A great Op Ed was published in the NY Times this weekend, "Your Brain on Fiction" about the profound role that reading fiction plays in enriching our lives and relationships - and as I see it, on the trajectory of the world. Annie Murphy Paul gets into it in very simple terms: ‎"Individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective."

Who doesn't say (these days, regularly): IF ONLY WE COULD GET ALONG, HEAR EACH OTHER, COLLABORATE.

Life is fiction, for sure. Within a chapter we can take a drastic turn for the worse, OR we are only a plot twist away from fame, glory, salvation, or just a little happiness. Great fiction is always about what we have to give up in the process. And because lives, like fiction, are neatly divided into Parts with many chapters means that there is always the hope of regaining what matters, what we love, what makes up fulfillment.

I haven't been on a plane in months - months and months. My (life) fiction to this point has included, in every Part, travel. And as this particular one evolves, I worry that travel is what I am giving up. I grieve a little at the thought.

Creative escape. Here are 10 minutes of therapy in a Part without travel.


Pinterest is a dream come true!

When we moved back from Amsterdam one of my first tourist stops in American was a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It was as close as I could get to resuscitating the world I'd left -- here's a woman who lived travel and experience, vicariously, through her make-believe Venetian courtyard and amongst her millions of dollars of art and sculpture and tapestry. Europe at home. Every now and then, Mrs. Gardner pops into my consciousness and this morning it was she in the form of this portrait. She's my muse today, and it's her energy I want to capture in what I write, how I communicate and the face I hope to put to the world. Mrs. Gardner is a traveler at home, living the style and creativity that so inspired her abroad.

It used to be I'd sit over a coffee table book and more recently a blog or magazine spread, and an image would take me away into my vicarious world. I'd gaze and think and then lose it again to that place ephemera goes - when you turn a page or go back to the business at hand. But friends, for capturing the spirit of creativity, now there's Pinterest!

They say you have to be a certain kind of person to embrace the breaking waves of social media, one who either lives a marketing existence and may or may not be paid to do so - or one with too much time on her hands. But Pinterest sates a whole different appetite, and there are far more of us hungry for it. You like pretty things? You collect stuff? You found yourself pointing over an old scrapbook from time to time, "that was this and look how sweet..." Pinterest is a scrapbook, and incredibly, people are actually interested in your photos.

Here is a fantastic and funny one-two-three on Pinterest and why we love it. Read... great blog too!



What were we worried about?

The New York Giants won the Super Bowl last night in the form they're famous for -- the win wasn't fancy, but you could cut the determination with a knife. Eli talked down to the microphone as he left the field: How did they pull it out? "We had faith in each other. And there was no other outcome."

We're big Giants fans, and we were worried about that outcome! A game is the simple stuff to be worried about. In fact, being worried about whether the Giants could pull it off was a nice break from being worried about the other stuff. And when it's all over, we are relieved - but not elated, feeling kind of like "OK, that was easy".

If having faith in your team is how you win, along with playing the game one pass reception at a time, why is it so easy to succumb to worry?

It isn't like me to work a sports metaphor, so let me take a left turn and share something more erudite, get back on familiar ground.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a great one for analyzing what there was to worry about, and yet his wealth and love for a cocktail led him ever to the contrary. This is Fitzgerald's beautiful letter to his 11-year old daughter, Scottie - a list of things to worry about, not to worry about and simply think about.

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

(Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald with his daughter, Scottie, in 1924.)



An extraordinary article in the New York Times Magazine last weekend called "The Essence of Being Human is Not Remembering but Forgetting" -- is your copy still laying around? Because the very point of the piece is how far removed we are getting from the hard copy - the true memory - the ephemera.

With what is nothing short of universal proliferation, our "hard copies" are disappearing. We use digital cameras and store our photos on an external hard drive - we used to stick white-bordered photos on our mirrors. Our music is on a screen, we scroll through songs whose titles really never meant anything, for what we used to listen to was more like a panorama, a bigger picture, called an ALBUM. Our memories are now a Facebook Timeline. The notes and letters we sent and received are now emails, texts. Shopping mornings or strolls around a lake are now, so often, tweets. Carina Chocano makes the bleak statement that "what we used to call... records, accounts, entries, archives, collections, keepsakes, catalogs, testimonies and memories" are now, simply, data -- the "stored evidence of our existence".

A dear and close friend from as long ago as 9th grade visited me on the frontier this weekend. It was she to whom my notes were passed and from whom I received the (rite of passage) photo and magazine collage. She was always the archiver for us, and still has it all, us, in boxes. And there's little chance she'll read this post because she's not on Facebook and she shrinks at the thought of following a blog. She says it's because she'd get lost in it, but I think she knows what the Times article is saying, which is, if she goes there, all she's collected will turn into... data.

But is that so, is it a stark either/or? I commented on this same question on January 4th after reading "The Joy of Quiet", and today I put the same stake in the ground. There can be both! What some think of as a replacement existence - cyberspace - should be enabling, not crippling! It should allow us to experience MORE, not be a numbing escape!

Jason Foer, author of "Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything", is quoted in the Magazine's article as saying "what makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful." Let's talk about how to use this enabler - cyberspace - the New Now - to create significance and color. Imagination.

ARTIST A DAY: Get an email a day and be introduced to an artist of every medium, the mission is to make personal connections with everyday US and art

PINTEREST: Create an online pinboard, where you can collect the things that inspire you, and share it if you want

STUMBLE UPON: A discovery engine that is customized to find the things you want to see/read about/hear/learn, send you a weekly email - your own Time or Life

VERY SHORT LIST: Receive a daily email that recommends one must-know gem a day

COLOUR LOVERS: A blog that is the definitive voice on color, its role in life, the way it interplays and how it's interpreted



One of the most inspiring places I have ever been is Biot, in the hills above Antibes in the South of France. John and I were there in 1996, can't remember how long we stayed but long enough to make a baby, and long enough that the Bourride at Hotel les Arcades was engraved to a collective memory, the most inspired dish on this emerald earth.

A simple enough preparation, we make fish soup now with what we have, adding taste layers but never messing with the elements. You've got to have clam broth and saffron, and a good little tin of tomato paste. The rest you can improvise. The affect of Bourride, our fish soup, is coals for a snow day or shade for a sunny one. This is creative perfection.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS (be creative)

  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup of fresh chopped tomato (about 1 medium sized tomato)
  • 2 tsp of tomato paste.
  • 8 oz of clam juice (comes in a glass bottle in the soup aisle or at the seafood counter)
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 lb fish fillets (like halibut, cod, monk fish), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1-2 sweet Italian sausage links, chopped in bite sized pieces
  • 6-10 Mussels, washed and picked clean
  • Sprinkle of dried oregano, thyme, black pepper, Tobasco
  • 10 or 15 strands of saffron
  • Salt

1 Heat olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté 4 minutes. Add parsley and stir 2 minutes. Add tomato, tomato paste and cook 2 minutes longer.

2 Add clam juice, dry white wine, and fish and simmer until fish is cooked through, less than 10 minutes. Add seasoning. Salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Serves 4

With it, Manchego cheese and the bread you love, a plate of butter lettuce drizzled with good olive oil, the juice of a fresh lemon and a palmful of salt.

Night Fishing at Antibes, Picasso, August 1939. Click to learn about it.



A friend emailed yesterday and said she needed a boost, and wanted an infusion of life, of info... Pop Culture!

I don't know what the exact motivation was for her (but I'll find out), I do know there is a certain quick flash, like the jones of a shopaholic, that is triggered at the lowest points of getting down with the New Now. In my early twenties in San Francisco, my roommate and I could mark each other's mood and heartbreak, the lowest of 20's lows, when we got the call to meet at Virgin Records - nothing beats life's dissatisfaction like brand new music.

Whether we know it or not, we have a soundtrack playing, all of us, and when the ride gets uncomfortable, we have to change the station. The newer the better, though don't ignore the call of the past, for us it was for Karla Bonoff or Neil Young. (Have to have these playing as I finish writing, so please listen while you read.)

Late January 2012 brings this kind of discomfort, like clockwork. Christmas has us sucking wind and Tax Day makes me think of Hitchcock's birds. In our 40's, it's not just moods or heartbreak that signal a soundtrack change, it's the Austerity Program. Some people go buy lipstick, I'm out getting music. Here's what's playing for me right now:

And when we're not out popping corks and waxing fortunate, we're watching:

The Big C, the smartest, funniest and most creative account of coping with Breast Cancer, talk about the New Now
The Tudors, late middle ages, still my passion because these people get passion. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is smashing as Henry VIII
Downton Abbey, surely you've heard about it, love class warfare when the bottom gets to come-up on the top
Modern Family, surely you all watch it already, go back and see the episodes you missed
And Episodes, Matt LeBlanc is outstanding, who knew?

Now you can click on those, watch and listen, it'll help to change the station --



We all have a pre- and post-9/11 perspective. Me, pre-911, went to work in running shoes and drank as much coffee as I wanted, all day long. My security was assumed and opportunity was a given. 9/11 was 10 years ago and I am just figuring out who I am, post. It occurs to me that we all morph over time and with age, even with a catalyst like 9/11 we still have to morph. The gift of the catalyst is a little better vision, a little more wisdom so that we can name inspiration when it comes to us. A catalyst like 9/11, or losing a job, a home, a lover can be the generator of creativity.

One Wednesday a month I serve lunch at the Bridge, a homeless resource in the heart of Dallas where creativity is pretty hard to discern. Yesterday I poured water, which meant I could talk to folks, ask how they are, learn something.

I poured water over a wad of cash passed between hands in a Winston pack, I was told that Jesus was my savior, a guy named Roman said he got his name for a type of shotgun favored for annihilation.

I also got to know two pretty amazing people. A man who's played the Blues all over the South asked if I wanted him to sing something for me. In the soup kitchen there's a horribly-tuned upright, he told me to follow him and stand by, he told me he was the only one left from his band, the others had... The bad acoustics in there made for a muffled sound, but when the music started, clients stayed sitting a lot longer than on other days. The piano player said he likes to play when he can, he said "these folks need it". I'm a good conversationalist so I replied "yes sir, WE ALL DO." Really? And do all of us appreciate a good pair of shoes a couple sizes too big for the 3 pairs of socks we wear to not get blisters? And isn't it great to get tipped off when a restaurant is putting out leftovers? The Blues guy said "Maybe we do, but things aren't good out here, we're having big problems. Some folks don't like each other and music's about all that brings them to earth." Imagine living the meanness of the street and having to deal with people not liking you. Pretty basic.

The piano player played and I kept pouring water and Ernestine sat down. I watched her, she was sitting next to a guy with cornrows who could have been her grandson if she'd started early; she had cataracts, he couldn't keep his pants up. From time to time she'd stroke him on his neck and whisper to him to eat. When their water ran down I went over and talked to them, they weren't related, Ernestine said, "We's married." Lucky man, I told him, to have someone stroke you like that, make you feel beautiful. Music played as the infighting raged, men were named after assault rifles, and yet, this strange pair loved each other.

Before they got moved along, Ernestine asked me what tribe I'm in. I know I must be in one, but I was surprised she thinks in those terms like I do, me rich white girl, she an old black lady living on the streets. It occurred to me then that I have no idea what tribe I'm in, and she said, "well, I knew when you saw me across the room that you recognized our tribe. I love you, girl, you in my tribe."

The creative part is what we bring to the table. How we see what people need, not just food and water but music to calm upset, and the sense of the Universe that connects us.

"Call it a network
Call it a tribe
Call it a family
Whatever you call it
Whoever you are
you need one."

- Jane Howard (1936-1996)