Seal of Approval

What’s the opposite of a birthday? A death day? Whatever they call it, today is my father’s tenth. His death at 89 followed a long, slow decline precipitated by a car accident. The fact that he had survived at all at age 85 getting hit by a car while crossing a street was something of a miracle – despite umpteen broken bones in his chest and all sorts of internal injuries. He was actually quite strong physically until the accident. Mentally, however, the story was quite different. And enormously complicated.  We never got the right diagnosis, perhaps because the multi-dimensionality of wayward states of mind cannot be captured in a single phrase or on a page from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. He had been in and out of mental hospitals for the better part of his life, from the ages of 20 until well into his late 60s. Electro-shock treatment, the occasional straight jacket, thorazine, lithium, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers. It all added up to a complex mix of mood disorders and fleeting bouts of dysfunctionality that puzzled his doctors and was painful for us to watch as we grew up. I simply knew him as someone who did not...Read more


People keep asking me if I’m planning on retiring soon. “No,” I tell them. “I actually enjoy working and always have” My first big day of work came at the age of 11, in February 1966, when two feet of snow shut down New York City for a week and my two brothers and I hired ourselves out shoveling sidewalks. The $5 earned that first day was a big supplement to our weekly allowance and gave me a taste that there was more to be made out there. I later somehow landed a job with a door-to-door salesman distributing leaflets ahead of his house-to-house calls. Unfortunately, I got a little confused as to which streets I was supposed to be on and missed about half of the assigned deliveries. By the summer of 1967 I had a paper route, delivering about 40 copies every day of “Newsday,” the Long Island newspaper. As I recall, it was afternoon delivery during the week, mornings on weekends. I had a giant metal basket attached to the front of my bicycle and would fold the papers into a tightly wrapped bundle that I would wing towards the front porch of houses on my neighborhood...Read more

Home Appliances

It has been a while since my last post. I seem to have fallen into the habit of having too much to do and not enough time to get it done. These last three weeks, when I should have been writing one of these every few days, I was instead in some sort of major domestic undertaking. First, we had to gut the entire basement so that the home repair guys could install sump pumps and a de-humidifier. Then spring sprang and I had to get ahead of the yard before it got ahead of me. In between came a business trip – my first out-of-town foray in a year. Along the way I honed my little supply of power tools. It’s not much when compared to the arsenal your average golf course superintendent has. But then I’m tending only 2.36 acres, not 200. And our standards for grooming are a little slacker than at your average country club. My wife, Jane, prides herself on being an organic gardener. At home that means we have no turfgrass lawn and we avoid bug sprays, inorganic fertilizers or weed killer. We’re all for promoting bees and other pollinators along with bats, birds...Read more