First Sentences

“Cooking starts with your hands, the most important and basic of all implements.” James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking.

“Back in 1961, when women wore shirtwaist dresses and joined garden clubs and drove legions of children around in seatbeltless cars without giving it a second thought; back before anyone knew there’d even be a sixties movement, much less one that its participants would spend the next sixty years chronicling; back when the big wars were over and the secret wars had just begun and people were starting to think fresh and believe everything was possible, the thirty-year-old Madeline Zott rose before dawn every morning and felt certain of just one thing: her life was over.” Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry.

“The man called the ‘Emperor of New York’ was also known as Shields Green.” Imani Perry, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.

“In October there were yellow trees.” Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These.

“My earliest memory of Leon dates back to the 1960s, when he was living in Paris with his wife, Rita, my grandmother.” Philippe Sands, East West Street.

“Bill Rankin sat motionless before his typewriter, grimly seeking a lead for the interview he was about to write.” Earl Derr Biggers, Behind That Curtain.

“I have been told by many people that I have an unusual way of looking at the world.” Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

“The telltale sign that you are at the wedding of a rich person is the napkins.” Xochitl Gonzalez, Olga Dies Dreaming.

“As his chauffeur nosed the sleek black Rolls Royce through the dawn streets of Paris, Wilfred ‘Biffy’ Dunderdale had little inkling that his actions over the coming months would have such immense historic significance, or that he would end up serving as a role model for the world’s most famous (fictional) secret agent, ‘007’ – James Bond.” Damien Lewis, Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy.

“On a bright, unseasonably warm afternoon in early December, Brandon Trescott walked out of the spa at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod and got into a taxi.” Dennis Lehane, Moonlight Mile.

“On March 15, 1889, hurricane winds struck Samoa’s Apia Harbor in the South Pacific, catching two anchored American warships by surprise.” Mark Clague, O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner.

“There is a glorious part of England known as the Donheads.” Jane Gardam, The Man in the Wooden Hat.

“Night had fallen in the rugged oil-boom city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the squad of detectives appeared on a downtown street.” Adam Hochschild, American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis.

“Certainties for architecture students are few.” Matthew Frederick, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School.


It was only after the midterms that I learned the Urban Dictionary definition of “Red Wave”: “When a close group of girls sync their periods, which can be quite dangerous for everyone else.”

Another year where I was passed over for the title of sexiest man alive. And again I wondered how sexy someone is if they are dead.

Why is it I have never called any of my doctors by a first name?

You can praise a child after a completed task by saying, as many do, “You are so smart.” But then the child may see intelligence as fixed and feel stupid when they cannot do something. You can also praise the child by saying “You did a good job figuring that out.” Isn’t the message then that knowledge and intelligence are expandable with hard work?

“Don’t limit a child to your learning, for he was born in another time.” Rabbinic saying.

“I pay the schoolmaster, but ‘tis the schoolboys who educate my son.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

On a recent walk, I passed within a few blocks of each other The Den of Splendor and The Gospel Den. I wondered if there was a correct order to visit these places.

When I first came to New York, before bagel shops or at least places selling Bagel Shaped Objects were ubiquitous, the owner of my local deli was offended if a customer asked for a toasted bagel. A bagel was only toasted if it was stale, but in a good shop, of course, no stale bagel was sold. Instead, they were warm from the water bath and oven so that butter or cream cheese would melt into the chewy interior without toasting. Since then, I never have a toasted bagel in a shop, but the other day, I bought a bagel at a place where I had not been before. I should have had it toasted.

Invariably after I watch what I was looking for on YouTube, I spend too much time on the accompanying recommendations. The other day I went looking for Josephine Baker dancing and ended up with the top thirty songs of 1965. But I was happy that I had. I knew the music, almost all of which was great, and I felt that my life had not been entirely wasted.

In a football game, sometimes after a penalty flag has been thrown and the play concludes, the referee announces, as happened the other day, “There was no penalty on the play for offensive holding.” That phrasing seems to imply that there might, however, been an infraction for offensive pass interference or some of the other myriad football possibilities. I think the official should click off the microphone and say, “There was no penalty on the play.” Full stop.

In a glance in the mirror, which are always kept brief, I thought I saw incipient jowls. On the one hand, I thought, jowls add gravitas to some men. On the other, they make Basset hounds look ridiculous.