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NauenThen

Another pleasant Sunday

A whole lotta Schneemans. I wish I could take a picture of how nice it is in here. 

My house may never be as clean & tidy as it is right this minute. I feel like we should be in a magazine. Johnny got two pieces of art framed (a poster of a Philip Guston cover of The World from 1974 & George Schneeman's silver cover for his son Elio's book Walking into the Mad Space) & we picked them up today, so there's that fun thing of new art to both look at & catch your eye, & it makes me look at the familiar all over again. There's snapdragons in a Schneeman pitcher, we've thrown out so much stuff I don't even have to drape a sheet over the kitchen table to hide the clutter underneath. Wow, it's a pleasure to live here companionably with my old man on a pleasant, hot Sunday afternoon in the spring of this infernal year. 

 

Johnny Stantonstan story: He was 24 or 25 when he took his son to school. Sean said, that's my old man. "I never felt young again," Johnny said. 

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Liarati

The rules are simple ~ it's scrabble except you make up the words, which have to be legit English words, & we all thrash out the definitions. So much more fun than the regular game. 

 

Most useful word of yesterday's game: Devent. Still working out a definition: the opposite of invent? taking it down a notch in a dissatisfied rant?

 

Loveliest word: Oridenja, an aromatic Asian tea? A girl's name?

 

A word made with great delight by the 11-year-old in the game: Zitsmore (i.e., zit/smore)

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From the vault / Poem of the week

Domestic Triumphs

 

Coffee detox ... Fricasse fowl (39¢/lb) soup. My theory is the bird was hot, cuz there was all this stubble where they HADN'T HAD TIME TO PLUCK IT. But the soup was a success & fed several people and is still feeding me, along with health-store bread that tastes like turkey stuffing ... I'm growing a sweet potato vine. ... Knitting. Though bogging down on a baby sweater because I'm mad at my friend who's pregnant. Maggie says write him a domestic letter & maybe he'll marry you. I says but I'm engaged to his best friend, don't that mean nothing? She says stop the clock if you can't make up your mind... New sheets ... My hands between my legs, for warmth, solace, fun, continuity ... My hands faintly numb at the tips, which makes them smooth, cold lifting off the fingerprints. ... I clean under a fingernail with my bottom middle two teeth ... Something smells bad in my purse. Put looking for it on my "to do today" list ... Coffee retox.

 

 

I wrote this in 1990, have no idea if it was ever published. Back when I cooked! 

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Men

I'm not going to drop the link in, I'm not even going to say the writer's name. The editor of a Catholic journal opined in the NYT that he "can live with" the disruption that overturning Roe will cause. I can't even begin to say how infuriating this is. Of course he can live with it ~ he won't be forced to bear his rapist's baby, he won't risk dying from a dead fetus that he has to carry to term or a back-alley abortion, he won't lose jobs because he has too many kids. I have never seen an op-ed that had not a single comment in agreement. And the comments were heartbreaking & furious: from children who'd been unwanted saying they don't wish that on anyone. Many pointing out the economic consequences. Those who see that it will make it harder on victims of domestic violence. But that cretin will have his "joyful" hundreds of thousands of additional babies. 

 

And all of a sudden people like him ~ Tish Warren Harrison is another ~ are down with support for families. Yeah, you've had 50 years to support paid family leave, child benefits, income subsidies, and better health care. You weren't interested. You opposed it. Now you're dropping a little crumb of compassion into your gloating? No, thank you. 

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I'm a birdwatcher

I'm not, not really, but I liked going to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge & seeing some moving things. Doves & seagulls, which I see around here. And sleeping swans that looked like piles of white intestines. It was peaceful & full of sea air & right here in New York City. 

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What I'm reading

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 years of Western cultural life, 1500 to the present, by Jacques Barzun, is a dense yet leisurely look at what makes us us. It's all so entwined that I can't pick out one thread of story or biography without damaging the whole tapestry, perhaps because I am reading it so slowly that I am probably losing the narrative arc.

 

I never thought of this before but I wonder if the speed at which one reads a book has any bearing on how you think about it. I don't mean speed as in pages per hour but how much you read per session or per day, & whether you take breaks. I know that if I put down a novel for any length of time, I can't remember much when i come back. Most of the time I'm not sure that that matters, even when it's a mystery, that is, even when plot is essential. I think I like coming back with big mistakes, getting the wrong idea & essentially collaborating with the author's general outline while supplying my own gloss. 

 

i'm thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Crusoe in England," which I must have read a page of & put it down for a while.When I came back I picked up where I'd left off & forgot the title. I somehow believed it was about someone alone on Fire Island. When Friday came, things understandably picked up. When Friday got the measles, it suggested the narrator wasn't sure she was so happy having her privacy disturbed. I forget what finally happened that made me suspect I had something wrong, but until then everything fit with the storyline I'd devised. 

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Bonniest Baby

"Presented by the Rector of Walton to Alice Joyce Phillips. Bonniest Baby. 5th July 1924."

The only thing of my mother's that I wanted after she died (& before, for that matter) was this silver cup she won for being the bonniest baby of 1924. My sister Lindsay, who hand-delivered it this weekend, said my mom had no use for it because her own mother, my grandma, would trot it out when young men came to pick her up for dates. Lindsay also said Grandma would rub olive oil on her, which was what made her bonnie, although she herself always said it was only because she was a fat baby. 

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My house

This may not seem barren but it is so much neater & emptier than it was 6 months ago when I started to toss stuff & definitely tidier than the photo from a few days ago. I threw away so much that I have empty shelves ~ I don't need to have someone come build me clever storage spaces, which was my plan when I started. My closet is still perplexing but I can now put my hands on whatever I'm looking for, & really, that's all I need. 

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The unborn

This seems so true to me. I suppose the anti-abortion folks feel like they are advocating for the helpless & voiceless. (Against the "mere vessels" carrying them.) I would like to hear a good counterargument. 

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Jeg vant!

Dette kommer nok aldri til å skje igjen så det er spennende for meg å vinne en norsk scrabble-kamp mot læreren min... (This will probably never happen again so it's exciting to me to win a norwegian scrabble game against my teacher...)

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My place

OK, I know I've bored everyone I know with antic tales of decluttering & I know this picture looks like I must have been cleaning up someone else's place but it really is very cozy these days, especially in the 10 minutes of afternoon sunlight. 

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What I'm reading

I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.

~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz

 

I was trying to find something on the philosophy of memory, & was surprised to find how many books & papers there are that address this. But every search included one novel: Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald (1944-2001). It's compelling, for sure, despite the lack of chapters or even paragraphs, not to mention my lack of understanding. But I feel I'll get somewhere with it. Very vague, to be sure, & I'm intrigued by being so interested in a book so unlike my usual taste, that is, without the help I rely on from the author (recaps, for example). 

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In the neighborhood

This was my favorite of the public art pieces on the Allen Street pedestrian mall, right across the street from me, below Houston. Well, the most photogenic — I liked the moose but it didn't stand still long enough for me to get a good shot. 

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Elinor Wonders Why

For some random reason, i found myself watching this terrific PBS kids show, with the curious bunny Elinor and her friends Olive (an elephant) & Ari (a bat) finding out about things like echolocation, snow, & the mystery of what happens to leaves in the forest that no one rakes. They research & look closely & figure things out. Love it!

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Tiny house

Why, I do believe this homesteader's shack in beautiful Montana is smaller than my apartment. 

The original tiny house? But all that land means the residents are out & about most of the time, plowing the sod & all that. When people can't imagine how two people (Johnny & I, i.e.) have lived — comfortably! cheerily! cozily! — in a studio for decades, I should point out what it was like out on the prairies 150 years ago. Read Giants in the Earth. I've read books about mail-order brides who lived in shacks like this with their in-laws, the babies as they came along, and a cow or 2 till a barn got built. My apartment has all the space I need.

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634 Ways to Kill Fidel

What a great title: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel. It's by Fabián Escalante, founder of the Cuban intelligence services and head of the Cuban State Security Department and details some of the "Looney Tunes-esque assassination attempts," using seashells, shoes, a softball, a milkshake... & more.

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The Ezra Pound 2022

Soon the landlord will cover our lively front door with that institutional beige paint he keeps around & soon after that we'll have another vision to remind us that the East Village is still hopping. 

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What I'm reading

I'm mostly reading the astonishingly gripping Gibbon (Decline & Fall) but when I can't stay awake or go to sleep, I've had fun with Maisie Dobbs, detective & psychologist. I like novels about World War I (both of my granddads fought, on different sides) & I like mysteries. These feel like a glimpse into the world of my grandparents' generation. I also like the thread of mysticism. And I'm more interested in women investigators.

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Happy anniversary

On this date in 1971 my life changed permanently when Beth & I hitchhiked to D.C. to attend the last big antiwar demonstration. We slept out & she woke up smiling at a handsome stranger, who became her boyfriend for several years. This was how I got hooked into The House, a loose group of Air Force men who challenged, loved, understood, encouraged me, & still do. I was ready for I didn't know what & they handed freedom to me. I was ready & The House appeared, giving me everything I needed.

 

Many of us still stay in touch & those of us who were deeply present still count this as (one of) the most important time(s) in our lives. I know I do. I've written about it a lot & am always, always grateful for the experience, which continues to this day. I am who I am as much because of The House as anything else. 

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Our clever ancestors

I just read a remarkable article in The Economist: "Why 15,000-year-old art might have been displayed in firelight." They learned about it from this article. British researchers used computer modeling to discover that limestone plaquettes (slabs about the size of a postcard) excavated in southern France & carved with local animals may have been an attempt at animation - as much as 23,000 years ago. "The interaction of engraved stone and roving fire light made engraved forms appear dynamic and alive... Human neurology is particularly attuned to interpreting shifting light and shadow as movement and identifying visually familiar forms in such varying light conditions." 

 

Isn't that cool? Both the creative genius of our earliest ancestors and the researchers.  

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Sioux Falls: City of Hustle

Who knew "City of Hustle" was a moniker for my hometown? Not me, but apparently Patrick Hicks & Jon Lauck, editors the editors of the forthcoming anthology of that name do. It's not due out till October but I'm sure you'll want to preorder now, especially when you find out the book includes my essay on the Nordic Hall (secret heart of Scandinavian Sioux Falls). I also didn't know it was residents (or anyone) who call Sioux Falls "the Best Little City in America." But it's 100% accurate that Money magazine once named Sioux Falls the best place to live in America. 

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"Kentucky"

Drawing by my granddaughter, age around 5, on the back of a kids' menu at a Mexican restaurant called La Señorita in Mount Pleasant, MI. "I hope Michigan is really regretting their adoption of teaching phonetic spelling in the early 2000s," said her mom. 

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Word of the Day

Borborygmus (pl, borborygmi): The growling noises your stomach makes. 

 

Man, how annoying I could (WOULD!) have been if I'd know this terrific word when I was 9 years old... 

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MQ/What I'm reading

Life is not promised—it is crucial for a writer to respect time. Without urgency or panic, a writer can use this recognition to both make the necessary time for writing, and make much of that time. 

~ bell hooks, Remembered Rapture: The writer at work

 

I had never read anything by bell hooks, but so many people described the impact of her writing after her death last December that I thought I had better check her out. I am beginning to see what drew so many readers: her methodical steps through her own psyche make you see her, really see another person. So far that's all I can say. 

 

Note: I've decided to make Monday the day for either a quote or "what I'm reading." sometimes a combination of the two. 

 

Also: I was off yesterday for Day 2 of Passover. 

 

 

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Today

What should I talk about? The rat in the toilet (2nd in a month)? First seder tonight & my dilemma about going to a seder with 18 people I don't know when covid is surging again? That they caught the subway shooter a block away from my office & we happened to be sitting on a bench across from the precinct, so we got to watch the brass get ready to shove themselves into the photos? The glorious spring weather? The glorious spring allergies that add another reason not to go to the seder? The impossibility of actually using my companion airline ticket to go anywhere? 

 

I need a nap & something besides matzo on my Passover shelf, so off I go.

 

If I think of anything to write about, I'll update. 

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From the vault

so careful

with the pronouns

 

now

I no longer know

 

who

I address or

 

who

I desire

 

7-31-77

 

I have no recollection of writing this or what was in my mind. It's interesting to me that it was in my mind at all.

 

Contemporary in not quite the right way. 

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Poets & poetry

David Henderson in red hat, through the window.

Running into poets, the kiss-withdraw gesture we all use now, the reading had to to with John Giorno & was at a record store on 2nd St just west of 2nd Ave, I'm fuzzy on the details, Anselm read, charmingly, works of Ted, one of the poets Giorno recorded, & David Henderson read a song Sun Ra recorded. "Write songs, you just need one & you're all set." Anne Waldman next but I was done in by close calls. The Brooklyn subway shooter was caught today & we watched from a bench on 5th St, across from the 9th precinct, while the brass prepared for the spotlight. 

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Early birds

The photo is prettier big but looks out of focus. I didn't think you could be out of a focus with a phone camera. 

I have a couple of friends that, like me, enjoy being out and about early in the morning. On Sunday Robyn and I rode our bikes to Governors Island. It's 20 minutes to the ferry, three minutes on the ferry, and then a big beautiful open space. That early on a chillier than expected day, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

 

My new summer plan: do the same thing once a week or so. The first ferry is at 7 a.m. 

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Monday Quote

The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends. 

~ Max Beerbohm

 

That is absolutely false. The past changes with every revelation, every action. If anything, the quote should be: The future is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends. 

 

In my months-long decluttering project, I have found so many documents that have rocked my beliefs about myself & my youth. I plan to write about this at length but right now it's a jumble of surprises & a few confirmations ~ as well as irrelevancies & loose ends. 

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What I'm reading

I intended to list what I was reading on this date in 1985 (87?) because I found a slip of paper with that info & the coincidence was too great to skip. But I managed to mislay it, & because I was planning to copy it, I didn't pay much attention. Barbara Guest on Auden (?) is the only thing I remember. 

 

It was fortuitous because the book I'm really reading might seem pretentious (but isn't!): The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, which I was inspired to read because I'm also reading Mortimer Adler's 1940 How to Read a Book & want to be a better lifelong learner.

 

 

So there you have it. 

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