As we make our way through the cool evening back towards home I’m distracted,


Riding a motorbike through traffic in Hanoi is today a meditation

Unfortunately when I meditate, I am often sprinting off, to another time and place

My mind is a rabbit

Darting here and there, Looking for something, not sure what

An inter-loper, loping inwardly.

It’s in that moment I look down and notice the shadows

three helmeted heads, one slightly taller than the others

The boys are really growing

And as we move through these city streets

It’s the shadows that catch my eye

Appearing with rhythm and passing by underneath street light.

Hey boys, check out our shadows

And there’s an audible


from both of them.

And I, an old man, am simultaneously transported to now, and back to those moments. When the New Thing became real. When the mundane became momentous.

And my rabbit brain slows down for a beat.

Good News and Bad


I have good news and bad news

Which do you want first?

The kids are deeply ensconced in their freshly-borrowed books, I’m hesitant to jump in and interrupt. But we don’t have a choice.

They peek their heads up at me and a few of them immediately respond

The bad news

Well, the bad news is we have indoor recess, yet again.

<scattered smatterings of ‘awwwwww man’>

What’s the good news?

The good news is we get to spend more time together!

Chuckles, (a lot of) groans, and what I truly believe is genuine acceptance and flexibility. I love this group.

I re-read the email.

Dear teachers,

The AQI is now 230 so please keep your students in the classroom during lunch time.

You can find the modified schedule for the lunch time as below:

When I lived in Seattle we would often face ‘rainy day recess’. Those days tended to throw both kids and adults for a loop. Variations in barometric pressure affected the atmosphere, in more ways than one.

We stuck with it but it was always a challenge to keep our emotions in check, particularly when structure, ritual, and routine are thrown for a loop.

And, in these parts as the country has opened up from the quiet (and generally clearer) days of COVID, the air has become increasingly worse.

There are still far more good days than bad, but it seems thicker than before.

And so, we chat a bit about making the most of it, living within our circle of control, and being grateful for those days when we do have a choice.

Mr. D

Now you have something to write about!

On Zombies

I’m not sure that I should watch a series about zombies

But I can’t help myself.

I’ve never been a zombie person. They either freak me out (I’m a big scaredy cat), or I just think the whole concept is ridiculous, even the notion of ourselves turning madly against ourselves, falls apart with even the slightest amount of introspection.

And yet

The Last of Us was filmed in my hometown. And I honestly just tuned in to see if I could spot some landmarks.

That may have been a mistake.

(minor spoiler alert)

A seminal cold open sets the stage in a way that only great writing can. On a 1968 talkshow, a mycologist outlines his fear that fungi are the microorganism most threatening to our way of life. He notes the gruesome way fungi overtake ants and turn them into homicidal beasts. His tone is dismissed by another scientist who remarks that said fungi cannot survive in the human body so the concern is ridiculous. To which our mycologist rejoins with how, in the event the earth warms (nervous laugh) fungi would most likely adapt to survive in even the human body.

And our scene is set.

It’s truly unnerving.

But I’m hooked.

Couple my morbid fascination with incredible pacing, acting, direction, and world building.

The first two episodes reel me in, take me over a little bit, and win me over. I’m powerless to resist. Overcome.

Like a fungus.


I am searching.

It’s a set of rooms, labyrinthine. I push open one heavy door after another, and find myself wandering in the basement with a singular purpose, clearest intent, but somehow still elusive.




I push my way through yet another set of double doors. The spaces are familiar, sterile, and comfortable. I feel at home here, but I can’t quite place it.

I think this might be B’s place.

I remember these rooms well, but I still can’t find it.




I wander into the next room and see familiar faces. They welcome me, encourage me on my journey, but offer a little in the way of tangible help.




The source of the pinging is still out of reach, and comprehension. So, frustrated but somehow without an air of frustration, I change my tac

I hop into the boat that appears from nowhere.

The moment has shifted.

I couldn’t find it

It’s OK, we don’t always find what we’re looking for.




The vessel navigates waterways nor roads but somehow a combo of both, and I feel us sliding, slipping away. We’re somehow able to continue the journey onward, even on top of just a slick city street.

Is this my hometown?

The mouth of a shark painted on the bow signals our intent




How the hell does this thing still move on a street?

The ride is enjoyable, smooth, comfortable

And yet, I am unsatisfied.

Where are you?

It is at that moment that I wake and hear the sound of the smoke alarm, letting me know, mercilessly, undaunted, at 1:12 in the morning,

it’s time to change the battery.


I sit up, all grog. Unleash the weightiest sigh, and check to see if J is awake.

She is not.

I make my way down the stairs in the dark, this time with only slightly greater clarity

I hope it’s not the one up high

I don’t wanna get the ladder at this time of night

The dark encompasses all. But I know these walls, and this walk.

I make it to the bottom, reach upward to grab this dastardly pinger. And as I fumble with a life-saving device in the dark

I wonder if my dream is metaphor

Nocturnal beacon, guiding me in the direction of something or somewhere new

Or, maybe.

I’m just gonna be tired tomorrow


Hey buddy

Can you come here for a sec?

What’s up Papa?

There’s just a problem in the bathroom

I point to the floor and draw his attention to the used tissue lurking, in plain sight. Then to the counter, where his inside-out undies and shorts perch, ready for me to lean on as I wash my face.

Such is life in a family.

Sorry, papa

It’s OK bud, just take care of it next time please.

He grabs the undergarments and makes his way over to his dirty clothes hamper. Spins around once, sneaks the clothing underneath his leg, and posterizes his imaginary defender.

Displays of athletic prowess are not complete, however, as he sprints like a cat and leaps onto his bed.

And that’s when I hear it


It’s a dull, muted sound, two hard surfaces in contact.

I’m just around the corner and out of sight, so I rely on ears to tell me what’s what.

But there’s not a sound

And that’s what worries me.

I poke my head around the corner and begin to comprehend the clonk.

He’s lying on his back, face beet red, mouth open in a silent howl, both hands clutching the back of his skull

And, onset of tears and the ever-so-slightest of whimpers

Oh, buddy

Like all great moments in parenting

I ask the question that doesn’t need to be asked.

Did you hit your head on the wall?

Gritted teeth, and a reponse


and follow it up with the most unhelpful of comments

you need to be careful

Because, that’s really what he needs to hear in this moment.

Nice one, Papa.

These are the worst moments. The ones when that little piece of your heart, out there in the world, is in pain. The moments you wish away

Because when your child suffers, you do too.

I backtrack and catch my error, pivoting to a

oh, I’m so sorry bud, let me grab you some ice.

I step aside for a moment, holler down the stairs asking J to bring the ice pack up, and return to the bed. Cradle his head and place a gentle kiss on his forehead.

The tears slow.

I reach behind, feeling for telltale goose egg and swelling, but there’s not much.

J hands me the blue, crusty pack and I fumble around his drawer to finally wrap it in a T-shirt. Ease it onto the back of his head and ask him to hold it in place.

She curls alongside him, as we attempt to sandwich away the hurt.

And as we cradle him, cradling ice, wiping tears,

I am transported back in time, when he was just the size of my arm, snug

and helpless.

He, furious, in pain, inconsolable. Me, suffering all the same, wishing this feeling away.

And I’m struck

By how those moments, once a daily struggle, suddenly feel so few and far between.

He doesn’t need me as much

and I’m not sure how I feel about that

And, so.

Instead of wishing this moment away

When he snuggles closer, I breathe it in

And remember


The flight of a volleyball is consistent

But the flight of an aspiring volleyball player is not

Those two elements need to meet in time in space. Arm and ball, body and line, twist and thrust.

When they do, magic happens.

It is 2021

We are misaligned. All of us.

The throes of Covid lockdown are upon us, but still we muddle about awkwardly to make a volleyball season happen. Highschoolers sign into the zoom, three rotations with coaches: skill session, stretching, and workout. They rotate through, we shout encouragement into the void.

Many of them show up

But they’re not really here.

We are all sleepwalking, slumbering hand in hand.

Others fall off, dropping in to visit periodically, but eventually understanding that this is not worth their time,

because none of it was worth their time.

We all had that feeling, regularly.

The ennui, the sense of hopelessness, and loneliness, took us over.

School, and volleyball, for certain, wasn’t meant to be this way.

Today feels different.


Cacophony of sounds, whistles, chance, the staccato of balls hitting the floor and the wall

I have energy, enthusiasm,


The last three years of self stilted, interrupted, out of sync, like a volleyballer and volleyball that just can’t meet.

A group of humans, together in this space, we revel in the joy of sport

And the arc of ball

and player



I’ve saved a lot of money on haircuts over the years

Not necessarily through savvy business decisions, or even thriftiness.

I started losing my hair in my early 20s and finally gave up the ghost as I was approaching 30.

My home barber kit was a small investment to make.

I sneak into the shower, pick up the mirror and buzz away.

Lately, I’ve taken it down to the bone with my safety razor, only a couple times where I’ve actually injured myself.


The tiny drops of blood form on the back of my head, and I think to myself

Maybe I should hit the shop?

I hear the voices of Retta and Aziz, imploring me to

Treat yo’ self

So today I think I will.

My choice shop is in the Old Quarter, packed with motorbikes bustling.

The experience of sitting in the barber chair is always relaxing.


I find myself nodding off more often than not, depending on which barber I get.

The shop itself is best described as, uh,


Each barber has his own set of orange coveralls, and each barber knows his craft.

A collection of Li Xi Tet envelopes (orange, of course) suspended by colorful strings swing, lazy from the ceiling, no doubt here for luck.

The space itself is no larger than a living room, dark wood cabinets housing scissors, clippers, spray bottles, towels, and musky aftershave.

Seven barber chairs ewe their way around the room, and an all-too narrow corridor allows customers to pass, only barely.

I’m slumbering in my chair when my nap is interrupted



In these post pandemic days, I worry

is it Covid

But in the space between barber’s craft, I angle my head to the side and see that it’s not illness so much as sadness.

The young boy, no more than nine years old, is uninterested in being here. He complies, only barely.

But he’s miserable.

No words are spoken.

I see his father in the mirror, stern, somewhat uncomfortable.

I know those Papa looks.

He’s a bit embarrassed his son wants no part of a haircut. And the son, being nine years old, has a hard time holding back his emotions, managing disappointment wrapped up in shame.

I make sure to look away without looking like I’m looking away.

Poor kid

His barber continues apace, offering words of comfort. The father stares icily, offering zero words. It’s an uncomfortable dynamic, and I wonder what led them, son and father, to this moment.

Is this an ongoing tug of war? A timeless debate? Is the boy upset about the actual, physical haircut?

Or about autonomy and say in this decision

‘scuse me, Sir. Finished

I’m snapped out of my wonders

Check myself in the mirror, pay the bill, sneak a peek at the sniffler

And, looking without looking

Slide out the door

UN Models

Rhino took a shower this morning

An atypical teen, and a typical teen

Atypical in that he doesn’t generally smell unless he’s really worked up a sweat

Typical in that showers aren’t a priority

So while we’re not quite at ‘you need to shower every day’, we’re definitely in the realm of ‘hygiene matters’.

This morning’s shower was unexpected and telling, though. Prepping his game face, all grown up, easing into a suit and tie as he readied for model United Nations debates.

High school students are visiting from schools around the region, pondering “What can we do to bring balance to the growing asymmetries of power?”

What can we do, indeed?

These are weighty, adult topics.

Questions demanding seriousness, young minds attuned to complex nuances around global power structures.

And yet

I consider how I’m just a kid disguised as a real person.

How we, the people, walking around calling ourselves adults

Have none of these answers.

I want to expose our charade to the youths, shout from the mountaintop


And I reflect on how working with high schoolers is very similar to working with ten-year olds. They fake us out and we put our adult lenses on them.

Think they’re older than they are

And then we see them, during breaks from contemplating growing asymmetries

Dancing on the footie pitch, swinging from the monkey bars, gliding on the swings

and sending us texts from the MUN banquet, letting us know

I won musical chairs

First Aid



At first I don’t know what I’m hearing, an echo from three floors up.

It’s the tone that concerns me, spurs me to my feet

It usually signals one of two things, one of the boys is in distress,

or there’s a critter.

J is not a fan of the gokiburi

She’s never liked them, from back in the day when the roaches in the South Pacific had wings. They would alight on the tile, and then strike.

And by ‘strike’, we mean they would fly haphazardly, sometimes in the direction of the unwanted visitor.

Tonight, we are the ones with the unwanted visitor.

I’m not necessarily creeped out by critters, kind of a live and let live situation

But when you step back and think about it, really think about it, there’s most likely a family, swarm, cadre, murder, whatever the counter is for cockroaches, living out of sight, behind the walls, in the ceilings and beyond.

Tonight, critter is seen and not heard, on the floor of our bathroom.

I grab one of Rhino’s size 12 flip-flops and launch myself at the stairs.

I’ve always been a bit of a fixer, cool under pressure (or so I’d like to believe)

It was just sitting here, hanging out, unfazed! But then it sprinted underneath the tub

There’s just enough room underneath for skinny minnies to squeeze

And so it has.

I pull out the bidet hose, and, sturdy, flop in hand, attempt to flush our friend out with a steady spray under the tub.

This water pressure ain’t it, boss

I steel myself for a mad dash straight between my feet, flip flop fully-armed

But to no avail. I turn on a flashlight, shine it underneath, looking for the telltale antennae, half expecting it to leap at my face and infect me, a clicker without the beats


Where are you?

I whisper into the darkness, expecting a Batman jump scare


Gokiburi are reviled for a reason.

They are, quite literally, creepy.

And on this night, this creeper has creeped into the darkness, secluded and safe (if a bit wet), most certainly mocking us with a cockroach version of a raspberry in our direction.

I live to fight another day, turn off the light, and let the critter creep

Until the next night, sitting on the couch, when I hear a call from upstairs


Pet Roll


That’s what this is.

I’m in line, waiting for bread and blood. Inching forward patiently, my mind elsewhere.

Em oi

I’m stunned back to reality from a wandering, wondering mind

Peek behind and realize I’m being ushered to the right

Make a new line

The first few times I went to fill up were uncomfortable. A friend offered advice on how to do it.

Make sure you have your money handy

Stay out of the way

Get the cap loosened before you get to the pump

I’ve practiced it a few times now, but it’s still stressful

As with all things in the Blessed Church of Motorbike, Hanoi Branch, there is a unifying dogma

Keep it moving

I slowly ease my way into the two-abreast, twenty-deep line of bikes, observing closely the cues from others.

There’s a self-consciousness that comes from doing something new. Novelty breeds awareness, to a fault. Dreading a cultural faux-pas that would out me, the noob.

But in a city of 9 million, I find mercy and grace, as I remind myself

It’s not about me

I cut the motor, dismount, and pop the seat, revealing the metal lid. Push the bike along, keep the line moving

It’s cold today

My hands don’t function great when chilled. I think it takes two of them to get any traction on the gas cap, but eventually it gives.

Em oi

Make a new line

The second line wants to become three.

All in the service of keeping things moving. I apologize to the person behind me and slide the bike to the right.

As I get closer to the pump and the smell assaults me, I wonder

How do the people who work here handle it all day?

They’re wearing masks, hopefully that helps a little. They’re busy. This is as full serve as full serve gets.

I find myself at the front of the line

The attendant barks at me in Vietnamese and I point my hands to heaven, ask for a fill

Redemption for my driving sins

I keep a crisp 100000 VND note in hand

My offering to the church of oil

(I know what you’re thinking, it’s about $4)

I’m up close and personal to the rapidly filling tank. Centimeters away as the golden liquid hisses and stirs.

Holy water

She takes my money and leafs through a stash of bills, deftly making change and hastening me on

I tighten the lid, make sure it’s sealed properly, careful to avoid spillage.

I drop down the seat, slide my change back into my pocket, start the bike

And, once again redeemed,

wheel gently into the night