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I'm writing this in New York, but will set it to appear on Thursday, when I will be waking up as I land in Barcelona.

Plan: Mercè will meet me, we'll catch the high-speed train to Madrid, then another half-hour train to Toledo, where we'll be for a couple of days, mostly to see as much El Greco as possible. (We're even staying at the Hotel Pintor El Greco.) He's been my  Read More 
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Getting ready

I'm packed for my trip to Spain, leaving in just a few hours. Trying to decide between a very small backpack & a slightly roomier one. I like the idea of traveling featherweight not just light, but will probably go with the bigger one, which is still a pretty small carry-on.

I'm looking forward to  Read More 
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I've been pondering what it means to be a citizen. Here's a couple of reasons why:

* My mother, after living in the States for 70 years, finally became an American citizen last fall. I always thought of it as a technicality: she has lived here since she was 20, she was American in all but the papers. The way people who've lived together for 30 years are—but aren't!—married. But a meaningful distinction.

* I remember a joke-but-not-really about a Jew in Nazi Europe staring at a globe for somewhere to emigrate to, after being told there was nowhere that would issue a visa to a Jew. At last he said,  Read More 
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Elizabeth Murray

Great to see the small (but large!) show at Pace. I liked that there were quotes on the walls, especially one about "falling in love with Bob" at the time. She had the quality of connecting—I think anyone who spoke with her for more than a few minutes felt like they could become fast friends. I know I did, & it didn't seem like it was us hitting it off, or me as Bob's old friends, but a quality in her of stillness & listening. Of wisdom held for you if you wanted it.  Read More 
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Another Sunday, another B&H breakfast

Johnny wore his raven head for the calendar & friends photos a couple of weeks ago. Among Johnny's many great qualities is that he gets breakfast for me every Sunday morning (although sometimes he makes me go). I pretty much always get either a Greek omelet or a cheddar-apple omelet, but today I asked for pierogis. He brought back blintzes. He gets rice pudding, & eats most of what I order. He doesn't want to bill to be more than about $12 because he wants to give them $20, no more no less. He refuses to vary, which is among Johnny's many strange qualities.  Read More 
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Walking in New York

Just a mail dropbox that someone artified.
I was reading about how Charles Dickens walked 10 or 20 miles a day, & I thought I'd maybe be inspired if I walked a little more. So I set off. But I really only like to be in my neighborhood, plus my leg is still bothering me, so I didn't get that far. Although I did see this cool mailbox; & I went to the New Museum, where I liked the 6 large pieces by Australian artist Helen Johnson (who would fit right in in South Dakota, where Johnson & Anderson are the two most common surnames); & at the MoMA store on Spring Street, I bought a couple of presents; & passed Rice to Riches without veering in (but yum!); & felt happier than I had in a while: looking at—& feeling part of—the city world around me always does that.  Read More 
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Thanksgiving poem

I guess my holiday tradition is posting this poem, which I love & "stole" years ago from a friend's email, making few changes beyond line breaks. The grandmother, mother, & father are all dead now, the daughter married with several kids of her own, & I no longer speak to the former friend (recently exposed as a Holocaust denier) who wrote it. I guess that's part of the tradition now too....

Thanksgiving Almost Found Poem

Many years we go to my grandmother's in Virginia.
My mother, father, aunts and at least two of my brothers are there.
My son has a football game that morning.
My daughter is home, but needs to get back to school this weekend.
My wife doesn't want to ride for nine hours and turn right back.
Sometimes I have gone alone, but not often.
A couple of neighbors were vying for our company.
One of those my daughter’s boyfriend’s family,
Which we did last year and had fun.
But this year it will be another family,
One we have visited on two or three other Thanksgivings.
I have a turkey freezing in the garage.

Nothing to do with it. Read More 
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I knew that if the girls told Mrs. Wooten, that day's playground monitor, it had to be true.

I ran home ducking my head, waiting for the sky to fall.

Would my mother's best friend have killed herself if it had happened a day earlier?

In the Midwest, we liked how he talked: his vigah.

My mother almost crashed into another car when her hands flew off the steering wheel at hearing the news. The other driver gave her a dirty look but at some point that day understood. I imagine it was part of that woman's story of the day for the rest of her life. It's part of Annie's story, now. How often we are bit players.  Read More 
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So entirely satisfying to cross off pretty much everything on my to-do list.

Not that there was much more to the day than that.

Does every day have to be the best EVER?

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Technology on the move

Much as I lament, at times, the end of the internal combustion engine, the recent electric-vehicle advances are pretty cool.

For example, last week Tesla showed the prototype for its battery-powered, nearly self-driving semi that they say can go up to 500 miles on a charge—not good enough for long-distance trucking but terrific for many routes, especially as the truck is exhaust-free and cheaper to run than diesels. Read More 
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I'm fighting that cold/flu/health weirdness that's going around. Fighting as in lying around & staring at the ceiling. Fighting as in being cranky. As in making sad face.

It would be fine if I could curl up with a spy novel, but my eyes itch & I feel restless.

Woe is me! Alas!
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Random photo of me in high school

Rich Ostrander on the left.
I remember that sweater & skirt set so well—they were a deep gold color & very heavy.

I remember less well why the photo was taken.

Not true, I remember perfectly well but am embarrassed that, almost 50 years later, I know it was for being a National Merit Scholar.

Embarrassed because I was so proud of my superior knack for taking standardized tests. I didn't even know I wasn't smart, because I was officially smart.  Read More 
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Books x2

A very quick mockup of what our chapbook will look like.
I sent the manuscript for my new & selected to my publisher, finally having decided on a title: Now That I Know Where I'm Going. I have wanted to use that for a long time, & meant it for American Guys 20 years ago, but Murat quite rightly talked me out of it. But this time it fits much better & I'm excited.

Not only that, Steve Willis, my friend of nearly 50 years, loves snow as much as I do, if not more, & we are putting together a dos-à-dos, or more properly, as I just learned, a tête-bêche book, where you'll flip his to read mine & vice versa. Nothing fancy, just a fun way to collaborate & get our work into a few hands.  Read More 
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Hola, España!

For some reason, I have been feeling strongly that I HAVE to go to Spain. So I bought a ticket. I'll go for 8 days, leaving in 2 weeks, & stay with my friend Mercè, who lives near Girona (she's from Barcelona). Our plan is to go up to Toledo for a couple of days, where neither of us has been.

I wish I could remember the Catalan I was learning before I went there a couple years ago, but I've moved on to Hiragana, which is so frigging hard; at best I'll be able to say a few polite phrases in Japanese & identify the characters.  Read More 
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Myron Floren

Wow, when did you get Myron Floren's autograph??

He was the guest of honor at a Sons of Norway lutefisk dinner, held in the basement of the Nordic Hall, a small building where my dad had his office for as long as I remember. I was probably 10 and very shy about asking—probably someone asked on my behalf.  Read More 
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Psychologically healthy

In my blog on October 15, I told the story of a guy who exposed himself to me on the train. I burst out laughing. When my younger sister was little, her friend's uncle exposed himself to the two little girls. Their response? They put peanut butter in his shoes. "He was bad, so we  Read More 
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Lady Bird

Clearly I'm in a tiny minority for not loving Greta Gerwig's new movie, Lady Bird.

The Times for example:
You might think you’ve seen this all before. You probably have, but never quite like this. What Ms. Gerwig has done — and it’s by no means a small accomplishment — is to infuse one of the most convention-bound, rose-colored genres in American cinema with freshness and surprise. The characters can look like familiar figures: the sad dad and the disapproving mom; the sullen brother and his goth girlfriend; the mean girls and the cool teachers; the too-perfect boyfriend and the dirtbag boyfriend. None of them are caricatures, though, and while everyone is mocked, nobody is treated with cruelty or contempt, at least by Ms. Gerwig. (Lady Bird is not always so kind.)  Read More 
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What a week!

The women of America fought back & the world of elected officials looks a lot different than it did a year ago.... I finished a book.... I got a cellphone..... Something big that I can't talk about yet....
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What Home Is

Fall in Minnesota.
What Home Is
for & with Ginevra Kirkland

I’ve lived so many places I don’t know where I’m from. Everywhere seems like the town I could have lived & died in, & maybe I did.

I was there in the POW camp with the German soldier who only wanted to get back to his herring, beer, & fraulein. I was in Otis, Colorado, a town so peaceful the only bar was on the second floor of an old hotel. I was a Mainer, or Mainiac, & lived 3 years in its white, bright, unmoving postcard.  Read More 
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Vote early, vote often

If anything, there's more at stake in today's election than in last year's, at least in the sense that we are now activated. It's fair to say we dropped the ball last time, but I don't want that to be said tomorrow.
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The Double Yews

I have to admit, it's fun to say "my band" & it's fun to be in a band, even a half-assed poets' band, where I can't really play an instrument or sing. Annabel Lee & I mostly match poems to familiar tunes and sing them accompanied by her on guitar, me on various amusing rhythm instruments  Read More 
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Why is everything so big?

So an object—asteroid? lump? comet? spaceship?—from outside our solar system, but inside the Milky Way, one of many galaxies, recently zipped past the sun & only 15 millions from us. Astronomers can tell it's from away because of its orbit. But how is that they know it's from our galaxy & not from even farther away? And how is it possible that, as the astronomers assert, it's the "first interstellar object known to have visited Earth’s neighborhood," according to The Economist Espresso. Is this a big deal? Why? And to whom?  Read More 
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Quote V

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
—Simone Weil
Gravity and Grace

I've always loved this. Such a good correction to that immature longing for the "bad" that so many of us fall for when young, & I guess usually outgrow.  Read More 
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With lightning speed, I enter the 21st century

Not an iPhone... I'll miss that pony-hide cover Maggie brought me back years ago from Wyoming "in case you ever get a cellphone."
My tale of woe & redemption begins with my office phone going out. Verizon (boo) sends a repairguy. He reluctantly & slowly tries a couple of fixes then basically tells me to fuck off. I know that Verizon (hiss) has no real interest in fixing copper wires/landlines—they're expensive to maintain & fewer & fewer people have 'em.

He leaves, promising to come back the next day.

Verizon (jeer) also tells me to fuck off: the next available appointment is actually more than a week away. They act like they are my friend.

I go up the block, & an hour later my office number has been converted to a cell, & I am the owner of an iPhone. I guess that means putting my little workhorse 10-year-old flip phone to rest, eh?

Welcome to the future! I mean the past! I have a smartphone! Call me!  Read More 
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Tony Towle

One of the faraway heads is Tony's.
The suave & witty poet Tony Towle read last week at the Poetry Project. As he gets older, he gets mellower but without losing his smart language.

My favorite of his books remains Autobiography but his new book, Noir, is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, I can't lay my hands on either one but here's the beginning of "Lines for the New Year":

The first day of January is the first day
of the New Year. In the north
there is snow and ice and the forest rings
with the sound of the ax.
So this is really a game of tag. Run across it
as if it were a cake, and you were a knife
cutting it right through the middle. At other times
the clouds seem to be pillows. My target
is a cool, tax-free million. I am very calm about it.
I could end up making a good deal more. Read More 
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