other perplexities

essay - bad winter day
illustration and essay, Jim Paterson “Bad winter day”

 

Illustration by Jim Paterson We were returning from church and feeling pretty good about ourselves, all dressed up and newly cleansed and fortified to our soul, when I glanced out the car window and shattered the cheery after-worship spell. “Oh crap,” I said. The big maple tree near the corner of Stone Avenue was showing a hint of color and that meant with lightning speed something sinister would be upon us. My seven-year-old stomach began

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Another end-of-the-year highlights montage is clicking along to a percussive tune on television, and one thought comes to mind repeatedly as the pictures fade in and out.: “Who would have ever thought that would happen.” I mean, who could imagine that those appealing images of sunny jets soaring through the clouds or flashing by overhead just out of the reach of skyscrapers would now bring on these spidery new emotions. Who’d have expected stodgy old

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Not long ago it occurred to me that I might make a damn good dog trainer.  It would be my fourth career change, each one accompanied by a different sweet little bit of patter to justify my decision – to others and myself. The dog trainer thing may not be something I’ll pursue. It came to me when I was sick last winter and was clicking through a particularly reluctant, jerky and uninspiring TV screen guide.

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Published in Washingtonian magazine Certainly, as one of those philosophers we studied in college suggested, there must be a supreme being who moves us through contrived scenes for his own amusement? Why else did I have to justify my favorite color?  What other reason was there for a woman to put her finger up my nose? What else explains the Metro on a weekday morning? Here we are in this high speed playhouse, bleary-eyed  and

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​​There are those moments during small-talk restaurant chatter with friends or a grocery-store introduction by my wife, when the subject turns to what I do for a living and I get a bit jittery — feeling both a soft puff of pride and small, sharp jabs of guilt. See ​​I’m a counselor at a challenging middle school – a second career for me, which adds, I think, to that sweet mystique the job seems to

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During a lazy lake vacation last year, I dropped into a chair on a screened in porch and with an admittedly undeserved level of self-pity I grumbled something that made me feel like I was eight years old again: “I wish I didn’t have to read this damn book” . About a month later, I regressed again, just plain lying about completing that same book. Instead, as I had as a summer-soaked kid, I just

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