Sunday, November 27, 2011


Wallace Stegner was a friend of my parents’, not a close friend but a neighbor and fellow traveler in progressive circles. So in the spirit of having something to talk with my parents about besides their health, or lack thereof, I’ve been reading Stegner’s novels about growing old in Los Altos Hills, where I grew up. My parents no longer live in the hills. They long ago moved to San Francisco. Still, there are passages that remind me of their current circumstances:

“I am just killing time till time gets around to killing me.”

“It is something—it can be everything—to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below; a fellow bird whom you can look after and find bugs and seeds for; one who will patch your bruises and straighten your ruffled feathers and mourn over your hurts when you accidentally fly into something you can’t handle.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Simple words, stunning truths

Every once in a while someone states the obvious—but in a way that turns it into a revelation. So yesterday I was talking with a friend about some parental concerns that are giving me a good deal of anxiety. And she said, “You know, I think all parents have something about their child they worry about. No one’s children are perfect.” That simple remark just blew me away with its stunning truth. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Woman

The trouble with living in New York, or perhaps anywhere in the 21st century, is that if there’s anything you want to do, 8 million other people want to do it too. So I waited quite a while before strolling across the street from my office to see the De Kooning retrospective at MOMA. But I guess I didn’t wait long enough, because I still had to crane my neck to see even the big paintings or step aside in response to dirty looks and mutters from people behind me.

But since the paintings have a certain amount of aggression built into them, the experience felt all of a piece. And aren’t there days when you’ve felt precisely like this?

Monday, November 14, 2011


I know everyone else has already visited or taken up residence at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Square, but I didn’t make it down there till yesterday. I was surprised by what a small encampment it is. I had assumed there were thousands of people pitching tents. After all, the OWS effect has  spread around the world. In fact, however, there are—maybe—a couple hundred people there. It’s a grubby but industrious little enclave. It reminded me of a scene from the civil war: lots of dreaded hair, bare feet, blankets worn as outerwear.

For all its modesty, it’s a remarkable gathering. It has managed to keep its message pure and clean and uncluttered and consistent. And perhaps more exemplary, it has become the community it wants the world to be: it uses sustainable energy like solar and bicycles, provides protective housing for women, embraces all levels of humanity including the long-term homeless, polices itself humanely, engages in spirited debate that leaves no one out. And best of all, it’s still there. Yes, it’s been a mild fall, but no, it’s no picnic sleeping on the ground and living without plumbing. I felt a surge of gratitude to these young people who are making a statement for us all.