Monday, November 30, 2009


The Dishwasher's wife/beloved/partner mentioned synchronicity in one of her blogs around Thanksgiving. And that started me thinking about how my father discovered his unconscious when he was somewhere around seventy.

In his younger years, when he'd unfortunately been left to raise me, his main preoccupations were tumblers of scotch, martinis and ignoring conventions. He had sound arguments about why most everything was arbitrary including letters of the alphabet (I'm sure I absorbed that when I was around eight, long before my mother died, along with the fact that religions were designed to organize and confine and hardly to be trusted, much less depended upon.) Ceremonies like funerals and graduations were foolish. Novels were allowable, though non-fiction was preferable (and not to be trusted.) Poetry and philosophy were fluff, to be ignored. And, though he considered Darwin and Freud, admirable because of their formative and original thinking, the unconscious was of no concern, much less influential in daily life.

But by the time he became an excellent grandfather to my daughter, he'd begun to think about the importance of dreams, to write his down, had read a bit of Freud and Jung, and discovered The Tao of Synchronicity, a small paperback which he gave to Krissy. She believes in synchronicity, just as she believes in a diet of joy. And she still has that worn paperback, held together by a rubber band that her grandfather gave her.

This last Saturday at the Bagel Bards, I sat talking with Bert Stern, who gave me his new book of poems, Steerage. Somehow the name Taylor Stoehr and a program of teaching probationers about reading and writing came up. It turns out that Bert has been working in it with Taylor who became his first really good male friend in Boston.

A few weeks ago, a student in my class was reading while he waited for his film to dry. Noticing that the Xerox was of prison diaries, I asked who was teaching a course like that. He described this rather unassuming man with whom he's taken two courses. Taylor Stoehr. I hadn't known of anyone else in the University who was actually volunteering to work with such disenfranchised people. (Most of the more radical teachers are in the College of Public and Community Service, not in what was once the College of Arts and Sciences.)

I e-mailed Taylor Stoehr that afternoon and we met a week later. What I really liked about him is that he has no expectations about what the classes 'will do to improve' the probationers lives. He recognizes that most probably won't change all that much, except for the knowledge that they've had something like eight weeks talking in small groups, reading Fredrick Douglass' writing, written some themselves, and begun to build up some sense of trust in each other that naturally led to expressing difficult feelings and ideas. And they participated in an ending ceremony that acknowledged what they had achieved -- experienced -- though it might not be quantifiable.

This morning, after I took a page for xerox to the Department, I ran into Taylor heading toward his class. We talked a minute and he mentioned that Bert Stern told him that he knew me. And I said that Bert told me he was inheriting Taylor's copy of the syllabus for the prison diary course and I asked him for extras.

Today I will begin to read Bert's book.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Enough, enough, enough

but just a few more images. My forlorn face, oh, yes, lost my lunch money again, after I've had a haircut from the most beautiful Diana in Chelsea. 

M. and S. at Salvation Army. S. has found a beautiful vest which has been carefully mended. M. says, "I couldn't buy it. It has too much of the previous owner left." 

I couldn't understand why on earth they could have so much fun poking around, looking at clothes, but S. found a wonderful bracelet and a coat for her son in Buffalo something or other, a consignment shop just down the street. 

I never know who I am in these stores and pick up something, "Look, M., a boiled jacket," which is something my aunt Marion would have thought was of value but I would never wear in a million years.

I had bought a wonderful vest, apparent in the photo, when Krissy and I went to Target the day before Thanksgiving. It was $7 and looks a bit like the dog ate it. Just my style.

After Bagel Bards, the Salvation Army, the hair cut, there was T.J. Max's where S. wanted to wander. I bought a coat. A very unusual coat that makes me look like I'm fun. I hope I wear it.

It was a long day. A lot of talking, interesting talking with B. at the Bagel Bards about his work with men on probation. What was such an odd coincidence is that he works in the program with Taylor Stoehr who I'd just met last week. A student had been reading prison diaries during my class and I asked who on earth was teaching that course. And he told me. And I e-mailed that professor because I had to meet another faculty member who is actually working with people in a way that doesn't invest himself in what they will later achieve with the material he's spending so much energy helping open them up to learning. 

It was remarkable to talk to Taylor Stoehr on the eve of his retirement, to listen to his pleasure in working with these men, his acceptance that it was valuable and important to take part in these classes whether or not the men go on to more education.  And it was really interesting to learn that B., a retired professor, a poet, a Bagel Bard friend, and he are great friends. 

Synchronicity as the Dishwasher's artist wife says.

I told you, I'm not depressed

I have only four more portfolios to grade.

I have taken tylenol.

This morning, Krissy helped me arrange the stuff for the Feet of Clay sale that starts on Friday. I hope most of this stuff sells, though I can't imagine it will. I loved making these drawings, but who on earth would want one? I have some bowls, a few plates with dogs on them. They might go.

I do remember that when I was quite young, probably when I was ten or eleven, my father and mother, had seen a play, or maybe it was a movie, and he laughed every time he repeated the line he'd heard, "God damn it, don't tell me I don't love you." I hope this was true......

Another of his favorite stories was about the man who was walking down the road and a little bird said, "Cheer up, things could be worse." And he did. And they were. It still makes me laugh when I think of him silently chuckling over this.

Krissy, Chris, the dogs and I are having pizza for dinner. Mushrooms and basil. Excellent.

I Got What I Wanted

Twenty minutes after I met X, a man I'd met from the Globe personals, I decided I wanted to sit across the table from this charming, gray-haired man who was quite like a five-year-old in his delight of his own stories and the way he wolfed down his Chinese food.

I was thrilled that he asked to see me again. And spent the next two years in the most foolish state for a woman was 56 when we met.

That first Thanksgiving, though, I almost left because he'd told me that his son remarked about his having met someone, asked if he was in love, or implied that he was in love, or implied that the feelings he had for this new person were strong, and he'd told him that he cared as much as he could. After he told me that I went upstairs and tore my photo off his office door, took it down from among the many, many cards and notes and photos he'd stuck up there. But I couldn't leave and replaced it a few days later.

He was/and most undoubtedly is/ a happy fellow, a man's man, a good conversationalist if the person is talking about something he's interested in. He's someone who will dance down the staircase, singing, who has beautiful stork legs, who enjoys morning coffee, the newspaper, delicious naps, all sports except when his team is loosing, potato chips and dips, liver pate. I've never met someone who was such a self-soother. You would think I'd have learned something, but I was hopeless, just lapping around, wanting attention. Wanting to be wanted. It isn't that I didn't enjoy myself with him, but I truly needed, oh, damn, needed to be important.

We were a parody of Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars. And could really have had fun if we were both able to play with those differences, but we couldn't. I wanted to talk them to death and he wanted to ignore them. Two bad strategies. But we managed for almost ten years. The last two were bad as I struggled, but....not a bad average.

I loved his sons, each unique, curious, interesting, smart. And the youngest would smile ever so slightly when I'd said something amusing, a fact that his father didn't notice, but I was encouraged, very encouraged and comforted, that this quiet kid had. His very quiet presence always meant a lot to me. 

I saw two of them recently, and the lovely wife of the oldest, and their absolutely precious baby with this tiny, smiling face, a little girl who totters nicely around, eager and enjoying. It was wonderful to have lunch with them.

And devastating.

The coyotes have eaten part of me in the last three years, since that bad breakup. 


So, this is it. This is what makes Thanksgiving so particularly much fun for someone who, as Karl says, possesses so much joi de mort.

Krissy will remember exactly what his film was, something complicated like Portrait of somebody we'd never heard of. (Not Vera Mar.)

When I had my haircut here in Chelsea yesterday by Diana, a young, absolutely gorgeous woman wearing long black pants, a royal blue tube top under her apron and extremely high heels, who has two children, she said that Thanksgiving dinner had been at her mother's house and they had a great time playing charades, pictionary and something else.

I guess that games are it for holidays. Who knew?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

She Got What She Wanted

Bacall came from Pam Angevine's barn on the backside of the racetrack. She was an adorable kitten, seemingly friendly and calm, born of a mother who had one litter after another, until she had a bunch of kittens that were so diseased they all had to be put to sleep.

And Bacall is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen. I've had many cats, so I trust my opinion. 

But she's not like most cats I've had. They've had heavy bones and most have had placid temperaments. Bacall's aloof, not interested in being touched, though she has always liked Bogie, often playing some odd game of tussle. Though she's perfectly calm around Krissy's two dogs, she hates cats. Perhaps because after her mother had the next litter, she attacked Bacall whenever she saw her.

She's always liked roaming. Standing at the apartment door, asking to go out into the hall and upstairs. For no particular reason. She'll lie on a box upstairs or on the work table.

She hasn't liked Tulip who is close to the same size and brown. This new dog annoys her, barking and fussing. But long before Tulip arrived, Bacall spent a great deal of time looking out of the window when she wasn't upstairs. It was clear that she wanted to go out. This summer I started letting her spend time on the back porch. Willow, the previous cat, used to climb up and down the posts, letting herself into the yard and returning, waiting patiently to be let inside. Bacall showed no such inclination to travel up and down in this way, but after having watched through the railing, she started making every effort to get out, to slip between my legs when I went out the front door.

Finally I let her out. And she came back. So this seemed like a good idea. I decided that she finally had the life she wanted. 

Then she began staying out over night. One morning I found her up in the stubby bush, the remains of a once-huge yew that Krissy and Chris had cut this summer. I called and she wouldn't come. Finally I got her, but as soon as I let her down inside the door, she slipped out again. She'd cornered a tiny field mouse, I realized, who had climbed to the top of a sawed off branch, quivering. He looked as if he was an illustration for a children's book. To her annoyance, I picked her up again and, this time, I closed the door firmly.

I thought I was giving her what she wanted. She seems like a classic barn cat, long, sleek, very light, and wanting to live an active life with interests that have nothing to do with couches or wood floors or desk chairs (though she's always had a fascination with the printer, racing in as soon as she hears it ramp up.) But a week or so ago, she didn't come back. I called. No Bacall. Chris said to wait a while and she'd probably turn up. She didn't. Krissy was teaching in New York on the weekend and I was worried about what she'd say. Bacall wasn't back that Monday and Krissy wasn't pleased. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no cat.

On Thanksgiving, after we got back from that fabulous dinner, I was walking Bogie and Tulip, and heard a meowing from under a bush five or six houses down, on the other side of the street. Bacall. She must have heard the dog tags because she was clearly responding to our presence near her on the block. She crept out from her covering, walked ahead of us up the street, crossed the road and came in the front door...

walked up the stairs, to the apartment, where she drank a lot of water. And ate some wet food. Dragged herself over to a dog bed and went to sleep. The day after her return from all those days outside, she slipped down the backstairs and tried to run out. I was amazed she could move that fast. By then I'd noticed that one side of her jaw is stove in and looks nasty. I'm not sure that she can eat dry food, but she can eat wet. She's clearly been in a fight. Three days later, she seems to be recovering a bit, licking herself, eating wet food. I've yet to see her lift her lovely tail, but she now stretches. She doesn't look as beautiful as she once did, but she has allowed me to rub her head.  

I am hoping that more rest and more food will get her back to some semblance of her old self. I hope she carries her tail high again and that I don't have to take her to the vet and pay hundreds of dollars for her escapade.

And she's not going out again. My daughter told me so. No matter what she wants. 

Most of the cats on the backside get eaten by the coyotes except Reeses who lives in the maintenance shed and knows how to avoid the John Deeres, trucks and cars.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Best Thanksgiving

Perhaps my giving this Thanksgiving the 'best of all' rating might be viewed dimly considering how much I dislike the holiday. It's loaded with what I can't remember before my mother's death when I was twelve, what my father told me about those dinners which always involved some quarrel between my mother and my aunt over cooking. Over cooking? Over mashed potatoes? And it always ended with my uncle and father taking naps under the baby grand in my aunt's living room. But before that, my brother would have planted his big feet, leaned back in the dining chair which creaked, provoking Aunt Marion, to say, always, "Dickie, my chair. Oh, my chair," or something equivalent. Anyway, after my mother died, and I was left in the uncertain care of my father and his general, casual mismanagement and distain for most of everything, Thanksgiving became the beginning of a bad month.

But we had a terrific time yesterday. Really nice. For which I am extremely grateful. 

After I noticed that there was yet again dog shit on my shoe and went in to change them, and after Smith realized he wanted to wear something different, and after Krissy had washed all the vegetables and after we forgot a plate to put them on, but at least had the two bowls they had bought at the dollar store for the dip and then remembered that the wok was left behind, but we had Bogie and the little gifts Krissy had found for the six-year-old and a little something for the fifteen-year old, we were off. I was, of course, fearing that we'd miss the walk.

But we didn't. There was no traffic. Smith couldn't believe it. He's never seen anything like it in his five or six months on the east coast. 

I draggled behind with Bogie during the long walk around Fresh Pond which I have to say I'd take everyday if I lived near here. That would fix me, although it didn't and my leg hurt and Bogie wanted to sniff everything possible. But Smith was telling about their adventure since he put up a website for their new business of writing stories -- isn't your life story interesting? Don't you want it told and put on HBO? They have had three very curious adventures, one of which involved being flown to Palm Beach, or somewhere like that in Florida, staying at the Hyatt, good breakfasts included, to talk with a man who had a good story and carried two guns and they've met other folks, a bit of the same ilk, and, as M. said, "This should be a screen play." And I do think their adventures would make a good one. I've heard the stories before, but not told at a good clip in the soft, gray air of a warm late November day I couldn't keep up with it and looked at trees, the bare branches against the very pale sky. 

The food was fabulous. Everyone contributing. L. making the 'perfect' turkey and their daughter making two perfect apple pies. And everyone else bringing something or other, especially M. who makes a mold from a recipe his mother had given him, even though she probably now doesn't remember making it. He's carrying on that tradition which is both gorgeous and delicious. It serves as desert, really.

So, it was good food, good conversation. I particularly liked C's talking about her father's way of greeting the new year, going outside of the house just before midnight, coming backing just after it, turning on all the lights, opening all the faucets to bring in the good year. That he baked a special bread (her gestures made it seem as if it was flat) with a coin hidden in it. If the knife hit the coin when the bread was cut, that brought good fortune to everyone in the house. When things got better, she said, he put a gold coin into it. I want to hear more.

Of course, many of us had our cameras. And it was perfectly acceptable to photograph the food, the loaded plates, the lifted glasses, everyone talking and eating. K. put dibs on the remains of food on the plates, which those of us down at that end of he table knew meant he was going to make a small series about left-overs from this particular Thanksgiving. And put it on facebook, perhaps. It's so nice when this insanity of recording is so natural.

BUT THE BEST WAS CHARADES. I don't know whose idea this was. It got some immediate enthusiasm, but some groans. I've never played it before and I would usually groan, but I didn't bother to make a peep either way. The cat had profoundly got my tongue and I couldn't think of much to say, but that didn't mean I wasn't thoroughly enjoying myself.

And I loved the charades which involved endless gesturing, a bit of stamping around, a lot of laughing, some head thumping. I was out of the room when the beloved six-year-old did hers, unfortunately. But, A. who is fifteen did the most complicated, a book that our side couldn't even decide the correct title for....Origin of the Species or Origin of Species, probably not The Origin of the Species. There was, thank dog, an orange book on the mantle piece. (Yes, she was standing in front of the fire place.) And someone finally got origin and after that it was pretty easy for M. to come up with the name.

I even got up. No, I didn't get up. I found myself up there, unfolding a slip of paper with Little Miss Sunshine, movie, on it. I thought of pointing to Krissy who is on a diet of joy, and is intent on being cheerful, happy, having a good time, making the best of everything, being in the moment and making the moment good, but I started on little....and then got to third word, first syllable, sun....  It was easy from there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Moving Fast

I move fast on the holiday. Otherwise, I would go to bed. Things are actually better. When my daughter was little, she refused to celebrate Thanksgiving because, on her father's side, one of his grandmother's was Cherokee, the other was white. So, why would we celebrate this sorry occasion? If she did come along with me to someone's dinner, she sat silently and never ate turkey. It was easier to go to two or three movies which is, I think, a fine way to spend any holiday.

But it's gotten better for her as long as we don't go anywhere that truly involves a large family of which we are not a part. (Last year we tried that and she had a very hard time.) So, we're going to visit friends who have other folks, husbands, wives, children, single people, a couple of parents who don't belong to the couple throwing the event, but no large extended family...It will be nice. We've been there before. She and her ex are looking forward to it. Or at least she is. She's on a diet of joy which means she looks forward to everything.

I have been moving today, as I was yesterday, though I didn't have a very good start in the morning. Was it the dog shit on my shoe? The mess I made trying to do my own Xerox because the machine ran out of ink and my pages somehow got caught and some were mixed up? "I'm going to put you in a nursing home where there is no Xerox machine." That I had to have that big ms. rexeroxed and she punched it on the wrong side and the pages were out of order? So that my plan to put it in the mail was delayed while I redid all that? And so on.

But the afternoon was good. I got to add a bit more to the text. 

And today I'm moving fast so the dark clouds don't catch me. I was at Starbucks at 8:30, working on new stuff. There were three barristers on duty. Danielle, the pharmacist, said that her mother is a very good cook and that she's religious so Christmas is always a good holiday. The other one doesn't love, but doesn't mind, holidays. The guy wished me a H. T. It was early and they were expecting a big crowd by 10. Then the fellow who had a gallbladder operation last week and only stayed in the hospital for 48 hours, who had delusions when he got home from the percoset,  (sp?) was there. We briefly shared a table on Tuesday, and talked about how he felt. He's better today.

I found a Globe and also a left-over from the Sunday Time's, the Book Review, that has this very good article about two new books, Raymond Carver. It was written by Stephen King, I found out after I'd read the whooshing prose, a lot of anger there that seems to be justified, against Lish and against Carver for virtually ignoring the wife who supported him during those early years. From reading the poems, I got a different impression -- that her state of mind was similarly underwater during those hard years when he was drinking and they were trying to raised the children. (I'm not fond of his stories (as edited by Lish), too barren, but I love the poems...they are my constant inspiration.)

I scoop up left-over papers at Starbucks. One goal is to subscribe to or buy the Times everyday, but that's stupid because I can hardly get through one section. Recently I got stuck on that boy with Asbergers who traveled on the subway for 11 days with no one noticing him even though there were signs all around about his disappearance. "I thought I'd be on there forever." How am I going to use that story? I wonder, like I wonder about so many of those articles.   (Fortunately, the dog tore up one about the naming of newly discovered prehistoric crocodiles. But maybe I can tape it together.) 

Anyway, another holiday. I should call my brother. He feels just about the same.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I've been working hard, writing a poemish thing about being on the backside of a local racetrack early mornings from June until the last sad day in November. It's about 140 pages, and I've gone over it a number of times, written a cast of characters and today I'm going to print it out so I can, hopefully, tell whether I've built them up sufficiently over time. And, this weekend I turned fifty or so digital images into small black-and-white photographs of feed buckets and grain bags and hoof prints in the mud. So, I was sitting at the computer a long time doing that and my body does not like sitting or much of anything else, for that matter. 

On Friday, a nice fellow came over to instal InDesign, a program that would allow me to stream text and insert images. I'd already bought the wrong program, not noticing that it was for PC. This time, I'd thought I was golden, but my attempts to upload it didn't work. And neither did his. It turns out that you need an intel processor (or something like that) to upload it and my computer is too old. So, $50 to him and we'll see if I can return the program.  The fortunate thing is that while he was thinking the problem might be my password and in trying to find that program, I found an old Quark. I like Quark, though the fellow told me all sorts of reasons that I shouldn't. Anyway, now I have Quark that he re-installed.

The point of all this is that while I was at the computer on Sunday, I must have turned oddly and pulled out a muscle in my ribcage. At the same time, I had a repeating odd pain in my fat stomach, lower right. When things like this happen, my body goes into hyper alert [reason: my mother died when I was twelve. No one except my father was aware of the seriousness of her illness. Lesson learned -- watch out, be alert, monitor every tiny signal. You never know what's happening.] and I thought I might be dying. I've done this many times, so I know to pace around, because if you're standing up, there's less likelihood of dying. Etc. After some time, I decided I wasn't dying.

It was cleanathon day at Feet of Clay, 11-2. And I planned to be there at ten so L. and I could get the job we always do. But the line at Starbucks was very long, I needed my latte, I was late, we didn't get to do what I wanted to do, but we were washing boards and I told L. about my flirt with fear of death. And she told me that she's been having pains for two years, been looked at and poked at, some odd symptoms, etc. "We're at that age. The question is have you done everything you need to do." Or anyway, it was a phrase like that. She's a Buddhist and I knew she'd done a program about aging, death and has considered just what she has to get finished. And she's pretty well done with what she needs to do. "I could die. I'm finished." 

Well, L. isn't finished. She's about to move to New Mexico and start a new life. She's the most traveling seventy-year-old I know. No matter what pain she has from a cranky body, she's full of energy. But I knew what she means.

And I also know THAT I HAVE FIVE MORE LARGE PROJECTS, thank you, that I NEED to get done. I'm extremely glad that I didn't have to go to the hospital yesterday for the heart attack (yes, that's what I imagined) and that I was able to work for all those hours (even if it was difficult to take a deep breath) and that I am going to print out the text today so that I can work on the track piece.

Yesterday, I talked to Joe, my friend who is a Cuban Thoroughbred trainer, and seriously ill. We're going to breakfast at the Bagel Bin on Wednesday. He told me that his friend, Philippe, maybe sixty-seven, born in Argentina, mother was Sicilian, still exercising riding in the morning, making a living in a business where an ambulance must be present at all times if any horses and riders are on the track -- early morning training and racing, died after being thrown. He died a day or so ago.  Just weeks ago. I just talked to him in the track kitchen, about his son who is working at Walmart in Maine, a job that Philippe thought makes too little money, living with his girlfriend. Oh, Philippe, I'm sorry.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

S's Marimekko's

[This is wonderful, I have the drawing that Sally did. She mailed it to me in a beautifully protected heavy envelope and I can clearly read what she wrote.] 
[From the top left it says,] My Marimekko's from back-in-the-day...the first ca 1965 (paid for by babysitting)

[That is the dress on the top left, black and brown and the accompanying notes are -- ] optional belt that also could work as a head band...background w/ some fairly small brown leafy pattern...somehow I think there was maybe 2 layers of ruffles...

[Moving down to the blue dress] The second bought by my mother as my college interview dress though I still didn't get into Radcliffe! ... think black chickenpox against white on bib, Nehru collar and cuffs and dark blue on the rest...once again optional belt...

[The large paragraph on the bottom says] The top one was a perfect summer dress and I wore it literally to pieces...the bottom one -- less suited for summer wear and too think for regular winter wear -- I don't recall what happened to it. I'm sure I liked it less after rejection from Radcliffe, but now I wish I had shortened it for use as a shift.

[Moving to the upper right] The third etched in my memory (thought not so distinctly as it was a 10 min encounter in a dressing room in the mid 70s) is the one that "got away" in that it was too expensive for my post college ltd budget and so flamboyant that I couldn't imagine where I'd wear it other than as a mu-muu at home to clean the kitchen....? so beautiful -- even on  me at a time when I was still ong and lean -- that I recall it strongly & slightly lament letting it stay in the store....     white ground but very bright thin stripes of hot colors...actually, re Melissa's blog, the style of this one and also the colors looks quite derivative of beautiful African dresses.

[in the bubble right near the colorful dress is --] ohh how I wish this drawing looked more like Kalman's...


Friday, November 20, 2009


I listen to three people about my work. George is words. Susan is words and everything else. Sally is everything else, though if I could get her to read the words (and I have, long laborious drafts of long laborious, very important work that I've never done a thing with ((Susan got hooked into reading it, also))), she would be words.

So, when Susan said, "No more plates. The blobs are far more interesting." I listened. I need information from these three people. I like their advice. (I also like to know if someone/a friend or colleague is annoyed or angry, I think those discussions are important and interesting.)

I concentrated on the blobs after she said this. They are actually called, "For No Earthly Reason." And I think they are extremely interesting, even beautiful. They are clay with a copper oxide on the outside, glazed inside. But they are yet another installation that sits in boxes upstairs. I thought I had enough boxes with photographs, books with negatives, but no, here I am, seventy, and I've been amassing more and more boxes with clays stuff in them for the last four years.

But it's holiday time. And there's another sale at Feet of Clay, the studio where I work in Brookline. And the voice of the devil called me into making more plates with dogs on them. I'd taken a couple of months off from working with clay because being at the track, working there in the mornings was so much more important. But, in order to be in the show, in order to try to sell what I made a year or so ago in the plate department, I had to go back there and do something. So, it's been dog plates. 

I had work in a holiday sale just as the economy tanked. And sold very little. (Being in the sale involves paying real money to get in it, doing six points of somewhat work like sending out invitations ((my daughter does this for me since my body rebels)) or wrapping what's sold, setting up your display and taking it down the instant the minute of the show is over.) 

I don't imagine I'll sell much of anything this year, partly because the work there is generally practical -- nice looking plates, cups, casseroles. It's utilitarian and my work isn't. And mine is messy, built in molds with the seams showing pleasantly on the underside. 

My first time around, I made a lot of plates with nude ladies on them, a favorite subject. (When I grew up, there was a large oil paintings of a nude woman lying on a couch and a water color of her in a similar form hanging on the living room. They were done by George Constant, a Greek painter who my parents knew, and they were of his wife. I've always fancied nudes and have done many such self-portraits and lead workshop on the nude, in the nude.) 

And some of the plates had words and drawings, like a bearded man who liked like he was in the dumps with the label, 'I am not depressed' over his head. None of those sold though a few cat and dog bowls went.

At any rate, I've only made seven or eight new bowls, all with dogs, and a couple of small plates this month.

Anyway, enough of bowls and plates (like Susan said), I'm going back to the nude lady figures, an installation (in boxes) of 1,000 small clay figures that would be accompanied by a small grid of a black-and-white photographs of a nude female torso pushed this way and that as if she's clay. And I'm going to work on some odd little figures, nude figures with hands and legs that move, sort of. So, I start working on those soon. The cleanathon is on Sunday, then set-up for the show, and a lull in active work making on the part of most people. But I'll make some figures. They're small. They have no use whatsoever. And they're not plates.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Rules

Chris, my daughter's ex who lives in the apartment downstairs, said, "You don't let many cars cut in do you?"

And I had to think about that because I generally imagine myself as a push over.

But today, I decided I have rules.

If I am in a long line of traffic, waiting for the train signal to let us pass, and a car is coming out of a parking lot -- no, I don't let him/her in (if they are white.) Have to pay their dues. 

In the same situation, if there's a long line of cars coming from the parking lot, I'd let the first in, no matter who is driving.

When cars are exiting the highway and I'm trying to get to work, I let one in if there are a lot of cars waiting behind him.

If  a white truck (any kind of truck) with a white man driving wants to turn into my crowded lane, I don't let him in. Though he usually gets ahead anyway. Two  white men, smoking, I do my best to keep them out, but they always nudge in.

If someone who is black, man or woman, wants to get into my line, I let him or her in, almost all the time. (I have very deep feelings about the historical racism in this country and that someone who is black, or Afro-American is still, too often, invisible.) 

A white man, especially in a fancy car, particularly a Hummer, will not be allowed in.

Actually no one in a Hummer will be allowed to get in front of me if I can help it, no matter who the driver is.

I'm not savvy enough to recognize a Prius or other energy efficient cars, if I did, I'd let those drivers in ahead a me.

I might let a white woman in a reasonably old, fairly good car, get into the lane.

I won't let young guys, especially if they are blaring loud music (though I like loud music baring from cars) in.

I'm in favor of liberalized immigration laws. If I could recognize someone who is illegal, I'd definitely let him/her into my line of traffic, ahead of me.

I'm not sure about the elderly. Would I let a little old white man with a handicapped sign hanging from his rear view mirror, his head just peeking over the steering wheel, in? Luckily I don't think that's happened when I was paying attention.

If someone catches my eye and has a beseeching expression, or makes a pleading gesture, I'll let them get ahead of me. 

All these decisions are made without thought -- at least until today when I began to think about my rules as I was driving to work and decide who I'm likely to let in. 

I am grateful to see that wave of a hand in thanks, or at least a nod, if I've let someone get into my line of traffic. (And I have to say, that it's often white men who never acknowledge me when they sweep ahead.) 

On the other hand, I do my best to listen to varying political arguments, I don't believe in only shoring up my own particular opinion or liberal position. So, I find it funny that I'm so narrow minded in this small sphere of power that I can exercise when I'm driving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Teeth of Disadvantaged Folks

When I first started working some 3-11 shifts in a shelter somewhere around 1979, a major problem was how the women would get dental care. A few went to dental schools for major work, though I think that was very costly and can't imagine how they managed it. Most, I assume, just ignored whatever difficulties they had.

There were clinics in the men and women's sides where nurses took care of various, relatively simple, health problems and sent guests (the term used for people who were homeless) off to Boston City to see a specialist if necessary. But there was  no free dental care until Healthcare for the Homeless came in sometime after 1984. I could probably reconstruct just when this was because I had taken a year-leave-of-absence from teaching and was working as a co-ordinator in the women's clinic. Just as I left for an artist-in residency, for the summer, to very reluctantly go back to teaching in the fall, the Robert Wood Johnson sponsored a major healthcare initiative and Healthcare for the Homeless began to offer services in the shelter. In some ways that ultimately wasn't good for the nurses clinic where I'd been working -- the first nurses clinic in a shelter in the country -- because eventually it was taken over and a male doctor (add some shuddering in here) became the major figure instead of the more radical and egalitarian nurses, women and men. But, aside from that, many advantages came along including access to dental care.

Out at the track, once Jim Greene and Shirley Edwards started the 8th Pole to bring a Healthcare for the Homeless doctor and nurse to the backside two mornings a week, Shirley was able to set up regular Thursday morning dental visits. And that's been well used. One of my favorite people, a real old fashioned and pretty old groom, the kind who touches every part of the Thoroughbred in his charge every day to check for hot spots and other potential problems, was able to get teeth this summer so he can go back to Pennsylvania this winter and show off to his new lady. (She's only fifty and he lost quite a bit of weight last winter after he met her. Shows to go you!)

It's so common to see someone on the track who's missing front teeth, as if it's a marker. Maybe it's poor eating, maybe drugs, maybe carelessness.

I am missing teeth, also, but that fact has been covered up by a permanent bridge. And my teeth look like those of a poor person, crooked, mismatched, rather discolored, though I've put a great deal of money into them over the years. Many dentist visits. Any number of gold crowns. 

I see Lyn four times a year, my dental hygienist whose children are now grown up, whose son has finished with college and is still looking for a real job, whose her daughter is married with two children and working, and who herself is in an extremely happy, relatively new, second marriage. I suppose she's seen many changes in my life, but she has the opportunity to talk more, to tell me stories. 

For the last two sessions, she tried a new instrument that uses high-power water pressure. So that instrument, combined with something that numbs the gums, makes this teeth cleaning process fairly easy. And not that long ago, she worked seriously on my front gums in the hope that I will avoiding any dealings with the dreaded periodontist. 

This time she said, "Oh, the digital must be so much easier than when you had to develop the film." It seems to amuse her that I take photographs. And it amuses me, too. A good distraction. Last spring she said, "Is that the Lumix? We're thinking of getting that camera for our trip to the Galapagos. Do you like it? Can I see it?" They did get the camera and, the next time I saw her, she said she'd taken some video of the slow tortoises and was perfectly pleased with the clarity of the images.

I don't like dentists, because I'm afraid of Novocaine and have to take a quarter of a valium if I'm going to have it. (Then I'm embarrassed that I don't die from the injection and that it really doesn't even hurt. It's just anxiety, old anxiety from god knows how long ago that won't go away.) 

My former dentist retired a couple of years ago because he needed knee surgery, an operation that unfortunately didn't allow him to go back to bicycling or running, though he can walk pretty well. I'd seen him for years and, in that way that so often happens, a friend knew someone in the hospital community who knew that he'd had jaw or mouth cancer (I forget which) when I first started seeing him. But I've watched him grow old in quite good health. Just this last glitch. His wife was a photographer and I'd comment about her experimental work that was displayed in the office. (My eye doctor is a photographer and seeing him involves making comments about all his precise images, too.)

I've been privileged to have had Lyn, a good dentist, good dental care, the aid of Valium, and now have an insurance plan that pays a tiny bit of the astronomical cost of dental care. And my teeth still look awful.

But I am totally privileged compared to so many people who have less money to spend on this type of care, don't have dental insurance or don't have any access to dental care.

My father, when he got old, had the teeth of a jack-o-lantern, horrible, discolored teeth. He'd vowed never to darken the door of a dentist's office and didn't. He was stubborn. I imagine that my teeth will look as ghastly if I get to be eighty-nine, but hopefully I won't have his bad attitude. Teeth are just another damn part of the general maintenance that we have to be diligent about. Alas. 

What's really interesting is that after I wrote this I read the Tuesday Science NY Times section and Jane Brody had an article in implants (I didn't read it) and next to it was an article about the First Mention of Fluoride, 1931 (before I was born) and when it was recognized for use in the water supply, 1951 (I was twelve.) I think that Fluoride has probably made a significant difference to the health of teeth, though I have no idea what else it might have done that might not be as beneficial. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Marimekko's by Sally

This gorgeous drawing with text that I can't entirely read appeared in my e-mail from Sally. Her Marimekkos. 

I couldn't be more pleased.

After I heard an NPR piece, probably by a Brit, about the left and right hemispheres, how the left dominates western thinking, focused, goal oriented, and the right is more likely to be found in eastern thinking, a more encompassing vision, not concentrating on the specific parts, I, for no reason that's connected to whether that version of the hemispheres makes sense to me, started thinking about why I wanted to transmit Sally's stories. Yes, they follow a thread about these clothes and that material which started with the blog about Elsa Dorfman and the DR store being recreated, but more than that, she was talking about high school -- a time of life that I'd kill myself if I had to go back to.

But she had seen a dress that she wanted, a $48 marimekko that her mother wouldn't buy. "It's cotton."  So, she baby sat in order to buy it for herself. And she marked down how much she earned each time. Was this on a sheet of paper tucked into her mirror or did I make up that detail? At any rate, I got the idea that this tally was always visible in her room. And it sounded precious. Wanting something, a wonderful item of clothing, and working to get it (perhaps, she said,  not figuring in the tax) and then getting it and loving it. All that seemed quite remarkable to me. Very different from what I'd experienced. And quite lovely.

I can't entirely retrieve my mental-tape-recording of her story, but another part that touched me was when her mother said something like, "You're not wearing that to a college interview. It's winter." And Sally saying, "I'll wear tights and boots." And wearing it.  

There was something important to me, healing if you will, though that sound hideously corny, in hearing a story of Sally so successfully wanting this dress that was, truly, like a symbol of independence, removing herself from her mother's taste and perhaps from her school mates taste.

I, who leaps rather than thinks, and leapt to recreate her story, think this is the underbelly of why. 

And those dresses were so important that she'll actually make a drawing of them. Isn't that quite remarkable?

I will enlarge the drawing on my computer so that I can  write what she says in her own words about those dresses.

I mentioned, in the original piece which I deleted when I didn't understand that Sally was only slightly miffed at appearing on a blog, that when I met her, she was stunning. Tall, a gorgeous if unconventional face, unruly dark curls and straggles, the remnants of having taken dance apparent in her carriage. I'm sure she could wear a marimekko without it overwhelming her or making her head disappear into that strong design. 

In those olden days, I was attractive, too, in that pseudo waspy way that I've never favored. And my head would have disappeared entirely had I put on a marimekko dress which I never would have, anyway. My opinion is still that ordinary mortals shouldn't have worn them, even though almost every woman I've mentioned them to has a precious marimekko memory.

My Favorite Photograph

This image, by Sally, really makes me feel good about myself. And I've been annoyed at myself for about five years....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Relief and a Debut

It turns out that my friend Sally wasn't really angry that her images and stories had appeared on the blog. It would have been perfectly  normal had she been, but our communication was the victim of the lack of humor that e-mail has. She was being ironic.

I'm not that sorry that I misunderstood, because it gave me pause to think. I know that she's a far more private person than I am and what right did I have to use her photographs? I got into trouble with someone else, 100 years ago, because I included her portrait in my first exhibition and she was furious. It's a big question. And brings up issues about my writing this summer. But let's let all that go because..............

I'm enormously glad, enormously, that Sally isn't mad!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Recently I lost a friend of thirty years because of poor communication. I would never have given up her friendship, even if I've been quite uncommunicative for the last five years, but she got mad for a different reason than that. I wish I'd been dumped for how tired I have been of myself and how unwilling to talk much except in writing.

Anyway, now I can reconstruct the gorgeous story of Sally buying a Marimekko dress with her baby sitting money. And the dress she wore to her college interviews. I was grieving for those stories because I thought she might not have occasion to tell them again and they seemed to precious. I was whirring away like myself-the-tape-recorder, in my only form of rapture, while I was listening. 

So, this is the debut of her photographs from the trip. I absolutely love the one of me in the Bagel Bin and should probably add it to that series. (Wouldn't you love to have that face staring at you while she's photographing?) And I love the one of me in the downstairs apartment, looking like I lost my lunch money as I usually look if I don't force myself to smile or look, somehow, engaged. And I love the one of Krissy, Polyester and me. (I look more together and a bit more like the self I once was in this photo, so it's a very graceful image, a kind photograph.) And ditto for K&C on the porch and the one in the Bagel Bin.  Sally's a fine photographer. And I couldn't be  more pleased that she'll allow me to have her photographs on the blog. She will have to identify herself................I hope.

She hasn't seemed to like blogging, so I was surprised that she even looked at mine. So this is, as she says, an introduction to this odd new way of communicating. But, I hope she doesn't stoop to facebook. That's only good as a replacement for e-mail.............