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.

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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)



Creativity is a process. It's a place, a state of mind and a pretty scary and deep chasm into which one can fall - even when we're not actively creating. I fell into the cavern of 2011, like a blind person I went round and round feeling the walls in the dark, never sure if I was near finding a way out or just working in circles, hand over hand, over the same walls. Despite how aimless that description sounds, 2011 may have been my most creative year, as I have literally sprung from the chasm with not just energy, but with a plan.

My Now is new, all over again. I, like every person on the reading planet, have not stopped thinking about Pico Iyer's Opinion piece in the New York Times last weekend, "The Joy of Quiet". It's been tweeted and retweeted, posted on Facebook by stacks of friends. And yet for me it's overt message: turn off technology and become a human, already is NOT what resonates. Instead, the many gems Iyer includes, quotes from Thoreau and Marshall McLuhan, and Merton, and the monk David Stendl-Rast speak to the power of connection, not the call for ex-communication.

Granted, the piece is all about the pace at which stuff is coming at us - and it's voracious for sure. We're freaking out, as Iyer says, because "like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much, all but overnight." But there is something to do other than shriek and run away fast to escape the pace. Because isn't pace what we're judged for, as a nation and as individuals? Think what we're able to accomplish at a pace!

The last line of Iyer's article gets it for me, gets at the ways in which peace and quiet must coexist with technology, information and the flashing lights of our lives. Iyer meets a past acquaintance from his chosen escape, a few days at a Benedictine hermitage. The acquaintance seems very clear about the coexistence - his kids are his story board. In these last lines you see the guy's kids, they're running dirty and happy down a rough road in front of him, whipping it up as they hiatus, their time is free today. It's the moments, isn't it? Peace + Quiet are moments by design! And "the child of tomorrow may actually be ahead of us," Iyer notes, "in terms of sensing not what's new, but what's essential." May it be added that the child of tomorrow is - with the help of the pace, the techo-beeps and the info-floods - the innovator, the builder, the founder of the real New.

The New Now is back, and accompanied by the (constant) interruptions, beeps and diversions I look forward to the conversation about how we cope in the chasm.

Some of the quotes in Pico Iyer's article, the Joy of Quiet:

"When things come at you too fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself." Marshall McLuhan

"The man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important message." Henry David Thoreau

Joy is described by the monk David Stendl-Rast as "that kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens."