Hot fudge

May 31, 2015

A page from my first book, CARS & other poems. Long-lost Sam on the left, & me age 19, dressed for a hippie wedding.
When I was an 18-year-old hitchhiker, I had a mission: to find the best hot fudge sundae in the world (really, the Midwest). I ran out of appetite pretty early on, having never really been a collector, but not before the prize went to a diner on the outskirts of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

It was good to have a goal.

Some things were easier then. For example, no one had invented multitasking.

Some things were harder. At least now I no longer have to decide whether to keep studying Sanskrit (nope), become a cobbler (good heavens, not anymore), break up with so-and-so (yes! what was I thinking? yes!). (more…)

Poem: "September 9, Whole Foods"

May 29, 2015

September 9, Whole Foods
             “In the dawn, armed with a burning patience, we shall enter the splendid Cities.” —Rimbaud

hot here


a breeze flies by

cafeteria roomy
they don’t bother you

“Someone stole your bag while you were in the john.
You didn’t say (more…)

Laundry, Lower East Side

May 28, 2015

I miss the days when my neighborhood was raggedy & people just hung up their underwear to dry, unconcerned about looking good every second. Now I'm just an invisible lady with gray hair that the cute girls knock into while texting. Wait! I'm not complaining! (I'm on Complaint Restraint this month.) It is what it is. Shabby always makes me happy & I loved seeing this the other night in an Allen Street backyard.

Little beings of pure spirit

May 27, 2015

Tags: Hummingbirds

I've had a line stuck in my head since I was a teen: "little beings of pure spirit whose normal body temperature is 125°." It's from Salinger's Seymour: An Introduction, & I have no idea why it's followed me all these years, anymore than I know why I remember the words to "Winchester Cathedral" or the birthdays of half the kids in my second grade class. He's talking about birds.

Scientists can now tell us (more…)

My new favorite place

May 26, 2015

Tags: Kevin Varrone, Pattie McCarthy, Philadelphia

McCarthy-Varrone house
I spent Sunday in Philadelphia. LOVED it. I can't think of the last time I was there—it must be 15 or 20 years. Everyone was so friendly, the poetry scene is supportive & enthusiastic while of the highest artistic standards (too many to name), everyone knows everyone in a comfortable & seemingly non-incestuous way. And it's only 2 hours away on the $20 (roundtrip!) bus that's just a few blocks from me.

Kevin Varrone & Pattie McCarthy host an occasional reading in their barn, their kids run around announcing that "more poets have arrived!," he cooked all day long, everyone has a car, Shanna Compton is an amazing poet to read with, I felt happy & welcomed.

Philadelphia, I'll be back!

Off to Philly for the day

May 24, 2015

Back on Monday.

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan! Happy birthday, Queen Victoria! Happy birthday, Brooklyn Bridge! And Annie, Greg et al.

Not Monday, Tuesday. Monday's a holiday.


May 22, 2015

Tags: Frank O'Hara

Is a poem still good if you have to hit the listener or reader over the head with how good it is? Does every poem have to work the first time you read it? Frank O'Hara's “The Day Lady Died” has never failed before but when I read it to a couple of non–poetry lovers, they merely paused politely & went on with a different conversation. Maybe it was the way I read it? Maybe all those details are no longer evocative?

Starr turn

May 21, 2015

Tags: Alta Starr, Gibney, somatics

I'm a fan & friend of Alta Starr, who I knew first as a funder of social justice projects. Her latest career is called Generative Somatics: "The mission of generative somatics is to grow a transformative social and environmental justice movement—one that integrates personal and social transformation, creates compelling alternatives to the status quo (more…)

A map

May 20, 2015

I turned an engineering text into line-broke verse and everybody clapped.

I was 20 and knew nothing.

We created Maria Mancini with no idea of being in a thousand-year tradition of personae.

All that I didn’t know, I did.

English as a second language

May 19, 2015

Why do use the past tense in “I went to the beach this morning”? Surely this morning is not the past! Merce explained to her class (Spanish speakers learning English, taught in Barcelona) that you do so many things on vacation that even this morning feels like long ago, hence the past tense.

The nuances of past, present & future: (more…)


May 18, 2015

My friend Abel came by to say fins aviat on his way home to Spain. He's a Bukowski scholar who got in touch a few years ago because we'd featured a nude Bukowski on our 1978 KOFF calendar. He gave me a copy of a book he edited, Bukowski on Cats, 1 of 3 (on writing, on (more…)

Thinking about voting

May 17, 2015

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936
I worked on a project the other day that is about getting more states to use vote-by-mail (VBM) by accepting digital signatures—which the IRS & many other federal and state governments do. I know that in the three states that are entirely VBM, many more people vote. I know it’s the future (as are all things digital).

But… among my earliest & most treasured memories is that of (more…)


May 15, 2015

We wandered into a huge park near the Prado, where we took our shoes off & fell asleep on the grass, then found this rose garden. The wildly trained arbors were the loveliest part, the combo of art & artlessness, of small & tall.

Likewise, Spain was a perfect combination of activity (mostly walking all day & admiring the architecture) & indolence—long dinners.

According to Merce, a Spanish expression we don't have is sobremesa (on or over the table), meaning that after the plates are cleared away is when people really settle in for conversation. Here, once our meal is done, we are expected to pay the check and get going. I began to enjoy letting myself lounge over a meal once I realized no one was trying to get rid of me.

Palace of Music, Barcelona

May 14, 2015

My first favorite place in Barcelona was the Palace of Music. I found an apartment for sale across the street, but it felt a little too much like St Marks Place. Merce, my friend from Barcelona who now lives near Girona, said the acoustics are amazing & she goes to many concerts there. It's sometimes stunning to realize that the world is full of complete cities. I'm no Hank Snow—I've by no means been everywhere.

My block

May 13, 2015

We interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue to recount what I saw and heard on my block yesterday:
* A giant turtle gobbling lettuce; its shell must have been 3' across.
* A guy on a unicycle on the sidewalk.
* Someone saying earnestly: "be fair to the nation."

I love 5th Street!

The demotic

May 12, 2015

Tags: Barcelona

Alisa bought eyedrops here, a very old shop, on the Ramblas in Barcelona. I like the pictures I took of people, businesses, unremarkable buildings better than those of La Familia Sagrada, Gaudí's masterpiece cathedral, which look like postcards, except out of focus.

I like churches, don't get me wrong, but I'm interested in people, what they do, what they say, what they want.

Famous for oranges

May 10, 2015

Tags: Spain

Naturally I was thrilled to be in Seville, because it's where Byron's Don Juan was born, & thrilled to see many trees full of oranges, all out of reach alas (I'd need to be 6 feet tall or have a stool). I did buy this little oil on pressed board painting to hand over my desk & remind me of our trip. I also bought a little bottle of bitter orange perfume but it gave me a rash. The Moorish tiles were pretty wonderful too.


May 10, 2015

The river Onyar, Girona, Spain
This is the place in Spain I want to go back to. I could get a little room, take immersion Catalan, walk around the 14th-century stones. Part of it, for sure, is my good friend Merce, who lives nearby in the village of Romanyà de la Silva. Part of it is that it's a slower-paced version of Barcelona. I can see myself walking the same streets every day, running into Merce or Isabella, eating the best potato omelette that I had in Spain at the same restaurant. I saw the old Jewish quarter & the birthplace of the scholar Nachmanides (the Ramban), red flowers in pots on windowsills, and many Catalan separatist flags.

Denise McCluggage (1927–2015)

May 8, 2015

Known for her polka dot helmet
Farewell to one of my heroes, the writer & racer Denise McCluggage. Her 88 years were packed with adventures and firsts. She raced at Sebring & elsewhere, beating such drivers as Stirling Moss. She was a sportswriter for major newspapers in the 1950s when that was, needless to say, practically unheard of for a woman. She knew Steve McQueen as a fellow MG owner, was married to actor Mike Conrad, went everywhere, did everything the hell she felt like.

She was also incredibly generous. I contacted her (of course) when I was putting together (more…)


May 7, 2015

I intended to stay in Spain in this blog for as long as possible but got derailed by Johnny having to have an angiogram & stent. Too much hospital of late, & I'm exhausted, but my question is: am I supposed to tell people? Is it the kind of thing one's family should be told as (more…)


May 6, 2015

Tags: Gaudí

La Familia Sagrada
So much of Barcelona is about Gaudí, of course. His architecture professor said, We have just graduated either a madman or a genius. His genius lies as much in getting someone to pay for his crazy schemes as the work itself. It still seems so far out—I can only imagine how it struck Spaniards of a hundred years ago.

A Spanish friend told me this afternoon that the Japanese tried to buy this giant unfinished cathedral, with the intention of dismantling it, shipping it to Japan, and recreating it there. I couldn't find any confirmation of that but did learn that "Japanese general public discovered Gaudi in 1980 by an advertising film made in Park Güell, for the Japanese whisky mark Yamasaki, of the Suntory group close to Osaka. And since then the Japanese invade Barcelona."

Still a little jet-lagged, more on Gaudí to come—this wasn't even my favorite of his buildings.

Eating in Spain

May 5, 2015

Our first night in Spain we ate at El Glop, which was on our street, San Lluis in the Gracia district. I had crispy grilled skinny asparagus, and Alisa & Robyn shared paella. My most polished sentence in Catalan was "I don't eat meat, ham, or fish" but it didn't always help. Even when I was assured that a dish was vegetables only, it often had bits of ham. I ate potato omelets, plenty of vegetables, toast with butter & jam, excellent coffee, & my new favorite drink: tinto de verano, a sort of wine cooler.

Hola, Nueva York

May 4, 2015

Such a wonderful trip in every way. Now I'm staggering, trying to stay awake till 10 p.m. Will start with the reminiscences & review tomorrow.