Archive for Books

Feeling Sorry for Trump…

The universe works in mysterious ways… Last night, for the first time, I actually felt sorry for Donald Trump. It happened at a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights at the Seattle Repertory Theater. Miranda’s hip hop/rap/salsa/merengue musical chronicles the lives of a group of Latinx immigrants full of hope and aspiration in the Washington Heights neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan. Some are first generation, some second, but they found their way to the Heights from all over Latin America – Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico – in search of a better life. What they find there, in the tenements and steamy summer heat of Upper Manhattan, is community and a shared humanity. read more

Trump as Tragic Figure…

Ever since that theatrical moment when he and Melania – rode the escalator from their gilded palace in Trump Tower to the food court below – I’ve been trying to find a suitable metaphor, real or literary, to describe the unfolding drama of our times.

Before the inauguration I thought Donald Trump might be our Great Gatsby, and I even wrote an essay making the equation.  http://www.jackbernardstravels.com/djt-great-gatsby. Like Jay Gatsby, Trump is a larger than life character removed from the concerns of ordinary people. Both characters cultivate images as self-made empire builders with self-inflated biographies. Both crave acceptance by the elite they will never be a part of and surround themselves with leeches and hangers-on. Both love extravagant trappings and beautiful women, and Trump would no doubt be flattered by the comparison. Even if he doesn’t read or know the story, to see himself as a character portrayed by Robert Redford or Leonardo DiCaprio would stroke his unquenchable ego and delusional image as a handsome leading man of unimaginable wealth. read more

Tangled Roots…

Do you ever wonder about your ancestry? Do you know how and when your family came to America? Is there any strange fruit hanging on your family tree? Einstein? Al Capone? Sarah Bernhardt? What do you really know about your family’s history?

Are you a true American? Probably not; Elizabeth Warren’s recent DNA test confirms that she is, because her ancestry links back to those who inhabited North America before 1600. They’re the only true Americans. The rest of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Even Donald Trump’s tangled roots are buried in one of those “shithole” countries in Africa he likes to disdain. read more

The Act of Becoming…

Today, I’m sitting in a book-filled room at Folio, the membership-based, non-profit library that’s been my writing home for the last two years. Every Tuesday and Thursday I ride the bus from home in Kenmore to downtown Seattle and settle in, free of homely distractions, for a day of writing. No dishes to wash, mail to retrieve, rugs to vacuum, trash to empty, or decks to sweep.

For the past nine years I’ve tried to approach writing as a full time job. Try is the key word. Even here at Folio there are distractions. I sneak looks at Facebook, peak at incoming email, or dreamily watch the Bainbridge ferry crossing to the island. Writers have always complained about how difficult it is to concentrate. Joseph Conrad had his wife lock him in his bare bones study until his allotted writing time was up. Good for writing but hard on the marriage. read more

Am I a Racist?

I can predict the responses when I, a white male, criticize a person of color. “That’s so racist.” “You sound like a closet racist.” “You don’t understand the culture of race.” “You haven’t experienced what he or she has.” “You don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color.” “You can’t understand because of your ‘white privilege’. ”

Almost from the beginning of these conversations I’m on the defensive. I say I’m not talking about race. I explain that I’m talking about a person or a behavior. I’m expressing my opinion that the behavior is unacceptable, or that the person is acting like a jerk or simply out of line, but inevitably I have to defend myself against a charge of racism. read more