Snow Cream! Recipe by Brandon

When life gives you snow...

1/2 cup cream 4 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 egg 6 cups snow 2 cups snow (to keep aside)

Optional: 3/4 cup shredded coconut 1/2 cup chopped walnuts Dash of cinnamon 1 cup dark chocolate chips 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or whatever other treats your heart desires)

Mix cream, sugar, vanilla and egg. Stir into main bowl of snow. Add extra snow if consistency isn't quite thick enough; it varies depending on the snow's character. (Light, fluffy and fresh is best, but most any is fine.) Mix! All goodies optional. Add whatever you like & lots of it.

Fall Birds by Brandon

Overheard Wisdom by Brandon

From a conversation between two old acquaintances seeing one another at a restaurant.

Elderly woman: You've got one leg in heaven.

Elderly man: But the other leg is so heavy!

Photo: A jeepney near Dagupan City, Philippines. (Brandon Keim/Flickr)

A Parrot Nests in Brooklyn by Brandon

Escaped from an ornithologists' crate that fell to the tarmac at JFK, refugees from pet owners, released by a guerilla naturalist in Greenwood Cemetery: Whatever their origins, monk parrots have settled in Brooklyn, favoring utility pole transformers for building their Smart Car-sized, hive-shaped colonial nests, which are unexpectedly tolerated by Con Edison, the city's electricity company. Locals hold the birds in fond esteem, perhaps because they're loud, colorful and scratch out precarious livings on the fringes of institutional power; they are, in short, the perfect symbol for this borough of immigrants.

Photo: Brandon Keim

Good-Bye and Thank You, Mr. Bradbury by Brandon

"Well, what do you make of it?"

A small boy, stunned by the circus-poster effect of the old man's attire, blinked, in need of nudging. The old man nudged:

"My shirt, boy! What do you see!?"

"Horses!" the child blurted, at last. "Dancing horses!"

"Bravo!" The doctor beamed, patted him, and strode on. "And you, sir?"

A young man, quite taken with the forthrightness of this invader from some summer world, said:

"Why … clouds, of course."

"Cumulus or nimbus?"

"Er … not storm clouds, no, no. Fleecy, sheep clouds."

"Well done!"

The psychiatrist plunged on.


"Surfers!" A teen-age girl stared. "They're the waves, big ones. Surfboards. Super!"

"And so it went, on down the length of the bus and as the great man progressed a few scraps and titters of laughter sprang up, then, grown infectious, turned to roars of hilarity. By now a dozen passengers had heard the first repsonses and so fell in with the game. This woman saw skyscrapers! The doctor scowled at her suspiciously. The doctor winked. That man saw crossword puzzles. The doctor shook his hand. This child found zebras all optical illusion on an African wild. The doctor slapped the animals and made them jump! This old woman saw vague Adams and misty Eves being driven from half-seen Gardens. The doctor scooched in on the seat with her awhile; they talked in fierce whispered elations, then up he jumped and forged on. Had the old woman seen an eviction? This young one saw the couple invited back in!

Dogs, lightnings, cats, cars, mushroom clouds, man-eating tiger lilies!

Each person, each response, brought greater outcries. We found ourselves all laughing together. This fine old man was a happening of nature, a caprice, God's rambunctious will, sewing all our separateness up in one.

Elephants! Elevators! Alarums! Dooms!

When first he had bounded aboard we had wanted naught of each other. But now like an immense snowfall which we must gossip on or an electrical failure that blacked out two million homes and so thrown us all together in communal chat, laugh, guffaw, we felt the tears clean up our souls even as they cleaned down our cheeks.

Each answer seemed funnier than the previous, and no one shouted louder his great torments of laughter than this grand tall and marvelous physician who asked for, got, and cured us of our hairballs on the spot. Whales. Kelp. Grass meadows. Lost cities. Beauteous women. He paused. He wheeled. He sat. He rose. He flapped his wildly colored shirt, until at last he towered before me and said:

"Sir, what do you find?"

"Why, Dr. Brokaw, of course!"

— Ray Bradbury, "The Man in the Rorschach Shirt"

Photo: Svennevenn/Flickr

Marilynne Robinson, Subway Ride, Lesson by Brandon

In the opening essay of When I Was a Child I Wrote Books, Marilynne Robinson writes of the miraculous improbability that is every human being: each mind containing more neurons than stars in our universe, arranged in patterns complicated beyond our reckoning, loving and hurting and thinking, floating through a vast vacuum gulf; if from a certain scale even a chair would look like a cloud of energy, what might each of us appear to be....

I'd been trying consciously to keep this in mind, to remind myself (lovely how the word remains ingrained, linguistically guarded from decades of neuroscientific preference for brain) each time I found myself angry or dismissive: How can so-and-so, such-and-such, be so stupid, corrupt, mean, thoughtless? Squint on the inside, see them for a moment as a cloud of light. An effective routine, but easy to forget, and when I stepped into the subway on my way uptown I saw the wool army blanket pile, a sneaker poking out one end, garbage-bagged belongings, a slumbering twitch, smelled it/him, and chose a seat from which vantage he'd be hidden.

Above him was one of those Poetry in Motion subway posters. "Graduation," by Dorothea Tanning:

He told us, with the years, you will come to love the world. And we sat there with our souls in our laps, and comforted them.

Forty-five minutes later, a few minutes late for dinner, I walked fast toward the 72nd street B/C station exit. I passed a boy, maybe twelve years old, black, who called to me and matched my pace and asked how he could get on the 4/5 train. A cloud of suspicion: Maybe he was selling something, thinking of stealing something? Not breaking stride, I told him that he'd have to catch a train back downtown -- to 59th, I thought, I wasn't sure, I could have checked my iPhone subway map but that would have meant stopping -- then ride the E across town to 51st, then take the 4/5 from there. His face fell, he looked as though he were halfway to tears, and then I was up the stairs and on the street, thinking what an asshole I was.

At dinner I checked the phone and realized I'd given him the wrong station. He needed to transfer at 50th, not 59th.

Dinner, wonderful company, movie -- about Moslem immigrants risking themselves to save Jews in occupied Vichy France -- back downtown on the subway. Waiting for the G train at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, a homeless man walking up the platform, asking for money. No singles in my wallet, I shake my head when he passes. On the train, headphones on, I look up and he's passing through the car. This time, finally, I feel in my pocket, find two quarters and hand them over. From no perspective at that moment would I appear as a cloud of light.

Image: Man sleeping on the subway.