Archive for Personal/Family

Anti-Semitic Fever Dream

The two 4-inch square brass plaques in the photo below are stolpersteine (“stumbling stones” in German). They are embedded in the sidewalk in front of my former apartment at 14 Ruhlaerstrasse in Berlin. Edith and Willy Lindenberg lived there until November 11, 1941 when they were deported to a concentration camp in Minsk (Belarus) and murdered simply because they were Juden (Jewish). The plaques are part of the stolpersteine project created in 1992 by German artist Gunter Deming.

The plaques are to commemorate the victims and remind all who “stumble” across them of the Nazi’s “final solution”– to obliterate all “racially inferior” non-Aryans. They are placed in front of the last known residences of those deported and murdered during the Holocaust. As of 2019 there were more than 75,000 stolpersteine in 1200 locations in Western Europe. read more

Safe and Secure in Idaho…

You might recognize her as a type: a neatly dressed, polite, older woman but tentative and out of place in her role as a restaurant server. It may not be fair, but I often slot these women–mostly widows and/or single women–into a category that supplements its limited Social Security by working entry level service jobs. Last night, one served us at the restaurant next door to our Best Western hotel in rural Idaho.

Bonnie, not her real name, might fit this description generally, but our encounter revealed a more disturbing story. This awkward but friendly woman in white jeans and starched pinstripe shirt with glasses hanging from a lanyard started the conversation while busing our outside table overlooking the Snake River. With only a few post-Labor Day stragglers in the restaurant she felt comfortable pausing to talk. read more

The End of Days…

America is getting downright crispy. There was a time when “forest fires” savaged large tracts of BLM and Forest Service wilderness and we learned about it in the morning paper or on the nightly news. Back then, when a fire topped the ridges north of Los Angeles, homes in Malibu and Topanga Canyon were on high alert and volunteer fire departments were mobilized to hose down rooftops to keep the embers from torching the neighborhood. But in 2018, the Camp Fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, destroyed 19,000 homes and killed 85 people. Since then, out of control fires are a regular occurrence, and residential communities across the country are threatened by fire as never before. read more

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I’ve forgotten what M was reading, but years ago, when we were newly together, I asked her whether she preferred fiction or non-fiction. The answer came quickly, “No question,” she said, “I don’t have time for fiction.” Just the facts, Jack. Since then our tastes and preferences have evolved, but at the time it signaled a startling difference between us.

We were both early readers, but I didn’t hit my stride until I encountered John Steinbeck in high school. M, on the other hand, was a voracious young reader. So were her parents, and they encouraged her. Anything with pages was OK. Kids books, Book of the Month Club selections, historical novels…especially those with a little romance. She was a late bloomer and hid in books. When she did bloom, she used them to hide from me and all the other bloom-snatching high school predators. read more

Stuff…

When M and I were working in Saigon, we lived in a tidy minimalist apartment. Three rooms, tile floors, built in appliances, TV console, small sectional, kitchen table, bed and writing table. It was uncluttered, and we loved it. So it was a shock to come back to Seattle, open the door to our condo and confront the overwhelming amount of stuff inside. Rugs on top of rugs. Walls full of books. Art on every surface. Closets full of shirts, suits, jackets, sweaters, shoes, linens, blankets, luggage. Two televisions. Two computers. Two desks. Two chests. Three sofas. Tables. Chairs. Filing cabinets. And a storage locker in the basement. Contrast raises your consciousness. read more