Category Archives: Stories – From Life & Elsewhere

Bernie, Garrison, LittleHands & the Rainbow Toilet: My Top Blog Posts for 2016

It’s Top Ten List season, and how can I refuse?  Yet  out of more than 130 blog posts, how can I choose? 

One way is to do it by the numbers: And the clear #1 on that score went up on February 12. It called out  the slighting comments made by Congressman & civil rights legend John Lewis about Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the thick of a hard-fought primary struggle with Hillary Clinton.


I revere John Lewis; but the post also stood up for Sanders’ activist record as a college student — not as a movement hero or leader, but as one of many who did his bit, took his lumps, and had been a loyal ally for fifty-plus years since.

Continue reading Bernie, Garrison, LittleHands & the Rainbow Toilet: My Top Blog Posts for 2016

Another Story for an Era’s End: “I Hate Dill Pickles”

Spring 2007; or maybe tomorrow

Sara Rahman was my best friend then. “BFFs, Amber,” she often said to me.  And some of the best times we had were while walking home from school. We joked and laughed about everything – stuff in school, books she was reading, her dorky big brother Ahmed, even some of the sillier songs from “American Idol.”

 Maybe we were having too much fun. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone running up to the ice cream truck that came jangling by and pulled over to the curb.

But it was a warm spring Thursday, and Sara had five dollars in her pocket, a pre-birthday present from her aunt, and she loved ice cream.

“Especially butter pecan,” she said. “That’s my very favorite.”

 So we did stop at the ice cream truck. No butter pecan, but they did have big cones of cookies and cream, so Sara got one of those, and bought me an Eskimo pie. Continue reading Another Story for an Era’s End: “I Hate Dill Pickles”

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

img_2339

Went to see this movie at the Tuesday bargain matinee. The film was the surprise box office winner for films that opened last weekend.

My goal for it was twofold:

1. Pig out on popcorn (no added “butter,” free refill); and

2. Be distracted from the fearful foolishness outside.

I’m aware that there are some black sophisticates who sneer at producer/writer/actor Tyler Perry & his famed drag character Madea as retrograde & politically incorrect.

Personally, I’m in awe of both: Perry is no puppet of white moviemakers: he built an empire by creating a strong, original character who combines many of the paradoxes of the culture and makes them tolerable through broad comedy. And he gathered his following from the ground up with black audiences. Many of Perry’s films seem clumsily assembled, yet Madea outshines them and survives.

“Boo!” involves the standard Perry ingredients: sassy but vulnerable youth; elders who are hilariously obnoxious, often off-color, pot-smoking (mostly legal this time) & foul-mouthed. The plot is far-fetched & mainly irrelevant, with a dollop of throwback piety to reassure the nervous churchgoers tittering in the back.

Never mind the story; it rolls along. The point is, I came out two hours later, still chuckling. And not til the car radio went on did I realize I hadn’t thought about the damn election & all that, not even for a second, for more than two hours:

That’s worth five stars & a bushel of rotten tomatoes. Money’s worth, totally.

Here’s the trailer.

img_2340

img_2342
Tyler Perry. While some scoff, he & his characters (above) are laughing all the way to the bank.

Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

My brother Mike picked up the ringing phone: Nonantum Times,” he said, listened a moment, then handed me the receiver.

I put my hand over it and raised an eyebrow at him. “Ted Epstein,” he whispered.

Ted Epstein was a lawyer in downtown Boston. He was also a board member for the Nonantum Times, the new low-budget suburban weekly newspaper of which I was the founding editor. That is to say, he was one of my bosses.

Nonantum-Map

“Ted!” I said into the phone. “Got any good news for me?”

There was an awkward pause on the other end. Then, ”l’m afraid not, Chuck,” he said. 

“Oh no,” I said, “don’t tell me our first big investigative scoop isn’t gonna happen.”

Continue reading Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

Dog Days: Hurricane Betsy & the Twenty-Five Dollar House

Dog Days: Hurricane Betsy & the Twenty-Five Dollar House

One

August, 1956 –The night before the hurricane, I listened to the bugle calls before I went to sleep, as usual.  The calls weren’t played on a real bugle, of course, but from a record, blasting out of big loudspeakers somewhere in the barracks on the other side of the base, where the airmen lived.  They played one call at nine o-clock, another long one, called “Tattoo,” at nine-thirty, and the last one, Taps, at ten.  

Ramey-Tattoo-bugleUnless there were a lot of planes taking off or landing, the bugle calls carried on the still night air over the tall palm trees and all the way to the family housing, where they echoed down our curving streets, which ran along the edge of the base facing the ocean.

That ocean, the Caribbean, was only two blocks from our house at 131 C Street.  That is, it was two blocks to the edge of the land; from there to the water was another two hundred feet or so, down a cliff.  

Continue reading Dog Days: Hurricane Betsy & the Twenty-Five Dollar House

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

    Friend Jim Corbett, of Pima Meeting in Tucson, died on his Arizona ranch August 2, 2001 after a short illness. He was 67.

    With his passing a quiet Quaker giant departed.

    I for one am grateful to have lived in the same two centuries as he. For those who become familiar with the important strands of Quaker thought and action of our time, I believe Jim’s life and work will loom even larger with time.

Sanctuary-Corbett-FGC-1986
Jim Corbett, speaking at Friends General Conference in 1986, not long after he escaped conviction on charges of illegally aiding refugees fleeing Central American wars.

    Not that we’ll see a lot of monuments to him; he deserves them, but that wasn’t his way, and Quakers aren’t much for it.

    But a tribute is due, and here’s mine. It’s an adaptation of a profile of Jim that was part of my book, Without Apology.  Continue reading Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Dog Days Tales: His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Dog Days Tales: His Eye Is On the Sparrow

A True Camp Story

I

It was Marcy Siegel who first realized that a killer was about to strike.

“No!” she shrieked. “Don’t”

But it was too late. The killer squeezed the trigger, squeezed it smoothly, silently, remorselessly. The rifle popped loudly, and the sound bounced back from the low hill in front of them.

The victim jerked and fell to the ground.

Then Marcy Siegel screamed, and so did the others.

Logo-CF-Dog-Days-box

II

Camp Frontier, in the Hudson Valley of New York, was not much different from dozens of other such places: A long rambling row of cabins spread out along the shore of a cool blue lake. Behind them were softball fields, basketball courts, and other athletic equipment. A big lodge divided the boys’ cabins on the east from the girls’ on the west. In the big lodge we ate, heard announcements, and griped about the food. Continue reading Dog Days Tales: His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

First written Summer 2000
Revised 08-21-2016

I

One of the finest, most eloquent ministers of this generation of liberal Quakers, William J. “Bill” Kreidler, of Beacon Hill Meeting in Boston, died on June 10, 2000. That was a time to mourn, and also a time to remember, and to pay tribute. And today, more than a decade-plus later, remembrance and tribute are what I want to do here.

Dog-Days-Logo-CF-Dog-Days-box

Of Bill’s biography, I know only a few scattered facts: He was from a farm community in western New York, and grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. He began college in Buffalo and finished in Boston, where he became a public school teacher. He was gay. He wrote books about conflict resolution in schools, and did consulting with school systems on violence prevention. Where and how he came to Friends I don’t know; but he was a founding member of Beacon Hill Meeting.

My first memory of Bill is from St. Lawrence University, at the FGC Gathering of 1984. I was leading a workshop, my first for FGC, on the Basics of Bible Study, and he was in it. Continue reading Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

Quakerism: Taking A Bite Of The Apple

Quakerism: Taking A Bite Of The Apple

I

1969: Looking back, my own “formation” as a Quaker began under Morris Mitchell at Friends World College in 1966, and while it has never really ended, I can recognize a kind of novitiate that continued until 1975. And instead of one mentor, or “novice master,” I had several, some of which made a large impact in only brief encounters.

Cambridge-meeting-good
Cambridge Meeting, Massachusetts.

One such in my Boston years was Sam Levering of Ararat, Virginia. Sam was invited to be a speaker at a New England regional gathering of the Young Friends of North America, or YFNA. Continue reading Quakerism: Taking A Bite Of The Apple