Magic Moments

Confession: My most-prized possession is a giant Shop-Vac designed by NASA to suck aliens, star dust and lost dreams from the deepest recesses of outer space. I use this remarkable machine mostly to snort up Smartacus’ socks, which decorate our house like an elegant December snow.

Suzanne is dating me mostly because of this Shop-Vac. Hey, I get it. It could slurp a bowling ball through a garden hose, and when you use it on the carpets of your car, the carpets are even cleaner than when they were first made.

Who doesn’t crave that?

The other day, Suzanne asked if she could use the Shop-Vac on her car, and I volunteered to vacuum it for her. But she’s not that kind of girl. So we compromised, meaning I mostly let her have her way.

The deal: I would pull the big vacuum out and set it up for her, then she would come vacuum out the car herself.

After I set it up, I decided I’d just go ahead and – SURPRISE! — vacuum her car myself.

Now, if you’re in any sort of relationship, you know this kind of kindness creates a different set of tensions. Because it’s not a pre-approved kindness.

But when I tried to open the car door, it was locked. Only her stupid phone could open it. So the surprise was on me. Suzanne won the moment.

Don’t they always?

This is remarkably off point, but stay with me: The other day, Suzanne and I watched the pilot of “That Girl,” which is way more horrible than you probably remember.

Actually, most anything with a laugh track is pretty horrible. I mean, what were they thinking back then. Laugh tracks! Plastics! Tang! Polyester! The ‘60s and ‘70s were very inauthentic times. And we liked it that way!

Except, Marlo Thomas. She was so real. Not level-headed exactly, but with lovely intentions. And she wore really cute jumpers and capes, kind of mod, super colorful, like airport tapestries.

And the luster of her hair. As I told Suzanne, “What’d they do, hot wax her hair?” Shiny as a Camaro, this hair. Probably Nylon.

We were headed for a gala that night, so neither of us was in very good spirits, though the banquet, in support of the gorgeous Pasadena Playhouse, turned out to be really enjoyable. No emcee. Just an offstage announcer who introduced the various speakers, then a bunch of Sondheim songs, including “Send in the Clowns,” which, for a ballad about clowns, is very sad indeed.

My takeaway: Clowns are the saddest things we know.

…Send in the clowns,

Don’t bother, they’re here…

Clowns get no respect. When Suzanne and I have deep, late-night chats, I clown around a bit, try to say something profound, followed by a punchline, a comedy recipe that goes all the way back to the late-1400s.

In my defense, I tell her that if we start self-editing, then these late-night chats won’t have the lovely glint of honesty and pathos, which is all you can hope for in a relationship these days. If you start pulling punches, editing yourself, holding back, the conversation loses something. Truthiness? Trust? Verve?

I explained that I don’t really say everything that comes into my head, it just seems that way. I have this place in my brain, it’s like a pantry, where I store the things that are better left unsaid.

There are now three things in that pantry. 1) Something I started to say about her remarkable sister; 2) Something snarky about Stanford; 3) Something about being ski-poled to death by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Out of respect, I’ve censored myself on those three topics. Does it feel good? No. Is it the right thing? Of course not.

As I later told my 2-year-old granddaughter, who functions as both my fairy princess and my conscience: “You really can’t be yourself in this world anymore. You need to have a pantry in your head.”

“OK, Papa,” Cakes said, then started smacking me with her magic wand.

I also told Cakes I’m dedicating my next best-seller to her: “The Things We Don’t Tell Our Loved Ones — Maybe Out of Self-Preservation.”

I see it replacing TikTok, and perhaps Google, as a handy manual for navigating modern life, which is more puzzling by the minute.

I also see it as a pretty good send-up of old sit-coms, where a quarreling contemporary family sits down to watch an old ‘70s sit-com, then morphs into that ‘70s sit-com.

High concept, as the development people say. No laugh track. Lots of shiny Nylon hair.

So much love.

Email the columnist at

14 thoughts on “Magic Moments

  1. Just delightful and filled with truthiness. Keep sharing your profound insights with Cakes and I predict she will grow up to be someone with great wisdom and empathy. Thanks for letting us listen in. PS, that picture of you and Suzanne is gorgeous. Cakes never takes a bad photo either, of course.

  2. Great photo of you and Suzanne. Thanks for the column and the insights.

    My own problem with galas is that most expect you to wear long pants, shoes that tie and shirts with buttons – to say nothing, shudder, of a coat.

  3. Delightful. “I have this place in my brain, it’s like a pantry, where I store the things that are better left unsaid.” Made me laugh out loud and nod in agreement!!!

  4. You have to be careful what you put in the pantry; the pantry is where you store things you might want some day. I put those thoughts in a locked trunk in the attic, where my heirs will find them and toss them aside while they search for old comic books to sell. Much safer.

  5. Top photo is maybe not Cakes ? perhaps one of the daughters at that age ~ ? she just looks a bit different ~ ~

  6. Watch your eyes. Two year-olds with wands can be dangerous lol. They love to smack things. Beautiful picture of you and Suzanne. Frame it. 😊

  7. So charming it stopped me for a bit of time. Isn’t that what most writers dream of—to be pondered on? But c’mon… ‘she won the moment…I let her have her way?’
    First of all, a love affair is not a competition(or shouldn’t be), thus there are ONLY winners; and secondly, her way IS the way. I thought you guys had progressed farther down the road than this. As for self-editing, it erects an invisible barrier. If you want real depth and uber closeness (the thrilling integration of two into one), the last thing you want is invisible barriers, to gum up those late night seances you so enjoy. But there is a price for real integration, and you have to have confidence in your own strength. It has often been noted that in the most powerful and enduring partnerships, both partners give more than100 percent, the excess largess is the source of the radiance noted by others. Give everything you have, yet never lose your sense of self. Those are words to live by, and the art is in maintaining the critical balance, moment to moment. As for clowns, laughter is a lubricant of the soul, and clowns, bittersweet though they may be, are often funnier than not, sadness being an underlying truth embedded in their art. The doctor has left the building.

    And cakes…she is a little girl!! When did she transition from being a baby to being a child? The pictures now clearly show the magic time has wrought. And the picture of you, Chris, and camera-shy Suzanne: it clearly shows more magic time has wrought. Send in the clowns! No matter—they’re here. They always are, and that’s good, but I note that clowns often don’t pick up thir socks, and the socks usually have holes in them. Sic transit socks.

  8. I always enjoy your take on life — and I really was delighted and envious to read about your attending Sondheim’s tribute at the wonderful Pasadena Playhouse. I idolised the man and know practically all of his shows — very difficult to find singers who can sing his scores and I’ll bet they were an excellent group there in Pasadena. Thanks always for your sage advice and funny comments — something here for everyone!! Wonderful pictures of S&C as well. Please continue to send in the clowns!!

  9. I have also fallen off the list. I tried reapplying with the form on your website, but I’m still not getting anything from you. I would love to be back on the list. please let me know what I can do. Thanks. Love your writing!

  10. What a lovely picture of you & Suzanne! And Cakes, what a precious little kid she is!

Leave a Reply