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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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Monday Quote

We take almost all the decisive steps in our life as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious. 

~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz


Or slight outer impulses that don't seem all that important? It does seem that surprising or small things turn out to have been decisive. Is that what he means?

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O Peonies!

No other flower puts me on a relational footing. Is it your inconsistent, wavelike personality, which I see as my equal... see is my equal. Did I never bring you indoors from the ant-draped bushes along childhood driveway? is it your not-perfume, not-merely-fresh scent? These are the last of the year, the sign at the market said. When else do announce that?

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Ancient days

Mask representing a maenad, a female follower of Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, amid bunches of grapes and vines, 1st century CE, fresco, House of V. Popidius or House of Mosaic Doves.

Went to a beautiful small show, Pompeii in Color, at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, a department of NYU up on East 84th Street. I vividly remember going to the actual Pompeii with my late friend Bonnie, who was fearless & could charm her way into anywhere. Somehow we got a private tour of areas not open to the public. You really do feel in media res there. It was, it wasn't. Time hasn't passed but stopped.

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I’m baaaaaack!

Yay for the wonderful Authors Guild & in particular a shoutout to the unflappable Hector (formerly of Hector & Abigail, who is still connected to the AG but not in the same capacity), who has responded with good humor, patience & skill to my various disasters over the years. They got this blog up & running again.


I could have been writing posts while I was off but I didn't so I'll start up again for real tomorrow. Today's is in the nature of a test, but it seems to be for real. 

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Monday Quote

Newly framed & hanging on the last bit of wall space in our apartment.

Probably the only thing one can really learn is the capacity to be able to change.

~ Philip Guston 

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Another pleasant Sunday

A whole lotta Schneemans. I wish I could take a picture of how nice it is in here. 

My house may never be as clean & tidy as it is right this minute. I feel like we should be in a magazine. Johnny got two pieces of art framed (a poster of a Philip Guston cover of The World from 1974 & George Schneeman's silver cover for his son Elio's book Walking into the Mad Space) & we picked them up today, so there's that fun thing of new art to both look at & catch your eye, & it makes me look at the familiar all over again. There's snapdragons in a Schneeman pitcher, we've thrown out so much stuff I don't even have to drape a sheet over the kitchen table to hide the clutter underneath. Wow, it's a pleasure to live here companionably with my old man on a pleasant, hot Sunday afternoon in the spring of this infernal year. 


Johnny Stantonstan story: He was 24 or 25 when he took his son to school. Sean said, that's my old man. "I never felt young again," Johnny said. 

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The rules are simple ~ it's scrabble except you make up the words, which have to be legit English words, & we all thrash out the definitions. So much more fun than the regular game. 


Most useful word of yesterday's game: Devent. Still working out a definition: the opposite of invent? taking it down a notch in a dissatisfied rant?


Loveliest word: Oridenja, an aromatic Asian tea? A girl's name?


A word made with great delight by the 11-year-old in the game: Zitsmore (i.e., zit/smore)

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From the vault / Poem of the week

Domestic Triumphs


Coffee detox ... Fricasse fowl (39¢/lb) soup. My theory is the bird was hot, cuz there was all this stubble where they HADN'T HAD TIME TO PLUCK IT. But the soup was a success & fed several people and is still feeding me, along with health-store bread that tastes like turkey stuffing ... I'm growing a sweet potato vine. ... Knitting. Though bogging down on a baby sweater because I'm mad at my friend who's pregnant. Maggie says write him a domestic letter & maybe he'll marry you. I says but I'm engaged to his best friend, don't that mean nothing? She says stop the clock if you can't make up your mind... New sheets ... My hands between my legs, for warmth, solace, fun, continuity ... My hands faintly numb at the tips, which makes them smooth, cold lifting off the fingerprints. ... I clean under a fingernail with my bottom middle two teeth ... Something smells bad in my purse. Put looking for it on my "to do today" list ... Coffee retox.



I wrote this in 1990, have no idea if it was ever published. Back when I cooked! 

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I'm not going to drop the link in, I'm not even going to say the writer's name. The editor of a Catholic journal opined in the NYT that he "can live with" the disruption that overturning Roe will cause. I can't even begin to say how infuriating this is. Of course he can live with it ~ he won't be forced to bear his rapist's baby, he won't risk dying from a dead fetus that he has to carry to term or a back-alley abortion, he won't lose jobs because he has too many kids. I have never seen an op-ed that had not a single comment in agreement. And the comments were heartbreaking & furious: from children who'd been unwanted saying they don't wish that on anyone. Many pointing out the economic consequences. Those who see that it will make it harder on victims of domestic violence. But that cretin will have his "joyful" hundreds of thousands of additional babies. 


And all of a sudden people like him ~ Tish Warren Harrison is another ~ are down with support for families. Yeah, you've had 50 years to support paid family leave, child benefits, income subsidies, and better health care. You weren't interested. You opposed it. Now you're dropping a little crumb of compassion into your gloating? No, thank you. 

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I'm a birdwatcher

I'm not, not really, but I liked going to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge & seeing some moving things. Doves & seagulls, which I see around here. And sleeping swans that looked like piles of white intestines. It was peaceful & full of sea air & right here in New York City. 

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What I'm reading

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 years of Western cultural life, 1500 to the present, by Jacques Barzun, is a dense yet leisurely look at what makes us us. It's all so entwined that I can't pick out one thread of story or biography without damaging the whole tapestry, perhaps because I am reading it so slowly that I am probably losing the narrative arc.


I never thought of this before but I wonder if the speed at which one reads a book has any bearing on how you think about it. I don't mean speed as in pages per hour but how much you read per session or per day, & whether you take breaks. I know that if I put down a novel for any length of time, I can't remember much when i come back. Most of the time I'm not sure that that matters, even when it's a mystery, that is, even when plot is essential. I think I like coming back with big mistakes, getting the wrong idea & essentially collaborating with the author's general outline while supplying my own gloss. 


i'm thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Crusoe in England," which I must have read a page of & put it down for a while.When I came back I picked up where I'd left off & forgot the title. I somehow believed it was about someone alone on Fire Island. When Friday came, things understandably picked up. When Friday got the measles, it suggested the narrator wasn't sure she was so happy having her privacy disturbed. I forget what finally happened that made me suspect I had something wrong, but until then everything fit with the storyline I'd devised. 

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Bonniest Baby

"Presented by the Rector of Walton to Alice Joyce Phillips. Bonniest Baby. 5th July 1924."

The only thing of my mother's that I wanted after she died (& before, for that matter) was this silver cup she won for being the bonniest baby of 1924. My sister Lindsay, who hand-delivered it this weekend, said my mom had no use for it because her own mother, my grandma, would trot it out when young men came to pick her up for dates. Lindsay also said Grandma would rub olive oil on her, which was what made her bonnie, although she herself always said it was only because she was a fat baby. 

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My house

This may not seem barren but it is so much neater & emptier than it was 6 months ago when I started to toss stuff & definitely tidier than the photo from a few days ago. I threw away so much that I have empty shelves ~ I don't need to have someone come build me clever storage spaces, which was my plan when I started. My closet is still perplexing but I can now put my hands on whatever I'm looking for, & really, that's all I need. 

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The unborn

This seems so true to me. I suppose the anti-abortion folks feel like they are advocating for the helpless & voiceless. (Against the "mere vessels" carrying them.) I would like to hear a good counterargument. 

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Jeg vant!

Dette kommer nok aldri til å skje igjen så det er spennende for meg å vinne en norsk scrabble-kamp mot læreren min... (This will probably never happen again so it's exciting to me to win a norwegian scrabble game against my teacher...)

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My place

OK, I know I've bored everyone I know with antic tales of decluttering & I know this picture looks like I must have been cleaning up someone else's place but it really is very cozy these days, especially in the 10 minutes of afternoon sunlight. 

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What I'm reading

I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.

~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz


I was trying to find something on the philosophy of memory, & was surprised to find how many books & papers there are that address this. But every search included one novel: Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald (1944-2001). It's compelling, for sure, despite the lack of chapters or even paragraphs, not to mention my lack of understanding. But I feel I'll get somewhere with it. Very vague, to be sure, & I'm intrigued by being so interested in a book so unlike my usual taste, that is, without the help I rely on from the author (recaps, for example). 

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In the neighborhood

This was my favorite of the public art pieces on the Allen Street pedestrian mall, right across the street from me, below Houston. Well, the most photogenic — I liked the moose but it didn't stand still long enough for me to get a good shot. 

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Elinor Wonders Why

For some random reason, i found myself watching this terrific PBS kids show, with the curious bunny Elinor and her friends Olive (an elephant) & Ari (a bat) finding out about things like echolocation, snow, & the mystery of what happens to leaves in the forest that no one rakes. They research & look closely & figure things out. Love it!

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Tiny house

Why, I do believe this homesteader's shack in beautiful Montana is smaller than my apartment. 

The original tiny house? But all that land means the residents are out & about most of the time, plowing the sod & all that. When people can't imagine how two people (Johnny & I, i.e.) have lived — comfortably! cheerily! cozily! — in a studio for decades, I should point out what it was like out on the prairies 150 years ago. Read Giants in the Earth. I've read books about mail-order brides who lived in shacks like this with their in-laws, the babies as they came along, and a cow or 2 till a barn got built. My apartment has all the space I need.

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634 Ways to Kill Fidel

What a great title: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel. It's by Fabián Escalante, founder of the Cuban intelligence services and head of the Cuban State Security Department and details some of the "Looney Tunes-esque assassination attempts," using seashells, shoes, a softball, a milkshake... & more.

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The Ezra Pound 2022

Soon the landlord will cover our lively front door with that institutional beige paint he keeps around & soon after that we'll have another vision to remind us that the East Village is still hopping. 

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What I'm reading

I'm mostly reading the astonishingly gripping Gibbon (Decline & Fall) but when I can't stay awake or go to sleep, I've had fun with Maisie Dobbs, detective & psychologist. I like novels about World War I (both of my granddads fought, on different sides) & I like mysteries. These feel like a glimpse into the world of my grandparents' generation. I also like the thread of mysticism. And I'm more interested in women investigators.

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Happy anniversary

On this date in 1971 my life changed permanently when Beth & I hitchhiked to D.C. to attend the last big antiwar demonstration. We slept out & she woke up smiling at a handsome stranger, who became her boyfriend for several years. This was how I got hooked into The House, a loose group of Air Force men who challenged, loved, understood, encouraged me, & still do. I was ready for I didn't know what & they handed freedom to me. I was ready & The House appeared, giving me everything I needed.


Many of us still stay in touch & those of us who were deeply present still count this as (one of) the most important time(s) in our lives. I know I do. I've written about it a lot & am always, always grateful for the experience, which continues to this day. I am who I am as much because of The House as anything else. 

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