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Danny Heitman: In shed, a relic of childhood

Nearly two decades ago, one winter of my daughter’s toddler years, we decided she should have a sitting place of her own — a tiny table and chairs where she might go to draw, color or have her breakfast while she watched cartoons. There was just such a furniture set at the hardware store down the street, so… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Are youth failing us? Think again

One of the common hazards of getting older is the tendency to think that the next generation is going to the dogs. Here’s a quote from Socrates, speaking thousands of years ago: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Mama might have pioneered Twitter

It happened almost every Sunday of my childhood — after we were full of chicken and mashed potatoes, planted on the couch in the den, and nearly asleep, our eyelids heavy from an even heavier lunch. That’s when my mother, perched on the opposite sofa, would begin bookmarking articles from the Sunday paper out loud, hoping to… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: On Easter, winter world wakes up

Earlier this month, while perched on the couch with late-winter flu, I glanced at the shutters and noticed that each open slat framed a perfect rectangle of green. I wasn’t sure where all that green was coming from. All winter long, the landscape beyond the window had been a bland palette of brown, beige and gray.… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: News flash: reporters will eat anything

Last week’s Best Picture Oscar is the latest praise for “Spotlight,” a movie that dramatizes The Boston Globe’s investigation of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church. The only thing I can add is that the film’s depiction of the dietary habits of newspaper reporters is, sadly, right on the mark. As “Spotlight” opens, Globe staffers gather… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Learning the art of the cheap date

When they were courting in the 1920s, my maternal grandparents often passed the time by walking to the depot to see the trains arrive. It seems, by modern standards, about as interesting as watching paint dry — not the sort of itinerary, in other words, that many lovers would embrace this Valentine’s Day. But my grandparents… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: A new year passed with old friends

“Auld Lang Syne,” the New Year’s anthem that asks if old acquaintances should “be forgot,” catches more deeply in my throat each January, as middle age brings the news that old friendships can, indeed, too easily wither from neglect. That’s why this New Year’s Eve, in the cause of keeping old connections alive, our family… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Holiday’s tension between society and solitude

Long after my father died, my mother remained close with his sister, Eunice, a retired librarian. The friendship between these two widows was made all the more remarkable by their contrasting personalities — a distinction bookmarked on Christmas, when even mild family differences tend to grow sharper. People were oxygen for my mother, whose yuletide philosophy might… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Small acting break goes awry

The recent death of Fred Thompson is a comforting reminder that Hollywood can still beckon, even for those no longer in the first blush of youth. Thompson’s first big job was as the Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate committee, quite a plum for his legal career. But Thompson was best known not for being a lawyer,… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: On holiday, give thanks for life itself

Kindergartner Riley Rushing nibbles on a rice and marshmallow treat made in the shape of a turkey drumstick as she and her classmates dress as Pilgrims and Indians to celebrate Thanksgiving in their classroom in Soldier Creek Elementary  School in Midwest City, Okla., on Wednesday, Nov. 24,  2015. (Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman/via AP)

If Thanksgiving is America’s culinary Super Bowl — an event hyped for days, then unfolded as an annual spectacle — it seems that those of us who live in south Louisiana must rank as national champs. We are, after all, perhaps better than other Americans at the art of the feast — the meal so mythically grand… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Sunday drives now seem gone forever

Because south Louisiana traffic ties me in knots these days, I now think of driving as something to be endured, not enjoyed. But in her new memoir, “The Lost Landscape,” Joyce Carol Oates recalls a time when Americans routinely got behind the wheel not just because they had to, but because they wanted to. Oates, who grew up… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Getting in out of the rain

You’ve no doubt heard it said of those who aren’t thinking well that they don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain. I thought this was just a figure of speech until I became the father of two children who, well, sometimes don’t know when to get out of the rain. The problem came to… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: A night marks free expression

When Stephen Dixon asked me to do a public reading from my favorite banned book, I knew right away which one to pick. I selected Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a beloved novel that’s also attracted censors because of its story about a black man wrongly accused of rape. As part of his work with… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Fall is time for fantasy gardens

While cleaning a bookshelf the other day, I came across my Aunt Eunice’s one-volume garden encyclopedia, something we saved from her house after she died three years ago. There was an old envelope inside to help her mark a favorite page, a discovery that made me smile in recognition. This is a family habit, apparently. People are… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: A world not consumed by politics

The mail I get at home is a dreary bore — bills, circulars, the occasional catalog full of stuff I don’t need and would never buy. It’s more fun, I’m learning, to read other people’s mail, which is why, as summer glides into fall, I’ve been dipping into the newly published letters of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald.… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: On the high school campaign trail

My 14-year-old son has been running for president of his freshman class, and by the time you read this, we’ll know the results. But regardless of how things turn out, we’ve already gotten a useful reminder of how teenagers campaign for office these days — and what they might be able to teach us grown-ups about how… Continue reading →

At Random: As summer ends, go out and play

If we were a normal family, I suppose we’d have a nice bowl of fruit on the coffee table. Instead, the bowl in the den is more likely to be full of old tennis balls, kept there for the odd moment when we decide to take a few into the yard and ask our dog to go fetch.… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : A movie for older couples

At the start of summer, when my wife and I marked our 21st wedding anniversary by going to see “Far from the Madding Crowd,” I had no trouble finding the right theater at our local cineplex. “You’re in here with the rest of us old married couples,” a fellow patron said as he opened the door for… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Summer heat holds everything still

As homework for her photography class, my wife recently was told to take a picture of something in motion, an assignment easier said than done in south Louisiana summers. Nothing much moves here at this time of year, not much at all. Our neighborhood lawnmowers whir to life shortly after sunrise, then again near dusk. If you… Continue reading →

Nature is not always ready to wait

My maternal grandfather, gone these many years, was a man of Old South propriety — not the sort who would normally think about leaving the house without being properly dressed. But returning home after one of her first dates with my dad, my mother was mortified to find her father standing out in the yard, flashlight in… Continue reading →

Need to catch nature in the act? Skip the wardrobe change

My maternal grandfather, gone these many years, was a man of Old South propriety — not the sort who would normally think about leaving the house without being properly dressed. But returning home after one of her first dates with my dad, my mother was mortified to find her father standing out in the yard, flashlight in… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: La. figures in book about rain

Thanks to author Cynthia Barnett, we now know that it’s possible to write an entire book on the subject of rain. “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History” crossed my desk a few weeks ago, as black clouds hung like Hindenburgs outside my fourth-floor office window and emptied torrents of water on the traffic below. It was the… Continue reading →