Can you feel it?

The season is changing. You’d think after 65 years, I’d be used to it, but I’m not. I was born in September, so perhaps that’s sharpened my attention. Whatever the cause, I can feel it.

My wife and I recently spent a week by the ocean. Surrounded by the sound of surf I watched the tides and wondered why I couldn’t… Read the rest

The notebooks of von Meier

“Ashes to ashes, shed to shed.” So go the notebooks of Von Meier. For over 40 years my friend Kurt von Meier kept a daily notebook. A compulsive documentarian, he stored his filled notebooks in file boxes, and as they accumulated, placed the boxes in a shed in his backyard. When he died in 2011 the thought… Read the rest

Marking time

Conventionally, time as we know it is a socially-constructed artifact of civilization. Subject to the application of widely differing schemes, intervals, periods, adjustments and methods of tracking, time has been variously rendered according to the seasons, phases of the moon, growth habits… Read the rest

Getting out

Of all the difficult things in the world, watching myself get old and decrepit will surely rank among the toughest. Unless I keel over and suddenly expire, fate dictates I will likely suffer indignities of pain, weak bones, altered gait, low energy, debilitating disease, and/or dementia before death… Read the rest

Loss and gain

Though I moved to California in 1968 when I was nineteen and made it my home, in no small part I’m still a “New Yawkah.” Even so, I’m slowly losing New York.

I remember the unseasonably frigid October night when I decided to move to San Francisco; I was waiting for an A-Train at the 86th Street subway platform.… Read the rest

The end of the mailman

The handwriting is not on the wall; it’s on the computer, the cell phone, the tablet, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In and Skype. Technology is rapidly making the mailman obsolete.

Reflecting on this brings up memories of Al Zooks, the mailman of my suburban youth. As I remember him, Al was a grizzled old… Read the rest

Gathering of the clan

Dogs Howl.
A pink twilight speaks of rain.
The ground, dear one,
Is always shaking.

My wife’s sister and our niece were the first to join us a decade ago, moving to town four blocks northwest of us. It turns out she and her daughter were an advanced guard; over the last six months our family clan has continued… Read the rest

Monday Morning 10:04 AM

“Hello, this is Larry. Hi Mom, hold on, my other line is ringing.” “Hello, this is Larry. Hi Bill, hold on for a minute, my cell phone is ringing.” “ Hello, this is Larry. Oh hi, Amy, can you believe I’m talking on two other phone lines? Can I call you back? Oh, OK, then. I’m putting you on hold.”

“Mom, you still… Read the rest

In the hot tub in the rain

If there is a heaven, and many believe there is, it has a hot tub. Three hundred years ago there were perhaps ten or twenty people in the entire world, kings and queens all, who at any hour day or night could lower themselves into a piping hot tub of clean water. Those hot tubs of old required the constant toil… Read the rest

Can you help me, honey?

Our granddaughter Isabelle is now two years old, speaking in sentences and learning how to work with the world. Along the line she started calling others “honey,” most likely because that’s what she’s been called; either that or in a past life she was a coffee shop waitress. In any case, when Isabelle … Read the rest

About my old man

My old man, he’s a corker, always ready with the comeback line. Take the time we were at the airport; he’s in a wheel chair being pushed by a hyper-active airport employee and I’m power-walking alongside while lugging my Eddie Bauer bag from the gate to the curb.

“Wow,” he says, “this is some long walk! I … Read the rest

My dream vacation

I am walking downtown in a pleasant cosmopolitan city, perhaps Portland or some other northwestern community. I notice that a light-rail transportation system is in full operation, and crowds of people are hustling and bustling, as they tend to do in active metropolitan spaces. Moving into the swirl,… Read the rest

My Father, My Self

My father recently turned ninety. He’s had a rough couple of years, progressively losing much of his hearing and his eyesight. Neither entirely deaf nor blind, his deficiencies are nonetheless significant enough that he can no longer read and must wear hearing aids in both ears. His gait has slowed … Read the rest

A simple weekly column

Scientists at Jonothan Swift’s Grand Academy of Lagado

One of the challenges of writing a 550-word column for general consumption is finding the proper balance between simplicity and depth. The discipline of 550 words imposes a limitation not unlike that of an artist’s canvas, that is to say,… Read the rest

Nice letters and nasty notes

I receive a fair number of reader comments about my columns, mostly appreciative, and occasionally not. While notes of appreciation are a pleasure to receive and easy to respond to, nasty notes are a challenge.

During my twelve years in public office, I learned to roll with the punches. After a few unsettled… Read the rest

The joys of tea

Over the past several years I have become enormously fond of drinking tea. My father used to drink tea each morning, and I remember as a boy joining him at breakfast with a cup. I didn’t really enjoy the tea, but I enjoyed sitting with him sipping Lipton’s and feeling grown up.

My mother discouraged soda … Read the rest

All the wrong places

I recently enjoyed my five-year colonoscopy. OK, enjoyed is not the correct term; endured is more like it.

Five years ago, I had to drink what seemed like a bathtub’s worth of putrid liquid, but they’ve made great progress. This time I only had to drink half a bathtub, and the flavor was lemon-lime, not … Read the rest

Drawing on greatness

The plant kingdom predates animals by millions of years, and trees are ancient masters of survival, the oldest among them estimated at 6,000 years. Without trees, human beings never would have survived. What appears to us as our mastery of the plant kingdom is more likely the opposite. Just ask an ear… Read the rest

Not so mad men

Actor John Hamm in “Mad Men”

Every once in a while something meaningful appears on television, and at present it is a series on AMC called “Mad Men.” Taking place in the very early ‘60s and set in New York, the fictional series written by Mathew Weiner of HBO’s “The Sopranos” explores the period’s… Read the rest

Vox Populi

Mark Dennis of Vox Populi

In my twelve years on the Sonoma City Council, I spent two Wednesday nights a month singing praises and damning failures. Now my Wednesday nights are spent just singing.

Vox Populi, a new Sonoma rock ‘n’ roll chorus, is the brainchild of Mark Dennis, my yoga teacher of four years,… Read the rest

Spring training

While walking with my friend Stanley a few months ago, I happened upon an orphaned hardball in the gutter. It’s been 45 years since I held a hardball, sensed the stitches snaking around the leathery surface and grasped its perfect hand-held size.

I tossed the ball to Stanley. “When’s the last time you … Read the rest

Feeling green with envy

When I first joined the Sierra Club in 1975, I fully understood that being labeled an “environmentalist” was not too far from being labeled an “anarchist.” This was, after all, in the era when “tree-hugger” was not a compliment, and many thought that recycling was about riding used bicycles. Despite… Read the rest

It’s life and life only

For the past seven years I have enjoyed the dependable companionship of a pacemaker. I’m not talking about a life coach or a personal trainer; I’m talking about a pacemaker that is actually wired into the chambers of my heart and makes it beat.

Actually, it’s more than just a pacemaker, it is also an implanted… Read the rest

Falling apart

I spent last week attending to my ailing 88-year-old father. Generally good-natured and optimistic, he had been laid low by a sudden painful swelling in his right knee, accompanied by weakness, chills and shortness of breath. The combination landed him in the hospital for a week, where it was determined… Read the rest

A child of the woods

My brother and sister overlooking “the woods” in our backyard

I lived in the suburbs of New York City for the first 18 years of my life. Our family home was bordered on both sides by other homes built in the ‘40s, but our backyard was adjacent to undeveloped land we called “the woods.”

Though… Read the rest

Seeing the invisible

Madame Helene Petrovna Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott of the Theosophical Society

When I was 22 years old my wife, newborn daughter and I moved into a small 1950’s house in the eastern hills above St. Helena. We shared the old orchard property with the original 1920 farmhouse, in which three elderly… Read the rest

A cup of tea

Some of the varieties of salt now available

In a rather remarkable transformation of the ordinary into the precious, wine, tea, chocolate, pots and pans – even salt and pepper – are no longer just everyday things but have become symbolic indicators of the superior life. Williams-Sonoma founder… Read the rest