I would have encouraged people to come to the Poetry Project Marathon on New Year's Day but that wasn't possible, of course. They did an amazing job of splicing together 25 hours of videos, most only a couple of minutes long. They are slowly getting them posted & if you want, you can see me at 23:30 in this segment of the whole event. Kick in a few bucks if you can to keep the Project chugging on.
Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.
~ Rabbi Joachim Prinz
As a young rabbi in Berlin, Joachim Prinz (1902-88) was outspoken against Nazism from early on and fled to the United States in 1937. He spoke at the 1963 March on Washington.
I love this. Love this. It settles things, doesn't it?
Turns out that below 27° is when it's too cold for me to do karate outdoors in just a tee-shirt, at least for more than half an hour. Saying this makes me think of Johnny asking, Ya braggin' or complainin'? It's not a virtue just a fact of my South Dakota-born metabolism. I'm always a little surprised that the cold doesn't get to me much.
an old woman on parade
wants a glass of ginger ale
everyone turns to see why the drums
changed their rhythm
we start again & start anew
she sings above scarred birds
whistles for luck
finds a wind harp & a stone
to start with no one's home
follows like a tree
& a mardi gras beat puts us to sleep
[This is from 2 Januarys ago, for what it's worth.]
What are the circumstances of this photo? I am pretty sure it was taken by my friend Pecos, in front of my building, the Ezra Pound, circa 1980. Had my car just been stolen? No, that was later. Was it art? You be the judge. That tree is pretty big now. I guess it's only old days because it's in the past. I don't seem to have a story to go with it.
I can breathe again. Sleep again. Hope again. I don't have to be horrified, embarrassed, scared. A real president: competent, kind, smart, any number of good qualities not possessed by his predecessor. Whose name I shall never type again.
A few flakes of promising snow (but alas, it was a lick & a promise that came to naught) ... a steely North Sea sky... a great catching-up talk with an old friend ... this weather vane ... & less than 24 hours till the psychopath-in-chief sneaks out of the White House. I heard he asked for a red carpet, a brass band, & a 21-gun salute. Really? Brass balls.
If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
How cool is this? Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), archaeologists have found, buried on a farm in Norway, a thousand-year-old Iron Age burial site that includes the remains of a 60' ship, a feasting hall and more. I've been to various ruins aroud the world & I suppose the people who lived in places like Copán in Honduras didn't imagine their home would one day be abandoned & forgotten for centuries. I think about what were once world languages like Akkadian that no one can translate today. And I often think how insubstantial even Manhattan often feels, especially recently when the whole American "experiment" seems evanescent. It's hard to imagine a thousand years from now someone discovering Manhattan or people trying to make sense of English but it seems to be the way the world works. The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Happy 97th birthday to my mother, today. 97 & still with most of her marbles.
What a trouper, aka trooper (both are correct! I looked!). She sailed through Covid (asymptomatic) in November. Her biggest complaint about having to stay in a separate room for 10 days was that she didn't get her newspaper & her pop wasn't cold.
I may meander south, light on a memory, & I may look for some photos of that trip. But I wanted to jump ahead to a half-awake dream I had the other day. We were somewhere pretty far south, maybe Honduras or Nicaragua, or maybe it was very southern Mexico, & the only hotels we could afford had no hot water. I was reluctant but too sweltering not to take a shower. What a surprise — & pleasure — the tepid water was. One of those moments when I knew my assumptions to be unnecessarily constricted.
An unrelated memory: I had brought a bottle of citronella oil from New York & left it open every night to keep away mosquitos. I didn't get malaria so i guess it worked. My magic for staying healthy was refusing lettuce ("sin lechuga!") & swallowing a clover of raw garlic every day.
Johnny & I went over to Tibor to see some Rudy Burckhardt photos & films, where we also said hello to Trevor Winkfield & came home with his lovely Nine Portraits. At the corner of 2nd & 2nd two cars barrelled through the light, almost hitting a mail carrier. We did a little wowing about his close call & then had a sweet New York City post-moment chat, finding the people we both knew. "I took over this route from Eddie," Phillip said. "Bart is your carrier if you're on the Ave." Yep, I said, & we talked about Eddie & Bart & accidents & funerals. He thought the two cars were trying to catch up to a funeral procession. "But they're only a block or 2 behind, they didn't need to run the light at top speed." We didn't want to part. I would have gone to his funeral. It felt like a special day, to see a man not get run over!
I came back to the news that one of the StoptheSteal organizers, a convicted felon (for theft!) said three Republican (of course) CONGRESSMEN were part of organizing the assault on the Capitol—Mo Brooks, idiot of Alabama, and Paul Gosar & Andy Briggs, both of Arizona. I can't imagine sinking lower than to want to destroy the government you work for, that you were elected to serve. Treasonaires. If it's true, & there seems to be video evidence, they should be expelled & tried.
It was a great neighborhood day & a horrifying national day. I am going out of my mind. All summer I had little problem avoiding the doom-scrolling that consumed so many of my friends. But this insurrection, sedition, riot, whatever you call it, has me riveted. I take it as a personal assault on my father, a refugee who loved & appreciate the country that had saved his life. I don't want to stop believing that's the country I live in.
My Spanish wasn't very good. In fact, I somehow forgot that I would need Spanish. The only book I could find that seemed like it would help me learn was a bilingual Neruda. I got pretty good at naming body parts & talking about death, but not at asking for directions. So when people assumed that of course a young woman would be traveling with a male relative, I said, No, we're friends. And they would light up: Oh, we're very liberal. No no. We go to the university together 10 years ago, I more or less said, since anything but present tense was way beyond me. Finally, I just started calling him mi primo, my cousin, & that was all we needed. And you know what, it was true. Mark was the first of my many courtesy cousins, who are family without being related. All my friends don't become cousins—it's a relationship that comes along with a friendship & just feels right.
The Beat Goes On
Say, Don Mossi,
is Wilbur Wood's
This strange little work is from ages ago. Don Mossi (1929-2019), a lefthanded pitcher, was famous as the ugliest man in baseball. I didn't say it! his nickname was "Ears"! In fact, today is his birthday. He was before my time, but I remember Wilbur Wood well, a chunky knuckballer for the White Sox who later ran a clam shack on Cape Cod (according to a "where are they now?" article). My brother & I always called our neighbor Dave Wood, Wilbur. Every Wood should be a Wilbur, doncha think?
It's 40 years to the week if not day that I set off for Costa Rica. First I got a rideboard ride from NYC to Oklahoma to meet up with Mark. It was in a VW Thing, which doesn't have real windows only vinyl sheets. Whoever was driving had to do so half into a sleeping bag. I seem to remember that the driver stopped to get the heat fixed because it was so miserable.
In Tennessee I was excited to order biscuits with gravy, which I did whenever we stopped until the driver decided he had to try them. Ugh! he spat. No wonder crackers are so dumb. Which was a non sequitur as well as offensive.
Mark & I flew from OK City to Austin. His mother, I remember, dropped us off at the airport several hours early. There wasn't even a coffee shop there. We stayed with his uncle then took a Greyhound to San Antonio & from there to Laredo on the border. We crossed for the evening to Nuevo Laredo (no fuss in those days) & I remember not being able to decipher markers of class: were we in a well-to-do neighborhood or a poor one? That was the beginning of my education.
Update: Mark just emailed to say, "Actually it was Lowell Dunham who gave us that ride to Will Rogers World Airport (only OKC would name their airport after a guy who died in a plane crash) which gives you one degree of separation from Borges, Garcia Marquez and all the other other Latin American writers who stayed at the Dunhams' house." He's probably right, since he's always right, but why do I so clearly remember him saying his mother always got to the airport a million hours early?
I'm fascinated by the Traitor of the Day,Josh Hawley. I can't quite understand how the Republicans manage to find one after another of slightly-not-terrible-looking entitled brats. Well, I do, obviously—they are all white dudes. Who will do anything. So clean-cut he has got to be kinky, & even that wouldn't make him interesting. Is it solely opportunism or is it that the Republic Party is the party of the guys whose only thing is that their families have money? Or is it where sociopaths find their place, like a high school with stoners, nerds, jocks, & theater geeks? Who did he hang out with in high school? Did he legitimately get into Stanford & Yale Law? I'm not fascinated by him personally, as much as that there is a never-ending stream of him all with the same intentions & sureness that they are annointed. An endless, craven sewer of sycophants, toadies, bounders.
UPDATE: The Times gets there in"The Roots of Josh Hawley's Rage," which are that he wants to control us with his theological hatred.
I know ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away, but gosh how I would like to have some time without tRump/chaos/Republicans in the front of my mind. Lock 'em up & leave us alone.
Today the sunrise was earlier & sunset will be later than has been the case for a month or more.
I think... let's pretend... that the only news today is that both of the Dems, Warnock & Ossoff, won their runoffs & it will be a BLUE Senate. That IS the important news & the coup (attempt) by tRump & his henchassholes will pass soon. Hopefully punished but tRump is truly the teflon don.
When I moved to New York, I didn't know which neighborhoods were which. I didn't know that some were safe & some not. I only knew that if I lived near the guy I was in love with, I would probably run into him regularly. After all, that was true in the town where I grew up & it didn't occur to me it wasn't a universal principle. So I found a building on First Avenue, a few blocks east of Broadway, where he lived. The super showed me an apartment. The toilet was in the hall so I said nope. The next apartment had a flat-bottom slate tub. Too weird. The third (there were at least 6 vacant apartments at the time) had the toilet in the apartment & a regular tub. I paused. He impatiently said nothing wrong with this one. So I said yes. And how often did I run into that guy? Once in 43 years, way over on the West Side.
Live to the point of tears.
~ Albert Camus (1913-1960)
This makes me want to go back to Camus, who always seemed like someone you should/could read at 19 & not as a mature person. Now that I say that, I don't know why I think that. I read The Stranger & The Plague & don't remember much except that I was impatient with them. So maybe my thought was that one should wait to read Camus till one is more worldly.
Is this the source of Kerouac's famous passage in On the Road?
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
Were the 50s more intense than we tend to think?
Maggie gave me the idea to write about the old days in the neighborhood so I'll see what I can remember. Early last summer, when the city was shut down, it felt a little like it did in the late 70s when I moved to NY. There wasn't anything to do, because I had no money to do anything & all I wanted to do was hang with the poets. We had all the time in the world, or so it seemed. I had a job as a messenger for Enroute, a gay-run messenger service. One hot July day, my first summer here, I had to drop off a truck (although I was almost exclusively a foot messenger) way on the West Side then walk back in the swelter to the subway. I got home exhausted, & went to sleep before dark. I woke up the next morning to no electricity & called a friend (because landlines didn't depend on electricity, which is why I kept mine till a couple years ago) to complain. He laughed & held the phone up to a transistor radio. And that's how I learned about the big blackout of 1977. I regret that missed seeing New York without lights. It was a fun day with no work, no movies, just rambling around running into people. My entire 20s seems now like a blackout.
Yay to sweeping out the old. Yay to a beautiful new calendar, leading off with snow on the land I love, my friend Steve's place in South Carolina. Yay for the Poetry Project's streaming Marathon. Yay for old friends not dead yet. Yay for more chances. Yay for having lots of ideas last night in Maggie & my personal marathon of plans for the coming year, including my 2021 motto: BUST OUT. Yay for Lefty letting me sleep in. Yay to closing the door on 2020 & welcoming 2021.
Is it really almost here? It's been 2021 in Samoa for quite a while already, also Japan, New Zealand, & Thailand as I write this. The huge country of India has only one time zone. Indian Standard Time, & it's half an hour off from the rest of the world. During the British Raj, there were two, Bombay Time and Calcutta Time, but IST has been the story since 1950 (following a riotous Battle of the Clocks). It hasn't been that long since our global system of timekeeping was imposed. There's a good excuse for being late—you're in your very own time zone. In any event, happy 2021!
Well, whadda ya know? I learned that Lefty has been training us because we have let him. We think throwing a few treats at him when he wakes me in the middle of the night will shut him up. Nope, it only encourages him to keep doing what works. So last night (on the advice of the internet), I played with him before I went to bed, wore earplugs, & ignored him when he started up in the morning. It worked a treat! He didn't start in till at least 4 & I managed to sleep till almost 5, when he threw a mug at my foot. Ouch! And that was that. I think wearing him out before bed, rather than letting him nap right before bedtime, did the trick. We are taking back control! We are the adults!
Short of sleep due to my cat having trained me to get up whenever he wants, which is earlier every day. He's shaving a half hour off the alarm clock each morning. Today it was 2 a.m. Aargh. So I'm not at my most, ahem, brilliant. All I'm doing is holding on till we can get shut of 2020. Irked that this catastrophic year added insult to injury by giving us an extra day. 2021: at least it'll be shorter than 2020. How's that for a half-assed motto?
I went to bed feeling great—I did karate both Sunday & Monday & felt loose & easy for the first time in months yesterday. I read great poetry (Yehuda Amichai), listened to great music, had good talks & sent/received meaningful messages. But man, without enough sleep, the world feels chaotic & impossible.
But is it?
It's disturbing that being on the wrong side of a couple hours sleep changes everything.
I sent in all my final 2020 invoices. PITA but it's done. What else can I do this afternoon with no bandwidth? Can I concentrate enough to read?
Didn't I have something I was leading up to when I started? Maybe. But this is where my typing fingers brought me & this is where I get off for now. Zzzzzzzzzzz.