Part I: September


Hey Harry,

Today was kind of a wash. I spent 15 minutes on hold with my bank before I pounded enough 00000000s into the phone to connect me to a real person. I was convinced this fraudulent entity called “SBUX” on my statement was slowly and erroneously taking money out of my account in $4 and $5 dollar increments. I was extremely put out that I had to spend my time dealing with this. I was really outraged. It turns out SBUX is Starbucks. I had to hang up on the customer service lady because she was being smug.

Unrelated: Did you know Pomeranian is an adjective referring to Pomerania, an area divided between Poland and Germany? Maybe that’s why Pomeranians look so much like grandma.

Hey Matilda,

Life is logistics. You’ve got to learn to deal with these daily annoyances, Mat. You’re too hard done by.

Me, I make lists. You should make a list each morning and then follow it carefully.

Hey Harry,

I just put 300 Christmas lights (so cheap off season!) on a tree that’s barely three feet high. If I look at it and then look away quickly, little dots swim across my field of vision. It’s pretty excellent. In other news, the lady across the street keeps her blinds about twelve inches raised, so that when she’s just out of the shower and her lights are on, I can see the swath of her upper thigh to her lower abdomen, and her pubic hair is a wild, distracting show. It’s like the classic ’70s pubic hair that you just don’t see anymore.

The Brazilian bikini wax craze has had a really pervasive and detrimental effect on vaginas. This kind of thing is a rare occurrence now.

Needless to say, I’m tremendously visually inspired right now. What’s new with you?

(Don’t tell mom about the tree.)


 Hey Matilda,

 Two resounding thoughts from my weekend.

One: There was a woman in the newspaper saying she doesn’t like French kissing. This has caused problems in her marriage, but she just can’t bring herself to do it. I feel somewhat vindicated by this. But I won’t say I told you so.

Two: I watched basketball for a while on TV and had the realization that fouls are bad, not good! You don’t actually want to make them. That clears up some things for me about seventh grade gym.

That’s all for today— I’m off to grade some disappointing papers.


Hey Harry,

 I don’t remember you telling me you don’t like French kissing, but I’ll let you tacitly tell me so. I just got home and these were the contents of my mailbox, so I made a list. I don’t like what this says about me, it doesn’t seem true.


A.    Two Ivy League Alumni magazines

B.     Two New Yorkers

C.     Two New York Magazines

D.    One Economist Magazine




The boyfriend reads the Economist? I give you two seven more months at the outside.

I’m sorry you’ve forgotten that I don’t like kissing, but I’m sure you do remember that I like to get all my important correspondence out to folks on Tuesday mornings, as that’s when they’re most likely to read and respond. Tuesday between 10 and 11am. After coffee, before lunch haze. So hopefully I have your full attention right now.

I think you’re having bad luck, to be sure, with this residency stuff, but I also think your energy isn’t in the right place. I just read this great book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. It teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

Try it, M.  Here are some chapter headers:

The Waste of Free Time

The Rules of the Games of the Mind

Flow through the Senses: The Joys of Seeing

Disorder in Consciousness: Psychic Energy

Now go make some work! Make, make, create! Don’t analyze it, and don’t yell at bank operators.

Also: I saw an undergrad with a bowl cut and high striped socks on campus today, and it reminded me of you in your field hockey glory. You know, sports are a flow activity too.

One more thing, Matilda- bird watching is also a flow activity. You can get iBird Explorer for your mobile device. Then you can identify birds.

And lay off the bourbon please.


Hey Harry,

 Great tip on the bird watching. Remind me again when I’m fifty and live in backwoods Maine.

And keep your eyes off those coeds.


Hey Matilda,

I remembered where I got the bit about creating and not analyzing—from John Cage’s Rules for Students and Teachers:

Rule #8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Do you know what rule #9 is?

Rule #9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.

I tell this one to my students all the time.


Hey Harry,

#9 is a made-up lie. Do your students call you on it?

I fell asleep with my headphones on last night. I woke up with my music still blaring, in a cold sweat. The lyric I woke up to:

tell me what you know about dreams, dreams
tell me what you know about night terrors, nothin

you don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow
rather lay awake in a bed full of sorrow

 Do you ever feel like the universe is giving us hints about our future all the time but we’re unable to understand?


Hey Matilda,

I think these signs happen more often to you than to the rest of us.


Hey Harry,

 I think you’re right. I get the signs but not the message. I’m like a highly attuned, extremely useless oracle.

I found out today the head of my old grad school art program has retired and taken a job as a real estate broker. Compared to that, wedding photography doesn’t seem so bad. At least it’s a stone’s throw from actual art. A groom even told me last week “not to hesitate to be artistic.”


Hey Matilda,

 It could definitely be worse. I like to remind myself that teaching writing is highly related to actual writing.


Hey Harry,

Yes, teaching writing is perhaps the gateway to writing! You should probably write something, though, to prove the rule.



 Oh Im writing all the time. Just mostly in my head.



If I looked on the bright side, my thinking would go like this: It’s a good thing that I accidentally grabbed the laxatives instead of the Ibuprofen this morning, because now my system is cleaner than it has ever been at 3pm on a Wednesday, and I can eat extra veggie burger because I’ve cleared room for it.

If I looked on the dark side, my thinking would go like this: This Bride thinks I’m a drugged out freak because I keep running to the bathroom during our business meeting, and not only will I not book this job, but I’ll have to skip my dinner date* too because it may be ok to take three ibuprofens but three natural and good-for-you laxative tablets take a full 24 hours to churn through.

*Which was my idea to bring romance back into my relationship and now will seem like “poor follow through,” one of my major issues, according to him.

You wouldn’t believe this bride, Harry. Her name is Catherine and she’s marrying someone named William! I think she was affecting a British accent to capitalize on the coincidence. She gave me relationship advice, too. Told me to ditch the boyfriend and wait until I’m ovulating (only she called it being in heat, like a cat, because we’re all mammals after all) and then go to an expensive bar with good clientele and wait for men to approach me. She said that hormones always work. She even found a chart for me on her phone. Though Womyn with a Y truly frightens me. I'm not an evolved feminist, Harry.

Nevertheless, this is groundbreaking advice. We ARE all mammals. Mammals who will mate and then die, never to return. Only our spawn will remember us.  Until they also die.







Hey, Matilda

I was just reminded of that Lenny Bruce bit from the seventies. Here it is in case you forgot.


Jewish and Goyish

Dig: Im Jewish. Count Basies Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantors goyish. Bnai Brith is goyish; Hadassah, Jewish.

If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesnt matter even if youre Catholic; if you live in New York, youre Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, youre going to be goyish even if youre Jewish.

 Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.

 All Drakes Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes, goyish. Black cherry sodas very Jewish, macaroons are very Jewish.

 Underwear is definitely goyish. Balls are goyish. Titties are Jewish.

 Celebrate is a goyish word. Observe is a Jewish word. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh are celebrating Christmas with Major Thomas Moreland, USAF (ret.), while Mr. and Mrs. Bromberg observed Hanukkah with Goldie and Arthur Schindler from Kiamesha, New York.

Lenny Bruce


ps Why dont people say dig anymore? Im going to take it up.


Hey Harry,

Ive made a Jewish and Goyish version of this in honor of my brides:

 Dig: I’m Jewish. Tents are Jewish, Banquet Halls, goyish.

If you make a long toast, give wet lipstick kisses, or have chair dancing at your wedding, you’re Jewish. If you’re married in Newport RI, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.

Fondant icing is goyish. Manischewitz is goyish even though the Jews invented it. Prosecco is Jewish and Champagne is goyish. Seltzer is Jewish. Jagermeister is goyish. Shots of Jager are very goyish.

All veils are goyish. Pantyhose are Jewish.  Stalkings are Jewish. (But if you call them nylons, they’re goyish.) Bridemaids are goyish. Maids of honor, Jewish. Ring bearers are goyish, dog ring bearers very goyish.

Sobbing fathers are all Jews. Mothers dabbing their eyes are goyish. Bands are Jewish. DJs are goyish, even if they play Paul Simon.

Vests are definitely goyish. Bow ties are Jewish. Garter belts, Jewish.

“Wedding” is goyish. “Marriage” is Jewish.

Film is jewish. Digital: goyish. Video: extremely goyish.

Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Bradley are pleased to announce the wedding of their children.

Mr. Max Hirsch and Mrs. Rose Beckerman request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter.


Hey Matilda-

Well done.


Hey Harry,

 Thanks. You know I enjoy praise from the internet.

I think Ill purchase and each day put up an encouraging thought. ie:

 Good job!

Keep going!

You have exceptionally nice hair and teeth.

DaVinci was under-recognized once too.

Wouldn’t that be good for the world?


Hey Matilda,

It would be. I might add:

There’s still time to be famous! 

You’ll definitely get tenure, don’t give it a moment’s thought!


Hey Harry,

Homefront malaise. I painted the hallway a delightful Babette Ivory this weekend, and Nate showed not the slightest interest in joining in the improvements. Haven’t you seen the paint commercials? The dads and boyfriends ALWAYS help. They LEAD, even.

Hey Matilda,

I’m always surprised when I see the undergrads on campus moving into their dorms with diligent fathers towing their dressers and duffels. Seems like an alternate world of responsible men, it’s quite foreign. Speaking of, have you heard from him lately?


Hey Harry,

Oh yes, we had our quarterly email exchange about death and futility.


Hey Matilda,

Share please.


Hey Harry,

Hi Matilda! I was just looking at a picture of a retirement home on the seashore. I imagined me and Marjorie there in 30 years. I’ll be almost 95. Then I thought, “Wow, Matilda will be 64! I imagined you more aged than I am now. Then I had to write to you before you get any older!

 I was moved by our conversation a few months back at grandma’s. It was deep -- psychologically and spiritually. Love, death, the possibility of human choice in our lives. We were on the same wavelength. I said how choosing one path meant we lost forever all the other possibilities foregone. You said “Yeah, it’s like dying! When I told Marjorie about that, they both laughed heartily. They recognized your response as what I often say as well. “It’s genetic! said Marjorie. And it is. Amazing, and wonderful. I’m so happy you are alive on this earth!


 Hey Matilda,

Ah, that’s a good one, thanks.


Hey Harry,


Also: why is it so cold outside? I’ve been a little aimless of late, or maybe just distracted by the nippy air. I don’t want to put on pants again. I can’t leave the house. I need to locate the midpoint between a loafer and a boot. What are you up to?


Hey Matilda,

 Nothing much doing here. Grading papers. I went ahead and bought that online genetic test I told you about – the price went down to $99, so I figured it was worth it. It will give the part of me that was good at high school Biology a little thrill, I think.

It’s pretty amazing what science can tell us about our ancestry now. I’m so curious to imagine what our forebears were up to— maybe it’s the writer in me, but I find it totally fascinating. It’s so odd that most people don’t know anything about even two generations back.



That just shows you how quickly our own grandchildren will cease to give two shits about us. Maybe that’s why grandma is so intense.

Will this test tell you if you (but mostly I) will die early of cancer? I maintain a lingering and not insignificant fear that I will die early of mother’s cancer, even though she’s fine now, or will it be Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s? If I start thinking too much about it I can’t breathe right.

You know— I don’t even know my blood type, which is a tragedy because I can’t do the blood type diet. Although periodically I read the rules of each diet and decide which one sounds like me and then I fantasize about the diet I should be on to give me lots of energy and lifepurpose TM. I think I should be a B Type blood, because those are the folks who can eat cheese, lots of it.



 My blood type is A. I seriously doubt yours is B, unless you secretly hail from India. And yes, the genetics test tells you the likelihood of getting all types of diseases, and also tells you how much of which ethnicity you have in your ancestry. I will share the results with you—ours would probably be very similar, except different traits show up on the male/female chromosomes.

I’m not so interested in the diseases part. Carpe Diem, right? Try not to stop breathing. 



Genetics are a bitch. I see this often when I’m shooting weddings, during the family portrait (aka hell) portion of the event. Five beautiful, vivacious daughters and two troll-like, red-faced sons. In any case, I hope you get some exciting news about the future. I have a long history of reading the last page of the book first, so I’m a fan of this project.

This really is exciting, Harry, that you can find this genetic stuff out from spitting in a tube and sending it to a website. I knew things were going to get good after they invented the Walkman.

Will they tell us if we’re distantly related to a famous, blonde, under-nourished actress, like they do on TV ancestry programs?



 I don’t think so.



 That’s too bad. It’s kind of a gray day today, so I’ve been image searching Suprematist paintings and re-drawing them to make me feel better. The whole movement was based on “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling,” so I think if I re-create them, then I also can have a pure artistic feeling.

 (I always thought that temp job archiving slides of Russian art from the early 1900s was just going to be a minimum wage throwaway!)

 Here is a Rodchenko thats about me and you. Do you love it?



Who is big and who is little?



I am big. 



This looks more like you up on the pedestal, me grounding you.



Oh touché, Harry. I dont like this new feeling Im having lately, the feeling of oldness. I know some day soon Ill wake up and realize Im absolutely irrelevant and it will be terrifying. Or maybe Im there already, Harry.


Hey Matilda,

Don’t worry, we’re not old. It’s all just beginning to crystallize. Whenever I start to feel old, I think of a painful moment in my early twenties, and I just feel relieved. I also look at my students, who are so clueless, and take a breath out. Today I had to explain to most of my English Lit I section who Virginia Woolf was. Help me out, High School English teachers! The kids they’re sending me are so half-formed.


 Hey Harry,

 It takes a long time for humans to understand things, give them a break. For example: I remember when I thought Mondale Ferraro was one person. And I just wanted mom to stop talking about him.

By the way, what was the most painful moment of your twenties?


Hey Matilda,

 Hmm. Probably when I confessed to dad that I was doing too many drugs at college and he asked me for the number of my dealer. So that he could “take that cocaine finally.” That was disappointing. You?

Hey Harry,  

Wellll, let me tell you the story about Martha’s Vineyard, Harry. As I recall you were in Nepal on a Yak and missed the whole thing.



 Top three ironic tattoos in my classroom today:

1.     Anchor

2.     Mom & Dad

3.     Finger mustache



 Top five cheeses at the supermarket today (normal cheese category):

1.     Cheddar

2.     Mozzarella

3.     Parmesan

4.     Feta

5.     Swiss

Honorable Mention: Muenster



Do you know anything about this Zelda game? Is Zelda a boy or a girl?



 Does your boyfriend make you watch him play video games? I give you two five more months, max.



 It’s not so bad. I sit on the couch with the cat and stare at the canary-yellow projection of “pollo” onto our living room wall that comes through the window from the 24-hour bodega next door. I pretend it’s a personal Barbara Kruger installation telling me to have organic free range chicken fingers for dinner. And then I make some, and I dip them in bbq sauce and they are delicious.

He has a good friend named Amit who is always over. I used to resent it, but now I find the dynamic of three people actually sort of useful. It keeps things a bit varied, and you can’t be quite so passive aggressive when your boyfriend refuses to paint your apartment walls yellow to coordinate with the bodega sign.

Amit works for an insurance company, on the bad guy side, and makes loads of dough, so he buys us beer for penance. He has this really amusing thing he does, which is to wrap himself in the gauzy curtains when the lights are off, so that the yellow from the bodega filters through them in a canary gold color, and he pretends he’s on stage and sings. Usually he’s Freddy Mercury.

Hey, I was just a skinny lad, never knew no good from bad
But I knew life before I left my nursery
Left alone with big fat fannys, she was such a naughty nanny
Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me

My god, that Freddy got away with murder!



I think maybe you should knock your boyfriend standards up just a touch.



I think maybe you should trust the universe enough to attempt a real relationship.



I’m patient, you see.



In any case, I kind of like Nate’s boldness. The first night we went out, he bragged that he was broke, declared to the bartender “I’ll take your cheapest swill, sir!” and asked me to pay.

Ballsy, right? And at the time he was an intern, but NOW— Associate Editor.



Truly impressive.



I’ve been thinking so much about the Large Hadron Collider today. It’s an enormous machine in Sweden that is supposed to answer the mysteries of time and space and some other things, more or less.

And I read an article today saying that someone has been found near the collider, claiming to be from the future!! It’s about time, too. Because if no one has come from the future yet, then time travel must be impossible, if you think about it.

I 100% believe this time traveler. He makes me very happy.

In other news, I have a glamorously located pimple that makes me feel like Marilyn Monroe. Hopefully it will stick around for another few days.



 The date on this article (which is old) is April 1st. So… I think your time traveler may be a hoax.






 If it makes you feel any better—maybe no one has come from the future yet because time is not linear at all, but more like a mobius strip, so that we’re all really living at the same time, despite the perception that we die and are born in order throughout time. Just a thought.



 Maybe that’s why Steve Jobs said “wow oh wow oh wow” when he died. That would make sense. Although I doubt there’s a big reveal right away. Unless time immediately stretches out upon death’s door.


Hey Matilda,

 I’m going to start checking email only twice a day, at 9am and again at 4pm. I’m starting to have feelings of panic when I’m out of range.



 Technology has truly ruined all of our lives. All day we stare at computers caress them, feel beholden. I doubt you can pare down your email consumption that much, though. We’re Goodmans. We are addictive by nature. Embrace it.



I am pretty good at fighting these addictive urges, however.



And that is where we differ. In my defense, it’s the city that’s my enabler.

The thing about living here— you’re always on the edge. Either you’re about to be broke, or be downsized, or be apartment searching. You’re perpetually on a forty-five minute train ride somewhere, from which you need to return in the dark.

Fall is too short, and is primarily spent worrying about winter. And once winter arrives, it lasts forever and your coat isn’t warm enough for the twelve-block walk from the train to your apartment, so you have to stop at the bar and spend the money you don’t have.

Better to stay in bed and fret and look at the air shaft before you have to gather your laundry and go to a Laundromat and protect your underwear from hipsters and vagrants.

One time grandma came to visit me here at mom’s insistence and asked me when I’m “going to live like a normal person.” She was appalled at my lack of a dishwasher, among many other things, notably a promising partner. And deep down, so am I.

SO am I, Harry.


Perhaps you could consider another locale?


 Don’t act crazy. It’s my destiny to live this way.



 Suit yourself. Today I got to class and I did not have my phone in my pocket, or my glasses on my head. One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

(It’s odd, because I don’t leave the house without saying “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” first.  I always say it, I can’t help myself.)



 I say “phoneries, ovaries, wallet and keys.”



You must misplace your glasses often, then.


Hey Harry,

 I got another bride today, for June. She showed me her invitations. Two little swallows in the corner of manila cardstock, holding trumpets and greenery in their tiny beaks, proclaiming the wedding date proudly to all the guests.  What is it with brides and birds, Harry? What’s so romantic about birds? Aren’t they harbingers of disease? Don’t they go to the bathroom on our heads?

Is it because they fly around?


 Hey Matilda,

 I don’t know. I think swans are nice and emblematic for weddings because they come from ugly ducklings. Evolution of self, etc etc.


 Hey Harry,

 Unless the ugly duckling just turns into a goose and then has its liver removed. But good point.

I think penguins would be a more apt wedding bird, because they mate for life. From now on, I’m going to call my brides “birds.” It feels nice to do that. You should come up for a name for your students too.



 I think I will call them Bats. Fumbling around in the dark, alighting on false inspirations.



 I’ve realized something.

I have four main moods:

Depressive Depressive: I am sad and things are pointless and I am going to nap.

Aggressive Depressive: I am sad and it is your fault and I am going to nap.

Depressive Hyper: I am sad and things are pointless but let’s have some beers and jump around.

Aggressive Hyper: I am sad and it is your fault and I am going to start a fight with you.


 Hey Matilda-

 Do you have a therapist these days?



 I had one but we just talked all the time about how I resented paying him so much money at the end of each session which I was largely using to discuss my panic over financial issues.

So then we had sex and went our separate ways.



 Just kidding! About the sex.



 I wasn’t all agape.



 Oh yeah? What would truly shock you? I want you to show some emotion.

BTW: I saw a chart today entitled:

“States where I can live happily ever after with my cousin”

I’m going to send it over to you.


 Hey Matilda,

 Why would you even bring that up?



It’s the Aggressive Hyper talking.

Harry, what’s your favorite emotion, and what’s your worst?



 Emotion, or state of being? I like sadness, in its plain old basic state, without any agitation mixed in. I can handle that quite well.


Hey Harry,

 Tell me something about what you’re teaching.


Hey Matilda,

 Well, I gave my writing students an assignment to help them learn to write convincing dialogue. I told them to eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place, and write it down, word for word. Here’s one I liked. One of my best students actually stood up and sang it out loud. What a breath of fresh air. Reminded me of something you would have done!


I dont think Obama would have an infidelity, doesnt seem like him

You can kind of tell

Michelle would kill him

This seems like a nice place to have breakfast

Maybe ham and cheese

A croissant

I dont think it would help to wash those potholders

Its too late

Hmm maybe so

I dont like Newt

Want a bite of my bagel

Oh this is good

It seems like a type of tropical fruit is in this


It was almost four dollars

I need to get some ice

On television last night there was one of Martin Luther King Jrs daughters

She was very strange looking

Her face was like a mans

She was talking about some fellow

Said he couldnt have had an affair

How would she know

He does make Dominos pizza

She was very strange looking

Im not finished yet

Im gonna finish

Want to see the Times?


You see the article

Page A6


Here it is

This thing is all crumpled

Appeared to be a protest against Britains tough new economic sanctions against Iran

They tore down the flag

And burned it


The other students and I were riveted by the singing. A good day.



 I would have done something like that. I was a spectacular college student, I assure you. I could have gone pro. But then they forced me into the world.



 They did that to me too!



 I have taken your couch

that was in

mom’s stock n’ lock

and which you were probably


for someday

forgive me

it was irresistible

so sweet

so pink

and so pungent



 Was that his idea, to take my couch? I give you two three more months. Also, that assignment isn’t until next semester.



 My favorite emotion is shame. Because it’s the one I can deal with the least, and the one that comes up the most. Thanks for asking.



I didn’t need to ask, because I knew that already.



 Oh, well did you know that I’ve never made myself a sandwich?






Say something mean to me so I can react badly.



Tomorrow Ill tell you the dream I had and you wont be in it.



 Jerk. I wrote something for you.


Things I shouldn't Say Out Loud

"My brother has a nice scrotum." That's going on a list of things I shouldn't say out loud. It will go above "Meatloaf is my favorite singer" and "I eat cookie dough with raw eggs just to tempt fate."

I should also include "When you told me to give you a compliment and I said you were smarter than most normal people, that was a lie," and:  "I don't actually like your cologne, it disgusts me. I don't care if it IS designer."

That’s it so far. Maybe I’ll think of more later.

Oh! In elementary school used to pick my nose and then wipe my hand on your pillow. I shouldn’t say that either. Also I hate your hair.

 Do you like it, Harry?



 It’s not bad.



Would it kill you to have a personality?



 I hate your hair too. And your attitude, which should be improving with age, is deteriorating.



 Yes!!! That’s more like it.