Tuesday, August 11, 2009


So today is my 7th wedding anniversary.

Feeling predictably nostalgic, I started going through my wedding photos and remembering the amazing summer day when I stood in what has to be the most beautiful room in Baltimore -- the Peabody Library -- and said my vows.

(You can click on these photos to see them full size.)

In the jenmen world, however, snark often trumps sentimentality. And humor always trumps everything.

And so, in honor of my anniversary, I present you not with a treacly recounting of my wedding or of the seven blissful years since, but rather, the following.

Greg and I honeymooned on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Heaven on earth, for sure. And then we spent a few days in Paris. Where we found ourselves, rather predictably, at the Eiffel Tower one morning, trying to get that perfect souvenir photo.

Now let it be said that when it comes to taking photos, it's clear that all the talent in the family went to my brother Matt (who took the photos above, btw.) I have basically no idea what I'm doing with a camera.

And so it was a great relief when we came across a European couple who appeared to be professional photographers. They were grappling with several cameras, and some heavy duty photo equipment, engaged in what appeared to be a heated argument about perspective. Trying to get the perfect shot, they were pretzeling themselves into Twister-like contortions.

We even got a photo of them at work:

Delighted, we asked if they would take our photo.

And this is the shot they got of us:

Wait, let's try that one again, shall we?

OK, maybe next honeymoon.

Thankfully, later that afternoon, a random stranger took this for us, one of my very favorite pictures of the two of us.

The Eiffel Tower skewers my head. Miraculously, I smile. Now that's what I call deliriously happy.

Thanks for seven great years, Greg. Here's to many many many more... Oh, and thanks to Tariq, our awesomely honest Parisian taxi driver, who Fedexed our camera back to us after you we left it in the back of his cab at the airport.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


For as long as I can remember, I've been endlessly fascinated by other people's stories. When I go to a wedding or bar mitzvah, even if my connection to the festivities is tangential at best, I feel compelled to learn everything about the celebrating family. I want to know all their back stories -- to figure out which cousin belongs to which black sheep uncle, and which sister-in-law is the Iraq war veteran with a medical degree from Harvard.

When I see a homeless person on the street, I can't help wondering, "How did they end up there?" I want to fill in the missing parts of the trajectory from the little boy running through a sprinkler under a mother's loving, watchful eye, to the man standing on the side of Northern Parkway with a sign asking for money.

It's the storyteller in me, the reason I've spent most of my adult life dropping into other people's lives for a short while to learn their stories, and then telling them in the many magazines and newspapers I've written for. In all honesty, I think it's a bit of cowardice that inspired my professional life. I'm perpetually fearful that I'm not particularly interesting or insightful enough on my own. I prefer to be the empty vessel, filled up with the collective energy from all those amazingly interesting people I've trailed over the years, the Grammy winners and Senators and middle school teachers and good Samaritans.

And it's not even just people's stories that fascinate me. It's any story. Stories about places and things, even. When we pulled out the rusted medicine cabinet in our 1930 bathroom, I was morbidly fascinated by the cache of used straight razor blades we discovered in the empty space in our wall. (Apparently, old-style medicine cabinets had a slot in which to deposit them.) It wasn't quite as shocking as finding, say, a dead body or a dinosaur bone, but it felt almost thrilling to me, somehow. A tangible link connecting us to the stranger who'd stood in our bathroom all those mornings years ago.

Which brings me, somewhat improbably, to a blog post about a shoe.

Specifically, a slightly grannyish, black leather Franco Sarto woman's pump.

At about 5:00 in the evening on Saturday, I dashed out for a last minute run to the grocery store. And as I walked into our neighborhood Shopper's, I couldn't help but notice that there was a single shoe perched rather regally on a concrete ledge facing the parking lot. There was nobody around. Not a soul. (The store is frequented by a heavily Orthodox population and is notoriously empty on Saturdays.)

There was just this....shoe.

I had to take a picture. I just had to.

Immediately, my mind began to wander. How had that shoe -- especially just one of them -- ended up in that spot, at that moment? Where was its owner? Where was its...mate?

I know that there are all sorts of fascinating urban legend-y theories about why shoes get hung over power lines, but I've never heard anything about leaving singletons in grocery store parking lots.

And so I'm putting it out to you.

Use the comments section of this post to create a plausible (or not) explanation for the fate of this poor abandoned piece of footwear. You know it has a story. Everything has a story. So let's see what you've got, shall we?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Why not-quite-two year olds are only of limited value when it comes to emptying dishwashers...Thanks, Alec!