What was good in September? The High Holidays, dreams of road trips, Biden leading, my mother making it through a small operation, flanken, outdoor karate, bike-riding, the roof, the roof of the Ezra Pound, the weather, mostly. The bad things we all know about & need not concern us here.
I've been making calls to Michigan voters (through a friend in Detroit). It's pretty fun—supposed to only be calling Dems & I only rarely get a tRump supporter, but I get off the phone fast & politely if I do. I've talked to a man who hasn't been outside in 28 weeks (asthma, COPD) & did I think his ballot would be OK if he handed it to his mail carrier. A woman who wasn't sure she could make calls because she might blow her top if she got a Republican on the line. Another woman, originally from Kentucky, who said the fact that her brother-in-law died of C19 hadn't changed the mind of any of her "racist, I hate to say" relatives back home. People are mostly nice. One young woman must have thought I was selling or scamming because she charged into a long silly story about her emu egg-cotton candy sandwich & then hung up. I didn't care, how else do I get a glimpse into the wackos of the world?
A little pitch for phonebanking: it's easy, they train you, your phone # is masked, it only takes an hour or so at a time, & I know I for one don't want to wake up on November 4 feeling I hadn't done everything I could. Click on this link! Or search for "phone bank for Dems."
Learning without thinking is useless.
Thinking without learning is dangerous.
And as usual, I'm looking at YOU, Republican spreaders of lies. Republican avoiders of facts.
It was so nice in Washington Square Park yesterday, & these young people thought so too. VERY few masks & not much distance. I guess we can't retrain in a hurry without a LOT of motivation.
Dad loved voting
first in his precinct
he let me pull the lever
to clank-close the curtain
I step into a shimmering pool
but there's no water
the concrete waves in sunlight
what I reach for isn't there
what are you,
my Welsh cousin asked
Jewish? English? white?
Dad believed in voting
as immigrants do
and in America
& what we kids could do
how pleasant to be immortal
in sunlight flipping
through plane trees
neighbors with dogs walk by
they're at home
cops get ready
some challenge the air
some relax before they start up tough
it could be a hundred years ago
or a thousand
a future & a past & perch
right here, one laugh, one hairdo.
one steel can, a pigeon,
a schoolbus, a man
the air so rich we can't stay awake
You, not-old Chinese lady with curved back,
what can you tell me about your native town
or farm? Or is that the Bronx in your mouth?
the air so rich we can't stay away
I came upon this in a book I'm reading, Empires of the Word: A language history of the world by Nicholas Ostler: "The Assyrian armies rolled over their neighbors to prove the greater might of their kings, and demonstrated their power through orgies of ruthlessness." What has changed in 4,000 years? The encouraging thing is that the Republicans will one day go the way of the Assyrians. Not fucking soon enough but they will.
They've got the stars six feet apart but that's the only preparation for the time being, as the schools won't be in person yet. Those small brave hopeful stars break my heart.
It's possible that I actually do belong in Norsk III, shocking as it seems. The teacher thought so & I didn't stumble every time I opened my mouth. We all introduced ourselves yesterday at the first session. Here's mine (before you pop it into Google translate, see how much you can make out. A lot I bet. This is pretty simple Norwegian):
Hei, jeg heter Elinor. Pronomenene mine er hun og henne. Jeg er halvt tysk, halvt engelsk, men jeg kommer fra Sør Dakota, så er jeg også en æres-Skandinav. Jeg bor i Manhattan i mange år, med ektemannen min og katten min. Mannen min heter Johnny, og katten min heter Lefty. Jeg jobber som redaktør og forfatter. Jeg er også en dikter and har publiserte rundt sju eller åtte bøker. Jeg liker å lese, henge med vennene mine, reise og sove—når katten min lar meg.
Denne sommeren måtte jeg være hjemme, men jeg klarte å tilbringe mye tid oppe på taket av bygningen min. Min venn og jeg hadde en hage på taket, men ekorn spiste alle grønnsakene våre unntatt en liten tomat, og den var veldig sur.
Jeg forelsket norsk for et par år siden. Jeg vet ikke hvorfor. Jeg liker lyden av det, og at det er som midt engelsk. Og Norge er veldig vakre og jeg har mange venner der.
Jeg kan lese og skrive bedre enn jeg kan snakke eller lytte og forstå. Jeg vil forbedre meg og også lære preposisjoner!
Det er alt for nå.
The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
Terrible as things seem right now, maybe my birthday twin Nikos the K is helping us stay optimistic.
This is what I see when I lift my eyes. Very organized! I've been in this place, a half basement on 5th St, since 1993, the last year I had a real job. It's for storage & work & think & privacy.
Also: Happy New Year, Jews & New Yorkers! Who are all Jews this time of year.
My old neighbor Mary's brother James came in the laundromat, looking like prison, happy to see me. I once asked Mary what her beautiful sister Gloria was doing; 5 to 10, she said. I went to the beach with them, Mary & Gloria & lots of cousins. They were so beautiful & I was so white. When James stole my gold necklace, I kind of admired that Mary wasn't hung up on stuff like theft. It was time for me to learn city ways. I never let James in my house again.
I'm sure I would not have seen, let alone photographed, this little guy pre-mortem, blind & slow as I am. Being dead is a drag but it's kind of cool to see. I'm in a Facebook group where people post pictures of South Dakota birds & am astonished how many they see around the state: cardinals, jays, herons, owls, hawks, & lots more.
Birds! Little beings of pure spirit whose natural body temperature is 115°.
Not bad for a line that's been stuck in my head for 50 years! The actual quote:
"[Y]ou're someone who took up birds in the first place because they fired your imagination; they fascinated you because 'they seemed of all created beings the nearest to pure spirit- those little creatures with a normal temperature of 125°."
~ J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction
It's highly likely that I lit on After the Party because of the author's name: Cressida Connolly. I've since discovered her father was the critic Cyril Connolly*, hence her literary name. Anyway, it's about British fascists just before WWII, but even more, how easy it is to take a small step that leads to another small step that eventually immerses you way over your head. So well written.
* Young writers if they are to mature require a period of between three and seven years in which to live down their promise. Promise is like the mediaeval hangman who after settling the noose, pushed his victim off the platform and jumped on his back, his weight acting a drop while his jockeying arms prevented the unfortunate from loosening the rope. When he judged him dead he dropped to the ground.
~ Cyril Connolly, from Enemies of Promise.
Are we all getting agoraphobia? deciding it's easier not to go out at all, not to socialize, live in some black & white world? I wonder if in 25 years kids who are 6 or 8 now will have "Covid-19 syndrome," made of lingering psychological impacts. Suddenly—six months in—lots of people are telling me don't want to have social engagements. Easier to just stay in. Six months doesn't seem very long! People subsist in refugee camps & prisons for far longer! I know I have it easy—my life isn't very different than it ever was, & New York is not on fire. And, in case anyone is tempted to believe some of the crap going around, NYC is not only not on fire, it's not overrun by thugs with machine guns. Forgive me: we had the 9/11 anniversary & everyone who was nearby on that day is feeling a little shaky this weekend.
This is the typewriter that Johnny wrote Mangled Hands on, decades ago. I'm cleaning it up to give to our granddaughter Caitlin, who just graduated from Cornell in computer engineering. I'm charmed that such an advanced young person is interested in old-fashioned technology.
And yes, I'm thinking about the date, trying not to reminisce, whoever said things wouldn't change? Everyone over the age of XX has faced enormous, possibly shattering changes in their lives. That's how it works.
Look at that cat! He's hungry! He's warning me! He's about to bite me! He's waiting for me to pour food into his mouth! I love that little being.
If you get an email from me, you will see my name on it no fewer than SIX times. So when you respond to me, how hard is it to write "dear Elinor" & not "dear Eleanor" or "Eleanore" or "Elinore."
I myself struggle with the near-identical twins Michele & Michelle. But you know what? I take 1 extra second to check whether this particular correspondent is Michelle or Michele.
It's not that hard.
It happens a lot.
Elinor Elinor Elinor Elinor Elinor Elinor
There it is, 6 times.
You don't have to remember: it's right there in front of you.
One person ignored me, the other didn't apologize but said he was a victim of auto-complete. I'm the victim, I said.
I ate our first tomato last night. It got red in two days, after taking two months to get to cherry tomato size. I have to say it was sour. Still, we grew it, watered it, staked it, fussed over it. That makes it delicious.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry
This seems as good a Labor Day quote as any. The optimism of possibility, even faced with rock.
I am a COLLEGE STUDENT. I signed up for Norwegian at NYU, starting next week. I'm a little nervous: I only went to college for a minute & that was 50 years ago (!) & all I did was smoke pot & skip class. The cool part is I placed into Norwegian III—yes, THREE, based on my experience & writing sample. I ordered the textbook & workbook, so I guess I'll be learning some grammatikk (you too can speak norsk!) & maybe I'll finally whip the prepositions into shape. That seems to be the hardest part in most languages. In identical(-seeming) sentences, sometimes it's på, sometimes it's til, sometimes it's i. Who knew the Norwegian language would capture my heart so thoroughly that I would go to college to do better at it. I guess even an autodidact needs to know when to get some help.
Instead of a poem of the week, I thought you might enjoy a sky of the week.
Maggie is beginning to wonder if she planted cherry tomatoes & not regular ones. Is there such a thing as a green cherry tomato? These are the slowest-growing tomatoes of all time, that's for sure. We have yet to eat anything from our roof except a few leaves of lettuce.
This is me! Face blind because of masks.
I run into people who exclaim, Elinor! And I have NO IDEA who it is. This has happened pretty much every single time, even when it was someone I was meeting. I mean, I KNEW it was her & I wasn't sure if it was.
The NYT article I linked to includes this: A study found 13 percent of participants struggled so much to recognize masked faces that they may as well have suffered from prosopagnosia, or face blindness.
The feeling of helplessness, of not being able to even try, is really freaky!
This is what I came in to yesterday morning. What a mess! Two floors up the toilet wouldn't stop running & the tenant didn't bother calling maintenance. It flooded the bathroom above me & crashed my ceiling. I still haven't totally swept up the mess. My landlord sent someone immediately, who fixed the toilet & brought a dehumidifier. When my space is dry enough they'll repair the ceiling. I'm relieved it was nothing serious but really, who lets their toilet run run run?