Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Post Post

Washington Post Masthead

Well, I’ve gone over to the dark side.

A few minutes ago I cancelled my subscription to the print edition of the Washington Post.

No, it wasn’t because I disagree with their editorial stands. Quite the contrary. I will always be grateful to the Post for its role in uncovering Richard Nixon’s malfeasance while in office. I shudder to think what would have happened had not a couple of young reporters followed the truth wherever it led. (Ordinarily I stay away from political comments on this blog, and I’m not trying to start an argument. I’m sharing my thoughts on this matter.)

I’m finding that other media keep me as informed as I want to be.

I’m also finding that I am incredibly ambivalent about doing this.

Ever since I can remember, I have read a print newspaper. I learned to read by sitting at the kitchen table with the Washington Daily News and asking my mom, “What does ‘C-o-n-g-r-e-s-s’ spell?”

I was about five years old. We had moved to Fairfax from College Park in January of 1952. Maryland schools enrolled five-year-olds. School age in Virginia was six. I couldn’t continue with first grade until September.

Miss Cook, who would have been my teacher, was beautiful and kind. She gave my mom some basal readers, Fun with Dick and Jane, We Work and Play, We Come and Go, and some other immortal tome.

I trudged home with my mom. I was so disappointed that I could not go to school that I cried.

And I didn’t need no stinkin’ basal readers. I had learned to read at the kitchen table with my mom’s long suffering help.

So, I continued to read the News, the backs of cereal boxes, magazines, anything with print on it.

(When I went back to rejoin the lovely and kind Miss Cook in first grade, she squatted down to my level, gently put her hands on my shoulders, looked up at my mother, and said words that changed my life forever: “Since he’s reading on a fifth grade level, we’ve decided to put him in second grade.”

The second grade teacher was nice and she was extremely competent (with a few exceptions, my teachers were excellent), but she was older and, well, looked like a witch. And she wasn’t Miss Cook. I saw my would have been first grade teacher a few times out in public, but basically she walked out of my life that day, and I never saw her again. I wonder what happened to her.

And so, I became a Reader. Readers are very special people for whom books are not a luxury: they are a necessity. When I meet a friend who is also a Reader, we talk about what we’re reading and what we’d like to read. (Sidebar: I have a list of 350 books I want to read. The problem is, the publishing world won’t stop so I can catch up. And since I have become an author, I tend to write more than read books. Don’t worry, though: I still devour magazines and anything else in print.)

I won’t be reading the Post in print any more.Sixty-one years of relying on print for news has come to an end.

I can re-start my subscription at any time.

I will miss hearing the familiar thump of the Post in its plastic bag hitting the asphalt of the driveway before dawn.

I have done this thing, but I’m not happy about it.

I’ll let you know how life is without a real-world paper is.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the funny papers.


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R. S. V. P.


R.S.V. P.

For No One in Particular

I am requesting
The favour of a reply.
From you.
And of course, you may
Accept with pleasure
Decline with regret.
The choice is yours because
I can’t really tell you what to do.
I never could, after all.
If I did, you wouldn’t like it,
And that would be the end
Of a beautiful friendship.
I’m trying to round up the usual suspects,
But if you can’t or won’t come
We’ll always have Paris
And a few other cities I can think of,
In alphabetical order they are:
Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires,
Charleston (South Carolina), Denver, Hong Kong, Istanbul,
Johannesburg, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Montréal,
Moscow, Mumbai, New York City,Paris, Portland (Oregon),
Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro, San Diego, San Francisco, São Paulo,
Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai,Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto,
And Washington, D.C.
We’ve been a lot of places
And had a lot of laughs
Yes, didn’t we have a blast?
Didn’t we have fun?
And while I’m asking questions,
Are we still a pair?
By your refusal to respond (if you please)
I see this party’s over and
It’s time to call it a day,
Time to stop quoting from
Popular songs and movies. So,
So long, kid. It was real and
It was fun, but here at the end
It wasn’t real fun.
H here’s lookin’ at you,
Which I would do
Were you here,
But you aren’t.
To use a little more French
The language of love,
C’est bien dommage.
N’est ce pas?
It’s too bad,
Isn’t it?
Isn’t it just?




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As Aware as Usual


Mazda flat tire

As I was pulling into the Food Lion parking lot this past Tuesday afternoon when I felt one of the front tires on the wagon go flat. It seemed to be the right front, so I got out, thought it looked low and put on the accursed “doughnut.” As I was finishing up, a guy came by and said, “You got another one on the other side.” Sure enough, the left front was completely flat. I was out of spares (one to a customer), and since I had a doctor’s appointment in ten minutes, I drove on the flat to the office and then brought it home after I’d seen her (the politest doctor I’ve ever met, BTW).

The next morning, I jacked the car up, took the decidedly flat tire off and put the front hub assembly on some scrap pieces I had lying aroung.  I then put both “bad” tires in the Impala to take them to have them fixed, and noticed that the right front tire bounced and rolled well for a “flat” tire. I put a gauge on it, and sure enough, it read 30 psi. It wasn’t flat after all. I put that back on the right front hub and had the True Flat Tire (sounds like the True Cross in the Grail quest) fixed at Logan’s (my mechanic). I was somewhat deflated by this whole experience (yuck, yuck), but was glad I didn’t have two flats to deal with. Something like that can make you feel flat.

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The Little Library that Could

The Little Library that Could

Benjamin Naylor Barrett constructed the Little Free Library. Standing with him are Illana’s niece Ava and nephew Nathaniel Larkin (Photograph by Illana Naylor)

Illana Nayor’s children gave her a special Mother’s Day present this year. No, it wasn’t days of pampering at a spa. Nor was it a days-long shopping trip to New York, or candy or flowers or coupons for housework. They didn’t give any of the gifts we associate with the spring holiday.

They gave her a library.

It doesn’t have stone lions out front, and most patrons would have trouble getting in.

This library, part of the Little Free Library project, stands about two feet high and a foot wide with a pitched roof, painted a cheerful yellow and violet. Her son, Benjamin Naylor Barrett, built the library. Illana then stocked it with a variety of books.

Anyone walking or driving by can take a book and leave a book. It’s that simple. There’s no charge or sign out or permission required. “Some people have knocked at my door to ask if they can take a book out,” Naylor said as I talked with her last week. “It’s nice they want to say hello, but they don’t need my permission to borrow one of the books.”

She continued. “Like so many other middle class families, we have accumulated a houseful of stuff. I don’t need more things. I wanted something like the library, and my children met my wish. This little collection of books has become a focal point for the community. Neighbors meet other neighbors .whom they wouldn’t otherwise see. It’s something to watch. I’m so glad we did it.”

Little Free Libraries are springing up all over the country. Their website details the project and includes ordering information for an already built library, kit versions, and plans for those who want to take the do-it-yourself route. In addition, the organization supports various literacy and reading programs. Check it out at

Illana stood at the curb in front of her house with her hand on her very special Mother’s Day gift. “I hope someone puts up one of these libraries on every block. Just think of the effect it would have on individuals and the community!” And she smiled.

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