October 2013

October 2013

Walking again in their shoes. A year ago, Superstorm Sandy destroyed windows, doors, and electrical systems on Ellis Island, where 12 million of our ancestors first trod American pavement from 1892 to 1954. Happily untouched were artifacts of the émigré spirit, including a huge mural-sized passport issued by His Imperial Majesty the Ottoman Emperor and a simple plaque bearing a reflection by an Italian peasant: “They said in America the streets were paved with gold. Well, they weren’t paved with gold.  They weren’t even paved.  And I found out that I would be the one to pave them.”

He collects socks and likes baked spaghetti. That is Haley Smilow’s sensational disclosure of the lifestyle of Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. “He also beat-boxes and likes Christian music.” Haley routinely scores interviews with major leaguers, filling the gaps that hardball reporters miss and writing up the results in Sports Illustrated Kids and MLB.com. She is 12.

And you know you cain’t teach what you ain’t got. The difference between classic R&B and Hip-Hop, between popular music then and now, may have been Maxine Powell, the Miss Manners of Motown, dead this month at age 98. She ran the finishing school at the record label for students like Martha and The Vandellas, Diana Ross and The Supremes, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Her aim, she said, was always to ready her students (Stevie Wonder being one) for two invitations, from Buckingham Palace and the White House. “I teach class,” she said, “and class will turn the heads of kings and queens.”

Echoes from the Holocaust. George Horner, 90, recently became the oldest musician to make a debut in the 113-year-history of Symphony Hall in Boston. Amazing, but there’s more.  During World War II, Mr. Horner played the piano and the accordion to lift the spirits of fellow prisoners in the Nazi camps.  Now, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and a full house heard some of those same arrangements, dating back 70 years, from the hands of their composer, resulting in an appropriate elevation.

All that trouble for something called words. “So how did you send a letter to the editor before email?” asked the New Boy. The Old Boy replied: “You typed it out on paper, put it in an envelope, stamped it, and dropped it in a mail slot.” “That’s hilarious,” replied the New Boy. “You mean everybody was running around in the newsroom getting the news and all, and then suddenly an envelope lands on somebody’s desk, and that person has to stop and open it and read it and then…type it again?” “Well, more or less,” said the Old Boy. “Wow,” said the New Boy.  “Unbelievable.”

Quote to note. “You do not hate the time you waste. You only wish you had it back, like a quarter in an unlucky slot machine.” – Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin’


Thanks for reading,



What do you do? they ask. The question, said Swiss psychologist Rollo May, should always be: “What do you make?” We make words and we make pictures, and this month we started doing that for a large hospital in metro Atlanta and a 170-year-old college in New England.  Along the way we make news, and we make friends.

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