icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

NauenThen

Our clever ancestors

I just read a remarkable article in The Economist: "Why 15,000-year-old art might have been displayed in firelight." They learned about it from this article. British researchers used computer modeling to discover that limestone plaquettes (slabs about the size of a postcard) excavated in southern France & carved with local animals may have been an attempt at animation - as much as 23,000 years ago. "The interaction of engraved stone and roving fire light made engraved forms appear dynamic and alive... Human neurology is particularly attuned to interpreting shifting light and shadow as movement and identifying visually familiar forms in such varying light conditions." 

 

Isn't that cool? Both the creative genius of our earliest ancestors and the researchers.  

Be the first to comment

Sioux Falls: City of Hustle

Who knew "City of Hustle" was a moniker for my hometown? Not me, but apparently Patrick Hicks & Jon Lauck, editors the editors of the forthcoming anthology of that name do. It's not due out till October but I'm sure you'll want to preorder now, especially when you find out the book includes my essay on the Nordic Hall (secret heart of Scandinavian Sioux Falls). I also didn't know it was residents (or anyone) who call Sioux Falls "the Best Little City in America." But it's 100% accurate that Money magazine once named Sioux Falls the best place to live in America. 

2 Comments
Post a comment

"Kentucky"

Drawing by my granddaughter, age around 5, on the back of a kids' menu at a Mexican restaurant called La Señorita in Mount Pleasant, MI. "I hope Michigan is really regretting their adoption of teaching phonetic spelling in the early 2000s," said her mom. 

Be the first to comment

Word of the Day

Borborygmus (pl, borborygmi): The growling noises your stomach makes. 

 

Man, how annoying I could (WOULD!) have been if I'd know this terrific word when I was 9 years old... 

Be the first to comment

MQ/What I'm reading

Life is not promised—it is crucial for a writer to respect time. Without urgency or panic, a writer can use this recognition to both make the necessary time for writing, and make much of that time. 

~ bell hooks, Remembered Rapture: The writer at work

 

I had never read anything by bell hooks, but so many people described the impact of her writing after her death last December that I thought I had better check her out. I am beginning to see what drew so many readers: her methodical steps through her own psyche make you see her, really see another person. So far that's all I can say. 

 

Note: I've decided to make Monday the day for either a quote or "what I'm reading." sometimes a combination of the two. 

 

Also: I was off yesterday for Day 2 of Passover. 

 

 

Be the first to comment

Today

What should I talk about? The rat in the toilet (2nd in a month)? First seder tonight & my dilemma about going to a seder with 18 people I don't know when covid is surging again? That they caught the subway shooter a block away from my office & we happened to be sitting on a bench across from the precinct, so we got to watch the brass get ready to shove themselves into the photos? The glorious spring weather? The glorious spring allergies that add another reason not to go to the seder? The impossibility of actually using my companion airline ticket to go anywhere? 

 

I need a nap & something besides matzo on my Passover shelf, so off I go.

 

If I think of anything to write about, I'll update. 

2 Comments
Post a comment

From the vault

so careful

with the pronouns

 

now

I no longer know

 

who

I address or

 

who

I desire

 

7-31-77

 

I have no recollection of writing this or what was in my mind. It's interesting to me that it was in my mind at all.

 

Contemporary in not quite the right way. 

2 Comments
Post a comment

Poets & poetry

David Henderson in red hat, through the window.

Running into poets, the kiss-withdraw gesture we all use now, the reading had to to with John Giorno & was at a record store on 2nd St just west of 2nd Ave, I'm fuzzy on the details, Anselm read, charmingly, works of Ted, one of the poets Giorno recorded, & David Henderson read a song Sun Ra recorded. "Write songs, you just need one & you're all set." Anne Waldman next but I was done in by close calls. The Brooklyn subway shooter was caught today & we watched from a bench on 5th St, across from the 9th precinct, while the brass prepared for the spotlight. 

4 Comments
Post a comment

Early birds

The photo is prettier big but looks out of focus. I didn't think you could be out of a focus with a phone camera. 

I have a couple of friends that, like me, enjoy being out and about early in the morning. On Sunday Robyn and I rode our bikes to Governors Island. It's 20 minutes to the ferry, three minutes on the ferry, and then a big beautiful open space. That early on a chillier than expected day, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

 

My new summer plan: do the same thing once a week or so. The first ferry is at 7 a.m. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends. 

~ Max Beerbohm

 

That is absolutely false. The past changes with every revelation, every action. If anything, the quote should be: The future is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends. 

 

In my months-long decluttering project, I have found so many documents that have rocked my beliefs about myself & my youth. I plan to write about this at length but right now it's a jumble of surprises & a few confirmations ~ as well as irrelevancies & loose ends. 

3 Comments
Post a comment

What I'm reading

I intended to list what I was reading on this date in 1985 (87?) because I found a slip of paper with that info & the coincidence was too great to skip. But I managed to mislay it, & because I was planning to copy it, I didn't pay much attention. Barbara Guest on Auden (?) is the only thing I remember. 

 

It was fortuitous because the book I'm really reading might seem pretentious (but isn't!): The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, which I was inspired to read because I'm also reading Mortimer Adler's 1940 How to Read a Book & want to be a better lifelong learner.

 

 

So there you have it. 

2 Comments
Post a comment

Elinor goes to the Upper East Side

I feel rich because I'm not destitute (but it never seems impossible) & then I go uptown & see, I dunno, private gardens & people spending hundreds & thousands of dollars on a single meal & lines for expensive delicacies... & I'm so happy to get back to my shabby, unpretentious (except in unpretentiousness) East Village. Did I find the EV or did it make me? No, I'm pretty sure I was lucky enough to find a place that suited me & smart enough to stay. 

6 Comments
Post a comment

Bigotry

 

In a column bemoaning the resurgence of homophobia, the usually sensitive Frank Bruni showed some misogyny. Besides institutional affiliation, the only people he ID'ed of the several he mentioned were "conservative superstar Ben Shapiro" and "former beauty queen Anita Bryant" ~ former indeed: it was 1958 & she was 18. She also had four Top 40 songs & was a "brand ambassador" for 11 years for Florida citrus. You can dismiss her for her horrible politics but to hit at her teenage looks? Nope. Discouraging as it is to see ANY bigotry back, it is worse to see bigotry used in service of decrying bigotry. 

 

 

Be the first to comment

Do you have your social security card?

My friend has to get hers replaced, so I'd been thinking about this. I posed the question on Facebook. I would have guessed that most people didn't still have theirs but at least three quarters of the people who answered my (obviously unscientific) poll do. Really, how did they keep track all these years & decades? One little scrap of paper that could so easily be lost, stolen (with the wallet it's in), destroyed. How did so many of us who could barely keep track of our names manage to hang on to it? The government told us to & we did. That's a little depressing. 

 

It turned out to be a great question though, because it applies to everyone & everyone (for the most part) knows the answer. A lot of people were surprised to still have theirs. Many had a parent or grandparent's card too. 

 

Even though I had no expectation that Social Security would have any bearing on my life, I kept that dang card & there it is in a wallet, with my old address from Sioux Falls & my old signature. Where was it throughout the 70s that I have it now? I don't suppose I'll ever know. 

5 Comments
Post a comment

Not senile

The habit of neglecting to cash checks goes back so far that it's not a sign of senility. That's all I can say. When I went to Mexico & Central America in 1981, before I crossed the border I called my friend who was staying in my place & she'd found a check in the bathroom. She managed to deposit it, something that would be harder to do today. It's not like I didn't need the money! My dad was an accountant ~ I think that I'm careful & attentive, that it's my genetic inheritance. I just found a check for $100 from 2005. It's not the only one I've come upon since 1981. Maybe I'll tape it to my wall as a reminder to go to the bank. Which is around the corner, for heaven's sake. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

~ Warren Buffett 

 

All the news makes me want to take a long view & believe that things will work themselves out. I don't know that they will but I'm trying to plant trees. I was reading about Russians who went on beach vacations to places like Thailand & Bali & are stranded, with non-working credit cards, no way to get home, & not sure they want to be back in Russia, except that it's their home. I was so relieved not to get stuck in Scotland when the pandemic lockdown began & I at least had a cousin eager to put me up for as long as I needed (although probably not for as long as I would have been stuck) & access to money. Access to my own language.

 

I breathe & look ahead. 

Be the first to comment

What I'm reading

And then there's the middlebrow mysteries, where the detective ruminates. Donna Leon's Brunetti series, set in Venice, resembles Louise Penny's Gamache series, set in Quebec in featuring philosophical uxorious detectives amid lots of food & local color. Nothing too hardboiled although there's always the risk of disaster. 

 

And now I go home and try to keep myself from finishing the latest Leon in one go. Savor, El, savor! 

Be the first to comment

Hey, it's Friday

I'm kind of in a bad mood but it cheers me up to look at this little drittsekk, who looks sweet & compliant but in fact is a jerk and a half, who wakes me way way too early & bites my calf to get my attention. I admire that he's not fazed by being 1/25th the size of us. He's a scrapper. And neighborly: Lefty knows everyone on our floor & one up, & visits in his talkative way. My favorite thing is that he can bug me all evening & then the minute I get in bed, he leaps between us purring like a jackhammer. 

Be the first to comment

Generations

I made an indignant speech in my Norwegian class last night but because I never know if I'm really saying what I intend på norsk, I'm going to repeat it here (more accurately if not eloquently & på engelsk).

 

One of the other students has a new job that involves marketing to young people & we got to talking about generations: Gen X, Gen Z, Millennials & the like ~  distinctions that seem to matter only in terms of targeted selling. I wanted them to know that we Baby Boomers got our name organically. There were a lot of us & it was sudden (a baby boom, from returning WWII soldiers). We were against the Vietnam War & we were truly on opposite sides, with a chasm between our elders and us: a generation gap (et generasjonsgap). Also, we weren't friends with our parents. We didn't wear the same clothes or listen to the same music. We didn't live with them once we were out of school. I'm not saying we were so great just that we really were the first generation that was distinct from what came before. 

 

The indignation was because I needed my classmates to appreciate that we were serious. It wasn't a generation about stuff. Call yourselves whatever you want but do understand that it's an artificial distinction. There's no gap between 1980 and 1981. Nothing happened to distinguish 1995 from 1996. However, 1946 was the first post-WWII year. It WAS different. It DID start something new. 

 

 

2 Comments
Post a comment

An evening with the gals

Just what I needed! A mix of laughter, hugs & wisdom with my friends Alisa & Robyn ("gals" is her word), at my (current) favorite restaurant Mogador, the Moroccan place on St Marks, where I had curried vegetables & labne cheese on paratha (a special but I would order it every time if I could). We've all lost parents pretty recently so we got in the weeds on that, but there were hilarious stories too, such as from Robyn's recent stint on jury duty. So normal, so natural & yet it's been ages. The obvious reasons of pandemic but I am no longer willing for that to excuse every gap & lapse. Girlfriends are the best. 

 

And then: no hot water in the middle of washing my hair this morning. Ugh my hair is still cold. 

Be the first to comment

Treasures

It sure is fun finding things I'd forgotten ever existed: my junior high school magazine, a note from a boy asking me to go steady, photos through the ages, the final I wrote for a graduate class in urban economics (for which I was in no way qualified, starting with the professor's (incorrect) assumption that calculus was a prerequisite), even just my young handwriting, recognizable still but more careful (i.e., legible). I can't quite pin down the feelings here: nostalgia, sure, & a sense of how far ago so much of this happened. But always, the confusion of trying to figure out if I am I & always have been. Yes. No. Yes & no. Just one more confusing thing in my life right now. 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

There is always that in poetry which will not be grasped, which cannot be described, which survives our ardent attention, our critical theories, our late-night arguments.

~ Adrienne Rich

 

I read entire books that say basically this. 

Be the first to comment

What I'm reading

I have a soft spot for big middlebrow novels set in remote Scotland. Pilcher is satisfying if that's what you're in the mood for. Nothing challenging, just a nice bath of complications, good-hearted people who come out ahead of the cranky ones, & in Winter Solstice, plenty of snow. A different writer but with a similar intelligent but not demanding manner is Angela Thirkell (Trollope's heiress). Also Helen MacInnes (spy thrillers). I've had a cold? allergies? (not Covid!) this week & Winter Solstice was exactly as much as I could manage. 

Be the first to comment

Have I achieved enlightenment?

Isn't that what it means when my mind is blank?

Be the first to comment

From the vault

This small poster I probably had on my wall for the cleverness, without thinking much about meaning. It comes from a box that also had my junior high school magazine/yearbook ("to a sweet girl") & a letter from a boy asking me to go steady: "write your answer on this note & give it to me tomorrow." 

Be the first to comment

Theater!

Went to the (trendy!) Shed in Hudson Yards last night to see a new work by Claudia Rankine called Help. Based on an op-ed she wrote a few years ago, it was, disappointingly, pretty much still an op-ed, with dancing. The audience was on her side, so she didn't have to do the work of setting up both sides of an argument, or find evocative images or language. I was thrilled to be in a crowd seeing theater together but wish it had been more challenging. 

Be the first to comment

Little by little

The pandemic feels like it was permanent, I suppose because it was an absolute break: one day we were hugging & kissing & flying to Europe, the next we were housebound. The reopening isn't so dramatic given that it's piecemeal: the dojo is open, with restrictions, then fewer restrictions. The stores & restaurants & theaters & trains likewise. In fact, most parts of our lives are creaking open little by little. There've been permanent changes of course: the many deaths, obviously, but how we interact (elbows over handshakes), what we'll put up with (cf. work-from-home), how we trust or don't trust, more likely, our place in the world. I would like to put it behind me but I also want to remember, though I don't know why ~ really, I want everything sad/difficult to fade to where nothing was as bad as it seemed. 

 

Sigh... I don't know where I'm going with this... it always does seem to come back to memory... 

Be the first to comment

Monday Quote

We will be judged by what we do, not by how we felt while we were doing it. 

~ Kenneth Tynan

 

Or by our excuses for not getting our hands dirty, no matter how legit. Or our potential. Or all the woulda-shoulda-couldas that are always lying in sabotage. 

Be the first to comment

What I'm reading

I've lost my mind! I actually read a book about decluttering. Once I was 4 months into the project, with my sole principle to spend 10 minutes a day cleaning, 10 minutes only & do it every day, I thought maybe I could learn some more tricks. Not sure how I came upon the book I did: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning your never-ending battle with STUFF, by Dana K. White. If I'd read it earlier, I would have given up the whole plan, I suspect. The more she talks about how to make it easy, the more overwhelming it seemed. Although I liked that she said why should she store stuff when she could get it from the store: that's what stores are for, to store stuff till we need it.

 

Ten minutes, that's all I could imagine. When my sister was 200 pounds overweight & couldn't walk 20 feet without getting out of breath, she somehow managed to START: she walked 5 minutes a day. Now she participates in triathlons. Start. "Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now," said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

 

There are an awful lot of books on the subject of decluttering! For those with ADHD, sentimentalists, for your personality type, workbooks, journals, 30-day guides, etc etc etc. Maybe it's reassuring to think of so many of us in the same boat. More if the boat were emptier. Even though I really don't buy much, I've lived in the same place for 45 years & if you get behind on tossing, suddenly (well, it seems sudden) you're overwhelmed. 

1 Comments
Post a comment

Guest poem of the week

I've been reading from a tall stack of books of poetry, old new & in between. And then I pull in William Carlos Williams & it's hard to get back to anyone else. They all seem to be trying too hard. He's the spring weather, the clear breeze, the cool water. He's also savage & cold as "the male snow / which attacks and kills " ("The Polar Bear"). O Bill! 

 

 

Be the first to comment