Three Sorrowful Stories My Spanish Teacher Told Me About America’s ‘Bleeding Scar’

The perpetual crisis on our southern border It’s not often a New York Times editorial triggers me.  This one, written by Jorge Ramos about the endless crisis on the US-Mexico border, that frontier Carlos Fuentes described as a “bleeding scar,” did. I grew up in California — in wine country no less — where I witnessed firsthand the xenophobia and… Continue reading Three Sorrowful Stories My Spanish Teacher Told Me About America’s ‘Bleeding Scar’

How to Almost Run into Massive Hippos (Hint: Be Drunk)

Also: pay no attention to where you are going Three of us lurched down the narrow path carved into the dense forest.  Weaving our way from one side of the path to the other, we paid no attention to the various squawks and rustlings produced by the creatures in the dense forest surrounding us. Having consumed… Continue reading How to Almost Run into Massive Hippos (Hint: Be Drunk)

Fluid Transfer Permit

Working nights. No end in sight.  Walk the lineup, kick the pump on, feel the fluid inside the pipe, watch the numbers on the gauge. Heed cavitation’s gravelly roar, kill the pump, close the valves, walk upstairs, pour and clutch a cup of coffee.  Answer the truck driver’s call. Walk the line, check the hose,… Continue reading Fluid Transfer Permit

How My Daughter Succeeded Where Marie Kondo Failed

I’m a dinosaur.  In this age of smart phones and online dictionaries, I own two physical dictionaries.  You know, dictionaries.  Big, heavy books filled with definitions. About as up-to-date as telephones that plug into the wall, sit on a shelf and stay inside when you leave the house. I have carted them across the United… Continue reading How My Daughter Succeeded Where Marie Kondo Failed

Tuskers, Ping Pong, and Spears

A travel memory from central Kenya, 1997 Three six-foot-plus Samburu warriors sat at the bar, their left hands curled around half-liter bottles of Tusker. Their right hands caressed the shafts of long, lion-killing spears. The bar was in Maralal, Kenya, which is where the pavement ended — about a days drive out of Nairobi. It was August and… Continue reading Tuskers, Ping Pong, and Spears

Dusty Around the Eyes

Names change colors when you are dusty around the eyes. Watch a gerenuk at sunset while listening to a Walkman. These two odd sentences are mnemonics I constructed to remind myself of chains of thought that occurred to me while learning to do anthropological fieldwork in East Africa. Searching the forests of the Semliki Valley… Continue reading Dusty Around the Eyes