I hate you, grass. Why can’t you be pavement? (Image — Brett Jordan; Unsplash)

Yesterday, on a walk with my friend in the Pocono woods, we came upon a dead, rotted tree that was, somehow, still standing. Leaning, yes, but standing.

“Let’s put it down,” I said to him. Together, on 1, 2, 3, we shouldered it and down it came, snapping at the base. He picked it up and threw it into a rushing stream to our right. I had boots on, and I eyed the stump as if it had just called me a punk bitch. Without even thinking, my boot soared through the air, connecting with the rotten, pulpy detritus —…

This Is Us

A psalm of sleep apnea, shit in the shower, and life

Photo: Luke Price/Flickr

“And besides,” he said, “your chin is on backward.”

The burly man with the accent-from-somewhere turned, almost looking dismissively at me — which, I guess, I’m used to — and smile-frowned. At least, I think he did; he was wearing a mask. And a spit shield. We used to put them on the faces of patients at the psych hospital — now people are just… walking around with them like it’s a pair of Oakleys. Of course, as a poor, nonprofit psychiatric hospital, we frequently ran out of spit shields (spitting is always tres en vogue at those kinds of…

The least depressing socks I own.

I was once a guest on a mental health podcast that, I don’t think, ever got aired, and the host, whose name I forget, asked me what my depression was like. Because I tend to answer questions in either stories, quotes, or folksongs, I decided to give this woman all three.

“Well,” I said, “I’ll put it to you like this — there’s this guy named Andy Breckman, and he’s best known for creating the show “Monk”, and he’s had some minor success as a screenwriter but, a long time ago, he was a really shitty folk singer who knew…

The oldest hat, for the oldest head.

The Yiddish word for “head” is kepilach.

My mother, born to a Hungarian-American father and a Ukranian-American mother, grew up hearing a lot of Yiddish in the home. When my sisters and I were little, my mother retained what little Yiddish she remembered, and mixed and melded and swirled and swaddled it with English kiut-isms when she spoke to us while our infant minds were apple-sauce and melted butter, and she would truncate a lot of Yiddish words. For us. To us.

Hentalach (hand) became “hentee”, and kepilach became “kepi.” …

Enough already.

I’m laughing at the title — well, not lol, but, like, that smiling-to-myself-in-irony-kind-of-laughing — because I think I wrote a piece on Medium maybe two years ago where I was worrying about how I don’t cry anymore.

I feel like, a while ago, when I was another person, I wrote about how I used to cry — in the car, at a Dar Williams song (“When I Was a Boy”, in case you’re interested), when an old friend told me he’d had a mini-stroke, when I remembered middle or high school-Gabe, when I looked at a flower, or a cloud…

What we see when we don’t let ourselves turn around.

Cornfields look different before daybreak.

This is something you learn when you work at a locked, inpatient psychiatric hospital — that sits across the parking lot from a cornfield, that is. If you work at one that doesn’t, well, don’t worry — you’ll learn other things.

I worked there for five years. When I started I was thirty and, on my last day, I was ninety-four. And the cornfield that teased and mocked (“I’m MOCKING YOU, GABRIEL!” a particularly unpleasant patient would seethe in my face, from two inches away, just in case I was unsure about the sincerity of…

One man in ten.

With all of the urgent, timely, passionate essays coming out now about COVID-19, the election, and racial upheaval and the imminent need for the re-imagining of American law enforcement, I thought now would be a pretty good time for a piece about a white guy and his lawn.

This morning, I was sitting on my front porch drinking a cup of coffee because I pay my taxes and tuck my shirt inside my trousers and I call them “trousers” and I cross my legs inside my trousers and I don’t cross myself on Sundays because I’m Jewish and a lawn…

If a black policeman falls in Harlem, does his body make a sound?

“Mr. Nathan, my name is Essie Jones,” the email to me began, “I’m Waverly Jones’s daughter. I’m writing to you about my father’s tree.”

— — —

On May 21, 1971, two young patrolmen had just answered a call for help at the Colonial Park Apartments in Harlem. It was a distress call — a domestic. They were in the same academy class together, raising their white-gloved hands at their swearing-in ceremony in 1966. Over their short career, they answered hundreds of radio calls — thousands — passing thousands of hours on the springy, unforgiving vinyl bench seat of a…

“Being a cop is a vocation, or it is nothing at all.” (NYPD Detective-Sergeant David Durk/AP File Photo)

You’ve heard about Frank Serpico, but chances are that you’ve never heard of David Durk.

In late sixties and early seventies, the New York City Police Department was awash in sea of corruption; soaking through polyester navy blue uniform shirts and permeating police culture in an insidious fashion. In those days, corruption was broken down into two main components — “grass-eaters” (e.g., the patrolman who would avoid giving tickets to double-parked cars outside of a Bronx bodega in exchange for free coffee and meals), and “meat-eaters” (e.g., …

We can’t breathe. (Photo: Julio Cortez/AP)

I used to be a cop — not in the traditional sense, of course. My uniform was a short-sleeved collared shirt — an ID badge clipped to one collar-point — tucked neatly into a pair of Dockers, with a silver-colored Parker pen in my breast pocket, and my beat was the cinder-block walls and flecked floors of a locked, inpatient psychiatric hospital. Those floors were polished a couple days before inspectors would arrive to give us a look-over. We knew when they were coming. Plant the flowers outside. Clean the windows. Put on airs.

Make sure “Jerry Springer” wasn’t playing…

Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, an online mental health publication. He owns far too many ties.

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