The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book is an engaging tale about a boy who grows up in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts.  I liked how the things that normal kids might find frightening—ghosts, witches, werewolves, crypts—are the symbols of good in the book, while all the danger stems from the world of the living. I liked that Bod wanted to go to school so he could learn about the world outside of the graveyard, and that he sticks out because of this: “Do you know how weird that is?...Nobody comes to school to learn. I mean, you come because you have to.” (When I was thinking about the “It Gets Better” video last week, I was thinking that I got picked on as a kid because I was fat and because I liked school. And one of my other thoughts on the subject was a theme from Gaiman’s Coraline:  that bravery is not fearlessness, rather it is being scared shitless and doing the thing anyway. The same theme shows up in this book but is less important.) I like that the story needs to have the discussion of why Bod should live. As a boy who grew up among ghosts, he doesn’t immediately see what the big deal about being alive is. (“It’s only death.  I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”)

The author says he was influenced by The Jungle Book.  I’m going to add it to the reading list.



I know I was supposed to stop talking about It Gets Better. But, sorry, it’s been on the brain, even more so since the DGMC was making a video. I’ve been paralyzed thinking about it, about what I would say. I finally took time to write stuff down today, and it is crap. But maybe now I can move on.


Bus Stop

One of those songs I've always loved.


I Had $7 on a Book Store Gift Card

So I bought a copy of "Howl." (I just finished On the Road. I might have to go through a phase.) Then I started reading it at lunch in the Food Court, and then I teared up a little because I was happy, and it's that good.

And it talks about weird NJ (Greystone) and Denver ("who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes...").


The Good Samaritan

Notes on a man I met in New Orleans after Yvonne’s wedding:

I called a cab to take me to the airport, but there was already a cab from a different company parked out front. The driver told me that two women who were staying at my hotel were leaving for the airport in ten minutes, so I could join them and save on the fare. He was an Egyptian named Omar. While I was on the phone telling JP I was leaving for the airport, Omar grabbed my suitcase and put it in the trunk. The New Yorker in me was paranoid that the two women did not exist and that he would drive off with my bag. But like Andrea on an Italian submarine, I ignored my inner voice and got into the cab.

The women recognized me from the day before. “I think I saw you in a suit.” I told them I was in town for a wedding; they told me they were on a service trip for their alma mater, building homes, but that they gave themselves a night at the Green House Inn as a reward at the end of their week. They were on the way home to Philadelphia, and I told them I went to school there. They corroborated my story to Omar that the hotel is great, that the pool really makes it, and that the charge is about $150 per night. Omar was shocked that I paid that. “That’s too much! No one would charge that! There are people who don’t make $150 in a week!” I couldn’t tell if he was angry or just loud. But when the women told him the same thing, he said he thought about taking his wife there for a weekend getaway.

The gray clouds that lingered over the city all morning opened up to a drizzle as we were leaving the Garden District. The highway was backed up. Omar thought there must have been an accident because Sunday afternoon traffic was unusual. His suspicion was soon confirmed when we saw a Mercury Grand Marquis that had spun out and crashed into the concrete border or the highway overpass.

“Just a little rain like this is worse than a real rain because the road is SLIPPERY!” Omar explained, in logic that sounded like my mother’s.

Traffic crawled by the crashed car. Its rear jutted into the right lane of traffic. This caused the whole road to slow as cars scrambled to steer clear.

Omar said, “What: he can’t move the car?”

“No one can help push the car out of the way? Even if it is not drivable, three guys can help him push it out of the way!” Omar saw the solution. It always seemed like he was yelling at me.

“The problem is no one will DO it. They see how this is blocking the whole highway.”

The women and I agreed with him, and then:

“Is no one thinking like we are thinking?” I told him maybe not. “Are we going to have to help him?” Omar asked us in a way that implied it was time for him to take control.

As we approached the Grand Marquis, Omar moved into the right lane and pulled over to the shoulder right after we had passed it. He rolled down my window.

“HEY! You need HELP?” he yelled across me to the driver of the car, a young Latino man pacing with his cell phone. I didn’t think he understood. He smiled and said, “Yes.”

“Is it DRIVABLE? CAN YOU DRIVE IT?” Omar asked. Again the guy said yes. Omar jumped out to take a look.

The women and I sat in the cab. I turned and told them, “It looks like the service component of your week is not finished yet.” They laughed and we all remarked on how unexpected the situation was, how it was one more story in their week’s adventures, and how kind Omar was to stop. When we turned to see what was happening behind us in the stranded car, Omar was in the driver’s seat, righting the car so it was out of the way of traffic.

“And the guy couldn’t have done that?” I asked like a jackass, concerned about catching my flight home. I thought our work was done, but we saw Omar motioning with his hand outside the window. He was waving us forward.

I asked, “What does he want us to do?”

“I think he wants you to drive!” the woman behind the driver’s seat said and then erupted into high-pitched laughter.

“Are you kidding me?” I said, but even as I did, I was sliding across the seat and turning the key in the ignition.

I tried to find the hazards but couldn’t. I was more frantic than I needed to be, but I was driving a cab with two strangers in a city I didn’t know. There was a lot of subsequent laughter and me cursing and general incredulity. We couldn’t figure out the endgame.

“We have his CAB!”

“Where the fuck are we going?” was my question as I kept one eye on the increasingly rainy road but mostly tried to decipher Omar’s plan by watching him in the rearview.

The accident had happened on an overpass with a small shoulder. We figured that Omar was trying to get the car off the bridge and onto an area that had a real shoulder. After about a half-mile we reached the end of the overpass and saw Omar signal to pull over towards the grassy side of the road.

After I stopped the cab, the women asked what my name was. At this point I guess introductions seemed in order.

When Omar returned, the brunette said, “Sir, you are a good Samaritan.”

He shrugged off the designation. “All the time I hear people talking and talking about the problem and I say, ‘This will not solve the problem.’ You need someone to do something. We have to look out for everybody.” I told him we needed to get him on the oil spill next.

The rain became heavier and the road more difficult to see. “I told them, ‘Today we will have heavy rain.’ People said it has been cloudy all weekend and it didn’t rain, and I said today it will rain. My prediction is coming true.” We thought we might be delayed. “Will it rain long like this?” asked the blonde woman as we entered the airport.

“I said it would rain, but how long? I don’t know, but after a quick call,” he pointed his finger upward, “I can find out. I can predict sometimes, but He controls it.”

I should have asked the women’s names, but I didn’t. They were the first drop-off. We wished each other safe flights. “Brian, you’re one of our stories, now.”

Likewise, Madam.


I told two Denverites this story. One girl, originally from New Jersey, said, “Did you tip him after that? I would never tip him!” One girl, originally from North Carolina, said it made her want to move back to the South. I gave Omar a huge tip.

It Gets Better Even in Texas

OK, I will try and limit the links to It Gets Better, but there is one from a Penn pal and one from a city councilman.


Ferrero Rocher

I enjoyed this conversation because I actually made my boyfriend laugh a few times.

“I was late to the mindfulness thing, but Gretchen said when I came in, all she could think of was Ferrero Rocher. We couldn’t remember why it was so funny that time at the potluck.”
“Was I there for this conversation?”
“I don’t know. We were all pretty drunk. We were talking about the big pyramid they sell at Christmastime.”
“Are you sure it’s not a Christmas tree?”
“NO, it’s a pyramid!”
“Those are like the ultimate impulse purchase.”
“Where do you even buy them?”
“Drug stores. Wherever See’s Candies and other fine products are sold. Do they have See’s here?”
“See’s makes taffy.”
“They make—“
“See’s like S-E-E-s?”
“They make those boxes—“
“Yes! They make them.”
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“What were you thinking of?”
“They make white boxes of all kinds of chocolate and you have to bite into it to know what it is.”
“Like a Whitman’s sampler?”
“Yes, like—“
“Like Russell Stover?”
“Russell Stover! Yes, like all these things.”
“Ferrero Rocher is fancier, though.”
“With their gold foil.”
“And their paper panty.”
“What? Where is that?”
“You know, on the bottom. The brown paper panty.”
“Like on a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?”
“Yes, exactly!”
“Is that the technical term?”
“No, I read a book where the author was talking about Milanos in their ‘white paper panty,’ and I thought that was the grossest combination of words ever! I sent an e-mail to Andrea.”
“You don’t see those much these days.”
“What don’t you see?”
“The paper panties.”
“Sure, all the Pepperidge Farms cookies have them. And the Royal Danish butter cookies.”
“Mmmm. I want one of those pretzel-shaped ones with the sugar crystals.”
“I loved those, and the circular ones with the ridge. It’s like a ring.”
“Yeah, the one that looks like a macaroon…in donut form.”
“Yeah. You only ate those cookies when there was no other food in the house.”
“Yes. But they were so good when you were hungry. Like a Petit Buerre.”
“What are those, a digestive? Like a Social Tea?”
“I don’t know what those are.”
“Like a rectangular butter cookie with scalloped edges?”
“Yes. There are the plain ones, and some even have a square of chocolate in the middle.”
“Yeah! Those are Petit Ecolier. The little schoolboy. By LU.”
“The plain ones were always so dry. But I would hold them in my mouth until they got mushy.”
“That’s gross, bebe.”
“I love you.”



1. Friends Yvonne and Squeen get featured on Style Me Pretty.

2. The recap of this week's Project Runway cracked me up.

3. And I love Tim Gunn.



Sometimes I think we are like binary stars, and it's hard to believe that we don't live together or work together anymore.