Not so frivolous after all

December 31, 2014

Twice recently I've tossed off flippant remarks that were picked up & flung right back at me: challenges that burst into art. I love knowing people who can see possibilities, love being goaded to do more, do better.

Fast away the old year passes

December 30, 2014

Another one bites the dust.

And we're still here.

Here's to art, joy, adventure, the highwire, croissants, love, friendship & so much more.


December 29, 2014

I'm putting together a cento to read at the Poetry Project's New Year's Day Marathon (come! it'll be great! starts at 2 goes on till 150 poets have read/performed), & I remembered this one, which I wrote long before Rodriguez's troubles began. I don't even remember why this was for him, I guess his name sounded appropriate, like a Greek column. I mean, I don't remember ever loving him.

A Cento from the Greek Anthology

Let no mortal even seek to be a god
O blessed man
If I love boys, what is that to the muses of Helidon?
May Dio warm this your horn, that hits its target well
The fine sturdy Heracles club laments because it is polluted by your shoulders
This thing, which before stayed unbending, is now flabbier than a boiled carrot
Ever may the ivy that adorns the stage dance with soft feet over thy polished monument
Tears, the last gift of my love
A little dust of the earth is enough for me

Remembrance of flings past

December 28, 2014

My best-ever title & I've never used
Even though that's what all my poems are

A little more bioluminescence

December 26, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence

Hundreds of fireflies may settle on a tree and flash in synchrony, all blinking on, then going dark over several seconds. Is their blinking governed by a single controller? This can be seen in southeast Asia and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


December 26, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence

Brainbow transgenic mouse hippocampus
I admit I do not understand a lot of this book (Bioluminescence, by Thérèse Wilson and J. Woodland Hastings), since I have zero background in biochemistry, but I'm fascinated by the topic. The picture (left, from the book) is of cells in a mouse's brain, colored by fluorescent proteins in random mixtures that make it possible to see each cell and its branching processes.

Fun facts about bioluminescence:
* It occurs primarily in marine organisms.
* It functions as defense, offense, (more…)

Why Jews love Christmas II

December 25, 2014

* And because we have absolutely nothing to do today. Because we don't have to get dressed till 4 in the afternoon, if at all.
* And because if you're lucky, your sister sent you a big tin of homemade shortbread. Mmmmmm!

Why Jews love Christmas

December 24, 2014

A guitar dressed for the season
* We like to sing Christmas carols, and we know all the words. We're OK with saying Jesus and we replace "Christ" with "Chrysler," so we're OK with singing that too.
* No family melodrama.
* No need to travel at this time of year.
* Time & a half because we don't mind working.
* Chinese food & movies.
* We love our non-Jewish brethren, who might be celebrating sincerely.
* Strings of lights, the smell of fir & balsam, presents.
* The Yule Log on TV!

Happy anniversary, JSEN

December 23, 2014

We've actually been together more than 30 years but this was when we finally tied the knot.
There's a thing that if you're born on, say, the 18th of the month, your "golden birthday" is when you turn 18. My youngest sister's the only person I know who knows this. But if it's true, today is my (our) golden anniversary: 23 years married on the 23rd of December. I was happy then but I'm radiant now. It gets better. So lucky.

We take turns being in charge of celebrating. I always leave things to the last minute, so it's gonna be dinner & that's about it.

[Note that yesterday I couldn't get into site-builder so was unable to post.]

A really good day

December 21, 2014

Luke, 11
My Torah chanting was fine, the brand-new shul publication I edited got a shoutout (& got mailed out while it's still Hanukkah), & there were latkes at kiddush. In the afternoon I went to a wonderful East Village party, full of familiar faces from the 'hood & a few people I know, in a great high-ceilinged apartment on St Mark's Place; more latkes. Late pizza with my wonderful, adorable, smart, fun, affectionate grandson Luke; man, I love that kid—the main reason I had a good day.

That was yesterday. Now it's the shortest day of the year; they'll start getting longer tomorrow all the way into June. I worked out early, and am going to knock off some $$ work before it's due. I called my mother, deleted emails. Getting ready for 2015 (& very ready to see the end of crappy ol' '14).

Grass & Essig

December 19, 2014

Tags: Matilda Essig

Having grown up in eastern South Dakota, I feel a love & affinity for the native plants of the prairie, most of which are some type of grass. It's difficult to get folks from elsewhere to appreciate how beautiful, various, & subtle grasses can be. But not obvious: you can spend a long time imagining that the prairie is monochromatic, but if you keep looking, all the variety and color suddenly jumps. We had lawns, sure, but we also had wild mixes of grama, bluestem, clover, pasque (the state flower), and many others that I didn't (& don't) know the name of.

I feel such hope today, because the brilliant & patient artist & Philadelphia native Matilda Essig (an old friend I recently reconnected with) does get it. She's restoring 5 acres of damaged grasslands in Arizona, and her art these days is intense closeups of grass: big enough that even the impatient can see. I've been reading & rereading a piece she wrote (link is in photo caption). (more…)

The fascinating Arctic

December 18, 2014

Tags: Arctic

When Commander Robert Peary telegraphed President Taft in 1909 that he had "put the North Pole at your disposal," the president responded: "Thanks for your interesting and generous offer. I do not know exactly what I could do with it." These days he would, no doubt, but wouldn't be allowed to claim the North Pole, any more than the Russians were when they tried to in 2007, by dropping a flag in the seabed at 90° North (quite a technical achievement, if not a (more…)

Thinking. Wow.

December 17, 2014

Random photo of Buster (guaranteed to improve any post)
I've had 2 days where I've had to pay attention like crazy to a number of projects. Now I'm beat. Why does concentrating take so much out of me? It's exhausting but also exhilarating.

Better Blogging Before Long.

Happy Hanukkah

December 17, 2014

Ain't they sweet?
My Chabad friends brought me a jelly doughnut. They don't speak much English & I don't speak any Hebrew or Yiddish, but we manage. Sometimes we use Google translate. Sometimes we have inspired conversations. Sometimes I try to convince them that women should be able to do whatever they want, & they tell me women are special. None of them has ever been to a movie. Our worlds are so different, except for the affection and love of Judaism, all in our own ways. I wish I were as open-hearted and tireless.

Jazz embarrassment

December 16, 2014

Tags: Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie

I remember Roy Eldridge's birthday (January 30) but only because it's the same as a friend's who's also a musician. I only ever heard of Eldridge because I knew his girlfriend or secretary, & his name was mentioned in that "he's someone" way. I once was in an elevator with Dizzy Gillespie. Only after he (more…)

The Tompkins Square Poems VI

December 15, 2014

Tags: The Tompkins Square Poems

6. Laundry

What’s the calm response to my clothes still cool & damp?

= Put in another quarter

It’s not a nickelodeon. It’s not for pleasure. It’s not an El Camino. It’s not LSD.

And here’s the lady who yelled at me.

= Ignore her. It’ll be over in 8 minutes.

That’s what he said.

Tonight I’ll sleep. Things are blurry. It’s not a gospel plow, it’s not even a little knife.

Today's photo, day 6

December 14, 2014

It's fall still, & I am happy to have found a leaf that's changed color, this reminder of the natural world.

Today's photo, day 5

December 12, 2014

I took this picture from the bus, going east on 8th Street. It caught my eye because of the operatic little balcony and the daytime lights. I had a European moment seeing it: Lisbon maybe, or Berlin, not New York.

Today's photo, day 4

December 11, 2014

Women's lockerroom, Seido karate
I did take some photos of people. Meet Grace & Sheena, who are in my junior karate class. Grace is a white belt who's about to promote to blue and Sheena's a blue belt. I love that when you say to kids, Can I take your picture, they stop & beam at you. You can see Yukie in the mirror.

Today's photo, day 3

December 10, 2014

Fence, Ludlow Street
I thought I would be taking pictures of interesting New Yorkers but I find myself more drawn to buildings, shapes, structures. I've always been one for shabby: I used to think the job for me would be to drive a Greyhound between San Antonio & Laredo at the border in south Texas: I took that bus once & the threadbare landscape appealed to me so much. This cats-cradle fence has that same organic, relaxed scruffiness, its scars unhidden, here long enough to be part of the scene, honest. It didn't bother to clean up but that doesn't mean it didn't bother to be beautiful.

Today's photo, day 2

December 9, 2014

Ferrantino Fuel, Lower East Side
New York on fire

Today's photo, day 1a

December 8, 2014

I realize the first photo might only look out of focus, so I am adding this Seurat version of the NYC skyline north of the Williamsburg Bridge.

My intention, however, is not beauty or unusualness but VISION. Does this count, even if it's an accident of camera?

Today's photo, day 1

December 8, 2014

We went to Queens yesterday. I did kind of get why people from New York go to Spain or England but not South Dakota or Oklahoma: it's different but not exotic, far away but not different, familiar but not home. Not a vacation destination.

I like this photo because it looks like it's snowing even though it's not. That means I didn't really see anything new (my intention for the week) but instead tried to make New York conform to my desires. That's not something I usually bother with, since it's clearly not possible. Did Ed Koch or Philippe Petit want it more than I do?

A gal, a plan, a camera

December 7, 2014

It came to me yesterday, out of nowhere: I will take one interesting photograph every day for a week. I will look around me. I will see something I might have missed. I will post photo + caption/poem/musing.

Also, I will start tomorrow. We are going to dinner in exotic Queens this afternoon, which I have no doubt will be brimming with photographical exotica.

We can't breathe

December 5, 2014

We can't understand how or why this could happen. By "we can't understand," we mean we are miserable & angry. We can't comprehend this grand jury. By "we can't comprehend," we mean we can't breathe. We can't stand the nakedness of the racist contempt, that they (all those theys) assume they can get away with it. "They." "It." As someone said about the elections last month, I went to sleep in 2014 & woke up in 1954.

A poem I guess I wrote

December 4, 2014

Tags: Cliff Fyman, Anselm Berrigan, James Schuyler

I don't remember this poem at all. Cliff just sent it to me, saying I wrote it in his kitchen in 1980. It reminds me of when I came up with a scheme to pay people to write my poems for me. I think Wanda Phipps (?) still owes me a poem; or Jocelyn Lieu? I paid someone in advance (a dollar) that they never delivered on. Anselm wrote this brilliant little work, which includes family & poetic lineage:

Girlfriends of the future —
You didn’t marry Johnny Stanton —
I did.

But remember, I paid him (I hope I did) so it's MY POEM. He only wrote it. Anyway, here's a poem I wrote all by myself (apparently): (more…)

My day (Wednesday)

December 3, 2014

There's always that weird balancing between the small but great satisfactions: the Chrysler building shining as I walk toward it up Second Avenue; buying Kitty Kaviar for my spoiled Buster; the hope that this version of sweet risotto (OK, rice pudding) in the crockpot will come out better—& thanks to Cookie for informing me (more…)

My day

December 2, 2014

Tags: Steve Willis

December in Steve Willis's gorgeous calendar
Actually, I don't remember much of what I did today. Worked on a project. Visited my neighbor & her cat, Chester. Did my laundry. Ran on the treadmill. Waited. Ate a salad a minute ahead of the lettuce melting into mold. Read some of Barbara Tuchman's Proud Tower, about the decades before World War I. Tried to renew Wide Sargasso Sea; on hold so I have to finish it today rather than savoring it a few pages at a time. Turned the calendar to its last page of 2014. Oh, what am I going to do for 2015 (hint, hint)? (more…)

Time and Again, again

December 1, 2014

I remembered so little I may as well not have read it before. I certainly didn't recall any of the most dramatic events, nor did I catch how sour and defeatist Jack Finney's outlook really is. Time and Again is the opposite of utopian. He hates the modern world & drops out into the 1880s, (more…)