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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Shop Local

I lost my Fitbit a week ago. Yesterday, as I walked uptown, I stopped at a Modell’s, hoping to get a replacement. The very young woman at the entrance asked how she could help, and when I said I was looking for a Fitbit, she said the store carries them, but were out of stock at the moment. But she was helpful, suggesting I try another sporting goods store a few blocks away, and also, “You could try online.”
            That started me off. I am on a one-woman campaign against e-commerce, unless it’s absolutely necessary. I told the young woman that I avoided shopping online as much as possible because I didn’t want stores like hers to go out of business.
            “That doesn’t happen,” she said.
            “Oh, yes, it does,” I replied. “That’s why there are so few bookstores now. Everyone buys their books from Amazon.”
            The expression on her face showed this had obviously never occurred to her. “But we say you can order from Modells.com and pick it up in the store.”
            “That’s true,” I conceded, but lots of smaller stores can’t do that. “Just think about it,” I said as I left, “and mention it to your friends."
            Another casualty of e-commerce are stationery stores. First, the small ones are driven out of business by the big-box stores like Staples and Office Max, but those stores are under siege by Amazon as well. I’d looked for a local stationers earlier in the day for the refill for my paper datebook: it’s gone. There are two others still in my neighborhood, probably because there are five universities in the vicinity. 
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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, October 3, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Small World


I love Flax brand clothing. Their linen pants and jackets are my summer wardrobe. And oddly, there seems to be only one store in Manhattan that reliably carries their stock. So, when my white pants wore out in the seat a couple of months ago, I went online to see where I could buy a replacement.
            I found a store in Charlottesville, Virginia. (This was before the white supremacist rally.) Ordered two pair via the Web site (so I’d have an instant replacement if/when my replacement pair wore out), had a problem about the size, called and talked to a human being, who easily fixed the problem—and I got my pants in a couple of days.
            A week later, after the horror of the white supremacists and the death of Heather Heyer, I e-mailed the store to ask if they were all okay, and they replied that they were. I felt I had a connection to this city I’ve never been to, just because I’d bought something over the Internet.
            A couple of weeks ago, my black Flax pants wore out. I couldn’t remember the style of pants I’d ordered in August, so I called the store. The woman who answered was in the midst of trying on a pair of pants for another caller, so she asked me to hold. But she continued to talk, and we chatted some about how when you’ve asked someone to hold, you feel compelled to keep talking so the other person knows you are still there, even as you are doing something else.
            When she looked up my previous order and saw I lived on Riverside Drive in New York City, she said, “Oh, I grew up at 98th and Riverside.” She added, “I went to Ethical Culture and Fieldston” (two private schools), so I added, “My daughter went to Bank Street and Columbia Prep.” Some more chat about the weather and that the windy side streets off of Riverside Drive had sent her mother out of the city.
            It wasn’t a true small world story; we didn’t talk long enough to find out whether we knew any people in common. She did have to get back to her work selling clothes. But it was still a human connection, over many hundreds of miles. 
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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, September 12, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Politics in New York City


Today is Primary Day in New York City for local races. As I went to vote (for candidates for mayor, public advocate, and city council) at a local public school, I passed a table surrounded by volunteers for the incumbent, Mark Levine, and a few feet away a large sign and a young black man handing out campaign cards for the challenger, Thomas Lopez-Pierre.
            After I voted, I stopped by the young man to ask him some questions about Lopez-Pierre. The candidate’s campaign materials all note that, first of all, he is Christian. This struck me as an odd way for a New York City candidate to identify himself, though many who live in the district are Hispanic, and probably Christian. Another campaign handout listed campaign contributions he had received from landlords or other real estate figures, but the photographs show obviously Jewish men wearing yarmulkes. Lopez-Pierre even explicitly claims, on his Web site, that Mark Levine is supported by “greedy landlords,” again showing those men in yarmulkes.
            I had to find out what this young man thought of the overtly anti-Semitic campaign of the man whose campaign cards he was passing out. But after I’d said I wanted to ask him some questions, he explained that he probably wouldn’t be able to answer them well. You see, he had just arrived in New York a couple of weeks ago from Mississippi and had seen this job listed on Craig’s List. Aha, he was being paid; Lopez-Pierre didn’t even have enough, if any, volunteers to hand out his materials. When the young man heard what my questions were about, he was concerned and said if he’d known this, he wouldn’t have taken the job.
            We then had a nice conversation. His name is Jonathan, he’s a photographer, and wants to finish his art degree. He’s come to New York because his girlfriend is attending the New School. I welcomed him to New York, and we shook hands, smiled, and exchanged names. Maybe this encounter will even get Jonathan interested in politics in his new home.
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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, September 5, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Museum Play


            For years, my dentist has been a couple of blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, so whenever I went to see her, I always stopped in, if only to sit in the sculpture garden for a little while. Then she sold her practice, and today I saw a new dentist recommended by a friend.
            The new dentist nowhere near midtown, but his office is very near the subway that can take me to midtown, just a couple of blocks from MoMA. Today because a warm, sunny day, it seemed a perfect day to continue the tradition of MoMA visit after dentist.
            While I sat in the warmth, I noticed a little boy, maybe four years old, making his way up short marble stairs. On his second trip up the steps, he noticed a marble slope right next to the stairs and took the last couple of stops on that slope. This became a new game for him, trying to walk, very carefully, down the slope and trying to walk all the way up. Mostly he failed, but he kept at it.
            His mother noticed, took a picture, sat and watched him. Then he discovered that he could slide down on his belly. That was easy—so he did it, over and over. Until the museum guard came over to say he couldn’t do it anymore.
            The boy was upset. His mother pointed out that it was for his safety—if he got hurt, it would be the museum’s fault. I’m not sure he really understood. They walked off. And I wish I’d taken a picture so I could plug it in here. 



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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, August 22, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Small World Story 1


My daughter and I are on a road trip north, through the western edge of New England, visiting friends, and ending up in the tiny village in central Vermont where my aunt Nita and uncle Ben lived and my husband and I visited every summer, until my aunt died in 1997.
            Today’s stopover was in Williamstown, Mass. After spending last night with a friend, we went to the Clark museum and Mass MOCA before moving on to East Dover, Vermont. At Mass MOCA we experienced one of James Turrell’s light installations (if you don’t know his work, please look it up and visit anything that is near you). I usually don’t use “experience” as a verb, but that is the only way to describe this particular work at Mass MOCA, Perfectly Clear: you stand in a large room painted all white and over the course of several minutes, the walls, floor, and ceiling subtlely change color. You feel like you are standing in the midst of nothing, surrounded only by color, and if you look behind you, the wall of the room you just left has turned some totally different color simply from the ambient light coming from the room you are in.
            As we are leaving this exhibit, we are standing by a couple with two preteen-age children. The woman asks me if I’m from New York, and she thinks she knows me, but she can’t think how. After some back and forth of how we might know each other, we realize that she was my student in the late ’80s in an undergraduate Copy Editing class I taught at NYU. When she told me her name, I remembered her instantly; in fact, I’d noticed her name on the masthead of Scientific American some years after I’d stopped teaching full-time. She was one of my best students, too, and I am so glad she ventured to ask how we might know each other.
            I’m calling this Small World Story 1, because there have been many more and will be many more. We are all only a few degrees from knowing everyone in the world.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Who Is Homeless?


I’m on Broadway, walking to the subway, when I am approached by a black man maybe in his 30s with his arm outstretched, and I think he’s fund-raising for some nonprofit because they are sometimes aggressively friendly. And I’m trying to see what organization is on his T-shirt.
            He comes right up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder, and starts his spiel, which is that he’s homeless and hungry, and can I help him get something to eat, and he’ll even recite a poem, which he starts to do. It takes me a few seconds to realize that he still has his hand on my shoulder, that he didn’t do it merely to stop me, and I say, “Please don’t touch me” (did I say “please”? I don’t remember). He removes his hand. And I think I should give him something, so I get out my wallet and give him a dollar. He takes it and walks away.
            He was ordinary looking, with the beginning of a beard, wearing neat clothing, just a few inches taller than me. The most curious thing about this encounter is that I never felt afraid or threatened. Why not? He did not look like he’d been living on the street. He looked like someone I might know. As though anyone I might know could not be living on the street.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Going to a Yankee Game


Today I went to a Yankee game with my cross-the-hall neighbor. She has a half-season plan and shares the tickets with her various friends and family.
            First, I decided to take the bus, which meant a bus up Riverside Drive, and transferring to a bus across 155th Street into the Bronx, to Yankee Stadium. I used my MTA Bus app to learn when the Riverside bus would get to 112th Street and discovered that it takes just over 3 minutes to get from my apartment to the bus stop. Just missed the bus and had to wait almost 20 minutes for the next one.
            On this bus, we waited about five minutes at 135th Street and Broadway for a new driver. Several blocks on, a woman sitting on a stoop waved toward the bus, indicating she wanted to get on. But she didn't walk immediately up to the bus, instead had a conversation with a man near the stoop, so the bus driver closed the door and started to pull away. The woman then came running up, banged on the door and yelled that she wanted to get on.
            Once on the bus, she berated the driver, walked a few feet into the bus, where I could smell strong odor of alcohol (it was about 12:15 p.m.), and continued to harass the driver. After a few more blocks, the driver pulled over next to a police car and ordered the woman to get out. I was glad she was gone, fearing that a look or a wrong move on my part or any of passenger's would set her off into an attack verbal or otherwise on us.
            As we neared 155th Street, I asked the driver where I should get the bus to the Bronx, and he pointed to a bus in the other direction, which I could see was the one I want. By the time I got off, however, the bus had moved on, and when I checked my bus app again, it looked like the next one was more than 20 minutes away. On Google Maps, I looked to see how far the stadium is from Broadway and 155th -- just over a mile. I could walk that, and I did, in 25 minutes.
            There were massive crowds trying to get into Yankee Stadium, and as I walked to the gate I needed, I felt light drops of rain. It took 15 minutes to get through the entrance, then an elevator to the top Grandstand. Stopped to buy a hotdog and water, resisted a large order of fries, texted my neighbor that I was inside (she was still outside waiting for other friends to give them their tix), and found our seats. And discovered the field covered with tarp and the start of the game in rain delay -- more like drizzle delay, because it really wasn't raining hard at all. This meant I wasn't missing the first pitch and would be able to keep score from the beginning.
            Which turned out to be 2:31 instead of 1:05, so the game started out with an 86-minute "rain" delay.
            The game itself was somewhat anticlimactic. Tanaka did give up a run in the first innning, but considering that he gave up three straight hits, getting out with only one run against him was a good sign. Alas, the Yankees could not manage anything against Jordan Zimmerman, leaving 8 runners on base, 6 in scoring position. Very frustrating.
            As the 8th inning was about to start, there was a flash of lightning, followed by thunder and real rain, blowing in on us, even though we were under an overhang. I had brought a plastic hooded rain jacket and quickly got it on. But as the rain intensified -- and the tarp was rolled out on the field again around 4:50 -- my neighbor decided she didn't want to stay, so we got down the stairs, onto the Grandstand concourse, which had no drainage whatsoever -- inches of rain piling up. We were soaked pretty quickly. Walked through the crowds on the ground level, ran for the D train, and got home in a bit over an hour. 
             (BTW, if the game had started at its original time, it would have been over before the thunderstorm struck, and we could all have been home, and dry.)
            Once home, where the rain had stopped, I checked in on the Yankee channel, which was still in rain delay. Once the rain stopped, they periodically showed us the grounds crew rolling up the tarp, squeegying the field, then poking pitchforks into the ground to encourage the accumulated water to be absorbed.
            Finally, the game restarted, at 8:01. Despite Betances throwing an "immaculate inning" (three strikeouts on the minimum of three pitches each), the Yankees could manage only one hit in their last two innings, and no runs. The few hundred people who stuck it out at the stadium, including children, had an adventure: 2 hours and 52 minutes of game time (a quite reasonable game length), and 4 hours and 37 minutes of rain delay.
            While I usually would never leave a game before the end, I didn't mind this time. It was fun to see as much as I did, come home, and see the rest of the game while eating my own dinner.Top of Form
Bottom of Form

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Computer Success!

            Last year, my math/computer whiz niece set up a router to extend the wi-fi range of my Internet network into the kitchen (my apartment is just big enough that the wi-fi stopped just short of the kitchen table, the only surface I can use as a desk). Early this year, that router died. I was able to get a replacement under the warranty, but setting it up was not so easy.
            I thought I am computer savvy enough to figure out how to set up the new router myself. But after plugging it in and going to the Airport Utility (I have a Mac), the first step asked if I wanted to “switch networks,” and I had no idea what that meant. Switch from what? Would this affect my existing network? And what’s the password for my wi-fi network anyway?
            Just as a test, I chose another network on my base station Airport, and discovered that neither of what I thought were the passwords worked. Oh, dear. I knew there is a way to discover my password in the Airport Utility, but just searching around, without guidance, failed to find it for me. So the extending router has been sitting on the table next to where I usually work, flashing yellow, for months.
            Finally, yesterday, I went to the Apple Store. Finally, I also googled* “how to find password on Airport Express” (should have done that months ago). The Apple Store person helpfully suggested I call 1-800-MyApple and have them walk me through the process. Okay, I thought, that sounds easy.
            Today, I figured I’d try it myself one more time, so I’d know exactly where the snags are when I talk to the 1-800 people. First, I followed the instructions on “how to find password on Airport Express,” and after some hunting around (they didn’t apply exactly to my system), I found the password—and wrote it down. Next, I went to my laptop to set up the router. That, too, turned out to be quite simple once I accepted that I had to tell it to “switch networks.” Flashing yellow light turns to green, and go!
            Success in the computer world, and I didn’t have to call anyone at all. Just me and my computer, all’s right with the world.

*Usage mavens, do you think “google” as a verb has become sufficiently common that it can be lowercased? Or will Google come after me with the legal letter asserting its trademark rights?
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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.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Big Words: Backsliding


(I want to acknowledge Tanya Shirley, a Jamaican poet, whose “A Chant Against Fear” inspired part of this.)

            Backsliding – should I be afraid of it or look forward to it? Mainstream culture says backsliding is bad. We must always be moving forward. Like sharks, if we don’t keep moving (forward, of course), we die. If we take one step forward and two steps back, that’s a tragedy.             What if there’s a time for backsliding.
            Jack died. Did I tell you that? I’m supposed to be moving forward, finding closure, healing. But I’m not backsliding into grief. Grief is beside the point.

            We met when we were 21, married at 22. We were children. I know, some of you may be 21 or 22 and think you’re adults. We thought we were adults, thought we knew who we were and what we were doing.
            We were lucky, together for the next 52 years. At the beginning, I was a shy, reserved person afraid to speak up because I knew no one would listen to me. I’ve becomw confident, outspoken, standing up in front of classes, sometimes crowds, like this, becoming a boss, hiring and firing, traveling to many countries with strange languages. Women’s liberation had a lot to do with this transformation, but Jack supported it, too. Without him, I’m afraid I’m backsliding to that earlier me.

            When we met, I was on my own and supporting myself, but I was still unformed, malleable. Going from family to roommates, I’d only ever lived alone for two weeks of my life. The first time I was completely on my own, in my own place, I sat on my sofa/bed and cried, for half an hour. I retreated home, to my parents. Then I was afraid, of the silence (no radio), no one to talk to (on the pay phone out in the hall).
Fear of loneliness.
Fear of not knowing who I was.

            A few months after Jack died, fear came roaring back. Now I was home, and my fears were different:
Fear of losing the person I’d become via loving Jack and he loving me.
Fear of being old as a single person, as a single woman, as a woman who’s 75.
Fear of forgetting Jack if I’m successful in learning to live without him.
Fear of the open-endedness of freedom, with no one to share it with.
Fear that having a daily plan will constrain me, but
Fear that having no plan will leave me unmoored.
Fear of dying.
Fear of being a person who is afraid of dying.

            The fear ebbs, but never disappears. I remember what the great Negro Leagues xpitcher Satchel Paige said, “Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.”  But if I look back, if I backslide into that fear, perhaps I’ll learn something I need to know.
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I read this at the July 24 Big Words series, which had the theme word "Backslide."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Two Sentences


I just read the short fiction by Elif Batuman in the January 23 New Yorker. I quite liked the story (first generation freshman college student at Harvard), but two sentences stood out for me. "The cocktail party was reproduced in miniature in Gary's eyeglasses." And "Such names were unheard of in New Jersey, where everything was called Ridgefield, Glen Ridge, Ridgewood, or Woodbridge."
            That first sentence is a transition, from the narrator's surprise to her reply. But I can't help wondering how the author came up with that image. "Gary's eyeglasses" play no other role in the story, and the cocktail party is a cartoon being shown in an art seminar. How long did it take for Batuman to come up with that image? What other images did she try out? What made her choose this one over the others? Writers' questions.
            The other sentence just made me laugh. I know two women who once lived in one of those New Jersey towns, Ridgewood or Ridgefield, I can never remember. They have long since left, now residents of New York City, where they are much more comfortable and happy. 

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Air Travel Hell


            I’ve been traveling a lot lately, but last Thursday was probably the nadir. Here’s what happened.
            I was scheduled to fly out of LaGuardia on American Eagle nonstop to Dayton at 1:06 (I was headed to a college reunion in Yellow Springs). I arrived at the gate around 12:30 and everything was fine. About 10 minutes later, the flight had been postponed an hour and a half. Ten minutes after that, it was canceled. I was being picked up at the airport, so I first had to text my handler so the driver wouldn’t head to the airport.
           Next step: customer service desk, where a small line had formed. A text from American said I was rebooked the next morning on a 6 a.m. flight, but that was not going to happen. I was behind a woman with a young boy, who I later learned was 7. While mom was on her phone, the boy didn’t have any toy or book to occupy him, and he was clearly already extremely bored. It took almost an hour to get to the desk. Here I was offered the choice of the 1:06 flight the next day, or a 4:35 flight to Washington, D.C., connecting to a 10 p.m. flight to Dayton, getting me in at 11:35.
            Going home to return the next day felt like moving backward. Besides, flying to Ohio in the summertime is always iffy; a few years ago I’d been making this same trip and two flights were delayed by weather. Dayton is about a half-hour drive to my final destination, but it seemed hard to expect a volunteer driver to come get me late at night. If I could get a room at a hotel near the airport, it made more sense to take that choice.
            My phone gave me the number for a Hampton Inn, and I was able to get a room that night. And the clerk assured me that there was a 24-hour free shuttle bus. So I was soon on my way to D.C. And once there, lining up for the next leg, I was once again behind the woman and her son. Here’s where I learned that they had been in New York for an annual checkup with a doctor, where they had stayed in New Jersey, though on previous visits they had stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. This implied something serious, but the boy seemed totally normal and I hesitated to ask why he needed annual checkups with a doctor in another city.
            Finally, we arrive in Dayton, and I immediately call the hotel to find out where to find the hotel shuttle bus. The desk clerk tells me that there is no shuttle bus because the driver called in sick – and there is no backup driver. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. The desk clerk next tells me that he is the only person working, so there’s not even another staff person who could come get me.
            Fortunately, there were taxis at the airport, so I did get to the hotel. And the next morning, a volunteer from the reunion staff picked me up and got me to the reunion. Reunion was fun, and I danced for more than an hour at the Saturday night dance. And the two-hour delay on our flight home felt almost normal.