My office window has no curtain and the rain beating against the glass is quite distracting. The noise from the wind reminds me of a B grade Halloween sound track. I have travel plans for the morning. I may have to change them.

As the news touts the danger of “Frankenstorm” my mind wanders to Orlando.Orlando is a place meant for vacation. I went there to work as is evidenced by the photo above. Orlando is also a place meant for families. Mine stayed behind in Philly, ya know, school and all. So as an adult male alone in Orlando, with a professional purpose, I experienced a Disney resort for the first time. It was confusing.The place was not just large, but expansive to the point that I had to plan my outings ahead, “Okay, I’m headed to the lobby. Room key? Check. Map? Check. Water bottle in case I get stranded between here and there? Check.”

The landscape was dotted with palm trees, fountains, arched corridors, and swanky dining options… then this.During the day I walked past numerous children wearing Mickey ears, quite a few adults doing the same, and lots and lots of t shirts. Of course there were t-shirts, I’m at Disney World, so what? Perfectly normal unless you are headed to a black tie reception.There was a live band, cocktails (or bottled water in my case), and a surprisingly large military contingency with more medals and ribbons than I had ever thought possible. Then as you step outside for a breather there are crowds of five year old’s gathering for the outdoor screening of a movie featuring talking animals.I like black tie, and I can tolerate talking livestock, but formal functions feel incomplete without the little black dress and G-rated movies often seem juvenile when viewed without children. My date and my children were hundreds of miles away, and so I made few laps, made small talk and exchanged business cards, then  retreated to less hostile turf.I now know that if I need to get tedious office work done, the best place for me to be productive… is Disney World.







Radford University

I had to fly to Greesboro North Carolina then drive a couple hours up to Radford. I had never heard of Radford. apparently the deficiency was once again, my own.The country is dotted with institutions doing great things with great students. the country is also dotted with people who do little to educate themselves but still think they know something.

Not me. I know I don’t know things but strangely enough this does not stop me from speaking as if I do. Perhaps I should run for president?Radford was founded in 1910 as a women’s normal school. “Normal” school was the term used for a school training teachers. “Regulars” was a term for a military unit. I always related the two words together but I again find myself to be the misinformed one. Radford became less normal in the 70’s when it went co-ed.By the time I arrived on campus the school had become quite modern and normal as is evidenced by this guy. I know a thing or two about both hammocks and undergrads. This sort of sight is in fact normal, the set up was well executed, and my desire to walk over and tip the kid out onto the ground was luckily (for him) stifled.As if that reminder was not enough, I wandered into the bookstore and found the most normal thing of all. What other pattern would a rural Virginia normal school use?

Who Belongs

They are both from small towns in Idaho. Did you ever see the movie Napoleon Dynamite? She is from there.

When I met them she was in PA school and he was working in a lab extracting stem cells from rats. She graduated and they moved away so he could go to med school. He’s done now and they live in Boston. I was there earlier this week.

The night before I got to town he called me and asked if I was free in the evening. I replied I was and he said, “great, I’ll make reservations.” He’s not normally the kind of guy who goes to places where you need reservations but I didn’t think too much about it. I was perfectly happy to see some old friends and wouldn’t have felt put out if we were dining at the gas station. We weren’t going to the gas station.

We knew jackets were required because she checked the dress code online. He thought his jeans with a jacket looked “snappy”, she made him go change. Walking through Cambridge toward campus we chatted about a bit we had both seen on Jimmy Fallon recently. Jimmy had Napoleon Dynamite as a guest on the show, not the actor, the character. The two of them used atl atls to launch spears at a faux mastadon. It was marginally funny but strangely enough we both have experience with an atl atl. Both of us not only knew what that was, but in our respective youths, had actually played with one. In true Napoleon style I offered to one up my companions by bragging that I also know how to use a sling ala David and Goliath and that it does not involve any helicopter swinging of the stone over one’s head. He retorted that he had no experience with actual slings but in his youth he would simply tie bailing twine around a rock, and then “I would huck that thing.” She was walking a few steps behind us and dryly remarked that she doubts anyone wearing a sport jacket had previously said “huck that thing.” She can’t possibly be right.

She hesitated at the door and admitted to being a bit nervous. She looked at him with that sort of spousal distrust that comes with knowinng someone too well. He walked right in feigning confidence but I could see it falter just a bit when there was no greater inside the door just a living room with a leather sofa and piano. The sofa came complete with a grey haired man wearing a bow tie.  After looking nervously around a bit we found a woman behind a counter talking on the phone. We waited for her to finish and explained we had reservations for three. She explained the dining room was through those doors over there and they could help us, over there.


Once we were seated  she  again confided she didn’t feel like she belonged there. She loved the place, wanted to be there, but explained she couldn’t escape the idea that someone was going to come ask us to leave at any moment. He continued to keep his cool even but did admit that he was wearing the first jacket he ever owned that didn’t come with matching pants.  I chuckled because I bought my first odd coat just two years ago and being much older than him, he wins by at least two years. I acted like I belonged, which is amusing, at least to me, since I was the only one who didn’t really belong.

You see, they actually asked him for his card when we were seated. He had the card, a real one, with his picture on it. He is in fact a member of the Harvard Faculty Club. Card Carrying, bona fide, legit. We were sitting at the table of the Harvard Faculty Club, them as members and me as thier guset, but they didn’t quite feel it. Not yet at least. I know that feeling; have felt it for most of my life.

I would feel it when I would get sent out to the farm as a kid, when I visited family in Wyoming, or when I was at home with all the other suburban kids. I felt it the first year I tried out for football and then when I went away to college. I didn’t think I belonged when I climbed into a boxing ring nor when I sat in a class at Penn. I know that feeling of not belonging, of fealing like a fake. It never really matters if you are carrying the card or not, you just feel it.

It is two things really. First is learning to get over that feeling; or at least learning to ignore it. I decided some time ago, after countless numbers of rude rejections, that things could get no worse so I might as well show up and assume if I don’t belong someone will ask me to leave. That theory has for the most part held true. I assume I belong everywhere unless told otherwise.

Second is the value of a friend. I imagine that dinner, while it was very nice, would have been so much better if someone, anyone, would have noticed our awkwardness and said, “are you new? Welcome to the club. I remember when I was new, we are glad you joined.” A friendly face or welcoming gesture is of great value. I’ll bet it would have made my leg of lamb taste better. Awkward has an odd taste.

Most of us need a friend or a guide, and more often or likely, could be one.

Business Travel

The girl at the table next to me is having a smoke. She has on thick black framed glasses and her hair is shaved close to her head on one side. She is sitting by herself breathing out mustiness and slowly turning the pages of her oversized fashion magazine.

Flowers and potted plants separate our tables from the bejeweled old ladies and jacketed men as they pass on the sidewalk heading into the Fox Theatre. The marquee is all lit up with flashing lights announcing the ballet, a play, or a concert of some sort. I can’t tell which is playing tonight; I don’t care enough to look that close.

I have been sitting here long enough that the sky has gone from blue to black and the tall buildings have gone from bustling to blank. The windows on the higher  floors have stopped reflecting the sunset, turned to electric light, and then turned off. It is not quite nine.

It is warm enough that the men who jog past go shirtless, no matter their physical condition. I’m not sure if I should be impressed with their boldness or appalled by their lack of self awareness. Either way I make a mental note to remind my future self, the one who eventually gets in shape, to keep his shirt on. I’m sure that if he should forget, plenty of people will remind him.

I’m guessing most of the joggers come from hotels, like me. Those strolling, dressed for an evening out come from parking lots. A man carrying groceries in a wheeled cart hints at local city living till he makes a right turn in front of me and heads into the Hotel Indigo. He is not local, just frugal.

I am lonely.

Not the sort of lonely where you hunger for company, the kind of lonely where you miss someone specific. Lonely may be too strong a word, bored is better. There is plenty of entertainment walking in front of me, lots of talkative sales reps and convention goers at the bar inside, but I want that person here with me that I can kick under the table, tip my head toward the guy wearing the moon vest, and she will know what I mean without me saying it. She would laugh. She wouldn’t be laughing at him, she would be laughing at the tv episode from two years ago. That is what I miss.

The girl at the next table has stopped smoking and started talking on her phone. They are at the wrong bar. She will meet them there.

There is now a man three tables down smoking a cigar. He has on a logoed polo shirt and khaki shorts. He is not watching me watch him, he is watching his smartphone. Groups of three or four walk past and at least one of them is always watching their phone.  LED lit faces and palms walking down dark sidewalks ignoring the people right next to them.

I do it all the time. Its like whistling or shaking your leg under the table; you do it without thinking. I add phone stairing to my future self reminder list, then, in a moment of honesty erase it.

If I sit here long enough my mind will wander; to religion, the two papers I have half written on my desktop, and people I know who are having trouble finding jobs or paying the bills. But then I will notice someone wearing a bow tie or realize I’m whistling three lines of the same song over and over. Then I remember the insurance forms I was supposed to fill out. It is too late to do anything about it tonight other than loathe myself and cross my fingers I remember tomorrow.

The cigar man is gone. I can’t remember when my flight leaves tomorrow so I stare into my LED lit palm to look it up. Someone across the street thinks something is funny. I go back upstairs and pack.

University of Toronto

I did not, nor do I now, know anything about the University of Toronto. How very American of me. Such is the case with Canada.Without researching and without being invited I strolled onto campus. I had no expectations and very little curiosity. It was just convenient. I was deficient, the University was not.It was like Harvard but more royal, New York but cleaner. Walls were covered with ivy, domes were held up by  arches, and doorways led to courtyards. As I wandered around looking this way and that, students smiled and asked if I needed directions. It felt elite minus the elitism.I wandered around in wonder. Clean modern towers looking over gothic arches pleased me. But I am from the States, so all I did was look around, find myself impressed, then move on.The University, its city, its country, deserve more attention.I don’t deserve to give it.


I stood alone outside the luggage carousel till the 16 passenger shuttle bus pulled up. I asked the driver for a dinner recommendation and he quickly replied I should eat at the Dinosaur. I took a mental note and looked out the window. “So I suppose that is where Lex Luthor lives?” I asked without noting what building I meant. He quickly responded, “Um, no. That is just an office building.”

Later in the evening I walked past the Dinosaur to the brew pub that outranked the recommendation on Yelp. The city had the look of a place that was once somewhere, had promise that it could be again, but is not now. There was architecture and the occasional sidewalk bistro, but no people. It was early evening, still light out, but I was mostly alone.The sandwich was dry. I sat on the balcony overlooking the waterfall and quietly listened to the conversation at the table next to me. We two tables were the only ones taken.

There were four of them. Three men, one looking to be a sturdy sixty, another a scrawny twenty, and one woman, maybe thirty. The younger talked loud about how women have no reason to marry anymore. He claimed to be trying is hardest but it was never enough for her. He loves her but she simply doesn’t care for him. She doesn’t need his money and he really does try his hardest. The other man, the one who wasn’t old, repeatedly offered his phone so the bewailing man could call her. “No man. My phone dying is the best thing to happen tonight. I told her I wasn’t drinking today.”At one point I’m sure I heard the statement, “Now I’m not racist but…” followed by something I couldn’t hear. The older and the younger men got up, shook hand with the remaining two, and left.

Once they were gone there was silence. The woman looked over at me and asked, “Was it just me or was that crazy?” Not knowing the best way to answer, I said just that. I went on to learn that the two parties had just met that night. I didn’t have to wonder how, guessing it was in similar fashion to how I was now meeting these fine folks myself.

“So what are you selling?” “Pardon?” “Your’e wearing your money suit. No one looks like that who isn’t working.”

I chuckled and explained. I asked what they were doing meeting drunken husbands in Rochester. She looked at the ceiling and said, “Ahhh, we are just passing through.” The man explained that she doesn’t like talking about her job.

I looked at the two of them innocently and said I understood… but I am very imaginative. “We work together on a flight crew,” the man quickly explained. When asked he replied he was a pilot.

She looked out at the waterfall, I walked back to the hotel.


I first heard of Wellesley on an episode of the Simpsons. It was Lisa’s school of choice. She knew what she was talking about but I was clueless.I have visited all of the ivys, the ancient 8, and quite a few community colleges. Wellesley wins.The campus felt peaceful and smart. That is not how I remembered college the first time I went. It seemed smart like a secluded monastery dedicated to the translation of ancient texts would feel. Or so I imagine.The buildings were collegiate gothic, old English ala Stratford-upon-Avon, or sleek modern. Maybe it was the trees and manicured lawns that pulled them all together, but it worked. Like I said, Wellesley wins.The place is an all women’s college yet as I walked and wandered no one took notice of me. I was seen but no one acted as if I was out of place. I’m not sure what that means.Maybe it was the lack of the gym short wearing, “dude this is college”, set that had me contemplating selling a kidney to send my daughters here. Whatever it was, I drank it.


“Doo-kane”, its pronounced “Doo-kaaaaane”.Pittsburgh, with its grey skies and steel girders, is perfectly gothic. Duquesne with its calligraphy script and Catholicism is perfectly matched.Sitting in a large ball room chatting with an undergrad he admitted that while ghrowing up in Pittsburgh, he had never been “up here”. He even admitted that none of his friends had ever been up here either. I raised my eyebrows and cocked my head as if surprised, opting not to tell him I had no idea where Duquesne was located till I booked my flight.I am finding a correlation between ivy on campus buildings and the game of lacrosse. Where I was raised we had niether. No…that isn’t true, there was lacrosse. It was played on back fields by a couple kids I never met. I only know this because I played rugby on the same fields. No one else knnew we had a rugby team. Right.

It is not like that everywhere.Duquesne is a great illustration of what is right and wrong in American higher education. Right in that it is a great school that produces great scholars.Wrong in that because it does not have a big time football program, no one, not even those in Pittsburgh, knows where it is.

Johns Hopkins

I spend my proffessional hours seeking out budding scientists. I provide for them information and opportunity regarding how they may employ their evil genius, or just genius, in the years to come.

This search takes me to the institutions of education and research that I call the bastion of the bowtie.

Johns Hopkins not only has bowties and scientists, but arches and clocktowers as well. So much so that when Hollywood decided to shoot a film about a budding interweb empire birthed at Harvard, they of course shot it at Johns Hopkins.

When I say I search for scientists I do not mean the armchair ethnographer like myself, I mean only those from the S.T.E.M. fields, ya know, smart people.

So far these associations have not rubbed off on me as was made clear when I arrived via train and was stumped in my search for my pre-reserved rental car. Turns out there are no such things as rental car locations in Baltimore, which now makes me smarter than Priceline, and I have also learned that arguing with cab drivers about why they won’t take a credit card when the sign says they will, will only get you stranded in an episode of the Wire.

I was supposed to be in the Big Bang Theory.