From Walker Percy’s Signposts In A Strange Land, the following is an excerpt taken from a longer one that appeared in 2001 in the Claremont Review of Books:

Not only should connoisseurs of bourbon not read this article, neither should persons preoccupied with the perils of alcoholism, cirrhosis, esophageal hemorrhage, cancer of the palate, and so forth—all real enough dangers. I, too, deplore these afflictions. But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of bourbon drinking, that is, the use of bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cure the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic.

What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?”

“I once knew a man who gave up drinking, smoking, eating rich food, and chasing women,” Johnny Carson once joked. “He was healthy right up until the day he killed himself.”

I love the image of bourbon as a response to “the anomie of the late twentieth century.” I wonder what’s suited to our own time.


I was in the Houston airport the other day, having just ordered lunch. I handed my Amex card to the woman at the register. She inserts it into the chip reader, and the moment she does, this Apple Wallet notification appears:

It take another few seconds for the receipt to print, and for her to ask if I’d like my copy. “I’ve got it,” I respond. She looks somewhat confused, but shrugs and tosses the print copy as she hands me lunch.

I’m relating this story because it was just one of those small little moments where you realize that the world is changing in a small but significant way. Not signifiant in terms of “big picture” issues, but significant in terms of the “little things” that have been fixtures of our daily lives that are disappearing, replaced by something with a different character but the same essence.

Running in Washington

I’m on my way back to Philadelphia from Washington this afternoon. I came down last night to run this morning’s 12 K’s of Christmas Holiday Run that the DC Running Club organizes.

I’ve run at least one official race a year since 2009, but this year I came close to falling away from that habit. I ran today’s Christmas 12K to keep that tradition alive, but also because I generally haven’t been running very much this year, and knew I’d head into Christmas feeling terrible about missing any major run this year.

It was beautiful, running along Washington’s Canal paths. Lots of great people, some dressed wildly for the holidays, many who were helpful to keep pace with. A red-bearded guy was especially great; we ran along with each other for most of the second half, intermittently passing each other and keeping pace.

It wasn’t a super run, but it felt good to get it done.


I’m a fan of routines, although I don’t have as many as I would like. That’s my fault, and hopefully it doesn’t outlast my 20s. One of the routines I do enjoy on a pretty regular basis is evening walks. This was a routine I grew up with, something I think my uncle generally inspired after family dinner.

Evening walks are something I savor now as a way to close out the day. Often I’ll substitute the walk for a run. Either way, the effect is usually the same which is that it reminds me of the life of the rest of the neighborhood or wider area. Usually I’ll overhear some snippet of passing conversation or witness some fun or peculiar sight that in its own way ends up making the day.

Walks can also be a great way to work through audiobooks or podcasts, or tune in to local radio from some other part of the country. I like to listen in to hear how The LION 90.7fm sounds at Penn State, and have also recently enjoyed Ohio State’s student internet station on a regular basis for newer music. Sometimes it will be a little station in Tucson or Savannah or the Pacific Northwest. It helps gives me a sense of place.

I’ll try to think of some other routines over time.

Saving for retirement

“Assuming an annual market return of 7 percent, he says, a 30-year-old worker who made $30,000 a year and received a 3 percent annual raise could retire at age 70 with $927,000 in the pot by saving 10 percent of her wages every year in a passive index fund. (Such a nest egg, at the standard withdrawal rate of 4 percent, would generate an inflation-adjusted $37,000 a year more or less indefinitely.) If she put it in a typical actively managed fund, she would end up with only $561,000.”

Great article from Eduardo Porter last month. The things that pay off over the long term are rarely sexy. They’re routine. They’re boring. They work.