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One more strange thing during the dark days of Pandemia was my sense, much of the time outdoors, that I may have been the only person in San Francisco without a dog. Crossing the dog play area while doing my par course thing at Mountain Lake Park, skirting the similar space in Lafayette Park, or walking along any of San Francisco Bay’s limitless varieties of woods and beaches — I have felt acutely dog-less. Despite having had and loved a long list of family canines; I am currently without. And in recent times that has seemed particularly unseemly.

“You want…

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Someone you know has just lost a spouse, a parent, a child? A friend is going through a difficult divorce? Perhaps you know a family member of one of the 550,000+ Americans who have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic upended our lives?

You need this book.

Dana Lacy Amarisa, who spent decades as a marketing writer in the tech world, was long empathetic with fellow humans in all of the above categories. As it happened, in those same years she suffered unimaginable losses herself. It was definitely the hard way to learn, and the long way to edit…

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“We’re calling about your claim,” the pleasant voice said; “about the hit-and-run collision you were involved in on March 17.” This is a really bad way to start your day. While I was still catching my breath the pleasant voice mentioned my car rear-ending the other car but then leaving the scene of the crime.

I knew, of course, that I’d not been in any collisions recently — the last being over a year ago when a 16-wheeler turned right from the center lane as I was turning right from the turn lane. The 16-wheeler won that one. But as…

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On moving from a four-story, century-old Edwardian into a 1600-sq-ft condo eight years ago I wrote a lengthy feature for the local newspaper (The New Fillmore, May 13, 2013) titled “Lessons Learned from Downsizing.” It drew editorial applause and a bunch of affirmative comments. But it seems not to have sunk in all that well.

I am back in the downsizing business. This time around it is partly a matter of trying to get organized, but despite the donating/tossing/selling/shredding activities of 2013 I am once again (or still) overwhelmed with Stuff. You don’t have to be a Marie Kondo drop-out…

So, yeah, there are always things to grumble about. But I say, Thanks. We can't change habits and practices overnight or save the planet tomorrow, but every thoughtful essay (this is one) helps us focus on potential ways to make tiny, useful changes.

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“There is no greater agony,” wrote Maya Angelou, “than bearing an untold story inside you.” Over the past, agonizing year, more than a few of us tackled our inner agony by telling our stories. Not for fame or fortune, just for the joy of telling that untold story.

Everybody has a story. This is an argument for storytelling, along with a few suggestions about how to tell your own.

I have just finished (you might have figured something like this was coming) a collection of stories for my children and grandchildren, thanks to the help and persistence of an interesting…

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The mysterious saga of a Transient Global Amnesia attack

Weird Times and Guardian Angels

“I don’t know where I am,” I said. “I don’t recognize this place.”

“Well, you did get here. Where’s your car? Did you drive?”

“I don’t know how I got here.” And since I also didn’t know where I came from or where I lived, it was not going to be easy to get home.

My short-term memory had totally, inexplicably vanished.

Thus began an essay I wrote in July of 2018, after experiencing one of the strangest episodes of my very long life. Spoiler alert: it turned out to be not that uncommon, among…

OK, not everything about the good old days was all that good. But handwriting? For intimacy, eloquence and personal expressiveness in communication no replacement has been offered. Social media, photo apps, zoom calls all dissolve into a kind of frozen distance once you’ve taken a screenshot; but a few lines in the hand of a familiar are with you forever.

I miss cursive. I mourn the old fourth grade Locker Method exercises that drove us all nuts. I miss handwritten letters. When you got a handwritten letter you got the bona fide person, coming headlong into your heart through the…

Thanks for this good piece! I'm now a former runner (some of us slow down when we hit 80) but still a distance walker. I often re-read a first draft before I set out, and find that after a mile or two I've re-written it in my head to my satisfaction. This system doesn't lead to frequent posts, but hopefully to occasional well-thought-out essays.

Thanks for this fine piece. I knew John only through Deborah. But as the widow (two Valentine's Days back) of a contemporary tall journalist-jazz lover-polymath guy I am satisfied the two are toasting you, and this slowly improving country, with a cloud-based martini somewhere in the ethersphere. Up, with a twist.


Lifelong newspaper & magazine writer, author, blogger at, agitator for justice, kindness & interfaith understanding.

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