Yesterday was Memorial Day, next weekend is Independence Day & the weekend after that Labor Day. Summer is almost over.
The end of summer
Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
~ Mary Shelley
I was looking for something for Memorial Day but this spoke to me. I've been feeling unsteady. Like I've lost the thread. But I was given an assignment that I hope will serve as a purpose that will steady me in the weeks ahead.
In the neighborhood: 9th precinct
And here ya got yer typical inconsiderate police car parked square in the middle of the sidewalk. I could barely get around it, & what if you were using a wheelchair or walker. As usual, the cops have no interest in anyone but themselves.
Last week it was a bike sting, stopping people who rolled through a light a second before it changed at a corner with no turning traffic or pedestrians, & handing out $190 tickets. If they had been doing it at a dangerous intersection, I would have cheered, but this was set up to shoot fish in a barrel. Legal, maybe; fair, no.
I've been translating up a storm, mostly from Norwegian into English but also the other way round, in an attempt to improve my grasp of the nuance of words (as well as the straight meaning, a lot of the time). It certainly makes me aware of my limitations: is the best translation for "disappear" in this context (a Chekhovian poem by Maureen Owen called "Whenever I snow") forsvinner or blir borte? I have to understand the poem for a clue to the better choice. I have to understand every word & its etymology & every use it's been put to. You must know everything!
In the neighborhood
Walked around with Steve this afternoon ~ watched the orientation film at the Tenement Museum & managed not to buy more postcards: not till I send some of the hundreds I already have. Took him to Economy Candy for old-timey New York, and the new Essex Market to see the gentrification of Delancey Street. Later we'll have Greek dinner & pie. A nice leisurely warm summer day.
Tuesday, as ever
Why is every day Tuesday?
There's a lot I don't understand.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
~ Rudyard Kipling
To the farm!
I'd wanted to go here for a long time, although I figured out later that it was actually the Wyckoff House in Brooklyn, the city's oldest home, that I'd set as a destination. No matter, the Queens County Farm Museum was fascinating. It's the oldest farm in NY State, established 325 years ago in 1697. It's an hour and a half away by subway & bus, almost to the Queens/Nassau County border.
It's a working farm of 40-odd acres, with cows, pigs, alpacas, chickens, goats, dirt roads, a barn. We took a ride in a hay wagon; so corny it's great, we agreed. Being there took me far from the urban world & half a century (or perhaps 3 centuries) back in time. I didn't grow up on a farm but they were all around & I didn't realize how much agriculture determined the rhythms of my days. And then I wanted to get back to the familiarity of concrete.
The exterminator overlap
I was a block away from my office, leaving for the day. Wait! I forgot something & turned around. My phone rang. I ignored it. In front of my door, I see The Man from Advanced. That was who had just called. He came in to do his business. Oh! A lot of books, he said, admiringly. Do you want a book? I said inanely. Sure! What do you like to read? Books with a message, he said. And I found just the thing: something about conversations between Einstein & God, although that's not exactly it. I don't know why I had it, & it was in the giveaway pile, so I was delighted. This made my day, he said.
Wonderful program at the Norwegian Seamen's Church last night to celebrate Norwegian Independence Day. A lineup of excellent musicians, especially a string quartet from Norway of high school students, and the woman pictured here, who played the Norwegian pipes. They differ from Scottish in the reed (I think that's what she explained), making the sound similar but mellower. Steve enjoyed the salmon open-face sandwich & the marzipan cake, & I met some of my teacher's newer students, & said hi to a few people I've met at other times. Veldig gøy!
17 Mai / Syttende Mai
Gratulerer (congratulations) to Norway on Constitution Day. Their democratic constitution is the second oldest after the United States (1814 vs. 1776). Hipp hipp hurra! I'm headed over to the Norwegian church to watch a barnetog (children's parade, lit. children's train), sing & whatever else is in store. Fireworks? Not that I've heard.
And really goodbye for now to Maine
How much did I really live in Maine? I had jobs but they tended to be under the radar, like tooling leather belts & selling them at crafts fairs, or taking care of the 93-year-old mother of a man I met when I went to Bill Cohen's family's bakery to ask for a job. He said, I've got a job for you, follow me! And we jumped in our cars & drove to his big house in Brewer (twin city to Bangor), presided over by his wife, Sandy, the most generous person I've ever met. She saved us over & over with meals & showers & advice, all thrown out so generously that we never felt burdened.
But I didn't know where the Margaret Chase Smith federal building was in Bangor, & I don't know if it was even built when I lived in Bangor. (Yup, 1968.) I don't remember if I ever had a Maine drivers license, although I probably did. I recently found my ID from the U of Maine, so apparently I was a college student.
Nonetheless, I lived lightly there ~ intentionally (I guess I knew I was passing through) & because I was young. I guess I was really year-round "summer people" for the three years I spent in Vacationland. ("Summer people" ~ & some aren't, we used to say.) I do know a slightly racist joke about Lewiston, which always seemed not funny at all but a sign that I knew the joke & therefore the town. For a minute I was from Maine.
Sometimes you are aware when your great moments are happening and sometimes they arise from the past. Perhaps it's the same with people.
~ James Salter
I have no idea what this means but I dig it.
New York, New York
Entirely back, having gone to 3 poetry events since Wednesday: a wonderful reading by Maureen Owen & Susie Timmons, a memorial for poet & teacher Bernadette Mayer, & a another memorial for poet & publisher Bob Hershon.
The one for Bernadette went on nonstop for 3 and 1/2 hours, but was totally worth it for the very last performer, the formidable 83-year-old Ed Sanders, who sang, heartbreakingly, "How Sweet I Roamed from Field to Field," a Blake poem, and Tuli's beautiful "Morning, Morning," getting stronger as he got through them. No ego, he gave us the songs & stepped off.
The event honoring Bob was briefer, & was more for the new issue of Hanging Loose & his last book, Unveiling, with wonderful art by his daughter, Lizzie. I read a couple of his poems, including his wonderful "Derek Jeter," where he names me to be his baseball executor & telepathically tell him what's going on. I gave a copy of that poem to Jeter & he signed the book, when I was introduced by mutual friends. I don't know if he read it.
Maine (the darker side)
I went to Maine for a week to help clean out a hoarder house, where my friend's ex died. It was harrowing. A wonderful company called Want It Gone carted out 117 yards of junk (many truckloads) on top of a few dumpsters Janet & her son, Wyatt, has filled earlier. It was exhausting. Apparently it's not uncommon for people who are paranoid? mentally ill? to hoard water, & even though there are 2 wells, a pond & a creek on the property, Neil had filled hundreds of cartons & bottles with water, which I spent 3 days emptying & tossing.
Usually, no matter what, vacation or funeral, I write here & accomplish a few tasks. This week I did almost none of them. I had no extra energy even though we took time off almost every day, going to Schoodic (the most beautiful spot in Maine) and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland (possibly my second favorite spot in Maine), and seeing old friends.
But now I'm back & reassembling myself out of the Maine of the decades I've been involved there & New York, people who changed too much, & to some extent, maybe, people who didn't change enough. Any wonder that I'm sleepy every minute?
Today's post is where I catch up from taking a week off, which I may or may not explain later on. But this photo is Maine at its best. There's the dramatic rocky coast, of course, but this is the gentler, blue-skyed Maine, full of comfortable utilitarian houses & pleasant harbors. This photo makes me remember that it was pretty great, the 3 years I lived there in the '70s. Pretty great too that I still have roots & memories & friends, even though so much time has passed.
Going to Maine tomorrow for a week. Haven't been there in a really long time, 10 years? 20? Strange, given that after I lived there from 1973-76, I went up at least a couple of times a year for decades. But Janet moved away & other friends drifted away or died, & I started going to the Adirondacks, which is as wild & half the distance from here. Or no particular reason, things go one way & then another. I'm looking forward to driving up to Schoodic Point, my favorite spot on the coast of Maine, & seeing my old haunts & some old friends. Laughing with Janet.
I might be posting & I might not.
Snow on water: silence upon silence.
~ Jules Renard (1864-1910)
It's May 1 & I have officially given up hoping that it still might snow in New York City. Yesterday was cold & dismal but it only got down to 52°. Cold enough to be mad at the landlord for not supplying the legally required heat, but a long way from snow.
November in April & why did it seem like a good idea to go for a walk in Brooklyn? We couldn't find the store with architectural antiques & ended up having bad coffee & pastries. But the gabbing was great.
Either yesterday's post disappeared or I didn't actually write it. I think I did & it was about fixing one thing & then another, so that my new machine is up & running. The Mac people were utterly unable to help & suggested nothing that I hadn't already tried. Even though the router where we suspected the problem lay was 10 years old & long out of warranty, their customer service was happy to help & gave me the clue I needed. I still don't understand why it didn't work & now it does but I don't care. I promise not to be so boring from now on.
Yeah so nice to get a brand spanking new computer but why can't I connect to wifi & why does my VPN only let me connect through Romania? It's useless to look at pages of abbreviations & numbers. I want someone to come here & fix it. I suspect it will take 5 minutes if they know what they're doing. Meanwhile, I try the exact same things over & over, which I know is fruitless.
I am eating a salad of cabbage & romaine. It's not bad but it makes me want a hamburger.
I've been getting by with a 2012 MacBook Pro for quite a while. It's a real workhorse & the great guys at Simple Mac put in a new something & something else, & it's been good as new long past when I would usually have traded it in. But too many little things have started to go wrong & it was time. The best part about my new MacBook Air was meeting the terrific salesperson, a young musician named Kiet Tai Cao with a beautiful voice, who's finishing an album about his childhood home, with each song representing a room in the house. (I'm nervously doing the transfer from this computer to the new one so I can't really say a best thing about it. If the transfer works & I can seamlessly start up where I left off, well, that'll be great.)
Cut 4" off my hair. So far exactly no one has noticed.
And bought a cooling t-shirt with high hopes that I won't be slain by yet another record-heat summer.
What I'm reading
All the Great masters, ancient and modern, plagiarized Homer, and Homer plagiarized God.
~ Stéphane Mallarmé
One Toss of the Dice: The incredible story of how a poem made us modern by R. Howard Bloch is a biography of Mallarmé and his poem "One Toss of the Dice." The author makes the case that Mallarmé's experiments with syntax & layout are a forerunner of modern poetry, as well as cubism, hypertexts, Eliot & more. His "use of space and design to render meaning was an early version of Marshall McLuhan's famous dictum 'the medium is the message'." An attempt to "recover in time the fullness that is outside of time." Mallarmé "tried to raise a page to the power of the starry sky," Valéry said.
The day before
It was a Friday & Beth (nee Marybeth) & I were hitchhiking to Washington. She remembers us staying a day or 2 in Boston to learn pacifist techniques. Did we have sleeping bags? I think we simply threw ourselves on the ground on the Mall, waiting for the next day's demonstration. I don't remember seeing any of the bands or speeches. Beth woke up smiling & the young man who happened to be sleeping next to her was smitten. That was Wayne, one of the Air Force hippies I met that day. My life changed forever. I found my people, my place, confirmation of my values. They are still my people, my place, my values, my friends, my soul.
A New York day: coffee with Becky, who came to town from her upstate village to hang out & see people. Chitchat with Lou, who called me El-Ignore. Yes! There seem always be new names for me, even if they aren't all that nice (but funny). Then lunch with Yukie, full of laughs & memories & indignations. I'm on my own for dinner, Johnny calls to say; he's going out with his older son. I'll go home & lie around in the sun. Life how I like it.
Poem of the Week
Over my dead body!
Over min døde kropp!
Maybe I needed the 200 pounds that my head weighed last week to contain thoughts. I don't seem to have any left. I go to karate, I go to my office, I add some commas, I delete some commas (not comas) & for comic relief, I sneak in a semi-colon. What have I forgotten? I dreamed I wondered if my mother was still playing a lot of bridge.
A walk across Spain
Maggie is walk El Camino for the next several weeks. She left Friday for Madrid and started her walk today: 18 miles across this landscape. The idea never appealed to me till I saw a few of her photos & then I thought, sure! I'd like to meet every inch of the country, once of my favorites in the world.
Change was such an elusive thing. A man could say every day that he wanted to change his life, was going to change it, and every day the lament became merely a part of the life he was already living, so that the desire for change was in fact a kind of stasis that allowed the unchanged life to continue, because at least the man knew to disapprove of it, which reassured him not all was lost.
~ Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room
Ah, the many ways we fool ourselves. How many ways to walk around the truth & call it something else.
I read a very good & tragic story of hers recently called "A King Alone."
Sunday in the East Village
I'm alive! It was touch & go for the last few days, with a head that weighed 200 pounds making it hard to do much. I don't know how people with chronic ill health manage to do anything. I know I KNOW I wasn't even really sick, allergies is all, but despite being utterly bored with myself, I couldn't think about anything else. Ugh & ugh. In a few minutes, I go to celebrate Johnny's 4 score (tomorrow) with his 3 kids & most of the grandkids. He was born as much after the Civil War as it's been since the end of WWII. His birth, that is, is equidistant between now & the Civil War. I am unable to grasp the nature of Time.