Elmore Leonard and Sam Sifton

April 28, 2020

Elmore Leonard and Sam Sifton

elmore leonard

Mark Rubin

Elmore Leonard was a great writer, with an extraordinary way with dialogue. Sam Sifton writes pretty well, too. Presently, he’s the Food Editor for the New York Times, where he has worked for almost 20 years. (Mr. Sifton’s grandfather was Reinhold Neibuhr, who wrote the Serenity Prayer. It comes to mind often, but only after I have failed to appreciate the difference between what I can and cannot change.)

Every week Mr. Sifton sends What to Cook … emails. They bring me great pleasure, always, but I really enjoyed Cook Anyway, which I received on April 27. Mr. Sifton starts out thusly:

Good morning. One of the greatest first lines of a novel, ever: “One evening, it was toward the end of October, Harry Arno said to the woman he’d been seeing on and off the past few years, ‘I’ve made a decision. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before in my life.’”

Mr. Sifton talks, thereafter, about being sick of cooking and, of course, says “cook anyway.” Curiously, I found myself dragging bigly on Monday. Unmotivated and, frankly, sick of all of this. As were, I think, many of us!

None of which identifies what caught my eye: Mr. Arno getting ready to share something he’d never shared with anyone else. How many of us get the chance to share anything new with anyone? Not something shared for the first time with someone, but something never shared with anyone.

I don’t want to diss life or anything, but only so much New ever happens. That’s fine by me, truly, but the notion that I can share something I’ve never shared with anyone captivates me. I’ve been here for 22,872 days, and can know that fact with ease thanks to Bill Gates, Microsoft and Excel, which makes counting days a breeze. (By the way, the fact that I know how long I’ve been here so precisely drove my former spouse nuts, but that’s something she and I both know already, and it might well be something she’s already shared with other.)

So, back to Mr. Leonard’s formulation, offered through Mr. Arno. The other week something occurred to me that I don’t think I have ever shared with anyone: the human head fascinates me. For sure, I’ve gotten the “eyes up here” look (and a comment here or there) from women more than twice. But, when my eyes lift, I’m always fascinated. Shape. Planes. Distances. Etc.

Two issues, connected to this observation, prompted this post. First, hair stylists can’t work. (Recall my suggestion in More Thoughts From the Self-Isolation Front, that we take care of those who look after us, and can’t right now.) Still, hair grows.

Second, I had a derm appointment scheduled for April 30. I had a non-cancerous mole removed from my head in early COVID-19 days. For reasons which require an explanation, the cells that mess with bad cells got excited, which interested the lab and, then, my dermatologist. She wants more cells, to understand why the good cells got so worked up. Unfortunately, UnitedHealthcare says No Go, because COVID-19. (The UnitedHealthcare No Go policy does not apply to premiums, of course.)

The confluence of the “something he’d never shared with anyone else” observation, my very unruly mane, and no one messing with my scalp for another two months led me to an act which allowed me to learn much about the shape of my head. It’s large, for starters. (I knew that in the 7th grade when, in English class, Rick Foss, said, “Boy, move your big head.”) Pretty symmetrical, but long from top to bottom. I said large, right? Appropriate ears and eyes. Scarred here and there.

LB says I look like Lex Luthor. Mr. Clean comes to mind for me. Regardless, I don’t look like the fellow you see at the top of this post.

If you want a picture of my head sans hair, send an email to markdrubin@gmail.com. Tell me you have sent at least $5.00 to a nonprofit which focuses on making life better for people who struggle. The picture will follow.

Be well and stay safe.


P.S. I discovered a mole on my scalp. LB found a second one. With a melanoma in my past, I think this head shaving thing might have been fortuitous.

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