In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, The Lonely Guy, Steve Martin enters a fancy restaurant and requests a table for one. Spotlights from all angles zero in on the lowly intruder as the diners shrink back in shock and distaste.
A long-time bachelor, I know that rebuff well. Once, after I was seated in a restaurant, the waitress asked, “Will we be joined by the missus?” “Highly unlikely,” I said, “I’m single,” and over her face passed a fleeting shadow of pity and mistrust.
I was always eager to get married, I told myself, certain the world would eventually beat a path to my doorway… someone from Publishers Clearing House would ring and—surprise! —present me with the woman of my dreams. Then one day I checked my watch and noticed that five decades had gone by. (More…)
In Acapulco everything slopes downwards to the sea. The mountains are green and lush. Houses are built into the sides of hills and on the tops of hills. We are here at the house of I do not know who, a man who plays some prominent role in the world of bull fighting. There is a group of men (boots, hats, gleaming teeth, all geniality), and Kelly and me. They might be ranchers, toreros, impresarios, or just friends, aficionados. I do not know, or, to be truthful, care.
The hospitality is impeccable, the dinner interminable and when the table has been cleared and the silent serving women have disappeared somewhere in the back of the house, the men are still seated, settling themselves to talk. Cigars are being lit and bottles opened. The mood is becoming more jovial, expansive. They’re launching into an evening of reminiscences, gossip and jokes and I sigh, despondent at the prospect of the long evening ahead. Though studiously polite, these men barely recognize my existence, I am simply not relevant, and I’m self-conscious, dismayed also at the struggle to keep up with the Spanish, the sheer exhaustion of trying to seem engaged. This, in the 70’s, seemed a requirement, I thought. Why am I here, I ask, not for the first time. (More…)
As we celebrated New Year’s Eve last year, there were dozens of cases of a new virus in China with no evidence at the time that this virus was going to be spread by humans. On January 11th, as we partied on, the first death was reported from this novel virus. Mr. Yu was a regular customer at the live animal market in Wuhan, but he had other health problems, so, as his death came right before the Lunar New Year in China, there wasn’t much mention.
Then in January, the first case comes to the United States when a man in his 30’s develops symptoms after returning to Seattle from a trip to Wuhan. The Chinese authorities close off Wuhan by canceling planes, trains, ferries, and automobiles. At this point, 17 people have died and more than 570 others have been infected in other countries, including Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the U.S. (More…)
“…I can’t even imagine what it would be like to get to middle age and never have seen a positive representation of myself in literature, because that is the story I hear from a very many of my friends who are people of colour. Imagine only ever seeing yourself reflected back as a terrorist, a thief or a drug dealer during the whole of your formative years.”
Kath Cross, “Why Diversity and Representation in Literature Matters,” August 27, 2016
I was raised in a mostly white, medium-sized city in Illinois, but I attended a university near Detroit in the sixties along with many Black students. I went to classes and lived in a dorm with Black students; I mourned the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. with them; I listened to Motown with them; I felt the first stirrings of the Black Panthers on campus with them, and I eventually worked with Black colleagues in a small adult group home in Virginia. I currently live in an apartment complex with Blacks and many other persons of color. However, as the Black Lives Matter protests and its leaders have tried to make clear, as a White person, I don’t have anywhere near a real grasp of Black lives and culture. (More…)
On March 11, 2020, we rehearsed the usual Lenten songs in preparation for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter services in early April. We casually walked out of the choir room with our friends and said, “See you Sunday,” as we usually did.
Three days later, we learned that Sunday church services were cancelled due to restrictions on large gatherings caused by the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases.
Churches were encouraged to remain closed because being indoors in close contact with fellow worshippers was a palpable health risk. Worse yet, a March choir rehearsal in Washington State caused the deaths of two choir members and significant illness in many other choir members due to COVID-19.
This news was shocking for this lifelong singer and choir member since age 8. How could an activity that has given me so much pleasure, both individually and in groups, be so deadly? (More…)
“Remember Colombino,” said my dad, “no matter what you do in life, always do your very best.” Now Colombino was not my given name; it was my Dad’s way of telling me he loved me by calling me “little pigeon” in Italian. He was never demonstrative in his affection – I seldom saw my mother and him embrace, but I knew he loved me, and he showed me in so many ways.
One way was his daily invitation, when I was old enough to leave my mother and the back of the store where we lived, to come “help” him in his shop. A cobbler who learned his trade when he emigrated from Sicily at the age of 16, he considered repairing shoes and leather garments an art. He never used anything but the finest materials and was so meticulous in his stitching and dyeing that customers seldom could find where the tear had been.
Because his little shop was located in what is now known as Wrigleyville, he became the repair expert for the Chicago Cubs, and I remember players (More…)
In 1960, during my freshman year at Harvard, I decided after reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road that studying and exams were a waste of time and that I’d take a year off to hitchhike across the country, experiment with drugs and sex, write a novel, and get in touch with my inner self.
Among those who weren’t exactly thrilled by this news was my father, who in an uncalm manner asked such questions as, “And how the hell do you intend to support yourself, may I ask?” Though a little vague on particulars, I assured him that the income from odd jobs and my writing, plus the seizing of various financial opportunities as they arose, should see me through.
The prospect of being drafted for two years by the Army caused me to amend plans, and in the summer of 1960 I enlisted in a military alternative then available: six months active duty followed by six years active reserve. My first stop: Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC, for basic training. (More…)
I have always admired Japanese culture. For example, I have always admired award-winning Japanese movies like Rashomon or Seven Samurai. My enjoyment of these movies goes way back before my pilot training, and I joke that when you go to one of these movies, bring an umbrella. Why? Because in addition to the interesting costumes and the realism, only in Japanese movies does rainfall seem so real that you feel like you need an umbrella.
It was a welcome surprise then that my first assignment as a fighter pilot out of my Replacement Training Unit was to Misawa Air Base. Flying the F-4 Phantom in Japan and deploying and flying in Korea was a super assignment, with great flying missions and many interesting episodes. There are many other stories I am compiling into a book, like my temporary assignment to Fuchu where I watched the first moon landing sitting on tatami mats in our off-base Japanese apartment. (More…)
An eagle flies gracefully over the prairie and leads me to animal adventures where I frolic with bears, beavers, squirrels, and porcupines. I bring my young son Gary with me. We go fishing with bears named Blackie, Brownie, and Slicky and collect feathers from the eagle’s mountaintop nest.
It felt natural to take Gary to join other adventuring animals squatting in a circle and wearing beaded vests as we played games and told stories. It was 1959 when we started in the YMCA Indian Guides program in Wilmington, Delaware. We met with other fathers and sons to develop our imaginations in an atmosphere of Native American lore. We made boats, a church and aircraft models in our workshop at home and played in the woods. We adopted animal spirit names. Gary was Diving Eagle. Our motto was “Pals Forever with my Dad.”
Two years later we moved to Bradenton, Florida, and my second son, Bryan, joined us as Hunting Eagle. In addition to meeting in various homes, we occasionally took field trips. Once when camping in Myakka State Park, I set up a large teepee, and we told stories around the campfire. When Diving Eagle and Hunting Eagle graduated to Cub Scouts, my third son, Scott, came of age as Flying Eagle, followed by my blonde-haired David, Golden Eagle. (More…)