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My mother was very sick with Alzheimer disease the summer of 2001. Her short term memory was mostly gone; she was restless, frightened, paranoid, and she never slept. The only thing she wanted, the only thing she could ask for, was to go back to Serbia. She begged me to take her back and spent hours standing by the front door with her bag in her hand. I promised that we would go.

It took a while to get our papers in order and our passports ready, and then 9/11 happened. The collective breath of the world came to a standstill. My family, together with everyone else, was in shock, reeling from the tragedy, terrified of what was coming next. My mother was oblivious. …

I feel unwanted. Like i wasn't meant to be here. I love so many and I hate so few. I'm misunderstood. The man I love loves another girl. I think that people lable me. I'm real and they are fake. I hate being in the middle of drama. Love the sky. Miss the love. I want to cut myself. I love the pain. My heart will heal one day. I hope. I don't normally use proper gramar. I always think about what life would be like with him. People at my school think I'm gay. I want to be loved. No one is near me. This is hard for me to admit. I love to be asleep....I always think of you. I try to make …

PHOTO CAPTION: My grandfather, Georgie Ray (Shrake) on right; unidentified bandmate on left. Blossom Heath, Grosse Pointe, MI. Early 1930s.

After Grandpa Shrake died in 1991, Grandma Shrake started to experience senility. When I came home to Detroit after my internship in D.C. the next fall, my dad told me, "She's funny. If you ask her something, anything, now: She'll tell you the real answer." He did a soundless laugh, a look of elsewhere in his eyes.

He was telling the truth about his mother's newfound involuntary bluntness, as I soon found out. You could ask her, for example, "Which child was your favorite?" and she would name her favorite, without hesitating.

She also volunteered her own searingly honest comments. "Well, …

Resolution - Re Solution; does this mean that you've already tried and failed? Is this the REvised solution for the original plan of attack that just didn't work?
I've decided to start this journal on my journey to write a book. Now that I've made this commitment, it's already falling apart. Don't get me wrong, I've had "journals" before but they never seem to stick...I mean, I never seem to stick with them. (I'm already trying to lay blame elsewhere.) This time is different. I've decided not to let myself give up. Maybe that's what is scaring me now.
I went to buy my journal but for some reason every aspect of the purchase became taxing. I …

My family and I spent a few days at our cottage near Lake Michigan. Kaya, my sister’s dog, came with us.

Kaya is a two year old Siberian Husky, taupe and caramel colored, with bright blue eyes. If Silver was a sensitive soul and Bella more intelligent and aware than many humans, Kaya is the kind of dog who loves everybody and everything and needs constant company. She also likes to be the continual center of attention.

On Friday, I woke up early to a sunny, blue-skied, but windy and chilly morning. I had a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal and hoped to snuggle under a warm blanket and read for hours while the rest of the house slept. But …

Nothing happened in autumn. The only things worth mentioning was being alone, inside before sunset, trying to remember the small things about him. It felt as if I could remember the forgettable things it would reflect how I'd never forget the big things, or some slight form of insanity along those lines. Doing that while trying to block out the destroyed future.
When it came to me though, it made the day worth living. At the end of October while Laura was still missing and Sheila and I were aimless and others kept living, I went to the train tracks Laura and I once visited so often. I was alone, at night, on metal bleachers. Thirteen tall pine trees …

Another good friend was Pierre Brisard, a former French Foreign attaché. I met him in the spring of 1988, in the parking lot at Kailua Beach. It was morning, and I was unloading my windsurfing board from the top of my Chevrolet when I saw an older European gentleman—tall and gaunt—about 6’2’’, with an Asian child of about 9 years of age, and they were speaking French. I thought that this was a grandfather with his grandson, and I asked whether they were from Tahiti. He replied in the negative, and we began our conversation. The boy was not his grandson but his son, and I was glad that I did not commit a faux pas by asking the Frenchman about his “grandson.”
At this …

How I became a Frenchman

In May of 2009, I officially received a Master’s Degree in French from the University of Hawaii at Manoa; after a six-hour written exam, I could’ve received my degree in January 2008, but I wanted to take a yoga class in the Spring semester, and I asked the Graduate School to postpone issuing my diploma so as to allow me to register for the yoga class.
“Most people just want to get their diploma and get out of here,” said the young Japanese-American woman who staffed the window at the Graduate Division; she gave me a quizzical look, checked with the dean’s assistant, and changed my student status from alumnus to continuing thus allowing me to register and to …
I have been pursued by weather for most of my life; a storm-chaser in reverse. From tornado torn Oklahoma, to the sun-scorched desert of Arizona, to the sculpted snow, ice, snow, ice walls sliding around sidewalks of Southeast Alaska, the elements have always been a part of my psyche. My father was a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As a teenager, I loved to listen to his deep-chested voice read the marine forecast from the Sony transistor radio on top of the refrigerator. I especially loved it when he worked graveyards and the gravelly pitch of his voice laid itself over the dark while I sat at the kitchen table and stared into the white gray of …

You tell me to mind the writings on the wall
We joke about our walks of shame
I wonder: if not here, if not now
Is bad timing the only one to blame?

Yet here I am somewhat lost
Sometimes chasing butterflies
Mostly hoping to disguise
That I’m not ready for goodbyes

Won’t open my eyes
Gonna hold my breath.
Phone rings
Your hands, my mouth, our wine
You leave. I'm here. I understand. It's fine.

Your jeans. My dress. You drink. I don't.
We've always been. We'll never be.
We don't exist. There's you. There's me.

This is my writing on your wall.
A quiet mourning over us.
Always past. Maybe future. True story that never …

Last Monday at 8 :00 am, I had my six month checkup with my oncologist. I usually schedule those appointments early in the morning, because I am nervous and like to get it over with early. I have trouble sleeping the night before. Most of the time I am busy with my life and give little thought to cancer. But exam days bring back memories of what my family and I went through five years ago, and those memories are still very painful.

I get up at 5:30 am that Monday morning, so I have time to get ready leisurely and be alone with my thoughts. I take a shower, eat some yogurt with fruit and drink a cup of coffee. I wake Sam …

There are as many roads to penury as there are paupers to follow them. As a writer, I have tried to see my own journey as a leisurely, rather loopy jaunt; material for an anecdote to be delivered someday with wry nostalgia during my acceptance speech at a national awards gala.

Today, however, the road is looking rough. I’m on my way to sign over the pink slip on "Moby Dick," my white 2000 Buick Century, as security on a loan so that I can pay my rent, five days late and counting. My destination is a storefront in a bleak San Jose strip mall where, between a liquor mart and a shoe repair shop, a fuchsia neon sign beckons: "Fast Cash! Paycheck …

The front door of the apartment was open. The porch was empty, the blue and white coolers were gone. Maybe he was at the lakefront…or working (this early? impossible.)

As if a dream, I got off my borrowed bike, and feeling my heart thud more quickly every step, tried to place the workers that were polishing the floors of the empty apartment within the context of the last conversation I had had with Roger 2 weeks before.

I walked slowly to the door. A yellow note on the mailbox read: “Please do not leave mail for Roger S-----. He is deceased.”

Everything changed after that moment.

15 years earlier:
A meeting in a bar on Royal Street …

It’s not as if I’m a trembling flower. In all aspects of my life, I am for the most part pretty nonplussed in the face of a challenge. If anything, a fear is generally an excuse to exercise my curiosity. What’s it like to skydive? I don’t know—let’s try! How about righting a kayak while still in it, upside down, in the water? Why, what a novel idea! Who cares if I’m a poor swimmer? But baking? All of the usual symptoms of anxiety set in: the clammy hands, the stumbling, the cold, rank perspiration.

I blame my mother. She’s convenient. And a good baker. It’s no comfort with you’re surrounded by the fluffy meringues, sponge cakes, and loafs that would emerge in …

Dear Abby:

My wife and I have a problem that we simply cannot talk about with our family or friends so we are turning to you for advice.
I should begin by telling you that my wife and I live in a
medium-sized city in the Midwest. We are both teachers in our local high school: I teach English and am the head of our drama department; she teaches art and runs the dance program. The subject of our concern is Dylan, our only child, who is a senior in our school.

Let me emphasize that no parents have ever done as much for a child as we have done for Dylan. As soon as my wife knew she …

The strangest place I’ve ever lived, by no insubstantial margin, was RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk County, England. The dimensions of its peculiarity were many. For one it was the site of one of the most famous alleged UFO sightings in the world. In fact, those who supposedly saw the anomalous lights in the Rendlesham Forest were, like me, Law Enforcement Specialists posted to the United States Air Force base located there. That event occurred eight years before I was stationed there, and it took place right outside the base in dense evergreen woods. It has been suggested that the incident was nothing more than a prank performed by a patrolman running his patrol car’s light bar. This is certainly believable to me as it is …

I'm trying very hard not to become that guy. You know the one who wakes up one morning and realizes that half his life is gone and he has nothing to show for it. That the dreams he once had and the goals he had planned have fallen by the wayside and become all but distant memories. You know, that guy. Maybe one of you is him. But I know I don't want to be, in spite of the seeming path leading in that direction.

I'm four years shy of 50; almost 23 years have passed since my college graduation, where I was supposed to have the whole world in front of me. Like many before me, I had bought into the whole dream …

During my teenage years, in the 1990s, gangster movies were like a religion to Staten Island Italians. Scorsese may have tapped into a really accurate portrayal of what Italians had been like during the 1960s and 1970s, but the modern-day, middle-class Italians had lost their edge and strove to regain the toughness of their parents and grandparents by doing impersonations of characters from gangster films. Of course, some of these gangster wannabes were still tough, blue collar fellas, but it was often hard to tell where their real personalities ended and the characters from The Godfather and Goodfellas began.

Effectively, of all the thousands of movies produced during one hundred years of American cinema, only three counted as must-see viewing on Staten Island …

Recently, I read a blog posting from a mother whose young daughter has breast cancer. She sounded like a loving and supportive mother, and her writing touched me deeply.

She wrote about the comfort we receive from being listened to. Sometimes, she said, her daughter wanted to talk about her deepest fears: her fear of death, her fear of leaving her little son behind, her fear of illness and pain. In each case, the mother tried to make her daughter feel better, to reassure her, to dismiss her fears. At the time, she believed that was the best thing she could do for the daughter she loved more than herself.

Now, though, she believes that she would behave differently. She would let …

My life is black history. The very fact that I exist. My mama’s son. Third of five. Didn’t know my father. Wanting to be a father. Wanting to be a man, wanting to be a writer—wanting to be James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, the entire Harlem Renaissance wrapped up in one. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before, who kicked down the door, so that I could strut right through, doing the funky chicken and the jitterbug, to Duke’s “A-train”, and Miles’ “Kind of Blue”.

My life is black history. Growing up in high-rise projects. Fat kid with four eyes and crooked teeth. The brain, the Professor, they called me. And sometimes it’s hard to hold your nappy head up, …
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