Negotiation

It was Thanksgiving Day. My daughter wanted apple pie and asked her mother to get it for her. My brother-in-law noted that he had read some parenting advice from Esther Wojcicki that suggested children should be encouraged to do whatever they can for themselves.

As Wojcicki had raised two CEOs and a doctor, the joke became – future CEOs get their own pie.

For the next three hours, no one budged.…


Thanks?

Wednesday morning began with jury duty. The early evening featured a trip to the emergency room. By midnight, I was on strike from my job as an adjunct professor at the New School.

Jury duty, emergency room, strike. What an unholy trifecta. Any one of them is a situation that we hope to avoid at all costs. The odds of any one person experiencing all three on the same day have to be astronomical.…


Pleasant

I sat in a half empty auditorium filled with folks whose somber looks indicated there were a thousand different places they would sooner be.

Instead, we all waited to see if we would be selected as jurors.

Jury duty is as the name indicates a duty. Even the most civic minded approach this experience with some trepidation. How long will it take? Will I be selected?…


Accepting

I’ve read countless memoirs and interviewed dozens of people about their journey but none have been as honest, conflicted and raw as Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld.  Her story is marked with countless issues and circumstances that she has had to overcome and her book looks to reconcile them in the context of a culture that likes these stories told in a very particular way.

Her experience in crafting her college essay is particularly telling.…


Leave

I overslept. Waking up at 6:50 but needing to catch a 7:26 train, I rushed to shower, got dressed, walked the dog, packed my bag, and poured a cup of coffee before dashing off for the 5 minute scamper to the train station. All the aforementioned activities were done with almost no thought, an automated process whose details go unnoticed in the bustle of everyday life.…


Being

Last week, I took a few minutes to create a list of all the major things I’ve done professionally so far this year. While the list was relatively long and I felt a certain amount of pride in reflection, something was just a little off.

I tried to recall how I felt at the time each project was being created. Did I enjoy the process? Did it bring me joy?…


Bookshop

I love books. Reading them, owning them, sharing them and obviously writing them. The smell of an old book is a reminder of all those who have similarly valued the words born out of another’s mind. The feel of a new book ushers in the anticipated value to be delivered in small doses over the weeks you will spend reading it.

I have always thought of owning a bookstore.…


Connecting

I have always considered myself a luddite – slow to adopt new technology, warning against its potential downside. Yet here I sit, typing on my MacBook Pro, Apple Watch strapped to my wrist as my iPhone plays music through a bluetooth SONOS speaker. All after another evening ended with my ass firmly planted in my couch watching mindless television wirelessly projected onto my wall.

Lamenting our use of technology is not particularly helpful.…


Enthusiasm

My best friend left me a voicemail message recently. He mentioned a book he had been reading, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It suggested that we shouldn’t take any action that’s not aligned with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm.

In reflecting on those three feelings, it got me thinking, “What am I enthusiastic about?”

Enthusiasm is defined as an intense and eager enjoyment or interest. Its origin is from the Greek word, enthousiazein meaning to ‘be inspired or possessed by a god.’…


Forgotten

I was listening to a podcast conversation between Douglas Rushkoff and Sherry Turkle recently. Both scholars have written and spoken extensively about our relationship with technology. Both have also at different times been in rooms surrounded by tech billionaires.

At one point Turkle wondered “What do they know that I don’t?” when thinking about how they have amassed their fortune, whereas she has lived on a more modest academic’s salary.…


Queens

Much has been made about the extraordinary amount of attention and coverage given to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. On one hand, she was probably the most famous person on the planet. On the other, some would say she had, at best, a symbolic role in the world and at worst what she symbolized was colonialism.

Like most of us, she wore many hats – albeit one of hers was literally a heavy crown.…


Legend

As legend has it, some creative people are bestowed with an abundance of natural talent from birth or act as a conduit for divine inspiration. How else to explain a prodigy or creative genius?

An alternative narrative was offered up by the aptly named, John Legend, who was a guest on the podcast Smartless recently.

In this story, yes Legend exhibits an early love, if not talent, for music.…


Back-to-School

My children have always loved back-to-school shopping. There is something about the idea of having a list of school supplies and wandering through a stationary store checking off boxes that brings them a strange combination of excitement and satisfaction.

As a writer I can identify with the love of pencils, paper and such.

So there we were scuffling through Staples searching for the perfect sized post it notes or a pencil case that was both stylish (one picked out a furry cat – rather kitschy) and functional (dividers or pockets seem key.)…


Map?

Recently, my wife and I took our daughter to see Dear Evan Hansen. I had seen the musical before with my oldest daughter, watched the movie and listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times with my family who love the music.

Seeing it again live was to restore its power in my mind – power that was diluted by the repeated listening and sing-a-longs on car rides.…


Friends

When I was young, I spent most of my time with friends. As a latchkey kid, I was told to get outside in the morning and wouldn’t return until dinner or after – depending on whether my mom was working that night. As I got older, I hung out with friends after school, after practice or after work – whatever would get me out of my trailer home.…


Act

I have been watching the riveting and thoughtful documentary series, The Last Movie Stars – that chronicles the life and legacy of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Before they were married, Newman and Woodward studied together at the Actors Studio, alongside contemporaries Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

The first episode shares their experience in the studio. A cast of current actors, including Ethan Hawke who directs the documentary, recite The Actor’s Vow.…


Progress

Understandably, we can be prone to seeing and focusing on the problems around us. I myself have succumbed to this bias of problems over solutions with some regularity. Anyone who follows the daily news might fall in the same sinking boat. After all, we’ve grown up in an era of “if it bleeds it leads.” Even my former literary agent once told me that books about problems sell better than those that offer solutions.…


Take

Last week while walking my dog, I noticed what I thought was one of those awesome free standing “Lending Library” kiosks.

However as I approached, I saw that this one did not include a single book. Rather, it was filled with canned goods and other non-perishable food items. The sign at the top read, “Take What You Need.”

The presence of such a structure was both a sign of our difficult economic times and a refreshing public display of community kindness.…


Break

I could use a break. Perhaps you could too.

Inflation, gas prices, a heat wave, divisive politics, and a pandemic that just won’t go away have made the last few months borderline unbearable.

This is to say nothing of what individual stressors we all might feel.

The summer is by definition supposed to be “a break.” Although that seems to apply more readily to students than the rest of us.…


Headache

I have a headache. The precise location of the pain is above my left temple. The temple is particularly vulnerable as it is the place where the four bones of your skull fuse together.

The name temple is somewhat ironic. In ancient times dating back thousands of years, it was believed that headaches were caused by evil spirits.

In order to give them a physical route to leave the “temple” they would drill a hole in the skull. …


See

Marcel Proust once wrote, “The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is…”

He is writing about the role artists play in society in a chapter perhaps appropriately named, The Prisoner.


Citizen

As July 4th approached, I was reflecting on the state of our country. JFK’s famous exhortation from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country,” popped into my mind.

In lieu of recent events, one could look at the first part of that quote and conclude that what little we have asked for from our country has been denied.…


Pride

The end of the school year usually engenders a decent amount of pride.

In my home, there were wonderful report cards, end of year concerts and successful soccer seasons. Two of my kids “moved up” – one entering high school and our youngest leaving elementary school.

Beyond the general achievements, each gave us reasons to feel particularly proud.

Our youngest was sad to leave the innocence and safety of elementary school.…


Found

How many times have you lost your keys? Hopefully around the same number of times you’ve found them.

Of course, there are many things we lose and can never find again. Or we find things we were never looking for in the first place.

Our deepest losses are of loved ones. As are our most precious finds. 

Our relationship to the ideas of what is lost and found tends to be somewhat transactional.…


Graduating

Last year, I was honored to deliver the commencement address at my alma mater, Penn State.  It was held in Beaver Stadium, where over 100,000 fans stream in each Saturday during football season.

The students graduating that day would go out into an uncertain world.  A pandemic still wore on, the country and specifically their state was deeply divided.  

Yet they were graduating with a college degree and into a strong job market.…