Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Today I celebrated the birth of spring with my first riverside run of the season.

There's something about the late-afternoon sunlight sparkling on the Potomac -- it's like a long, sequined train on an old-Hollywood Bob Mackie gown -- that makes me so aware of my lungs and my heart and my skin and the incredible mechanics of being alive.

Last fall I brought along my camera and strung together a few shots along the way -- Watergate, Kennedy Center, memorials, Corcoran... D.C. really is such a cool city.

click me!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Not one hour after I'd dropped my parents and my grandmother at the airport to catch their flight to Tel Aviv, my mother called me from her cellphone. Before I answered I made a silent bet with myself -- either she was bored, or someone's passport had been left in the kitchen drawer.

Turns out it was neither: Once the reluctant subject (perpetrator) of so many you-just-can't-make-this-stuff-up tales, my mother has evolved into a devoted field reporter, phoning me without delay to describe every blogworthy run-in with store clerks, family members and low-ranking security officials.

"You're gonna love this one," she chuckled. "Take notes."

Apparently, as my family were inching through the airport security check, the inspectors repeated their mantra - "no liquids, no gels, no aerosols" - in the vain hope that some amongst the herd would take initiative and spare them a bit of work and time.

"We were getting closer and closer to the front of the line, and as we were taking off our shoes Grandma started looking a little panicky," Mom said. "Daddy noticed too. So we asked her what in the world was wrong."

"Dey said no aerosols," said Grandma in a worried tone. "I don't know vhat to do. I hev a few in my bag."

"A few? We're only going for a week. It's not even the humid season yet! Just how much hairspray did you think you would need?"

She spat back, "I'm vorried about how I'm goink to valk around all day; who gives a crep about my hair?"

And for a moment the three of them stood there staring at each other, until the light bulb flashed above my mother's head.

"Oh, Ma..." she said through a relieved sigh, "It's fine. You're allowed to bring your Aerosoles on the plane."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

the lesson of the moth
by Don Marquis

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

I'm not one for poetry but this I really, really like. Someone sent it to me yesterday.

To the moth I say, "I feel you, brother," though I do plan to stick around a while.

I think a lot of people -- a lot more than would ever admit or even realize it -- remain, hold out, trudge on... out of guilt. As painful as it may be to wait out the hours between waking and sleep, they just couldn't live with the pain they'd cause their loved ones if they decided to depart. Not that they'd have to live with it, but... guilt is largely an anticipatory emotion.

And there are other factors, like hope that this elusive "beauty," or even just a reason to pull back the covers when daylight draws you out of dreaming, is just around the corner. Someone once told me that for years and years she just went through the motions, day by day. "It's not that I wanted to end it all," she said, "but for the most part, I was waiting to die." It wasn't, it isn't, easy to admit that I understood exactly what she meant. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live with medium-grade depression, that pretty much sums it up. (There's also a proprietary blend of guilt, anxiety and self-doubt mixed in; think of it as the Cold Stone Creamery of mental illness.) It's an utter lack of motivation -- no drive to live, no drive to die, you're just carried along by your heartbeat day after day after day.

I think the number of humans who are truly happy to exist -- not like that kamikaze moth but for the long haul -- is... actually, quite large. My first thought was just a few, but globally speaking there are probably far more out there who look forward to tomorrow's wonders than those who wait for the end of their days. We just don't see them, except maybe on the Discovery Channel, because they live in less "civilized" parts of the world.

My take on the secret to happiness? Decivilize: Downsize, simplify, live basically and indulge a few simple passions.

like human beings
used to be

Friday, March 09, 2007

She was never much of a typist, my Mom. You might say my father was the lifeguard who saved her from drowning in the steno pool. Growing up, before we joined the Computer Age, our house would fill with the sounds of Mom's electric typewriter backing up – "corrrrect, corrrrect, corrrrect" – as she hammered out business letters in her office at home.

As you can imagine, my mother's digital deficiency makes for amusement at e-mail time. Last month after reading my Valentine's Day blog entry she sent me an encouraging note, the new-fashioned way. (It took some years but she’s finally realized that the phone is not the best way to reach me. Now Mom's feeding me a steady diet of three to five e-mails a day.) As usual she typed her message fast and furiously and flung it on its way. Shoot first, check spelling later -- that's just how the lady gets her business done.

Here's to beautiful hearts filled with love, good feelings and lots of tasty things to eat. You're my girl!
Happy Valentine's Day Sweetie,
Nothing tastes better than reading your words.
Calorie free, but feels you up!
You made my day!
I Love you,

Yeah, fourth line from the bottom. You read that right. As sweet as it is fantastically hilarious.

But, as they say, there is no such thing as comedy without victims. Enter: alswrite(at)

In attempting to send me the following message – and, apparently, numerous others in the past few weeks – my mother had left a ‘w’ out of my address (she blames the keyboard) and hurriedly hit "Send" without checking the “To” line first.

Hi Sweetie, Hope you got your exercise and rest yesterday. Sounds like they put you thru the mill at work.

Wanted to tell you of some fabulous healthy muffins I found at Trader Joe’s. They are called "Moral Fiber." Very healthy. Flavor is orange/cranberry. No sugar (just white grape juice). Very high fiber, low fat. Cut in half toasted with a little light cream cheese. They are delicious!! I'm hooked. Love, Mom

The message did eventually reach me, forwarded along with this note from the unintended recipient:

-----Original Message-----
From: alswrite(at)
Subject: great muffins

You know, this is getting really annoying. I'm being nice by telling you that you're emailing the wrong person because I don't want you to think your emails have gotten to your daughter. But it's really starting to get on my nerves.

Honestly, it was kinder than I might have been. I’m sure that after five or six or a dozen misfires this innocent bystander was at his or her wit’s end.

My mother didn’t see it that way.

“Where's his sense of humor?" She was indignant on the phone. (This incident had warranted a call.) "'All's right' my ass. I don’t think all’s right in this guy’s life. I have this little fantasy…”

My ears tensed at the tone of voice that puts the rest of our family on Lucy Ricardo alert.

“I think he’s this lonely, unhappy young man, and all he really needs is for someone to be his Mommy. Maybe I can give him advice and stuff; be his pen pal, his surrogate Mom.”

“LEAVE HIM ALONE,” I warned, bracing for the sort of misunderstanding that involves a 57-year-old Jewish mother and a restraining order.

But I didn’t hear from her the rest of the day and figured the matter was at rest – until I received another forwarded message, originally sent that morning from my mother to alswrite(at)

Sorry again for the mistaken identity.
But you might as well try the muffins.
Maybe it'll put you in a better mood!!!