My friend Axel called from Germany the other day. When I told him I was going to be interviewing Mack Banks later in the week, he threw out a quote from one of Mack's X-rated songs and asked me if I still had the album he gave me years ago.
In the Sandfield Community, not far from the intersection of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue South, there is an abandoned slab of concrete about 30 feet square. On the east and west edges of the square are light poles with "Keep Out" signs on them. At one time, the place served as a basketball court for neighborhood kids.
Ed Phillips looked like a man you might have seen sauntering down the gangplank of a Mississippi riverboat at the foot of Canal Street sometime in the mid-1800s. Barrel chested, uncommonly handsome and with a voice that rumbled like distant thunder, Ed would have been a more-than-adequate stand-in for Clark Gable in that actor's most memorable role.
Ed died Saturday a week ago. He was 80.
Maybe it strains the limits of plausibility to claim to have found a penny in front of a place called "Down to the Penny Accounting Tax Service," but there on the sidewalk was Honest Abe in profile. Not one to shun the prospect of good luck, I bent over and picked it up.
About two winters ago while riding alone in the rain in an ATV, I surprised two deer bedded down in a thicket of scrubby trees. Once rousted, the deer sprinted alongside me for four or five seconds before veering off and vanishing into nearby woods. It happened so suddenly and was over so quickly, I was left wondering if it had happened at all.
Media personas were prominent in the news this past week. NBC News anchor Brian Williams' career went up in flames; former 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon was killed in a car crash in New York City; Jon Stewart announced plans to leave The Daily Show and Thursday night New York Times media critic David Carr collapsed in his paper's newsroom and shortly after was pronounced dead.
Some months ago the hot water control in our shower cracked and started spraying hot water into the tub and onto the legs of unsuspecting bathers. Really hot water. We've adapted by draping a washcloth over it to deflect the hot water, but every now and then it slips down and you get a sudden jolt.
"Did your mother use these much?" I asked my wife.
I was washing dishes after a meal served on her mother's wedding china.
"Hardly ever," Beth replied.
"They didn't have much to choose from back then," she said, by way of explaining the pattern.
And then, to make her point: "She got married in a dress made from a parachute."
A team from Public Broadcasting System was in town most of last week doing a segment on Main Street for PBS's NewsHour. The piece is not on Main Street in the literal sense, but Main Street as a euphemism for small-town America.
More than one person said they thought UFOs were descending on Columbus Thursday night when they saw the Chinese lanterns wafting their way north along Highway 45.
Whew, that was quick. Another year gone.
Resolved for '15: to be kinder and more patient. As we age, we trend toward kindness. So says the writer George Saunders. Here's an excerpt from a convocation speech he gave to the class of 2013 at Syracuse University where he teaches:
The presents had been opened and the grown-ups were sitting around talking in the easy afterglow of a Christmas morning.
An uncle was absorbed by a modern-day version of a Tinkertoy set and an aunt was helping a niece come to grips with a pair of sparkly gloves that can freeze people. A couple of us stepped outside with one of the kids, who wanted to show off the scooter Santa had brought.
While dining out with friends Friday evening, the husband let it be known he would like to have a Corvette. We're about the same age, well past the mid-life crisis marker. It's not a crisis if it's something you've always wanted, I suppose.
If Kendall Graveman's baseball career continues its present trajectory, he's going to turn at least one cliche on its ear. Nice guys can do just fine in the Majors, thank you.
Friday afternoon Adrine Younger welcomed me into her tidy kitchen and offered me a glass of tea and a piece of Italian cream cake. The grandmother and widowed mother of five lives in a pleasant one-story farmhouse about a mile down a gravel road that bears the family name. I had come to talk politics.
Friday morning started out with a small crisis. We were out of coffee and I had a gathering to attend before 7. The downtown shop I frequent doesn't open until 7:30, so I headed out 45 for a national coffee chain that takes its name from a character in Moby Dick. (The company, I learned on the Internet, was almost named for the whaling ship in the story, Pequod.)
In 1953 the French writer Jean Giono published a thin volume, titled, "The Man Who Planted Trees."
The story's narrator, hiking alone in the south of France, comes upon a desolate, treeless valley covered in wild lavender. The year is 1910.
A good tonic for the weekend: Have Friday lunch with two or three friends who enjoy laughing with each other. Sounds easy enough. The morning of, a friend sends an email: "So and so and I are going to be at such and such restaurant at 11:45. Be there." I was a little late for the gathering having gone to hear Kate Sweeney at the Rosenzweig talk about a favorite subject, cemeteries.
Are you a teen mother and trying to find job and a place of your own to live? Homeless and needing a place to get out of the cold? Glenda Buckhalter could be your new best friend.
Seems a little odd to be sitting in the living room of friends on the other side of the country watching a football game in Starkville. Nice to see we're getting rain -- it's cool and clear here -- but better if it would wait.
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