruined by yet another flooded basement.

But I won’t be that bummed.

photo: criswatk

Thursday, May 17, 2007


The difference between paying $250 and $800 or more for a commercial airline flight depends on how much you value a three-inch long, 4mm-wide biscotti.

My flights to and from Charlotte on US Airways this weekend got upgraded because of being a frequent flyer. You are probably familiar with the system. To qualify for the minimum level, Silver, you have to fly 30 segments or 25,000 miles in a year’s time. Not too hard to do, especially considering US Air’s many connections I have to take to secondary cities where I do my work, and each hop counts as a “segment.” One trip often yields four segments. Once you're at least Silver, you get unlimited upgrades so long as seats in First Class are open.

So two days out from my flight, I get a friendly email with an Upgrade Status Update. I’d say I get upgraded one out of three or four flights. I have never paid nor will ever pay for First Class within the US. Taking the lovely K to San Francisco or Tuscany for our next big getaway, now that’s a different story. But I should have miles to cover most of it.

Here’s what you get in First Class:

1. Board first…after the children, disabled, and Top Secret Air Marshals.
2. The flight attendant takes your sport coat and hangs it up.
3. S/he offers you a drink (sometimes, not on all flights).
4. Your seat is slightly wider (3.3 inches) than in coach and made of pleather that is not nearly as nice as the leather seats in our Honda minivan.
5. You have a little more leg room (~6 inches).
6. In flight, you are offered another drink – you get two three-ounce cups of soda in First Class.
7. The flight attendant brings around an attractive basket – you paid for that basket, but please don’t ask to take it home with you, because everyone else paid for it, too – filled with organic blue tortilla chips, pretzels, nuts, or biscotti. You have a choice of one or, if you are feeling impish, you maybe take two.
8. You have "exclusive" use of the First Class lavatory. (But I have flown enough with our three small kids that if one of my boys has to go: Sorry, you'll have to wait, Mr. Full-Fare-Paying First-Class Passenger.)
9. You exit the plane first (dependent on position of doorways).

Maybe if I got that third soda I could justify the extra expense of paying full fare… In the meantime, there is still the thrill of the bargain when I get that email that announces I’ve been upgraded. It's sort of the of rush when your bid is accepted.

My colleague is flying back from Charlotte on the same flight. Unless he moonlights as an Air Marshal, I’ll be walking by him at the gate: “Oooh. Sorry, dude…free upgrade.” He’ll give me grief when we get back.

There are times when you don’t necessarily want free upgrades.

Like the time Enterprise gave me a SUV when I had reserved a standard. I drove only about 30 miles that day but used more gas than my Corolla back home used in a week. We negotiated down the rental price because of it.

Or the time they were out of standard size and only had a premium car, a Volvo S40. It was sweet: silver with a sunroof and leather seats, amazing sound system. Sweet…on the lot, that is. Not sweet picking up my boss’s boss. My job involves raising money for a non-profit, so showing up anywhere to pick up anyone in a sun-roofed Volvo S40 is a bit sketchy. But the alternative was probably a Geo…so I took the Volvo and starting plotting my explanation. I was all smiles and aw-shucks when I picked up our chairman and his wife at the airport.

Everyone I saw got the story, the explanation, the aw-shucks.

But during that trip I had to drive alone from Charlotte to Raleigh, almost a three hour trip, and the sunroof and sound system made all the explaining worth it. Aw-yeah.

It was much better than biscotti, and the leather was real.

photo: beriliu

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A sincere smile

I used to see Anthony standing along the wall of the steep pathway leading from the #6 train down to the #7 platform. He was on crutches and was missing his right leg, his pants folded back on that side. Had an old black Bible in one hand and was always fingering a rosary with the other. He must have been about 35 or so. Never asked for money, but many of us gave it to him because of his sincere smile.

I would take the #6 from 96th street down to Grand Central Station and then transfer to the #7 to get across town to Times Square, which was two blocks from where I worked. It was easier than the shuttle to my way of thinking.

So I would sort of gallop-walk down that ramp, and most mornings I’d see Anthony.

He always smiled and said, Good morning, brother! I would shake his hand though it was dirty and cigarette stained, and I felt guilty afterwards because I wanted to wash up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Frito Pie

The woman serving us at Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village said quite matter-of-fact that she had been born with an extra finger on each hand and that her parents had instructed the doctors to surgically remove both digits, which they had done.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of someone telling you something like this, but it is odd banter while standing in line for a slice of apple pie. She showed us the spots where the ostensible pinky-ettes were, and we all kind of craned our necks to see. Ooooooh. Woooow. Look at those…spots.

How many people had she told? How many years had this story been in existence? At any point, did she or anyone she knew have equal to or greater than fourteen fingers. That’s what I wanted to know. That would be something.

The lovely K’s friend Doug had told us about Magnolia Bakery, on Bleecker Street in the West Village. True to reputation, it did not disappoint.

About eleven years later, K and I were meeting Doug once again down in the Village, this time for brunch on Saturday of the weekend we had escaped to New York for our 10th wedding anniversary. We were supposed to meet him at a restaurant on the corner of 9th Avenue and 14th Street, “in the heart of the meat-packing district,” a neighborhood that combined a somewhat bizarre mixture of cool and animal slaughter. Once we got there, however, we saw that a high-rise was going up on the spot where this restaurant once was, so we waited for Doug across the street. He found us and we walked down to Plan B restaurant: Paris Commune at 99 Bank Street.

Years ago I recall visiting a friend who lived on Bank Street. She and her husband, a top manager at Calvin Klein, had no children, but instead had a bird, a cat and four dogs, including a Great Dane, a Newfoundland, and two golden retrievers. Their loft was fortunately about 3000 square feet, which also meant that when you visited them, the enthusiastic canines had a running start at you coming through the front door. You basically put one leg back and braced yourself. And you didn’t wear clothes you didn’t plan to send to the cleaner the next day. In addition to the apartment, they had purchased a seven-bedroom, 100-year-old house along the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York sight unseen: the previous owner had allowed them to view it only from a helicopter ride. They decided to go for it. They found that it was furnished exquisitely with antique linens, beautiful mahogany furniture, original fiestaware from the 1950s, and so on. Oh: and it was situated on its own private island in the middle of the river.

Just down the street from Paris Commune was Cowgirl, another restaurant we went to when K worked at Donna Karan. They feature a classic southwestern meal – Frito pie, which is a bag of corn chips slathered with chili and which really should have been kept in the southwest and not allowed to cross the Hudson River.

One of my most memorable though is China Fun, a fairly standard Chinese restaurant on Columbus and 71st. K and I would go there in 1996-97, chat about our work days, and then take in a movie over at Sony-Loew’s/Lincoln Center. Somewhere along the line, she said she’d be my wife. It was five blocks from the studio we lived in for two years before the first baby came.

We don’t go to Chinese restaurants much. We see maybe two movies a year.

But we’re still married.

photo: shOdan

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mom the magician

When Jim and I as young boys would stand on Fifth Avenue and 97th Street waiting for a southbound bus to come, wanting especially the #4, which was express, Mom would walk a few feet out from the curb, look north toward Harlem – some 13 blocks away – and chant “Hocus Pocus, Domino-cus, Ala-kazam-kazoo…” and wave her right hand in the air like she was conjuring up transportation for us – fine if the others who were waiting got it, too – and then her voice would go soft, unintelligible to us, but her knowing all the while that the two of us were watching wide-eyed and expectant.

The bus would always come soon, because we were so pre-occupied with watching her that we forgot about the time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I had a dream once during the Cold War – I must have been in my late teens or early 20s, so around 1982 or so – in which there was a nuclear explosion.

In fact, it was a nuclear holocaust: the whole world went up in flames. I remember in my dream seeing the mushroom cloud, and then my senses went dark in the dream, like I was falling asleep while asleep.

Moments later, it seemed, I awoke in a small, dark closet, like one of those guardhouses in front of Buckingham Palace. It was similar in size, and it had an A-frame roof and a door with a knob on the inside. It was pitch black inside.

I opened the door and walked outside, into a circle of children who were holding hands. There was bright light and warmth, like a summer day. The children were singing, and all around was a cultivated garden, flowers everywhere. I joined the circle, and I remember being…happy…really happy. In that circle.

I don’t know how long that part of the dream lasted, but the image has stayed with me these past 25 years, vivid as ever. I can still feel the circle of children around me, singing, after the world disappeared.

photo: jwestveer

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


At first, I felt like a real slimebag.

A man approached me as I drove up to the curb at Starbucks and asked me to roll down my window.

“I’m out of gas. I’m so humiliated to ask, but can you help me with a couple dollars.”

I’m sorry, was my reply.

I always wonder about these exchanges. I didn’t trust the dude from moment one. He had a vibe that said “scam” all over it. I parked and walked into Starbucks. This guy preceded me and without looking back, held the door open. I paused, then entered and sheepishly said “thanks.”

“Oh,” he said, noticing it was me, “I didn’t actually mean to … help you.”

So now I feel like total sh#@. You gotta understand, I normally take great pleasure in giving money away. My wife’s a saver; I’m a giver. We make a good balance sheet. But now I’ve had the door held open by a guy who I turned down because he had Scam Face on, and he rubs my face in it. Stupidly, because I feel guilty, I remain silent. I repeat in my mind good comebacks, something about my having grown up in New York and getting taken one too many times. Fed up with it.

I order my coffee with him standing less than five feet away. Great. A coffee that would practically get him a gallon of gas, if he indeed needs it.

I sit down and he is milling around the place, looking at CDs, coffee mugs. Then I see him start to walk out, a wad of bills in his hand – where did this come from?! – backed by a bill that was at least a ten if not a twenty. He gets into a car on the passenger side, driven by a young guy, baseball cap on, smoking a cigarette, and they drive off.

I am enjoying my $1.84 coffee, thank you very much.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Traveling in Charlotte, North Carolina today and tomorrow morning. Folks around here pull for Carolina. Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels. I went to NC State. Wolfpack. Arch rivals.

My exposure to life at NC State in 1981 began with my freshman roommate. I recall getting the notice in late spring during my senior year of high school – upper east side of New York, going to college in the south, and my future roommate’s name sounded…black. Or so thought some of my cousins, who were from New England and therefore even more nervous of blacks than I was.

Turns out he was a more WASPy southern version of me than even I was. Guy dressed himself straight out of page 92 of the Preppie Handbook. Green wide-waled corduroys, button-down blue oxford cotton shirt with the breast pocket starched shut, so the “girls can pull it apart…they luv it.”

We would go to Crazy Zack’s together. It was the local bar/dance place, where students from the neighboring girls’ colleges – Meredith and St. Mary’s – would frequent. Most of the girls I knew at State wouldn’t be caught dead at Zack’s. Way too preppy. All the frat guys went there. They played “beach music,” which centered on Motown, R&B, and swing, and did a dance called “shagging.” (I think you know, Dear Reader, what the British call shagging.) It’s a wonder they did this dance in Baptist territory.

We’d go to Zack’s, and they’d have 16 oz. cups of draft beer for a PENNY for women, in order to get them in the doors, and then $1 drafts for guys. After I befriended a girl at State who actually didn’t mind the place, she and others of us from State would go there, and the women would stockpile the beers along the shelves running around the dance floor. One time, there were like 30 to 40 beers lined up – a total cost of less than fifty cents – for us to consume after Happy Hour was over. (We wonder why localities outlaw happy hours….) (I have stopped drinking and now have enough money saved for an IRA.)

WASPy roommate #1 moved into a frat house second semester, and I got the polar opposite in fall of sophomore year.

Todd was from Bahama (pronounced “buh-HAY-muh”), North Carolina. The name derives from the first letters of local family names Ball, Harris, and Mangum. Population in 2007 is 3,304. Assuming a spawn rate of approximately 1.5% per household per year, when I was in college in the early 80s, the population was probably around 600. (I just totally made up that number…but I remember Todd giving me a figure in the hundreds.) (Todd was also one of the smarter students I met; a zoology major with straight A's and a wicked-good control of facts about nemotodes.)

On the first day we were in the dorms in sophomore year, before I met Todd, one of his friends came by the room looking for him. He had blue denim overalls, a red t-shirt, and a large belly. His black hair was cut in bangs.

Todd here??!!”

“Uh, no…”

Well, you tell him when I see him I’m goin’ to roll him in a mud hole and stomp him drah’ !

He walked off.


I’ll tell him that.

Just the way you said it.

photo: nadsenoj

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gasping for air

As the ocean waves washed over my dad’s head, only bobbing up now and then for air, gasping on a day when the waves were larger than normal, my three-year-old frame clung around his neck, my legs dangling over his shoulders onto his chest, him grasping me by the shins, not able to wipe away the foam when white water rolled in at us.

He would say, “Get ready…take a breath!” and we’d punch through a wave, usually my head clearing the top of it but not always. We went to where it was deep, even where he was on tippy-toes.

I laughed and laughed.

I held onto him around the jaw and put my chin on his head. His whiskers, unshaven on a Saturday morning at the beach, scratched the soft palms of my pre-school hands. His head felt secure on top of a solid body. A dad’s body.

At night he wore his green and white checkered seersucker jacket with the tie that my mom made out of fabric she found that matched the jacket. He wore a yellow shirt, and a photo showed him beaming next to my mom, her with a black-and-white dress and a red carnation, standing on our front porch, getting ready to go to a cocktail party. She was smiling, too.

photo: weirdvis

Saturday, May 05, 2007


We made Mom actually “kick the habit” of smoking cigarettes back in the mid-1970s when those American Lung Association commercials aired showing people jumping in the air and clicking their heels together like The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. She did it after getting out of my grandmother’s beige Mercedes – circa 1960 model – and walking into her parents’ Warwick, Rhode Island home. She actually jumped, though I had never seen her feet leave the ground at the same time, and it looked to Jim and me like she clicked her heels. She was smoking again in a day or two. She also didn’t quit after Jim and I immersed a carton of her Virginia Slims in a sink full of water and then proceeded to put it back in the drawer where she kept them, which happened also to be where she kept her underwear and lingerie.

When she finally quit, after two sessions of acupressure, and when I was flying to Madrid in 1990 and speaking with some Spaniards at JFK airport about my family, I said, “Mi mama paro a fumar pabo frio.” (I thought I was saying, “My mother stopped smoking cold turkey.”)

They looked at me somewhat horrified and then laughed. I always thought it was because the phrase “cold turkey” was not idiomatic for them, and they thought I was speaking literally.

Recently, I used an online language translator (Babel Fish) and this literal translation was given: “My breast unemployment to smoke pabo cold.”

It’s amazing they let me board the plane.

photo: dan72

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Philip's legacy

I don’t want a Porsche.

Really, I don’t.

I saw one crossing in front of me as I took a turn over the north Beverly railroad tracks – that cumbersome intersection of Dodge Row and Route 1-A North where, if you hit it wrong, you can sit for 4 ½ minutes (I’ve timed it) waiting for the red-and-white wooden crossing guards to lift even though the southbound train is not even in the station and you are sitting south of the station, like it’s nowhere near the station and then you sit while it sits and you sit and you sit…and you can’t even sing along to that awesome Dierks Bentley song on the radio because the person next to you is figuring out what to do with their time, too, and you would feel like a fool singing like Dierks and trying to hit those high notes and your neck screaming veins popping out while your driver-neighbor is basically seeing you have a seizure in silence behind two panes of tempered glass – those railroad tracks… and I saw this maroon Porsche with a black whale’s tail and, in fact, it did look like a large mammal, albeit a really fast large mammal. And I thought: I am pleased as punch with my silver Toyota Corolla that gets like 200 miles to the gallon – city – and that fits my 5’9” frame just fine, thank you.

I suppose this realization was all the more surprising because I had just come from my occasional joust with All Things Financial. I am talking about the Thursday morning 7:30 a.m. breakfast in downtown Boston with business folks, about 50 or so, down at the club where all the old-money from Boston congregates. I can’t name the club here or I’m sure to get sued by someone for some reason some day. But it’s the kind of club that has a Resident Cat to keep away the mice. It makes the place seem very OldWorldly. And you sit downstairs and pretend to read the Globe while you sip your coffee from a china cup, but really you are only interested in the sensory feeling of reading the newspaper while sipping mild coffee in a club where there’s a Cat and where the halls have been trodden by the likes of Paul Revere’s personal financial advisor. Because you know he made a killing from that famous phrase, “The British are coming…!” and trademarked it and now his estate makes $4.95 each time someone says it. (I am kidding, of course, but I have had a LOT of caffeine this morning, starting at 4:00 a.m. when I got out of bed wired that I had finally sent off my manuscript for printing and couldn’t sleep anymore.)

I realize that I have had only two paragraph breaks in the last 457 words (nifty tool, this Microsoft Word).

So I’ll give you all a breather.

I sat on the fifth floor of this Club, eating breakfast with 49 other men – it’s an all-men’s breakfast and Bible study. I introduced to the group a friend of mine who was in town visiting and I happened to mention his former association with the federal government and how he managed a multi-hundred-million dollar program, and this made me feel somewhat…important. I’ll admit it. By association, mind you.

I was like, Hey, this friend of mine made multi-million dollar federal grants to non-profits, and I make sure that my water bill is paid each six months to the Town of H____ for $110 a pop and I think I done good.

So there we are, on the fifth floor, looking out over the Boston Common, absolute beautiful New England spring day, the Red Sox are creaming the Yankees in the standings so much that the Bronx is staging a Day of Mourning (again, just kidding; again, way too much caffeine here), we have been sitting and standing and chatting and sipping and watching the Cat and thinking about Paul Revere’s finances (or at least I have) and my priest is doing the devotional this morning, out of the Book of Acts, chapter 8, and it talks about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (Those of you not familiar with this passage probably are wondering why this sounds so incredibly odd – I’m telling you, it’s a fascinating story of Philip meeting this leader, in fact a principal financial leader, of Queen Candace’s kingdom in Ethiopia – the eunuchs were often put in charge because they were trustworthy around queens – and how hundreds of years before that Queen Sheba had visited Solomon and how it is thought that she brought Judaism back to Ethiopia… perhaps that doesn’t trigger your pistol, but I think that sweep of human history type of story is awesome. Or, it could be the caffeine.)

Paragraph break.

We had a wonderful Bible study and as I drove back to the North Shore where I work, I sang unimpeded to Dierks Bentley’s CD “Long Trip Alone,” which grows on you and once it does you realize there’s not a weak song on it. Then I picked up yet more caffeine – since I still need to make it through my work day – and saw that Porsche with a whale’s tail.

And all that exposure to money and cats in clubs and unparalleled views of the Common and eating quiche with silver forks next to guys who run federal programs and still others who manage billions for Boston’s elite somehow didn’t impact me when I saw that Porsche. In reflecting, I thought more about Philip.

And I thought about that eunuch. He got baptized that day by Philip. And his life changed. And he went back to Queen Candace with a new message of new hope.

And today, I know a man who lives in Addis Ababa who studied at the school I raise money for and he left behind his wife and two children for two years to get a masters degree – the Ethiopian government wouldn’t let his wife leave the country because she was a medical doctor and they couldn’t do without her – and he came here totally sacrificially and studied and got his degree and now he leads a Bible college.

All because Philip baptized a eunuch two thousand years ago.

A Porsche doesn’t go any faster over railroad tracks than does my Corolla.

photo: ncrotty

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Strong on the outside

His personality – even his psyche – seemed to present itself in an “exoskeleton” kind of way.

His armored exterior was formed with a substance that prevented “dessication” and a “sensory interface with the environment” (Rf. wikipedia), and while he looked calm and controlled on the outside – evidenced by hair that was tightly in place with gel, a tie whose knot did not move from the Adam’s apple, and a smile whose presence was unrelated to circumstance – his insides were soft and mushy, susceptible to corruption and even deterioration were it not for his exterior shield. He lacked any internal structure for formation and definition, and he was underdeveloped, given his close relation to the invertebrates and the phylum of arthropods.

photo: gzed