Mar 1, 2010 | Santa Fe, NM
Mar 1, 2010

I was sitting in the chair beside the window when my Dad called.

I was reading a stapled printout from hermitary.com, entitled Friedrich Nietzsche on Solitude, which a friend had sent me a week ago, along with a short note that read, "For you my lonely."

My Dad calls about once a week, and there are several things he always likes to know about. He likes to know how the weather is where I am, how my project is going, how Sep is doing, and how Sep is enjoying married life. One time several years ago my Dad took Sep and me to dinner in Brooklyn and we laughed a lot — ever since then, my Dad always asks about Sep. He likes to make sure I'm eating well, not working too much, starting to think about how I can make some money someday, doing some socializing, and not feeling too lonely.

When we've talked for a while and it's time to hang up, he likes to say, "Well, Jon, keep your chin up," or, "It sounds like you're a happy camper," or, "Anyway, we're thinking about you and we miss you."

It is always very nice to hear from my Dad, as it is nice every time you realize someone cares enough to remember you.

Today he was saying how they've had a lot of snow in Pennsylvania, and how they've been staying in and watching BBC news in the evenings.

"It is a very good news," he said, "and has a very international perspective. American news is one dimensional, but with the BBC you really learn what's going on in the rest of the world."

And what is going on in the rest of the world is very bad. Besides the wars, there are the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, the strange storms drowning seaside towns and people in France, and every day it seems like something more terrible is going to happen, because the planet finally seems to be correcting an egregious ecological imbalance, and you know that making things level again will cause great pain, especially among humans. Call it planetary catharsis.

When you live in New Mexico — landlocked, high, and dry — you can feel removed from the natural disasters that are plaguing lower and more watery regions. Up here in the high desert, there are not the big storms, the earthquakes, the tsunamis, or the hurricanes that we see on TV.

But New Mexicans are an empathetic lot, and apparently there is high demand to understand a hurricane from within. So at the Santa Fe shopping mall, they have constructed a hurricane simulation booth and positioned it next to the flower power toy truck. It costs two dollars to step inside and have 78 mph winds blown on you for 60 seconds from above. They recommend leaving your smoothie at the cell phone stand nearby.

When you're done you can open the door and walk to the food court, where you can eat a big plate of jambalaya to complete the exercise in lonely long-distance learning, which is even better than the BBC.