Category Archives: Stories – From Life & Elsewhere

The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

File this in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” folder.

Road signs that are flashing on highways all over North Carolina.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 1972, there was to be a total eclipse. It was, the media told us, going to be amazing, terrific & spooky. I was living in Boston then, and the path of totality was going to pass near me.

July 1972: The dark blue lines like a railroad track are the course of the total solar eclipse. The green arrows show where it was to cross Nova Scotia.

I got excited about this. And as the publicity buildup continued, I became steadily more excited. In fact, I was soon talking to my best friend David Eppers about a road trip: Continue reading The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

A Quaker Reflection on Memorial Day

I’d prefer to ignore Memorial Day; another militaristic effusion.

KIA = Killed In Action. MIA = Missing In Action. Memorial Day is every day on this road to Camp Lejeune, the Marine base on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina.

But it’s not so easy. My lifetime in the U.S. has been marked throughout by war, with intermittent periods of not-war between the big ones (mostly wth secret wars going on meantime). And even though I’ve been against war for most of it, that doesn’t really erase the memories, even if mine are from much physical distance from the battlefields. Or at least, the most visible ones.

Here are two collections of images from the perch at the edges of the killing fields. They embody memories fitting for the occasion. Continue reading A Quaker Reflection on Memorial Day

New Resistance Reading: “Our Society. Our Future: Resist!”

“To every thing there is a season,” says the biblical sage Ecclesiastes,

A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away . . .
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak,”

and I would add,
A time to endure, and a time to resist.

As I write, in early 2017,  in the United States, such a time of resistance is upon us.


This new collection (now available in paperback and on Kindle) is for those who have been through “a time to lose” — losses that, as I write, are far from over. Some of these losses will have to be endured for a time, perhaps a long time.

Yet if so, they are not to be endured in passive, compliant silence. Continue reading New Resistance Reading: “Our Society. Our Future: Resist!”

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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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