Steering Wheel

I've been walking home--my bike is in the shop forever and the weather is nice. I listen to episodes of the Jack Benny program on my phone, waiting for Mary Livingstone to laugh. I'm up through 1946.

The traffic where I live is so bad that sometimes I am stuck in my minivan for forty minutes before I get to work. So I use the steering wheel as a kind of prayer wheel. Each notch reminds me of a prayer. I go from notch to notch saying prayers for my husband, for each of my children, my parents, my friends, and the students in my class.

I read something like that 19 years ago in Guideposts. I was sitting in my grandparents' living room on their black sofa. I think of it whenever my computer gives me the pinwheel, or when I am on the phone at work helping an old lady onto the website, explaining that email doesn't need stamps. At the top right of the screen, I asked, do you see a little box? And to the left of the box is the word “Username?” You put a special name into that box. We have to make that special name.

“I'm old,” she said.

Down through Soho. People walk into traffic while text-messaging. I also have on headphones. It's warm, crowded, and progress is slow. I see a girl in canary leggings and short bangs, backlit by a storefront. She is laughing at a joke made by a boy in a vest. No wonder people want to live here. Right then Mary Livingstone laughs in 1946. A man with his tongue out is trying to shake hands with everyone. On Bowery I pass the New Museum, which has a sign reading “HELL YES!” in great rainbow letters. Faces lit from below or on the side by cell-phone screens and media players. I am moving slow but light is absolutely everywhere.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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