The Glue That Holds Us Together

    Early in grade school, I was solemnly initiated into the ritual. Elmer’s glue had to be smeared all over one’s finger, the inside of the wrist, or possibly the whole hand, then allowed to dry—blowing on it was permitted—and slowly, deliciously, peeled off. This even topped peeling sunburned skin, because that ended up […]

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 […]

Shakespeare’s Sisters Speak Up

    In Shakespeare’s Sisters: How Women Wrote the Renaissance, Ramie Targoff points out that when Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own, “she knew almost nothing about the powerful literary works a small group of women had written—and in many cases, published—around the time of Shakespeare.” Not her fault; those works “had been […]

To See, or Not to See

  Michael Eastman wants to walk around my little Southern Illinois town with his camera. A photographer whose work is in museums, who has shot the world’s extremes of beauty and decay, wants to walk around Waterloo, Illinois, and shoot? What the hell do I show him? I make a halfhearted list—the town’s history museum? […]

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 […]

Pixelborn as an Evil Robin Hood

      My friend Larry called to warn me about the “evil Robin Hood” he had discovered furthering “the degeneration of societal norms.” Larry owns an art gallery and is tuned in to all manner of associated subjects, from Braque’s congruence with Picasso, to prison art, to intellectual property issues. The thing he saw […]

We Are Losing Our Words

    “Maybe use a more common word?” My friend’s query is gentle. I asked for his take on an essay, and he marked a few words that might seem obscure, archaic, high-falutin’. A decade ago, I would have complied instantly, searching out smaller, easier substitutes. Instead, I flash back, “Let ’em look it up. […]

Diogenes Can Teach You How to Say No

    Diogenes—rumpled, rude, sure of his convictions—was nicknamed “the Dog.” The Greek word for dog was “cynic,” which gives his philosophy, Cynicism, a ludicrous etymology, given dogs’ willingness to trust anything we say or do. Diogenes would have welcomed the adjective “ludicrous,” though; it is rooted in the Latin term for a playful jest. […]