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Through the Windshield

Loving Mike DeCapite's Through the Windshield. Mike's the bard of Cleveland, Walt Whitman crossed with Raymond Chandler. I can't imagine too many writers making gritty Cleveland seem romantic. Or beautiful: "It was a windy day and so bright the wind had a shine to it." He's funny, too, & there's lots of music playing while the protagonist, a taxi driver, drinks, gambles, mopes & observes.

Also, I finally found (well, Johnny did) the 3rd volume of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time, which has been lost in our house for the last 2 years. Read More 
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Our People

My friend Rebecca (aka Beckota—we're both from South Dakota; I'm Eldak) and I like to go to movies. We like old, costume & period. We always seem to sit with people reading soft bits of newspaper with magnifying glasses and guarding old popcorn boxes: Our People.

Today we saw John Boorman's Queen & Country  Read More 
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Nothing like taking a karate class to streamline my mind. Having been away, discouraged by the cold weather, injured slightly but enough to avoid fighting—all of that sapped me, made me feel decrepit. But a good general class yesterday & fight class today, & I feel terrific. Even tho I got knocked on my ass—literally—by a  Read More 
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Hey look!

The new me! Do I look smart?
I got new glasses today for the first time since I was working in New Jersey, a job I quit in 1993.

Well, got fired from. As is the Way of the Magazine.

Those glasses I bought in the 1980s, in fact, and without looking at myself in the frames. I never liked them & anyway, they'd been out of style since the 1880s.  Read More 
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When was the last time I bought shoes that weren't Fluevogs? I want comfortable, inconspicuous (black) walking shoes that don't make me look clubfooted. Harder than I expected to find 'em.

Update: I couldn't find anything at all like I thought I wanted, ended up buying slip-on Naots. They look a lot better than this picture (which I didn't even take). Read More 
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More about Minnesota

Ducks in the hotel
I'm here for my nephew's bar mitzvah, which was yesterday. He was wonderful—smart, poised, & his Torah chanting was excellent. Lots of relatives came, from California, Washington state, Arizona, North Dakota—we sure do like being together. Plenty of activities but time to hang out, lay about, see my friends, eat at a really good restaurant (Public) & imagine living across the street. Nice hotel (Embassy Suites) with a room as big as my apartment & a real breakfast. Too cold. Home tonight. Read More 
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Summer in winter

Sunken garden
Unpleasant cold in Minnesota improved by spending an afternoon in the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory with my old friend Janet, her husband, Bob, & Johnny. Lots of orchids, a tropical section, bonsai. And a sloth! I guess I was too excited to take its picture, which in any event looked like a wedge of hair on a branch. The lady said when the guy who fed it came, the sloth would recognize his voice and "hurry" down for its meal. We also saw an anaconda. Unfolded, it's around 20 feet long. Another immobile critter. I guess that's why they were part of a garden. Read More 
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Pet peeve VI: Broke is broke—poor is something else

When I was in my 20s I often said I was poor. After all, I was living on $15 a week, hitchhiking everywhere, eating abandoned commodity foods like kasha & powdered milk. I wasn't complaining: I loved getting by on very little, the feeling that my needs would always be met because they were so moderate.

And then I realized that I wasn't poor.  Read More 
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Yep, again

I have to say (& repeat & say again): I love my birthday.

I love seeing the date FEBRUARY 18 on a newspaper or even in my computer's top bar. I love telling people & their little spark of pleasure in sharing my day. I love the spontaneous: a little gift at a shop where I was picking something up, and the planned: a nice Catalan lunch with my man. I love all the well wishes from so many parts of my life. I love being queen for the day.

I also love turning the birthday magic over to my cousin & a couple of other February 19ers, which I'll do in six & a half hours.  Read More 
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Lesley Gore

Sad to hear of the death this week of Lesley Gore at age 68 of lung cancer. Oddly enough, I've been listening a lot lately to "You Don't Own Me," marveling each time at how uncompromising & un-early-60s it sounds, amidst all the "my guy" songs.

When I was little, the song of hers that I loved was "Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows," which I played on a little box record player, so much that my brother & sister disappeared it. It has a sweet exuberance that wears out its welcome. But she didn't.  Read More 
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Social animal

These days, animals from crows and jays to elephants and wild dogs and even the queens of social wasps are regarded as having social intelligence. "We see the same pattern wherever we look," said Sean O'Donnell, a behavioral ecologist at Drexel University who discovered that wasp queens, which are like colony managers, have significantly  Read More 
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Why I never fasten my coat

My theory is, if my coat is flapping open, I *could* be warmer, so I'm never as cold as I could be, therefore I'm warm.

I used to have a theory that you would start in a light jacket, move to a heavier jacket, then a coat, then a down coat as you got acclimated to winter. I didn't figure out for a very long time that it made more sense to dress for the day's weather not some arc of decreasing temperatures.

I'm sure my first theory is just as lame but somehow it doesn't seem to be. Logical fallacy, anybody?  Read More 
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The social contract II

When I was writing about the social contract the other day, what I didn't ask was: What's behind this seeming disdain for the communal good? One answer is that I don't see a lot of people talking (convincingly) about what the point of society even is. How can we expect high-quality action without grand or just positive visions?

Tom Waits said, "The world is a hellish place and bad writing is Read More 
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On the phone

I was refilling a prescription over the phone. As Jocelyn, the young woman I was talking with, waited for everything to get approved, she said, Do you have any other questions for me today?

What's the meaning of life? I said. No wait: What am I going to do now that Derek Jeter has retired?

She said, What I've been thinking about is Brian Williams getting canned.


And then we had a robust discussion about that incident, memory & false memory, the media, & whether it was always the case that you could be fired over just about anything.

I love falling into unexpected conversations, especially when you are both willing to see where it goes. It's great when you both go beyond the purely transactional. Makes me want to make eye contact & say hello, yes even on the mean streets of New York City.

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Art, politics, & so much more

Oh, the richness of this life! Who cares if we're a speck in the universe: Aren't we bursting with love, energy, promise, adventure? Aren't there more (joyous, illuminating, beautiful) books than we can read in a lifetime? Can't the crazy twists of lawmakers & their hypocrisies, their hopes, keep us entertained all day every day? What more do you want? (Besides snow, of course.) Walk outside & feed a sparrow. Send your heart to beloved friends, absent and not. Go to sleep & enjoy the deep dark sea in your dreams. Call your beloved auntie & hear that you are loved. All this without winning the Powerball!

February: my favorite month!  Read More 
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Jane Gardam

Out of the carriage window on the other side of the train, fields stretched out to colourless hills with a line of trees along the tops. The light showing through them made them look like loops of knitting pulled off the needles. The train rocked and my father whistled through his teeth. —Crusoe's Daughter

Here's the Read More 
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What I'm reading (& overhearing)

* Animal Wise: The thoughts and emotions of our fellow creatures, Virginia Morell. Covers research on animal cognition & feelings, with all sorts of surprising findings: that rats giggle when they're tickled, that ants teach other ants.

* Crusoe's Daughter, Jane Gardam. I can't begin to say how good this book is. Beautifully written, surprising, shocking even. She is best known for Old Filth ("failed in London try Hong Kong").

* A George Pelecanos or 2 to clear my head between more demanding fare.

* Books about Barcelona, where I'm headed in a couple of months. With the intention of getting around, a little, in Catalan. The troubadors' language!

Also, I walked past someone saying, "The problem was, that guy gave me hope."  Read More 
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Spotlight on light

It's the UN's International Year of Light, and an interdisciplinary & international scientific community is looking into many facets of light, from the sun and the stars to photosynthesis and bioluminescence in nature. Scientists and engineers are figuring out amazing new ways to use many forms of light in medicine, communications, & culture, while the National Science Foundation has funded research in extreme UV and x-ray sources, biophotonics (where photonics meets biology), and much more.  Read More 
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Friday, yes indeed III

Pilates ... my nephew turns 13 tomorrow ... remains hideously cold ... one of the Chabad boys who visits me is interested in American history: a first as they usually focus on Jewish matters exclusively... my cousins' aunt died, the lovely & generous Irene Walstad Myrabo Kucinski—her sister was married to my mother's brother, so I always think  Read More 
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Sitting at my desk

My office is in a basement & when it's 8° out, my feet are cold. Once I finish writing this, I'll go over to the SideWalk to host Jill Rapaport & Bruce Benderson in Martha King's & my long-running (our 8th season!) Prose Pros series. So I have every incentive to write fast. Which sometimes spurs things & sometimes freezes me (so to speak).  Read More 
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The social contract

I've been thinking about what the writer/blogger Lindy West refers to as "the eager abandonment of the social contract," the what's-in-it-for-me mentality seen everywhere, across the political spectrum.

It used to be people were & wanted to be good citizens, took pride in it: We voted, we paid our taxes (if with complaints), we went into public service and/or looked  Read More 
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Self-Portrait with Monocle
(in honor of the United Nations' International Year of Light)

A shine is that which when covered changes permission—Gertrude Stein

Mind half
up eye
half open


in lantern

only & ever
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A few things about me

OK, well, it's a thing going around Facebook, to list a few things most people don't know about them.

1) I've been to 49 states. I like to say the missing one is New Jersey but it's Alaska.
2) My NYC apartment is an old-style tenement with a tub in the kitchen and no stove.
3) I once told "walked into a bar" jokes at CBGBs. I am NOT a standup comic.
4) I fixed E.B. White's wife's shoes when I was an apprentice cobbler in Ellsworth, Maine.
5) My only sports trophy was for "guttermouth queen." Unless a spelling trophy counts.
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I never thought I would ever write about Rod McKuen

I was too young to be mesmerized by Rod McKuen. I came along when he was reviled for being popular & terrible, & I jumped right on the bandwagon of sneer. He had no defenders in my hip little East Village gang of poets. I was busy recoiling from anything that seemed corny or sentimental, in case anybody thought I was corny or sentimental.

If he'd been a bad writer without being successful, no one would have cared. But as Aram Saroyan said in "Rod’s Lonely Night," (a piece that Michael Lally, in  Read More 
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