Sunday, February 11, 2007


Childhood demands an excruciating quantity of waiting around. Waiting for adults to finish talking,waiting for Christmas, waiting to grow up. The ultimate form of of waiting is being forced to stand in line. We lined up for the morning school bus. We queued for the water fountain, recess, lunch, dismissal, and the afternoon bus home. I despised everything about lines. Didn't everybody?

Of course not. There were kids for whom standing in line was making the scene, being where the action was. Missing a line was like missing a party. I remember them streaking across the playground, singing out a joyous call, like the call to prayer: "Line up, line up, L-I-N-E-! U-P-!" It was the high point of the day. Only there could they play out the urgent social dramas of their lives. Who stands next to whom. Who let who cut. Who is whose best friend today. They must have felt about line-standing the way I felt about spelling bees--a golden chance to show the world what you're made of.

For me, waiting has no redeeming features. I dislike suspense or anticipation. I don't think getting there is half the fun. That's one reason dieting is so damned hard. It's all about waiting, waiting for normal body processes to do their inevitable but very, very slow work of burning off stored fat. Yes, the process can be sped up by exercise. But still it's like trying to empty the swimming pool, not by opening a drain, but by letting the water evaporate.

My dear reader, you have been listening so patiently. Now you have some advice to give me, don't you? I'd love to hear it. Get in line!

Sunday, February 4, 2007


On Saturday I drove to Costco to buy a folding card table. A young man in his own jeans and a store-issued green plaid shirt checked the inventory on the computer and said there were no card tables in stock, but I should check back around Father's Day. Father's Day? Yes, that's when they have card tables. This caught me off guard. Was I supposed to have given my father a card table? It would never have occurred to me in a million years.

So there I was, in a gigantic warehouse store with nothing to do and no shopping list, so I wandered. Back in the '70s I would hear stories about Soviet emigres, after consumer-deprived lifetimes of standing in long lines in empty shops, getting their first dazzling glimpse of American supermarkets. I've been in American supermarkets all my life, but Costco has that same effect on me. Abundance! Hyper-abundance! Mega-giga-tera-abundance!

Everything is multiple. Nobody would go there to buy one of anything, when here is the world packaged in super-economy size. There are 24-packs of Snickers, and 5-pound bags of dried cranberries, and shrink-wrapped pallets of bottled juice, and 4-packs of lace thongs, and 12-packs of crew socks and 250-packs of kitchen garbage bags.

My father, the father whom I never gave a card table, grew up in the Depression, and may have had an abundance issue. Once, when he owned a house on a tiny lake in South Jersey, he bought me a very big aluminum canoe. Too big really, too big for the lake and too big for me. "Why so big?" I asked. " He said, "It didn't cost much more than the smaller ones."

My father was overweight most of his adult life. He was a gourmet cook and a gourmet eater. He died young, at 59, in the Houston airport. May I give you some advice? Never read the autopsy report of anyone you love. Along with a number of other facts, both routine and pathological, the Harris County medical examiner noted his weight: 210 pounds.