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Mutton Busting

If you have never witnessed the event of mutton busting, you have missed out on one of life’s great oddities. The announcer at the rodeo put it something like this: “Do you ever notice, when you give your child a little swat at the supermarket, everyone stares at you like you belong behind bars? But let your kid get trampled by a wild farm animal, and everyone just claps and claps.” This rodeo—the only one I’ve ever been to—was otherwise uneventful. None of the bull riders stayed on the bucking beasts for anything close to the coveted eight seconds that qualifies ...

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Mining for Idea

Yesterday, I returned to my high school after seventeen years away. I was back to teach a writing workshop to seniors on the secrets of the college essay. Now, truth be told, these secrets aren’t secrets at all, but they bear the full weight of enigma to those not trained in the art of the personal essay. And more often than not, when the demands of the personal essay make themselves felt for the first time—usually around the age of seventeen, when students mistakenly believe that the essay prompt requires them to distill their “essence” into a palatable 500 words—the ...

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Get Your House in Order

A friend of mine was walking down the Strand, that stretch of concrete that runs along the beach in the South Bay. Apparently, his hair was disheveled. His shirt un-tucked. The fly of his pants down, unbeknownst to him. A blacked-out night that evidently led to a rough morning. And, as he stumbled north, headed back to his car, an older man passed him by and said, in that clipped and wizened way that you’d like an old man to speak: “Son, you better get your house in order.” The story has attained a level of mythology among this particular group ...

The Reality Test

“Now you just have to live in reality like the rest of us.” This was my father’s response when I told him that I was leaving academia. Never one to opt for the minor comfort of euphemism, my father prefers the open air of a blunt comment. Skip the niceties. Say things as you see them. So, he said it as he saw it, and what he saw was this: that somewhere in the not-too-distant future, I had a date fixed with reality, and now that I had jumped ship, the inevitable was on its way for me. Just to admit ...

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