Saturday, April 10, 2010

Two businessmen walking

down William toward Wall Street at lunchtime. One to the other:
"I think it's only because I'm...slightly older and less sure of myself now..."
No hint of irony in his voice!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Change is the mother...

of innovation. I believe that the saying is actually "Necessity is the mother of innovation." Or maybe it's "invention." But this is my blog, so I'll mangle quotations to suit my purposes.

Life change has brought out my creativity. Not that I'm writing much. But I'm making stuff--lots of stuff. Here are some more pictures.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I'm back. I'm still kidless, but I'm no longer in suburbia. I'm living in Brooklyn again after almost a decade in CT.

The world outside my bedroom window is always awake. Two bars across the street spill noisy drunk people out into cold night at 3:30am Wednesday through Saturday. It doesn't seem to matter how cold it is. They mill around, screaming and laughing and sometimes, fighting. About six weeks ago an argument bulged out of control and I heard a woman scream, "put that shit away," and I've not been gone so long that I didn't know that she could only be referring to a weapon. So I pulled away from the window and immediately heard the shot. I knew that I should stay away, that people innocently watching TV or knitting by the window are killed by stray bullets, but I crept back nonetheless. I watched the two men wrestling in a sloppy, drunken way that almost looked like making out. Then there were five patrol cars all at once, lights and horns blaring, and I watched as four cops kicked the larger drunk man into submission and then almost politely settle him into the back a police car.

I could have done without that bit of urban theater. I've wanted to call the cops several times because of the noise, but the image of that man curled up on the ground being kicked from all sides stops me. Better to invest in a high-tech sound machine, like the ones psychiatrists use.
But I logged on after so much time not to complain about city life. How could I? I am back from suburbia, back where I belong. For better or for worse.

My apartment is a 15-minute walk from my parents' house. My mom and I have found a neutral zone: crafting. I've discovered that we don't annoy each other or make snarky comments (as often) when we are making things. So I thought that I would use this blog as a place to show off our work. We've been doing decoupage--boxes, tissue box covers. Next week I think it will be napkin rings. I have a new respect for art therapy. Below are some of my mom's tissue box covers. The idea came from not wanting to make anything that would add clutter to her home. There are already hoards of Costco brand square tissue boxes all over the house for my two nieces' ever-flowing noses. So we figured, why not make them pretty?
Returning to the metropolis has made has revived my creativity. I've been drawing with colored pens and pencils on graph paper and reproducing the images for cards and stuff. Here's a picture of the customized card and CD that I made for a friend and mentor at my new job.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Yale Student To Bring Her Own Little House To Campus

This young woman is building her own tiny house in the style of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. So inspiring. I'm trying to get some pictures.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

On some good advice from fellow blogger

Orchid64, I decided to haul out the four extra-large boxes of family memorabilia. Orchid had encouraged me to throw away what didn't truly matter to me, and scan or take pictures of the things that did sort of matter (then throw them away), leaving me with a nice manageable collection of things too nostalgic or meaningful to toss.

The boxes sat unopened in my spare room for a few days. I shut the door so that I wouldn't have to look at them. Finally, yesterday, going through the boxes seemed like a pleasant alternative to helping my husband strip wallpaper in the kitchen. So, I opened the first box. I had already known that the journals would be a problem. For many reasons, I can't bear to read them, but throwing them away would be like reaching inside myself and ripping out a vestigial organ. Sorry, that was gross, but it's the best analogy I could make. I set the journals aside.

I had more success with the camp stuff. My sister and I wrote what seems to me an extraordinary number of letters to our parents and grandparents from camp. The letters were typical—funny and quirky, and included incessant requests for gum and stamps. But among the camp letters I found something unexpected: letters written by my great-grandfather, Isaac, to my mother and her twin sister during the 1950s. He spent his summers in Miami but kept in regular touch with his granddaughters in New York City. There's a stack of letters, all written in neat Slavic-looking English. By Slavic-looking, I mean that the lettering looks almost like it wants to be Cyrillic.

The letters are animated and playful, like this one from December 26, 1956:

Dear Elaine and Marian,
Surprise! I've come to an important decision--from now on I shall address both of you in the same letter. Reasons: (1) Economic—I save a 3 cents stamp and 0.9876 cents in stationery, ink, and general overhead. "A penny saved, a penny earned.” "Waste not, want not." I must warn you though that if you adhere too closely to those proverbs you won't have much fun in life. (2) Health—When I have to write one letter I lose sleep. If I have to write two letters I get a nervous breakdown. You don't want me to get a nervous breakdown every two-three weeks? Or, do you? Explain yourself. (3) Variety—If I write to Marian that the weather is fine, I cannot write exactly the same to Elaine. I must vary the letter. So I write to Elaine that the weather is fine but it rains cats and dogs. One of these statements is false. It's a sin to lie—unless you must, in which case it ceases to be a lie and becomes a prevarication…

Some of the later letters were in Russian with English translations. At first I assumed that he was just making sure that my mother and her sister understood the letters. But then I began noticing a trend. In a letter dated February 14, 1958, Isaac wrote to one of them (it’s addressed in Russian and I no longer recognize the symbols well enough to even sound them out), he wrote:

…You have a brain, but it won’t help you if you cannot stick to one thing and master it. I was very happy with your choice of the Russian language. I believe it will [be] more and more valuable, especially when those that master the language are native born American. You see, the government of U.S. does not trust us, Russian born. They suspect that I and your other grandfather are likely to sympathize with Russia. We [do] not, but our government is not taking any chances. And that’s where you come in. I planned, when I come home, to give you regular lessons and help you along to overcome the difficulties of the language. And that’s what I am going to do! So don’t dare stop. Go along slowly, but do not stop. Imagine what advantage you will have, knowing a valuable language! Now, once more do not stop, or I will wring your neck. Love, Grandfather.

From January 30, 1958:

Dear Marian,
Your last letter to me carried some surprising as well as painful news. It also horrified me! Your remark in that letter that you are happy to be through with science was like a knife through my patriotic heart. How could you feel that way, when, so far, we failed to send aloft even a baby Sputnik! How can we ever catch up with the Russians when you and the rest of the kids refuse to study science? Please, go on with science a little bit longer, until we put into an orbit, if not an adult Sputnik, at least a teen-ager…

There are more letters with seemingly light-hearted references to beating the Russians. The letters were written when McCarthyism was still going strong. Both Isaac and his son (my grandfather) had thriving medical practices. I wonder if he feared blacklisting, or worse. Did he suspect that his letters were being opened and read by the U.S. government? I wish that I could ask him.

Well, only three more gigantic boxes to go...then onto the monstrous filing cabinet. But I will spare you the details of that adventure into 1o-years-old vet bill receipts and statements from banks that no longer exist.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I think that it’s safe to say

that my grandmother’s style of communication was inquisitive. As would any good investigative journalist, when we spoke, she first wanted the basics: Who did you go to dinner with? Actually, she would have said, “With whom did you go to dinner?” But that’s a different topic.

“We went out with Dave and Meher and Carlos,” I’d say.

“Where?” she’d ask.

“To that Asian fusion restaurant on West 82nd Street, Rain.”

“It rained?”

“No,” I’d say. “The restaurant, it’s called Rain.”

Vus? I don’t hear.”

“The restaurant is called Rain,” I’d holler into the phone.

“All right, I heard you. So, what did you eat?”

“Let’s see…spring rolls, chicken satay, cucumber salad with garlic and sweet chili dressing,” I’d recount, then throw in what the others had eaten, for good measure.

“Very nice. What time was the reservation? Late?”

“No, we had reservations for seven, but Meher was late as usual, seeing a client. We had a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc before she arrived. From New Zealand.”

“She came in from New Zealand?” English was her second language, so she liked her modifiers in place.

“No…the wine, not Meher. She was on Long Island, stuck in traffic.”

“And how did you get into the city?” She’d want to know.

“We drove to the station in Fairfield, then took the train to Grand Central. Very easy. This way Mark could drink a little.”

“Tell me, why the get-together, a special occasion?” She liked to know the reasons for things.

“No…well, Carlos’s birthday is next week and we won’t see him because he’ll be away visiting friends.”

“Does Carmo have a wife? A girlfriend?”

“Carlos. No, Carlos is gay.”

“A boyfriend, then?”

“I don’t think so,” I’d say, worn out.

She liked to “drill down,” as people often say now at the office. Drill down from the basics to the specifics. Where do Dave and Meher live? How old is Carlos? Is he good-looking? Why doesn’t he have a boyfriend?
She was exacting; she didn’t stand for equivocation. I learned that early enough: speak up, enunciate. If you don't want to tell her something, say so. Don’t evade. Don’t mumble or mince words; it will only elicit an exasperated, “What??”

I’d just say to her, “I don’t want to talk about it,” which might have resulted in an additional question, “Why not?” But asserting, “I just don’t,” would usually end that particular line of questioning. This is not to say that she wouldn’t phone my mother later to see if she knew the answer, but Grandma knew when to stop asking me. She was practical in this way: glean as much information as possible, but know when to cut your losses and move on.

Why did she do this? I didn’t question it; it was just Grandma. I suppose it used to bother me. But as I got older, I saw it differently. It was a pleasant, reassuring routine. Who else would want to know so many insignificant details about me? But maybe they weren’t insignificant. I think that in that magnificent database in her brain, she filed those tiny bits of information to maintain a composite understanding of my life. It was how she knew me. Throughout my life, she made a point of knowing me.

Sometimes I would turn the table on her, ask her questions. She was willing to talk. I wish I’d asked more.

For Ray Goodside
July 4th, 1911-August 2, 2006

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And the answer is...

...donations for a bark park. There seem to be more dogs than people in Provincetown, Cape Cod this year. Not that I'm complaining.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Truth of Wall-e

I'm not sure how the writers got the storyline of Wall-e past the Disney marketing execs. If you haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil too much of it for you.

Here's the premise: One giant superstore has taken over every aspect of life on Earth. Its products result in so much garbage that humans have to be jettisoned into space for what is supposed to be a five-year, supersized, automated luxury cruise while robots at home compress the garbage into neat cubes and stack them up into garbage towers.

It takes the robots a bit longer than expected to clear out all that garbage, though, and the space cruise is still cruising 700 years later. Aboard the ship, humans over the generations stop walking or moving or interacting directly with each other. They become almost boneless, brainless, and blob-shaped. It was starting to remind me of an especially bleak J.G. Ballard or Ray Bradbury story, but Disney-ness, thank God, kicks in eventually and saves the day. That made me feel good.

I came out of the movie theater into a vast parking lot lined with big-box stores. I looked around and noticed that nearly everyone was obese, including the children. They struggled up into their Chevy Trailblazers and Ford Expeditions, panting. Although the endless asphalt glittered with heat, I shivered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Satire takes a beating when truth is so ridiculous | Freep.c

Not currently in possession of an original thought, I will let Leonard Pitts Jr of the Detroit Free Press speak for me today. He got it SO right...and look at the comments readers made. Irony piled up upon irony.

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