Category: blog

  • My Grandpa Was a Tiny Party, and the Photos Prove It

    At twelve, Ralph is a tiny party writhing under the heavy hands of frustrated nuns. St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Francisco doesn’t suit him. Most of these boys got here through a petty crime, their own or their parents. For others it was a parent’s suicide or murder. For Ralph, it was his…

  • Support vs. Safety in the Classroom

    Recently, I had an experience teaching–on Zoom–that troubled me. I don’t think I did a good job facilitating the dynamic of the group. Students made it clear that they didn’t all experience the class as a safe space. Safety is not my primary goal for my students. I want them to take risks, and doing…

  • Lou’s Records

    There is no cooler place than Lou’s Records in 1983, 84, 85. Not anywhere. We could flip through these records until infinity. I like a slow flip, so I can really feel the soft tap of the thick plastic Lou’s puts on every record. I’m looking for David Sylvian records, and I know the real…

  • Nanny, Who Was Midge, Who Was Jessie Magdelene

    Jessie Magdalene MacDonnellApril 13, 1922 – October 1998 The MacDonnell house is average in size for Nova Scotia. Its two stories are chopped into six tiny bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and sitting room—a tight fit for Daniel, Bridget, and their thirteen children. Even the cliff on which the house teeters and the jagged cove below…

  • The Trouble with Reality

    Some days I wish Oprah could be President for a few weeks, just so she could lead a national book club, stealthily getting the entire population to read the same book at the same time. Today, I hope she’d begin with Brook Gladstone’s The Trouble with Reality. It’s an easy read, short and full of…

  • Memory and Memoir

    People ask me how I remember so much of my childhood? Part of the answer is that I have an obsessive memory. Some people respond to hardship and trauma by forgetting. Some doing it by remembering. Some with a confusing combination of both. Any of these responses can be therapeutic; any of them can be…

  • The Original californica

    Meet Aplysia californica, the sea slug whose starring role in the history of neuroscience was a revelation when I started reading about the brain. “Aplysia californica” is the first piece I published from my memoir, The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism. The book is a portrait of an artist as a biological and social…

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