Welcome to Ragbag Mind

I hope you enjoy these scraps and patches of my life

Identity Politics

IDENTITY POLITICS, SNOWFLAKES, TRIGGER WARNINGS, AND OTHER ACADEMIC CONNIPTION FITS Since graduating from Yale in 1964, I’ve read its alumni magazine regularly, taking considerable interest in the way the university has reacted to events in the world outside its ivory– and ivied – towers over the years. Generally, Yale has rolled with history’s punches, adapting

Name Shame

Name Shame I’ve never really liked my name. Its full form, Boylston Adams Tompkins III, is dynastic and pretentious, and I got my nickname, Toby, because there were already two Tommy Tompkinses in my family, and three would have been confusing. So they called me Toby, which is risibly alliterative. Many years ago, when I

Corpsing, And Other Theatrical Catastrophes

Corpsing, and Other Theatrical Catastrophes I’m seventeen years old, alone on the stage of Phillips Andover Academy’s auditorium, playing Hamlet. The play has gone well so far, and I’ve launched into Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquy. I’m fully immersed in the role, so frustrated and miserable that the thought of suicide has occurred to me. I

Backgammon Man

Backgammon Man My Dad was a handsome, silver-tongued devil, one of the most charming and least reliable men who ever tap-danced his way through life. For Father’s Day, which falls this month, I’m posting a piece about him that was published in Terry Ross’s Black Lamb some years back. I’ve added more to the text

Bad Jokes

Bad Jokes Spring has sprung, The grass has riz! I wonder where The birdies iz. -Anon.   Well, the birdies are finally here, I’m happy to say, building nests, swearing at each another at the top of their voices, and crapping on our New Hampshire cabin’s back deck, bless their messy little hearts.  In honor


Predators   As I write (April. 2017), a sexual molester is still squatting in the White House, although these days his hold on the presidency is getting as shaky as his grasp of reality in general.  As far as I know, the Orange Oligarch with a penchant for grabbing women’s private parts with his pudgy

Southern Discomfort

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT   When I was twelve years old, my brother Mike and I were handed off to our paternal grandparents so that our mother and father could claw their way through a divorce without having to fret about bruising our tender sensibilities.  For the most part, said sensibilities went unscathed at our grandparents’ elegant

The Death of Mr. Wonderful

Recently I watched Jackie, the movie about John F. Kennedy’s First Lady on the day of the assassination and those that immediately followed. Natalie Portman was superb in the title role.  She caught Jackie’s breathy voice and upper-class WASP accent perfectly, but, more important, she captured the new widow’s fear and rage.  It was a

Humpty Drumpfty

Humpty Drumpfty   Perhaps it was bound to happen sooner or later, but so-called reality TV has finally become so-called real  life: a professional con-man is the president-elect of the Untidy States of America.  Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” have rared back and kicked her onto history’s dust-heap, and there is wailing and gnashing of

The King of the Cats

Our cat Xoco arches his back into a bow, fluffs out his tail, and yowls.  He holds the pose for a moment, relaxes, and pads off to the kitchen to see whether I’ve dished out supper for him and his brother Quetzal.  I’m glad I have: even the cutest kittycat can be a little scary