I'd be lying if I said I didn't have moments of fear, like when I saw this ambulance across the street. I dreamed last night of an unrecognizable New York, full of muggers' alleys & whitecapped rivers. I carry on & those moments are small. But they're real & they keep me washing like Lady Macbeth. "Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so pale."
How great to see these guys at Greg's impromptu publication party for his beautiful new book of collaborations (with the likes of Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, & quite a few others), with photos by Monica Claire Antonie. His plans for a do at the library of course were canceled so he invited a few of his fellow collaborators to meet in the park, where we kept a safe distance & were so happy to see (but not hug!) one another.
Everything is a calculation of the odds. Safe to walk to the park? Safe to chat across the hall? OK to walk a block without a mask?
In-person meeting: the most beautiful & nostalgic phrase of the month.
Change is certain. Progress is not.
~ E. H. Carr (1892-1982), English historian, diplomat, journalist and international relations theorist, and "an opponent of empiricism within historiography"
And it's clear we don't have a whole lot of control over where & how change will come.
And it's clear that what looks like progress isn't necessarily, that there seem to be as many unintended consequences as there are intentional ones.
It's a great trip, though, & I'm happy to be along for the ride (even now).
People are taking this seriously. WE are doing everything we can to protect ourselves & our neighbors. I know how scary the map looks, with that blood-red splotch right on top of us. But block by block, we're careful as can be. I appreciate all the contact from around the world but please know that we are OK. As long as the ice cream supply can be replenished, that is.
I've been having a good day. I went to the market early, so I had a walk with a purpose, learning Norwegian along the way. Bought onions & potatoes so it looks very much like more soup migh be happening in Chez Nauen. I took an online karate class & meditation; found out that my lovely neighbor Louis is a car guy—he's from Detroit so I'm not surprised, but it was fun to talk about beautiful old cars with someone who likes that conversation; talked with my mother who is stoic about what's going on; had some ideas for projects; revised an old play; & didn't worry. A good day.
And this picture proves it. I cooked! Yes, I cooked. I made yellow lentil soup with carrots, onion & garlic. It was pretty good, but now it's gone & it looks like I may have to do it again. (Insert unhappy face emoji.)
I don't get why people like to cook. All that work buying stuff & still not having the right ingredients, chopping, measuring (well, I don't actually do that), & then it still isn't really tasty, & then it's gone. At least a poem, even a bad poem, MIGHT be wonderful while you're immersed in it. But food is just food.
I know I'm a yokel.
Update: I made soup AGAIN & was really struck by how you can throw together a bunch of inedible stuff, like beans & water, & it turns into FOOD. I might keep this up!
Someone suggested that my mysterious & incessant racking cough throughout January & February may have been symptoms of the virus. I don't think I had a fever, & didn't have chills, but I did have exhaustion & shortness of breath. Who knows? No one ever figured it out but it stands to reason that different people will have variants of the symptoms. A lung X-ray was clear but I've had compromised lungs ever since September 11 (pneumonia twice since then). I eventually chalked it up to allergies but who knows? On the one hand, I hope I had it without worrying that I might die. On the other hand, it's horrible to think that I may have been Patient 0.5 - an early spreader.Well, till I can test for the antibodies, I won't know & of course will continue to be careful.
I know it's a bullet train into New York right now, as Johnny said, but it (surreally) doesn't feel like anything in particular is going on, just perpetual Sunday morning. Our population density means we can't really separate as much as we need to but everyone I see or know of is doing their best.
Found Poem (Carol Halstead)
I walked right up
to someone to say
and then you realize oh
step back Carol
One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.
~ Marie Curie
So much remains to be done, and some of us won't be here to do it. But the poetry will still get written, the music composed and played, the paintings painted, as well as the discoveries made, the lives begun & saved, and on & on. The world never quite manages to come to an end, no matter what happens & no matter what is predicted.
A friend wrote from Brazil to express surprise at the "jaunty" tone of an earlier post. Then he wrote to say he had misread something & withdrew the word. But it does make me think, as I have been: What tone does one take in the face of terror & uncertainty?
Some people prefer? enjoy? knowing everything, or can't help reading the news all day long. Some people minimize, & each generation seems to be accusing the others of carelessless.
I'm with the ones who take in information but try not to get overwhelmed. Clearly this is a long-haul situation & we have to pace ourselves. I am most definitely doing everything I'm told: washing like a raccoon, keeping my distance. After that, what can I do but try not to melt into fear? What good does it do me or anyone to think about my loved ones I may never see again?
"Jaunty" comes from 17th-century French meaning well-bred or genteel. I think it might in fact be a good word to use right now. It certainly is well-bred not to, oh, hoard toilet paper. For the band to play while the Titanic sinks. I always admired that Roy Cohn (otherwise the opposite of admirable!) famously & impressively kept his cool while waiting for results of a trial with his life/career on the line (I don't remember the details).
I hope the health-care workers maybe get a moment to relax & even laugh in the midst of tragedy. I've tried to be light with people who have it worse. I don't want to be the one who needs help.
This is only part of the conversation. I'm sure some days I'll want only to cower & I may even find myself wallowing in — looking for! — the scariest news. But as many people as can probably should stay as normal as possible.
I skedaddled, didn't meander or dwaddle at all, from the store where I saw this sign, the pet store Whiskers on 9th Street.
What happens when there's no one to grow / process / package / ship / sell the food?
On my walk today, I saw daffodils, forsythia (yellow bells, they're called in South Carolina), tulip tree & this. Spring comes as does greater trouble. The State Department has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel warning. My brother-in-law is on a cruise (as a lecturer) somewhere near South Africa.
I went to the 99¢ store on Ludlow Street for shampoo, kleenex, & dish soap, & found—back in stock after many months—my favorite notebooks! They even had colors (green, red) they hadn't had before. I'm using the last one at the moment (I go through a lot of notebooks). Katz's was open for takeout & thought about ordering a pastrami sandwich for my brother but he's in California & who knows where he'll be in a few days' time. It was a crisp sunny day. I did some work, checked in on or was checked in upon by lots of people, watched black belt class, went for another walk. I thought about the Black Plague & how it killed half the people in Europe, leading to enormous & permanent political upheaval. C-19 is not going to kill half the people in the world! We are home with plenty to do, books to read, movies to stream, electricity to see & cook with. It's tough for plenty of folks, I am not minimizing the risk to jobs & healthcare workers, for example, but for many of us, it's an inconvenience & we're not likely to have our entire families wiped out. The stretches of time when I can suppress my anxiety are actually very pleasant.
Good sense travels on the well-worn paths; genius, never.
~ Cesare Lombroso
I guess it was genius to go to Scotland, eh? I'm still a little mid-Atlantic brainpower-speaking: tell me, how does this quote apply to my ill-fated trip, or does it? I'd like it to come out that I'm a genius, but it certainly didn't turn out that way.
Definitely guessed wrong on the impact of the virus, & had to grab a very expensive last-minute ticket, with the worry that I wouldn't get back for a very long time if I waited. One needs to be home when something big is going on, & it was distressing to be so far away. Things are closing or closed here but I don't think it's really struck that this might or will go on for a long time. Of course I hope people don't get sick of social distancing & self-isolation & all the things we are learning just when it's most important to stay the course. This article in The Washington Post was reassuring. And Scotland was great, even if the trip was too short & marred by worry.
Is it a terrible idea to travel internationally? Hard to say, so I'm going to go to Scotland tonight, & hope that I get back on the 20th as planned.
I mean, it's a fantastic idea to go to Scotland! I will see my beloved namesake & her mom, a quasi-cousin & a lifelong friend, do a reading, & see a city I've only been to once, ages ago. Despite the weather app predicting nonstop rain, it will be intermittent. I don't need wellies, she said, but bring a warm jumper. I'll also take the train to Liverpool for a couple of days to see other cousins.
In the middle of a pandemic (has COVID-19 been declared such?) & a pretty big stock market tank, this may be my last chance to take this sort of trip.
I remember reading about a young man who came to the States, maybe as an exchange student, and while he was away, there was a revolution & his country ceased to exist. It took him many years to get home. Little worries circle me but then I think: it's the (post-Brexit!) UK. What can happen?
We shall see.
And what is a barbarian, you ask? A man dressed in skins? Not in this century, friend. He's the type who likes to destroy. That's all. He wants to be boss-man, whether it's with a hatchet or a gun or a bomb, or with nice cold-eyed justifications such as "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." As if we were only something laid by a clucking hen for breakfast.
~ Helen Macinnes
It's so miserable having one's illusions of civility torn apart.
I don't need to say more, do I?
Setting: 8 a.m., Second Ave & 4th St.
Her (middle-aged lady with rollie suitcase): How do I get to West 4th?
I point her towards the nearby F but she doesn't want to do stairs. I point her towards the bus.
Her: And I can get the 2 train there?
Me: No. Where are you going?
Her: Columbus Circle.
Me: The 2 doesn't go there either.
Then she tells me she's actually going farther uptown.
I don't know how people expect to get directions if they won't tell you where they're going!
Everyone I've showed this photo to thinks I'm a teenager in it. Or younger! People have guessed anywhere from age 11 all the way up to 19. Including my husband who knew me & was at the event where the picture was taken. I was 31. I look at it & am no longer surprised or indignant that cops thought I was a 15-year-old runaway when I was 25.
The boys were 20 years younger than me at the time of the photo but are now my age, in that odd way age has of flattening out in adulthood.
Did you ever notice that if there's a bad connection, the person you're talking to ALWAYS blames you & your phone? I suppose if I can hear perfectly & you can't, I might assume it's your phone, but that doesn't even make sense: It's not the phone, it's between us & sometimes it just happens. They are always very judgmental: You're moving around - hold still! Something's wrong with your phone! Not only is it your fault, they know what you are doing to cause or exacerbate it.
How about: "We seem to have a bad connection. Let me try calling you right back."
I remember many, many years ago, when Maggie & Rachel lived on 9th St, we were on the phone & we could hear another conversation, faint but clear. We started butting in, giving girlfriend advice, until they realized what we were doing. They lived nearby & somehow we ended up meeting up at the Grassroots. Nelson & Rene were Puerto Rican revolutionaries & eventually moved to Boston, but we hung out for a few months.
My nephew was supposed to go on a senior trip to Germany in a few days. His school just canceled it out of concern for COVID-19. Not surprisingly, my sister (& several other people) asked if I was thinking of not going to Scotland next week. As long as I'm allowed to go, I'm planning to. That is, unless the U.S., UK or Delta pulls the plug, I'm getting on that plan in exactly seven days.
Should I worry? No more than I ever worry about the unknown, I suppose. I'll take some precautions, like trying not to touch my face & washing my hands more than I do, but for now I don't feel at risk. Things can change! I notice there are a few more empty seats on my flight back than there were a week ago.
People are on the subways as ever & everywhere else. New Yorkers don't scare easy! Some of my friends have been stocking up on things like rice & lentils. I can always use a few more rolls of toilet paper.
If you don't like politicians, you should try living in a country where they don't have any.
~ Tony Benn, British politician
I have been unable to find confirmation of the quote or its source, but it's a good one. I remember a book by Paul Gallico, one in a series about Ada Harris, a cockney charlady who also goes to Paris & Moscow. In Mrs. Harris Goes to Parliament, she gets elected quite by accident & ends up quitting right away. She says it's a job that like any others needs qualified people & it devalues the job if people like her do it. Yes, politics does demand knowledge & skill. You can see that some people, like Lyndon Johnson & Abraham Lincoln, are really good at it. And some people fell into it, like Jim Hightower said about George Bush: he was born on third base & thinks he hit a triple. (A quote originally from football coach Barry Switzer but not about Bush: he said "some people.") Getting elected is only part of the job, & it's what you do afterwards that counts. I guess I would say I'm for unity. I hate to see Democrats fighting Democrats when there are so many Republicans who should be sent packing. I look at it as a moral issue, & I'm not sure I would support Lincoln if he was running against a decent incumbent.
One time Maggie & I went into a tiny shop in Chinatown for something to drink. In the case were cans of jellied grass drink. How is it? we asked the lady. Quenching! she declared. We bought a can. IT TASTED LIKE JELLIED GRASS. It was the most horrible thing I ever drank. We spewed it out into the street. To this day "quenching" is our adjective for GAAACK.
And now this. Has anyone called it divine?
I've been bummed out ever since my birthday turned out to be warm & gray. I want snow! We haven't had any this whole winter, except for a 10-minute flurry. A couple days ago I checked out a bunch of books from the library with "snow" or "winter" in their titles. One turned out to be (I think) a romance novel, so now I've read a romance novel (I think). At least it had impossibly attractive people with unlikely talents, but it also quoted Christina Rossetti: "Snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow." I just found a book of British mystery short stories set in winter called Crimson Blood. That's the one! I want to be cold & look up & see quiet white outside my window.
It is hard to be finite on an infinite subject, and all subjects are infinite.
~ Herman Melville
And what else do you want or need to know about Melville? One great thing about him is that Moby-Dick is kind of like the I Ching or the Bible—you can open it anywhere & find a great line, one that speaks to what you need right that minute. How does he do that? And why is his prose so much more poetic than his poetry?