Welcome to Ragbag Mind

I hope you enjoy these scraps and patches of my life

Dead Low Water

Dead Low Water It was September 8th, my birthday, and I was spending it at my family’s rambling old hilltop vacation house on Cape Cod. I got up very early and descended the two flights of back stairs from the attic bedroom that had been mine when I was a child. Arthritis had recently begun

What The Dead Don’t Know

Abigail Shatten was losing patience with her brother Nathaniel. It was getting on for winter, and the old fool hadn’t begun to split fresh stovewood. “Cold snap comin’”, she said. “If you don’t get crackin’, we’re gonna freeze by Christmas.” “Quit your naggin’, Abby,” he grunted. “Plenty of time for that. We got enough for

The Land

The Land The dream companion, me, but more persuasive, whispered the cantrip on the first night I was afraid to sleep, after my sixtieth birthday when my final friends, all aging, all some way bereft, came down, a-down a-down-o mocking me, gently, but mocking all the same. “Come on,” he said, this voice from the

Casting Couch

Casting Couch Back in the Sixties, when I was starting out as an actor, I’d certainly heard of this particular piece of compromising furniture. But as I made the rounds of auditions, I had never encountered it, even metaphorically. The producers and directors I met were thoroughly businesslike: a glance at my photo and résumé,

More Bad Jokes

MORE BAD JOKES Dave Gardner, originally from Tennessee, was a comedian who specialized in southern vernacular humor, and enjoyed considerable popularity during the 1950s and early ‘60s, due to the recordings he made of his routines. Many of his stories haven’t worn very well, because he was a thoroughgoing racist, and eventually became a sort

The Festival of Toast

The Festival of Toast Dirigibles for Heaven leave on time each hour from the tower on the shore. Wing’d people flicker through the flower-towns, feeding as they fly. Today’s great leader frowns from a monument of paper to a war we loved to lose. Electric cowbells chime in the upland meadows where the tractors mate,

O Tannenbaum!

O, TANNENBAUM! Christmas trees have been part of my life since I was a baby. One of my earliest memories is the scent of pine sap from the fresh-cut tree brought into the little basement apartment where my parents first lived after I was born. World War Two was still on. The war lingers in


Thanksgivings As we Americans recover from our annual celebration of shameless gluttony, it’s a good time to bring up some of the facts and fictions about Thanksgiving. First, the holiday as we celebrate it has little to do with the Pilgrims. On Thursday, November 26th, 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared a day of thanksgiving in gratitude

The Urn

The Urn Frederick was the only child of Thomas Drauger, a rapacious Wall Street financier who died suddenly in his penthouse duplex on Park Avenue at the age of sixty-nine. Because Thomas had been a fabulously wealthy man who neither smoked, drank to excess, or overate, and had enjoyed robust health all his life, there

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