November 2010

Let’s all forget that we were supposed to be on line at Walmart at 3AM today, or climbing over one another for those $3.00 toasters at Target, or grabbing us some $39.00 ugly cashmere sweaters at Kohl’s. Let’s remember that it’s still Fall, the most ephemeral season of the year. Let’s take the time for one last look.

One last walk in the woods — these are from the North Shore of Long Island, in a preserve known as Wellwyn.

These are from a swamp here on the North Shore. Yes, a real swamp: Shu Swamp.

And these are from the woods in back of my house. I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block this past week. It comes in the form of pure boredom with everything that crosses my mind, a listless disgust with the notion that I have anything worthwhile to tell, and a raving impatience with the act of setting words down on a page one freaking letter at at time. There are days when this writing job of mine feels a lot like trying to engrave the Lords Prayer in pig Latin on the head of a pin using a hammer and a chisel, if I have the reference to pin heads and writing upon them right, and how unamusing it is.

But I can always go to my comfort zone, take a walk, paint some leaves, feel that still have the manual dexterity if not the intelligence skill, art, or desire to do some semi-delicate work, and not feel like poking my eyes out after all.

PLUS here’s a bonus that you will see only here:

These are real leaves…but YOU’LL NEVER GUESS what kind of leaves they are!

Go on. Guess.

You’ll never guess.

But guess a tree that you’ve probably never seen.

One of the rarest trees in the world.

That grows about five miles from me, on the old estate of E. F. Hutton, the millionaire stock broker who built himself a nice mansion on the North Shore of Long Island in 1922.

OK, you’ll never guess so I’ll tell you.

They are from an American Elm tree.

This elm tree was planted in 1922 when it was 20 inches in diameter, indicating that it was already 20 years old when the famous and first female landscape architect Marian Coffin planted it for Mr. Hutton and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post. It escaped the fate of the 60 million American Elm trees that were killed 1924 – 1965 from Dutch elm disease that nearly wiped out elm trees worldwide (read about it here:

And when the Hutton/Post estate was turned into a campus of Long Island University in 1954, this tree managed to survive vast new landscaping, and improvements and additions to the existing structures. In 2003, this elm tree was registered with the National Register of Historic Elms.

I went to visit this elm tree in early September and it looked like this:

This elm (let’s call her Marjorie) shades the parking lot of the Administration Building at C. W. Post College. I am standing on the blacktop to take this photo, facing the dorms which you can barely see in the background. And, if you look really hard, you can see, leading up to the first branch, the electric cord that attaches to a light fixture that has been hammered into the tree.

Yes. They turned this magnificent American Elm tree into a lamp for a parking lot.

Everytime I go see this tree, I hug it and I apologize.

What do you say to a tree when you hug it?

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As soon as I saw this book’s cover I knew two things:

1. I was going to love reading it, and

2. I was going to hate myself for the next few months for not having thought up that title for my own use. Damn damn damn damn damn.

Long story short, it’s published by Bloomsbury (mine own publishers!) and it’s edited by Kathy Belden (mine own editor)! so I knew it was a gem, so of course I pre-ordered it from Barnes and Nobel and then I  began to stalk the author  checked out the author’s website.  As luck would have it, Steven Kotlerwas going to have a book event in Port Washington, New York (mine own neighborhood!) so I  glommed onto him  contacted him and offered to show him the sights of the Long Island Sound.

So yes, I’ve met him in person and heard his wonderful talk about Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life, and I’ve read this book and cried and vowed that one of the things on my Bucket List is now Get A Dog.

This is Steven Kotler’s life:

You can see more about Rancho Chihuahua here:

So everyone, buy this book and say a small, furry prayer.

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I want to tell you about the most amazing  experience I had during my recent road trip through the Shenandoah hinter-lands, for verily I say unto you that I have found my new favorite 24-hour diner, and this is the diner to which all other diners must bow.

And here’s why:

As part of the table-top furnishings it’s got pancake syrup in those wonderful small pitchers of my childhood (it’s there, next to the paper shaker next to the Sweet-N-Low) .

AND, there’s a Gravy of the Day.

With Biscuits:

The menu includes Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant prayers:

And fantastic overheard conversations:

The guy in the red shirt is comparing to the guy in the yellow shirt about something that “was not available when I got out“. . When he got out of WHAT??  Of prison, or the army, the priesthood,  the Young Republicans of 1968???…one can only imagine.

And where is this Shangri-La of 24-hour diners?

It’s on Broadview Avenue in Warrenton, Virginia.

And what is it called?

The Frost Diner.

Good diners make good neighbors. Stop by here on a snowy evening. Directions: Take the road less travels by.

Sadly, Top Cat and I were passing through Warrenton, Virginia in the middle of the morning so I have not yet had the pleasure of testing their grilled cheese sandwiches at 2AM, which is my favorite way to dine in a diner.

But their Deconstructed French Toast is excellent.

(This is how I deconstruct French Toast: 2 pancakes, topped with a plain omelet, drenched in syrup.) And the tea wasn’t bad, either.


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Because in a crowd this big, sanity is contagious. That’s me, in the 2,912,537th row from the back.

How big was Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday in Washington, D.C.?

It was so big that Fox News had to pretend that it didn’t exist. It was so bigthat I’m already getting spam about the lies on crowd size (CBS News hired the same aerial demographers who did the Glen Beck rally who estimated the Stewart rally at 215,000 to Beck’s 87,000 — it’s all liberal media lies!!!!). It was so big that even at 6 o’clock in the evening, three hours after the rally ended, there were still hordes of people streaming down the streets of D.C. heading for Georgetown.

We were hanging around our hotel on Saturday morning, thinking of moseying out to the Mall around noon-ish, when we ran into four ladies who had come in from Chicago for the rally. It was 9 o’clock in the AM and they were heading out already.

Then we gazed out of our hotel room window and noticed the steady stream of people making their way across town. It dawned on us that for a festival-type gathering of hundreds of thousandsof people, one does not wait until noonish to get one’s ass in gear. So we gathered up own signs and hot-footed it to the Sparkling Plain. (Refudiate Truthiness was rather the theme for the day.)

The Mall was already so packed with people that we were waaaaaaay in the back. Because the original rally permit was only for 60,000 people, the Parks Service had only opened up about half the lawns on the Mall. So for the first few hours there were vast green acres of grass that were fenced off and the crowd was forced to line up on the edges of the center space — it was images of those “empty” lawns that Fox broadcast (as if to show sparse turn out). Later, though, those fields were opened up and masses of people moved in.

Still, even with the extra lawns opened up, there were so many people who couldn’t get close to the action that all the museums that face the Mall (the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, The National Gallery of Art, The American Indian Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer) all had thousands of people sitting on their front steps and picnicing on their lawns — it was wall to wall humanity. We saw this cheery family (above) sitting at the Hirshhorn. They were my second favorite Sanity Rally Muslims — my favorite Sanity Rally Muslim was a guy with a sign that said

My Wife Is Muslim.

She Is Not A Terrorist.

But I’m Still Afraid Of Her.



Meta, man.

People were chatting with one another, taking pictures of each other, laughing at the clever signs, swapping stories about how far they’d driven to be here, getting all the jokes. And except for that big bore Guido Sarducci (boy, do I hate Saturday Night Live from the ’70s. I was not high in the ’70s, and always thought Saturday Night Live was profoundly un-funny in the ’70s. Don’t get me started with Gilda Radnor…) the entertainment was delightful…mostly.

How was it?

How was it to be around so many people practically frantic with sanity? How was it to stand shoulder to shoulder with people almost hysterically rational? How was it that as far as the eye could see, there were people raging to be fair, civil, open-minded, and tolerant?

Pretty freaking awesome.

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