Tuesday, February 6, 2018

SOLTuesday: Printer Update


Last week I reported that I was breaking through my internal doldrums and had replaced the printer that no longer worked. Over the weekend I unpacked the new printer, plugged it in, and started to set it up. But it was stuck at the “connect to wi-fi” step. I have two networks, a primary one and a guest one, and none of the passwords I had written down worked. Everything failed.
                  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I kept trying. This was made more complicated because I have two Airporters (routers), one to extend my network to all corners of my apartment. After one of my failed attempts, the primary network no longer appeared in the list of available networks, and the extender Airport has a flashing yellow light. Once the primary network disappeared, one of my laptops lost its Internet connection and had to be logged in to the guest network. My phone initially was still attached to the primary network, but then I had to log it on to the guest network.
                  Sunday night I spoke with my brother, the computer wiz, but he doesn’t even use Airports anymore. And before I went to bed, I noticed that the Airport Utility no longer found any wireless devices, even though I was still connected to the Internet through the guest network. I was beginning to feel like I had entered the Twilight Zone.
                  Yesterday afternoon I called Apple Support and spent almost an hour with a technical assistant. First he had me reset the primary Airport (this is the high-tech method of poking at an indentation with a paperclip). Finally, it showed up in the Utility, and we went through the steps of setting up the Airport, with me explaining to him what had gone wrong in the past, and him explaining things that had confused me, like, Ethernet being the connection—this referred to the Airport’s cable connection to the cable modem. Ahhhh.
                  Now it all worked, the “new” password was successfully updated. Then I asked Ronnie whether he could stay on the line with me while I set up the printer. Really, I asked, if the printer doesn’t accept this wifi connection, who should I call: Epson or Apple? Who’s responsible? He laughed at that, and said, sure, since he’d been on the phone with me this long, he could stay a bit longer.
                  So he walked me through each step, and this time, the wifi connection was successful. And then the extender Airport showed up in the Airport Utility, and later I noticed that its light had turned green, with me not having to do anything. And all the devices are now connected via the primary network, not the guest network anymore. They just did it by themselves. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SOLTuesday: Getting Moving


Last week I was feeling bogged down by the pileup of objects in my life that were breaking—and I was doing almost nothing to take care of the problems. (See my Essay #4 here.) Yesterday, the dam broke, in a good way.
            First of all, I found the receipt for the printer that no longer prints, and discovered that I was within the period of the 2-year product replacement protection I had bought for $10. Next,
I tested the stuck bureau drawer, as I’ve been doing randomly for weeks, and it opened! Did it fix itself? So, I took the printer back to Best Buy and got a new one, and paid another $10 for replacement protection. Easier than getting it fixed because I would have been without it for as long as it took them.
            Now all I have to do is send off the shoulder purses with broken zippers to be fixed with the lifetime guarantee the company offers. I’ve had these purses for many years and have gotten them fixed many times. Just felt stuck this time. Once that gets taken care of... what new obstacle will present itself to me to be overcome?

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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Essay #4: Breaking Down


           It started last summer. Actually, maybe it was the beginning of last year. Here's the setup. Many years ago I bought a handbag made by Eagle Creek. First, it held everything I needed to carry with me, yet was still small enough that I wasn't tempted to carry more than I needed. Plus, the manufacturer said it has a lifetime repair guarantee. Should a zipper or the brackets holding the straps break, I could mail it to a designated repair place, and it would be fixed. So I bought a second, identical bag, so when I had to send the first one off for repair, I'd just start using the second, and vice versa.
            After years of happily doing this, I noticed that the times between breakdown were getting shorter. When the zipper on bag2 broke just a few months after repaired bag1 had been returned to me, I started using repaired bag1, but didn't send bag2 to the repair shop. Why not? Did I think the repair people were getting tired of fixing my bags? Did I think they weren't replacing the broken zipper with a new one, but were simply straightening out the old zipper so it would work—for a while? Whatever, bag2 sat on my desk, and still sits there.
            Meanwhile, last summer, the main zipper on bag1, which used to zip either to the right or to the left, is now only zipping in one direction. Which means, oh, I won't go into the OCD details of why this matters. The fact is, both bags need fixing now, and I can't send both of them to the repair shop unless I have another handbag to carry my essentials. And I'm not buying a new bag.
            But it's not just these two broken-zipper bags. About a month ago, I wanted to wear a long-sleeved shirt, but when I went to open that drawer of my bureau, it wouldn't move. Ah, that explained the odd loud, unexplained noise I'd heard the night before. I jiggled the drawer—no change. I removed the drawer above and the drawer below, but there was no way to access whatever had broken inside to block that drawer from opening. I should add that about a year earlier, a piece that ensures smooth opening of the top drawer had also broken, but that drawer still opens and closes. I should further add that this bureau is older than I am. Blond wood, Heywood Wakefield, circa 1940, one of the first pieces of furniture my parents bought after they got married, I think.
            My first impulse was to replace it with an identical bureau. An Internet search revealed that all such bureaus are used, and who knows what shape they are in, if I can "inspect" them only via computer screen. Further Internet research revealed that no bureaus I can inspect in a store have exactly the dimensions of my old bureau. Plus, they are really expensive. Finally, I took a long (subway plus bus) ride out to Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where I saw a couple of bureaus that might work, but I have to write out their dimensions and compare them to what I have to make sure I am making the absolute correct choice—especially since what I really want is a replica, not something different. (Is this more OCD?)
            And wait, there's more. A couple of weeks ago, my printer stopped working because the yellow cartridge was empty. The cartridges of this Epson printer do seem to run out frequently, Was it annoyance over this apparent fact that prevented me from going out that day or the next to buy more cartridges? Whatever, it took over a week for me to buy the required cartridge and another few days to replace it. Once I'd made the replacement, I clicked "Copy," the first task I needed done. The printer made its usual sounds, paper came out—but nothing was on it. Meanwhile, I'd left the printer open (so I could remove the old cartridge and take it to the stationery store to show what I needed; doesn't everybody do that?). Had that caused some harm to the printer's innards? I don't know, because I have neither taken the printer to a repair place nor called Epson for repair help; I'd have to dig out my receipt to see if the printer is still under warranty, and the longer I wait, the more likely it won't be.
            So, three major parts of my daily living are broken, and I'm making little to no progress in getting them fixed. What is wrong with me?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Essay #3: Letters, Keeping in Touch with Comics, Part 2


Other comics we (my brother and I, at least) read included Pogo and Mad magazine. It wasn’t until years later that I learned we may have been reading Mad from its inception in 1952. When you’re a kid and you find a new comic or magazine, it doesn’t occur to you that it never existed before.
            Mad was obviously subversive, making fun of everything in sight. Was it the take-offs on TV shows that made them silly, or sillier? Was there political satire I might, or might not, have noticed? Being the child of semi-closeted lefties, I already knew not to believe everything I saw on TV; I wasn’t reading newspapers much until I was a senior in high school.
            But how did we know Pogo was subversive? Was it the reworking of Christmas carols (“Deck us all with Boston Charley,/ walla-walla-wash and kalamazoo/Nora’s freezing on the trolley/Swaller dollar cauliflower, alley-garoo”)? Was it the recurring character protesting, “Destroy a son’s faith in his father?”
            Once I left home, I probably kept up with the comics in the Washington Post the two years I lived in that city. And we read the few comics that were in the New York Post once Jack started working there, and continued to get the Sunday Daily News for our full fix until the 1990 strike at that paper, when we got out of the habit and never went back.
            As an editor at the now defunct publisher Bobbs-Merrill, I was happy to include comics in Pepper Schwartz and Janet Lever’s 1971 book about the early years of women being accepted as students at Yale, Women at Yale: Liberating a College Campus. They suggested we use comics from then-student Garry Trudeau. Working at the Village Voice, I got to copy edit the comics of Jules Feiffer, Stan Mack, Mark Stamaty, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry—just to make sure their words were spelled correctly, nothing more.
            But I wasn’t a big fan of comix or zines. The misogyny of the drawings of women had become repugnant rather than an element to be overlooked. But didn’t Dykes to Watch Out For run in Ms. magazine? I know I read that comic. And there were lots of feminist political illustrations that I think of as “comics,” like the famous on of two women walking down a staircase in the background, while one of their dates waits nervously; the overline: “Careful, honey, he’s anti-choice.”
            Of course, I read the graphic “novels” Maus, in 1986; Harvey Pekar’s Our Cancer Year, in 1995; and Persepolis, in 2003. Why of course—because these comics had literary claims? Many of these new graphic “novels” were personal, which seems especially suitable to the combination of illustration and text. Maus’s subject, the Holocaust, lent its gravity to the format. The image of young Iranian girls turning their hijabs into horse reins or robber masks in Persepolis demonstrated a perhaps unconscious subversion. Graphic novels are now an established form of literature, comics grownup.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Essay #2: Letters 2, Keeping in Touch with Comics, 1

In my second week at Antioch College, October 4, 1960, I wrote to my brother, showing off my dissipated life. After the Josh White concert (see last week’s essay),
“some boys from Siwannee, one of the better boys dorms asked us to a party. It was really dead. One fellow was drinking beer out of a mug, and every time he opened a new can it dripped all over the floor. The other one kept talking about the importance of comic strips and how you shouldn’t let yourself get out of touch with that is going on in the world of funnies.”
            This is one of those scenes I have no recollection of. I don’t remember the name of that boy, so no way to learn whether he ended up in the comics field, either as writer, artist, or critic. From my dismissive tone—the party was “really dead”—I must have thought “the funnies” were childish fare not worth the attention of a college student.
            But I liked “the funnies.” Our Philadelphia newspaper had, I think, two pages of comic strips ranging from Dennis the Menace to Prince Valiant. And my interest in reading comics goes way back to early childhood.
            I still have a battered (and much marked up) copy of Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby (Blue Ribbon Books, 1943), a collection of the cartoon that ran in the left-wing New York newspaper PM. During World War II, a small boy named Barnaby wishes for a beautiful fairy godmother, and instead, one night, a cigar-smoking, fat little fairy godfather with pink wings flies in his window. Naturally, his parents try to convince him that Mr. O’Malley is only a dream, but stranger and stranger things begin to occur. For instance, an old abandoned house in the neighborhood is believed to be haunted. Mr. O’Malley’s attempts to rid the house of “fiends” accidentally uncovers a gang hijacking trucks carrying bags of coffee and hiding them in the haunted house—and the parents and police all believe Barnaby and his friend Jane are the heroes for uncovering the thieves. I read this book multiple times, colored in some of the drawings, wrote comments in the margins.
            The barbershop on our block of 20th Avenue in Bensonhurst discarded out-of-date comic books in a box outside the shop, and neighborhood kids would sit on the sidewalk reading them. There were Classic Comics (classic stories like Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Christo told in comic book format), Blackhawk (a World War II comic with a crew of pilots from central casting, as well as stereotypical Japanese enemies), and Superman. Our mother didn’t care if we read comic books; any kind of reading was reading, and was good.
            The newspaper comics I remember most were the “soap operas”: Mary Worth, Brenda Starr, Mark Trail. I also read Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, Dondi, as well as Peanuts, Archie, Lulu, Nancy, and Pogo. There are surely others, but I don’t remember whether any of the superheroes were syndicated in the newspapers in West Haven and Philadelphia suburbs where I lived through the 1950s.
(to be continued)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Essay #1: Letters, 1

It’s a cliché by now that nobody writes letters anymore. They started saying it when e-mail took over, and e-mail became email when txts took over. No one saves either e-mail or texts, unless they are old obsessives like me. But back when people did write letters, other people saved them, on whatever pieces of paper, or stationery, or notepads they were written on.
            When I went off to college in 1960, I wrote letters home, to my parents, and occasionally to my brother and/or sister. My mother saved them. Sometime in the past, [possibly when they sold their house in Pennsylvania and moved south, eventually landing in Florida,] she sent them back to me. [I’m guessing about the timing because one folder is all my letters from the 1960s, and they moved south in 1970, but maybe I’m wrong about this. Need to check what other letters of mine are filed away]
            I only recently began to reread them, and that is a fascinating exercise. First of all, I can see the seeds of my eventual career as a copy editor in my first letter questioning the spelling of the word “dillys” (I was describing the evaluation tests all the freshmen took to see what courses we would have to take for general education credits, which I said were “real dillys”; without looking it up in a dictionary, I’m guessing it perhaps could be “dillies,” though that looks wrong, too). On the other hand, I misspelled other words without wondering about them: “dissapated,” “deroggatory.”
            Second, all that ancient slang! “Kooky characters,” “they are all nuts,” “skuzzy bunch of boys.” And not so ancient I definitely used “hysterical” to mean “hilarious”—is that when that started, or have people been using hysterical instead of hilarious long before 1960?
            Then there are the scenes I don’t remember. In my letter to my brother, I mention meeting another freshman from the next town over from ours outside of Philadelphia. He knew many of my brother’s friends and said he was their business manager; I think they were in a band. And I express astonishment that one of those boys is a Merit Scholarship semi-finalist.
            And the scenes I do remember, once I read what I wrote about them. One night at dinner that first week an upperclassman sat at our table and introduced himself as a foreign student, though it was obvious he wasn’t. This is what I described: “Then he started talking Russian to me. He had a glass of water, and suddenly he put it to his lips and tipped his head back, as though he were drinking. But the glass was empty. He said he was looking at the lights, that’s the way they did things in his country. Then he asked us what country we came from.” My roommate and I thought this was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen, and I do vaguely remember it.
            Then there are the scenes I remember, but which I remembered in widely different circumstances. The Josh White concert, for instance. In my memory, this was probably my second year, or even third year, and I was on a date. I remembered this because during one of his encores, a string broke, and White continued singing as he restrung the guitar, without missing a beat. But the evidence from my letters says this happened my first week at school, and I know I did not have a date that early in my college career. This is one of many experiences that have taught me the fallability of memory.
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            I plan to continue writing about my discoveries in my letters that I hope will be interesting to strangers. 
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This year there is another essay a week challenge, 52EssaysNextWave. If you’d like to try it, go to the Facebook page for 52EssaysNextWave and sign up. Or just read some of the essays that will be linked to there.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

SOLTuesday: Letters from the Past


My mother kept the letters I wrote her all through the 1960s—from college, living on my own, and my early married days—and some years ago she sent them back to me. I only started to reread them in the past few days.
            When I told my daughter, she related that her husband, Richard, had a box of letters that his uncle had sent to Richard’s mother during World War II. So for Christmas Day, I proposed that we bring out our caches and read them aloud to each other.
            It was a fascinating exercise. Richard’s uncle died during the war, so one of the letters was one his mother had written and was returned to her. It was her plea that her brother intercede with their father about a boyfriend she had that apparently the father didn’t approve of. In an earlier letter her brother had teased her about her boyfriends, who seemed to change with every letter.
            My letters included some stories I remembered, but others I had no recollection of. There were letters I wrote to my younger brother detailing our “wild and crazy” life, staying up until 2 a.m., going to parties at 1 a.m., descriptions of “boys” trying to impress us by acting silly. And then there was the slang that hasn’t survived and the slang that has: “kooky,” “nuts,” “skuzzy,” “hysterical.” Here’s what I told my brother about my college: “To be a non-conformist here you have to wear a suit, and a tie, be clean-shaven and neat. The normal costume for upperclassmen is dungarees, dirty sweatshirt, and sandals.”
            Each letter prompted memories or stories or speculation. It was fun, and to be continued, since we barely made a dent in my letters, and there are still some of Richard’s relatives we haven’t seen yet.
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Grief, Revisited


I met with my financial planner today at TIAA. She was looking through her folder for me and noticed that all the statements there were from 2012. I said that was probably from when Jack and I had our meeting with her after our former financial planner at TIAA was promoted.
            I then had a memory flash of Jack sitting in the other chair in our planner’s office, a memory that felt so solid I could almost see him. The presence of the memory against the absence of his physical self felt so jarring. Is this what grief is? The presence of absence, and the absence of presence.
            There’s nothing comforting about this, but I don’t want to lose my connection to the loss that creates the lack of comfort. Is this morbid? Is it healthy for me? What does “healthy grieving” mean? Why even think in those terms?
            I so want to talk to Jack about this. We had so many family members die in the past 10-15 years: his older brother and sister, and his uncle Bill; my mother, father, and sister. We talked about it, but I doubt I wrote anything based on our discussions. Our words went into the ether, and Jack has joined them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Labyrinth Therapy


I’ve been feeling blue the past week. Two years ago this week Jack went into the hospital for what turned out to be the last time.
            Yesterday I went down to Battery Park. Jack loved New York City, as only a convert to the city can. We sometimes went to Battery Park and wandered along the waterfront. I wasn’t exactly retracing our steps, because the park has changed. There’s theSeaglass Carousel, sea-creature shaped sculptures one can sit in; it wasn’t running when I walked by, but it looked like something Jack might have liked.
            I sat facing the harbor, the Statue of Liberty across the water, Governor’s Island to the left and Staten Island beyond; Ellis Island, Liberty Island, and New Jersey to the right; and in the far distance the cranes that lift containers off the freighters and put them on trains. Seagulls perched on pilings, backs to the wind.
            Nearby, I found the labyrinth I had walked last summer. Walking it yesterday, it felt like a way of moving forward while staying in the same place. Is that where my grief is taking me these days? I do keep moving, but I seem to be still in the same place. Maybe that’s where I need to be right now. 
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Is Physical Therapy Sex?


I have been seeing a physical therapist off and on for the past four years for a spinal stenosis that causes me pain in one of my legs. My therapist is a young man, well, maybe around 40, with lovely blue eyes.
            Mostly, I think he is very good. He explains what each exercise or stretch is for and in detail what each part of my body that’s involved should be doing, or not doing. Occasionally, he will do massage-like “manipulation” on a muscle or set of muscles.
            Every now and then, his work on my muscles takes a form that feels almost sexual. For instance, to work out my glutes, he had me on my back with my legs bent to my chest and my feet against his chest. He then used his own body as a weight to put pressure on my legs. It did indeed stretch the glutes. But it also felt like a position of sex.
            Don’t get me wrong. The door to the room we’re in is open, there’s zero chance that there this is anything actually sexually abusive going on. Of course, we are both fully clothed. In fact, ever since Jack died, I have missed enormously the feeling of another person’s body against mine. (I sometimes wonder whether I continue to go to physical therapy just for the touch of another person. A friend whose husband died suddenly some years ago confessed that she’d starting getting manicures and pedicures just for the touch of another person.)
            Yesterday, we did another one of those stretches, in which he used his body as a weight to stretch out my calf muscle. I usually close my eyes during these stretches because it’s easier to feel how my body is responding if I have no visual distraction. I wonder what he thinks as he uses his body to work on the body of an elderly person. Most of his other clients I’ve seen are elderly people like me. But I can’t ask him. I don’t want him to think I think there’s anything risque about what we’re doing. But in a corner of my mind, or is it my body, I think, physical therapy is sex.
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

SOLTuesday: Dreaming and Writing


I am part of a reading series called Big Words. (The audience at one gathering votes for the “big word” or phrase that will be the prompt for the next gathering.) This month’s Big Word is “Five More Minutes.”
            I thought I had an idea, and a week before the reading (which is tonight), I started writing. But it just wasn’t coming out right. One of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but maybe I just don’t have the skill to make it be what I wanted it to be. What to do?
            A couple of nights later I was having a hard time sleeping: lying awake, dozing for a while, snapping awake again. In one of those snap phases, I had the image of a young man named Charles Fletcher, who lives in the 1950s in one of those classic red-brick apartment buildings in Queens, New York, and has a mild crush on an older woman who lives in his building, who has three children. Hmmm, what could I do with that?
            The next day, I had a few hours between meeting friends. So I took my laptop to a nearby library, sat down, and wrote a story. Sent it to my writers’ group, who gave me excellent feedback (way too much setup; doesn’t really end), and yesterday did a revise.
            No time to send it back for more feedback. I will just take it out and run it past the audience tonight. I hope they like it.
            Should I post the final version here?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

FiftyYearsAgoToday: Norman Vincent Peale in My Life

A temp agency sent me to work one day a week at the Marble Collegiate Church, at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. (This was my deal with Jack when I quit my job at Bantam Books and went back to school full-time, that I would work part-time so I would never have to ask him for cigarette money.) Marble Collegiate Church was the home of Norman Vincent Peale, who for those of you too young to remember, became famous for writing a self-help book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” (a forerunner of “The Secret”?), which was widely criticized by mental health practitioners and theologians.
            I worked for an assistant minister—I think it was Arthur Caliandro, who followed Peale as minister, but can’t be sure—who liked to have long conversations with me after I made it clear that I was an atheist. I think ihe was first interested in my being Jewish, wondered whether that would be a problem for me working at the church, and when I said no, I wasn’t religious in any way, he was even more intrigued. I think he wanted to persuade me to become religious, and I didn’t mind these conversations because it was more interesting than the secretarial work I was being paid for.
            There was no smoking in the office, so if I wanted a cigarette, I had to go to the ladies’ room and smoke in a stall. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to do that either, but I don’t remember being chided for it. I worked there for several months, but by the following spring, I was temping elsewhere.
            You may remember during last year’s campaign mention of Trump’s attendence at Marble Collegiate Church. The current minister says he was never an active member, but he did marry his first two wives there. Here’s a Washington Post article from almost two years ago about Trump and Peale.
            Side note on Norman Vincent Peale: My senior year in high school, I took a class called Social Problems. The teacher, Mr. Wilcox, was primarily the football coach. One of our assignments was to read Peale’s column in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer every week and discuss it in class. He was also against alcohol and maintained that when the Bible referred to “wine,” it really meant “grape juice.” (My yearbook tells me that he graduated from Swarthmore College, which surprises me, and the Internet informs me that he was president of his freshman class in 1923-1924.) #52essays2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

SOL Tuesday: From the Archives


Today’s slice of life is something that happened many years ago, March 1980, to be exact.
            At the time I was copy chief at the Village Voice, in charge of three copy editors, a legal researcher, and six proofreaders. One of the proofreaders had gone on an extended vacation to Indonesia. On March 17, I got this telegram from her: “Wallet passport stolen national holiday red tape cannot return 3/24 paradise lost.”
            A few days later I got an air letter (remember those?) with more detail. She was on Bali, it was the Balinese New Year. She was hoping to get to Jakarta, where the American embassy was, but with no money, and no American Express office on Bali, it might be difficult. (Her letter noted that the airport she was sitting in kept playing a loop of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.”)
            A couple of weeks passed, and I heard nothing more. Was she all right? Had she managed to get to Jakarta? Was she still sitting in limbo? How to find out?
            In the days before e-mail and cellphones, I turned to the traditional. I called the State Departent. Explained the facts about my employee, and asked whether there was any way they could find her.
            Indeed, there was. I forget how it was done, but they found her on a beach. Got her a new passport, got her on a plane, and she was back in New York by early April. What an adventure, both for her and for me. I did feel like a mother hen, but what if she really had disappeared? 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Becoming an IOL

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I am turning into an irascible old lady. Today was the Bank Street School for Children's Fall Fair. When my daughter went to this school, its fall and spring fairs were held inside, in the lobby, the auditorium, and I think also in the cafeteria space, maybe some classrooms as well. For maybe the past 20 years, the fairs have expanded outside, with one of those blow-up slide/trampoline things in the middle of the street and various activities and food items for sale at tables on the sidewalk. A few years ago, they set up a small stage, on the sidewalk in front of the school, with a singer.
    I should add that I live next door to the school. Even as the fairs moved outside, it was still possible to walk up the street unimpeded except by running small children. Today, however, things got exponentially worse.
    First, a stage with band was set up in the middle of the street, with about 10 rows of folding chairs for the audience. Okay, the music was loud, but I could live with that. But when I went out, it became obvious that i couldn't walk up to Broadway on my side of the street -- it was completely blocked by some kind of setup, which I didn't pay attention to. I crossed the street.
    At one point, near a tree that narrowed the sidewalk considerably, were 3 or 4 adults, hanging out. As I approached, a woman with a baby in a front sling joined these adults, effectively blocking the sidewalk (I was pulling a wheelie so I needed a little bit more room) and apparently not noticing that someone was trying to get by.
    I may or may not have said "excuse me" first, but I did say, "You're blocking the sidewalk." She said, "It's the school fair." I said, "There are people who live on this block." She said, "It's just for today." I didn't have time to continue this back-and-forth of rudeness. If the school had put up signs saying they were going to taking over the street and sidewalk, at least I'd have been prepared. But this is just more private enterprises taking over public spaces, and the public be damned.
 (Blogger isn't letting me insert the Slice of Life image. Don't know why.) 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Essay #9: Dream & Memory

The brain doesn’t distinguish between dreams and memories. So said some article I read in the Science Times some years ago. But what does this mean?
            If I dream something, will I later think it is a memory of something that happened while I was awake? Or is it simply that the same parts of the brain are at work when we dream and when we remember? What is happening when we “remember,” anyway? Memories aren’t snapshots stored in synapses that come to consciousness in identical form every time we think of the, again according to articles I’ve read. Instead, eachact of remembering recreates the memory, which feels the same, even though it may vary in detail that we don’t notice.
            So, too, with dreams. I’ve been writing many of my dreams as soon as I wake in a dream book for 20 years. Sometimes as I wake, I remember only the most recent part, i.e., the ending of the dream. But as I start to write, more detail of what led up to that ending comes to mind, and I write that too. Am I actually “remembering” more of the dream, or is my brain creating the dream as memory as I write? How much is the dream or memory contaminated by my imagination? And why do I think it’s “contamination”?
            All of it—dream, memory, imagination—is created by my own brain. None of those—dream, memory, imagination—exists independently of me, my mind, my brain. Until I write them down. Once on paper or computer screen, the words exist independently of me, available for anyone else to read, comment on, ignore, argue with. They become part of a conversation connecting me with other humans. Words make the dream, memory, imagination social.
            Maybe this is something Donald Trump does not understand about his tweets. The words his fingers create are no longer only in his head. Other people read them and respond, not necessarily in the way he wants them to, if he even has a thought about the effect of his words on anyone but himself.
            What does he think his words do, other than express his feelings of the moment? What is it like to be a thought in Donald Trump’s mind? George Will, the conservative commentator, said last spring that Trump doesn’t know what it means to know something. A writer in the National Journals says Trump resembles an American monarchy, with him in every corner of public life, the actions of his family followed like the activities of the British royal family. And it’s looked to me like those around him behave like courtiers, yessing him and manipulating him so they can remain able to prevent him from inflicting damage on the world.

Essay #8: Catching Up


            I had such hopes for this year. I’d write every week for Vanessa’s 52 Essays in 2017. I’d write every Tuesday for the Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Tuesdays and daily for their March Slice of Life Daily Challenge. I’d write every day in April for the Blogging AtoZ Challenge.
            Well, I have no discipline. I got through Week 7 for the essays. I missed only four days in March (posting twice a few days when I missed the actual dailiness). I wrote 10 blog posts for the blogging challenge, but posted only seven. I have managed 20 of the Tuesday slices of life, which is half the number of weeks so far. So Slices of Life get most of my attention—or maybe just what I’m in the habit of doing; this is my third year on that project.
            But I’m going to try to get back into the essay challenge. Only 11 weeks left in the year, so unless I write four essays a week from now to the end of the year, I’ll never catch up. But writing is better than not writing. Writing always tells me what I think. I often don’t know otherwise, or don’t remember. If I don’t write it down, I can’t remember it.
            This has always been the case with my brain. Tell me something, and really, it does go in one ear and out the other. I might remember a conversation being interesting, or fascinating, or boring, or annoying, but the details of why are lost in fog. Unless I write them down.
            Many years ago I saw someone on a subway platform wearing a T-shirt that read: “Writing is thinking, not thinking written down.” I want that T-shirt.
            (Is this an essay? It is because I say it is.)#52essays2017