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Privilege & restrictions

This view from my roof makes it all worthwhile. 

Very consistently these days, the people who have it the hardest refer to themselves as lucky (or "very, very lucky") & those who have it the easiest complain the most (& often behave the most, ah, individualistically). Two of many typical examples: 


= A woman I know with 3 young children, one of whom has special needs, tells me how fortunate she is because she has access to her ex-husband's pool during this heatwave. What she'll do when her childcare runs out next month, she doesn't know, but she's grateful for it now.


= Contrast that with another woman I know who sobbed because she had to moderate her exercise routine. She lives in an area of parks & lakes, has gone on overnights to outdoor areas, & has treadmills & the like in her house. But all she could talk about was how deprived she is. She has even acted on her privilege of ignoring the virus to vacation in the Caribbean. 


One thing that has helped here in New York City is that it's close to impossible to be solipsistic. You have to share: transportation, buildings, sidewalks, parks. You don't get to park where you want & drive everywhere without seeing your neighbors. We are used to being part of a commons. That's also in part because we have a long tradition of strong local/state government. I can't say which comes first but we are, I think, more used to taking others (many others) into account. It's clear to us that a "risk I'm willing to take" affects a lot of people. For people outside of small towns or large cities, a sacrifice for the common good is more abstract. 


One outcome is that New York State, after a horrendous start, has brought our C19 rate down to European levels. We're one of a handful of states, most in the Northeast, with dropping or stable numbers. 


People live where & how they live & I don't mean this critically as much as I've been trying to understand why I've been so peeved lately. Honestly, I feel like I already live close to the bone (by my choice! no regrets!) — but it's hard to give up things like anticipating trips or browsing at the library, especially when a lot of people I know are giving up so much less & griping so much more. I feel like I'm saying "saltines for dinner? yay!" & they're turning up their noses at "steak again." It's a feeling not a fact, because I AM incredibly lucky & really almost not bitching, but I guess I don't want to hear it from them. 

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A few minutes ago my eye was caught by a book on my shelves that I'm quite sure has sat there for 25 years unopened, even though it's a topic that interests me. The book: Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins, published in 1990. Why have I never read it? I wondered, & pulled it off the shelf to put in the to-read-next pile. The bookmark has a phone number in Johnny's handwriting so it must have been Johnny's not mine.


One minute later, I got an email from Amazon suggesting I might be interested in that very same book. 


How is this possible? Did I fall asleep & wake up with a tracker implanted? It's not a recent book & I haven't looked at any WWI books lately. 


I'm puzzled.


Should I be freaked out?

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Not a bad day!

My friend JP took this picture from his home in Hawaii. 

It's 200° out, at least, so every time I wiggle, I practically have a heat stroke. But I managed to get a new battery for my phone (Simple Mac, they're the best!) & run into the lively Sheila R, who spends time in my old Maine stomping grounds, & say hi to the guys at B&H, & wash my hair, & & &. I can't really make that sound like a very active day, can I? I think I went to the store but that may have been yesterday. Maybe we'll walk over to the west side tonight & try to spot the coment. Neowise. I wish it had a better name. 

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Monday Quote

Worry does not empty today of its sorrow, it empties tomorrow of its strength. 

~ Corrie Ten Boom 


Maybe because it's 98°, maybe because we're into Week 19—four full months—of lockdown, maybe because I don't have a car or a way to get out of town & am jealous that so many people I know outside of New York City have entirely or largely resumed their normal lives, maybe because I feel the summer slipping away even though it's only mid-July, maybe because I finished a couple of projects already that I thought I'd be immersed in for another month or two, or maybe—well, I've run out of steam on the depressing possibilities, but I'm the Queen of Lethargia at the moment. Perhaps I'll return to my ice cream habit of a month ago. Nah, I'm even tired of ice cream, & you know what they say, a person who is tired of ice cream is tired of life. I'll be fine tomorrow, I'm sure, more stirred, less stir-crazy. 

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In the neighborhood

This is just a couple blocks from me. 

I recommend this YouTube tour of the Lower East Side conducted by the Tenement Museum, called "How to Build a Neighborhood: An Architectural Exploration of the Lower East Side."


They covered six building, some old, some new, some both, some commercial & this one (photo), a Federal-style rowhouse dating from 1830s. Most of these were torn down to build tenements, which could house more workers, and many of those were eventually replaced by high rises and projects.  


Who knows, if New York ever fails, maybe one day we'll have homes like these again. 



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Even more evil

See? The handy arrows should make clear the nubs of our treasures.

I've been disgruntled that so many people don't believe in the pandemic. My friend said if they don't know anyone who's died, or maybe even anyone who's been sick, it's theoretical. And I raged that you shouldn't have to have imagination to believe what's going on around you even if it's not happening to you personally. 


That was before the fiend ate our two prize zukes right off their stems (stalks?). All of a sudden the things people had been telling me ("all we got was one raspberry") or I'd been reading (such as the devastating yearly plague of locusts in Giants in the Earth, the wonderful book about Norwegian immigrants to South Dakota that I've been reading nightly on the roof) struck me as real. Up till now I just nodded: what did pests have to do with CityGirl Nauen?


Will it make me less grouchy about Covid deniers? Probably not. 


Also, I bought some spray that's supposed to repel not just squirrels but deer, rabbits, raccoons, porcupines & armadillos (& some critters I don't know what they are). 

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It looks big but it's only the size of my thumb, if that. 

We have an invader. He murdered my beloved zucchini. I feel so sad. He may as well have crawled through the screen & eaten half my cat. Why? Why me? I'm not even joking. Squirrels are such assholes. 


Apparently I wasn't supposed to get attached to my garden. 

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Monday Quote

The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.

~ William Hazlitt


Another quote I don't need to gloss, right? 

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First draft!

I can't say a lot but I have a solid draft of a new poem, called, at least for now, "One Year." It started out 100 pages & now is down to 60. There's still some to fix or cut & some basic decisions about form but for the moment I'm basking. Here's how it starts:


Some speak of Rome & some of Paris

I speak of Sioux Falls & Spain

without the face I loved when young

nowhere is beautiful


there is no wall left to this village

thunder & rain

wet with wine

tomorrow we plow to the sea

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A good day

AND 2 zucchini-colored zucchinis! (They were very pale till yesterday.) Maggie says we can't eat them till they're big enough to impress people, but this is on our roof. What's more impressive than that?

What made it a good day? Surprises! I'd forgotten that the unexpected really perks things up. First my friend Barbara called—I'm on my bike at 2nd Av & 7th St, can you come out? I was down the block in 30 seconds & we not only chatted for an hour, it wasn't even about current events. Then my friend Ashley called & we got caught up, with plenty laughs. And my darling June's flute arrived so we met for a chaste lesson. I am self-taught & it's been 30 years or more since I picked up a flute. As soon as I did, I remembered that I never actually learned what ALL the keys do. So I showed her how to hold it & told her to fool around & she'd figure out a lot. Also, no rain. All of which is the kind of day I like at any time, but in these months, even more. 

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What's My Line?

L to R, Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf.

For some reason, I've been watching episodes of What's My Line? from the 1950s & 60s. You see the show change—the poet Louis Untermeyer was a panelist at the start, very awkwardly making semi-literary jokes, for example. Eventually the panelists got much better about getting on with things. It's fascinating to see the stars of the day, many of whom I had to look up: Fred Allen, Hal Block, Robert Q Lewis, Peter Lind Hayes, Susan Oakland. Richard Kollmar (Dorothy Kilgallen's husband). It was very cozy. For example, Bennett Cerf recused himself from one of the celebrity guests (where the panelists were blindfolded) when he thought he knew who it was, & confirmed by asking if they would be having lunch the next day. They all seemed to know & socialize, they all wore fancy dress, & in a way it was the original show about nothing. It wasn't exactly sophisticated or funny but it's such a time capsule of the times: the clothes, the manners, the assumptions. The big surprise occupation pretty often was a woman in a "man's" job—mayor, justice of the peace, barber—& they always guessed much lowlier jobs. 

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On the roof

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not much of a Nature Girl. Camping? One recoils in horror. But this summer I've become the queen of sunrise (5:32) & sunset (8:29) (giving us 3 fewer minutes of daylight today than yesterday). The rejuvenating parts of my day are outdoors. I've never spent as much time on the roof as I have in 2020. I go up soon after sunrise, for an hour or 2, till the sun rises over the Village View apartment & makes it too hot & bright. I go up again around 6 in the afternoon, when the sun is over the yardarm (OK, I don't know what that means, but it sounds nice & outdoorsy, yeah?). I have my red houdah & books. I bask, give the finger to the helicopters, & relax. 

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Monday Quote

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't going away.

~ Elvis Presley 


Great line—Elvis, really? According to Father Google, yeah. I think freedom is the same way. No matter how oppressed people are, at some point they revolt. Maybe because they have nothing to lose, maybe they suddenly have had enough, who knows. Sleepy day, if I have further thoughts I'll have to add 'em later. I invite my loyal reader(s?!?) to explicate...

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Hallelujah! Art & Poetry!

Larry Rivers on the left, Jess is the big collage on the right.


It was a summer day like they always were. We dragged ourselves through the hot streets to Tibor de Nagy, to see their happy new show of Old Friends (John Ashbery, Biala, Nell Blaine, Joe Brainard, Rudy Burckhardt, Donald Evans, Jane Freilicher, Shirley Jaffe, Jess (Collins), Louisa Matthíasdóttir, Larry Rivers, Louis Stettner, Neil Welliver). One work each & a pleasure they were. Catching up with Andy & Liz was great too. 


Then we sat in the park & started (so late!) our summer read: The Aeneid. We haven't decided among translations of Dryden, Fitzgerald, & Fagles. Or is that a law firm? I also have a dual-language edition that is more like a crib than a translation, but Johnny, once a Latin scholar, will no longer countenance it. The first conversation we ever had was an argument about Latin pronunciation—my public school Latin vs his Catholic school Latin. 


The first summer day of 2020 that was like our 30+ years of summer days. How could I be happier? 

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In the neighborhood

2nd Ave near 1st St. 

What does this say & what does it mean? 


Behind the fence is an unattractive, L-shaped park about the width of my apartment—skinny, that is. 


I have been puzzling over Infetine (sic) Sports for a couple of days now. What does this say?! What does it mean?!

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Monday Quote

A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. 

~ David Hume


It's shooting kittens in a barrell, isn't it? So I will point out that I'm not ONLY referring to tRump & his henchassholes but to a lot of perfectly nice, open-minded folks, friends even, who I see swearing by, for example, the first campaign brochure that wafted their way. When they quote some nonsense, I sometimes as if they've vetted it. No, s/he SAYS s/he's honorable, tall, this-that-this & that's good enough for them. For some reason Maggie & I started looking up the heights of musicians. Elvis Costello was listed in 3 places as 5'8", 5'9" & 5'10". We believed the ones we liked were taller than the ones we weren't so much fans of. Good evidence! 

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Poem of the Week

Poem in the Classical Manner


I sing of legs & the man

Yes, & of what's in-between.



~ Elinor Nauen & Johnny Stanton


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Dining al fresco C19-style

This is the restaurant next door. 

See? This is city ingenuity. How do you distance when there's no space? You put your tables in the middle of the street. This gives me so much hope for New York.

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In the neighborhood

After 30 years, the dry cleaner/tailor is folding up shop. Not my place (only because I don't get anything dry-cleaned) but my block. It's hard not to wonder what the city will be like in a year or two. A friend of a friend of my sister's is leaving what she called a "broken" city. When I moved here at the end of 1976, my boyfriend's employer, the City University, would let him know when it was OK to cash his paycheck. It was soon after the famous Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead" & the city wasn't getting the life support it needed. It was fiscally embarrassed, anarchic, burned out, dangerous—and exciting! We've been down before & millions of people came or stayed, and worked their asses off to improve their lives & that of New York. We've done it before & we'll do it again & people who don't want to be here? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. I still ❤️ New York just as much as I did the first day I arrived & felt instant, enduring love. 

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Dirt & seeds turn into food! Who knew?


I have it on good authority (Maggie) that there's a zucchini brewing here. 


On our roof! 


I guess we're not exactly truck farming—yet—but I like trucks & I like that they snuck into the farm equation. 

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Monday Quote

"There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself."

~ Diana Vreeland, quoted in The Unexpurgated Beaton by Cecil Beaton, forward by Hugo Vickers


And this is exactly why I'm (mostly) happy. How I live is how & what I chose & I continue to choose it. How fortunate I am that I could choose & stick to it. 

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Poem of the Week

Cuenca, Ecuador


a streak of sun wakes us

into wonder. we quietly breathe southern air


I go for a walk



a bowl they call a platter

a cup they call a vase


it's not mine—yet 

the white enclosed feel of the fog


3 pale blue domes of the New Cathedral

every morning a different delicate color


hooped roof tiles in shades of

pink, beige, copper, dusty, rust, khaki, brown


that somehow add up to red

earth tones, they say


but no earth I've ever seen

& small dark perfect people


boys wrapped with boys, girls with girls

a madre says no soda


& her little one snatches

her hand away


without a second joking reach

no tears, no complaint


only European-tinged women have gray hair

pajaros & clouds


an orange on a platter

I sit in a church not mine


in a country & religion not mine

Jesus in a tutu made of light


will Cuenca become mine? 

through food, love or a photo that I belong to


it was neither a noise nor a movement

or it was both! a little earthquake


the clouds the sun my recognizing eyes

change them charge them


our wealth is in time to stroll

we outdo each other in being pleased


the delicious fruit chirimuya

agua de pitimas, drink of a thousand flowers


& it's 3 in the afternoon

or 4 in the afternoon



August 2019

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A good week!

Don't you feel like the mood of the whole country lifted this week? Two excellent Supreme Court decisions, on LGBT rights & DACA; a falling away from the Clown-in-Chief, with critical op-eds & books coming out at a merry & damaging clip; and a chance at substantive police reform.


Boy, did we need some good news.


New York unPause is unsettling, as the virus continues its rampage. An old friend exhibited a heartlessness that made me cry (based on politics she only assumed—I have this idea that all the fire she took might burn up some of her ignorance). Uncertainty is driving everyone crazy. 


But that's always the way of things, right? Some good, some bad, & maybe toast in the middle. If we're lucky.

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Country music

I've been listening to country music all my life.


I have records of black fiddlers. (Violin, Sing the Blues for Me—check it out!)


I have records of white country blues.


At times I have been unable to tell by listening if it was white or black musicians. 


And yet it never occurred to me that COUNTRY MUSIC ITSELF IS BLACK. 


Not just an occasional Charley Pride or Darius Rucker, but black all the way back. 


By which I mean to say, country music has never been a white space that a few blacks snuck into. It's portrayed that way, but that's not the truth. Even the revered A. P. Carter is kind of the Elvis of country, finding (or at least polishing up) his songs & style in black churches & other places. 


Here's a really good article in Rolling Stone on the subject. I love how unsegregated music is at its essence, no matter what stories are told about it to whose benefit (one guess as to that).



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Monday Quote

Closeup on my roof. No connection to quote. 

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. 

~ L. Frank Baum


Still thinking about my dad. He would say they (meaning the Nazis) took away his country, his citizenship, his family, his language. But the one thing they couldn't take was his education. Get a good education! 


And by the way, Baum was a newspaperman in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which was the model for Dorothy's home though he switched it to Kansas because that's where tornadoes came from. Much as I love to point out & claim everything SoDakan, Kansas is welcome to that one! 

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