for the information age



These bite-sized stories chronicle my efforts, both pitiful and successful,

to navigate the rapidly-changing world.


My hope is that they help you do the same.

christmas motive - cross section of red

In Rome, we became ornery. Something about the physics of the place, the Rise and the Fall, grated at us. We wandered cobbled streets, sluggish in the heat. Our feet were gritty with ancient dust, and our minds were elsewhere, away from this crumbling metropolis.

At the Trevi Fountain, American tourists dipped sun-swollen hands into cold fountain water while a man selling toy laser lights from a satchel sprinted from a whining police car. In the Forum, we were so thirsty, we bought plastic bottles of water for 8 euros apiece from a vending machine behind the Arch of Titus. And under the shade of an olive tree, whose leaves flickered in the hot breeze, my son told us he thought Virgil's Aeneid might be a first example of imperial propaganda. As he spoke, the collapsing columns of the Temple of Venus watched over us like scarecrows.

This was the end of our trip, and we keened towards home, towards that place where the heat and the ghastly prices and the lack of water, the imperial decay were at least in our language.

Sometimes, while I write, I put a pile of books on the table next to me. From time to time, I touch the pile, hoping for some osmosis of language. Hoping for rhythm. For courage. Yesterday, my hand was on Margaret Drabble, Elizabeth Strout, Ada Limón.

I have dog-eared you, marked the parts I hope to remember, the parts I want to revisit. They prod me on during these crisis-hot days, during the times of the night when I wake and stare at the moon-blue ceiling. Right now, while we worry our hands over America, over the lump on the flank of the dog, over the parched soil in the backyard, my hand is on the pile.

I am reaching for you. My hand is on you. I wonder if you know it, that I place my hand there, on the tenderest part. Just hoping. Just feeling my way forward.

There were no cellphones back then. Back then, when we were apart, we wrote letters to each other. On legal pads, or binder paper. In black ballpoint pen, cursive slanting across the lines.

I wonder what you'd be like, electronically, if you were still here. Would you poke at your phone all day? Would you take it to bed with you at night? Would you be a fast texter-backer or unresponsive? Would you post photographs of your dog? It's strange to think of you in cyberspace after knowing you so well in pen and ink. And in person.

I fantasize that you would be my digital role model. I imagine that the phone would be just an object in your life, an item that you found useful, but not consuming or distracting. I envision that what you did all day would be the thing, not that the phone would be the thing that alleviates the boredom in what you did.

It's bewitching to dream up your digital life.