Welcome to Ragbag Mind

I hope you enjoy these scraps and patches of my life

Dog Stories

Dog Stories I grew up with dogs, and I’m afraid of them. Our good friends in New Hampshire have two black Labrador-Chow mixes, friendly, affectionate critters now going a bit gray in the muzzle and lame in the hips. But they are still dogs, and they regard it as their bounden duty to guard the

A Hobbling Tour of Florence and Rome, part one

A HOBBLING TOUR OF FLORENCE AND ROME Observations of an Unapologetic Tourist Part One FLORENCE In June of 2006 my wife Patsy and I went to Italy, partly on business, partly as tourists, but also to practice the Italian we’d been studying for more than five years. Although we have no Italian heritage and haven’t

Yale Spooks

(NOTE: I wrote this piece for Terry Ross’s Black Lamb in 2008) I graduated from Yale University in 1964, and in an election year in which both candidates are Yalies who were members of Skull and Bones, some of my friends who think of Yale as a training-ground for Elite Eastern Snobs (which it certainly

Stupid Kid Tricks

Hurricane Carol hit Cape Cod at the end of August, 1954, when I was eleven. It was a bad storm, but our family’s big shingle-style house in Quissett had been built in the 1880s by my great-grandfather, using local carpenters who doubled as boatwrights and took bad weather as the norm. And unlike the last

True Colors

True Colors We white folks aren’t white. We’re pink, shading into beet red when we’re angry or drunk or both, tan when we’ve spent some time in the sun, gray when we’re dying, and olive drab when we’ve been dead for awhile. Only Vladimir Putin is really white, but he’s a vampire, not a human

Da System, De Jure

Not too long ago, for the first time in awhile, I got called in for jury duty. I used to be summonsed about every two years, ever since I settled permanently in Manhattan back in 1972, because I was self-employed and Da System assumed I didn’t have a real job. My long break came about

The Speaking Stone

Takahashi felt a twinge in his aging back as he raked the sand in the rock garden. It was midmorning, and he had been up since sunrise, first doing zazen in his cell for an hour, then eating a frugal breakfast of rice balls and cold tea in the refectory before going into the forest

On Freedom’s Frontier

I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965, and after training, I spent eighteen months on an eerie little post in the much-trampled Palatinate area of West Germany, near the French border. I was an MP assigned to a company whose motto was “Serving Proudly on Freedom’s Frontier”. Its mission was to provide security

Golden Bullshit

GOLDEN BULLSHIT In the late 1960s, one of my best friends from prep school and college turned out to be living near me and my then-wife Louise, on New York’s Upper West Side. He had been an extremely talented painter with an interest in Biblical subjects, which he treated in a crypto-Cubist style entirely of

A Heretical Proposal

A HERETICAL PROPOSAL This piece first appeared in Black Lamb in 2006 Americans, as usual, are facing a religious crisis. Between 75% and 90% of us, depending on which unreliable poll you read, believe there’s a divinity which shapes our ends (thank you, WS). But our various systems for approaching that divinity seem to have