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Monday Quote

"Summer's lease hath all too short a date."

~ William Shakespeare


To my mind, the best week of summer is the week before Memorial Day. Then the days begin to tumble through the season ~ next week is Fourth of July, the week after Labor Day, & here we are with the leaves falling. I didn't mean to get old. 

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Random & planned encounters

Avenue A. 

So great to sit in Stuyvesant park, trees heavily green, & catch up with a friend... run into someone I know & hug... have a fun & even deep conversation with a young couple who happened to be standing outside my door when I was coming in. I've missed those chance city meetings for a long year. Villageness is one of the things I like best about the East Village.

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First Seido karate class in over a year (boy did I miss them!) with our students from YAI. They may have learning disabilities but they have so many other admirable & enviable abilities, like their enthusiasm for karate & love & support for each other. I thought they would have forgotten everything (like we black belts) but they did great.  

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Poem of the Week

Cursing in Norwegian

                                for Marie-Therese & my fellow Norwegian learners




I didn't think you could swear på norsk.  

Those liberal, uptight nordmenn,

what do they have to cuss about?


Honestly, El?

Don't be a drittsekk.


Well, OK, but

it doesn't sound like bad language. I mean, I can believe

en hjem is a home & melk is milk

but knulle? møkkakjerring?

lakensamba? (that's just cute:

"sheet dancing")


Let's invent the Mother Rule, the morsreglen:

Can I say it to your mom?


Wait, what? I can't make up a Norwegian word?

Hvorfor ikke? Why not? Why not? 

If I can't swear, I can't talk.

You flipflop flattop!



May 2021

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Bats in the building

I just keep thinking, of course Calvin thinks a bat is a bug. 


Where did it come from, where did it go? 


I think my upstairs neighbor took this picture. 


What is it bats have—rabies? ticks? fleas? 


When did I get so nervous about things that aren't poems? 

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A town in Wales

I want ... I want... to be here, not that I can say exactly where this is, beyond that it's in Wales. Oh, beautiful Wales, where so many people I love & adore live or lived. There's places I love because my loved ones are there, places I love where I know no one, but of course best is when people I care about live in places I'm eager to visit. 


Right now I seem to be the last of my friends to take a step back into the larger world. Crossing the Hudson to New Jersey was enough for a month. I long to be on a plane & I don't want to get on a plane in the least. It's funny that we New Yorkers, so used to cramped locales, are more reluctant to push together on an airplane than my non-urban family, who are used to much more distance from others.

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Monday Quote

I remember this Peanuts cartoon from 1971. 

Well, I wanna be your lover, baby, I don't wanna be your boss. 

~ Bob Dylan, born May 24, 1941


This line (from "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry") was always a personal anthem of mine. 


A few things about Bob Dylan:

* My mother was in Hadassah with his mother. 

* My sister went to summer camp with his daughter. 

* I sat in the front row at the Rolling Thunder concert, Thanksgiving 1975, Bangor, Maine. My boyfriend had waited on line for 24 hours to get those seats. 

* I wanted to be a poet when I found out that someone had written "Blowin' in the Wind." Till then I had thought that poems & songs were natural objects, like rocks. It blew me away, age 10, to discover that a guy — from the next state over, no less — had come up with it not found it.

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Adventures in language learning

For my Norwegian conversation class, we are supposed to watch a short (2 episodes of 10 minutes each) show called Parterapi, or couples therapy. Wait, what language are they even speaking? It is so far from the news accent I've been learning that the first time I watched, I picked up only a few words. Listening while reading the subtitles made it much easier, & I could read them pretty well (almost every word I had to look up was a curse word). I've heard there are so many accents that people from even a valley or 2 over might be mutually unintelligible, but wow. It's not the accent as much as the pronunciation of words. That is, it sounds like Norwegian but none of the words do. 

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Happy birthday, Al

And here's a bonus: Al drawing the U.S. freehand. 

I got this email from Al Franken, whose birthday is today:

I know what you're thinking. "Al, you were born in 1951?" A great time to grow up! Post WWII America was very anti-Nazi. If you were a Nazi in 1951, you just kept that to yourself.

       "What are you doing to celebrate, Al? I do hope you're having a fundraiser for Midwest Values PAC!"

         Sure! Anything to keep funding the kind of work MVP did to win back the White House and the Senate!

       Now, here's the big surprise! Especially if you love the Grateful Dead like I do! No? Well, that might be because you never really listened to the Dead. And my special guest will be Bob Weir, the iconic singer/songwriter/guitarist for the Grateful Dead since 1965! Yikes!

       Bobby's going to play a couple tunes – and all donations will go to MVP to help Democrats win all across the nation.

       Please join me, the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and lots of friends on Sunday, May 23rd at 6pm ET [5pm CT, 3pm PT] donate HERE to register for the event.

       I hope you can make it! And if you think I'm going to close this email with Keep On Truckin', you're wrong!


P.S. Keep On Truckin'!


P.S. from me: Watch a very short video of Franken drawing the map of the states.

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A rock from Antarctica, & butter

The rock is gray not golden. About the size of two fists.

Norwegians love butter ~ this has come up before in my Norwegian class. Before I knew it, I was telling the story (in Norwegian) of my friend Augusto, who spent many winters in Antarctica as part of an Italian mission. Was he a researcher or a scientist? someone asked, in order to clarify which word I should use. I didn't know. One year, the French & Italian missions had decided to join forces in order to take less support staff. This fell apart ~ & almost came to war ~ when the Italians' choice of cook planned to use olive oil & the French cook naturally would only use butter. Augusto was scathing: butter! he sneered with all the contempt of a gourmet. 


When I say "I was telling the story," I mean that in the most general sense, of plunging in & giving it a shot. I only knew a few of the words I needed, starting with "gå," which means "go" but only as in "walk." So when I said he went to Antarctica, I was asked, Oh, did he walk there? Yes, of course, I said, & then fixed it to "dra." Nonetheless, I persisted, badly, awkwardly but triumphantly. Dammit, I will speak norsk before I'm done! 

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Norsk igjen

My Norwegian conversation class starts tonight ~ I thought it was next week & am a little thrown off. I'm determined to listen & talk better so I shall plunge in. I wish I hadn't been at work since 8 this morning, pretty nonstop. I'm beat & it's only 5. Jeg elsker norsk! 

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Got the first shingles vaccine & have been walloped. I barely made it home yesterday & I slept for a hundred hours or so. Still feel beat. They say the second is the tough one. Yay. 


The word for shingles in Norwegian is helvetesild, or hellfire. 


Happy Syttende Mai, Norwegian Independence Day (yesterday but I couldn't....)

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Monday Quote

One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it. 

~ Katherine Anne Porter


Unfortunately, all too many people have the courage of a gift they don't have. And many people don't have the courage that should accompany talent. Somehow, though I diagree, i like to think that this is true.... that if I can summon the courage, it'll prove I should be doing [this]. Exceptions in every direction aside, she is probably right. 

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Lichens by Lynne

We toddled to 14th & 2nd to see this small but surprising show of art in odd places. Our friend Lynne strewed signs & puffy pillows of lichens, with a brief explanation near each (per the photo). Somehow we missed seeing her & Lucretia but it was terrific to connect even a bit. New York's back! 

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Poem of the Week

Laughing on Ice


Come with me & let the moonlight

turn to ice in our hands


Find stars in our pockets

spend them on diamonds


Come with me & let ice turn to moonlight

& fall from our fingers


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Aw spring

Perfect day. Movie-worthy clouds in clear blue, Johnny & I reading our poem-of-the-summer (Stephen Mitchell's trans of the Iliad) on the benches, nobody wanting any work from me, lying about reading, pictures in the mail of my friend's baby, an invite, Pete Spence's magazine fresh from Australia, The Last Kings of Thule on life in the Arctic, some old loved songs springing up in my feed ("Galveston," George Jones "Still Doing Time," Garnet Mimms, "The Last Roundup," "Truckin'"), plenty sleep, a sturdy kitchen chair found on the corner. You couldn't actually sit on the chair that was there - the back was broken off, there were spikes & nails sticking out, & one leg was giving way. We only kept it to scratch & stab our legs in the night. 

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The Eulenspiegels

Today's Times carried the obituary of Pat Bond, "a sexual-subculture pioneer," founder in the early '70s of the Eulenspiegel Society, "an organization for adherents of bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism." When I first moved to NY, I found an ad for the Society in the Voice. I knew, through my German dad, about Till Eulenspiegel, a mischievous character in German folklore, & thought— well, I'm not sure what I thought. That my dad would like it that I was taking an interest in his culture? that I would find others who liked the stories about his "merry pranks"? I went to a meeting. I don't remember much, just feeling quite uncomfortable without having any idea whatsoever what was going. It certainly didn't have anything to do with Till & I'm sure the people there, who I remember as all being old & dull, could see that. 


I think I remember that the meeting was held on the 2nd floor of a theater building on 4th St. Is it possible it was the same theater that produced nothing but Strindberg? The lady selling tickets morphed into the star (& director & for all I know, the translator). Early on in knowing Johnny, who was a real theater buff, I told him how much I liked Strindberg & how funny he was. He's not funny, Johnny said. So I dragged him to this theater, where a really ancient lady played Miss Julie, & the most uncharismatic actor of all time played the love interest. She took every opportunity to strip & let her boobs fall out of her negligee. Johnny thought I was exaggerating but admitted if anything I had underpromised. 


These days I don't go to anything I'm not prepared for. What strange worlds I fell into when I just went. 

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The Dolar Shop

Many years ago I took a short adult ed class on Spanish. It was very introductory, not much in the way of actual speaking or learning, as I recall. I do remember that the teacher spent one whole session on diseases. He said, People named Dolores (troubles, pains) are called Lola! And he laughed uncontrollably. We sat & stared & didn't get the joke. 


This Dolar Shop is neither a 99¢ store nor a house of troubles but a hotpot restaurant.  

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Monday Quote

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. 

~ L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) 


I don't think everyone knows that the Wizard of Oz books, though set in Kansas, stemmed from Baum's years as a journalist in South Dakota.


My father (whose 115th birthday was yesterday) often said something similar, that the Nazis took away his family, his country, his language, but the one thing they couldn't take was his education. So, he would conclude, always get a good education! 



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What I'm reading

Been a while since I've done a roundup of books I'm reading or have recently finished: 


* Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell, author of the superb memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. Hamnet was good, not great ~ took too long to get to the part I as there for, the effect of life on art. 


* Donna Leon's latest Brunetti mystery, Transient Desires, was almost the opposite, in that it was really good & the last page ruined the whole book. I actually thought they had neglected to print the last chapter. It was the briefest wrapup, with nothing actually explained or clear. So disappointing that I retroactively noticed there was very little of food, family life, or the book (Tacitus) Brunetti was reading. 


* Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. After I had read 50 or 75 pages, I began to feel that at a thousand pages, the book was too short.


There's more but I want to get outside while it's nice, & read KL. 



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This shows my best-ever non-bingo, QUININ. The triple word score is under the X & the Q fell on a double-letter tile. For a total score of 118 points. Things more often don't work ~ either you have a great word & nowhere to put it, or you're missing a letter 9or 20 to make a great word. So this was satisfying & most likely unrepeatable.

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Pet Peeve #2,357: Around

Why can't people talk about things anymore? It's all "around" a topic. A headline in today's New York Times (! you should know better) mentioned Facebook's "decision around" an indefinite ban of the former president. I can't find that headline now, so a wiser head must have fixed it. i see things like "projects around the border" when they mean "at." I don't have good examples at hand because they bug me so much I thrust them out of my head as quickly as possible.


Similarly, why is everything "within" and never "in"? Does everything have to come in "a set of" or "series of"? Do we never hold conferences or build tech tools but always a set of them? 

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By Edmund

He must have been 5 when he made this. 


Now he owns an apartment in Brooklyn & manages things & knows things. 


What was I up to at age 5? Nothing that's framed on any wall, I'm sure. 


Adults weren't friends with kids when I was little. 


I remember Eddie's dad telling me that "Edmund thinks of you as a peer." And, just in case it wasn't clear: "That's a compliment." 


Oh yes indeed. 

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In the neighborhood

Sadly, I have run out of room or I would have brought this home. Imagine getting tired of something as lovely as this. Maybe they went white modern? Was it your childhood chest? 

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Monday Quote

The measure of a country's greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis.

~ Thurgood Marshall


Is America great? There have been astonishing kindnesses over the past year & equally astonishing & public selfishness. I suppose every society has some of each.


This reminds me to recommend an excellent book called Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, by Gilbert King, winner of a 2013 Pulitzer. Subtitle totally earned. 

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Opening up

Yesterday it was a Seido party on the west side, at Chelsea Piers. Most of us were vaxxed & it was off with the masks. Man, how great to see faces! It's really you! Today it was a couple of guys we know & we hung out on the street in the summer weather. So good to escape the zoombox strait jacket.

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