Personal Essays

Damn the Torpedoes, We Have Bigger Problems

  Craig L. Symonds’s The US Navy: A Concise History (Oxford UP 2016) is a book that in its brevity (116 pages), simple texture, and insights could have been written only by a master of the subject. Symonds is emeritus at the US Naval Academy and was a visiting professor at the US Naval War […]

Roses in an Alley

    Some people go to Vegas. I gamble on florists, who must keep their stock impeccably fresh by leaving lovely flowers in the Dumpster for me to find. Tacky, yes. But there is never any goop or crud in their Dumpsters, just lovely long stems, a few slimy or blackened but most still crisp […]

Playing in the Wedding Band

    Matthew Korbfort called me when he was still Matthew Stenfort. I answered the phone in mild amazement. Matthew was in his early twenties and, like everyone his age I knew, he never called anyone. He had never called me. If he was not so young, I would have been full of dread that […]

WWII Bronze Star Recipient Amy Lois Nickles, Updated

      Back in 2021 I wrote a piece about First Lieutenant Amy Nickles, an American army nurse from Georgia who was awarded the Bronze Star in World War Two and saw as much or more of the European Theater as famed writer Ernie Pyle. I became interested in her because I could find […]

New Harmony

    “I just hope the coffee roaster’s still there,” I say as we exit the highway. “Why wouldn’t it be?” asks my husband, whose world contains fewer neurotic imaginings. I shrug. “Things change from year to year.” I remind him about the other little coffeehouse, now vanished, and the bookstore we loved…. We have […]

Pea Soup with Art Garfunkel

        On a website since removed from public view, Art Garfunkel mapped with approximate dates the path he walked from his apartment on the Upper East side of Manhattan to Oregon, dating his walk across parts of Pennsylvania as April 1984. That means the following incident would have transpired in April 1984, […]

The Conspiracy of Bad Coffee Is Real, but Ending Soon

        Every so often the forces of new scientific findings and opinion columns align to produce a certain sense of dread and unease. In this case, that dread and that unease are acute if you believe in the power and pleasure of a good cup of coffee. Yes, there are myriad other […]

Was the Eclipse Anticlimactic?

    You would think we were planning an expedition to the moon. First I researched ancient and medieval narratives of eclipse, read the scientific explanation of the crimson ring we might see (hydrogen in the chromosphere) and the erratic behavior of wildlife, and got sidetracked by solar wind and the music of the spheres […]

Steinbeck and the Baby Bunny

    The dog drops into a play-bow, a fuzzy toy in his mouth. He leaps up, pounces, energy high, eyes sparkling with fun. Boy, he really loves that toy, I think, curious which of the thousand has sparked his imagination. My husband, always more alert than I, stops in the doorway. “What’s he got?” […]

Easter Baskets Will Arrive Per Contract, Cartel Insists

        All the big holidays involve pleasure-by-glut, from the gifting of Santa to fireworks on the Fourth. Glut is a celebration of freedom from want, but it is important to these particular gluts that they arrive by an external source of magic, which covers its tracks with prosaic details. The reindeer have […]