September 19, 2015

Each page marks a point in time where I or someone said, you should make thisOr perhaps more precisely, here, go, make.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Oliphant

September 8, 2015

In Kathmandu, with money comes the right to fence a yard and cultivate a bit of nature against the city. . . . They were little oases, while the nearby roads were harsh realities.

Old Dewey Bridge. Photo by author.

August 13, 2015

I latched onto the idea that I myself had never driven across the country before, had never experienced the typically American rite of passage known as “the road trip.” This was something I needed to do. Now. Alone.
Photo from Young Frankenstein; by Flickr Creative Commons user Insomnia Cured Here

May 11, 2015

Photo from Young Frankenstein; by Flickr Creative Commons user Insomnia Cured Here

The last thing I remember about my father was him walking away wearing his camel coat. I remember him from the back, his dark hair escaping from his hat.

It was Christmas evening and it was cold, for Rome at least. He had just accompanied me to a train, which I would take to reach my cousins in Calabria. He was not happy that I was leaving, and would die a few hours later. A stroke, the doctors said.

The following day I took the train back to Rome, to find the house full of smoking people and my mother crying. I was 15 and my grandparents were all alive: it felt unnatural, like a house with a Nativity scene, but with a coffin.

I went to the movies the day after the funeral: cinema was something that I had shared with my father; it was a way to still be with him.

April 27, 2015

We were on the small roads that sometimes turn gravel, sometimes dead end, when we found it. This was Vermont, about ten years ago, our first road trip together: a circuit of swimming holes, picnics, and stops for general store ice cream. We passed a series of “Take Back Vermont” signs. Somewhere along the way we came upon the man, who by all appearances seemed to be a Hare Krishna devotee, having a yard sale. It was here in the sunny warm greenness that we found THE PEOPLE’S CYCLOPEDIA OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE, WITH NUMEROUS APPENDIXES INVALUABLE FOR REFERENCE IN ALL DEPARTMENTS OF INDUSTRIAL LIFE. BROUGHT DOWN TO THE YEAR 1885.

Photo by author

February 13, 2015

Photo by author

1. Seocho via Gangnam

My family and I are struggling along Teheran Road in Seocho-dong, Seoul, and it is my fault. I should have conducted us one stop farther to Gangnam Station, where the number ten exit would have deposited us in front of our destination, but we are disoriented by the city’s newness and haven’t yet learned the subway stations, nor do we know the banks and stores and restaurants piled atop each other in metallic high-rises footnoted by cafés and tea rooms and dessert shops. It is late May, nearly summer, when people punctuate meals with shaved ice covered with red bean jelly, rice cakes, diced fruit, grain powder, green tea, condensed milk, and ice cream for more richness.

Photo by author

December 12, 2014

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 Wikipedia: File:Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg

January 30, 2015

Photo by Wikipedia: File:Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg

In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where I grew up, Rex Humbard was the first Pentecostal evangelist to have his own television program. Next to the Cathedral of Tomorrow, where he hosted his weekly broadcast, he also built an enormous tower—locally known as Rex’s Erection—with the intent of making one of those revolving restaurants like at Niagara Falls. But despite eventually officiating at Elvis’s funeral, Humbard ran out of money and, ever since, the tower has just stood there, tall and useless. Though my grandfather, who was a flight instructor at Kent State, once told me that pilots used the tower as a landmark when giving their coordinates over the radio.

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

October 14, 2014

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

October 3, 2014

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.

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