The Nice Thing About Strangers

Non-Fiction Short Stories. Travel, oldsters, love, moments worthy of pause. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Moving Day

Running boxes to a moving truck can be very therapeutic, and can remind one that reading isn’t always the lightest of hobbies. Nonetheless, I can’t quite part with my books, … Continue reading

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Mugging

At brunch, the three young girls sit on the left of the table, and their mothers face them on the other side. The girls chat over their pancakes, modeling their … Continue reading

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Tactful (and Tattooed)

When they climb into the airport shuttle, she is in the middle of a story, her husband half-listening and half-overseeing the driver loading their suitcases. They have reached the age … Continue reading

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Seaside Sobbing

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
At the park, the family waits for their turn on a swing. The huge contraption has two benches that face each other…

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Bunnies.

“Hi bunny. Oh! Two! Hi other two bunnies!” Yes, I greeted the bunnies aloud on my evening walk. I smiled as I said it, and felt another presence near by. … Continue reading

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Up, then Rocks, then Up

I’ve been remiss. I noticed that in the last few weeks, I’ve been looking less at strangers and more to loved ones and old friends. This is important, of course, … Continue reading

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Watch Your Step

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Thank you Lord that I spotted the three little old ladies in their long skirts and head scarves recoiling in horror at…

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Corner Pocket

It doesn’t seem fair to give too many details, since she didn’t know she’d be on the record. She challenged my friend to a game of pool, she challenged everyone … Continue reading

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The Whatever Grandpa

Though there are dozens of food carts outside for the Midnight Sun Festival, she sits with Grandma and Grandpa in an air conditioned restaurant with tall tables. She gazes at … Continue reading

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An Apple A Day

She’s been silently enjoying her lunch. Though she’s consuming soup she blows quietly to cool it, like whispering over a sleeping child, and she eats from a breadbowl, which makes … Continue reading

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Pout

The little girl with a hot pink jacket runs the wrong way on the airport’s moving sidewalk. She’s on the phone. “Frozen and Superheroes, Save me! Grandpa’s trying to get … Continue reading

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Inspire Curiosity

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Men who sell simits–a bagel-pretzel coated in toasted sesame seeds–are almost as ubiquitous in Istanbul as ankle-breakable holes in the sidewalk. Since…

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In Mom’s Garden

Mom and I are on a little trip and I have to hustle, so I don’t have a story today. Actually, I’ve been collecting tons of stories for you all, … Continue reading

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Bosnian Bullfighter

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A sheepish lady tourist examines a plaque in Mostar’s Spanish square. It seems a good place to pause, fan herself, gaze around…

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Car Dancing

The boy is a teenager, but also a boy. He sits in the passenger seat of a truck and dances in his spot. He sit-dances with the best of them, … Continue reading

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Intractable Gestures

In those years his father held that a nation could change its way of life, its history, its technology, it’s art, literature and culture, but it would never have a … Continue reading

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Guest Post: The Huffy Prophet by Sarie Fischer Norval

I hope you’ll enjoy this guest post from my dear friend Sarie. I think her story helps explain why we’ve been friends for 17 years…whoa. Teaching a summer class has … Continue reading

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Do Envy the Oldsters

From this one may see that there is no reason to pity the old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, … Continue reading

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Way Far Away

He is tiny in Timberland boots. He holds the orange plastic bat over his shoulder, as his father shows him. When Dad tosses the light, white plastic ball the little … Continue reading

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Thank You For Your Service

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
He ambled through the aisle of the convenience store. His hat read “Veteran: World War II.” I beamed at him, as I…

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Learning to be Cool

The father wants to take a photograph of his daughter at the large airport window, in front of the airplane they will take to Vienna. He’s removed his shoes and … Continue reading

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For the Hard Days

“Too often,” [Bear Hayes] said, “we lose sight of just how much we have to be grateful for. And we must be grateful for our hardships. We must be more … Continue reading

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The Joy of Forgetting

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
This morning I took my notebook out for a date at the park. We had a delightful time. I ran a pen…

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The Anticipation of Memory

To a certain extent he took comfort in the inevitable and when they sat down to dinner he could already, a little, look upon her as a lovely fragment of … Continue reading

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The Nod

Waiting in the Arrivals Lounge, they stand, they gaze toward the gate area. A woman in bright white shoes tugs at the hem of her shirt in the wait, adjusts … Continue reading

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Anywhere

A stranger: the word meant nothing to her; there was no place in the world where she felt a stranger. She circulated the dregs of the cheap port in her … Continue reading

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The Day We Flew a Kite, Read Books, Hid Under the Lilacs…

I spent the day with my oldest niece. We flew the butterfly kite she got for Easter. Both of us kept breaking into the tune from Mary Poppins, “Let’s go … Continue reading

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Get It Back

“Happiness, that’s what life’s about, it’s your job to be happy, not to spread gloom and despair all round. Don’t be so selfish. Get your courage back, get your narcissism … Continue reading

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Palms

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Two small boys track the line of workers trimming the palm trees. The men in green jumpsuits stare up at the man-lift. The…

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The 400th Post: Something So Perfect.

The fact that I am publishing the 400th blog post is totally amazing to me. This all started as a way to sort through notes from my travels. Since then, … Continue reading

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Hip

A little old man offers to take their picture. He’s exiting the restaurant with his wife. Outside, a woman is snapping a shot of a very tall man who just … Continue reading

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Weight Weight…Don’t Tell Me

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Waiting for a three a.m. flight after their vacation, the couple weigh themselves on an airport baggage scale.   She giggles before stepping…

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Your Easter Dresses, Love Grandma.

Grandma is buying the girls a pair of Easter dresses–the fluffier the better. Her two granddaughters stand close and grin. They love the dresses; Grandma adores the dresses. One is … Continue reading

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The City of Strangers

He had this voice so deep it rumbled along the back beams of the bench we were sharing. I arrived very early for an appointment and thought I should sit … Continue reading

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There’s No Crying in the Vienna Airport

I’m crying in the airport. Just returning from a trip, feeling a bit overwhelmed with heartbreak and worry, it is nice to be back in familiar Vienna. I know how … Continue reading

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Say Peynir!

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
From a spot in Gülhane park, one can keep a clear sight of the lines of people posing with the Atatürk statue.…

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The Opportunity of Everyone

For the time being, by reflecting on what exactly the culture of human cooperation is, a culture that has, at its foundation, the idea that the other person has much … Continue reading

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In the Standings

Granted it is a baseball card exhibit. For a New York City museum guard, it must have been different from the ceaseless Picassos. The cards feature baseball players from a … Continue reading

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The Smartphone Slaughter of Small Talk

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
This was a job for the large round table in the sportsbar. The Grandmother seated herself between the mother-type woman and her…

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Finding Your Field

—Life is whatever we conceive it to be. For the farmer who considers his field to be everything, the field is an empire. For a Caesar whose empire is never … Continue reading

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En Garde

Runaways from a political rally, two helium balloons clap together. They are entangled above an intersection, caught in a wire on the side of an apartment. A man in a … Continue reading

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On The (This Isn’t A) Road

Trying to get back to the chapel, I find a sign that points vaguely at two different roads. Perhaps it’s Robert Frost’s eyebrow-raise that points me to the red rocky … Continue reading

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Out with the Girls

I feel that I am growing old, I feel lonely and in need of the support of old friends, in which (in my case) rather small battalion I certainly count … Continue reading

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The Beloved

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
It’s an ordinary stoplight. Everyone waiting for permission to move on. And the blonde dog shivers, always nervous to ride in the…

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For Harisa.

Five years ago, I met a beautiful woman from Bosnia on a flight. We spotted each other before we boarded, and since the plane wasn’t totally full, she came over … Continue reading

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On Gratitude

It is an intensely long line at passport control. Flights keep arriving and people keep cutting. A tall man and I are both determined to stick to the vaguely orderly … Continue reading

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How To Get Rid of the Hiccups

She has the hiccups. Her husband wears a golf cap. They are extremely slow in shuffling to their Buick. The snow has turned to patches of slush, some just puddles … Continue reading

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The Impatient Italians and the Fighting Irish

In Medjugorje, there’s a crowd of people entering the church, praying at the grotto, climbing steep hills in prayer. It’s a place of retreat, usually quiet, usually peaceful. This morning … Continue reading

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Prints

It’s the Department of Motor Vehicles, so no one is really crossing any items off their Bucket List around here. The lack of enthusiasm shows in glum faces, distant stares, … Continue reading

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Maple Leaf

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
The Canadians displayed flags on their belongings like people flaunting their wealth, like North American nationalists swinging through Bosnia and wanting to…

July 23, 2014 · Leave a comment

Slow and Steady

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
At the rest area in Sutherland, Nebraska, he exits the driver’s side of his old Ford truck, takes off his hat, and…

July 2, 2014 · 2 Comments

Neighborly

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
The eleven year old girl on the bus moves over to sit in front of her mother. This way she is now…

June 4, 2014 · 2 Comments
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