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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

As we meandered through Roman ruins, my son told us about the Tetrarchy, the ambition of Constantine, the greed of Nero, the eloquence of Cicero. Then he mentioned Cleopatra.

She influenced battles for supreme governance in Rome and helped transform Egypt into a global economic power. My son said this quickly, as he does, rattling off names and battles, shifting political allegiances. Then he began to speak of Augustus.

Wait, I said, tell the part about Cleopatra again.

I just told it, he said.

I wanted to hear it again. I wanted the love story—Cleopatra was adored by Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. But I also wanted to hear about the power of a woman. I wanted to hear about the woman who was central to an era. The woman who was a bad-ass and a bombshell, a mother and a nation-builder. She sprang from primordial mist. She wore eyeliner and ruled an empire.

Please, I said, tell it again.

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

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.

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