Just one of those things


"Good evening, Taylors' residence... May I ask who's calling, please?... Hold on, just a moment."

Though my father passed away four years ago last month, I can still remember so clearly the way he sounded when answering our home telephone. It's funny how certain memories -- sounds, smells -- stay with you so clearly. It's funny the things you end up missing.

My dad wasn't a stickler about many things. Going to the grocery store with Dad meant that you'd probably get to pick out a candy bar in the check out aisle. Mom was the one who made sure the trains ran on time, that my sister and I did our chores, got good grades, and dusted the baseboards when it was our turn to clean. They were a good team.

But the one thing my dad was strict about was how we talked to people. He insisted that we address grownups as Miss and Ms. and Mr. and Mrs., unless they absolutely insisted otherwise. And telephone manners were huge. "Introduce yourself!" bellowed Dad from the living room as we called our friends from the kitchen phone.

"Hello, this is Colleen Taylor calling. May I please speak to Ashley?" is a pretty embarrassing thing to say when you're 14 and trying desperately to sound cool when Ashley's cute older brother answers the phone. But house rules were house rules. 

Time often helps you see that your parents were right about a lot of things you chafed against growing up. Dad's phone etiquette rules are certainly in that category for me. I've learned it's much better to err on the side of seeming too polite or too old fashioned, than to take up other people's time in an entitled way. (Programmer and writer Paul Ford had a post about politeness recently that's a good read.) 

And more and more, it just rubs me the wrong way when I pick up the phone, say hello, and hear a voice I don't recognize chirp, "Is Colleen there?" without introducing him or herself first.  

It's a very silly, very small thing. But it's just one of those things.

On looking good in photos

Paul and Stella McCartney, Los Angeles, 1975. By Harry Benson

stupid until a year later, when you think, 'Not bad. What was I complaining about?'"

--Harry Benson, the photojournalist whose 40-year career has included prominent work for Life, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, on how people react to photos of themselves (via his recent interview with the New York Observer.)  

Dodging bullets

I am admittedly an admirer of all things Beyoncé -- I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I can't help but recognize the woman is a force of nature -- but I think even the most jaded observer would think her latest video is great in one way or another. Well, at least if she's a woman in her mid- to late-twenties or so.

Here's why: It has a clever narrative (can't we all relate to that awkward high school date footage) beautiful surroundings (where was this shot?) gorgeous attire (I want one of everything she wears in the first 20 seconds of the video) and really interesting camera work (does anyone know if they used a DSLR to shoot this?) I'm not really a fan of the song, but the video itself gives me some hope for the future of MTV's original medium.

Also, it should ring true to any girl who has looked back happily at the demise of past relationships and realized they definitely dodged a bullet or two.

A point I can steer toward

"...this father-friend
who liked to show me the shape I would become
rather than cutting my edges so I could fit a preferred cast more to his liking
since it seemed what he liked best was to recognize native clay
solid in its mystery
and observe how its wonder was synecdoche for the indescribable majesty of
its being observed by someone.

Hard to believe
he will no longer age
as I continue changing
growing strange to whatever I once was.

But he’s growing still
as something like light in me and my family
and as I feel tossed lightly and dropped suddenly
living as we all do
like a dinghy in a vast sea
I know there’s a point
I can steer toward
since his life will be my lighthouse
so that I’ll always know how to go home."

--An excerpt from the truly wonderful eulogy to his father Chris Wetherell posted on his blog last week.