March seems to be going out like a lion AND a lamb. It was sweltery in the morning but it's supposed to get rainy & cold by evening. At last, some predictable weather! It is spring, after all. I strolled through Tompkins Square Park, daffodils, flowering pear, and more. Spring is happening & pushing fear & repression out of the way.
I still can't figure out how to photograph art. Can you see how alive these are? I told the artist, Shanee Epstein, that if we ever move to the country it will be her influence. I'm so happy to have these two pieces brightening up my house. And I love that Johnny said let's get 'em both! He never holds back when it comes to art.
Chag sameach Pesach
Happy Passover everybody! I'll be off Sunday & Monday but you can enjoy your own seder (under 4 minutes!) here.
Yikes the subway
Johnny & I took the subway to Brooklyn today (more on our errand another time) & I was shocked at how crowded it was & how many people wore masks under their noses or under their chins. One guy had no mask at all, because he was enjoying snacks. I said nothing because... Well, I guess I didn't think it would do any good. And frankly, now that I'm vaccinated, I wasn't as worried as I would have been a few months ago. Since it was my first ride in a year, I wasn't sure what the protocol of reprimand is. But sheesh, you try holding your breath from the 4th Ave stop in Brooklyn to the 2nd Ave stop on our corner.
Much as I've lamented the passing of many restaurants near me, I'm just as sad to see some products disappear. First off, Wallaby kefir, especially mango & peach. The company has stopped making it to concentrate on yogurt. Yogurt! There are dozens of good yogurts but no one else made good kefir. The comments on their Facebook page agree. It seems a strange business model to quit making something people clamor for to focus on something people are indifferent to. Next, Chimes ginger chews. My go-to store hasn't had them for a while, but they are known for not restocking popular items. I think Chimes still exist but I want to walk a block not send away for them. Odwalla bit the dust a year or 2 back. It was terrific when you could only get it in California, less flavorful when it got bought by Coke. Pretty much every flavor of tea I've ever liked is no longer sold. Amy's Bowls aren't discontinued but they've been hard to find lately. There are more. I had better go buy my Passover supplies now.
Poem of the Week
Petrifed Cactus: a poem of the pandemic
he's an innocent bystander
in his own life
so many invisible things
to not think about
& one that I think about all the time
& I long for the day
when that line will need a gloss
Buster's ashes & my father
are invisible things
but one that won't go away
perhaps America will have an idea
perhaps Melville is
as much evil as I can face
is Lefty black inside?
is culture the past?
if nothing follows
can we live it up?
like the people with AIDS who spent everything
& then didn't die
I can't get over the wall because I only ever learned
to go straight at it
I need to be
no longer dead
Oh yeah it's really here! Real warmth in the sun. Training outside without flinching. Stopping to chat. Sun still out when I go home. Remember all of that? I never do. It's a pleasant surprise every year. I just strolled over to the Marble Cemetery on 2nd Street ~ only a few days short of massive blooms (hard to tell in the photo). Met a woman who volunteers(? works?) there, who used to cook for & I think own Boca Chica, the terrific Latin restaurant on the corner of 1st & 1st that has become a burger joint. She said she lived in the building—the one with the beachhouse on the roof. She had to move out when it got sold & now lives in Jersey City. It makes me so happy to have a free hour to hang out & see what happens.
Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
~ Benjamin Disraeli
I remember hitchhiking down the West Coast, from Hoquiam, Washington, to San Francisco. In Hoquiam I was visiting a girl named Gail who I'd met when we were the Bus City Tribe in Colorado. She lived with a guy who never wore shoes & some dogs in a station wagon. Gail was very self-conscious about being 25, 5 years older than me & older than everyone else in the confederation. I kept winning at pool because the guys kept scratching, even though I am pretty sure I didn't sink a single ball. Later, I remember getting dropped off during the night, falling asleep a little ways off the road & waking up under a giant redwood. I don't know if I do remember that or dreamed it or read someone else's memory or was told it by someone. I don't know any way to factcheck it. I've dropped the story from my repertoire, & the pool one wasn't that interesting. Gail, whatever happened to you? Do you still know my name? Am I in any of your stories of those days?
Bob Hershon (1936-2021)
I am shocked at the death of the poet & publisher Bob Hershon. He was an unyielding monument. Die? Not Bob. He published Hanging Loose, magazine & books, for over 50 years. He published my first full-length book (American Guys) & those of so many others. We had had a long falling out but were friendly again as of a couple of years ago. I hope that pleased him. This is a good piece, by John Yau, that sums up his life work. This is going to take a while to sink in.
A New York story
That's family friend Paul, my brother & sister-in-law, & me at Target Field in Minneapolis. The undomed Twins ballpark is great but it sure can be cold in April. These hats with fleece flaps were a godsend that day & I've been wearing mine ever since. I was coming out of the grocery story the other day when one of the delivery guys barked, Hey Twins! I whirled around & we had one of those classic baseball conversations rattling off games, players, alliances. He likes Jeter because his son was born Derek's rookie year. He too has no truck with the Mets. 5 minutes & we're best friends. Then I did it. Why I felt I had to be honest, I don't know, but I said, "I just want to say that I don't hate the Red Sox. I lived in Maine for 3 years so I couldn't." He looked at me, as I knew he would & said, Oh we were getting along so well but this tears it. Still in fun, still with the enjoyment of meeting a fellow fan & whipping through the shorthand of baseball history & pleasures, but now I was not quite kosher. Then he had to go back to work.
My whole life I was the only Elinor, & even more so the only Elinor spelled the (Welsh) way I do. Suddenly, Eleanor/Elenor/Elinore/even Elinor is a mini-trend. I know (of) quite a few under the age of 10.
"Eleanor has reach the top 10 most popular girls name 2 times, and has reached the top hundred names 67 times. Eleanor has been used in the United States ever since 1880, with over 298,124 girls given the name in the past 200 years," according to this site. There were only 4x as many Eleanors born in 2020 as the year I was born but I'm guessing it's a more popular East Coast name now than it was in South Dakota in the '50s. Which is why I seem to have run into so many.
Luck o' the Irish
May God grant you blessings
on your walk today;
May you feel God's presence
each step of the way!
My old friend & junior high English teacher sent me this quote for St Paddy's Day. Johnny made fun of my Irish accent this morning & whipped off a highly credible "top o' the mornin' to you." When I first met him I was incredulous that he dropped the "h" in words like thing & through — he went "true" doors rather than through them. Then I saw The Quiet Man, I think it was, which we went to at the Film Forum several St P's Days, & I realized it was an Irish habit & was charmed at his link to the Ould Sod, where both of his parents came from & to this day he has never been.
I am older than anyone in this photo. I find that really disturbing. Maybe it just means that people in their 60s these days don't look or act like they did 65 years ago. But why would that be? Is it better undergarments, health, sunscreen? Fewer responsibilities & wars? Did we decide & expect to stay youthful & so we did (more or less)? Or am I fooling myself & I look exactly as old as these people? Or I would if I were dressed & coifed like them? Do my classmates look like teenagers to me because we were teenagers together?
it is human nature to think wisely and to act in an absurd fashion.
~ Anatole France
I liked him so much in my early 20s, without understanding a word of what he was talking about. Oh, Penguin Island was a satire on France & the Dreyfuss Affair? Why did I like to read so much when I had no idea what any of it added up to?
Arm is a little sore but I am so sleepy I couldn't get out of bed & now (after a walk with friends on a perfectly March day - sunny/warm, cloudy/chilly & lots o' wind) I can barely keep my eyes open. Will someone come by & roll me home? But yay for protection! I am NOT complaining, not in the least.
Poem of the Week
Dunno why, but it's been hard to write this all week. (Is it apparent?) My original goal in starting the blog was to finish a piece of work every day. I do still like that plan. But I've been doing this I think 7 years now... yes, 7 1/2 years of writing pretty much every day. Now I guess I keep going because how do I stop? Similarly, I have a 1,219-day Duolingo streak because I kept going. And a 30-year marriage because we haven't stopped loving each other.
In the middle of the semester
We've finished a third of the classes of this semester of Norsk IV. I feel like whatever I study is not the thing I actually need to know. It's disconcerting. It's as though I worked on the stick shift for driving school & they said, we use automatics, and anyway, today we're learning to parallel park. So I store away the preteritum for reflexive pronouns... Not a perfect analogy by any means, just to say that this semester is way much more challenging than last.
In the neighborhood
I've lived in the East Village 2/3 of my life & I continue to be surprised every time I take a walk. How did I not know the Lead Belly lived on East 10th St? Or that he died of ALS. So fortunate to be in a place of surprise & delight.
Monday Quote: International Woman's Day edition
3 for the price of 1!
The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.
~ Gloria Steinem
Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.
~ Lois Wyse
It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.
~ Susan B. Anthony
In the neighborhood: Food Emporium
What made me & Maggie happy about the Food Emporium on Avenue D is how crappy it is. The aisles are too narrow for carts to pass & you have to figure out a way to get out if you didn't buy anything—an old anti-shoplifter's trick. They pretty much don't have any products you would want & not too many you would buy even in a pinch. It's like the old days in the neighborhood, when all the supermarkets sold scrapple, fowl, packages of chicken hearts, & other amazing products that we bought because it was meat for cheap. (Cooking a fowl or chicken hearts was another story, an adventure I didn't master. Cookbooks? Never crossed my mind. I thought cookbooks were for fancy.) We took a little trip down memory lane yesterday just a few blocks east. A Food Emporium anywhere else in Manhattan would stock very different stuff & be laid out differently. I'm not advocating for them to be awful, just enjoyed being launched back into the '70s, when everyone around here was equally poor, the bodegas had dusty cans of condensed milk & probably were all fronts for pot stores, & we were left alone by the city. It was benign anarchy. While I'm happy to have vegetarian sushi a block away (for example), the solidarity of want is gone.
The pandemic blues
Jeg kan ikke gjor noe. It's like being on a very long flight. You're bored, your legs hurt, you're sick of the books you brought, there's nothing to see out the window. And yet... this is what you are doing & it requires very little, you just have to stay put. The pandemic shutdown feels a little like this. I'm sick of it but I have been breathing dead air for a year & have no initiative anymore. I simply wait.
I'm OK, really. I need more sleep & I'll be fine. I need to get back in the groove of seeing people & doing things. It took me a long time to be fed up but it'll fade into the past as soon as we land.
I ❤️ NY: Lucky Chicken
Not very lucky for the chicken, I wouldn't think. This isn't even a Chinese restaurant.I took this from the bus, up near Bellevue, with Johnny, a couple of years ago. Where were we going? You could spend a year taking pictures of NY restaurants. Or street signs. Or graffitti. Or pretty girls. The endlessness of New York.
Liza's cat & woe
Where did the day go? Why does 5:54 p.m. come so soon after a.m.? Is that a real headache or did you bring it on yourself? There's so much to say & I'm too enervated. Shaky. (Am I sick? Am I sick with ... no, don't say it don't think it.) I need sleep, that's all. But first, Norwegian class, which I know will perk me up.
Poem of the Week
No Way to Get Along
I'm going home & tell my man
These lowdown men done treated me
Like my heart was made of a rock of stone
If you don't want me, don't haul me around
My home's in most any old town
Going up on the mountain to look down on the sea
I left my mother standing at the door
I left my mother at the door
She never said please don't go
He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.
~ George Herbert (1593-1633)
I most often think of George Herbert in relation to Ford Madox Ford's great WWI novel, Parade's End. As he waits for further bombing, Christopher Tietjens struggles to remember the name of Herbert's parish, knowing that if he can, his mind will be safe. Thinking about FMF sent me into an hour's rabbit hole: does the FMF Society still exist? (Yes.) Then I thought about Biala, who I was first interested in as his last wife but now love her on her own & had half-forgotten I got to her through him. Read Ford! Read Herbert!