Flying

I had forgotten how much I disliked flying. All it took was two recent business trips to the American West and Midwest to remind me. Among the many hidden benefits of enforced nesting during the pandemic was the pleasure of staying home. Now that we are returning to a modicum of normalcy I am determined to limit my ventures on the road to absolutely needed. It’s not for fear of flying. I have long known that flying is actually the safest way to travel compared, say, to driving, taking a train or bus. Credit the FAA and the professionalism of career pilots for that safety record. I know there are lots of people who not feel particularly safe hurtling six miles up in the air at 500 miles per hour, protected from freezing to death and/or asphyxiation by only a ¼-inch thick aluminum tube. The fact is that flying is just about the safest thing in the world you can do. Taking a bath in the comfort of your home is far more dangerous. Not that some folks will be assured by such data. The difference, of course, is the sense of vulnerability and exposure. Still, it’s not the safety...Read more
Outdoors

Outdoors

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it feels as if we have all been released from some protracted burden. Being able to shed masks has been the least of it, even if the most symbolic. But after fifteen months of avoiding people, staying at home, worrying about family health and hoping the government would finally get things right, it is a great relief to come out from behind the sheltered existence we have had to live and enjoy life again. Especially the outdoors. My wife, Jane, and I were reminded of this the other day during a glorious tour of Elizabeth Park, the 102-acre municipal retreat on the west side of Hartford, CT. The city has its economic troubles, but among its many considerable assets is an extensive park system whose character dates to the late-19th/early 20th century design work of the famed Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm. Not the handiwork of Frederick Law Olmsted himself but of his son and son-in-law. Like their father, they had an impressive knack for creating sylvan public spaces, mixing up broad meadows, formal gardens, dense copses, trails, ponds and small streams as well attractive buildings properly scaled for recreational use. Elizabeth Park’s big...Read more

Seal of Approval

What’s the opposite of a birthday? A death day? Whatever they call it, today is my father’s tenth. His death at 89 followed a long, slow decline precipitated by a car accident. The fact that he had survived at all at age 85 getting hit by a car while crossing a street was something of a miracle – despite umpteen broken bones in his chest and all sorts of internal injuries. He was actually quite strong physically until the accident. Mentally, however, the story was quite different. And enormously complicated.  We never got the right diagnosis, perhaps because the multi-dimensionality of wayward states of mind cannot be captured in a single phrase or on a page from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. He had been in and out of mental hospitals for the better part of his life, from the ages of 20 until well into his late 60s. Electro-shock treatment, the occasional straight jacket, thorazine, lithium, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers. It all added up to a complex mix of mood disorders and fleeting bouts of dysfunctionality that puzzled his doctors and was painful for us to watch as we grew up. I simply knew him as someone who did not...Read more