Friday, January 17, 2020


It seemed I had written--or perhaps received--something dangerous or compromising on my lap top computer. I felt obliged to alert the military. I was instructed to place it in the middle of the floor of the motel room where we happened to be staying.

In the middle of the night I paid a visit to the bathroom, and while I was there the bomber arrived. I heard the swoosh, the crash of penetration, the neat explosion.Back in the bedroom I found the laptop skewered to the floor, a missile still protruding from it. (For you Freudians: don't laugh. Sometimes a guided missile is just a guided missile).

I had heard of precision weapons that could "see through" roofs and walls, but this was amazing. There was a neat hole in the ceiling where it had penetrated, and the laptop had been nailed perfectly to the floor.

When Ellie woke in the morning and went to the bathroom herself, she seemed unfazed. And I myself was not unduly worried. I had been sure to back up all the information and the documents on my other laptop, and the military would surely send me a new one to replace the one they had destroyed. Would they also, I wondered, send someone to repair the hole in the motel ceiling?

Sunday, January 12, 2020


I find myself in a meeting with the new young mayor of Los Angeles, a man of considerable importance. I have no idea as to the reason for our meeting, but we are getting along just fine. He is engaged in our conversation, attentive and interested in what I have to say. I am recounting the story of my years as Dean and Director of Otis Art Institute and our battle to survive the decision of the L.A. County Supervisors to cut off funds for the school. Our meeting goes on for a surprisingly long time, a matter of some two hours from his busy schedule.

When the time comes to leave I go out onto the city streets, surrounded by vaguely familiar official buildings. I realize that I am already late to return home and imagine Ellie will be worried about what is taking me so long. It begins to rain, and I decide the best option is to call for an Uber. I try using my iPhone, without success, and realize that the battery is too low to make a connection. Perhaps I could impose on someone to borrow theirs? But then I would not be able to charge it on my credit card.

Looking for help, I enter a building that appears to be a city library. Inside, I find a young man working on a computer and assume him to be the kind of tech-savvy person who could help me out. I ask if I could hook up to his charger, with the thought that with this connection I'd be able to make my call. He agrees with what to me is surprising reluctance--he had seemed like a nice young man. My first call is to Ellie, to let her know that I have been delayed and would be late for dinner. To my surprise, she seems not in the least bit concerned.

I ask the young man for help with my mobile phone, which now seems to be more like a laptop computer, He starts to work on it, and the job seems much more complex than I thought. Before even completing it, he hands me an elaborate invoice on official-looking paper, on which the bottom line is $1,300. He laughs at my protests and tells me if I want my computer back I'd better pay up. He is working on what looks like a hard drive--a disproportionate task compared to what I had anticipated or asked.

I try to wrest the computer from his grasp and he resists, pulling back against me. I start to protest loudly, calling out for help from others in the library. I manage to attract the attention of several people, who come running up to see what the fuss is all about. I'm trying to shout out an explanation of the situation, even as I struggle with the tech guy and complain about his totally unfair bill. But I wake from the dream before I manage to get my computer back...

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


In this dream I drove over to a meditation session in Beverly Hills--though why, I can't imagine. I had a terrible sit--they say there are no bad sits, but this one was terrible, believe me. And afterwards the people in charge made it clear they wanted us to leave as soon as possible so that they could lock up and go home themselves.

It was then I realized that a few jigsaw puzzle pieces had fallen out of my coat pocket and I started to pick them up. They were recognizable as pieces from the (very difficult) Van Gogh "Iris" puzzle that I'm actually working on at the moment, while my family are here. The more I picked up and stuffed into my coat pockets, the more I realized that there were. The woman responsible for clearing out our area of the meditation hall--it was more like an old-fashioned theater--was clearly getting impatient, and was not shy about letting it be known. I asked her if she would help by finding me a bag, because my pockets were now full of puzzle pieces; even a paper supermarket bag would do, I told her as she huffed off to find one.

By now the piles of jigsaw puzzle pieces had turned into small mountains. The more I managed to shovel into piles, the more there seemed to be. My search was complicated by a huge duvet which covered many of them, and by the dismaying appearance of pieces that were clearly from other puzzles. How was I ever to sort them all out?

I must have done, somehow, because I was finally able to leave the meditation hall and went out into the darkness to find my car in the parking lot. It was not where I had left it. I used my clicker as I searched, to see if I could hear the responding beep but, when I heard it, I found only the garage door remote hung up in a nearby tree. Curious, because I never use it, preferring the remote button on the visor of my rear view mirror.

But the car itself was gone. It must have been stolen, I concluded. I had neglected to bring my cell phone, and thought to ask a couple passing by if they could lend me theirs so that I could call the Beverly Hills police. I hated to think of all the hassle I would now have to face, and thought that I'd have to somehow call an Uber to get home. But these people were reluctant to lend me theirs, telling me that I was not the first person to have asked...

At which point, my dream was interrupted. I was relieved to wake and realize that my car was still parked outside my house.

Monday, December 23, 2019



... for a change. Don't we all need one? The news about this nation and the world at large needs compensation. There are good people. There is mutual respect and compassion. There is a sense of selfless service, a consideration of others. Here's what happened one morning recently. Well, it started quite some time ago...

... when we started noticing that our trash cans, all three of them--black for trash, blue for recycle and green for, well, green--were being returned to their place behind the lemon tree in front of our house, beside the fence with our neighbor's house, tidily out of sight from the street. Every Wednesday evening our gardener--thank you!--puts them out curbside to await the Thursday morning arrival of the big waste management trucks; and like all our neighbors on the street, we have always replaced them ourselves after the Thursday morning pickup.

Until we no longer had to. We began to find them every week, as if by magic, placed back where they belong. Closer observation confirmed that this minor miracle occurred immediately after the passage of one of the trash trucks, so we decided that it could only be one of the drivers doing us this favor. We looked up and down the street several times, and concluded that he was doing it for no one else, just us, and of course we couldn't help but wonder why.

My wife and I concurred: our man deserved a Christmas present by way of thanks for his mysterious acts of kindness. We do not often see him--he arrives early and is quickly gone--so it seemed best to enclose a modest gift with a card and a message to convey our gratitude; and to have it ready by the door, in case we might be able to catch him in person. And the night before, just in case we missed him yet again, I pinned the envelope to the fence where I thought that he'd be bound to find it.

I woke early on trash pickup morning and could not go back to sleep. It would be so much nicer, I thought, to see our benefactor and thank him personally, so I lay waiting for the inimitable sound of the trash truck lumbering down our street and the deafening crash of the trash cans being hoisted up and emptying into its bowels. 

I ran upstairs (our bedroom is downstairs) when I heard the first truck arrive. It was the wrong one. The driver picked up one of our three cans and hastened on his way. The second one, it turned out, was headed the wrong way. It was with the third one I had luck! I sneaked a peek out of our front door and there he was, a huge man of African American descent--a true gentle giant, it turned out--who climbed down from his truck and started to wheel our trash cans back behind the lemon tree.

I caught him just as he found my envelope pinned to the fence. He must have sensed me coming up behind him, because he turned with a huge grin and stuck out a massive paw to shake my hand. The man dwarfed me. He was tall, yes, but also built like an industrial scale refrigerator. And every cubic inch of him was kindness. He just radiated the stuff, like Santa, but without the ho-ho-ho. His first words: "How's the wife?" (She told me later that she often sees him on her walks around the neighborhood and they always exchange a friendly wave).

Our friend was certainly grateful for our gift, but not so grateful as we are to him, not only for his weekly act of kindness, but also for restoring our sense that human beings can actually care about other human beings and go out of their way to help. I asked him the obvious question, the one we had pondered often in the past weeks and months: why? Why us, and no one else along the street? What made us so privileged to receive this kindness from him?

"Well," he told me. "I seen you." (My wife and I are, um... of a respectable age!) "I seen your wife, too, dragging those trash bins back, and I couldn't let that happen." 

I thanked him again, from a really full heart, and he swallowed up my hand in his another time before climbing back into his cab and heading off to the next house down the street. Sentimental old codger that I am, I found myself tearing up a bit as I headed back downstairs to report on the story to my wife. After which, we hadn’t the heart to turn on the news…

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


A familiar dream. I'm hired to do a lecture and I arrive without having the least idea of what to say. I have made no preparations. I'm thinking I might talk about how I became a writer, but that seems off-topic. Perhaps I should talk about my last visit to New York? But I can't remember anything about it. There's a large crowd of people, so I get very alarmed, but it turns out most of them had come to the wrong event and they all leave. I'm left with just a handful of participants, which means I can turn it into a group discussion--which leaves me off the hook.

I've had a variation of this dream more times than I can count. I assume it's a hangover from my academic days, when I felt like such a fraud...