Essays

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Friday, December 12, 2014 - 6:00am

Photo by author

It’s Thanksgiving Day across the Atlantic in Massachusetts, where I live. There, among my American family and friends, it’s a quiet, contemplative day, but here in the Chiado, the heart of downtown Lisbon and the city’s oldest shopping district, everything is bustling, as if the Portuguese are scurrying to get a one-day head start on Black Friday. It’s a raw, drizzly day, a sign of winter’s approach, and the cobbled sidewalks are slippery. I’ve walked these hilly streets for 35-plus years, often darting from one bookstore to the next—new, used, rare—flipping through the pages of everything from current bestsellers, to obscure dime-store colonial-era comics, to rare folios of brightly-colored, highly inaccurate antique maps. That’s what I’m doing today, I’m book shopping.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Eric Tillotson; image cropped slightly

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 5:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Eric Tillotson; image cropped slightly

I did not know who Bowe Bergdahl was when I first heard about him on the news in June. I followed his rehabilitation, which was briefly reported for a week or so and happened in ordinary details. Sergeant Bergdahl was returned from Afghanistan through a prisoner exchange with the Taliban, who had held him for five years. He was welcomed back by his parents and President Obama in front of the White House press corps in the Rose Garden.

Image by Flickr Creative Commons user UO Journal

Friday, October 3, 2014 - 9:18am

Image by Flickr Creative Commons user UO Journal

The continent, it turned out, was not ready for people. The settlers chopped down every tree and killed every animal, then started in on each other. They hoarded finite resources—furs, lumber, ore—until there werent any left to use. Counterfeiters discovered a way to alchemize gold, bringing about hyperinflation and economic collapse. The strong terrorized the weak, not just once but repeatedly, hounding them through one life after another. Normal people became outright thugs, enacting fantasies of domination. Dominated people had a tendency to become informal police, enacting fantasies of justice. Every so often a server crash would plunge everyone weeks into the past, to the most recent backup.

Black and White photograph taken in 1956 by Mr. Sumit Hantrakul (Gohng), 1921--2009.

Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 5:00am

Black and White photograph taken in 1956 by Mr. Sumit Hantrakul (Gohng), 1921--2009.

I like pressing my cheek up against the cool embrace of the teak floor, letting the chill lap against my face, chest, arms, and legs. I especially like the feeling of a freshly mopped teak floor. The wood becomes softer, more soothing like a cool straw mattress in the hot summer. When I walk barefoot, the gentle tickle below my feet beckons me to lie down. I like the rush of wooden veins flowing underneath my thighs and arms, brushing them into slumber.

Photo by Michael Meiser, licensed under Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Monday, September 8, 2014 - 9:39am

 

Photo by Michael Meiser, licensed under Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA 2.0).

1.
 

In May, I was abroad finishing a job, the kind that did not exist when I graduated high school. As I prepared to leave, northeast Ohio, where I grew up, came to me. I would fly down remembered winding gray roads. Sometimes I did this in my dreams. Sometimes the dream was different – I would drive out to the country but turn around because I didn’t know what to do out there, outside a car with only long grass and woods around me and no path to hike. The suburbs were my cradle. In the car from the airport to my childhood home, I realized that what I had thought of as flying was the feeling of the car tugging my shoulders in the backseat as we made familiar turns.

Photo by Author

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 2:12pm

Photo by Author

We lost a hive this winter. We’d set our two hives facing south on the roof of our Brooklyn home for maximum sunlight, knowing that in winter that would translate into maximum exposure to wind and cold as well. My wife, Hali, and our beekeeping consultant, Davin, dutifully taped up the cracks with red duct tape so that the bees would expend less energy over January and February with their self-composed heating system. Generally they cluster around the queen, vibrating their wings and shivering to keep her and themselves warm. It was a harsh winter in Brooklyn, however, and we’d gone up to the roof several times in December to check to see whether the hives were healthy.

Monday, January 13, 2014 - 11:41am

A six-foot-high, foot-thick concrete wall begins at 8 Mile Road, Detroit’s northern border, known as the Line. The wall marches south for half a mile along the property line behind Birwood Street, cuts through a city park, and halts at a dead end street—a network of potholes and buckled asphalt.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Daniele Scott

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 9:31am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Daniele Scott

It is Red Cup season! Under halogen lights, red metal tumblers gleam and pinken plastic to-go mugs. Swirled teacups shine like candy canes. Behind the café counter, whipped-cream ski hills top the menu of seasonal drinks with a flurry of diamonds and snowflakes. In sizes tall, grande, and venti, towers of patterned coffee cups are plucked by red-aproned baristas, like ornaments off a tree.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 8:45am

When you’re a carpenter’s son there are things you don’t tell your mother. The old asbestos siding Dad had you driving nails into, for instance. Or the ceiling fan he wired without first shutting off the power. Or how you close your eyes when you bring the round whirling blade of the chop saw down on a length of spouting so you won’t get any flecks of aluminum in your eyes. How it just seems safer that way.

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 8:31am

 

There was a short time, just before I stopped carrying a backpack to school, when I coveted a t-shirt with the words “citizen of the world” on the front. I signed letters for Amnesty International that year, but I never bought the shirt. A few years later, when we tired of the war in Iraq, many pointed out that six of ten young Americans could not locate the country on a map, although half couldn’t find the Empire State either.

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