After nearly ten years of volunteering with farmworker aid organizations and writing some articles and blog posts, I thought I knew a lot about the men and women who plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops that fill the produce sections of our grocery stores. I was wrong. I had been to dozens of labor camps, … Continue reading Finding America’s Farmworkers
I learned that racial discrimination is wrong the same place I suppose some people learn it’s okay. At home. From my parents. Most of this education took place during the late 1960s and early 70s, in Fairview Heights, Illinois, where I lived until I was ten. And, like the best lessons from parent to child, … Continue reading Where I learned Black lives matter
When Becky and I decided to build a house, it did seem a bit impulsive. We had just met. When Covid hit a few months later, the idea seemed suddenly improbable. Then impossible. Then, positively insane. Our original plan was to do what most people do and just buy a pre-existing place—a used house, as … Continue reading To build a house. Or not.
Nearly three years ago, something weird started going on inside my head. The chief symptom was spontaneous vertigo. Some dizzy spells were barely noticeable. Some were accompanied by deafness and profuse sweating. Some sent me crumpling to the ground in spinning agony. My only comfort was in thinking my symptoms were so striking, and so … Continue reading Something in my head
I learned to play Scrabble from a grandmother who didn't cut kids any slack when it came to this game she loved. When I finally learned to play at her level, it felt great. Until it didn't. I was eight years old when I first played Scrabble with Grandma and lost that game by more … Continue reading Grandma is a seven-letter word
The little-known story of an age-old scam... Published by Damn Interesting on September 2, 2019... Nobody knows who did it first. Swindlers have been pulling off the scam for centuries, paying existing investors with the deposits of new ones to create the illusion of an incredibly profitable investment opportunity. Before 1920, it was known as … Continue reading The Eponymous Mr. Ponzi
How the opening of a Chicago canal in 1848 led to the birth of modern financial derivatives, and the early demise of some of the men who traded them... Published by Damn Interesting on November 21, 2017... In April of 1873, an unhappy man walked along Clark Street in downtown Chicago. His name was Aymar … Continue reading Death by Derivatives
How the beloved American Civil War general and two-term president failed at every attempt to make money. Except for one... Published by Damn Interesting on April 11, 2017... In the second half of the 19th century, few Americans were better known—and revered—than the man whose face looks out today from the $50 bill. Ulysses S. … Continue reading The Reconstruction of Ulysses S. Grant
He made a name for himself organizing the world’s most important economic conference, only to have it tarnished by an outrageous accusation. Here's my story of Harry Dexter White, published by Damn Interesting.
At age ten or so I read a brief article in one of the St. Louis newspapers titled "How to draw your family tree," or something along those lines. The idea intrigued me, and when I asked Mom and Dad about it they sat me down at our kitchen table with a blank piece of … Continue reading Climbing the family tree