Category Archives: Stories – From Life & Elsewhere

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

My Other Hurricane: Betsy vs. 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 My Other Hurricane: Betsy vs. 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

“Meetings” – Small Is Beautiful – But Is It Buddhist?

“Meetings” – Small Is Beautiful – But Is It Buddhist?

An excerpt:

1976:  I was working essentially full time, for the weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian, but was on a freelance basis. Paid by the published article, I was seriously poor.

Cover-FRONT-Meetings-SM-RockwellYet I was not unhappy with my lot: the Bay Guardian was a journalistic legend; the editors respected my work and kept wanting more. I’d been meaning to demand a regular gig, but had been too busy. 

My “beat” was the offbeat, story ideas outside the paper’s weekly regimen of muckraking about politics and other public corruptions, all plentiful in the region. 

Instead I wrote the stories readers wanted but no one else had thought of: Continue reading “Meetings” – Small Is Beautiful – But Is It Buddhist?

“Pathway To Freedom” – Getting Ready For The Show

“Pathway To Freedom” – Getting Ready For The Show

Ladies, Gentlemen, & Friends: Meet Levi & Katherine (aka Katie) Coffin, circa 1850. They helped make (and followed) the Underground Railroad from central North Carolina to Indiana and Ohio . . . .

Levi-n-Katie-Coffin

Oh, wait — Meet Levi & Katie Coffin, 2016 . . . Snow Camp NC

SCOT-Coffins from 2016-cast

Normally, the young folks above are named Sarah Hornaday and Jay Williams.

Continue reading “Pathway To Freedom” – Getting Ready For The Show

New: A Religious Autobiography From “Interesting Times”

New: A Religious Autobiography From “Interesting Times”

“May you live in interesting times.” 

That’s a curse, remember? And 2016 marks fifty years for me among  Friends–a half century of almost nonstop “interesting times.” 

I’ve begun putting my experience of this era on paper, in a “religious autobiography, called Meetings. It’s now available.

If I believed in reincarnation, I’d be burning incense & spinning prayer wheels asking that on the next go-round, could the higher powers arrange for the times to be  possibly a bit less interesting? Say with fewer wars, more time to catch my breath, smell the roses, take the long walks on the beach–

Cover-FRONT-Meetings-SM-Rockwell

Who am I kidding?

Continue reading New: A Religious Autobiography From “Interesting Times”

Happy 233rd Birthday Johannes Brahms!

Happy 233rd Birthday Johannes Brahms! (1833-1897)

Brahms’ music is not only beautiful, often profound, and richly enjoyable. It also saves lives:

The author William Styron is one example. Deep in the pit of depression in 1985, Styron came to the point of carefully planning to kill himself, with a shotgun, in a secluded spot near his home. But when he was driving there, Brahms’** Alto Rhapsody came on the radio.

[**Note to grammar cops: I KNOW it’s supposed to be “Brahms’s”; but that construction both looks and sounds dumb to me, and I choose to ignore it here.]

Brahms-red-hedgehog

Continue reading Happy 233rd Birthday Johannes Brahms!