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A Day in the Life of an Ex-Pat, American Journalism Student

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This picture of the Seine has nothing to do with the article.

Published by Popula on November 5th, 2018

1 minute read, click on the blue button below

Or scroll down for the 4th draft (1.5 minute read) because I have difficultly letting things go.

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Being a journalism student in Paris is an endless cycle of croissants, cigarettes, café, and crossing old bridges to drink cheap champagne with my classmates. No, I’m joking, it’s not all fun and games, but living as an ex-patriot journalist for the past five months has been one of the most fulfilling and self-reflective periods of my life.

I live in Fontenay-sois-Bois, an eastern suburb of Paris, which is two stops on the RER train from the east side of the city and a 40-minute commute to my school, Sciences Po. The center of the small town is surprisingly multicultural, with Moroccan, Turkish, Indian, and Japanese restaurants next to numerous boulangeries and a church, Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, that was founded in the 7th century. On this morning I showered, read some newspapers online, then left my apartment.

For breakfast I stopped at one of the boulangeries in town, which is what I would consider French’s equivalent of an American diner. I ordered an expresso and a croissant that is crispy on the outside, freshly baked, tastes lightly buttered, and is delicious.

Leaving the boulangerie on my way to the RER train I passed the Librairie Mot à Mot bookstore, which is again surprisingly large given how small the town is. I’ve found that France has a stronger reading culture than the United States. I thought about how a contributing factor to the reading culture is probably due to Jack Lang, a French politician. He created a law in 1981 which enforced a minimum sale price for books to save independent bookstores. Now it’s known as the anti-amazon law. In Paris, a bookstore recently opened called Ici/Here that’s 500 square meters, the largest independent bookstore in Paris. In the past ten years 40 million euros have been invested by Semeast, a mixed economy company of the City of Paris, to buy back the leases of fifty distressed bookstores. But I digress because as a journalism student my mind is usually on bookstores and the publishing world because that is the topic for my longform journalism class.

It was a Wednesday, so I arrived at Sciences Po at 9 a.m. for my Longform class with Frederic Filloux, who created the Monday Note, a business newsletter on the economics of digital media. The class structure isn’t very different from journalism classes I had taken in the past, except the topics for each student are different, of course, because they’re French. My classmates are from Germany, Japan, Cuba, Italy, England, France, Taiwan, and more. We discussed articles that were assigned by Filloux, their style, tone, details we liked or disliked, or the reporting behind the piece. Then we each gave the class updates on our longform assignment, a 5000 word piece that is due at the end of the semester.

After my class I had thirty minutes for lunch, which is unusual for France since I thought the culture highly values taking the time for meals and not letting work interfere with life. I walked to a boulangerie nearby and eat a baguette on the go.

My next class is Video Features with Zachary Fox, which is similar to longform but uses video. We watched each others’ projects and gave feedback. We also watched professional video pieces and discussed what could be improved and what we could learn. Unlike longform, each student creates two video projects for the semester. My first project was on a homeless shelter called Valgiros, which is a place where homeless people live with citizens who have never been homeless, in order to help those who have struggled on the streets gradually transition back into society. The piece centered around a man with alcoholism named Youri who has cancer. My next piece, which is still in the works, is on how France helps people with mental disabilities, and the programs that are available.

After Video class, which goes until 2:30 p.m., I ran down the St. Germain Boulevard to my French class on the other side of campus which started at 2:45pm. This is the first French class I’ve taken in my life. It’s an A2/basic level, but the teacher speaks in French in the entire time, which I like. I’ve become aware how the French language is much more vague and “flowing” than English. I feel like this characteristic can be summed up with the phrase “c’est pas grave,” or “it’s not a big deal.” Never have I been more conscious of how “direct” and “overly-intense” I am than when I first moved to France. I realized Americans can often “get the job done,” but we also destroy things (the environment, our sense of well-being) in the process.

After my French class I walked around the neighborhood and admired the buildings. Being in classes all day caused me to feel a little stir crazy, so it was nice to walk around and get some fresh air. For the past five years I lived in New York City, where a NYC taxi driver once told me, “New York is the beating heart of the world.” But Paris has a more subtle, quiet, and mysterious beauty. The buildings in Paris have ornate moldings and small balconies, soft colored stones, intricate sculptures, and large windows that all seem superfluous compared to the soaring lines of New York City’s skyscrapers. But there’s an elegance and a sophistication in Paris that I never felt in New York. Perhaps it’s the deeper history, or the steady influence of French culture, with its emphasis on style and originality.

After walking around for an hour or two I headed home. Upon arriving in my apartment I listened to France 24 on the radio and sent emails. My work requires constant article pitching, interview requests, online research, and internet digging.  Sitting in front of the computer for hours sending emails into the void isn’t very glorious. But for me, it’s worth it.

 

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The Doe Fund and Recidivism

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Project for my Video 1 Class. I have a long way to go:

Louvre Pyramid Turns 30

Last week I wrote an article for Agence France-Presse, which was published 4 days ago as “From outrage to icon: Paris marks 30 years of Louvre’s pyramid.” Below is the original article, before the editors changed it. 1 minute read:


Thirty years ago the Louvre Pyramid was called a cultural desecration, with journalists and the Parisian public calling for an insurrection against the structure, but today the monument is celebrated as a resounding success.


The initial hate for the Louvre Pyramid has been transformed so completely into iconic admiration that the Parisian street artist, JR, has created his second exhibit involving the pyramid. The exhibit was revealed last Friday and has been subsequently shredded by tourists.


The idea for renovating the Louvre came from the charismatic Jack Lang, who in 1981 wrote President François Mitterrand saying, “It would be a good idea to start recreating the Grand Louvre by allocating all the buildings to museums.” Mitterrand scribbled back in a letter, “Good idea, but it’s difficult to realize good ideas.”


Jack Lang continued to push for a renovation, writing that, “The Napoleon courtyard was a terrible parking lot. The museum was handicapped by the lack of a central entrance.” Mitterrand gave in to the requests and hired the architect, Ieo Ming Pei. Mitterrand had always admired Pei’s work in the United States, which included Pei’s modernist extension to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Dallas City Hall. 


When I.M. Pei’s model of the pyramid was revealed to the French public in 1984, Jack Lang remembers “an explosion of screams.” The journalist André Fermigier called the design “a house of death.” The academician Jean Dutourd wrote that “uncle wants to be the first pharaoh in our history.” And three historians, Antioine Schnapper, Sébastien Loste, and Bruno Foucart published a book of essays entitled, “Mystified Paris. The great illusion of the Great Louvre.”


The criticisms were focused less on the enlargement of the Louvre as about the aesthetics of the contemporary architecture clashing with the Napoleon III setting. I.M. Pei had never worked on a historic building before.
Pei remembers one architectural meeting that was “a terrible session,” where an expert shouted at him, “You are not in Dallas now!” His critics didn’t seem to care that he had won the Prtizker Prize in 1983, the “Nobel of architecture.”


“I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris,” Pei later said, confessing that “after the Louvre I thought no project would be too difficult.”


Pei’s genius was to link the three wings of the world’s most visited museum with vast underground galleries bathed in light from his glass and steel pyramid.


For its current Chairman and CEO Jean-Luc Martinez, the pyramid is a masterpiece that helped turned the museum around. “The Louvre is the only museum in the world whose entrance is a work of art,” he said “and the pyramid has become the symbol of a museum resolutely turned towards the future.”


Pei’s original design was intended for two million annual visitors. Last year 10.2 million people visited the Louvre. This year I.M. Pei is 102 years old, and continues to enjoy the success of his work, which is admired for its beautiful modernity as much as the ancient art it introduces.


The Louvre was not the first museum in Paris to experience hate that was turned to love. The Arche de la Défense, the Centre Pompidou, and the Eiffel Tower all experienced lashing disapproval at the time of their births. In 1887, the Eiffel Tower was attacked by a group of intellectuals (including Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant) who published a letter in the newspaper Le Temps protesting against the building, calling it “Useless…monstrous…and an odious column of sheet metal with bolts.” And like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre would survive the barrage of criticism to become one of the most popular structures in the world and a shining symbol of Paris.


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The Importance of Failure

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“The Importance of Failure”

Co-authored piece published in The Freeman Magazine then re-published in FEE (Foundation for Economic Freedom) October 26th, 2011. Presented at APEE (Association of Private Enterprise Education) in spring of 2012 at “Best of the Freeman” panel.

4 minute read

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UDSM and the Mentally Handicapped in France

J’ai travaillé sur ce project avec Brant DeBoer et Tanguy Garrel-Jaffrelot.


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Bosnia’s Next Generation, Wary of Limited Job Opportunity and Gridlock Politics, But Still Hopeful

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***Rough Draft In Progress, Come Back Later

 

Before the elections in Bosnia this past October, the capital of Sarajevo was full of hundreds of billboards advertising politicians who were running for office. These politicians were running for three presidential seats in what is, arguably, the world’s most complicated democracy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a country that is struggling economically, that experienced the worst genocide since World War II twenty years ago, politics is one of the only place where people can find jobs and security.

“The most secure job is with the government,” says Danijela Mehic, who was born and raised in Sarajevo and gives tours to foreigners, “The only way to make a change in life is to join a political party.”

But despite the political power and gridlock, the city is attempting to become a tourist destination and to is trying to improve economically, moving on from the ethnic-cleansing nightmare of the Bosnia War.

“Last year we had four times more visitors than ever,” says Danijela Mehic, “This year there’s even more. And every year we put out the red carpet for the Sarajevo film festival.”

In Sarajevo today, contrary to the lingering worn-torn perspectives of most Westerners, you can find Irish pubs, luxury brand stores, outdoor cafes, a Vapiano, virtual reality booths, bustling restaurants, etc.:

 


 

Youth (teenagers born after The Bosnian war) in a Sarajevo hookah cafe, smoking and drinking Coca Cola.

“In school we go on friend trips to the Catholic Church, to the Synagogue, and to the Mosque. We study different religions,” says Emina Ivazouié

“In school we study the dates of the war, the governmental system, but not the details of the war itself. Because there are three different opinions.” says Dledina Ivazouié

*Emina and Deledia are muslim sisters (mother is a muslim) who don’t wear the hijab because “We like our hair.”

“Our parents say we’re lucky. But if you’re young or under 18, it is difficult to find a job.” says Ali Ljuštaku, who plays guitar in his father’s band.

“Most families here are mixed.” -Ali

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R (Melika Borovina): The only thing missing here is jobs. We’re not that developed compared to the rest of the world.”

W: (Amna Maudžo) “I think there’s still a lot of tension because of the war. I want to go abroad after school.”

R: I’m okay with being friends from different groups. But parents still say things like, “Serbs cannot be trusted,” and I’m sure they think the same thing about us.

R: Culture here is like a a meeting of cultures. It’s mixed here. You can really see everything.

[In Sarajevo it is possible to stand in one place and see a Roman Catholic Church, a mosque, and an Orthodox Church…I have pics]

R: We don’t express our nationality on the streets, but we hear it on the news, and see it in the papers.

R: I love this country. But I don’t think change will happen anytime soon. We get promises, but nothing in return.

R: The Dayton agreement causes a lot of things not to be changed.


 

Lana Prlić, youngest member of Bosnian Parliament, born during the war, mother is Muslim and father is Catholic (they raised me in the way to have knowledge about each religion and tradition and to choose by myself what I what to be. And I choose to respect everything and everyone and to be atheist.”) —-perhaps Q and A?

I became political active when I was 17 and still in high school. Why?
Because I wanted to change something, I wanted to make society in my
town Mostar more healthy without borders that are made by those who
enjoy luxurious life for over two decades based on divided society. Because
Mostar and Bosnia and Herzegovina are multicultural. SDP was my
choice [political party] because tradition, history, program of this party had the most
similarities to the way I was raised, to respect everyone, do not judge and
divide people only on the criteria are the good or bad ones. I did not want
to give up my country, because that is the country where my parents are,
my friends and all memories. I want to fight for next generations, because
generations of my grandparents barely survive due to low pensions (cca. 100
euros minimum), generations of my parents lost their youth in the war, and
my generation lost childhood explaining ourselves are we bosniaks, serbs, or
croats why today my generation is leaving. For the record, in the last 4
years 5% (80,000) of population of B&H left this country.

A:The biggest issue is that youth do not vote and if we add to it fact that elders
mostly vote we can conclude that this country is ran by older generations.
Youths have a power to change power every elections and they do not use it
because of the complicated system and political culture that presented politics
to youths in B&H as something non changeable. But they can change it, SDP is an example how youths can change help and recover party, I am sure that they
can do it with the country as well but they need opportunity. At the other
hand, youths today are involve in many NGOs, and others but unfortunately
mainly they see political party as the way of employment, and again for it
political culture is the main cause.

 

Obviously Bosnia is the phenomena country where with the less of 4 million people
we do have three presidents, of each ethnic group and mostly they represent
party interests not state interest. From 2014-2018 we had 3 presidents and non
of them made decisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the Presidents on his
meeting do not even play on hymn of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I will repeat
again you cannot represent country which you do not feel yours. We need
people in Presidency which will represent every each citizen of Bosnia and
Herzegovina no matter their ethnic group, because Presidency is the mirror of
our country and clearly in the last 4 years it was broken.

Dayton Agreement had a goal to establish peace here, and that is the most
important thing. But DPA put this country in the hands of few families which
run nationalists parties, this country cannot function and cannot be healthy if
people here are divided in the constitution in the core of political and social
system. Bosnia and Herzegovina should be country of all its citizens no matter
where they live. DPA is discriminatory, by that education system as well,
electoral system as well. What we can expect from the country in which
constitution is discriminatory? How to develop? How to solve life issues, when
on every issue which is not in interest of nationalist parties they have right on
national vital interest or ethnical veto? It is clear that DPA was an experiment
and it failed together with the holders of its, OHR.

This country should be country of all its citizens led by
those who feel this country as its own, by those who listen people and do have
responsibility towards them, led by people who found life issues way ahead
national issues. Nationalist’s countries are mostly poor countries, and
unfortunately Bosnia is every year on the bottom of every list. This country
need rehab and I hope at Sunday my party will get a chance to make B&H
country for all together with our candidate for the presidency Denis Becirovic
who we represent every each people in this country no matter its name,
religion or ethnicity. My biggest wish is to make country where people will
come and youths return from Western countries, so parents do not longer speak
with their kids by Skype or see them only during the holidays.


Boriša Falatar….ran for president, but lost. Waiting on his response to my second email…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His father died when he was 8, his grandfather was in the concentration camps. When Borisa was 16 the Bosnian War started on April 5th, he was at a sleepover with a friend when his friend’s father woke him up and said, “Sarajevo is occupied.” They went to the protests. 

“At first, the war was super boring.” But nobody could go out. Everybody was in shelters. He was watching movies. No electricity. “You don’t think it’s dangerous.”

Danijeja (tour guide) spent 3 months underground. She can’t go to the Bosnian War museum because it fills her with pain. She married during the war and had a child…”a way to have something behind yourself.”

Boris’s paternal grandfather is Croatian. His paternal grandmother is Serbian. His mother is muslim. He grew up in a Jewish community. The war for me was: what the hell is happening? Different parts of my family are being blamed. Who am I?

Mother was shot and killed during the war when he was 18.

Worked for the U.N. as an interpreter.

I never settled in one place in my life. Bosnia is my home. Lost 5% of the population in the last 4 years. People live with photos of their children.

1.5 years ago he traveled around Bosnia, spoke to activists. There’s not unifying force.

All the presidents here are like Trump. Bt they never achieve anything. We have three Trumps.

It’s difficult to get media attention. Peace-loving Ghandi doesn’t make headlines. “Love each other,” isn’t clickable.

“Screw you assholes!” that is clickable.

My mission isn’t all about getting elected. It’s about healing the wounds of this country.

No country is as diverse as Bosnia.

When Europe was killing itself 500 years ago, we were living together.

Politicians here scare you with the worst possible option. Entrench yourself in a political party or the other will win.

Despite Bosnia’s difficulties and political in-fighting, there are those who are working towards a better future, and a youth that is open to acceptance and moving forward.

 

 

 

 

He Didn’t Con Her

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This story has been published in a book called Not Who I Pictured: Sixteen Photographs Sixteen Stories, which you can buy here for $9.99

Below is the first half of the story (2 minute read). If you’re still uncertain about buying the book, I’ve also posted two passages from other stories, below mine. I hope you enjoy them.

If you don’t have cash to spare, but still want to read my story to the end, contact me directly. I’ll send you the whole piece.

 


 

 

When Tino DeAngelis died, my grandmother called my mother and mentioned his death, and that there wasn’t a funeral or a wake for him. My grandmother was always private about her relationship with Tino. But my mother went to her house anyway after the phone call, without telling her she was coming. When my mother arrived, my grandmother cried, saying,

“You came.”

Tino was seventy one when he met my grandmother. He was renting her sister’s house. My grandfather died a few weeks after he moved in. Tino sent an extravagant bouquet of flowers to my grandfather’s wake. Then he began taking my grandmother out to dinner.

Tino and my grandmother kept seeing each other. She retired after working for forty years at a mental hospital. Tino liked to drive and took my grandmother on many trips. They took me on a trip to Canada when I was two years old. Tino must have been a wonderful person to spend time with for my grandmother who was, after all, a widow living in the town of Ovid, in upstate New York, where there was not a lot of adventure. Tino was full of adventure. He took my grandmother to Rome, Paris, Colorado, and bought her jewelry. They read books and planted flowers together.

My family doesn’t know the details of how their relationship began. But when my parents met Tino for the first time, he pulled them aside and said, “There are some things you should know about me…about my past.”

My earliest memories of Tino are seeing him with my grandmother on Christmas Eve, when my family would always go to my grandmother’s house. He was a short, stocky man with bulging eyes and a wide smile who was always shuffling around the kitchen. He would cook steak sandwiches, make my uncle champagne cocktails, shake my hand with a vice-like grip, and tell stories. He would call me a champion. He bought me my first racing bike with my named engraved on it, played handball with me when I was eight, and wrote me twenty five letters.

In one he wrote,

Dear Pal Jack,

God Bless You, young man. I hope this note finds you doing well in every way possible. Grandpa thinks of you every day and I just want you to know that I cannot wait until the day you reach the age where you have a driver’s license; I am going to get you a new Honda.

 

Despite writing in an informal contract: “Guarantee: I agree to deliver to Jack Knych one new Honda Civic model LX the day he reaches his 16thbirthday,” I never saw the car. But I loved Tino nonetheless, and I didn’t mind when he called himself Grandpa Tino. My family loved Tino as well.

But my grandmother’s relationship with Tino would be tested in 1992, when the F.B.I. invaded her home to arrest Tino for using $660,000 of forged letters from the Savings Bank of the Finger Lakes to purchase more than $1 million of pork from a Canadian firm. He would be convicted and sent to prison for the third time.

*

In 2010, a year after Tino’s death, I was in college pulling an all-nighter for my Financial Economics class. I was reading a book on the history of the stock market, when I came across a chapter on Tino. I almost fell out of my chair. I learned that he had almost caused the stock market to crash in 1963 by committing the most notorious white-collar crime in American history at the time, and that he had been a millionaire in the 1950s and 1960s. I remember thinking, “Was this really the same man who had been in love with my grandmother? Was this the same man who I had a picture of on my dorm room wall, posing ridiculously on an old-fashioned bicycle? And if so, who was he?”

The next day I called my father and had the truth of Tino’s crimes confirmed. When my father met Tino in 1985, he had been uncertain whether Tino was telling the truth concerning his criminal past, so my father went to the Bird Library at Syracuse University to check the newspaper archives to verify Tino’s story. Sure enough, Tino had been on the front of page of The New York Times for what called the “Salad Oil Swindle.” He had served seven years in federal prison for defrauding his clients for over $150 million (equivalent to $1.2 billion in 2018). For the next eight years I would intermittently research Tino’s life, to try and learn more about the man who tried to marry my grandmother.

*

Anthony “Tino” DeAngelis was born in 1915 in the Bronx, the oldest son of Italian immigrants. “Tino” translates to “endearing little fellow of the angels.” He grew up in poverty in a cold-water flat with four younger siblings. When interviewed by journalists later in life, Tino would reflect upon his childhood and say, ‘I wanted to do one thing in life – make a success. Even as a little kid, I partook very little of the gay life.”

Tino quit school at sixteen. Soon after, he borrowed $500 from his father, which he invested in a candy store. The candy store failed.

After the candy store went under, Tino would begin working as a helper at a meat market. One of the stories he would tell my family on Christmas Eve was about when he first saw a bicycle in a store. He told his mother,

“Let’s buy it,” and convinced the man behind the counter to give him the bike. “My father has a dependable job on the railroad,” he told the man. “We’ll pay through installments.” When Tino left the store with his mother and the bike, his mother said,

“Jesus Christ, Tino, your father is gonna kill me.” But Tino paid off the bike.

Within three years of working at the meat market, Tino had risen from helper to manager. By the age of twenty, he was managing two hundred employees.

When asked about being a manager at the age of twenty, Tino would reply, “There were always jealousies and stubbornness. But nothing deterred me. I’ve always had a brilliant and productive mind.”

*


 

Pragya Krishna wrote about her parents’ arranged marriage. Here’s an excerpt:

She [Pragya’s mother] had three older sisters, who’d all been married off, but she hadn’t really thought about the possibility that she was next.

When her brother’s wife saw she’d come home, she said, “Pinky,” (my mom’s nickname), “Take an hour to rest and then get dressed-up. There’s a boy coming to see you.”

“And I was so angry,” my mother recalls. “I said I don’t want to meet anyone. I had no decent clothes, I’d put on weight because I’d been binge-eating parathas because of the stress from studying. I was like, my hair’s like this, I don’t want to meet anyone.” But after her outburst, she calmed down as she always does, and obeyed, because that was what she did, especially if her parents had told her to do something. And these were her parents’ directions by proxy. “I said fine, and we started looking through my wardrobe. I found an old dhoti-type suit and I said, I’ll wear this.”

The boy arrived soon after and sat down in the living room. He had come with a friend. “I didn’t even know which one of them was the boy in question,” my mother says. She went into autopilot. Guests are supposed to be treated with courtesy, so she acted accordingly.

“Someone’s come to the house, I’m supposed to be an attentive hostess and be nice. ‘Please, have these rasgullas. I insist.’

“The young man in question, she says, had thought he didn’t want to marry a doctor. His friend, who is known to be tactless, said to her, “What if you were asked to forget you’re a doctor after marriage?”

She bristled.

The young man, however, intervened and said to his friend, “What kind of question is that? How would you feel if you were asked to forget you’re a scientist?”

“So then I thought, alright,” she says. “The guy has good sense.”

The rest of the conversation was just small talk, and when it was done my mom went back to her room and forgot about the whole thing. The young man came back later and picked up some pictures of her — a common practice during the arranged marriage process. “I didn’t know about it at the time,” my mother told me. “I was back to studying again. I paid no attention.”

But then, she says, “Exams were done, and my brother was like, okay, now you’re getting married.”

*


Chloe Picchio wrote about her grandfather, who grew up in a Pennsylvania mining town, became a soldier in hopes of experiencing adventure, then had his life shattered by the horrors of WWII:

 

Scranton, the county seat, soon became a symbol of the early 20th century’s hunger for wealth, like a character from the Great Gatsby who couldn’t spend their riches quickly enough. It was known as the “Electric City,” earning its nickname through the first-ever electric streetcars rolling down the avenues leading to an exotic menagerie of elephants and tigers at the local zoo. Five miles away, in Olyphant, those luxuries seemed like distant fantasies. Mining, even a generation removed from the underage breaker boys crushed to death under their coal carts, was dangerous and deadly. Anthracite mining required more blasting and deeper tunnels than those for bituminous coal, creating fragile coal seams where any small mistake became amplified with grave consequences. Explosions happened regularly, ignited by the little spark from a miner’s lamp or pipe. Hundreds of men died the year of my grandfather’s birth, their deaths by suffocation and gas explosion distilled into insurance company columns focusing on issues of liability and fault. This was all for $7.53 a day. The miners existed precariously at the bottom rung of the middle class, one workplace injury away from financial ruin. Still, it was enough to feed a family in the midst of the Depression, and the abundance of the coal fields was an exception in a country filled with homelessness and dust storms. Everyone in town worked in the mines whether they liked it or not. The earth underneath Olyphant’s main streets would occasionally buckle, the reverberations of a mining accident bubbling towards the surface, engulfing a home, a car, or a dream. My grandfather refused to be pulled underground with them. He wanted more…

…I always felt like my grandfather’s military service was an enigma. Throughout my childhood, it came in flashes, a brief viewing of his Purple Heart on Veteran’s Day or in the expensive patriotic floral arrangements my grandmother ordered without fail for his shelf in the mausoleum each Memorial Day. No one ever talked about what he actually saw because he rarely spoke about anything. Information dripped out like a leaky faucet, the discoveries infrequent but telling. Homemade jug wine prompted my great uncles to divulge that my grandfather had been in D-Day, painting a dramatic picture of how he stormed the beaches of Normandy, rivaling the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. That glory was tainted with awkwardness as they chuckled about how my grandfather had lied about his age, was caught, sent back to finish high school, and promptly returned to the army. Yet no one questioned his choice. Anyone who witnessed my grandfather’s decision is now either dead or ill. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what he saw and could never unsee….

*

To buy the book on Amazon, click here

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A Dog Walk Encounter

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Flash Nonfiction: 1 minute read:

 

This morning at 7:45am while walking my bulldog, Hank, I saw a young man playing with his puppy in an open field. The puppy was teasing the man, running away with that awkward puppy gait. I smiled to myself, remembering Hank doing the same thing five years ago.

When the man caught up to the puppy he grabbed its collar, shoved it to the ground, and began smacking the puppy across the face.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER! DON’T HIT YOUR DOG YOU-“

“FUCK YOU ASSHOLE. LEAVE ME ALONE. THIS DOG IS GONNA BE A FIGHTER.” He scooped up his puppy and started to walk out of the field. I ran after him, blind with rage and yelling, uncertain of how to handle the situation. The man climbed some stairs, and while we shouted back and forth I heard him yell, “I’M TIRED OF WHITE PEOPLE TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!”

“IT’S NOT ABOUT RACE. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU AND ME. IT’S ABOUT YOUR DOG.”

“FUCK YOU. I’M GONNA RAISE MY DOG HOW I-” Then something inside of me cracked. I realized the situation at this moment was futile. My anger was for myself. Even if I could get this puppy away from this man, he’d find another one to beat. And the more I lashed out at this man, the more he would hurt his dog.

“Please. It’s not about you and me. It’s about your dog.”

“I WILL DO WHATEVER I FUCKING-” I started to beg with him.

“Please. Beat the shit out of me. Come over here and punch me in the face. I won’t fight back. I don’t care. Just don’t hurt your dog. Please. Don’t hurt your dog.” The man was at the top of the stairs.

“Just don’t hurt your dog. Hurt me. Not the dog.” He started to walk away. Then I found myself saying something I had never said before.

“Please. Don’t hurt your dog. God Bless.” The man paused, turned, then yelled back in an awkward, cracking tone, “THANK YOU,” and walked away. At the bottom of the stairs I realized I was shaking. This man would most likely keep beating his dog. There was nothing more I could do. There was such cruelty in the world. I felt fed up and finished with the world. I looked down at Hank, who was licking my leg and looking forward to the rest of his walk. “C’mon Hank, let’s go home.” I burst into tears. I wept for the next fifteen minutes on the walk back, letting Hank leisurely sniff wherever he wanted. In my apartment I wrote down what I remembered. Writing was something I could do.

 


 

Author’s Notes: A 311 service request has been filled out and the N.Y.P.D. has been contacted.

 

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