Showing posts from 2010

Hidden Kisses

It's not what you are thinking, this post of mine. Although hidden -- nay stolen -- kisses are a tempting topic to while away an evening of writing. You know, the kind of kisses I mean -- the soft gentle ones that at once comfort and confirm a quiet steady love. Or the first kiss of a brand new relationship -- the one that makes you tingle all over in anticipation. That leaves you wanting and thinking about what may be. Or the sad kiss of good-bye -- this is it, we were great together, but we are broken and we will never be repaired no matter how hard we try.

No, this post is about something more mundane and more profound -- my almost 30-year love affair with holiday cookie baking. I do not know why I started this although I suspect I can trace it back to fudge and friends in college. I can remember mailing a particular package off to London one year (his year abroad) and getting a thank you note some two months later because the friend in question was off gallivanting around the…


In just about six weeks, I’m going to Tanzania. The trip – which has been planned for some months now – is all about the African bush. This will be my 3rd trip to Africa and it is to be the first trip where I did not get sidetracked by other things – like culture, beautiful oceans, or history.

As planned, my niece Julia and I are starting out in a mobile tented camp (Serengeti under Canvas). The camp moves around the Serengeti with the goal of bringing guests within reach of great Wildebeast migration. The great unknown of the trip is that there is no guarantee that we will see herds here on the Serengheti or in one of the other camps. The wildebeast were early this year on their journey – passing across the plains in August as they trudged along on the vast circle that is the essence of the migration. We may see them here on the plains or we may see them up in Klein’s Camp or we may not see them at all. Regardless, this tented camp is to be my Isak Dineson moment – in a tent, under …

Reading and Writing

I am a facile writer – by that I mean I am comfortable writing a wide range of documents and can generally write pretty quickly. Lately, at work, I’ve been looking to make every word count, putting myself on a word diet as it were. That kind of work writing is always with purpose – I know where I want to go when I sit down to write. It’s about writing the most compelling grant proposal (show me the money!), the strongest letter of support, the best analysis of a piece of legislation, the most strategic memo. It’s not always easy to write with purpose but I always manage to get it done.

I am also an omnivorous reader. It started in the first grade when I read my way through those laminated cards that we had instead of primers. Although I’ve slowed down a bit – too much else to occupy me (work, friends, newspapers, magazines, television), there is nothing I treasure more than a finely written book. I look forward to traveling because that is when I get most of my reading done. And, I ado…


Last week, I went to a memorial service. Filled with memories, music, and love. It was beautifully planned. And there was meaning in what family and friends had to say. Portraits finely drawn -- everyone touching a different piece of this man's life, of his legacy. This was the memorial service of a great man -- a much beloved icon who was the change he wanted to see. The death was unexpected and quick -- a vibrant soul in his 80s with a lot of life left to live. He died as he wanted -- with his boots on. The house was packed with those who had come to pay their respects -- a veritable who's who of the world he inhabited.

It reminded me of a memorial service for one of the dearest friends I will ever have. Passionate about what she did -- a natural advocate for her patients, her family, her friends. She grew up with parents who were marching on Washington and advocating on behalf of migrant farm workers. She had a childhood that I, from my safe middle-class upbringing, could on…


Among my obsessions, men have figured large.
There was the Irish contractor who showed up on my doorstep to bid on my apartment renovation. Seamus. The kind of man that made my knees weak. I obsessed about his bid for a week and whether he would be the lowest bidder, would I be able to justify hiring him? His bid was low enough. We dated, we fell in love, we broke up. And then I obsessed about that -- what had happened, what had we done wrong? I've come to realize that somethings were just not meant to be.

I've also obsessed about my work -- oh, ok, I obsess about my work in the present tense. That obsession varies from day to day. Some days, it's will I ever be able to get everything done? Most days, it is about are we doing the right thing? Could we be doing better? Could I be doing better. A dear friend gave me a copy of Bright Dawn in the hopes of curing this particlar obsessive behavior. That's an uphill battle though -- learning to love my shoes, to love what I hav…


Today, the family and friends of a wonderful man gathered graveside on a beautiful early autumn day to say good bye. Somewhere in NYC, a baby was born and an old woman died. Today, I puttered around putting my apartment back together while watching a riveting match featuring Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Five sets and a king was dethroned. Today was a beautiful day in the neightborhood, and there is the rub.

This morning was that kind of early autumn morning that should make you glad to be alive. I don't like these kinds of mornings so much anymore. They remind me too much of September 11, 2001. The day that New York and the world came to a grinding screeching halt. It's hard to imagine it, some nine years later, but on that day we just stopped. We stopped traffic. We stopped planes.. For moments on end, we all stopped breathing as planes hit buildings and those buildings fell down.
It didn't feel like it would be that kind of day when I woke up that morning. The city ha…

Paris Found

Recently, I stayed in the Paris Violets room at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Osbispo, CA. Yes, the same Madonna Inn that houses the wonderful dancers from a different era and the Safari Room that I wrote about in my last post California Dreamin'.

On the face of it, the Paris Violets Room is not nearly as mad as the Safari Room. That is, until you notice that the paintings in both halves of the room are wired for light and once those lights are on, you are transported back to some '50s Parisian fantasy. The paintings are like something Lucy and Desi would have had in their bedroom on I Love Lucy. This side of kitsch now, that side of elegance then.
This is not going to be a post about those paintings although they will help to set the mood as we stroll back in time to my very first trip abroad somewhere shy of 30. And if you are anywhere close to the Madonna Inn in California, you should stop by if only to use the pink sugar shaker to sweeten your coffee in the Copper Cafe.

California Dreamin'

Tonight, I took a shower in the waterfall shower at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Osbispo, CA. The Madonna Inn is mad genius at work -- every room is done up to a different theme and we just happen to be staying in the safari room -- home of the aforesaid waterfall.

The Inn is also home to a passionate group of the most wonderful dancers who clearly spend many a night here dancing to the tunes of Hank and Frank at the Gold Rush Steakhouse. Well into their 70s and 80s, this group of regulars knows how to cut a rug -- in heels and shiny wing tips. From the swaying white-haired vixen whose gentleman friend did not dance to the tiny man with the widow's hump twirling around the floor with his hand on his partner's butt -- they were like seaweed gently wafting along in the tidal pull. One could imagine them at home in the Rainbow Room in New York -- waltzing as easily with the city aglow behind them as they twirled under the pink chandeliers.

This is a place that is about as far afi…


For Rita and Jackie.

Every once and a while, I can pinpoint what I know to be true to a moment in time. This is the tale of one of those moments.
My first memory of WWII is of a book in our living room that described a German POW camp. There it sat with my parent's wedding album, the family Bible, and other assorted flotsam and jetsom that collects on coffee tables and side tables in living rooms across the country. Spiral bound with a leather cover it is likely the first thing that I read about WWII. It had line illustrations of the camp and us kids knew that our father had been in one of those camps after being shot down over Germany during WWII. He never really talked about that time -- we knew this because we had the book. I read that book in the hope that I would learn more about him from its pages. And I did.
So there was the beginning of an understanding of World War II. The real life version of "Hogan's Heros" and life was not so pretty as a German POW but as…

Of Fedoras and Bunions

"Daddy, do you have your hat," I can hear Grammy's voice as she and Grampy would prepare to sally forth. She in her mink with a perfectly coordinated silk scarf and he in his fedora. Somehow, I ended up with the scarf, the fedora, and for a time the mink. I can remember wearing the fedora around college and then around town. At some point I jettisoned the mink and more recently the fedora went out the door. The scarf remains -- a mix of oranges and golds tucked away in a box with various other scarves acquired during my life. Scarves that I no longer wear but somehow can not bear to part with.
Somewhere there are pictures of my grandfather wearing that fedora and my grandmother in that mink. I know that she used to wear it as she caught the sun in Elinor Village when they wintered in Florida. The fur was damaged as a result -- with the shoulders and collar turning the color of straw and feeling just a tad rough (under the arms was just as soft as could be). Somewhere the…

My Rapa Nui

Horses, horses, dogsGreen hills. cerulean sea Waves pounding on rocks That is the haiku that I wrote on my first night on Rapa Nui. One of the most remote places on earth -- Easter Island is some 2,000 miles from Tahiti and Chile. An archeologist's dream -- but will we ever really understand the culture that created the giant Moai. Perhaps more importantly -- do we need to?
I am particularly drawn to places where I can walk in the steps of those who went before me. I hate it when I can only look but can not touch -- or more importantly can't stand smack dab in the center of a space and imagine what it felt like to be of that civilization, of that time. How did the Christians feel as they waited beneath the coliseum and heard the roar of the crowd? What was it like for the harem dwellers of the Alhambra as they waited for the Sultan's call? Was being chosen a good thing or a bad thing?
How did Doris Duke feel as she built her own private Shangri-La on the shores of Oahu? A pla…