Life, the Universe, and Everything

Keep it Secret

WorldWearyMoiShort article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed today about students sharing personal information. I'm a little surprised that this professor is shocked by what his students share in class. When I first started teaching in the early 80s, my students kept journals. One of the things you discover as an English teacher is that the moment you give students a written outlet for their feelings and personal problems, they'll use it with a vengeance. For many of them it's the first time they've had a written outlet and they find it as satisfying as the rest of us who've been doing it for a long time. I kept a journal from junior high through my first years in the working world in my late twenties and then took to blogging (I'm being meta here, see?) and online forums like the proverbial wet duck, and was thus not as surprised as this guy seems to be.

Writing can be an act of catharsis, and once you've written something down, it no longer "owns" you. You're free of it; you don't have to hide it and it doesn't have to rule your life as a shameful secret anymore. And once you share it in writing online, something wonderful happens; you get instant feedback: support, love, and the knowledge that you're not alone, that other people have shared or are sharing your experiences. You also get people trying to help you fix your problem: they suggest therapy, good local therapists, rehab programs, coping strategies, resources, and share their experiences with various treatment regimens. Sometimes they just offer good life skills advice. They give you links to online resources, they even, sometimes, help you pay your bills. (You also get trolls, but that's another story.) From our teens at least through our twenties, we're trying to figure out who we are and how to live our lives. Sharing that struggle makes it easier. With luck, we can learn from others' mistakes instead of our own.

I also think it's good that some of this stuff comes out in public. The politie middle class society I grew up in hid a lot of nastiness: child abuse, spouse abuse, ugly marriages, alcoholism. It never got fixed because no one talked about it, and there was shame in talking about it, as though, even if you were the victim, you had somehow let the community down. It's as though we were all striving to be Mayberry in our little town, and the people who wouldn't do it anymore and spoke out were somehow bringing shame on us. Everything had to be a secret. This wasn't just my little town either. It's one of the universal fictions that the Civil Rights movement and feminisim gave the lie to, that we all lived like "Leave It to Beaver" and the "Brady Bunch."

If my students had not had the courage to share their stories with me, I would have a very different view of life than I have now. That comfortable middle class home I came from gave me very little knowledge of the suffering other people go through. Hearing my students' stories about abuse, rape, abortion, misogyny, discrimination, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty, and the struggles of their day-to-day lives has made me a very different and hopefully more empathetic person—and it made me angry that they have to live like this. It also made me immensely proud of the students I had who were overcoming these hurdles in their own lives. The first step in changing anything is to admit there's a problem, and for too long, most of these problems have been underground, hidden by the polite fiction that they're things we just shouldn't talk about.

Bullshit.

There's nothing shameful about taking medication for mental illness and struggling to get the dosage right while carrying on your life as best you can. There's nothing shameful in needing an abortion, except, perhaps the lack of available cheap birth control in this country. There's nothing shameful about admitting your relationship isn't going so well. There's nothing shameful in talking about your upcoming surgery (old people do this all the time, don't they?) no matter what part of the body it involves. There's nothing shameful in having thrown out your abusive boyfriend, or having to go to a shelter to get away from him (except for the boyfriend's conduct). There's nothing shameful in talking about your eating disorder, or the fact that you're still uncomfortable with your body, or even (gasp!) acknowledging that "hey! I'm fat!" There's nothing shameful about not being able to afford your books for school yet because your kids have to eat.

Screw all that embarrassed secrecy. Air it all out. Make people look at the consequences of poverty, bad political policies, misogyny, and racism. There are politicians, especially, who could use a good dose of Facebook realism.


Grade This, Motherf%#@&*!

TeacherMoiI went off on my College Prep students last night. They've been a troublesome group and that's been only partially their fault. This half semester has been full of breaks and holidays and every time I'd get a momentum going, we'd have a break and lose it. Labor Day, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Columbus Day—every other week, it seemed we had a holiday. It's also been troublesome because I'm not teaching all of the class. I don't mind team teaching, but I think it's a mistake to break these two components—reading and writing—apart, and treat them as though they don't influence each other. And the only reason I'm team teaching is because CUNY, like most universities, limits the number of hours adjuncts can be in the classroom, even though they've increased the instructional hours of the course itself. That's just fucked up on at least two levels: not only does it prevent adjuncts from making a decent living by teaching at a single school rather than at least two, it causes stupid bureaucratic snafus like this one, which hurt students.

But I digress.

I went off on my students last night because when I told them my recommendations about their opportunity to take the CUNY assessement test are due next week, one of them said, "well why should we bother coming back after that?" And I lost it. Sarcasm on full bore, I responded, "because you might possibly still learn something." And then I gave them my patented five-minute lecture about why college is not about grades, it's about knowledge and learning, and how little your GPA matters in the grand scheme of things, and how they're only cheating themselves if they put nothing into the effort of learning.

This fixation on grades is pretty common among high school students and undergraduates. I remember having it myself. But I also remember the moment I realized what bullshit it is. I'd completely blown the final in one of my biology classes, not because I didn't know the material, but simply because it was finals week and my brain seized up like an unoiled engine. All the information was actually in there; I just couldn't get it to come out in coherent sentences or filling in the blanks. I left most of the test blank, in fact, something I never do, because I was just blank myself. Even my prof asked me what was wrong when I handed it in. But I realized as I walked out of the test totally frustrated, that it didn't really matter, ultimately, because I knew I'd learned a lot. I could have gotten at least a B on that exam if my brain hadn't turned to a gooey frozen treat. But that didn't lessen the amount of knowledge I had in my head. And neither did the C I got in the class, though it didn't reflect what I actually knew, either.

And that's why grades as the main focus of academic learning are bullshit. With the crazy emphasis on assessment and test scores that is prevalent in elementary and secondary ed today, it's no wonder students are all about grades. And that does them a disservice too. The best thing you can teach a kid at that age (the earlier, the better) is to love learning. To be curious, rapacious, even, for knowledge. Because the grades follow from that. Grades are just an imperfect tool for trying to see how much of what you've thrown at the wall stuck, and sometimes for how students will use those facts for good or evil.

There's no test that's ever been devised for how that knowledge will shape that student's pursuits, personality, or their actual life outside school, and that's what's really important. Did you learn to think for yourself? Did you learn how to apply reason to your questions? Did you learn something about how the world works beyond the theories? Did you learn the weaknesses of theory without practice and experience? Did you learn how to be kinder? Did you learn how to see and hear and appreciate beauty in its diversity? Did you learn how to step back and see the big picture and where the small picture fits into it? Did you learn from our past mistakes, or at least how to recognize those mistakes?

Those abstractions are the foundation of everything else. And you can't grade those. You can only mourn their lack in the world we've created without them.

 


Stupid Rules of Which I'd Like to Rid Myself

Badgirl MoiI don't like making New Year's resolutions, but I usually take on a project of changing something about myself, big or small, each year. Sometimes they're on-going, life-long projects, like getting a grip on my temper (notice I didn't say anger; there's a real difference. I've come to realize that anger is just fine; it's what you do with it that can be a problem.) Sometimes they're just small things, like getting some clothes that don't make me look like I'm wearing a sack. A lot of them are anxiety-producing rules for good behavior from the 1950's middle class upbringing I had, the one that was always at war with my dad's blue collar "lack of manners." I've made peace with my affection for using four-letter words, which, like smoking on the street, I was taught ladies never did. I've made peace with the fact that I'm not ever going to be a lady. I can simulate one, and I clean up well, so that's okay. Some of them are social control rules I learned growing up in a small town or as a pre-feminist, and were part of the reason I embraced feminism and fled to New York. And it's funny how many of these rules come to me in my mother's voice, too. She was great at communicating her anxiety about other people's opinions of her to me. Some of these, though, are self-imposed and come out of my own social anxiety about being "correct" and accepted. I suppose some of that is only-child anxiety, but they're not relevant now. I have a huge, accepting, beautifully varied family of choice now.

I still have these rules in my head, 50 years later and that's boggling in and of itself. It's time to let go of some of them. Here's a few of them. Don't laugh. I said they were stupid.

  1. Not ending sentences with a preposition. Fuck that.
  2. Certain foods can only be eaten at particular times of day (breakfast food must be eaten at breakfast; dinner leftovers aren't breakfast food; etc.). 
  3. All barns look good painted red.
  4. The bed must be made every day.
  5. Act your age.

That's probably enough for the moment. And not all of these are completely bad, like making the bed every day. I like getting into a neat bed at night. But some days, that three minutes it takes to make it is just more than I have. So what? I will stop feeling bad about it.

I should explain that #3 is a saying of my mother's meaning that wearing red, especially if you're fat, invites unfortunate comparisons. I've had a life-long aversion to the color because of that, even though I look good in it. How stupid is that?

Number 5 needs some explaining too. I've always had this distinction in my head between being an adult and being a grown-up. Grown-ups are boring and all about responsibility and maturity; adults are mature and responsible, but still know how to have fun. Now that I'm 50, I feel a totally unreasonable internal pressure to be a grown-up. There's a lot wound up in this: looking younger than I am, being a very responsible and precocious child, discussions about dressing age appropriately, a society that wants older women to fade into the woodwork. I've been dressing more conservatively as I got older, thanks in part to corporate jobs, and I kinda miss my loud colors and wild earrings and socks and shoes. Living in New York also did some of that, where black is just easier to take care of, but this is a fashion capital too, and I'm an artist, so I'd like to get some of my funk back:  cobalt hair, a visible tattoo. I'm tired of the camouflage, because it's becoming counterproductive. I'm short, round, older and rapidly becoming invisible. Nice in that I don't get harassed as much, but annoying as hell when I'm trying to get waited on.

And what is age-appropriate? I don't necessarily think the schoolgirl look is a good one for 30-year old women, but I don't think forcing older women into widows weeds is a good idea either. So what's age appropriate? And who gets to define that? Same with behavior. Tantrums aren't pretty on anyone, but I'm appalled by my growing anxiety to be home before midnight, as though I were Cinderella. WTF is up with that?

I'll let you know how it goes.


New Year's Meme

PeaceGirl 1. a) What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?:

Went to Colorado. I love going to new places, and this was pretty spectacular, as places go. With some good company, too

1. b) What did you do that you hadn't done in a long time?
Worked really seriously on my poetry.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I try not to make resolutions. They're an exercise in futility. I set goals and plan projects instead. A lot of those didn't get done.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope. Gettin' kinda old for that now. Most of friends are about my age, though some are younger, and I don't have kids myself.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, sadly. My friend Jean Courtney took her life.

5. What countries did you visit?

No countries this year, but two states.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

An updated computer system and faster connection.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I'm terrible at dates, but the day I found out that Jean had killed herself is pretty stark, and the week I spent in Colorado was, on the opposite end of the scale, fantastic.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I finished an arc of my fan fiction saga, and with Helen's help, put together not one but four poetry collections out of the mass of material I've got.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I didn't revise my novel.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, knock wood. My back's been kinda messed up for a while though, making me numb in odd spots.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

It's a three-way tie: The new hand-marbled scarf I bought myself at the Center for Book Arts Holiday Fair, my Nook, and the little hadnmade ceramic soap dish I bought in Maine.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My hardest-working students. They know who they are.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Far too many of the Tea Partiers.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent. Same as it ever was.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Gwen's amazing house in Colorado. Not that I want one that big, but I want one that arty.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

"Empire State of Mind." I played that over and over coming back on the SI ferry at night. God I love it here!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Still happy.
b) thinner or fatter? think I put on some weight over the holidays.
c) richer or poorer? Materially, 'bout the same. In friends, much richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Art and writing.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Fucking Facebook. What a time suck.

20. How will you be spending New Year's?

Cooking for friends.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?

No more than usual.

23. How many one-night stands?

Puh-leeze.

24. What was your favorite tv program?

Sherlock, though my CSI infatuation continues apace.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Try not to do hate any more, though I can say I'm completely disgusted by the stupidity of so many of the Tea Partiers.

26. What was the best book you read?

The same one everyone else was reading: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

School of the Seven Bells

28. What did you want and get?

A new teaching gig.

29. What did you want and not get?

A slightly bigger place to live and a Powerball win.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

"Iron Man 2." Wish I could say it was "The Tempest," but not.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 50, and I went for cupcakes with the Birthday Club.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Cooler weather this summer and more time.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Fashion concept? Er . . . .

34. What kept you sane?

Books and friends. And beer.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Oh, all the old favorites, though I was mildly fascinated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

The oil spill, and the stupidity of people protesting the Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero.

37. Whom did you miss?

Jennifer. One of us, obviously, is going to have to move.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Gwen, though it was not so much met as rekindled a 30-years-dormant friendship. Why did I never keep in touch with her when she moved?

39. Was 2010 a good year for you?

Not fantastic, but certainly not a bad one. It feels a bit wasted, especially for a milestone year like 50.

40. What was your favorite moment of the year?
Swimming in the hot springs in Colorado with the Nympho Lesbo Killer Whores +2.

41. What was your least favorite moment of the year?

Anything that involved DeeDee the Destroyer's presence.

42. What was your favorite month of 2010?

August, a week of which was spent in the Rockies.

43. How many different states did you travel to in 2010?

Colorado, Wisconsin (inadvertently), and Maine.

44. How many concerts did you see in 2010?

None. Too damn busy this year, and teaching nights.

45. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?

Not that I recall, which is good however you look at it.

46. What was the worst lie someone told you in 2010?

"Sure, you'll make your connection in Madison!"

47. Did you treat somebody badly in 2010?

Gosh, I hope not. I haven't paid enough attention to Jean's parents though.

48. Did somebody treat you badly in 2010?

Not that I remember, and that's all that counts.

49. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2010 and change something, what would it be?

I'd try to talk Jean out of taking her life. I don't know if I really have that right, but I'll always wonder if someone had been with her if she would have kept plugging. But then, maybe it was just too hard for her, and I'm merely being selfish.

50. What are your plans for 2011?

See my previous post.

51. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Sometimes life is harder for other people than you can possibly know. And you can't fix it for them. All you can do is love them.


Jean Courtney 1960-2010

 JeanJeannieMy friend Jean Courtney took her life yesterday and I hardly know what to say. This is the first friend I've lost to suicide, and though Jean and I had talked about it, and I knew it was an idea that she seriously entertained on her darkest days, I did not know she'd reached that point again. At left is Jean in May at my house, right before she was going to meet some old friends from high school in Parkchester. She seemed chipper then, if a little apprehensive, and determined to get the most out of her "up" mood, as if she knew it was going to disintegrate soon, as it did.

Very shortly afterwards, she moved into a new apartment, which she found very stressful but was pleased about, I think. There were some other stressful events and she let us all know that she wouldn't be visiting her Facebook account for a while. Then today, on her last post, her ex-husband (or wasband, as Jean called him) informed us that Jean had "passed peacefully from this life" at her apartment yesterday. Apparently, she left a beautiful note behind, though I have not read it.

Jean and I knew each other from our days at AKRF, when we were in what later became the Publications Department. We were somewhat less than editors, something more than mere word processors for the company's quite technical environmental impact statements. It was often high-pressure, deadline-driven work held to exacting grammatical and stylistic standards for which we were responsible, and Jean bore the pressure with more grace that the rest of us who worked there. She had a fantastic sense of humor, loved comedy and jokes, movies and celebrities, and could almost always find the humor in just about any situation. "Did you see [name of movie]?" she would say. "This is just like that scene where . . ." and it was! And the similarity would leave you chortling. Here's some of the movies she listed on her Facebook page: "Young Frankenstein," "A Clockwork Orange," "Religulous," "The Room," "My Suicide," "The Aristocrats," "Rear Window," "Borat," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Pulp Fiction," "Lolita," "Dr. Strangelove," "North by Northwest," "All About Eve," "Bourne," "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," "Memento," "American Beauty," and "High Anxiety." You can see she had a taste not only for clever comedy, for for the darker dramas and psychological thrillers, as well as political satire. If the movies you like are some indication of what kind of person you are, Jean was clearly pretty complex.

In those days, Jean was a seeker. She was enthused about, by turns, just about every brand of New Age spirituality that came along, and some not so New Age, serially monogamous to all of them. She studied Sufism, reiki, and about a million other brands of faith and woo that I could not keep track of, all in the quest for happiness, or at least some explanation about why she was in so much pain. I tried to respect her search, but they always seem to fall short of her expectations or needs, some more than others, when the practitioners turned out to either have clay feet or be outright charlatans. Unfortunately, Jean seemed to be the type of person that the unscrupulous and predatory repeatedly take advantage of, emotionally and in other ways, something that contributed to her depression. It's not that Jean was an unthinking sucker; like all my friends, she had a quirky analytical intelligence, but I think her emotional need made her a little desperate. Once she'd seen through whatever flavor of the month religion/spiritual shenanigans she'd been involved in, she could be brutally analytical about their shortcomings.

We lost contact for a while when we both left the company but had gotten back in touch again about two years ago. Since then, I saw or spoke to Jean a couple dozen times, in various states of happiness. We ran into one another again at a Patti Smith/Television concert where we ogled David Byrne and Brian Eno hanging out in the back of the crowd with us. At some point prior to this, she had been hospitalized for deep depression and suicidal thoughts, gotten a psychiatric diagnosis and gone on disability, which actually seemed to be a relief to her. I think she felt she knew what was wrong now, and could stop searching for answers and just concentrate on being healthy and happy. She was seeing a couple of therapists and getting some good drugs, and confronting and dealing with traumas in her past, especially some of the harm done her by predators and the woo practitioners, about whom she was intending to write a memoir. From the stories she told me, it would have been a hell of an exposé.I wonder now if that might have been part of what broke her. I know she endured a lot of awful slander on some of the discussion boards she'd been on and some of the things people said about her were unconscionable, especially in people who are supposed to be following some kind of spiritual path.

There was a time when I would have been judgemental about Jean's suicide, but I've come to understand how, for some people, that can seem like the only sensible solution. That that is true is the real tragedy. For all the fantastic chemicals we now have for treating various kinds of mental illness, they're not by any means a cure-all. They work for some people and not for others; they work for a time and then not at all. They only alleviate some symptoms and not others. And sometimes the side effects are so horrific that it's better to be off them than on them. And our society does not treat the "mentally interesting" as Jean called herself, very well. When they can get disability, they live on the edge of poverty, if not right down in it. Housing is scarce, often substandard, and may take forever to get into. Funds to support you while you wait are laughably (cryingly, sobbingly) inadequate, for the most part, especially in an expensive city like New York. If your family wants nothing to do with you, or is the source of your problem, that makes it even more difficult. Who do you rely on then?

One of my friends told me "it's all right to be angry with her," when I posted about Jean's death, but I don't feel angry with Jean. I feel angry with the people who contributed to her pain because they were too fucking self-absorbed or selfish or greedy to not hurt someone so vulnerable. I feel angry with a social system that does so little to support its weakest members. I feel angry at all the people who took advantage of her. And I feel deeply grateful to all the people who did help her—friends, relatives, social workers, psychiatrists, other medical and mental health professionals—even if it wasn't enough.

I understand Jean's choice, though I wish she had not made it. I wish she had called me. I wish I had called her. I'd been intending to this weekend, to see if she wanted to go to a a concert with me. Over the summer, we'd gone to see a couple of movies together—"Iron Man 2" and "The A Team, which we'd both enjoyed tremendously. We both loved Robert Downey, Jr., in t he former and Liam Neeson in the latter, and were laughing at exactly the same inside jokes in "The A-Team." We're probably the only two people on the planet who really liked it. Jean was a lot of fun to go to the movies with because she gave herself over to them whole-heartedly, in the spirit in which they're meant to be watched, the way kids do. We laughed! We cried! We had a great time! I was looking forward to seeing many more movies with her in the future, and getting to know her better. I always expect to get a lot of wear and tear out of my friends, and at 50, they're too young to be dying, especially of despair.

When I saw Jean last summer after I came back from China, she was quite depressed, but struggling valiantly to claw her way up out of that black pit. We met for coffee and I gave her a little jade pendant of Quan Yin, the Chinese Buddha of Compassion, the one that always spoke most to me, because I thought she needed it more than I did. The world is hard on gentle people like Jean, and I hope that pendant gave her a little comfort, insubstantial as it is. One of her last posts on Facebook was a link to raise money for the Muslim cabbie who'd been stabbed by a drunken, bigoted student. She had plenty of compassion of her own, for other people, but there didn't seem to be enough around for her.

I'll miss you, my friend. Whatever comes next, if anything, I hope it brings you peace and happiness. And if there's nothing, at least the pain is done. I really hope you're laughing your ass off somewhere with George Carlin.


The Selves--Apologies to Lewis Thomas

ReinventedMoiThis is the avatar of the me that never was (and probably won't ever be): urbane, sophisticated, glamorous, thin. What you get right now with me is, well, not that. I remember watching a soap when I was pretty little, maybe 4 or 5, in which one of the characters said to another: "You've changed!" in a sort of shock and horror. And I remember thinking, "That's weird. People don't change. They're always themselves." Sometime later in high school, I read a great essay by Lewis Thomas called "The Selves," in which he talks about our psychological development occurring in stages or different selves, and how sometimes we're between them, just waiting for the next one.

Now that I'm 50, I'm starting to see behind me a string of selves: the kid who lived and grew up in Michigan; College Self, who lived in Pittsburgh and East Lansing, and New York Self. The places we live in define us, as much as who our friends and family are. My New York Self, though, breaks down into a number of different Selves too, as my kid self did. I've said elsewhere that I think I've grown and changed more while living in New York City than I have since I was a kid in Michigan. A lot of my College Self slopped over into my early New York self, while the city taught me some hard lessons about being an independent yet interdependent grown-up. Three years of therapy made a whole new Self too. As did turning 40. My 40s have by far been the best decade. I felt competent, adult, and most of all, happy.

My 50s are going to bring some interesting changes. The older people I've taken for granted are dying, my friends and I taking care of them as they go. One of my aunts, my Mom's sister, is developing Alzheimer's like my Dad's sister did. Mel is watching her mom struggle to communicate in a nursing home, and my friend Eva is watching her mom deteriorate in one. Roz has parents in two separate places to look after, neither of them easy to get to for someone without a car. Paul's parent still seem to be doing well. I hope that goes on for a long time. I look at everyone else and almost feel lucky that my parents went quickly and without suffering or prolonged deterioration. I feel like I got off easy.

But I'm noticing more changes in me, too. I'm one of those lucky people who still looks a lot like I did in college: just a little grayer, but not much. Sadly, however, I'm not as, er, robust, as I used to be, to use a word much in vogue in the business world. No matter how much yoga I do, my back still goes out and my nerves get pinched, and it takes a long time get them unpinched. I don't sleep as well as I used to, and when I do, it's an occasion for much rejoicing. I don't bounce back from exertions like I used to. The most annoying thing is the arthritis in my hands and hips though. It's really not funny in my hands. My typing speed has dropped precipitously and I'm much more error prone. It's going to make book-making an interesting proposition in the years to come.

But the change I find most alarming, or at least disconcerting, is that I've begun to lose interest in things I was really passionate about: books, music, beautiful things. Don't get me wrong, I still love to read, but the amassing of books for their own sake is growing old, like me. I used to be greedy for them because there might be something in them that I desperately needed to know. Perhaps it was really more a hunger for knowledge, because I used to be that way about the Web, too, surfing compulsively, bookmarking everything. It's not that I think I now know everything, but I don't feel nearly as ignorant as I did, and sometimes I surprise myself with what I do know. As the Chinese calligraphy on my wall says, "books are treasure mountains," for what's in them, but I feel less and less of a need to own them. I also used to have music on if I was conscious and it was possible (e.g., not at work); now I'm just as happy with and likely to prefer silence, or the news. I've long fallen off the bleeding edge of knowing who's cool in music, and my tastes have changed too, though they're still pretty eclectic. And the pretty things? They're just as lovely in the store or the museum, and I don't have to clean them there. I like to visit other people's beautiful things, like I like to visit other people's kids.

Mostly, I don't care passionately about much of anything, anymore. I blame it on menopause and the lack of hormones, and I'm not really that sorry, just a bit bewildered. Passion is nice, but it's exhausting. I still like a good argument, but more and more, I like a good laugh just as much. The one passion I still have is a growing sense of compassion, and the desire to express that. I want to help make other people's lives better where I can, and draw attention to it where I can't. I care passionately about the people I love, and there is a growing number of them: friends, family, family of choice, students; the circle keeps expanding.

I jokingly call this my Old Fart Self, but I don't feel particularly old, except a bit physically. True, I'm losing my nouns in conversation (and lord a do hate, passionately, having to grope for words and being so inarticulate), but in compensation, I also care a whole lot less about what people think of me than I once did. I still like new music, I'm not afraid of technology, I want to keep learning new things as long as my brain still works, and I want to travel as long as my body still works.

RealMoi So here's what you really get, or the avatar of what you really get with me now: an aging boho with a lasting fondness for the funky and non-mainstream, but a weakness for pop. She likes beer and tequila and hanging out in bars and tea houses. The East Village feels like her spiritual home, but it's too damn noisy. Her hair's a little spiky and going gray. When it turns white, she'll dye it cobalt blue: a blue-haired old lady with a vengeance.


Crispy Critters

Sick & Tired MoiAchtung! Whining ahead. Ridiculous amounts of time have passed since I posted anything anywhere, and that's because this was The Year That Would Not End. Every time I thought I was clear of things and could get back to my own projects, just one more thing cropped up. First it was late papers for grading. Then it was unexpected editing work. Then it was story editing for friends. Then my back and neck went out (and I'm still working with numb and tingling fingers). Then it was catching up with friends I'd neglected all year. The latest obstruction is DeeDee Monster DeeDeePlaysDeadCU , the cat I'm watching for one of Gretl's friends. I took him on because he was terrorizing her elderly girls and I figured Mab could handle him (and can), but I can't. I've spent the last two months cleaning up after him constantly or chasing him off of things he shouldn't be on, or wrestling stuff away from him, mostly in the middle of the night. He attacks my feet every morning at 5 AM, shovels his litter out of the box on a regular basis, thinks everything in the house is his toy, and has peed on two rugs and broken a tea set (luckily one of the cheap, manufactured ones). It's a good thing he's so cute, because some days, I'm at my wits end with him, and that's mostly because bending over cleaning up after him has not been fun for my back, and I'm not getting much sleep. And it's freakin' hot.

As a result, I'm largely brain dead. No books are getting made because DeeDee is a world-class hinderer and will get into the brushes and paraphernalia. I can barely keep him out of my printer when I print something, and he's already been chewing on my brushes. Very little writing is getting done because my brain is a large, gooey bowl of sludge. As a result, I've been lying on my bed in front of the fan reading mostly junk and working my way through all 9 seasons of CSI, with occasional forays for groceries and post office runs. I've been to watch some movies with friends, but again, nothing brilliant, just summer blockbusters.

I've been working a bit on the poetry collections Helen arranged for me. I like what she's done, a lot, and I've taken most of her editing suggestions, but they all need fleshing out a bit more before any of them can be submitted anywhere. Nothing major, just a half dozen each (rolls eyes). Yeah, I've managed a draft of one, so far. I can hardly string a coherent thought together right now. I've never felt quite this friend before, but I hope it lets up soon.

Nonetheless, I've been thinking about travel and realizing I miss Barcelona and want to go back there again. Not just because it's such a beautiful, welcoming city, but because I enjoyed the solitude and the exploration. I enjoyed distilling my experiences down each day into a blog post and trying to discover what made that city tick, what its energy was. And I still want to get to Italy, maybe to Rome instead of Venice though.

But not this year. This year I need some recuperating. And I need to get rid of this cat.


Happy New Year!

Moonlitdoll I wish you
health and happiness
pleasures of the body and the mind
success
new adventures
the rekindling of old loves and/or the discovery of new ones
fireworks
candlelight
security financial and otherwise
good stories
continual astonishment
spiritual enlightenment (your choice of dogma or karma)
frequent amusement
a wee dram when you need it
big hearts
deep pockets
long fuses
something warm and fuzzy that is already house-trained
a sense of the ineffable
and people in your life who are as dear as my friends are to me.

I wish all of us peace in a time of war; compassion in a time of hatred; generosity in a time of need; self-knowledge in a time of blame; courage to right past wrongs, and above all things, love unconditional.


random thoughts on the end of the decade

DreamingMoiHmm, it's been an interesting 10 years. In just about 6 months, I turn 50 and it seems to be making me a little philosophical in my old age. The last 10 years have been, in comparison to, say, my 30s, really good personally, despite some things most people would call tragedies but that I've come to see as either life stages or just ordinary events. I think I've grown and changed more in roughly the last decade than I have in the first 40, with the possible exception of childhood, when pretty much every human being grows and changes exponentially. It's not that I've gained so much more knowledge (though I hope I never stop learning new things), but that I've figured out what to do with what I already know, emotionally and otherwise.

Continue reading "random thoughts on the end of the decade" »


thankful

Going to Church Moi Long time no post here. Or anywhere, for that matter. I've been busier than a one-armed paper hanger and I'm still playing catch-up. My desk and work table—heck, my whole apartment—looks like a disaster area. I have a hundred household chores, grading to do, books to make, projects to attend to, and absolutely no energy whatsoever. It's been a kinda crazy semester. Where to start? Maybe with the new tenant.

Akisu1 After many long years without a cat, I've acquired a beastie. Or rather, the beastie has acquired me. This is Queen Mab, who was once a lost little street kitty that my friend Gretl (whose pic you can see on the wall there) picked up and took home right before I left for China. She knew just who to throw herself in front of, too. All it took was her rolling over and showing her belly for Gretl to pick her up and bring her home. When I first saw her, Mab (who Gretl called Princess Farhana, after one of her Burlesque buddies) had dark grey stockings, tail, and ears, and we thought she might be part Siamese. She talks and acts like one, but her "points" proved to be just dirt. She's a big marshmallow with green eyes and an attitude. She was lying on Gretl's bathroom floor, purring up a storm at any attention she received and turned out to be a territorial tyrant, driving Gretl's poor, sweet, dim kitties into exile in the bedroom for the duration of her stay. Once I brought her home, it took her all of 15 minutes to adjust to her new abode at my house—and make it hers. Here she is staking claim to my desk. She's playful and funny and very good natured. She likes people, which is a real switch from the last bitch-kitty I had, but she's a one-cat-per-household cat. And she talks. I kept thinking about her the whole time I was in China and fighting the idea of bringing her home. After all, having a kitty puts the kibosh on most serious travel, doesn't it? But like with the Borg, resistance is futile. Cats pick you. You don't pick them. So now my house is covered in cat hair. And white, you know, goes with nothing I own. Nothing. I don't care. She's put punctures in my leather sofa and barfed on my rug more times than I can count already, and cost me $1,000 last weekend to get her butt unplugged. I don't care. It's great to have a beastie in the house again.

I'm back teaching at CNR again, but I also, thanks to a renewed connection, picked up a couple of classes at the College of Staten Island. This is both good and bad. Good because it's a CUNY job and that pays well, plus after three semesters I get benefits. Bad because it's in Staten Island and the first seven weeks were a brutal schedule: up at 6 AM, catch the subway at 6:45 to the express bus at 7:54, reach CSI at 9 AM; office hours from 9-10 (yes, I even get paid for those!); first class from 10:10-1:10, second class from 1:30-4 (no break); run for the ferry shuttle at 4:05, grab the 4:30 ferry back to lower Manhattan and catch the #5 train to the Bronx to teach another 2.5-hour class there, and catch the bus back home, where I arrive at about 9:30. Not much time to eat, and 8.5 hours of being "on," which, believe me, is not the same as sitting in a cube for that length of time. By the time I got back, I was totally knackered. Then I had a 10 AM class at CNR both Weds. and Thursday. After next week, I'll be down to three classes total from 6. I'm still doing the AM class at CSI, but I've only got one more evening class at CNR and then just the Thursday morning classes, so it's not as bad now, but I just don't have the stamina for that anymore. Not sure I ever did.

Not surprisingly, I got sick as a dog about two weeks ago. Not the flu, thankfully, but the usual awful case of bronchitis I get when I'm run down. I'm still fighting it off, but the cough is going away and the stuff I'm hacking up is no longer a disgusting color and doesn't taste like my lungs are rotting from the inside out. Last night I got the first full, cough-free night of sleep I've had in a couple of weeks. Of course, the cat woke me up at 7:30 demanding attention, food, and entertainment. She's like that. Me, me, me.

So with six classes to teach, that's about all I've been doing. Helen was here in October, and I saw Jen briefly when she whizzed through town for the New School's science movie festival. She and I and Helen went to dinner at Spice Market, a place I've been dying to try (well worth the money) and then drinks with Gretl afterwards, so I'm working Helen into my circle of friends here too.

I've been getting some good poems out of the ferry commute, I think, and teaching, as always is something I find stimulating. The classes at CSI were tough, not because of the subject matter (basic computer skills), but the audience. Such a huge difference between the Staten Island "kids" who really are, and the ones at CNR, who, even when they're young, have really had to grow up fast and don't take anything about their education for granted, even when they don't quite know how to be students. The ones at CNR have so many obstacles to overcome and the ones at CSI seem so much more sheltered and take so much for granted that it's frustrating when they goof off and talk over me. Plus I'm competing with the internet because the classes are in the computer lab and they can't stay off fucking Facebook.

I missed Julie's non-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, even though she rescheduled it around me, so I'm getting no Thanksgiving at all this year, which feels a little weird, and that it feels weird is weird in itself because I've never really celebrated the holiday. For a few years when I was a kid, we went down to Uncle Dave's & Aunt Eltha's for an Allam gathering, but that didn't last long because there were so many of us. In college, I rarely went home for it, usually going to the Uncle Ralph's & Aunt Lucy's for dinner. In grad school, I sometimes had dinner with friends. When I moved to New York, Jen and I started having our own un-Thanksgiving: movies and Chinese food. That lasted until she got married and moved to LA. Now I haven't done much of anything, and this year, I'm sick, so I'm sitting here whining about not celebrating a holiday I never celebrated.

It's actually a holiday I like, and never really saw the harm in. It's not religious, it's not especially patriotic, it's more about what Christmas used to be: family and gratitude. I understand that there's also the whole PC suppression of native culture thing wound up in it too that should make me vaguely guilty, but I somehow can't see it that way, either. I think the original celebration was as much about survival and the attempt at sharing the land (which sadly failed) and was turned into the national conquering myth later. We can't imagine the kind of hand-to-mouth existence new settlers had in an unfamiliar land, where a bad harvest would leave them like the Roanoke Colony. It's essentially a harvest festival, something people have celebrated since we've been planting crops. It's hard not to be thankful for a good harvest when your life depends on it, and I don't really see any reason not to express that thanks. I like it because it's not a holiday that involves presents. It's about food, family, friends, and gratitude.

But I was never allowed to say "Happy Thanksgiving" when I was a JW. That was somehow giving glory to some other god, though I never really understood why. I understood why we didn't celebrate Halloween, or Christmas or Easter, because they all had roots in pagan celebrations. But somehow being thankful for food and survival didn't seem, well, pagan. It just seemed grateful and human. I like what Michael Ruhlman wrote about it today: "Thanksgiving should be about being with people we care about, about paying attention to what we have so that we don't waste it, so that we make more of it, so that everyone has it."

So now that I no longer identify as a JW, I think it might be a holiday I invest in, like New Year's. I doubt I'll ever celebrate Christmas or Easter as they never had and and don't now have any meaning for me, and Halloween seems just like silly fun. But Thanksgiving I could get behind. Next year, maybe I'll have dinner here. I'm certainly grateful for the friends who form my family of choice, for the good food I have access to here in the city, for learning to cook, for the chance to do it for my friends and send them home with leftovers. I'm happy to share what I have and can do. I'm grateful to the small farmers who invest in old-fashioned organics and free-range food and haul it to the greenmarket every week. I'm grateful I have so many friends to share it with. I'm grateful I have a job (even if I have too many of them), so I can afford to buy good food and share what I've got with others. I'm grateful for my finicky cat, who doesn't really appreciate how spoiled she is.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.


the difference between here and there

9-11Moi Odd conversation today with a friend from Michigan. I'm making a second stab at getting my visa for China and she suggested just calling her if they reject me again and she will put me on the line with someone on her end who could speak to the person I was dealing with at the consulate. Which sounds great, except that there are no cell phones allowed in the consulate. "Well do they take them away?" she asks. Well, no, they don't, but I'm thinking, (a) I'm on foreign soil, and I should probably obey the rules of the country I'm in as flouting them is not going to endear me to anybody, (b) there are American security guards and they do more than just x-ray your bag, and (c) I say, "they do come over and hassle you if you're using one, because they did when I was there the other day. Security people are all kinda jumpy here," I sez. "Jumpy? Why?" sez friend. "You know, 9/11 and all that?" I reply. "9/11? Really? Cuz we're kinda over that here," sez friend.

And I'm thinking, that's because it didn't happen to you, it happened to us. People in my Michigan home town were rushing to the pumps to hoard gasoline while we were watching our city burn and counting our dead. And there are still people here who would like to blow parts of our city up.

And I'm reminded once again that the midwest is another world, and how much things have changed here since 9/11 that haven't touched other parts of the country.


out of the cocoon

DreamingMoi Been a while since I've blogged here, for various reasons. I've been teaching, grading, working on Bronx Voices, mentoring a student in poetry, reading fiction for other writers, doing some editing, baking, cooking, wasting time on Facebook, hanging out with friends who've missed me and basically having a very busy social life. I'm catching up on "Babylon 5" with Eva and Vinnie, and took myself off to see the new X-Men movie on Thursday, and have a date for the new Star Trek movie with Gretl some time this week too. I finally saw Emilie for the first time in three years (since I left AKRF, and I can hardly believe it's been that long). And I have still more catching up with friends new and old to do.

But I feel like I'm missing something essential, however much I love my friends (and I do!). I'm missing time to write, time to make things, time to post here. I haven't written anything for this blog, or Blogorrhea, or Cocktail Party Physics in far too long. I haven't written any fiction, fan- or otherwise in what feels like ages. I have, however, written a pile of poetry, i.e., one a day for the month of April, which I'm now going back and editing and parceling out to various collections. I'm itchy and anxious and wanting to get back to my own work this summer. My grades are due on the 18th, and between then and now, I have a mountain of grading to do.

Lilacs1But today, I took a me day and went off to the greenmarket at Union Square for the first time in ages, at least when the whole complement of booths is there. It was jam packed, full of flowers, people, early greens, bread, cheese, new potatoes, rhubarb, and winter apples. I bought ramps, and asparagus, and pomegranate ginger lamb sausage, and eggs and fresh pasta and spinach, and at the Garden of Eden up the street, Asiago cheese, morels, and grape tomatoes. Oh, and these:

The market was full of lilacs today, and I've been drunk on their scent since I got there at noon. I bought a big bunch of dark purple ones and carried them around with me as I walked up Broadway through the first street fair I've been to in ages (which was crammed with all kinds of food too: burritos, crepes, Italian sausage, smoothies, corn fritters, funnel cakes, gyros), through Madison Square Park, where the line for the Shake Shack was absurdly long, like a movie premiere, and over to Third Avenue to Oren's to buy another pound of Celebes Kalossi beans for my coffee-drinking friends. I got an iced cappuccino because I was flagging a bit by then and staggered into the subway at 33rd St, all the while smelling the lilacs. Now they're sitting on my work table beside me, filling the room with heavenly scent. The only thing comparable is lavender. The odd thing about them is that you can't really smell them if you bury your face in them, but the smell diffuses throughout the room. It smells like spring, like hope, like renewal.

Like vacation.

I came home and cooked scrambled eggs with ramps, asparagus, and morels. Tomorrow I'm going to make risotto with ramps, sausage and asparagus. And the morels I'm going to eat all by themselves. It's been years since I had them, and though it galls me to pay $45/lb. for them when I used to get them for free, I bought an ounce of them (which is quite a lot, since they're hollow) because I've been craving them. I'm over my rhubarb craving, and the asparagus craving is running out. Now I want peas.

And time. But in the meanwhile, back to grading, editing, etc. until the 18th.


poetry month!

Writer Moi It's Poetry Month, peeps, and somehow, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and signed up to write a poem a day, from prompts, over at Writer's Digest's blog Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer. Tonight I'm frantically composing at the last minute because I had a long day teaching and grading papers. There will be an instant replay tomorrow night, probably, but here's the first one, anyway. It's an origin poem, as per the prompt.  I thought, what the hell? Why not go for the ultimate origin? So I've committed science poetry. Be merciful; it's a first draft.

Start Here


It always starts with light
real and metaphor:
a minuscule point
floating
in the deeps,
one moment quiescent,
the next—
the universe
cracks open.
Fractions later, the shrapnel flies
at the speed limit of sight,
us and anti-us,
bangs around like bumblebees in a bottle
(those will come much later)
smashing itself
back to nothing first, then
smaller, hotter, faster, fortunately
more us than anti.
Baryons
shimmer into being,
condensing like raindrops
(again, much later). The universe
quarks.
A chill sets in, the particles dance
for warmth, and couple
the way everything does
in long, cold nights.
Hadrons and leptons snuggle;
deuterium is born,
grows up to be hydrogen.
Soon there’s a periodic family
at the table.

In the space of
a hundred breaths:
light and matter, and
all that matters.

© Lee Kottner, 2009

This poem brought to you courtesy of Chris LaRocco's and Blair Rothstein's Big Bang Page over at U of M. Meaning that's where I got my quick and dirty summary of the aforementioned events.


Louis CK: "Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy"

BlueGirlofHappiness It's so true! Amazing shit happens all the time, and not just our technology, but we're such freakin' whiners about everything. The entitlement just needs to stop. I love this because it's Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "I Am Waiting" come true. It's the rebirth of wonder, and it's good to be reminded of how utterly, mind-bogglingly magical life is in the Western world, even now when times are tough. And I hate to say it, but the first thing I thought when the financial shit hit the fan was "Yeah, maybe this will make us rethink our mindless consumerism, our privilege, our entitlement, our greed and shortsightedness. Maybe this will force us to remember what's important: our friends, our families, our health, food, clothing, shelter, love, and respect. All those cliche things." Your phone doesn't use  sparks to dial any more, people! And you can fly! Get a grip!


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Out With the Old

PeaceGirl Usually, when I'm home alone on New Year's I like to write a long blog post and contemplate the year gone and the year coming. Somehow, I'm not feeling very philosophical this year, despite the couple of fingers of Glenmorangie sitting in a glass on my desk. Probably because I've been getting my New Year's cards ready to mail and cooking a quiche for Eva's open house tomorrow. So now I'm tired. Plus I've still got a stinking cold. Going on week 4 now.

Despite that, what I am feeling is content, which is a good thing, since there were some big changes this year. For one thing, I started this blog, six months ago, to kind of officially announce that I was taking a different spiritual path than the one I'd grown up in. I haven't talked a lot about that here because it's progressing very slowly. I've been reading a lot about Buddhism, but haven't taken the plunge yet and gone to a sesshin, partially because I haven't made up my mind about what school, let alone what temple or zendo to try. I'm leaning toward Zen rather than Tibetan Buddhism. It seems less encumbered with other religious overlays and I like the austerity of it, and the discipline. I like what meditating does to me and I like the emphasis on compassion. But this is all theory at this point.

The other reason I haven't gone to a sesshin anywhere is because sitting's been kinda problematic for the past year. In a year and a half I'll be 50 and for the last several years, my body's been telling me about it: more arthritis in my hands, stiffness in the morning, more aches and pains, and just generally being nibbled to death by minnows: nothing drastic or life threatening, but some highly inconvenient things. I've had two minor surgeries this year and the everlasting, reoccurring cold since I started teaching, both of which have made it hard to get out and do things, and to get enough exercise. I haven't walked around the city as much as I wanted to because I haven't had the energy.

So I've had kind of a slow year, and a year full of changes and new and ongoing projects. In February, I started teaching again, as an adjunct at the College of New Rochelle's School of New Resources in the South Bronx. Just tutoring at first, then a class on journal writing, and most recently, two remedial writing labs, a literary analysis class, and one on logic and argument. That, by far, has been the highlight of this year. I'm glad to be in the classroom again, happier than I thought I'd be. The most shocking thing is that it's so much easier this time around. In the ten or so years it's been since I last taught, I've somehow learned enough to actually talk about literature in a coherent manner for a couple of hours without notes. I know how to take a story or a poem apart and put it back together. I'm a little amazed at myself. It was always fun before, but it was also a bit of a struggle to fill the time and to trust myself as a teacher. Not now.

And I love my students. They're smart and funny and eager to learn, which is really a joy. I've never had a class as full of people who are as hungry as my students are. Oh, sure, there are a few ringers, but a lot of them are my age or older, almost all of them have families and are working too. They're wonderful people, African American and Hispanic, many of them new immigrants. They give the lie to every racist slur I've ever heard. The things they have overcome to be where they are, to get an education and to better themselves would stymie most of the nice middle class people I know, including me. I just want to get behind them and push. There's a wealth of talent and intelligence being thrown away by not offering free college educations to the poor.

When I was teaching the journal writing class in the summer and tutoring, I was lucky enough to read some of the really extraordinary personal stories that are typical of many of the students at this school. I started thinking about putting together an anthology of some of them, and at the same time, met another teacher who had a theater background and who was putting together a show of the same kinds of pieces. And thus was born Bronx Voices, which we hope will morph, eventually, into Voices from the Five, and an anthology of poetry and prose. I've met some really extraordinary people at this school, this year.

And I've reconnected up with a number of people I thought I'd lost, or with whom I'd been in sort of desultory contact. Helen Kay, a friend from grad school, decided to move over here part time for her business, so I've been helping her set up her new apartment in Carnegie Hill. It's almost ready now, and I'm really looking forward to having her here in the city several months a year. Don Mawson, a friend from my Chatham Days, was down in the city working at Morgan Stanley before the bottom fell out of the economy. It was great to see him again, and I'm hoping to go up to Boston and see him sometime this winter too. We have these long stretches between visits, but always pick up right where we left off. A while back, I ran into Victoria Rosen in St. Mark's bookstore; we hadn't spoken in a couple of years, even though she lives right up the street from Roz & Eva, but we've started going to shows together this year. Victoria gets cheap, last minute tickets to some interesting off-Broadway productions and some of them have been a lot of fun. Even when they're not, I'm really glad to have reconnect with Victoria. Her own spiritual journey was one of the things that made me reconsider mine. We even ended up at one of Steven Eng's shows this year, which was great. He and Neal and Marcia and I all need to get together again too, but at least we're keeping in touch.

Then I got back into Facebook, and a whole new world opened up. I found a couple of people I thought I'd lost track of for good, a bunch from high school and one from my classes at Bergen CC, some from college and grad school, and made some more new ones. Eva introduced me to her friend Julie Kessler this year, too. We'd met at Eva's 60th but really started to hang out with each other this year, doing art crawls in Chelsea, which was a lot of fun since Julie's a painter. And Gretl, with whom I've been hanging out a lot, has introduced me to some really great people too. And there's D.L. and a bunch of other people from New Rochelle, including Daisha, who I think is turning into a really fine poet.

So I'm rich in friends this year. I already have so many I can barely keep up with them all, but hey, you can never have too many friends. I'm not making too much money, but neither is anyone else right now. I've got enough to keep me for a while, even if it tanks out some of my retirement fund. I won't be the only person in that boat. And I hope I'll keep teaching. The editing gigs are getting more frequent and better, but we'll see how that goes. I'm blogging for Jen now, and am going to start blogging for actual money this year too. Wow. Who'd a thunk it?

I didn't get to go to China this year with Laurie when she went to pick up her new daughter, but that was a minor disappointment. The important thing is that Laurie's got a new daughter (whom I haven't met yet) and she's awfully excited about it.

All in all, it's been a very good year, the minor cons canceled out by the very numerous pros: good work, good friends, a cozy roof over my head, good food,

So up next: finishing up the looming projects: books, poems, novels, Bronx Voices. Rejoicing in my friends, continuing the work on my spirituality, hopefully getting over some of the health hurdles that have cropped up (and learning to deal with the new hot flashes! Woohoo! Menopause!). But most of all, just continuing to have a really good life by learning to be more thankful for what and who I've got, without any expectations of them or life in general. Every moment is a new now.

    Sun After Rain in the South Bronx

The sudden sun transforms everything
even here—especially here:
scrub trees in a trash-strewn ravine
become a peridot glade behind their razor wire;
cut stone facades robe themselves in rose gold;
brick walls glow with the fire
that hardened them;
asphalt, rainwashed, glitters like snakeskin,
slithering water;
taxis quiver and run with yolky yellow;
the green of meadows veils, briefly,
the vacant lots and postage-stamp lawns
—all revealed in glory
by the simple, ready grace of light.

–New York, 2008

Happy New Year!


the best gift

PeaceGirl Glitter Text Generator
Happy Holidays to all!


Apollo08_earthrise I still haven't adopted Christmas as a holiday, and I doubt I will, but the sentiments are certainly worth propagating. Since Christmas originally sprang out of various solstice celebrations and the Roman Saturnalia, I'm more likely to mark the passing of the year, than an erroneous date of the birth of Christ. It's now become so hopelessly commercialized that I feel absolutely no attraction to it. But it means a lot to many of my friends, so I wish them all, and everyone to whom it means something important, happy holidays. Likewise to many many Jewish friends celebrating Hanukkah.