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Image of school & graveyard by Vivian McInerny

Summer crept into the edges of May. The classroom felt stuffy. Decades of dust hid in the spaces between the floorboards. It permeated the clothbound books, older than our parents, shelved on the windowsill in order of reading skill. Sister Romana slipped a finger under the edge of her wimple, damp with sweat.

We wilted like forgotten flowers. Our classroom was in an airless late Victorian building with creaking floors, cracked ceilings, and water fountains that tasted always of rust. We sat at oak desks of the same era with curly-cue wrought iron legs bolted onto long wood rails, connecting us in six neat rows of seven. …

Whether random firings of neurons or magical messages from the subconscious, dreams talk

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Chris H. in

I believe in dreams. Not goal-setting ambitious dreams but the sleeping ones that mix memories and future thoughts not yet fully formed, all together in moving pictures.

Most my dreams are forgotten before I wake. Or dissipate like mist as I’m waking and the more I try to grab hold of them the faster they evaporate.

A few dreams come to me so vivid and visceral and alive that I wake from them unsure of the divide between sleep and waking life. For a few seconds the difference is blurry. And sometimes, I might catch myself days later wondering whether a fleeting memory is of an actual event or of a dream, and if there is a difference. These sharp-drawn dreams stay with me for days, and a few have lasted decades, always ready for replay in my mind. …

Memories of a journalist covering fashion in a least fashionable town

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The DVF paperdolls; image by Vivian McInerny

She was beautiful in a fierce sort of way. Physically arresting, for sure, aristocratic, elegant, toned, and fit, but most beautiful in the aura of absolute confidence she exuded.

Diane von Furstenberg was/is iconic.

She gave the distinct impression she was as comfortable with royalty as she was with the royal pain in the tush that was the regional journalist eagerly standing by with reporters’ notebook and pen in hand.

We met at the home of a friend of hers who’d recently moved to Portland, Oregon. It was a warm summer evening in August 1997. The back garden was set-up with three or four round tables, each seating ten people. I was thrilled to discover the hosts seated me at DVF table, directly across from her. She addressed everyone at the table but because of its size, several smaller conversations soon broke out. I sensed DVF wasn’t thrilled about the chatter. She was, afterall, the reason for this party. Even though I was uncomfortable speaking to an audience, I asked DVF a question — loudly to be heard above the chitchats — and then all attention was on her. …

History is an obscene text message

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Image by Benjamin Earwicker on

I was sitting at my kitchen table this morning when my text message buzzed.


The stars and stripes just got more, ahem, colorful.

This is not your (founding) fathers’ patriotism perhaps, but I couldn’t be more proud of my daughter. She was walking in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and baby when suddenly strangers everywhere started cheering and whooping and hollering. Someone shouted, “Is it over?” Another responded, “It’s over!” And then everyone yelled and cheered. …

My brother was no sucker

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Image of Fort Snelling Cemetery 2014 by Vivian McInerny

Rog was my big brother. I cheered his Pony League pitches. I rode shotgun in his Chevy. I swiped his skates to glide across a frozen Wilson Pond. And I cried ’til I felt my soul was going to turn inside out the day we learned he would not be coming home from Vietnam.

Last week I met a man who is the same age my brother would be, should be, and I listened in stunned silence as he bragged about the fact that he had not served in the armed forces. …

Shawn Levy at a safe social distance

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Image provided by author

Shawn Levy is a journalist, film critic, and prolific author. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Interview. His nine books include Rat Pack Confidential, Dolce Vita Confidential, and King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis. Of Levy’s most recent book, author Cheryl Strayed wrote: “Fascinating, dishy, and glimmering with insight, The Castle on Sunset is a must-read for anyone interested in the rich and racy history of Tinseltown. Shawn Levy’s entertaining and deeply researched biography of a building chronicles experiences both glamorous and sordid, historical, and contemporary. …

Life is short and I keep forgetting

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Image by Francesco Maglione from

My parents are old. And not just in the way all kids think their parents are old; I myself am old. My parents are practically olde with an Olde English “E.”

Fortunately, they are still sharp. They live independently. They are mobile. They drive. I didn’t say they drive well, but they have managed to get themselves to church and back every morning without incident. I want to believe their prayers act as some sort of perpetual preservative because old age just isn’t old enough.

Even 90 years of life, long by human standards, is a mere blink in time. Houses in my neighborhood are older. Trees around here are much older. The small but sharp gray pebble I stepped on barefoot in my backyard (and cursed like a mother) could be as old as 3 billion years. That jagged little stone, nature’s lost Lego piece, might still exist in another billion years for a space alien to inadvertently slither across and curse in a language that sounds like electronic beeps but could still make its space alien mother blush a particular shade of green. For a solid mass of minerals, 4 billion years is no big deal. On the other hand, a human can’t even count aloud to 4 billion. That would take about 127 years and, frankly, none of us has the time. …

When my kid asked about death, I blabbed

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Image by Joanna Nurmis for

When my oldest daughter was little, we used to go for walks through a cemetery in our neighborhood. Maybe that sounds morbid but it was the largest green space in the area and the old shade trees and cool stone markers offered respite on hot days.

My preschooler loved strolling through what she referred to as the Stone Park. One time, she asked why the stones had names carved on them. I told her it was to remember people who had died. Maybe that wasn’t the best answer to give a kid who was still a few months short of her fourth birthday, and if I’d been quicker-witted I might have said it was to commemorate those who’ve gone before us to Walla Walla, Washington, because that is certainly more fun to say. But instead, I blurted out the unspoken reality: People die. They cease to exist. …

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Image by Moritz Kindler of Unsplash

My high school science teacher back in the 1970s days of yore was a geeky guy who loved tech and sci-fi. He once asked the class to imagine the future. Students talked excitedly of flying cars and robotic maids and picture phones!

He wanted us to consider the computer. At the time, computers were about the size of a VW bus and used only by global corporations for tasks none of us understood or cared to understand. But he insisted that in the not too distant future, most jobs would involve computers.

“Just think, girls,” he said. “One day, you might use computers to cook for your husbands!” …

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Photo by Vivian McInerny snapped at NY fashion week years ago and in no way related to this fictitious course.

This online series is for those who have mastered the basics of the 12-week program led by Anna Wintour and are ready for real-life application. Your addendum instructor is a 17-year veteran of the award-winning Our Town Weekly Mailer. (Look for Thursday Three-for-Two© coupons! )The course curriculum outlined below includes helpful FAQ.

Lesson 1: The Workplace Wardrobe

To begin, remove your designer sunglasses whist indoors.We understand your investment was significant but the hallway is dark and the other intern wears only black. It’s an insurance issue.

And while we’re at it, ditch the English accent.

Q: Is the vintage designer wardrobe I inherited from my cool aunt who worked for Conde Nast in the 1980s appropriate office wear?


Vivian McInerny

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.

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