Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mencken's Answer

Why, someone asked HL Mencken, does he remain in this country when he despises so much about it?

Why, answered Mencken, do people visit zoos?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Family problems...

A woman I grew up with, Gloria, called--via an intermediary. Nice to get back in touch with someone from my distant past She actually babysat for me! Took me to Palisades Amusement Park. Her brothers, her parents, and mine were friendly.

Snakes on a Plane wasn't half bad. Slick, intelligent. (I like scary movies.)

Mr and Mrs Smith was also slick and intelligent. The critics are sometimes too supercilious. I had thought the film would be atrocious...but I was amused and absorbed.

Very sleepy today. Had to stop driving. Am I getting ill?

Going to Toronto next week, just for a visit--for a weekend. My son is determined to leave the country--and Toronto seems to be a good place to settle.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mozart Lives to 70

“In the unimaginable alternate universe in which [Mozart] lived to the age of seventy, an anniversary-year essay might have a sentence such as this: ‘Opera houses focus on the great works of Mozart’s maturity – “The Tempest,” “Hamlet,” the two-part “Faust” – but it would be a good thing if we occasionally heard that flawed yet lively work of his youth, “Don Giovanni.”’"

 Alex Ross in The New Yorker

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Voice from the Past

A woman called yesterday—did I remember the Romano family? Of course. She reads my financial column, and knows Gloria Romano, who always talks about my family and the neighborhood she grew up in. Gloria remembers the parrot my family had…and an accident I had.

Gloria was occasionally my babysitter.

I would love to see Gloria's brother, Genie Romano, again! Smart, calm, wise. I went to Columbia partly because Genie had gone there.

I spoke to Gloria. Genie had died. So had Johnny. But Rudy and Julio were in Florida. Russell was the black sheep of the family.

I was so sorry to hear about Genie.

Julio: I once threw a rock up in the air, and it hit Julio in the head, bloodying him. He assailed me, beating me with a rock. The Romano family complained to my family about me. But other kids had been throwing rocks up in the air….

Genie died six years ago, Gloria said.

Alice Olick and I were supposed to meet him for lunch maybe 10 years ago, and he backed out. Because he had gained weight? A common reason why people decline to see old friends.

I’ll show Gloria an article I wrote years ago, mentioning Genie. An article about Knucks, a card game we played as kids.

And Wednesday I’m having lunch with her.

Friday, August 04, 2006


How to Win at Solitaire

Assuming that you can keep dealing yourself hands, keep dealing until you have a hand

With at least one ace
With no duplications at all
With a roughly equal number of face cards and non-face cards
With a roughly equal number of red and black cards

This won’t guarantee a victory, but it should increase your chances.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Powerful Book

A powerful book—“The Year of Magical Thinking,” Joan Didion’s memories of the year her husband and her daughter died. Full of intelligent details, intelligent insights, and… intense pain. Listening to it on disk, I had to turn it off once in a while because the pain was too intense.

Mark Twain wrote about the death of his daughter—a quiet, plain report. Missing memorable details. This book is full of
memorable details, something you would expect from a novelist.

Writing it probably helped her. Therapy. Listening to it, I shared her pain – and I can’t express why but I am grateful that I was able to share her year of agony.

I must read more by Joan Didion. What a gifted writer!

Abusing a Newspaper

I was in my 20s, working for a political campaign in West New York. Our party—Democratic—decided to nominate a woman for mayor. We asked her and she said yes.

So I wrote a press release: Our party was considering a woman candidate for Mayor. First in WNY history. (Or maybe it was just a commissioner?)

Second press release: Which women we are considering. I even put in the name of a Republican! (She was startled, I heard, and said she wasn’t interested.)

Third press release: Guess who our candidate turned out to be?

Three stories for the price of one.

I hadn't been responsible. A high school dean, a former Army colonel, named McGrath, who was running, had thought told me what to do.

We lost.