[Listen to Audio]
“I used to be normal.”
John (not his real name) pushed his words out two or three at a time, as if someone were turning an .mp3 file on and off at haphazard intervals. You could see the strain in his jaw and throat during each unintended break in his speech.
We were sharing a bench in a Greyhound bus station in Greenville, South Carolina. I had observed John’s palsied gait as he had approached where I was sitting. He had struck up a conversation as soon as he had sat down.
“What are you doing here dressed like that?”
I was eighteen. A Senior at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta. We had just run in the Furman Relays, and my track team had left me behind. I was wearing my track uniform. And, yes, it was more than a little awkward. Continue reading
The Nazis imprisoned my mother in one of the lesser-known concentration camps. Mauthausen was located about 12 miles from her home, Linz, Austria. More people are familiar with camps like Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka, but Mauthausen and its nearly 100 subcamps was one of the largest labor camps of the Nazi Regime. Continue reading
My earliest boyhood reading came mainly from three sources.
Over my father’s objections, my mother purchased Compton’s Encyclopedia on a volume-a-month, pay-as-you-go plan. I devoured each one before the next arrived.
Somehow a 1950’s-vintage Boy Scout manual had found its way into our house. I poured over every page.
And, finally, with my allowance I purchased every comic book I could get my hands on. Storing them in an old cardboard box, I read them over and over again. Continue reading
[Listen to Audio] We all hated wind sprints. Fifty yards up and back. Then forty, then thirty, then twenty, and finally ten. My football coach ended most every practice with this particular form of torture.
Already gassed by two hours of running through new plays, working on technique, and full-speed scrimmaging, I dreaded standing in line waiting for the whistle to send each group of five or ten racing down the field.
Being the fastest guy on the team has its advantages. It proved a serious negative during sprints. If I didn’t win every time, coach knew I was dogging it. Continue reading
[Listen to Audio] The bell marking the end of recess had rung ten minutes earlier. Most of our Fourth-Grade classmates had already clambered up the old metal fire escape that gave access from the playground to our second-story classroom.
A few of us routinely lagged behind. We squeezed every microsecond of play we could from the school day. This time we had lingered too long, and we knew it. We bolted up those rusty steps. But as I got to the landing by our doorway, I heard other kids on the playground. Continue reading
[Listen to Audio] Honestly, sometimes I just lose my mind. I hear things that nobody is saying.
For instance, Joy came back from her usual morning walk with our six-month old Lab-mix Gracie. Gracie was ecstatic. Joy, not so much.
“Ugh. She was awful,” Joy said. “She kept jumping up for treats. And her stomach is completely off.”
I heard, “She’s never been like this before. If you hadn’t been sharing your popcorn with her yesterday she wouldn’t be like this.” Continue reading