Nobody Ever Asks, “Who Didn’t You Vote for?”

Photo by Spyros Papaspyropoulos

Last week in GOP-land, the Republicans had their come-to-Jesus moment and embraced Donald Trump as their nominee. “Sure, he’s a lunatic,” some suggested, “but look at the alternative.” They shuddered at the thought of Hillary Clinton, who, in addition to (or perhaps because of) her political leanings, was seen as corrupt, untrustworthy and prone to poor judgement. (Yes, all of these things have also been said of Trump, but I digress.) This left those of us on the Left scratching our heads: “How can anyone support Trump just because he’s from the same party as them? He’s done X, Y and Z! Hell, he’s invented his own letters and done those, too. If you vote for him, you’re embracing fascism.”

Ah, how I miss last week. It was a simpler time, before we had to go and have the same conversation within the Democratic Party about whether we liked our nominee. Continue reading

Stop Asking When Bernie Sanders Is Going to Drop Out

“Bernie Sanders, you just won the Michigan primary. When are you going to drop out?” – Various media members

Photo by Phil Roeder

Photo by Phil Roeder

For years, we have been told that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The adjectives in front of that title have included “eventual,” “inevitable,” and “presumptive” (presumptive being correct). All other comers, the thinking has gone, can come run for fun in the early states, but then they should back off and bow down.

Though I’m generally loath to partake in mainstream media bashing, this thinking has been abetted by many pundits and commentators. Indeed, immediately after Sanders’ impromptu press conference on Tuesday night thanking the people of Michigan for turning out to vote, a CBS News anchor—with a straight face—asked a correspondent if Sanders was going to step aside so Clinton could start focusing on the general election. Sanders, it seemed, had reached #PeakBernie. He’d win some pats on the back for getting his message out there—bravo, good chap—but now he and the people he represents should retreat back into the shadows. But there are plenty of reasons why Bernie should throw shade at any suggestion he quit the race. Continue reading

Loved The Big Short? Read Griftopia

Griftopia

This past year, The Big Short, a movie about Wall Street greed and myopia, channelled middle class anger at the one percent. After laughing for a few hours, most people emerged from the theater both nauseated and confused, wondering how supposedly smart people could be so stupid as to nearly bring down the global economy. Ironically, the film’s heroes—renegades within the financial industry who made big money betting against conventional wisdom—were the people who made out like bandits as pretty much everyone else suffered. But they weren’t crooks. They made a straight bet to short the market based on what they saw happening.

Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia, on the other hand, is about the crooks. And if The Big Short made you upset, Griftopia will make you want to scream like a hungover stockbroker berating a barista for forgetting the third espresso shot. Continue reading

My Via Magazine Article on Tonopah, NV

Photo: Bruce Fingerhood

Photo: Bruce Fingerhood

After my short assignment to scour the best cupcake shops and cocktail bars in Midtown Reno for Via Magazine, I was given another piece of work. This time, I was to provide travelers a reason to stop in Tonopah, Nevada, a dusty outpost in between Reno and Vegas. Haven’t heard of Tonopah? That’s why you should read the article. AAA members in the Western region of the country can find it under the “Detour” section in the print magazine. If not, here’s a link for people who can supply a West Coast zip code.

Chapter 1

There’s nothing like a brush with mortality to push someone toward achieving a goal. While I plan on remaining healthy, if something were to change, I wouldn’t want to look back and say, “I had a second chance to fulfill my dream, but I didn’t.” So, after five years of toying around with a novel, I will publish it this year.

In the coming months, I will be reaching out to some of you to serve as readers and provide me with feedback as I edit the novel. If you’re interested in being a part of this process, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, although the final product will no doubt change between now and publication, without further ado, here is a draft of the first chapter of my first novel, The Secret of Falling: Continue reading

Five Things I Loved from 2015

Last year, back when I was a cultured patron of the arts, I put out a list of 14 things from 2014 I loved. I’ve been a bit busier this year. Between having a child and sidestepping a stem cell transplant, my wife and I have subsisted on a pop culture diet of Netflix material that can be digested in 10 minute increments (in between baby cries). Several of the gems I did find were from before 2015. So instead of recommending The Wire to fellow late adopters, I’ll limit this year’s selections to one 2015 release from each of the following categories: television, film, music, books and podcasts.
Continue reading

Some Good News…and Some Bad

Two weeks ago, just in time for Thanksgiving, I received the results of my bone marrow biopsy. The news was good. “Congratulations,” said my oncologist, “your bone marrow is normal.” And just today my bone marrow transplant doctor in Tucson called to say I was no longer a transplant candidate—news that I had been expecting but that was nonetheless good to hear. However, I didn’t write about the good news straight away. That’s because just a few days after hearing that I could return to my normal life, I found out that a friend had died. Continue reading

The Next Big Test

Tomorrow is the day. Just over four months ago, with my blood work coming back funkier than Sly and the Family Stone, I had a bone marrow biopsy. For the uninitiated, this is when a doctor takes a thick needle and jams it into your pelvic bone to collect some marrow within. Imagine what it feels like to be the cork on a wine bottle. Now imagine that the cork is solid bone underneath your skin. Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Transplant

I found out two weeks ago that I have six donor matches. Six, in the stem cell transplant world, is a lot. Many people are happy for just one, and some have to settle for partial matches. Essentially, my doctors can choose the fittest of the six, and the determinations are not much different from those made during a high school dodgeball game. Candace and Simone are smoking in the corner, so they’re out. Besides, they’re girls, and so is Nikki, so they’re not getting picked first. Obviously. (No, seriously. Male donors are preferred because if female donors have ever been pregnant, their babies can expose them to foreign genetic material—their partner’s—which complicates the grafting process.) Johnny is on the fast track for liver cirrhosis, so he’s not the best choice. That leaves Flynn, the tortured artist, or Ryan, the Olympic swimmer. We’ll go with Ryan, thank you.

So, with six good matches, you would think I’d be packing my bags for a Tucson winter with all the other snowbirds. You’d be wrong. Because…a funny thing happened on the way to the transplant. Continue reading

My First Article for Via Magazine

Cover_Fall2015

In the halcyon days before diaper changes and insurance copays, I received an assignment from Via Magazine to write a short article highlighting five places that travelers should eat/see/go in Midtown Reno. My wife and I took the assignment very seriously, leaving no cheese shop or artisanal cupcakery untested. Somehow, after much deliberation—and dessert—we narrowed the list down to five and I submitted my article to Via.

Continue reading

Update: Plan B

When I went to Tucson for my consultation a week and a half ago, the transplant doctor explained how he would look for a bone marrow match. It boils down to this: The lab would test my blood for 10 different protein markers in an effort to find a donor whose 10 protein markers match up with mine. Through years of transplant research, scientists have discovered that the best results (i.e., fewest complications and highest long-term survival rates) come from a sibling who is a 10 out of 10 match. Second best is an unrelated donor who is a 10/10 match. Third best is a sibling who is a 9 out of 10. After that, it gets a bit murky, but those are the top three. Yesterday, I found out that my brother is not a 10/10. As his older brother, I could’ve told them that—he’s more like a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day. Continue reading

Update: Treatment

After initially being told that UC Davis was the nearest medical center for a stem cell transplant, the plan changed 10 days ago to UCLA. Early last week, however, my insurance company told me that UCLA was not one of its “centers of excellence” and that therefore my benefits would not cover me to go there for treatment. Rather, the insurance company had approved it as a place to go for a second opinion. I asked them if they were requiring me to get a second opinion; they said no. My wife and I talked with our doctor about whether it was still a good idea to go to UCLA and get evaluated. “Not if you’re not going to get treated there,” she replied. This is because, wherever I get treated I will be getting evaluated and, in essence, receiving a second opinion. “Going to UCLA will just waste time.” Continue reading

Life on Hold

Photo by Mickewazowski

Photo by Micke Wazowski

Six weeks ago, my beautiful daughter Indra was born. Two weeks later, I got a sore throat. I connected these events. One doesn’t get a lot of sleep with a newborn, nor is there a chance for exercise or healthy eating. I went to urgent care and was treated for strep. The sore throat didn’t get better. And I developed weird symptoms. My heart would pound with the smallest effort. I started waking up with my pupils dilated; everything would look like it was zigzagging around, and it would take an hour for my vision to improve. Writing became difficult because everything was just so bright. Plus, I was just so worn out all the time.

Continue reading

Garbage in a Bottle: Drinking Water in Sudan

_72052175_72052174Before I moved to Sudan in 2008, I imagined that I would survive on daily infusions of bottled water. My roommate in Sudan, Andy, quickly pointed out the economic shortcomings of my plan. As the average person should drink 8 glasses of water each day to remain adequately hydrated, and the average person in a desert climate needs double that, I was looking at eight 16oz bottles of water per day. Each bottle cost 1 Sudanese pound (roughly 50 cents American). Seems cheap, right? But it adds up to a serious latte factor. At 8 pounds a day, I would be spending 240 pounds a month just on water–nearly half of my volunteer stipend for stuff that was probably from the backyard hose. Continue reading

Follow-Up: You Won’t Read All of This

Last month, I wrote that a powerful incentive for writers to write less is that readers don’t want to read very much. Specifically, I said that less is better because:

  • Most people don’t read—they skim.
  • Most people don’t pay attention for very long.

  • Writers are competing for readers’ attentions.

One of the strategies websites use to overcome their readers’ short attention spans and increase page views is to deliver articles in list format. Cracked.com, Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog all excel at getting people perusing Facebook and Twitter to click on links like “The 10 Types of People You Meet in Prison”. As it turns out, even featuring articles with such titillating titles as “6 Bizarre Uses for Mouthwash” doesn’t guarantee readers will get all the way to #6. Hootsuite performed an experiment, in which it took a post called “5 Content Marketing Tips We Learned From Our Best-Performing Content” and surreptitiously added a sixth “lesson” that explicitly asked readers not to share the post on social media.

Guess what happened. (Or you could just read about it…)

Kurt Vonnegut

10d.-vonnegut-signature

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

A Man Without a Country

Spitting Game: Baseball’s Love Affair with Saliva

Black and White Baseball
I’m of two minds on the curious habit of spitting. On the one hand, it’s essentially harmless. Spittle is biodegradable, unlike say, plastic bags, nuclear waste or Ann Coulter’s black heart. It may stain the sidewalk for a few seconds, but it’ll be gone by day’s end, unlike that empty bag of Utz potato chips lying 5 feet away from the garbage can.

On the other hand, spitting is the act of a person who says, “Cigarette smoke–you may stay. Arby’s barbeque beef–welcome to my stomach. $5 liquor from the corner store–have you met my liver? But you, accumulation of saliva, deserve no place in my body.”

Because, really, is spitting all that necessary? Continue reading

This Happens Every 4 Years: It’s Offensive to Assume Brazil Can’t Handle the World Cup

The Brazil World Cup is going to be a disaster, you’ve heard it explained. There will be chaos on the streets, the games will be in disarray and the country will bring shame to the world’s most popular sport. Sound familiar? That’s because we heard it four years ago when South Africa hosted. Although the details are correct, the subtext is more than just wrong—it’s offensive. Continue reading

How to Write Less

Most people write too much. Remember the junior high school version of you who was told to write a minimum of three pages for an essay? You clawed and scratched and cajoled that word count higher. But guess what? You still weren’t concise. You took three pages to write something that could have been expressed in one. And when you turned it in, you hoped the teacher wouldn’t notice you were full of crap. Continue reading