I am writing to you, once again, from my friend Ben’s dining room. When I was here last August, writing my brains out, I had a hunch that a return visit might be helpful before my manuscript deadline. Turns out, that was correct.

In Ohio, there are no Brandons to distract me, no Delanceys to worry about, no Jacks or Alices to bark suddenly at absolutely nothing and, boom, scare the organs out of my body.

In Ohio, there is just a Ben and his nearly empty house, and a twin bed under the eaves with my name on it, next to a window onto which the previous tenant’s child stuck two butterfly decals. My first day in town turned out to be his first day off in a month, so we celebrated with a lunch excursion into Cleveland, to Balaton. We were seated by a nicely dressed older gentleman who watched over the place from a table in the corner. Between tasks, he ate slices of red apple out of a bowl. An elderly lady with dyed black hair and polyester pants came in shortly after we did, and the gentleman seated her at the next table over. They exchanged greetings in Hungarian, and he helped her out of her coat. Then he brought her a glass of red wine, filled perilously to the rim, and a cup of bean and dumpling soup. She was so quiet and careful, deftly angling her spoon to slice the raft of smoked sausage that floated on top, and watching her, we decided to order two cups of the same. So we ate that, and then we shared a plate of cabbage rolls stuffed with beef and pork and rice (on a bed of sauerkraut!), a small order of schnitzel with more dumplings (in gravy!), and a slice of chestnut torte, and never before, in the history of Cleveland, were there two more contented people. Then we drove home, and now: I WORK.

While I do that:

Ira Glass gives props to Radiolab! This came out last fall, but I recently reread it, and I love what Glass has to say about storytelling, journalism, and sound. (Also highly recommended: the recent This American Life show on immigration.)

– Each time I get in the car and turn on the radio, this is what I hope to hear. Or this. The transformation is now complete: I am a middle-aged man.

This is on the to-make list. Someday.

– A favorite old post from my friend Sarah’s blog.

– I can’t stop drinking Rachel’s ginger beer. Ideally in a tall glass, with plenty of ice and a straw. Rachel used to work with us at Delancey, so I am biased, but still, really, don’t miss it.

– My fondness for Stevie Nicks is well documented on this site, and several months ago, one of you kindly wrote to share this video of Stevie singing a demo version of “Wild Heart.” Have I linked to it before? Yes? Well, I’m doing it again. It’s goosebump material.

– Kate Christensen’s blog. Beautiful, beautiful writing. (Via Winnie.)

– Brandon’s grandfather is a whiz at The Pig Song. I hope Brandon learns to sing it someday.

– I used to ride horses as a kid, and the performance of the US equestrian team in the 1984 Olympics was a powerful inspiration to me. I remember being at a show once where Joe Fargis was a judge, or something, and I was sufficiently awestruck that you would have thought he was Michael Jackson. I stopped riding fifteen years ago, and honestly, I don’t think about it much, but I recently stumbled upon a video of that Olympic performance, and as I sat there watching Fargis and Touch of Class, I caught myself tearing up. I’m an old sap, no question, but there’s something to it: two athletes at the top of their game, one horse and one human, both doing what they clearly love to do.

Jess’s Teddie’s apple cake. I’d like a slice today.

Talk to you soon.