I don't write on Saturdays so this is my last post of 2022. Soon Maggie & I will do our traditional year-end dive into everything about the year, so I'm not doing it now. On Sunday I'll be in Spain. I'll be flying through several time zones on the New Year's Eve Champagne Flight to Barcelona ~ curious what year it will be when I land. Happy healthy joyful loving adventurous art-filled 2023, everybody.
I had a complicated thought for today's post & decided that a random photo would only make it better. By the time I got the photo in place, I had entirely forgotten my topic. It still hasn't come back to me, so this is all I've got.
Clearly I need a nap.
Update: Then it wouldn't save with the photo. What the hey?! Not my day.
I can hardly believe I ever shuffled my two beautiful Jim Dine prints (gifts from Johnny, ah....) off my wall, even with my intention to move art around in order to see it fresh.
Now I'm thinking about likeability in art: what it is, whether or not it's a good thing, & more. I've been mulling this topic & will try to add to this post when I've worked out some thoughts.
How many books have you read in your life? If I've read 2 books a week since I was 5 (I learned to read at 3), it would be about 7,000. That doesn't seem like very many. For several years I won the children's library summer reading contest for reading the most books. Prizes for reading books! I won a book about JFK called The Torch Is Passed & a volume of stories by O Henry. I am pretty sure I won it more than twice but those are the only two books I remember winning. That may have been the first time my name was in the local paper. I read at least 5 books a week every summer as a kid ~ it being a contest was no additional incentive. I remember the smell of that library; I was envious of my best friend in high school having a summer job working there. When I was 5 my goal was to read all the books in the library but there were so many duds in the A's alone that I gave up in a week. This article is about me.
On Repentance and Repair: Making amends in an unapologetic world was a thank-you gift, not a pointed one (I assume!). The author, Danya Ruttenberg, goes carefully through the many steps of repentance & t'shuvah (returning to a healthier path) for both individuals & institutions, countries, & other groups. It's worth thinking through & I was glad to see her talk at some length about Simon Wiesenthal's important, challenging book The Sunflower. I recommend Weisenthal's book without hesitation, and Ruttenberg's with qualified enthusiasm: it may be more on the subject than most people will want to know & the book's turgid academic-but-for-the-masses prose is hard to forgive.
Isn't it some holiday for the goyim today? Would it be appropriate to eat a vegan ham on Hanukkah? Did I brush my hair this morning? Who was I supposed to call? What was I trying to remember? What should I do next? How did I happen to do fewer Hanukkah things (latkes!) than Christmas events this year (parade in Murphy, NC; caroling in Washington Square park; concert at the Norwegian church; driving past the Dyker Heights decorated homes; there might be more!)?
My brother just called & quoted our dad: "We've had 25 good years," he'd say. "Not bad for 31 years married." We're probably more content than we've ever been.
Our traditional anniversary conversation:
Me: How're we doing?
Him: Fine. How're we doing?
And the relationship discussion is over for another year.
I'm Jersey-bound today... I'll take the A train to the George Washington Bridge, then walk across it to meet my dear friend Pauline, who I'm always excited to see & who usually drives in when we get together. Definitely my turn. Do I have plenty of reading material for the trip? Yes, of course. I love my life, where I can take a half day off whenever I want. Or longer. I already got my covid booster shot & am about to pick up a julekake (Norwegian Christmas cake, with cardamom, yum). I found a book on my shelves that I want to read, & pulled out a dozen for the Little Free Library (or whoever wants them).
to be a genius
to be a child
* We saw the Hopper show at the Whitney last week. I like being a member because we could stay for as exactly as long as we felt like, knowing we can go back & see the rest of the (incredible! wonderful!) art whenever we want.
* There was the annual party for December birthdays among the poets. As Angela Thirkell (I think it was) once said, the best parties are when you see the people you like most, a little more cleaned up. And with cake.
* It's not going to snow anytime soon. Sioux Falls has had snow on 60% of the last 80 Christmases. For New York City it's 21%. You can look up the stats for anywhere at this fun WaPo interactive map.
* Today is the YAI holiday party at the dojo. We (mostly Sensai Carol) contrived karate to the 12 days of Christmas. I laughed so hard when we were practicing it that I fell over.
* My office is back in the cleaning spotlight & I'm getting rid of things. Including 6 (so far) books.
* Late breakfast with two of my grandkids. Man, they are all so smart & nice & together.
* Every time I do my laundry I feel like I don't have to do anything else that day. It also galvanizes me to do lots.
And now I have to take home the laundry & go to karate.
Everyone knows Roald Dahl for his children's books, of course, but for some reason I picked up his autobiographical Boy, which is a children's book for grownups, I guess you could say. It's written simply & charmingly but doesn't pull punches about the brutality of his experiences at English schools.
My mother despised him for how he treated his wife, Patricia Neal, after she had had a stroke. She could be right, I don't know much about him & I don't remember reading his books as a child. He wouldn't have been to my taste, I was a horribly refined & serious kid.
The cleaning continues & I have gotten down to this brick wall in my back room. Feeling handy, I bought nails & hung these two works. One is by Jim Dine, the other I'm not sure, I think my friend's mother, who painted all her works when she was practically blind. It's not signed, however, so I can't be sure. Little by little, the place gets nicer & roomier. Want some books?
I've been looking at photos by Walker Evans, Paul Strand, et al, & am inspired to look closely at some things I see every day. It's also good as I am approaching Vision Zero (which I have seen twice lately as slogans for Toronto & the NYC police, & I can't believe it's a Good Thing, not if yer blind as a bat, minus the echolocation. Like me).
If I didn't already have several dictionaries (& 2 sets of encyclopedias) + on my way to pick up my laundry + trying to curb my book-acquiring hobby, I wouldn't have left this wonderful volume on 5th Street.
Did you ever see a man with a kippah in a general holiday ad before? Nothing else reads "Jewish" ~ the wrapping paper & pajamas are neutral. Maybe it represents a mixed marriage, with "Make Merry" almost nondenominational but over on the less-noticeably-Jewish side of the photo. I mean, it's for a New York store, that is, a national chain with a location in New York, so it makes sense to include a close-to-unnoticeable tinge of Jewishness. I bet a lot of thinking went into getting the tone exactly right, as compared to Christmas ads, which are full-on Christian, like the holiday lights in Dyker Heights or the Christmas parade in Murphy, NC.
Every once in a while someone sends me a photo of myself that I don't remember having seen before. Oh! That's me! I look 25 but I'm 40. I know that because I know that baby & she's a beautiful young woman now & in fact is the one who sent me that picture. I don't look like that anymore but I don't know when that happened. It's perplexing to be yourself & no longer yourself.
The words "yes" and "no" get used in comparison to each other so often that it feels like they carry equal weight in conversation. In reality, they are not just opposite in meaning, but of entirely different magnitudes in commitment. When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.
~ Productivity expert James Clear
My end-of-year last-ditch attempt to get it together :-)
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights has been home to a Christmas lights extravaganza since 1986. I went a few times in the 90s with my friend Bonnie, who somehow always knew about things like that. She loved folk customs of every stripe. I wish she were around to see what a big deal it's become. If we thought it was over the top back then, it's 100x more so now. It's still a neighborhood event, which I like. We talked to some of the homeowners, who were a little exasperated by the traffic & trash, but also really loved that people appreciated their efforts. I'm only sorry I didn't ask them their electric bill for the season!
Bought the best persimmons I've found in 5 years, in Chinatown. Why do good ones show up so infrequently? Why are there more good poems than good persimmons?
How could one ever get tired of the churning energy that produces a mural like this? I love New York, which I know I say constantly but I feel it constantly. It's the love of the drowning person for the island of dry sand, for air itself. I will never forget that feeling of having found my place, & my determination to live here always, & the gratitude & amazement that I, a hick from the sticks, get to live here. Love at first sight that has never wavered.
I took very few pictures this time, partly because the fall colors were finished so it wasn't so striking, partly because it's so routine (though special!) to be here that I don't need to document its wonders. This is pretty much the only photo of the house that I took, because I'm still getting used to coming down from the chalet (my little cabin) from this direction. A less familiar view. Home now, on a very early flight yesterday. Intensely & gratefully missing Spartanburg & my generous, funny, brilliant friends & hosts.
I love coming to the South, seeing my friends, the beautiful landscape, fried okra, sweet tea, & much more. But then I see a concrete 10 commandments in front of a motel, & I feel like I'm in a foreign land & that the real me is invisible or nonexistent. It's a good feeling once in a while (if uncomfortable), a reminder that everywhere isn't the East Village of NYC & getting out isn't a bad thing, & you can travel abroad without leaving the country.
To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants either fools or slaves.
~ Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771)
French philosopher, freemason & littératur
Oh for heaven's sake, stop banning books! Let people read!
Wayne continues his quilting ways. This picture is of the quilt I sleep under & a runner he made of Chanukkah fabrics. I could have draped the runner over the giant quilting machine that shares my cabin but it's not nearly as pretty as the work Wayne makes on it. He's retiring in a few months. Even more quilts? I used to joke about Wayne making phone calls: Hi, you probably don't remember me but in third grade you gave me one of your cookies so, here, I made you a quilt. We have one at home & I treasure it.
I learn something every time I come to Spartanburg. Love the Dixie Nightingales & to think that Ira Tucker sang with them from the time he was 13 for 70 years. The only job he ever had. I forgot to take pictures of the yummy grilled carrots at the Kennedy, or my meal at Wade's, or Steve & his lifelong friend (met in 1959) who lives in England & who I was meeting for the first time, or the calm lake in front of Steve's house, or the new dogs, or the garden. Probably because it's so normal to be here that I don't think to whip out my camera. I'm simply here.
Everytime I hear a little sound in my office, I think it's a rodent. Once it was & now it always seems to be. It's been the wind, my sneakers squeaking against each other, my breathing, my neighbor... I put down a glue trap & put away snacks.
Note: Leaving early tomorrow for a week in South & North Carolina, my annual trip to see friends & go up into the mountains. I may be inconsistent with the blog till I get back. We'll see. Happy start of December!
It's snow I want but it was a joy to come upon this bush in the East River park. I suppose it's a signal of terrible climate change but it came as a surprise pleasure. The way I could be traveling so much because of worrying about a bleak future (the economy! my knees!) or because I finally get to again & it's what I enjoy. Or both.
Little boldness is needed to assail the opinions and practices of notoriously wicked men; but to rebuke great and good men for their conduct, and to impeach their discernment, is the highest effort of moral courage.
~ William Lloyd Garrison
Not entirely true. I'm thinking of something I just read, that only one Norwegian policeman protested the rounding up of the Jews 80 years ago (November 26, 1942). He was shot. Hundreds of Norway's <2,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz, where most of them perished. If 2 or 3 or a handful (or 50) of the police had refused the Nazi orders, would they all have been shot? Or maybe the police were considered to be great & good, & the blue silence protected their actions, & Garrison is exactly correct.
Nothing makes me (re-)fall in love with New York more than a long walk, which I've done the last couple of days (it's raining now, so probably not this afternoon). The first thing I ever did in NYC was walk on Galway Kinnell's Avenue C: "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World." I'd never seen the like: fruits & vegetables right out on the sidewalk in bins. Which wasn't anything my Midwestern/New England eyes had ever seen. People hanging out, who for a long time I thought must work nights, like I thought all those young girls were babysitting their little brothers & sisters.
Our Nesselrode pie (made by Petee's) was light yet substantial, with chestnut mousse, gobbets of whipped cream & a few cherries (said to be rum-soaked but I didn't taste any alcohol). It was popular in the 1940s to 60s in New York but I had never had it or known anyone who had. I don't exactly know why I even knew the name. Read the interesting history here.
There was a full Thanksgiving dinner of food, laughter & warmth leading up to the pie.