Last night at school, my student Amelia had a question. “As writers,” she asked, “do we have to feel shame for liking books written by celebrities? Because —” She cast down her big brown eyes and gathered her courage. “I love them.”
For about a year now I’ve been feeling the pain of my empty nest, though it will not actually occur until the fall of 2018.
In the spring of that year, I will turn 60. That’s pretty much fine with me. Listen, by the time you get to the end of a decade, 28, 29, 38, 39, 48, 49, it’s like, enough already, let’s just get on with it. Thirty and forty were good for me. Fifty was a new beginning if nothing else– my mother died, my marriage died, my first generation of kids hit the road, and I left the boondocks of south-central PA for beautiful downtown Roland Park.
As I sat down to make New Year’s resolutions a few days ago, I realized that the usual suspects for this operation – intemperance, impatience, cattiness, career, cardio – were banding together in self-defense, fending me off with their collective flabby triceps. What? They cried in protest. Leave us alone! How are we the problem?
I saw their point.
Over the past weekend, I ran into a couple of writer friends in the coffee shop downstairs from the Politics and Prose bookstore in DC. Are you here for the reading? I asked. I was there to see Beverly Lowry present her new book, Who Killed These Girls, about the yogurt shop murders in Austin, Texas in 1991.
Though I have voted in every presidential election since Carter/Ford in ’76, I have often felt that the difference between the two candidates ranged from not much to slightly more than that. Once they get to Washington and get whopped over the head by the checks and balances, not to mention the lobbyists and the PACs, it’s more or less business as usual. The pro-life Bushes did not manage to recriminalize abortion, and Obama couldn’t stop the war. American politics blah blah blah, life goes on.
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.
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.”