I eavesdropped as I sifted through a rusted toolbox in a crowded corner of the basement. His uncle had been an artist or something, the nephew told another estate sale visitor. The family had been clearing out the sagging house since February, he continued, his tone disinterested and tired. A young mother commented on the faded linoleum up in the kitchen.

“Yeah, it’s too bad,” the nephew agreed, shaking his head. “Some people don’t maintain their property.”

“Especially a man living alone,” an older woman — A cousin? A sister? — commented.

The dead man’s nephew described first entering the…

photo: John J. Mosesso

CIVIL LIBERTIES — Our democracy will go through some crazy shit in the next four to six months. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. I say that dispassionately and as an aside, because it is beyond my control and I just don’t have the brain or heart space to worry about it. It will just be a thing that happens.

THE NON-SCARLET OK — Will recovered people wear a badge marking them as ‘safe to be around’ when they venture out into the world? An armband? A logo? An ‘I Voted’ style sticker? Or will the…

Precious. Quaint. Fussy. Detailed. These are the words that come to mind as I wait seventeen years for my no-foolin’-when-we-say-slow-bar pour-over coffee. These might be considered negative words, but I don’t intend them as a condemnation. This is an amazing space in an amazing building, it really is. It’s about as good as you can get with the faux-industrial, semi-steampunk aesthetic, where every damned surface is adorned with a hyper-curated selection of midcentury objects and assorted mechanical bits. Take some time to browse the milk crates of records. Examine the vintage adding machine, the antique scale, the one hundred suffocatingly…

I wake up near dawn, pre-alarm. The window is open and the air is crisp. I pee and put on my running shoes and weird tracksuit bottoms I never wear and I run out the door. This run isn’t a routine run or a brutal run. It isn’t cathartic, nor is it the beginning of some meaningful new chapter in my life. I know this because every two years or so, I run once and exactly once. This is, for lack of a better term, my exercise regimen.

It feels alright to run. I don’t push myself too hard. I…

It’s 9-something in the morning, but boy I slept lousy last night. I find myself thick-headed and zombie-esque, feeling like it’s 5am or some shit. At the next table, a couple pay their bill and prepare to start their Wednesday. “Ready Freddy?” the man asks his wife. When and how did this phrase enter our lexicon? Who is this Freddy? Krueger? Pohl? Flintstone? Or wait, is this woman named Fred? I apologize, ma’am.

A man walks in and claims an unoccupied table. The waitress asks him if he’d like a coffee. He pauses for comedic effect, eyebrow raised — y’know…

I’m sitting at my desk on post-election day, reviewing eight pages of aborted paragraphs I’ve scribbled in my notebook, wrestling with the desire to communicate and connect with you, to say something important or useful or — if all else fails — something clever or entertaining. The eight pages have come up short on all fronts. I got bupkis.

All I can do is tell you what I’m going to do: Make things I care about and call out bullshit when I see it. I will do these things because I think they’re important and vital to our culture and…

I am dreaming. I think about Lucinda Williams, and then I’m talking to her. I ask her if it’s difficult having such an unusual name. My sleeping brain constructs a dream-world where you need to possess a rock with your name written on it in order to have that name. There are name-rocks all over the place, but the polished Lucindas are rare gems, hard to find. If she ever lost her name-rock, she’d have a hell of a time trying to replace it, and might end up having to take a different name. I don’t have that problem. Toms are dull and common, about as rare as pigeons in a parking lot.

“Three hundred and eighty-five seconds for that,” a McDonald’s worker tells her trainee, slamming the microwave door shut. The chatter behind the counter is constant, tense, confused. “Don’t make that double order,” I hear someone shout. “Corporate is watching us!” a manager warns. Two workers make a judgement call on what might be my breakfast: “Would you eat that egg?”

An old guy stands by the counter, waiting with his wife for their order. They get their food from a harried 18-year old. The man asks for syrup. There are five or eight people behind the counter, but he somehow doesn’t get a response or syrup. He asks again. He asks nine more times. He can see the syrup packets behind the counter. “They’re right there,” he says, pointing.


A handwritten sign on the door says “CASH ONLY.” Taped to the counter, another sign says “CASH ONLY,” and on the cash register, there is a helpful and informative sign announcing “CASH ONLY.” A group of loud young-people-I-immediately-dislike barge through the door, all wearing green. High school? College? I can’t even tell anymore. I could give a shit. The boys speak with exaggerated New England accents, really hamming it the fuck up, in my eastern Mass opinion.

“Kenwe youse yaw bathrum?”

“Dooya godda buya doh-nut?”

One of the guys waits with a girl by the counter while their friends pee…

I created this graphic as a shorthand reply to links shared by stupid people on social media. Feel free to use this in the comments section the next time your aunt posts some outlandish conspiracy theory crap on Facebook.

Tom Pappalardo

Author, illustrator, graphic designer, song maker. www.tompappalardo.com

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