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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Coming closely on the heels of a horrific year when African-Americans have suffered so disproportionately and visibly from the coronavirus, videotaped police murders and declining life expectancy, according to the latest CDC report, Black History Month falls at a moment when systemic racism in the U.S. is impossible to deny. …


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Photo by Sidney Pearce for Unsplash.

My U.S. passport expires this month. Normally I’d get a new picture taken, submit it with the necessary paperwork and not give it another thought. That’s the way it’s gone every 10 years since I got my first passport right after graduating from college in 1973 so I could go backpacking in Europe that summer.

As I boarded the plane at JFK that June — the first time I’d ever flown on a jet — America was in terrible turmoil. …


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Photo of The Little Webster by the author, taken on the desk where he writes.

My father sometimes used to say he wanted to write. But he didn’t. When he killed himself he didn’t even leave a suicide note. Nothing but unanswered questions, and a few personal effects.

As I was rummaging through them after that awful day in the summer of 1972, I came across a bite-sized curio that I’ve kept with me ever since: The Little Webster, a miniature dictionary measuring two inches wide, just shy of an inch-and-a-half high and a quarter-of-an-inch deep.

Bound in an ancient-looking, weathered leather cover with a snap button closure, it contains 800 pages and 18,000 words…


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Photo of The Little Webster by the author, taken on the desk where he writes.

My father sometimes used to say he wanted to write. But he didn’t. When he killed himself he didn’t even leave a suicide note. Nothing but unanswered questions, and a few personal effects.

As I was rummaging through them after that awful day in the summer of 1972, I came across a bite-sized curio that I’ve kept with me ever since: The Little Webster, a miniature dictionary measuring two inches wide, just shy of an inch-and-a-half high and a quarter-of-an-inch deep.

Bound in an ancient-looking, weathered leather cover with a snap button closure, it contains 800 pages and 18,000 words…


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Photo by Vlasidlav Babienko for Unsplash.

If I had a nickel for every time I racked my brain about the road not taken, I’d be beating myself up on a 60-foot yacht docked just outside my own private island.

Lots of things can trigger the chronic, self-inflicted torture. Usually it has to do with whether I should have stuck with my dream of being a singer-songwriter or author longer, instead of casting my lot with a more secure position working in corporate communications for a giant, global company. …


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Bruce Springsteen, performing live in pre-pandemic times.
Editorial stock photo from Dreamstime

My idol Bruce Springsteen has a new album out, “Letter to You,” along with a documentary film. I caught him talking about them on A Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Can’t remember the last time I felt so inspired.

The Boss described what it was like going to the funeral of a lifelong friend from his very first band, The Castiles, formed 50 years ago. …


How I Got Punked By My Own Practical Joke

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Photo by Debasish Lenka for Unsplash.

I’ve always teased the ones I love. Especially the women in my life: my grandmother, my mom, my wife.

I can’t recall anyone ever teaching me to do it. It came naturally. Like when I was really little — maybe only 7 or so — it was easy to get a rise out of my orthodox Jewish grandma, who kept a rigorously kosher home and treated any transgression as a mortal sin.

“Guess what my mom’s making us for dinner tonight,” I’d say to her, as she sat in her plastic beach chair in the shade under the maple tree…


How Our European Landlady Created an Oasis of Bliss on the Edge of Town

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Gardening is known to be good for mental health. But even lazy people can benefit from the sheer beauty. Take if from me. Photo by Andreas Graune.

The first thing I noticed was a sign over the front gate that said “Die Hohe Luft.” It means “The High Air” in German.

It fit. The cozy little apartment building on the quaint residential street stood on a hill overlooking the German-speaking medieval city-village of Basel, Switzerland, and lay just below the rolling farm hills of the countryside, with cow pastures, horse stables and open fields of flowers the public could pick in the summer and leave a few Swiss francs in a jar on the table by the side of the road.

We’d lived in a cheerful little…


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When summer vacation is out of reach, sometimes souvenirs have to work overtime as reminders of vacations past. Photo by the author.

Adding to the distress of this already coronavirus-disrupted summer is the latest target of the quick-to-criticize crowd: vacationers. Travel shaming is now a thing. Media reports say it’s common for people on vacation — even those taking every precaution to protect themselves and others in the pandemic — to be reluctant to post pictures on their usual social media channels. They fear being trolled by safety-conscious critics, including their own friends and family members, who might condemn them as selfish for putting others at risk.

I say, to each his or her own. But my wife and I have opted…


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When summer vacation is out of reach, sometimes souvenirs have to work overtime as reminders of vacations past. Photo by the author.

Adding to the distress of this already coronavirus-disrupted summer is the latest target of the quick-to-criticize crowd: vacationers. Travel shaming is now a thing. Media reports say it’s common for people on vacation — even those taking every precaution to protect themselves and others in the pandemic — to be reluctant to post pictures on their usual social media channels. They fear being trolled by safety-conscious critics, including their own friends and family members, who might condemn them as selfish for putting others at risk.

I say, to each his or her own. But my wife and I have opted…

Martin D. Hirsch

Lapsed singer-songwriter, 35-year accidental company man, citizen of The Woodstock Nation, avid essayist, occasional poet, aspiring author, dogged evolutionary.

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