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NauenThen: Something's up & I can't add posts at the moment. The tech people at the Authors Guild are trying to fix it. Back as soon as possible! 

Generations

I made an indignant speech in my Norwegian class last night but because I never know if I'm really saying what I intend på norsk, I'm going to repeat it here (more accurately if not eloquently & på engelsk).

 

One of the other students has a new job that involves marketing to young people & we got to talking about generations: Gen X, Gen Z, Millennials & the like ~  distinctions that seem to matter only in terms of targeted selling. I wanted them to know that we Baby Boomers got our name organically. There were a lot of us & it was sudden (a baby boom, from returning WWII soldiers). We were against the Vietnam War & we were truly on opposite sides, with a chasm between our elders and us: a generation gap (et generasjonsgap). Also, we weren't friends with our parents. We didn't wear the same clothes or listen to the same music. We didn't live with them once we were out of school. I'm not saying we were so great just that we really were the first generation that was distinct from what came before. 

 

The indignation was because I needed my classmates to appreciate that we were serious. It wasn't a generation about stuff. Call yourselves whatever you want but do understand that it's an artificial distinction. There's no gap between 1980 and 1981. Nothing happened to distinguish 1995 from 1996. However, 1946 was the first post-WWII year. It WAS different. It DID start something new. 

 

 

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An evening with the gals

Just what I needed! A mix of laughter, hugs & wisdom with my friends Alisa & Robyn ("gals" is her word), at my (current) favorite restaurant Mogador, the Moroccan place on St Marks, where I had curried vegetables & labne cheese on paratha (a special but I would order it every time if I could). We've all lost parents pretty recently so we got in the weeds on that, but there were hilarious stories too, such as from Robyn's recent stint on jury duty. So normal, so natural & yet it's been ages. The obvious reasons of pandemic but I am no longer willing for that to excuse every gap & lapse. Girlfriends are the best. 

 

And then: no hot water in the middle of washing my hair this morning. Ugh my hair is still cold. 

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Treasures

It sure is fun finding things I'd forgotten ever existed: my junior high school magazine, a note from a boy asking me to go steady, photos through the ages, the final I wrote for a graduate class in urban economics (for which I was in no way qualified, starting with the professor's (incorrect) assumption that calculus was a prerequisite), even just my young handwriting, recognizable still but more careful (i.e., legible). I can't quite pin down the feelings here: nostalgia, sure, & a sense of how far ago so much of this happened. But always, the confusion of trying to figure out if I am I & always have been. Yes. No. Yes & no. Just one more confusing thing in my life right now. 

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Monday Quote

There is always that in poetry which will not be grasped, which cannot be described, which survives our ardent attention, our critical theories, our late-night arguments.

~ Adrienne Rich

 

I read entire books that say basically this. 

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What I'm reading

I have a soft spot for big middlebrow novels set in remote Scotland. Pilcher is satisfying if that's what you're in the mood for. Nothing challenging, just a nice bath of complications, good-hearted people who come out ahead of the cranky ones, & in Winter Solstice, plenty of snow. A different writer but with a similar intelligent but not demanding manner is Angela Thirkell (Trollope's heiress). Also Helen MacInnes (spy thrillers). I've had a cold? allergies? (not Covid!) this week & Winter Solstice was exactly as much as I could manage. 

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Have I achieved enlightenment?

Isn't that what it means when my mind is blank?

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From the vault

This small poster I probably had on my wall for the cleverness, without thinking much about meaning. It comes from a box that also had my junior high school magazine/yearbook ("to a sweet girl") & a letter from a boy asking me to go steady: "write your answer on this note & give it to me tomorrow." 

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Theater!

Went to the (trendy!) Shed in Hudson Yards last night to see a new work by Claudia Rankine called Help. Based on an op-ed she wrote a few years ago, it was, disappointingly, pretty much still an op-ed, with dancing. The audience was on her side, so she didn't have to do the work of setting up both sides of an argument, or find evocative images or language. I was thrilled to be in a crowd seeing theater together but wish it had been more challenging. 

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Little by little

The pandemic feels like it was permanent, I suppose because it was an absolute break: one day we were hugging & kissing & flying to Europe, the next we were housebound. The reopening isn't so dramatic given that it's piecemeal: the dojo is open, with restrictions, then fewer restrictions. The stores & restaurants & theaters & trains likewise. In fact, most parts of our lives are creaking open little by little. There've been permanent changes of course: the many deaths, obviously, but how we interact (elbows over handshakes), what we'll put up with (cf. work-from-home), how we trust or don't trust, more likely, our place in the world. I would like to put it behind me but I also want to remember, though I don't know why ~ really, I want everything sad/difficult to fade to where nothing was as bad as it seemed. 

 

Sigh... I don't know where I'm going with this... it always does seem to come back to memory... 

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Monday Quote

We will be judged by what we do, not by how we felt while we were doing it. 

~ Kenneth Tynan

 

Or by our excuses for not getting our hands dirty, no matter how legit. Or our potential. Or all the woulda-shoulda-couldas that are always lying in sabotage. 

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What I'm reading

I've lost my mind! I actually read a book about decluttering. Once I was 4 months into the project, with my sole principle to spend 10 minutes a day cleaning, 10 minutes only & do it every day, I thought maybe I could learn some more tricks. Not sure how I came upon the book I did: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning your never-ending battle with STUFF, by Dana K. White. If I'd read it earlier, I would have given up the whole plan, I suspect. The more she talks about how to make it easy, the more overwhelming it seemed. Although I liked that she said why should she store stuff when she could get it from the store: that's what stores are for, to store stuff till we need it.

 

Ten minutes, that's all I could imagine. When my sister was 200 pounds overweight & couldn't walk 20 feet without getting out of breath, she somehow managed to START: she walked 5 minutes a day. Now she participates in triathlons. Start. "Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now," said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

 

There are an awful lot of books on the subject of decluttering! For those with ADHD, sentimentalists, for your personality type, workbooks, journals, 30-day guides, etc etc etc. Maybe it's reassuring to think of so many of us in the same boat. More if the boat were emptier. Even though I really don't buy much, I've lived in the same place for 45 years & if you get behind on tossing, suddenly (well, it seems sudden) you're overwhelmed. 

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Guest poem of the week

I've been reading from a tall stack of books of poetry, old new & in between. And then I pull in William Carlos Williams & it's hard to get back to anyone else. They all seem to be trying too hard. He's the spring weather, the clear breeze, the cool water. He's also savage & cold as "the male snow / which attacks and kills " ("The Polar Bear"). O Bill! 

 

 

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Who am I?

Any guesses as to which 7-year-old is me? 

 

Not sure anyone has ever failed to spot me quickly. It's funny how some people always look like themselves. It's funny for me to see that familiar face & know what lay in wait. 

 

I asked someone today if this were a high school job. I'm 28 & I've finished medical school, she said; I don't know whether to be insulted or complimented. 

 

One thing is that the further I get from 28, the more those years compress, so "28" no longer reads as looking a certain way. The other thing is we get used to our face & see ourselves in the mirror as, say, 30. So if I'm 30, she must be in high school because I'm obviously older. It makes a certain sense, yeah? 

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It's spring

& karate is blooming. I love my Penn South group: Black Belt Review, aka Black Belt Revue. Supportive, smart, able to elucidate the nuances of the material, fun, chill. 

 

Also, I got a new phone. And found $2 in a box. And threw out my once-favorite t-shirt. And kept appointments. And sneezed so hard it registered on the Richter scale. Ah, Spring! 

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The Ides of March

My Latin teacher, Miss Skaff, had two sayings: 

* "Shouldn't you know this?" Yes, we should. Luckily no one in the class was a language genius, so we bumbled along not knowing & not thinking too much about it.

* "You have an advantage." To this day, I believe that Latin was the single most useful class I took. It gave me not only a vocabulary but a feeling for the origins & development of words. 

 

In all my years of public school, Latin was the only class I had with fewer than 30 students. So we were tight by 4th year, & still are, up to a point. 

 

I refreshed Latin on Duolingo recently & was pleasantly surprised at how much I still had in me. 

 

O the togas of our Latin banquets! 

 

I remember finding or figuring out that all the months had ides. 

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Monday Quote

It's not that one day you can do it & the next day you can't. It's more like one day you don't do it & the next day you can't. 

 

I'm quoting myself to explain why I have to keep going to karate ~ the day I stop will be, I fear, the beginning of the end of my physically & mentally active life. Although today I was mostly trying to paste over my usual deer-in-headlights look that I get whenever we do weapons. 

 

My grandma, a piano teacher, used to say that every day you don't practice you slip back two. Same idea. 

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What I'm reading

These are the poets I've read a poem or 2 of (or more) this week, in no particular order (how the books are piled next to me): 

Yehuda Amichai

Jan Wallace

Diane Seuss

Brenda Shaughnessy

Dick Gallup

Ted Berrigan

Frank O'Hara

e.e. cummings

Octavio Paz

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Away

I went a hundred blocks north, a handful west, & 50 years back in time. Why are there two phonebooths on West End Avenue a block apart. Are there more? Have they always been there? Were they installed for a movie shoot? I have been thinking that I'm living backwards & here's one more piece of evidence. 

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J. E. Mainer

I've been a fan of J. E. Mainer & the Mountaineers for a long time without knowing much about them. I was trying to figure out the second line in the chorus of "Run Mountain" & came upon this extremely interesting & illuminating piece, by Wayne Erbsen, who lives in Asheville and has written 30 songbooks and instruction books for banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. In a comment to the piece, Mainer's son is quoted (by his best friend) as saying that the mysterious line is "Run Mountain check a little hill" & it's a moonshine reference. By the way, Erbsen credits fiddler Mainer (1898-1971) & his 30s band for playing bluegrass 10 years before its inventor Bill Monroe!

 

Exactly like books, there's always more amazing music to catch. Ain't life grand.

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Sleepy Wednesday...

Kind of living in a bath of sloth, hope, worry & the pleasure of finding letters & cards from people who are still my dearest friends. Friends of 50 years! Nothing I'm more grateful for. This decluttering is working out really well ~ my house & office are both nicer daily & I'm full of happy memories. 

 

However, the cat woke me all night long, the little drittsekk, so I'm fogging around today. Luckily no one is chasing me down to fix their commas. 

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Win some, lose some II

Photo: Sharon Hanson for the Missouri Writers' Guild, Rickman Conference Center, Jefferson City, MO. 

I found the Ted Berrigan book & this photo from 1986, me giving a talk in rural Missouri when I was fiction editor of Woman's World. They wanted to find out how to sell me mystery & romance short stories, & there I was, way younger than they expected & with that calico hair, courtesy of Wendy at Girl Loves Boy on Thompson Street. Too bad the picture is b&w because my head was a riot of yellow, black, red, brown & more. And oh did I love that shirt, heavy pink rayon with airplanes. 

 

What I lost was my mind, editing the dullest paper I've read in a hundred years. Did I stay awake throughout? Almost. 

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Monday Quote

We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings. We left our relatives in the Polish ghettoes and our best friends have been killed in concentration camps, and that means the rupture of our private lives.

~ Hannah Arendt, in We Refugees

 

Oh yes, I know how true this is when I think about my dad. His last words were in German, even though he hadn't spoken it much for almost 50 years & claimed he didn't know it anymore. 

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What I'm reading

God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopolou "presents a vividly corporeal image of God: a human-shaped deity who walks and talks and weeps and laughs, who eats, sleeps, feels, and breathes, and who is undeniably male ... a product of a particular society, at a particular time, made in the image of the people who lived then, shaped by their own circumstances and experience of the world." I've only read the prologue so far but I'm riveted. The sections are Feet & Legs, Genitals, Torso, Arms & Hands, & Head. 

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TGIF

Since I work freelance & part-time, I rarely have the busy work week that makes people thank god it's Friday. This week was an exception but I got it all done & can kick back again. Should I retire fully? Everyone I know seems to be signing off but if you don't have a job, it's hard to quit. And I do like being sought after. I never thought that I, who basically retired at the age of 20, would become a workerbee in my old age. Am I living backwards? Bring on those youthful knees! 

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Win some, lose some

Won: 2 $20 bills dropped out of a pamphlet

        a friend brought me cookies

        time! having finished a few projects

 

Lost: my vaccination card

        an opal & sapphire ring I loved

        Collected Ted Berrigan

(still have hopes that they will turn up)

 

Win/lose: a chair that was taped together. I caned the seat years ago with twine, & the twine mostly snapped. I miss having a chair but continue to be glad to get rid of crap. 

 

Update: Found the vaccination card, the thing I need least on this list. 

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Amid all the bad news, there's this

I don't have to go into detail about the horrific & frightening things going on in the world. But I want to take a little break to point out this remarkable "once-in-a-lifetime" find: a Roman mosaic floor at a South London construction site, at least 1,800 years old. Which makes me think of Kipling's wondrous Puck of Pook's Hill, a young person's romp through English history. 

 

An intense stretch of work is winding down & this seems to be as much as I can manage today. Do check out the link & the book as well. 

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From the vault: Strange letter

This is on a sheet of onionskin paper that I found in one of the many piles I've been sorting through. I have no idea why I have it or who wrote it or when or anything. Why did I think I remembered things? Who was XX who wrote me that she hoped we would always be friends & now I don't recognize her name?

 

(P.S. The lines across the letter came from my computer... long, boring, frustrating story & too maddening to try to fix...)

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