My husband, Radames, and I walked from our hotel to our bus stop in Manhattan at 5:30am on Monday. My mind is packed with many stories from that trip but I can’t write a single one. I tried last night, they all spin into mush. I can think of their titles, but waxing on in detail seems boring. I think that if I am bored, you probably will be too.
Below, the titles swishing through my mind:
Sometimes the best way to spend a day is sitting in a park in the middle of NY talking
Sometimes trip apps work: they wanted pizza, I found PIZZA: Capizzi
The early morning hours of NY: Walt Whitman “I hear America singing” ~ the push cart station & the guy with a cell phone in each hand
It took me 22 years to get my husband to the city and he had so much fun
Mario, I really, really wanted to go to Eataly but you hung up on me twice
YELP doesn’t always work: We walked to Mr. Deng’s 5 Star Restaurant & it was gone
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING AT NIGHT: Brother Bill, you should market that picture, it is really, really hard to get an excellent one
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING AT NIGHT: you can hear a pin drop on the 86th Floor in the liminal moment between day and night
CABBIES OF NY: Check your GPS would you! Stranded and exhausted on an Avenue
WHOLE FOODS: Unisex bathrooms suck if they aren’t designed right
ONE MOMENT~looking at a high rise and then a homeless person cuddled on the side of the road, we are all nothing and everything at once
There are over 6 Million Stories in the Naked City and all I can write today are the headlines
Behind my office at Cornell University, or rather to the side and behind the imposing statue of Ezra Cornell, sits this memorial to a professor .
I have created the narrative of slow thoughtful research for this professor. I see him with drawings and diagrams all hand drawn as he passes knowledge from one generation to another.
In my mind’s eye, this professor is hiking around our towns, stopping to point his finger at a phenomenon in the natural world. His students stand still, quiet, holding his words, filing them carefully for another time to be accessed on their own hikes.
I hear a quiet peaceful noise when I stop by this monument to this teacher. I think it is nice and kind that he remains here to remind us all of what can be learned in silent, steady, peaceful observation.
I note well that this monument, this glacial rock, has stood still during my 2 plus years at this job. Still and motionless as my life progresses on faster than I ever imagined in the springtime of adulthood.
My friend Tom Speros was a connoisseur of the unsung–Jeff Bridges (“You [non-actors] have no idea how good he is.”), the responsible reporting of minority news by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the burgeoning politics of his left-leaning niece Gwen, and the well-crafted detective fiction of Elmore Leonard. He had an artist’s eye for talent that […]
Happy Father’s Day to a lovely husband
who when Two roads diverge in a wood, takes the one less traveled by
and it is the highest one
he feeds, walks, and medicates our dogs which I insisted
he loves his children
he loves his sisters and their children
he loves my family
he gardens and reads Amazon Kindle books at night
Cicero, he says, had it right: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
he is not an apologist
he is loved by most people
about his former spouse, he only reports that she is a gentle soul
and that her belief in him made all the difference
(girls…this is the kind of man you want to marry)
he holds hurtful people with grace and tenderness “we are all broken,” he says
he demands little of life and people
and is so delighted at each of their offerings “that was so sweet that they brought the fruit”
he lets me fight my own battles
but holds bad words about me to account
and asks that I too be gentle with the universe “don’t paint things and people with broad stokes”
There is so much more…Happy Father’s Day Ram!
**for the love of a husband is a phrase associated with my blog on analytics. but I never wrote that phrase until now
My dear, dear Wormwood (a.k.a. Devil’s apprentice),
What a wonderful job you are doing with the American experiment. You have taken all of its best parts and corrupted them to our ends; I could not be prouder.
First, through years of keeping the enemy distracted with things, those precious plastic baubles they create, you have masterminded a coup. So busy are they working for their baubles and fighting each other for those trinkets, they barely notice the infrastructure keeping their baubles in place.
Second, through a coup of communication subversion, you have been able to bit-by-bit dismantle their infrastructure. It has taken years and right now, some of them, are starting to panic. It is not enough and shows the art of your deception. Somehow, you are managing still to keep them going along…happy little clams blaring their music out the car windows on the way to Walmart or the beach while your chief representatives work their magic. Well done my servant.
Finally, Wormwood, you are almost there…a few more pen signatures and what will be left? A failed experiment, a country devastated by the human inability to control the pursuit of want. The enemy has tried, rolling the rock uphill day-by-day, but you with your cunning have been able to extract from the collective an individual sitting alone in a New York Times ad for elite housing, on an island of green, in the middle of nowhere.
So go forth, continue your work unbidden, but remember, the day may come when from the rubble, the enemy will finally emerge united, and this time when realizing the full devastation of your impact, the Patient American may come back stronger. You may then be in for the fight of your territory, the likes of which you have never seen.
This past Sunday, it was reported in the New York Times Style section that we are An Anxious Nation.* We sure are: caught between sound bites on Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other input mechanism we happen to be attached to…reading and looking at everything and nothing.
I find it interesting that we are not doing more to organize ourselves and assuage our collective anxiety. The interventions of listening to the comedians , screaming on Facebook and Twitter, and letting off a few F…bombs with each new update from POTUS, are not going to make a change that matters.
After all, the purpose of anxiety is to pose us for action, not for us to sit in a soup of cortisol and adrenaline waiting for the next piece of information to pump more cortisol and adrenaline into an overloaded system.**
So, why don’t we get off our cell phones and actually do something? Why indeed? Ironically, a few months ago, I was discussing the concept of the zeitgest with my husband and I decided we needed to visit the definition. It is easily explained by Merriam Webster: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.
I became curious and typed in this question: What is the zeitgest of the 21st century? I read the answer that popped up on Philosophy News: Misanthropy: We view ourselves as incapable of overcoming challenges. I thought, of course this is the zeitgest of our times: how many times have I brought up something in conversation only to hear, “well there is nothing you can do about it (or, said it myself).”
I took a look at the Philosophy News *** site recently and realized that the quote above was linked to a book review in 2015. Here are two quotes:
Matthias Heitmann takes on the zeitgeist in his new book Zeitgeisterjagd…Heitmann does not see the political zeitgeist in terms of a struggle between left and right. Party politics are meaningless in a world that rejects change and makes the state the auditor of human agency. For Heitmann, the zeitgeist is a consensus, a worldview that rejects freedom in favour of security – with deleterious effects.
In Zeitgeisterjagd, Heitmann invites the reader to take risks, if not in deed, at least in thought. He asks us to see today’s worldview not as a logical consequence of the horrors of twentieth-century history, but as the collective mind of our times. And, as such, Heitmann argues that we can change our collective mind, if we put our minds to it.
I guess if JFK were here, he might say, “Ask not what you can tweet about today, but rather what you can do.”
Tonight, in ITHACA, NY, there is a meeting re: the expansion of Cargill’s salt mine under Cayuga Lake, an expansion planned without an Environmental Impact Statement. This is a meeting in which a group of concerned citizens, CLEAN, is organizing to educate the public. This is action that can lead to change.
After the information is presented, those of us who attend, can then take steps to impact a situation, seemingly out of our control, which could have a detrimental impact on our community and environment .
I am reading the book Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott. I am thinking about what mercy means and I am thinking about how many different forms mercy takes.
This story is about my French friend, Jeanne G. I lived with Jeanne for about a year in 1992-93. Jeanne was retired from Wall Street and had a darling house, it looked like a cottage inside and out. Jeanne also had a great cat named Feefe. We had lovely conversations over dinner each night. Jeanne told me about life in France and life in New York City and she had many, many stories to tell.
We lived together during the last big New York State blizzard in 1993. With snow pouring from the sky, Jeanne rustled up the best shrimp dish I have ever eaten. We sat on opposite ends of her dining table all set up with the best China and I loved the celebratory feel of that snow storm.
Jeanne’s house was cozy, the living room invited you in and I sat during that snow storm reading People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck with eyes wide open. I thumbed through Vogue and People, grew my hair out, and got contacts…my life was changing in the protection of this sweet cottage one mile from my job.
A theme for Jeanne as she told her stories about people was luck. Luck, really? I remember thinking, So unAmerican…don’t we all just pull ourselves up from whatever happy horse shi__ we happen to fall in and live the Dream with the white picket fence and the 4th of July fireworks.
Not from Jeanne’s perspective. She would tell me vignettes…oh, this person, she had luck in life, then she had no luck, then she had luck again. She might be telling me about some poor woman who worked all her life and had nothing to show for it in the end. “A good person, no luck in life.” And then, another person, “Oh her husband divorced her, but he was wealthy and gave her very good alimony, she had a lot of luck in life, lived to be 92 and died peacefully in her sleep.”
When the Iraq war broke out (before I lived with Jeanne), I asked her if she was worried, she said, “No, I lived through World War II.” Her stories of World War II included her work in the resistance, hunting for beet roots in a war-torn country, and the pale that settles over everyone when war is fought on your land.
One day, Jeanne said to me, “You will have to move out by the end of the month. My cousins are coming from France and I need your bedroom.”
I was heartbroken. I loved my happy place at Jeanne’s. I loved her cat Feefe who stayed up with me all night when I was sick. The day I left, she was on her front walk, and she said, “Claire, I’ wish you all the best in life. Good luck to you.”
I felt like I’d never see her again, and indeed, in the context of roommate relationships, I never did. But we remained friends as the years rolled forward. In 2000, one of the last times I saw Jeanne, she, her daughter (a dear friend) and I went for a long walk and picked blackberries on our trail. The trail at my house where I met my husband in 1995.
“Claire,” Jeanne said. “See how lovely everything turned out for you. I knew if you stayed with me, things would not have been good for you.”
“You did?” I was stunned. “Yes, you could have stayed there forever, I had the room, the cousins were only coming for a visit from France, but I knew you needed to leave. And look at your luck.”
Luck indeed. I like to think as I read this book by Anne Lamott, there is a little bit of mercy thrown in…RIP Jeanne G.
the other day. I was so sure that I started looking online to see if she had moved back to the area. I haven’t talked to her since soon after 9 11, when she called me to see how things were over here in upstate NY. She had moved out to Phoenix to become a Montessori teacher after we worked together in a doctor’s office.
Since our last call, I think maybe we touched base once on Facebook. I started thinking about how much I hoped she was back in town, how much fun it would be to go to Friendlys again with her and have a really gritty conversation about life over turkey and mashed potatoes. I thought about how real and how color blind she was and most importantly, how hopeful.
I recalled helping Regina on a few of her projects. She decided one year to create and host a party for children at the Ithaca Southside Community Center. Many people came and it was a success.
I thought about how she had lost her parents when she was just a child and how sad that made her feel, how different perhaps her life might have been. Regina was not bitter, she easily could have been.
Not only was she not bitter, I thought she had a wisdom in seeing things most people miss. She told me once how sad it is that the black folk and white folk have so much damaging conflict. She thought it ironic since they have so much in common: economic disenfranchisement among many things.
Regina wanted to be a teacher. She loved children and loved taking them under her wing. She was good at it, often babysitting a relative’s four little ones who had lost their mother. So Regina decided to go back to school in mid-life to become a Montessori teacher.
I remember her packing up…going through her things…what to take, what to dump. I looked on amazed that she had old Tiger Beats! She hated to throw them out and for some reason, I think she insisted on taking them with her. I like to think it was because they represented a happy time for her.
My husband and I gave Regina’s relative a computer we weren’t using. Soon after we gave it to her cousin, it died. I apologized to her later…she said, “Oh no, that is ok, because that was the beginning of more and better computers for my cousin.”
We had so many laughs and heart to hearts at the office where we worked, that one year, on my birthday, I was surprised that of all the people who forgot, she did. But then, toward the end of my day, Regina showed up, gift in hand. It was the coffee mug pictured here. I was delighted. I get it out often when I want to put a smile on my face.
It never occurred to me I would not see Regina again. So when I thought I saw her three weeks ago, I had to call her. I’m way too late, she passed on in 2012!. She was only in her late 50s, a sure sign that only the good die young.