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Monday Quote

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.

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In my office II

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. 

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Neighborhood Tale

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.

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Some kind of warbler. Rarely do I see anything but pigeons & sparrows around NYC.

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

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Monday Quote

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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Pet Peeve #1,218

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. 

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The bounty of the summer

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.

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Monday Quote

I don't know where this photo came from—probably I moved the camera (phone). 

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. 

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I completed the Norwegian tree in Duolingo & am ready for my next challenge. 

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. 

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Sky of the week

Not just the moon! See Jupiter? 

Instead of a poem of the week, I thought you might enjoy a sky of the week. 

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Our giant tomatoes

These aren't as big as this picture suggests.

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. 

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Face Blind

Photo by Greg Masters, mask by me. Know who it is?

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! 

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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? 

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Monday Quote

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

~ Ida B. Wells

Who I once mixed up with Ida Tarbell

& now I can't remember again: Which one is Standard Oil? 

OK, that's Ida Tarbell.

Ida B. Wells was a founder of the NAACP & crusader for women's rights & voting, & against lynching. In 2020, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize "for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching." 

Why didn't I know more about her?!?!

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The roof, the roof!

The nice thing about the sky is that I can see it. 


Birds whiz by too fast for me. 

The plants grow too slow to photograph. 


But every cloud, every sunset, every shine is beautiful & I can take my time with a picture. 

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Poem of the Week

Felon Winds


We have sunk so low to make criminals of the zephyrs

that's America in two thousand nineteen


the trees are dangerous & depraved

mice don't bear thinking of


tetra & elephant fish are two-faced

O the wicked winds


that scorn the good black topsoil

& leave us offenders

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In the neighborhood

This building is on the Bowery. I took the picture a while ago & never used it because I couldn't find out anything about it. But now that I never go anywhere, I'm revisiting my roaming days & remembering how exciting New York is (or will be again). 

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So happy to read with Andrei Codrescu, John Godfrey, Vincent Katz, Sharon Mesmer, Alicia Ostriker, & Anne Waldman this afternoon, in a series organized by Andrei & the Brooklyn Rail. A friend said, hmm, all white people (she didn't say "old white people" but she was probably thinking it) reading "radical political poetry," as the event was billed? Sure! We showed her! & anyone thinking that we can't still be on point. 


And because it was on Zoom, my brother, my friend in Colombia, as well as several neighbors got to hear me. 



Here's one of the works I read: 


Personal History


I had never been in a city before I packed up my belongings in two paper bags and drove a thousand miles to spend the rest of my life in New York.


I was the smartest—& dumbest—girl in my 8th-grade class. Being dumb never got me into trouble, but being smart did, every day.


When he saw her in a tight teal fishscale dress, he knew he had to spill a drink on her.


I come from the prairie, my lies are long.

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Justin Townes Earle (1982-2020)

I'll be glad when we're seeing 2020 in hindsight. What else, what else?


Heartbroken at the death of one of my favorite young singers, Justin Townes Earle. I remember Robyn asking if I wanted to see him—his dad doesn't do much for me, she said, but I really like the son. We went to his shows several times over the years, at Webster Hall, a park in Brooklyn, City Winery, maybe another one or 2?


A good songwriter, a good musician, with a voice that went straight into your heart. A new-fashioned old-fashioned country singer. 

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Monday Quote

More Henry Adams. The last few chapters have been so allusive as to be mystifying but all in all enough gems that I keep reading. And anyway, I'm only a few chapters from the end. Anyone want my copy when I'm done? 

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August roof, the Ezra Pound

Pretty much every night we see a stunning sky. No photo comes close. When I was in Norway two years ago, I took dozens hundreds thousands of photos & they were miles away from reflecting the majesty of what I was seeing. So, please - either take my word for the beauty or tell me how to photograph it (with an iPhone). 


P.s. We have two tomatoes. Fingers crossed that there'll be a crop this summer. 

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Poem of the Week

Naps I Have Known

                                for Sy Beder


There's the sermon doze: a blank stare, a word that sifts in without catching context, unrelaxing but irresistible. You don't want to be seen slumped, the lights are bright, people know who falls out. When will I be old enough to be loud & proud in my shul nap?


Better: the Shabbat afternoon nap, when you'v made it through 3 hours of services & a sugary beige half-meal. You strip to your underwear, under the covers, between the cool sheets.


The best is the opera nap. The music & scenery are glorious & you fall into it, you're wrapped in a bright blanket of sound & spectacle, in a deep velvet seat. You're not asleep, you're taking it in, you're asleep, taking it in.


A few years ago in Idaho with three high-school friends sharing a rented condo, 40 years after high school. We all drifted off at the same time. That was what cemented our friendship.


Once in Madrid, my friends & I lay down in a public park, with no fear for out stuff or our lives. Trust, comfort, 40 winks.


And in Toledo with Mercè, tea & hot chocolate in the highest spot in the city, the library's snack bar, dusty after noon quiet of new & dusk, after so much walking, a siesta as serene as if we'd slipped off in our beds.


The nod nap, you're here & over there at the same time.


In kindergarten I resisted, but when I discovered that we got up off our rugs to tiny cartons of mil, I lay down eagerly.


After sleeping through every educational film strip in high school, it took me years to stay awake in a movie. When the lights went down: clonk zzzzz.


Airplane shuteye, no matter what, I go out. Always. Sometimes my main anticipation of an international flight is sleeping like a monk in my  window seat.


I used to think I'd sleep the night before my execution.


I don't nap much, not really, don't like waking up logy, don't like to let myself go. But maybe I'm talking myself into it?

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