Everett Raymond Kinstler 

I was glad to see this interview with Kinstler flash across my news feed the other day. 

I heard him speak at the Mark Twain Library in Redding, CT a dozen or so years ago, and got a couple signed copies of his book of portraits. Since then, it’s been fun to see some of his works around New York and DC. 


We found this particularly enigmatic note on the base of a lamppost the other evening. I’m convinced it’s an omen… my life has had more than the usual share of buffets, and now is about to acquire another. 

Way way long ago, one of the first pieces of grownup furniture I ever bought was a mahogany buffet in an 18th century style. It was painted white at the time, and I got it for what seemed like a song. We kept it through several moves, eventually refinished it (so-so results) (don’t use a pressure washer), and finally traded it for a smaller hutch when we moved to a more constrained  house in Alameda. 

Under circumstances I don’t exactly remember, we acquired a print by depressive French artist Bernard Buffet, and then another and another. 

Now, as it happens, I’m in the market for a clarinet, and it turns out that one of the brands to consider is a Buffet (actually it’s Buffet Crampon, but that sounds even less sexy in English than in its native French). Buffet clarinets are well-respected, but – new or used – they ain’t cheap, and so I’ve been hesitating… could a Yamaha or even some lesser marque sound as good for half the price?

The answer to that question is probably yes… especially in my inexperienced hand. But then again, if a man my age suddenly picks up the clarinet in the first place, surely it’s as much about the romance as the waveforms? Paris café bands in the 20s and 30s were playing Buffets, so why in the world wouldn’t I do the same?!

The universe has spoken!


For the last 7 years, I’ve been keeping an eye on my pocket change for the Guam-P quarter, along with all the other state and territorial quarters issued from 1999-2009 that I’ve accumulated since they started the program in 2003. For about three years, the elusive Guam-P has been the only hole in my collection. 

Finally complete, thanks to whatever chain of events led that quarter to end up in my pocket this week.


A lot of people dress up in silly costumes before heading out watch the race go by. Not counting the MAMILs of course (middle aged men in Lycra) like me, who might be the silliest of all. 

Some people don’t need to dress up…

And PS, I don’t think I took any of these pictures… We are starting to share photos among the group, so thank you Maribeth and Stuart. 

Boston morning 

I found myself in Boston a couple of weeks ago and had a beautiful morning walk around the harbor area. 

There’s a lotta old infrastructure under those streets…

I ran across this interesting amalgam of stuff left out by the curb for free. At some point you just outgrow your “No Casino” sign and various other things, including a whole bag of CDs and videotapes. 

Whoever it was had good, eclectic taste in music, but I’m too streaming-happy to even try to suck all those songs into my phone. Even so, I lugged the whole bag home, and made a shipment to Decluttr. I’m about 25 bucks richer now…

Why not?

I heard part of the track “Twilight World” while driving the other day and wanted to hear it again, but when I got to the iTunes Store I ended up buying the whole album. 

That’s close enough, thank you 

On the way out of Indianapolis last week, we got caught behind a motorcade, complete with energetically swerving SUVs, flashing lights, the works. 

There was a lot going on in Indy that day, between the NFL draft and the final paroxysms of the Cruz campaign. We don’t know for sure, but we guessed that we were following Carly Fiorina and/or Heidi Cruz. Whoever it was, we were glad that the private aviation turnoff was a couple exits before the main airport exit so we could drive normally. 

Only a game

2016-02-24 22.37.39Last Wednesday during my training class, I signed up for the optional evening training session, which was OK. When we finished, about 10 PM, I was planning to take Uber back to the hotel. However, chatting with one of my fellow students who was headed to the metro made me change my mind and take the train instead. It had been a long day, and I certainly was tired, but why not.

It turned out that I was in the subway system at the same time as several thousand dedicated but disappointed Washington Capitals fans. They had just suffered a 4-
3 lost to the Montréal Canadiens, and this year that’s an embarrassment. A couple of stops after I got on, all the fans got on too, and suddenly the train was packed. I was happy to give up my seat to this gentleman so he could sit next to his lovely wife.

They expanded my mental model of hockey fans… I don’t know if I’ve ever seen hair as perfectly lacquered, and partcularly at that hour after attending a hockey game.

Thank you

My home this week was the little conference center hotel at Gallaudet University. 

The campus is beautiful, situated behind a tall fence in a neighborhood that is just beginning a period of gentrification. 

The little breakfast restaurant was nice, staffed by deaf people as is only to be expected. I communicate a lot, and I felt really alone being so utterly unable to talk to these folks. They understood me pretty well… I was clueless. 

But that’s why we invented the Internet. It turns out that Thank You is even easier to sign than to say… and so I tried it and it worked! One phrase made a big difference, to me at least, even though I think my accent was off. 

The Ephemera Archive for American Studies

Yesterday, right at the end of my long walk, I chanced on this man, who was taking his recycling out to the curb.   I crossed over and said hello, and learned that yes, he is the tenant in the storefront there.

That storefront has been hard to keep full. It was a Jamaican vegan restaurant when we first got here, but that closed before we ever tried it. Then it was a candy store where you reach into jars and fill up candy to be sold by the pound. Given my estimate of the population who are more or less constantly stoned– and more so in that particular neighborhood — I thought that business might work well. After not very many months, they added a Thai restaurant, where we ate once and it was good, but then the whole venture collapsed.

More recently, however, the windows have been filling up with stuff. And not just stuff, but interesting stuff.

Mr. Kit Barry was more than happy to indulge my curiosity. “Window Theater,” he explained. “First time anybody’s seen such a thing in America.” It was cold, I was tired, and the conversation moved quickly, so I did not ask him to elaborate as to whether that meant that such a thing happened in other countries.

This window, then, isn’t just an assortment of stuff. The Elvis lamp, well, it represents Elvis, looking vapidly and emptily past the dinosaur, his dedicated fan. The King’s tragic career is represented by the tapes, moving right to left from his innate genius and early success through a period of greater and greater mismanagement and corruption. See the marbles being lost? Finally, the whole thing unravels (get it?), and the scary Halloween skull tells us what happened next. But wait! look up! The blissful optimism of the human spirit watches over all and gives us hope.

On the basis of my expression of interest, Mr. Barry invited me in for an introduction to the mind, the context behind this and the other windows that are visible from the street. It turns out that he’s been collecting ephemera since his teenage years. And I even got a good definition of ephemera, a word I mostly hear on Antiques Roadshow (which program Mr. Barry disdains). Ephemera is printed material specifically designed to be used for a defined and relatively limited period of time and then thrown away. Advertising, posters and fliers, tickets, newspapers, and so on. Magazines and catalogs and phone books.

He’s got hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper in there, mostly from the 19th century, all (or at least mostly) neatly cataloged and arranged in 3-ring binders. Is it the largest collection of such objects outside the Smithsonian as he claims? Hard to know for sure, but why not?

Fascinating and overwhelming, both for him and for any visitor. He’s always on the lookout for visitors to share the collection with, and even willing to entertain the idea of volunteers to help manage it. He’s not much computerized… that would be quite a web site!

We only spent about 15 or 20 minutes together, as I was eager to get home to a nice hot tub and a nice cold beer. However, I hope I’ll have the chance to talk with Kit Barry again. He is another of those unexpected and uncategorizable souls that seem to be overexpressed around Brattleboro. One thing he said particularly resonated with me: most of what we learn in school these days is designed to provide answers, but the Ephemera Archive is all about supplying questions.

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