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?
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.
Care for your teeth today, or you’ll regret it for eternity.
I’ve had several teeth pulled in my 68 years and I’m loath to lose another. My recent annual checkup gave me five hours in which to contemplate how modern dentistry can rescue us from bad habits by repairing our magnificent molars. My epiphany began when the dentist displayed my X-rays on a wall-mounted TV. Using a stylus on a touchscreen laptop, the dentist circled and then drew arrows toward two back teeth. The marks appeared on the TV to highlight...Read More
A lesson to myself in rushing to judgment.
I was in a rush. With 20 minutes to get home before an appointment, I’d stopped at the grocers to pick up milk for my coffee. In line ahead of me, an old lady was unloading a cart with a few food items, a disaster-proof supply of toilet paper, and many boxes of children’s gifts. I considered going around her and leaving cash for the checkout person. I do that occasionally at coffee shops when the person ahead of me...Read More
Chalk that up to the foolishness of youth. But even now, pushing 70, I’m still trying to catch soap bubbles before they pop.
In June of 1980 I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where I’d been editor of the campus newspaper. That experience convinced me that journalists were a sick breed, and that I ought to be one of them. The sensible career path would’ve been to gather my clips and look for a job at a small-town daily, working long hours for low pay and learning bitterness. Instead, I decided to start an alternative newspaper. But where? I had put...Read More
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
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
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
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