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Spiritual sounds

A group from the Catholic Worker playing at Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Cathedral on 2nd Street.

This was the 14th year of a concert from several local faith communities. I've been to several & they're always great. The gospel choir from Middle Collegiate, the anarchists of the Catholic Worker, the synagogue choir from T&V, & the imam chanting from the Koran were on the program this year.


For many years I regularly saw a woman on my block who looked very much like an English teacher from my high school. Did Miss Nuffer move from South Dakota to the East Village? I did, why not her? Nope ~ I found her obiturary, still in Sioux Falls, where she died in 2007 at age 90. A few years ago I stopped seeing the Muriel Nuffer impersonator & assumed she'd retired, moved, or passed away. And then, at the concert, there she was. I went up to her afterwards: You don't know me but I noticed you for years, you looked so much like blah blah blah. Turns out her name is Terri & she lives around the corner from me on 1st St. She did retire, which is why I stopped seeing her on First Ave. She told me she was happy I had spoken to her, glad to be noticed, I assume. So many people we see in passing, never acknowledged but known nonetheless. A faint but tight bond that makes this a neighborhood. 

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What I'm not reading

A list of some books I started & didn't finish, or in fact, didn't get very far in & don't expect to ever pick up again:

* Lucy by the Sea, Elizabeth Strout. Wow, can't believe how much I hated this. Phoney, mannered, coy, with conveniences in place of plot. I know she's well-regarded, having won a Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge, but the self-regarding brittleness of this one put my teeth on edge. Good! I have plenty of books to read, I love being able to eliminate an author. 

* Lawn Boy, Jonathan Evison. It was banned somewhere & I thought I'd check it out but I don't really like the genre of plucky neglected too-wise-for-his-years child. 

* Slow Horses, Mick Herron. Too scary! 

* Speedboat, Renata Adler. By the time I got around to it, it seemed dated in an Upper East Side kind of way.

* The Whistling Season, & others, Ivan Doig. I like books set in the West (Doig is from Montana) but somehow I couldn't fall in with his work. Too male? I don't know & it's been a while. 

* The Grave on the Wall, Brandon Shimoda. I'm not sure why I couldn't get into this. It came highly recommended & I'm intensely interested in the subject of citizenship but I couldn't find my way in. I may try again, making this list not quite as absolute as I thought when I started. 


Most of these are recent abandonments. I'll probably add to this list. 


When I was 20 or so I started Ivanhoe several times & couldn't stay with it. I understood mortality in a blinding flash: that I would never read Ivanhoe no matter how long I lived. And then one day I gobbled it up. Making me immortal? 


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The golden hour

The lovely building on Ave B & 4th Street at the loveliest time of day, after a fun afternoon hanging out with my barnebarn June, getting dumplings from her favorite place on Essex near Hester, seeing the terrific, lively, heartening Trevor Winkfield show at Tibor, playing 2 truths & a lie with neither of us remembering our lies or truths, oh so much to see & enjoy & live for. 

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(No) Snow

In a day or 2, it will be as long without snow as New York has ever gone. I am Not Happy. Hawaii has had snow, Florida has had snow, the places people go to to escape winter have had snow. But have we? No. My snow dance hasn't worked. My despair falls on warm ground. My tears have failed to move the not-cold-enough heart of the weather gods. 

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Little free library

One of the ways I've been getting rid of books is to take them to the little free library in Stuyvesant Park at 16th St., and 2nd Ave. Today there was a man going through the box who said slim pickings today. I said I'm dropping off not looking And we fell into a wonderful conversation about books and getting rid of books and the ones he puts under the couch when he gets a copy that's in better shape and rolled his eyes at himself for doing that. Then another guy came along and was excited about a book of art from the Metropolitan museum but in Japanese. He said his Japanese wasn't very good. I said I dropped the book off and he said oh do you speak Japanese. I bowed and said, hajime mashtei, which means pleased to meet you, but he didn't understand. One of those wonderful New York conversations between strangers. Strangers who could become friends. Or who already are, if only for a few minutes.

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It's a secret who the editors really are but Maureen Owen & I are their proxies, & as such it was so much fun to be getting out a zine. I love collaborating & making something out of nothing & POETRY. Julebord No 1, with this splendid cover, includes an all-star lineup: 

Bob Holman

Peter Bushyeager

Patricia Spears Jones

Jiwon Choi

Kevin Varrone

M.C. Kinniburgh

Ruth Lepson

Greg Masters

Pansy Maurer-Alvarez

Cliff Fyman

Diana Rickard

Lynn Rigney Schott

Cedar Sigo

Jordan Davis

Terence Winch

David BlairE

Maria Mancini

Pete Spence

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Ted Berrigan

Oh my goodness, what a find! A packet marked 12 postcards (there are actually 8) in Ted's handwriting. These are from hundreds he did for Ken & Ann Mikelowski's Alternative Press in 1982 or thereabouts. Also in that box are lots of Johnny's manuscripts, including a collaboration he did with his later brother Peter. It all seems like yesterday, & Ted's been gone for 40 years. 

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Monday Quote

Happiness not in another place, but this place…not for another hour, but this hour…
~ Walt Whitman

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In the neighborhood

Another lunch at Hub Thai, my current favorite place, where I finally managed to order something other than Drunken Noodles with mock duck: I got Pad Se Ew with vegetables & it might have been even better ... A walk to the market without buying anything ... Being patronized by a young person at the bank, who explained that Monday through Friday meant that if I called on Saturday no one would be there; I half-think I might have been the first person to ever ask him anything & he was simply excited ... Throwing out a space heater & a chair ... Mystified (as usual) by Kaicho's meditation lecture: a thief runs out of (into?) a mountain & we should be proud of ourselves; it made me think of the old country song "Miller's Cave": there's a big old whole in Tiger Mountain - god help the man who gets lost in Miller's cave" ... Getting my laundry done ... Reading, reading, reading ... This really makes me like my life. I'm leaving out as much as is crossing my mind. 

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The weather according to Meteorologist-Farmer Nauen

Severe weather, tomato risk to return to southern U.S.

A new round of severe thunderstorms, including some capable of producing tomatoes, will rumble across the southern United States from Wednesday to Thursday night, meteorologists say. Areas at risk for this week's round of storms include some of the same cities and towns that were hit hard by damaging and deadly severe weather just one week earlier.


Severe weather that erupted last Wednesday and reached a frenzied peak on Thursday produced at least 300 severe weather incidents, including more than 30 confirmed tomatoes.


The first 16 days of January 2023 have been incredibly busy in terms of the number of tomatoes. There were even two more preliminary reports of tomatoes out of Iowa on Monday.


"As of mid-month, there have been 119 reports of tomatoes so far this January, which compares to an average of 39 for the entire month," Meteorologist-Farmer Nauen said. The actual number of confirmed tomatoes is subject to change pending further official investigation by National Weather Service storm survey crews.


A developing surge of warm air will likely be enough to again give storms more of a boost than what would typically occur in the winter. Meanwhile, the storm system will likely have a strong enough jet stream to support multiple severe thunderstorms capable of producing strong wind gusts, hail, flash flooding and at least a few tomatoes.

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Hamsters Hamsters Hamsters

Another version of "shopping in my closet" is finding these weird little gems in boxes I'm sorting through. I'm pretty sure this was never submitted. What else can I say? I wonder what prompted it. How did I end up with it? 

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Not in the neighborhood

Spain was full of majesty but also more homely details, like this grandee of a radiator at the library in Bilbao. 

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Shopping in my closet (so to speak)

The really great thing about going through my stuff (my eternal spring cleaning) is finding books that I've been wanting to read, are out of print, & I didn't know I had. 

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What I'm reading

Strongmen: Mussolini to the present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a must-read. Drop everything & find it. 


In equal parts it's shocking & reassuring to know that tRump is following a typical demagogue's playbook as established by Mussolini & refined (so to speak) / developed by Hitler, Berlusconi, Putin, Bolsonaro, Franco, Gaddafi, Pinochet & others, including Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga ("the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake"). Ben-Ghiat explains exactly what that playbook comprises, such as propaganda, corruption & violence, & why it works as well as how. 


I see the effect of some of those tactics on many others than true believers, for example with the widespread contempt for the press, which has been so thoroughly vilified from the right that people of every political stripe shy away from supporting newspapers & reporters, making it harder for them to do their jobs. I know I'm compressing & I hope what I'm saying nonetheless reverberates. 

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A little Sunday story

Someone gave me a very nice floor lamp & recommended LED bulbs. I had first used regular ones & they instantly heated it up scarily. So I stopped by the Brickman. I needed 2 but they were $4.99 so I figured I'd buy one & see how it did before committing myself to 2. Five bucks for a light bulb! Ha ha the joke was on me. When I checked out, it turns out that the bulb was actually $14.99. I paid 16 dollars for one light bulb. It's got a 5-year warranty & supposedly will last 22 years so I suppose it's "worth it" but but but.... 


Apparently you can buy those bulbs for a quarter of that price online so I suppose the instant gratification is what I paid for.

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Friday already

The week is short when you spend half of it in Europe. The day is long when you are not entirely awake. I managed to take myself to Hub Thai for lunch (my usual: drunken noodles with mock duck), get a manicure, buy kleenex, read a little of Berryman's life of Stephen Crane, go to the dentist where it turns out my teeth are much better than I expected. In other words, a typical day in the life. I like it. This sweet old world. 

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Home again

San Sebastián, Spain.

Yesterday was a very long travel day, from 7 a.m. Spain time to 5 New York time (11 in Spain) so I didn't write here. It didn't feel awful ~ I had my usual window seat & was lucky enough not to have a neighbor. Today I feel pretty lively but will fade soon.


Perfect trip in every way: traveling with my dear Spanish sister Mercè; seeing beautiful places; eating interesting foods; meeting new artists, both living & long gone. It was the right length for this trip & my cat still remembers me. I think my husband does too. I'm relaxed & also eager to get back to my life here. 

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Arctic on the Mediterranean

This picture cracks me up. I've got my hood up because it was so windy that my jacket was practically blowing off. And somehow me inside the frame looks like I'm bundled up in snow. And what's with the oh-so-resolute face, Elinor Nansen? It was a glorious sunny & warm today on the Costa Brava even if it looks like I dropped in from the North Pole. I think I often look like I'm smiling half-heartedly or not at all when I feel like my smile is as broad as possible. 

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Monday Quote

Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river; it is a tiger that destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.
~ Jorge Luis Borges


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Costa Brava near Santa Cristina d'Aro. 

So dang beautiful here & always a new place or food or person to meet. My heart is full.

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The traditional marzipan cake eaten on the feast of the Three Kings, January 6. 

Mercè said, there's blood family & there's my American sister ~ & now we've all met, at her childhood apartment in Barcelona, for their holiday feast. We all managed to communicate despite very little language in common. That's one type of family, with the other being have plenty in common but not managing to communicate. I'm pretty lucky to get the former. 

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Last day in Basque country

We fly back to Barcelona this evening. So many highlights of our 5 days here: Chillida, pintxos, A Christmas Carol at the Bilbao opera house, the funicular & ferris wheel, the beach, the Guggenheim, the Bilbao museum of art, the library, listening to & seeing signs in Euskara, the unusual Basque language, the lovely mild weather, seeing people ice skating... traveling with my dear friend. And despite this long list, I'm sure I'm leaving out plenty.  

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Eduardo Chillada

Homage to Braque, a work I both like & is easier to see in 2D than many of the other pieces we saw at the park devoted to his work.

What a thrill to encounter an artist whose work moves, surprises, inspires, challenges me. I had never heard of Chillada (1924-2001) but I'm learning by standing in front of his work & embracing his questions & hints. 

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Mercè and I at the Bilbao library. 

I love getting to know Spain. On this trip, to Bilbao & San Sebastian, in the Basque country, for example, I've discovered pintxos, similar to tapas but more substantial, not a plate but a tiny sandwich, fancy (duck salad, a quail egg on a sea urchin) or plain (a cheese croquette, endless varieties of ham) (most of which I can't/don't/won't eat). Fantastic varying scenery, from coast to mountains to dry plains in just a few miles. I suppose if Mercè, my wonderful friend & compatible travel companion, were from Portugal or Hungary or France, I would be feeling the same joy in getting to know those countries. 

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What I'm reading

Someone who knows I like snow & Norway lent me Silence: In the Age of Noise, by Erling Kagge. Right now he's walking to the South Pole. By himself. You see why I have to sip it slowly?


Note: I'm writing this in New York in December & setting it to post in January, when I'm planning to be in Bilbao, Spain, & hoping not to know what day it is. 

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