October 8, 2015

When I say I have no social skills, I mean I lack the flexibility to take part in the Kadesh Operations – the ad hoc alliances, the raids and counter-raids — involved in carving out and holding a place among a large number of fellow humans. In company, I isolate myself until I decide, abruptly and unilaterally, to assert myself. To extend the analogy, I operate like a rogue state under a delusional tyrant, Amin’s Uganda denationalizing Indians. Pope Francis... Read more

October 5, 2015

One evening toward the end of last year, two fellow teachers and I were walking down the hill from school and talking about what we missed most about home. I named my best friend and his wife, who would invite me over the days after holidays and feed me leftovers. I can’t remember what Rustom said – in fact, I can’t even remember where he called home. Born in New Delhi to a Tajik mother and a Turkmen father, he’d... Read more

October 1, 2015

The other week at Mass, I remained in the pew when everyone else got up for Communion. I can’t remember whether I was praying fervently or daydreaming or nodding halfway off — the difference is sometimes academic – but in any case, my eyes were closed. Then I felt a whack on my shoulder. Turning to face the whacker, I opened my eyes and beheld an usher. “You can go now,” he stage-whispered, waving me toward the end of the... Read more

September 29, 2015

A number of readers have offered negative feedback on my last piece. One was my mother, with whom I Skyped yesterday. “I can’t believe you wrote something bad about the pope!” She cried. “Warn me the next time you’re going to do that, because I just can’t stand any negativity where Francis is concerned!” My mother hasn’t been a fully-functioning Catholic since her freshman year at CUA. Seeing her fly to the Supreme Pontiff’s defense with more vigor than I’ve... Read more

September 28, 2015

Looking back over this past weekend, I’m not sure whether I can pinpoint the exact moment when I was completely and irreversibly Francis’d out. But that moment did come, and once it came there was no denying it. Thoroughbreds like Allen and Ivereigh could devote the remainders of their careers to mining the pope’s numerous statements for epochal meaning; Lindenman was ready to scratch. Being Catholic involves the awareness of belonging to an eternal and transcendent reality, a communion of... Read more

September 26, 2015

Try as I might, I just can’t dislike Bill Maher, probably because we represent the same unlikely mixing of the tribes. Normally, here in the American melting pot, Jews marry Italians, and the Irish pair off with Germans and Poles till all their kids and grandkids become generic crackers who’ve forgotten how to pronounce their funny surnames. But the Jews and the Irish both carry the black comedy gene, so any hybrid is practically fated to turn out warped. For... Read more

September 24, 2015

It was not, initially, my intention to remain all but ignorant of the Turkish language. But the schools where I taught scheduled me for at least 45 classroom hours per week. Because the textbook material proved to be well over the students’ heads, not to mention deathly dull, I had no choice but to write lessons from scratch, which claimed an additional 25 to 30 hours. In a spirit that combined defiance with surrender, I thought, “Turkey, if you want... Read more

September 23, 2015

Dear Blahblah You are an insufferable old bat. I don’t give a tuppeny damn what you think Dorothy Day would have done in my position because, number one, I ain’t her, and number two, you wouldn’t know Dorothy Day’s spirituality if it crawled up your leg. Go soak your head. In Christ, etc. These are not – I repeat, not – the words Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput used to conclude a wearying correspondence with a layperson critical of his decision... Read more

September 23, 2015

The young man whose habitual drunkenness and general air of misery had once moved me to stage a clumsy one-man intervention, looked great — sober and fit. Reading that fact up front might ruin a little of the suspense, but our story winds through such a long spiral that it seems wise to toss it out like a highway flare. It really begins last Friday evening, when I ran into a neighbor while walking to Circle K. After we’d talked... Read more

September 18, 2015

One Sunday afternoon when I was 17, I returned from my father’s house to find two elegantly rolled joints waiting for me on my dresser. In those days, I made a custom – even a tradition, if a tradition can be said to form over the span of six months – of sparking one up every Sunday evening at 9:00 PM, just as Married…with Children was coming on. I must have stashed these two under my bed, and my mother... Read more

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