Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Got My Job Through the New York Times

The obituary of Howard Zieff, the adman that created the memorable ad campaign for Levy's Jewish rye bread, made me realize that the adults that were producing what I was encountering as a teenager have been shuffling off for years now. Howard would have been in his 40s when he created the ads that would prove so memorable to people who saw them firsthand in that era.

Not only were the ads so memorable, they made me think of advertising as a career choice. I even bought a book on advertising that contained write ups of the campaigns, complete with the artwork and the photos that were used. It was almost like an advertising textbook, and right now I can't find it.

The Levy's ads were so well proportioned. The lettering was clear, nothing was cluttered, and they were funny. You have to wonder if the person would be around today who could produce something like that, with sensitivity such a pre-occupation that good-naturedness would be stifled.

Besides the ads themselves being so memorable, I remember where I saw them--along the subway wall exiting what was then called the BMT 14th street station, 16th street exit. I always used this exit after I made my flower deliveries. The family shop was on 18th Street and 3rd Avenue, and coming out at nearly 17th Street, on the west side of Union Square Park, was to me like using some secret passage. Great too, if it was raining.

There along the left side as you exited I could always count on seeing the latest Levy's ad. They always made me smile and wish I had done something that clever. To this day, even though the passageway looks different, is tiled better and has better lighting, whenever I go that way I think of the ads I saw there. Now that's a popular ad.

And there was one other ad that always seemed to be nearby. The ad for The New York Times. It was just as big a poster, ran horizontal rather than vertical, and always showed someone in an office, or executive position who was claiming that: "I got my job through the New York Times."

Newspapers once being a source of advertising, used to carry all the employment ads. So, the implication was if you looked in the Times you would find yourself in a well-paid job with an office, desk, window, view and maybe even a secretary. (I don't remember if women were depicted as well.)

I distinctly remember a kid in my high school home room that wagged that JFK should be in one of those ads, sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office. jacket, tie and that trademark haircut, in front of a few papers. After all, the Times endorsed him, and he did get the job.

Come to think of it, some of the people I grew up with might have gone on as adults and started working for Saturday Night Live. Everybody's got to come from somewhere.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Sound of Time

If there is such a thing as a building following you around like a full moon on a clear night, then Madison Square Garden is it for me.

My father went to see the circus at the original Garden. I began my hockey fandom from the building on Eighth Avenue. I walk to work from Penn Station every morning, the building underneath the "new" Garden, and I go past the site where my father went to the circus when I pass the New York Life building that replaced the Garden as I walk along the north side of Madison Square Park and cross Madison Avenue. I am being followed.

Thomas Wolfe wrote of the old Pennsylvania Station that "few buildings are vast enough to hold the sound of time." And if you happen to remember the old station you would have agreed with the poetic description Wolfe wrote of the upper level of that "mighty room, distilled out of the voices and movements of the people who swarmed beneath."

If there is irony in this world then it is that the old Pennsylvania Station was demolished in 1964 to make way for what would be the fourth Madison Square, a building that opened in 1968, is still there and whose name alone evokes more sporting memories than all the almanacs in the world. Think of that: the sound of time replaced by another form of eternity.

More irony. The New York Life building replaced the original Madison Square Garden. The fourth Madison Square Garden replaced the old Pennsylvania Station. And when the wrecker's ball stopped swinging, and it was realized what was lost, the Landmarks Preservation Commission was started to preserve buildings like the old Penn Station. The New York Life building--the building that replaced the Garden, that replaced Penn Station--is itself designated a landmark in 2000.

The building pictured above was the third Madison Square Garden, on Eighth Avenue, between 49th and 50th Streets, significantly removed from where it first opened on 26th and Madison, hard by Madison Square Park. The third Garden was built in 1925 in 249 days and anyone who ever saw it in daytime had to wonder how could anything resembling a warehouse with windows hold events as varied as hockey, basketball, bike races, track meets, horse shows, rodeos, a circus, boxing, and wrestling. The only glamorous clue to the place was the arched movie-style marquee, that when lit up at night surely made you realize something was going on TONITE.

My father always told me about the original Garden, where his favorite uncle took him to see the circus. Take a kid to a circus and they will be your favorite uncle for life. And he was. The building was topped by a statue of the goddess Diana, by the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. (Think $20 gold pieces.) The statue of a naked Diana outraged the citizenry. When I happened to tour Gaudens's home in New Hampshire there was a reprint of a cartoon that showed the Statue of Liberty shielding its eyes from the naked goddess of the hunt. When I told the Park Ranger the story of my father going to that old Garden he managed to send me a reprint of the cartoon. Cartoons have been delivering messages for a long time.

My own Garden memories start with Eighth Avenue, when the first event I was taken to was a hockey game between the Rangers and the Montreal Canadians in 1959. It turned out to be a very historic game because the Canadian goalie, Jacques Plante was hit in the face by a shot by Andy Bathgate. Plante had to leave the game for repairs. In that era the clubs did not dress two goaltenders. I remember vividly sitting there and asking my father why was the game delayed so long. I'm sure I got ice cream.

Well, Plante came back out, but this time wearing a mask. No goalie in the NHL had ever worn a mask before in a game. Plante had been wearing it now and then in practice, but his coach, Toe Blake, wouldn't let him wear it in the game. Plante insisted on wearing it because his face was so freshly stitched up that he felt it was now or never. The mask caught on.

I had never realized that Bathgate took the shot that Plante stopped with his face. It was when I was reading the souvenir program last week from the Ranger number retiring ceremony that I learned Bathgate was connected to Plante and the dawn of the mask.

Bathgate was the best Ranger player, but reading about him from an adult perspective he apparently rankled some bosses. One story I remember hearing was of him coming to practice with The Wall Street Journal under one arm and The Morning Telegraph (racing paper) under the other. The coach, Red Sullivan, I think, yelled at him and told him he didn't want to see him coming to practice ever again with either paper under his arm. Hockey players were not expected to read, I suppose, and not expected to do something with their money.

To this day, whenever I have The Wall Street Journal and the Daily Racing Form in my bag I think of Bathgate and think that I'll be lucky to have any money left by Monday. I always seem to, but that's probably what Red Sullivan was so mad at: he didn't want his player distracted by going broke.

But the player of the two whose numbers were retired this past Sunday that I remember best was Harry Howell. When they retired Messier's number I was shocked to learn that Howell's hadn't yet been retired. He was their best player on teams that were less than talented. He was Harry the Horse, a defensive bulwark that never strayed in from the offensive blue line and could tie up multiple forwards like a bouncer. He was the second goaltender. And when he did win the Norris Trophy as best defenseman he very wisely said he was glad he got it then, because that young fellow Bobby Orr was going to own it soon. And of course Orr did.

I remember watching Howell tie guys up from my balcony seat vantage. Harry must have been a bit prematurely gray because when I think about him he always looked older than anyone else out there. Almost like a taller, silver haired John Marley on skates. Of course, in that era the players didn't wear helmets, so you could always see their faces. And the old Garden offered great sight lines for that, provided you weren't in anything further back from row A in the side balcony. ($2.00 for end balcony; $1.50 for side; 50 cents side balcony with a student GO, General Organization card.)

The old Garden was built for boxing. Stick a ring in the center, and everyone had a great view. But as the uses expanded, the disadvantages became apparent. But it took until 1968 when it replaced the building that held the sound of time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Current on Top of the Past

I used to work with a woman at work who believed in "practical miracles." Basically, this was someone's explanation that "things happen for a reason," but they wrote a book about it. I was never one to believe that things might not really just be coincidences. Para-normal explanations, and guidance by Higher Powers never appealed to me.

So, not to suddenly offer an event that renders me a convert, I do offer what I'm sure would be construed as proof by believers. Certainly by Isabel. And after all, what do I really know?

Sunday afternoon and headed for the city yesterday to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall. We have a three concert subscription to the St. Luke's Orchestra, and while not being a complete classical music fan I have come to enjoy it over the years and even emerge knowing something about it. Like, when the composers lived, etc. and the difference between a sonata and a concerto.

My wife's not as keen on it as I am, but she likes going into the city, likes eating out, and sometimes feels quite refreshed from the nap she gets. The seats are great, and offer great value. We've been doing it for several years now. It's replaced hockey games. (She also occasionally does something with the stemware from the Carnegie Cafe, but I don't think I can be made to testify against her as long as we stay married. They'll never get her. She's just too damn good at it.)

I do not buy the Sunday Times for many reasons, but I do log on and check the obituaries and if I remember, check out Dave Anderson in sports. I do not follow hockey anywhere on the level of being the season ticket holder I was for 11 years--with no Stanley Cup to show for it. There were the remains of some fine seasons about them, but no championships for me.

And so it was yesterday that I found out in Dave's story that the New York Rangers were finally honoring two veteran players who I remember seeing play in the 1960s. I had heard this was going to happen, but didn't know when. Their numbers were to be retired. Harry Howell, No. 3 and Andy Bathgate, No. 9. Much can, and later will be written about that segment of the story, but because I'd be in the city, and Penn Station is under the Garden, I thought about buying a souvenir program on the way home. I figured $15 would do it.

Well, it was $20, but absolutely worth it. Nicely bound, full of black and white photos, reprints of news stories, writers' stories, NO ADS, it is a true collector's item.

So, going home on the train the Carnegie Hall program sat on top of the Ranger souvenir book. The current on top of the past. I was a bit of a kid reading and looking at it on the way home. It was not until this morning that I noticed the book was numbered on its spine. There is a four digit number...of 5000.

The number is the year I was born.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Neet Squeeze

I occasionally think of Blanche.

In my prior life with the company I worked at for 36 years I was at times something called an "external auditor." This required me to leave the office (always a good thing) and travel with an enrollment representative/marketing person to the site of a group that had insurance coverage with us.

The objective was always to verify records. But formalities had to be followed, and I had to meet people first. On one such occasion, at a fairly small group I met the office manager/administrative assistant/secretary/benefits administrator, what have you, with our rep.

The woman I met was known to the enrollment rep, another woman, from her business visits to the site. I was introduced to Blanche, a complete character. There is no other way to say it than to quote the Pirate King from Pirates of Penzance: "there are the remains of a fine woman about her."

Blanche was friendly, voluble, and constantly reminding me, someone she hadn't met before, that she used to a be a nurse, and was therefore absolutely the right person to now be handling the group's health insurance claims. Since these claims, then pieces of paper, contained medical information that could be read by anyone, I immediately agreed with her.

My father would have described Blanche as a "gal." "Quite a gal." A "live wire." If he were doing the audit, he and Blanche would have at least started with lunch, cocktails, and pleasure would have probably pushed business out the window before the six o'clock news popped on the air. But the son is not the father, so I only wanted to complete the business side things.

When I had a moment alone with the enrollment rep I asked if Blanche's last name were Dubois. She said no, it was Dreyfus. God, I was close.

Lynn, the rep, told me that obviously I could tell Blanche was a bit of a character and that she sometimes had trouble talking to her about anything. She related the time she asked Blanche if she had any vacation planned, and where would she be going. Small talk.

Lynn repeated the lasso motion of twirling something over her head and said that Blanche told her that she doesn't really plan vacations. She just pulls out a pair of panties and a toothbrush and takes off.

I remember telling Lynn that at least we might be somewhat sure that Blanche is not completely naked when she's brushing her teeth.

I occasionally think of Blanche.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Turn the Damn Thing Off

I don't have the exact date, but it's more than 10 years since Russell Baker wrote in his Observer column, "I've learned all I need to know about the O.J. trial just by walking past a television."

I knew then when I read it it was already a timeless observation, and Mr. Baker didn't even have to add if the television was on or off. I always felt it was true even if the set were off and unplugged. I'd like to think he retired with oodles of money from the royalties for just that sentence, but I'm aware that things don't work that way.

I've loved repeating the sentence, and always give it full attribution. It gets a workout. Now, more than 10 years later we have Alex Rodriquez, steroids, and a baseball season that's not even begun. A 38 second pause inside of a 38 minute news conference. Alex should get a new number.

If I thought putting the television back in a box would solve things I'd go out and buy the box now. I vaguely remember a Twilight Zone episode where the ventriloquist's dummy keeps talking even without the ventriloquist there to mouth the words. Rod Serling was another genius.

Years and years ago, Gene Klavan, a morning show radio personality on WNEW here in New York in the 1960s and 1970s wrote a book titled Turn the Damn Thing Off. It was about television.

My father's best friend went into the hotel business, eventually becoming a banquet manager at the Savoy Plaza in NYC, then something equally large in L.A. I remember as a kid that Joe once told me that a hotel is always open, even if the front door is locked. As long as you have one guest, you're open. You never close until you go out of business. There are no more test patterns on television.

Three-fifths of the world, or thereabouts, is covered in water. The rest of the world is just covered.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Behind Which Apartment Door?

You learn something every day. Like, there are people in Manhattan who live with a goat in their apartment.

Today's NYT featured an obituary on Joe Goldstein, 81, a sports publicist for nearly 60 years. He had a lot to do with many things, one of which was promoting The International Trot, a top flight invitational trotting race that used to be held at Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, NY. (I saw Une de Mai win the race one year.)

Well, it seems an invited horse cleared quarantine, but not its stable pet, which happened to be a goat (or a sheep) named Brigitte. (The trotter was a French mare, named Kracovie.) Joe, ever the accommodating host, wanted the invited horse to feel completely at home, so he set out to find a goat for Kracovie to replace Brigitte.

This is 1961, and Joe finds that the actress Tina Louise just happened to have a goat in her Manhattan apartment. Much apparently is made of Tina Louise wearing a low-cut dress bringing her goat to Roosevelt Raceway to calm Kracovie down and make her feel better about not having Brigitte with her. Turns out it wasn't enough, and Kravovie loses to Su Mac Lad, a champion trotter. (Now whether Su Mac Lad makes an appearance on Sullivan I don't remember. But I do remember Ed bringing Cardigan Bay, the champion pacer in full harness out on stage once for a round of applause. Ed's show was live, you should remember.)

All of this is enough, but gets better when Les Crane enters the picture. Les Crane, if anyone remembers, was a talk show host in the 1960s for a bit. Les was certainly good looking enough, and it turns out when he recently passed away we learn he had five wives, the fourth one who was Tina Louise, of goat and Gilligan's Island fame.

An excerpt from Les Crane's obituary goes:

Mr. Crane married five times. His fourth wife was the actress Tina Louise whom he met and married while she was at the height of her popularity as the glamorous sexpot [Ginger] on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” They divorced in 1971 after a five-year marriage.

(That Les was survived by his fifth wife, Ginger, of 20 years can probably point to a few things, but one certainly of which would be: if you find a name you like, you should stick with it. )

Simple math thus puts the nuptials at 1966, five years after Tina's appearance at Roosevelt Raceway with a goat. We of course don't know who Tina enjoyed living with most. We're just going to have to wait.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Total Is the Sum of the Parts

Besides the obituaries I like to read, I also seem to gravitate to book reviews. As much as the WSJ can still be about business, I always latch onto the book reviews as well. There are even times I buy the book I read about, and even times I read the same book. But this is not often done. I'm not a fast reader and there are several stacks on the night table that resemble buildings in the Wall Street area--tall and close together.

But the reviews are something else. Usually well written, they are informative beyond the book, while still telling something about the book and the author. I read about books. I like book reviews.

It never ceases to amaze me that thoughts I've had have already been expressed by others, or seem to have been expressed at almost the same time. In the blog posting Peek-A-Boo and The Swede I mention that 1959 seems so long ago I even wonder if I was through there. Well, I was. I've been around before 1950, for Truman, not FDR, so I went through 1959 if I'm now in 2009. I do remember Presley, too.

So, reading Andrew Stark's book review in the WSJ of David Eagelman's Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives I find myself somewhat marveling at words chosen by the reviewer.

...And what he has produced is a book that is as imaginative and inventive in its approach as it is commonplace in its message.

The message seems to be: We should all live in the present caring "only...about the small experiences...a meeting of the eyes, a glimpse of bare flesh, the orientation of a house plant, the shade of a paint stroke." After all, what is past largely vanishes from memory, while in the future all memories of us will vanish.

Sometimes when I think about years I've lived through I think I only know about them because I read about them, not because I was there.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jack Spiro and The Girlfriend

I do read obituaries. Usually the by-lined, or news story ones in the NYT. My eyes do drift into the Paid Notice section, if only because I usually check out the In Memoriam part of that section. I do that, because of certain events and my own sentiments expressed there for a certain time.

So, maybe because he seems to have a Greek name, Spiro, or more likely because the name, alphabetized, put him very close to the In Memoriam section, I read about Jack. Growing up I was always called Jack, so there is probably one more reason this particular notice caught my eye.

Jack was nearly 89 when he passed away on January 24, 2009. The notice just came through in yesterday's paper, delayed I'm sure for many reasons. Jack went out with survivors, and immediately made me think of the Alan King routine where he reads obituaries for men and repeats that they always seem to say, "survived by..." and it's a woman's name. Clearly, the men go first.

Jack was no different. He is survived by a daughter, a son, a granddaughter, and a "longtime girlfriend Katherine Hess."

This can only make you think. If you're nearly 89, how old is Jack's girlfriend? Can't be extremely young, because she is a "longtime girlfriend." When did this start? Nothing about a pre-deceased wife.

A few years ago at work word came back to us that a fellow I remember from many years ago (I worked for the same company for 36 years) was now retired and living in Vegas. I figured he'd be near 70. There was also indication that his wife was about 40. I could only think that Joe retired, got out there, and married the cocktail waitress.

We don't know where Jack and Katherine met, but he didn't go out alone. He was "survived by..."

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'll Meet You At The Bar

In nine days, pitchers and catchers report.

And defense attorneys.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Peek-A-Boo and The Swede

Last week's obituary of Ingemar Johansson brought back a few memories. Live long enough, and it's hard to believe I was around in 1959, well on my way through P.S. 22.

The track guy Frank Litsky somehow wrote the NYT obituary, and not Dave Anderson. Dave's retired, but did have a Super Bowl story in the paper last Sunday. Litsky may have had the story on file, I don't know. It's a great obit, and like any great obit, an era comes alive while telling about someone who has left this one.

When Johansson beat Patterson it was a blow to the American sports ego. Americans were supposed to be heavyweight champions. The sun revolves around the earth. Since Joe Louis defeated an entire European nation, the heavyweight champion was supposed to be an American. Even while trying to learn to write a complete sentence that had a subject, verb and object, I knew that. Swedes skied, they weren't supposed to box.

Patterson fought with what was called a peek-a-boo style. He kept both gloves up around his face, almost as if he was afraid to get hit, and wanted no part of what he was very good at. Looking back, it might now be hard to believe that that style could win matches. But it did. And Patterson of course went on to beat Johansson in the next two fights.

(I saw Patterson fight the Argentinian Oscar Bonavena in the early 70s at Madison Square Garden, in what was a bit of a comeback fight for Floyd. Oscar fought flat-footed and was awkward, throwing heavy punches off the wrong feet, but still a worthy opponent. As a build up to that fight the Garden showcased free sparring sessions at the Felt Forum that I got to see on my lunch hour. During one of these sessions several members of the Argentina navy, officers and enlisted men, came in from a warship that was docked in the Hudson. No doubt who they were for. When the fight finally did roll around, Patterson put on a show and nearly flattened Oscar in the later rounds. He was awarded a TKO. It was exciting. How the hell did Ingemar beat him years before? He couldn't have beaten him that night.)

If Johansson doesn't look like a white George Foreman in the above photo, I don't know who does. Apparently Ingemar enjoyed life and is described in the obituary as a student of female anatomy. Straight As. Come to think of it, certain movies that I later became aware of always had a Swede in a white coat with a chart and a pointer nearby. It wasn't always skiing.

At my age then, however, I wouldn't have been aware of Ingemar's world outside the ring. And likely, not many others were either. The celebrity, tabloid, online world hadn't yet arrived. So, if Johansson stayed up late and ate cherry cheesecake until it came through his mouthpiece, I'm sure not many people knew about it. Word didn't spread fast.

Apparently he did pretty well for himself financially, and didn't go out without resources. Like Foreman, he seems to have had an affable nature that served him well. He may not have been selling grills at Christmas time for a company that specializes in the gift product, but at one point he was making enough money that he moved to Switzerland to keep the tax bit down.

It's a great picture that I had never seen before. He knows how to be happy, because he was of course once The Champ.


The only laptop I like is my grand-daughter.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Life Made Easier

The Internet is a Mobius Strip. One thing leads to another.

It's waaaay too soon to even think this blog can have a Greatest Hits section, but here are the three postings so far that are related. Oldest first.

The Ladies and the Cameramen

Sit-Down at Woolworth's

A Triptych

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Triptych

The posting The Ladies and the Cameramen led to A Sit-Down at Woolworth's, which as night follows day, or day follows night, leads to the third installment. Three is a powerful number.

After recounting my remembrances of NYC cops fighting crime with Polaroids, and my daughter's father-in-law telling me his story of his mentor fighting crime with instant photo booths at Woolworth's, I came across a book review I had saved, Least Wanted, a photo essay book on American mugshots.

The September 15, 2006 review, in the NYT by Randy Kennedy, describes the book that grew of a mugshot collection amassed by Mark Michaelson. It is a collection of mugshots, essays, newspaper clippings and out-quotes about crime: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Can't attach enough names to that one.

The photos are as stark as you'd expect a mug shot to be: black and white, grainy, taken of a subject who likely didn't plan that session as part of their day, but someone whose day can wind up that way. The book does not have household names in it. These are low-level offenders, going back to 1883. All types. People arrested for what are purported to be Communist activities (red literature) really are on a pink card.

Some subjects are bandaged, no doubt after something that has to do with why they are being photographed in the first place. Men, women, young, old, white, black, foreign, neat, or dishevelled, they are on display. There's a saying in horse racing that no one has to be asked to smile in the winner's circle. These people are not in the winner's circle.

The review is first rate, and the book is great too. The inside cover looks like something you checked out of the library in the 60s, with stamped dates from that wheeled date stamp that eventually expired. Dates go on, but that stamp can only go so far. (I wonder if the fortune made from that patent was an honest one.)

Randy Kennedy writes: "...collectively, as a kind of photo booth for the American underbelly..."

That cop was onto to something, wasn't he?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hard to Make Up

I've been riding the LIRR as a daily commuter now for 16 years. I use a monthly ticket, which requires the conductor to punch the appropriate gender, M or F. (My oldest daughter, when she was first commuting, thought it had something to do with Monday through Friday. We love her a lot.)

Today, being the first use of the February ticket, required the conductor to make the call. Despite hardly being her first day on the job, she blew it. I guess it had to happen eventually. When I saw her pulling the ticket back and writing on it I knew what she had done and offered to dress differently, if needed. She smiled and said it wouldn't be necessary.

So, it is this dual-punched gender ticket I'm now staring at in the doctor's waiting room as I look through my billfold. It's an appointment with an ophthalmologist, for a routine eye exam that I felt should be acceded to since the last one was over three years ago, I'm now over 60, and I do stuff like this more than half my waking hours. And also read.

It then occurred to me, that I've got a story to tell this doctor, who I've been seeing since sometime shortly after president Ford famously told NYC to "Drop Dead." Or, at least, that's what the Daily News said he said.

I used to work with a fellow who was a pretty good tennis player. Not playing the game myself, I took his word for it. He told me his father was really good, and still played and gave lessons. When he was growing up he lived in Manhasset and the father would play Bobby Riggs and Dr. Richard Raskin at various North Shore homes. Times were good.

In time, Dr. Richard Raskin, an ophthalmologist, famously became Dr. Renee Richards, via a sex-change operation. The players still met and played tennis for as long as Ed Kujan remained in Manhasset.

Not too long ago I met my friend's father and immediately asked him, "Ed, who gave you the toughest time, Dr. Richards as a man, or a woman? Ed firmly replied, "Both."

This is essence of the story I told my ophthalmologist this afternoon. He laughed like hell, said he grew up in Manhasset, and played Bobby Riggs Jr. a few times as a teenager.

I have no idea what the hell any of this means, but if they ever punch my ticket wrong again I'll think it's time for an eye exam.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Unseen Giant

A few postings ago I used the words "unseen giant" to describe the origin of force that runs the world. The words are lifted directly from a John Updike passage that I've always been in love with--savored. The passage comes from the short story, A Sandstone Farmhouse, that I read in a collection of his short stories in the book The Afterlife. I'm completely new to blogging and fairly new to expressing thoughts in writing. So, when I read the next day that John Updike had passed away I couldn't help think of the timing. And thinking of the unseen force that caught up with him.

(Actually, in checking the passage, Updike refers to the "invisible giant..." At least I used a good synonym.)

I've always felt the passage is a beautiful metaphor about effort, time, and the ultimate inevitability of things. It explains the Almighty without tracts of text. I like brevity. It stays with me. It's like the end of A River Runs Through It, Norman Mclean's elegy to life and fly fishing.

Updike equates the steady subtraction of a pile of stones to the subtraction of years.

"...eventually the entire mountain will be taken away. On the same principle, an invisible giant, removing only one day at a time, will eventually dispose of an entire life."