Category Archives: books

a healthy sense of detachment

NewYork_2012-04_April-5“For [Europeans] work was not an obsession or even, it seemed, a concern. And the notion that a person should subordinate himself to a corporation, especially an American corporation, was, to them, laughable.”

“If you are a self-possessed man with a healthy sense of detachment from your bank account and someone writes you a check for tens of millions of dollars, you probably behave as if you have won a sweepstakes, kicking your feet in the air and laughing yourself to sleep at night at the miracle of your good fortune. But if your sense of self-worth is morbidly wrapped up in your financial success, you probably believe you deserve everything you get. You take it as a reflection of something grand inside you.”

“There was a deep behavioral connection between bond trading and takeovers as well: Both were driven by a new pushy financial entrepreneurship that smelled fishy to many who had made their living on Wall Street in the past. There are those who would have you think that a great deal of thought and wisdom is invested in each takeover. Not so. Wall Street’s takeover salesmen are not so different from Wall Street’s bond salesmen. They spend far more time plotting strategy than they do wondering whether they should do the deals. They basically assume that anything that enables them to get rich must also be good for the world. The embodiment of the takeover market is a high-strung, hyper-ambitious twenty-six-year-old, employed by a large American investment bank, smiling and dialing for companies.

And the process by which a take-over occurs is frighteningly simple in view of its effects on community, workers, shareholders, and management. A paper manufacturer in Oregon appears cheap to the twenty-six-year-old playing with his computer late one night in New York or London. He writes his calculations on a telex, which he send to any party remotely interested in paper, in Oregon , or in buying cheap companies. Like the organizer of a debutante party, the twenty-six-year-old keeps a file on his desk of who is keen on whom. But he isn’t particularly discriminating in issuing invitations. Anyone can buy because anyone can borrow using junk bonds. The papermaker in Oregon is now a target.”

“My father’s generation grew up with certain beliefs. One of those beliefs is that the amount of money one earns is a rough guide to one’s contribution to the welfare and prosperity of society…It took watching his son being paid 225 grand at the age of twenty-seven, after two years on the job, to shake his faith in money. He has only recently recovered from the shock.”

—Michael Lewis, Liar’s Poker, 1989
Recommended to us on yoga hike by Miguel
We got a lot of good stuff that day

Steel-welded Sculpture, The Sun God, by J. McKeon

but she didn’t like dogs or cats or


The girl had taken the Ph.D. in philosophy and this left Mrs. Hopewell at a complete loss. You could say, ‘My daughter is a nurse,’ or ‘My daughter is a school teacher,’ or even, ‘My daughter is a chemical engineer.’ You could not say, ‘My daughter is a philosopher.’ That was something that had ended with the Greeks and Romans. All day Joy sat on her neck in a deep chair, reading. Sometimes she went for walks but she didn’t like dogs or cats or birds or flowers or nature or nice young men. She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.

—Flannery O’Connor, “Good Country People”


the anointed line


“She took the pen carefully and looked at it, twirling it around slowly as she did so. Then she wrote her name in the registrar’s entries of death book on the anointed line. She looked as if she was praying as she wrote. He looked over to see if her writing was as lovely as he was expecting it to be. It was; she had a beautiful hand.
_____The woman smiled at him. The intimacy between them had been like love. Mohammad would miss her. She said, “Thank you,” to him. She put the certificate and official papers in the Please Do Not Bend envelope that she had brought with her. She paid the fee for her own copy of the death certificate which she looked at before putting it away, as if to check if everything was all right.”

— excerpt from Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Photo: Book in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Book: Beautiful novel read on trip by Scottish writer Jackie Kay.

2010 forgotten vignettes

NewYork_2010-09_802-lobbyWhen I first moved into 802, an art deco building in Washington Heights, I adored the mural of the prancing maiden and her leashed—antelopes?—in the lobby. I still love them and the quaint building. But one day last summer, I walked in and saw these hideous sofas placed in front of her. It was clearly a sign: my days in 802 were numbered. Before these, there had been an equally old and musty sofa, but it was less gaudy, and the color at least matched her blouse.

As I packed to move, I heard lots of great stuff on NPR (like astrophysicist Brian May’s Bohemian rhapsody interview) that I wanted to look up and listen to again, undistracted, but didn’t have the time. When I was writing the chrissie/lebron/akron bit, I remembered the Rita Dove piece I heard on Selected Shorts: Strong Men, Stronger Women and intended include her in post (yes, she’s from Akron), but forgot. When I unpacked American Smooth I remembered. It demands a listen. (I listen to stuff when I clean. Makes it bearable.)

Dance is woven through American Smooth and it makes me wish, again, I had more time to dance and time to learn more. But I’ve barely time to do the things I’m committed to do well. It does make me sad that American culture has such little place for gathering to dance. One of the reasons, surely, why we are so fragmented.

Yesterday, I saw Barbara Ehrenreich on PBS. She mentioned her book: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. A nice change from her usual reportage about America becoming more and more like a third world country because of government favoritism of the wealthy and the insane wealth disparities that have resulted. (Did you know that “janitorial service” is the fastest growing job in the USA?) And because we don’t dance. My assertion, not hers. Maybe hers—I haven’t read the book yet.

american_smoothMy decision to finally get the internet at home so I could watch PBS (inspired, I admit, by the Circus! ads on the subway) was not misguided.

I just happened upon this line from Rita Dove, from an interview with Robert McDowell: “In African American culture, dance has always been a key element—a communal activity that soothed and united all levels.” From my travels, it seems to be that dance is something that brings people together in most cultures, save white, protestant countries. Though to be fair, some white, protestant ministers appreciated dance. Dance was a part of my Lithuanian family, though mostly in stories of days gone by. After my grandmother died, I went to a party at the Lithuanian-American club in NYC (not somewhere I generally frequent), and we danced and danced until the wee hours. At least, the older folks did. I went to a friend’s elaborate Indian wedding a few months ago, and everyone danced. What a joy!


Bolero by Rita Dove

Not the ratcheting crescendo of Ravel’s bright winds
but an older,

passion: a woman with hips who knows when to move them,
who holds nothing back
but the hurt

she takes with her as she dips, grinds, then rises sweetly into his arms again.

delicate. Not tame. Bessie Smith in a dream of younger,
(can’t you see?)

days. Restrained in the way a debutante is not, the way a bride
pretends she

How everything hurts! Each upsurge onto a throbbing toe, the prolonged descent
to earth,

to him (what love & heartache done to me), her body ferocious,
a grim ululation
of flesh—

she adores him. And he savors that adoration, this man in love
_________________________________________with looking.

She feels his look,
his sigh

and she moves, moves with him to the music in the space
_________________________________________allotted them,

spot lit across
the hardwood floor.

I heart NY, part iii

The last installment of “I <3 NY.” For better or worse (…richer or poorer?), life here is like nowhere else.

♥ Samad’s Gourmet. On Broadway between 111th and 112th, Hikmat and Wassim run a great little deli with fantastic wraps, muffins, and coffee. Their excellent baba and hummous are made with tahini they bring in from Lebanon. The two friends are always good for a chat and seem to know half their customers, which inspires a loyalty strong enough to keep some of us away from the neighborhood bully, West Side Market, across the street.

♥ Galleries. I don’t have favorites, I just love that there is always something to see. I think that I might see less because I know something is always there (if you are in a smaller place, you make sure to see what you can, when you can). My friend, Peter, blogs about what he wants to see and where, so if your interested in what to see now, check him out. Above: Matthew Marks. (Okay, Sasha Wolf Gallery is great for photography).

♥ My favorite museum is the Guggenheim (pictured above in grainy cell phone snap). I love the sloping gallery and have seen some amazing exhibitions there. Cai Guo-Qiang and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle come to mind (heavens, was that eight years ago? I loved that). The Metropolitan Museum of Art is worthy of years of exploration, and the rooftop cafe/bar offers great views of the park. After reading the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (by E. L. Konigsburg) as a child, the Met has been a beloved place. Yes, the Natural History Musem. Who’s coming to the silk road thing with me? Yes, the Rubin Museum. It’s such an incredibly beautiful space with great shindigs on Friday nights. MoMA? I’ve never loved MoMA. Part of it is the crowds, as the only time I truly enjoyed it was an empty night on the eve of a holiday. And part of it is that I’m partial to staring at pretty things.

♥ Cold, fresh snow air. I don’t like cold winds, but I love do love the smell and crispness of the air when it snows. And when it’s so cold that few people are out crowding the streets. The Swedes like to say, “There’s no bad weather. Only bad clothing.” Bundle up and go play!

♥ New York Moments. #1 comes last. They pop up everywhere if you let them. Moments with strangers on the subway when you both observe some third-party behavioral silliness or transgression and you lock eyes understandingly, made all the more intimate by the fact that such communication is generally forbidden. Moments when you overhear snippets that make you giggle out loud (a bit less special now given the curious popularity of the mobile phone. This device has made these snippets entirely too frequent and at times, cumbersome. Alas, I do celebrate that they do not yet work underground).

Further: Stumbling on a tag scrawling your best friend’s nickname. Spotting the silhouette of a guy in a top hat, who’s singing opera while pacing underneath a bridge in the park. Admiring the outfit of a lady at lunch who has very interesting ideas about how to accouter herself (e.g. above @Caviarteria), whilst you bemoan that the people who have money in this city so seldom have the taste or creativity to know how to use it properly. A man dining with his bulldog. The erroneous number of carbs in bagels, mushrooms, cream of wheat, and jello scribbled on a MTA trashcan in silver pen. Superman strapped to the grill of a delivery van. I could make a slide show of favorite NY moments captured on film, and perhaps I will. For now, a set of my favorite NY images are up on flickr. It features a NY moment or two.


Previously:  I <3 NY parts one & two.

care for your introvert. NOW.

gallery-guyI have come to the shocking conclusion that I am an introvert, more or less. It explains why I don’t understand people walking about texting and messaging and chatting, chatting, chatting, all hooked up or into one gadget or another, why I’d rather sit at home reading on Saturday night, and why three real, true friends are enough—ideal even.

I’ve never really thought of it from this perspective before, partly because I’m not entirely introverted. Or perhaps I’ve let the status quo convince me to convince myself that ’cause I’d like not to be a wallflower, I’m not. (Though many would argue that introverts are not wallflowers.) Introverts get tons of bad press, because quite frankly, we make extroverts (the majority) a little nervous.

This came to me because I happened upon a book on introversion. Did I see it for sale on the street, or did I seek it out because all the social networking, which one must do for professional reasons, has me feeling out-of-sorts? I can’t recall. No, okay, I’m not such an introvert that I won’t do facebook, unlike my closest friends. But twitter? Ugh. Even using a cell phone is out of my comfort zone most of the time. Email is an introvert’s delight. I can read messages in quiet calm, think about them as long as I like, and reply when I’m in the mood. What bliss! It honestly didn’t occur to me, until I came across this book, that most people think I’m as out of whack as I think them mad to be thumbing a small gadget at all hours.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reposting here old bits I’d long ago originally posted in html so that they feed into the categories and all else on the site, which meant rereading my posts from the 2000 tour. Whoa. Oh course that was a disaster job for me. It’s not that I didn’t like the people or the travel, or even the job. It’s that I need time to myself, to process. And there was no free time. Less than time, even. I said that then, therefore knew that then, and I’ve been writing about it ever since (hence the time & values category), but even now, almost a decade later, I still push myself too far, out in the city from 8am–10pm trying to fit everything in. And I wonder why I get cranky.

Granted this is complicated by working a full time job that has nothing to do with my passions and everything to do with a small but steady paycheck with generous holidays and health insurance. When I add the yoga teaching, my own yoga practice, writing, photography, and life, there isn’t that much time left for relaxing with the the ones and things I love. Alas, I’m almost done with the training and I’ve cut my teaching schedule dramatically so that I can address this (which wasn’t my ideal choice, but the only viable option). I realize that in some professional circles it’s suicide to admit I like to sit back and reflect, but so be it. It’s true. I love people but dislike small talk with strangers. I dislike noisy parties, unless I know enough people there to have real conversations. I’m not interested in what my acquaintances think of my hair cut.

I realize that this admission is complicated by the last post, which was a conversation with a stranger on the street. Okay, like I said, I’m not a total introvert. I’m on assbook and all.

To back this up, I looked about the web for some references, as I’m not going to admit what book I’m reading. It’s far too pop-psych. Luckily an elegant piece from The Atlantic popped up, “Caring for Your Introvert.”

“Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?” If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly….If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.”

It’s a great article. Read it. I want to make all my damn professors who forced us to work in groups (which usually means that everyone else chats about all sorts of topics other than that assigned while the introvert does all the work, but is spurned for not chatting enough).

I’m quite lucky that I’m by far the most extroverted person in my department at work. We get each other. (There are reasons I stay. Sigh.) The point here, is that introverts think differently. We love people. We just like to think about things and process them. We are easily stimulated, so too much stimulation is overwhelming and requires a break to refuel. Extroverts are energized by external stimulation. Introverts are energized by peace, quiet and reflection. So care for your introvert. Now.