• Memoir

    NOTATIONS: ‘Tick-tick-tick …’

    This quarter-century-old guestbook notation, scribbled and illustrated one cold February day on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery in the West Virginia hills, remains true, after all these years.

  • Memoir

    Looking Down on Paris, 30 years gone

    Exiting the spartan, Napoleonic era apartment building I have sort of broken into, I head for the highest hill in Paris. I am intent on seeing what I can see this Christmas Eve in Paris, 1986, while my Moroccan fellow traveler snores toward Christmas Day, as we take a break from helping build a Buddhist temple in a Parisian suburb.

  • Essays,  Memoir,  Profiles

    Dear General de Gaulle …

    The email arrived one day recently in my in-box from Glasgow, Scotland: Did you know, it said, that a letter your friend Sister Mary Pellicane sent to Charles de Gaulle is on sale on eBay in London? Um ... no. What?

  • Memoir

    The Art of the Song Lyric

    The hand-transcribed song lyric considered as a work of art. Bouncing around Paris and the volcanic heartland of Gaul before easy access to printers and scanners, you had to make do when you wanted to travel with lyrics to the songs you hoped to sing.

  • Essays,  Memoir

    ‘I Am Too Serious’

    'Hey, here you go. What's your name? Where'd you serve?' He nods in thanks. Stuffs the bag into a pocket. Tom. That's his name. He takes off his black knit cap. Syria. Iraq. 'A shell took off part of the top of my head.' I wince. He points to a jagged line. 'The Med Evac was the best. Saved my life.' He's homeless. 'I sleep in the park.'

  • Essays,  Memoir

    “Stormtroopers & Grandmas”

    The balls of his black pupils stare at me intently, oddly echoed by the round marble of a self-shaved head. Moments later, I have second thoughts about my diplomacy as “Speak English or Die” batters the room.

  • Memoir,  Photography,  Poetry

    ‘What Does the Past Look Like?’

    A more Catholic grade school name you could / not conjure — Our Lady of the Rosary. Where, on a / bright Saturday afternoon, I'm surprised to find / an orange traffic cone propping open a first-floor / door. And so, as one will do when invited by the / cosmos to stroll the hallways where you once / walked a half-century gone, I walk in.

  • Art,  Longform Essays,  Memoir

    ‘I can see clearly now’

    I had to get out of town. Get lost, evade the race of human beings. Seek out geese and turtles, beavers and blue herons. Gunned the car 50 miles per hour, 70, 80. Slowed to make the left turn. Parked on white gravel near the trail head. The way forward was barred by a long rusted gate, hinged and anchored to a chest-high concrete post. Only footfalls allowed hereafter.

  • Memoir,  Video

    When Elephants Walked in West Virginia

    You may not believe it. I would well understand should you not. The querulous mind dances lightly upon the phrase—and then rejects it utterly. There have never been elephants in West Virginia. But you would be wrong. Oh, so wrong.