The silhouettes of trees at dusk as seen on a Chicago city street

Hello Observers,


I hope this year brings you way more joy and way less suffering, especially of the kind that’s caused by human jerks. Run-of-the-mill suffering caused by the flow of the universe is hard enough, I declare. We don’t need anyone adding to it. ESPECIALLY not on purpose, which, unbelievably, impossibly, some people do. So… I hope for less of that, and more of the love that we try to live by, in 2021.

And thank you for your responses to my question / desperate pump-up plea about newsletter frequency and quality last time. You provided enough newsletter-related assurance to get me through the beginning of 2021, at least. It sounds like the monthly round-up format still works, so I’ll keep it going.

(If you have any friends or colleagues or professors or adult children who might like OBSERVATIONS, you can send them a link to sign up here!)

Thank you very, very much.
On to the observin’.


November and December 2020

  • Accidentally brushing my hair into paint primer, giving myself white frosted tips. 11-25
  • Being terrified by, and reluctantly using, a powder-actuated hammer tool to fasten a wooden baseplate to concrete. 11-4
  • Planting garlic with Mom. Getting my hands dirty with real, actual dirt from the ground for the first time in a long time. It felt good, spiritually and tactilely. The moss was mushy. 11-22

  • The dancing in the streets — joy that the election was finally called. 11-7
    • As my brother put it: “Nobody is celebrating today because they believe that our problems are all.. just solved. Everybody is celebrating that we will now have a chance to solve them.”
  • Basil barking at the painting of the Star Wars (album) cat. 11-10
  • The takeout container with Dad’s name spelled “jeef.” 11-19

  • Photos of my grandma (bubba) Judy and me, scanned by Mom. Bubba’s sheer mag of bright liveliness showing through even in tiny photo format, twenty-five years later, not diminished at all. 12-5
  • The professional sand sculptor practicing alone on the cold fall beach. 11-20
  • The tiniest tumbleweed blowing across the highway. 12-23

  • Petting Casey’s cats while she’s away, then going to my grandpa Zaid’s house and petting (massaging) Zaid. (To Zaid: you’re not a cat, but the acts of caring for you and for the cats bore an undeniable similarity today!) 12-20
  • The little ramp in the artificial pond, for turtles and ducks and any other water-stranded local citizens. 12-26
  • The window AC unit being held up by a weathered can of green beans. 12-3

The North Branch

  • A trip to the Chicago River’s north branch. 12-3
    • The beaver forming a little triangle wake behind her.
    • The huge blue heron, to whom I crept up slowly, trying to figure out if she was real or a statue. I’ve been fooled by too many lawn ornaments.
    • Making some kind of happy noise when I saw eight or so ducks jumping into the current, one after the other.
    • The shopping list on the forest floor. First item: “Dr. Scholl’s corn remover.”
    • The little gourd bobbing in the just-starting-to-freeze river.

Some Music

  • An “oh my god” good groove: “So In Love” by Curtis Mayfield. 11-6
  • The music in this video about installing drywall. 11-8
  • Dr. John: “Your day is filled with money matters / My day is filled with sound” (“Go Tell the People”). 11-25
    • There are unbeLIEVable grooves all over that album, Desitively Bonnaroo. The Meters back him up on it, so, duh. (Thanks Liam for showing it to me.)

Snow and Sugar

  • Watching Elf as a family — a triumph of art. 11-26
  • How hard it is to open Chanukah gelt without getting chocolate under your fingernails. 12-12
  • The “three-story” Christmas tree in the north suburbs of Chicago (three slices of Christmas tree: one in a first-floor window, another in the second, and the top on the roof). 12-12
  • The contractor talking about the Christmas tree he bought this year — and set up with a train underneath — as a “stupid, costly idea.” 12-17
  • That Casey gives me, a Jew, the honor of putting the star on her Christmas tree. 11-11
  • Decorating cookies with Casey’s family. Baby Yoda ones, lizard ones, oops-I’ll-just-douse-it-in-sprinkles ones. 12-24
  • Kiki, Kristin, and Casey’s delicious Christmas Day tostones and arroz con gandules. 12-25
  • How winter brings the pain of dry skin but also the joy of lotion. 11-4
  • How the snow makes everything brighter. There’s more light in the windows. 12-29

A printed paper receipt featuring excerpts from the Observations blog


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