ha!! great story!!!

How my wife and I got together (short version). Also, happy birthday to my close personal friend, Mike Birbiglia. And 7 other things worth your time.

There’s a a comedian named Mike Birbiglia. Maybe you know him? A while back, he asked people to share how they met their significant others.

My wife and I have a pretty good story, and since I can’t keep my mouth shut, I emailed it to him. Short version:

  • We met during our first week of college.

  • Started dating senior year.

  • Broke up, didn’t really see each other for nearly two decades.

  • Got back together as a result of our 20-year college reunion.

  • Four months later, engaged; eight months later, married.

Things turned out great. We’re happy and healthy; we have a daughter; we live in the suburbs; we drive a sensible family SUV. As crazy as it is, it also feels like this is exactly how everything was supposed to happen.

Back to Birbiglia. My wife is a fan. So after I submitted our story, I was both surprised and thrilled that he replied.

Here’s the email he sent me, start to finish, in its entirety:

“ha!! great story!!!”

Just three words, right? They probably took about 10 seconds. But a small part of me suddenly felt like: “MIKE BIRBIGLIA AND I ARE NOW CLOSE PERSONAL FRIENDS!”

In fact, this became a running joke. When Birbiglia had a new movie or a segment on This American Life, I’d say to my wife: “Oh, did you see what my close personal friend Mike Birbiglia is up to these days?”

(I know, I know. I never claimed to be cool.)

But I really did feel like I had a connection. I started rooting for the guy. Plus he didn’t just reply; he thought our story was a good one. (Correction: “Great!” With three exclamation points; five if you count the “ha,” !!!!!)

Okay. Life went on, as it does. Eventually, I started writing more online, and I began hearing from readers myself. Sometimes they ask questions; sometimes they make suggestions.

Sometimes they call me every dirty name in the book. (That’s another story.)

Sometimes they tell me explicitly that they don’t think I’ll see their emails or write back. Despite that—or maybe because of that (and because of “ha!! great story!!!”), I try to respond as often as I can.

For a long time, I tried to write back to literally EVERYONE, as some of you OG Understandably folks will know. In fact, I know I sometimes freak people out; they send me a 50-word note, and I occasionally reply with a 2,500-word missive.

(I know, I know. I never claimed to be cool.)

Now, as the subscriber base for this newsletter has grown immensely, a big adjustment for me has been how much harder it is to reply to everyone.

Also, I’m terribly disorganized, and I often fall short—reading messages on my phone, intending seriously to reply later but then oh look a squirrel.

I do read it all, though, and I’m trying to figure how to improve all of this from a systems point of view. Anyway, I share this whole story because:

  • My wife and I have just passed the anniversary of our 20th college reunion (AKA, “the end of the hiatus”) which is a big annual milestone, and

  • I’m spending a lot of time on that “how to improve all of this” question, and

  • This weekend marks my close personal friend Mike Birbiglia’s birthday.

I don’t have a gift for him, so I’ll share one more story on the way out.

Sometime after “ha!! great story!!!,” I was working in NYC, and I decided to grab lunch at one of those overpriced takeout-salad places. It was crowded and noisy, but as I stood in line staring at my phone, I overheard people stage-whispering:

Is that Mike Birbiglia? I think that’s Mike Birbiglia. Guys, that’s Mike Birbiglia!

Sure enough, it was Mike Birbiglia, just like everyone else, eating an overpriced salad. Actually, this vignette tells you everything you need to know about his level of celebrity, which is:

  • famous enough among a certain crowd that a bunch of people in an overpriced salad place in Chelsea would recognize him, but…

  • not so famous that he can’t just sit in peace and quiet enjoying his overpriced salad, secure in the knowledge that—well, this is NYC! Famous people are everywhere. There’s an informal agreement just to be cool and not interrupt them, or accost them for selfies because you’ve seen their movies or you emailed them once and they replied with a three-word …

(I know, I know. I never claimed to be cool.)


Today’s call for comments: celebrity sightings, how you met your significant other, and proof of whether you’re cool or not. Actually, better if you’re not cool.

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7 other things worth your time

  • The Supreme Court rejected the latest major effort to kill the national healthcare law known as “Obamacare” by a 7 to 2 vote on Thursday, preserving insurance coverage for millions of Americans. (I feel like I should disclose: as a self-employed person, my family and I get our health insurance through Obamacare.) (AP)

  • President Biden got down on one knee to greet Opal Lee, an activist who has advocated for decades for Juneteenth to be established as a federal holiday, then signed the bill Thursday at the White House. (Business Insider)

  • The Biden administration said it is approving 18,000 loan forgiveness claims from former students of ITT Technical Institute, a chain that closed in 2016 after being dealt a series of sanctions by the Obama administration. The new loan discharges will clear more than $500 million in debt. (NBC News)

  • A St. Louis couple, both lawyers, who were filmed outside their mansion waving guns at social justice protesters last summer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. "I'd do it again," Mark McCloskey said outside court on Thursday. "Any time the mob approaches me, I'll do what I can to put them in imminent threat of physical injury." (Yahoo News)

  • Fossils from two giant rhinos dating back about 22 million years have been unearthed in China, according to a study published Thursday. … Much larger than modern rhinos, giant rhinos often stood more than 20 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed more than 20 tons, making them bigger than mammoths and the largest land mammal that ever lived. (NBC News)

  • Southwest Airlines, the first enduring low-cost airline, turns 50 years old today. To celebrate, the airline ran a 50% promotion through yesterday, which I guess doesn’t really help you, but I still thought the milestone was worth mentioning. (USA Today)

  • I guess we have another Space Race? A Chinese spacecraft blasted off on a Long March rocket early Thursday, the first time China has sent humans into space for nearly five years, in a bid to pick up their standing in the modern space race. (CBS News)

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Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Me, in the now-defunct “Just Salad” on Fifth Avenue between W22 and W23rd Streets in New York City. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.