Here are three of my favorites right now.
* Whenever I’m feeling cynical, I head for The New York Times Vows column.
While reporting weddings has been around since the paper’s original issue, in 1851, the publication took a radical turn
in the early 1990s.
That’s when traditional wedding stories—those select few that only profiled couples from blue blood lineage and
old world money—were substituted with very different copy.
In its place, the column shifted to weddings about firefighters, office workers, teachers and even a homeless couple. When same sex marriage became legal, the Times also became the first major newspaper in the country to publish notices of gay marriage.
But no matter who’s featured, the emphasis is on the back story. So besides ceremony details, Vows reports on how
a couple met; their courtship, and the predictable stumbling blocks before reaching the altar.
One of my favorites is the story of Colleen Ryan and David Cleary. Unaware that they had worked in the same building for five years, and against the laws of probability, the two kept seeing each other for months on buses, in restaurants and in bagel shops. Finally, suddenly alone in an elevator, they introduced themselves. I also adored reading about Maureen Sherry and Steven Klinsky, who met one rainy night when Klinsky looked out of the window of a Manhattan cab and ordered the driver to stop after seeing Sherry walking down the sidewalk in tears. And then there’s 98-year-old Gertrude Mokotoff and 94-year-old Alvin Mann, who met at the gym.
Love is love, and Vows keeps my faith in its magic.
* When I start to think that people don't read books anymore, I remember the Little Free Library movement.
It began quietly, a little more than a decade ago, in Wisconsin.
That’s when Todd Bol built a model of a red one-room schoolhouse with a white roof and bell tower, filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. A bit larger than a birdhouse, Bol came up with the idea as a tribute to his mother, a schoolteacher who loved to read. Bol’s neighbors and friends quickly embraced the idea, so he made several more and gave them all away.
It wasn’t very long after that friend Rick Brooks began talking to Bol about ways to expand the idea.
Brooks pointed out the positive impact of community gift-sharing networks, especially focusing on the free “take a book, leave a book” collections available at so many coffee houses. As their conversations continued, Bol and Brooks kept creating and giving away Little Library houses, engraving each with official charter numbers; small grants and informal partnerships helped keep up with the demand.
Then, in 2011, the Little Free Library attracted national media attention. The growth was astonishing after that: one year later, there were 4,000 Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods across the country. In 2015, The Little Free Library Book, with chapters detailing the non-profit’s mission, history and instructions for establishing one’s own Little Free Library, was published by Coffee House Press.
Here in my little beach town, there are five Little Free Libraries within a mile of each other; I’m sure there are many more I haven’t found.
Some are simple wooden boxes; others are splashed with rainbows and decorative writing. Some have mostly children’s books; others are stuffed with adult novels. I’ve borrowed a book or two, especially liking the fact that I can keep one as long as I want (even forever, but I hope no one does). I’ve also contributed paperbacks that I no longer need; I like the idea of someone in my community having the chance to enjoy them.
Todd Bol passed away last month.
But in his final days, Bol remained dedicated to the mission of the Little Free Library.
“I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand,” he said. “I believe people can
fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop a system of sharing, learn from each other, and see that
they have a better place on this planet to live.”
* If you were around in the 1970s and loved great television comedy, you stayed home every Saturday night. You had to—because that’s when The Mary Tyler Moore Show came on.
Moore—only a few years from playing Dick Van Dyke’s stay-at-home wife Laura Petrie—starred as Mary Richards,
a 30something, independent woman who moved to Minneapolis and found work as a news producer at fictional WJM-TV. A central female character who wasn’t married; dependent on a man, and not a virgin was a rarity then, and viewers lapped it up.
But the other characters, realistic and complex as well, made the show shine, too.
For those actors who played them, the roles meant instant fame and for many, their first steady paychecks.
Edward Asner was Richards’ boss Lou Grant; Valerie Harper played neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern, and Ted Knight
was dim bulb news anchor Ted Baxter. Stars of the future, including Henry Winkler, Bruce Boxleitner and
Peter Strauss, showed up in small, one-time only parts. And while the show was a comedy, topics included
infertility, divorce and addiction.
I was a sophomore in high school when The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered, and I never missed an episode.
Mary Richards’ life, one of dinner parties, interesting men and a satisfying job, was something I wanted to have, too. But I also loved Richards’ vulnerability—best seen in my favorite episode, Put on A Happy Face, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong in the course of one week.
Watching today, there’s also a certain quaintness about the show. Richards used a manual typewriter, and the newsroom’s archives are all stored, in alphabetical order, in cream colored file folders. Of course, there was no Internet, microwaves or voice mail. Nonetheless, the show still resonates, and more often than not, has me laughing
All of the seasons are available on Hulu, but most of the episodes can also be viewed free on YouTube.
What makes you happy these days?