Night walk along the Rhine in Basel, Switzerland. Photo by the author.

“John, we love you!”

A woman behind my wife and me in the massive security check-in queue at JFK was shouting to man being escorted with his wife, VIP-style, to the front of the line. As we were trying to figure out who they were, the couple turned their masked faces to acknowledge the adulation and we realized it was John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. …

Photo by the author.

When I asked my mom, who was 92 and in the middle rounds of her fight with Alzheimer’s, what was up with the densely packed pink toiletry bag sitting on her couch, she shrugged her shoulders. So I sat down to take a look inside. For the next couple of hours I was swept away on a journey deep into my past that pointed directly back to my present and hinted at my future.

It reminded me of a fascinating book I’d read a few years earlier by James Hillman called “The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling.”…

Photo by Vanessa Loring on Pexels.

My shrink is an ardent proponent of the school of psychology that attributes the ways we adapt to life to the influences our parents had on us as children. Because my father was anxious, depressed and suicidal, my therapist says, I suffered the double whammy of inheriting some of my dad’s genetic tendencies, as well as lacking the foundational sense of a healthy childhood establishing a secure base of safety, security and well-being as the underpinnings of a stable, constructive, happy life.

With this analysis fresh in my mind, I immediately quit flipping channels the other night as soon as…

Photo by Evan Clark on Unsplash.

I was filling out a Medium survey the other day when I came to a question asking if “my best writing is a product of diligent, relentless effort,” or if it’s “a product of being at ease, in a state of flow?”

The fact is, some of my best stories have come from diligent, relentless effort, like pushing a boulder up a mountain a few inches at a time, while others have come as if from some sort of mystical dictation from the gods. …

The author and his mom in Pompano Beach, Fla., circa 2012. Photo by the author’s Aunt Edith.

The doctor at the assisted living facility where I’d just checked in my 87-year-old mother must have been out sick the day his medical school taught their class in bedside manner. “You have Alzheimer’s disease,” he told my mom, with an abrasive chill in his voice and a stern and uncaring look on his face. He’d asked my mom what medications she took, and when he saw an unfinished pack of Namenda in her purse, he asked her why she hadn’t taken all the pills as indicated. “They upset my stomach,” she answered. “Well,” he snapped, “You can tough it…

Photo by Markus Spliske for Unsplash.

You’re the yin to my yang

And vice versa too

You’re my voice when I’m silent

And don’t have a clue


You keep lists in your memory

While I write things down

You’re exclamations and action verbs

I’m adverbs and nouns


You know math and science

I know writing and rhyme

You know what’s in our bank account

I know Amazon Prime


You bring out the best in me

Have done for years

You banish my worries

And lasso my fears


You knew when we first met

That you’d cure my ills

A part of me…

Dear White People/Dear Black People/To Whom It May Concern:

Photo by Scott Graham for Unsplash.


Suddenly readers who normally comment went silent. Maybe no one read it, or no one liked it, or no one would touch it with a 10-foot pole.

I had braced myself for all sorts of criticism — that I was oblivious to my white privilege, that I’d betrayed the trust of African-American friends who’d revealed their innermost thoughts to me, or that I’d dared to use words that are supposed to be off-limits to white…

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. …

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. …

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…

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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