instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Thanksgiving poem

As I have done for years, I'm posting this poem on Thanksgiving. I am no longer even friends with the person who wrote it (as an email—I turned it into a poem, with just a few little changes), who became a Holocaust denier & all-round jerk. This reminds me that even an idiot know-it-all can have a tender side. I guess. Enjoy your holiday, my loves! 

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.

Be the first to comment

The end

Goodbye to my mod socks. Goodbye to lobster socks from Janet. I have many great socks but I still feel a twinge when I have to toss a pair. Does anyone darn a sock anymore? Can I buy a darning egg?* Do I know anyone who's ever darned a sock? 


* Holy shamoly. You can buy a darning egg at STAPLE'S. Darning eggs are everywhere. You can watch a video demo (you can, I didn't, her voice was too annoying). 


And YES, I just discovered I can change the font color. And size. 

Post a comment

Monday Quote

A little credulity helps one on through life very smoothly. 

~ Elizabeth Gaskill


But not a lot or we wouldn't have the president we have. 


This reminds me of a Calvin & Hobbes panel, where Calvin says, "You know how Einstein's grades were really bad? Well, mine are even worse!" 

Be the first to comment

November 22

No one born in the 50s or earlier can forget this date. It was also a Friday, that day in 1963. I was in 6th grade. I came back from lunch & some of the girls in my class ran up to me & said the president had been shot. It was only when they told Mrs. Wootten, that day's playground monitor, that I believed them—I knew they wouldn't make a joke to her. Not that it was anything to joke about but kid confusion sends our minds wherever. They let us out early & I remember flying home down Summit Avenue in fear: What would happen? 


The worst thing in the world is often never the worst. Or not as bad as it seems at the time. 


I've probably written about this before but my mother heard on the radio while she was driving. When her hands flew up in shock, she almost hit someone, who gave her a dirty look. I know that other woman's story about that day always included my anonymous mother.

Be the first to comment


YAI has moved. Here we are in our big new digs, with our biggest class in a while, as 2 of our students who took a semester off to do golf are back, and someone else switched over from the Tuesday class. The best hour of my week is the time I spend with these students. They have so many challenges, intellectual & physical, & they work so hard. It's an honor—& fun!—to spend time with them. 

Be the first to comment

Minnesota NICE

Lovely to stroll through the St. Paul conservatory with one of my oldest & dearest friends, talking talking talking as we have for more than 45 years, since we met in Maine, while seeing turtles, a giant anaconda, prehistoric ferns, &, of course, the gift shop. Seeing Janet is a bonus to visiting my family on this short but packed weekend. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

You really only know when you know little. Doubt grows with knowledge. 

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I've spent time around teenagers lately & see how true this can be. They are certain even when they are proven wrong. Maybe what grows with knowledge is the humility to acknowledge that you don't know everything. 

Be the first to comment


Listen, Phoebe


Listen, Phoebe, to the wind I've made for you 

out of ancient hopes & crushes

out of squirrels I hate birds I didn't

gather round to tell me my business


flashes that might be bugs at the side of my eyes

I jump away from things I do well

& things not worth doing

& things in gold on another man's rump


A wind that will find for you 

a silver needle in green glass & that cat


Listen, Phoebe, we will stay away

spend hour after hour 

wanting less until all that's life 

is love until all that's love is left

Post a comment

We go to Brooklyn

It always feels like an adventure to get on that train. What could happen? (Yeah, we're hicks.) Johnny & I went to see an old friend in a play called Reparations, at the Billie Holiday theater. The production was good, the theater itself wonderful & friendly, Alex was the best I've ever seen her. The play itself, not so much. The cleverest part was to call it Reparations & not Blackmail. But go! Go to support a terrific local theater. Go to see the churches & streets of Bed-Stuy. 

Be the first to comment

Lies lies lies

People trust leaders they vote for, according to studies discussed in "You really can fool some of the people, all of the time" (The Economist). "Because Mr Trump has abandoned so many traditional Republican policies, such as support for free trade and suspicion of Russia, the researchers concluded that it is personal: those who still call themselves Republicans support Mr Trump because of who he is, not what he stands for. And if personal loyalty trumps ideology, then voters may back a politician even if he does not tell the truth."


In addition, people aren't very good at spotting lies. Even people who should be, like cops, aren't. That's probably because we're born to assume that others are telling the truth. Why? Since most people tell the truth most of the time, it's more efficient to assume so. That is, if we had to check everything anyone says, we couldn't carry on the most basic conversations. And because we are hard-wired to assume that what we hear is true, we are therefore, says Tim Levine, author of Duped, "hard-wired to be duped." 


And there you have it, the reason so many people stick with pResident tRump. "He's my guy & that's all I need to know." They're not lying! 

Be the first to comment

My granddad

I'm blown away to see this photo—for the first time!—of my grandfather, Charles John Phillips. He's probably about 30 here, in his World War I outfit. The man Grandma Alice loved. The father of my mother & my 3 uncles. He was a violinist & violin teacher, a professional-level candymaker, I forget what else. He looms so large in our family & I know so little, I realize. He was born in Bath. He was a year younger than his wife, which came out when she turned 40 & one of her brothers slipped up & said something. He was the conductor of a transatlantic ship's orchestra, stage name Martinique. My grandparents met when Alice was the singer. When she looked at Jack for her cue, he winked. "I was never so shocked in all my life!" she told me, many decades later. He was gassed in the War & died at 50, when my mother was a girl. He's buried in Anfield Cemetry, across the street from the house she grew up in. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. 

~ Franz Kafka


Today Jennifer Firestone's dark & luminous Gates & Fields is just that. A book of grieving that shows you joy. 


Yesterday it was Louise Penny's latest, A Better Man, who writes about kindness & community in the face of anger & evil. 


Every day, there's a book to make me think, feel, sweat, jump up in amazement or anger. Every day I am grateful that I will never run out of books. 

Be the first to comment

On the line at the nostalgia factory

We work in the nostalgia industry, at least we did yesterday, when Andrei Codrescu, David Henderston & I comprised a panel moderated by Jeff Wright on "Second Avenue." As Andrei said, that's like asking people in New Orleans to talk about Bourbon Street. We managed to narrow it down, to the chagrin of one listener who wanted everyone to know our era didn't spring from nothing, that there were scenes & arts that came before us. Of course there are, I said, we're not historians, just people with stories. New York will always be New York, at least I hope that's true, a place for young artists & misfits to discover & make their own. 

Be the first to comment

At the Nursing Home

At the Nursing Home


Until it was renovated into fancy condos, I would go once a month to a nursing home on 5th Street to conduct a short Sabbath service for the Jewish residents, at least the ones I could persuade to attend. Challah bread and grape juice were my top offers, but I also told them there'll be singing and camaraderie. I have been known to stand in front of Lucie and beg her to come. It's not that she will participate, but she's sentient. On a good day I get half a dozen, several of whom are wheeled in, asleep.


One woman I'd never seen before asked me to take her home to live with me. When I declined, she said what was I doing there, then? Not helping.


I told her I had  a 4th-floor walkup, and she said, "oh" and quit badgering me.


Sidney clutches my hand and can barely be pried loose. Irving looks down my shirt, almost vestigially.


Only Louise won't miss services. Louise is the mayor of the nursing home. She's got the perfect personality for this kind of place. She's friendly to everybody without assuming she's your new best friend. She stays awake and always tells me I have a beautiful voice. She means it but mostly means thank you for coming. 


I always ask about upcoming holidays. What happens on Passover (which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt)?


"The oil burned for eight days," Louise says. (That was Hanukkah.)


"You've got the eight days right," I said. "What do we eat?"


"Hamentaschen!" (Purim!)

Be the first to comment

Could they be more stupid?

I go to the neighborhood supermarket & plunk down 3 cartons of yogurt at the register. She rings them up at $1.34 each. $4.02, she says.


They're 3 for $4, I point out. 


She agrees. The rest is tax, she tells me. 


There's no tax on food, I say. 


It's $4.02, she says again.


3 for 4, I say again.


Mike! She calls to the manager. 


Correct, no tax on food, he says. But this is how the computer rings them up separately. 


Note that they weren't scanned—she keyed in each carton: $1.34, $1.34, $1.34. 


Yes, but together they are $4, I say again. 


This continues, to their utter bafflement. I can't get through to them! The guy in line behind me is snorting. Finally, I say, give me my money back, & I walk out without my yogurt. How is it possible that they cannot comprehend where they are wrong?


It's not the first time there, either. The last time I tried to explain the very same thing, the cashier finally gave me 2 pennies, but without understanding my point at all. IT'S VERY SIMPLE MATH! It's not the computer's doing! 



Be the first to comment

4 generations

Left to right, Sean's son Kid Sean (aka Peanut), Sam, Johnny, Sean. 

Johnny's from an Irish "18 & Out" family. Traditionally, as soon as a son gets old enough, he has a fight (I'm talking about shoving & punching—this is not done with words) with his father & leaves home. They may reconcile but they more or less never speak again. 


That's what Johnny did, only he was 15: cutting his sons off at 18 was a step up. Johnny left home & lived at the Catholic Worker, where he hawked their newspaper ("Catholic Worker! Only a penny!"), got his girlfriend pregnant, graduated from Catholic school, went to college & so on. 


I love this photo because it shows that his sons have done a better job than Johnny, who did a better job than his own father, of changing those tough family ways. 


(By way of contrast, when I was 20 & living in Maine, one of the guys I was living with asked who I'd been on the phone with just then. My folks, I said. I thought you weren't speaking to them...? With no sense of irony, I said, Just because I'm not speaking to them doesn't mean I don't check in every week.)

Be the first to comment

Old husband, new...

He's only pretending to be asleep. 

Aw, my much-liked blue-with-dots duvet cover finally devolved into thread. Every time one of us turned over it ripped a ittle more. Usually, that kind of thing goes on a ridiculously long time in our household but for once I marched right on over to Bed, Bath & Beyond & got a new one. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have understood neither the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve. 

~ Karl Popper


There's a lot more than this that I don't understand, believe you me! 


I'm trying to figure out the 19 parts of the 5 ballot questions & mostly I wonder if it's ever possible to know in advance if they'll do what proponents hope. It seems as though every single change brings about unintended consequences, some positive, some not. I'm not at all saying that's an excuse to cling to the old ways. Just that I am never surprised when the promise fades. 


Be the first to comment


Anyone miss me? I don't know that I meant to take time off from my blog, but I seem to have done so. I've been avoiding the news & I guess that made me duck all sorts of things. Anyway, I'm re-inspired to start back up again. I have a few things jumping around in my head & it helps me think them through when I commit myself to publishing regularly. 

Be the first to comment