The Bigger Picture
Oddly specific. Universally applicable.


My best story about my father

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(Generic dad image by Nicolás Borie Williams from Pixabay; not my dad)

In Detroit, the Motor City, the kind of car you drive is symbolic. It’s a reflection of socioeconomic status and a prominent factor in a family’s profile. It’s also frequently a clue to the family’s source of income. Ford workers drive Fords; GM workers drive GM products. And, thanks to extensive “family plan” discounts, so do their extended family members.

Family reunions in the Detroit area are typically marked by 27 cars from the same automaker parked near a picnic pavilion. (Motor City people don’t carpool very often, either. Car = individuality.)

Likewise, in my growing-up years, having a garage…

Why Horatio Alger can no longer get ahead

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(Photo by David Suarez on Unsplash)

America has long subscribed to the myth of the self-made man. The 19th century tales penned by Horatio Alger Jr. of young men escaping poverty through hard work and determination promoted the belief in the rags-to-riches doctrine so beloved by Americans even today.

The problem is that the Horatio Alger story is more the exception than the rule. It is more likely that, hard work and perseverance notwithstanding, a poor American will remain as such. It’s also more likely than not that their children will do no better.

For those finding it hard to jettison the national belief of unlimited…

Recent events beg the question

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(Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash)

In my teens and early twenties, I was very conservative. Now I’m very liberal.

Yet I used to tell my wife whenever we reflected on my political evolution, “I’m still conservative in some ways.” And she laughed.

“Seriously,” I insisted. “It’s like the Republican party left me more than I left the Republican party.” Then she laughed some more.

Okay, I have to give her this: wanting to raise taxes to help pay down the national debt might be fiscally responsible, but it was never politically conservative.

Alright, supporting gay marriage because I don’t think government should tell people how…

Three centuries of irrational fear of medical miracles

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(Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

Right now, a deadly virus is sweeping the planet, disrupting everyday life and killing millions. Scientists have made incredible advances, creating vaccines that could liberate us all from the danger, fear, and isolation that has characterized the last year. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that irrational fear of the vaccine could ruin our comeback. Enough people could resist or postpone getting their Covid shot that we don’t reach herd immunity and the virus keeps killing our friends and neighbors.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Vaccines —some of medicine’s greatest inventions, which quietly save millions of lives every year — have always…


And what you could all do differently next time

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(Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels)

Feedback for Suzie — In the “getting to know you” section of the orgy, you were trying to lift things up a notch so you licked my forehead. But then you moved immediately onto Daniel’s forehead. This resulted in me wondering whether my forehead was too salty.

You could have continued to lick my forehead for a little longer, putting me at ease about levels of saltiness.

Feedback for Daniel — While Suzie was licking your forehead you made eye contact with me for longer than I would have expected. I didn’t know how to interpret this so I licked…

I predict resorts and shopping on the moon are in our future

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(Image by Duncan Miller from Pixabay)

Watching the latest Space X launch (and explosion) of one of its Mars rocket prototypes, I was overcome with a sudden nostalgia for the days when Americans used to gather around the television to watch NASA launch a rocket to the moon or a space shuttle to the international space station. Sure, there have always been Americans against the cost of space exploration, but in years past, there seemed to be a more cohesive notion of space exploration, that there was a scientific duty to explore our solar system and that America in particular should lead the way.

American culture…

Life Lessons

The day I moved to the United States

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This is not Hassan. (Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash)

The exact moment when I realized I wasn’t dressed to match the moment isn’t clear to me now, but it was somewhere over the Atlantic, probably a couple of hundred miles south of Greenland.

My neighboring passenger, Hassan, from Tripoli (the one in Lebanon, not Libya), was a happy, kind, and enthusiastic gentleman. He was middle eastern, probably about my age — mid-twenties, shaven, and neat, very well dressed and was super excited about beginning his new life in the United States. I knew he was excited because he couldn’t stop talking about it. Hassan made the effort, a giant…

Fellow oddballs on the internet

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(Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash)

On an impulse I ordered a fitness trampoline. Akin to a hamster wheel, trampolines provide an outlet for energetic creatures in captivity. My time on the tramp, or as we in the community called “rebounder,” surely gave me a way to get rid of excess energy fast, and also provided something that I missed in the empty NYC pandemic streets: quirky strangers.

YouTube trampoline fitness videos feature people who are delightfully different from the usual white-chick-in-spandex-and-strategic-gold-bangle-wearing fitness instructors: they are meatier, less rehearsed, and unconcerned with having the perfect backdrop. …

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(Photo by Kathy Paradis)

It was 1995. I was at the height of my pot smoking habit, and I was drafting as many impressionable underclassmen as I could. Sara was my finest recruit; once a proper honor roll student, she was now a red-eyed lover of batiks and incense and Jimi Hendrix. We would skip class to get high in the woods in the back of the school, rubbing elbows with scraggly haired boys in grimy black clothes. Aside from smoking pot, Sara and I spent our time reading Dr. Seuss, playing Scrabble, and dousing ourselves in patchouli oil. …

Surprising help during the Great Depression

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(Photo by Julian Andres Carmona Serrato on Unsplash)

The Great Depression illustrates the decade of the 1930s. In America, millions of people were forced to rely on their wits to survive.

1933, when the Great Depression reached its lowest point, some 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half the country’s banks had failed.

When money was tight and times were lean, people did not waste money on new clothes. Mothers mended socks and sewed patches over holes in clothes.

About a hundred years before the Great Depression, there was an adjustment in how merchants transported the goods. Potatoes, flour and animal feed had previously travelled the world…

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