Sometimes it’s just about the ritual.

At some point in her early puppyhood, Tilda got hold of an ice cube, and thought it was pretty great. We gave her one whenever we opened the freezer, and now she comes running whenever she hears us open the door. I toss the cube in the air and she leaps for it with the same glee and abandon shown by cartoon dogs who have stolen a length of sausage links from the butcher. Then she takes it into the living room and leaves it to melt on the carpet.

Albany Line Assassin Update: Holding the Line

There are a few people I chat with at the bus stop in the morning, including one nice guy about my age who seems to have a similar sense of humor.

This morning I noticed he was standing in the spot usually claimed last minute by the Albany Line Assassin. I took the chance and asked if he had ever noticed her tactics. Not only has he noticed, but he experiments with different defensive positions himself to see how she responds.

The Alliance grows. 

Commuting brings out the animal in me. 

When I get off the bus near my office, there are usually quite a few people waiting to get on. Sometimes there’s nowhere for me to step off to.

I’ve tried waiting for people to make a space and saying “Excuse me” and one time, “You’ve got to let people off the bus before you get on the bus” in a higher volume than generally used in conversation.

One day recently it happened again. I was tired and disoriented from jet lag and without conscious thought I basically “fanned out” like a cobra, raising my arms in a big windmilling arc over my head and back down.

It felt kind of insane while I was doing it, but no one batted an eye as they cleared a path for me.

The Hair Brush

When I was five, Dad took me into New York City for the day. We had lunch at The Press Box, where the waiters remembered him from his days working in Manhattan. Cosmo the Russian busboy came over to show him the new gold watch he had just bought on the street.

After the Ice Capades and FAO Schwarz, we visited the NYU Club, where by chance we met Lowell Thomas, host of the first TV news broadcast. He was filming a life insurance commercial.

Memories like this make me happy we live in the Bay Area and Conrad and I can have adventures in San Francisco. Saturday we went to town to see “Zootopia” on a big screen, have lunch and visit my new office. We also had another mission: the selection and purchase of a hairbrush.

Conrad has fine hair that tangles easily, and a scalp as sensitive as his soul. He hates brushing his hair and often looks as though he went straight to bed immediately following a particularly thorough swirlie.

One day last week, in desperation, I tried brushing his hair with my boar-bristle beard brush, which has become my favorite hairbrush as well. (I’m sure this violates some tonsorial rule which dictates beard and hair products must never co-mingle.) The bristle brush was much more effective and not at all painful for him (and therefore me), so we decided to buy him one of his own.

I get my hair cut by Nicky the Barber, who has two chairs in the front window of Cable Car Clothiers, a men’s haberdashery in the Financial District that actually deserves to be called a haberdashery. It could also be called “My Dad’s Closet.” He used to get their catalog when they had one.

Saturday, just a few minutes before they closed, Ed let us in and I announced our intention.

“Are you thinking of a Kent brush?” he asked me.

“Whatever you recommend, Ed,” I replied. “Whichever one he likes.”

Also, with Kent being the only actual brand of brush I could name given an unlimited amount of time and three hints, it sounded like a good suggestion.

Conrad looked at the brushes, lined up in a glass-fronted case along with straight razors and shaving soap and things made of badger. He seemed impressed. “He’ll remember this forever,” I may or may not have thought.

“Which one do you like, bud?” I asked, and without hesitation he held up an oval brush in pale wood with a short handle.

“That’s a good brush, Conrad,” Ed said. “If you take care of it, you’ll still have it when you’re the same age as your dad, and even older.”

I thanked Ed for staying open and handed him my card. He rang up the brush and gave me the receipt.

“Ed,” I asked. “Is this hairbrush really $128?”

Ed nodded.

I hate to inconvenience people. I hate to look cheap. This was a big day. This was a designated Adventure. We weren’t just buying a brush, we were investing in a future heirloom.

“Nope. My wife will skin me alive. Sorry to waste your time.”

Ed processed the refund, which no matter the technology always seems to take ten times as much time and effort as the purchase. I stood there, trying not to over-apologize. I wondered if I felt embarrassed.

Nope. Not over a $128 hairbrush.

We left the store and I turned to Conrad, worried he would be sad to leave brushless, tangled, with a price on his head.

“I can’t believe that hairbrush was $128!” he said.

Good kid.

On our walk to the BART station, we tried to work out the economics of a $128 hairbrush that lasted a lifetime compared to a cheaper one that needed replacing every five years or so. He got farther than I did, but we would have needed pencil and paper to complete the calculation.

I’m pretty sure he’ll remember something about our trip to buy a hairbrush when he’s older. I’ll have to ask him in 20 years what it is.

The Albany Line Assassin

  This morning I was the only person at the bus stop when she arrived. I was right on the curb. She positioned herself about 20 feet uphill from me, well outside the area of average doorfall.

Good luck, I thought. You’re out of range.

As the bus approached, she moved downhill, closer, taking little bunny-feet steps until she was about five feet away from me, arriving precisely as the driver was braking and picking his aiming point.

She was squarely in front of the door when it opened.

She beamed at the driver like a toddler who just found a piece of forgotten Halloween candy without too much cat hair on it under the sofa.

I’ll admit I was impressed. She has honed her craft. 

Just FYI, I nearly unfriended radical cyclist John Rees for asking why this matters. I should not have to explain this to right-thinking people.

You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

I see a lot of people looking at their phones. 

That’s a thing about being on public transit every day, and being in the city. People are always head down, looking at their phones. 

Sometimes they aren’t quite looking where they’re going. It’s easy to get annoyed, especially if they’re standing in the way, or walking slowly in a crowded place. 

I look at their screens as I pass (I nearly always do). I’m amazed by how often people are watching videos. That doesn’t seem like fun to me, watching a movie or TV show in the middle of a crowd, ignoring all the life happening around them. 

But a lot of times I see people walk out of a building, or out of the BART, or pause on the street, and look down at their phones and smile. 

They look surprised and delighted and content. I imagine they’re reading a text from someone they love, and it’s making them happy, transporting them to somewhere beyond the rainy street or crowded train.