Category Personal

Golden Slumbers

Some time in the 1970s, I was in the dark of the microform room at Bird Library, Syracuse University, looking at some early English verse, when I stumbled upon a song from the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Forty years later, of course, the Beatles’ music has been analyzed and documented to the last note, but then, […]

Mom’s Bookplate

Growing up, I saw my mother’s bookplate in many of the books I picked up at home, and recently saw it again in a cookbook that had been up in the attic: But this time, I wondered where that quote came from. As it turns out, it’s from Shakespeare, Duke Senior exiled in the forest […]

Spared by a Barbarian

It was 1969. I had just finished language school in Monterey, California, and had been sent for Intelligence Training to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. It was a six-week course, but we were a week late and had to wait five weeks for the next cycle. So we had five weeks of […]

King C. Gillette

The doctor, concerned about my grandfather’s heart, ordered him to leave the room when the Friday Night Fights came on the television. Following the doctor’s instructions to the letter, Grandpa Braun left the room, stood in the hall and watched from the doorway, shadow boxing and puffing. I was in the room, on the sofa, […]


Few things make me happier than the arrival of Architectural Digest, and the December 2013 issue more than fulfilled my eager expectations. Savor with me this morsel from a feature on a Paris apartment (“A Backward Glance” by Mitchell Owens): “And what about the hefty red-marble pedestals holding aloft two Japanese covered jars? They came […]


In the wake of Colorado’s “Biblical flooding” and the typhoon that swept through Kyoto, I am reminded of my first hurricane, in October of 1954. I was seven years old. We lived in Buffalo, N.Y., not exactly a coastal area, but Hurricane Hazel defied history and logic. She first killed 1,000 people in Haiti, then […]


Poker is in my blood, but so is losing, so I won’t be turning pro. My parents played poker every week, in spite of being Baptists. In my father’s case, the Baptist prohibition against gambling was one of many “thou shalt nots” that he honored in the breach rather than in the observance, but you […]