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NauenThen

"Delightful"

Is "delightful" a compliment (said about my new book) or is it like "extraordinary," my famous backhanded compliment. Delightful was followed by "It brought me a lot of joy today" so I take it as positive. And in fact, I too think it is delightful in a bright, cheerful sort of way. I think a lot of poets wouldn't like to have their poetry called that. "Extraordinary" is ambiguous, delightful isn't. I'm just having those new-book quavers....

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Tales from the Pound: Burying Ubu

When Maggie's cat Ubu died, she was hard put to know what to do with his body. She was working nights at the time, so she took his frozen body to work, which was driving an ambulance as a paramedic. She figured she'd dig a little grave in Central Park. They were always busy, however, & a few days bringing him home every morning & putting him back in the freezer harshed her mellow. I said why don't you tie him to a concrete block & toss him into the East River ~ if that's good enough for the Mafia, it's good enough for Ubu Dubris. He was kind of a Mafia cat anyway ~ you didn't turn your back on Ubu. Then we thought we would bury him in the Marble Cemetery on 2nd Street. We went out around midnight one night. The minute we started climbing the tall fence, window after window was slammed open. Hey! Get away from there! I'm calling the cops! We'd forgotten that midnight in the East Village is high noon. Anticlimactically, he ended up in a friend's parking lot on Clinton Street, which I suppose is a fancy restaurant these days. 

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Monday Quote

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
~ James Russell Lowell

 

I've told this story before, but I like it & here it is again. I went to Lowell Grade School, one of the very first schools in Sioux Falls, in fact. Our Lakeside Dairy milkman was Jim Lowell, and not only was he the only man you saw in the neighborhood during the day, which made him exotic, he actually let us kids ride in his milk truck. Standing up! Only for a few feet & creeping along more slowly than might seem possible but it made a huge impression on me. So I wasn't surprised at all that they named my school after him. 

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Hiroshige

"Sleeping Dragon Plum," an image copied by Van Gogh. 

I have seldom been as blown away as I was by the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum that I saw the other day, Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo. Beautiful, profound, intense, light-hearted, informative.... I will have to go back a few times to be able to take it all in. I got so excited I stopped being able to see it. I can't wait to go back & see everything again.

 

 

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Guilty x 34

Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty 

 

An ex-president of the United States is a convicted felon. 

 

Will he go to prison? Probably not (hard to imagine, anyway), but there's 3 more trials to come. 

 

The one or 2 diehard maga beasts I know are right in lockstep: corrupt judiciary, New York is the pits. Somehow being convicted only proves his innocence to them.

 

When Senator Eagleton was found to have seen a psychiatrist for depression, he withdrew as the vice presidential candidate in 1972, & now everyone is wondering if being convicted on 34 charges will affect the chances of tRump being elected. Even Nixon respected the presidency & the country enough to resign. Even Republicans told him he had to do so. What the hell.  

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Uptown

Had an errand uptown so thought I would pop into the Met and look at some armor or Roman drawings or something else in an out-of-the-way gallery. It hasn't been THAT long since I've been there but gone are the days when you swished through while dropping a buck or 2 into the pay-what-you-want basket. Nope, now it's long lines everywhere. I could have gone online & got a ticket & skipped the line but seeing the crowd wore me out so I sat in the park for a little while & came back downtown. I always marvel at how different people look uptown. Even the more regular-looking folks have paid more attention to their appearance than even the most put-together folks in my neighborhood. I guess there's no chance they'll ever move the Met to the East Village, huh.

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"How we can face the future without fear, together"

Here's a link to a 12-minute talk by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020), Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. "If we surround ourselves with people with the same views as us, we get more extreme," he says. We can stay friends with people we disagree with. I need to hear that right now. It's how we heal the cracks in our fractured world. 

 

"The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his."

 

We the people. 

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Leftovers

Damn, just realized I left half a Vietnamese sandwich in the fridge. What are the chances it'll still be there when I get home? Not good. Buying Johnny creamer seems like a fair exchange but it's probably too late in any event, & if I call to warn him off, it will no doubt have the opposite effect. It was so delicious, I was being nice in not eating the whole thing, but I changed my mind. And forgot. The real question: how come there's still nothing to eat in the house, even when I just got back from the grocery store? 

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Monday Quote

Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
~ Gustav Mahler

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Tales from the Pound: Up on the roof

Happy to be back up on the roof ~ long evenings, mild weather, my lounge chair, the view. 

 

This is where we were every night during the pandemic. Seems so long ago now, thank goodness, though people are still getting (& dying from) covid.

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Tales from the Pound

Malu was the beautiful Puerto Rican cross-dresser* who lived on the top floor. He once got in a rage & even though he was small & delicate, everyone kept their doors closed. Anything could happen. Then we heard Lucky calling: Malu! Malu! The rage continued, & Lucky kept calling. Finally, Malu paused: What?! Lucky said, Do you have a cigarette? That broke the tantrum. Lucky was a hero. 

 

*That was the term in those days. 

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YAI

At the inter-dojo tournament last night, our YAI students each competed in individual kata (a choreographed pattern of karate moves). They did so well, I was choked up with pride. Katas are hard for everyone, and our students have physical and learning challenges that make it even harder. But they all did better than they had in practice. I loved seeing them eat up the attention and approbation and use it soar. One thing that's new is that they did their katas without anyone counting for them ~ that's tough. I admire & love all of them, and take so much joy in their pleasure at their success. 

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Poem of the Week

Starting Again

 
old woman wants a glass of ginger ale

she turns to see the drums invert the rhythm


she starts again & starts anew

she sings above scarred birds

she calls for luck

to wind & stone

 
to start with no one's home

 
a mardi gras beat

puts her to sleep

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Filthy

A friend was praising double entendres in songs and shaking his head over how explicit much of today's music is. No nuance. 

 

I immediately thought of the dirtiest song I've ever heard: "Shave 'em Dry II" by Lucille Bogan aka Bessie Jackson, a song from the mid 1930s. The title alludes to rough sex & the rest, include her lewd cackle, leaves nothing to the imagination. It's pretty funny as well. 

 

Ma Rainey either wrote the original or adapted it & for her "dry" meant without a man. 

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Monday Quote

There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.
~ Gustave Flaubert

 

I feel reassured, confirmed, bolstered, a kindly eye has looked upon us all. 

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Men

I had a conversation with a young man I know but hadn't spoken with in a long time. We got onto a subject that was of professional interest to me for many years; in other words, a subject I was paid to know about. It didn't stop him from correcting me with ludicrous misinformation. Was that what made it feel like he was acting in a misogynist manner? Did he assume he knew more than me because I'm a female? Or was there some other reason that stopped this high school dropout from being willing to be informed where he was incorrect? Pure (male) ego? Not knowing enough to know how to think through his claims? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt but he made it tough.

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Gratulerer med dagen

Happy Constitution Day, Norway! Happy National Day! 

 

When I was out with my Norwegian teacher last week, she saw a poster for an event that would be taking place on May 18. Oh look! she said. That's the day after May 17. We both cracked up, knowing that meant something to us but only a "duh" to most people. 

 

Come celebrate at the Norwegian Seamen's Church or at Amundsen's, the Norwegian store on Mott Street! Theoretically I'm going to both but I'm søvnig og søvnløs ~ sleepy and sleepless, so who knows.

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Poem of the Week

The poem of the week is the Yankees game. Or any game. On any day. 

 

5-0 Yankees over the Twins in the 8th.

 

BASEBALL.

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A sad (& anthropomorphic) tale

The pigeons roosted right outside my office & had a baby on February 15. I saw PiJean from the moment of birth as a tiny yellow speck to his murder (yes) 2 months later. One parent, with a new partner (the first was another victim) built a nest in the same spot shortly after. Two eggs! I came back an hour later to find both eggs splatted on the ground. Why? Who would do such a cruel, unnecessary thing? The new super? I put up a sign asking for the pigeons to be left to roost in peace. I put a few twigs on the ledge to encourage them to build a new nest. They didn't, but hung around for a while. A week ago, the original parent-pigeon stood right on my doorstep & talked at length, looking right at me the whole time. It sounds crazy but I had no doubt that she was telling me something. And then I never saw them again, so I'm convinced she was saying they were lighting out for a safer place. Maybe there was a thank you for feeding them & always talking in a friendly way. I am heart-broken. It's too quiet down here now & though I look for them on the block, they're gone gone gone. 

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Tales from the Pound: Lucky

Lucky would spend all year combing through catalogues to find us presents, always excellent & personal, like a little jewelry box. He made borscht for Thanksgiving. He turned my cat Psycho, who had licked off all her fur, into fluffy calm Nikki. He eventually had an aide who, by the time she had heaved herself up to his top-floor apartment, refused to do any chores or shopping. He was fine with that. He cheated at cribbiage & smirked when he beat me. He died on January 1, 1989, & the building was never the same. 

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Monday Quote

It was the mark of a barbarian to destroy something one could not understand.

~ Arthur C. Clarke

 

Do dismissiveness, contempt, and laughing-at count as destroying? 

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Jewish

In this fraught & frightening time, it felt important to be at the bat mitzvah of a young person working out her Jewish identity. The solidarity and kindness in the assembled family & friends was reassuring and soothing. We are having conversations we never imagined. Some non-Jews can imagine what we're feeling. Best of all, there were plenty of Fruit Gems. 

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Changing

Is it really only cultural conditioning that makes most people uncomfortable with the idea of a mixed-sex locker room? Were those people sincerely surprised that others expressed reservations?Heterosexual women mind dressing with gay men more than with gay women, which makes me pretty sure it's about privacy and not broad- or close-mindedness. Certainly not about rights. 

 

Ah, a more involved conversation than I can get into now, to be sure. What's right or fair or kind is one thing ~ right now I'm trying to figure out if people really are OK with an all-gender locker room or if it's their politics leading the way (which is what I suspect because they pretty much all identify their spot on the political spectrum in this sort of conversation). But I don't know. 

 

To be continued.

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Dad

On his 100th birthday, May 9, 2006, my siblings & I met in Washington, D.C., for the day. Today, his 118th birthday, one sister & I spent the morning laughing together. We discovered we are both obsessed with the 1950s-60s panel show What's My Line? & like the same panelist, remember the same episodes. That funny way of being in tune with someone. Well, especially someone who's your 10-years-younger twin. 

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Three things

I gave her 3 things when we walked home together, then leaned on the wall of the Marble Cemetery to continue our conversation. 

1) A saying, one I learned in Maine, where you have to be from there for several generations before you're considered local. They say, The kittens may be born in the oven but that don't make them biscuits. 

2) A joke. This is the standard version: A Chinese guy turns to a Jewish guy in a bar, punches him, and says, "Fu*k you and your people for sinking the Titanic!"

The Jewish guy: "Huh? It was an iceberg..."

Chinese guy: "Iceberg, Goldberg, Steinberg, all the same."

3) A hug. 

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In the neighborhood

Exciting & horrifying to see that a car was going 60 mph east on 2nd St from 2nd Ave (correct direction) to MY CORNER then sped across First Ave & the wrong way on 2nd St east of First Ave. Not just any car: a Dodge Charger. Was Bill Hickman the driver? And not entirely on the street. It was ON THE SIDEWALK. (The link includes a short video.)

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Monday Quote

 To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better.

~ Giuseppe Verdi

 

Of course he was talking about art not disinformation. 

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Rainy Sunday

I went to the store & class, I had two zoom meetings. Busy day for a weekend. And it rained. Two people died and one person was born. Nothing new under the clouds. 

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Tales from the Pound

High in November


Cheery as a lamb

Johnny toddles by & tousles my hair.

… & I'm back in my first months in NY, my empty apartment

(now with so much art & books & breathing) —

the light fixture I thought was a gas outlet:

scared to touch it, I didn't see my walls for years.

One Fourth of July, Brodey sat on the middle part of an aqua sectional couch—

the only piece I had—

grilling over his shoulder on the fire escape

in the hibachi he'd brought.

Later I pushed that couch out the window.

I found broken glass

in a jar of bouillon powder

& the company by way of apology

sent me a case of caviar.

I opened my tenement icebox one day

to nothing but caviar & decided to throw a cocktail party.

I bought a blender

& made a drink of honeydew melon & vodka.

 
I eat cookies with specks of salt

& kiss Johnny on his way to lie down & watch

something that makes him laugh.

I look at Biala's flowers every day

& every day I'm abashed to see them.

 
Just like Ollie, my 40-years-older boyfriend

who I loved so much,

I managed to get old

being the same old fucked-up me.

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For the love of ...

Frank Bruni includes a feature in his weekly column called "For the Love of Sentences," where he invites readers to "nominate favorite bits of recent writing from The Times or other publications." Voila:

 

Speaking of book reviews — my Times colleague Dwight Garner weighed inmemorably on both a memoir and a collection of essays by Joseph Epstein: "Epstein favors tasseled loafers and bow ties, and most of his sentences read as if they were written by a sentient tasseled loafer and edited by a sentient bow tie." (Kevin Callahan, Forest Hills, N.Y., and Elinor Nauen, Manhattan)

 

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