I spent a lot of my year trying to simplify my life and placing more value on a few experiences. One of them is taking photographs. It's one of the times in which I feel most alive. And I completely agree with Ann Curry's comment about spending an entire day each week on something you love.

In post processing my digital photos, I often use Nik Software's Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro to give my digital photographs the look of film. And then I happened to have the opportunity to shoot with a great film camera earlier this year, and I fell in love with the camera, the look of film, and the thought and consideration that I give my work when I'm shooting with it. And, although I scan my photos, I often like the way the prints look when they come straight from the darkroom or the lab.

So, I decided to keep the camera, and have been shooting film ever since. My favorite films, for both their look and ease of scanning have become Kodak Portra 160VC, Kodak Portra 400VC, and Ilford XP2.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen wasn't my favorite novel published this year—that distinction goes to Great House by Nicole Krauss—but it may well be the best. The Guardian called it "the novel of the century," and that's probably not too far off. As far as a novel that is of and about our current century, I can't think of a better one.

Someone recently told me that she didn't want to read Freedom because she didn't like any of the characters in Franzen's previous novel, The Corrections, and expected the characters in Freedom to be similarly unlikeable. However, to avoid this or any work of art because its characters aren't exemplars of personability and charm and moral clarity is downright silly. By that criteria Lolita, one of the greatest books in our language would remain unread. Flannery O'Connor's stories would go out of print. What's so extraordinary about Lolita and about Freedom is that their authors make you identify with their characters. Their empathy is so strong, their immersion in their characters' consciousnesses so thoughtful, that you can't help it. Keith Gessen put it well: "You'd have to be some kind of monster to not sympathize with these people, not to understand them. Franzen forces you to understand them." And that, to me, is the novel's—this novel's—greatest achievement.

International Klein Blue

Yves Klein's International Klein Blue had long been my favorite color before I even knew it was Klein's formulation. Almost all the inks I write with are variations of it.. And I was delighted to see that the Hirshhorn in DC gave him a retrospective this year.


"That Year" and "Hiding My Heart" by Brandi Carlile

Inevitably, a few pop songs get to me every year, and I listen to them over and over again. This year Brandi Carlile's "That Year" was the first song to fall into that category. The song, according to Carlile, is about a classmate who committed suicide when they were in high school. At the time, she hated him for it. And then a decade later, after not having thought about him for years, comes to realize her mistake, forgive him, and count him as a friend again.

Admittedly, the song first attracted me for two very narcissistic reasons. First, it reminded me, fondly, of how much I cared about people I knew ten years ago and have since, mostly, disappeared from my life. I recently heard the New Yorker staff writer Meghan O'Rourke discuss grief and the way in which it causes you to spend a part of every day remembering people and living not in the present, but in memory. I've long been conscious of the symptoms in myself but I've never quite accepted grief as their cause. We seem to have, as a society, this idea that you get over things, you get over them quickly and, in the meantime, you don't talk about them. Doing so is a sure recipe for alienating your friends—How can they possibly respond? What can they say that's commensurate with your grief? Imagine if you were friends with a musician who wrote a song that was motivated by the same story and emotions as “That Year,” and she performed it for you and it was an absolutely terrible song? Awkward! That’s what I figure it’s like for other people when I when I attempt to share my mourning with them. And that’s why I feel I have no choice but to transform it into art—to make it not only palatable, but also attractive and funny, As Joan Didion once said, "There's no real way to deal with everything that we lose." But, for some reason, I insist on trying to deal with these disappearances or reverse them or live with them—anything but forgetting. "That Year" takes me into my memory in a way that isn't just superficial but that evokes a way I once felt about the world and about the people in my own world. That a pop song from an album I knew nothing about by someone I will never meet can produce this effect is, perhaps, the reason why I bother consuming art at all, and it’s also why I want to make it.

It is a pure coincidence that Carlile was born exactly eight years before my father died and that she and I are the same age. But yet knowing that probably adds, in some small way, to my feeling of affinity to this musician I’ve never met.

Eight years ago I wrote the first lines of a book that I then put away for four years and have since worked on intermittently and incrementally. It's been my attempt to communicate my grief, to transform it into something beautiful like "That Year." I've long argued that there's little difference between fiction and nonfiction. However, I can't help but feel that knowing there was a very real loss behind Carlile's song—that it's about a suicide and not, say, a friend or lover from whom Carlile has been alienated or that it has no explicit relation to any, so-called, real life experience—altered my response to it. And for anyone who hears her tell the story behind "That Year," the backstory and story become inseparable and unforgettable.

The context—the surrounding information, atmosphere, and emotions—in which we experience art matters; sometimes it matters a lot. But who should provide the context—the artist or the audience? In the case of "That Year," it's both. Zadie Smith wrote a wonderful essay about this question that appears in her book Changing My Mind, in which she compares the arguments of Vladimir Nabokov and Roland Barthes—the former declared the author God, the latter declared her dead—before reaching a synthesis that concludes the essay. And if the reason why we seek out art is to, as Smith says, "…feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own," then it's impossible to be on only one side in this argument, especially for one who plays both the roles of audience and artist in life.

Anyway, I would like to pretend that this isn't therapy because therapy has a bad connotation and because I'm not sure that writing necessarily makes me feel any better about my losses. It is, however, necessary.

I wrote that all around the beginning of the year before I got hooked on another Carilie track, "Hiding My Heart." It appears on her album The Story, but the better version is the one on Live at Neumo's. All I can say is that I listened to this song over and over on repeat during a beautiful train ride from Aix en Provence to Paris back in April. It was one of the best trips of my life, maybe the best trip of my life because the place where I started emotionally and the place where I ended up were so drastically different. Because being in France made me feel very much like it did when I lived there in 2000-2001, the experience made me both that the great things about the world endure, that great feeling can still be produced, and that there's something outside of the California suburbs worth pursuing.

Duke Basketball

I became a Duke basketball fan in 1989. I'm not sure entirely why. Part of the reason must have been that there weren't any good local teams and I hadn't inherited any stories about college basketball from my father. Duke was a very good team, but not the dominant team that they've since become. Certainly, the fact that they graduated all of their players attracted me. I was ecstatic when they finally won a national championship in 1991, and followed it with another in 1992.

As an only child, I've never had much of a family life. My parents divorced when I was six, and my father died a couple years later. Many of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent either playing sports or watching sports. This year I often remembered two of those moments through the Giants' improbable run to the World Series championship and Duke's more predictable victory against Butler in the national championship game (although we sure did hold our breaths at the end). The Duke moment I'm talking about is, without surprise, Christian Laettner's Shot against Kentucky in the 1992 East regional final. It's a moment with which I'll be doing much more next year, so I'll leave it alone here.

I felt no reason to switch my allegiance when I went to another college, especially given that I was supposed to go to Duke and write about basketball. I can't tell you where my Berkeley diploma is, but I've saved my Duke acceptance letter all these years. It's fun to still care about something that I cared about when I was eight. Especially delightful this season was the performance of freshman point guard Kyrie Irving until he injured his toe at the beginning of December. He's still the most exciting player I've seen this year.

Bensimon Tennis Lacet

I'm not sure where I first saw the Bensimon Tennis shoes, but something about their Frenchness and simplicity appealed to me. For 30 Euros a pair, you really can't go wrong. And so, when I was in Paris in April, I looked all over for a pair, but even Autour du Monde didn't have my size. I ended up picking up a couple pairs for even less from Gilt after I returned to the U.S., and I love them for their comfort, flexibility, simplicity, and, yes, Frenchness.

Jack Spade Mill Leather Country Messenger

When I first saw this bag, the look and feel of its leather reminded me of a baseball glove. That's probably why I like it. The design is simple and clean, and it fits perfectly the things I want to carry with me—my camera, my notebook, and a book—and none of the things I don't, i.e. a laptop.

Darwin's in Cambridge

I first tried Darwin's on Mount Auburn last year and found the Hubbard Park to be the best vegetarian sandwich I've ever had. Also quite good are the Story, and the Mount Auburn. Whether you go to the Mount Auburn location or the one on Cambridge Street, the sandwiches are excellent and the clientele full of smart Harvard kids.

The Trois Coleurs Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski

After I returned from France this year, I was determined to relearn the language and thought that watching French films would be a good way to do so. When I told my friend Chris about my plan, he immediately recommended Red, White, and Blue by the Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski. They should be watched in order from Blue to Red, with White in the middle. Each film represents one of the tenets of French nationalism: liberty, egality, and fraternity. I keep telling people that Red is the best film I've ever seen, and it's also become my favorite film. I won't give anything away, but I'll say that one of the best, most rare experiences you can have with art is when a work surprises you by producing an emotion that feels utterly new. That's what happened to me at the end of Red, at the end of the Trilogy. And what was especially wonderful about this experience is that the end of Nicole Krauss's novel, Great House nearly mirrors this feeling. How is that possible? I have no idea. (I'll be publishing next year an interview I conducted with Krauss in which she speaks about the influence of the Trilogy on her work.) I highly recommend experiencing both Krauss's novel and Kieślowski's Trilogy together.

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Flannery O'Connor once wrote that "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." Arcade Fire's records, especially Funeral and The Suburbs, suggest that the band decided to test O'Connor's advice when writing its songs. The Suburbs is the most evocative album I've heard in a long time. And I mean album, not songs. It is something that you really need to listen to as an entire work from start to finish. Not only do themes—childhood, adolescence, the places we come from, suburbanization, and development—repeat over and over again, but even the same lines appear in multiple songs. (Compare the album's opening and title track with "Suburban War.")

With that said, "Suburban War" is my favorite track of the year. It's about returning to the place you're from, finding it changed, and remembering what it was once like. Trying to understand and convey that distance between what is and what was is at the very core of this record. I especially love the repeated references to letters, which inspired one of my other favorite things of this year: ink. Cf. the opening of "We Used to Wait": "I used to write / I used to write letters / I used to sign my name." As a side note, that song was used for a Google Chrome experiment, which is the best use of technology I saw all year. Its customization options are universal enough that it still produces a shared experience worth remembering and talking about.


A couple months ago, I lamented to a friend about how I had written to someone and not received a reply. My friend told me, "They're just taking the time to write you a really thoughtful response." It seemed a convenient story to believe, as believing it would save me, over time, what must have amounted to hours in checking my inbox and my mailbox. But it wasn't just a convenient story; it turned out to be true! Weeks and weeks later, I received a long, thoughtful response.

Joan Didion's "The White Album" opens with the line, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." It's a theme that recurred again and again in works I read this year—most prominently, those by Milena Agus and Nicole Krauss. And 2010 was the year in which I began to tell myself stories again—stories that the world could be remade, that people with whom I engaged would engage with me, that the permanent community I want for myself might actually be possible, that the gap between what is and what can't be could be closed. There's a Hebrew saying, "Im tirtzu, ein zo agada," which translates as "If you will it, it is no dream." There's a certain primacy to illusions, to subjectivity that I've held since I was maybe 15 or 16 and that I reclaimed this year, having finally pushed aside the reality of the financial crisis and my misguided adventure in getting an MBA.

Moreover, stories convey an arc, a narrative. And 2010 was the year in which I felt part of such a narrative again, returning to France for the first time since I lived there in 2000-2001 and returning to a life centered around books and ideas and photography.

I think often of something that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his letters: "Illusions give such color to the world that you don’t care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory." This isn't a delusion, it's a way of believing that you can impose your own narrative on the world, that who you are, what you do, and what you feel are real. It seems to be the only way to be an individual—the only way to live.

Hi-Rise Bread Company

Darwin's has been my favorite cafe in Cambridge for the past couple years. (Before that I frequented Algiers on Brattle Street.) However, Hi-Rise is a strong challenger and definitely beats Darwin's when it comes to baked goods. The cookies and breads here are incredible, and the turkey avocado sandwich is something I could eat every day. They're so good, in fact, that they make you find the rather curt manner of one of the bakers endearing rather than off-putting. Yes, this place is good.

Saul Bellow's Letters

Saul Bellow wrote that "a letter should be loose, cover much ground, run swiftly, take risk of mortality and decay." It's that sort of comprehensiveness and real risk that seems utterly absent from most communication I've been writing and receiving over the past few years. Reading Bellow's letters, first in the New Yorker and later in book form, this year reminded me of how much letters can actually do—everything—and how much they should risk of yourself—everything.

Of course, Bellow's are ridiculously well-written. The writing that appears in these letters is consistently just as good as any that appears in his novels and stories, which is to say it's great. One of my favorite passages to Martin Amis: "Too bad the people I care for are so widely distributed over the face of the earth. But then one tends to think about them all the more. Proximity isn't everything." That resonated with me because one of my core beliefs is that real communication, communion, and connection are possible between people across great distances. Bellow's letters are proof that they are.

l'Heure d'été by Olivier Assayas

I watched this film shortly after I returned from France this spring and immediately found it beautiful. At the time, I wrote to a friend about why I loved the film: "C'est l'atmosphère, le ton, le sens qu'on a d'élégie, d'un monde perdu de cette famille. Je trouve ça très beau. Oui, c'est un film bobo, mais ça ne me gêne pas. De plus, je suis interressé par des situations où on doit dire, effectivement, à quelqu'un, 'Je t'aime, mais je ne peux pas faire ça pour toi.'"


Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen

I've been conscious of the songs on Nebraska for years. Who doesn't know "Atlantic City" or "Mansion On the Hill"? But this is the first year I really got into the album. I need not reiterate the story of how Springsteen recorded it by himself or how it positions itself as the darker, flip side of Born to Run.

Springsteen was an important influence on the bands who recorded my two favorite new albums of 2010: The National and Arcade Fire. A friend told me that the latter's track, "Suburban War," sounds like a quote of a Springsteen song, and I can't argue.

Springsteen was connected to much of the other art I loved in 2010. I recently gave my best friend a copy of Robert Frank's The Americans and then happened upon this interview with Springsteen that appeared in DoubleTake. Springsteen cites Frank's photos as an influence, saying, "I've always wished I could write songs the way he takes pictures." And I thought, of course! Of course.

Canadian Olympic Hockey

On a winter weekend in 1994 I woke up at some ridiculously early hour—4 am, was it?—to watch Canada play Sweden in the final game of the Olympic hockey tournament. Canada broke my heart that morning when they lost in a shootout, but I was hooked on the team and the sport, having watched what I still believe to be the greatest hockey game ever played.

Fast forward to February of this year when the Canadian team made it to the final against the United States. All I could think about was that game 16 years ago and how heartbreaking and memorable it was. Well, this year's final did not disappoint with my favorite current NHL player, Sidney Crosby, scoring the game winner for Canada in overtime.


Okay, so this show is pretty much the male equivalent of Sex and the City with friendship and a big city at its core, but I love it, anyway. I know, I know, I'm late to the game on this one, but no matter. Is Ari Gold the best character on television? Of course, he is.

Gatz at the Public Theater in New York

I read the phenomenal review of Gatz in the New York Times, and wished that I could see it, but didn't think I would. Then I was able to extend my November stay on the East Coast and took one shot, the day before Thanksgiving, at seeing the completely sold out show. I'm absolutely fanatical about The Great Gatsby, so missing this staged reading would be inexcusable, but I really didn't know if I was going to get in. I scored a pair of rush tickets to the first half and then scalped a ticket for the second half. Getting into the show was a bit of an ordeal, but holy moly was it worth it.

I was expecting the show to be good, but not this good. It's a staged reading of Fitzgerald's entire novel, which begins in an office. One morning, a man walks in and sits down at his desk. When his computer malfunctions, he notices a copy of Gatsby from which he begins to read as narrator Nick Carraway. Slowly, his co-workers enter the mix and begin reading the lines of other characters. Eventually, the office facade falls away and the actors assume the roles of Fitzgerald's characters. It's quite an incredible transformation. The narrator is amazing and kept me riveted and awake for all seven hours. The only disappointment was the deadpanned flatness of the Jay Gatsby character, which made for some good laughs, but also a major problem. For me, much of the story's power rests on the believability of Gatsby himself. If you take him seriously, then you can identify with him. If you don't, then empathy becomes, as it did in this case, difficult.

Una Pizza Napoletana

Several new pizza places opened in San Francisco this year, but my favorite is Una Pizza Napoletana, which comes to us all the way from the East Village in Manhattan. Their crust is the target of my gastronomic longing.

Nike Free 3.0

Earlier this year a couple friends got me started on the barefoot running method, in which you strike the ground first with the ball of your foot rather than the heel. Traditional running shoes, with all their cushioning, make this a little awkward, but still possible. After a couple weeks of running in the barefoot style, my calves hurt nonstop. I knew that you were supposed to start the transition to "barefoot" running at shorter distances, but I didn't pay any attention to that advice. No matter, after about a month, I was in decent shape, and I switched to running in the Nike Free 3.0, the least structured version of the Nike Free shoes, which simulate barefoot running. They're the most comfortable running shoes I've ever worn, and I'm able to take them out every day without ever hurting my feet.

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House was my favorite novel of the year, hands down. The thing I like about Krauss's work is that it unfailingly attempts to create communication and connection between people for whom connection seems impossible. It looks at a world in which it's impossible for us to really know one another and tries—insistently tries—to make it otherwise.


Someone once asked me, "What do we have left of anyone when we're not with them?" And I thought, "A lot! Memories, first of all...." But I also understand the sentiment, and it's part of the reason why I like giving and receiving gifts so much—they're a way of forging a connection between people, especially those whom daily life does not put into contact with each other. And, in fact, one of the reasons why I got back into photography is that I felt an increasing emptiness when I thought about my own past. What do I have left of that?

One of the wonderful things about taking photos is the reactions I get from people. I bring my camera everywhere and shoot candids, often without people even noticing me. On several occasions, when I later sent my shots to my friends/subjects, they responded by calling them "a wonderful gift." And I'm sort of obsessed with doing things that provoke that gratitude and surprise both in others and in me. I don't think we see enough of life as a gift, but I won't get into that as Lewis Hyde and Elizabeth Gilbert have done a great job covering the territory.

Creating Possibilities

This is a simple one—creating a possibility for something to happen is better than not doing so, and that approach drove a lot of what I started doing in 2010 and hope to continue into 2011. More specifically, creating the possibility for real human connection, as impossible as it may seem, is better than not. So, I find myself writing to people who may well not write back, sending invitations to people who will never show up, and persisting in causes that appear lost because the cost of doing so is low and the potential reward so high.

New York

I fell in love with New York again this year because I fell in love with taking photographs, and there's no better place for doing so in the United States. I wish that I had had the same passion for photography when I lived in New York, but so it goes. And to New York, I hope to soon return.


Is there a better city in the world for art and literature—for walking, reading, running, people-watching, photographing, loving, living, and eating? No, there is not. I returned to Paris for the first time since I lived in France ten years ago, and the feeling that being there produced was exactly, incredibly the same as it had been when I was young. There's no place on earth, in time, to which I want more to return.


Baseball is my sport, and it will always be my sport. I'm happy to be playing and watching it again, and there really isn't much more to say.

High Violet by The National

"I never thought about love when I thought about home" is one of the better lines I heard this year. The National's High Violet didn't grab me immediately the way The Suburbs by Arcade Fire did, but once I really started listening to the entire record over and over, it got to me. Like The Suburbs, High Violet reveals the major influence of the Boss, but something about the National's record feels new and comforting at the same time.. It was the soundtrack to many runs along the Charles this fall, although I still have no clue how sour a Lemonworld really is.


Frances was my favorite new restaurant of 2010, even though it opened in 2009. It's become nearly impossible to score a reservation, so go early, sit at the bar, request some bread, order market shots and bacon beignets and whatever else strikes you on the menu. You will not be disappointed.

Convergence and Disconnection

These days, convergence usually refers to digital convergence, i.e. MP3 players that are cell phones, cell phones that are cameras, cameras that record videos, videos that play on computers, computers that connect to televisions, etc. That's not so great, but what is great and what concerns me is convergence between art forms. Largely because of my increased interest in photography and film this year, I began to see more connections between works across different media. I cited it in my notes about Nebraska but I love Springsteen's line about Robert Frank so much that I'll cite it again: "I've always wished I could write songs the way he takes pictures." I want to write and take photos the way Krzysztof Kieslowski makes films or the way that Arcade Fire makes songs or the way Camille Pissaro makes paintings. The art I love best always has an emotion at its core—the feeling it produces in me—and seeing art in that way tends to blur the boundaries between different media.

As for disconnection, I'm trying to spend more of my time living without the distraction of the Internet and more time with books—the real paper ones—because, as addictive as my laptop and iPhone are, the time I spend with them rarely feels valuable in restrospect.


John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest tennis match ever at Wimbleton this summer, and it was a beautiful thing to watch. It began inspiring awe and drawing crowds an entire day before it was over. That's how long it was. And it completely transfixed me. Imagine a baseball game that went on for not 15 or 20 innings, but 50 innings, and you'll approach the magnitude of this tennis match. Incredible, it was.

Leica S2

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend shooting with a Leica S2 in Lourmarin this spring. One night, a friend and I took the ridiculously expensive camera out in the middle of the night to snag the above shot of the light on at his desk in the house where we stayed and wrote well into the late nights and early mornings. It's not the best example of what the camera can do, but my other shots with the camera proved its dynamic range and resolution to be incredible. Everyone in Lourmarin at whom I pointed the camera was thrilled to have their photo taken. On our drive there, I took a photo of a group of guys, and as we drove away, I heard one of them say to the others, "It's a Leica." And, although it's not the Leica I've chosen (or would chose if I could afford it) for myself, it's quite a special camera, and shooting with it a special experience.

Fenway Park

I don't really believe in love at first sight—it's more like love at 100th sight—but I fell in love with Fenway Park in July of 1998 when I went there for the first time. I've gone back as often as I could since then. Although I've been in Boston from time to time over the past couple years, I always seemed to miss the city on days when the Red Sox were at home. Finally, I made it back in September. The Red Sox lost by a wide margin, although they did almost come back. But what struck me was the intimacy of the park and the passion of the fans. The people around me spent the entire game engaging in conversation about their memories of the Red Sox. They talk about four nights in October 2004 as if they had taken place yesterday. I guarantee that won't change anytime soon.

Insistent Compassion

It might take years—and it has often taken years—but I'm convinced that this approach works with people, and it works with me. You can't deny or ignore it.

San Francisco Giants

One of the happiest moments of my childhood took place on October 9, 1989, when the San Francisco Giants played Game Five of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. My elementary school teacher let our class listen to the game on the radio, and as soon as school ended, I raced home as fast as I could to catch the bottom of the eighth on television. In the inning, Will Clark singled off Mitch Williams to put the Giants ahead and send them on to the World Series, which they promptly lost in four games to the Oakland A's. (I don't need to look up the broadcast call to quote it: "Clark hits it up the middle into center field. Uribe scores. Butler scores. Thompson to third, and the Giants leave three to two." The visual images are equally strong—Williams falling off the mound towards third base, as he did with every pitch, Clark clapping his hands together in one big Clap! as he stood on first base.) Clark was my favorite player, and when he left for the Texas Rangers before the 1994 season, a little of my interest in the Giants left too.

But that interest never fully went away, and I had my heart broken by the Giants in 2002 when they lost in the World Series to the Anaheim Angels, giving up what seemed like a Series-clinching lead in Game Six and then losing Game Seven. I continued to go to the games every year, and never had to pay much for tickets because the probability of the team going far always seems so remote. Halfway through this season, the Giants had no chance of making the playoffs. When they made the playoffs, they had no chance of advancing to the NLCS. When they made it to the NLCS, they had no chance of going to the World Series. But I knew something was up when October days went by and I kept going to AT&T Park with my friends to watch games. I kept watching the Giants on TV. My mom even told me that she spent six hours a day listening to the Giants radio station, KNBR. Of course, the Giants not only went to the Series; they won it. I was at the Civic Center in San Francisco with Lori when they won, and I don't recall the city having ever been as collectively happy as it was that night at the beginning of November. There's something lovely about the surprising nature of the Giants' championship. How many times did we pinch ourselves this fall, we Giants fans? How did this happen? Pitching, pitching, pitching, yes. But we still don't really understand it. However, we know it happened because we were there.

The The writer Mike Barnicle once said about the Boston Red Sox, "What could I have done with my life had I not spent all this time on the Red Sox? Might I have completed this novel I've been working on? Might I not have done something else? But what it becomes in the end is like raising your children. If you raise them well and they love you and you love them back, at the end of the day, you know that when you leave this life, your children won't be thinking about what a great column you wrote in 1972. They'll be thinking about the time they spent with you. That's how I think about the Red Sox, the time that I have spent with the Red Sox." That's how I feel about the Giants, who have been like family for so long.

Pens, Ink, and Paper

In 2002 a friend of mine was studying abroad in Africa and we traded letters every few weeks during her semester there. At one point she sent me an email with the subject line, "Boycotting e-mails," in which she said that she would only be writing letters going forward. It was an arrangement that didn't last, but I wish it had.

It's that wish that returned to me this year. I didn't need a silly trend story to tell me that handwriting could be the antidote to the terseness, thoughtlessness, and emotional emptiness of electronic communication. But it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has returned to pens and paper. I love the anticipation of waiting for letters to arrive and the time that I put into writing them.

And, of course, I love pens and papers and inks. My favorite discovery this year was an ink called Cocktail that can only be found at the pen store Styl'Honoré in Paris. It's available in several different colors. Fortunately, the bottle is 75ml and can be carried on a plane, as mine was when I returned to the U.S. earlier this year. It's pictured above with a wonderful linen journal from Papier Plus on rue du Pont Louis Philippe, which is a wonderful shopping street for all things paper.

Three Lives and Co.

St. Marks Bookshop is probably still my favorite bookstore in New York, but Three Lives & Company is definitely the one I've loved the most in the past few years. It isn't big. Its selection isn't comprehensive, but its staff and clientele are very friendly, and its books are clearly chosen with care. The place has charm and is the perfect rainy day refuge in the West Village.

Health Care Reform

One of the saddest things of 2009 was the death of Ted Kennedy before a health care reform bill passed. Then, when it looked like we might not get a bill passed at all, I remember thinking that I would trade passage of a reform bill for Congressional Democratic losses in November of 2010. Well, that's about what happened. I remember the evening the bill passed. We were eating dinner at Gracias Madre in the Mission, and when the Times alert came through on our phones, we broke out in cheers and ordered Champagne. Although he's taken a huge amount of criticism—that seems to be what Presidents are for—Barack Obama also deserves a huge amount of credit for getting quite a bit done despite the impossibility of working with Republicans and the cowardice of his own Democratic Party.

Leica 50mm Summicron-M (and Leica M7)

In 2003 my apartment in Park Slope was burglarized and my camera gear stolen. I used the occasion to simplify my photography by getting a manual focus camera with a 50mm Leica Summicron-R lens. Ever since, that lens has been my favorite thing to shoot with both for its focal length and the way it renders pretty much everything. So, having switched to rangefinders at the beginning of this year, I longed for the Leica M equivalent of this lens. It took me a while to find a great deal on one—several months—but I finally did and am really enjoying it.

Leica 50mm Summicron-M (and Leica M7)

In 2003 my apartment in Park Slope was burglarized and my camera gear stolen. I used the occasion to simplify my photography by getting a manual focus camera with a 50mm Leica Summicron-R lens. Ever since, that lens has been my favorite thing to shoot with both for its focal length and the way it renders pretty much everything. So, having switched to rangefinders at the beginning of this year, I longed for the Leica M equivalent of this lens. It took me a while to find a great deal on one—several months—but I finally did and am really enjoying it.