Columns

From the New York Times, Time magazine, and the complete Chicago Tribune syndicated columns

A trip to New York

Slight panic in the airport out in Texas. Waiting to check a bag, pull out my billfold, no driver’s license. Check pockets, briefcase. Credit cards, no license. The brain flutters. Hotel? Taxi? Pickpocket? A teen terrorist from Izvestistan perhaps, trying to persuade TSA he is 75 and from Anoka, Minnesota?

Read More

An old man talking to himself again

I’ve been confused about politics ever since Republican states became red states, which to me, growing up in the era of Red China, suggested commissars and gulags and thought control, which of course Utah and Texas and Georgia do not have. You can believe in God in those states, same as in blue states. Blue makes me think of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but that’s another matter.

Read More

Donald Trump is done

When his old campaign manager was indicted Monday, Mr. Trump called me on the phone, crying like a baby, and begged me to endorse him. I said, “You’re already president, Mr. President. You were elected.” He said, “I’d still like your endorsement.” I have a recording of the phone call. It’s so sad. Donald Trump is done. He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in New York, his hometown. I was very very nice about it. Very nice. But New Yorkers love dogs and he does not. There are 14 recorded instances of him kicking small dogs, and I have documentary proof of all but two of them.

Read More

A man walks into a bar in Oregon

I hung out in Eugene, Ore., last week where it rains every day, so the air is fresh and clean. Old people my age don’t care for rain so Eugene is not a retirement mecca — more of a youth mecca, a real alt sort of town for hikers and bikers and vegans and people with multicolored hair. A lifestyle town, with not so many suit-and-tie guys like me. That’s fine. My former father-in-law was named Eugene, and so the town feels friendly to me. And the university is there, so there’s plenty of ambition in the air.

Read More

A former obituary writer contemplates life at 75

When I was 20, I dropped out of college and got a job with a morning newspaper whose city editor Mr. Walt Streightiff put me to work writing obituaries of ordinary men and women whose deaths were not considered newsworthy. Other reporters handled crime, natural disasters, City Hall, sports, fatal accidents, high finance, visiting celebrities, and what was called “human interest,” meaning heartwarming stories, usually involving children. I was in charge of ordinary cold death.

Read More

Welcome to the abyss

I am off lingonberries for the time being and Volvos and flat white furniture from Ikea. No meatballs, thank you. Once again the humorless Swedes have chosen a writer of migraines for the Nobel Prize in literature, an author of twilight meditations on time and memory and mortality and cold toast by loners looking at bad wallpaper. It’s not a prize for literature, it’s a prize for nihilism. The Swedes said he’s like Jane Austen combined with Kafka with some of Proust, three other writers you’d never invite to a party. Well, at least they didn’t give it to Joni Mitchell.

Read More

If only the TSA lady had been here my whole life

I went through airport security Monday and neglected to take my laptop out of my briefcase and place it in a separate plastic bin and was properly chastised by a TSA lady who put her hands on her hips and said, “I just got done telling you about laptops!”

Read More

God has sent us a judge. Hallelujah.

The triumph of former judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s Republican Senate primary was a ray of sunshine for those of us who’d like to restore stoning to our legal system and remove the curse of profanity once and for all from our country. Scripture is very clear: “Thou shalt not swear.” But God’s chosen party, the Republican Party, has waffled on this issue, as it has on the issue of adultery and obedience to parents and observance of the Sabbath and the engraving industry. And that is why our country today is on the verge of destruction. The signs are everywhere. Judge Moore is the only man who dares say so.

Read More

The gentle people shall prevail

I passed through Houston on Monday and found a lot of cheerful stoicism (“It could’ve been worse”) a month after Harvey had messed with Texas. Some boarded-up windows downtown, some houses awaiting demolition. A man told me his church was organizing volunteers to muck out houses hit by the hurricane. I only ever heard “muck out” in reference to cleaning a cow barn — in this case, they’d be ripping up carpet and rotten floorboards, pulling out sheetrock, spraying with fungicide. He’d gotten off light, so he was obligated to help those who hadn’t, he said.

Read More

Of thee they sing with feeling

I’ve been riding around the country on a bus for six weeks, doing a dog-and-pony show that, among many other things, included me walking into the crowd and humming a note and the audience singing, a cappella, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty” and singing very well, sometimes awfully well, and if so, we swung into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Love Me Tender” and two verses of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” including the one about sounding forth a trumpet and the jubilant feet. People had paid $40 to see the show but they were not disappointed to be the show. It was a beautiful thing.

Read More