As good and abiding citizens — like one of the hand-holding families who walked calmly into bomb shelters in the public service announcements from my childhood — my wife and I had followed all the public health protocols for eight months. We assiduously tracked and followed all the CDC guidelines.

We masked up and remained socially distant from our neighbors. We avoided Uber and taxicab rides. We stayed out of enclosed public spaces, restaurants and bars and exercised our takeout muscles. Over the summer, I even once glared at the unmasked people gathered tightly together in a park. …


Years back, a poor man came to my social services agency for help. He worked two jobs, dead-end, empty and unnourishing jobs. His mother died and he faced the funeral costs for her, which came to a few thousand dollars. None of his other family members or friends could help him. Like him, they were broke. He zeroed out his bank account and fronted the funeral costs.

The next month, the man had no money for rent. We cut a check to pay his landlord one month’s rent. That was the best we could do. It covered the past-due rent…


The new class of the COVID vaccinated

In January this year, my 45-year-old cousin announced she had received her first dose of the COVID vaccine shot. A competitive runner, she looks reasonably fit. I was unaware of any comorbidities or medical conditions that earned her a ticket to the front of the vaccine shot line.

“I smoke. Not every day, but enough,” she replied, after I asked how she got the vaccine so quickly.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” I said.

“I have some kidney issues, too,” she then quickly added. The “kidney issues” sounded more genuine as a medical…


I fidget with my coat zipper, gloves, earbuds, and a wool gray Kerry cap. I say goodbye to my wife and open the door. We have a ponderous front door painted red. I close it behind me. The door creaks on its hinges and boulders the entrance to our house. I’m on the sidewalk and it is half-past nine in the evening. I blow out a white fog from my mask because the temperature is in the thirties.

Every night, I do a three-mile walk in the dark. I started this routine, my pandemic craze, last month. On my walks…


Where Did Ten Months Go?

I.

Every morning, I take the seaweed-green-colored disinfectant, wet a cloth, and wipe it over my laptop keyboard. (The green color signals that it contains no bleach.) I run the cloth over the arms of my vinyl desk chair. Some days, I’ll swipe the screen of my cellphone, too. At the beginning of January, after more than two hundred and eighty days of working remotely from home, I still stand up my defenses. Months into this pandemic, my defenses are minimal, agitated, and hopeless. I don’t see their value.

My desk is before a window…


Let’s put it behind us with John Singer Sargent’s “El Jaleo”

We need to find the right symbol or marker for the Trump Era. We have many choices. MAGA hats enshrined in glass cases. Rebar from the border wall mounted on the White House fence. An ICU ventilator placed on the Washington Mall. The Trump baby blimp hung like a tapestry on a museum wall.

For me, along with over eighty million other voters, I began to eulogize the Trump Era with my November election vote for Joe Biden. More than twenty-five days after the election, his circus is exhausted…


We are in a time of situational humanity

Early in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death,” Prince Prospero summoned a thousand of his healthy friends and courtiers to isolate with him. They were hiding from the Red Death after half “his dominion was depopulated.” Prince Prospero then sealed the high walls and bolted the doors of his fortress.

While inside the fortress, during the voluptuous and final masquerade party, one of the masked revelers was revealed to be the Red Death itself. Poe ended the story with the death of the revelers, including Prince Prospero himself…


On Wednesday, September 5, 2001, I traveled to New York City from Washington for a routine business meeting. With another colleague, we caught the first morning shuttle out of National Airport. Our meeting was to be held on the 101st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Complex in downtown Manhattan.

That Wednesday morning — unremarkable in every way but for the floor and the heights to which we had been lifted in the tower — I met for the first time three employees of the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald. I announced my name, joined in our bracing…


Photo by Marquise Kamanke on Unsplash

In his 1965 short story “Going to Meet the Man,” James Baldwin describes a lynching in a small Southern town. From the beginning, Baldwin shows how the lynching is inevitable. Events push forward, torque up, and become unstoppable. Baldwin ends the story with the lynching, plainly told, macabre and repulsive.

But even more, Baldwin centers the lynching within the white community — the white families living in the four-corner town built around the church. By placing racism under a microscope, Baldwin shows its roots, its foothold in the family, history and community. The reader is left with a view into…


My First Eviction

I remember my first time.

I stood outside a two-story townhome, built in the early seventies. It was one of two hundred attached townhomes in the neighborhood. The townhomes were shoddily constructed, stick built, with rotted patches of wood siding and mold. From time to time, house fires had raced through the neighborhood. Rainwater ponded at several points on the uneven and broken sidewalks.

A striped beach ball rolled in the breeze next to the front door. In an eviction, a family’s life is tossed to the curb left for the gaze of passersby and neighbors. That…

D. Emmet

Seeking the Irish wilderness

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