A pair of Ross’s turacos have decided to build a home in the bamboo grove in the corner of my yard, and it is really freaking my chickens out.
It’s okay if you don’t know what a Ross’s turaco is. I didn’t know, either, until a few days ago, when some naughty bird tried to eat one of my chickies and I decided I needed to educate myself on the creatures that infest my house and their likelihood of eating my pets (or myself?).
I am an unapologetic urbanite, most comfortable when ensconced in an apartment tower a few stories above a medium-busy street, ideally in New York but I’ll take anywhere. Since last summer, though, I’ve made a nest for myself in Uganda and slowly–very slowly–am coming to grips with living in a leafy suburb.
I have a giant yard, and I thought it would be fun to put some chickens in it. Free eggs, some minor pest control, and a little entertainment.
Continue reading “All this nonsense is for the birds”
Alan Smalky, ten years old and sporting a fresh sunburn on his cheeks and shoulders, came in through the back door with a juice box he had taken from the cooler on the deck. Lanky and graceless, a bit of a mouth-breather, he came into the living room and plopped down on the armchair near the sofa.
Jonathan Smalky was on the couch, not watching the news on TV and not reading the paper on his phone at the same time. His wife Karen was curled up next to him with her head resting on his thigh, either half-asleep or trying to be. At this time of year the sunlight poured onto the couch for a few hours in the early afternoon, and it was rare for them to be able to sit and enjoy it together.
Neither one noticed their son’s presence for a few minutes, and since he wasn’t doing anything to draw attention to himself they didn’t feel any particular need to acknowledge him, either, but eventually the child’s continued silence became a provocation in itself so Jonathan mumbled something that sounded vaguely parental. Even a second later he couldn’t remember what he’d said, but it was enough to prompt Karen to try again.
“Where’s your sister?” she asked dreamily without opening her eyes. It was a question that implied a command: “Go play with her, leave us alone.”
Alan didn’t answer her. He just burst into tears, and his parents’ pleasant afternoon came to an abrupt end.
Continue reading “The Children’s Empire”
Somewhere in the multiverse I hope there exists a version of me who lives like a hermit in a cabin in the woods, or maybe Queens, and I’m all by myself with my books and music, every now and then going into town to buy a box of Little Debbie snacks, my human interactions limited to polite smiles and occasional inappropriate comments.
Because people, right? Sheesh. Exhausting.
Continue reading “An Introvert Takes a Break”
When I was nine years old and my sister Shelly was thirteen we drove to Orlando to spend a week with Cousin Ed at his new condo. We’d officially moved from New York to DC a few weekends before, and the weeks followed were a bleary-eyed tumult as we tried to set up our new lives and worked at cross purposes to reestablish boundaries and battle lines in a new house. When Ed sent pictures of himself by his new pool my father agreed that we could all use a few days off. “The girls will have fun,” he kept telling people, as if we were the only ones going crazy.
We rented a station wagon, the kind with so much wood paneling on the sides that you might think an entire tree had gone into making it, and left the District before sunrise. Mom had changed into something that could pass for real clothes but Shelly and I were still in our pajamas, and because it was the eighties and child safety hadn’t been invented yet, Shelly stretched out on the back seat and I tucked myself in between the suitcases in the back and we both went back to sleep. I slept all the way to breakfast in North Carolina, and for the rest of the trip Shelly and I sang, fought, joked, yelled, complained, begged for food, and insisted that we needed to pee again. It was fun.
Continue reading “A Remembrance of Injuries Past”
During a period in my life that I refer to as my Second Lost Period (like most sequels, it was longer, more expensive, and less interesting that the sweet and almost romantic First Lost Period), I spent a few long nights-and-into-the-early-mornings reading Trotsky’s autobiography, which some helpful Communists had posted online in its entirety.
(As an aside, last year I accidentally dove down an Internet rabbit hole of conspiracy theories from the 1950s and 60s, and for the next two weeks the ads in my browser seemed tailored to a budding domestic terrorist, which was a bit frightening. My insomniac dabbling in Trotskyism was done in a comparatively more innocent time. But I digress.)
All these years later I can remember clearly lying on my bed and reading off the screen and thinking to myself, “Nobody will ever want to read a book on a computer screen,” but of the text itself I can only remember one very minor anecdote tucked away near the end of the book. More than any of his screeds against the oppressor or nostalgia for the excitement of birthing a new world order, this short aside struck me and stuck with me.
Continue reading “On the dust tossed away by the sweep of history”