At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it feels as if we have all been released from some protracted burden. Being able to shed masks has been the least of it, even if the most symbolic. But after fifteen months of avoiding people, staying at home, worrying about family health and hoping the government would finally get things right, it is a great relief to come out from behind the sheltered existence we have had to live and enjoy life again. Especially the outdoors. My wife, Jane, and I were reminded of this the other day during a glorious tour of Elizabeth Park, the 102-acre municipal retreat on the west side of Hartford, CT. The city has its economic troubles, but among its many considerable assets is an extensive park system whose character dates to the late-19th/early 20th century design work of the famed Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm. Not the handiwork of Frederick Law Olmsted himself but of his son and son-in-law. Like their father, they had an impressive knack for creating sylvan public spaces, mixing up broad meadows, formal gardens, dense copses, trails, ponds and small streams as well attractive buildings properly scaled for recreational use. Elizabeth Park’s big...Read more

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