Showing posts with label Emily. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emily. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cruise to Canada and New England

Although we lived in the northeast all of our adult lives before moving to Florida, and still spend the summers there on our boat, we had never taken our own boat north of Nantucket, so this summer we planned a trip to the Canadian Maritimes, but on a cruise ship, leaving the driving to someone else. And although we had navigated New York harbor on our own boat, there is nothing like leaving New York on a 93,000 ton vessel, where you pass Lady Liberty at eye level and
the entire panorama of New York slowly unwinds as you leave the pier at 55th Street and 12th Avenue and make your way towards and under the Verrazano Bridge, barely clearing the bridge in such a vessel. Passing Ellis Island stirred stories in my memory of my ancestors who were processed there, arriving from Cologne, Germany before the Civil War and afterwards building a photography business on the Bowery in lower Manhattan.

Having departed NY in the late afternoon, we emerged into the open waters of the Atlantic on way to the first port of our itinerary, Halifax NS. Our departure coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Igor in the Atlantic and although we were no closer at any time than about 1,000 miles, the storm stirred up the seas, resulting in considerable swelling. But for old salts such as ourselves, the 8 to 10 foot seas were very tolerable, particularly in such a large stabilized vessel. I felt sorry for the passengers who were wearing their wristbands and their patches behind their ears to ward off mal de mare, real or imagined. One could easily recognize such people from a slight glaze of fear in their eyes.

This first leg to Halifax took a full day and night from NY and we entered the harbor early in the morning, a special moment for me as several years ago I edited a book, New York to Boston; Travels in the 1840’s, which included selections from Charles Dickens’ American Notes (1842). Halifax was Dickens’ first stop after transiting the Atlantic Ocean on one of the early steamers -- and in January no less. One can understand his relief at arriving in Halifax, writing the following about his Atlantic journey: “Imagine the wind howling, the sea roaring, the rain beating: all in furious array against her. Picture the sky both dark and wild, and the clouds, in fearful sympathy with the waves, making another ocean in the air. Add to all this, the clattering on deck and down below; the tread of hurried feet; the loud hoarse shouts of seamen; the gurgling in and out of water through the scuppers; with, every now and then, the striking of a heavy sea upon the planks above, with the deep, dead, heavy sound of thunder heard within a vault.”

His ship went aground entering the Halifax Harbor and after being reassured that there was no danger of the ship sinking, or rolling over as the tide was on the rise, Dickens went to bed at 3:00 AM. Upon awakening the next morning, he wrote: “When I had left it over-night, it was dark, foggy, and damp, and there were bleak hills all round us. Now, we were gliding down a smooth, broad stream …the sun shining as on a brilliant April day in England; the land stretched out on either side, streaked with light patches of snow; white wooden houses; people at their doors; telegraphs working; flags hoisted; wharfs appearing; ships; quays crowded with people; distant noises; shouts; men and boys running down steep places towards the pier: all more bright and gay and fresh to our unused eyes than words can paint them.” They finally got off the ship for the first time in fifteen days, Dickens describing Halifax as follows: “I carried away with me a most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have preserved it to this hour… The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished. Several streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running parallel with the river…. The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.”

I include Dickens description as remarkably it mirrors our own impression of Halifax, and I could not help thinking of his visit while there. Of course, things are more modern now, and the fort he referred to as being unfinished, The Citadel, was completed in 1856, fourteen years after Dickens’ visit.

It was a clear chilly day with nary a cloud in the sky when we were there, the wind having whipped around from the north after the passage of Hurricane Igor far to the east. We walked the extensive hills of Halifax. In some ways, it reminded us of a small Vancouver, with many ethnic groups, Halifax’s Pier 21 having served as the “gateway to Canada” as did Ellis Island in NY.

Our departure followed Dickens into the Bay of Fundy, but his ship went directly to Boston whereas we were on our way to Saint John, New Brunswick, on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy and at the mouth of the St. John River. The Bay of Fundy has always fascinated me because of its extreme tidal changes, an unthinkable fifty-five feet along with the strong currents that accompany such change. As a boater, I wondered how one would navigate and tie off to fixed docks for such a change (answer: time activity to avoid low tide or just sit on the bottom waiting for the tide to rise). Intent on seeing as much as we could of this phenomenon and the caves gored by tidal action, we wanted to travel parts of the Bay of Fundy trail and therefore we booked a private guide to be driven to all the highlights.

This turned out to be a fascinating part of the trip, not because of the scenery per se, which was not as memorable as we had hoped (we were there at the wrong tide, closer to high than low) but because of our driver, a woman in her early forties, and her unusual and remarkable life story.

She was born to a French-Canadian father and a mother who is part native Indian and actually was raised on a Reservation. In fact, her Uncle is currently a chief of one of the Micmac tribal villages. Our guide has twelve half brothers and sisters, all fathered by different men! Her mother had problems, too personal to go into detail here. But remarkably, our driver raised many of her half siblings from her early pre-teen years, and her own two sons and a daughter as well, completely on her own. Through much personal sacrifice and hard work, they have become upstanding citizens and she is currently a very proud homeowner and successful in her business, and is reconciled with her parents who rent a room in her house!

So while we toured and she explained the various sites, we were equally fascinated by this larger than life person, and her perspective on living in St. John, a beautiful part of the world.

From St. John the ship moved on to Bar Harbor, Maine, my friend Emily’s favorite place. Although our son went to Bates College in Lewiston, and we used to visit him there, regretfully we never found our way to Bar Harbor, a town that reminded us a little of Nantucket. Emily’s “go to destination” in town is Sherman’s Bookstore where she advised Ann to buy, Contentment Cove, a novel written by Miriam Colwell, which although she actually wrote in the 1950’s was published only four years ago. Ann loved the book, finishing it during the rest of the cruise (I was reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom)

Acadia National Park, with its striking views of the Porcupine Islands and much of Maine’s extensive coastline was a special treat. Before the fire of 1947, Bar Harbor had large, Newport-like “cottages” but most of these were consumed in the fireball that was fed from the Acadia woods by a dry strong wind. Today Bar Harbor’s 4,000 resident population grows ten times that in the summer. One can see why.

From Bar Harbor we cruised overnight to Boston, where we eagerly anticipated seeing our son, Chris. We decided to meet at The Institute of Contemporary Art where we were treated to highly interesting and imaginative work of Charles LeDray, an exhibition entitled workworkworkworkwork, “consisting of handmade sculptures in stitched fabric, carved bone, and wheel-thrown clay.” These are all “smaller-than-life formal suits, embroidered patches, ties, and hats, as well as scaled-down chests of drawers, doors, thousands of unique, thimble-sized vessels, and even complex models of the solar system.” The gestalt was to make the viewer’s life feel tiny in the continuum of time and space. This exhibit will tour, so be on the lookout! Afterwards, we had a wonderful lunch overlooking the Boston Harbor. The sun set over Boston as we departed.

The last port was one we had once visited on our own boat, many years before, Newport, RI. Here is one of the most beautiful, venerable NE seafaring towns, with its “cottages” for the rich and famous. Newport always has a breeze blowing and I remember having to back our boat down a corridor at the old Treadway Inn, currently another hotel, its docks now rearranged for mega vessels, with a crosswind that made the boat almost unmanageable. I think I made a mental note to avoid Newport thereafter, at least on our own boat. Nonetheless, I love the architecture in Newport.

Returning to New York early the next morning was dramatic as we caught the dawn and then the sunrise. The Williamsburg Bank tower in Brooklyn as well as the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges marked my return to an area I had spent a good part of my early adult life.

It was strange to see these landmarks from the perspective of the ship, four decades later, almost as if I am now a stowaway from another land.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Shock of Recognition

This posting sort of dovetails with the prior one as it further underscores the dilemma of traditional media – how to price their product as the pressure of “free” information and opinions from the blogosphere rises. Mine is just one lonely voice in that universe and its lack of focus (a serious flaw as the Web rewards specialization) is a detriment to developing a following. But a “following” was not my main concern when I began this journey. So, I was surprised, and of course flattered, to be cited by two blogs that I admire, Telecommuter Talk and Got Shares? (

I’ve mentioned other blogs before (Financial Views from the Blogosphere), but those are investment oriented. Emily’s Telecommuter Talk is subtitled “Ramblings of someone who used to be a telecommuter and who now has grand delusions of being a writer” and Matthew’s Got Shares? ( is subtitled “Quiet Highway: Saga of a Gentleman. A blog about finance, law, and the journey of an amateur economist.” These two blogs couldn’t be more different, but here is what they share in common besides covering some of my main interests, literature, economics, and public policy: they are written with passion, honesty, and understanding. Although I have my opinions, I realize how much I have to learn from the blogosphere, and I am thankful that there is such an alternative place to turn to for information and opinions.

This “recognition” is a reminder of how far I need to go to improve my own contributions, and my blog’s features, and I’m sort of exasperated on our boat for the next couple of months, using wireless dialup, and dealing with a petulant keyboard, the cursor jumping all over the place like a jumping frog, while Google is pulling the plug on my music links. In other words, it’s going to be a painful period – improvements I need to make as well as planned postings delayed until I return to the Halcyon land of my desktop and broadband.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Updike, Roth, Dreiser

This blog entry was really started by my blogger friend, Emily, who “tagged” me to name twenty-five writers who have “influenced” my life (not necessarily because they are great writers). Although I “answered” her with just their names, I had promised to explain why. To me, reading literature is to explore history and psychology, the human tapestry laid threadbare. Basically I am drawn to those writers I can personally relate to and I’m embarrassed to admit that those I like the most I take the longest to read, lingering over the experience so as to savor every word.

Before getting to my more detailed “answer” by writer, this is what I originally wrote to Emily:

“I’m not too good at this – in fact as I don’t “do” Facebook, I don’t even know what getting “tagged” means. But I think I get the gist of it. This is an interesting project, one that I would have to give a lot of thought to explain why I chose my 25 writers. It is something I might get to this summer. Frequently, the reasoning will be that one writer brought me to another wonderful writer, simple as that. So, I promise, sometime in the future I’ll write an entry on this, but I can’t promise I’ll “tag” 25 other bloggers – I don’t even read that many blogs and except for yours, they are mostly financially oriented (that reveals where my own blog is frequently slanted). But I did come up with my 25 authors and so, below, here’s the list in the order as I thought of them (might have to be rearranged when I think this through). There is a heavy bias to contemporary American fiction, with one biographer in the group. I could name scores of writers who have written for me their one-time classic (such as Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” or Alan Lightman’s “The Diagnosis”), not to mention the writers I studied in college (Franz Kafka for instance), who have had an impact on me and therefore could easily be added to the list. I could also add Pat Conroy whom you mention, but he didn’t come up when I went through this mental exercise. One of the best works I read by him is a memoir, “My Losing Season” but you’d have to love basketball as much as I do to appreciate it. Also, I share your admiration for Russell Banks’ “Continental Drift” and “Rule of the Bone” (which I think is his best work). Here are the 25, off the top of my head:”

So, further expanding my answer, I am going to keep the same order, as they came to me, but no other significance beyond that.

John Updike. If one searches “Updike” in my blog you will find other entries. I once saw him at a Pen Writers meeting where he was the main speaker and wanted to go over to him to chat. He seemed so approachable and kindly, but I became involved in a discussion with Russell Baker whose book All Things Considered we had just reissued. So other people surrounded Updike and I thought there would be other opportunities, at the Frankfurt Bookfair or perhaps the American Booksellers Association meetings, or another Pen Writers conference, but our paths never crossed again, other than his speaking to me through his works. Updike’s influence on me is he not only helped explain the American Zeitgeist, but he also explored issues relevant to my “maleness” ten years hence, as Updike was nearly exactly ten years older than I. The stages of Harry Angstrom’s life as depicted in the Rabbit novels are neatly spaced out about a decade apart, so painstakingly capturing the times in America, his maturation and ultimate decline.

I am now reading his last novel, the Widows of Eastwick, with sadness and reverence for a great American writer. Only a man who has walked the walk can write words such as this: "Jim's illness drove her and Jim down from safe, arty Taos into the wider society, the valleys of the ailing, a vast herd moving like stampeded bison toward the killing cliff. The socialization forced upon her -- interviews with doctors, most of them unsettlingly young; encounters with nurses, demanded merciful attentions the hospitalized patient was too manly and depressed to ask for himself; commiseration with others in her condition, soon-to-be widows and widowers she would have shunned on the street but now, in these antiseptic hallways, embraced with shared tears -- prepared her for travel in the company of strangers." Unfortunately, I’ve had similar “hospital experiences” and dread the inevitability of an encore. But, now, with Updike gone, I think of his poem “Perfection Wasted” which you can find at the very end of this blog entry.

Philip Roth. I think I respond in a similar way to Roth, a writer who seems to know me but in a different way. Where Updike awakens the Calvinist background of my early years and the suburban existence of my later life, Roth explores the “Jewishness” of my New York City years. I’ve long felt his American Pastoral is one of the great novels of the 20th century,

The novel made me relive those Vietnam years of the 60’s and the social upheavals of the times. It is a novel in the negative universe of Updike’s Rabbit, in that the main character is also a former high school star athlete, but from the inner city, one who in his attempt to create the “perfect life” of the American dream, an American pastoral, finds his daughter caught up in Weather Underground violence as he also helplessly witnesses the destruction of his once beloved inner-city Newark in the 1970s. An American Dream turned American Nightmare, capturing exactly the way I felt at the time.

Roth’s alter ego Nathan Zuckerman narrates the novel. It is through Zuckerman in many of Roth’s other works that we have a window into Roth’s view of writing itself. The Anatomy Lesson is one of the “Zuckerman” novels. In it Zuckerman is thinking about his writing and what it had become in his life:

“It looked as though life had become bigger yet. Writing would intensify everything even further. Writing, as Mann had testified – not least by his own example – was the only worthwhile attainment, the surpassing experience, the exalted struggle, and there was no way to write other than like a fanatic. Without fanaticism, nothing great in fiction could ever be achieved. He had the highest possible conception of the gigantic capacities of literature to engulf and purify life. He would write more, publish more, and life would become colossal.

But what became colossal was the next page. He thought he had chosen life but what he had chosen was the next page. Stealing time to write stories, he never thought to wonder what time might be stealing from him. Only gradually did the perfecting of a writer’s iron will begin to feel like the evasion of experience, and the means to imaginative release, to the exposure, revelation, and invention of life, like the sternest form of incarceration. He thought he’d chosen the intensification of everything and he’d chosen monasticism and retreat instead. Inherent in this choice was a paradox that he had never foreseen.”

Of course in spite of all of Zuckerman’s protestations, Roth has gone on to write at least a dozen novels after that one, and, thankfully, is still going strong. His more recent works are dark, clearly concerned with his physical decline and the future. But, writing is work, something that I have found, and few work as vigorously and focused as Roth.

Theodore Dreiser. I skip to a writer of my college years, having devoured everything he wrote during those years, either for assignments or just because I found his Darwinian philosophy of life a revelation at the time. I spent a harrowing week in the Brooklyn Hospital ward with pleurisy, the consequence of teenage stupidity because I had taken caffeine tablets for a couple of all-nighters to study for exams and became exhausted. This led to my contracting that most painful condition. In the hospital I began to read Dreiser’s “Cowperwood trilogy,” the first two written before the 1920’s and the last one some thirty years later after WW II, tracing the life of financier Frank Cowperwood. Cowperwood’s life is built around an economically and socially hostile world, where the survival of the fittest reigns supreme. On his way to school as a ten year old, the future financier passes a store window which exhibits a lobster and a squid contained in a fish tank and one day he discovers the lobster had devoured the squid, Dreiser commenting: “The incident had a great impression on him. It answered in a rough way that riddle which had been annoying him so much in the past: How is life organized? Things lived on each other – that was it…Sure, men lived on men.” This social-Darwinian leitmotif runs through all of his writings and became a worldview that reverberated throughout my working life. My DNA, though, prevented me from doing the “eating” but I learned how not “to be eaten.” In my very first job after college I was thrown to the wolves in the production department of the now defunct Johnson Reprint Corporation, which was part of Academic Press. By “wolves” I mean coworkers who did not like my intense work ethic and would have eaten me alive except I learned how to deal with them from my Dreiser “education.” That education would prove to be valuable right up to my retirement, helping me negotiate the labyrinths of corporate politics as well.

That’s it for this session, three down, and only twenty-two to go! Just looking over the remaining list I can see that this is going to take a very long time to do thoughtfully. Rather than rushing through it, I’ll post installments as time permits, leaving the rest of the list a mystery although perhaps you can guess many just from the first few.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How’s My Driving?

When I posted my penultimate entry, the blogger “dashboard” indicated that it was my one-hundredth one. This made me ask: where had my blogger journey taken me? So, I did a cursory review of the entries, beginning with the first posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2007. Little did I know at the time we were only at the beginning of an historic political and economic era.

The latter was showing only the tip of a sub-prime mortgage iceberg. In fact, the market report for that day was as follows: “Stocks soared on Wall Street last night as investors returned to the bombed-out financial sector following positive comments from investment banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan about the impact of the ongoing sub-prime mortgage crisis. The Nasdaq tech stock index, meanwhile, recorded its biggest gain in more than four years closing up 89.52 points or 3.46% at 2,673.65, while the Dow Jones closed up 319.54 points or 2.46% at 13,307.09.” These now seem like Halcyon levels for both indices.

The ensuing “Great Recession” as it has euphemistically been called, along with Obama’s historic rise to the Presidency, have been the two most significant events of this period. As one of my intensions has been to give a personalized view and account of my times, a fair number of my blog entries during the last 535 days relate to these topics, perhaps more than I had originally envisioned.

No doubt there will be more as momentous political and economic winds continue to blow. Government had to step in to become the “spender of last resort” in this perfect economic storm, but we will inevitably face the unintended consequences of fighting a credit bubble with a new credit bubble. President Obama’s choices (who I supported in these pages from his primary battles to his election campaign) were between worse or worst and I get the sense we are winging it on a daily basis, hoping the economic implosion can be morphed to an explosion as the latter will be necessary to raise the revenue to retire the debt being created. A society cannot borrow itself into prosperity and a common thread in my postings has been the observation that borrowers and lenders, Ponzi schemers and investors in those schemes, are all complicit in this crisis. Government cannot protect people from themselves but we need regulations that make predatory lending and investing practices more difficult, all fodder for future postings.

I have been asked what I meant by the title of the blog. In my first entry, I credited a publisher I admired at McGraw Hill, Curtis Benjamin. To quote from that entry, “Benjamin labeled increasing specialization ‘the twigging phenomenon’ – the tree of knowledge constantly developing new limbs as scholarship and scientific discoveries blaze forward. I wonder how Curtis Benjamin would see the Internet world, the ultimate in customized, personalized, specialized publishing. No doubt he would see it as an opportunity. Hence, an opportunity for me to use the medium to muse about my life, interests and experiences over time.”

So, the blog was intended as musings about la·cu·nae (-n) or la·cu·nas: An empty space or a missing part; a gap. And they are solitary musings of a microscopic nature. I like to think of it as dealing with the irregular numbers between zero and one, of which there are more than whole numbers. The whole numbers from one to infinity are left to mass media and those blogs and web sites positioned for large readership.

Consequently, it also leaves me free to address my own personal interests so other entries have dealt with my life as a publisher, friends and family history, travels and boating, photography, and my interest in music and literature. To some extent I feel the gravitas of the economy and politics have encroached upon writing more on those other topics.

As I said to I said to a blogger friend, Emily, “I’ve always thought of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none…. My on-and-off-again blog reflects my disparate interests and …so, I’m afraid your readers may be disappointed by the content. You have a central passion and your blog reflects that focus so well.”

I make that observation as my blog has been “picked up” by some others, all with a “central passion.” So, if you arrive here through another blog site, I might be dealing with an altogether different subject at the time. I’ve also been asked why I haven’t activated the “comments” feature. Perhaps I haven’t wanted to get into a public debate on my views. They are what they are. But, in the profile part of the blog I have provided an email contact for those who want to communicate.

I’ve averaged a posting almost every five days for one and one half years. Sometimes it feels more like a responsibility than fun and that’s when I back off and post laconic entries, maybe more suitable for Twitterdom than a blog. But I never intend to Twitter as can’t imagine anyone wanting to follow my daily minutiae.

Concluding this summary of my “first hundred entries,” I reiterate an inspirational passage that cuts to the heart of the matter. Just reading the words again makes me more sanguine about the next hundred. This is from the 70-year old classic by Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write; A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: “At last I understood that writing was about this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling of truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not – fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too…. You should work from now on until you die, with real love and imagination and intelligence, at your writing or whatever work it is that you care about. If you do that, out of the mountains that you write some mole hills will be published…. But if nothing is ever published at all and you never make a cent, just the same it will be good that you have worked.”


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It’s All a Mystery

We were away the last few days, visiting Ann’s friend in Tampa, Arlene, to celebrate her 70th birthday, and then my cousin Joan and family in Sarasota the next day and my dear friend, Martin (my former English professor) the following day in his new Sarasota “digs.” Meanwhile, the economic scene continued to go from mildly inexplicable to downright unfathomable during the same short period of time.

The Federal Reserve is now buying up to $300 billion in Treasury securities, and $750 billion of mortgage-backed securities using the “Supplementary Financing Program” which in effect gives it the ability to raise its own debt: “The Treasury has in place a special financing mechanism called the Supplementary Financing Program, which helps the Federal Reserve manage its balance sheet. In addition, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve are seeking legislative action to provide additional tools the Federal Reserve can use to sterilize the effects of its lending or securities purchases on the supply of bank reserves.”

Then, the Congressional Budget Office claims the national debt under the president’s budget could be $2.3 trillion worse than the White House estimates. This could result in a $9.3 trillion dollar deficit over the next ten years, which would nearly double the present deficit. All this depends on so many variables that it really is impossible to forecast what they (the deficits) will be. (It is rumored that in the 1960’s Senator Everett Dirksen once said “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money,” something he later said he was misquoted on. Still this quote has persisted until recently when trillion has become the “new” billion. How long will it be before “quadrillion” becomes the new “trillion?”)

On Monday, while driving back from Sarasota, the Dow surged by almost 500 points, a Pavlovian response to the long-awaited Geithner “plan” of creating an auction mechanism for removing the toxic assets from banks’ balance sheet “Essentially the Geithner plans creates a vehicle in which private equity accounts for 3%, public equity for 12%, and the rest is provided as debt by the public sector (through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC).” The latter is from Eurointelligence, which also has a number of good links with views on this development as well as an explanation of the proposed auction formula. It seems like another excellent opportunity to privatize gains and socialize losses.

As a respite from this financial turmoil, I include a few photographs of our visit, first from Arlene’s 70th birthday party (the lady standing), her childhood friend, Arleen, on the left and Ann on the right.

Then we visited my favorite cousin, Joan, in her Sarasota home. As the unofficial family historian she gave me two photos, which I promptly scanned once I returned home. The first was taken in 1944 while my Dad was in Europe as a Signal Corps photographer. My mother is at the upper left, Joan is in the middle and my Aunt Lillian is on the right, while Joan’s mother, Marion, is seated on the left and our (Joan and my) grandmother is at the right.

The second photograph was probably taken on Long Beach, LI, in the mid 1920’s, with my Aunt Lillian on the left, then my father, my Uncle Phil, my Aunt Ruth, and then my grandmother and grandfather. I look at my grandfather and see a resemblance while my father has the same endearing smile he had as an adult. Joan and I speculate that her mother, my Aunt Marion, was not there as she was probably dating my Uncle Walter.

Enough for family history, but we concluded out Sarasota visit the next morning with my dear friend, Martin, my former English professor who is still actively writing poems and plays. Here we are in his new home in Sarasota.

Upon our return I checked some of my favorite blogs and was touched by my friend Emily’s mention of me in her “Your Blog is Fabulous” entry. Her words are humbling, particularly as I have a high regard for her writing abilities and the passion she brings to her love of literature. I worked with Emily and her husband, Bob, who is now a minister in Amish country. They were the kind of co-workers I admired the most, completely committed to excellence.

Her words made me think about why I do this and I responded in her comments section as follows: Oh, Emily, I am honored and humbled by your acknowledgement and more than slightly embarrassed by any notoriety, as my blog is such an unfocused botch of stuff. As I think I once said to you, I’ve always thought of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I wish I could have lived many different lives, and among the ones I would like to have pursued, besides publishing which is the one I did out of economic necessity (but, loved nonetheless), is music (specifically jazz piano), writing, economics and investing (have always been fascinated by markets ever since I read Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind in college – a pioneering work in social psychology -- which has applicability to “the market”), photography (I think of Diane Arbus or Alfred Stieglitz as role models). In fact, at one time I almost left the publishing business as I had developed a VisiCalc (the precursor of Lotus 1-2-3 which was the precursor of Excel) template to evaluate Convertible Bonds (best if you Wiki the term so I don’t have to explain here). Sometimes I feel like Mozart’s Salieri, having merely attained a measure of mediocrity. My on-and-off-again blog reflects my incongruous interests and of course, over the last year the historical presidential election encroached as well. So, I’m afraid your readers may be disappointed by the content. You have a central passion and your blog reflects that focus so well. Your blog IS fabulous.

Finally, my friend Bruce emailed me, “Did you read the Updike poems in the March 16th New Yorker? He writes these strange unrhymed sonnets. They are at times prose but become poetry on the strength of their emotions and concision.” I had not seen these but Updike mentioned his excitement about publishing again in the New Yorker in his last interview. I had heard that these new poems would be included in the collection Random House is about to publish, Endpoint and Other Poems, and some are about his final illness. I wonder whether this collection will include his 1990 masterpiece or others will match it in its stunning clarity about the mystery of life and death:

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market -
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it; no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same