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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Our Days

After my father died in 1973, my grandmother put newspaper over all the firstfloor windows at night. Sometimes I wonder if she was more afraid of looking out than of someone looking in. She’d wait until after the six o’clock news to do the chore. Whenever she sensed my disapproval, she’d simply ignore it and say, “Mary, now, let me show you how I do it. Take that pin from my mouth and put it through the curtain and the newspaper. Careful. Now, don’t prick your thumb. See this?” She’d point to the Scotch tape around her thumb. “That’s so I don’t get poked.” I never got into a battle of wills with her; hers was, to say the least, stronger than mine.

Reading Between The Lines

How Compulsory Schooling Has Failed Us

You might expect that someone once voted New York State Teacher of the Year would be a supporter of the public-school system. If so, you have not encountered John Taylor Gatto. A vocal critic of compulsory schooling, Gatto spent his twenty-six-year teaching career subverting the system in order to better help his students learn. Education, according to Gatto, is but a nominal goal of the public schools, which are actually designed to prevent children from learning too much, thereby making them into unquestioning, dependent, and obedient citizens.

To Raze A Village

The Modernization Of A Thousand-Year-Old Culture

Economists promise that a global economy of open markets and free trade will usher in a new era of prosperity and peace. But when a thousand-year-old culture is wiped out in the blink of an eye and replaced with a homogenized, Westernized culture of consumption, who prospers?

Mom

Shortly before her stroke, she broke up with a lover younger than my brother and I. That was Mom. Born at home in Brooklyn during the Depression, she did group therapy with murderers by day, and by night maintained a small private psychiatric practice. Even now, her drawers are filled with letters from grateful clients. She was once the international president of Parents without Partners. Years later, she helped found a local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — in, of all places, Orange County, California, where Mickey Mouse is king and it is always 1957. Now, at age seventy-one, Mom lies in bed, needing to be dressed and changed and fed.

If I Were God

If I were God, I would make a world exactly like this one. I love its inconsistencies, its contradictions. I love it that this river flows around stones and finds its own way. I love it that people are free, even to be selfish and to think they own beaches and mountaintops and have the right to keep the poor off them. I love it that things change, that the boundaries of nations and the fences of the rich get torn down sometimes. I love it that some people think we have many lifetimes while others think we have only this one. I especially love it that no one knows for certain, even if they think they do.

Fiction

Green-Eyed Dog

Papa Roma’s Italian Restaurant sits between a topless bar and a card room in the middle of Fourth Avenue just before E Street in downtown San Diego. The restaurant was once a little Italian grocery with a few tables in the back, where Papa with his big flea-bitten white mustache would bring out the Old World manicotti. Over the years, the tables nudged out the grocery, and now, in 1974, it is a bustling place behind narrow steamed storefront glass. In the window, a guy with a puffy tilted cotton hat twirls the dusty dough through the air. You push in the door and up comes the sharp smell of Parmesan, of burnt flour and bleach, of cigarettes and oregano, the licorice-fennel smell of sausage. Two long counters plunge through tomato-colored steam into the darkness of a dining room with cartoon-gondola wallpaper and vinyl red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. A trellis partition is twined with plastic grape leaves and clusters of empty Chianti bottles. The waitresses shout orders. A drunk is asleep on his arms in the back booth.

Annie, The Loaves And The Fishes

On Sundays I go to the country, to Arandale, to sit on Annie’s rotting deck and look up at the sky, so soaked in blue today it could almost collapse. This is Annie’s sky, and I need to witness it with her every week, just as I need to stack firewood with her and wash my hands in her cold water. Without Annie, I’d be just a shadow blowing around the big city. Annie colors me in, makes me real.

Readers Write

Utopia

Whenever my three-year-old, Les, had his friend Gary over to visit, they loved to play house, but always argued over who would get the starring role: Mom. After all, who in his right mind would choose to be Daddy, who went away in the morning and didn’t come back till dinner time? Mom stayed home and pushed the roaring vacuum cleaner, loaded the dishwasher and punched its buttons, ran the mixer, the toaster, the iron. She had all the fun.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

Ideologies . . . have no heart of their own. They’re the whores and angels of our striving selves.

John Le Carre

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