Lonely at the top.

July 30, 2011 § 8 Comments

Open Richard Leakey’s book, “The Sixth Extinction,” to the handful of glossy photos in the middle to find portraits of the extinct and the soon-to-be extinguished.

Without the book in hand you will have to imagine some of the images described, but imagining is one of the strengths of our species.

In the first picture is Emma Mbua, curator of hominid fossils at the National Museum, Nairobi. Standing beside her is the 1.6 million-year-old skeleton of Turkana Boy.

Emma, with her great cranial capacity, is clearly a member of the current hominid club, Homo sapiens (note her thoughtful expression and the ease with which she stands erect).

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In the beginning…

July 24, 2011 § 12 Comments

Want to know how to start a story?

If you are a writer you are saying, dang! Start a story? Give me something I can use. Tell me how to middle a story.

Like a clothesline, the beginning and end of a story are firmly anchored. It’s the middle that usually sags.

I have only one potentially useful tip for those lost in the middle. Write an ending.

Start and finish (like Romeo and Juliet yearning for each other) will find a way to come together as swiftly as possible.

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The ten best smells (our lists may differ).

July 14, 2011 § 20 Comments

I thought I’d write about the ten best smells. It seemed like an easy assignment.

I began making the list and the first thing that came to mind didn’t smell all that good—but it was a thread that, when pulled, was attached to one of my most thrilling preteen memories.

Men’s cologne: I remember dancing wrap-around in the school gym breathing in the too-much smell of cologne on a boy’s neck. That blatant and unsubtle scent is still, all these years later, the smell of, ohmygosh, I’m twelve years old and I’m hugging a boy!

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Because of you.

July 7, 2011 § 15 Comments

Ray, when we first met.

If you’ve ever had a kid, or been a kid with siblings who are nothing like you, you know every child is born with an innate personality.

As if “self” were a suitcase packed for the journey, each of us arrives predisposed to be a certain kind of person.

But from the moment we draw our first breath, it is the people around us who encourage and nurture that natural self, reshape it, or so deprive it of oxygen it withers.

The force of other personalities is especially effective when applied to a temperament like mine. I’m a natural-born sidekick. Ask me what I want to do and I’ll say, “I don’t know, what you want to do?”

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