30 May 2016

Remembering on Memorial Day

I think often of the street I grew up on. It was a lovely neighborhood with kids my age and older and younger, and interesting people up and down the street. As time went on, children grew up and moved away, adults got older and moved away, one house got knocked down and replaced with a ticky-tacky McMansion-y thing, one child moved back into the family home (after his parents went elsewhere) and one couple is still there. But I'm still in touch with so many of them, of all ages, many through the miracle of Facebook, others because we share Christmas cards and a certain history.

Before my husband and I got married, we scratched our heads about who was going to perform the ceremony. We're heathenpaganatheists and it didn't seem quite right to ask a cleric (though that is what we ultimately did). I had the whimsical idea that we could call in three of wise men from the neighborhood: the Methodist minister from across the street, the rabbi from next door, and the Joyce scholar from down the hill. It'd have been a gloriously high-minded cross-cultural mess with a certain je ne sais quoi about it:

The Methodist minister died in 2002; I was on my way home from his funeral when I learned that my second IVF had failed.

The Joyce scholar died in 2012; his widow is still living in their house, still throwing a holiday shindig, though recently she's made it a New Year's open house instead of a Boxing Day party.

And last winter, the rabbi died.

He was a mensch, tall and courtly, and a scholar. When I was a kid, he was just Gene Borowitz, neighbor. Later I learned that he had a big profile out in the world, a life of "working to advance race relations and civil rights" and helping to "shape Reform Jewish thinking and practice". I remember him today because it's the time of year when the azaleas and rhododendrons blaze away in hot pinks and soft lavenders and creamy whites; his yard was full of fancy azaleas and unusual rhododendrons.

My three wise men are now all gone, but azaleas will always remind me of Gene.

26 May 2016

#TBT Grandparents

My aunt came over for dinner recently, bringing with her a couple of photos of her with her three brothers (one of whom is my father), as well as a picture of her parents/my grandparents.

On the back, the photo is date-stamped 1970. She was born in 1903, he in 1900, so they are 67 and 70 in this photo. And to me, they look just like they always did, and they look old. She had long long white hair, white by the time I knew her, and always wore it piled on top of her head. When we cleaned out their house after she had died, I laid claim to a Victorian silver-plate hair receiver - a small vessel to sit on your dresser, next to your hair brush, to collect the hair you clean out of your brush. It still had a snarl of her white hair in it, which eventually disappeared, victim of a move or a cat.

1970 doesn't seem all that long ago...and yet, it was 46 years ago.

15 May 2016

Dipping One's Toe In The Internet

You know what? The internet is the best. The other day, my sister-in-law sent out a picture of a whale in San Francisco. I - for reasons one need not go into - figured that a poem was the appropriate response, so I googled "poems about whales" (or something like that). And I found this:

Whales Weep Not!

D. H. Lawrence, 1885 - 1930

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and
comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale’s
fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale’s strong phallus, linking the
wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of
the beginning and the end.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.

Honestly, did you have any idea that DH Lawrence wrote an erotic poem about whales?

03 May 2016

Yet Another Edition of What Not To Put On Your Job Application

Once again, we are looking to hire someone at my place of employment. Once again, we roll our eyes at some of the letters and résumés. I am torn between offering these gems with snarky commentary, or letting them speak for themselves.  [I can't resist.]

I am seeking a job in a non-for-profit where I could participate in the development of projects that help people's development. [Nice use of development twice, but what does it mean? Also, it's either non-profit, or not-for-profit, not a hybrid.]

I am sedulous in arts advancement, theatre and dance educated, office experienced individual looking to obtain a position in a stable environment utilizing my education and past experience in a role where I can feel good about the work that I am doing and develop my skills and experience. [My head hurts trying to unpack that sedulous sentence.]

• I have travelled to Canada, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, England, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Czech Republic. [Is travelling a skill? Maybe for a roadie.]
• I also have years of office work experience.  [But what skills do you have?]

I hope that you will give me this amazing opportunity that I have been hoping to achieve.  [I fear that we will be dashing your hopes of achievement.]

I have experience in speaking on the phone.  [Don't we all?]

Some like to think of themselves as out-of-the-box thinkers, I prefer to think of myself as able to make origami out of the box.  [Truth be told, I love this.]

• College Graduate  [This is a skill?]
• Fluent in English [Okay, this is a skill.]

Helped raise over $5,000 independently to dance and did not sit or sleep for 46 hours in connection with the world’s largest school-wide philanthropy efforts to raise over $6.6 million for pediatric cancer. ["Independently to dance"? Stayed up for two days?]

• Electric bass and vintage mopeds [Okay, this is pretty adorable too.]

Seeking Program Development, Coordination, and Administration especially in a people-oriented organizations where there is a need to assure broad cooperative effort through the use of sound planning, strong administration, skills of persuasion to achieve goals. [Word soup.]

Age : 63 Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 240lbs Hair: A little Eyes: Brown [But what color is your thinning hair? No, scratch that, I don't care about any of that personal data and I wish you'd left it off of your résumé because we are not casting a TV commercial or Broadway show.]

I consider myself one of those lucky people who were born with a split personality- not in the clinical-crazy sense, but in that I am capable of adapting easily between being wacky and creative, and incredibly organized. [Wacky. Wacky!]

01 May 2016

"The Many Portals of The World"

Dear Patti,

On a whim, I picked up your book M Train at the library last week. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite a whim, because the book was on my Wunderlist of non-fiction books to read, but I hadn’t gone looking for it - it was out on one of the “Rapid Read” shelves up front and it just leapt into my arms. And it blew me away.

Somehow, I had no idea that you were such a gifted writer. Songwriter? Sure. Singer. Yes? But writer of books writer? This is something I didn’t know.

I’m hard pressed to pigeonhole the book. It isn’t really a memoir, it’s too non-linear for that. It might best be described by a line towards the very end: “An aria for a coat, a requiem for a café.” It meanders all over the place, back and forth in time. So many books! So many cups of coffee! Objects galore, intriguing articles of clothing in spades. How did you come to own a pair of Margot Fonteyn’s ballet slippers? [When I was a kid, my mother and I saw her in the audience of a ballet performance, and she refused to give me her autograph. If she were still alive, would she refuse a selfie with a pre-teen fan?]

A few pages before that phrase about the coat and the café, there's a paragraph about lost possessions. Are they still with us?

My house is full of objects, clothes, furniture that mean something to me - but perhaps not to anyone else. Sometimes I want to catalog them, but who has time for that!

Your simple domesticity slayed me – Patti Smith sews curtains, Patti Smith makes packing lists, Patti Smith cleans up her room. I feel stalkerish in that I jotted down books to read (Frankenstein, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and a toothpaste to hunt down (Weleda salt). I’m thrilled to know that you have cats: one of mine is currently chasing a housefly all around my living room and I think she wishes she had wings. You like Luther, and your favorite Doctor is Tennant – could we hang out and watch Broadchurch one day?

I took the book out of the library, and it slipped into being overdue – I never do that! I’m itchy fingers away from buying my own copy, so that I can re-read it and dog-ear some pages and scribble in the margins.

Hey, thanks. I'm grateful to have been given a portal into your world.


A New Fan