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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Loyalty Rewards

In the fall of 1991 I was the lowest-ranking waiter at a steakhouse in Hampton, Virginia. My sole transportation was a Honda 350 motorcycle — halfway between a street bike and a moped — whose chain slipped at the most inopportune times.

People Are Starving

We didn’t know what it was to be desired. We didn’t know what girls’ bodies were supposed to look like. We just knew it was better for us if nothing stuck out too far.

One Flight Up

One can die in cleanliness, or one can die in filth. I’m not talking about your soul. At the Prince Hotel — an old Bowery flophouse — the men paid a few dollars a night to live in stalls, four feet wide and six feet deep, with chicken-wire ceilings.

A Place For Songs

In the summer we got word that the county forestland near our northern-Wisconsin home would be clear-cut. “Not my favorite pines,” I said, hoping. But, yes, those were the ones.

Lost Cause

My dad’s name was Ed, but his friends called him Eddie. In old photos he is Jack Nicholson handsome, with devilish good looks and a mischievous gleam in his eye. I can see why my mom fell for him.

Last Lecture

Recently I was invited to give a special lecture at the university where I teach. I accepted the invitation though, contrary to what my sons might tell you, I don’t really like to lecture.

Hospital Runs

On my very first hospital run I picked up this long-faced, country white guy who’d survived seven surgeries in the last five years. He looked to be late eighties, all but dead, but friendly in a half-deaf way.

Goodbye, Patriarchy!

It’s like the French Revolution. One by one, prominent men are wheeled out to the guillotine and dispatched. Of course, the present-day “deaths” are metaphorical. Garrison Keillor is still alive, just out of sight. But “Garrison Keillor,” the charming, folksy, self-deprecating Midwestern humorist, is dead.

A Short-Lived Ecstasy Bordering On Madness

Well honed by disappointment, my instincts told me this book contract was not going to work out (it wasn’t) and that the philosophical differences I had with my editor were not going to be resolved (they weren’t). But at the age of forty-three and looking at my first — and maybe last — realistic shot at a career in letters, I was like an old dog not yet willing to let go of a bone.