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Selfish joggers

This was taped up on my block, though not for long. It's the big local (& national! maybe global?) controversy: masks. Do they work? Do they exhibit our willingness to make a sacrifice for the common cause? Do they prove that we believe whatever we read? Do they work?? If they make it hard to run, is that a good enough reason not to wear them, while we tell ourselves we are still keeping our distance? How much distance is enough? 


So many questions & each question leads to another & each answer seems to be superceded soon enough. 


I want to stop everyone & ask why they are wearing or not wearing a mask. 

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Two songs I took to heart as a teen were "Angel of the Morning" & "Different Drum." Both songs about taking responsibility for our (sexual) choices, or that's how I read them.


I know now that "Different Drum," though sung by Linda Ronstadt, was written by a guy (Mike Nesmith of the Monkees!) who was dumping a girl: "I'm not in the market / For a boy who wants to love only me. / … I'm not ready for any person, / Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me."


Merrilee Rush singing "Angel" (also written by a guy, Chip Taylor, who wrote "Wild Thing"): "There'll be no strings to bind your hands / Not if my love can't bind your heart." 


I believed them. I understood what those songs meant & what they meant for me. That I would always do whatever the hell I wanted.



Side note: Juice Newton (with whom I share a birthday) made the other big recording of Angel, which I also like.

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In the neighborhood

They were giving out masks down by the East River (& a few other locations around town). We got there early but the line was long. To that truck. Oh wait, past the truck. To the corner. Oh no, around the corner. But once they started handing them out, it went fast & they're nice & light & don't fog up my glasses.  


I've taken to counting mask-wearers & mask-scofflaws, & it's pretty close to 50-50. I read that Dems wear, Repubs don't so here in the heavily liberal East Village, it would be quite the insult to yell an assumed political affiliation at the people who don't think it's their responsibility to flatten the curve. (Are we even still using that phrase?)
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In the neighborhood

One good thing about going for so many walks is how much I see that I never noticed before.


My name is Michael and I do women's short haircuts 

when I'm not sleeping


I do things too when I'm not sleeping but that's rare these days. I'm with you, Michael!

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Breathe... breathe...

Photo by Susan Moon. 

A photo from a place I love, Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. 


We can do this.  


Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
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Monday Quote

People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure. 

~ Russell Baker


I would like to think that's not the case but it's true that we value things once someone else looks covetously at them, from pie on a dessert plate to a boyfriend. You don't know what you've got till someone else wants it.
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TGIF? Am I close?

Anywhere, anywhen. 
Here be we in the eternal present. We all be Buddha now.  


Here be I awake possibly or maybe I be asleep. What does it look like to you?  


It may be morning & I need coffee. It may be evening & I'm done for the day. 


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This is probably the best scrabble game I've ever played. 


AGONIZE, there in the upper right, got me 113 points; the Z was on a triple letter, & I made words all the way down. I was a hundred points behind & then I was back in it, but I don't care about that—Ann & I play all the time, & it doesn't feel like one wins & one loses, just one long endless game.  


It had great words like hairline & coronas & queue ("the letter Q followed by 4 silent letters").
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Poem of the Week

Why I Am a Karateka, After 12 Years, When Everything Hurts & I've Suffered the Coup de Vieux (the Blow of Age)


I wear pajamas & go down on the floor

when the instructor says "stomach touch" &

then I do pushups.


I get bowed to & the color

belts have to know my name & I know if they don't.


I like to work hard at something I'm no good at.

I don't mind working hard at something I'm no good at.


I was the only one to do basic self-defense #2 correctly.

However, I switched my feet to match, so not only was I wrong,

I lacked the courage to be right.


The black belts laugh all the time.

We have to.

We make so many mistakes.


It was a typical class.

It was a terrific class!

As Sensai Albie would say:

That's one they can't take away.


The wood floor with 40 years of sweat & polish.

The big mirrors, where you can disappear.

My legless armless boyfriend Bob

that I can beat up!

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Remember when?

Penn Station, 1941, photo by Arnold Eagle (1909-1992). 

I'm thinking how long ago it seems that people crammed together like this. It's only a couple of months but feels like 80 years. 

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Monday Quote

This is the fence by the Grace Church school on 11th St. 

When I was a teenager, I wrote in a notebook, Desirelessness is liberation, which I undoubtedly copied from some "deep" novel. I read books like The Way of a Pilgrim, & tried to chant the Jesus prayer: "Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a miserable sinner." I couldn't help but edit it: I was Jewish & didn't feel like a miserable sinner at all. I was a triumphant sinner! I quickly got it down to "have mercy on me," but then I wasn't asking anyone, & I didn't think there was anybody (AnyBody) to ask. And that was the end of my sainthood career. I liked (& like) living in the world so much more! 

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Totally self-indulgent post

The people I love most in the world: Lindsay, Julia, Patrick, Charlotte, me, Johnny, Donna, JT, Barbie, Ken, Richard, Ilona, Amy, Rachel, Michael, Zoe, Varda, Jeff, Henry, Adrienne, Tom, Viki, Jim, Ian, Lara, Jaymes, Hannah, Jonah, Michele, Dave, Peta, Margit, Charlie, PJ, Aleah, Annie, Emmett, Sara, Ben. At least another dozen were on the call but missed the photo shoot. 

This is a few dozen of my FCs—Favorite Cousins. Some are siblings, nieces or nephews, & many are removed or 2nd or 3rd cousins, but the best thing you can be in our family is a cousin. We all call each other FC & have physical reunions often. We had one this afternoon by Zoom, & I think I dislocated my jaw smiling. What a lovely, loving, positive bunch. I don't think any of them read my blog or know I write it, so this is just pouring all that beautiful energy & love into the ether. 

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I still have this power

On February 5, I wrote that two authors, Ward Just & George Steiner, died while I was reading their books. It happened again - Eavan Boland died on Monday, the same day I finished her book about being/becoming a poet. I never loved her work but I'm sorry I killed her. 


I once randomly mentioned to Johnny that Kitty Wells had been married for something like 75 years, & her husband's obituary showed up that day. 



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A puzzle

This is a jigsaw puzzle my friend upstate is doing. Isn't it glorious? I want to live there. 

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Monday Quote

Investigate what is, and not what pleases. 

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


It's kind of shooting fish in a barrel to point that out in the day of "inject bleach," isn't it? 


Horrible expression. 


Isn't there another image for easy as pie? 



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The House

I spent time this morning looking for pictures from the House. I could only find one, which I pulled out to bring to work to scan & illustrate today's post. But now where is it? And now I'm discombobulated & am going to repeat my April 24 post from 2 years ago. April 24 being the most significant date in my life. My life changed permanently on this date in 1971—49 years ago. Read on!


How would my life be different if Beth & I hadn't hitchhiked to Washington D.C. on this date in 1971? If she hadn't woken up with that sweet smile she always woke up with (one of my favorite things about her) & W-- hadn't fallen in love with her and she with him? What if I hadn't been "stuck" spending the day with his friends, who became my lifelong friends? More than friends: the people who shaped my life, who've had my back, who understood what it was like to be in our world together, who I've learned the most profound lessons from, who I trust implicitly & explicitly.


I try to write about The House all the time, but I never manage to actually say what it means to me. "I guess you had to be there," I think people conclude.

Well, today is my day to be sentimental & nostalgic about those times & if I keep trying maybe I'll get it.


I wouldn't know people in South Carolina & Ohio & Ecuador if not for The House. I probably wouldn't know someone who worked at a Ford plant for decades, or who lived off the grid, or who came from such a different background & expectations that we wouldn't have been able to start. But the egalitarianism & kindness of the people who lived or hung out at The House made these connections possible.


I suppose rather than say What It All Meant, especially given that I'm no longer 19 (ahem) & kind of out of the practice of Big Thoughts, I should tell stories about those times & those guys.


Stories like this one: Across the street was The Other House, where "the jocks"—Jason Yoon, Mike Davis, a rolling cast—lived. Why did we call them jocks? I realize it's because every once in a while they would shoot hoops for an hour.


Soon I will get out my notebook from that time—I've been reluctant to read it because I'm afraid it's full of Grand Conclusions & not really about anything. Also, I didn't know in 1971 that this would be central to my entire adult life.


I found a letter Teresa wrote me a few years later: Was it real? she asked. Did we really feel the same & see it the same? She had to check, I think, because while we knew we were profoundly connected but we didn't know how to believe it. It was so unlike anything any of us had ever experienced.


Yes, my sister, it was real. And still is.


2020 Update: One thing I just thought of & have never mentioned, I think, is that until I got to the House, only my family ever called me El. To this day, the only people who spontaneously shorten my name to El are people I become good friends with. I was always El at the House—family from the start.

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In the neighborhood

Tompkins Square Park.

Jim Power has been doing mosaics in the neighborhood for 35 years. I've come upon him at work a couple of times. This is one I never noticed before. 

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In the neighborhood

Yes, we live in apartments the size of an eggplant. Yes, we're stuck inside, when our city life is built around a home base & its extensions—the coffeeshop, the synagogue, the dojo, the gym, the bench where we read & run into our neighbors.


But then I go for an early morning walk in Tompkins Square Park, with no construction noise, no airplanes, almost no people, that blue sky, & I think, New York is my city, New York belongs to me because I am here. 

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Maggie Dubris

I don't know why I haven't written about her & her work more. 


Our origin story: We were both taking Jim Brodey's workshop at the Poetry Project in 1977. At the end of the first or second session, I went up to her & said, "You're the only one who wrote a real poem. Want to be best friends?" I will never know what possessed me to say that. I knew NOTHING about poetry but somehow I knew that's what we had here. 


She said, "How about we go have coffee." So we did, along with this guy Charley, who was bantering like mad, & by the end of the night, without saying anything, we had settled the terms of our friendship, & it's been that way ever since. Now we live in the same building & until last month were in & out of each other's apartments all the time. (My recollection is that we named our building The Ezra Pound because we liked saying we live at the pound.)


Her new book, Brokedown Palace, is brilliant. Buy it!


I just stumbled on this terrific interview in the Believer from a year ago that somehow I never saw till now. But it was Apollinaire's grave at Pere Lachaise—"a modern grave for the first modern poet," I remember thinking at the time, with its jagged & large rock headstone. I think we also went to Mt Parnasse, where we stole flowers from a nearby grave & left them on Baudelaire's grave with a note: From the poets of New York to the Poet of France.

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Monday Quote

The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power. 

~ Francis Bacon


Felt like what I wanted today was a cheerful reminder that the Ozymandiases of the world end up headless in the desert, while the poets are revered forever. 


And then I think of this. Read More 

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Avenue A near Houston. 

I tend to think of the East Village as being sensible, fairly immune to conspiracy. Why would that be the case? We have every stripe of nut here, just like anywhere. It's only my optimism that people can be led to their senses that makes me believe my chosen town is above average. Lately I've heard any number of people declare that it's impossible to know what's going on, who's right, the predicted course of illness—& without missing a beat proceed to declare what's going on, who's right, & what's going to happen. I try not to be discouraged. What are my own stubbornnesses & blind spots?


Giving my neighbors more credit than they deserve, for starters. 

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Birthday boys

Happy birthday, Johnny! Sunset Strip today. Happy birthday, Johnny Jr - Lefty is a year old today. Two crazy kids. My life would be more serene but less thrilling without them. 

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In the neighborhood

On Allen Street near Delancey.

I've been taking walks very early in the morning, usually out the door around 6:30, no later than 7. My favorite direction is south & east, where the Lower East Side still has a bit of grit. Very few people & we look at each other in wonder. The last survivors. Yesterday (in SoHo) a well-dressed & non-masked older woman veered towards me, but usually the women notice their surroundings, while the men—like always—expect everyone else to get out of their way. I may be restricted, you can sense them feeling, but I still deserve more room than YOU. One NYC pleasure is meeting one's neighbors when there's a crisis—a blackout, a blizzard. This time around we are largely deprived of that, though I did have a brief conversation just now with a young woman with a laundry cart about open laundromats. Someone else from the neighborhood that I've known by sight for ages jumped in, & for a minute it was my New York—friendly, funny, helpful, with all the time in the world to chat.

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Some strange & wonderful films

A screen grab from one of the 5 short films that comprise this exhibition. 

At first I thought, I have to watch these films—excuse me, digitally kinetic paintings—again when I'm high. And then I realized I didn't need to, they transported me on their own. 


Julian Semilian is a filmmaker, poet, & translater who teaches in North Carolina, one of the many Romanian artists I've met through Andrei Codrescu, all of whom are brilliant.


I don't have the language to talk about these so I say: watch & feel the magic. 

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Monday Quote

The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.
~ Raymond Chandler


Balance, observation, fairness. 


The truth of restriction keeps us from sleeping, & the truth of sleep keeps us from going round the bend. 

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