In Defense of Locker Rooms


Many years ago, I wrote an essay called “Locker Room Memories” that got picked up by a couple of small publications and anthologized in a book of essays by and about men. The essay wasn’t very good, in the way such things can be for a writer when coming across a piece from long ago. But the subject matter remains worthy and newly relevant today.

In it, I wrote about the experience of picking up a basketball again for some purely recreational play a decade or so after my playing career ended with my last college game. Rather than write about playing, though, I focused instead on the experience of walking into the locker room beforehand, with all that it represents in the life of an athlete.

Now, Donald Trump has gotten me thinking about locker rooms again. And this is what I want to tell him:

Man, you don’t know squat about locker rooms.


Trump, as surely everyone anywhere near the orbit of thi...

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A Deep Ache of Laughter: On the Razor’s Edge With Loudon Wainwright


One of the widely regarded hallmarks of great art is that it be honest and authentic, a true expression of the artist’s unique vision. The best art probes, focuses, explores, suggests, reveals. Sometimes that exploration and self-revelation plunges the artist too near scalding depths of pain and suffering, and the laying bare becomes too intense. The solace of drink, drugs, and the ultimate self-destructive behavior of suicide may then beckon.  (Van Gogh, Rothko, Hemingway, Plath, Woolf, Sexton, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Robin Williams; it’s a long casualty list.)

Among contemporary artists in whatever genre, probably none explore their demons with quite the unflinching, ruthless honesty of singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. (Those roman numerals loom large in his history; more on that below.)

From down here in the audience, it doesn’t look easy being Wainwright, whom I saw from two rows back...

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Curiosity, Holiness, Science: An Homage to Eve


A recent scene at my neighborhood pool: It’s closing time and the lifeguards are rolling the tarp off its big spool and laying it out across the water. A 3- or 4-year-old boy bolts away from his mother at the gate leading outside and squats down poolside, gazing intently as the tarp unfurls. His mother calls to him, “O.K., let’s go!”

All he does in response is reach his hand out so he can touch the tarp as it moves under his fingers. His mother may as well be a million miles away.

I am smiling to myself at the whole scene, don’t even realize my smile shows until I approach the gate and Mom says to me, smiling herself now, “It’s so interesting!”

“Of course it is!” I respond. “And it’s so interesting that it’s interesting to him!”

She vigorously assents to this and we both laugh, marveling at the insatiable, seemingly undiscriminating curiosity of the young.

But re...

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The Lasting Emotional Weight of Childhood Memories

Child Shadows by magnetisch

I’m 3-something years old, and my family is living in an upstairs apartment in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

My dad is working two jobs, 16 hours a day, just a few years after we have immigrated without a penny in our pockets from a ravaged post-war Europe. There’s a howling nor’easter going on, buckets and buckets of rain. Probably some vestige of a hurricane.

I have somehow managed to sneak downstairs and out into the little spot of dirt and concrete that serves as a front yard. My mom is no doubt occupied with my newborn sister, her fourth child in nine years, and I am roaming free.

But as I’m looking up, I suddenly hear a voice rise above the storm. Where is it coming from? I finally manage to focus and see my mom’s head sticking out the upstairs window.

She’s bellowing.

“Andy, what are you doing?”

It is a very good question, for all times and seasons.

What I seem to be d...

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On Paying Attention: Ryan Lochte and Media’s Junk News

Gymnast by IOC Young Reporters

So we are at the end of these Olympic Games. Mammoth undertaking, nearly the entire world enthralled to some degree or other with these contests reflecting intense passion, competitive fire, and, for the most part, a sense of universal brother-and-sisterhood, human solidarity writ large across nations and cultures and even religions of the world, oh my…

All of it reflecting years of effort and training and dreaming for a select few fortunate enough to make it to this pinnacle of the sporting world.

(Yes, I know it also reflects rampant commercialization, politicization, fraud and influence peddling etc.; I’ll get back to you the very moment I find a large human endeavor that is free of those…)

In the midst of it all, a quartet of lunkhead male swimmers, who I’m sure are fine sons and friends and teammates with many scores of good people who can vouch for their essential good character, get too much ...

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