About Me

I write the biweekly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and also report for The Atlantic, The Nation, This American Life, and elsewhere. I have four daughters and two dogs.

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But what are the overdue fines?


The picture of this micro-library in front of someone’s house, in Washington Heights, was posted to Facebook by my friend Chuck. Pretty terrific.


“Thank you, sir, may I jog another?”

“Thank you, sir, may I jog another?” was the cheeky headline of an old Outside article about the followers of the late Sri Chinmoy, a guru who preached long-distance running to his followers. In Saturday’s Times, I catch up with some of those followers, like the man above, who have a penchant for running vegetarian restaurants. (There may be one near you.)


The West Coast vs. me


Don’t get me wrong — there was a lot to love about this trip to Northern California. I saw some dear friends, including my old cohort Tom Gogola, the latest, best, Sidney–prize winning journalistic transplant to Sonoma County. Stopping by his new newspaper in Santa Rosa, I also happened on Treehorn Books (see photo above), a terrific little shop, where I picked up a copy of Death Comes for the Archbishop, which, despite considering myself a major Cather fan, I have never read.

And yet ... I always pick stupid fights when out west. I always get really aggressive about my non-tech-i-ness, making stupidly hostile comments to show just how little I would fit in out here. For example, visiting a friend who works in the Zynga building in San Francisco (she doesn’t work for Zynga, but for a company that rents space from Zynga), I had to make a point of saying, when she mentioned that “Zynga bought this building after their IPO,” that I had absolutely no idea what Zynga does. “What?” I demanded. “Apps? Something like apps? Something for smart phones?” They make games, my friend told me. “Yeah, I don’t use my phone for games. I use it for phone calls. If I get bored, I don’t stare at a screen — I read a book.”

Which is of course partly a lie. Like everyone else, I use my phone for distraction, too, even if not for games.

I also took this trip as an opportunity to trot out my great line, which I believe deserves to be famous but isn’t yet (because there is no justice), that “the Northwest is where people will drive 40 miles to hike five.” And that’s true, but why do I always have to say it?

Is it because some part of me knows that the West Coast breeds happiness?

Or is it because I get justifiably annoyed at all the vapid talk of gadgets, by men wearing sandals?

Either way, I’m glad to be going home. Even as I wish I could stay.


And introducing my new public persona . . .

I am, according to a Huffington Post blogger, a “pro-chocolate-milk activist."




I can now lay down my pen and retire.


What language are these guys talking to one another?

I’m all for interfaith dialogue —


— but I confess that Noam Scheiber’s piece in The New Republic, about agreeing to let his wife bring his daughter to church so long as he could raise his daughter speaking Hebrew, raised some questions for me. It’s a touching piece, ending with how his relationship with his daughter flourished when they began conversing in English, but I think I’m not the only reader wondering about the comfort level he found, as a natal Israeli Jew, with having a fully Christian daughter. I don’t think many Israelis would think the language-for-religion trade is a worthwhile one. I am not saying this has to be a problem — and heck if I understand Americans, let alone Israelis — but it definitely, in this piece, seemed ripe for more examination, especially given the personal, intimate tone of the rest of the piece.

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