The bride and groom were having their pictures taken outside the Plaza Hotel while the rest of the wedding party stood in clumps twenty-five yards away. The bridesmaids were cold in their ankle-length, bare-shouldered gowns. The dresses were all black. I wondered whether black was now the fashionable choice for bridesmaids.

I was given that hearing test where a device inserted in the ear emits pitches at different strengths and frequencies. When I was through raising my hand, the medical assistant said, “You have good hearing.” I said, “That’s not always what my wife says.” The assistant laughed. Spotting a ring, I asked, “Does your husband think your hearing is good?” She laughed again and said, “When I get home my hearing gets worse.”

When the annual physical was concluded, I was pleased when the doctor said, “You are in good shape.” Then after a pause, he added the disconcerting qualifier: “For a person your age.”

Nathan was going into university teaching and asked the difference between teaching undergraduate and graduate students. I said, “You expect undergrads to know nothing. With grad students, you are always surprised that they know nothing.”

I know that smell is good part of what we consider taste. But why is it that sushi tastes better when eaten with chopsticks rather than a fork?

I went to a production at the Public Theatre and thought of what Fran Lebowitz said, “Having been unpopular in high school is not cause for book publication.” Having what you think was an “interesting” or “troubled” or “unusual” upbringing does not mean that you can write a good play about it.

Waiting in a slow-moving line at a smoked fish place, the dog with the person in front of me came over to me. As always, I put the back of my hand in front of the dog’s nose. After sniffing the dog stood still. The owner said, “He wants you to scratch his head.” I wondered if this was the owner’s first dog or if she thought that in my long life I had never encountered a dog before.

In the bookstore, I extended the back of my hand to a dog and started scratching behind his ears. He jumped up on me in a friendly, doggy way. I said, “You’re easy.” The owner smiled and said, “He is that way with everyone.” I joked, “You could at least pretend that I am special.” Without missing a beat she said, “I have never seen him doing that before. He must really like you.”

She mistook the spouse for someone else. We were sitting on a bench at the confluence of several streets. She told us her name was Louise, but added it was really Phylis Louise. She was from South Carolina but had left when she was seventeen. She was last back there in 1996 and had found that her little crossroads town had changed. She said that she was 84 but that she was unsure of her birthday. The midwife said October 8 while her mother had said November 8. Her father could not read but when he was finally allowed to vote, he quickly placed an X and registered as a Democrat. Louise said, “They say that South Carolina is red, but not all of it.” 


That blue and red produce purple makes sense. That orange comes from yellow and red also seems right. But that green results from mixing blue and yellow always strikes me as an unintuitive miracle.

Why is it that sushi tastes better when eaten with chopsticks than when consumed with fork or fingers?

I never learned a musical instrument. Sometimes I regret that. If I were going to learn one now, I would choose the bagpipes. Listeners can’t tell if it is played well, if notes are missed, or even if it is close to the supposed tune.

A friend told me that he had just talked to his son who had settled in Australia. The son was pleased with his new Sydney apartment, but he told his father that his neighbors were weird. At nine every evening, the attractive, young woman in the next flat started moaning, “Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.” The distinguished, elderly gentleman on the other side of the son’s apartment sounded at that time as if he were pounding his head against the wall. The father asked, “What do you do?” The son responded, “I just ignore it and go back to practicing the bagpipes.”

Conservatives in many states have been passing a wide range of election “security” measures including requirements that voters show an identification to cast an in-person ballot. They do this even though instances of voter identity fraud have been shown to be rarer than rare. However, even though fraud problems have been few, showing an identification to vote has intuitive appeal, and polls have shown that voter ID laws are popular among the populace. Those concerned that the real goal of the legislators passing such laws is voter suppression should not spend capital opposing the laws. Instead, they should agree that the legislation could be a good thing as long as acceptable identification documents can be obtained easily and efficiently by all voters. Many forms of government identifications should qualify, such as public housing IDs as well as Medicare and Medicaid cards. (Why would I give you my Medicare card so that you could vote in my name? The card is precious, and normally I would use it myself to vote. What is the likelihood that such cards would be widely forged with fake names, and then people would register under those fake names, and then would vote under those fake names?) In addition, advocate for making it easier to get government IDs. Couldn’t we have mobile DMV offices traversing all parts of the state for the purpose of obtaining identification cards. In addition, college identification, employer identification, health insurance cards should all allow access to the voting booth. Those fervent for voter ID laws often express distrust of the government, and they should agree not to restrict the necessary identification documents to government ones. If you are concerned that voter identification laws will lower the number of voters but you know that the bills are going to pass anyway, support the proposals but advocate for a broad range of appropriate identification methods and find ways to make them easier to get.

“In that moment, silently, we agreed that we were indeed in the presence of an exceptionally delusional white man—which is of course one of the most dangerous things in the world.” Mat Jonson, Pym.

You can’t make some stuff up. Representative Kevin McCarthy who opposes a January 6 commission was a prime mover behind the 432 (or so it seemed) Benghazi hearings.