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Day 1 of Houdah Season

Best salad ever (made by Maggie, featuring Ben's Dressing). 

Maggie & I both had our first shots 2 weeks ago, & yesterday we hung out all afternoon at her place—first time in months we did that without masks or worry. Even though we see each other constantly, it hasn't felt easy. A year in & we can look forward to a good summer, I think. I hope. 

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One thing I did was watch a Norwegian movie through Scandinavia House's New Nordic Virtual Cinema film festival called Føniks (Phoenix). We're going to talk about it in class. The tired old trope of "artist with mental illness that makes her cruel to her children but maybe not really because they still love her." And oh yeah the father—conveniently for the plot—is about to go to jail for 3 months for drunk driving. Worst of all, it was really dark (as in couldn't see but also story-wise) & they never went outside. What's the point of a Norwegian movie without Norway's beautiful nature? En norsk film uten norsk natur er ikke morsom. Mer seriøst, er jeg lei av tropen om gal kunst who er grusom mot barna sine. Eller gla kunst alene. Alle kunstnere er ikke gale! Og gale folk er ikke nødvendigvis grusomme og forsømmelige. Alle gale folk er ikke kunstnere. 


However!There was one moment when I forgot the movie was in Norwegian, when i was following without translating. It was like the moment when you realize you are riding a bike and not being held up by your dad. (And yeah, I fell over.) Totally worth it. 

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Yay, Johnny!

My beloved, signing (to me) the first copy of the new edition of his classic novel, Mangled Hands. I'm excited for it to find a new generation of readers. 

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You can take the girl...

How many people would buy this shirt? or one I do own from Raygun, that has an outline of South Dakota & "Sioux York" at a star where Sioux Falls lies? I remember a woman I knew long ago in Maine who said about her rainbow-colored curly wig, Why do people think it's funny that I own this? Someone spent money to manufacture it. 

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Poem of the Week

A tribal language in a global world


if I spoke


away from my own

head & history


if I spoke a dying language

not revernacularized or revitalized

my challenge would be

keeping loved words alive & safe


what word would I destroy

to save a life

my father was exiled

from his language


& his family, job, citizenship, country

maybe he didn't live his life in German

just because mine is lived in English

it frustrates me


not to have Spanish Italian Norsk Yiddish Hebrew Japanese

to be anonymous

by not having



stop for me slow down

the jokes work

if Mercè's English weren't good

we wouldn't be sisters



April 2020/February 2021

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Monday Quote

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius. 

~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


I guess I must have talent because boy do I see Victory's genius. Do yourself a favor & listen to this. And then look for more of her amazing voice. 

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My career

In the spirit of "everyone gets a trophy," this is what I got for passing an adult-ed class in Norwegian. It's pretty unlikely that being able to speak halting, ungrammatical Norwegian is going to enhance my career (such as it is). So getting a gold medal, like I'm some sort of Olympian, seems pretty hilarious. I mean, I take my studies seriously, don't get me wrong. It's just that I'm not expecting anything practical to come of it. If I were, I wouldn't be studying Norwegian. 

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The day after

Sufficient unto the day indeed: I moped for a month about my upcoming locked-down birthday & then it turned out to be one of the best I can remember in years. Snow! Flowers! An Apple watch. (Why isn't it called an iWatch?). I'm exhausted from all the love. That's a first! 

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Do I have traditional birthday post? Apparently not. Last year I wrote that there was no snow so it wasn't the best birthday ever. 


Today has been.


First, yes, it snowed. Not only that, it was one of those perfect soft no-wind serene snows. I went out early & loved feeling that not only was it snowing, but we were only a few hours into my birthday: What might happen? I wasn't expecting a gift from Johnny but he got me an Apple watch. And my birthday twin Justine, who moved to British Columbia last year, sent a gorgeous bouquet. There are flowers in my house! Dozens of calls, including the traditional long catch-up with my one-day-younger cousin, messages, texts. And my Norwegian class sang a traditional norsk birthday song to me last night. And my best friend & I went for a birthday walk. And I got to see my birthday twin granddaughter, Meagan, on the zoom. 


I had expected a constricted birthday because of the pandemic, but it was so full of joy & love & possibility. Memorable: I remember snowy birthdays more than most others. 

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The New Museum, Bowery, February 14. 

Now that I've had the first shot, I'm ever more eager to do normal things like go to museums. Normal things like not think about every single gesture. And regular normal things like plan a trip. 

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Birds of the world

Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker coming to the suet feeder, Yankton, South Dakota, 2/10/2021. Photo by Sharon Koller.

This is from a Facebook group called South Dakota Birding. Usually I pause longest at the owls & eagles, but this might be the most beautiful bird I have ever seen.It looks like a little kid dressed up in mom's evening wear. Or an angel in lace. Because of this group, I have reupped my membership to the Cornell Bird Lab & am thinking of taking a class, maybe on crows. 

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Monday Quote

One must participate in the emerging struggle around them in order to make art that reflects it. If you're an artist, you've already got tools. If you don't know what to write about, remember that truth and reality is what we're after. You have to know reality to tell the truth about it. You got to get out and be a part of it.

~ musician & activist Barbara Dane, quoted in a recent Times profile


She sang a version of a song I love, "I know where I'm going," which I know from the wonderful Wendy Hiller movie of the same name. 


If you read the Times piece, notice how much more beautiful she is at 93 than she was as a young woman. That's how you can tell she lived her life right. 

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Sunday wrapup

Fourth Street, on a walk with Karen that came at a moment of synchronicity: just as I was putting on my jacket to go for a walk, she texted to see if I wanted to go for a walk. I ate a cinnamon brioche from Levain on that walk & didn't find Zukofsky's "A" at Mercer Street books. It is hard these days for anything to be spontaneous & I am grateful for that walk. 

So much going on, my head is in a whirl. Which reminds me of the brilliant St. Louis newspaper, The Evening Whirl, which I subscribed to for a time. It had columns like "Wife Beaters & Sweetheart Mistreaters," which were in verse. 


See? I can't settle down & talk about one thing. The impeachment? Oh god. The weather? A 133-car pileup in Fort Worth, TX, which isn't used to snow or arctic air. One of the last people outside of my family/high school friends that I can think of who knew my dad just died—that lovely man, Howard Paulson (whose father's name was also Hans). I got the first vaccine—happy as can be but boy does my arm hurt. I read a not-very-good novel on a subject that interests me greatly, the 1888 children's blizzard that killed hundreds of people in my part of Dakota Territory. 


I miss hanging out. 

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Too young

So I'm on a new health plan, through Medicare, & had a brainstorm to sign up for a geriatrician. That way, I figured, I'd ease into old age. Wouldn't they be happy to have a young old person to break in right? Well, it didn't work out that way. Everyone I called said, You're too young—you have to be 75, & cracked up. So I ended up with a doctor named Eleanor who I can't even see till the middle of May. What the hey. 

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Thinking about money

I eavesdropped on another Economist event yesterday, an "Editor's conversations: Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank" with Zanny Minton Beddoes doing the (light!) grilling.


Two takeaways:

Lagarde said bitcoin isn't currency—there are 3 requirements and it meets only one. The three are: 

* Be a fixed unit of account.
* Function as a medium of exchange.
* Be a store of value.

Got that? 

I also found this definition: currency is a generally accepted form of payment, usually issued by a government and circulated within its jurisdiction.

Since bitcoin functions as a medium of exchange, it must not be issued by a government, which it obviously isn't. I think the third point is related, that currency is backed by a government. 


Legarde also talked about her support for women & said that when it was mandated some years ago that European (nonprofit?) boards had to include 40% women, they hit that goal. So much for the argument that there aren't enough qualified women. When it's the law, you find them. And that women leaders have done much better than men during the pandemic, & given how few there actually are, that's even more impressive.


I'm not sure I would have watched if it had been two men. 

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Books I have more than one copy of

Alice in Wonderland (3)

Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford (possibly 3)

Mark Harris's Henry Wiggins trilogy (although one got stolen when my car was stolen—more valuable than that grimy Toyota)

The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats

The Build-Up, Pictures from Breughel, Autobiography by William Carlos Williams 

Margaret and Dusty, Alice Notley

Lots of different editions of the same works by various poets but that doesn't quite count.


Why do I have duplicates? Oh, you know, someone is throwing it out or you find it on the street & you are dazzled into thinking maybe you don't already have a copy & you can always use another & maybe you'll present a copy to some young poet in a burst of generosity. Because you can't find it in your place & you think you must have presented your copy to a young poet & you buy it for $1 at the used bookstore because $1. Because you & your beloved each had a copy before you merged books. Because when you're looking for it, having more than 1 copy doubles your chances of finding one. 


And then I wondered if I could find a copy of Zukofsky's "A" at Mercer Street Books & then I wondered if—oh no!—if they are even still open. Barely but you can help. Of all the restaurants & bookstores & other businesses that have closed, this might be the one I would miss the most. They are hanging in but if you can, drop a buck or two to their GoFundMe.

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Death, the British way

Spent a delightful hour a few days ago learning how The Economist obituaries get chosen, researched & written. Ann Wroe, who writers them, talked about a few favorites, such as Tama Chan, a cat-stationmaster in Japan who saved her railway line. (It's behind a paywall but here's the link in case you are a subscriber.) Next up with TE: a conversation between TE editor Zanny Minton Beddoes and Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank. Then either a class on crows or the Book of Kells. Maybe both! Suddenly I feel engaged, or am trying to, cuz like most of us, I have been hitting the pandemic wall & it's left me cranky, childish, exhausted...

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Monday Quote

Dali's house, Portlligat, Spain. To be more specific, it's on the Cap de Creus peninsula, on the Costa Brava of the Mediterranean Sea, in the municipality of Cadaqués, in Catalunya. Mercè takes me to the best places. 

Have no fear of perfection— you'll never reach it. 

~ Salvador Dalí

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Snow karate

He almost canceled but I noodged AJ to hold class (though I think he went more by Maggie's willingness to train), especially once we learned that Sensei Derek had canceled his. Bragging rights, baby! If it's too awful, we can take a picture of us out in the snow & disperse. But it was great! Walking to the East River in the snow, training in the snow—yes, we can do it! Shivering for the last two hours is less great but totally worth it. 

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Poem of the Week



a glass of milk gleams


alone of its kind


I wander cloudlike

daffodils of statement

I the breeze

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Books I'm looking for on my shelves

For at least a month I've been trying to find Ford Madox Ford's March of Literature. I no longer remembered if it was to look up something specific or a general desire to reread it. I was sure it was at home & even looked under the kitchen table, a last-resort effort. 


No luck. 


Because i'm rereading Lorine Niedecker, I wanted to dip into Zukofsky's "A," which I can see—that big royal blue paperback. While I was looking everywhere in my studio for it, I was excited to find FMF's MofL. But no "A." (I did come upon Ron Silliman's Alphabet but that's not the same!) I looked last night at home, no luck. It's not next to Reznikoff. The other excellent find was behind a stack of notebooks: Diane McWhorter's Pulitzer Prize–winning Carry Me Home, which the NYPL does not have a copy of. 


Yes, I could alphabetize my books by subject, & that would obviate the need to buy a second (or third...) copy as well as save oodles of time. But the great serendipity of looking for a book & finding a different one is a pleasure I wouldn't give up. 


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Weird & possibly a little gross

So I plucked a crazy hair from my eyebrow (yes! I retain a modicum of grooming habits. Above the neck. But ask me if I've worn anything except sweatpants for the last year) & it had split ends! Did you ever hear of such a thing? Turns out it really is a thing &, like everything else strange in my life, it's because I'm old & eyebrows also start to give out. 

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The train

Took the subway today for the first time since last March, when I got back from Edinburgh & never left town again. Walking was hard because of the hidden wells of slush on every corner. My waterproof boots got soaked & I just didn't want to walk back from Chelsea. F at 14th & 6th to Second Ave stop. It wasn't crowded or amazingly clean. It was familiar & not even in an "I've been away will ya look at this" sort of way. And yet, it's a tiny step back to my New York life. One that I might not do again for another 10 1/2 months..... 

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Monday Quote: Snow

My sister Lindsay, my brother Charlie, & me (that's the same giddy snow-face I still have), possibly setting off to surprise Grandma Alice on her 75th birthday. We took the train to California & I remember having a hard time believing that two such different weathers could exist simultaneously. 

Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.

~ Mary Oliver, "Snowy Night"


As I've said many times, in New York City, snow pretty much is for nothing more than prettiness, & along with that, we don't have to shovel or drive, so its elsewhere drawbacks don't apply. I remember making igloos with the little girl next door (when I was a little girl, but she was littler). Ice skating at the park that they flooded every winter, a couple blocks down Summit from us. The purest part of my childhood has snow in it. 

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