I had to give blood at a doctor appointment the other day. My veins are tiny & pale & everyone but extremely experienced phlebotomists usually winces when they see what they have to work with. This time, the doctor used a vein finder flashlight to look beneath the surface of my skin. It's creepy as hell! THAT's what's cavorting under my skin?! I immediately came up with another million-dollar scheme: a vein finder that would lock a needle automatically into a good vein. The doc said no, you have to feel for it, there's no way to make it automatic.
Technology! It would probably take less time to withdraw cash from the bank & take public transportation to northern New Jersey to deliver it than it's so far taken trying to get set up to transfer it online. Is this what putting together Ikea furniture is all about? Why do they think one instinctively knows how to go from step to step? Why is my wifi still off? And why do I keep trying the same steps & ~ surprise! ~ arriving at the same dead?
How fun to go to the Slipper Room ~ a night at a club, something I'll never take for granted again. It was a benefit for Waggytail, a small dog & cat rescue group. Several comics, including the mind-blowing Janeane Garofalo, & a Blondie cover band, Pretty Baby, with the energetic Tammy Faye Starlite very much in front. I don't know that I get standup exactly: those are jokes? but Garofalo was something else entirely. She talked & you were right there (even though she talked so fast I missed a fair amount ~ didn't matter). Another thing that made it great was that it started at 6:30, was over by 9, & was a block away. And that I went with my wonderful new neighbor.
yeah hmmm.... 1987 or thereabouts.... pretty sure I never typed this up before... I instantly knew who T was & so did Maggie, when I showed her this. This is my life now: reading old work & trying to decide what I think about it.
I can't sleep tho I'm too lazy to even plug in the TV—it only works by plugging it in as the switch is broken & it only gets 1 or 2 channels or are they stations? I was asleep for 1 1/2 hours then a cough woke me. I must have lung cancer but Maggie says no it's just allergies people without allergies have them this year. She gives me 2 codeine, I take one & it makes me nauseated, she gives me a bottle of violently red vicks & a swig of green dream, her invented drink of mint, seltzer & who knows what else. It looks like regurgitated compost but is surprisingly quenching. What if they made cough syrup in as many color names as nail polish?
What kind of person writes a letter to the editor? Maggie asks.
A concerned citizen, I say.
No! she says. A crackpot!
I defend T—'s right to write a letter to the editor & explain that I have often thought of doing the same thing. What did you write to the editor about? I ask T.
Well, you see, he launches, Reagan —
Wait! I interrupt. Anyone who writes a letter to the editor about Reagan IS a crackpot.
He is offended & I have to explain about Thatcher & unemployment & beyond hope before he stops with that pissy face.
Then I read a story in a magazine about a couple who didn't acknowledge their pregnancy till a month before the baby was born. And someone says, We don't see each other enough to fight.
We see each other plenty, as we fight all the time.
Oh Johnny, let's not fight! Tell my troubles to the crackpot & kiss me quick. C'mon, let's make the universe jealous.
I love this picture so much. Serious Caitlin, now with a masters degree in something smart from Cornell, almost 24 & living in San Francisco. explaining her GrandDaddyO & me. She was used to us but a couple of those kids look ... bemused. They'd probably never seen a grownup acting sillier than a kid.
Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson, An Inland Voyage
Would he have said that if his brain was boiling like mine has been this week. Hottest EVER temperatures in England. There was a blast of heat on the sidewalk a few minutes ago that almost knocked me over. I felt like I'd been hit by a motorcycle.
I'm a big fan of RLS. When he & Alice moved to France 30 years ago, Doug gave me his complete works in two dozen volumes (which I could buy on Kindle for 99¢). I take one down at random once or twice a year, read a few pages or an essay. What a fine temperament that man had. A quiet observant mind with great kindness & curiosity.
What I liked best during the most recent January 6 hearing was that when they showed video of Missouri senator Josh Hawley scurrying from the mob he'd incited, the whole room erupted in laughter. From self-proclaimed tough guy to butt of joke in the blink of an eye. More like Monty Python's Brave Sir Robin or George Costanza fleeing a small fire?
Or maybe what I liked best was that it was petty & almost gratuitous, with little to do with the main points, except to illustrate the depraved opportunism & pandering of the Republicans. Hawley was the senator who first objected to certifying election results, so he was fair game, to be sure. Former senator Claire McCaskill, who he defeated in the 2018 election, said emphatically, NO senator EVER runs in the Capitol.
Schadenfreude, to be sure, & I'm all in. That little weasel.
I can't say anything specific yet, but I'm in the middle of my favorite assignment of the year: profiling 3 of the 15 winners/fellows of the AARP Purpose Prize. These go to people over age 50 (generally considerable older) who have started an innovative organization or business that fills a social need. Over the years I've profiled a dentist who works & educates in underserved neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, a woman who helps wounded veterans in ways that the VA can't, someone who trains women to be sound engineers, a man devoted to elevating his home city of Baton Rouge, and many more. All of them have been fascinating, relentless, & humble. What they have in common, I would say, is a willingness to stick it out no matter how long it takes or the odds against achieving their dream.
Something inside is burning & I'm filled with desire. A heat wave burning in my heart.... has high blood pressure got a hold on me? ... that funny feeling has me amazed, don't know what to do, my head's in a haze.
Yeah not that kind of heat wave, unfortunately. My head's in a haze, Martha Reeves has got that part right.
The Throne of Future Knowledge
in your arms the organ
of learning is a peony
polite as fresh laundry
This was in a pile that seems to be from the late 1980s. I remember it but not its circumstances. I guess I loved peonies no less then than now.
Someone named Geoffrey James poses these 10 questions to answer every day. "The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results," he writes. "These questions force you to focus on what's really important. Take heed of them and rest of your life—especially your work—will quickly fall into place."
1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?
2. Have I done something today that improved the world?
3. Have I conditioned my body to be more strong, flexible, and resilient?
4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?
5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?
6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?
7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?
8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?
9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?
10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?
(I posted these a few years ago but am happy to run into them again.)
The three of us with studio spaces in the basement on 5th St have taken to getting together occasionally. We like each other & it adds some work-type social life that we've all missed. On Friday we held a hootenanny. The 3 of us plus 2 spouses sang a bunch of camp songs: This land is your land, Walk right in, I've been working on the railroad, & lots more. We enjoyed most, I think, channeling Tennessee Ernie Ford doing "16 Tons," making us all go an octave lower than we could handle. That and the memories, histories and connections that the songs & singers sparked. We just need a banging guitar player for the next time. My summer of fun continues!
In 1969, I was staring up at the moon, looking to see a tiny human walking on it (I didn't have a very good idea of distances). It was the most thrilling thing I could imagine & I felt grateful to be alive for this. I feel the same way this week at the pictures coming in from the James Webb Space Telescope — awestruck at what's out there & how beautiful it is. Lucky to be alive to see it.
That's one of my "22 in 22" items - say yes! Do things when invited! Initiate! Whew, I hit the wall today. I got up way too early, cooked pasta for breakfast, did some editing work, rode my bike uptown (UPHILL) to an appointment, coasted home (ha ha, still plenty of uphills) & all I've thought about since is napping. Hannibal made an appearance in Decline/Fall today, only a mention, but it reminded me of Latin class & Carthage & elephants going over the Alps, all of which seemed at the time as far away in geography as in time. It doesn't so much now. That's all I've got.
Maggie, Mike, June & I have started going for walks. This week it was to the lake in upper Central Park: geese, turtles, anticipatory fish, & two cormorants; & to the Conservatory Gardens: not too many flowers but peaceful. Next up: the Night Market in Queens & maybe a long weekend in Iceland. Now we need a name. Any group of 3 or more that gets together twice or more needs a name. The Wayfarers? The New York Tramps?
Back in 1979 my dad sent me this clip from the front page of the Argus-Leader, my hometown newspaper & I was thrilled to come upon it again the other day. I went looking for our house a couple of times when I was back in Sioux Falls. I suppose I could never find it, not because I didn't recognize it out of context as I assumed, but because I was looking for it on N. Van Eps, not N. Blauvelt. There's my upstairs bedroom, shared by whatever girls were living there at the time. There's the den where I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. There's the attic window we crawled through before seeing the wasp nest; eventually we were more scared of getting caught on the ledge than of the wasps. Sioux Falls College built a science building on the site, tearing down the many-limbed pine tree that I climbed very high up in, the garage whose roof was my secret reading spot, the 6' stand-alone chimney (no idea) & the largest private sandbox ever.
Robyn, a fellow member of the Society of Early Risers, and I went for a almost-dawn walk in the East Village. We saw this cardinal and a very interested cat. We heard a young man playing what turned out to be a salterio, an early-music instrument that resembles a zither or dulcimer; he explained. We saw dogs chasing around in the dog run. She bought 3 foot-long stems of glaioli. A bright breezy balmy day. I love New York.
I remember Gertrude's Follies from the Soho Weekly News, where I worked briefly around 1980 or so. Was I a proofreader? My boss was Tuli Kupferberg's wife Sylvia Topp. This was the best of Gertrude's Follies & it's still funny to me. I am the enema!
So much for riding my bike to Governors Island weekly. I was last there in April. I gave myself an assignment of 22 fun or educational things to do/accomplish this year. Halfway through the year & I'm about halfway through my list. One item (for example) was to reconnect with an old friend, & it was a girl I've known since kindergarten. Cindy is still as bright-eyed & open-hearted as ever & it's a joy to be back in touch. There's more. I'll type up the whole list with a report, eventually. But how to learn how to yodel?!
... & I'm back to feeling hopeful. Because I believe that people will feel such revulsion for the cruelty of the SC's anti-life decisions that they will ignore/revolt/protest/create successful, life-affirming alternatives. Because the rain mostly stopped when I was biking home instead of picking up & though I skidded close, I didn't fall or hit the car that stopped short as it turned in front of me. Because later, a friendly guy on a bike said he would start wearing a helmet, after I said I didn't want to come upon his mangled body. Because possibly he was flirting with me, such an old phenomenon that I'm not sure I recognized it. Because Johnny left me the most hilarious voicemail that I fell in love with him again, for approximately the 14,000th time. Because I love the Cool Lime body butter I got at the African festival. And because I know (of) so many thoughtful, committed, loving activists who refuse to give in to despair, so I'm not going to either.
In the category of delightful nonessentials, I love only my birthday more than fireworks. I've written here & there about them: like clouds, if you look up, you get as much as anyone; there's no hierarchy of comprehension. Like birthdays, they're democratic - you can't get an extra birthday due to wealth or beauty, & you can't hog fireworks for yourself.
So yesterday it was very sad to feel unmoved by the city's show. Recently deprived of the right to life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness in the way I decide, I couldn't put that aside to simply enjoy the lights. And with SCOTUS having tossed NY's gun law protections, the fireworks sounded all too much like guns.
It's never been difficult for me to love this country. I always was sure most people felt similarly about its beauty, potential & backbone. Now ~ I'm not so sure. I'm almost never grateful that my dad isn't alive but this is one of those rare times. My dad was unwaveringly loyal to the country that saved his life but I don't know that he would be so proud right now.
I know there's so many wonders & wonderful people. I am pretty sure I'll get my love & admiration back. But today, it's tough.
You know how you go past some book or other, maybe for years, & all of a sudden that's the one you have to read? Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson (1876-1947), was like that for me. I'm sorry my mother's not around to ask not just about the book but about the times, as she heard them from her mother's (Alice Woodland Phillips 1885-1982) generation. She describes, beautifully & quietly, the end of a rural English community, before anyone realized it was coming to an end. Even though I'm only a quarter of the way through, I feel like I'm going to be calling it one of my favorite books for the rest of my life.
My lifelong friend Pauline & her sister Georgette go every year to the International African Arts Festival in Fort Greene. They took me along today & it was fantastic. I was tripping on all the bright colors & patterns. I bought a T-shirt (the most subdued one in the place ~ you can take the girl out of South Dakota but you can't get her to go bold) & some skin cream. (The lady threw in a bar of soap ~ you have to use it, she said, looking me straight in the eye, because it's a gift. I will! I told her, & I will.)