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What's going on

Much is terrible, but much isn't. We may be locked down, but we have our spacious roof & houdahs. 

I see many of my Facebook friends (& their friends) saying they're ejecting everyone who hasn't spoken up this week about what's going on with Black Lives & the police & demonstrations. I get that. You want to know who your allies are. (I most definitely have noticed the VERY few times anyone non-Jewish condemned antisemitism in the news.)


Part of me feels that it's not doing a whole lot & that if you don't already know where I stand, are you going to believe me if this is the first time I've made a speech on the subject? And if companies, cops, people aren't going to DO something, CHANGE something, is there any more to it than virtue signaling? Even the most fiery black man among my acquaintances is only now telling some of the harrowing stories from his own life. Would it have made a difference if he had said this before?


I donated to the Equal Justice Initiative. It's what I can DO. Do you also need to know what I think, when whites are being asked to listen? when so many others have been so eloquent, thoughtful, passionate? when I haven't felt that I had anything to add? 

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Poem of the Week

En Garde


He waits, he pounces

like a kitten, serious, fierce,

comic. He explains

my explanation.

This is what they do.

One man runs for a bus & a woman plays

a small accordion on the corner.

Someone calls her by name

but she is dreaming in melody

drowning in tomorrows.

We have enough

to float us to the end.

Death is as competent as a pigeon:

one task.

That's all they have

to watch out for.

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"Yes, we are OPEN"

Moishe's bakery, June 1, 2020. 

Broken glass in (apparently) Jewish businesses—Moishe's & B&H for two—is hitting me hard. I feel Krystallnacht in my guts. 


The quote in the second box is from Elie Wiesel: "I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."


I decided that too, when I once long ago didn't speak up. It was at someone else's family gathering, & I let a racist uncle go on & on. That's when I realized there's always a valid reason to keep quiet: it's his family not mine, he'll never change, did I even hear what I think I heard. I realized those weren't in fact valid reasons, just excuses.


Since then, most of the time, I simply say that I don't want to get into an argument but I do want to go on record that I don't agree, & then I try to change the subject. That usually works, (no one has ever hit me or anything,) & a couple of times people actually heard what they were saying, what they had most likely been repeating without listening to themselves for years. These days, though, it seems way more discouraging, when people I would expect to act better don't, & no one seems to be willing to listen to a different p.o.v. 


And the helicopters, & the curfew, & how broken we are. 

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Monday Quote

Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife. 

~ John Dewey 


Uh-oh, we might be in bigger trouble than I even thought. 

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The city, the country, the world

This was all there was to it on First Ave yesterday at 7, but later, it got violent here as in so many other places. My family in St Paul, like us, heard helicopters & sirens, & they also heard gunshots & smelled the smoke from burning buildings. I'm going at this bassackwards — it's not about riots or destruction, it's about the murder-by-cop of a man in Minneapolis, following thousands of similar killings. It's about the fact that infant mortality is worse for black infants than 125 years ago. It's about so much I can't even start with a personal take: no lamentation, no breastbeating, no vows, no answers.


Right now there's a dozen cops on my corner, protecting the precinct up the block. Where were they when B&H was getting its window broken last night? 


I'm not comparing property damage to loss of life, & I totally get the feeling that if black lives don't matter, why should white property? 

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Chag sameach Shavuot

Shavuot is the best holiday! We celebrate the gift of Torah, chant the book of Ruth, & eat blintzes. No matzoh, no fasting, no primitive ceremonies with branches. I have the day off except to note that I'm feeling exuberant right now. It's been a while since I felt unmixed joy & I'm stopping myself from adding any buts. 

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Art in America

Painting & image © Ron Poznicek 2020. 

Ron Poznicek, a high school friend who lives in San Francisco, is someone I admire a lot. He has painted—& improved—for decades, with his only goal, as far as I know, to do excellent work. This is just one of his many paintings that I love for its beauty & big-heartedness.


He is also a very nice person & has a twin brother. 

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In the neighborhood: Smart Alyk

It's so quiet. Birds that aren't pigeons. Shaggy lawns. Urban life begins to resemble country life. Somehow it's still (& always) New York. 

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Monday Quote

Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth:

And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth. 

~ John Milton, from Lycidas


Can you find more beautiful lines in the English language? A poem of grief & elegy seems to be just the thing at the moment, doesn't it. 

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"New York City is dead"

"Gem Spa: Thank you for making the Lower East Side great - New York City is dead" 

This is a tough one. Gem Spa was always there, unchanged. Until they stopped selling newspapers & then what was the point. I would go there after a game to run into Ted & he would walk me home, talking. It was the landmark for everything else: "around the corner from Gem Spa," "across the street from Gem Spa." Everything essential disappears & you find out things carry on. But thinner. 

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B&H's back!

That was a long two months without my favorite restaurant. My soups aren't nearly as good as theirs, & I've missed their smiling faces. Go eat there! Help them survive! 

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Poem of the Week

One Day in September 2019


I walked 14,028 steps

I deleted 307 emails

I took 6 pictures of my cat

I ate 4 vegetarian dumplings

I learned 4 sentences of Torah

I slept 7 hours

I had a dream that I forgot

I listened to Johnny laugh

I failed to get my 14-year-old granddaughter to say more than 2 words

I bought a Kindle version of Norse sages for $2.99

I walked to 39th & Lex & back

It was 85°

I bought 10 THC lozenges for $20

I am sucking one now

I racked up 278 points on Duolingo Norsk

I'm #1 in the Emerald League

In 23 hours, 4 minuts, & 14 sconds I will advance to a new overachievers' league

I am 89% happy

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In the neighborhood

I kind of love that the East Village is getting decrepit. This is the Marble Cemetery, which is usually highly groomed. I love that things are getting away from us. It reminds me of how everything was wild & dangerous when I first lived here. I guess I miss that anarchy, before gentrification descended & cleaned everything up. I think of all the people for whom this neighborhood was the bottom—my neighbors Bobby & Lucky who lived on SSI, for instance—and how they could never live here now. I learned so much from their modesty & kindness & miss the days when I met people very much not like me. But very much like me because we were overlooked & for the most part poor. 

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My brother took this picture from the sidewalk.

Here's my 96-year-old mother, still full of beans, though locked down in her nursing home in St. Paul. She's full of marbles too & has a will to live that may well mean I'll be a centenarian with a living mother. I said that to her once & she said, "Oh I don't know..." but she wasn't ruling it out.

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Monday Quote

A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. 

~ Rabindranath Tagore


This quote needs nothing from me.

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Selfish joggers

This was taped up on my block, though not for long. It's the big local (& national! maybe global?) controversy: masks. Do they work? Do they exhibit our willingness to make a sacrifice for the common cause? Do they prove that we believe whatever we read? Do they work?? If they make it hard to run, is that a good enough reason not to wear them, while we tell ourselves we are still keeping our distance? How much distance is enough? 


So many questions & each question leads to another & each answer seems to be superceded soon enough. 


I want to stop everyone & ask why they are wearing or not wearing a mask. 

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Two songs I took to heart as a youngish teen were "Angel of the Morning" & "Different Drum." Both songs about taking responsibility for our sexual choices, or that's how I read them at the time. (I realize now "Different Drum" was written by a guy (Mike Nesmith!) who was dumping a girl.) "I'm not in the market / For a boy who wants to love only me. / … I'm not ready for any person, / Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me." Merrilee Rush singing "Angel" (also written by a guy, Chip Taylor, who wrote "Wild Thing"): "There'll be no strings to bind your hands  / Not if my love can't bind your heart." I believed them. Even too young to have had sex, I knew what those songs meant & what they meant for me. I knew I could & would always do whatever the hell I wanted.


Side note: Juice Newton (with whom I share a birthday) made the other big recording of Angel, which I also like.

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In the neighborhood

They were giving out masks down by the East River (& a few other locations around town). We got there early but the line was long. To that truck. Oh wait, past the truck. To the corner. Oh no, around the corner. But once they started handing them out, it went fast & they're nice & light & don't fog up my glasses.  


I've taken to counting mask-wearers & mask-scofflaws, & it's pretty close to 50-50. I read that Dems wear, Repubs don't so here in the heavily liberal East Village, it would be quite the insult to yell an assumed political affiliation at the people who don't think it's their responsibility to flatten the curve. (Are we even still using that phrase?)
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In the neighborhood

One good thing about going for so many walks is how much I see that I never noticed before.


My name is Michael and I do women's short haircuts 

when I'm not sleeping


I do things too when I'm not sleeping but that's rare these days. I'm with you, Michael!

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Breathe... breathe...

Photo by Susan Moon. 

A photo from a place I love, Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. 


We can do this.  


Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
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Monday Quote

People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure. 

~ Russell Baker


I would like to think that's not the case but it's true that we value things once someone else looks covetously at them, from pie on a dessert plate to a boyfriend. You don't know what you've got till someone else wants it.
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TGIF? Am I close?

Anywhere, anywhen. 
Here be we in the eternal present. We all be Buddha now.  


Here be I awake possibly or maybe I be asleep. What does it look like to you?  


It may be morning & I need coffee. It may be evening & I'm done for the day. 


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This is probably the best scrabble game I've ever played. 


AGONIZE, there in the upper right, got me 113 points; the Z was on a triple letter, & I made words all the way down. I was a hundred points behind & then I was back in it, but I don't care about that—Ann & I play all the time, & it doesn't feel like one wins & one loses, just one long endless game.  


It had great words like hairline & coronas & queue ("the letter Q followed by 4 silent letters").
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Poem of the Week

Why I Am a Karateka, After 12 Years, When Everything Hurts & I've Suffered the Coup de Vieux (the Blow of Age)


I wear pajamas & go down on the floor

when the instructor says "stomach touch" &

then I do pushups.


I get bowed to & the color

belts have to know my name & I know if they don't.


I like to work hard at something I'm no good at.

I don't mind working hard at something I'm no good at.


I was the only one to do basic self-defense #2 correctly.

However, I switched my feet to match, so not only was I wrong,

I lacked the courage to be right.


The black belts laugh all the time.

We have to.

We make so many mistakes.


It was a typical class.

It was a terrific class!

As Sensai Albie would say:

That's one they can't take away.


The wood floor with 40 years of sweat & polish.

The big mirrors, where you can disappear.

My legless armless boyfriend Bob

that I can beat up!

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Remember when?

Penn Station, 1941, photo by Arnold Eagle (1909-1992). 

I'm thinking how long ago it seems that people crammed together like this. It's only a couple of months but feels like 80 years. 

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