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THE DEN MOTHER

Mrs. V was our Cub Scout den mother during my early years of grade school. We’d go to her house on Monday nights and make birdhouses or tie-dye T-shirts, everything we needed to do to earn our badges.  

She said the pledge with us before every meeting. We promised to to do our duty to God and country, to help other people, to obey the law of the pack. Then we said the Cub Scout motto together. Do your best.

Once, before Halloween, she had a party and we all dressed up in costumes and bobbed for apples. When each of us came up with an apple in our mouth, she was there with a towel to dry our hair. Nice job, she said. You got one. She dried the water of our foreheads.

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A CONVERSATION WITH THE BASQUE PRESIDENT

In last October’s Basque elections, almost two-thirds of voters favored parties that, to varying degrees, could be described as Basque nationalists. Those parties took 48 of the 75 seats in the Basque parliament, the body that has governed the Basque Autonomous Community since 1980, when Basques held their first elections and formed their first government after four decades of rule under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. 

A CONVERSATION WITH THE BASQUE PRESIDENTThe party that received the most votes was the Basque National Party (EAJ-PNV), allowing EAJ-PNV members of parliament to elect Iñigo Urkullu as Lehendakari, or president of the Basque Government. Urkullu is now leader of the approximately 2.2 million people that live in the Basque Autonomous Community, or Euskadi in the Basque language. The position carries with it a significant amount of influence because, among other reasons, Basques control more than 90 percent of their own tax revenue under a unique economic arrangement with Spain.  

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MOTHER’S DAY

I came across a letter my mom wrote me 20 years ago. I was working in Bangkok, Thailand, my first job out of college. She wrote the letter one day after I had called feeling depressed, homesick and lonely, thinking about giving up and coming home.

I managed to stick it out, and when it was time to go back to the U.S., that letter traveled back with me. Then it went from the West to the East Coast, back to the West Coast and then back to the East Coast again, pretty much everywhere I’ve lived since the day I received it. It’s been stored in suffocating attics and lonely storage units, under beds crammed in with God alone knows what else. But here it is.  

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WHAT WOULD CHRIST HAVE DONE ABOUT THE BOSTON BOMBER?

Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there’s been a lot of focus on Islam. But two pieces in the Washington Post got me thinking instead about Christianity.

WHAT WOULD CHRIST HAVE DONE ABOUT THE BOSTON BOMBER?The first was a front-page story about the misery bombing victims are going through. One of those victims is Paul Norden, pictured above, who lost his right leg in the April 15 explosion.

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THE GREAT GATSBY: THE MOVIE’S GREATER THAN THE BOOK

A friend once wrote a review of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for our high school newspaper. At the time, I thought that was a little weird. Who reviews a book decades after it’s been declared a classic? Even weirder was that he gave it a bad review. Awkward dialogue, he wrote. Boring story.

THE GREAT GATSBY: THE MOVIE'S GREATER THAN THE BOOKI gave him grief about panning the book. You can’t give Ernest Hemingway a bad review.

Why not? he asked

That stumped me. I hadn’t thought of a reason because I didn’t need a reason. It was the Sun Also Rises. It was a classic. It was Ernest Hemingway. That spoke for itself.  

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HERE’S TO THE DENTISTS

My college professor said the problem with communism is that not enough people want to be street sweepers. If you have a state-guaranteed income, why take a lousy job?

I was thinking about that during a recent dentist appointment. Not many people like dentist appointments. So imagine being a dentist. Your day is nothing but dentist appointments, one after the other. You wake up in the morning, put on gloves, and scrape goo off people’s teeth. Stick the little hose down there to absorb all the gunk and grime and your ears are filled with the sound of suction.

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DAVID BECKHAM’S MANY HAIRDOS

He’s sported a lot of them over his career, which has drawn to a close. I’m just a mild soccer fan, but even I got nostalgic remembering where I was in my life during certain of his haircuts.

DAVID BECKHAM'S MANY HAIRDOSThe Guaridan’s captions are just as entertaining as the photos. The 2005 faux-hawk was “a bit of mousy ‘meh’ mess.” His 2010 boy band comeback look was “mullety at the back, quiffy at the front, and messy in between.”

We kicked the British’s ass in the Revolutionary War and have saved them numeous times since. Yet their journalists still rule.

It’s easy to poke fun at Beckham and his many ‘dos, but as I looked through these photos I found myself admiring his willingness to shake things up, to take some chances, to fail miserably, and then to rise again. Above all he kept soldiering on, always changing and never resting with any one look. His hair was like Madonna. All five of the Spice Girls with some special guest stars added in.

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TELEVISION: THE NEW FAMILY TIME

When people first got televisions, watching a program was a family event. It was a miracle. It was like traveling without having to travel.  

TELEVISION: THE NEW FAMILY TIMEWe take it for granted now, but imagine buying your first TV set in 1951. You didn’t need to go to the movie theater. The theater was in your house. You could watch somebody in New York reading the news. You could watch the St. Louis Cardinals while you played chess with Grampa.

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THE DC SCANDAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

There’s a tang in the air. Summer’s coming.

On some days, you can already see the sheen of humidity in the horizon. The birds are awake earlier, and there will be caterpillars on the sidewalks before long. Most of us feel the frozen concentrate in our body thawing out and coursing around.  

But here in Washington, D.C., not everyone is feeling 22.  

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THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL, AGAIN

This is a recycled post, but I can’t help thinking about it this time of year.

Most seventh graders can’t wait until summer vacation. But I dreaded it. She was leaving, and I’d never see her again. 

Through that winter and spring, she was my reason for getting up in the morning. She’d been in my class for years, just another one of the girls. Until one day in seventh grade when she wasn’t. There were some whispers, some notes exchanged behind backs. What I gathered was that she liked me a little bit, and then of course I suddenly liked her a lot. That was the beginning of the romance and the end of all conversation between us. Communication after that was through intermediaries or tightly folded correspondence.

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