Just up on Passages North: “Type Hard or Go Home: In Praise of the Clicky Keyboard.”


I am typing these words on an IBM Model M, a behemoth beast of a keyboard that has a solid steel plate inside. For the past fifteen years, I have refused to type on anything other than a Model M. Made by IBM from 1985 until 1991 (successors made by Lexmark and now Unicomp, while good, are not regarded as classic), it weighs in at six pounds, about as much as six iPads, and connects to a computer with a curly cable that resembles something Jimi Hendrix might have used with his Fender Stratocaster. Its clicks rival any Remington’s.

Read the whole thing here.


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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Shameless Self-Promotion

Just out in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s The Power of Forgiveness: “Flag Waving for Beginners.”


A couple months I got an email, subject line “Your Writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness.” It said my writing was being considered for inclusion in an upcoming anthology. I didn’t recognize the title, but figured it might have been the thing I wrote about the flag my sister gave to me after our father’s ashes had been scattered at sea.

It was, and I liked the new title as well. And now it’s out. The Chicken Soup people sent me 10 copies of the book and a check–a check!–for $200. If only every anthology could do that for their writers.

Anyway, order your copy today!



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consumer information catalog 1979

Anything addressed to me seemed more important. Or at least personalized.

And so I filled out any pre-paid postcard I found that would send something free in return. Each day mailman arrived with Burpee seed catalogs, Columbia and RCA record clubs with gag names like (Jacques Strapp, Seymour Hiney, I.P. Daly), and brochures for travel bureaus. I sent away for The Consumer Information Catalog, checked from a list of publications—the government had to mail them to your home, I thought, it was the law—and couple weeks later, a bulging envelope from Pueblo, Colorado would arrive with “Tips for Successful Interstate Moves” (DOT, 620pp, Free) and “Women and Retirement Plans” (DOL, 587pp, Free) would arrive, too big for the mailbox. Whoever worked at the FCIC in 1979 must have thought that the Daniel Nester in New Jersey who sent for “A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety” (40pp, FDA, Free) and “Loss of Bladder Control” (2pp, FDA, Free) was not a ten-year-old boy, but some loony retiree or hermit.



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Filed under Shader Outtakes, Shader: 99 Notes on Grief, Car Washes, Making Out in Church, and Other Unlearnable Subjects

Mecray Lane


I would bike up to grandmom and grandpop’s house on Mecray Lane, a half-mile uphill past Harry’s Cleaners and Tony’s Barber Shop. A Roosevelt Democrat museum of blue collar thrift, no brand-name canned good crossed its threshold. Growing up, Mom parks on their front lawn. My parents courted on the porch’s single bench swing, its back to the west.

Back in the eat-in kitchen, grandmom held services in her Chapel of Indeterminate Yearnings. She would bring in Carlos Rossi from her bedroom closet, blackberry brandy from her nightstand. She made hot toddies for us with rotgut whiskey .

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Filed under Shader Outtakes, Shader: 99 Notes on Grief, Car Washes, Making Out in Church, and Other Unlearnable Subjects


It’s Summer 2005 and I bring a binder of photos, my own family album, to my shrink’s office at Beth Israel Hospital in the East Village. It is a Tuesday afternoon, and I’ve high-tailed it down here on a long lunch hour from the midtown proofreading job. We’re about a month away from moving out of the city upstate to Albany. Everything seems to have fallen into place. This is before we go through our search for a baby, but long after I have tried to figure Cousin Mike out.

My shrink asked me to do this for months, years maybe, but I’ve kept putting it off, kept forgetting. Finally, on a bright morning in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on the last day I will see my shrink, I set out from my apartment to the F train with photos I’ve collected and stolen from relatives over the years and compiled into my own family album.

As I flip through the three-ringed binder, there are high school buddies, kiddy photos, mom, dad, sister, grandmom and grandpop, aunts and uncles, cousins and nephews. I flip the pages and I talk.  There’s my sister, draped with a homecoming court on the Maple Shade High School track. There’s me and my mom after the divorce, a For Sale sign on our lawn, standing front of the gray primer-coated van.

My shrink stops me when we get to the baby pictures—a photo booth strip of me at five months old, on my dad’s lap.

“He’s not touching you,” he says. His voice has the “eureka!” tone I’d never heard from him, not in the three years we’ve been meeting. “He’s propping you up with the tips of his fingers. He’s holding you away from his chest.”

This marks the rare time my shrink didn’t observe something with one of those therapy-speak questions, the Socratic kung-fu table-turn that works most of the time but it is at times maddening. He has made a declaration; he’s noticed something, and he tells me outright.  And he’s right: I am raised above my father’s thighs, suspended like a specimen, with only his fingertips touching my belly’s sides.  We start to notice other baby picture that play out the same tableau.

Then he points at a picture of me, years later, on the beach in Ocean City with my grandparents. We pose next to a lifeguard boat, as we did every summer.  My grandpop, who I thought was one of the surliest men alive, has both hands on my shoulder. His smile is so wide that the tops of his cheeks bump under his thick-ass Michael Caine glasses.  My grandmom strikes a more regal pose, hooks her arm around mine, as we are entering a formal dance.

“Look, they’re all over you,” he says.  “You can see how much they love you, and they’re not shy about it. In those other pictures, your father holds you at a distance.”

grandmomgrandpopme1978This difference, at least as it was pointed out to me this Tuesday afternoon, strikes me as dramatic. I think about the lack of touch over the years, the lack of love, and it comes up to the surface of my skin. “You do not stop hungering for your father’s love,” Paul Auster writes in The Invention of Solitude. When the father dies, the son becomes his own father and his own son. I am a 36-year-old man, crying in a back office in a teaching hospital, and at least in this moment, I think I have figured it all out. I am not thinking of how my eyes will clear up as I walk to the elevator at the end of my appointment.

As I walk out onto Second Avenue, eyes welled behind my sunglasses, I rub my own arms with the other one. It looks like I have some time of palsy. Instead of going back to work, I call out sick and hightail it to the nearest and darkest bar, and order a bottle of Budweiser.

I call my wife to tell her I love her.  As I drink, I put my mouth and nose into the fold of each of my arms. I breath in and out.  I smell my body, the soft arm hair.  As I drain down the beer, then another, I return to my arms. I calm myself down.

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Filed under and Other Unlearnable Subjects, Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Shader Outtakes, Shader: 99 Notes on Grief