Lost and Found

Despite having spent so much time in London, I still sometimes get lost here. Yesterday, after mixing up the Brompton and Old Brompton Roads (I think), I ended up turned around and walking in circles for 20 minutes. But it’s never stressful to be lost here because I always run into an Underground Station sooner or later, and of course I can speak the language. But life isn’t always so easy. During my brief disorientation yesterday, I recalled a time when I was lost in a big city with no such advantages.

I was in Hyderabad doing some work with orphaned children. The day started with great excitement because our programme was going to be profiled in Life Magazine, which at the time was extraordinarily popular and would therefore bring in the publicity we needed to secure donations. Even better news was that the reporter was Akbar Rhee, an extraordinarily talented and kind man. I had seen him interact with children before — he had a special sweetness to which the young responded — and I knew that as a soft touch for little ones he would write a very positive story.

I went to meet him at what I thought was the appropriate place and he wasn’t there. I then became concerned that I was at the wrong location and walked a bit to orient myself, becoming completely lost in the process. Every turn seemed to lead to another crowded and confusing intersection. Most of the people I asked for help did not speak English, and those that did gave complex and unhelpful directions.

I was increasingly hot, thirsty, distressed and confused. I wondered if I would ever find my way back to my hotel, much less enjoy the chance of conversation with a kindly and influential journalist. Just when I was at the edge of complete despair, I turned a corner and there he was standing right in front of me, smiling with all the considerable warmth of which he was capable!

So naturally I said: Continue reading “Lost and Found”

A Christmas Memory

I believe it was Calvin (not the theologian, but the one who hangs with a tiger named Hobbes) who said that “people who are nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children”. In that spirit, I re-purpose this post which many people told me they enjoyed when it first appeared. This is a holiday experience that smarted at the time but amuses me (and my siblings) mightily in retrospect. Merry Christmas to all!

The year was 1974. As the nation reeled from Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the rise of disco, a wonderful new Christmas special gave us all hope for the future.

It was “The Year Without a Santa Claus“, and it electrified the grade school crowd (and many of their parents) primarily due to two show-stopping dance numbers.

Snow Miser and Heat Miser! The next day at school, everyone was running around the playground signing “BA DUM DUM DUM….TOOOOOO MUCH!”

(Incidentally, it was a culturally important moment as well: Heat Miser and Cold Miser were the first openly gay characters to star in a Christmas special since that dentist kid with the swoop haircut in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer).

Arguments broke out across my grade school about the lyrics of the songs. Because no one had a VCR, we all had to go on our faulty memories. Come next Christmas, I would show that smart-mouth Billy Petoski that it’s “I’m Mr. Sun” not “I’m Number One”! We nursed such grudges like love affairs, expecting vindication 12 months hence.

Excitement grew throughout the year as we awaited the next broadcast. The anticipation became excruciating in early December when TV Guide announced our joyous reunion with the Misers would occur that coming Thursday! Continue reading “A Christmas Memory”


An essay on moral and painterly perspective, round a great paintind by Piero della Francesca

For Kenneth Clark, it was ¨the greatest small painting in the world¨. It´s certainly a masterpiece - and a puzzle. Why did the Umbrian master Piero della Francesca choose around 1450 to paint an overworked stock subject, the Flagellation of Christ, in this extraordinary way?
(Warning: large page below the jump) Continue reading “Perspective”

Johnny Mathis vs. Al Jolson vs. Neil Diamond: Who does the best cover for Kol Nidre

All three kindof rock. I like Al Jolson’s the best. But Johnny Mathis is pretty great, too. Plus Mathis has the best acting.
Continue reading “Johnny Mathis vs. Al Jolson vs. Neil Diamond: Who does the best cover for Kol Nidre”