About This Site
I'VE BEEN LUCKY to earn my living writing and editing reports, papers, articles, and presentations about science and technology. But like most writers, I also wanted to write about subjects closer to my heart. In 1992, when I was 36, no subject more urgently cried for my talents than the growing trend for Jewish singles to defer marriage until their thirties...if at all.
My song parodies, written and performed for weddings and retirements, had been well-received. So had my parodies exposing the challenges and contradictions of Orthodox Jewish dating. Indeed, friends were urging me to write a full-scale musical play.
Though my mother was a playwright and local lyricist at her Jewish Center, in 1992 I had no experience writing plays. But I knew I could learn by reading "how to" books. After all, that's how William F. Buckley had learned to write novels. As luck would have it, the publisher was about to reprint 30 copies of Aaron Frankel's 1977 textbook Writing the Broadway Musical. I pre-ordered a copy. Once it arrived, I was on my way.
And so at 36 I began writing the lyrics, script ("book"), and tunes for my first musical play, Marriage At Work.
Five years later, I had a script and a cast album, complete with orchestra. Then came the hard work: Moving the play from page to stage. To promote a large musical, you need energy and time. For me, now 41 and remarried with two new children, both resources were in short supply.
And so, with a heavy heart, I admitted my defeat in musical theater. All along, it had been a huge gamble, one with incalculable opportunity cost. Never again, I decided, would I invest so many hours in such a high-risk project. Instead, I began to write smaller works, works that I could easily share: personal essays, none longer than 1100 words...just enough words to fill a letter-size sheet of paper. To be sure, some topics begged for a longer form. But aside from my father's eulogy ("The Accidental Mensch"), each remained no longer than one printed page. The discipline, I reasoned, would force me to evoke the most feeling from each image, each phrase, each word.
I called my series of essays Connections, for two reasons. First, each would retell a close encounter, a moment of intimacy, between a stranger and me. Second, each encounter would suggest other connections to an earlier encounter, or to a popular song or film. This is how I looked when I wrote them, more or less—that is, when I had more hair, less weight.
For the first few months, I believed I could write entirely about these intimate encounters. But even for an extrovert, ordinary life offers only so many extraordinary moments, especially when one drives to work, cocooned from the throng. Moreover, I began to find fertile material in the familiar: family life, relationships, values, and ethics.
Between 1998 and 2002, I wrote 35 Connections essays. A 36th was folded in from a newspaper column I had written in 1991. Fewer than a third of the essays had been published when Essay 37 was completed in early 2003. Called "Rail Ties," it urged readers to connect with strangers on a train or a bus.
"Rail Ties" would be my final essay. Connecting with fellow travelers, I knew, deserved a more ambitious treatment. And so, in 2003, I set aside my essayist's pen, began commuting to a new job by rail, and embarked on a five-year odyssey that would culminate in my second musical, Tracks.
If you're curious about my musicals, you can meet their characters, read their plot summaries, and sample their songs at marriageatwork.com and tracksthemusical.com. To sample my technical writing and science writing, you can log in to LinkedIn and check out my profile. At this site, you can read my personal essays. Soon enough, you'll also be able to hear or watch my song parodies. and read some of my other short creative works of mine, including science articles. With any luck, some of them will endure after I'm gone.
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.