convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #128


It was early for the usual post work crowd, but since it was St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish bar C and I were in was packed four deep. We each had a Guinness in hand, continually shifting and rearranging positions to avoid those who’d been celebrating far longer than us.

The guy next to us grabbed his friend’s thigh high up and obvious enough, we took the bait with raised eyebrows. They started laughing and the salt and pepper haired friend mentioned something about restless leg syndrome. I nodded.

“I have that too,” I said.

“No one ever believes me,” he said with an appropriately thick Irish accent. “I couldn’t sleep last weekend. I had to get up and get on the treadmill.”

The live music blurred the edges of conversation or maybe it was the Guinness but I perked up again when he said he’d just been in Panama.

“I was there last month,” I said.

“I was there last weekend,” he said.

“Wow. That is recent! What took you there?” I said.

“Buying property,” he said.

The similarities between him and me were not great enough to combat the gulf between our locations or the thickening crush of people or the wail of the music, and with the arrival of my other friends, he and his friend vanished like two leprechauns protecting their pot of gold.


on re-reading

I read a lot of books, but more importantly, I re-read books.

I’ve come to find out not a lot of people read something more than once, which boggles my mind because if you liked a book, why not re-join that universe and those characters over and over again?

Why read something when you already know how it ends? You say. That’s precisely why I re-read! I answer. I can predict the ending and the twists and the turns and even if the obstacles seem as insurmountable as before, I already know the outcome, so I can enjoy the journey to get there. I can pick up on more details instead of focusing on just the big plot points, which allows me to breathe in the book’s universe more deeply.

Occasionally, all I want to do is wallow and cry and picking up a sad book facilitates that. Knowing how the sadness takes shape allows me to control how low I go. (And sometimes, I’ll just turn on the beginning of BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (the movie) and that does the trick of encouraging self-pity, but then dragging me away from it.)

Or I’ll pick up a book I know will make me laugh and grin away the dark mood.

Other times, I want to surround myself with pretty language to drown out the ugly words in my head.

There are also times I want to play detective, but I’m horrible at solving mysteries, so re-joining a universe where I know who the bad guy is means I catch all the clues giving my ego gets a much needed boost. And some books have such a huge twist that you have to read it twice in a row so you can read the story with a fresh set of eyes and pick up on all you originally missed.

But the main reason I re-read is because it’s the familiar that’s comfortable / what I’m seeking. Life can get crazy and be unstable and hard to handle. Knowing how a book will take shape? Being able to predict the ending? That’s a nice walk down easy street. A fabulous way to clear the mind and steady the heart.

What are some of the books I’ve read more than once?

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein*

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling (I’ve re-read books 3 and 4 the most.)

IF I STAY by Gayle Forman*

METRO GIRL by Janet Evanovich




THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins* (note, just THG, not the other two)

THE RAMBLERS by Aidan Donnelley Rowley*

THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion*

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater* (I re-read this every November. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know why.)




*Books I’ve both read and listened to.

Do YOU re-read books? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #127


It was early morning, before work, when I climbed into the Lyft. Winding our way through Cambridge, Somerville, and Watertown, he told me about being accepted into Berkeley music school, his upcoming audition, “going ham” on learning piano, his DJ gigs and 3,000 songs needed as a minimum, working on airplanes as “clean and secure” personnel, flying standby, aerospace engineering not being creative and instead too much rigidity, publishing, resume building, geography, and the best route to get to the doctor’s office.

I was nervous about my upcoming appointment so I was happy to let him ramble on, but my anxiety pinged as I heard his own blare through.

“Why would they accept me when there are so many other people who can play better?” he said.

“Because the music industry needs all types of musicians. There’s room for you all.” I said.

As we pulled up to the doctor’s office, he thanked me for my optimism and I thanked him for the ride.


swimming adrenaline junkie style

A shipwrecked boat sat tantalizing close. We eyed it from the beach, from the water, from the street, and over the course of a few lazy days, discussed the best way to get to it. An opportunity presented itself when T took the kids in for lunch, leaving L, N, and me to our own devices.

The beach stretched and curved and offered tons of space. Shells and deep grooves in the black sand from previous tides littered our path. We dragged our feet through the water using it as a natural source of air conditioning.

Ankle deep. Knee deep. Waist deep. “How good of a swimmer are you?” L and N asked me.

I shrugged. “I mean, I can swim, but I never took official proper lessons.”

At their questioning looks, I nodded and away we went.

N, who spends his work days on the water and who runs more often than not, quickly separated from us. L and I swam slow and steady. I alternated between a piss poor formed freestyle stroke, breast stroke, and elementary back stroke.

I kept my eyes trained on N, L, and the boat, but soon focused solely on L and N because the current wasn’t taking no for an answer and I didn’t want to see how far off course I was. Doubling down, I began the side stroke, repeating the movements in my head as I imagined what my camp counselors used to say.

I tumbled between the different swimming strokes, as varied and hurried as my breath.

A sharp lash stung my cheek. A jellyfish I thought and swam faster and a little away from where I was. Ugly but effective strokes. I began to make progress. Somewhat. It depended on your definition of progress.

L: I’m not going to be able to make it.

Me: You okay?

L: Yeah, but yeah, not making it to the ship.

Me: Okay, no problem. I’m happy to stop. Let’s go back.

We signaled to N who was nearly to the beached boat. The current was more ferocious now, but it was coming in, which we used that to our advantage. L and I checked in with each other using “okay?” “okay” and hand signals as we tried to conserve our breath. She was dragged behind some anchored boats while I and my camp memories sliced through the water aiming for a point higher up the beach.

It was an arbitrary point, but I held on tight to it. Side stroke all the way now. It was less strenuous and seemingly more effective. Summer campfire songs and the Wabansi lake and all those years I attend Camp Nyoda filtered through my mind. Just another day at summer camp, I thought.

A helicopter appeared above the beach where N was and circled in the general vicinity of L and me. The water flattened and pulsed around L, as I chanted to myself “don’t make any signs of distress. You’re not in distress. You’re fine.” I side stroked on.

The helicopter made one more pass and disappeared as suddenly as it appeared.

I licked my teeth. They tasted of salt.

A man walked out of a little cabin as L and I dragged ourselves onto the beach. We each formed a point of a strange triangle.

L and I met up and she confessed her terror and her plan to hang onto one of the anchored boats for rest. I apologized for not realizing her mental state, as I certainly would have angled closer to her for comfort, support, familiarity if I’d known how badly she needed it. I laughed at how weirdly calm I felt. I confessed I’d been channeling my childhood summer days spent at camp.

By then, N had searched the boat and began his way back to us. He walked up and out as far as the sand allowed and slipped into the water. L choked back more fear as we studied her husband’s strong, but fruitless movements, and I softly talked to her about square breathing.

In for four counts. Out for four counts. In for four counts. Out for four counts. Break. Repeat.

The sound of a motor boat starting up pulled our attention away from N. The boat reached N in 15 seconds and he deftly clamored in. Once on the beach, N briefly conferred with the man who had reached the beach when L and I had, and then he ran over to us.

L: You okay?

N: Oh yeah. I’m fine. I could have made it, but I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Miguel, the boat driver, said something about the current. And tiburóns.

L and me: What’s a tiburón?

N, our best Spanish speaker of the bunch, said: I think, sharks.

The calm facade I’d been cradling cracked and trickled down my body along with the salt water dripping off my bathing suit. I’d thought I’d come into contact with the only danger in that part of the sea – a jellyfish – but the realization we’d been swimming with sharks sent my adrenaline surging faster than the tide coming in.

We numbly began the trek back to the house. L and N had a quiet, sharp conversation while tiburóns swam in my head larger and louder and more real than they’d been while I was in the water.

L turned her ministrations to me as she took in my ashen face and mute voice. She repeated my earlier words about square breathing. In for four counts. Out for four counts. In for four counts. Out for four counts. Break. Repeat.

We were on dry land. Nothing here but the echo of our bad decision.