To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
~ Oscar Wilde
I've been careless, damnit.
In 8 years I haven't taken a week off from this blog, but I think that's what I'm going to do. On Tuesday my mother will be laid to rest, as they say, next to my dad, in Arizona. There's a memorial service in St Paul on Thursday & then I'll be back in New York. So there's a lot of flying & a lot of crying coming up this week & I think I'll clear my head for that. We'll see.
Here's her obituary.
January 15, 1924 - August 26, 2021
Alice Joyce Phillips was born in Liverpool, England, the third child (of four) and only daughter of Charles John "Jack" and Alice Woodland Phillips. As a girl and young woman, she lived through the Depression and World War II (including the Blitz) and soon after the war married, briefly, an American GI and emigrated to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1949 she married Hans Nauen, a German Jewish refugee and the love of her life. She embraced his daughter, Edie, and his religion, becoming a lifelong, active Jew. Her survivors include their four children: Lindsay (Richard Weil, Noah and Ben Weil), Elinor (Johnny Stanton, Tara Lannen-Stanton), Charlie (PJ Pofahl, Rachel and Hannah Nauen), and Varda (Jeffrey Burton, Zoe and Henry Burton), Edie's daughter Ilona Mettala (Marty Hindsley), uncountable cousins and other family members, great-grandchildren, friends, admirers, and "adopted" children.
Her accomplishments were many and varied. She was a bronze life master in bridge, only 14 points shy of silver. She was president of the NAACP in Sioux Falls and a Weight Watchers regional director, and she recorded books for the blind (they loved her English accent and perfect diction). A trained musician, she starred as Golde in a Sioux Valley Auxiliary production of Fiddler on the Roof, sang at many weddings, and played organ and sang for Mt. Zion, her home synagogue in Sioux Falls, for 30 years. Visiting London in 1980, Joyce was impressed by the work of the Memorial Scrolls Trust in repairing Torah scrolls saved from the Nazis, and was the prime mover in bringing one of those scrolls to Mt. Zion. The fact that she wasn't an American citizen didn't stop her from taking a passionate and knowledgeable interest in politics, but in 2016, at age 92, she became a citizen in order to vote for a woman for president.
In 1984, after several years as snowbirds, she and Hans moved permanently to Sun City West, Arizona, where he died in 1986. She lived there into her 90s, when she moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to be closer to family. She survived Covid last year, and died peacefully and unexpectedly in her sleep in the early hours of August 26, 2021.
Her family invites you to honor her life by, most of all, embracing open-mindedly and with good humor everyone you meet, and by donating to causes that support justice, Judaism, art, and music. They only wish they could convey the extent of their gratitude to Sholom Home and Joyce's loving, skilled caretakers there.
I found this polaroid on the street, I think Second Avenue, but so long ago that I don't really remember. Were there more or just this one? If there are more, where are they? How did this one float into view after being in a drawer somewhere for years? It's like rocks in a field. You plow & next year more turn up.
Jeg fant dette bildet på gaten, jeg tror 2 Avenue, men så lenge siden husker jeg ikke helt. Var det flere eller bare denne? Hvis det er mer, hvor er de? Hvordan fløt denne til syne etter å ha ligget i en skuff i mange år? Det er som steiner i et åker. Du pløyer og neste år dukker det opp flere.
Here's a new one to me: Tropical Depression. It's a category of storm, apparently, & yes I could look it up but I can't quite get my mind off Haiti. Even with all that's convulsing Afghanistan right now, Haiti is down there in any depression you can name. Assassination, earthquake, hurricane, what hasn't hit that poor country this year? How to help a country noted for the misuse of aid money? The Jewish attitude is that it's better to risk some money going to the wrong place than not getting it to someone who needs it. The word Tzedakah, often translated as charity, really means justice. We're obliged to help, to be partners in lifting all boats in whatever storm is trashing the world.
I was aware that citizens were examining photos & videos of the January 6 coup attempt to try to identify and bring to justice the traitors who attacked the Capitol, police & democracy. Here's who they are: Sedition Hunters, "a global community of open-source intelligence investigators (OSINT) working together to assist the U.S. FBI and Washington D.C. Capitol Police in finding people who allegedly committed crimes in the January 6 riots." I'm relieved not to recognize anyone in their extensive rogues' gallery although I would relish turning in anyone I did. As someone said in a Washington Post comment, they're doing the lord's work. (Discussion ensued about the heinousness of religion; nope, it's an expression.)
I enjoyed being part of a group of writers & musicians, among them No Land, Penny Arcade, Shelley Marlow, & Lannyl Stephens (a dynamic excerpt from Larry Kramer's Normal Heart) who "highlighted and celebrated the literary life and legacies of Village writers and musicians," including James Baldwin, W.H. Auden, Lorraine Hansberry, e.e. cummings, Oliver Sacks, Patti Smith, and Margaret Wise Brown. The event was co-hosted by Village Preservation, Merchant's House Museum, the Poetry Brothel, the Poetry Project, Hudson Park Library, Jefferson Market Library, and Tompkins Square Library.
The whole evening made me proud to be part of this community, with its long tradition of awareness, activism, & art.
Out of the blue, Peter Campbell-Kelly, a terrific poet & musician in England, wrote that he had found my name in the Poets & Writers directory & was sending a little film of himself playing violin. "It is a sort of musical prayer, intended somehow for the well-being of all of us, in this desperately difficult pandemic." I think it's beautiful & so is his poem:
Our songs of sadness touch
The dry-deep scars of earth
And on this peaty path
a lichened branch
Cuts clean through the heart
And people lie dying
And people die weeping
And the waters ripple slow
And the sun lasts down and down
And the curlew throws free
Her liturgy of fiery love
I meant to know the names of things themselves & not just through art.
I meant to be so charismatically convincing that no one would resist.
I meant to find rhymes for "silver" and "orange."
I meant to say it slant & say it straight & say it from the heart.
I meant to always live in the world you live in & you would always—
I meant to talk about how great it was to get out for a walk in the cool 7 a.m. unpeopled streets. I can't figure out if it's possible to post more than one photo per post so you don't get to see trucks with trash up to the windows, giant morning glories, dawn light on the luscious bricks of the Lower East Side.
But I can't stop thinking about several people I know, nice liberals who I thought cared about others. But who won't get vaccinated. "I'm healthy," they mostly say. "I'll be fine." Someone isn't fine or going to be fine — maybe your aging mother, maybe your pure, pure husband, maybe you. Are you the only person in this equation? Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Ever hear that one? I'm grateful to be a citizen of the United States. I've said it many times, but if it weren't for this country taking in my refugee dad, I would never have been born. If my country asks me to do something for the protection of others, let alone myself, & it costs nothing & is virtually risk- and pain-free, you better believe I'm waving my hand more wildly than anyone. I can't think of a similar example, where I would refuse to do something simple & beneficial because my own beliefs are too precious to exist alongside anyone else's. I'm disappointed in these (former?) friends. Is that what it's come to? Nothing matters but I, me, mine?
In the neighborhood because here I am, but it's too darn hot!
Someone I work with just wrote: I never yearned for a pool before, but this summer I've suddenly morphed into a weather-driven capitalist who wants the pool, a beachfront property, and central air.
I found myself looking at cabins for sale in Norway.
When I go outside, all I want to do is go home & lie down.
I could probably write pretty much the same thing for this picture as I did yesterday. The thing is, all the zany surprises of my neighborhood keep me awake & alive.
Today at karate practice we invented Senior Olympics. Or thought we did. There really is such an animal. It's embarrassing: shuffleboard? power walking? cornhole? OK, I understand dropping gymnastics, although there are plenty of extremely spry 50+-year-olds. But where are the real sports? Sleeping, Remember Where You Left Your Keys, Texting with Those Tiny Little Keys on Your Phone.
I bet I can win the Gold in the category of "Staying Married to Johnny Stanton."
As birds' wings beat the solid air without which none could fly so words freed by the imagination affirm reality by their flight
~ William Carlos Wiliams, from Spring & All
Williams! My main man! Want a treatise? We are all his heiresses, right, Alice? No time today to write what's in my heart. The father of us all.
Hard as it is not to be stressed by the many weird, unsettling surprises & non-surprises that are going on, I did feel great peace walking on 9th Street the other afternoon, having a great catch-up chat with a good friend, the sun & mature trees & mellow buildings buoying us. Yesterday a different friend and I rode our bikes very early up an unvehicled Park Avenue to 72nd Street, as it was Open (car-free) Streets. (No photos or that would get its own entry.) Even though I'm busy at the moment, I'm getting some R&R too. Summer in the city.
Every time I go for a walk, I am surprised. Today it was that Emma Lazarus lived in this very nice building on 10th Street west of 5th Avenue.
I also just learned that 77 St Marks Place, where La Palapa is, was home not just to W.H. Auden but earlier, a Russian newspaper called Novy Mir, one of whose staff writers was Tolstoy.
And now I get to tell you one of my favorite jokes:
Q: What's the difference between a Trotskyist & a Trotskyite?
A: Same as the difference between a socialist & a socialite.
Why is it funny? I can't say but it cracks up everyone. And people who know say it's accurate as well as funny. There ya have it.
Left my house at 3:58 this morning to meet Alan, my neighbor, fellow karateka, & ride to Rockaway at 4. Lots of greetings, then meditating on our beloved dead (like yizkor) till the sun came up. Next we did basics and kata in the sand. For some reason we didn't go into the water as usual, though I ran in & splashed around when everything was finished. A slice of watermelon & we headed back by 8. I was asleep again by 9.
Naturally we couldn't be as physical as usual, both because the black belts now train with the color belts & because we didn't go into the surf. So it wasn't as full of wild abandon as previous years, but still great to be by the ocean + see a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time.