In the Sunday afternoons of my adolescence, when there was no football to watch or much else to see on TV, our household viewing typically turned to “Firing Line,” the public television talk show hosted by conservative commentator William F. Buckley.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Saturday, January 07, 2017
Every Dec. 31st, we mark the minutes until midnight, measuring time by the teaspoon in a rapidly departing year. But on the last day of 2016, I was struck not by the passing of time but the illusion, however brief, of the clock standing still.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Last month, under the weather with a winter bug, I was feeling bad — and feeling bad about feeling bad. There was too much to do, at both home and office, to take the time to be sick.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
I’m told that in the room where I greeted every Christmas of my childhood, people now sit each day until the doctor calls them back.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Maybe you won’t think me a terrible father for those Decembers, not many years ago, when I might briefly wish for the serenity of decorating a Christmas tree without kids.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
A season of political strife has reminded us that we generally don’t do a very good job of listening to each other. One way to learn listening, as Will Schwalbe noted in a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal, is to open up a book and read.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Men aren’t known for remembering special occasions, so only recently did I realize that you and I have a silver anniversary. This autumn marked the 25th year that I’ve been meeting with readers through “At Random,” which debuted in The Advocate in…
Saturday, November 12, 2016
When my wife and I got married more than two decades ago, she gave me a windup mantel clock she’d found in an antique store. It was, like the man she’d taken as a husband, simple, old-fashioned and guaranteed to go slack by the weekend.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Actor Anthony Hopkins once suggested that what scared him the most was the thought of an ominous presence simply waiting for him to notice it was there. He used that idea in portraying Hannibal Lecter, the psychopath who’s already standing at his …
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Eight years ago, after my mother died and we were clearing out her house, my son, then 7, saw an item in the closet and asked for help.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
My nephew turned 11 this month, so I got him a pair of binoculars for his birthday — a gift he didn’t request, though I hope he’ll enjoy.
Saturday, October 08, 2016
Just in time for Halloween, our yard has been remade to resemble a cemetery. Mounds of dirt, clay and broken roots rise up from the lawn, looking like freshly dug graves.
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Danny Plaisance and I began new careers in the same month of the same year — September, 1986. That’s when I started my first daily newspaper job, and it’s also when Plaisance began operating Cottonwood Books in Baton Rouge.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Every autumn, as the year begins to show its age and the calendar thins to a handful of pages, the new farmer’s almanacs arrive at hardware shops and drugstores, pointing us, as always, toward another year not yet born.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Until Alison Ligon shared her video of a caterpillar eating, it hadn’t occurred to me that you could actually hear a caterpillar enjoying his dinner.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
After I shared a few words here last week about spotting a monarch butterfly in my yard after the great flood, Alison Ligon wondered if the butterfly I saw was one of her own.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
A couple of Fridays after the Great Flood of 2016, as I was in the yard with our plumber discussing a repair, a monarch butterfly landed on the shrubbery near the porch. It was a lovely thing, black, gold and pumpkin orange, its wings shimmering l…
Saturday, August 27, 2016
As a scholar who had studied the 19th century remarked some years ago, when people asked you how you were doing back then, they really wanted to know how you were doing. At a time when death and loss were all too common, a friend or neighbor’s wel…
Saturday, August 20, 2016
More than three decades ago, as a cub writer for a small-town weekly, I was assigned to cover the local drainage board, a penance almost too hard to bear. Like most young reporters, I had entered journalism with dreams of doing the big stuff — nuc…
Saturday, August 13, 2016
When my wife asked me to stow our suitcases on the high shelf of the closet last week, I knew we’d be around for a while. Although our children are no longer small, we still answer to the calendar of the school year, so when campus life resumes ea…
Saturday, August 06, 2016
How bittersweet to return to this keyboard after a few days at the beach. When we packed for the drive home, there still seemed a lot of loafing left to do, more hours when we gladly would have done not much at all.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Among the unlikely bestsellers this summer is “Seven Brief Lessons in Physics,” Italian physicist Carol Rovelli’s slender introduction to a branch of science that often leaves most of us furrowing our brows in befuddlement.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
In the 1970s, novelist Anne Rivers Siddons published a collection of essays called “John Chancellor Makes Me Cry,” a title that compels me to offer a quick disclaimer to my younger readers.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
In the author photo for “This Old Man,” his recent collection of New Yorker pieces, Roger Angell shares the frame with a terrier who steals the show. Angell is 95 years old and going strong. His book assembles a lot of his stuff from several decad…
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Visit a hotel these days, and you’re quickly reminded that vacation season is in full swing across America. Guests pad down the halls in swimsuits and flip-flops, beach towels in the crooks of their arms. They’ll return from the hotel pool in an h…
Saturday, July 02, 2016
While waiting in the grocery line the other day, I picked up a copy of Southern Living from the magazine rack, flipped to the back page and began reading Rick Bragg’s essay in honor of Pat Conroy, the South Carolina novelist who died recently at age 70.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
In a summer frayed by toxic campaigns, a mass shooting and political stalemate, our family packed the car with an ice chest and lawn chairs, fried chicken and potato salad, then hit the road to reconnect with the ties that bind.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
For a Father’s Day story, we asked readers to share the best advice their fathers ever gave them, a request that yielded lots of meaningful responses. But what looms largest in my memory of my own father, gone these many years, is what he didn’t s…
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Welcome once again to Mr. Danny’s Camp for Bored Youngsters. You’ve been sent here because summer is still new, but you’ve already complained to your parents that there’s nothing to do.
Saturday, June 04, 2016
If you’ve tuned into this column the past couple of weeks, then maybe you’ve noticed a theme. It’s a topic as old as time — namely, how quickly time itself passes, even when we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking otherwise.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Nearly two decades ago, one winter of my daughter’s toddler years, we decided she should have a sitting place of her own — a tiny table and chairs where she might go to draw, color or have her breakfast while she watched cartoons. There was just s…
Saturday, April 30, 2016
In the days when phone books were still widely used, I greeted the arrival of each new one by first looking up my own name and number, then the listings of friends and relatives. It was an odd ritual — perhaps a small way to reassure myself, throu…
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Monday, April 11, 2016
After 20 years in our family, my daughter has more or less resigned herself to the idea that her father is an oddball. Even so, she was surprised to come home from college for Easter and find a poinsettia on the dining room table as our holiday ce…
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
On the third day of the great rain, when the sky had cleared just enough to lure me toward the newspaper at the end of the drive, I sensed a long, dark shadow as I walked to collect the morning headlines.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
In the years of our working together, my friend David and I shared an office that overlooked the Mississippi River. Only after a long while did I discover that he kept a notebook in which he would record the names of passing tugboats.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Last week’s Best Picture Oscar is the latest praise for “Spotlight,” a movie that dramatizes The Boston Globe’s investigation of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Earlier this month, when the winners of a $1.58 billion lottery jackpot were announced, I overheard an office mate speculating on what he would do if such a windfall came his way.
Monday, March 07, 2016
One of the small complications in urging a teen to exercise is that he sometimes wants you to do the same. Or so I was reminded last weekend when my 14-year-old son, who can bask for hours in the sickly glow of video games, asked me to take him an…
We’re coming to the end of commencement season, that time of year when sage advice blooms from graduation podiums across America. Nothing I’ve heard this month, though, sounds any wiser than a speech by Willard Spiegelman to students at his home c…
Stuck in holiday traffic last month, I relied on Roger Angell to keep me calm. Angell, who’s 95, was on the radio to discuss “This Old Man,” his new collection of writings that mostly draws on pieces published during his decades at The New Yorker.
The mention of Barbara Grizzuti Harrison probably won’t ring a bell with you. But the story of her life and death has a lot to tell us about what we owe teachers, a subject that’s especially important right now as another school year draws to a close.
I began my newspaper habit as a kid, following bylines the way many boys followed box scores. In high school, when I was invited to a weekend-long student journalism conference featuring Ed Anderson, I quickly agreed.
Long after my father died, my mother remained close with his sister, Eunice, a retired librarian. The friendship between these two widows was made all the more remarkable by their contrasting personalities — a distinction bookmarked on Christmas, …