Archive for the 'Life the Universe and Everything' Category


Half and Half

From today’s Writers’ Almanac:
“Today is the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox, where the sun is directly above the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal. The autumnal equinox occurred early this morning at 3:09 UTC, Coordinated Universal Time. But here in America, the equinox occurred last night, at 11:09 on the East Coast.”


The gayest libra image I've ever seen.

Today is also my birthday.

It’s also the first day of Libra, which is all about balance, so it fits nicely that the number of hours of daylight is equal to the number of hours of night. Someone in ancient Greece probably already figured on that, and it’s probably intentional and not a coincidence, and I’m probably just late to the party. But I think it’s pretty neat.

However, the zodiac sign that corresponds to the vernal equinox is Aries, which is not nearly as cool — unless there is some kind of parallel to draw between spring time and amorous, uncastrated ruminants.


A Family Weigh

The 1976 film Network may most commonly bring to mind overwhelmed, despairing Howard Beale bellowing “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” His performance is genius, and his newsroom messiah complex may seem to presage this generation’s personality-driven Fox News and CNBC, but something else stood out to me when I watched the movie for the first time not long ago. A much smaller moment. And it had nothing to with Howard Beale, at least not directly.
Continue reading ‘A Family Weigh’


Now That’s Entertainment!

Maybe the cat has the right idea, perched on the radiator, watching the snowfall this morning through slitted eyes. She twitches just the tip of her tail from time to time as I might tap my finger. Not bored, but content. And maybe a bit expectant.

One can see the snow only against the buildings and cars and the skeletons of trees. Glancing skyward, it seems to disappear against the gray. But it’s there. Traffic is quiet; schools are closed: the world in slow-motion. I already hate the rain that will come later to beat it down and flush it away.

Actually, she might just be staring at the wall across the alley.

Still, I suppose the principle is the same.


Slide to Unlock

slide to unlockTechnology has a funny way of making us into little trained monkeys. I can’t let an hour go by without checking my email. I can’t wait to tell everyone what I ate for lunch via Facebook status! I don’t bother to wear a watch, because my cell phone tells me the time just fine, and more accurately.

And now that I have an iPhone, I have been introduced to a new mantra. In order to perform any of the above essential life functions, I now must pass the gatekeeper: “slide to unlock.” It is the new automatic motion. The new reflex. The new magic. The new go-to for all life’s conundrums. Missed the bus? Slide to unlock. Credit card denied? Slide to unlock. Your gym is overcrowded? Got into a fender bender? Spilled coffee down the front of your shirt? Slide to unlock.


Welcome, September!

The last of September’s insidious little heat waves has broken, and we are in store for a week of temperatures in the low- to mid-70s, and I could not be more delighted about it. Even when we were having 87-degree days, the mornings started out breezy, with a hint of coolness. It smells like autumn now. Leaves are falling — unfortunately, before they are allowed to turn color — and that late-summer/early-autumn rot has begun.


What French Fries Can Reveal

While he shakes his ketchup out of the bottle into a neat puddle on the side of his plate, I always drizzle it Jackson Pollock-like across my own nest of French fries. It reminds me that no matter how long I have known him, and no matter what lies ahead of us, sometimes we two are strangers.


Simple Things, Important Things

In a conversation I had once with my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Przeslawski (so many teachers in the Detroit suburbs had ponderous Polish last names), I observed that the bell had just rung and that several students in the hall would be late to class.

“They’d better run,” I said to her.

“Oh no,” she said. “No. Never. They’re seniors. These are all seniors’ lockers around here.”

I didn’t follow.

She squared her face toward me and gave me a serious look. “Seniors never run.”

It is a lesson about pride I have carried with me through all my life. Better to come late to class quietly and calmly, with dignity, and suffer the consequences, than to arrive sweating and breathless.

To this day, for example, I never run for a bus.

I will turn a corner and see my bus barrelling through the green light toward me, careering toward the stop ahead. There are enough people at the sign that the time it takes for the bus to stop, for a few people to exit, and for those people to enter, I could easily make it in time to board myself. Only if I ran. Which I never do.

Once, and only once, since moving to New York did I run for the bus. And when I got there, the doors closed in my face, and the driver blithely drove away. New York bus drivers are merciless, but I can’t argue. If he stops to let me on, it could give others behind me time to reach the bus and further delay all of us.

So the bus comes and goes. I continue walking to the next stop, glancing back over my shoulder, coolly, calmly, knowing another will come soon, and I won’t have to break a sweat on my morning commute.

Other people, however, do run. From a precarious stance in the aisle, hovering over a woman with too much luggage or a man with halitosis and a dripping umbrella, I often see out the window someone tearing around the corner at a desperate gallop, panting toward the closing doors of the bus. They creak shut just as he or she arrives, and the best the hapless commuter can manage is an impotent bang-bang-bang on the windows all the way down the length of the vehicle, staring in with wild eyes and gaping mouth, or sometimes shouting something rather rude to the driver. I can empathize, but their effort is wasted: They are stuck at the stop anyway despite their run. They could easily have spared themselves the trauma.

Earlier today, as the Q33 was pulling away from the station at 74th and Broadway in Jackson Heights, a woman similarly reached the closed doors. She visibly chastised herself, or the driver, or fate, or the slow people on the stairs in the station a minute back — but she gave up the fight honorably and resolved to stand there, smiling, watching us take off.

The driver, a benevolent soul, glanced around him and decided it was safe to hit the brakes and open the door. He called to the woman, who was looking in the other direction.

“Hey. Hey, you! Come on. Get on!”

She snapped to attention and in one swift motion, she all but leaped aboard as the doors folded shut, and she was safe and on her way home.

She smiled radiantly, incredulously. She could not believe her luck — like a child who had just found the last Easter egg. “Thank you!” she said, dipping her Metrocard. She took a few steps in and grasped a pole at the front of the bus as the driver continued off the drive and the bus lurched onto the street.

Her reacton completely arrested me. It was so real and humble and grateful. I have never seen a driver stop like that, but it was ultimately a small, simple gesture, like holding a door. And she would have waited no more than 15 minutes for the next bus. But it obviously meant so much to her. I was totally charmed to see something so small matter so much and deliver such delight.

the untallied hours