Category Odds & Ends

Fever Dream (and a Dog’s Relentless Love)

It’s a dream, but the images are sharp as daylight. I’m on one of our well-traveled byways, nearing a crosswalk on Summerfield Road. Shenzi is about six feet out on her leash, and she inexplicably ambles out into the road a few feet before I am there, disregarding all her training. I pull back on the leash and she is a little slow to respond. Then I see cars are dangerously closer and she is still out a few feet on the roadway.

Now I pull more emphatically on the leash, but Shenzi, again inexplicably, digs in. I easily overpower her, but as I pull her to safety toward me I see the leash and her collar are kind of tangled at the top of her head. No squeals or cries, but as I reel her in I confront a horrid sight.

She is looking directly into my eyes but her left eye is grotesquely swollen and bulging and beginning to leak fluid...

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Offline in Maine: A Photo Essay

A vacation trip to the east coast last week brought forth a surprise. Despite my best (or worst?) intentions to mix in some work with the pleasure of my first experience of New England in the fall, it turned out that for the several days I spent on the rural Maine coast, I had no Internet access. Adding insult to injury, my cellphone service was down as well. Apparently, there are not enough people out there to warrant the digital infrastructure that would allow those far-flung inhabitants to keep fully on pace with the 21st century.

Now, I am someone with a profession that requires buddying up with both my computer and phone all day. And my primary avocation—readin’ & writin’—requires the same. So predictably enough, this disconnection in Maine was initially a cause for concern.

I think I remember uttering the words “Oh no…” when I first discovered, after several attempts, that my browser was simp...

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The Lasting Emotional Weight of Childhood Memories

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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Summer Fecundity

The not unpleasant smell of rotting fruit alerts the senses when one ventures into my backyard on these early summer days. “Our time is now,” that well-known maxim exhorted by coaches in pre-game locker rooms across the land, is nowhere more true than among the two prolific plum and pluot trees in said yard, which, like some urgent stream after a storm, can’t expel their bounty fast enough. I need a crew available at my immediate beck-and-call to scoop up the falling flesh that relitters my yard every day, no matter the removal effort that left it clear just hours before.

Plop plop plop they rain down, even as I am on hands and knees depositing their bruised brothers and sisters into my bucket, their waystation en route to the compost bin and their ultimate return to earth as dirt for next summer’s bounty.

Sorry, soup kitchen, church members, neighbors and friends with whom I otherwise may have sh...

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John Steinbeck’s Muddled View of Sunsets

Of course I was moved by The Grapes of Wrath, though I think East of Eden was a superior novel.

And Of Mice and Men? Who wasn’t reduced to blubbering at Lenny’s sorry fate? I sure was!

So this post is not to impugn the renowned and honorable John Steinbeck, champion of the dispossessed and travel companion of a dog named Charlie, among other estimable virtues.

It is only to hold up the fact, in graphic detail pertaining to one short sentence of Steinbeck’s prose, that writers don’t always get it right, that they most always benefit from conscientious editing, and that sometimes, even writers as gifted as Steinbeck, rewarded for their talents and toil by being assigned accomplished and decently paid editors, can fail and then be failed by those editors as well.

To such a degree, as a matter of fact, that the following kind of sentence can occasionally sneak past the sentries guarding against ambigui...

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