Top 5 with Dan Passamaneck

by Susan Henderson on January 23, 2008

Tell me 5 things you notice today.

My guest today, Dan Passamaneck, is going to take a slightly different angle on this question and will give his five reasons why it’s important to notice what’s going on around you. If you want to add to his list, feel free.


1. It’s interesting. Noticing things helps me through life’s boring moments. Every so often I’m stuck killing time. I may be commuting, on a layover, whatever – I’m just waiting for the next official “thing.” But if there are people around me doing pretty much the same as I am, somebody typically gets into an argument or has a strange quirk or is just somehow provocative. It’s fun to watch these people. It helps me pass the time. I see things all the time like this that I could never have imagined on my own; other things happen that are so incredibly hackneyed that I’m hesitant to write about them for fear of coming off as unimaginative. I also think that attentiveness makes my writing more interesting to read. I’m more confident as a writer when I’ve seen what I’m talking about with my own eyes. That confidence supports a more vigorous narrative, which makes for more interesting reading. At the same time, my world expands immeasurably when I keep my eyes open, and that in turn makes my writing richer and more varied. Finally, writing as clearly as I can about my day-to-day experiences life helps make it possible to share them with others as well. These events become part of another person’s life. Honestly, I think that’s pretty interesting all on its own.

2. It’s inspirational. What happens out on the streets is poetry to me. Yes, most of it is pretty awful poetry, but some of it actually turns out to be very moving. I’m regularly seeing things that make me feel compelled to start writing immediately, just so I don’t forget the details. Phrases and figures of speech come to my mind that have never occurred to me before, because I’m seeing things I’ve never seen and they demand an ongoing expansion of my descriptive faculties. I’m inspired thematically by the sheer range and intensity of things that happen all around me, and I’m inspired by the technical challenge of reducing these experiences in all their fullness to a static written format. The exercise of attentiveness has been inspirational for me on a personal level, too. All kinds of things I’ve noticed have moved me very deeply – both in positive ways, and very much otherwise. But they aroused something within me, encapsulating some shade of truth with such eloquence that writing about them almost felt like a spiritual act. When I’m writing like that, the words seem to write themselves. This is the most powerful form of artistic inspiration I have experienced.

3. It improves my writing. I consider this to be true both in terms of mechanics and in terms of resonance. On a mechanical level, training myself to notice things has (big surprise) sensitized me to new things to write about, coaxing me out of comfort zones and into areas that otherwise would not have emerged in my work. I don’t have to make things up, or when I do, they’re made up out of something that had been stuck on the tip of my tongue until I’d come back to it a dozen or more times. That evolving appreciation for the story makes the process of writing more enjoyable and more fulfilling for me. Events seem more meaningful and I find more to say about them. To me, this feels like better writing. I guess I’m open to alternate viewpoints on that one.

4. It’s just handy. Putting aside the almost tangible benefits that I derive from noticing things as a writer, it’s a useful skill to have in general. I can be really absent-minded sometimes, and noticing some random detail can help me later on to remember something of critical importance, like where the car is parked or how to get home after a party. This lets me come off looking like a hero, even if only on a very modest scale. Names, recipes, directions, the news… there’s just so much out there to pay attention to, even excluding all the things I might want eventually to write about. People are flattered if you notice what they’ve got on their office walls or on their desks. People are appreciative when you draw their attention to the special tray of good pastries hiding behind the counter at the coffee shop. The world is full of things worth noticing, large and small, for both practical and frivolous reasons. When I keep my eyes open I almost always see something that I’m glad, eventually, that I noticed.

5. It helps me write more meaningfully. I care about my impact on the planet, and what my country is doing around the world, and the significance of my work, and also about my next door neighbors and the stranger in line behind me at the post office. All these relationships ultimately connect to each other. When I’m able to keep them all in view and to gauge my own actions accordingly, I feel that I’m doing my best as a person and (if I’m writing at the time) as a writer. Noticing things, and then working them over until I’ve written them up properly, helps me to identify big themes in small events. That’s a good way for me to remain mindful of whatever is really going on around me, and incorporate it into my life as a whole and into my writing in particular. If I do it right, this holistic connection I sense between the small story and the big picture comes through to the reader and becomes something the reader can share with me – which is itself yet another connection, overlaid upon all the rest. I consider this to be “meaningful” writing: writing that says something sufficiently real to forge a relationship with the author and a change in the reader. Affecting these changes in the reader is one of my chief goals as an author. To these ends, I find that noticing isn’t just useful – it’s indispensable. Lucky for me, it’s become such an ingrained habit that I couldn’t give up if I had to. It’s too much fun and I get too much out of it. I like keeping my sensors wide open. It does take a bit of energy, but I find it’s really worth it.



DANIEL PASSAMANECK is a California mensch. Born at the lull between the Baby Boom and Generation X, he grew up in the San Fernando Valley as the son of a professor of talmud and a children’s librarian. He started writing poems and jokes in the second grade and has been using words as playground and therapy ever since. He received a BA from Penn in communications behavior, took a year off as an intern for Knots Landing, and then attended Loyola Law School in Los Angeles for his JD. He then moved to San Francisco and practiced civil litigation for seven years before parting ways with the legal profession, citing unreconcilable differences. He transitioned to fundraising for a local animal shelter, and then moved to a position administering grant programs for the State Bar. “It’s a good gig. I give away money and everybody has to be nice to me.” Writing for his own gratification, he started blogging as an experiment and now has been posting essays, stories, recipes, poems, photographs and assorted fluff to his site, The Chucklehut, since 2002. A selection of these essays – true stories from public transit, the streets, and the stores – is being polished up as an anthology, so if you know a publisher who wants to get in on the ground floor, drop him a line. Dan lives within earshot of the San Francisco Bay foghorns with his wife Kelly, who is a guide dog trainer and instructor, and also with their son Zachary, who is unbearably cute.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

chuckles January 23, 2008 at 1:47 am

You’ve got me all pumped up so here’s a quintet to start the ball rolling:

* A guy on the bus wearing a fur coat, black/white striped dress, converse sneakers and nail polish – black on one hand, white on the other – tapping along to a song in his head and grinning maniacally

* A woman walking and talking with a friend, exclaiming incredulously: “You don’t *salsa* to *lounge music!*

* My breath steaming as I walked outside on this chilly day, and how good it felt to inhale that cold air

* A woman on her hands and knees, reaching through the grate of a medical marijuana dispensary that was closed for the night, rooting through the ashtray outside their front door for butts she could still smoke

* The sound of my son in his bed dropping into sleep as I read a favorite book to him


Nathalie January 23, 2008 at 4:42 am

And this is was means to be alive (otherwise you’re just passing through).

The full moon in a clear crisp sky (the sky has an indigo washed silk feel).
The deeper holes in one of the streets I use to go to work have been mended !
A few of the cats at work sleeping in a lump on top of my car’s bonnet.
Just a faint trace of mimosa smell in the air (and yet they are not in bloom – they should be in about a month)
The texture of cane sugar inside the foam of my cappuccino (I get that everyday. I think its great)


EllenMeister January 23, 2008 at 6:01 am

Right now all I notice is how much I enjoyed clicking between Dan’s 5 Reasons It’s Important to Notice and The Chucklehut, which is now an official bookmarked site on my computer.

I’ll try hard to notice 5 things a bit later, when the lights are on the caffeine has kicked in.

Time to wake the children …


SusanHenderson January 23, 2008 at 8:34 am

Isn’t Dan so lovely?

I’m going to have to come back to answer, too, because I’m rushing around too much to notice anything. That is something I should notice, I think.

Quick announcement: Kim Brittingham will be on NPR’s “The Bryant Park Project” today (Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 7:30 AM EST) – hmm, which I’m realizing just now has already passed. Okay, so I know Alison Stewart interviewed Kim about her essay, “Fat is Contagious,” which is right here at Fresh Yarn:

Kim will also be reading “Fat is Contagious” for the first time ever to a live audience at “Paper Dolls: Live Lady Essayists” on Saturday, February 16, 2008 at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. And guess what? I’m reading with her! For more info, see

As you NPR junkies all know, interviews go online about a day after they air, so you should be able to catch Kim here:

Oh, hey! I just went to that website, and guess what? They’re talking about the six word memoir I’m in. Okay, I will try to slow down (ha!) and notice things. Good to see your top 5 lists so far – really beautiful!


Aurelio January 23, 2008 at 9:50 am

Thanks for sharing today, Dan.

What we notice and how it informs our writing is an interesting topic I’ve given a lot of thought to lately, because I keep coming across people and situations that no one would believe if I actually wrote them down. I could hear the reader go, “That would never happen,” or “No one would say that.” Sometimes truth is too strange for fiction. I suppose the balance is to end up with something plausible enough for others to relate to and unusual enough to hold their interest.

Okay, 5 things I notice right this second:

1. There is a note on my desk with Chuck’s writing on it, and, weirdly, our writing is so similar sometimes I don’t know if I wrote something or he did. We sound the same on the phone too, and people are always mistaking us for each other. We don’t look anything like each other though. I think this could be used in a story somehow.

2. The tiny little icon pix next to the other comments below mine make me think of little people you could keep in a shoebox as pets.

3. I have a cold this week. There are boxes of tissues in every room evenly spaced like the old California Mission system, so I can make it to one or the other box before I sneeze.

4. My last drop of coffee just decided to snake from the bottom of my cup along the side of it and hit my cheek instead of going in my mouth.

5. A stickynote on my desk reads, “pomade.” I was trying to remember the word the other day and it finally came to me, so now I have to find and replace Brylcreem with pomade in my manuscript.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 23, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Dan. I love everything you said here. I think most writers are observant to details, but what you’ve described her is a step beyond. Some of us are noticers and we are driven to tell people what we notice. I will tell you about five things I noticed yesterday during my big day in Beverly Hills:

1) On the freeway in a California drizzle, locked in bumper-to-bumper traffice, I looked outside my left window to K-rail and saw the word “Pleeze” graffitied in black paint. If I hadn’t been listening to the beautiful audio version of Kiran Desai’s THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS, I would have drifted off into a story. Instead, I filed it away for the future.

2) A meeting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel gave ample opportunity for noticing. One man in our group acted as if he were uncomfortable, stood outside the cocktail reception to the second floor overlook of the lobby. I sidled up to him and asked if he’d seen anyone famous or interesting yet. He smiled, then told me about seeing Nanny 911 and said she looked much thinner in person than on her TV show. Funny, I said, ususally the camera adds weight, not takes it off. We laughed together. He wound up sitting at my table for lunch.

3) The speaker at our meeting was not very welcoming or friendly when he arrived–he didn’t even smile when I greeted him. I chalked it up to him being preoccupied with this upcoming presentation. He transformed once he got on the floor with this lavalier. When he was done, he did his best to greet attendees, but I could tell it was an effort for him.

4) Driving down Wilshire Boulevard I got a tickle out of a storefront for a Dr. Tattoff. Specialty? Laser tattoo removal. I called my husby just to laugh, as I’ve been saying for about five years now that tattoo removal will be big business in about 10 years.

5) My husby had the fireplace going, candles lit, a glass of red wine in my crystal stem, and smooth jazz playing in the house when I finally returned from my outing in the big city. My husband ROCKS!


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 23, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Oh, to think I’m one of your shoebox pets, playing with all my shoebox friends from LItPark. How FUN!


Lac January 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm

what you are saying here sounds like “Emotional Intelligence” (ie. self-awareness and social awareness) made popular by psychologist/writer Daniel Goleman. Have you heard of him or the concept?


lance_reynald January 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm

usually upon the first or second time I meet a person something slips out, some detail or nuance about them they had no idea would be noticed. A parlour trick I think most writers do subconsciously. A craft built on the nuanced details.

so why not.
1) one of my roomies made the coffee this morning. Viscosity is a bit off. It is still strong as we in the PNW like it, but I can taste the water in it.
2) cold snap has hit. I took a walk around the block to stretch my legs and clear my head. I needed gloves, but forgot them. the wind has a cutting quality to it, my Pendelton doing a fine job on my torso but the hands need gloves. I like gloves as a rule, I just don’t like needing them.
3) there is a small terrier that often seems at odds with the world. for three days now he’s curled in my lap his head resting in the bend of my right arm as I type away on my laptop. He seems pretty happy with the writers life. Me too.
4) I’ve discovered these amazing almonds at trader joes. I can’t seem to get enough of them, I’ve made it a discipline to ration myself on them. They’re covered in dark chocolate and dusted with a mixture of seasalt and turbinado sugar. I can’t even begin to express how perfect that balance is. I’m awestruck by the amazing juxtaposition of flavours and textures, fascinated by the culinary chemistry at work.
5) my partner, though far away right now, always manages to fill my heart daily. A bond so strong that even in absence I can feel lips on the back of my neck and hands clasped over my belly when I do something as simple as toasting a muffin for breakfast. Every moment of life improved by that connection. Of all the subtle details at play in the day to day; it’s that one that is both new and familiar, and the most vivid beauty to observe each and every day. I’m a lucky guy there.


Aimee January 23, 2008 at 2:03 pm

5 things I noticed today:
1. My son wakes up looking like a Golden Girl because he has naturally wavy hair and it gets puffy and round when he sleeps.
2. A light dusting of snow came down between 2 am and 8 am. It looked like fog when I looked through my windshield before I turned the wipers on.
3. A pint of Bells Hopslam beer has a beautiful cloudy amber color in bar lights and tastes faintly like pineapple juice. (Also it has 10% alcohol so 1 pint is enough.)
4. My oldest son has a hopeful optimistic face in the morning while my youngest (the Golden Girl) has a perfect pout.
5. The small town in which I live looks like time stopped in the 1950’s. I’m always surprised when I don’t see a McDonalds or any chain anything for that matter. I’ve noticed it each morning since I moved here. And my next thought is a bit of fear that it will change.


chuckles January 23, 2008 at 2:20 pm

that is gorgeous stuff. I am a sucker for the TJ’s honey-sesame almonds, except that I treat the 12-ounce bag as a single serving and then ruefully swear off the little bastards for the next eight months, only to succumb to them again in exactly the same way.

I think the richest veins for observation are those with which we are most familiar. My daily bus ride, my time with my son, the constants in my life that always seem to change – it’s like looking at a campfire, or the ocean, never changing, never quite the same.


Brad January 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Some of the best stuff I’ve read, and one of the reasons I got into writing (in any form) is because of Dan. He’s good people, and a very good writer. With my limited knowledge of the man, I still feel I have a good one-word description for him, which is not negative in my view. Verbose.


chuckles January 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I hate to admit it but I’ve only barely heard of him, and the concept has been presented to me in the most watered-down form. I am incessantly stumbling onto brilliant writings and writers that make me say, “dang, if I’d read that ten years ago, I’d have saved so much time floundering around to come up with my own, underdeveloped version.” I’ll try to do a little web research into this and become better informed, but if you have some golden nuggets to share, I’d love to hear from you.


Kimberly January 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Noticings from the Tampa Airport:

The decadence of free wi-fi (Starbucks/T-mobile – Je vous deteste!)
The odd smell of plastic hog-dogs (I almost corrected my spelling, but then though the subconscious typo was too funny!) and the magnetic power is has over me
The dull pounding headache of a tequila hangover
The unbelieveably delicious taste of non-diet coca cola from a glass bottle
The lack of people waiting to head North vs the number of people who headed South on Saturday and the fact that 95% of us are currently on the cell phone and/or a computer using the aforementioned free wi-fi


Aurelio January 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm

I love the hot candied walnuts from TJ’s. Chop some up and throw them on a salad and you’ll be in heaven.


Aurelio January 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

“chuckles” has the biggest head so he gets to be the leader.


Aurelio January 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm

A heads-up for you: I was at Costco, and they are now selling Coca Cola from Mexico – significantly tastier because they use cane sugar instead of corn sweetener. They were in the old-style bottles too!


Lac January 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

There’s brain science involved that I don’t know where to begin. I see the concept having roots from old Buddhist teaching that Goleman have filtered and made accessible to western readers. He does a good job, being buddhist himself. Practicing this concept, on the other hand, saved my life (I’ll spare you the details). The model breaks down to four parts: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. What you do in these four areas determines your “EQ”, or emotional quotient (like that of IQ). It’s fascinating stuff. Hope you get a chance to check it out. It falls in line, somewhat, with your insights about photography.


lance_reynald January 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm

mexican Coca-Cola in glass is like one of the best things ever.
needs a lemon or a lime wedge to snap the sweetness, but it’s all good.
throw in some fish tacos from a stand in San Diego or Baja…

oh….you just threw me right into blissed out daydreaming!!


Tara January 23, 2008 at 5:45 pm

6. Because it is wonderful to relish a given moment , no matter how ordinary it seems, since things may never be the same again. There are so many things that impact how we view our surroundings, from the changing pathways of our neurons firing in our brains to our own emotional and mental experiences that shape our thoughts every day. It all effects what we notice, how we notice, how we are noticed, etc. At any given moment, we see things through our own constructed lens that can and probably will be altered. Sometimes that means seeing things differently than we had before, or noticing things we never saw, or seeing things in more absolute terms than prior. The things our there in the world which we perceive are also un flux, no matter how static or lifeless they may seem. The change may be miniscule one day and huge the next. I guess we never really know how it all is going to shape up tomorrow. So, each day is an opportunity to notice a particular time, place, moment and all that exists within it. All the better with folks like Dan who take the time to capture those moments in writing. What a gift!


Kylie January 23, 2008 at 6:02 pm

freakin’ love Dr. TATTOFF! Laser Tattoo Removal is hot…


Aurelio January 23, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Oops, I forgot about Lance, but he only has half a head, poor guy. Still, half a Lance-head is bigger than the rest, so he’s the leader. Rules are rules. Play gently, my little shoebox friends.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

I can almost see that terrier–I’m imagining a Yorkie?–snuggled in your lap as you write. What a comfort our non-human friends can be.


chuckles January 23, 2008 at 7:42 pm

art imitates reality… I need a special crutch to keep my outsized noggin from tumbling to the growto the ground sometimes. I make up for it by having a reciprocally undersized body.


lance_reynald January 23, 2008 at 7:52 pm

rat terrier actually, something of a mini Jack Russell style ball of madness.
also known as Teddy-terriers as they were favoured by Teddy Roosevelt.
I think Audrey Hepburn had a few as well…like Jacks but their ears stick up.
they’re nuts.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 23, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Ah ha! I know the breed. I have a Jack and he’s amazing. Smartest dog I’ve ever known. He speaks catanese.


Kimberly January 23, 2008 at 8:55 pm

OK – with all of this West-Coast, So-Cal Trader Joe’s, fish tacos and Mexican Coke taunting, I may have to hop the train down to Union Square (8 stops, change trains, 3 stops) and wait in line to get into the Trader Joe’s (yes, seriously, they limit the number of shoppers at any one time here in the city so it doesn’t get TOO terribly over crowded…) just so I can get my Two Buck Chuck and TJ goodie goodness RIGHT NOW!!!!


Nathalie January 24, 2008 at 1:58 am

The idea to have to wait in line to get into what I would assume is still a fairly large shop is too weird! Here they only do this in some of the chic designer shops at sales time (and you can check out who is desperate enough to queue in order to get their cheaper fix of Versace).


SusanHenderson January 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

1. the house smells of onions and mushrooms because my youngest son, who loves to cook, just fried them up with pork and put them in the crockpot
2. there’s the sound of laughter and pool balls cracking in the basement. Mr. H and Green-Hand are having a game before he goes to school
3. feeling confident, finally, that I might nail this book revision
4. can hear Steve, the greyhound, racing in the yard, probably going 30mph
5. warming my knuckles on my cheeks and realize I like the feeling of the cold spreading thru my face.

(Why do I suddenly have this craving for diet Coke when I hate soda and saccharine?)


Kimberly January 24, 2008 at 10:47 am

It is indeed bizarre, but only if you knew how amazing the grocery store, Trader Joe’s is. A very unique market with loads of interesting snacks and inexpensive wine (to which some have deigned a religious experience). In order to keep things from becoming zoo-like, they have a limit on the number of shoppers. So you wait along 14th street, in the freezing cold, while they have people walk up and down the lines handing out cookie samples while you wait (mmm… gingeroos). It’s rather delightful, actually. Very in theme with their whole laid-back, hippie style shopping atmosphere – and very UN-NYC.

I’m SO going down there today. 🙂


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 24, 2008 at 12:01 pm

I am so glad I live out here in Hooterville, because I NEVER have to wait in line to get into my TJs. Just the other day I discovered the most piquant sundried tomato and habinero tortillas.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Sue, try the new Diet Coke with Splenda (there’s a Splenda logo on the package). I allow myself one a day. It’s the closest thing to The Real Thing.


billie January 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm

1. The sun is coming out, which means the damp shavings for horse stalls that were delivered this morning have a shot at drying out some!

2. Chase, the Corgi lying on the green and white striped cushion in the corner of my little garret, is breathing in a slow and regular rhythm that I know means he’s pretty soundly asleep.

3. The fact that my forearms are getting chilly means I need to go downstairs and feed the woodstove.

4. Reading Susan’s craving for a diet Coke is making me have one too even though I don’t drink diet Cokes!

5. My reading pile is nice and big and for some reason, seeing those two tall stacks right here by my chair is a tremendous comfort.


Juliet January 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I have enjoyed this interview immensely. I’ve long been accused of noticing too much, and often wonder what boring inner lives others lead. Your words here remind me, and all of us, how rich and bountiful life is, if only our eyes are cleared to see it.
I’ll add your blog to my list and check it out.

Five things…
(only five?)

1. The way my son’s body is fast growing into a man, and yet, when he sleeps, his eyelashes splay across his cheeks as they did when he was an infant.
2. The old woman across the street has new glasses.
3. The man who slowed to let her cross the street, and waited to see her fully across.
4. How the frost had painted my kitchen windows richly.
5. The thick goodness of the words “I love you” crossing my lips.


janelle January 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

watching the the rain from 3 floors up flooding the street below and how the SUVs plow through it leaving the smaller cars who are going through so gingerly so as not to splash the people walking by on the sidewalks or perhaps also to not drown out their brakes and then noticed the people’s heads IN the smaller cars jerk up in astonishment as an SUV plows through the water drenching their cars AND the people walking on the sidewalks who also look in astonishment at the big SUVs who just drenched them – did that make sense?

as i was walking in the pouring rain after having just left my lunch date where we ate delicious indian food and drank hot masala chai, i noticed how many other people were walking in the pouring rain without an umbrella getting drenched because an hour earlier it wasn’t raining ‘that hard out’ – oh and i noticed the man sitting cross from me who had brought his mail with him and while eating his lunch, in between eating and reading each piece of mail after taking it from the envelope, that he was using the other end of his fork, like a letter opener, to open his mail

i opened the trunk of my car when it wasn’t raining ‘that hard out’ to see if i had an umbrella in there but then i left it there – but i did notice sure enough that i had an umbrella in the trunk of my car in case of rain emergencies!

when i got home, i noticed my flannel snoopy pajamas and decided that since i had just come in drenched from the rain and not taking my umbrella, so i put them on in the middle of the afternoon and made diet hot cocoa then went back into my office to work . . .in my flannel snoopy pjs and i noticed i was smiling … a lot and content listening the sound of the rain, a sound that i love

i noticed that i am not anywhere near as evolved as sue is and that i looked at least 10 years younger and way more prettier after having my grey hair highlighted this morning (see sue’s end of year blog) though very concerned about the environment, to counteract the chemicals i spilled into the environment from getting made way more prettier, changed all the bulbs in the house to energy efficient ones


SusanHenderson January 25, 2008 at 6:40 am

What a beautiful look into your day! And so glad to see you here, Janelle!


SusanHenderson January 25, 2008 at 6:44 am

I like that you noticed the woman across the street getting new glasses.


SusanHenderson January 25, 2008 at 6:47 am

What a calm house. It’s 6:45am here, and my youngest just plugged in his electric guitar to play along with Metallica. I should get out of bed.

Thanks to Dan and to everyone who stopped by to comment!


Betsy January 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm

This is great food for thought – I have been heard many times in classes telling my students to keep their eyes open! Pay attention to/in the world! The world is interesting! My husband will sometimes tell me I don’t pay attention, like in the car, to directions or some such, but that’s just not what I’m paying attention to.
So let’s see:
1. I’m at a new cafe in my hood called Lovely, which is, and one of the many sweet things here is a magnetic bulletin board, in a frame, made from the perforated metal you used to see covering radiators back in the day.
2. I am starting to be able to feel the difference between -3 degrees and 1 degree.
3. My dog’s tummy smells like something different every day now. I wish I’d noticed this before but I never smelled his tummy before. The other day it smelled like flowers and cupcakes both together. Yesterday it smelled like a wood-burning fireplace but we don’t have one.
4. When you’re waiting to meet a student you haven’t met before, everyone who walks in the door looks like a student.
5. The Passamaneks and the Hendersons are impossibly cute to look at, family-wise. That’s not deep. It just is.


chuckles January 25, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I was all set to comment on your very evocative observations and on the difference between “paying attention” and “paying attention to what *I’M* paying attention to” – but what you said about the family photo just canceled out my thoughts altogether! Thanks, we were having a great day when that was taken (till tara locked the keys in her car and we were 1/2-stranded out in the middle of nowhwere but that’s a story for another blog…)….


Heidi Ross January 25, 2008 at 7:05 pm

I’ve been a fan of Dan’s since he had quite a bit of hair, and Dan, you just get better with each word you type. I’m a noticer too, but I don’t usually write it all down. Let me try for 5:

1. I noticed that when my eyes saw the picture of you, Kelly & Zach my face spontaneously grinned a big ole’ happy grin, and I can’t wait to see you all again.

2. I noticed that the kitchen floor needs sweeping, again…especially about 2 inches out from the floorboard, along the counter next to the sink, directly above the exact edge of the counter. There’s flour sprinkled, half a coffee bean, and who knows what else what.

3. The girls just “snuck” into the kitchen behind me (the computer’s in the kitchen) and grabbed something from the snack box. They’re in their room now, talking quietly, and saying “Mmmm” as cellophane wrappers crinkle. They think I didn’t notice.

4. My feet have been cold since I took my shower after the gym this morning. About 3 1/2 hours.

5. Every day I notice what the afternoon school bus driver is wearing. She almost always has “fun” socks, with patterns, characters, and bright colors. I notice this mostly because my eye level looking in, is about at her ankle level. Today she was all pink and maroon. Perfect for a gloomy, wet day.

Thanks for inspiring my creative spirit, Dan. I know it’s still there, somewhere, deep inside this big momma. You pulled it a little closer to the surface today.

Heidi (aka WOA–wife of Andy)


Betsy January 26, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Just callin it like I sees it!


Jules February 12, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Actually, to be fair, the whole damn family is unbearably cute, remarkably cool and witty as hell. That said, Dan The Man’s ears and eyes bring the only city I’ve ever fallen in love with to life in a way that makes my hard little heart sing. That said, I offer up, in honor of the King of Verbosity, the Top Five Things I Noticed Today:

1. Some mornings, the valley fog is so thick that you spend fifteen minutes with your defroster on high, only to realize that it’s the air itself and not the windshield obscuring your vision.

2. The only people actually enjoying the birthday celebration of the 92 year-old man in the nursing home are the Nurse’s Assistants who attend to his needs for 8+ hours every day and the accordian player who hasn’t gotten a lighter-waving standing ovation in a long, long time.

3. The appeal of Conway Twitty was underestimated and misunderstood.

4. Shopping for boy-leg, girlie panties for one’s fifteen year-old son is a great deal easier in theory than in practice.

5. (and I should mention that I’ve noticed this before, but notice it again, accutely today) It is amazing how resiliant the human spirit is, how changable we are, the occasions we manage to rise to and the task we can accomplish, tasks we never imagined until they fell upon us. What I mean to say is that NORMAL is a transitory thing, and for that I remain forever thankful.


mia (giddygirlie) February 12, 2008 at 10:38 pm

I always try to be observant and sometimes it can take an emotional toll, because I find myself too empathetic with people around me — if you can’t manage your humongous luggage at the airport, that should be YOUR problem, but dang if I don’t want to help. And any elderly person running for the bus brings me to tears.

One of my greatest joys is giving the ‘gift’ of observation. Example du jour: I was at Disneyland over the weekend, photographing some of the details of a restaurant in the park. The people eating were looking at me silly, wondering what in the hell I was doing… until they turned around and noticed (for the first time) the beauty of the mural behind them or the intricate woodworking over the door. My motivation was to make MYSELF more observant of the things I have overlooked 1,000 times, but in the process, I brought other people along with me.

My husband always teases me about the number of pictures that I take — that they’re a substitute for actual experience and memory — but I have a strong connection with the visual representations of my days and looking at a picture that I have taken can transport me back faster than my remembrance of it. I also tend to forget the small details, which my pictures reinforce for me.

This is a beautiful exercise for mindfulness and appreciation. Well done, Dann-o!


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