happy weekend

Doubter in the Holy Land

My Lives piece about visiting Jerusalem is in the New York Times Magazine this weekend. A friend and I were beginning that strange dance of making plans to make plans, when I mentioned that I’d be traveling to Jerusalem soon. “We should get together right away,” he joked, “before you come down with Messiah syndrome.” It was the kind of . . .

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May 21, 2011: The Rapture meets my 40th birthday

It would probably be funny if I hadn’t grown up in absolute terror of being Left Behind. Okay, it’s funny anyway, as long as I don’t have to be sober. My latest piece for The Awl is about the convergence of my fortieth birthday and Harold Camping’s predicted May 21 Rapture, but it’s also about a lot more, including fervent . . .

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On the Newtons, blood, and bank-robbing cousins

My dad’s forebears were glad to tell you about my grandma’s Pre-Revolutionary Virginian ancestor and other lofty relations, but they seemed to suffer from a peculiarly targeted kind of amnesia when you started asking about the Newton line. I always assumed this caginess was limited to my little branch of the family tree, but recently I tracked down my granddad’s cousin, . . .

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The Depression, diphtheria, and my mom’s half-sister

According to her death certificate, my mother’s half-sister Bonnie died of diphtheria — “the deadly scourge of childhood” — at five years old, in a town not too far from Dallas. An aggressive vaccination campaign began in the region around the same time, but perhaps it took a while for word to reach the provinces, or maybe traveling for the . . .

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