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I’m built like a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back. What is it about an awkward ten-or-eleven-year-old that screams, “please call attention to my body?” That was the time when my body started developing; my family fretted that I might be  swaybacked and admonished me to stand up straight. At dances, the […]

Hearing the Silence

My grandmother’s mother, Mary Salter, is a mysterious fruit on our family tree, not quite shaded in. We know very little about her; she died around 1930, leaving two little girls under four who would torture themselves, for the rest of their lives, trying to remember her face. Family lore suggests that Mary was a […]

Thelonious Monk, Trinkle Tinkle (1971)

I’m walking into the kitchen at my grandfather’s house, and my uncle Charles is there, watching TV on the little color set on the tiled counter. He’s watching the new Ken Burns documentary, and I’m preparing to slowly edge out of the room, because The Civil War (Parts 1-199) nearly robbed me of my will […]

Louis Armstrong, West End Blues (1928)

Once, I spent my weekends in a tiny, cramped, cluttered apartment in Cal’s married student housing. A certain Phd student in rhetoric, Mark  — who, implausibly, had custody of three little girls from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon — made a point of opening our My-Little-Pony-addled minds to culture. On Saturday morning, we’d wake to […]

Leaving Home

It was unseasonably hot. That must have been the reason my grandmother walked down the aging basement stairs and out of the open garage door and traveled a block to the corner store, holding my three-year-old hand in hers. The giddy excitement of the moment still stays with me; the black night sky, like a […]