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4×2

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The neighborhood comes to this park, where each of our back yards is extended to ten, 20, 50 times its actual size. It’s a short walk for some of us, a brief drive for others, but for all those who bring their dogs to this anonymous oasis, it’s a daily destination that ranks just behind our children’s schools and just ahead of our workplaces…

David’s Girl

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She stood on the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega, facing north, placidly holding a sign. For several weeks she took up this post on Friday afternoon, baring her soul to the dense traffic growling to move at the light. Each week she hoisted a new sign, and stayed until darkness made her quit…

Graded

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This was the period in my life when new and startling ideas pelted me daily with the insistence of a bully chucking snow balls, and I couldn’t shed my ignorance fast enough to move into position to retaliate…

Bonded

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Whatever else you do in baseball, you keep coming back for more; empty bases or an oh-and-oh count demand the attempt to shake that blank state into something that can be retold. And there is honor in that dogged repetition. Every kid who has ever played with a ghost man on second observes it. It has something to do with leaving the game better than you found it…

In Memoriam

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These are the stories that run unaccompanied by photos, in spare columns deep in the paper, the small bursts of danger and demise that form the background pattern of modern life. We read them all the time, not closely, but with an eye for any familiar details—a name, an age, a location. The victims are almost uniformly anonymous, our six degrees of separation stretched into double figures…

The Pointer’s Perfect Arc

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It’s tempting to recall those ball-battering marathons with cheap nostalgic reverence, and lather them up with clichés about innocence and timelessness. Bunk! It was baseball at the street level, away from the organized game we played in flannel uniforms for pot-bellied coaches and the bellowing herds of local Moose, Elk, and Lions…

Tossed

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This one is full of cans still lightly sloshing with rinse water, jars crusted and scented with their original sauce, and the flattened husks of Girl Scout cookie boxes. It glistens like gold and adds the timbale and crash cymbal elements to the drum symphony. These are the recyclables, and it is our — well, my — perverse responsibility to make them presentable for the hard working scavengers who will come along any time now and pilfer them all…

Taking Scalps

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Anybody who is a true fan has a story about the time when reason and restraint were left wiggling on the side of the road, and whatever it took to get those tickets, that’s what happened. That’s once, maybe twice a lifetime, that such singular devotion is employed…

The Mexican Coast Guard

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As we set off down Quintana Roo’s only paved coastal road, tires humming a welcoming chant on the knobby macadam, we were all slightly giddy. We have tried, mainly unsuccessfully, to explain to my oldest son the size and shape of the cultural wave that arose in the sixties and carried our generation to a thousand different stations of adulthood. He doesn’t need to hear it…

Pitted

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“Hide your beagle, Vick’s an Eagle,” advised one of the hand held signs greeting the news that Michael Vick, paroled after 20 months of sentence served, had found fresh employment in Philadelphia. Bombastic, sloganeering protest was sure to follow Vick’s release from prison. The crimes were indisputably violent and inhumane, and a federal judge did order it earlier than the final date of the full sentence, which a lot of people thought was too lenient in the first place…

The Cairn Man

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Stewart is, not to put too fine a point on it, a rock piler. A more academic description of him might be as sculptor, or environmental performance artist. What Stewart created were assemblies of stone, polished from the rolling and tumbling of the waves along the Pacific coast, and balanced with a breathtaking disregard for visual symmetry or the conventional laws of physics…

Enamelly Yours: The Collected Tooth Fairy Letters

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This is the tooth fairy speaking. I borrowed the typewriter in the other room for a few minutes, and I put a silencer on it so I wouldn’t wake anybody up. It’s very late. In fact, it’s the hour of the wolf, but I didn’t see any on my way in. I work very quietly you see. I have to, and I think you know why. I have a secret to protect…

Bleep This

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I’m telling you, I’ve had about all I can take of the #*!#&*! profanity. Everywhere you go, people blowing vulgarity like eighth notes out of Dizzy Gillespie’s horn. At the coffee joint. The car wash. The Little League field. At Back-to-School Night, for *#!^&* sake! You get the feeling that somewhere in America, sailors are blushing and Bobby Knight is struck dumb…

Lifted

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On the medal stand, having been escorted up by event dignitaries and uniformed men, they look like any other group of winter X-gamers basking in the fame that found them at the finish line. Tall, short, skinny, beefy, tattooed, pierced, stringy-haired, bald, smiling, tight-lipped, waving, or simply standing at exhausted attention, the athletes wait for the ceremonial recognition of their day on the hill…

Taught

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There is a lot to be said for improvisation. The inspired moment, the unexpected twist, the providential accident; they’ve all made significant contributions to to human evolution generally and human careers specifically. 80-year-old Sanford, North Caroline resident Jeanne A. Undy’s career in education owes much of its success and remarkable longevity to unscheduled departures from the lesson plan…