Emergency Pot Cookie (Or, the Nascence and Destruction of my First Real Writing Job)

If you are ever nineteen and living in San Francisco for the first time, working at your first writing job, getting paid, getting laid, carousing 24/7 with your utterly lovable just-coming-out-of-the-closet gay bestie, bathing in a seemingly endless shower of free weed, passing effortlessly into the VIP lounges of the city’s newest clubs, eating Chinese food that pitches ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Jeff Archer


Because of the fog, no one can enter San Quentin. Inmates must remain in their cells to be counted. We must remain on the outside. Nearly 100 people stand around, chatting, waiting to enter in order to watch prisoners perform a series of drama sketches, or “the play,” as the friendly correctional officer will call it on my way out (as in: “Oh, you came for the ... [Continue Reading]


On Reading a Killer’s Manifesto

Over Memorial Day weekend, I enjoyed an idyllic three days with friends. When they left on Tuesday, I returned to the world and caught up on the news I’d been missing. I’d heard of the Isla Vista shooting, but it wasn’t until Tuesday where I finally learned of all the details. While I had been blissfully bouncing my friends’ new baby on my knee, letting him wrap ... [Continue Reading]


The Fire Rises

My father was an Eagle Scout when being an Eagle Scout meant something. When I was young, he taught me the proper way to build a campfire, and also about Houdini, and the way Houdini died. My father told me that if I fell asleep near running water dragonflies would come and sew my eyelids shut. For nightmares, he once offered ibuprofen. I am sitting on the floor of my ... [Continue Reading]

Photo Javier Corbo


My father carved for my mother. He turned blocks of wood into mini-carousel horses. These horses were the most delicate things I’d ever seen a man make—their legs thin as reeds and bent in gallop. In warmer months my mother would arrange them on the living room’s wood stove. They ran in place, in circles, in early July around a bouquet of Tiger Lilies—her ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Jorge Santiago

Our Own Ocean

During the longer days of our cross-country road trip I slept in the car in the early afternoon, dozing in the passenger seat as Cam’s Toyota ate up miles of American highway, the flickering sun through the windows casting all my dreams in a strange, mottled light. Cameron, for his part, was content to drive in relative quiet, one hand on the wheel and the other in ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by keightdee

A Return to Limantour

The sublet in Berkeley was our last resort. My father and I had been kicked out of the bottom floor of a house in Sausalito for breaking the unstable leaseholder’s plate, and we had traipsed the cold streets of San Francisco for days, looking for an affordable place. That futile mission had ultimately landed us here, just off of Telegraph Avenue, at the threshold of an ... [Continue Reading]


In the Form of Birds

The summer my father died I bought a book on Southwestern birds. It was he who had given me my first feeder on my 8th birthday, back when we lived in New Orleans. He’d gotten the bird-feeding bug, I’m guessing, from his mother. At his parents’ house in Springfield, Pennsylvania, there was one of those open platforms—a plywood landing about six feet high. My ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Dr. DeNo

Walk It Down

I caught my first salmon off the seawall in Kotzebue, Alaska in the very early morning of August fourth. I used a snagging hook: a three-pronged weighted beast of tackle that bent my rod backward when I cast. I worried about those standing by and what a rogue hook this size could do, how it might catch something on land instead of in sea. Snagging is illegal in most ... [Continue Reading]


The 99

“Her dad’s a playwright, her mom’s a painter,” my daughter said, referring to a friend whom I hadn’t yet met. “But everyone in Vancouver’s an artist. Even the bums are artists.” “Then how do you tell the difference?” My daughter liked when I asked theoretical questions, and I liked to encourage her critical thinking. She turned her nose to the ... [Continue Reading]



It was a ritual Biko and I had performed thousands of times over the last five years, so I had no reason to think that December evening would be any different. We had just returned home from a walk when he nudged my knee with his long snout and flopped to the floor, legs akimbo, his white, furry belly turned to the ceiling. Scratch my tummy, please. Since I had first met ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Gwen Harlow

The Tweakers or the Ghosts

You know you’re close when the fog thins out, when the dull pink behind cuts through, when the hills along the highway become vacant and brown. Staples, Starbucks, Target, In-N-Out; casinos and check cashing. The spires of the oil refinery silhouetted and pumping exhaust that smudges across the sky. The last exit before the Carquinez Bridge, before the end of the East ... [Continue Reading]


That Spanish September

When I graduated from college, in the spring of 2001, it seemed to me that where I situated myself, where I’d been and wherever I went next, indicated who I was. Place was like fashion, a signifier like a college sweatshirt. But place was also a passport, a record of collected stamps and visas, sure, but a ticket elsewhere. And since I had always admired beyond limit ... [Continue Reading]


The Journey in the Song

"But what can be the shared space of meaning and sound?" Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening "All I've got to put in a song is my own experience,” Leonard Cohen once said, speaking about the process of songwriting. But as a listener, you could invert the sentiment, too: all I've got to get out of a song is my own experience. I remember my mother driving me to school when I ... [Continue Reading]

Beijing, China.

A Life’s Work

By the time my father was in his late fifties, he’d calculated the number of days of work he had left until he could retire; it was somewhere over eight hundred. I remember being home on a visit from college and coming downstairs to his early-morning math calculations. This was my weekend father: sitting at the dining room table, stubble casting a shadow across his chin, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Yann_G

Still Moments in Vampire Town

“There’s this moment of still right before it happens.” The first time, she was in a car. A man came to the window, reached in and held a machete under her friend’s chin. “But I knew,” Melissa told me. “Like, right before it happened. We were sitting in the car and I just kept thinking, ‘She should roll up her window. She really shouldn’t have her ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: The U.S. Army.

A True War Story

Columbus, Georgia, is, above all else, an Army infantry town, and it showed in the crowd on the Friday night that Tim O’Brien came to tell war stories: it was an audience of windbreakers and baseball hats marked by military insignia; square jaws and tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist; and my husband next to me, just back from his first deployment to Afghanistan, his ... [Continue Reading]


The Bright Burning of Dory Tourette

Author's Note What follows is a story about my friendship with Dory Ben-Shalom, AKA Dory Tourette, a person beloved by many. The story is very much about my experience with Dory, which occurred during a tremendously difficult period of my life. As such, it is cast through a certain prism of addiction and depression, a rendering which will both coincide and differ from ... [Continue Reading]


The Jackass Prize

Clayton may be in possession of the only Ivy League degree between us, but he arrived in New Mexico without either a sleeping bag or hiking boots—he’d lost the Vasque boots our sister and I had given him a year or two earlier—and suffered for his folly that variety of derision unique to close siblings, even siblings who are supposed to be adults already. Essentially, ... [Continue Reading]

MRGS Coffee Club small

The Long Haul

It’s late November in Mill River, which means the orange hunting hats are for sale again at the general store. You think it might be time to get yourself a new one. You wonder, when Dave sells the place—that is, if he ever sells the place—will they still stock it each November with the orange hats? It’s lunchtime, which means pickups park askew in the lot. They ... [Continue Reading]