Or, ‘Don’t Mask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t Leave Your Engine Running’

Last November, I was on my Saturday walk with my hiking buddies in the Berkshires, and since all of us are right-of-center politically, we were, of course, disappointed with how the election went. We were discussing our concerns when one of my friends suggested that once Biden is in, the coronavirus threat will magically disappear.

I disagreed. My feeling was that those in power with an authoritarian bent have seen the utility of keeping the populace fearful and divided against each other. Mask-wearing, I predicted, is going to become even more politically charged and divisive. …


I. Three Years Old

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again…”

II. Five Years Old

The summer the family moved to the Berkshires, this was our theme song for some reason, I guess the reason being that radio up here is awful and after you fruitlessly scan through the stations for a good song, you pop in any CD that might be lying around and John Prine’s Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessing was on the only CD that seemed to be in the car that summer.

We’d all sing along to our favorite song, “Lake Marie” — and it was strange for a five-year-old…


On the Fine Line Between Connoisseurship and Nudnickery

Most of us rely on, or at least appreciate, knowledgeable guidance that might connect us with the best examples of the things that give us pleasure — food, art, music, movies, whatever. So here’s a rule of thumb that I find useful in navigating advice about matters involving subjective taste: “You’ll probably like what an enthusiast recommends. You might like what a nerd recommends. You probably won’t like what a nudnick recommends.”

My experience is that an enthusiast will enjoy a thing in itself, in the moment, without too many prejudgments. A nerd may collect more information and perhaps appreciate…


by Albert Stern

I. Three Years Old

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again.”

“Daddy, again…”

II. Five Years Old

The summer the family moved to the Berkshires full time, John Prine’s “Lake Marie” was our theme song for some reason, I guess the reason being that radio up here is godawful and after you fruitlessly scan through the stations for a good song, you pop in any CD that might be lying around, and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings was on the only CD that ever seemed to be in the car.

We’d all sing along to “Lake Marie” — and it was strange for a five-year-old to…


Thoughts on the problematic Parshat Pinchas

When our rabbi first approached me to deliver a d’var Torah, he offered me the choice of either last week’s Parshat Balak, so rich and weird with soothsayers, talking donkeys, curses, celestial beings, or…Parshat Pinchas. I told him I wanted to re-read the parshiyot (weekly portions) before making my decision.

I could tell Rabbi was a little surprised when I told him that I wanted to try my hand at Parshat Pinchas. …


A few months ago, my son asked me if I had ever heard of the basketball player Bol Bol. I told him I heard of Manute Bol, and Eliot said Bol Bol was his son, who is still in high school. “He’s actually great,” Eliot assured me — he follows Bol Bol on Instagram, and is also an avid watcher of sites that post videos of basketball greats past, present, and future. Apparently, Bol Bol — from Sudan and five inches shorter than his father at 7’2 — is a hero to a legion of 11-year-old boys.

Since then, he’s…


Live long enough, and you find out surprising things about yourself. For instance, I had no idea I was the type of person who would be fascinated by pictures of meals about to be eaten by friends I have not seen in more than 30 years.

Facebook brings me these dinners, and so much more — simchas, heartbreak, snark, rants, memes, keen insights, spectacular misapprehensions, videos of cats being frightened by cucumbers. What’s more, I enthusiastically share my own complicated business — overshare, some have told me, but so be it. …


Because football is really, really boring. Really.

Football as it was, when the really big hits were delivered by the goalposts.

In the early days of football, H-shaped goalposts were planted at the front of the end zone, fixed two-branched obstacles within the field of play. There they remained until 1927, when overseers of the National Football League had a notion — move the goalposts outside the end zone, where fewer players would slam into them and the field would be opened up for more of those “touchdowns” that the fans seemed to like.

In 1933, however, NFL goalposts were for some mysterious reason moved back to the goal line, where they remained until 1974 as hazards to the players and…


Most disturbing was that I had never before thought to ask

Author’s Note: This was published years ago in the pre-Web era, when all these folks were still alive. Someone suggested I put it online, so here it is. Years later, I put my research skills to work on another important, tangentially related topic for Electric Literature, which you can read by clicking here.

Around the world, Yiddish is recognized as the international language of love.

The scenario is easy to imagine. A man and a woman embrace in front of a fireplace in a warm cabin that overlooks a sweeping mountain vista. The lovers press together, feeling the heat of…


Rusty Page prepares to turn over Lexi to the government on March 21

“Imagine a complete NCAA tournament bracket, and picture it with just one space filled in. That’s what 1/64th is.”

I was using the image to explain to my young son what had so upset me about the plight of young Lexi, a 6-year-old girl who on March 21, 2016 was removed by court order from the California home of foster parents Rusty and Summer Page and their three children. She had lived there for four years, after her biological parents were deemed unfit to raise her. From all accounts, the child was devastated.

This is the part that really got…

Albert Stern

Normal, but more so.

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