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Halloween is Caturday

One of my favorite pictures of my beloved Buster, in the lobster costume that he patiently wore. He patiently submitted to any prank I came up with because he loved me with the purity of the holy. 


I hope nothing is scarier today than the witches & goblins you will see trick or treating.

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Monday Quote / What I'm reading

I remember feeling that my grief was something that I could hold. Had to hold. That it was unwieldy, unimaginably heavy, fragile, and profoundly precious. That I couldn't put it down. 

~ Rona Cran, from I Remember Kim


This "memoir of grief" for her sister, who died unexpectedly at the age of 32, is modeled on Joe Brainard's famous I Remember series. The form made it possible for her to manage if not contain her grief.


She points out in a preface that there are few memoirs by bereaved siblings. How true, I realize, startled. I know many people who've lost a sibling & I can't think that any of them have written about it, myself included. This is an important book.

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Symposium on poetry

In the end, I don't know what the point is. It seems to be the tail wagging the horse, the critics knowing better than the poets what we're up to. Or who knows, maybe they do. Why do they remember the ridiculous tossed-off wisecracks of our youth? The readings were great, Patricia Spears Jones read especially beautifully, especially when the mic cooperated in that echo-y cavern. I liked everyone I could hear ~ can't ask for better than that. I think from now on, however, they can wait till I'm dead. 


However, massive gratitude to the young couple who very patiently explained that I was far, far from where I was going when I somehow got off the train many, many stops away from Sunset Park. I know they thought I didn't believe them & wasn't going to follow their directions, but I did, & they were more accurate than the MTA's trip-planner, which steered me wrong over & over. I am never going to Brooklyn again.

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Tomorrow: these little oases

Hey, so this is happening:


These little oases: a gathering, taking place on Saturday, 12-8pm, at 900 Third Avenue, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

12 noon

Ayaz Muratoglu
Edmund Berrigan
Anne Waldman
Moderator: Tyhe Cooper


Andrew Epstein
Alexandra Gold
Libbie Rifkin
Nick Sturm
Moderator: Mandana Chaffa


Paolo Javier
John Yau
Elinor Nauen
Jordan Davis
Moderator: Patricia Hope Scanlan


Tilghman Goldsborough
Rona Cran
Bob Rosenthal
John Godfrey
Moderator: Greg Masters


Kay Gabriel
Anselm Berrigan
Patricia Spears Jones
Moderator: Lee Ann Brown


The event is free of charge.


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Steve's steps

Back in NYC & still pretty mellow, I would say. When I think about Steve's place, the central image is of these steps. You park & you walk down the steps to get to the house. They are the welcome, the familiar path to the calm of the land. I've been home a day & already am longing to go back. 

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O Sitebuilder!

Turns out there's a 1,500-image limit to my site (hosted by the Author's Guild). Deleting images is annoyingly slow: I just spent an hour getting rid of two dozen. Goodbye to book covers & desserts. 

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The Blue Ridge Parkway 2023

How fantastic that during the Depression, people in government had the vision to propose and build this magnificent road. We catch a stretch of it almost every year, and one year when it was closed for the season, parked and walked along it. I suppose uncoiled, the BRP and the other roads we drove yesterday would only be a hundred miles or so, but we ambled along at 30 or 40 mph most of the afternoon. No surprise it's one of the most visited of our many wonderful national parks. I wish I could post even a few of the photos I took. I wish I were breathing the quiet air again right now. 

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Monday Quote

One of the few certainties in life is that people of certainty should certainly be avoided. 

~ Willy Russell (English dramatist, lyricist, and composer, author of Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, and more)


Very few people seem unwilling to display their certainties, full of passionate intensity. And ignorance. 

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A garden in Georgia

In 1980, a landscaper named John Gibbs started building gardens on 300 acres of land in north Georgia. 32 years later, he opened Gibbs Gardens to the public. Steve & I stopped there for several hours on our way to Murphy. So peaceful & glorious."Heaven must look like this," as the church lady when she stumbled on Steve's 4 acres. Steve said, If I had a billion dollars, I could do a lot more with my land. There were waterfalls, streams, a Japanese garden, a wildflower meadow, the manor house with a view of the mountains. Everywhere we go we find so much beauty. 

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Crafty ones

Last few visits we've done a project ~ 2 years ago, Steve & Wayne got married, last year we tie-dyed shirts. Today, Steve & I made juice from the naranjillas he grew, based on the memory of having had naranjilla juice in Ecuador. The fruit looks like a cherry tomato & is orange, but the pulp has tomato-like seeds & is green. It was rather involved to make it & maybe not the best thing I ever drank. We only sipped, just in case it's poisonous. Our other half-glass awaits. 

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Eat at Wade’s

We always go here & I almost always get a 4-vegetable plate, Wade's being a "meat & 3" restaurant, with various options. Today my vegetables were yellow squash, fried okra, mac'n'cheese & sweet potato soufflé. And I bought this shirt. 

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Welcome to South Carolia

Fall clouds over Spartanburg. 

Hey I can breathe, whaddaya know.Already more relaxed than I've been in a month & I've only been here 3 hours. The healing place. The people I love most in this world. 

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My first tattoo

When I was in 7th grade, I accidentally dropped a freshly sharpened pencil into my palm. It hurt! The teacher (? someone, & I doubt I saw a doctor) said the lead would disintegrate & disappear in a few weeks. Decades later...

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Monday Quote

Be careful to separate people from the policies of their governments.

Be careful to separate people from the actions of terrorists who live among them.


Be careful not to collapse history and context into narrow interpretation.

Be careful not to eschew complexity and nuance for the sake of memeification.


Be careful to recognize that grief for one side does not mean hate for the other.

Be careful to understand that support for one side does not mean hate for the other.


Be careful of gaslighting on a mass level: disinformation and denial of loss.

Be careful not to dismiss the excruciating and real pain of others. Do not make it worse.


Be careful not to say things online that you would not say to someone in real life.

Be careful not to add hatred on top of hatred; we are all being crushed underneath its compounding weight.


Be careful not to lose empathy for those with whom you disagree.

Be careful not to dehumanize others. Doing so dehumanizes you.


Do not lose touch with the parts of you needed most:

Your compassion. Your humanity. Your care.

~ Esther Perel

This is all so very, very hard. Trying not to be angry with people who didn't have anything to say about the depravity, the pogrom, the hate, the antisemitism. But plenty sure they know exactly what should happen next. 

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Comfort & joy

Spontaneous breakfast with another freaked-out Jewish friend ~ but we mostly caught up & were reminded of how much we like each other & how good life is (& our lives). She is the most positive person I know, without being an eejit (at all). Right now I'm hoping half my friends think I'm talking about them. I am! I let go of a lot of my angst in a cloud of laughter & tears. 

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A night out

I did manage to get to  my norsk class in Williamsburg (in-person class! being natural!) & a Seido farewell party in midtown. Took this picture afterwards of the building were the host lives. Then the bus home, appreciating that I live here and don't have to pay attention to where I am. You are a real resident when you're confident enough to take the bus. My dad had the native's second-nature map of his city (Berlin) & then he didn't. And then he never had a place again. A home, maybe, but not a place.

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I fell asleep at my desk just now, hands waiting for inspiration for today's blog. It was the psychic exhaustion, I think, of a very tough week, which followed a long hard few months. I'm so worn out, even though for once I'm sleeping plenty. Can't wait to go South Carolina in a few days, where I'll eat at Wade's, see the Gibbs Gardens in north Georgia, drive around in the mountains of western North Carolina, & be with people who love me. Not that people don't love me here but love AND Southern cooking AND the Smokies: hey yeah.

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More on Israel

Most of the time I don't think about the fact that lots of people, people all over the world & also in my own city, would like me to be dead because I am Jewish. Even my father didn't think about it most of the time, I think, & he escaped the Nazis by the skin of his teeth, leaving Berlin in 1939. This week I do remember & then every paranoid thought I've had oppressses me. Every time I've had to explain that Jews are in danger ("whatever list the blacks/gays/Puerto Ricans/ are on, the Jews are on"). Every time I think about having had no grandparents, aunts, cousins. Every time I hear more about the pogrom this week in Israel. Every time I get white with rage at the equivocation about "chickens coming home to roost" & other disgusting responses to the murder of babies. What about Danny Pearl, I want to say. Pakistan has no Jews. Antisemitism without Jews. Imagine. 


This is a poem I wrote probably close to 30 years ago.


No Safety


All that hate me whisper together against me,

against me do they plot my death.


My old friend—

who I trusted—

who ate my bread—

has lifted up his heel against mine.

    Psalm 41




   I pick my friends according to whether they would hide me.

     Once you're betrayed it's too late to choose better.

Jews like to argue

who was worst:

The French? in 1940, five million

wrote poison-pen letters

denouncing individual Jews.

No, the Austrians—Hitler, Eichmann, Waldheim. All Austrians.

No, no, the Romanians

who outraged even the Germans

when they failed to bury the bodies of those they murdered.

The war lost, some Nazis jumped into stripes and yellow star—

the Russians shot them all the same.

Some Jews survived death camps and went home

and the Poles shot them

their neighbors, the Poles

their neighbors shot them.

Why bother to shoot the dead?



After Theresienstadt is it obscene to sing?

Unseemly to be alive

when such effort was made to stomp their bones?


Say "we"

we Jews     still here.

My dear little father ran

rather than give over his bad (gold-filled) teeth.

The Jews are historians—remember,

in every generation some rose

against us but we were saved. Who

saved us? Who saves me?

What happens to one

happens to all. If my aunt is killed, where are her bones?

      Hopeful and over-obedient,

      they and we, the scared and the slow,

      neglected political and military science and so were


The voice of history

divides the flame of fire.

We don't conquer we merely persevere.

How long will—    will the world look on?

Gnashing upon me with my teeth.

My babies, my children

it's so hard to raise

the dead.




I am a Jew.

I announce this

so I won't hear what I do hear when people don't guess

so I can't be a coward, so I can't deny anything.

No way out.

When I stay silent, my bones

wax old through my roaring

all the day long.

     . . . But my mother is English

doesn't that make me

half WASP shouldn't I be more

tactful? No one

wants to hear it why don't I

shut up? No one wants to hear it

and why should they

I wasn't there

they weren't there they

didn't do it.

The voice of history divides my flame from the fire.

The necromancers arouse themselves with the bones of the dead.

They warm the bones with their bodies

they insert the bones into their nostrils

they incite the bones to answer their questions

I shout at the bones until I am hoarse.

"It would have done no good to protest

they would only have turned on


  this way at least we got

a case of good wine out of it

a country house

when the old owners


decided to leave the country."

The Jews have only their history.

We must remember—but why should we live

for the dead?

The irony of history divides the flames of fire.

I am cursed with memory. My life is spent with grief

and my years with sighing.

My bones are consumed.

No safety.

That's all I'm trying to say.

Next time take me first,

I already know as much as I need to.




Why should I have

resentments? Didn't

my friend's husband say

he couldn't believe

I am a Jew

and didn't he mean

he likes me and he doesn't like


and aren't I flattered

to be told I'm not like


aren't I flattered to be

my own person not

the product of a people half as old as time?

One must forgive one's enemies

but not before they have been hanged.

          —Freud, quoting Heine




My friends think it strange

I carry three passports.

My money's in jewels, my bags are packed.

I pick the friends I pray

will hide me.

Once you're betrayed

it's too late. I am cursed

with memory

the flames divide me from my past.






[I am indebted to Susan Neiman & her book Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin for material in this work.]

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Sioux Falls in 1958

My hometown in the rosy glow of history. 


A friend just reminded me how mellow I was a few days ago & asked how I'm doing. 


Not mellow, that's for sure.


Barbaric Hamas & worse, in a way, their worldwide supporters. 


Yeah, let's look at Phillips Ave when this was unthinkable. But then again, it was only a decade after a different unthinkable. 

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Monday Quote

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.

~ Octavia E. Butler


Exhausted today, this quote is to remind me to stick it out.

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I had planned to say something nostalgic today, with a great picture I found of Sioux Falls in the '50s, but I can't. I can't ignore this terrible war, & probably "the single worst day in Israel's history," according to Daniel Gordis. His column, Israel from the Inside, begins: 


Take a guess as to how many Israeli civilians were killed in the Yom Kippur War?

Zero. Not a single one.

Bludgeoned by the Syrians and the Egyptians, Israel still managed to fulfill the single most basic obligation of any government—to keep its citizens safe.

In the Yom Kippur War, Israel made massive mistakes with intel that it had and waited far too long to call up reserves. But it did have intel. And the top brass did fight over what to do about the intel.

They just got it wrong.

This week, there was no intel to fight about.

Yesterday, in a single day, Israel lost about as many civilians as it did soldiers in the entire Six Day War. And we're far from done counting.

Yesterday may well have been the worst day in Israel's history.

It's just not clear that there isn't worse to come.


[Elinor again] Terrorists are breaking into homes, killing & kidnapping women & children. And the comments I've been reading on articles in the Washington Post almost without exception coldly say, well, that's what they deserve. Facebook a year ago was full of "I stand with Ukraine." I haven't seen a single non-Jew say they stand with Israel today. 


Update: I just checked again & yes, one FB friend who isn't Jewish had posted support. It means so much to me & I'll say so as soon as I can breathe.

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And if you want to order this shirt for every librarian & reader you know, it's from Raygun, the greatest store in the universe

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In the neighborhood

Unsurprising that yesterday's bucolic vegetation was uptown on 79th Street, while today's mysterious but not friendly message was on First Ave near me. Who is being threatened or warned or informed? Punctuation would help, says the editor, pedantically. 

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Giant pumpkins on the Upper East Side

I've never seen pumpkins this big. I wonder who hauled them here. I wonder if they're being guarded. I wonder if I could pick one up. I wonder if they're edible. I wonder why I still long for candy corn. 

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Tuesday is Caturday

Harry is so photogenic, followed always by golden light. This is also the first time he lay companionably on the bed with Lefty (see him?) & me. 


I walked around the East Village yesterday happily doing errands. Relishing that I live here. The weather pleases me so I'm happy every day. 

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Monday Quote

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
~ William Blake ("The Marriage of Heaven and Hell")

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Candy corn on the cob

Nothing like fresh candy corn, ditto harvest mix. Oops, we accidentally ate all the pumpkins here, didn't we. Why do we love it so, when it makes our teeth hurt ~ it makes our BABY teeth hurt! ~ & makes me pass out from sugar shock. I will try not to buy more this season, but it's only October 1 & it'll be around for at least a month. Is that why my grandma & adults of her generation had no teeth, from eating so much candy corn? 


The first 3 ingredients are corn syrup, sugar & confectioners glaze. I say that with admiration.

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