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What I Don’t Realize That My Students Don’t Know

Posted May 28th, 2013
What I Don’t Realize That My Students Don’t Know

Since the class of 2002, Beloit College has published an annual “Mindset List,” a statement of cultural milestones and realities that current college freshman may or may not know or share. Needless to say, it is a list that makes my Baby-Boomer’s heart clank like a junkyard jalopy. Here are a few items that caught…

WWI: Blue Cows and Saints

Posted October 26th, 2011
WWI:  Blue Cows and Saints

I lay in bed and listened to the rain insistent on the roof. We would go to Liffol-le-Grand, I decided. Liffol-le-Grand is one of the small towns near Neufchatel, an administrative center of the American Expeditionary Force, which provided housing for soldiers. It was where, in late October, my grandfather David Cutler was billeted with…

Beautiful Blue Danube 5: Dancing With Horses

Posted June 8th, 2016
Beautiful Blue Danube 5: Dancing With Horses

  They moved with power and precision underneath that great Baroque ceiling as riders sat in near perfect stillness. They ranged from the sooty gray to nearly pure white, manes sometimes braided up, fetlock-length tails blunt-cut at the bottom. Uniforms signaled place in the professional hierarchy: novices in blue hacking jackets, powder-blue shirts and dark…

I-35: Des Moines

Posted October 12th, 2016
I-35: Des Moines

There were dropped jaws and more polite phrasings like, “What has persuaded you to make this move?” when I told people that I was moving to Iowa, in 1985 for a job as curator of education at the Des Moines Art Center. “Big careers are made in smaller museums,” I often answered. But the truth…

The plan is no back-up plan

Posted February 3rd, 2010

The weather report for Saturday, our wedding day, is ominous. It snowed steadily yesterday afternoon, a sifting of silver against the pewter sky. Before I went to bed I peered out the sidelights of the front door. All was white, all was soft in the bright lamplight. The air was already mild before breakfast as…

Of Time and Family 4: Young James and His Katie Wed

Posted September 3rd, 2012
Of Time and Family 4: Young James and His Katie Wed

It wasn’t the wedding my heart yearns for. That wedding must wait until my Tattooed Boy is wrapped in love by some young woman who loves him and his family the way he will no doubt love her and hers. No, this was the nuptials of Young James and His Katie, friends since Middle School,…

La Jolla 3: Why can’t the writers…learn…to…think?

Posted January 27th, 2016
La Jolla 3: Why can’t the writers…learn…to…think?

Professor Henry Higgins—or the voice of Rex Harrison—is stuck in my brain. It is not so much that I lament English ill-organized and -enunciated in ordinary communications. It is more a matter of abuse heaped on words and syntax by whoever is writing those damned labels for modern art. This is not a new whine…

Stumbles on the Rose-Petal Path

Posted January 26th, 2010

I am generally uneasy when things go too smoothly. Clarity of vision and ease of execution merely lull one into a dream state. Stumbling, however, keeps one awake and alert. Take the rings, for instance. After a flurry of shopping-like activity, we chose a ring that is perfection itself. When it arrived, we were also…

Lietuva 7: The Case of the Laundered Passport

Posted May 24th, 2012
Lietuva 7: The Case of the Laundered Passport

It was an honest mistake. It was certainly not the fault of the washing machine. It was the kind of thing that happens when one is tired and hot and urgently wanting a change of clothes and needful of clean clothes as soon as possible. It was something of a trek from Balbieriškis to the…

The Eternal City 3: Casa Nostra in Trastevere

Posted April 22nd, 2014
The Eternal City 3: Casa Nostra in Trastevere

When in Rome, we say, live in Trastevere. It is the quiet place—except perhaps around the fountain in the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere when the young folk are socializing or perhaps along via della Lungaretta, the blocks between busy viale di Trastevere and the aforementioned piazza. Trastevere—that place “across the Tiber”—has its own…