Tomorrow! Live! On Stage!

Everyone is invited to the first public reading of my new play…

Staged reading of How Will We Live Tomorrow?

7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 3, 2018

at Boston Playwright’s Theatre – 949 Commonwealth Ave – Boston, MA

Admission: FREE!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Free! Stuff!

Do you know anyone who needs another tote bag? How about a coaster, or a click pen inscribed with an organizational logo, or pretty much any of the stuff that comes in the obligatory goodie bag we all receive at a conference, sometimes even at a luncheon?

A couple of years ago, I began giving the staff handing out these things a polite smile, “No thanks, I don’t need it.” In return I got baffled looks and uniform replies, “But it’s free!”


To quote my philosopher brother, “Free is a very good price.” And when I find something that I can actually use, discounted to the incomparable price of zero, I take what’s offered. Sometimes two. I’ve even been known to sort through the goodie bag, right on the spot, to see if perhaps the lip gloss has SPF 15, in which case I will fish it out and put it in my pocket. But I’m never tempted to take stuff I don’t need. Because even free stuff carries a cost: the societal cost of creation and the personal cost of possession, to carry, store and eventually throw away.


Note that I refer only to things I ‘need’ because, in truth, there is nothing that I want. I long ago realized that my existence resides an idiosyncratic limbo of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem: ‘How am I different from everyone else? Let me count the ways.’

I am a woefully deficient 21st century American, an economic mutant born without the consumption gene so essential to our consumer economy. I appreciate beautiful things, objects that reflect the imagination and skill of the maker. But I have no wish to own them. Macy’s Department Store, Mahoney’s Landscape & Garden, Museum of Fine Arts: all equally enjoyable places to stroll. Never do I see anything in them and think, “I want that.”


Thanks to my housemate, perhaps the most perfect person in the world, our house looks rather nice. His vintage prints, antique breakfronts, upholstered chairs, and silver candlesticks almost obscure the dining room table I scoffed from the curb.

Sidebar on that table: a non-consumer coup. Not only was it free, not only did I save it from the landfill, the timing was perfect. I had just completed renovating the dining room (I may not much like things that move, but I’m fastidious about permanent attachments). I dreaded having to shop for a table. Then I found this grand slab of solid oak, large enough to accommodate twelve, only a block away. Drag it home, Pledge it down, toss a cloth over it, and no one sees the cracked shellac or the ciggie burn in the corner.

Being practically perfect, my housemate is a pretty good consumer, which means he buys a good amount. He’s also a savvy purchaser, with some kind of credit card that yields many benefits. Alas, those benefits have expiration dates, and if he hasn’t claimed enough credit goodies, they offer him free magazines. Which he accepts.

First we got Time, then New York and People; followed by Southern Living, Food and Wine, and The Economist. Lately, Bloomsberg litters our breakfront. I understand the allure of free magazines, but my housemate only reads online. The magazines exist for no one, except maybe me. I used to get back issues of The New Yorker and The Atlantic from the library, now I have a dentist office’ worth of glossies in my own dining room.

The magazines are nice to have around, though when the subscriptions end I will return to my old habit of library journals. One day, when the pile was high and he wasn’t dipping into it, I asked my housemate why he subscribed to them. His answer echoed the voice of every conference staffer barking totes, “Because they’re free.”

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sit Still

Is there any more gruesome punishment these days than having to sit still, and listen? I’m beginning to believe we simply can no longer do it.

I’m old school. When I go to a performance, I arrive on time, take off my coat in advance, turn off my phone, put my program down before curtain, even unwrap any cough drops if I anticipate a tickle. Then, I put my hands in my lap and sit quietly. If I must move, or remark to my neighbor, I do it during a break or applause.

I am a shrinking minority. Theaters now sell candy and wine that patrons can take to their seats. People arrive late, leave early, talk throughout. I take deep breaths and try not to be annoyed, though I am. This is not a ten-dollar ticket at the Cineplex, it’s five times that, or more, for a live performance. Beyond bothering me, these distractions disrespect the performers.

I am intrigued by theories that human evolution is speeding up, in response to a world that gallops ahead even faster than our ability to absorb it. Perhaps our ability to sit still, like opera, is antiquated. We denote no value to passive absorption.

I recently attended an event where I anticipated a high level of attention: a two-hour poetry reading by two talented poet/friends. There were perhaps sixteen people in attendance on a bitter cold day, all middle-aged acquaintances of the featured poets. Over the course of two hours people came in late, fiddled with their phones, shifted their coats, whispered to one another, put their coats back on, and left early.

A guy passed the hat right in the middle of a poem. Then he noshed on a brownie brittle, then another, then another. The woman in front of me reached over as if to bring attention to his noise, then thought better of it. I held no such constraint; I tapped him on the back and asked him to stop. Meanwhile, the woman started chatting with her neighbor, which induced another woman to shush her. Instead of a contemplative event, the poetry reading felt more like designated quiet time in a fidgety kindergarten; no one could quite keep his hands or voice to himself.

Throughout the distractions two thoughtful people continued to share wondrous images of telomere, grasshoppers daubed into Van Gogh, November light, and queried how I greeted each day: cross or star-crossed? They wove constructs that challenge an audience under the best conditions. I had to work very hard to imprint their ideas.

Am I just an old crank? Why can’t I just put these distractions aside? Part of it is cultural, in a Western European sort of way; I was taught to sit and listen. Last year I attended a performance of an African-American play at The Strand in Dorchester, where the audience shouted out to the actors: a sort of call and response. It took me some time to adjust, but then realized what was going on was pretty cool, even if I didn’t feel comfortable participating.


When I was in architecture school, my acoustics professor described why it’s important to design a concert hall to be silent below the level of 15 decibels. This seemed extreme, given that 20 dB is a common threshold for human hearing. “When Pablo Casals reaches the final strain of sustenato in a cello solo, the room must be absolutely silent. Everyone will be so rapt, not a sound will be heard.”

I wonder if that design criterion still holds. I’m pretty sure we’re all going to sit still less, listen with less focus, create more meaningless noise, and learn to accept (endure) more distractions. The beauty of Pablo Casals, and of poetry, will simply have to be more persuasive if it is to rise above the din.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Half Hour Away from Being Old

Last week I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner: at 5:30 p.m.

I can still recall dinners at eight, though it’s been years since I attended one. Most of my friends invite guests at seven. Six-thirty is my preferred start time when I host. If there’s a movie or performance wrapped into the evening, people might gather at six. But 5:30? Never before.

Anyone who came of age in the 1970’s knows the measure of getting old. Janis Ian laid it out for us in ‘Tea and Sympathy:’


Lunch at Half-past noon,

Dinner prompt at five

The comfort of a few old friends long past their prime

When we’re twenty, we consider being old is a diminution, a litany of all we’ve lost. But on the far side of sixty, the list of all the things I’ll never do again liberating. With no further need to prove myself I can decline cocaine and cigarettes, shooting guns and tequila, arm wrestling, support groups, charity runs, company parties, lobster, candied apples, and cotton candy.

A few years ago I might have included marijuana on that list, as reefers only render made me withdrawn and bemused. But I retain the right to toke up again if pain kicks in.

I plan on being a great old person; it’s a period of life that plays to my strengths. The early bird special pairs two things I love: good value without a crowd; my personal attitude grows sunnier every year: just ask anyone who knew me back then; and I’ve always spoken my mind. It will be bliss when those nuggets get burnished as wisdom.

I’ve also prepared well for growing old. I cut ‘Over 60: A Healthy Obsession will Keep You Busy’ from the Boston Globe back in the day of print news. These days, it’s yellower and wrinklier than I am, but its advice still rings true. I am a man of many projects—borderline obsessions—most of them healthy.

Although I only have a half hour uptick in my evening meal to be officially old, I suspect it may take ten, twenty years to breach that gap in time. Just because I am looking forward to something doesn’t mean I need to rush it. I’ve got a great gig going: plenty of time, plenty of interests. If I’m lucky, getting old will simply shift active engagement into more passive pursuits. By then, dinner at five won’t be an absurd concept. It will be welcome nourishment before that long, long night.



Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Tomorrow Finally Arrives at Amazon

After several months and many snafu’s, the full color, coffee table version of How Will We Live Tomorrow? is available to order through Amazon.

I apologize to all who ordered the book back in December, when Amazon named it a #1 seller and then cancelled all orders, for reasons I have never been able to determine. This time ‘round I ordered one myself and tracked it just to make sure.

Still – ordering it not for the feint of heart.

Here is how to proceed:

Go to Amazon and search How Will We Live Tomorrow?

You will encounter one of these unappealing messages.



This is a print on demand book; the only way to trigger an order is to place an order. I don’t know why Amazon doesn’t offer a message block that explains this, but there you have it.

Next – wait! It will take 4-6 weeks for your order to go from Amazon to the printer, get printed, and then get delivered to you.

Can’t wait? Order How Will We Live Tomorrow? – ebook edition in less than a minute. It includes all the same stories, without images, accessible on almost any mobile device.

Want both? Folks who purchase the hardcover can order the ebook at half price.

Posted in How Will We Live Tomorrow? | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Homosexuals Rub Shoulders at The Met

Dapper gents in green ties have eyed each other across the galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art for over a century. There’s nothing new in that. What’s new these days, green ties long discarded, is that we get to do it among throngs of art aficionados: old and young, fat and fair, straight and gender fluid: all of us perusing a pair of exhibits that embody different aspect of homosexual experience. On a crowded winter morning, it seems the entire world is enthralled by two of our most distinguished, if oddly paired, peers: Michelangelo and David Hockney. Each show is important in specific ways. Together, they provide a contrapuntal vision of how homosexual hands enhance our world, though I don’t recall the word ‘homosexual’ used in either gallery’s extensive notes.

‘Michelangelo: Devine Draftsman and Designer’ (hurry: ends February 12) is a glorious celebration of drawing. Although Michelangelo considered himself first and foremost a sculptor, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling demonstrates masterful painting, Michelangelo’s drawings are also extraordinary. The show inverts our usual sense of finished product; it includes a few sculptures and paintings in support of the drawings, although many of the drawings were originally produced as studies in advance of permanent execution in oil or marble.

The exhibit is not encyclopedic; rather it’s comprehensive within its precinct. It chronicles Michelangelo’s entire drafting career, from apprentice to elder artist, and includes works by his teachers, peers, and apprentices. Since drawing is so often about process, I appreciate the detailed notes about Renaissance production. How pin-prick holes transferred outlines to walls or ceilings when the drawings were pasted in place and rubbed with charcoal; the crosshatch method Michelangelo learned from his master, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and then refined to a higher level; the stylus grooves that were later filled with luminous gouache highlights. These drawings, composed of thousands of staccato lines, rise off their paper, transcending their plane into three dimensions.

The Michelangelo galleries are appropriately dark, the rather small objects spotlighted, the appreciative crowd clustered tight around detailed images of sinewy muscle. For that is subject of Michelangelo’s drawings: men’s muscles. Over, and over and over again. There are a handful of virgins, a few cherubic nymphs, but mostly Michelangelo drew portions of men in shadowy light, not unlike the mid-20th-century photos in magazines like Physique Pictorial. There are occasional faces, and a few hands. But mostly Michelangelo drew buttocks and thighs and torsos and shoulders, all rippling with testosterone. The accompanying notes itemize an equally impressive list of male patrons and companions. The word ‘homosexual’ doesn’t appear in the exhibit, because the term was not coined until the nineteenth century. Also because it would be redundant.

Coming out of Michelangelo’s shadows of insistent scratches rendering incomplete masculinity and entering David Hockney’s brilliant light and saturated colors is fresh, liberating. In the Hockney galleries, the term homosexual is passé, superseded by more recent terms: gay, homoerotic.

David Hockney (hurry slower: on view until February 25) may have been an out gay man since before sodomy was legal in England, and his images may have been inspired by the Physique Pictorial’s that fetishized Michelangelo’s perfect forms, but in truth, David Hockney’s art is not homoerotic. It’s not erotic at all. Two androgynous creatures squirting white stuff from phallic Colgate tubes into each other’s mouths may be Pop Art with social commentary, but it’s hardly erotic. A gigantic painting of a Southern California pool with a lone pair of his recently departed partner’s empty sandals is heart wrenching, Eros removed. A paired portrait of Christopher Isherwood, turning his profile toward his much younger partner while Don Barchardy looks straight ahead without even acknowledging the older man isn’t about erotic charge. It’s about what remains as passion fizzles; it’s about homosexuals grasping for a depth of connection too long denied; it’s about trust, commitment; it’s about fear.





David Hockney is a welcome antidote to Michelangelo. The broad flat colors of Poolside Splash are the perfect foil to Michelangelo’s frenzy detail. Hockney’s drawingsare not an amalgamation of small strokes, they are sinuous lines that reinforce, even celebrate, the two-dimensional medium. David Hockney does not create mass; he illustrates character.


Each exhibit is worthwhile: Michelangelo satisfies my intellect; David Hockney nourishes my soul. Together, each becomes deeper, profound.

These two shows at the Met also renew my sense of good fortune, to live in a time when it’s (mostly) okay to be homosexual. To loiter among all sorts of people gushing about art derived from a homosexual sensibility, yet still be able to meet the eye of a stranger with a strong chin; parse lips into the faintest smile, nod to one another, and acknowledge without a word, that we belong to the same club.



Posted in Gay | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Call Me White

I stayed awake for three days straight during senior year fraternity rush. All day socializing with prospective members, late night parties back in the halcyon days of age 18 alcohol, topped by after-hour meetings deciding which guys to offer a bid. Who did we want to welcome as fellow Phi Delts? We took it very seriously.

When a freshman caught enough attention, an upper classman was designated to be his mentor, made sure he met all the brothers, and tried to keep him away from rival houses. At the after-midnight meeting, each mentor made the case for giving his guy a bid.

I was assigned to ‘Jerry.’ Jerry was unlike any other freshmen touring our fraternity; he was black. The previous year, 1975, a black student had visited our house during rush, but he didn’t gain much consideration. A single member could squash any potential brother, and ‘Harold’ was blackballed when his name got mentioned. Two black freshmen joined another fraternity that year; the first African-American fraternity brothers at our school. I was determined that 1976 was the year we’d follow suit. Jerry was a good guy; and besides, it was time.

I agonized how to present Jerry at our midnight meeting. I described his high school background, his interests, that he wanted to study EE and play football. What I never said—ever—was the most obvious thing about Jerry. I never uttered the word ‘black.’

According to the Oxford English Dictionary there are up to 50,000 adjectives in the English language. Most of us use no more than 500. Rarely do we apply more than two or three to embellish a particular noun. The most appropriate adjective is the one that best differentiates. Which is why, if I hadn’t stirred myself into a PC muddle, I would have described Jerry as ‘the black guy’ and everyone would have known exactly which freshman I meant.

I couldn’t bring myself to describe Jerry as black. No one ever called me white, a meaningless descriptor in the ubiquitously white world I inhabited. Yet the term black seemed targeted, prejudicial; a word blacks might choose among themselves, but not one I was allowed.

A variety of terms have described me over the years: chubby, devout, curly-haired, geek, husband architect, father, skinny, secular, balding, writer, cyclist. No one ever called me white, until I went to Haiti. There, I was called ‘blan,’ a Creole derivative of the French world for ‘white’ that’s applied to foreigners of any skin color. An African-American in Haiti might be called ‘blan’ while a fair-skinned native would not. In my case, there was no confusion; I am ‘blan’ in every respect.

In Haiti I began to think of myself as white, which, after all, is a minority human shade. I started calling myself a ‘white guy’. It felt awkward at first, a betrayal of color-blind liberalism.

When I returned home, I realized that whitewashing racial terminology would not make racism go away. On the contrary, as long as white people feel so much in control that we don’t even have to acknowledge the dominant attribute of our privilege, we propagate our superiority.

Whatever happened to ‘Jerry’ and my ridiculous attempt to champion a young man while pretending away his most obvious characteristic? We gave Jerry a bid, but he didn’t accept it. He joined the other fraternity, perhaps because he wouldn’t be the only black guy. The following year, the Phi Delts gave bids to other black guys. One joined; the next year a few more. Change happens over time. These days, fraternity men come in all colors.

Someday, I hope, I can stop calling myself a white guy. But not until white ceases to be the default color of power, and human skin shades become hues to celebrate rather than instantaneous ways to discriminate and divide.





Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments