The end of ‘Family Almanac’

Tucked in the quieter reaches of the Post‘s site this weekend is Marguerite Kelly’s final — after 35 years — “Family Almanac” column. It’s a winner.

Although drugs, alcohol and our own blood chemistry have caused many problems in many families, others are of our own making. We work too much or not enough. We marry before we should or divorce when we shouldn’t. We have our babies too early or let our eggs get too old. We watch a loved one die too soon and another live too long. And then there are the parents who abuse their partners or their children while others watch this abuse and say nothing at all. Life isn’t perfect because we’re not perfect, either. But what we do and say to our children — and what we don’t do and don’t say — can decide how well they will live out their lives.

Photos: First trip to Vegas

Everyone has a first trip to Las Vegas. A weekend at the tables. A bachelor or bachelorette party. A old-friends high-rolling reunion. Swingers. The Hangover. For me, this week, my first trip was a public radio conference.

At first blush, this circumstance seems ridiculous: public radio executives holding their annual conference in Las Vegas — at Caesars Palace, no less. But look a little closer and the situation makes sense. Caesars is one of the biggest supporters of Nevada Public Radio and a significant supporter of public media at large. And while all of the casinos may want your wallet at the tables (and in the room services, minibar and other fees), decent room rates make Vegas an affordable conference town for budget industries.

So, I went to Vegas. Didn’t hit the tables or the slots. But saw some sights. Had a nice view of The Mall on the way out of Washington and then Air Force One landing at McCarran International on the trip home. In the meantime, attended the conference sessions, explored Caesars, walked the strip, gawked like a yokel, and sang Frank and Elvis songs to myself.



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Poets chase fall and its opposite

I can’t describe exactly what leads to put these three links together. Two are poems, and one is an essay by a poet. They all remind me of fall. None of the three are too cold or set late in the year. But they all contain an idea of early darkness — some of them clearly and others less so — and, most importantly, consider how to push back. Or set themselves apart from it.

Vespers” by Louise Gluck.

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.

Elegy for the Living” by Kathryn Simmons. “We wash up side by side / to find each other / in the speakable world, / and, lulled into sense, / inhabit our landscape….”

And an essay, “Omphalos: Returning to the troubles of a Northern Irish childhood” by poet Colette Bryce, who gives us a great word and stories.

Watching the Wallenda walk


I happened to be in downtown Chicago the night Nick Wallenda planned to cross the Chicago River on a tightrope. How could I miss that? On the walk to the river, I steeled myself for the possibility that he could fall. How fast could I turn my head? But I should have been preparing for the cold.

It was an hour and a half of standing on the (beautiful) river at night until Wallenda came out. As cold and windy as life was on the ground, I could only imagine things dozens of stories up. But up and out Wallenda went!

He walked halfway across the river in what seemed like just a minute or two, with no trouble at all. The second half was the harder part, uphill to a taller building. He paused and bent a bit, but he kept going without any serious scares. The crowd got louder and louder, and Wallenda made it.

Friend Sheri met up with me to watch the spectacle, and that was great. We had to eat and skip Wallenda’s second, blindfolded jaunt between the two Marina towers, but we soon heard he’d survived that walk as well. The pair of stunts had their detractors in Chicago. I wasn’t one of them.







Wallenda makes it! And waves.

A video posted by Patrick Cooper (@btrpkc) on

I write about you all the time

Dan Chaisson’s review of Louise Gluck’s new book is a good piece that finds a great passage, true for just about any blogger, myself included.

My mother and father stood in the cold
on the front steps. My mother stared at me,
a daughter, a fellow female.
You never think of us, she said.

We read your books when they reach heaven.
Hardly a mention of us anymore, hardly a mention of your sister.

Then later:

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.

Wildcat weekend (or day)


The trip may only have been 36 hours in Chincoteague, Va., but it was enough. An escape, a respite, a reprieve, a sanctuary from deadlines and departures and, in a way, the grid. My cell never lost connection, but I did.  I felt so comfortable putting down the phone, turning off the email and forgetting about the work week. And I didn’t even see the wild horses.

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The new face of NPR Music

On top of the launches of Jazz Night in America and Michel Martin’s Going There hub, my big project this fall has been a responsive redesign of NPR Music’s home. We’re now live, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. We had a fantastic team and — to a person — tremendous collaboration.

From our launch post on the This Is NPR blog:

We have a new home page this morning, and the experience brings you closer to the beating heart of the music than ever before. Optimized across platforms, the new page has a mission.

We want to tell you why we fell in love with certain songs, artists, shows, and stories – and give you reasons to fall for them, too. Whether you’re new to NPR Music or you’ve been with us forever, we hope you like the changes.

Read the rest and see the new homepage.

I hope the Internet never finds this valley in central Virginia


After Dinosaur Land, I quickly lost cell signal. Lori’s phone kept mapping, and we found our way down to Sperryville, where last lunch seating was underway at our beloved Thorton River Grille, and then Standardsville for the last of the supplies. Then all we had left on either of our phones was a bit of a map, but a bit was enough. We were in the woods nowhere near the Internet or a television. The rain of prior days in the region was long past, and the pines were well-nourished. Leaves and needles everywhere.

That night and the next day, the owners’ dog played fetch on the old paths, and we wound our way down to the historic old chapel at the school next door. We discovered two good wineries nearby, both friendly and informal places, and sat conversing on the cabin porch as the sun went down.


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Chasing randomness and form