Colony Day

September 30, 2013

Tags: Maggie Dubris

I love my office/studio but familiarity means that sometimes I can't get anything done here, despite building (well, Albie did) an Elfa shelving system that includes a second desk in the middle room, where I don't have internet and do have my poetry books at hand. It's where I work on art as opposed to work-work in the front room but at times I just can't get started.

Not long ago, my friend Maggie & I were reminiscing about how great it is to be at artist colonies, where we can devote ourselves to art with no distractions (no errands, cooking, email, and on & on). From that we came up with the concept of Colony Day, where we take half a day or so & reproduce the leisure and expansiveness of time at a retreat. The best part is that we allow ourselves to explore, not just Get Stuff Done—to read, think, & feel like we have all the time we want to do what really matters.

Never waste a virgin

September 29, 2013

Tags: Jeff Wright

This postcard from Jeff Wright's Hard Press, series 7, was published in 1978
Never Waste a Virgin

to be an artist you have to live in a little room and subsist on rice
cold-water flats are about as rare as tuberculosis
small time, hard pressed, underground, experimental
small time, hard pressed, underground, experimental

young artists are starving
the starving artist

Send $

Birthday magic

September 27, 2013

And happy birthday today to my only brother & my husband's only brother.

Williams redux

September 27, 2013

Tags: William Carlos Williams, Charles Demuth

Noticed that the firehouse on 14th St has a reproduction of the Charles Demuth painting "The Figure 5 in Gold" high up on the east wall. I love that painting; I love the Williams poem "The Great Figure" that inspired the painting; I love how both obvious & private the writing is on the painting: the name BILL at the top, along with "WCW," "Carlos," and "Art Co"; and I love that Williams had so many childhood & college friends who were also artists. It's a sort of collaboration, riffing on your friends' work. Is all inspiration a form of collaboration?


September 26, 2013

Someone in the building where Johnny works is moving to Florida & gave him a fur coat. Of course he has no idea what kind of fur, what size, what shape it's in, what style. He was pretty surprised when I didn't shudder in horror. I'm a little surprised too. I remember an ankle-length fur coat I must have gotten from a thrift store that I had in my 20s. I wore it for years till it fell off me in disgusting little pieces. It was so heavy, like wearing a sleeping bag with a friend. I'm kind of excited to have a fur coat & kind of horrified that I'm kind of excited. Can I justify wearing fur? Do I have to justify wearing fur? Will my cat freak out? Will my friends freak out?

Update: It's giant & long and a little busted up, maybe because Johnny brought it home stuffed in his backpack—he was afraid he'd get paint thrown on him. I got one "yuk, dead animal" but everyone else was fine with it.

From A to V

September 25, 2013

Tags: A.R. Ammons, Kevin Varrone, Pattie McCarthy

Spent a bit of the afternoon on a bench in the sun, reading aloud Ammons' A Tape for the Turn of the Year with Johnny. Looking forward to hearing Kevin Varrone & Pattie McCarthy tonight at the Poetry Project. It makes me happy to have so many favorite poets.

Especially when they share my birthday, as Ammons does (more…)


September 24, 2013

Tags: Carolyn Cassady, Alexandra Neil

Sad to hear about Carolyn Cassady's recent death at the age of 90. She was a charming, intelligent, adventurous, sometimes prickly friend. I knew her best in the '90s, after Alexandra Neil & I filmed her for a documentary about Jack Kerouac. I stayed with her in London a few years later, where we had a "theater orgy," as she called it. Another time, we went to a Yankees game: her first ballgame since the '40s. I took the FDR Drive up the East Side of Manhattan, a road that has caused more than one passenger to turn green with fear—I used to drive it every day, fast & careless, so I had no hesitation. As befits the wife of the best driver ever, Carolyn was as serene as a clam.

Almost the only time she snapped at me was once when I said drugs saved me— (more…)


September 23, 2013

Saw this much-recommended Chinese movie, forgetting that I don't like subtitles, don't like sound effects, don't much like martial arts in movies at least not when they're so dark you can't see what's going on, don't like when all the dialogue is in aphorisms, don't like when I can't figure out what's going on, don't like my husband shouting out random comments, don't like no car chases. I did like the credits, though.

One Night Stand

September 22, 2013

Tags: Sam Cooke

I can't remember hearing Sam Cooke (1931-64) for the first time. As a kid, we didn't do gospel, & his pop was before my time (still his music I care for least). But I have had him on constant play for at least 30 years, especially him with the gospel quartet Soul Stirrers. Along with having one of the most compelling voices in popular music, he wrote "A Change Is Gonna Come," "You Send Me," "Twistin' the Night Away," produced, pioneered & still managed to be murdered at age 33.

Possibly my all-time favorite record (not songs but a record as a whole) is One Night Stand: Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club (which is in Miami, not New York, by the way). It has King Curtis on sax & Sam singing free and dirty somewhere between (more…)

Dancers in NYC

September 20, 2013

Across 23rd Street, on the 2nd floor, in a loft empty but for a ladder, a couple waltzing. A man & a woman hearing their song.

In Union Square, Tango on the Square. Music seemed modern-classical not Spanish. Several couples danced in the pavilion, one on the pavement. [Wed & Sun, 6-9, beginners class 7-8]

On 9th St, a few young people spilling out of a bar.

I should mention that Robyn noticed all these before I did.

A walker in NYC

September 19, 2013

I took this picture for the cloud but it is NYC
As a walker’s city, New York is a place where you run into people you know (& celebrities: Dennis Quaid in Central Park! Sigourney Weaver on 57th Street! Billy Crystal in Chinatown! Bill Murray in Soho! Lou Piniella in a beautiful full-length black cashmere coat in the West 40s!).

But it’s more fun—and more frequent—to run into your friends, stop & catch up. A peephole into our everyday lives—there's X on her way to work, Y with a loaf of bread ("where'd you get it?"), Z wearing cool new shoes. A living Facebook.

And then there are the people from around the nabe that I see regularly. We recognize each other, sometimes nod, sometimes even chat (though only if something weird is going on). Those familiar unknowns are a part of the texture of every city walker's life. Once in a while, it goes a little further: I was taken to a party last winter & it turned out that the hostess was someone I chat with on the block.

OK, headed out to see what I see.

Pilates practice

September 18, 2013

Tags: Sixth Street Pilates

My brilliant Pilates instructor deserves a shoutout. I couldn't do karate if it weren't for Jeremy. He keeps me aligned and pain-free. (Well, as pain-free as it's possible for someone who does an overly active sport at possibly too advanced an age.) I crawl in & dance out. Jeremy is also a really nice person, who laughs at my semi-witticisms & is funny himself; lets me rename exercises after birds (Herr Pilates for the most part gave them boring names like Upstretch and Roll Up—we call them Ibis & Oystercatcher); and reminds me not to despair that I'm no closer to my dream of becoming a contortionist.

Almost too easy

September 17, 2013

Tags: William Carlos Williams, Hank Williams, David McGimpsey, Annabel Lee, Adam DeGraff, birthdays

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds all glazed with rain
Someone ate the plums in the fridge
I'm so lonesome I need not explain

David McGimpsey did this mashup the Williams boys, Bill & Hank, who share a birthday today. It's as good as it gets, eh?

My other favorite pair of birthday twins: Sam Cooke & Lord Byron, on January 22.

I'm kind of excited to get birthdays in here, almost 6 months before mine on February 18. I like other people's birthdays almost as much as my own. I like running into someone & finding out what day it is: it's a little gift from them to me. I like that today—and every day—is someone’s birthday.

Word of the Week

September 16, 2013

From all the nominations that have been pouring in, we have chosen SILHOUETTE as this week's Beautiful Word. Don't forget to vote! —March 11, 1969, from my column "Nauen Then" in my high-school newspaper, The Orange & Black.

Do I need to point out that my sense of humor hasn't changed, that I still swoon over favorite words, & I continue to needle people to vote?


September 15, 2013

Tags: 10Q

I love the internet. Man, you can find everything. Not just information of the sort many of us google for dozens of times a day, but inspiration, suggestions, community. Today I answered the last of 10 questions on a site called 10Q (

"Reflect. React. Renew.
"Life's Biggest Questions. Answered By You.
"Answer one question per day in your own secret (more…)

Finding my place

September 13, 2013

Tags: NYC

I was in New York City 10 minutes when I knew I would move here, live here the rest of my life, and always feel the same excitement and appreciation that I did in those first moments. That was in 1976, and so far I’ve never once imagined abandoning this city. I don’t know (more…)

Stranger in a strange land

September 12, 2013

Tags: Upper East Side

I had a short meeting on the Upper East Side this morning, after which I went home & crashed for a few hours. Something about the scrunched little faces and polished bodies up there. Or maybe it's the crazy clothing for sale—lamé with net sashes, glitter dresses, $160 socks. Could be the 90° & 190% humidity.

Black Behind Blue

September 11, 2013

* I am presently in love with Leonardo DaVinci.
I understand that he’s gay.
I also understand that he’s dead.
And that he was a paranoid dyslexic who wasn’t the first man to invent a flying machine. In fact, he was a great pretender compared to the three Banu Musa brothers of (more…)

Blue September

September 11, 2013

And I still miss someone.

Vote early, vote often

September 10, 2013

Tags: elections, citizen obligations, voting

As the middle of 5 kids, with us 3 in the middle very close in age, there wasn't a lot of alone time with either parent. That's one reason that I loved to go vote with my dad. We'd go up the block to our polling place at Sioux Falls College (more…)

Rosh Hashanah

September 9, 2013

Tags: Jewish holidays, New Year, 5774

this is me blowing during the week (which is why I have on tefillin, which we don't wear on holidays)
The laws of Rosh Hashanah come down to one: You must hear the sound of the shofar. The blasts of the shofar are intended to wake us from (spiritual) sleep, reconnect us to our religion and loved ones, and drive us to recommit to our better selves.

Blowing is a big responsibility: you are doing it on behalf of the entire congregation. There are many rules for them, such as no yawning or talking, because it is essential that they hear every sound. The blower has to have the proper intentions, and I spend a lot of time preparing to perform this mitzvah (commandment). It's not hard to get the sounds out but it's very hard to stay in the right mind. I guess that's true about everything worthwhile, no?

Some personal history

September 8, 2013

Tags: Twin Bing, Palmer Candy Company, Joe Foss, Sioux Falls, Varda

A fun thing in Sioux Falls was to go to the airport, Joe Foss Field (named after the WWII flying ace, American Football League commissioner, former governor, and possibly South Dakota’s most famous native son), and watch the plane take off or land. I’d say planes, but it wasn’t exactly a (more…)

l'Shanah Tovah

September 4, 2013

Tags: Rosh HaShanah, New Year 5774

Peaceful & healthy New Year, everybody.
Back on Sunday

The Sex Throb

September 4, 2013

Tags: Edmund Berrigan

Just found this Work o' Genius, circa 1990. Can't seem to get the rest of it up.


September 4, 2013

My foot in one of my favorite pairs of shoes
Along with some others in my family, I have what you might call an anti–foot fetish. We can't stand seeing people touch their feet and find those toe shoes that are all the rage nauseating. Herewith, some FootFacts as I try to replace disgust with fascination):


September 3, 2013

vacant lot, Lower East Side
What is so appealing about shabby? I hid on the flat roof of our garage to read. To be left alone.

Why do you smell like the ocean?

September 2, 2013

Tags: Kevin Baggott

Kevin with a poster of his wonderful early film, The Green Green Fields of Coney Island
Got the chance last night to see Kevin Baggott's new movie, Why do you smell like the ocean?, in an intimate setting (his apartment). Mysterious, beautiful, disturbing. The main character, a cop named Bobby Tierney (played by Kevin) isn't attractive or likeable, but you can't help but empathize with him, maybe even root for him. In a discussion afterwards, Kevin quoted James Cagney, who said either a character pets the dog or kicks the dog, and that's how you feel about him. Johnny said, in this case Tierney tried to kick the dog but missed.

New Orleans

September 1, 2013

Tags: Katrina, Treme, Hurricane Sandy

Late to the party, I’ve been catching up with Treme. Its post-Katrina New Orleans hits close, when I think about September 11 and last fall’s Superstorm Sandy. NOLA had it so much worse, but the East Village knew what it was like to be Little North Korea, cut off from services and concern.


September 1, 2013

Tags: English superstitions

On the first of the month, you say Rabbits (or Rabbit, Rabbit) to ensure good luck all month. My mother is from Lancashire, where this superstition originates. My siblings, cousins and I have spread it in lots of non-English areas.