Monthly Archives: January 2013

Poetry and Hope, for many reasons

There is quite a lot of inauguration buzz around me these recent days.  For me, the thing that stands out about this election and this inauguration is that in some major way we won.  An important win.  The racism of Mitt Romney’s and others of the Republican campaigns was so virulent, so wide open, so vast, so carefully calibrated to pull at people’s fears and confusions.  But it didn’t win.  We won.  

Two friends have pointed me to this recently.  One, a beautiful, tireless and hopeful activist, a close friend–posted this quote on her own website as she works, and I do mean works, at caring for herself and keeping life in order as she goes through treatment for cancer.  The second, another beautiful woman, a Jewish woman, just sent it to me this morning.

 It’s Adrienne Rich, but no one has yet been able to identify for me what poem this is from.  If you know where it came from please send the poem’s title and/or the title of the book it is from as a comment or email me privately if you prefer.  

On Monday at the inaugural ceremony we will hear from Richard Blanco– a Latino gay man who will read a poem of his own creation and mind.  I don’t know him or his poetry, nor do I know whether I will love the poem or not.  But I will love that there will be poetry there.  And with Obama’s inauguration and inaugural poetry, more hope and more poetry to come.

What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? 
You yourself must change it. 
what would it feel like to know
your country was changing? 
You yourself must change it. 
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?

Adrienne Rich 1983

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Imagine. John Lennon.

I love the Beatles. I saw them for the first time when I was very young and they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and my father, who loved music, bought several Beatles albums. Those albums became part of my Dad’s record collection alongside Louis Armstrong, many of the jazz musicians from the big band era, Schubert and Mozart and the famous cantor, Jan Pierce. One year I got the album with the song, Norwegian Wood for Chanukah and we also had Abby Road, Magical Mystery Tour and others. Some of the albums technically belonged to the family, some to me, and some to my sister.

I loved Paul at first but then later I loved John Lennon, and I still do. I remember where I was when I learned he had been shot and killed and, perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but a couple years ago, I bought and tacked a poster of him to the inside of a closet door at home. Every few months something reminds me and at some point I sigh and say to whoever is around, ” I miss John Lennon.”

It is an interesting phenomenon of today’s popular culture, that young people now listen to and dance to and collect on their iPods– not only new music that was produced this year and last, but also music, like original Beatles music that is 40-plus years old. My daughter knows and loves artists I have never heard of until she tells me about them (One Direction) but unlike when I was young, she knows and loves the Beatles, as well as the Bee Gees , old Tina Turner songs and other artists that date back that far.

But let’s stick to the Beatles. Saturday night we were driving to a friend’s house for dinner and when I couldn’t stand the sexism of the songs on the radio, I insisted we put on a CD that was in the car– Playing for Change Two– which has a new rendition of Gimme Shelter and a beautiful rendition of Imagine, among other tracks. There is nothing quite like John Lennon’s music and this song, which I don’t think spoke to me quite so much then, but does, now. Not because the politics or message are so singular or well-expressed, but because of who they were, what they tried and what it has meant to us. So when I played Imagine, I was surprised that my daughter knew every word and asked me to play it over and over again. Then with my iPhone, she pulled up the Glee version of Imagine, which we had watched just a few weeks ago. And finally at home, I had to give her a glimpse of the artist himself and though the third piece isn’t Imagine, it’s a great song with great images of John Lennon, the Beatles and Yoko Ono.

This is from the CD we had in the car–

And then this we’d watched recently on Glee–

And then this montage–with great photos of John Lennon, the Beatles and Yoko Ono. Enjoy.

Talking Trash

Day before yesterday, Friday, I didn’t go into the office at all.  It was one of the many Fridays I was promised, when I accepted my job, that I could spend out of the office and for which I agreed to a substantial decrease in pay.  It was one of the very few Fridays I have actually gotten to take since I started my job a year ago.

The recent holidays were many things for me, but restful was not one of them.  Last week, my lack of sleep reached a level where I knew something had to be done, and I went and slept each night by myself in our guest room– a room where my mother and at least three of our closest friends– overworked New Yorkers all, say they get the best sleep ever.  The good bed, the alone-ness, the break in routine, something broke my ongoing insomnia and I got enough sleep that I caught up and felt simply tired.  So Friday, not being at work, I was ready for a nap almost as soon as I got up.

But I showered, took my daughter to school and then went to a doctor appointment  to discuss a nerve problem in my left foot which has gotten to a point where it is painful to get out of bed shoeless and painful to walk in most shoes and really does cramp my style– pretty dramatically.  I may end up having surgery.  Honestly, although I typically view surgery as a very, very last resort– on Friday the idea of surgery didn’t faze me and struck me mostly as something that though inconvenient, was not a terrible idea because I think I would be lying down during the surgery and for sometime afterward– a thought which held some appeal for me.

Tired or not, I was so happy to have my day and to have my mind to myself.  I thought I would accomplish a combination of mindful and mindless.  I planned to write and finish at least two blog posts, and sort and clear off all the paper on the dining room table and clean up about 150 emails.  But the latter two ideas were just unappealing and with respect to blogging I am out of practice.  I sat at the computer and tried different things but I just couldn’t finish a blog post– I have at least a dozen in draft.

I also couldn’t make it through all the papers on the dining room table– so I cleaned out the freezer instead.   Then I went to buy something we needed that is only carried at Whole Foods.  Parked in front of the store in a major hipster neighborhood, I opened the center well in my car to get some quarters for the meter and decided the center well had to be cleaned out right then and there.

What I found was a combination of the predictable change, and gum but also another micro look into this march we are on, from earlier childhood to adolescence.  Here is a partial list — with photo of some of the objects below.

1.  So many pens I hardly knew what to do with them.   This has nothing to do with having a daughter who is 11- it has to do with my major fear of being trapped somewhere with a good idea and nothing to write with or on.  I also found my beloved and ubiquitous stack of clean, unused index cards, kept in many places for the same reason as stated above.   I saved a bunch of the pens in the car and then because I don’t easily discard things, I went into Whole Foods walked up to and just left a fistful of pens on the Customer Service desk, slipping away into the crush of organic food shoppers.

2. A glass pebble, the kind found in the bottom of flower arrangements or aquariums.  Evidence of my daughter’s penchant for finding odd things that she, like me, cannot throw away??

3.  A plastic cover for a baby bottle.  This does not date back to her own days of baby bottles for nutrition, but relates to her life since age two or three when she fell in love with baby dolls and real life accoutrements for babies.  If you’re with us there is always a real baby bottle with nipple or a pacifier (something we never believed in nor used for her) close by.  For some reason these objects, on practically every surface in the house and in the car, annoy me more than– well more than the weird junk I accumulate myself.

4. A black plastic bat ring. Need I say more?

5. Two used up Starbucks cards, because my daughter used to like nothing better than a pretend credit/ debit card.

6.  Two mix CDs that my daughter burned with her favorite pop songs.  Note that I don’t know how to burn CD’s but she does and has known since she was a single digit age. (Not pictured, still in the car.)

7.  A huge fistful of broken pencils— from a time (which I suddenly notice is passed) when the only way we could get my daughter to do math homework was in the car– these were chewed pencils, stubs of pencils, broken pencils and eraser-less pencils.  I threw them all out at Whole Foods and those pictured below are fakes; semi-messed-up pencils more of which I easily found at home.

8. My daughter’s first locker combination written on an index card because she was having a lot of trouble remembering it, so I wrote it out and put it in the car to put in my wallet so I’d have it if she forgot it and couldn’t get into her locker at camp.  Apparently she never needed my help and the combo never made it into my wallet.

9.  An ongoing list of every fire engine, listed by number and name of the firehouse that we used to keep as we saw them in our travels around the city.  The fire station that houses engine #21 is just up the block from us, we talk to the firemen there pretty often and we know our engine, so we got interested in others.  This is an important in-city activity which we will resume having found the list. (To be returned to the car.)

10.  Three bouncy balls.  (From the collection.)

11.  A hairclip of a variety no longer in favor.

Trash, January 11, 2013