Birds Call, Dominik Mosur Listens

By Elizabeth C. Creely

Dominik Mosur stood in the middle of schoolchildren, who were busily running through San Francisco’s Randall Museum’ wildlife exhibit. A tall, powerfully built man with a mild expression, he wore a tee shirt that read  “Made in Poland”. Mosur was born in Poland and although he has the laid back attitude and accent common to most coastal Californians, he pronounces his surname with a distinctive Eastern European lilt.

Just then he looked tired. “There aren’t usually this many kids at once,” he explained. “I think there are actually two classes here at the same time. Someone’s always gotta be on the floor with all these kids.”

As an animal care attendant for the museum, he’d also dealt with an emergency that morning: a sick Great Horned owl.  The Randall Museum, which functions both as a natural history museum and as a refuge for the city’s wildlife, has had the owl in residence for many years. (Born blind, the owl would have died in the wilderness.) The stress of transporting a sick owl to a wildlife vet showed on Mosur’s face. “I’m pretty behind right now,” he said.

Mosur has the distinction of identifying the most bird species in one year in San Francisco County and has mastered the art of bird identification by listening rather than looking. This is sometimes the only way a bird can be identified. Songbirds like the Pygmy Nuthatch measure three inches in size and roost in the tops of mature conifer stands. “If you’re lucky, you might see one fly by,” observed Mosur, sounding doubtful. Listening for bird calls depends on a sonic atmosphere uncluttered by anthropogenic noise. In San Francisco, this can be a challenge.

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The Buffalo Hunter

by Larry Lefkowitz

On the keelboat going up the Missouri, Clearfield and I became friendly. Normally, I don’t think he would have been interested in me — it seemed buffalo hunters were only happy with their buffaloes for company. (I wasn’t surprised, the smell that emanated from him was enough to discourage anyone — the French crew gave him a wide berth because of it.) But the combination of the Frenchmen avoiding him, the fact that they avoided me, and the fact he didn’t like “foreigners,” soon made us companions. The nose adjusts to smells–even what I gathered was buffalo smell; and Clearfield was a valuable source of information to someone like me, in sore need of it. Sometimes he could be unnerving, as when he would suddenly pop off with his buffalo gun at some lone tree or other object that took his fancy. “Gotta keep in practice,” he explained. This practice of keeping in practice scared the pants off the Frenchmen. The first time he did it, the captain of the boat asked him to discontinue it, but he threatened him to “use you for a target if you don’t get back to runnin’ your boat instead of your mouth.”

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Make Me Over

By Maya Lionne

I started telling fortunes for ten bucks a shot after I ran away from home, Dinah began, her fingers taking their time to scrawl her thoughts on the white college-ruled notebook paper that had yellowed with age in the years it sat on her desk almost totally unnoticed. “No, that’s too recent,” Dinah said out loud, to no one in particular. “Gotta start further back.” Writing her story was difficult, despite the fact that she’d known of Tanya’s impending 18th birthday for several months. She’d procrastinated on finding a gift, and even when Bridget had approached her regarding a book composed of everyone in the house’s stories, Dinah hesitated writing her own. But why? Continue reading

Familiar Shore

By Jim Ross

I am standing on the beach at North Captiva Island, Florida. It is 4:30 on a July afternoon and I’m gazing at the most beautiful natural sight I’ve ever seen. The sun shines onto the sea, making the Gulf of Mexico look like a giant sheet of wavy green velvet on which a million diamonds sparkle. Before me is a strip of white sand. Behind me is a dead tree, perched on the edge of a protected preserve overgrown with palms, sea oats and salty scrub.

Like most Florida residents, I grew up someplace else. I was raised and educated near Chicago and came to Florida during college for reporting internships at the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald. At age 21 I returned for a full-time job at the Times.

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This Word Is Church

by Harmony Button

This essay is the first in our new feature “This Word Is” where writers meditate on a single word and its meaning through sound and memory, anecdote and etymology. 

One Sunday morning, my brother and I woke up early and, while our parents were still asleep, we changed all the clocks in the house an hour forward.

“Oh well,” we said, when the adults came downstairs. “I guess we’ve missed church today. There should be scrambled eggs and Smurfs instead.”

By the time they figured it out, we really had missed the service.

This move became known as “pulling a church” or “churching it.” My wary, clever mother learned to ask if I was “churching one over” on her.

I tried, but unfortunately, it never worked again — not for the dentist, not for the doctor’s, and definitely not for church.

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INTERVIEW: Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve writes about the favorite recipes of famous writers at her blog, Paper & Salt. A comparative literature major, she works in book publishing by day and cooks in her tiny Manhattan apartment by night. She has written about food and books for the Daily Beast, Huffington Post and, among others.

In this interview with Paper Tape editor Kristy Harding, Nicole talks about Paper & Salt’s process and origin story, her cross-country adventure, and what’s on her reading list and going on in her kitchen.

PT: How would you describe Paper & Salt?

NV: Paper & Salt recreates the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction. I describe it as part food and recipe blog, part historical discussion, and part literary fangirl-ing, which is probably as close to a cogent description as I’ll get!

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Other Leevilles

By David Licata

Stephen Miner sat crossed-legged on a Persian carpet hunched over New Jersey. His right index finger slid vertically along the map down the F axis, his left horizontally along the 7 axis until they met. Lifting his hands, his nine-year-old eyes had little difficulty finding his hometown, Leeville. He wondered why it was written in smaller letters than its neighboring towns, towns he had been driven through–Englewood, Fort Lee, Palisades Park, Tenafly, Bogota–all clustered near the pale blue Hudson River, all near a red line that was the George Washington Bridge. He liked the George Washington Bridge and thought that more than a single thin line should represent it. When his mother took him into New York City to a museum or a play she drove on the bridge’s upper level and when a large truck rumbled by it shook their car and his mother gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands but he liked it. He usually saw people walking across it and sometimes he asked his mother if they could walk across the bridge one day and she always said yes, they would do that someday.

He flipped through several pages of the musty atlas and stopped on North Carolina. There were the Outer Banks, the strip of islands where he used to go for two weeks each summer before his father died. He flipped back several pages to Hawaii where he was going to surf big waves. To Arizona, the Grand Canyon, where he was going to raft down the river. To California, to walk through redwood forests. All places his father had told him they’d visit and things he told him they’d do.

He turned to the back of the book, to the main index, to the Ls, and found five other Leevilles besides his Leeville. Florida, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, and Australia all had Leevilles. There was also a Leesville, Louisiana.

He looked at each Leeville and he knew they were all different. Leeville, Florida was warm year round, Leeville, New Hampshire cold in the winter. Still, he wondered if they were the same, too. As he stared at the word “Leeville” in Washington State, he wondered if a boy there was looking at an atlas this very minute, wondering about the other Leevilles. Did he wake up in the middle of the night, grab his blanket and pillow, and sleep the rest of the night in front of his mother’s bedroom door? Did he wake up before her and listen for sounds that would soothe him (her feet shuffling, the bathroom door opening, water running)? Did the boy in that Leeville live in unexpressed dread knowing that no matter where he was in this entire book, his mother could die at any moment and he’d be alone?

David Licata is a writer and filmmaker. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Literary Review, Word Riot, R.KV.R.Y., Hitotoki, The New Purlieu Review, Sole Literary Journal, and others. His films have shown on PBS stations across the country and screened at festivals all over the world, including New Directors/New Films (curated by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA), the Tribeca Film Festival, and dozens of others. You can find him on the web at