The Nice Thing About Strangers

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

The Juggler

There’s a huge crowd out for the street festival on Andrássy út. The roads are closed to cars. Pedestrians mill around and inspect food stands, beer stands, and watch performances … Continue reading

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Relieved

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A stray dog circles the rather vacant beach. Lean and leisurely, he weaves around people sunning themselves like he’s a bored security…

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So Very Grateful

I have a file on my computer with photos from my first trip to Europe, and I have a lot of fuzzy pictures from bus rides. My first city was … Continue reading

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Oh.

The blonde man wearing a blue shirt struts in his immaculate tan shoes. Even behind his sunglasses, I see him light up. Down the sidewalk a pretty brunette is waving … Continue reading

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Table Manners

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Is it raining? At an outdoor café in Novi Sad under an expansive web of umbrella-like-awnings, I wait for a slice of…

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Your Life as a Masterpiece

Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting … Continue reading

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Must Love (Beware of) Dogs

It’s a damp Sunday morning. There’s a vague rain and a gray haze. Between the center of the city and the airport, patches of trees are a deep green like … Continue reading

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Slapstick Grandma

She gives her grandchildren a bright, rainbow umbrella. She opens it for those cherubs–a boy and a girl in galoshes–and lets the girl hold it over them both. She follows … Continue reading

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You Can Read Over My Shoulder, But You Can’t Come Along

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
In the shuttle bus to the airplane, I break into scraps of conversational Turkish with a group of teenage boys from Kahramanmaraş.…

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A Home on the Horizon

It is just that, as it now suddenly occurs to me, this is the first time in my life that I have been really alone at night. My childhood home, … Continue reading

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Shoeless Wonder

In the park, I sit with a friend on a blanket. We have taken off our shoes, made ourselves comfortable, catching up on what we’ve done while we were apart. … Continue reading

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You Know How To Whistle, Don’t You?

He can whistle like a dog’s squeaking chew toy. A few of the people sitting in the park look up and expect to see a dog. Yet, it is the … Continue reading

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Respect Your Elders

Pantera is the name of a metal band from Texas, and it’s scrawled across his t-shirt. He gruffly approaches the Information Desk. His girlfriend stands at his side with elaborate … Continue reading

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In-Flight Optimism

He’s just over 21, I know this because the flight attendant checked his ID, but he still looks like a young boy with his unkempt hair and his red tennis … Continue reading

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Show Me State Signs

Traveling, scrawling, but I thought you might like these signs from a road trip through Missouri. Wednesday, we will observe some mid-flight flirting. I watched the whole encounter with a … Continue reading

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Rock With You

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
The bus is running and the doors hang open, but not a single passenger climbs in. At other gates people impatiently crowd…

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Driving Questions

It’s hard to hear their actual conversation. There’s the kind, booming voice of the bus driver, the questioning tone of the young, blonde boy. The boy wears a Transformers t-shirt … Continue reading

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Shake It Up

If we attempt to fix a logic for the travel souvenir, I believe the following generalization might hold: the souvenir reduces the grand, the magnificent, and the beautiful to the … Continue reading

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Window Shopping

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
No need to rush to the airport, two business men opt to take a coffee in the lobby of their hotel, where…

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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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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 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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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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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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The Life Cycle

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
The recreation center is busy, but like in a scene from a film, the crowd parts for a miniscule elderly lady sauntering…

August 18, 2014 · 1 Comment
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