I Want to Catch the Excitement of a Life

I always see buildings through the lens of people—the people who wanted to see them through and the people who had to because there wasn’t anyone else.

In 1961, shortly after the sudden death of the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, his wife of seven years, then known as Aline (Louchheim) Saarinen, sent a cable to another Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto: “Heartbroken Eero died after short illness Aline Saarinen.” It was the most personal of the many cables she sent.

In early 2019, I left New York for a six-week book tour to support the launch of my memoir, How to be Loved. My friend Chani had agreed to come with me, thinking, correctly, that being on book tour by myself would lead nowhere good: to a constant oscillation of egomania and crippling self-doubt; to my forgetting to bring my toothbrush while remembering to bring sixteen phone chargers; to a level of solitude that has often led to a depth of loneliness that makes me forget people can ever be good. We had a flight out of JFK, but the flight was delayed by six hours. Or maybe we’d missed the flight? Or was this another trip, the one we took to Cancún? My training as a historian means I should remember my own history, but it doesn’t work like that, a…

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