City flora

October 31, 2013

11th Ave & 23rd St
Nice to be reminded that even in Manhattan there are lots of pretty growing things

The Ashbery collection

October 30, 2013

Tags: Ashbery, Brainard, Johnny, Larry Rivers, Freilicher

a Freilicher peonies
What a treat to spend a little time this afternoon at the Loretta Howard Gallery, way west on 26th St, looking at some of the art (and bric-a-brac) John Ashbery has collected over the years. Unsurprisingly (for an art critic), he has good taste: there are several Joseph Cornells (not my faves, except for one that's a plain almost empty, weathered box called "The Storm that Never Came"), and works by Henry Dargar, Joe Brainard, Trevor Winkfield, de Kooning (both Willem & Elaine), Joan Mitchell (Johnny's favorite), and a beautiful Jane Freilicher "Peonies"—probably the single work I most would want.

Except wow things really cost a lot. "Inflation," Johnny snorted. Hey we have Brainards at our house. Johnny also had a little drawing Larry Rivers did as a cover sketch for Johnny's novel Mangled Hands, but he lost it.

Well-chosen excerpts from Ashbery's poems make it homey, as in You Are There in his pad. The show is there till November 2.

My advice is

October 29, 2013

Don't ever get in an accident, because not only does it hurt but you will have to talk to insurance companies for the rest of your life, and you might cry, and you might see steam coming out of your ears you will be so angry, and you might get so exhausted that you can't do any of the fun things that you are put here to do.

Wildness and woe

October 28, 2013

Tags: Stanley Booth, Rythm Oil, Southern music, blues

One of the best books on Southern music I've read is Rythm Oil, by Stanley Booth.

Not just music but the 1950s onward, what it's like to hang with musicians like Furry Lewis and his wife Versie, ZZ Top, and Keith Richards, or go to the funeral of Mississippi John Hurt as a sort of insider (he was asked to speak).

Booth is a good reporter & researcher: for example, this quote from a Memphis pianist about Phineas Newborn Jr: "He had a boogie-woogie left hand, a bebop right hand, and this... third hand." A good writer too, describing Newborn's style as that of Secretariat or the young Muhammad Ali. "He could think of things to do that no one else had ever done, and then he would do them." Maybe my favorite moment is when he says to Fred Ford, "I can't believe I'm sittin' next to the man who barked like a dog at the end of Big Mama Thornton's 'Hound Dog.'" And Fred Ford says, "I was gonna meow like a cat, but it was too hip for 'em."

Elvis, B.B. King, Janis and so many more are respectfully and appreciatively described. He knows his stuff! The Trumpeteers, man!

Lou Reed

October 27, 2013

Tags: Lou Reed

What a year for people dying. But Lou Reed! Seems unlikely, more than anything. I saw him perform in London in 1979 (I'm pretty sure that was the first time), & around town in subsequent years. He was our downtown Mick Jagger. As present & obvious as Katz's Deli. I bet half the people I know (more…)

Coming Clean

October 25, 2013

Tags: hoarding

Just finished a memoir about hoarding, Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller. Remarkable that she grew up in the chaos of her father's mental illness, in filth & fleas, yet still loved her parents staunchly, protectively, sweetly.

Could her dad help it? Alcoholics stop drinking, gamblers stop lighting their money on fire. An interesting take on this is (more…)

Walker Evans & Magritte at MoMA

October 24, 2013

Tags: Walker Evans, Magritte, MoMA

Joe's Auto Graveyard, near Bethlehem, PA, 1936 (the picture itself says 1935)
Dropped by MoMA this afternoon to breeze through two shows & look even more briefly at a couple of others (Hopper, a chair made of white corrugated paper).

Luckily, Johnny's a member so the claustrophobia was a little lessened by getting waved through the long lines. I found it hard to be alone with the art when there was so little space to stare & absorb.

Predictably I liked Walker Evans's junkyards & old cars the best. As I've written before, I find shabby to be both soothing & inspiring. (more…)


October 23, 2013

Tags: Frank Lima, Tom Clark

OK, I'm not going to make this blog a rolodex of the dead, but want to note that the poet Frank Lima died a day or two ago. "Raw, gritty, nervy and switchblade-quick," as Tom Clark called him, he was born in Spanish Harlem in 1939, and accidentally fell into poetry while in drug rehab. After that it fell out of him dangerous & gorgeous.

LK redux

October 22, 2013

It's 40 years—October 22, 1973—since one of my closest friends died. Lucy Kerschberger was 22, in London on a Marshall fellowship, and apparently had an aneurysm. She was a talented writer with a throaty chuckle that belied her fragile blond prettiness. I still feel such pangs of sorrow, but no longer know if it's for the (more…)

Lawrence Klein (1920–2013)

October 22, 2013

Tags: Lawrence Klein

Noting the death today of Lawrence Klein, 93. In 1980, the year he won the Nobel in Economics, I was working for someone who was working for Klein at the Wharton School in Philly. The Phillies were in a pennant race that year, and in a great examples of first things first, the headline in one of the Philadelphia papers ran: "Phillies Fan Wins Nobel Prize."

Cousins rock (I)

October 21, 2013

Tags: cousins

I love my cousins, and I love the idea of cousins: people you're closely related to but with enough of a distance to ensure politeness. Cousins have the resemblances and antecedents of siblings, without the in-fighting.I have five first cousins, but innumerable more at one, two or more removes. We all call each other FC ("favorite cousin"). Another pleasure is the many cross-generational friendships among my cousins. I have quite a few courtesy cousins, too, people who are family enough to merit that designation.

Today is my sister Varda's birthday. She would be my main FC if she were my cousin. And that's as good as I can do.

Men & rape

October 20, 2013

Slate has been debating: is it "victim blaming" to tell women to be careful, don't get drunk & all that? Shouldn't we, rather, address the rapists & a culture that tells (white) men they are more important than anyone else? (Does it have to be one or the other?)

If men rape because they feel entitled (more…)

Books! Magazines! Small press!

October 18, 2013

cover of the O'Hara is by Larry Rivers (95c from "Totem Press in association with Corinth Books")
Johnny just brought over 3 boxes of materials that had been in storage for over 25 years where he used to work.

Mag City, Hard Press, Telephone, Big Sky: lots of small press mags. Some much older treasures too: early works by Michael Brownstein, Tom Clark, Ron Padgett. Many I've never seen before. All in good condition.

Now that they've been wrapped in tissue paper all this time, I feel reluctant to put my grimy paws on them.


October 17, 2013

Tags: Republicans, Paul Gallico

"We managed to divide ourselves on something we were unified on, over a goal that wasn't achievable," said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. —from today's New York Times.

This is so obvious, even if you were barely paying attention, that one wonders how they could be so oblivious. It's amazing how bad at their jobs so many of these guys are. No wonder so many people figure they may as well run for Congress.

There's a book by Paul (Snow Goose) Gallico called Mrs. 'arris Goes to Parliament, in which the parties collude on who they both want as MP so they throw a charlady in as a sure loss. She wins, however, but quits soon after, once she realizes there's more to the job than just being elected.


October 16, 2013

Tags: B&H Kosher Dairy Restaurant, breakfast

This is the remains of my breakfast this morning at B&H, the best diner in the world. Mmmm, challah french toast—although today I had an apple-cheddar omelette. Almost the first people to visit Johnny in the hospital last year were Mike & Leo, who every day would send Johnny a juice or a sandwich, along with great love & concern. I finally had to threaten never to come in again unless they let me pay.

My exciting friends

October 15, 2013

Tags: Andrei Codrescu, Sparrow

Here's what two excellent & essential poets are up to:

A Review, an Interview, and Poems by Andrei Codrescu at the link under his photo, from the LA Review of Books. Go there & read everything, OK?

And a hilarious & deep interview with Sparrow at (sorry, you have to paste in the link)

I'd say more but I have to go get a manicure—


October 15, 2013

Tags: Inez Haynes Gillmore, Maida

Quite by chance, I ran across this remarkable title in the catalogue of the New York public library:

Janey: Being the Record of A Short Interval in the Journey through Life and the Struggle with Society of A Little Girl of Nine, in Which She Repudiates Her Duties as An Amateur Mother, Snares the Most Blundering of Birds, Successfully Invades Grub Street, Tracks the Smallest and Blindest of Gods, Peers behind the Veil of the Seen into the Unseen, Interprets the Great Bard, Grubs at the Root of All Evil, Faces the Three Great Problems, Birth, Death, Love, and Finally, in Passing through the Laborious Process of Becoming Ten, Discovers the Great Illusion.

is by a writer I (thought I) had never heard of, Inez Haynes Gillmore. Turns out she was a feminist leader and political activist, who lived to be 97 (1873-1970). She was a co-founder of the National Collegiate Equal Suffrage League and a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Women’s Party. (more…)


October 14, 2013

Tags: Herman Melville

If Melville had written only Typee (& Omoo, I suppose), what would we think of him now? An entertaining writer who gave us an intriguing peep at 19th-century life in Polynesia? But a writer of no especial promise, not someone who would blow our minds a few years later with Moby Dick. What the hell happened?

Feet up, ahhhhhh

October 13, 2013

Kinda liked having a day where I didn’t so much as get dressed. I did sit in Maggie’s Breakfast Nook, on the fire escape, with my coffee and a book, but other than that, I lay around. Today it’s back to activities and obligations, renewed by the rest.


October 11, 2013

billboard on 1st Avenue
Elinor Nauen at night? That would be an oversize t-shirt & fuzzy socks. Black? Goes without saying. This is the East Village.

Worship opportunity on my block

October 10, 2013

Tags: Gene Rebeck

Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection
This beautiful church is around the corner from me. (Sorry: the photo doesn't do it justice at all.) I've been in there once or twice. I don't know much about Eastern (Russian) Orthodoxy, just that there are no pews—you stand for the whole service, which isn't short.

The thing about New York is that everything you want is here, with the obvious non-urban exceptions. Sometimes it seems like that "everything" is right on my block. This beautiful church, Anthology Film Archives, celebrity restaurants, Manhattan Mini Storage, Gringers Appliances, the late Boca Chica, East Village Radio, and more—they're all on this one block (1st & 2nd aves between 1st & 2nd streets & vice versa).

Where I've Lived

October 9, 2013

812 W 23rd: When we lived there, it was dark gray with red trim.
My friend Avery told me she'd lived in 22 places by the time she was 20. Here's my history:
Born at 1503 S. Summit Avenue, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

When I was 11 or 12, we moved kitty-corner across the street to 812 W. 23rd.

Left at 18 for Snyder-Phillips Hall (part of the residential college Justin Morrill, which was actually pretty cool, even tho I hated college & dropped out ASAP)

The House in Severn, MD, which I shared with a bunch of Air Force guys I met at an antiwar demonstration in D.C.

Briefly back to Michigan & then Sioux Falls, where I bought Ernest, a 1950 Dodge schoolbus, which I lived in for the next year in Sioux Falls, Rapid City (SD), Denver, Boulder & Longmont, Colorado.

Then LeRoy, a 1954 Ford F-100, on which we built (more…)


October 8, 2013

Tags: Robert Louis Stevenson

When Doug & Alice moved to Paris in 1992, Alice gave me a fancy coat, a hand-me-down from Lita Hornick, & a book of Troubador poems; Doug gave me a set of the works of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), 26 volumes published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1903. As with the Encyclopedia Britannica, I know that I could get the complete Stevenson on my iPod for a buck or 2, but these are beautiful & pristine and make me wonder who else besides Doug ever opened them.

Stevenson, by the way, is a really good writer, who had pretty enlightened politics. Yesterday in Across the Plains, he deplored the prejudice against the Chinese ("Their forefathers watched the stars before mine had begun to keep pigs") and Indians ("a chapter of injustice and indignity such as a man must be in some ways base if his heart will suffer him to pardon or forget"). (more…)


October 7, 2013

The difference between young and old is when you're young and sick, you say you feel sick, and when you're old and sick, you say you feel old.


October 6, 2013

Tags: Becky Caselli, snow, South Dakota, Steve Willis

OK, the snow is out in western South Dakota, but it means my favorite weather is on its way here too. They had 2' in Rapid City, almost 4' up in Lead, in the Black Hills.

And I'm happy to be still in touch with so many of my friends from high school (and junior high and grade school). There’s so much that feels rootless in my life, but one thing that can’t be taken away is my past.

Although that's not true if you've been lied to, according to an op-ed in the Times: "Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history. Like a computer file corrupted by a virus, their life narrative has been invaded. Memories are now suspect: what was really going on that day? Compulsively going over past events in light of their recently acquired (and unwelcome) knowledge, such patients struggle to integrate the new version of reality. For many people, this discrediting of their experience is hard to accept."

Hey wait, I'm simply happy to think about the beautiful snowfall: I remember sitting on the porch of the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood, watching a thick but not serious snow falling on the spruce hills across the way, so warm that sitting outdoors was a delight.

It is what it was.

The pleasures of inefficiency

October 4, 2013

Tags: Ann Rupel, Encylopædia Britannica, Tennyson, Auden, Byron

Someone was giving away a complete, almost unopened set of the 1957 Encyclopædia Britannica, in 24 volumes. What a score! Several friends wondered why I would take up so much space when all that information is online and up to date. (I have the online version on my iPod Touch.) The difference is that the books send me the long and serendipitous way.

I may have gone to Volume 21 (Sord to Texas) to bone up on Terrellas (sadly, not there) but I got, or didn't get, there by way of Tapeworms (yuk), the Stamp Act (George Grenville, 1765), and Tennyson: "He became the victim of a certain 'earnest-frothy' speculator, who induced him to ... invest in a 'Patent Decorative Carving Company'; in a few months, the whole scheme collapsed, and Tennyson was left penniless." Which reminded me of Auden calling Tennyson "undoubtedly the stupidest" English poet, which in turn reminded me of Byron's savage "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," which made me wonder why poets today all get along.

Thank a farmer

October 3, 2013

Tags: Shannon Anderson Boll Kotila

Being from a farm state, I'm interested in where our food comes from. (I mean, everyone is, right? at least to some extent.) Even so, as a kid, I rarely saw vegetables that weren't wrapped in plastic: South Dakota grows corn & soybeans, not fruits & veggies. I can't think of any truck farms around Sioux Falls, although we used to drive way across town to an occasional farmers market; but what did we buy? (As an aside, the one summer my mother had a little garden, she grew potatoes.)

Now I live in NYC, with frequent access to farmers markets that sell everything you can eat (emu eggs, purple carrots, heirloom tomatoes, you name it), wool from their own goats, meat, eggs, wheatgrass, maple syrup, honey from the beekeepers, & on & on. It's expensive, no doubt, & what would make it better would be lots more farmers growing lots more healthy food for lots more people.

Well, that isn't likely to happen, according to a piece in the Times. Here's an excerpt:

Twin Bings!

October 2, 2013

Tags: Varda, Twin Bing, Sally Mara Sturman, Ron Poznicek, Tim Wiles

The Bingelbumpf bowl, in front of a South Dakota landscape by my high-school classmate Ron Poznicek
My sister Varda had the artist Sally Mara Sturman make this bowl for my birthday last year. You can't see that around the inside it says "The Great Game of Bingelbumpf," which is a card game Vee & I invented 15 or 20 years ago. There are endless rules (which are printed on the outside of the bowl). These madden most people. The only four people to ever play Bingelbumpf willingly even eagerly are me, Vee, our sister Lindsay, & our brother Charlie. Others (et tu, Lara?) bizarrely claim that we make things up as we go along, which only seems to be the case because we can't remember all the rules from game to game. What the hell was Fujitsu Fujitsu Fujitsu? Tim Wiles remembers it as the central rule, but we have lost it altogether.

Guns 'n' kids

October 1, 2013

I have been mulling over "Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll," part of a New York Times series called Bearing Arms: Examining the gun industry’s influence and the availability of firearms in America. This article found that there are considerably more "innocent victims than official records show," that is, "Children shot accidentally—usually by other children—are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable."

Honestly, I don't even know how to think about this in any way that is sympathetic to (more…)