Find more of my work at


Receive notifications when this site is updated:

Subscribe by e‑mail.

Subscribe by RSS.

List of categories

50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #4: Time, stopped

Breakfast at Sunrise

“I can’t set foot in the place,” Milla said. “I don’t think I ever will again.”

I was only trying to make small talk when I had asked her about the Sunrise Cafe, the tawdry-looking diner across the street from where we sat sipping lattes at the Golden Spoon. I was waiting for the waitress to bring me a cheese danish. Milla was avoiding carbs today, so she hadn’t ordered anything but the coffee.

“Everything in my entire life since that moment has been colored by what happened there,” she told me. She shifted in her seat and stared into …more

50/50 Exercise #49: Keeping a Spirit Alive

I think I was half asleep. You know how sometimes you’re lying there, and you think you’re still awake, and then all of a sudden, you feel like you’re falling? And then something brings you up to wide awake again. You think, Was that my own voice? You know that feeling?

I had a weird sensation, not exactly like that, but close, and then I sat up and looked over at her pillow. I might have even called her name before everything came rushing back at me. She’s gone, oh God, oh jeez, goddamn, she’s gone. Get a grip, Mike, get it together. …more

50/50 Exercise #29: Foolproof

The plan was to focus on his own dreams.
The plan was to learn to be happy alone.
The plan was to keep things light.
The plan was to have some fun with his friends.

The plan was not to let down his guard.
The plan was not to get sidetracked by a smile.
The plan was not to be the first to say “I love you.”
The plan was not to replace all his answers with fresh questions.

The plan was not foolproof.

50/50 Exercise #20: Found First and Last Lines/Book You Are Currently Reading

It occurred to me today that I’m not as far along as I thought.

I remember a time when I dreamed of what I could do with an extra hundred years, or two hundred, or three. I would become the world’s foremost authority on nineteenth-century French literature. I would develop the patience to cook a soufflé. I would speak flawless Spanish with a perfect Castellaño accent…or with the accent of the aristocrats of Mexico City or Lima, or of the marketplace in San Juan.

I would learn to ski. I would win trophies at singles tennis—in my age bracket, of course, but that’s still a worthy accomplishment at 250.

I imagined that with so much time …more

50/50 Exercise #14: Whacked by Cupid

There is an expression in the Roman language, genius loci, “the spirit of a place.” It has acquired a modern, figurative sense in the realm of landscape and architecture—a characteristic atmosphere. But its meaning is rooted in a literal, supernatural sense—the guardian spirit that protects a place.

I try to describe Rome to you without resorting to the clichés and hyperbole that pour from the reservoir of what I have read and heard and seen on television:

majesty • power • glory • history • grandeur • richness • pageantry • eternal • holy • baroque • …more

50/50 Exercise #13: Address Book

Dear Grandma,

I’ll bet you thought you were never going to hear from your youngest grandson again. I wasn’t too regular about writing to you for the last decade or two of your life, so you certainly shouldn’t be surprised that you haven’t heard from me since you left us.

From your vantage point, I would think it’s easy for you to see why I didn’t stay in closer contact. Not long after the last time I saw you, when we got together with Laura and Yvonne, Karl and Edith, little Karl, Linda and her kids, Jane, Dad, and all those others at your place in Middle River, my life started heading in a direction that I wasn’t ready to share with you. I hate the way that time and circumstances isolated me from you. It wasn’t that I thought you couldn’t handle the secret …more

50/50 Exercise #6: Getting There First

This morning he told me, “I have never been in love on Valentine’s Day before.”

When I hung up the phone, I tried to weigh those words against the measure of my own memories of Valentine’s Day. I thought of elementary school, of making valentines for our mothers. We crafted lopsided hearts of red construction paper folded down the middle, outlined in number-two pencil, and cut out clumsily with blunt little scissors. (The green-handled lefty scissors never cut worth a damn.) For decoration: borders of white paper lace, globs of Elmer’s glue, magic markers, and stickers depicting bouquets of flowers and bow-and-arrow-wielding cherubs.