Ah, it’s the simple things in life that make us happy.

Two of my resolutions are “Enjoy routines” and “Cultivate little pleasures”; I’m trying to make myself more aware of the things I enjoy about my daily life.

And one thing that’s been making me very happy lately is my new lunch place: Lenny’s at the corner of 77th and 2nd.

It’s slightly off my beaten track; I discovered it when a friend suggested that we meet for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien across the street.

Now, Le Pain Quotidien may be more elegant, but it’s Lenny’s that keeps me coming back.

When I’m scouting for a diner, restaurant, or coffee shop in which to work, my three desiderata are: good food or coffee; a decent bathroom; and a place to plug in my laptop.

Very few places boast a perfect score. Lenny’s has two out of three. No electrical outlets, but it has a nice ladies’ room, and a great salad counter where I can specify the ingredients I want. (And then I use my trick: instead of dressing, I sprinkle a bit of Equal in the salad. Yes, I know, it sounds disgusting, but it really punches up the flavor.) Lenny’s is large, sunny, and clean, and I can even sit outside when the weather is warm. It has good coffee, and also carries Diet Dr. Pepper, my favorite soft drink.

A lot of high-school students come for lunch, and it’s amusing to tune in to their conversations. Right now I’m listening to a group of teenagers reenacting bits from the movie Borat. Yesterday, I sat next to some fifteen-year-old guys who talked about the travails of taking the SATs and getting their driving permits.

“Human Felicity is produc’d,” Ben Franklin rightly observed, “not so much by great Pieces of good Fortune that seldom happen, as by little Advantages that occur every Day.” How happy my new routine makes me…I love the little pleasures of my custom salad, my Diet Dr. Pepper, and my eavesdropping.
A reader emailed me a link to a fascinating blog entry on Russell Davies’s blog about how to be interesting. It has unusual, provocative suggestions — like collect something; each week read a magazine you’ve never read before; keep a scrapbook; and several others.

He also recommends a book, Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which I immediately ordered from Amazon. I suspect this may be the book I’ve been searching for my whole life; I’m fascinated by how our understanding is shaped by the the way in which information is presented. My three previous books — Power Money Fame Sex, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at JFK — each required me to think a lot about the visual presentation of information. Will this book blow my mind the way A Pattern Language did? That would REALLY make me happy.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Hi, usual lurker here.
    Edward Tufte has a class on presenting information which covers some really great concepts. If you live near a city where it’s offered, I recommend the class. You get his major books, and he discusses some of the newer concepts about displaying information.
    And personally I can’t argue too much with a man that despises Power Point. (not that it’s all bad, but it just gets way overused and for the wrong purposes in business.)

  • madge

    great post. i, too, am all about cultivating small pleasures. remember in “amelie” how much she loves dipping her hands into bags of grain and beans? fantastic.
    anyway i wanted to comment on tufte’s books. they are amazing – the information is dense, but presented in such a way that makes it clear while also respecting its depth.
    his analysis of how the space shuttle explosion was caused by poorly structured documentation is especially powerful. really brought home the point that the way you tell a story is every bit as important as the story being told.
    it ties in with jerry mander’s “four arguments against television” as well — he maintains that tv’s schlockiness brings down the level of all television programs. if you can flip from a documentary on the dalai lama to an episode of “the bachelor,” the documentary is cheapened. the medium is the message.
    anyhow enjoy the book! i’m looking forward to hearing your comments on it.

  • Pat

    You’ve made me so happy by discovering Tufte! As others have already mentioned, he’s even better in person than in the books, so treat yourself to one of his seminars while he still gives them. And thank you for “A Pattern Language”.

  • Kristine Rosemary

    Now, with a mention of Gretchen’s titles, “Power fame…” and “40 Ways to look at JFK,”
    there’s good timing for a comment on how happy it makes me to have these two books at home… to give as holiday presents for two friends who might enjoy reading them as much as I did. And yes, the visual presentation of these books matches the very dazzling texts. Looking forward to Happiness Project title too, and good luck on that book proposal (they’re sometimes more work than writing the book).

  • Mal

    Look to Epicurus. Be happy with bread and cheese, then you can lose the disquiet of finding ‘the perfect restaurant’. Which doesn’t exist, even in NY.