A Tiding of Magpies…Three Essays


A tiding of sorrow, for I cannot see,

I turn around, but light blinds me.

The sadness of the people fills the air,

As I look around, I see friends and family there.

Crying and weeping, everyone dressed in black.

I hear my mother say it’s hard for her to sleep,

Then I try to talk back.

She cannot hear me, not a word I say.

I shout “What’s wrong?” but she moves away.

I walk to the front, and there I see me.

Lying in a casket so peacefully. »Read More

Homeless Thanksgiving…KL

Homeless Thanksgiving


People define homelessness as not having a place to go home to. Although that is definitely true, that is not the only type of homelessness. You could be homeless and still have a home, but that home is not yours. It is someone else’s, and they are kind enough to let you sleep on their couch. I would know because you could say I fall under the homeless category. I have a home, but that home is not mine. I sleep under someone’s roof. I don’t mean that I live in my parents’ home, because neither of my parents have their own home. »Read More

Homeless Thanksgiving…MM

Homeless But Not Hungry


Let me tell you something friend.

I may be homeless but I never go hungry.

You may sit down at your table to your banquet

Filled with your potatoes, turkey, ham, and anything else you manage to get to your face

While I sit down and I may have a bowl of sleep for dinner. »Read More

Homeless Thanksgiving…JT

Homeless Thanksgiving

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was coming home from school. My bus was late so I caught the 27 Port Covington bus. I got off at Lexington Market and walked down to the subway station to catch the train. As I walked down the escalator, I saw a homeless man lying on the steps. I stood on the platform and waited for the train. The train was late as usual. All of a sudden, the homeless man started to cough uncontrollably.

I stepped towards the man and asked him,

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for asking” he replied.

There was an awkward silence before he said,

“I’m surprised you asked.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said I’m surprised you asked. Not a lot of people are worried or take interest in my wellbeing. They always think I’m trying to get their money or something.”

“ Oh no problem,” I said.

“By the way, my name is Charles” he said and extended his hand for a handshake.

“ Nice to meet you Charles. My name is Janiah” I said and shook his hand.

“What are you coming from school or something?”

“Yes, I go to The Community School.”

“ I never heard of that school” he said.

It was obvious that he was homeless, so I asked him, “ Mr. Charles, what did you do before you were homeless?” »Read More

“Carrying On”

Kimberley's Stone“Right weight, wrong number.”

“Excuse me?” I said to the man in scrubs.

“Remember last night,” the doctor continued, “when I told you that I thought we had a five-pound baby on the way, despite your wife delivering 10 weeks early?”

“Uh-huh,” I grunted, confused.

“Well, turned out to be 2 two-and-a-half pounders. Your wife just had twins, two tiny baby girls. Congratulations!”

My jaw dropped, my mouth undoubtedly forming a wordless WTF, but Dr. Scrubs kept talking.

“Your wife’s fine. So are the babies, but the next twenty-four hours are key. The good news is, your pediatrician has had smaller ones than this survive.”

Five minutes earlier, I had been sleepily reading a magazine in the waiting room. It was 1969, the tail end of the good old days when expectant fathers got the boy/girl news after the fact. The waiting process was a mix of anxiety and excitement, boredom and butterflies, and idyllic thoughts of the future. Suddenly, all of that was interrupted by the harsh reality of survival. »Read More

“Musings” excerpt

GettyImages LOST_108268634“MUSINGS OF A WHITE BOY”…excerpt for Man Alive writing session 9/16/15

I was a small boy the first time my parents took me to the movies. It was the early ‘50s and this particular Baltimore movie house was not that far removed from its earlier life as a venue for vaudeville stage and minstrel shows. It was said that even the great Al Jolson once sang for his “mammy” there—in blackface, of course. Now, black faces appeared in the audience…albeit within certain parameters!

The theatre’s downstairs was especially crowded that night, so my parents headed for the balcony in search of three seats together. I excitedly climbed the plush, carpeted staircase ahead of them. Reaching the top, instinct thrust me back like a stiff wind. I was terrified, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Smoke hung like a shroud over a sea of tawny eyes looking out from muted blackness. Breathless, I stared at the “Colored Section” and it stared back at me.

I imagine it now like entering Louisiana’s Cajun bayous late at night, the big gators languishing in the sluggish, slimy creeks awaiting the arrival of prey to make opening their lantern-like eyes worth the effort. You should not be here, their eyes say. You will pay dearly for the mistake.

Fast-forward one decade.

I am in high school…myself and about 1200 other boys. One of them is named Gerry. He is the first black student in the school’s 120-year history, at a time when racial tensions and violence are being whipped into a perfect storm by forced integration, assassination, hatred, and fear. Yet, I never heard of a single negative incident in my high school involving Gerry. He was simply one of us.

That was the key, I think. Gerry was one, at least virtually so. (I think there were maybe two other younger black students by the time we graduated.)

Had Gerry been one of a dozen blacks in our school, perhaps those twelve would have bonded, erecting a “wall of difference” between the twelve and the twelve hundred. But by himself, Gerry was…just Gerry.

I never thought much about it then, but I wonder now what was it like for him. I wonder how he felt when he looked out at the 1199 white faces swirling around him each school day.

I wonder if, as a small boy, he ever looked out from a movie theatre’s “Colored Section” at a wide-eyed white boy staring up from the stairwell.

Getting Old Sucks!

The JudgeGETTING OLD SUCKS! I’m not sure at what age that old saw really starts hitting home. I suppose, like most things in life, it varies by individual. What I know for sure is that, for my nearly 93-year old father-in-law, it’s hitting home right now.

Yesterday, Sande had to put her dad in an assisted living facility—his Alzheimers/Dementia/Parkinsons/And Just Plain Being “Tired & Weak” finally making it too much for his 92-year old wife to handle.

The facility is nice. The staff seems to really care. Sande made the room look great. Many of his favorite things are with him—his comfortable chair, the old movies that he watches over and over (westerns and WW II, mostly), his paintings of a favorite dog, his old Judge Thomas A. Lohm plaque, family photos and retirement caricatures. Everything’s there except him, of course. And I suppose that’s a blessing.

And yet, even though “the Judge” is unable to care for himself now, after a lifetime of caring for his wife and daughters, and the countless scalawags and scoundrels who he either defended or judged, there remains an occasional glimpse of the old boy I first met nearly 30 years ago. »Read More


Occasionally, I cross-pollinate the writings of my drug-addicted adults with those of my equally challenged teens. Last week, I shared with the kids the story of one of my adult group—a woman whose ride on the drug addiction roller coaster has been particularly rough, spanning childhood sexual predation, years of brutal domestic violence, multiple inner demon personalities and, not surprisingly, suicidal tendencies. My objective was not to scare them (not easily done, given their intimate familiarity with such things) but rather to point out that the one thing holding this woman together was the love of her 14-year old dog, which had recently gone missing, thus threatening the woman with yet another disastrous downward spiral. Such is the tenuous nature of recovery.

This woman’s life struggles almost made her drug addiction seem benign. But leave it to one of the teens to remind me that there is nothing benign about drugs. A few excerpts from his essay: »Read More

On Good Fortune

Some days, my relative good fortune in life impacts me more than others. Actually, many days lately, given my involvement with my addiction-challenged adult Writing Group at Man Alive and my teen-aged students at The Community School who are furiously paddling upstream against a powerful tide of impending poverty and inner city peer pressure to drop out and light up, or worse. But it all pales by comparison to the situation of my young friend from Maryland’s eastern shore, who I first met ten years ago when he was a ward of the state, and with whom I visited briefly earlier today. »Read More

“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On The Eddie Haskell Of Cats

026What looks like a rabbit and acts like a dog?

TP: Come on in here, Little Man. I was beginning to think you were never coming back.

LM: Yeh well, it was a rough summer, doc.

TP: Tell me about it. I’m guessing it has something to do with the new “foster kid” your parents brought home. What was his name? The Colonel?

LM: It was The Colonel. Not any more! And there’s nothing “foster” about him. That was a bad joke from the get-go.

TP: So your parents couldn’t find him a forever home?

LM: Oh no. They found him one—mine! The little orange dweeb is now an official member of the family. Bliss!

TP: Hmm. I imagine that’s been traumatic. You had the place to yourself for what—ten years?

LM: Almost, yep. Not anymore! Now, I get to share everything with a kid who looks like a rabbit and acts like a dog.

TP: Explain.

TP: Well, like I told you last time, the kid’s tale was chopped off when he was abandoned on the mean streets down by the docks. Lost part of an ear, too. Add some mutton chop cheeks to that stubby tail and cauliflower ear and the kid bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain cartoon character who made his bones chompin’ carrots and callin’ everyone doc. Suppose that’s why mom decided to call the kid Bugs.

TP: Bugs? That’s his name?

LM: Bugs. Bugsy. The Bugster. Bugsaroo. Seems there’s no end to the cutie-pie variations. Gag me! No wait…goose me. That’s what this knucklehead does. »Read More