Locked Doors

We are living in times of a global virus pandemic with no known end, a collapsed economy, and under the spiteful administration of, in the words of The Washington Post fact checkers, “the most mendacious President in U.S. history.”

Yet I dwell on the end of my marriage.  When I come to think I could care less about her—the “her” who forbids her name to be mentioned for fear her identity could reach the future ex-cons whom she’s interviewed over the past few years—something happens that makes me realize what a mistake of judgment I made.

On this past Wednesday my son Adam graduated from medical school, receiving an outstanding student award. Without comment I sent his graduation announcement to my ex-wife, thinking she would be interested in seeing this, especially given the past year Adam endured successfully battling lymphoma. She had once liked Adam, had helped him with advancing his medical prospects, for which both he and I were grateful. She didn’t respond.

There was no need for a response, and I question my emotions for being disappointed.  My own dictum has been put the past in the past. She told me about her resolve to end our marriage that she had clarity of vision, and now apparently her vision clearly tells her never to communicate with me, even to say anything about Adam.  The doors to her heart were never open, and now they’re locked.

She never regarded my family, my boys, as being part of any family unit we shared together. Family was—I assume still is—a charged, unhappy concept for her, especially one’s true family. Still, I had hoped there could have been one last moment of shared happy experience, having nothing to do with us. 

But no.

Just a boy

Apparently a joke went around in Wuhan during the current virus pandemic:

Client: My wife and I have been quarantined together for 14 days and we’ve decided to get back together. I don’t want to go ahead with the divorce. Can you refund the fee?

Lawyer: 14 days…hmmm….Let’s not rush it: I think we’re still in business.

Having lived under the same roof with my wife for seven months under the dark clouds of impending divorce, the joke is only semi-funny. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be funny, only droll in a sick sort of way. Divorce isn’t funny, ever. And neither my wife nor I saw any humor in the circumstance; it was sad and painful. The lawyer was definitely still in business.

For the past two days, continuing again tomorrow, I’ve been engaged in a refresher Landmark forum for graduates of the in-person Forum. This three-day marathon is online via Zoom, not an ideal platform for such personal work. On the whole it seems to be working well enough.

We’ve been revisiting all of the basic principles, grown “crusty” in our own practice as the forum leader puts it. Rackets, life sentences, always already listening, the way we wound up being, winning formulas, the genesis of identity. The goal—indeed, the title—of this online forum is Free to Be, Free to Act. Only transformation can achieve this. Not knowing anything, or insights, or figuring anything out. Being on the court with the reality of our lives is a lot different than being in the stands. Recognizing that the “I am” we say we are is a created identity, drawn up from our past, described in language.

Much of the material remains fresh in my mind having been core to the UCLA course last summer, and continuing with the bi-weekly reading of the 1978 Forum lead by Werner Erhard, Speaking Being. At UCLA, Werner Erhard led a third of the sessions, driving home the points in his intimate, sometimes confrontational, always compassionate style. It was an immense privilege.

I’ve been revisiting the work I did then, relevant in my life today.  I cry, still, when I read the letter I wrote to my wife about the racket I was running. That she said nothing in response, nothing at all, never acknowledging what I wrote in any way, remains a wound that can’t be healed. Perhaps she thought that any acknowledgement, even a Fuck You, would be providing some kind of satisfaction that she was so very unwilling to provide. She once told me she refused to be compassionate because she knew that’s what I wanted.

I wrote then:


Currently I am engaged in the Being a Leader leadership course. During the course I came to realize that I have been running, what in this course is called, a “racket” with you. I have come to see this is not a productive way of being and it has actually cost our relationship something I am no longer willing for you or me to continue paying.

While it is probably obvious to you, what has not been working for me, or you, is that my default way of being is being the “good” man in our relationship. By this I mean I have defined myself as the flexible partner, the one always trying to please and willing to compromise, as though these behaviors were admirable.

What I now realize is that the issue identified above has persisted because there has been a payoff for me in running this racket.

The payoff that I now see is that this racket has allowed me to be right, to occupy a moral high ground that when not appreciated by you allows me to be the wronged party. My racket has been based on the paradigm that there is always a right and a wrong in any situation.

What I have also come to realize is that running this racket on our relationship has cost me your trust, your love, and our marriage. 

I leave you with my word that in any new future we may create this racket will be no more.

Love always,

This racket of being the Good Man is my self-imposed life sentence, the way I wound up being. Somewhere deep in childhood I developed the idea that if I were not the good boy, I would be the bad boy. There were no boys in life, only good boys and bad boys. Bad boys lived in bad houses with bad families and did bad things.

I remember once, I must have been in fourth grade, I went home after school with the class bad boy, Eddie Messner. Funny how I remember his name to this day. He lived literally on the other side of the tracks, in a run-down house, with a run-down family. Cars on blocks outside. He was incredibly exciting. I don’t remember what we did, but at some point in the late afternoon his mother shouted out the back door that I had to go home. How I would get home had never occurred to me. There was no one at the Messner household to drive me home (that wouldn’t have occurred to them) so I set off walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood, not sure of where to go. Meanwhile my mother, having learned from one of my other friends where I had gone, had set out in her car looking for me, eventually finding me half way home, in tears. I wasn’t punished—I was never punished for anything—but firmly made to believe that something dreadfully bad had occurred, that I had skirted horrible consequences by the skin of my teeth, that befriending a bad boy like Eddie Messner would only lead to ruin. Good boys didn’t have bad boy friends.

Years later, long after I was sent to a private school where no bad boys went, I came to realize that Eddie Messner wasn’t bad, he was poor. And that to my family associating with a boy who lived in the squalor of poverty was behavior beyond the pale of their self-defined, and fragile, dignity.

To succeed in life, I would need to be a good boy, a refined boy, a reasonable boy. I couldn’t worry my mother by going off with the likes of poor Eddie Messner. At the same time my genteel mother covertly communicated that I couldn’t follow in my father’s footsteps, either. Poverty wasn’t the issue, very much the opposite. He was a handsome, successful businessman, a sportsman, hunter, fisherman, champion shot. He had played minor league baseball. He played golf. Turned out he was philander, adulterer, too. He divorced my mother to marry his best friend’s secretary. Oh no, don’t be like him.

The way I wound up being is to be the good boy, always. Good boys inevitably wind up being victims to their own scheme of life. Good boys try to please, not to provide pleasure but to avoid displeasure. Always waiting for the next shoe to drop, good boys try to anticipate where those shoes are treading, and head them off in another direction.

What I have learned from the women who have been in my life is to be fearful: fearful of their censure, fearful that they will leave. Twice I have been with women who were always already leaving, incapable of commitment. I wanted so desperately to please them, have them love me, have them recognize all the good boy attributes as something to admire, not grow to hate.

Being the good boy among other liabilities didn’t work.

It’s time to move on. No more good boy. No bad boy, either; maybe be just a boy. A man.

Free to be. Free to act.

Why I Don’t Unfriend Facebook


This morning I opened Facebook to discover something remarkable, a message from the past that I welcomed with a smile.

Years ago—more than twelve years ago—when I worked at FCB’s offices on Herald Square in Manhattan, I would frequently go over to the dingy Post Office in the Empire State Building. One day after waiting in line for the usual interminable amount of time, I was greeted by the guy behind the counter who, noticing a paper shopping bag I was carrying, said, “Where’s Yellow House Books, it’s a bookstore I don’t know?” I think I said something like, Come again? not believing that this ordinary postal worker had asked me about a used and rare bookstore in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

This began a many year at-the-counter friendship with a man who was no ordinary postal worker. He was a reader, a deep, avid, fascinating reader from Staten Island. We shared our favorite authors, favorite bookstores, offered suggestions, all the while ignoring the irritated customers standing behind in the inevitable line. He paid no attention to their growls of displeasure, and instead told me about his latest find.

In mid 2008 I moved to California and have never been back to that Post Office. I’m not sure it’s even there anymore. On many occasions I’ve thought about my postal worker reading buddy, but thought him lost among the many people we meet in life in one circumstance or another and never see again.

Until this morning. There in my Facebook Messenger inbox was a message from RK:

I don’t know if you remember me – I used to work at the Empire State Building Post Office- we used to talk about literature & recommend books to read … You turned me on to Murakami & I recommended Par Lagerkvist’s “The Dwarf” to you. Anyhow I just read Joyce Cary’s (an Anglo – Irish author) “The Horse’s Mouth” – never read anything quite like it – took me a while to get into it … but the language & writing is so unique, quirky & funny! It’s more than a bit politically incorrect for these times – so I wanted to share it with someone- but couldn’t think of anyone who could appreciate it – And then I thought of You! If my memory of you is correct – I think that this book will be right up your alley – well written , funny, quirky, odd

I literally burst with delight! Of course I remember! How but for Facebook could this reconnection have occurred. I know young people today scorn the platform, thinking it’s for old folks– like me. But what a joy to discover, or be discovered, by a long lost acquaintance. And to begin a conversation as though there had been no hiatus at all.

I’m not unfriending Facebook any time soon.

R.A.B./RIP- 04/10/2020

Yesterday I learned late in the afternoon that one of my closest friends had died the evening before, alone in his Pacific Heights apartment, in circumstances not fully known. He had been battling lung cancer since last summer, enduring months of chemotherapy followed by debilitating radiation; he recently learned that these treatments had not eradicated the murderous cells and that more treatments were necessary to continue living. He was scheduled for a full scan on Monday–tomorrow–with his doctors’ prognosis coming on Thursday. Earlier he had told me, and other friends, that if more radiation was recommended he would refuse treatment. He accepted his condition, was at peace with it, and didn’t want more months of misery.

What we know is that he had a call on Friday at 3:00pm with one of his doctors. I had spoken to him the day before, on Thursday, and we planned to speak again Friday. Earlier in the day on Friday he texted me to say that after two Zoom meetings and then the virtual call with his physician, he would likely be all talked out for the day–breathing was increasing difficult–and that we could talk on Saturday. Saturday never came.

Did he hear bad news from his doctor, news that convinced him to throw in the towel? We’re not exactly sure how the end came. The investigating policeman told the coroner natural causes/probable heart attack. Apparently, according to the person who found him dead in his apartment, all the police really wanted to confirm was that it wasn’t Covid-19. All that person is saying–he’s one of his longest time (fifty years) friends and is 85–is that he found him in the bathroom and “it was ghastly,” and “I won’t describe it.” He said his old friend’s apartment–he lived in the same Pacific Heights apartment with stupendous views of the Bay and out the Gate for the past thirty-six years–was completely organized, nothing out of place, not a dish in the sink, phone positioned in the center of his dining table, and a file with the cremation documentation on his desk.

What’s heartbreaking is the thought of my friend alone, and isolated, due to the coronavirus, from anyone who could possibly have come to aid him, making this fateful decision in loneliness and despair, without any hope, or human comfort. Perhaps it was a heart attack. I want to think so. There’s no way to know. He will be cremated on Monday.

He was the second friend I made after moving to San Francisco, in 2008, and over the years he (together with the first friend I made) have been two of my three closest friendships. On my first Thanksgiving in a new city where I knew no one, he invited me to accompany him to an annual Thanksgiving dinner at Serenity Knolls, a treatment center where my friend had got sober the year before. He valued his sobriety with near religious commitment, and his community of friends at our Cow Hollow men’s group a much loved fellowship: a very special, and lasting bond, for many of us.

Elegant with no pretension, learned with no academic gloss, unfailingly kind, he was a mentor, guide, patient listener, spiritual adviser who doubted the existence of God, sponsor to many, friend to all. I was honored to be included in his own pantheon of closest friends, the others of fifty years or more. He was the only friend to give my then fiancé and I an engagement party. He was steadfast at my side when five years later she ended the marriage. He accepted my anguish with compassion and grace, as all three of my closest friends did, supporting me through a very difficult period,  That they could all be together at my farewell dinner, hosted by my third friend and his wife, is a joy I will always hold close to my heart.

His loss is deeply felt by many.

Today, when going about my routines,  I found myself thinking often, “what would Ray do?” While not a man of great formality, he maintained standards of dress and table manners worth emulating.  I will be sure to always use a sterling napkin ring, and the “good” dishes every day. Why save them, for what? Today is the day I’m living, not some time in the future.


Much love.


What Matters Most is Friendship After All

I leave San Francisco in twenty days, Boston bound. In twenty days my California adventure will come to an end. It wasn’t a chapter in my life that I intended to be temporary. I moved from New York in mid 2008 to create a new life, away from the turmoil and drama of an ugly divorce and unmanageable behavior. A new job in San Francisco facilitated the move.

I have created a new life here in this city on the Bay, the bay being a huge part of the life I’ve created. I have loved my life here, and yet, again, I am moving away to change the music following another painful, if less ugly, divorce. Failed marriages seem to be my catalysts for change: the first one an urgent necessary, the second not: calmer and sadder. It needn’t have been.

What I have come to realize, and appreciate, is that the friendships I have here are more important and more lasting than the two romantic relationships that occurred during these eleven and a half years. My friends will remain my friends forever; the two women are gone from my life. Forever.

Last night my closest friends Josh and his wife Peggy hosted a farewell dinner. My two friends whom I’ve known the longest in San Francisco, Michael and Ray were there. New friends Ross and his husband Greg, and Alan and Zena were there, too. Old friends meeting new friends, all present at the dining table for me.

Adapting the lyrics from Barbra Streisand’s beautiful song by Marilyn and Alan Bergman  called “What Matters Most,” Ross wrote and sang his version to me:

It’s not how many swims shared in the bay

What matters are the friends who swam together

It’s not how far we traveled on our way

But what we found to say

It’s not the springs we’ve seen

But all the shades of green.


It’s not how far apart our homes may be

What matters is how sweet the years together

It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall

The laughter and the smiles we gratefully recall

What matters most is friendship after all.


I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry.

What matters most is friendship after all.

She can’t take that away from me. She can upend my life, but she can’t take away friendship. My friendships.

Josh, Michael, Ray, these three men in my life—each so different from one another and each occupying such large swathes of geography in my heart. I love these men in a way that romantic love can’t equate. My love for them is like the foundation of a building, on top of which romance builds a house. The house blew down in a storm—it was made of straw– but the foundation remains rock solid and secure.

The irony, if irony is what it is, is that my friendship, my best friendship friendship, with Josh came about because she was friends with him; he swam with her for years before meeting me. She introduced us and asked Josh to take me on my first South End bay swim. We swam out of the Cove and behind the Balclutha. Of the many things for which I’m grateful that she gave me—there are many—my friendship with Josh touches most deeply.

Version 4

It’s rare when later in life you meet a new friend, another man, who comes to occupy so important a place in your life, as though friends since birth. Josh was the first person I called after she told me she no longer loved me and wanted to end our marriage, that clear cold day in February when I biked to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and stared down at the dark water for an hour, realizing that my life could be renewed in ways I couldn’t yet imagine. He and Peggy came immediately, and have been there for and with me every single day.

She can’t take that away, what she gave to me she can’t take away from me. Only herself.

Part of the sadness that pervades the dissolution of our marriage and the resulting disassociation is that I can’t share my gratitude for what she gave me. She closed that door. She won’t speak to me, pretends not to see me when I’m a few feet away.

She broke my heart, yet provided the tools for its mending. My friends, and the life I created being with her.

Also at dinner last night Peggy, too, composed and sang a song, to the melody of Silver Bells. Many stanzas, with these sweet refrains:


It’s almost time for departing

Off you go, to the snow

Soon it will be sub-zero!



It’s almost time that you’re heading

To the east, take your fleece

You’ll be a Bostonian!



Soon you’ll betaking your leaving

The Club will care, you’re not there

You will be missed everywhere!



It’s almost time for departing

Soon you’ll go, to our woe

Maybe you’ll find a new beau!



Do stay in touch with your old friends

We implore, so therefore

You must comeback evermore!


We wish you sweet adventures

Paint more art, mend your heart

Swim in Boston Harbor!


Eyes again filled with tears, and smiles.

 Michael wrote, “I have always liked the Michael I saw through your eyes.”  Michael was my very first friend I made in San Francisco, beginning before I even moved here. I learned the city through his generosity of time and friendship. His six years at Tassajara and subsequent life commitment to the San Francisco Zen Center have been a beacon of integrity, hope, and a model for life, one I could never achieve but so admire. The Michael I saw, and see today, is a man for all seasons, all ages–wise, funny, generous, kind, intelligent, with a voice I could listen to forever. I hope I do.

And Ray, dear Ray, for whom 2019 has been a year of health emergencies and hardship, what can I say. I spent my first California Thanksgiving with Ray, scooped up when he hardly knew me to not be alone on this first holiday in a new city. Michael and Ray have seen me through both romantic break-ups, have been there even when the “there” was histrionic and overwrought. They never judged. Ray knows me I suspect better than I know myself. And smiles.

They will be there long after. She can’t take them away from me.

My friends live all over the world: Janine in Australia, Sean in Germany, Alan in France, John in Chicago, Richard in New York.

Now three in San Francisco.

They will all be with me long after this. They come with me to Boston, to what life will bring, to what new future that doesn’t yet exist.

May I honor them and keep their love and respect.

What matters most is friendship after all.


It’s not how long we held each other’s hand
What matters is how well we loved each other
It’s not how far we traveled on our way
Of what we found to say
It’s not the spring you see, but all the shades of green
It’s not how long I held you in my arms
What matters is how sweet the years together
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
What matters most is that we loved at all.




I am I am

All the things I had ever heard, and read, and all those hours of practice, suddenly fell into place. It was so stupidly, blindingly simple that I could not believe it. I saw that there were no hidden meanings, that everything was just the way that it is, and that I was already all right…I realized I was not my emotions or thoughts. I was not my ideas, my intellect, my perceptions, my beliefs…I was simply the space, the creator, the source of all that stuff. I experienced Self as Self in a direct, unmediated way. I didn’t just experience Self; I became Self. Suddenly I held all the information, the content, in my life in a new way, from a new mode, a new context…I am I am.                                     Werner Erhard

Everything that shows up in life is living.

It’s just the way that it is. Everything else is storytelling.

I am working on internalizing the concept that I am not my emotions, my thoughts, my ideas, my intellect, my perceptions, my beliefs. That I am only the space where all that stuff occurs, without meaning. That I am already all right. All right with the world, and with myself.

A lot has shown up in my life this year. The dissolution of my marriage. Moving from my house and living in temporary lodging. Downsizing. Losing my dog. My son being diagnosed with lymphoma. Planning to move across the country. Hand surgery. Accepting the finality of the woman I married no longer loving me. Being alone.

Obviously of all these occurrences, my son’s cancer is the most concerning. My dislocation is minor, and temporary. He appears to be responding well to treatment; time will tell. Still, this shifts the earth in an unanticipated and unwanted way. Nothing that’s happened this year has been “wanted.”

Last night I dreamed of my wife, and our dog Bebe, for the first time since moving out. In my dream we met unplanned on the street. At first Bebe didn’t recognize me but then suddenly he did and was overjoyed with doggie emotion, leaping onto my chest, licking my face. My wife was just there, a bystander. I didn’t want to talk to her.

I don’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to see her. Let her live her life alone away from me. She has been the cause in the matter, inflicted the damage, no doubt saving me from the tranquillized obviousness of our passionless, sexless marriage. I don’t need her to remind me. I dread accidently seeing her.

But then, this too is only my internal state: sulky emotions, bittersweet regrets, fears and anxieties. (She always told me I was an anxious man.)

Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times today wrote about loneliness:

Loneliness increases inflammation, heart disease, dementia and death rates, researchers say — but it also simply makes us heartsick and leaves us inhabiting an Edvard Munch canvas.

Heartsick. Yes, that’s what I’ve experienced this year. I’ve recovered from a far worse case before, and will again. Friends help; my sons help.

I don’t fear living on my own, though enjoy the companionship of living together with someone. I enjoyed living with my wife, even when she was not for me, not really with me. She was with me only a very short time.

I want to be reunited with my books, my things, the stuff that makes my daily life mine. I am grateful for where I’m living now, but I’m housed, and yet homeless. My mail will be screwed up for a year.

I am I am. I am the man I am. I can’t be another. Aging scares me, as it should. I see too many people dying. Adam’s chemo nurse told me the cheery news that at our age, a third of the people we know will die before we do. Likely of cancer.

Still, I strive for selfhood. To experience Self as Self. And not all these emotions. All this storytelling.

I’m tired of the story.


The Gift Unwanted

I find myself in an ironic, conflicted state of mind. Despite the absence of sex and genuine affection, I liked being married to my wife. The status quo was OK.  I would have continued on for years in this state of —as Werner would say—tranquillized obliviousness.  Life had a routine, a comfortable sort of familiarity, its own petty pace.  It was almost like having a home.  Maybe I just liked being married.  As my wife let me know, married men live longer.

Now, on my own, my future is entirely in my hands.  Of course it always was. I let a relationship substitute for a future.  Having the possibility of creating a future for myself that wasn’t going to happen is a gift my wife gave me.  I didn’t want it, fought against it, suffered because of it.  I harbor complex emotions about her because of what she did. Instead I should simply be grateful.

Months ago I wrote in this chronicle about my gratitude to her for the many things in my life made possible by our relationship.  Her closest friend harshly criticized me for being “back-handed.”  That wasn’t my intention.  She opened the door to my near entire experience of California.  She introduced me to my best friend.  She re-introduced me to the joys of swimming in the Bay.  She initiated our adoption of a dog.  I’m even mostly vegan because of Brenda’s diet.

In the movie Beyond Rangoon, a Buddhist from Burma explains to a visiting American, “We are taught that suffering is the one promise life always keeps. So that if happiness comes we know it is a precious gift, which is ours only for a brief time.”

My happiness with my wife was a precious gift—which was ours only for a brief time. Being gone, the future is mine to write.


Lost, in North Beach

Walking down Columbus Avenue in North Beach early last evening I was dismayed to see so many empty, boarded up storefronts. North Beach was the first neighborhood I grew to know when I moved to San Francisco in 2008. I lived in the soulless Golden Gateway apartments on Battery Street, and North Beach was a short walk away.

Nearly all my favorite shops and restaurants are gone, along with the people who owned them. A few favorites remain: Il Pollaio, with it’s grilled chicken and salad dinners, and Jimmy Schein in his antique print and frame shop on Upper Grant. City Lights Bookstore remains a beacon of literary civilization.

My friend Conor Fennessey abandoned his antique and design shop years ago, a victim of his own fate. Essentially a scoundrel and a thief—but oh what a charming scoundrel and thief!—Conor was blessed with exquisite taste mixed up with Irish wit and an unerring eye to detect an easy sucker to overpay for whatever he was selling.


Nothing in Conor Fennessey Antiques was priced, and everything was expensive. It was commonly understood that Conor would size up a potential customer and price the desired object in question accordingly.

His Yelp reviews were awful. People would come into the shop and ask the price of let’s say a chair and Conor would off the top of his head say $5,500. When the astonished customer would respond with something like, “wow, that’s really expensive,” Conor would look them up and down behind his large black glasses and reply, “well, then I guess it’s not for you.”

Once, when foot traffic and sales were lagging, Conor decided to have a sale, and posted a sign in the front window announcing 20% Sale on Selected Items. As always, nothing in the large store was priced or otherwise marked. Customers would walk in and not seeing any evidence of a sale, ask politely, “which items are on sale?” If Conor suspected the person was merely a tourist walking up Columbus from Fisherman’s Wharf, he would tell them, “the sale is over.” If they looked more promising, he might ask, “what are you interested in?” Then the dance would begin. The customer would point to an item, and Conor would say, “oh, that’s not on sale today.” Or, he might say, “that’s $1,200” to which the customer would come back, “is that the 20% sale price?” and Conor would confirm ,”yes.” All pricing was entirely arbitrary. Inevitably, the customer would become annoyed and muttering some insult, leave the shop.

Eventually Conor’s shady financial dealings with consignees caught up with him and he had to close the store. Nothing was ever the same after that, and too few years later Conor died of a heart attack.

Conor was a special friend, one who showed me a side of San Francisco I would never have known—from the 21 Club bar in the Tenderloin where the Fijian owner would hand me my Diet Coke as cheerfully as serving up hard liquor to the drag queens, prostitutes, and the near homeless regular clientele, to his fancy Pacific Heights friends like Dede Wilsey.

Bill Haskell’s quirky French flea market shop Aria on Upper Grant is gone.


Yone SF is gone—as one Yelp reviewer wrote: Yone is AMAZING!  Seriously, you rarely find places with as much character and uniqueness as this store.  Such a gem.  However, it is the kind of place you should only visit if you have a lot of time and are mentally prepared to fall into another world… totally fairy tale.

Rose Pistola—once the most famous Italian restaurant in the city—gone. So many others, too numerous to relate.

Washington Square is entirely closed and fenced for reconstruction that while not permanent gives the focal point of the neighborhood a desolate, unconstructed air.

I’m told it’s rising rents from greedy landlords, coupled with the length of time it takes to get permitted. The small independent shops can no longer make it.

I’ve been drawn to these tiny one-of-a-kind shops my entire life. And nearly all are gone, the most poignant, and painful, being my beloved Patina Antiques on Bleecker Street in the West Village in New York—gone now for decades.

The size of a shoebox, Patina Antiques was owned by a modest and quiet gay guy and his much younger handsome equally quiet lover. They specialized in small objects of unimaginable oddity and uniqueness.

Years after I left the Village—our apartment was on 5th Avenue at Ninth Street—I learned that the store was robbed and the young assistant murdered during the robbery. The day after, the owner shot himself in grief.

These losses weigh heavily on my heart, some, like Patina Antiques, because of the time in my life it occupied; and others, like Conor Fennessey, because of my friendship with him, and the time we together spent unearthing a city I didn’t know.

And one loss leads to another, the loss of my marriage with my wife weighing me down most recently, and sadly.  Inconstancy comes in many disguises.  When disguised as love, its appearance hurts the most.

Universe Speaking?

I’m sitting in the 2nd floor waiting area at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland while my son Adam is having a chemotherapy port inserted in his chest. It’s unimaginable that this is happening—my beautiful boy diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma a week ago—and yet the step-by-step, procedure-by-procedure regimen leading up to treatment feels weirdly routine and obviously necessary. I’m where I need to be now, and grateful that I can be at his side, now, when he needs the support.

The universe has a mysterious way of speaking. I attach no spiritual significance to it, but is it just coincidence that I’m living here in Oakland, now, close to Adam and all the facilities for his treatment?

Had my wife not dissolved our marriage I would still be living with her in San Francisco. I only moved out on September 1st, a few days before learning from Adam about his condition. Had my good friends Robin and Ken not offered me their house in Oakland god only knows where I’d be living today. Had I not, after twelve years of not driving, decided to get a California license back in June, I would not be driving Adam to appointments. Coincidences? Whatever they are, I’m fortunate to be where I am right now.

Despite the resulting convenience for me, I do not absolve my wife from her decision to end our marriage. She has lost her right to be concerned about me, or my family, however genuine. She gave that away when she gave me away. It still hurts.

Sam came from Boston this past week to cheer up Adam, and me, with his congenitally happy personality and positive spirit. It made an otherwise sad situation joyful and light and filled with cheerful energy—a world of difference.


The peculiar aspect to this is that as the next six months progress, all the chemo, treatments, and new scans will become routine. I hear this from the too many friends I have either undergoing cancer treatment or have done so in the past. Too many. What once was something that happened to other people is now suddenly, from nowhere, happening to my son. And he will deal with it as he must, and we will, too. His intention is to persevere with his 4th year medical school program, with the full support of his faculty and administrators. Everyone is with him.

Soon Adam’s mother will visit, and his older brother David, and perhaps his good friends from high school. His life will be full on all fronts, filled with people who love him.

Best of all he has his lovely wife Rachel, wife as of last Thursday when they moved the date of their marriage up from May 9th, 2020, to right now, immediately following Adam’s biopsy.  Already a physician, Rachel knows what Adam is facing. They face a happy future together.

Diary -January 15, 2018

Angie Mattingly was the leader when I participated in the Landmark Forum four years ago.  Many of the things she said still resonate.

Being up to something

Landmark Insight by Angie Mattingly, Landmark Forum leader

What marks a visionary is dedication to a possibility, a dedication that rejects outright the complacency of those who prefer the status quo and insists that there has to be another way. Instead of reaching for the nearest, most convenient conclusions, their commitment causes them to push hard against the limits of what others might see as possible.*

When we are up to something, we are called to step forward, to be and act in wholly new ways, to risk what we already know for something beyond the predictable. To be up to something calls forth strength and creativity—it generates energy and excitement that attracts and invites the participation of others. When we are up to something, we step outside the constraints of our circumstances, and stand for a possibility. We don’t reference what’s possible against who we’ve been or what’s been done in the past, what’s predictable or expected, but rather against what we stand for and see as possible. Conditions and circumstances begin to reorder and realign themselves inside of what we stand for. Our relationship to possibility moves from an abstract ideal or remote objective to a viable, living reality.