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My Mom Was a Wonderful Mother, But Her Cooking…? by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Mealtime

/ Stories

My mom was a wonderful mother in many ways – patient, modest, innately kind — but she was not a particularly good cook. “Oh, I was a boring cook,” she admitted once when she was in her 70s and taking her meals in the dining room at Leisure World, the retirement facility where she and…
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That Summer in Europe by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By That Summer

/ Stories

It seemed reasonable to me. I was about to go to Europe for three months, and if I budgeted myself correctly the trip would cost $450 for the entire summer. So that’s what I did. It was 1971 and I was 20, the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I’d saved money…
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Dad’s Las Vegas, My Las Vegas by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Family Trips

/ Stories

Vegas was totally different in the early ’60s. With 100,000 residents it had one seventh the population of today, and while it had a certain tacky sheen it hadn’t approached the aggressively grotesque grandiosity you see today. It was quieter, more modest, less inclined to force itself down your throat.
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Watching Whoopi Get Famous by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Interviews

/ Stories

The first time I encountered Whoopi Goldberg, she was doing her act at a tiny performance space in San Francisco’s South of Market district. The proprietor at 544 Natoma, a friendly madman named Peter Hartman, invited me to drop by and catch a new solo performer. The name sounded like an old-school Borscht Belt comic.…
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My Journey to Rwanda by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Volunteering

/ Stories

Monday, June 9, 2008. Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. I awake early and hear my hostess Shirley Randell swimming in her pool. The goat outside my window bleats. A bit later Shirley, dressed in the sari that’s her daily costume, is rushing off to work. I arrived yesterday, bleary and beat. Shirley was on the…
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Confessions of a Recovering Film Critic by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Fame

/ Stories

I never asked to be a movie critic. And yet it happened. People don’t believe me when I say this; they assume movie reviewing is such a plum job that I must have scrambled and hustled to get there. Not really. In 1991 I’d been working at the San Francisco Chronicle seven years when the…
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The Day I Met Lucille Ball by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Fame

/ Stories

I’d heard how tough and intimidating Lucille Ball could be, but on the day I interviewed her at her home in Beverly Hills she was warm, unguarded and down-to-earth. It felt like hanging out with a favorite aunt. Lucy picked up quickly on the fact that I was a fan, and since I was young…
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My Brother Dan by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Birth Order

/ Stories

Compared to most mid-century couples, my parents married late. Dad was 34, Mom 29, and they figured they had no time to waste in starting a family. My brother Danny, born August 25, 1949, came first, and for a brief time he reigned unchallenged, the celebrated prince. For Dad, it was a long-deferred dream to…
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Don’t Cry for Me, West Covina by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By My Hometown

/ Stories

January 1, 1955. My father is watching the Rose Bowl on television. It’s freezing in Chicago that day, but bright and glorious in Pasadena where Ohio State trounces USC. Everyone looks happy, healthy. “Wouldn’t it be nice to raise these boys in California, where the sun shines all year long?” my dad asks my mother.…
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The Hope Sisters by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Aunts & Uncles

/ Stories

The more I got to know my aunts the more I appreciated the ways they’d survived a childhood that, for all its adventure and exoticism, was marked by long separations and displacement.
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The Year I Played in “Oliver!”: A Stage Debut by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Dreams

/ Stories

With a beginner’s naïveté, I wrote a letter to the producer Danny Dare and told him why he should cast me: “Dear Mr. Dare, I live in West Covina and I’m a talented actor. I can do an excellent English accent and I can sing. You should cast me in Oliver!”
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Libraries and Me: A Lifetime Love Affair by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Libraries

/ Stories

My relationship with libraries is deep and affectionate, and I feel a strong sense of offended justice when I see library books that people have defaced or underlined or otherwise mistreated. What’s even worse is people who check out books and never return them.
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My Aunt Rollie: Loving, Uncompromising and Part Prussian General by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Aunts & Uncles

/ Stories

She isn’t happy when her brothers marry non-Jewish women, and predictably takes a dim view of her son Donald’s tall, blonde girlfriend Sallie. One afternoon Sallie serves meat loaf, mashed potatoes and a simple green salad. Rollie is polite during the meal, but when Donald and Sally leave the room she asks me, "So what’d you think of that?” “Oh, it was fine,” I answer. "I call that Shiksa food,” she says.
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The Remarkable, Audacious Miss Jackson by
25
(27 Stories)

/ Stories

Mame’s language ranges from bawdy to downright filthy to an ornate elegance that can entertain or intimidate. She adores words, and language has a cascading musical quality coming from her. A boring lecture doesn’t cause her to lose interest but rather “assassinates my enthusiasm.” And instead of saying “I’m full” following a heavy meal, Mame announces, “I’ve been gourmandizing myself for an hour and I’m fully saturated.”
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Becoming a Journalist — Lightning Rod or Seismograph? by
25
(27 Stories)

/ Stories

I wanted to capture the roaring, rude dynamism of the late ‘60s and early '70s, a world in flux – not as it appeared from a distance to a disinterested newsman, but as someone immersed in the zeitgeist.
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Women Authors – An Enduring Passion by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Women We Admire

/ Stories

I like male writers, too. Dostoyevsky’s 'Crime and Punishment' and Melville’s 'Moby-Dick' are huge favorites, and John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' is a thing of remarkable beauty. But overall, it’s the psychological depth of women authors -- their fascination with our inner lives -- that I find illuminating and essential.
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I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By My First Apartment

/ Stories

Terry comes charging through the front door spewing tears and rage. “Janet just broke up with me!” he howls. And with one long wave of his arm, he sweeps dozens of beer and wine bottles off the kitchen counter and sends them crashing to the floor. The party grinds to a cheap, ugly close.
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That’s No Midget, That’s My Grandmother by
25
(27 Stories)

/ Stories

Every year, Grandma spends the winter with us in California – in order to avoid the frigid Chicago winters and the risk of falling on ice. Even when I’m 5 or 6, she seems ancient to me.
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We Called It Junior High Back Then by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Middle School

/ Stories

Social hierarchies are quick to develop in junior high, and from day one Diane is Queen Bee. Girls copy her, lobby to be her friend. Boys stare and whisper and grunt. Without question she is the most desired, the most alluring girl in seventh grade.
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Giving Thanks to My Favorite Teachers by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Teachers & Mentors

/ Stories

Great teachers are a rare and wonderful occurrence. They inspire and give us wings, and they receive insufficient reward for their work. They deserve our thanks.
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My Parents’ Childhood Photos: A Very Rich Legacy by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Vintage Photos

/ Stories

I can’t say exactly why I’m so drawn to family history and the mysterious links that cross generations and inform who we are. But it’s something I’ve always had.
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Breaking the Redwood Curtain: Campus Strike at Humboldt State University by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Student Activism

/ Stories

“There was a sense of exhilaration,” my friend Wesley remembers, “a feeling that we were reacting as a group, as one. That was a really intense, positive thing.” I believe the emotions and commitment generated that day forever altered the spirit and culture of Humboldt State.
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Passover, Faith, and the Price of Assimilation by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Faith

/ Stories

"Although my father was Jewish, our family never celebrated Passover or Chanukah, never had a menorah in the house, never attended a Seder. As a child I never felt deprived of the things my non-observant father never taught me about being Jewish. But I do now."
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The Oscars and Me — Confessions of a Geek by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Best Picture

/ Stories

I was starstruck from a very young age, and I think it was the combination of a) seeing the stars at their most glamorous, nervous and exposed; and b) experiencing vicariously the thrill of worldwide recognition that made the Oscars so irresistible.
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Bobby Kennedy and the Year That Took Him by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By A Year in the Life

/ Stories

Bobby had the gift of empathy -- the ability to see the world through the eyes of the poor, the unrepresented. Whereas his opponent Eugene McCarthy was brilliant, professorial and cold, Bobby brought warmth, spontaneity and the charisma of a rock star.
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Reefer Madness: An Early Encounter with Anti-Weed Hysteria by
25
(27 Stories)

Prompted By Marijuana

/ Stories

My marijuana story starts with a woman named Martha Lupton Schneidewind. She was my high school journalism teacher in West Covina, Calif. – a tall, birdlike woman who wore wool suits and ladylike scarves and had a quick, scampering walk. She was kind, loquacious and, to my insensitive teenage self, amusingly absurd with her chirping…
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Growing Up With an Aluminum Christmas Tree — Not a Love Story by
25
(27 Stories)

/ Stories

My parents choreograph this family tableau to imbue my brothers and me with the holiday spirit -- to allow the aluminum Christmas tree to work its cunning magic. But instead of awe and delight, we feel nothing.
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