Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Magnolia

In a little patisserie in the relatively upscale Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle, having walked here from the home of my friend Mark. Despite my hosts' downplaying the relative quality of the pastries, I would have to say they are pretty good.

In fact, everything here verges on perfect, especially since it seems like I bring sunny weather to Seattle and the region generally (I've never seen it rain here, though my sample size is small). Everyone is affluent, perky, of a non-deprecated ethnicity. It is the kind of place where a young person willing to work reasonably hard, take direction, smile, and make eye contact would find it hard to fail.

And in that regard, we might as well be on another planet from Morven, NC, which I drove through a couple of weeks ago, or even my mom's hometown of Roxboro, where I canvassed last fall. We all know this. There is no simple answer.

I was at a comedy show in Chapel Hill last week where this comic, a kind of manic guy (they all were) was talking to some of the young people in the front row, high school seniors and UNC freshfolx, and he kept saying "Oh, you're from Chapel Hill, you feel safe all the time, that must be nice." It is of course hard to impart his tone here on the blog, but there's a fundamental truth to that.

And I guess I have circled back to talking about the "Bubble" we were all talking about back in the fall. I live within it. But the military mom seated across the row from me on the flight out does not. She had three kids, infant, toddler, and big girl, 5ish, who held the infant when her mom took the toddler to the bathroom. I can't imagine doing that at that age. Her husband was just being transferred from Ft. Bragg to somewhere in Alabama. I wasn't about to start talking politics with her.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

End of the season

Though hot, we closed out the season in fine form today.  Neither of our top scorers were there, including the guy that pretty much dominates for us and probably scores an absolute majority of our goals, and we still won. Despite having an average age of 45 or so on the back line, we allowed no shots on goal.

Admittedly, the other team wasn't very good. But still.

And I am in no more pain, really, than I was when we started the game. No additional injuries. Not too shabby.

Though I had no huge highlight plays, I am still playing highlight reel in my mind.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Karma

The other day I had lunch with this nice Nepalese guy I had met at an event. In paying for lunch, I forgot to use the credit card I have made, here in 2017, my business card.

Knowing that I will have a difficult time remembering this at tax time next year, I used the business card to buy my sandwich at my favorite deli (less expensive than the business lunch) today. However, I was distracted by doing so, and by the mild dishonesty baked into this maneuver, and I forgot to get my frequent eater card punched, thereby depriving myself of one-twelfth of a sandwich.

However, this lapse was made up for by Monday's lunch when, back at my favorite deli (Cheerz, at the intersection of Alexander and Miami, where they roast their own roast beef and chicken and bake their own rolls), I got the frequent eater punch of the guy in front of me, who was visiting from out of town.

And so, there is order in the universe.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dating

So Natalie went out on a date with a boy from her high school. Her experience with the young fellas has been limited to date, owing to their clear lack of good taste and perception of what should be attractive in a young lady, which she of course exemplifies. Perhaps she is too petite for them, perhaps too clever. Who knows.

At any rate she was clearly pleased to have been asked out, and rightly so. Nothing is more validating than to be shown that you are attractive by a member of your desired gender. She had to adjust the time of their outing because her beloved cousin Caroline was in town for less than 24 hours for the memorial service, but she did it, and it was fine.

We too are happy. This is something that has been missing in her life. Of course, I do feel the territorial gene welling up from inside me, She was maybe 45 minutes late getting home from her date and Mary and I kept looking out the window. This is new territory for us. I would certainly like to lay eyes on this fella and talk to him for 90-120 seconds, but mostly out of curiosity. I think. I won't force it for a little while.

I thought about this this morning as Natalie and I were making breakfast, and I was briefly moved to tears. I turned away so nobody could see, because that would be embarassing.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eulogy for David

Good morning, I’m C......T....., the son of Joan Ontjes, David’s wife.
                                                       
By 2004, plain old dating and Match.com had not produced the perfect -- let alone the right – guy for Mom. So when my sister Leslie and I heard that she had met this doctor fellow David Ontjes, whose kids we knew from junior high and high school, we were intrigued. That spring my wife Mary and I came down to NC for an event, bringing our newborn son Graham. We didn’t yet know that Graham was allergic to milk. So we left him with mom, David and a bottle and headed out for the evening. We got home around midnight and found that Graham had thrown up his milk all over David, who had nonetheless carried on dutifully dandling and rocking him around to keep him calm.

At that point in time, we knew he was a keeper.  But Mom and David weren’t even “going steady”. They had been on a number of dates, but David kept saying that he was “seeing other people.” Mom eventually said to him, “Well so am I and, if you don’t decide quickly, I may not be an option.”  A couple of days later, David invited her over for a glass of wine. Mom expected him to break up with her. When she got there, David asked her to stay for dinner, and she agreed. Light conversation continued. Finally, after dinner, David, a little nervous, got down to business, saying “I just can’t date two people at the same time. Would you like to date me exclusively?” She said yes, and 13 wonderful years began.

In 2006 they were married here at University Presbyterian. Because they were married late in life, David and mom knew that, according to standard protocol, they wouldn’t have as many anniversaries as they would like. So they crafted a system of 5 anniversaries
1.    First date
2.    Going steady
3.    First trip
4.    Engagement
5.    Wedding
And so they celebrated some 50-odd anniversaries together. And David, frugal though he may have been, even agreed to go to nice restaurants every time.

David and Mom did a lot of fun things together: they kayaked together, and they biked up and down the East Coast and in Europe. In fact, they were so photogenic a couple that their smiling faces graced the cover of the catalog for VBT Bicycling tours.

They performed together in a variety groups, including the choral group Voices, and the musical comedy company the Prime Time Players. Both of them really loved singing, so I know this brought a lot of joy to each of them. Check out the videos at the reception.

David was a wonderful presence in the lives of our children. He had great trips with them to places like Lake Matamuskeet and the Virginia Creeper trail. He genuinely loved to share entirely age-appropriate TV shows with them. David and Graham spent many happy hours together watching “Popeye” and David’s personal favorite, “Spongebob Squarepants.”

David was a fine presence at the table. He loved to make waffles and to grill, and was always a hearty consumer of whatever was served, especially dessert and chocolate. Leslie’s son Daniel marveled at the number of Dove chocolates he could snarf down. In dinner table conversations, he provided our typically liberal Chapel Hill family with a valuable conservative counterpoint. He was also fond of dredging up tales of yore of dubious veracity, like a fishing tale he retold several times over one weekend, in which the fish he caught grew in each retelling, from a guppy on Friday to a monstrous hundred-pounder by Sunday dinner.

The long and short of it is that, over these thirteen years, David grew to be a full-fledged member of our family, from a minnow to a scale-breaking prize winner.  We will all miss him dearly.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

A long, full week

It has been a long, full week. As some of you know, my mom's husband, David Ontjes, passed away. I'll post the eulogy I wrote for him as evidence that I have not fallen down entirely in my scribal duties to Being.  As if Being gave a fuck.

Since Mary has been reading the New York Times on her laptop, even on Sunday mornings, just in case He Who Must Not Be Named and his lunatic chronies in the White House have done something earth-shattering overnight, I have been reading the front page on sundays once I finish up the sports section, instead of going straight to Week in Review.

There is a lot of stuff on the front page.

This week there's an article about Google's very successful efforts to take over the education market. Part of the thrust has been to nudge students to use online sharing tools like Google docs to learn to collaborate better, as part of an overall Zeitgeist shift away from the mastery of arcane facts and methods towards learning to work as teams.  Here's what one Google exec says:  "I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don't know why they are learning that. And I don't know why they can't ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there."

My guess is, that if kids don't learn the quadratic equation, they ain't getting no jobs at Google. By and large. Certainly not as programmers. Fundamentally, kids need to be pushed to master challenging intellectual material both to learn to think and to master complexity. Period.

The fact that they aren't forced to memorize multiplication tables, to develop a basic proficiency with numbers, is scandalous. How are they going to be able to estimate things and, most practically, know if they are getting ripped off if they can't work with numbers in their heads?

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Morven, NC

Thursday took me down to Columbia, SC.  Google Maps said it would be 3:36 by interstate, or 3:56 by smaller roads. That was an easy choice. Somewhere along Rte 1 south of Sanford, my phone said that Rte 1 and some other backroads route would be about the same. I took the road lesser traveled, per Sergei and Larry.

Driving along state road 145 towards the South Carolina border, there was a sign on a tree, featuring a fetching, seemingly hand-painted picture of a sandwich. "Cheese Steak, 1 mile on right." It was speaking my language, though sadly I had lunch plans in Columbia with Jack Pringle so I couldn't really investigate as I would have liked to. You know what I mean.

But one mile passed, and there was no sign of a cheese steak. Then two miles. I began to think it was some sort of cruel joke, or that somehow the sign had outlived its signified. Finally after three or fout, I came into the town of Morven, NC. The old main block of downtown was more forelorn than most by a degree: every business was shut down. But then, on the right, I saw it: Mama Noi's, featuring Philly Cheese Steak, Hamburgers, Fresh Pizza, and Fresh Hot Subs. What's not to like?

And then it was over. I passed through the south end of Morven. An African-American woman was out in her yard. I waved to her. She waved back.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

All the fish in the ocean

"Foreigners complain about African migrants coming to their countries, but they have no problem coming to our waters and stealing all our fish."  Moustapha Balde, 22, Senegal in this article in the New York Times.

Basically the idea of this story is that China's fishing fleets -- deeply subsidized by the government -- are putting intense pressure on the ocean's stock of fish. This on top of the already sufficient hunger of affluent populations in "the developed world", which we already knew were doing this.

A couple of weeks back in the Economist there was this piece on pressure to fish down to the Mesopelagic layer of the ocean, where a bunch of tiny wierd-looking creatures that we've never tapped into live. They are part of the oceanic food chain, and taking them for humans will disrupt it further, but just as importantly they are part of the cycle of by which the oceans sequester carbon, so that harvesting them will further exacerbate global warming.

All of which led me to thank Mary, as I don't always do, for continuing to nudge us in the direction of a more plant-based diet. Beans, vegetables, lentils, whole grains. Ughh. It is honestly hard to get excited about it, unless I can slather it in melted cheese. But I know that it is right from a sustainability perspective.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yield, supply chain, and hunger

On Wednesday I was at an event sponsored by the AgBioTech team at the NC BioTech Center, and there was a lot of discussion of food insecurity in the world. As agriculture vendors, the speakers were very focused on food production as the bottleneck that causes food insecurity, which in turn leads to people dying of hunger. 

But spoilage and waste are huge issues in getting food to people.  We have all seen or read about how much food gets wasted in America because of portion sizes, etc. Supply chain inefficiencies are huge issues too, check out this article on the path of an onion from grower to end user in India from The Economist. If supply chains could be made more efficient in the developing world, more food would make it from farm to mouth.

But an awful lot of jobs and ways of human interaction would be disrupted too. We have lost a lot of that in the West, and indulge in nostalgia by going to farmer's markets and buying a few choice things to get "back in touch with the land," etc. In Marxist terms, we attempt to de-reify a few commodities, and we feel good about it.

Meanwhile Amazon eats the world, and it's so hard to fight it. It's so convenient to order everything from there.

Anyway, back to the food question. At the highest level, from a capital allocation perspective, we have to ask ourselves whether, if food insecurity is the big issue, it is better to focus on production or distribution and supply chain management. A lot of which revolves around building better roads and/or rail as well as ports in the developing world.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bus routes

Because it had been raining for something vaguely like forever, I went and sat at the bus stop with Natalie and a friend this morning. There I learned that the bus often comes half an hour late and just barely gets them to school on time.

They also said that, on the first day of school, when the other girl there accidentally got on the bus headed to the middle school, that the bus driver didn't even know how to get to the correct middle school and the students had to give her directions.

An outrage! Well, actually, it's just a natural outgrowth of labor and real estate markets. It has gotten so expensive to live anywhere in Chapel Hill that no bus drivers can afford to live there. In fact, I was having breakfast with a judge the previous morning and I learned from her that there were only two Chapel Hill police officers who lived in town:  the police chief and her husband, who could afford to because she was an attorney in private practice before being elected to her judge position.

And bus drivers don't even get paid as well as cops. In fact, Chapel Hill is apparently having difficulty recruiting bus drivers.

So there you have it. Labor markets.

The situation is at least in some regards better than it was when I was in high school, when high school students could drive buses, and they were often stoned. Or, at least, that's what they told me 25 years after the fact.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My book?

In recent week I've had encouraging feedback from interesting directions. A career counselor type suggested I should be a speaking nationally on some topic on which I had expertise, A professor at Stanford whose class I had guested in via Skype likened my perspective to that of a public intellectual and said I should have my own podcast. It's all very flattering.

But what should I focus on?  I have to spend a lot of time keeping up with client stuff, details of people's lives, and it's fulfilling in its own way. I'm reading all the time, and broadly, and that has its own joys. I like being out in the streets talking to people, to a degree, though I do get worn out by it and also by the very breadth of what I'm exposed to.

Again, where to focus to build a real brand? That's the question.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Return to the creek

Towards the end of my run I dipped into the forebay area where North and South Lake Shore come together. It's hard for me to believe I didn't blog about it a month or so ago when we were working on it. In short, we had to drop the level of the lake about 2.5 feet (by opening some valves at the base of the dam using a ridiculous 14 foot fork which we poke around till we hit metal). Then we had to bust up all these places where the creek between the forebay at the lake was plugged up, largely by hard-working beavers who just put all kinds of shit in the creek.

The work was cold and filthy and disgusting. One day I lost my wedding band while I was digging down into the muck with my arms and basically throwing bunches of branches up on shore.

It was, in short, awesome. And by hook or by crook, we got the water in the creek to flow and lowered the water level in the forebay significantly -- we literally drained a swamp -- so a contractor could bring in heavy equipment and dig out 10 foot tall, 50 foot long pile of muck, which was deposited alongside the forebay.

So, a month and change later, today, that is, I stopped in to see how things were going with the creek.

Astonishingly, all of our hard and good work is pretty much a thing of the past. The swamp was no longer drained. The creek was barely flowing. It seemed in one place that a beaver had been back starting to build up a dam, being a beaver, in short. In one place we had brought in a mini-backhoe to help us unplug a particular plugged up spot in the creek, and there had been heavy and visible treadmarks.  No more. They are filled in with grass.

Overall, this being Earth Day, I was reminded of how utterly indifferent nature is in the end about our presence. It could give a flying fuck. It will be just fine when we are gone. We needn't worry at all about the planet.

I thought back to McPhee's The Pine Barrens, which I just read, where he details all kinds of settlements from the 18th and 19th centuries back in the Barrens, of which scarcely a trace remains. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Me and the park

Yesterday morning I was headed to an event at the Frontier, a space owned by the RTP foundation on 54 between Davis and Alexander.  I have been there many times before, but somehow I can never quite get it straight in my head where it is.

Partially this is because of the placelessness of the park, all the glass boxes set back behind trees off of 45 mph roads and highways.

Partially it is because I have become so dependent on Google Maps for everything and somehow my brain just doesn't internalize space and directions the way it used to. Is it because dominion over this subject matter has become less compelling to my ego?

Partially it is because I was spaced out, listening to a book in the car (Abundance, by Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis).

In any case, I got off 40 onto Davis and was in the left turn lane, about to head towards Miami Blvd, when I realized I needed to turn right to go towards Alexander Drive.  I should have turned left and gone up and hung a u-ey, instead I backed up, put on my right turn signal, and made my way across the lanes to make a right turn thanks to the very kind people in the lanes in the middle.  It was a silly thing to do, really rather irresponsible, as close as it was to 9 am.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Taking it all in

It is unreasonable to expect that anyone should read everything and be on top of everything pertaining to one's field, yet that is in some sense the expectation I put on myself. I have stacks and stacks of books, am managing a constant flow of periodicals through the house and links coming through my social media feeds, I know that I can't read it all. Yet somehow I feel like I'm supposed to.

I have internalized pretty good discipline with regard to the New Yorker over the decades. I have recognized that I will never even begin to keep up with it, and that to try basically impoverishes me via a steady diet of fast casual narrative, optimized for cocktail party chit chat, so basically read very little of it. Though I do let it pile up and then go through the piles. This weekend I recycled maybe 20 of them.

Same with the New York Times magazine, only more so. I just rarely read it, and rarely miss it.

This year for my birthday Mary asked if I had updated my Amazon list. Half paying attention, I grunted yes, meaning to go back and pare it down and prioritize it. Then I forgot. For my birthday she bought me some 8 books from the list, some of which I would have moved to the "business books" list had I made the time to look at my list, instead of watching endless Federer and Messi videos on YouTube before going to bed, or learning to strum new songs on my guitar.

So now I have a stack of even more books that I only kind of want. Though, honestly, when I turn my head and look at them, they look pretty good, and I know there is much to learn from them.

Sales gurus would say that even sitting around thinking about what I should be reading is a means of avoidance of going out and talking to people and learning what they need, that that would be more instrumental in helping me build my business. And there is some truth in that. But it is also true that I am building my product, one page at a time. And it's working.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Birthday, still recovering

On Friday I turned 51. It was most welcome for my birthday to coincide with Good Friday, which was most opportunely a market holiday, so I have been able to really milk this birthday thing all weekend.

It's a good thing too, as I was dead tired and sick after the two weeks of traveling for college trips and then again back to New York last weekend, I have been very happy to just lie around and do nothing. And mostly have few thoughts. I am still trying to find traction in a new book since I worked through the Wallander.

In fact, I went up to the Bookshop on Franklin, whose upcoming disappearance I am bemoaning almost somatically, and bought up all of the Wallander books we didn't have, since Mary is getting into them too. I even bought two copies of one book by accident, and several books by Mankell that don't have Wallander as hero. I hope they don't suck. I was sort of in a hurry to get home for dinner.

While at the Bookshop I placed a hold on one of the bookshelves there. Mary doesn't think they are very nice, but that place has been a big part of my life and I will have one of those bookshelves up here in my office, though I'm pretty sure we will have to bring it in through the window, since there's no way that it's gonna fit round the corner at the top of the stairs.

OK. It is now time to get the Easter baskets from the attic and put jelly beans in them.  Graham informed me that the "sibling rivalry Easter egg hunt is the only thing that makes Easter special."  So we gotta do that.

Meanwhile, an owl has alighted on a branch just outside the window of my office up here. It seems to have just swooped down to the ground and grabbed some sort of snack, perhaps a vole. Mary is now checking it out.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

If you can go home again

For the first time in twenty years, I saw my friend Katya yesterday.  She hails from Kiev, Ukraine, but then was educated in Tartu, Estonia. She came to New York on a Fulbright in '94, and I was flattered to learn that she had heard of me from people I had met the summer before in Kazan'. We ended up hanging out some in '97-'98 in Moscow, and she memorably took excellent care of Mary one day when we went on a boating expedition to some island somewhere up the Moscow River somewhere.

So we had seen pix on Facebook, and were kind of generally up to date on the highlights of one another's lives. Children. Her move to Berlin with husband Tobias and her winning of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for a book she had written in German, of all things. In my mind, this all seemed pretty swank.

I told her how, being home in North Carolina, I was able to hang out with people I had known since I had been five, six, seven years of old, and she became rather melancholy. This rootless cosmopolitanism, she explained, is anything but glamorous. That Kiev is a beautiful town, how it had been larger than Paris in the 11th century, but that it was right at the crossroads of too many historical forces. How, the day Russia had invaded Crimea, she had stood in a store in Berlin with a woman from St Petersburg and they had both broken into tears, because they were from the same country, after all, it just didn't exist anymore.

It occurred to me that my family has not been forced to move anywhere for a long time. We have been in the Piedmont since before the Revolution, and though I went away, I came back. In this regard I am extremely lucky, and it is an effect of other people in my family scrimping and saving and earning and squirrelling, that I can.

Over the course of history, sometimes people are fortunate and can put down roots. At other times, they must move. In post-war America, it seemed like we pretty much had things squared away, and people could nestle in, mine coal, work in factories, buy trucks, watch football, bake cookies, what have you. It seemed like it was other people that had to move. At least since the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Otherwise, it was a voluntary thing to do, an option, albeit one that the higher-earning portion of the population understood was what one did to move forward.

These days, not so much. The Trump electorate is effectively asking the government to vouchsafe their ability to rest in place. They will be disappointed.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Tips by Venmo, or something like that

Flew into Newark this morning. At the airport, I wasn't in a rush, and my old black boots have a few cracks in the leather, and I knew it was gonna be damp again in the Northeast (again 😡), so I stopped to have my shoes shined and tended to.  A little shoe spa.

Turned out, my shine professional also had NC roots, and was planning to head down to Charlotte via Amtrak tomorrow to see his 91-year old father, who wasn't doing well. He needed to make another $120 today over 15 hours to get the cash needed for his ticket, and was concerned the inclement weather would mess with his volume and therefore revenue. He treated my shoes good, so I gave him a $3 tip on a $7 shine. He mighta fed me a story, but it sounded good and was convincing, and my shoes look great.

I was rather hungry, having had only a banana at RDU (where, by the way, I ran into Rhett Autry, whom I hadn't seen in 30-odd years. She also got a banana with her coffee). So I went to Wendy's, the best option. There the very friendly associate upsold me from the Artisan Breakfast Sandwich to a Panini. Good work! It was OK.

The big difference between the two transactions was I couldn't tip her.

Now, as the economy is hollowed out, as manufacturing is outsourced and then 3D printed away, as Amazon destroys dry goods retail, increasingly only service jobs will be left. And, as the advantages of larger corporations play out, there will be fewer entrepreneurs, presuming that people continue to vote with their wallets for cheaper options. So the share of people working in fast food etc. contexts will rise.

Service will continue to be an important component of this world, but we will be unable to pay for it, and thereby incentivize its thoughtful and chearful delivery and improvement.  But it would be easy enough, in the age of platforms like Venmo, to shift this a little. Why shouldn't I be able to tip the woman at Wendy's a little if I like her? Why couldn't she have a button with a QR code that I could scan and shoot a tip to? If she's a team player, we could imagine that she might like to pool her tips and pass fractions of them to teammates, as is the culture of restaurants with wait staff. This would incentivize not just good individual instances of service, but attempts to improve service.

It would be difficult to integrate this into a top-down, hierarchical management framework.  In a sense it would involve the disintermediation of management. But it would certainly be interesting, and it should be tried.

It would be good, as well, if an analog to the QR code could be found that would let one do the same thing for call center workers, It probably exists, I just can't think of it right now.

I think we all at some level understand that the progressive automation and granularization of large value chains debases human labor, but that the people doing the work are on balance good people trying to get by. The more we can find ways to individually reward the people who provide us with services, the better.

BTW, I bet someone is already working on this.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The first person

Just finished Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. Much has been written about it, I won't dive deep now, a fine book.

What to read next? I can't read book two in Ferrante's series, because I don't have it. In principal I should probably start reading something non-fictiony and edifying. But it is rainy, I am sick, and I have been borne on the wave of an engaging first person narrator for some time now, so I will continue with that, in the form of a new Wallander novel. Back to it!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Reflections of the prior

I remember when, back in '86, after I had discovered there was this thing called literary theory that all the self-respecting intellectuals were studying, I was informed by my girlfriend Hilary that I had to take Lit 130 with Andrzej Warminski and Kevin Newmark. Somewhere in there we read Gerard de Nerval's Daughters of Fire, and I remember that Newmark, who I think led discussion of this book, made the point that the protagonist, as he loved women over the course of his life, always found himself trying to recapture the image and sensation of his first love. He made some very high-falutin theoretical point about this, about how this was the basis of knowledge or experience or something, how we are always already removed from experience in itself, working our way back to some ideal.

It seemed deep.

And it is, kinda, but I think that the significance is really less epistemological than just experiential. Of course we have nostalgia for the past, for moments of extraordinary ripeness and fullness, and the fact that our hormones are raging and eyes are being opened by new experiences during our college years make it only natural that we try to recreate them for ourselves... and our children.

Somehow I was reminded of this when, after touring Swarthmore today and having a little bite to eat, we had to dip into the college bookstore to find something for Natalie to read because she had finished the book she had started the day before. There weren't really many obvious young adult candidates, but since she had just read another Jane Austen novel earlier in the trip it seemed to me that Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel might be something she might like. So we snapped that up, and I'll be damned if, by the time we touched down at RDU three hours and change later, she wasn't a hundred pages into it.

It occurred to me that I have been raising the kind of young woman who I might have gone out with in college -- smart, positive, conscientious, comfortable in her own skin if somewhat unnecessarily shy -- if I hadn't been out there trying to be CLARK TROY, DAMNIT, and thereby in need of women with a little more... projection.

In any case, I'm very proud of her. She will make someone happy one day, first and foremost, herself, one hopes.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Coming to a close

And so, it is nearly done. BU, Northeastern, Harvard, Tufts, Smith, Amherst, Wesleyan, Yale, Bryn Mawr, Penn. There remains only Swarthmore in the morning.

Though they have run together, they remain surprisingly distinct, and I think Natalie retains relatively clear impressions of them. Often on trips like this I have deep thoughts. This time, not so much, instead, it has been an orgy of logistics, getting from here to there, eating, sleeping, drying off after standing in cold rain while listening to some perky sophomore prattle on about the meal plan or the honor code. It was all crowned by a masterful transition, stepping off the New Haven train at 6:22 at Grand Central, then settling into our seats on the 6:39 out of Penn Station to Princeton. That took perfect execution, and subways doing what they do at rush hour.

Through it all, Natalie has maintained characteristic good spirits. Just today, she has read through maybe 250 pages of some book she can't seem to put down, reading even when I could not restrain myself from watching Coming to America on the Family Channel for, I don't know, the 10th time, because it is such a perfect little film.

She will go far.