Bohemian Rhapsody


The Mystic Secret of College Tours

7 Written by: | Wednesday, Oct 05, 2016 9:01am

Photo via

Photo via

This past weekend I took my daughter Jane, a high school junior, on the first of what will surely be many campus tours. She is my fifth and last child to go to college, if you include the ex-stepkids, and I realized early Saturday morning that I know something about this process that I didn’t the first several times through. Read More →


A Novel in the Drawer

13 Written by: | Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 8:01am


The other day, I “finished” my second novel. I use the scare quotes because I’ve finished this novel about a dozen times already. Even the pitch that tells what the book’s about has been endlessly revised, but here’s the latest version: Read More →


Bohemian Rhapsody: The Audiobook Column, with Recommendations

10 Written by: | Wednesday, Aug 03, 2016 8:01am

Eligible audiobook

Through the 1960’s and 70’s and until his death in 1985, Hyman Winik commuted five days out of seven to his office at Brookhaven Textiles, located on the 10th floor of 1412 Broadway in Manhattan, at the northeast corner of 39th Street, where the phone number was 212-695-0510, chanted continually by the switchboard operators in the lobby as they plugged and unplugged the trunk lines. “Oh-five-one-oh, may I help you? Oh-five-one-oh, may I help you? Oh-five-one — shoot, lost ‘em.”

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The Stepmother’s Tale

6 Written by: | Wednesday, Jul 06, 2016 8:10am

The Wicked Stepmother

Once upon a time there was a little boy with hazel eyes, a dimpled chin, and freckles scattered across his wide cheeks. His parents split up when he was three and his dad went to live on a farm in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, where the boy and his sister got to visit him on weekends. The sister, four years older with wild dark brown hair, thick eyebrows, and a very high IQ, constantly teased the boy, making fun of his chipmunk cheeks. Yet he was her slave nonetheless.

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How to Grow Old

18 Written by: | Wednesday, Jun 01, 2016 8:00am

Marion's ex mother in law's house

I just devoured an advance copy of Ann Patchett’s forthcoming novel, Commonwealth, which deals with the topic of blended family. Though I’m not up on all the details of Patchett’s history, I do know she’s from a family that emerged from divorce and remarriage with a slew of step-siblings. Though a work of fiction, Commonwealth deals with the connections (and aversions) that arise in the kludged-together clan that results from such a situation.

When so many ancillary players are dragged into the drama of two people’s attraction, nobody gets out easily, or at all. Read More →


My Trip to New Orleans Was Decadent and Depraved

14 Written by: | Wednesday, May 04, 2016 8:00am

New Orleans

Image from

Author’s note: My favorite travel story of all time is Hunter S. Thompson’s The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. If you’ve never read it, you should. It really puts things in perspective.

Because my son Vincie the Wonder Poodle (don’t you wish I was your mom so you could have a nickname like this?) will soon be moving to NYC for graduate school, I cooked up a reason to make one last pilgrimage to visit him down in New Orleans: the 26th birthday of his longtime girlfriend, Shannon, who lives here in Baltimore, in April. So the traveling party was me, Shannon, and bringing up the rear, Vince’s sister Jane, a fifteen-year-old trying gamely to overcome dark memories of indigestion gone very wrong during a New Orleans visit of her childhood. (Believe it or not, the culprit was K-Pauls, otherwise a very good restaurant.) Read More →



Secrets of the Engagement

23 Written by: | Wednesday, Apr 06, 2016 9:45am

Hayes engagement

When my 27-year-old son Hayes called a couple of months ago to confide that he was in the market for a diamond ring, I wasn’t surprised. He and his brother Vince seem to go to a wedding every couple of weeks. Their demographic has begun the march to the altar, and Hayes and Maria have been together since junior year of college. Read More →



Morning Traffic on a Strange Planet

17 Written by: | Wednesday, Mar 02, 2016 8:00am


Does this ever happen to you?

You are sitting at a red light in morning traffic, half-listening to the news on the radio, half-trying to decide how to juggle the elements of an ordinary day: the meetings, the appointments, the overscheduled children, the dirty house, the dreaded phone calls: the insurance company, the plumber, the cable provider. Which to do first, which second, which can be put off, which to axe entirely — oh wait, you need some cash, and there’s an ATM in the next block, should you stop now or get cash at the grocery store later —

and click, something shifts. Read More →


I Served on a Baltimore City Jury and I Don’t Feel That Great About It

29 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 10, 2016 8:00am


The Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

At the beginning and end of each day, the judge implored us not to discuss the case with anyone. But when he finally dismissed us from the dusty climes of the Mitchell Courthouse back into our lives, he lifted the ban. In fact, he urged us to tell our friends, neighbors, and families what we had done, because we had performed an essential and noble duty of citizenship.

But what had we done, after all? Nothing to brag about, I’m afraid.  Read More →


How to Change People’s Lives

11 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 06, 2016 8:00am

Tom Gleason

Tom Gleason

I heard over the holidays that my college advisor, a Russian History professor named Abbott Gleason, known as Tom, died on Christmas Day after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. The fact that I took even a single history course in college, much less ended up a history major, was completely this man’s doing. Read More →

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