Reflections

Welcome to My Writer’s Sketchpad

Ruminations is where I share works in progress. Please follow the pointers below to learn more about me and the stories you’ll find on these pages. Thank you for visiting. Please return and tell a friend.

Who is Tom Abate and what does he write about?

Eclectic notions arising from my experiences and observations.

Stories and commentary based on research, interviews, and observations.

Satire, fiction, humor, and advice from the Dead Blogger’s Society.

Experiences and events that formed my character and inform my work and beliefs.

Musings

July 22, 2022

Sample caption area or photo credit

. . . from a man with wooden teeth …

Part Three: My suffering, silent partner.

(Editor’s note: Part one explained my careful business planning; part two, how my publishing dream soured once again on the eve of my wedding.) I should explain that my partner remains silent in part because I am largely responsible for this entire misadventure. She was young and overly impressed with me. The move, the newspaper, even the marriage had been my ideas. She was entirely onboard for the first two. The marriage gave her a pause. She’d have preferred an...
Read More

Anecdotes

July 22, 2022

A patriotic Vietnamese man yearns for clean air and democracy

A chance encounter over the Fourth of July weekend should make us wonder why some Americans seem ready to discard freedoms that rest of world envies.

It had been the stranger across the table who started a conversation that veered toward irony this Fourth of July weekend. “Smoke not good,” he had said, in accented English. “Too much particulate matter.” We were seated at an outdoor coffee shop and the breeze had carried the scent past him a moment before it reached me. “Barbeque?” he guessed. I sniffed and shook my head. “Paper,” I replied, then made the leap from his black hair and Asian features...
Read More

Anecdotes

July 22, 2022

When top book editors said fiction wasn’t my forte

I took this to heart and spent 30 years practicing nonfiction. Have I learned enough to make stuff up convincingly?

In 1990, I gave up trying to publish a novel based on my experiences as an enlisted man serving in the U.S. Navy around the time that the fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War. I made the decision to become a journalist rather than a novelist after getting a thoughtful rejection letter from Robert Giroux, a now deceased founding partner of the literary house Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In those days, when it was still possible to get an...
Read More

Observations

July 22, 2022
icon - reflections observations

Has it really been 50 years since high school?

A chatty and informal reminiscence shared at a 50th reunion.

(Regis High School is a Jesuit-run institution for Catholic boys in the New York area who take an exam to win four-year scholarships. Other than removing some names I made no alterations. Tom) I’ll arrive at the reunion on the red eye from San Francisco, after watching the youngest of my three children graduate high school. What a long, strange trip it’s been! Let me recap the last 50 years. After Regis, I spent a year at NYU before dropping...
Read More

Observations

Updated date: July 27th, 2022
icon - reflections observations

If you figure out how to build an H-bomb, can the government declare it a secret?

U.S. law said the basic principle behind the bomb were “born secret” and could not be disclosed under any circumstances. A student newspaper challenged that.

(This article first appeared in a special edition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Daily Californian, campus newspaper of the University of California, Berkeley.) In June and September 1979, The Daily Californian published two stories that blew open a national debate over whether Americans could face criminal charges for publishing the basic principles behind the hydrogen bomb. In between the first and second scoops, the paper narrowly avoided bankruptcy. The Daily Cal had stumbled into a controversy that began...
Read More

Anecdotes

Updated date: May 18th, 2022

Sample caption area or photo credit

… from a man with wooden teeth …

Part Two: Rama Bhagwan … the very name inspires confidence.

(Editor’s note: In part one, I explained the business planning which caused the man with wooden teeth to “manifest” at our door.) We opened our typesetting shop in the parlor of our Victorian flat. Climbing the twelve concrete steps to our door had winded him, Rama Bhagwan explained as he replaced his teeth and plopped a ratty-looking eight-page tabloid newspaper on our reception table. It was the first issue of his North Coast Journal and Barter Bank. He wasn’t satisfied...
Read More

Observations

Updated date: May 18th, 2022

Sample caption area or photo credit

The time I bought half-interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth

Part One: Talk about the best laid plans … this one wasn’t.

In June 1980, I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley where I had been editor of the campus newspaper, the Daily Californian. That experience convinced me that newspaper people were a sick breed, and that I ought to be one of them. By rights, I should have gathered my clips and gone looking for a job at the Nowhere Gazette, working long hours for low pay and learning bitterness. But I’d been what was then called a “nuke...
Read More

Get in Touch