Hearts and Bones

pendergrast heart

No hard feelings.

If you’ve never had your heart broken, you should really try it sometime. A broken heart builds character, inculcates experience and is the best thing in the world if you like to binge endlessly on ice cream and cookies.

Here’s how to get one, in 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Expose yourself. Don’t hold anything back. Share your innermost thoughts, feelings and desires (the more neurotic, the better!) with someone equally sensitive, and don’t leave out any details. Tell them about all the times you felt most vulnerable (pro tip: everybody’s scared!) and don’t forget to share a lot of childhood memories because that shit is fucking killer.

Step 2: Shut up and listen. Listen to their stories. Listen to their jokes about siblings and complaints about the idiot they sit next to at work. Listen to the way they talk about their wonderful children and their not-so-wonderful parents, as well as their ex-holes and sundry friends. Listen to how the pitch of their voice changes when they share how they’ve been hurt in the past. Listen to their eyes. The slightly tricky part here is that you have to do all of this listening stuff with your heart.

Step 3: Tell the truth. Specifically about how great they are. Start off with how much you adore them because you don’t want to freak anyone out with the L word early on. Tell them how beautiful/smart/funny/sexy/cute/vulnerable/quirky/kind/adorable/honest/whatever else they are, and just keep telling them! Don’t worry, you really can’t say it too much because it comes straight from your heart and it’s almost impossible to shut that stupid motherfucker up. And it doesn’t matter if they don’t say these things back to you right away. Some people take more time expressing their feelings than others. It’s not always like it is in the movies (pro tip 2: watch a romantic movie together!) where two people fall head-over-heels in love before you’ve even finished your popcorn. Sometimes you have to wait for the closing credits.

Step 4: Open your eyes. This one is particularly important, so pay close attention. It’s about you seeing them for who they really are, and how that touches a place in your heart that has never been touched before, and how you can’t really explain it any more than that. And how it also frees you to be who you really are because you feel safe like you’re home and accepted by this person – you feel whole – and you know in your heart and bones that now that you’ve found this special someone, you will never let her go…

Step 5: Until she dumps you. One small piece of advice here: When it comes to love, never talk about how your luck is changing.

A Picture of Us

Caryn and Larry

Life is funny.

When you’re worried, particularly about your health, your friends will pretty much say the same things.

Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. 

As if they somehow know! Like all of a sudden, they’ve formed their own local chapter of the Psychic Friends Network.

It’s really such a sweet and caring gesture and I’m lucky enough to have great friends who fill my heart with hope and joy, and that’s not so easy when you’re as tall (read: needy) as I am.

Here’s the thing: when they say those kind and reassuring words, I sooooo want to believe them! It takes me out of my own head and places me in their arms and in those moments, I feel loved and protected. My mind will often wander to the times when I’ve had those feelings before — like when I was a little boy. And, now that I think of it, when I first got married.

And also, as it happens, last night with my ex-wife. I keep calling her my ex, but technically, she’s still my wife and non-technically, she’ll always be the mother of my children and the first person who I ever loved.

We had just left the lawyer’s office after finally closing on the sale of our house in Long Island and while Caryn was driving me back to the train station, I shared the news about my cancer scare. She immediately offered to help in any way that she could and I flashed back on her taking such good care of me the first time I had gone through the malignancy mill more than 20 years ago. And just like I had done back then, I began to cry.

I wasn’t even sure what for. Caryn and I had lived together for more than 30 years and have been through all of the fun shit people go through when they’re together for that length of time, and there we were in her car, like old times, and it just hit me how much we had loved each other and I wondered how the hell did it ever get all fucked up and twisted beyond repair? If you look up “Life is funny” in the irony dictionary, you’ll find a picture of us.

Caryn gently wiped away my tears, gave me a hug and in that moment, the world and all of our bullshit went away.

“Don’t worry, babe,” she said. “We’ll be fine. Everything will be okay.”

Bring the Pain

pendy heart

My foolish heart.

The people who I love know that I love them, even though I don’t always say the words.

I’ll sometimes say them in response to hearing someone say them to me, muttering one of those half-assed “I love you toos” or abbreviated “Love yous” but we all know that those don’t really count. They don’t really count for me because I don’t feel anything when I say it. My most recent girlfriend used to joke that I was dead inside. But really the exact opposite is true.

When I do say the three little words, I feel them so deeply that it hurts. It’s the good hurt. That usually brings tears to my eyes. So basically you know I really love you when I start crying.

This has mostly happened with my kids, and these days, mostly occurs when we say goodbye. Rob was visiting me the other day and one of the sweetest things about him has always been when he says, “I love you, Daddy.” He’s been saying it ever since he was a little boy, and maybe it’s because I’m not getting any younger, but when he says it now and I say it back, it feels less like father and son and more like two old friends — one who just happens to be crying like a little girl.

Maybe my reaction to “ILY” is so intense because I hardly ever heard it when I was growing up. My mother said it sparingly and my father, not at all.

My sister Patti says “I love you” all of the time and mostly I just repeat it back, but there have been many days, usually after listening to me whine about some crisis or another, that I’ve told her that I love her from the bottom of my heart, and my guess is that she can always hear the difference.

The truth is, I haven’t said “I love you” to all that many people. I’ve never said it to my two best friends, Tony and John, and yeah, I know, I know, it’s a guy thing, but still. I have said “I love you” to my ex-wife, but not nearly as much as a husband should. I usually waited for a birthday or anniversary or some other Hallmark occasion because it was easier to hide my feelings behind a Shoebox card.

I’ve also said it to a handful of other women in my life and it was never easy and I’ve always meant it and it hasn’t always been reciprocated, making it even more difficult to discern exactly why I was crying at the time.

We all know that love hurts, but I say — bring the pain.

Permanent Smiles

zach tat

Zach’s back.

Don’t be mad, Zach IMed, but I’m getting this tattooed on me.

He then sent a photo I took of him and Rob when they were maybe 13 and 14. Zach’s wearing an Arizona hoodie and Rob’s in an AND1 long-sleeved T-shirt and they’re both smiling so hard, but it’s not the usual cheesiness for the camera. I don’t remember what anyone said that day or why they look the way they look, but the picture captures a moment of pure joy and brotherly love. It’s one of those things that parents live for.

Why would I be mad? I texted back. I love it!!

Before Zach went back to school a few weeks ago, we were hanging out at my apartment one night and I was telling him all about my feng shui-ing and how Laura had pointed out that no one was smiling in any of the photos I had of them.

“These photos are for your own peace of mind and for when your sons come to visit,” Laura said. “If you change them, they’ll see themselves not looking sad, and this will help you all reconnect with happy moments.”

Well, Zach loved all of the new smiley-faced pics of he and Rob, and was obviously enamored with the one he had just texted me. And that just about kills me! Not just that Laura was right (again!). And not just that Zach chose that particular photo, but that he chose to have it with him forever. It’s such a deep expression of the way he feels about his brother and I know Rob feels the exact same way about Zach, and I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can make me feel any prouder of the both of them.

Which is not to say that it was always fun and games in our house. We all went through some pretty tough times for various reasons, and maybe that’s why this gesture of love is even sweeter. I remember talking with Zach in his room a few years ago when Rob was going through an especially rocky patch. “No matter what,” Zach said, “I’ll always have his back.”

Not to sound too gay about it, but Zach’s new tattoo has given my heart a permanent smile, and I needed to tell him that.

I’m glad you like it, he texted back. That makes me very happy!

A Kind of Heartbreaking Sense

Rynn Booher

Rynn Booher, Age 47.

There have been two deaths of friends in recent years that have completely devastated me. The first was on 9/11 when Bob Speisman died on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. This story is about the second.

About a year ago, I was on a second date with a woman who I’d only go out on a handful more dates with, and after a romantic dinner in the Village, we went to a party that two of her friends were throwing nearby. It was a beautiful summer evening and her friends owned a penthouse apartment with a roof deck, and everybody there was very chill. Now I’m not usually all that comfortable in this type of social situation, but for whatever reason (read: lots of wine), I was feeling no pain and actually enjoying myself.

I drunkenly roamed from one group of people (they all worked for Microsoft) to another (the requisite magazine folks) when I overheard a woman say something about Shelter Island.

“I have a good friend who has a place on Shelter Island,” I said, interrupting her conversation. “Her name is Rynn Williams!”

“You knew Rynn?” she asked.

No sooner were those words out of her mouth than I felt sick to my stomach. She gently explained that Rynn had committed suicide about two years ago. And that she had left behind three young children. And that she had led a complicated and tumultuous life.

The troubled person this woman was describing was nothing like the person I had known. Rynn and I worked together at a trade magazine for the children’s apparel business almost 25 years ago and we became fast friends. She was young, beautiful, sarcastic, and a budding poet. Need I say more? We just clicked in that way that some people do, as if we had known each other from another lifetime.

I remember going out for long lunches with her and sharing the gory details of our lives over Chinese food. I had just recovered from a bout of testicular cancer and she relentlessly made “ball” jokes that made me love her even more. And then she’d talk about how much she loved Stephen, who she would soon marry. We had our entire lives completely mapped out in front of us.

So much so that we wound up losing touch a few years afterward, and to be honest, I can’t even recall how or why, other than the usual way things like this seem to go. But I always assumed she was happy and doing well.

When I got home from the party that evening, I immediately googled Rynn to see if I could find more information about her death and clicked on a link to her obituary on the Times web site. The first thing that struck me was that she was 47 years old when she died. I also learned that she had become a fairly prominent poet and wrote a book that was well received. That was pretty much it.

Which led me to email Stephen, who (I had read in the obit), had since remarried and had taken their children to live with him and his wife. Stephen is a writer and it was easy to track him down. I knew I’d be intruding on his life and yet felt compelled to ask the obvious question: what happened?

The next day, I received the following email:

Hi Larry,

I felt a shock to get your letter. I’m on vacation in Vermont, a short weekend with my wife away from our kids. Woke up and read this and started crying.

Rynn committed suicide two years ago. She took a variety of pills in the bathtub of her home in Windsor Terrace. I have puzzled over her death ever since. All I know is that Rynn was deeply troubled. She had various demons eating at her — addictions, primarily and an eating disorder that had subsided when we married but returned and plagued her all these years.

She and I had three children together, Bolivia, Violet and Beckett, and when Beck was two she fell in love with someone and we divorced (of course, there was more to the divorce than just another person in the relationship — we weren’t getting along). After that we split custody of the kids, week by week, and both moved to Bklyn. She had a succession of partners, and apartments, and in the end was in a nice house her mother bought for her, with two dogs.

Her body was found July 15, 2009. The kids live with me and my wife and my stepdaughter in Carroll Gardens. We have a good home for them (the dogs came too), but of course, this has been a devastating experience for all of us. We are close with Rynn’s parents.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

My best,


I thanked Stephen for his quick and thoughtful reply and suggested that maybe we could get together for a beer sometime, and the beer turned into coffee and sometime became almost a year later – this morning.

Even though it had been decades since we last met, we both instantly recognized each other and fell into an easygoing conversation. Stephen is far more eloquent than I will ever be, and he graciously launched into the details of Rynn’s death. In fact, he said that I was the second person this week he had gotten together with to talk about it.

I told him how much I had loved and adored Rynn and he remembered us being good friends. “You knew her at her best,” he said, while sipping coffee. But just like the woman at the party, he went on to describe her eventual unraveling.

The thing that I couldn’t get my head around about Rynn’s suicide – and the thing that made me seek out Stephen in the first place – was that she had left behind three young children. No matter how bad things were, I just couldn’t imagine how she could do that to them. But after hearing Stephen talk about her years of struggle with various forms of mental illness, I got my answer. It all made a kind of heartbreaking sense.

After catching up on the rest of our lives (read: our respective divorces) and sharing photos of our children, we somehow got onto the subject of faith. He told me that he has been meditating for years and that that has helped him find some spiritual peace. I told him that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

“All you have to do is look,” he said, “and you’ll find it.”

Why Horoscopes Are Incredibly Awesome


Larry’s an Aries.

My ex-girlfriend used to send me a love horoscope (I’m an Aries) every now and then. They always seemed so remarkably accurate that I used to think she actually wrote them, and maybe in the lame-ass movie version of this blog she will.

This is what it said the other day:

The atmosphere is one of joy and bonhomie today, thanks to the planetary configuration. It would be a good plan to spend the day out with your loved one, or enjoying yourself with other friends. The atmosphere is just too good to be alone, and is a wonderful time for a party or other celebration. The music and wine may flow, but you’ll find a way to cope.

As I’ve noted before, the universe works in funny ways, and by funny I mean sometimes incredibly awesome. Even before I read the horoscope, I had made plans to go to the beach this past weekend with my ex. We’re still friends (but alas, without benefits) and we still like to occasionally hang out and it was a beautiful day and she has a car, so we thought it would be fun to go swimming one last time before the end of the summer.

We usually go to Brighton Beach because it’s easy to get there from where I live, relatively quiet, and we like making fun of the fat old Russian dudes in Speedos. When we turned on to Coney Island Avenue to look for a parking spot, however, we ran smack into a street fair. Cops were frantically redirecting traffic, and we were forced into playing the familiar New York City parking circle game, going round and round and round and getting nowhere. We did this for almost an hour until we both realized that the universe was telling us something else.

A quick U-turn, flooring the gas pedal, and 15 minutes later, we were back in my apartment unexpectedly enjoying the benefits of our friendship.

Carlat Luck


Good lick.

I was taking Zach back to school in Tampa a few days ago and as we were waiting to board our flight, I showed him this blog.

“That’s cool,” he said, glancing at it for a microsecond while checking Facebook on his iPhone.

“You know what?” I asked. “How about I interview you for it?”

“Cool,” he said, while texting with his girlfriend.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this question before,” I began, “which is really incredible and I have no idea what you’re gonna answer.”

“Nobody told me there was gonna be a test,” he cracked. “Okay, shoot.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“I don’t know if I’d call him God or anything,” he answered. “But yeah, I believe that there’s something bigger than us.”

“That’s interesting because you know your mom and I don’t believe, which is why we never forced Hebrew school on you,” I explained. “Why do you believe?”

“I don’t know, I just kinda do. Never really thought about it and can’t really explain it. It’s like I feel that we all need to believe in something, you know?” he said, warming to the subject. “It’s kinda nice knowing you have something to hold on to when times are shitty, and when you can’t always look to the people around you for help, that’s when you can turn to whatever it is you believe in.”

As he was talking, I couldn’t help but think that even though I’m somewhere between agnostic and atheist, Zach’s pretty much the best evidence I’ve ever seen of God’s existence.

“I definitely believe in karma, though,” he continued. “I think if you’re a good person, good shit will happen to you. My friends call it Carlat luck.”

“Gimme some examples.”

“Well, I remember going to Dairy Queen this one time and I forgot my wallet and told them that it was my birthday, and they gave me a free sundae. And like whenever I go to a concert, I somehow always manage to make my way to the front row,” he said. “And my roommate Matt says that it doesn’t make a difference who our new roommate will be and how he’ll definitely be cool ’cause I have Carlat luck.”

I’ve had Carlat luck too, I thought. My father did two stints in prison, my mother died from breast cancer when she was 51, I had testicular cancer when I was in my early thirties, I got divorced when I found out that my wife was having an affair…when it comes to luck, I’m right up there with Lou Gehrig.

Zach has a tattoo on his right shoulder that says “The World Is Yours” (from the Nas song), and underneath it is an illustration of a hand gripping the globe.

“Your tat really says it all, dude,” I told him.

“I know, right?”

“You really are a lucky guy.”

Zach smiled. “Oh”, he said, “and I also have a friendly face.”

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