We saw one snowflake & this maple, 20th Street east of 9th Ave.
Fall in Chelsea
I think you have to teach kids to work, and you can only teach them to work if you work... I can't delegate jobs if I'm not doing it.
~ Ruth Asawa (1926-2013). She had six kids, by the way.
I got interested in her because she'd been at Black Mountain. Best known for her coiled wire sculptures, I fell in love with this painting at a show of her work I went to a day or two ago at the David Zwirner gallery on West 20th Street. You have to look closely to see the little scribbles in the back of the chair. Somehow that's what makes this great.
Out & about
My friend KG is moving away so I felt lucky that he had a couple of spare hours to hang out on Friday. We went to the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea. This is one of the cool things we saw.
In the neighborhood
Is Chisholm having a revival? Or what? After all, she died in 2005 & that was quite a while after she ran for president, the first Black woman to do so. I believe she was the first Black woman in Congress as well. Anyway, here is this poster on a mailbox up the block.
As usual, my traditional Thanksgiving poem. I no longer have anything to do with the guy whose email I "found" it from 20 years ago, who became a Holocaust denier, with all the paranoia, conspiracy, & ugliness that goes with that. I still like this little work, however.
Thanksgiving Almost Found Poem
Many years we go to my grandmother's in Virginia.
My mother, father, aunts and at least two of my brothers are there.
My son has a football game that morning.
My daughter is home, but needs to get back to school this weekend.
My wife doesn't want to ride for nine hours and turn right back.
Sometimes I have gone alone, but not often.
A couple of neighbors were vying for our company.
One of those my daughter's boyfriend's family,
Which we did last year and had fun.
But this year it will be another family,
One we have visited on two or three other Thanksgivings.
I have a turkey freezing in the garage.
Nothing to do with it.
A "backsliding democracy"
According to the Global State of Democracy 2021 report from the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, "The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale."
More than a quarter of the people in the world live in democratically backsliding countries, that is, nations seeing a gradual decline in the quality of their democracy, thanks to restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law.
Who do they blame? Take a guess. (The pandemic hasn't helped either, globally.)
The report does say democracy is resilient, with protest and civic action fighting repression around the world.
The depressing part is how many people are OK with it, as long as no one makes them wear a mask to tamp down a pandemic.
From the vault / Poem of the week
I'm thinking I wrote this for Ed & Lori's wedding in 1990. Found it going through papers & drawers & bags & boxes & piles as we clean our place out in preparation for fixing it up.
I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.
~ Aldous Huxley, who also died November 22, 1963
Morning in Brooklyn
Totally great to meet my friend Tracie at 8 a.m. at her place in Brooklyn. We were 7:30 karate students so getting together early was old times for us. The picture shows the city as it once was; the air was bright and olden days too. It was 15 minutes, if that, on the L train to a neighborhood (Bushwick, I think) new to me. We caught up & I got to see her wonderful drawings & new apartment.
From the vault: Muscle Beach
Is this by Edmund?
I'm liking finding things in the process of getting rid of things.
Pet Peeve #697
If the connection is poor, most people tell you it's your phone, you should move, you should hang up & try again. Hey, maybe it's you! Or more likely, it's probably no one's doing & the gods of phone calls are making mischief. What's the point of aiming a pointless accusation at the other caller?
This beautiful painting, by Lois Tønnessen Andersen, is part of an exhibit of her work at Sjømannskirken (the Norwegian Seamen's Church) up on 52nd Street. I was there the other day to help bake pepperkaker (Norwegian gingerbread) for their annual julemarked (Christmas fair). It was fun & homey & I got to practice my halting norsk with Anbjørg & Hilde (wives of the priests). Hilde very kindly said don't worry about the prepositions, we understand even if they're not quite right. At least I am pretty sure that's what she said.
It's either clean or move & apartments are too bloody expensive to move. We are each spending 10 minutes a day evaluating & throwing out as much as possible - clothes, papers, books, puzzling items that kept getting put aside till we could figure out what they are for. Out they go.
I figure this process could take a few months although, a week in, I am starting to notice little bare patches.
The heart stops briefly when someone dies,
a quick pain as you hear the news, & someone passes
from your outside life to inside. Slowly the heart adjusts
to its new weight, & slowly everything continues, sanely.
~ from "Things to do in Providence"
Ted Berrigan (November 15, 1934 - July 4, 1983)
A little subway tale
This happened many years ago but I was reminded of it by last week's Health II story of Johnny punching out a kid who tried to mug him. I bet (& hope) the kid will never try that again. I was riding the #7 out to Queens, writing in a little notebook. I was aware of a man standing near me but not that the train was emptying out. I hunched over my notebook, quite sure he was trying to snoop on what I was writing & steal it for his own. I paid no outward attention but I was getting pissed off. When my stop came, I waited till the last second & stood up as the doors opened. Which was when I realized he wasn't reading over my shoulder but patiently waiting for me to see that his stupid dick was hanging out. I roared with laughter at my misapprehension (NO ONE IS INTERESTED IN STEALING YOUR POEMS, EL!) & jumped off. I didn't look back but I can only imagine that that was not the reaction he had been anticipating for the last 20 minutes. I also bet (& hope) he never did that again & spent the rest of his life doubting himself in the manhood department.
Health V: Phrenology
I ran into phrenology recently in Walt Whitman: The making of the poet, by Paul Zweig. More quack science? Phrenology is the study of the skull to understand mental faculties and character traits. It was very credible to such 19th century thinkers as Hegel, Horace Greeley, Horace Mann, & many others. Whitman saw a connection between his "chart of bumps" & his poetical character and used phrenological concepts in his work; Fowler & Wells, leading phrenologists, sold the first edition of Leaves of Grass in their store & published the second.
I can't help but wonder if a century from now people will look at psychology as we do at phrenology, a big advance in many ways but largely worthless.
Here's a terrific article on a modern study of phrenology. While it couldn't find any correspondence between the skull & what's inside, it did find "a very strong positive association between the trait "amativeness" (the arousal of feelings of sexual desire) and "words." Which is to say, the more sexual partners a person has had, the higher their verbal fluency in a word naming task.
This is part 5 (the final one) of a themed week on the blog. I was feeling like I've been spinning my wheels here & am eager to try something new. Love to hear feedback or ideas.
Health IV: Sneezing
There's a family story about my parents going to the Twin Cities for a weekend, where they took in a play. Just as the would-be murderer was creeping up on his victim, my dad let out one of his enormous sneezes. I believe the villain dropped his knife. The next week, a client said, "Hans, I have to tell you what happened last weekend up in Minnesota...." My dad didn't say a word.
One thing I've inherited from my dad is an astonishingly loud sneeze. Just the other day, someone started & turned from half a block away.
What accounts for the volume? The sound of a sneeze comes from the air escaping from your mouth or nose. The average sneeze is about as loud as a lawnmower. According to Richard Harvey of St Vincent's and Macquarie University Hospitals in Sydney, the loudness depends on a person's lung capacity, size and how long they hold their breath. "The longer you hold your breath, the more dramatic you make it."
Advice for turning down the volume includes sneezing into a thick handkerchief, holding your breath right before you sneeze, coughing while you sneeze, & clenching your teeth and jaw (messy!).
Here's the best part. According to the UK's Daily Mail, a loud sneezer "is often marking his position as an alpha male, while an elbow sneezer likes to follow the rules and may not be an individual thinker."
I love those "what your X says about you" quizzes. When I worked at women's magazines, we were always trying to come up with personality quizzes like this: what the way you wear down your lipstick, the way you park, the way you answer the phone says about you.
This is part 4 of a themed week on the blog. I was feeling like I've been spinning my wheels here & am eager to try something new. Love to hear feedback or ideas.
Health III: Quackery?
I'm a modern gal so it's a little shocking that people are going back & finding value in old ways like leeches & cupping. Cupping is a simple technique that involves pressing a suction cup into the skin. A recent experiment found that rats injected with SARS-CoV-2 DNA, which on its own quickly degrades in the body, followed by moderate suction had an immune response 100 times stronger than injection alone. This matters because vaccines that don't require refrigeration are easier to distriute in poorer countries, & if they can be more effective with a simple technique like cupping, all the better for everyone.
This is part 3 of a themed week on the blog. I was feeling like I've been spinning my wheels here & am eager to try something new. Love to hear feedback or ideas.
Health II: Johnny
Johnny was walking home on 2nd Street east of B when a teenager demanded his money. Without pausing, Johnny hauled off & hit the kid. Half a block later he looked behind him & the kid was only then getting up. Don't mess with an Irish boxer, even if he's 78 years old & walks with a cane!
This is part 2 of a themed week on the blog. I was feeling like I've been spinning my wheels here & am eager to try something new. Love to hear feedback or ideas.
Monday Quote, Health I
Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.
~ Edward Smith-Stanley
Hmm, there are quite a few gentlemen of this name in 19th-century England, all with colorful histories, divorces, and accomplishments (many bird-linked). The one who said this could be one of the Earls of Derby or a clergyman.
This is part 1 of a themed week on the blog. I was feeling like I've been spinning my wheels here & am eager to try something new. Love to hear feedback or ideas.
Poetry in person!
Really happy to go out & to a reading/event, to shake hands & hug people I know, look directly in their eyes, listen with a listening audience. Yuko was especially compelling but so was everyone. On the phone earlier, Andrei told me he'd thought the reading was yesterday & so ended up listening to a bunch of Filipino poets. That conversation, then much of the reading, was about language & translation. I tried doing a little simultaneous translation while I was listening. Another reading the next day at the Tompkins Square Park library, starring Maggie. Little by little the world creaks open. I hope.
Prepositions are crazy in every language. Norwegian, for example, has different ones depending if you are talking about continents, countries, cities (i); directions (for); or islands, parts of cities, or individual mountans (på). And those are just some of the prepositions of place. A couple of people I know who are almost natively fluent in a second language still make mistakes. Someone explained that prepositions are difficult because there are so many of them & each can have many meanings & nuances ~ they've been in use a long time & had plenty of chances to mutate. And they're not consistent. We're on the train, Germans are in them. We read books by an author, while in many countries books are from a writer. My teacher said a woman dropped out of her class explaining, I have met the prepositions, & the prepositions won.
*GUEST* Poem of the Week
I met upon the road
A woman and a man,
And a tree that genuflected
Before the wind;
Farther on, a browsing burro;
And farther still, a heap of stone.
And in three thousand leagues of my spirit
There was no more than these:
A tree, a stone, a burro,
A woman, and a man.
~ Leopoldo Lugones, translated by Muna Lee
Encontré por la senda
Una mujer y un hombre,
Y un árbol que al viento
Más lejos un asno que no hacía nada,
Y más lejos una piedra informe...
Y en tres mil leguas de mi espíritu
No había más, entonces,
Que un árbol, una piedra, un asno,
Una mujer y un hombre.
Leopoldo Antonio Lugones Argüello was an Argentine poet, writer, historian, and journalist, and the author of many collections, including Lunario sentimental (Arnoldo Moen y Hermano, 1909) and Filosofícula (Editorial Babel, 1924). He was born on Yeats' birthday & died on mine: June 13, 1874 – February 18, 1938.
Muna Lee (1895-1965) was an American poet, writer, translator, and political activist. She published one book of poetry, Sea-Change (The MacMillan Company, 1923), and served as the translator for the June 1925 issue of Poetry, which exclusively featured Latin American poets.
Thanks to the Academy of American Poets for their Poem-a-day email.
I was dispirited before the election at all the misinformation, disinformation, & stupidity I heard from many sources (& even more so at the outcomes). Do people know they're wrong, in which case is it a con? or do they believe & repeat without understanding or study? I've been an uninformed voter, I'm ashamed to say, who used to believe my civic duty began & ended in the voting booth. Now I know better, & too much is at stake to ever go back to merrily pulling the lever (ha ha) without boning up on the issues & candidates.
Happy 132nd Birthday, SoDak
When I was born, Sioux Falls was not quite a hundred years old, & South Dakota had been a state for fewer years than I've now been alive. People who had been born in Dakota Territory were not uncommon.
Not sure what else to say. Maybe that I shouldn't have eaten so much candy corn today. I scored the last bag at Rite-Aid, which has already stocked the seasonal shelves with Christmas candy.
Nature is a Haunted House – but Art – a House that tries to be haunted.
~ Emily Dickinson
Happy Halloween to all those who celebrate late. Or are still celebrating.