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Monday Quote: Questions

Someone named Geoffrey James poses these 10 questions to answer every day. "The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results," he writes. "These questions force you to focus on what's really important. Take heed of them and rest of your life—especially your work—will quickly fall into place."

1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?
2. Have I done something today that improved the world?
3. Have I conditioned my body to be more strong, flexible, and resilient?
4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?
5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?
6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?
7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?
8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?
9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?
10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?


(I posted these a few years ago but am happy to run into them again.)

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Who doesn't love a hootenanny?

The three of us with studio spaces in the basement on 5th St have taken to getting together occasionally. We like each other & it adds some work-type social life that we've all missed. On Friday we held a hootenanny. The 3 of us plus 2 spouses sang a bunch of camp songs: This land is your land, Walk right in, I've been working on the railroad, & lots more. We enjoyed most, I think, channeling Tennessee Ernie Ford doing "16 Tons," making us all go an octave lower than we could handle. That and the memories, histories and connections that the songs & singers sparked. We just need a banging guitar player for the next time. My summer of fun continues!

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Space, baby!

In 1969, I was staring up at the moon, looking to see a tiny human walking on it (I didn't have a very good idea of distances). It was the most thrilling thing I could imagine & I felt grateful to be alive for this. I feel the same way this week at the pictures coming in from the James Webb Space Telescope — awestruck at what's out there & how beautiful it is. Lucky to be alive to see it. 

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On saying yes

That's one of my "22 in 22" items - say yes! Do things when invited! Initiate! Whew, I hit the wall today. I got up way too early, cooked pasta for breakfast, did some editing work, rode my bike uptown (UPHILL) to an appointment, coasted home (ha ha, still plenty of uphills) & all I've thought about since is napping. Hannibal made an appearance in Decline/Fall today, only a mention, but it reminded me of Latin class & Carthage & elephants going over the Alps, all of which seemed at the time as far away in geography as in time. It doesn't so much now. That's all I've got. 

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A walk in the park


Maggie, Mike, June & I have started going for walks. This week it was to the lake in upper Central Park: geese, turtles, anticipatory fish, & two cormorants; & to the Conservatory Gardens: not too many flowers but peaceful. Next up: the Night Market in Queens & maybe a long weekend in Iceland. Now we need a name. Any group of 3 or more that gets together twice or more needs a name. The Wayfarers? The New York Tramps? 

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1503 S. Summit Avenue

Back in 1979 my dad sent me this clip from the front page of the Argus-Leader, my hometown newspaper & I was thrilled to come upon it again the other day. I went looking for our house a couple of times when I was back in Sioux Falls. I suppose I could never find it, not because I didn't recognize it out of context as I assumed, but because I was looking for it on N. Van Eps, not N. Blauvelt. There's my upstairs bedroom, shared by whatever girls were living there at the time. There's the den where I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. There's the attic window we crawled through before seeing the wasp nest; eventually we were more scared of getting caught on the ledge than of the wasps. Sioux Falls College built a science building on the site, tearing down the many-limbed pine tree that I climbed very high up in, the garage whose roof was my secret reading spot, the 6' stand-alone chimney (no idea) & the largest private sandbox ever. 

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Monday Quote

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

~ Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)


from Bill Bryson's informative & funny A Short History of Nearly Everything. Quite a world we live in!


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A Sunday walk

Robyn, a fellow member of the Society of Early Risers, and I went for a almost-dawn walk in the East Village. We saw this cardinal and a very interested cat. We heard a young man playing what turned out to be a salterio, an early-music instrument that resembles a zither or dulcimer; he explained. We saw dogs chasing around in the dog run. She bought 3 foot-long stems of glaioli. A bright breezy balmy day. I love New York.

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From the vault: Gertrude's Follies

I remember Gertrude's Follies from the Soho Weekly News, where I worked briefly around 1980 or so. Was I a proofreader? My boss was Tuli Kupferberg's wife Sylvia Topp. This was the best of Gertrude's Follies & it's still funny to me. I am the enema! 

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22 in 22

So much for riding my bike to Governors Island weekly. I was last there in April. I gave myself an assignment of 22 fun or educational things to do/accomplish this year. Halfway through the year & I'm about halfway through my list. One item (for example) was to reconnect with an old friend, & it was a girl I've known since kindergarten. Cindy is still as bright-eyed & open-hearted as ever & it's a joy to be back in touch. There's more. I'll type up the whole list with a report, eventually. But how to learn how to yodel?!

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A day later

... & I'm back to feeling hopeful. Because I believe that people will feel such revulsion for the cruelty of the SC's anti-life decisions that they will ignore/revolt/protest/create successful, life-affirming alternatives. Because the rain mostly stopped when I was biking home instead of picking up & though I skidded close, I didn't fall or hit the car that stopped short as it turned in front of me. Because later, a friendly guy on a bike said he would start wearing a helmet, after I said I didn't want to come upon his mangled body. Because possibly he was flirting with me, such an old phenomenon that I'm not sure I recognized it. Because Johnny left me the most hilarious voicemail that I fell in love with him again, for approximately the 14,000th time. Because I love the Cool Lime body butter I got at the African festival. And because I know (of) so many thoughtful, committed, loving activists who refuse to give in to despair, so I'm not going to either.

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In the category of delightful nonessentials, I love only my birthday more than fireworks. I've written here & there about them: like clouds, if you look up, you get as much as anyone; there's no hierarchy of comprehension. Like birthdays, they're democratic - you can't get an extra birthday due to wealth or beauty, & you can't hog fireworks for yourself.


So yesterday it was very sad to feel unmoved by the city's show. Recently deprived of the right to life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness in the way I decide, I couldn't put that aside to simply enjoy the lights. And with SCOTUS having tossed NY's gun law protections, the fireworks sounded all too much like guns. 


It's never been difficult for me to love this country. I always was sure most people felt similarly about its beauty, potential & backbone. Now ~ I'm not so sure. I'm almost never grateful that my dad isn't alive but this is one of those rare times. My dad was unwaveringly loyal to the country that saved his life but I don't know that he would be so proud right now. 


I know there's so many wonders & wonderful people. I am pretty sure I'll get my love & admiration back. But today, it's tough. 

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What I'm reading

You know how you go past some book or other, maybe for years, & all of a sudden that's the one you have to read? Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson (1876-1947), was like that for me. I'm sorry my mother's not around to ask not just about the book but about the times, as she heard them from her mother's (Alice Woodland Phillips 1885-1982) generation. She describes, beautifully & quietly, the end of a rural English community, before anyone realized it was coming to an end. Even though I'm only a quarter of the way through, I feel like I'm going to be calling it one of my favorite books for the rest of my life. 

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Africa in Brooklyn

Georgette considering a top & Pauline to her left giving sisterly advice. A minuscule sense of the riot of fabrics, clothing, hats, jewelry in dozens of booths. 

My lifelong friend Pauline & her sister Georgette go every year to the International African Arts Festival in Fort Greene. They took me along today & it was fantastic. I was tripping on all the bright colors & patterns. I bought a T-shirt (the most subdued one in the place ~ you can take the girl out of South Dakota but you can't get her to go bold) & some skin cream. (The lady threw in a bar of soap ~ you have to use it, she said, looking me straight in the eye, because it's a gift. I will! I told her, & I will.) 

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A Norwegian library

This is the greatest thing I've seen in weeks. It's a library of the future where manuscripts will be added for a hundred years, then published using paper made from trees that are just now being planted. Please read the whole article & marvel. 

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From the vault

Just found this. 

Steve Carey (1945-1989) was a wonderful poet & loving friend. We would hang on the phone every day for an hour, sometimes chatting, often doing our own thing together. I still can hear the boom in his voice when he called: NorNau! I was thinking the other day of how terrific he was in Bob Rosenthal & Johnny's play Our Version of Heaven, especially reading Ted's poems.

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Had tickets to the Yankees game but woke up woozy & didn't go. My first game in THREE years & I couldn't make it. What a disappointment! Yanks beat the As 5-3. I've almost forgotten how to watch a game, how to be at the ballpark. This summer it WILL happen. It's still only June. It's on the list of 22 things I intend to do in 2022. Still got about 19 to go. 

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A hard time

Ukraine... the gutting of reproductive rights... guns... climate change... covid... estrangement... death... fatigue... deadlines... the rogue Supreme Court. It's tough for everybody right now. Let's be hopeful, as much as we can. I voted today & galvanized someone else too: hopeful. I had intelligent reminiscence: hopeful. I will go in a little while to teach karate to adults with learning disabilities: they kick ass! Hopeful. 


As the daughter of an immigrant & a refugee, I love this country without taking any bit of it for granted. I was a little embarrassed in the 70s not to be ashamed of the United States ~ I felt like I was the only one of my friends who relished the gorgeousness of our people & geography, who preferred to hitchhike through the 50 states to taking a bus through Afghanistan to India. That feels a bit nostalgic right now rather than passionate & determined. I hope hopeful will stick around.

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What I'm reading

I can't be the only one who got Greene's Travels with My Aunt mixed up with Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame, can I? I'd seen the movie of the latter & was expecting a madcap social butterfly. Nope. Greene's book is funny but quite dark & satiric too. 

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Eggrolls & Carlina

I didn't actually see any eggrolls or egg creams at the Eldridge Street Festival this afternoon, or Carlina either, though I did get cards handed off to me from her husband. And then I handed them to as many people as would let me put it in their hand. She's running for Congress in a new, redrawn Congressional District. She's the real deal. Knows the neighborhood, works hard, listens hard, learns. I disagree about making the dining sheds permanent but other than that, I'm down with Carlina. Given everything that's going on in the country, it certainly behooves me to get as active as I can. 

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From the vault

Who sent me this? I don't recognize the handwriting! And the list of people who knew to pay homage to my birthday was as long in 1986 as it is now. It was fun to find, I will say that. Even if they were off by 2 days. 

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Out & about

With a few exceptions, many even most of the people I know have locked themselves down following the lockdown. I know I have. I got so used to saying I can't that I almost forgot to say yes. But yes is the word of the week, & I've had so much fun going to dinner, a grade school graduation, with more dinners, galas, walks & even a ballgame (first in 3 years) coming up in the next few days. I'm seeing my friends again, relearning how to have conversations & a good time, & finding that my schedule & sleep accommodates all this nicely. Just say yes! 

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Pet Peeve #331

This is a complicated one, maybe. Here's an example: A guy didn't show up for a small task. I said I don't mind him not making it but did mind that he never explained later. He proceeded to explain why he hadn't made it. That's fine, that's how it goes sometimes ~ & not what I'm talking about. He then gave further extenuating circumstances with an offhand not-quite-apology for never being in touch again. 


The pet peeve is both not listening to or acknowledging what I clearly explained & defensively excusing himself (I was sick!) while subtly blaming me (I didn't think you would want me to show up & give everyone the flu!). 

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Peonies II

Just as gorgeous old as new. Like a lot of us! 

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What I'm reading

Child is Judy Goldman's memoir about her lifelong relationship with Mattie Culp, the Black woman who worked for her family as a live-in maid in Jim Crow South Carolina of the 1940s and 50s. It's about a world I knew nothing about, & it's about love, secrets, & family. Recommended!

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Poem of the Week

Carlton Fisk er mitt ideal

Han har på seg en vakker halssmykke
ved siden av den vakre nakken hans
i motsetning til Worthington-slakteren
Bradford T. Fisk (slaktere 
er alltid i forelsket til meg), som ikke engang kan bestille kalvekjøtt
bortsett fra i hele ben av den.
Å, beina til en catcher!
De setter seg på huk i en holdning 
det er selvfølgelig en indre, fornektende orgasme
men Carlton Fisk, jeg kunne
modellere en hel holdning til våren
på ham. Og han er en hopper!
Som Walt Frazier, eller bedre,
som den eneste hvite hopperen,

jeg glemmer navnet hans, i ABA-enes 
Slam dunk-konkurranse for All-Star-kamper ved pause
i år. Jeg tenker på Carlton Fisk i hans 
beskjedent hus i New Hampshire 
hele tiden, elsker jeg lyden av navnet hans 
nekte orgasme. Carlton og jeg
ser ut vinduet på vårens første
nordøst. Han bærer en stør helt
over verandaen til huset hans til meg.
(Han har ikke helårsjuletre
som Clifford Ray som behandler ballen
som en banan). Vi spiser og ser på stormen
slå knoppene some forsinker på trærne
og dekker det grønne på gressets 
som min søster tror er nytt gress.
Det er fortsatt fjorårets gress!
Og fortsatt er det ingen vårtrening 
mens jeg skriver dette, 16 mars 1976,
året for snøstormen som beseglet vår kjærlighet 
opp i en stor haug med orgasmisk jord.
Kasterhaugen er en lynhaug.
Pudge vi se raskeballer i vinden
meskalinarmen hans strekker seg til banen
Han har på seg en halssmykke
Han tar ballen i tenner hans!
Baller faller med et pent slag
inn i skinnhansken han tar på seg
å kjærtegne meg, som fortalt til, i lavsesongen.
Plutselig hopper han fra sofaen, 

en ekte ball har kommet gjennom vinduet
og er på vei mot pingvinene på genseren hans,
en av dem har mistet ballongen sin
som svever opp i himmelen!


~ Bernadette Mayer

translated into Norwegian by Elinor Nauen

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Paul McCartney

Zoomed to the max, but it IS Paul McCartney & the Boss. June 16, 2022, MetLife Stadium, the Meadowlands, NJ. 

Lucky me! My friend's wife was too sick to go so I got to see Paul McCartney at MetLife in NJ. (And get a ride from my corner, no less.) I was never the Beatles' hugest fan but wow! That was in the top 2 of all-time concerts. Not a nostalgia act at all. McCartney seemed so un-arrogant, when he's the most untouchable person on the planet: iconic, famous, rich. He acted as if he had something to prove, when he could have phoned it in & people would have loved him just as much. At one point he said, We know you just want to hear Beatles songs but we don't care, we're playing what we want. He said that with integrity ~ we'll give you what you want but we are doing it our way. He turns 80 tomorrow & he played for 3 hours without a break.


Is his voice all there? No, not quite, but he is such a great performer that that didn't matter.


He did a duet with John Lennon - not creepy, but sad. I noticed his Liverpool accent got thick when he talked about John. He's from the same part of Liverpool — Walton — as me mum.


The list of great songs he didn't play - Yesterday, Here Comes the Sun, Penny Lane, When I'm 64, & more - is almost as long as the list of what he did.


For me, it peaked when he brought out Bruce Springsteen for two songs ("Glory Days," "I Wanna Be Your Man"). I love the Boss (He's the other top 2 concert.)


There were even fireworks. 

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I suppose it was this exact date, a hundred years ago, that saw the publication of Ulysses. Yes? Shouldn't someone be reading it out loud from start to finish right about now? Call me up ~ I'll read ya a page or 2. 

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A friend of mine asked why people are so bothered that Lauren Boebert has a GED and no further education. "Level of formal education isn't necessarily an indicator of intelligence (even though it does seem to be in her case)," my friend wrote. Why aren't people more bothered that much bigger eejits than her have Ivy League degrees? I suppose if you're an autodidact, you have to prove that you learned something along the way, but if you have a degree people assume some larnin' must have stuck, even when it's clear that it hasn't. Would Boebert be less stupid if she were more educated?


According to the Congressional Research Service (2020), more than a third of the House and more than half the Senate have law degrees. Roughly a fifth of senators and representatives have masters. Four senators and 21 House members have M.D.s, and an identical number in each body (four, 21) have some kind of doctoral degree; 95 percent of House members and 100 percent of the Senate's have a bachelor's degree or higher. Only a third of Americans do. Is that important?


Is there any connection between educational level and morality? Between education & effectiveness as a legislator? Between having a degree & having a broad-minded interest in the world around you?


I'm not saying I'm not all for education. I am! I only have a high school diploma myself, but had a very good secondary education & I value learning. I had to convince people over the years that I could do the job, given that I didn't have the obvious credentials to point at. That sharpened my game. 


I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Just asking questions, I suppose. 

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My ex

About 20 years ago, when I and 6 million teenage girls were in love with (& in my case married to) Derek Jeter, someone gave me a box of Derek Jeter cornflakes. I never saw them for sale. One is advised to discard mementos of one's ex, so in the trash went the empty box. 

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