Official Bio

I was born in Summit, New Jersey, and grew up in New Providence, New Jersey (the next town over) and, from the age of twelve on, in Katonah, New York.  I attended New York University, and have spent most of my adult life in or around New York City.  These days I call Vermont home.

Now, I could go into great detail about all this – and, in all probability, bore you to death. Instead of doing that, I thought I'd just pull open the memory drawer and share some memories with you. Here they are, in no particular order.

When I was six years old (Or was I seven? Maybe seven.), I won the town of New Providence, New Jersey's annual Easter egg hunt. I came home with an Easter basket that was almost as big as I was. What none of the other contestants or the Easter egg hunt people knew was that our house was on the edge of the neighborhood park where the Easter egg hunt took place. Early that morning, I had watched from behind some shrubs in my backyard as adults hid eggs along the edge of the woods. When the hunt began, I knew just where to go.

I come from a family of children's book authors and illustrators. My mother was one of the first female illustrators of Sesame Street books. My older brother, Ned, writes and illustrates children's picture books, and my younger sister, Molly, does, too.

I am distantly related to Calvin Coolidge.

One of my favorite teachers in grade school was Mrs. Bosco. How could she not be? She had the same name as my favorite chocolate syrup drink!

Star Trek was a favorite TV show in our family. During the opening credits, my two younger sisters and my younger brother and I would sit right in front of the TV set and try and guess which of the millions of tiny distant speck-like stars on the dark TV screen would suddenly zoom toward the viewer and become the Starship Enterprise. My sister, Molly, always seemed to win.

My family had a summer camp, an A-frame, on a quiet lake in the Adirondacks. It was here that we spent our summers. I used to tool around the lake in a small, wooden dinghy that was painted a bright orange on the outside and a bright lemon-yellow on the inside and that we called "The Orange Peel" -- because it was orange on the outside, yellow on the inside. The little boat had a very old and very gassy Johnson 3 ½ horsepower outboard motor. To start the motor, you had to first give the primer bulb on the black rubber fuel line a couple of good squeezes (but not too many squeezes or you'd flood the engine), then pull the choke out just so, then yank the pull-cord, over and over again, with all your might, squeezing the gas bulb every so often. After about the ninth or tenth pull (and a couple of false starts), the outboard motor would suddenly rev to life (with sputtering puffs of grey-blue exhaust), whereupon you'd quickly push the choke back in. Twisting the engine's handle to full throttle, off you'd go! The Orange Peel was my pride and joy.

I once made tapioca pudding for my family. I followed the directions on the back of the tapioca box. Apparently, though, I got some of the ingredients mixed up because the finished product turned out to be a nearly inedible, rubber-like substance that you could actually pick up in your hands, mold into a ball, then bounce on the floor! Nobody ate my tapioca except my mother.

When I was 13, my father got it into his head that I needed a good summer job. The good summer job he had in mind was to build a floating snacks barge that my friend, Dickie B., and I could putter about the lake on, selling coffee, cold drinks, candy bars, potato chips and other snacks. Our customers would be people in boats, on docks, and at the public beach in town. Using four empty oil barrels, the three of us built the snacks barge. A few days before we were about to open for business, Dickie B. made the startling announcement that he had to go to summer school and wouldn't be able to help run the business! This meant that I had to operate the snacks barge all by myself! Being rather shy by nature, I was not exactly thrilled with this unexpected development. I didn't want to deal with customers all by myself! Worse, the snacks barge was a real eyesore – it was specifically designed by my father to attract attention. My father felt that if the snacks barge attracted lots of attention it would also attract lots of customers. (Something that never really happened.) Still, I set sail. Most of my customers that first week were fishermen out in their small fishing boats who, I think, felt sorry for me. (They tended to just buy a cup of coffee and maybe a donut or two.) One day during my second week of business I was at the town beach. I was attracting plenty of curious (and somewhat disdainful) looks but no customers when the town sheriff appeared (he came walking across the sand in his grey uniform and wide-brimmed hat) and informed me that I was not allowed to run a snacks barge on the lake without a commercial food license. Since I did not have this, he put me out of business. Nobody was ever more delighted to go out of business than me!

When I was in high school, I built a cabin in the woods with my two best friends, Jeff O. and Wally D. The cabin was about a mile away in the woods behind my house. For a high school project, I spent a week alone in the cabin, like Henry David Thoreau. And like Henry David Thoreau, I kept a journal of my experiences in the woods. I was hoping to discover the unexpected pleasures of solitude, the way Henry David Thoreau had. What I discovered, though, was just the opposite: I really missed all my school friends and that a life of solitude, at least at that point in my life, was definitely not the life for me!

In college, I wrote E.B. White a letter and told him how much I enjoyed reading his book of essays One Man's Meat (which was out-of-print at that time). I also told him that I had spent the previous summer in Maine (where he lived), and that I had had a summer job digging holes around telephone poles for the Central Maine Power Company, and that one day I, too, hoped to be a writer. He wrote me back (see letter above), which I treasure.

After I got out of NYU, I drove across the country with my friend Jonathan K. We traveled in my old beat-up VW Beetle. We started out from Katonah, New York (our home town). Without any real destination in mind (except that we would finally end up in California), we drove down to North Carolina, then over to New Orleans, then to Texas, then up to Montana, then over to Washington State, then down the Oregon coast and into California. Each day we drove about 400 to 500 miles. We stayed at KOAs (Kampgrounds of America) that always seemed to be packed with families or elderly couples traveling in RVs. We felt like the Joads, pulling into these campgrounds at the end of a long, hot day. Since it was my car, I had to go into the office and sign us in, giving the make and model of my car as well as the license plate number. I signed us in so many times that, all these years later, I still remember my old car's license plate number by heart. Yet, if you were to ask me what the license plate number is on my present car, I couldn't tell you to save my life.

My first published cartoon was in The Saturday Review. It appeared not long after Ronald Reagan had become president. It was a drawing of a slice of cantaloupe sitting on a small plate on a refrigerator shelf. The cantaloupe had a thought balloon above it that said, "Where's the rest of me?" It was what Ronald Reagan said when he played George Gipp (The Gipper) in the movie, The Knute Rockne Story. Ronald Reagan blurted it out after waking up in the hospital from an operation and finding that his leg had been amputated. (The art editor laughed and laughed when he bought the cartoon.) Much to my dismay, a few months after my cartoon appeared, The Saturday Review ceased publication and went out of business. I sure hope it had nothing to do with the magazine publishing my cartoon!

I used to illustrate on a fairly regular monthly basis for Gourmet magazine. My drawings tended to be of things like wine bottles with arms and legs and happy faces – these were wine bottles that were absolutely delighted to be in the pages of Gourmet magazine!

James Patterson, the best selling author, was the creative director at one of the ad agencies that I worked at. James Patterson was a very demanding boss – he wanted you to really push yourself, to show him only your very best thinking. (He had the words "Startle me" printed on the outside of his office door.) If you presented work that James Patterson thought was less than outstanding, he would let you know it, without mincing words. In fact, he had a reputation of being rather harsh if he did not like your work. To soften this image of himself, he put a hand bell in the middle of the conference room table where the copywriters and art directors presented to him. The idea was that if you were presenting to him and he started to get too critical, too harsh, you were supposed to pick up the bell and ring it so he'd know he was being too critical. So far as I know, nobody ever rang the bell. Nobody dared! One time, though, after I had presented to James Patterson, he was telling me how much he hated what I had shown him when he abruptly stopped talking, picked up the bell, and handed me the bell to ring!

Back in the early 1980s, I shared a small apartment on East 95th Street in Manhattan, between First and Second Avenues, with my friend, Jonathan K. We were both just out of college, working at low paying jobs, each of us trying to make a go at living and working in New York.

Back then, that part of 95th Street was, well, not exactly the most desirable neighborhood in New York City to live. A lot of the buildings on our block were run down, deserted, boarded up, and covered with graffiti. To give you an idea of the kind of neighborhood it was, to keep people from breaking into the building, our landlord had placed lavish amounts of barbed wire all throughout the alleyway that was behind our apartment building. Looking out our living room window, which looked out on the alleyway, you would've thought we lived in a maximum security prison. Or in East Berlin in the 1960s. To make the place even more secure, the landlord kept two vicious Doberman pincers down in the alleyway. The lean, black dogs roamed restlessly up and down the narrow alleyway, snarling and looking mean as anything, just waiting to sink their fangs into some hapless intruder. Whenever my roommate and I got take-out pizza and had leftovers, we would take the remaining slices and tie them to a string and lower them down to the alleyway and feed the Dobermans. The dogs didn't just gobble up the pizza; they would eat the string, too, yanking it right out of your hand! One time I invited a friend of mine, a young woman whom I worked with, to come home with me from the office. She took one look at my neighborhood and, in alarm, exclaimed, "Does your mother know you live here!?"

One cold, drizzly, dreary evening in October I was walking home from work when I turned down my street and saw a Con Edison truck parked in front of my apartment building. A Con Edison construction crew had dug a big hole in the street. I went into my building and didn't think anything more of the construction work that was being done outside the building until later that evening when I went to use the phone. Back then, there were no cell phones – only land lines. I picked up the receiver and was about to dial when, to my surprise, I heard voices on the phone. I put the phone to my ear and listened. Two boys were talking on the other end, taking in hushed, conspiratorial voices.

"What did you get for number three?"


"You sure that's right?"

"Yeah, pretty sure."

"What about the next one? What's five plus four?"


"What did you get for twelve divided by two?"


The boys were exchanging their math homework answers. None of the homework answers were correct, though. As I listened to the boys, I realized that the reason I was able to hear them was probably because of the construction outside my apartment building. The telephone wires must've somehow gotten crossed.

"What did you get for four plus ten?" one of the boys asked.


I decided to speak up then. In a deep, God-like voice (or what I imagine a God-like voice to sound like) I boomed, "The answer is NOT fifteen! The answer is fourteen!"

The other end of the phone went dead silent. Then one of the boys, in a nervous voice, said, "Who was that!?"

"It must be my brudda!" said the other boy. "Get off the phone, Larry!"

"This is NOT Larry!" I cried out, like I was really agitated, speaking in my thundering God-like voice. "This is Santa Claus!"

I heard both boys scream. They sounded terrified. I heard a click. One of the boys had hung up. But the other boy was still on the line.

"Hey, Santa Claus," he said. "What's ten times two?"

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