November 2017


This afternoon we stopped for oysters and beers at J. Paul’s, in Georgetown. We asked the waitress, “What kind of oysters do you have?”

She said, “We have shrimp.” When I looked at her blankly, she went on: “Clams?” Now it was her turn to look at me inquisitively, like, well, which will it be?

I said, “Do you have oysters?”

She said, “Yes, of course!” She named two types of local oysters that they always have, and then a chef’s special oyster. Her descriptions were like this: “Sometimes they’re sweet, and sometimes salty. And sometimes they’re big, and sometimes small. So it depends.”

We ordered two of each type. When she brought them, she again identified them that way -- “this is the one that’s sometimes sweet but sometimes salty. So, okay, I’ll just let you eat them.”

She seemed like a happy girl and bounded away to another table, presumably to offer someone else shrimp and clams.


We got back from DC this morning, and in the afternoon, my mom called and said, “There are a few things I need to discuss with you.” She sounded very serious.

The first thing was how apples should be washed. She had read an article about it, on Apple News no less, and sent it to me. I had not read it because the emailed article doesn’t tell you the answer; it gives you the first few sentences and then makes you click on a link to read the rest, which I don’t like. The entire article could have been one sentence. “The best way to wash apples is: such and such.” Done.

Anyway, I asked my mom what the punch line was, and she said it was to wash apples in baking soda.

How do you do that? I asked.

“You don’t know what baking soda is?” she said.

Yes, I know what baking soda is, I said. But how do you use it to wash apples? Do you put some on your hands and then wash the apples?

“Nooo," she said, realizing she was dealing with a real amateur. "You have to put it in water in a basin and soak the apples."

“That seems like way too much work.”

“Well, it’s what you have to do to live a long life!” she said. Then she moved on to the next subject at hand, which turned out to be: yams. Yams pack a lot of nutrition and are everywhere this time of year, she reported, and in some places, they’re as cheap as 33 cents per pound. I said I would consider it.

Later, in the evening, I went to Whole Foods and ended up buying apples and yams. The yams were $1.49 a pound, but I felt compelled to get them, especially since I won’t be washing any apples in baking soda.


Two high school students are sitting next to me at the Starbucks on Boylston. Their names are Ella and Caitlin, or Katelyn, or Kaitlyn. Ella has braces, and Caitlin is chubby and has her left arm in a cast. My guess is they are freshmen.

“How do you spell ‘exhilarating?’” asked Ella. Caitlin didn’t know, so Ella took out her phone and asked Siri, who was unable to help.

They are doing chemistry homework and arguing over the pronunciation of Lewis, as in Lewis structures. Caitlin said, you don’t pronounce the S; Ella said, yes, you do. Ella is right, but they have agreed to disagree.

Ella said to Caitlin, “Did you like the photo I posted on Instagram?”

Caitlin said, “I don’t know.”

“Can you like it?” Ella pointed at Caitlin’s phone. “Please? I have a hundred and twenty three likes. A hundred and twenty five likes.”

“When did you post it?”


“Oh, yeah, I liked that one."

“Are you sure?”


“You promise?”

“Yeah, I promise.”

When I sneezed, Ella said, “bless you!” and Caitlin said to her, “Do you have Mr. So and So? In his class, if you say ‘bless you,’ he takes five points off your grade.”

Caitlin spilled some of her drink on Ella’s homework and refused to wipe it up. Ella said, “Get a napkin and wipe it up! Seriously! I already got in trouble because I turned in homework with brownie on it.”

Eventually, Caitlin wiped up the spill, and Ella migrated herself and her stuff to an adjacent table.

The bathroom code here is 2018.

January 2018

September 2017