“That point doesn’t count,” Andy shouted as I jumped around the ping-pong table doing my victory dance. “You leaned over the table to hit the smash and that’s an illegal move. We have to redo the point.”

I looked up at him making my puppy dog eyes, knowing they would work as usual.

“You know I can’t reach if I don’t lean over it. I’m short and little,” I said.

“Oh no, your cuteness isn’t going to work on me this time. I’m not losing to a little girl.”

His words angered me to no point. I had been practicing over the last year with my brothers so I would be a real challenge and he still saw me as a little girl. “I’m six, I can’t not be cute,” I shouted as I threw my paddle at him and stomped up the stairs out of his basement — and… More…

One advantage of having younger friends used to be that they were more cheerful and optimistic than I was.  It seemed then that the decade between us had insulated them from all the bad news I heard, both in the media and from my older friends.  But now that 20 years or so have passed, these friends just about caught up to me.

 

When I said I planned to write about this topic, one of my friends — perky still, though more pessimistic than she used to be — asked me to change her name. She had also told me (whenever I asked) that she doesn’t read what I write because she’s too stressed, so she’ll never know whether or not I’ve changed her name. I’ll honor her wishes anyway and call her Susie. Besides, she might have… More…

Something horrible happened. Horrible things happen all the time to everyone, but it’s still a shock how one phone call can obliterate your future and slam you into a dreadful present tense. I was taken in, I was cared for, and somehow I lost time — days. Vaguely I can recall moments where I wandered into my friend’s kitchen to make a cup of tea, only to find myself 20 minutes later in a puddle on her floor. Or I would wake up mid-panic attack, not quite sure where or when I was.

Life Is Meals by James and Kay Salter. 464 pages. Knopf. $22.50.

In those first few days, the only times I was grounded and sure of my surroundings were those moments when I had food as an anchor. Without it, I flew around… More…

My birthday cake sat on the dining room table. Fluffy, Linda’s elderly tabby, made an unhurried entrance to join the more-energetic Sam, who’d claimed a close place as soon as we put the cake box on the table. Sam’s full cat-name is “Sammy-get-down from-there.”

 

I’ve never seen Sam leap from the floor to the table. He favors a stealthy approach. He jumps onto a chair and sits like an attentive, polite guest waiting for the platter to come around. Sometimes he even lies down on the seat as though indifferent to the conversation that flows over him. He doesn’t fool me.

If he’s occupying someone’s chair, Sammy-get-down-from-there gives up his seat, but not before giving a reproachful look to indicate his displeasure.

I’ve been told that the cake is going on the traditional family cake plate, which Linda… More…

The night was far from young when I flagged down what I thought was a typical gypsy cab in St. Petersburg, Russia, in early 2003. In fact, since the sun was just starting to show itself after the more than 16 hours of darkness that is the norm at that latitude at that time of year, suffice it to say that the night was actually dead. Luckily, though, I wasn’t, even after the fatal amount of vodka I had imbibed throughout the course of that long evening. But if the copious amounts of booze didn’t kill me, something else just might. Or maybe someone. Maybe even the man driving the silver Mercedes I had just gotten into. Hmm. Perhaps, this wasn’t a typical Russian gypsy cab, after all.

 

It didn’t take me long to come to that conclusion…. More…