Category Archives: Tales

True tales of Mazatlán: Toughest swim ever

The next time you see an image of a lazy Mexican resting against a cactus, remember this true story:

As a competitive swimmer, I once covered more than 12,000 yards in a single workout – and then followed that with sit-ups and hand-clap pushups. It was arduous, but we were pushing for glory. Nonetheless, the toughest swimming that I ever witnessed took place during a race across a bay in Mazatlán, among ordinary Mexicans with no pretense of achieving widespread recognition.

It happened in the summer of 1996. Continue reading


The instant I saw a godless world

The way I remember the moment, it must have been within a year of 1971, making me 7-9 years old. My family was riding along the freeway across Knoxville, Tennessee, where we lived. My brother and I were in the backseat, and my parents were up front. My brother was two years older and thus hardwired into the very center of grooviness, or so it seemed to me. My parents, at best, were dongles hanging from hippiedom.

Those were the days of the generation gap, which meant that it was our duty as cadres of the ongoing youth revolution to question everything openly. Continue reading

Santa versus the reptilians

In the summer of 1991, I briefly knew a radical mall-Santa who believed that reptilians from the Pleiades were taking over Earth.

This was in Tucson. I was killing time, waiting for graduate school to begin, so I auditioned for and got a part in a community-access TV production. An homage to the Marx Brothers, its title was Soup to Nuts. The director, Vern, had written a pun-laden script and, so he said, provoked interest from a relative of one of the Marx Brothers. (Yes, this person must have been a relative of all of the brothers, but this is how Vern expressed it.) So this production would constitute his and perhaps our ticket to the Big Time. I can’t remember what my role was, but it entailed yelling full-force for about a minute. Continue reading

Speaking of newspaper-collecting loons …

The Onion asks,  “How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?” Poignant stuff. And this question reminded me of a couple of people. But, since my grandmother is definitely not a loon, I’ll pretend that it reminds me only of a neighbor in Austin, circa 1984. Let’s call him James.

James collected and hoarded newspapers. He never threw any away, and he stacked them in massive stalagmites throughout his home; other piles lay strewn about the detached garage-shed behind it. I came to know this because we shared a duplex with him, even though he also owned the house next door. Continue reading