Five Things That Make Life Better on July 20th 2018


1.  One of the pleasures of summer.  Fresh corn.  Grilled, boiled, or "Mexican street style".  Yum.  (I remember back to my teenaged years when I wore braces on my teeth.  Upper and lower.  I just couldn't risk eating corn on the cob -- I would be mortified afterwards by all the bits that stuck to my wires.  It was gross.  ("Gross" was my all-purpose reaction to just about everything then.) 

It is unfortunate that one's teeth must be straightened at the exact moment one becomes commandeered by self-consciousness and self-loathing.  Oh well.

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Fresh corn is among the things we can appreciate now.  



2.  A good book.


I am reading this beautifully written novel now.  I am reading it slowly, languorously, enjoying the words and the moods that James Salter wrote in 1967.  It's only 185 pages, and stopping and starting in the past week has been excruciating and wonderful.  I feel like I'm the last person in my world to have picked up this book.  Have you all read it?  Tell me what you thought.  

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3) I don't know about you, BUT I do feel so much better after my hair has been done -- colored, blown properly, or cut.  Today was one of those days.  It doesn't matter what I'm wearing, a good hair day is like being a VIP to myself.  It's like knowing I got an A on a paper, or received a love letter in the mail.  I guess it boils down to confidence.  Look, though I'm just a baby boomer, I feel like I grew up in the Dark Ages.  I forget to wear lipstick, and I no longer wear a slip under my dresses (TMI?) but I do like my hair to be polished.  


4.  A Secret Spot

Last weekend our dear friends Robert and Heidi told us to meet them at a magic show in front of a blue door on Canal Street in Chinatown.   I'm not a magicaholic, but I could be the person who gasps at sleight of hand tricks.  I adore Ricky Jay and Penn & Teller.  So at the precise strike of 7 bells, a person quietly opened the door to the assembled and motley group of 16 people standing outside and admitted us.  We walked down a steep flight of stairs into an old-fashioned parlor, with touches of Victoriana.  It was an immersive magic show for the 16 of us.  We followed the magician, Josh Jay, back and forth from room to room.  The intimacy was fantastic.  He was never more than a foot away from us.  The show is called "Six Impossible Things."  It was the  adventure that reminded me of the fun you can have in this city:  A private magic show.An unmarked restaurant with the best noodles.  A shop that is 8 square feet but stuffed with delights.  

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5)  And now, a man who needs no introduction.  He's the receptacle of all my hopes and dreams --(and he's not my exhibit!)  Ladies and gentlemen, here's Robert S. Mueller!


Until next week!  It's #AperolSpriterOClock!





Five Things That Make Life Better On July 13th 2018



You may be living your best life and having your happiest summer since "Friends" went off the air.


Indeed, I hope you are.  But honestly, I can't say mine has made my top 10.  Boo hoo, Lisa!  Q:  What's the matter?  A:  Only a dystopian world at the moment that causes brain aches and some sleepless nights.  But in between there have been lovely days and fun nights and a couple of barbecues.  They are restorative.


Summer is in my top 10 of seasons, however.   Here are my TOP FIVE!

1.  Family.  Last week I saw all of my Exhibits (™)!  And they all saw one another.  (This is a big deal because one of them lives on the Other Coast.)  Then this week I saw Mummy B. three times.  


the original Tree

Our relationship has changed over the years of course, but I am grateful to have my mother this long.  She is a hoot.


2. I LOVE THE BEACH.  I LOVE IT.  I love to lie on it, fall asleep on it, walk on it, swim at it, relax on it, hang with friends on it, read alone on it, and I don't even mind pouring sand out of the pages of my book when I leave it.  So far (July 13) no beach for me yet, though I've driven near  one or two.  But August will bring some beach weekends, and I cannot wait!  In the meantime, there is a fine swimming pool I've had the pleasure of visiting, when the city has been at it's sticky-ickiest.


This will do!  Very nicely!  I hope you have a watering hole you can use when the weather is almost unbearable.


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It's salad season.  I ate a Cobb salad for lunch yesterday and a La Scala salad for dinner.  (At Joe Allen's in NYC).  It's hard to even consider hot food sometimes (aside from broiled freshly-caught fish) and I'm bullish on salad.  However, as longtime friends and former radio listeners all know, I don't like beets.  I am so omniverous that the beet thing is a little weird, I admit. But beets appear in so many salads.  And in so many pictures of salads.   I was unwittingly served a salad a few months ago that had -- I don't know what they're called -- pygmy yellow beets? tucked and tossed within it.  I thought they were potatoes at first and ate one or two.  Okay, they weren't terrible, but they weren't good potatoes either.  Anyway, it's nice to eat fresh and actual tasty vegetables in season.


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4.  I have always loved London from my first visit there at about 12 or thirteen to my last visit 3 years ago.  Loving England doesn't make the country feel less foreign, though.  It's not just the driving on the other side of the street or the accent.  It's not just the different vocabularies (lorry, boot, jumper = truck, trunk (of car), sweater).  We're different.  You see "The Crown" and you get it.  You watch the royal wedding and you get it.  But observing a quarter of a million Englishmen and women protest peacefully against the American president is something to behold.  I actually wish I were there.  If you are a fan of Mr. Trump's [you're probably not reading this blog] let me state my point of view:  it's the Non-Violent Expression of Ethics and Values that I appreciate.  He can dish it out, but he cannot ever take it.  


5.  All I can say is I hope Robert S. Mueller, III is having a good summer too.  He needs it and deserves it.  Don't forget your sunscreen, sir!





Five Things That Make Life Better on July 7th 2018

Funny how this Independence Day feels different from all other Independence Days.  Without sounding too dramatic, I think the 4th felt more "hol" than "holiday" because it fell in the middle of the week, without the embrace of a full weekend of merriment or the trappings of vacation.  Businesses in New York City were open, restaurants were open, Brooks Brothers was (were?) open. The sense of a shared day was only evident in the emptiness of the streets. People were observing the holiday by staying indoors in air conditioned rooms.

Even #ExhibitD, Henry the Dog wanted no part of yesterday's heat.

 Henry in his summer activity mode.

Henry in his summer activity mode.

Another thing:  I don't recall a time in my sentient adulthood when this country has felt less united.  Do you? I'm curious about your take on July 4th, 2018. But... onto the good stuff.

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1.  I love fried chicken.  I'm crazy about it. It might just be my Kryptonite.  This is a late-in-life change of affairs from the years -- decades --  when I could not resist a hamburger. One of my exhibits thinks that my love of this dish is borderline obsessive, and worrying.  But I'm not worried, because so far I am not even remotely tempted to fry chicken myself. When I start making it, spattering myself with hot oil, causing the smoke detector alarm to sound, filling the kitchen with the smell of grease -- then be concerned.  It's harmless for the time being, until I turn into a fried chicken, or marry a fried chicken.

(Some favorites:  Root & Bone, Hill Country, Blue Ribbon, Boka)

2.  Spelling Bee, my favorite word game in the New York Times.

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I like to play this game when I wake up.  It jump starts my brain and it's fun. It's difficult.  I won't consider myself done with Spelling Bee until I reach at least the "Amazing" level.  (The numbers change daily but here is an example of the rankings:


Ranks are based on a percentage of possible points in a puzzle. The minimum scores to reach each rank for today’s are:

  1. Beginner (0)

  2. Good Start (2)

  3. Moving Up (5)

  4. Good (9)

  5. Solid (16)

  6. Nice (27)

  7. Great (44)

  8. Amazing (55)

  9. Genius (76)

I was enjoying Spelling Bee in a private little bubble, until I discovered that my boyfriend's brother and sister-in-law play it too, reaching a level THAT IS NOT EVEN RECORDED ON THE OFFICIAL RANKINGS called Queen Bee, which is when one has found every word on the possible list.  Now I'm feeling competitive and defensive, a problematic combo.

3. I love bright colors.  Not exactly a breaking headline.  I had a black leather wallet recently, which I had to find by touch, if not sight inside a dark and turbulent shoulder bag.  As readers of this blog may recall, I lost that wallet in Seattle, my only consolation being that it was probably found by one of the many thousands of homeless people there and put to good use.   Here is my new wallet:

How could I ever lose this baby?  (Don't answer.) At least now you've all seen it, you'll recognize it in a taxi and return it to me.  #ThanksInAdvance

4.  You, my reader.  You make writing this (for me, very personal) blog rewarding.  I know it's been a hard year for us all and the reactions and responses tell me this is helpful for you.  Writing it has been helpful (for me) (who else?).

5.  You know him, you love him, you're rooting for him:  Robert S. Mueller.

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Stay cool!

Lisa xx






Perhaps you read this blog as a respite.  Frankly, that is why I decided to write a weekly thingamajig: to lighten your load.  Also to lighten my load and to let you know a little bit more about me,  But some weeks make me wearier than others, and this one (so far) takes the cake.  (Do I say that regularly?  I have the feeling -- you don't have to tell me -- that I'm a broken record.)


We have a choice:  be felled by the news of the day or the hour, or toughen up.  I am not tough and I had no intention of turning this blog into a reflection on the politics of the moment.   I am actually attempting to go light and not collapse under the weight of all that is happening in Washington.  


It's Thursday afternoon around 4:40.  I just read that just a few minutes ago, a man walked into the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland and started shooting.

It's not enough that the press is under siege by the easily-wounded president who decries anything critical of his administration as "fake news"; it isn't enough that print journalists are the most poorly remunerated of those who practice this craft.  When the president declares the free press an "enemy of the people" [verbatim], the women and men who attempt to tell the truth about what is happening and why are endangered. 

I'm not saying all reporters are honest and honorable, but I'd say most of them are.  Every newspaper or magazine where I worked insisted on three sources for every who what where how when.  My editors were always devils' advocates, forcing me to prove every allegation I ever wrote.  (And I worked in features, not hard news.)  

The Capital Gazette has a staff of 55 employees.  Word is 5 of them are now dead because they made the mistake of choosing journalism.


This isn't politics I'm talking about.  This is decency and common sense.  This is understanding the will and needs of the majority of Americans and caring enough to try to provide for them. 

Good people don't want to  take revenge on history.  Good people don't want to undo; they want to do.   This isn't about which party is in power; it's about doing the right thing.  Thoughtful people use words to make their points, not their guns.

We need a place to start.

We need to feel safe.

We need to see consequences for the wrongdoers.

We have to treat adults with the same rules and conventions we use when we teach our young children about right and wrong.  


We must respectfully listen to one another.  We must apologize if we have hurt someone's feelings, especially if we did so unconsciously or obliviously.  We must choose our words carefully.  If angered, we should count to 5 or 10 in order to cool down before we reply.  

We should tell our loved ones how much they mean to us.  We should remember our friends who are hurting or ill and visit them if we can, and if not we should call them, so they know they're not alone.   We should eat our vegetables.  Try to spend half an hour a day LESS on our digital devices.  Unless we are waiting for urgent news or are a doctor on call, we ought to leave our phones alone during meals.  


Your friend,







This was the view outside my window last week while I was away.  It was like living in a painting. In all fairness, going far away and being surrounded by beauty could be numbers 1-5, without exaggeration.   Look at that sky!  And the air was perfumed -- deeply perfumed with jasmine and lavender.  

1) When you go far away, problems at home diminish.  

2) When you stay in a 900 year old farm house, the WIFI isn't reliable.

3) When the WIFI isn't reliable, (or, frankly, even if it is) you leave your digital footprints and fingerprints behind... at home.  If it's a choice to breathe in the air, drink a little wine ("little" is a relative term), read a book, visit with friends, pick the cherries off the tree in the garden, or go inside to the room with best reception to read about Trump and his cronies?  Air and cherries win every time.

4) Italian people are so stylish!  They don't seem to overthink it; they just simply are.

5) Robert S. Mueller, il nostro uomo del momento.

Ciao, xx




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This week saw me doing something I don't do well and enduring it twice:  hosting parties.  The first one was a book launch at home for a close friend of the last 30 years.  My friend is Laurie Burrows Grad, a prolific cookbook author and now explainer of widowdom: 

The second event was a memorial for my dear friend, the pioneering literary journalist Lillian Ross, who died last September at age 99. (

Entertaining at home means extreme decluttering -- Kondoing the condo as it were, and throwing out the unread newspaper sections I had been holding onto for a bit.  But that's not all.  I sorted all my receipts into folders according to which card I used.  I tossed out two large garbage bags' worth of stuff that I had no use for, I gave away clothes to a several friends whose styles and sizes overlap with mine.  And then I found an old-fashioned accordion file containing the original copyedited manuscript of The Official Preppy Handbook.  


Let me talk about that.

1) My handwriting hasn't changed since 1980.  It's funny to see some notes from then that I could have written now;  1980 was a LONG TIME AGO.  What is even more fascinating is that the voice of the Preppy Handbook was total authority.  Yet I was a child of 21.  My confidence ("We never wear...."  "We always say...") of then.... 1980.... has eroded.  For one thing, my wily exhibits (TM) have negotiated all certainty out of me.  For another, I think more before I speak or write, which can be a hindrance to those fine imperatives.

2)  Almost not a day goes by without someone telling me how much The Preppy Handbook meant to them.  I almost don't take that in properly any longer.  Yesterday at Lillian Ross' memorial, two talented writers separately pulled me aside and mentioned that when they first read it (one was in middle school; the other was in second grade) it had clarified their thinking and given them purpose.  This is always flattering to hear.   I am very pleased and honored by everyone's positive memories and feelings about it.  But as the book was published almost 38 years ago, it sometimes it feels as if they are talking about me in the past tense.  I still write.  I still have (a hefty portion of) a brain.


3)  It is clear that this book is my headline -- no matter what else I do or accomplish, excepting marrying into the Kardashians or possibly co-writing Melania's eventual tell-all.  I expect my obituary headline to begin with the words "Preppy Girl".  Again, I'm not complaining; The Official Preppy Handbook is but one part of me.  When I was on my tour for True Prep (2010) I was asked repeatedly what I did in those 30 pointless years in between books.  I always answered in earnest-- 20 other books, marriage, three children, divorce, screenplays, tv shows, radio work, non-profit volunteer work, etc. and in the process I usually watched my interlocuter fight sleep.  If I answered, "I was in a coma," or "I was in rehab," "witness protection program" I'd see a real spark of interest.  Life is not always dramatic or exciting or even understandable.  Often we just accumulate gestures and actions and routines and fold our sweaters, and straighten the picture frames on our side tables and refill our water glasses, and read before bed.

4.)  In 1980, most of the world had no idea what a preppy was.  I had to explain the concept all the time.  In America.  On the West Coast I sometimes panicked, as they didn't see a lot of wide-wale corduroy pants with lobsters embroidered on them.  How was I ever going to make myself understood? I was frequently asked, "Where did you find people who look like that in those kinds of clothes?"  Oh, you mean my family and friends wearing their own stuff?  By 2010, almost no one asked me to define preppiness.  They had figured it out by then, owned multiple pairs of Top-Siders, khakis, and polo shirts.  And the look had traveled.  It was the default way to dress all over the world.  Wow.  The embroidered cords still are most prevalent on the east coast, however.

5)  You know who's a preppy?  One of the best.  Robert S. Mueller, III, St. Paul's School '62.


Here the alumnus is back on campus in 2004, eating on trays with students, while Director of the FBI.

I will be away and offline over the next ten days on vacation, so this will have to be it for us until Friday, June 22. 

Until then, I'll be wearing natural fibers.


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Somehow it's June!

1)  Reunion weekend was just total fun (notwithstanding the 7 1/2 hours it took to drive 178.6 miles) (or -- and you see I love double parentheses -- the hotel losing our reservation).  I don't know the final numbers, but I think maybe 20% of our class was there for all or part of the weekend.  The strange thing was how familiar everyone seemed, even though we haven't seen one another in some cases for 5 years, in other cases since the 20th century!  One minute I felt like a teenager, another I felt like a big old fuddyduddy.  In any case, most people were just wonderful -- we wove old memories together as if we had a giant loom.  All in all I just feel lucky to have gone to a great school and to be able to revisit now and again.


(With my classmate Aliki Barnstone, the Poet Laureate of Missouri) (We met for the first time last weekend.)

2).  Doing what you like.  Yes, it's obvious.  My classmates who seemed happiest were the ones who had pursued dreams, passions, and whims -- not just wealth, position, or  paychecks.  One, Andy Chaiken, was always a "space nut".  He says when he arrived on campus the first thing he did was stick his poster of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon on the wall over his bed.  Now he works at NASA.  Terry Gallagher was similarly infatuated with all things Japanese.  He is an award-winning Japanese-to-English translator, though he majored in art history, I believe.  If you feel you're at a dead-end, or uninspired, try to figure out a way to incorporate your passion in your life.

3).  "The Americans" on FX wrapped up, as everyone who participates in social media knows.  Our friend Robert was our proselytizer, and once hooked, it was a powerful addiction.


I don't really have more to add in terms of the analysis of the show (and I don't want to ruin it for any of you late adapters.)  I was surprised by the ending.  I will miss the excitement and anticipation the program created for me.   I know my feelings for the show run deep because last night I dreamed I had been asked to work with Stan Beeman/Noah Emmerich.  (Larry Page and Sergey Brin were in the dream too.)  


I should be embarrassed, but I'm not.

4).  It's cherry season.

5).  I wonder whether Robert Mueller is a fan of "The Americans."  #TooSoon?  He's living it every day, anyway.  Wishing him continued great health and energy.  


And to all of you, too.

Your friend, 


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I'll be driving on Friday morning -- along with a zillion other families -- up to New England for a graduation/reunion weekend.  I expect the traffic to be prodigious, but the experience of returning to a place of wonderful memories to make all the drudgeries of the road trip unimportant.

This week I want to focus on college as a focus of my gratitude.

1)  What I have learned,  and more mysteriously, what I've kept in my tiny head, is due to my prized (and privileged, I know, I know) education.   Sometimes it's a crossword puzzle question that took me no seconds at all to know the word, other times it's passing a group of people speaking French and understanding what they are saying.   Or knowing the differences between Manet and Monet.  Or having read so much Philip Roth, that his loss feels personal.  I probably say, "Thank you, education" to myself three or four times a week.  #ButImStrangeThatWay  Also, thank you Mom and Dad.  It was the best thing you ever gave me.


2)  New England.  I am a born and bred New Yorker, but I identify (or should I say "self identify") as a partial New Englander.  I love the trees, the coast, the food, the clothes, the people, the campuses, and the ethos of New England.  Between living on and off in Connecticut, spending many summers in Massachusetts, and having attended college in Rhode Island, I feel very happy to luxuriate in the bosom of Yankeeness.  


3)  Feeling old and feeling young.  I'm going to have both those reactions this weekend.  I know because I felt them five years ago at my last reunion.  So grateful women get to keep their hair (for the most part), though that's just fair, if you ask me.  I may only feel young compared to the grandparents and other codgers who march or roll in the grand procession on Sunday, but being back at school always makes me feel like a 19 year old kid.  Or maybe a 30 year old kid; see below.


At my 10th reunion.  (I still wear that shirt.)

4)  The thing about old friends --  old friends that you stay friends with --  they are the most precious, I find.  You knew us when we were forming.  You remember that time over vacation.  You remember my dad.  We shared history notes or a dorm room, or went to a concert together,  or you held my ponytail when I drank too much, or I held yours. 

A lot of my college friends are people I've been in irregular touch with.  Nevertheless, they are the reason I visit Facebook.  (Not to read ads for Rothy's shoes or Hanacure skin masks, shockingly.)  I am looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces all weekend.  


Class of 1966

5)  Have I mentioned that Robert Mueller went to college?  He was a member of Princeton's class of 1966, and though Princeton has its own traditions of annual Reunions (unlike most other institutions' practice of meeting every five years), Special Counsel Mueller will probably be too busy this May 31 to attend his class's festivities.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!


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