Category Archives: home

content to have missed the fall

Building before collapse, 8th Ave

I took this photo on a walk at about 4:30p yesterday, and walked back this way an hour later as winds were really kicking up. The building at the far right behind the bus signs lost its facade sometime after 6p. I am content to have missed the big moment.

Safe and dry, but haven’t had power since about 8:47p last night. Am at a friend’s on the UES, where it feels like nothing happened, charging my phone battery and gathering info before I head back downtown to candles, walnuts, and an evening practice.

Stay safe everyone.

spectrum of light

NewYork_2011-07-13_CellSnapsLast Wednesday, on the train to yoga at 6-something a.m., there was a guy standing in the doorway wearing a colorful tie-dye shirt. I thought it was an old school Lithuanian basketball shirt, but I haven’t seen one in years. I squinted to read the lettering, and indeed, it said, “LITHUANIA.

I smiled. Very auspicious. My word, those shirts are about twenty years old now. When I got off, I said to the guy, “I like your shirt.”

He said, “What?” then, “Thanks,” with a smile. His accent was francophone West African, which made me smile back.

George told me the other day that Z is Nadia’s (his niece) favorite basketball player. Or was when she was two, and still lived in Cleveland. “She would say on the phone, ‘I am sad because Z is sad. The Cavs lost.’ Where is he from, anyway?” George asked.

Žydrūnas Ilgauskas? Georgie!! He’s Lithuanian!” George has listened to my mother telling him how closely related Lithuanian and Hindi are since we were 10.

“Ohhhh. Well, I don’t think I even knew his whole name. I just knew Z.”

I see. Still, that Nadia has good taste in ball players.

That night, walking across 17th Street, we ducked into the Rubin to avoid a crazy storm. When it passed, we headed on toward Curry Hill for dosa. By the time we reached Sixth Ave, a gorgeous rainbow spread across the sky.

So many colors, morning til night. What a lovely town.

heartache incarnate

I posted this poem before, about four years ago. It reminds me of my brother. And of others, too. My mind keeps coming back to it. Maybe because it’s that time of year. Or maybe just because.

So here we are, 2011, the Thursday night before Mother’s Day. For the record, she did not have a good one. None of us did.

I read the poem again. And again. Again, until it is carved into memory. The lines that flow endlessly, beautifully, painfully through my heart are these: “You do what you can if you can; whatever the secret, and the pain, there’s a decision: to die, or to live, to go on caring about something. In spring, in Ohio, in the forests that are left you can still find sign of him: patches of cold white fire.”

Whatever the secret, and the pain, there’s a decision. You can go on caring. Maybe that’s easy for me to say—and maybe it’s not. It’s my decision, to go on, caring. I can’t make it for anyone else, but I won’t pretend I don’t want to.

This goes out to my loved ones, my tribe of true affections, who have struggled with this decision or have suffered the struggles of loved ones.

Perhaps I am selfish, but please, please stay. If you can.


John Chapman

He wore a tin pot for a hat, in which
he cooked his supper
toward evening
in the Ohio forests. He wore
a sackcloth shirt and walked
barefoot on feet crooked as roots. And everywhere he went
the apple trees sprang up behind him lovely
as young girls.

No Indian or settler or wild beast
ever harmed him, and he for his part honored
everything, all God’s creatures! thought little,
on a rainy night,
of sharing the shelter of a hollow log touching
flesh with any creatures there: snakes,
racoon possibly, or some great slab of bear.

Mrs. Price, late of Richland County,
at whose parents’ house he sometimes lingered,
recalled: he spoke
only once of women and his gray eyes
brittled into ice. “Some
are deceivers,” he whispered, and she felt
the pain of it, remembered it
into her old age.

Well, the trees he planted or gave away
prospered, and he became
the good legend, you do
what you can if you can; whatever

the secret, and the pain,

there’s a decision: to die,
or to live, to go on
caring about something. In spring, in Ohio,
in the forests that are left you can still find
sign of him: patches
of cold white fire.

—Mary Oliver

 

I need to go camping.

i love snow

snow
116th and Broadway, February 1993

I’m more than kind of stir crazy. Fourth day of being home sick. Well, First Day I was home not sick but avoiding crowds and simply enjoying home. That night sick arrived just before Santa. Now I’m talking to myself and wondering why big dogs are so cool and little dogs are so hideous (except Daschunds. They are so cute they would never bark. Being so attractive, they don’t need to cry for attention). For example, the neighbor’s little dog that barks at all hours. 11pm? 12am? 2am? 6:30am? Acceptable? They seem to think so. My God, it’s like India. I slept from 12a-6:30a because of that mongrel’s owners. Not so much sleep for a person recovering from massive cold about to have a birthday.

Thanks for the calls and emails and stuff. I appreciate the support. I used to sing made-up songs to myself, loudly, when I was little and sick for awhile. I am just not good at staying put and doing not so much, unless I’ve made a point of it. And hey, even if I did make a point of it (the xmas quiet time), the sick part just switches it up. This was not part of the bargain.

Just when she thought it was time to relocate to tropical island, it snows. Ooooooooooooh, snow.

Saturday: Xmas. West Side Market for the citrus and seltzer. No snow.

old carSunday: Whole Foods for more seltzer and stuff, 4pm. Blizzard has started. Day after Christmas. My waterproof boots are at work, so I did what my mother did when I was little. She put bread bags over her socks to make her shoes water resistant—to her feet anyway. So I got out my sneaks and plastic shopping bags (yes, I ask for plastic. I use them for trash bags. What do you use? Do you, like, buy plastic bags for trash?), wrapped my feet up, stuffed the bags under my jeans, and headed out. Day after Christmas, but no one is out shopping. No one is out at all. The few who are seem kind of grumpy and look at me strangely. Then I realize it’s because I’m grinning from ear to ear. I don’t know why, other than I sure love snow. Do you know this smile? Unwitting and huge, your spirit feels light, and there you are, in the moment, enjoying life like mad even if your nose is running and you have plastic west side market bags tied around your ankles? (And it can’t be due to something epic or cliche, like sex or a sunset.) Snow has this effect on me.

In a smaller way, so does shopping in an empty Whole Foods, which is unheard of. Beautiful. I’m not sure where everyone was. It wasn’t really that that bad out and snow is gorgeous and fun. I filled my basket with smoked salmon (oooh, protein and smooth on the throat), green & blacks maya gold (addiction), some rice (they have Lundberg. Better quality than trader joe’s), and yogurt (ditto). Oh! They have my favorite yogurt: Redwood Hill Farms Goat Milk Yogurt. Hmm. At $7 it’s not my usual choice, handsome as the goat on the label may be. But, it’s my favorite week. And I’m a goat. (My ma’s a goat. LeBron’s a goat. You get it. Sea-goats.) Yes, I’ll take it.

I bought tissues, too. Unfortunately, recycled, which are not suitable for a cold (they’re good for kitchen clean-ups though). As a result my upper lip and under-nose are like leather.

While checking out (zero line—I picked the middle line with no one in it and was called before the people on each side of me, there before I was. Snow-lover’s luck), the woman asked me if it was still coming down. She didn’t look too pleased about it, so I put on a stern face for her and said, “Yes, I’m afraid so.” You have to do this for New Yorkers, myself included, to be polite. It’s not nice to revel in your love of thunderstorms or frigid wind-chill, or, yes, blizzards, when they make everyone else’s life hell.

And if you were (or are) stuck somewhere (God forbid on the A-train in the Rockaways all night), I do feel for you. I’m not gloating. I just love snow, that’s all. Since I was a small fry, it’s been true.

More about my little trek today, but thank heavens, I’m tired and off to bed.

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,
crueler

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.
Not

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

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

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.