Monthly Archives: April 2012

Eleonora Sears and John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent and Eleonora Sears are both favorites of mine, and so I was delighted to discover their paths crossed in 1921, when Sargent wrote to Sears asking her if she would sit for a drawing, and she accepted. Ethel Barrymore, the actress, wrote of her friend Eleo, “She has more charm than anybody […]

Louisa Lander and Nathaniel Hawthorne

The early spring of 2004 found me on a southern island, in a garden, looking at a statue for which I had no explanation. “It’s Virginia Dare,” a friend said, but the Virginia Dare of my understanding was a child, the first European child born on these shores, part of the Lost Colony of Roanoke […]

Edison the Executioner

When we bought our house in Skaneateles, it came with the appliances, including a built-in microwave oven with some unusual features. For one thing, it turned itself on. A repairman said that was probably the circuit board getting ready to go, “and that’s really expensive.” If we had chosen to call a witch doctor, I’m […]

Polo, Oysters and Evelyn Nesbit

A tournament for the Monty Waterbury Cup, in Aiken, S.C., called to mind one of America’s greatest polo players and the evening he dined with Evelyn Nesbit.James “Monty” Waterbury was a 10-goal player and a finesse player, always composed, in perfect control of himself, his pony and his mallet. Playing with The Wanderers, he won […]

Malt Liquor: A History

A Story without Heroes: The Cautionary Tale of Malt Liquor The family of American-born beers speaks proudly about two of its children. Ask about Steam Beer or the less gifted but very popular Light Beer, and the photos come out, the stories begin. But speak aloud the name of the other sibling, and the room […]

Basic Training, 1968

  The morning I went into the Air Force — September 26, 1968 — I started at the Entrance Station in Buffalo, New York, the same place where I’d had my draft physical a few months before. My parents dropped me off, and as they drove away, I saw my mother crying. I didn’t understand […]


November 24, 2003 Many seek my advice on spiritual matters. It could be my charisma, or the rumor that I’ve committed most of the sins in the Good Book and therefore must be something of an authority. Indeed, I have read the Bible. Some years ago, weary of having it selectively quoted at me, I […]