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'Cole was still full of the diet question.  He now lives chiefly on rhubarb tops--they have such a "foody" taste, his son thinks.  "Dear me! Poor fellow!" Whistler told him, "it sounds as if once long, long ago he had really eaten, and still has a dim memory of what food is!"  "And spinach," Cole added, "it's fine. We eat it raw.  It's wonderful, the things it does for you!" "But what does it do for you?" Whistler asked.  And Cole began a dissertation on the juices of the stomach. . . . . As he talked Cole was eating meat and drinking wine quite heartily.  The evening was not over successful.'

-- Diary entry, June 10, 1900, of Elizabeth & Joseph Pennell
ETA:   ALSO  posted this   on my Tumblr, if you are that way inclined, for easy   Reblogging

* * *

Packing for our drive down to Hollins University to teach for 6 weeks.  Great program: summer MFA/MA in Children's Lit!  Can't wait to get there - and cannot beliiiiiiieve how disruptive it's been to plan & pack for our absence.  We are just like that.  Probably has something to do with the fact that we live in state of constant chaos, so trying to live our regular lives and trying to get everything under control that we failed to do in the past 6 months while trying to anticipate anything we might wish we had done here or hope to get done there is a bit . . . . deep breath . . . . much.

Nonetheless, we will be in a car tonight.  I go to La Guardia to pick up the rental, which I absolutely hate doing, but I hate paying an extra $200 or so just for the chance to pick it 2 blocks from my house even more. (See?  New York isn't all Fun & Subways!) We will then pack it up, drive for a couple of hours, and then hit a roadside hotel.  This is because we are incapable of getting out of the house on a road trip before 3 or so. We've tried. It's hilarious.  And then we hit rush hour traffic, and are very demoralized.  So since we're both Night people, we thought Why not just give in?  And we wake up the next morning in a dingy hotel we can't wait to get out of, and are on the road right away!

Wish us luck.

The only thing I can't figure out is how to do Priceline when you don't really know where you'll be stopping.  Even with iPhones, it seems the 21st century penalizes for some kinds of spontaneity.

“Who are you to begin such a journey?”

EK/DS wedding band
The beginning of all journeys is separation. You’ve got to leave somewhere to go somewhere else. It is also the first step towards freedom: You ignore the voice of Pharaoh inside that mocks you, saying, “Who are you to begin such a journey?” You just get up and walk out.
-- Lubavitcher Rebbe (2007)

The Jewish spring  festival of Passover is called the Festival of Liberation, the Time of our Redemption. So even if you don't observe the holiday, take a moment to draw strength for your journey now.

The days of preparation can be hard, but the journey is a good one.

Happy Pesach to all who observe - and to all, a clean set of cabinets (says she, shaking chometz crumbs out of her keyboard....)!

More Famiy Hijinxs

*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes
The scene:  A Florida beach, where Delia, Brother & I are discussing where the Family should eat tonight

Brother:  When you make a choice for a group, you can't worry; you just say, "Fuck'em if they don't like it!"
Me:  Yes! Yes! I have this theory, 'Some people just lack the "Fuck it!" gene!'  Though me . . . I mostly have it, but sometimes I don't.
Brother: May I be permitted to say that you have it, ah, unevenly apportioned?


Dad's Great Q&A

In family condo in Florida (Sanibel Island).  Dad on the phone with local computer tech help that is clearly of the irritating variety. When he gets off, I express my sympathy.  He seizes a teaching moment:

Q1:  How many people are below average?

A1:  One half.

Q2:  How many are made in God's image?

A2:  O.....K.....

I think it is only fair to add that he comes up with this stuff because, like me, he is a natural snarkmeister - but has been fighting it all his life, with a little more success than I - maybe having kids makes you want to set a good example? Or maybe I need 25 more years, and a few more good koans.....

A little inspiration from the storm

Tonight, my cousins Paul & Debra Saltzman Hill came up from lower Manhattan, where they've been living without power since the storm; Paul, an architect, has been organizing their building to make sure everyone has water and support - including getting people to carry water up to folks on the 12th floor (no elevators!), checking on the elderly, etc.  Because of this, it's one of the few buildings in their neighborhood that didn't need to evacuate just because of no power.

Here on the Upper West Side, they got hot running water and connectivity, and sent out a note to friends letting them know how they were. I was particularly struck by this, in Paul's note:

"As you can see, we have a 
lot of problems. That is a good thing. A few years ago, our rabbi told a story (...) that ends with the moral that only people who are doing pretty well can afford to have lots of problems. Someone who has a serious problem, like their apartment being flooded to four feet by the East River or someone whose neighborhood was burned to the ground can afford only one problem, like no home. We are fortunate to have so many problems."

* * * 

We also went out to dinner with them at our favorite local Turkish restaurant.  Our neighborhood is close to utterly normal - just some gaps in the stores where the owners/workers couldn't get here from other boroughs (or NJ!).  Our mailman said it took him 3 1/2 hours to drive in from NJ yesterday, since he couldn't use a lot of the roads.  Our doorman got up at 4:30 to come from Queens, so he wouldn't have to worry about the mayor's rule that from 6am - 11pm no car without 2 passengers could cross a bridge into Manhattan.

Some of our subways are already back up & running!  Including the one from our place to Times Square - so we are going tomorrow night to see a new production of Beaumarchais' Figaro off-Broadway.

I tell you this not to boast or to minimize what's happening, but in the spirit of "Things the Media Won't Tell You:"  the News is all horror stories & images, which have frightened & worried many; I think you need to know that not everyone in NYC is in the dark.

My cousin did say, however, before she left (on the bus, which is free through tomorrow, and runs pretty much from our door to hers 80 blocks away) that we could have no idea what pure joy it was to be able to simply flush a toilet.


We were supposed to leave for WFC in Toronto today, but we canceled rather than face the possible difficulties of travel from here.  And, to be honest, I felt I wanted to be with my city while this was going on; to see my cousins & make sure they had hot showers; to help Lizza Aiken get to the airport on Saturday; and possibly to take in more friends from downtown who had to flee their apartment when it lost power, because no one can live on the 21st floor without an elevator or running water for long!

They're saying power may be back by Saturday, though.  Considering the miracles city workers have accomplished so far, I wouldn't be surprised.  And I will be proud of them all.

Hope for Artists

Bryn Mawr: Writing
'It was Thomas Edison, I think, who famously said, after failing for the hundredth time to invent a working light bulb: “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found a hundred ways not to do it.” That is a really good principle for artists.'
-- Howard Gayton,
in his interview with Brian Froud & Wendy Froud on collaboration, Part 2,
read the entire wonderful interview here


quote of the day

*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes
“There is luxury in self-reproach.
When we blame ourselves,
we feel no one else has a right to blame us.” 

 — Oscar Wilde
Ah, Oscar!  Right on the money, as always.  

I do get so cross at some peoples' pre-emptive apologetic strikes, and have been wondering why that sort of apology bothers me so much . . . . I think it is their assumption (however unspoken or unconscious) that I am blaming (and by extension, attacking) them; makes me feel unjustly accused, and somewhat inclined to snap rather than soothe, unless I know them very well.

I must strive to be a Better Person.  And I do. 

But I don't suppose you self-reproachers would consider making it easier on some of us?

Never apologize; never explain!

You'd be surprised.



‎"Stories are always really, really hard. I think it's totally rational for a writer, no matter how much experience he has, to go right down in confidence to almost zero when you sit down to write something. Wy not? Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you."
-- John McPhee: 
The Art of Nonfiction No. 3
The Paris Review
Spring 2010


"I do not want actors and actresses to understand my plays.  This is not necessary.  If they will only pronounce the correct sounds, I can guarantee the results."
-- George Bernard Shaw

I'm not sure I agree with that - hell, I'm not even sure GBS did - but I sure love the line.  Gearing up for more "illuminated" audiobooks, control freak that I am, I wonder if I should back off the actors some . . . . Nah. GBS never did.  He was a complete pain in the ass at rehearsals.

I read a lot of GBS when I was a kid - over and over and over and over . . . . I had Pygmalion, St Joan, and Androcles and the Lion. I made my best friend in HS come over after school and read the best scenes in Joan aloud with me (guess who was Joan?) - and I honestly read the Introductions over and over, too. The resemblance of the end of Swordspoint to that of Pygmalion is not an accident -- or rather, it is an accident: I only realized some time after the book was finished just what it was I'd done.  

As influences go, I can think of worse.


Other People's Journals

Nipped over to see if handworn was still in the game so I can ask him about rugs,* to discover that he has been posting extremely fine quotes almost every day for awhile, among them this from Evelyn Waugh:

"Anyone could write a novel given six weeks, pen, paper and no telephone or wife."

Clearly, Mr. Waugh meant to type "and the internet" but got distracted.

Suggest you head on over to handworn, then, and don't miss the brilliant obituary apparently written by a lamentably lost friend of his herself.  It is long and hilarious and bittersweet.  A sample:

"She then moved to New York City and pretended to pursue a career in theater. When it became apparent that she was too lazy for a theatre career, she turned her attention to other opportunities . . . .  During those years, Miss McGarr's personal life was more interesting than her professional life. She visited her family in Alabama frequently, but good taste prevented her from disclosing most of what was going on...

"Quitting was an activity she had come to love and would enjoy for the rest of her life."

Today we meet with my agent to discuss more audiobooks.  Tomorrow we take my old Klezmer Nutcracker director & her teenage foster daughter & friend to the Big Apple Circus.  Yesterday we took my Israeli publisher to see Porgy & Bess (which deliasherman has either just reviewed or is about to), starting with dinner w/a young Israeli writer living in NYC whom I wanted him to meet - and they had plenty of time to chat while I was still at home desperately trying to find my wallet, which in a fit of cleanup I somehow left on Delia's desk (that's a new one!) - and then took his 80-yr-old traveling fool of a mother & his sister for drinks at B'way hangout Joe Allen's, to see the Wall of Shame (posters of shows that flopped big) - and the day before that we saw 2 movies & found a Chinese restaurant on E. B'way that was not already full or hosting a wedding party . . . .

On Saturday, we fly to Florida. Never have I looked forward to tedium, family & sunshine with more enthusiasm.  Meanwhile, if I owe you a contract or a bio or a proofread or a interview (*coffcoff* BrittMandeloErinUnderwoodNancyHoldringJoSelleVanderhooft *coffcoff*) I swear it will be done!!!!  And if I owe you a holiday card . . . Well, we're working on it. Truly.

*Rugs: A few years ago when I was whinging about it all - these being the very rugs we ended up putting in storage that we just disovered got all chewed by moths (see my previous post) - he turned out to have a vast knowledge of antique ruggery, and wrote me some useful and informative comments which I fear I'll never find again.

Also, many thanks to all for the moth advice, particularly the generous engarian . 

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August 2014



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