A Grandpa’s Dream, a Child’s Nightmare

There’s a tendency among us grandpas to control, or at least direct, the lives of our grandchildren, theoretically filtering into their futures what we wish we had accomplished on our own. I see it in relation to my granddaughter Nicole, a gifted painter who, at 27, is working hard to win notice in the art world. She is accomplishing that slowly but too slowly to suit me, so I’m pushing her to ramp up the tempo, to haunt the galleries, …

Attack of the Killer Sepsis

Science is once more reminding us that there are predators stalking the land no larger than a speck of dust but with the killing power of a herd of hippos. They are so small you can’t see them but you only have about a 50-50 chance of surviving their attack. They are called bacteria and the sepsis or blood poisoning they engender is killing 250,000 Americans a year. I was almost one of them. I am alerted to the danger …

Facing the Perils in Paradise

There is a place beyond imagination and beyond the rattle of the inner city, beyond the housing tracts of suburbia and even beyond the relatively distant semi-wilderness in areas around Los Angeles known informally as exurbia. We call that settlement of heavenly dreams Nowherebia. It is an area that the soul yearns for on those days that freeway traffic is jammed bumper to bumper from the ocean to the desert where crime is on the rise, where tract houses of …

Facing the Enemy Within

I was telling my wife Cinelli about a Carole King album called Tapestry I had purchased online when I was stopped by the word “album.” I couldn’t say it. I said “alume” and “abul” and “alome,” but not “album.” It just wouldn’t come out. It was not only annoying, it was eerie. “What’s going on?” asked Cinelli, studying me. By then the word had popped back into my head. “I’m trying to say album,” I replied. “There, I said it! …

A Second Chance for the Woodcarver

A ruptured aortic aneurysm is known to cause death almost instantly. Basically a tear in one’s main artery, it pours out blood at a heartbeat tempo and leaves a lifeless victim in its wake.  The mortality rate from a burst aneurysm is 90% even if you make it to the hospital. Only a few survive. One of the survivors is Barry Lysaght, a master woodcarver who lives in the Santa Monica Mountains just north of Los Angeles in a small …

When the Brain Stops Working

We were in a movie theater watching a long and boring subtitled foreign film when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know where I was. Literally. I had been slumped down in my seat day-dreaming about sex and money when the realization flashed into my head like a light globe in a cartoon illustration: I’m lost. I turned to my wife, the perceptive Cinelli, and whispered “Where are we?” She whispered back, “At the Laemmle,” which was the …