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For a Catholic kid, there was nothing good about Good Friday. From dawn to dusk, we had to fast on toast and tea, and then, when we were good and starving, we had to choke down a bowl of my mom’s fish stew. We couldn’t cut loose or even watch TV. We were supposed to mope around looking glum. We spent the entire afternoon in church.


The Blue Devils Of Blue River Avenue

Our first house, in the autumn of 1963, was a small, mustard-colored tract home in the older working-class suburbs of northeast San Diego. Before that we’d rented. My father had been a mailman, but now he was a schoolteacher. There was nothing on the other side of our street but a mountain and a few cows. Around the corner was a Jack-in-the-Box, where you could talk to the clown and get a hamburger for fifteen cents. They got rid of the clown eventually. For a while you could get deep-fried jumbo shrimp in tissue paper with fries; fried chicken, too, almond brown with miles of crust. It was years before I figured out the secret sauce on the hamburgers was Thousand Island dressing. Behind the Jack-in-the-Box was a Thriftimart with a colossal red neon T that burned in the sky twenty-four hours a day. It was like a crucifix, a giant symbol of grocery-store truth flaming against the mountain. People who came to visit my parents would be guided by the giant red neon T. About ten years later, Safeway bought the store and took down the T, but the Jack-in-the-Box is still there. The cows are all gone: we ordered them through the clown and ate them with Thousand Island dressing.

The Sun Interview

The Prayer Of The Body

An Interview With Stephen R. Schwartz

I’d been melancholy for weeks, dogged by feelings I couldn’t name. Then my wife went out of town; I didn’t want her to go. You might say I was ready for a good cry. Yet how tempting to ignore sorrow, as if it were a beggar. Those dark, accusing eyes.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Giving Away Gardens

A Crip gang member approached the woman for whom I was building a vegetable garden — an old woman on welfare, an ex-prostitute, ex-waitress, ex-chicken-butchering plant worker. He said he was tired, pimping was hard work. I kept to my hammer and shovel, hearing the woman's tubercular laugh, and repressed a moral urge to bash his brains in, instead muttering something nonsensical about individuated karma and samsara, knowing and glad that the garden will persist longer than he will.
The Sun Interview

Uniting The Opposites

An Interview With M.C. Richards

Talk about art by artists usually bores me. Perhaps that's because I'm more interested in what art has to say about life than about art. But with Mary Caroline Richards such distinctions are moot: her art and her life are helplessly, elegantly entwined.