Tuesday, March 29, 2011

i was in nyc

The flag was hanging vertically from the building, just hanging there as if gravity were a mistake.

Noise didn’t matter. Tears didn’t matter, and you’d need more than moonlight. You could be the drunkest man on the planet and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

And why should it? It wasn’t as if the flag were outside Army HQ. It wasn’t even at a public school building, much less a bank. Still.

Later when the wind picked up and the people inside saw it flapping and writhing, they put their hands to their heads as if their hats might fly off.

And as I always do when my wish comes true I began wishing the exact opposite, all the while knowing even if the wind did settle down it had nothing to do with me.

Sometimes it’s better not to read too much into things.
Sometimes even the smallest desire seems an enormous impertinence.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aunt Bobbie’s Almanac

If your palm itches, choose sixes.
If your wrist itches, it’s not because
you’re missed.

Empty your head for clarity,
then abandon all desire for clarity.

To ward off fever, twist your mustache.
A mustache is bad luck enough.

Whistle in the kitchen
and marry a man who beats you.

Don’t whistle
and you won’t know love at all.

To achieve your dearest wish
cross your fingers,
all your fingers;

keep them crossed
until they fall off.

Friday, March 25, 2011

stray notes from my desk / unable to throw them away I put them here

the key is fooling yourself. My doctor gave me a placebo / never underestimate the power of a placebo, he said, his one eye drooping

Sacrifice is a sign

Explaining my gay marriage with a Chinese character

comeuppance/high dudgeon, and what is this about boots to hide the gazelle-like ankles

Mexican girls smoking small cigars and wearing masculine hats, that’s what makes the world go round

He who has recovered from a distant sickness
An audience of chairs

German food is alive and well

And when the doors bulge & split, we erect a fence and hoard our modest hopes behind the border

The Dead/Araby/Where are you going, where have you been/George Saunders

pockets we care deeply

I would like to get fat and wear military fatigues while sitting in a quiet, carpeted room with the xenophobia shades down smoking cigarettes and drinking red wine like in the old days

A guy walks into a bar and there is no one there to get the joke

Thursday, March 24, 2011

it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

I finished Wuthering Heights at the very moment Elizabeth Taylor died and now Catherine Earnshaw/Linton will be forever tied up in my mind with the slightly plump young Liz. Richard Burton can play Heathrow, Hindleg and Harelip all rolled up in one overly emotional mass - occasionally drunk, of course. Works for me.

I don’t know, call me uptight but Wuthering Heights was over the top. I’m more the Jane Eyre type. It’s like Rose Red vs. Snow White. I always come down on the Snow White side, even when I wish I could loosen up. It’s why I like pale Legolas more than sultry Aragorn, why as a kid I preferred Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood over Sesame Street, and probably why I work out better in Germany than Italy.

My own failings aside, it is amazing that Heathcliff is considered a romantic hero when really he is a plain sadist. My husband also recently read Wuthering Heights, then watched a movie version, and he said the film brought over more clearly how Heathcliff had been abused and humiliated as a child. You get that less in the book because the volume is cranked up to FREAKOUT pretty much throughout. But the abuse, along with his attachment to Catherine #1, was one of the reasons he decided to be spiteful, tyrannical and cruel for the rest of his life, before finally going insane. Thank you!

I am glad I read it. I’d started and given up on it some years ago. I did understand Heathcliff in the end, and the story and writing certainly are stirring. And we got an excellent Kate Bush song out of it. For the next hour or so I will be enjoying that limbo between books, when every shelf brims with possibilities.

Thanks to Adrienne Kammerer for lending me her image "Bringer of the Black Dawn."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comments Cut and Pasted from an Article on Sidewalk Rage

I used to have irrational outbursts of rage,
those stopping at bottom or top of stairs or escalators in subway stops.
Later in my life I analyzed the source or rage and focused it appropriately.

I recently got in an argument
about a parking space. I was putting boxes in the trunk and I noticed a pickup waiting.
I closed the trunk and headed for the supermarket.

The driver yelled, “You could have told me you weren’t leaving.”

It is quite natural to feel annoyance. No laws need to be passed.
Idiots can figure it out. The absolute worst is those who do it mid-stair.
The elevator, bus door or subway rushers.
(Please correct me where I may err.)

After I returned I found a dent in the hood of my car.

When I am in the city, walking alone, I have a destination.
Walking from A to B, I will mutter things, walking on a sidewalk.
I don’t care about the appearance of my car.

But don’t you hate when parents use side by side strollers on a sidewalk?
Don’t you hate it when people stand side by side on an escalator?
Don’t you hate it when two slow people are walking side by side?

When I am travelling on foot
and have interacted in subtle ways with men,
I feel I am in a tribal hunting party. I find it hard
to fault people who feel the urge to strike someone:
reptilian idiots, corner blockers, hand talkers, person
with an out of state tag, the stop-and-turners,
slow movers, the home for the blind.

Civility isn’t everywhere. But it must be in a guidebook
because tourists regularly stop and take pictures.

My point is the pickup driver is an angry person;
his anger will lead to health problems, or he’ll encounter
an equally angry person who will hurt him.

I believe he is already mentally ill. A disease is much worse than a dent in my car.
I’m not sure about religion or politics but I am positive
ultra-narrow cars would make the world a better place.

Not that any of this matters.

Most men travelling in the same direction will not change course, coming out of a building at full speed. I spent most of my working days in the belief the only way was by the skin of my teeth.

If I could have changed my behaviour I would have yelled, “I’m not leaving.”
I would have pulled out and let him park there.

Song of the day: The Magic - Joan as Police Woman

Saturday, March 19, 2011

quite the

So ok let me check that I’m getting the gist of this article -

"Dwayne and Wanda Smallwood worry the gravel pit threatens the town’s RURAL CHARACTER."

"So Brite Tattoos believes the proposal is at odds with the town's RURAL CHARACTER."

"Wee Ones Play–n-Day Care have joined the protest, saying the town's RURAL CHARACTER is at stake."

Ok, think I got it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

weather zelig

I was in an earthquake once. I had recently moved to Germany and rented an apartment near the train station in Mainz. My bedroom window looked out on a labyrinthical courtyard of buildings, including a brothel, a laundry shack, and lots of garbage cans. In the middle of the night I woke up shaking. I half woke up, anyway, and my sleepmind tried to grasp what was happening. I realized it wasn't me but the bed shaking, or actually the room. I said to myself, 'finally it has happened: the devil has come to claim me.' And I went back to bed. I was always scared shitless of the devil, even when I stopped believing. In the morning, I'd forgotten all about it. When I got to work, our secretary asked if I had felt the earthquake, and I was at once surprised and completely relieved.

I also experienced a tornado when I lived in Kansas. I lived in a house across from the fire department. One day I was deeply engrossed in an exercise video when the sirens went off. I noticed them, but they were quickly absorbed by my subconscious. Minutes later the German professor from the college where I worked was banging at my door. He had a crush on me and often showed up at my door asking to massage my feet, but this time he hustled me into his car and down into his tornado cellar. Weather-wise it was an interesting experience - everything went dark and very quiet. Our town was spared but some terrible trailer bashing went on not too far away.

From the human disaster almanac, I was also in China when the Tiananmen massacre went down. I lived in a city on the coast east of Beijing. We'd seen some protests, and some of our students had traveled to Beijing to be part of larger demonstrations. In China at that time, the one way to get real news was from other people. There was no internet, censored or not censored. The tv was state run and so were the newspapers. The only true news -and even that was questionable- came from people who were there. My mother in NJ knew more than I did about what was happening in Beijing, and she wasn't taking it calmly. All we had was Li Peng, the premier at the time, on tv repeating the same speech over and over.

After recounting all this I suddenly feel, at least on an amateur level, like an unimportant, curiously nondescript short Jewish man with glasses who manages to show up in surprising circumstances without any particular motive. I blend in, and am defined only by what has happened to me. I do hope it is a career I've now abandoned, and I will be spared eyewitnessing Middle East uprisings and nuclear disaster.

(The poster is from Witold Sadowski, a Polish graphic artist.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The ides of March have come, and things are much worse for the world today than they were for Ceasar. Who really cares about Ceasar at this point. Still, given the nuclear crisis in Japan, this old literary reference is certainly getting a new chance at relevance and householdnamedom. Germany shut seven nuclear reactors for review.

I was thinking, what if all of Japan was rendered unliveable? Would there be a place in the world to re-settle the 127 million beleaguered Japanese? They certainly have emerged in all this as very humane and organized. Not one looting as far as I heard.

Anyway, I looked up 'ides' and it means the 'middle of a Roman month,' but the 15th of March is not the middle. There are 14 days before it and 16 after it. Let us hope tomorrow the situation does not deteriorate further.

And now for my daily grumble, from Yahoo! News, again:
"Japan Faces Radiation Catastrophe Threat"
I guess it's not technically wrong, but it sounds awkward. Does Japan face the actual catastrophe or the threat? I think what they want to say is the "threat of catastrophe." Being in news myself, I'd like to believe there just wasn't room for that "of..."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Ungrateful Son, or Justice Galore

A man and his wife were sitting by the door of their house. They had a roasted chicken and were about to eat it together. Then the man saw that his old father coming, and he quick took the chicken and hid it, for he did not want to give his father any. The old man came, took a drink, and went away. Now the son wanted to put the roasted chicken on the table again, but when he picked it up, he found it had become a great toad, which jumped upon his face and sat there, and would not budge. If anyone tried to take it off, the toad looked ferociously at him as if it would jump in his face, too. So no one dared to touch it. And the ungrateful son was forced to feed the toad every day, or else it would have eaten part of his face; and thus the son wandered the world without rest.

from The Brothers Grimm

Friday, March 11, 2011

magpies can recognize themselves in a mirror and no one can stop them

Some children have a fierce sense of right and wrong. Take the magpies. When you tell some kids what magpies do to the eggs of less flamboyant birds it’s an outrage to them! After that they will not give the magpies any rest. My son was like this. I was also like this. I remember the day my father told me life wasn’t fair and it was like I’d been tasered. (Anyway, as I said to my doctor, I wonder if those children with a deep sense of justice grow up to become criminals. Probably not.) Still, I don’t think it’s good to put too much energy into right vs. wrong. It will exhaust you. You’ll get on a train and someone’s bag will be occupying a seat that should be for a person. You’ll scowl at the bag man and wish bad things on him, even if you have a seat. Or you’ll be a cyclist who gets terribly pissed off about an ambulance parked in the bike lane. This stuff will eat you up.

In my train this morning, a woman was reading a book called Goals ("Ziele"). She was marking passages with a highlighter. Goals can be good, but it is also good not to have too many of them. And why mark up a nice book with an ugly, yellow fluorescent pen? That is wrong and should be severely punished.

Thanks to seasprayblue for letting me use her image.

I suspect my son and I will continue, justly, to give the magpies a very hard time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

at the office entrance

We talked about the wind because it was windy. Across the courtyard a man’s scarf was flapping around fit to strangle him.
- H said, it is like a wind tunnel here in the courtyard.
- L said, at least it is a warm wind. Two days ago it was bracing.
- K said, this wind is like the wind in Kansas! When it pushes my coat open I have the feeling I am in Kansas anymore!

They were all right, really. I have also lived and Kansas and was astounded by the strong wind they could muster there.

Mostly I wanted to say that in all of nature the wind is most like water, but I didn’t think that was something to mention right then.

I also have noticed – and it seems banal, however true – that when I wash my hands in cool water in the restroom after hours of working, it is like my hands are having a drink.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

nettles in march/mugwort in may

I admit I have neglected to think about stinging nettles for months. Then, yesterday, they came up in two different things I was reading. One was a Salon article about cooking them, and the other was in the book Lolly Willowes, again about cooking and eating them. I never knew of nettles until I moved to Germany, where they're called Brennessel (burning nettles). Left alone they grow very tall and fuzzy. People panic when they see them because contact irritates the skin, for upward of a couple hours. It's unpleasant, but also interesting. Like childbirth!

I don't get bent out of shape about nettles because I come from America, host to the crippling and fearsome poison ivy, which dwarfs nettles like losing your leg dwarfs stubbing your toe.

On days when I can't think of anything positive about living in Germany, I look in the mirror and write "poison ivy" backwards on my forehead with eyeliner to remind me the country is p.i.-free. At most it is shown in botanical gardens like a bearded lady in a freak show. There innocent Germans can ogle it, and expats taunt it with sticks.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Reading While Walking

When the book opens, the street shuts up.
The story pours from all sides; it drops

its ponderings along shorn lawns. It splits
ways with the true day. Fiction freights

the air; the walker strays. When the book
opens, the street shuts up. The mind dowses,

drinking at the page. Eyes trip and linger
on the doubling curve. The walk meanders

and the walk moves straight. Leafing
fills the air with a whirr of birds. Pages

layer, and pages turn. The mind lolls
down the rungs of words. When

the book opens, the street shuts up.
There is no fiction. There was no world.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

been there

Somewhere here in the middle of various crises I have been named a 'Stylish Blogger.' Thanks Sherry and Kathleen. The first thing I have to do to go down in the book of stylish boogers is reveal seven things about myself. So here goes:

1. I love staying in hotels alone. First thing I want to know is is there a sewing kit? And do I have something tiny along that needs sewing?

2. I was one of those lucky women who lost weight after having children instead of getting fat. I think it was nursing. Or it was subsisting on what the kids left on their plates. Or chasing them around. Or maybe it had nothing to do with kids and somewhere along the line I simply fell out of love with food. Really, I can’t be bothered most of the time. Been there, done that. I also wish sleep were optional.

3. Dog is man’s best friend, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and my best friend is 100% whole milk. Really, every day. Ok, so there is one food...

4. Places I’ve lived: Mainz, Germany; Plainfield, NJ; South Plainfield, NJ; Dalian, China; New Brunswick, NJ; Frankfurt, Germany; Highland Park, NJ; McPherson, KS; Davis, CA; Milan, Italy; Madison, NJ;

5. I am a loungewear pioneer. You can count me in on any outfit that does bed, grocery store and dog-walking. I have strong ambitions in this area.

6. I find snobbery occasionally refreshing, but arrogance I find mostly outrageous.

7. All those no-name rejections on Duotrope are mine. Surprise!

The next thing is to name some other stylish bloggers. I've decided not to do that since many of the blogs I frequent have showed up on Kathleen or Sherry's lists, or the lists generated by those lists. Instead, here are some art sites/blogs that I really like and you should look at:

Brian Dettmer
Anthony Zinonos
Su Blackwell
Hollis Brown Thornton
Juliana Swaney
Emma Kidd
Related Posts with Thumbnails