"Can I ask you a personal question?" my neighbor asked me yesterday.
"Yes," I said.
"Do you smoke?"
"Does your wife smoke?"
"It must be coming from somewhere else, then," she said. "I smoked for 30 years and I can tell when somebody's smoking."
As I walked away I wondered what she would have said if I'd said 'yes.'
I am pleased that the New York Times Magazine has done away with its useless page that contained, among other things, the "Meh List," but a themed book review section - this Sunday's was on Russia - would have deserved a place on that list.
Saturday afternoon we took our house guests to Sawgrass Mills. At 3:30 I repaired to the Grand Lux Cafe to watch the Florida-Florida State game. At the end of the bar sat a young couple, he black, she white. Next to me sat a man who immediately began chatting. He had grown up in Miami and looked like a redneck - I don't say this just because he was rooting for Florida State. He had been a Canes fan until his son attended Florida State. His wife, he let slip, was in the mall shopping.
The couple at the end got up to leave; the bartender wished the man happy holidays "in case I don't see you before Christmas." "Oh, you'll see me," the man said.
Near the end of the first quarter a black woman in a yellow dress arrived and sat next to the Noles fan. He asked her, with a husband's mock anxiety, how her shopping had gone.
Yesterday on the New York Times Op-Ed page I read the pull quote of Ross Douthat's column - "The case for pessimism after Ferguson" - and the awkward first sentence of Nicholas Kristoff's column: "We Americans are a nation divided" - and I thought: Perhaps New York Times columnists should spend some time at Sawgrass Mills.
Last night I turned off the TV and read Elizabeth Tallent in The Best American Essays 2014. In the third paragraph - in which she describes her 50s father - I came upon this line: "His hair memorized its side part."
There's great writing on television. But there's no writing like that on television.