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…

 

The summer I turned 18, my parents went away to Europe and I lived with my grandmother in our family’s rambling summer home in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. It was an unusual housing scenario. My grandmother was the grande dame of an elite summer colony that had begun hosting cocktail parties and picking blueberries in the New Hampshire hills even before her own grandparents had bought the house in 1905.

Meanwhile, I was there in the house expressly to escape the confines of the upper-crust world. A bony, scowling, and acne-pocked iconoclast, I’d never fit in at my prep school back in Connecticut. But there in New Hampshire, hanging out with my friends, year-round residents all, I’d been able to flourish — to recast myself as a wry comedian and a sort of visiting scholar capable of leading… More…