All posts by TP

Regarding Now & Later


CIVIL LIBERTIES — Our democracy will go through some crazy shit in the next four to six months. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. I say that dispassionately and as an aside, because it is beyond my control and I just don’t have the brain or heart space to worry about it. It will just be a thing that happens.

THE NON-SCARLET OK — Will recovered people wear a badge marking them as ‘safe to be around’ when they venture out into the world? An armband? A logo? An ‘I Voted’ style sticker? Or will the mark be reserved for the ones who never got sick? Could their potential for reigniting a semi-doused fire create a new discrimination?

CULT — This pandemic has kneecapped the personality cult of President Dipshit. He does not dominate the headlines. He does not overshadow every topic. His dull-witted face does not appear on every screen. Yes, he’s obviously still in the news, but his attention-bending black hole shit-stained grasp on our media and collective conscience has been, at least temporarily, eclipsed.

NATURE — If you’re driving, watch for wild animals. Humans ceding space combined with springtime means animals venturing closer to neighborhoods, towns, and roads. Moose on Main Street, beavers in the breakdown lane, deer on your deck. Rivers are clearing, air pollution is plummeting. It won’t last, but it could. I don’t think we’re smart enough to make it last.

DEATH — Death is coming. It’s always been coming; that’s what it does. Right now it’s coming in a palpable, slow-motiony kind of way. You may lose friends and family and loved ones, and I’m preemptively sorry for your loss. Distant acquaintances will die and you may grow weary of conjuring a genuine condolence. Famous people you love will die and it will break your heart. Complete assholes will also die, and I hope you set aside a little space to feel jazzed about that. Why not?

SELF-CARE — In the coming months, your Facebook and Twitter feeds will be filled with death and sadness and confusion and despair. There is a saturation point where it may be too much for you. If you believe bearing witness to this pain is somehow a noble or right or necessary thing to do, let me offer an alternative viewpoint: it is not. Focus on yourself, focus on your loved ones, focus on your community. If things get Real Bad, even that limited scope will probably be too much. It may not be within your power to carry the weight of the state or the country or world upon your shoulders. Don’t feel bad about turning people off, for avoiding national news, for closing the tab. Don’t let anyone tell you self-care is selfishness. Your emotional reserves are a finite resource. Expend them judiciously.

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS — You will hear bad bad news. Elderly spouses dying within hours of each other. Single people found in their apartment weeks after they died. Bodies misplaced in an overburdened ad hoc morgue system. We need to share good news when we find it, because good things will continue to happen and they will be drowned out. Share art. Share music. Share bunny GIFs.

THY WILL BE DONE — Write up a will. It could just be a PDF with a witness. Fuck lawyers, if you have good people around you it should be enough. Don’t be morbid, make it fun. Dole out your stuff like it’s everybody’s birthday at once. Surprise ‘em.

HANDSHAKE — I wonder if this will be the demise of the handshake. In the aftermath of things, could it become politicized along partisan lines? A challenge from the toxic masculinity crowd? ‘C’mon, shake my hand, don’t be a pussy!’

BODIES — There will not be enough time or space to properly mourn. There will be no big funerals. I expect they will move online. Bodies will be backlogged, stored in refrigerated trucks. I think cremation should really be the default during this mess. Interment is a dumb enough ritual in the best of times. We are not entering the best of times.

CUOMO — America loves a straight-talkin’ politician in a crisis, speaking truth to power, right up the ol’ chain of command. It doesn’t mean they’re fantastic humans or infallible leaders, it means they are able to successfully channel the frustration many of us feel. Mayor Ray Nagin (New Orleans/Katrina). Carmen Yulín Cruz (Puerto Rico/Hurricane Maria). Chris Christie (New Jersey/The Great Cheeseburger Crisis). Cuomo is no great shakes overall, but he’s doing a solid job in this situation.

GREENS — Grow a garden this year. Share with your neighbors. I’m going to try to.

also on Medium

Broken Lines Reviews

An archive of full Broken Lines reviews.

Broken Lines Is a Rollicking, Careening Adventure Unlike Any Other

With a bizarre plot, metafiction that breaks the fourth wall, and lots of visual candy, Tom Pappalardo’s Broken Lines is entertainingly unique. Pappalardo has written stories, essays, and comic strips and worked in graphic design, all skills that come to bear in Broken Lines. Continue reading

REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS: One More Cup Of Coffee

These hilarious shorts are a perfect snarkfest, combining people watching and café criticism with abundant humor. Pappalardo visits coffee emporiums in Northampton, Amherst, and other towns in western Massachusetts to sample brews ranging from fabulous to putrid and to jot his impressions of baristas and customers. He ranges from local coffeehouses to Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks locations, going so far as to reference the noncontroversy of the 2015 red holiday cups; he even experiences coffee in his local public library. In one riff, he rails against the ludicrousness of far-distant coffee pickup counters; elsewhere, he visits a Dunkin’ Donuts dominated by painful country music. Pappalardo’s enjoyment of doughnuts, pie, and other comestibles adds delight to the collection, as does his recording of overheard conversations and scenes. This collection is good for a consistent supply of laughs, regardless of whether readers live in Massachusetts or drink coffee.
Publishers Weekly Continue reading


I’m sitting at my desk on post-election day, reviewing eight pages of aborted paragraphs I’ve scribbled in my notebook, wrestling with the desire to communicate and connect with you, to say something important or useful or — if all else fails — something clever or entertaining. The eight pages have come up short on all fronts. I got bupkis. Continue reading

The Curator Laid To Rest

They will lower me into the hole they’ve dug in my yard,
My casket lined with VHS tapes and Sharpies,
USB cables coiled around my chest,
And a rotary telephone held in each cold hand.

My mouth filled with keys to forgotten doors,
A 9-volt battery covering each eye,
Resting on a cushion of thrift store t-shirts
Cradling my sketchbook-stuffed corpse.

Balancing atop a shifting platform of scrap plywood,
Old books, rub-on lettering, and coffee mugs,
A choir of well-meaning friends will burst forth in joyful melody,
“Everything must go! Everything must go!”

And the mourners, bravely choking back their tears and regrets,
Will be required to take home a minimum of ten compact discs,
To be prominently displayed in their homes as a shrine
For the laughing dead man who never has to move again.

* Originally published in Boston Accent Lit
* Read more short fiction

Broken Lines: LO

The cowboy is tired and a bit cranky.

“Whaaat?” asks the spaceman in disbelief. “No, it’s cool! Like a mascot!”

They sit in the rear booth of the Stop-N-Go Diner just off of Route 28. Two cups of coffee rest on the table, surrounded by breakfast debris. Above the din of ordering, smalltalk, and determined mastication rises the tinny sound of that accursed “Life Is A Highway” song. It leaks out of the diner’s table jukeboxes, thirty-odd speakers radiating unspeakable brain damage. Continue reading

Stunt Design

There’s an insidious monster whispering in the ears of amateur illustrators and designers, haunting Twitter feeds and blogs and tumblrs across the web. It isn’t an art movement or anything, it’s an internet trend. I have come to refer to it in my head as Stunt Design.

Stunt Design, n. The phenomenon of designers & illustrators creating gimmicky graphics purely in the hopes of ‘going viral’ on pop culture/arts blogs. Continue reading