The Unbearable Lightness of Being

unbearable lightness of beingAt a recent library sale, I paid twenty-five cents for a new paperback copy of Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being to replace the dog-eared, yellowing copy I’ve had for 35 years. Still, I find it hard to part with the old artifact. Continue reading

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Young Iranians and Americans at Twenty

Man_holding_sign_during_Iranian_hostage_crisis_protest,_1979On November 4, 1979 radical Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, capturing 66 hostages who would not be free for 444 days. I was a Mormon missionary in New Mexico at the time. Twenty years old. This ominous event added to my list of reasons to expect to be drafted after my return home. The next spring, many missionaries were required to register for the draft. I missed the deadline by only a month. Life went on. Continue reading

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Night Sky

total eclipseTo calm myself, I need only two words: night sky. If I could, I would drink in the sky. I would breathe in the moon and stars. Continue reading

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Man at the Fire

IMG_1150We shared a birthday, my father and I, July twenty-fifth (1933 and 1959 respectively), and often celebrated with a trip to the Oregon coast. Just the two of us. We’d drive out from Portland on a Friday evening after dad finished work and spend a weekend. “We’re a couple of bums. That’s what we are,” dad would say. We slept in the roomy ’65 Chrysler and lived on cheese, saltines, apples, plums and summer sausage—the kind of food you can slice with a pocketknife and eat with your hands.

On one of these ‘bumming it’ weekends in July 1969 we had built a driftwood fire on a deserted beach near Manzanita, then strolled out toward the surf and south until our fire was no more than a distant star. When a night fog rolled in with the incoming tide, we were all but blind and turned back north hoping we would eventually see the light from our fire and find our way to the gravel road where our car waited.  Continue reading

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The Invisible Salman Rushdie

One could argue the death threat Salman Rushdie received from Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses ranks among the worst rejections in literary history. Fueled by Khomeini’s fatwa, or edict, Rushdie’s enemies not only banned and burned his book, they wanted to kill him for writing it, called on the wide world of Muslim believers to do the righteous deed, would-be assassins blowing themselves to bits, fellow Muslims pipe-bombing bookstores and killing other Muslims for not hating Rushdie enough. Protests, often violent, broke out in Paris, New York, Oslo, and in India, Pakistan, Germany, Thailand, the Netherlands, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sweden, Australia, and England. The Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, Hitoshi Igarashi, was murdered in an elevator, stabbed repeatedly in the face and arms. Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was attacked, kicked and stabbed, but survived. Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, took three bullets, yet lived. Rushdie, forced into hiding and invisibility—from February 14, 1989 to March 27, 2002—found himself at the center of a global controversy about what it means, and what it costs, to speak freely.  Continue reading

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Ninety-six Hours in Toronto, June 2003

Toronto underground 3I keep travel notebooks, always have—writing more in three or four days than I write in six months at home. Being in motion lights me up. I have notebooks for Hong Kong, New Orleans, Vancouver BC, Mexico City, San Francisco, Taipei, Seattle, Chicago, Salzburg, New York City, Paris, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Barcelona, Washington DC, Geneva, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Orlando, Rome, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Portland, and others. It’s not only the big cities that grip me, I also take compulsive notes in places like Jerome, Idaho, or Alamogordo, New Mexico—it’s like a disease, I know. This may sound like a lot of travel, but the truth is, most of it is business travel—short trips spent mostly in trade show exhibits or conference rooms, staying in homogeneous hotels, waiting in airports, riding in taxis. I’m no seasoned global (or even domestic) traveler, not by a stretch. This is ordinary travel, outstripped ten-fold by a young sales executive or event planner.

Still, the notes pile up.  Continue reading

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Back to the Middle of It

Colin in choirMy son Colin has made such incredible progress in recent years. He’s in fifth grade, singing in a choir, playing piano, riding around on roller blades, speaking and singing in church, filling up journals with poems and songs, drawing, dancing, making more and more friends every day. It’s hard to believe how different his world was just a few years back. It serves well to look back to the middle of it–to see what progress looks like.  Continue reading

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At the Hop

Conga line danceWhen he was ten years old, my son Colin came up with the idea of a Valentines party for his friends at school—girls and boys. Maura, always game for a party, helped him cut out handmade invitations in the shape of 45 RPM records. When the day came, they checked out CDs of fifties music from the library, decorated the walls of the living room with more cardboard 45’s. Maura’s friends joined in to make French fries, hot dogs, and milkshakes. The kids arrived: boys in jeans and t-shirts and slicked-back hair; girls in skirts, bobby socks, hair in high ponytails.  Continue reading

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Running Band of Brothers

Full team shot (color treatment)In high school I ran cross country and fell in among true friends. At the core was a half dozen of us who started together in ninth grade and were still running on the varsity team our senior year. We were a running band of brothers.

We ran year round for four years, through all seasons, even at night after summer jobs doing landscaping or roofing houses. At the height of summer training, we’d be running 75 or more miles a week. Continue reading

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Nickle Lauritzen and the Afterlife

Looking_good_in_a%20_hatIn 1990, my friend Nickle Lauritzen was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, similar to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a terminal disease that works inward from the extremities—first the hands, then feet, legs, and arms—muscle strength and control gradually failing until you fight for every breath and finally suffocate. Nickle would describe her predicament in just such harsh terms. She wanted the bare truth out there where she could keep an eye on it. “I know how I’m going to die,” she told me soon after we met, before I really understood her illness or knew her well at all. “I will wake up one moment unable to take another breath,” she said. “And that will be that.” Continue reading

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