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how to return or, happy birthday michelle obama

You know how when you get an email or a phone message that you probably should return quickly, and then you don’t, and then the longer it goes the harder it feels to return the call? So that what would’ve been a quick little note or a short conversation starts to loom larger and larger, and then it feels like too big a task, so you put it off even …

In the suburbs no one can hear you scream

I live in the suburbs now.  From the maelstrom of Union Square in Manhattan to the slightly more sedate “urban” experience of highrise in downtown Abu Dhabi was one shift. But in a weird way the shift from one cityscape to another wasn’t as big a shift as the move from city to the ‘burbs.  It’s so quiet here . . . and when I walk around at night I’m …

Everyone Goes to Vesuvius

Did you know that Vesuvius is still considered an active volcano, and a dangerous one? It could blow at any moment, theoretically. That thought gave Caleb the added impetus he needed for the hike to the top of the caldera, a task that sounds more impressive than it was: you drive (or are driven)  to the base of the trail and then walk the 800 or so meters to the …

Italian Ladies in the Rain

These ladies had just left Saturday morning mass, in Naples.  The church where they worship, Pio Monte della Misericordia, dates to about 1678. We were asked to leave the church while Mass was said–for about ten people. Why were we in this little church on a rainy Saturday morning?  Because it houses this painting: Seven Works of Mercy, Caravaggio Yep. Just saying prayers in front of a masterpiece and then …

in which I try to avoid cliches about Italy

Memory works in peculiar ways, doesn’t it? I mean, I know that when we were traveling in Italy a few weeks ago, I was tempted to leave my bickering children at the top of Vesuvius as an offering for the gods but now, weeks later, what remains in my mind is a blur of ancient beauty, tiny streets, motor scooters, and meals comprised exclusively of variations on cheese, tomatoes, and …