Category 8. My Favorites

Blurred Lines

A few years ago, while the Beloved Spouse and I were visiting friends in southwestern Texas, our host observed that the most fundamental distinction represented by the border is that on one side there are property rights and the rule of law, on the other, not. Other than that, he said, it’s the same land and people.

I found my friend’s comment memorable for its simplicity and for the clarity with which it illuminated two characteristics of American law and culture that are among the most essential building blocks of our society’s successes.

What attracted – and still attracts – millions to our shores? The chance to abandon the stations of their births and build new lives and identities based on their own efforts...

Read More

A Society Out of Balance

Last night, just as the Beloved Spouse and I were settling into sleep, one of our daughters called seeking reinforcements. Her husband was traveling for work and one of their two children was vomiting aggressively and had come down with the kind of red-hot fever that only little ones can bear – and they miserably. We jumped out of bed, got back into our clothes and headed to their apartment. By this morning all was well again, but the long night had reminded me just how hard parenting can be.

And, apart from being exhausting, child-rearing is so punishingly expensive that it’s a wonder that anybody – especially those who are middle class – decides to do it. Let’s consider the context in which these decisions are made:

According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, fo...

Read More

About the Suburbs

In the immediate aftermath of WWI, commuter train lines were built reaching up into Westchester County. An area just outside the city’s limits that had been countryside became the town where, many decades later, the Beloved Spouse and I would raise our children and spend much of our lives. Within the space of a few years after what’s now our train line went in, the land was cut into quarter-acre and half-acre lots, thousands of houses were built and a suburb was born.

Initially, many of the homes were nearly identical. The house that we bought 32 years ago and lived in for our first ten years here has a twin just a block away. Other houses on the street also have twins a block away...

Read More

The American Religion

Longtime readers of these posts know that I have long been a member of a men’s book club in Connecticut. More recently, along with some friends who live near my primary home in one of New York City’s suburbs, I have started a second, similar group. The first meeting of the newer group was just a few nights ago; the book we discussed was Lincoln at Gettysburg – The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills.

It’s a worthwhile book – to begin with, it draws our attentions back to the Gettysburg Address, surely one of the greatest speeches ever given. If, like yours truly, you had largely forgotten the genius of Lincoln’s words, you can reread them here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Address)...

Read More

Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have hurt something deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.

***

Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were nur...

Read More

To See America

The Idea – 1/11/16

Three months from today, I am going to set out from Los Angeles by bicycle, hoping to ride to Old Lyme, CT. I have dreamed of doing this for thirty years; it’s now or never.

Over the next three months, I’ll give a lot of thought to the logistics, and try to get fit enough so that I’ll make it.

Just now, though, I have to tell the Beloved Spouse about the plan. I’m not sure she’ll be thrilled.

Day Zero – 4/10/16

This is the first in a series of daily posts that I intend to write over the next six or seven weeks about the attempt I am about to make at riding my bicycle across the country.

I sent three bikes – my two beautiful new steel Mariposas, pictured below at home just after their arrival a month ago, and my much older carbon fiber Parlee – on ahead to Los Angeles w...

Read More

I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

Is it possible to be thrown out of a tight-knit group that one was instrumental in forming? I have a chance to find out.

I am in a fabulous book club. I got the group rolling four or five years ago by recruiting a handful of close friends to the venture. On a rotating schedule, one person chooses a book, another cooks a meal and a third leads the discussion. We read all kinds of books, and our subsequent discussions are augmented by fine food and wine. We are just as competitive about the consumables as we are about the selections of, and our opinions about, the books.

Considering that the book club is small, and consists exclusively of people who are sociologically similar (we are all prosperous men, 55+) the points of view represented are widely divergent: our political and religious ori...

Read More

A Traitor to My Class?

I do not give to Princeton, where I went to college.

Last Friday evening I had dinner with three close friends who among them have four Ivy League degrees, including ones from Harvard and Yale. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that I don’t give to my alma mater and added that the institutions that we graduated from have so much money that they are accountable to no one but themselves. None of my friends took issue with my comment – which is interesting, because all four of us have long made philanthropic commitments important parts of our lives.

Harvard, Yale and Princeton have endowments that total about $80 billion between them...

Read More

Race, Social Class and Personal Brands

Out for a walk just now, I had an unremarkable experience.

I crossed paths with an African-American of perhaps 30, well dressed and groomed, wearing horn-rimmed glasses not unlike my own. Had we spoken, I would guess that his diction and intonation, and quite possibly his accent, would also have been similar to mine; his appearance and manner strongly suggested that we were of the same social class.

We smiled silent greetings and kept on our merry ways.

Let’s think about brands for a minute or two, before coming back to race and social class.

McDonalds and Coca-Cola have built enormous businesses on the comfort that consumers take from knowing exactly what they’ll get when they purchase burgers or sodas...

Read More

The Big Walk

The posts below describe The Big Walk – from Grand Central Terminal to Old Lyme, CT – in sequential order.

These posts differ slightly from the ones I wrote each day after walking for six or seven hours. I have cleaned up the typos, added a few interesting details, and cut a bit here and there to make the original posts fit more smoothly into one continuous narrative.

Day One (7/26/14)

TBW2

Walid, yours truly and Vinny

Vinny, Walid and I had a great day today. We walked from Grand Central Terminal to my home in southern Westchester County – roughly 18 miles by the circuitous route that we followed through midtown, Harlem, the neighborhoods of northwestern Manhattan and the central and northeastern sections of the Bronx.

Everything worked...

Read More