Some people keep things in drawers, others prefer shelves, attics, cellars or even safes. I keep so much stuff, according to certain members of my family, that I use all of those, but, mostly I keep "stuff" in a series of notebooks, begun more than twenty years ago.
Having just returned from a trip to our beloved Bahamian island of "Saint James" (name changed to protect its innocence), I spent this morning making finishing touches on one of the notebooks.
As Easter approaches, I wanted to share two entries with you. One: Each morning on Saint James, I sit on the front porch watching the bay and the islanders walking to and fro. Some mornings, I get local news updates from Herman, my fisherman friend. I also read and write while rocking in a chair covered in many coats of white enamel.
On my first morning, I began reading "Narrow Road to the Interior" by perhaps the greatest Japanese haiku writer, Basho. The haiku at the end of the first chapter, which I copied into the notebook,
Even this grass hut may be transformed into a doll's house.
The name of our house on Bay Street is ...Doll House.
Two: This morning,asI was pasting some loose items into the notebook and reviewing some older entries, I noticed a curious thing about my 2012 Opening Day Mets ticket, which had been printed on recycled copy paper:
-THIS IS YOUR TICKET- please call me if you have any questions Jesus
One afternoon, late last
fall, I recognized Coach Jack Curran in The Smoke Shop in Rye as he chatted
with Peggy. Later, when I saw him ambling up Purchase Street in his Archbishop
Molloy athletic togs, I introduced myself, mentioning that we had met, briefly
fifty years earlier, in spring 1962.
He didn’t know who I was, of
course, and probably had had a zillion people like me tell him that they’d met
him, but, as always, he was very polite, and seemed immediately interested in
what I was saying. Curran had lived in Rye for many years, since 1958, I think,
but our paths had not crossed during my thirty years there until that
When I was thirteen, in eigth
grade, I was invited to tryout for him at Molloy’s gym, pretty hallowed ground
as far as Queens basketball went. I’d just completed a great run with our CYO team
at a tournament at Holy Child in Richmond Hill. Through his extensive
grapevine, he’d apparently heard I was worth watching, along with a dozen other
boys. Or, maybe he just read the CYO box scores in the Long Island Press or
World Telegram & Sun.
As it happened, everything I
did that day worked; I played well above my head. Afterwards, he asked if I’d applied
to Molloy. When I said I’d been accepted, he encouraged me to attend. Too late,
I told him, I was headed to Xavier. Then, he asked for my permission to call my
parents about it. He was completely respectful about that, saying he’d make
sure I played, if I came to his school, but there was no pressure at all.
But, I knew what the answer
was going to be and should have been. I was going to play tennis at Xavier
under Pat Rooney (of US Open ball boy fame), and, as my mother told Coach
Curran, Molloy had no tennis team.
Fifty years later, we stood
chatting about all of that on Purchase Street. “McDermott,” he said, ”Quick
hands, right?” That was Jack Curran. He had no idea, but had figured that a
short guy like me, who had interested him must have had to be able to do
He reminded me that Molloy
later built their tennis team around Vitas Gerulaitis, with whom I’d played a
little (amazing, but true). Then, we chatted a little about how he had finally
given up teaching English, but was still coaching basketball and baseball to
When I looked into writing a
profile of him, I learned that he had been ill for a while and recently had
some trouble. Maybe in the spring, I thought, around Little League opening.
It was not to be.
Coach Curran had two brief
conversations with me, among thousands of others in my life, and I do not
presume to have known him well. But, I remember both conversations well, not
because of what he said, but because he listened intently, the way a player he
had coached might launch a jumper from twenty feet, or make a perfect peg to
the cutoff man.
There was only one Jack
Curran; we can only hope to have learned a little from him while he was here
I’ve read that the president plans to put the full weight of the executive
branch behind an idea whose time has finally come: a long, in-depth study of
the human brain.
We’re not talking about Freud, Jung, or Helen Gurley Brown-type speculative
thinking here, we’re talking about really knowing the truth about what makes us
tick and, by extension, what we could do to make us start ticking better, or, I
guess, worse, which is a hard concept to grasp.
The whole thing has shades of Elsa Lanchester in “Bride of Frankenstein.”
I, for one, am not sure I want to know the truth about my brain. Why start
now? I have Google’s search brain, Wikipedia, and Google Maps at my fingertips;
I tend to use my own brain for little things like figuring out why college
tuition is so expensive and parsing the Affordable (sic) Care Act.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
I recently attended a funeral, arriving a half-hour before it began since
I failed to closely check the information sent to me. So, I decided to use the
time to catch up on my texts and emails, while waiting in my Jeep in the New
Rochelle parking lot.
But I could not find my iPhone. Must have left it in the office, I thought,
but later it was not there either. So, I emailed my wife, known
here as the DG*, in a mild panic from my laptop to see if I’d
left the phone at home; I had not.
Now, the human brain can conjure up some real and imagined scary things,
but leaving home without your phone these days is one of the Big Boogies.
Managing in our new mobile global world without a phone makes us feel useless,
like a lamp with no bulb.
Somehow (landline, laptop, dictionary, atlas) I made it through the day.
That evening, I began an intense search at home: in my upstairs office,
downstairs studio, and bedroom, all the while interrogating DG about the places
where she had not yet found it.
I had her call my iPhone a few times as I roamed the house listening for a
buzz or ring. The result was iSilence.
“It’s probably in the Jeep,” she calmly said. So, I looked there with a
flashlight, twice, front and back, under the seats and my SF Giants batting
helmet. No iPhone. iPhone gone. Life as I’d known it had ceased. iPhone
lost/dead as a doornail. I was paralyzed with fear and commenced looking in all
the same spaces again.
The Red Jeep
“It’s in the Jeep,” said DG with total serenity upon my return to HQ, while
she pan-seared the tuna and tossed the arugula for supper, while also managing
to talk a client out of committing hari-kari over the wrong shade of white on
her newly-painted living room wall.
Then, I remembered iCloud, another kind of digital brain, which came with a
Find My Phone app. So, I went to my iPad, put in my Apple ID six times without
luck. As usual, it worked on the seventh try (don’t iAsk). Sure enough, it
showed two small green dots at my home address: the iPad and my iPhone!
Although iCloud had located the phone, there was no brainy Siri-voice to
say, “The phone is under the white chair by the fireplace,” or “The phone is on
the shelf in the coat closet, where you left it while grabbing your gloves.” It
just showed the two green spots.
“One spot looks like it’s in the house, the other looks like it’s nearby,
but outside. Like maybe in the Jeep,” my wife said.
By now, any reader who has been married or in a serious relationship for a
while will understand that finding my phone had become less important to me
than finding it anywhere but in that Jeep. Actually, and here’s a hint about
why I’m not so keen on this scientific brain project, losing the phone forever,
and having to pay to replace it, was beginning to seem like a more acceptable
outcome than finding it in a certain four-wheel drive vehicle, AKA, the Jeep.
But, there I was, slowly walking down the path outside our home to the
stairway that led to the garage, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a watch
cap with a flashlight in one hand to light the ground before me, and my iPad in
the other to keep track of the green dots. I was praying that the neighbors
would not see me and ask what I was up to or call the police to report an alien
in their garden.
As I approached the stairway, I pressed the Find My Phone button that would
cause my lost device to emit a sound. And, miraculously, I thought I could hear
a feint beeping. At the bottom of the stairs it was getting a little louder.
Slight right turn towards our garage, louder still. Open this red door. Really
loud now. Gotchya!
In the red Jeep.
You want to know about the human brain? In the hundred-foot walk back to
the house, I began to analyze all the possible ways to explain why I knew the
phone had been there all along.
Instead, I just said, “It was in the Jeep.”
“I know,” a voice said, “Have some tuna, it’s delicious.”
Why mess with the brain. Scientists might learn a whole lot more about how
things really get done or not done by studying marriage more closely. Marriage
is still a killer app in more ways than one.
But, I don’t think I want to know the whole truth about that either.
En Garde! This weekend's WSJ and T magazines go head to head, cover to cover, headline to headline. Take that! No, you take that!
Pure Elegance all in white v. True Elegance in black. Young Russian model Kati Nescher v. Lee Radziwill.
Coincidence, you say? Hah! My guess is that both WSJ's new-ish editor Kristina O'Neill and savvy T chief Deborah Needleman have their spies. Who's the aggressor? Not clear, but this competition could get very interesting.
Old Guard: My inbox was filled with messages regarding Time Warner's apparent interest in finally spinning off Time Inc. in a deal with Iowa-based Meredith. All reports noted that TW namesake Time, Fortune, and SI would be exempt from the deal, with various lame reasons given for that move.
The real reason: TW head Jeff Bewkes is an HBO grad and has never been enamored of the magazine unit. But, even he does not want to be the one to raise a royal media stink by letting Rupert Murdock get his mitts on political weekly Time, business bible Fortune, or swimsuit cash cow SI. Another possibility? Get the Right Guard outand convince Bloomberg to take on Time and Fortune. Could poor SI be tossed underwater to ESPN? That would be a fate worst than depth for them.
Laggard: While picking up my WSJ/Off Duty this morning, I overheard the patron in front of me ask the value of PowerBall. Upon hearing it was only $60 million, he scoffed and said he'd wait. I seem to live in an area where $60 mill isn't quite good enough. I bought two tickets and man would I like to be the laggard with one of the winning tickets instead of the toad who spurned it.
Fort Mason Market, SFO
Guarding the Fort: Spent last weekend in San Francisco (full report soon), where even Dumplings Get The Blues at the market in Fort Mason. Never saw a cloud in four days. I've given up comparing SFO to other cities, especially NYC. It's unique, and, although it drives many tried and true New Yorkers crazy with its Zen-like demeanor, it is the country's most dramatically beautiful city.
When I was a boy being
introduced to confession along with its bonus companion for life, guilt, I was
pretty sure that I was the only one who actually had to make stuff up before
going into the dark confessional. Since I had to be there, it followed that I
must have done some pretty nasty things during the past one or two weeks. It now
occurs to me that this may have been the beginning of my having a need to tell
stories and taking more than a bit of poetic license in the telling.
Years later, of course, I
discovered that just about everyone had to make stuff up to look at least a
little bad. How our hidden confessors must have rejoiced at the sound of a
brand new voice, probably from another parish to insuring secrecy, which began
telling a tale of really bad deeds done! How imaginations must have been fired
to come up with some new penalty with real bite!
All for a good cause: salvation.
These days, in our increasingly
secular world, many of us seem driven to hear athletes, celebrities, and
politicians make very public confessions in Tweets or ghost-written tomes. But,
there is only one true Uber-Confessor our culture turns to when it’s time for
some Mr./Ms. Big Stuff to tell the whole wide world their nasty little secret.
Enter Oprah, who invented a new
cable world called OWN, as in, Time To OWN Up, Pal! And, raising those ratings
wouldn’t hurt either.
So many of us fall for this
every time, despite the fact that we know that whatever Ms./Mr. Big Liar has to say
for themselves (it’s entirely about themselves and Oprah, not us), we already know
to be untrue; Or, in the recent case of Lance Armstrong, he is the only person
left on the planet who thinks that he was telling the truth, AKA the Clemens
Effect. Or, is it the Monica Effect? I can never remember.
What, I wondered, would it be
like if Oprah invited me to come on her show to reveal some of the secrets I’ve
been burdened with for years. Such as these whoppers:
·I confess, Oprah! When I was ten, I really did break
that bedroom window of the first floor apartment in the courtyard where I used
to hit tennis balls against the brick wall for hours and hours. Somehow I
thought I’d never get caught, despite the fact that it was my best friend’s
bedroom window, and his whole family knew I was the only one who could have
done it. The shame of it all.
·This is tough, Oprah. I really did not hear our family dentist’s nurse say
after I entered the office for my appointment in 1960, “Oh, we’re very
backed-up today and we had to change your appointment. Sorry.” The truth is
that I was scared to death of mean Dr. Cushing, our family dentist, who raged
that my orthodontist should be in jail and then took it out on my jaw. I waited
until my mother’s car had turned the corner and then I headed in the opposite
direction. The nurse called mom wondering where I was and a frantic search
ensued until I innocently walked in the front door with my flimsy story, which,
amazingly, held up for years. I think.
·I actually did get kicked out of college twice, not
once as my parents and grandparents mistakenly thought. I did not feel
obligated to report it, since I was saved by a clerical error. When I arrived at
the bursar’s with a blank (yes, I agree, very foolish) check from my
grandfather’s account, it seems that the expulsion letter was in my file,
having never been sent. The clerk checked with a higher authority who made the
decision that any self-respecting private college would make, Take The Money
and let him “back.” For penance, I never got less than a “B” after that.
I feel so much better for
having Oprah-ed up in public, except that my editor might never completely
trust me again.