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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…


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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.” …


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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…


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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…


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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…


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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…


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“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., …


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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…


Jews are funny in cemeteries.

Some people think that Jews are funny wherever; but we’re not. Maybe it’s something about the eons of persecution — I don’t know — but our innate predisposition toward macabre, sardonic humor seems to flower when surrounded by soundless granite and harmless blades of grass.

Two Jews were wandering around in a cemetery today; sometimes, they were funny. They both wore masks which, in any circumstance other than COVID-19, would have been funny, too. She was clad in a soft black and gray dress, the mask’s straps holding down the back of her frizzy reddish…


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Me, in 2009, probably demanding to see the doctor because I’m fucking dying.

Though it sounds like an odd thing to say in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I miss the days of my quaint, eccentric, good ol’ fashioned hypochondria. I miss bothering my octogenarian GP for an HIV test (at age 25) because I had unprotected sex in college and I had convinced myself that the warts on my feet were some kind of indicator that I had acquired the HIV.

He pursed his lips as he tied the rubber strip around my gaunt left arm and rubbed my non-bicep with an alcohol swab.

“You understand that I’m only doing this…

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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