In A Well-Ordered Society

The campus security guards who stopped me for running without a shirt were very nice about it. When one of them shouted unfamiliar words from their patrol car, I was at the bottom of a long hill and didn’t feel like stopping. I told him, “Yabancı’yım” – “I’m a foreigner”—hoping that the language barrier would make leaving me alone look like the path of least resistance. Then I plodded along on my way.Faced with a fleeing suspect – even a wheezing, fleeing suspect – many American cops might … [Read More...]

Here We Go Again, Folks

Don’t tell anyone I’m writing. I’m supposed to be beavering away on a new curriculum for advanced EFL students. Compared to most of the other jobs I’ve held, it’s more useful, less venal, and engages much more of the gray matter. It’s also deathly tedious. Unless I seize the odd chance to use language -- as opposed to decanting it for people who are going to receive it with squints and frowns and all sorts of ungainly, half-comprehending faces – then that will be my marbles lost before much … [Read More...]

An American Sniper…from A Critical Distance

Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, Colonel, USMC (ret.) was fond of promising, “Show me a hero, and I’ll prove to you he’s a bum.” He didn’t except himself from this rule. Commanding a Marine Corps fighter squadron in the Pacific, Boyington destroyed 26 Japanese aircraft, a feat that made him an ace five t … [Read More...]

Striking the Tent

Dear Readers:After a long hiatus and a lot of hard thought, I’ve decided to close up shop here at Patheos. With all the loyalty and generosity you’ve shown, you’ve earned an explanation, so here it is:I’m not enough of a Catholic to blog about being a Catholic. At best, my faith is an on-a … [Read More...]

A Lousy Lyre

Oh, hi. Yeah, it’s been a while. I’ve backed off writing for several reasons. The first is strictly practical. Creating three-hour PowerPoint slide shows on the passive voice and modals of possibility takes a lot out of a guy. If you think you’re a tough readership, try addressing people who spe … [Read More...]

My Hero

“If you want to write about Syria,” Tawfik whispered in my ear as we stood on the patio of the English academy where we both taught, “you should write about me. I can tell you lots of interesting things.”His offer put me in an awkward position. On one hand, it’s always seemed to me that reporti … [Read More...]

Give Us This Day Our Daily Ekmek

Turks don’t approve of eating on the street. Or rather, their idea of eating on the street involves sitting down at a café table and placing their orders with a garson -- they take their word for “waiter” directly from the French. The New York version of street eating, where the diner wolfs his foo … [Read More...]

Turkey: Where Stray Cats Strut

Somewhere in the Hagia Sophia, directly under the bombsights of the six-winged angels soaring across the east pendentives, lives a cat. I saw him when I visited this past April Fools’ Day. Unimpressed equally by the mosaics and the Arabic calligraphy spelling out God’s names on roundels, he looked in … [Read More...]

Running in Bursa

It would be nice to report that I begin every morning with a four-mile run, but it wouldn’t be true. Per immemorial custom, I begin it with a cigarette. Then I rifle my pockets for spare lira and stumble downstairs and across the street to the local convenience store for an ekmek, which I consume o … [Read More...]

Looking the Dead in the Face

In December, 1960, a detachment of French Foreign Legion paratroopers killed three FLN rebels thought to be former harkis, or colonial soldiers, who had deserted to the enemy. To help military intelligence identify the dead men, Legionnaires beheaded the corpses -- with a pen knife -- and presented … [Read More...]

Adventures in Acedia

It would begin in April, when the stiff winds first mellowed into a breeze and blue sky first began pushing breaches in the cloud banks. I'd be in class, trying to focus while some tenured mummy droned charmlessly on, when all of a sudden, through the window would slip the essence of springtime. … [Read More...]

Renouncing Woody

I admit I'm going to miss "The Whore of Mensa." And "Match Wits with Inspector Ford." And -- what the hell -- "Lovborg's Women Considered" has some great lines, too:Dorf: Oh, Netta! All is lost! Lost!Netta: For a weak man, perhaps, but not if one has -- courage.Dorf: … [Read More...]

In Defense of Jen Caron and Honesty

Jen Caron is a good soul -- at her worst, perhaps, an hysterical ninny, but still a very decent person at (skinny, white) bottom. This, I insist, is a fair takeaway from the piece she wrote for xoJane's "It Happened to Me" section titled "There Are No Black People in My Yoga Class And I'm Suddenly … [Read More...]

My Eucharistic Breakfast

Last night, for the first time in many months, I took a drink. Beneath the accidents of appearance, the cheap wine was really the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, which is the real news. For about as many months -- nine to be exact -- I'd gone without it and the corresponding Body. … [Read More...]


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