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Who, me aging?

I am less despondent about my life running out than I am about the summer passing into September. Seems like short-term thinking but really, I'm not bummed about being in my 60s (early 60s!) (very early 60s!). The Times had an op-ed [click on caption] about the baby boomers freaking over aging. I too have had the experience of being the youngest in the room, & now also of being the oldest. I kind of like it when I'm the oldest. It makes me feel like I won a prize in a lottery I didn't enter. All I had to do to win was be born in  Read More 
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A conversation in Idaho

Golden wheat in Idaho
Becky: It rained so hard on the way here that the wheat, which was ready for harvest, got flattened.

Stacey: It's when it hails that the crops get destroyed. They'll bounce back from the rain.

Such a casually normal Midwestern exchange, informed about how things grow. I don't think anything about farming is part of my New York world. People here think it's odd that when it rains I automatically say: "good for the farmers."

Stacey also told of driving past a field of sunflowers, & someone asking: why would they plant flowers?  Read More 
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Guns freak me out. When we were little—I'm thinking 2nd or 3rd grade—kids could sign up for a gun safety class. I didn't have to ask: It wasn't something my family went in for & even then I was repulsed. I am still a little mad at Johnny for "holding" a gun for someone. It must be 20 years ago, & I'm relieved he didn't tell me till after, but creeped out that there was a gun in my house overnight. My cousin lost an eye to an errant shot on a city street, & of course I read the news, today's being about a 9-year-old who shot her instructor with an Uzi at a theme park called Bullets & Burgers.

Man, doesn't so much today sound like it came from the Onion.

I have tried (maybe not that hard) to understand the pro-gun folks & I'm just not buying it. I don't have any better arguments than the sensible ones already out there: no reason guns can't be regulated, the way liquor & cars are; protect kids; don't sell armor-piercing ammo, & so on.Why doesn't this get fixed??  Read More 
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Miss Norman

Today I salute my high school journalism teacher, Lorraine Norman, who died a few days ago at the age of 91. Washington High put out a weekly newspaper, rare then & probably unheard of now. To give you an idea, we typed on an electric typewriter & did corrections by cutting them out with an exacto knife & rubber cementing them into place. Come to think of it, Miss Norman was a human exacto knife—precise, fine-tuned, someone who insisted on accuracy.

I was shy (shyer) in high school & Miss Norman took me under her wing. The responsibility of editing The Orange & Black has been useful & illuminating to this day, & I would not be surprised if hundreds of others say the same thing, and say as well that she was more influential than any teacher they had.  Read More 
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Today is the 94th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the vote. It's almost in my mother's lifetime—very, very close to us still. Is this another right that can or will be taken away? It seems that the minute there's some progressive (& anti-progressive?) change, someone tries to force it back.
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High school redux

5 Sioux Falls girls: Jacque, Stacey, Bessie, Becky, me
It's going to take a lot of sorting & thinking before I can talk much about my weekend with some of the people I went to high school with. It's hard not to say "girls" even though it's been more than 40 years. But that's what we were, and I guess always will be to each other. With nuance.

I have to go get the eye test where they dilate, so probably not more today, unless I ace the test, but I haven't aced anything since high school.  Read More 
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Westward ho

See you Monday
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Tiffany on 24th Street

I never noticed this clock or the sign till yesterday, and I sit in the park across the street frequently. This is on Broadway and 24th, just west of Madison Square Park & north of the Flatiron Building. You can never see enough of New York City.

The text on the base reads:
This 1909 iconic street clock was designated a New York City landmark in 1981. Upon establishing its new headquarters at 200 Fifth Avenue in 2011, Tiffany & Co. restored the clock as a gift to the historic Flatiron district.  Read More 
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Life is a one-way street

Nonetheless, I'm going to Idaho in a day or two for the wedding of the daughter of someone I graduated from high school with; 4 or 5 of us from our class will be hanging out together. I don't want to relive high school but I do want to see if I can see (in their eyes) who I was then. If they're half as solipsistic as I was, they probably won't have a clue.  Read More 
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You do know how to blow, don't you?

That's me blowing the shofar (wearing tefillin)
The Cantor & I co-led a shofar-blowing workshop today in preparation for the High Holidays, when the sound of the shofar is central.

For a primitive, ancient instrument, it is remarkably evocative. People have heard its sound as a wake-up call ... a lamentation ... the cries of a woman in childbirth ... a way to confuse Satan ... a warning ... a call to war ... the sound of the human soul ....

The physical part of blowing a shofar is relatively easy. I run to ensure I have good wind, I practice a few minutes a day to build control and toughen my embouchure.

Studying the laws, getting my intentions in order is a little more challenging. There are as many ways to blow incorrectly as correctly.

The spiritual part is hardest. I find I need the help of everyone in the room to break through the roof & send our prayer to heaven.  Read More 
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A day in the park

Stuyvesant Park, 17th & Second
It's still summer, it's still summer, it's still summer.

Johnny & I sat here with the Man of Lawe's Tale.
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Mabel & Ringo

I went to many recitals during the many years that Eddie studied guitar at the Third Street Music School. Every recital featured an uncharismatic, unskilled brother-and-sister act, two Korean kids named Mabel and Ringo. I always imagined that their immigrant parents chose Ringo out of the equivalent American options of John, Paul & George. In  Read More 
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Leroy Carr

Leroy Carr (1905–35) only lived to be 30 but was “the most influential male blues singer and songwriter of the first half of the 20th century,” according to Elijah Wald in an article originally published in The New York Times in 2004. His songs include “How Long, How Long Blues,” “Blues Before Sunrise” “Midnight Hour Blues,” “Hurry Down Sunshine” and a lot more.

His music, most of it recorded with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell, has been covered by  Read More 
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Pet peeve IV

It bugs me when people say "my husband & best friend," meaning the same person. Even worse when it's a 50-year-old woman who's a 3rd wife & only married for a couple of years. Don't you have someone you've known since high school? an old roommate or colleague? For heaven's sake, who do you  Read More 
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Pet peeve III

If I invite you to my birthday dinner, why should you pay? You are my guest.

I know people do this routinely, so that's not actually my pet peeve. (If I don't want to subsidize other people's shindigs, I don't eat, just stop in to say hi.)

But if you invite me  Read More 
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Glow, glow, glow

Was it tripping to black light posters that gave me a permanent fascination with bioluminescence, the light emitted by organisms like bacteria, fireflies and jellyfish? Is it just cool to see creatures that do something I can't? Would it be awesome—or embarrassing—if you could shake your tush to light it up? Why doesn't my friend Evelyn, a graduate student in cell biology, realize she could win a Nobel, easy, if she would switch to human bioluminescence as her research topic?

Look how beautiful these critters are, & what great names: sea sparkle, ghost fungus, alarm jellyfish, sea feather, fire centipede, sea firefly, genji firefly.

There are interesting scientific aspects to bioluminescence, not just trippy ones. J. Woodland Hastings, a Harvard biochemist who died a few days ago, researched bioluminescence and was known for "recognizing overarching biological processes in the humblest of organisms. His discovery of how bacteria communicate became the foundation for groundbreaking research in the development of more effective antibiotics." (His NYT obit is at

I just ordered a book called The Winking, Blinking Sea. Why do publishers seem to think this is a subject of interest only or mainly to children?  Read More 
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Broad gold spokes
sun drives
bright elm
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Yay, David! Go, Boog!

Somer Bingham, of Clinical Trials
The indefatigable (as someone called him) David Kirschenbaum has just polished off the 8th annual Boog City festival of poetry & performance. Not sure how many people were involved, but it was a lot. I always wish I made it to more of the events—such a friendly atmosphere, people digging each other's work, enjoying an art conversation that often gets lost in group readings. I admire that he brings in poets from farflung locations & practices. And clearly he does it for the love of the work: I don't think he gets glory, just the satisfaction of putting together a terrific event.

All that from a Mets fan!  Read More 
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I can see!

I finally went to get my eyes examined. Everyone saw me pick up one of my lenses off the floor & stick it in my eye at black belt promotion a couple of months ago & I bowed to the horrified demand that I make sure I hadn't given myself a hideous disease; it didn't help  Read More 
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World War I poetry

So much remarkable poetry came out of World War I, much of it still as modern as Schoenberg. Modern in language, modern in attitude.

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

—Charles Hamilton Sorley, 1895-1915, killed at Loos  Read More 
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Good-bye to all that

The exact edition I read, borrowed from Eileen
Just finished rereading Robert Graves' Good-bye to All That, his great autobiography (today it'd be called a memoir) about how WWI sent him onwards from his school days to the life of a writer and emigré. The book reminded me of how small England is—the intelligentsia were all related in some way and ran into each other, knew each other's work, feuded and loved. His (first) wife, Nancy Nicholson, was an ardent feminist who refused to be called Mrs. Graves. In a review of Graves biography, Louis Simpson wrote that "no work on poetry has been more influential than The White Goddess, Graves's study of mythology in its connections with poetry; dozens of poets and professors have gained a reputation for originality by stealing from it." Read More 
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The Great Edmundo turns 40

Eddie helping get ready for my 30th birthday party
It's strange that someone can be a kid when you're a grownup then totally catch up with you. Eddie might be older than me by now, for all I know.

I could do a month of posts of cakes. It's an unacknowledged family tradition to take pictures posing with cakes.

And naming them.

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Dinner time

I have so many beautiful plates, that I've been buying 1 at a time at Crate & Barrell. This is an ugly plastic one that caught the light in a shiny way (which could be olive oil) I liked. I buy 1 new plate, cup, bowl & spoon every spring for Passover then introduce them into the general population. In 4 more years I'll be able to host a dinner for 6! Except that I only have 1 chair & no stove.  Read More 
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