I read last night at Bowery Poetry Club, in the 3rd of 7 readings in a series put together by Bob Rosenthal & Ed Friedman. I know all of the other 21 poets, have for years. For decades. It was particularly fun to read "If I Ever Grow Old," what Martha King called an "arrogant little riff on age you penned in your 20s." It was like I dropped a bomb 40 years ago & it went off finally. We all knew how we would have heard that poem then & how differently it hits now. I prepared old school by trying out my poems in the bath. This is shaping up to be a good year.
They're having babies, right there at my door. Not a very private place but there you have it. I thought they had gotten used to me when they stopped flying up when I came in or left, but I realized they're incubating eggs. I'm a little excited but nervous that the super will disperse them. But he hasn't yet, & they've been there a week. Pigeon eggs take 18 to 19 days to hatch with both parents incubating the eggs, then feeding the squabs with regurgitated "pigeon milk."
To read the New Testament apart from the context of the Roman war against the Jews—as it almost always is—amounts to reading The Diary of a Young Girl without reference to the Holocaust.
~ James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews
I'm only a quarter of the way into this long, fascinating book, full of provocative & thought-provoking lines like this one. I know so little about the subject that I certainly have nothing to add, at least at this point.
Squeezed in on the last day of this terrific show, wishing I'd gone several times. So much to take in, the intensity, so fun to see the echoes (Alex Katz, Philip Guston, Goya). This painting is one of my favorites, shows all the dreams & hopes wrapped up in a child, in family. Simple yet all the layers of longing & aching. There were so many more ~ his mother's cornbread; homage to his brother, a former Black Panther; the portraits of murdered young Black people. Tender, yet he doesn't let the viewer off the hook.
Johnny bought that humidifier (there's a remote too!); the least I could do was buy a toaster to replace the one that didn't work right since Day 1. Second only to snow do I love toast & every day that I've had to turn the toast & wait & wait for the second side to not get bronzed was a dagger in my heart. A friend bought a beautiful toaster at MoMA & that's what I intended to do but she said it only worked a couple of times then conked out & I remembered that they focus on design over function so I bought a basic one at the hardware store down the block. I haven't taken it out of the box yet but believe you me, there'll be a full report soon. That is, if I can't manage to find something, anything, a little more exciting to write about. (Sheesh!)
I bought citronella essential oil yesterday at Dual Specialty for our new humidifier. Digression to say how fantastic it is, with a huge tank & even a night light. We both lie in bed watching the mist.
The oil was $7.61 & I pulled out a handful of change + a $20. The clerk asked if I had 2 singles. I don't think so, I said, & a young man behind me said, I do! & handed them over instantly.
Huh? I was so surprised that I don't remember if I thanked him. You'll get it back, I said, vaguely thinking about him paying next...
Yes, I will! the young man said confidently.
What did I look like to him? Someone poor, because I was counting out change? An old white lady whose assumptions about young Black men he could upend for 2 bucks?
Or was he someone who felt like doing a good deed? Someone in a hurry making it quick for everyone? Simply an impulse?
Thank you! I did manage to say as I left.
Last week I found the cast recording of Oklahoma! from 1943 (!) with Celeste Holm & a bunch of people I've never or barely heard of, a beautiful set of 78 rpm records leaning against my front door. Today it was this piano. I tickled a couple of the ivories walking past. In tune! I know no one wants pianos anymore. You used to be able to find a manual typewriter pretty often, discarded when electrics arrived & then computers, but now they're a rare treasure. I wonder if pianos will come back into vogue. But an 80-year-old set of records in good condition? I hope someone who really wanted it picked it up.
What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open.
~ French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Yes yes yes. And there's Frank O'Hara too:
One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes ~ I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.
I don't think I will ever stop feeling fortunate as hell to be here in New York.
Did I do the laundry, go to class, go shopping? Nope & we have no food in the house except cheese, so I should at least have managed that. However, I did set up our new humidifier. Why'd you pick this one, Johnny? It's the only one they had. Great reasoning! Watched a bunch of episodes of my current Norwegian-language show (Stjernestøv), the fourth "advent calendar" show I've watched this winter. They are kids' shows of 24 episodes, usually with some magic or fantasy, a kid who gets stuck in a different land, a Norwegian kid at the North Pole or a girl from the North Star in Norway. The plots & language are simple enough for me & they're fun. Sleepy but I like this leisurely pace. And I didn't have to go to an "experimental Ukrainian opera," which sounds like less of a good time than a ~ well, I can't actually think of a cultural event I would probably like less.
I got two long walks in perfect falling snow, a terrific Indian lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, to hang out with one of my favorite young people in the world, eat banana cream pie, read widely, nap deeply. It's the kind of day I love most, with nothing extraordinary but radiant ordinariness.
And just as I finished writing this, I got a loving text from a friend since junior high. Making the day even better..
Our niece just sent this picture, which her mom, Johnny's sister, had somewhere. I love every bit of it, & not just because it's Johnny. The topknot, the white on white, the mischief in his eyes, the little bruiser posture. I would have fallen in love with him 4 years earlier than I did if I'd seen it in 1979.
Took an exercise class at my gym, went to a zoom poetry reading, saw a movie with a new friend, AND did my work & usuals. My new gym would cost $250 a month if I didn't get it for free because I am old, so the classes are excellent. We saw American Fiction, which was funny and poignant, & Leslie Uggams is in it. It was cold enough to wear my Irish sweater, now amortized to $50 per day of use, but maybe I'll get another chance this year. No deep thoughts, thank goodness.
My dream was really a blizzard but this is at least snow for real. I went out early, before it changed to rain (but it's supposed to go back to rain). It was hard to believe that what I had been waiting for impatiently for 2 years had strolled in & done its thing of transforming the world, every twig, car, fence & discarded Christmas tree.
To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
~ Oscar Wilde
My mother, Alice Joyce Phillips Nauen, was born on this date 100 years ago. She lived to be a few months short of 98 ~ a good long time, though we all, herself included, had been planning to celebrate her centennary. It's 1° in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the moment so I guess we would all be wishing the party was somewhere else instead of no party at all. She was sharp & full of memories & absolutely herself till the day she died. Same as with my dad, who died in 1986, it seems like a big mistake. Someone got the wrong memo. There was supposed to be an exception made. It is very strange to not have parents. Whose carelessness?
I believe myself to an alert walker, practically a Sherlock Holmes in noticing everything around me.
How, then, do I account for the fact that I have walked past people I know dozens of times. If they didn't bark my name, I would have drifted right on past. "You looked like you were doing math in your head," they might say. "I almost didn't disturb you." Sometimes they introduce themselves, as if I hadn't recognized them and not that I was lost in thought. I have even stared right through my own husband.
This happens a lot, & yet it doesn't stop me from feeling very sure that I don't miss a trick.
My Uncle Earl always claimed to have his ear to the family grapevine so it was very sweet to surprise him on his birthday one year, & the next day surprise him again on his anniversary. Good old 'Earlock. I am, it seems, my uncle's niece.
Did I write something & forget to save it? Did I forget to write? Did anything happen today besides a really good sandwich from DTB (aka Downtown Bakery, which is not a bakery at all but a Mexican restaurant). I went to karate & it didn't snow, as it hasn't for 2 years. I'm so afraid it will never snow again. I'm hearing hints that we're at or past the point of no return, but much as I counsel open-mindedness, in this case I have my hands over my eyes while I bellow "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."
A friend send me an ad for a woman in her 60s or 70s to be a paid companion to a 95-year-old lady on the upper east side. Not a nurse's aide, which she has already, but someone to brighten her life, go for walks and lunch, concerts and good conversation. "She is a very sophisticated woman," notes the child (Alex could be son or daughter) who placed the ad. Sophisticated as in wealthy, no doubt, with all the opportunities to gain that patina.
Shades of Jane Austen and spinster aunts! What sophisticated person would want a job like that? Are you expected to agree submissively to the rich tyrant? In the novels, the companion has to make her living this week so she has to be subservient. Probably not the case anymore but of course you would want to be agreeable. I don't think I could be agreeable for a living. I can barely be pleasant to my beloved husband.
Yikes, my neighbor Wanda agreed to watch a friend's seven-month-old puppy for the week. Chris came over with lots of equipment & a long list of dos & don'ts. None of which seem to apply now that Chris is off to Colorado: Obi refused to walk down the stairs for his walk. He pees & poops everywhere, not just on the pads strewn everywhere. I'm trying to teach him not to come across my threshold, due to the catfood he's not supposed to eat & to give the cats a sanctuary. They stayed with me last night because they wouldn't go home with the dog there.
Becky, my dear friend since high school, is in New York for the first time & what she wanted to do was go to Ellis Island. Why have I never gone before? It's the same ferry that goes to the Statue of Liberty & seemed too touristy, I guess. But it was great. Very moving to see us as a nation of immigrants from every land, like no country ever before. You learn about the many circumstances that sent people here, and how they were processed. I found out that my father had come to this country on the Aquitania, one of the Cunard line's largest ocean liners, sister ship to the Mauretania & Lusitania. I even ran into someone I know from karate, who said, What, you're a tourist? And I said, well, you're here. Turns out he's a guide ~ it's his job. He must not have to pay the $24 ferry fee ($18 for seniors). It's kind of great that it's hard to get there (although not nearly as hard as it was for the 12 million people who immigrated through Ellis Island in the first half of the 20th century!) because it was virtually empty. So peaceful I entirely forgot to take photos.
Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.
~ Fausto Coppi (1919-60), Italian cyclist
Haha! This reminds me of the Dead Dogs, our softball team, cheating to win against a bunch of 9-year-olds, who were so bewildered at our blatant treachery that they didn't even complain. It was informal, really, & we were just goofing around.
Everybody else is doing their top lists so I thought I would list some of my favorite books of 2023, in the order that I read them.This is a quarter of the books I read, with many or most of the others being novels.
* Midwinter Day, Bernadette Mayer
* Silence: In the Age of Noise, Erling Kagge, translated from Norwegian by Becky L. Crook
* The First Poets: Lives of the Ancient Greek Poets, Michael Schmidt
* Also a Poet: Frank O'J=Hara My Father, and Me, Ada Calhoun
* Stephen Crane: A critical biography, John Berryman (I had read Paul Auster's bio the year before)
** Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, Rutyh Ben-Ghiat
* World Within World, Stephen Spender
* The Word Hoard: Daily Life in Old English, Hana Videen
* Winters in the World: A Journey Through the Anglo-Saxon Year, Eleanor Parker
* Fatherland: A Memoir of War, conscience, and family secrets, Burkhard Bilger
** Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life * Sudden Death, Laura Cumming
* How Dead Languages Work, Coulter H. George
** Trilogy, Jon Fosse
* Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, Charlotte Higgins
* I Remember Kim, Rona Cran
This photo turned up recently, one I don't remember or, if I ever saw it, must be 30 years ago. I don't know where I was or what I was concentrating on. Who was that person? Me or not me? I remember her & I recognize her. I can take her off the shelf of images, pick her out of a crowd. Yet I no longer know what was going on in her head, how she got from thought to thought, what scrambled her, what was her deep breath of stability. I'll never be her again, & that's fine. I'll always be her, & that's fine too.
How lovely to immerse in hot water, doze, steam open my congested sinuses (we need a humidifier). Showers are quick but a bath is where I belong. I wish mine were bigger but I relish it nonetheless. A little less. I have fragrant shampoos & soaps. A tub-in-the-kitchen tenement: last word in luxe!
I had to call The Economist to update my credit card's "expiry" date & got Susan in England. She was careful to explain each step & what the tech team was doing about a bunch of accounts having the same issue of being unable to access account information online. She took my info, did the pro forma thanks, made a suggestion or two for newsletters I might want to try & then got a little informal, which was when her accent changed. I said, I think you are from near where my mother grew up, Liverpool. Oh my, Susan said, and told me that while she grew up near Newcastle, she lived for 15 years in the Wirral (right across the Mersey from Liverpool, where I stayed with my cousin Hazel). My sons say the same thing, she went on, that when I relax my accent gets more Scouse. I don't think of myself as being particularly good with accents, and can pretty much only pick out Liverpool/Manchester, so I was impressed that I heard that exactly as her family did. By the end of our 15-minute call I had learned that her birthday is tomorrow, her son recently married, & she's planning to retire to a small home in the Wirral in about a year. Good for TE for letting customer service be personal. That call made both of our days.