Monday, May 28, 2007

Joel graduated!

May 28

What a week-end-- actually, what a month. We are exhausted from moving Joel's stuff back from Providence in a U-Haul truck! That is, Andy and I drove (me too!) with Joel's worldly goods in the truck. Joel and Sarah are still driving back in the Subaru. It was a great week-end: dinner Friday with Ellen and Jon and Greg and Bethany and us and Joel and Sarah; then the big dance where we saw Ethan Schreiber and Vanessa; Ken and Linda the next day too along with Harvey and Adrianne. The Phi Beta Kappa presentation; the Baccalaureate speech; receptions, dinner cooked by Joel, Seb, Melanie and Sarah for the families, Joel baking pies with his own crust! Sunday all graduation all day with Chiaki and Tak and the thrill of Joel surprising us by geting to walk up on the stage! They had one student representing each group (1200 students, so thousands of family members and well-wishers)--one Bachelor of Arts, one Bachelor of Science, etc., and Joel got to "walk" representing people who got both a Bachelor of Science AND a Masters! He also got interviewed in the Providence newspaper.

Beautiful day-- B.B. King got an honorary and sang a cappella-- how delightful and touching. Dinner that night with Ken, Linda, and Ethan and Vanessa and us (us being Andy, me, Joel, and Sarah). Lots of photos (see a samply at graduation pictures). Very exciting and exhausting.And today-- up early renting truck, hours of packing and carrying things downstairs, then driving, and now waiting for Joel and Sarah to get here--and they are off tomorrow, she to D.C., he to a conference in CA!

Monday, May 21, 2007

I'm a Humanitarian of the Year!

May 21

They honored me Saturday night at Ethical Culture (Actually, at Cryan's Irish pub's party room in South Orange). It was pretty terrific, to have people stand up one after the other and say nice things. See some pictures here. There was some stress, of course, with all the people who mean something to you there to talk with, but over all, what a high!

May 19 Continued

I just booked a flight for my mother from Newark to Cleveland. It cost @$200 and I booked it using orbitz, and that's all fine, but now it gets weird. This flight is a round trip! It cost over $400, twice as much, to go one way.

Is Capitalism crazy or what?

I booked the required return flight from Cleveland to Newark in late July in case she happens to be back in Cleveland (my cousin takes her by car sometimes). Then, if she happens to be there, she can fly to Newark and I'll take her back to WV on my way to the Appalachian Writers Workshop. Otherwise, we'll just forget the second half of the round trip. Andy's brother David, who flies all the time, says this is very typical.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


May 19

I started reading back in 1984 diaries looking for the beginning of Joel, as he is graduating college next week, and came across early thoughts about writing on the computer. We’d already had one for close to a year, the famous Zorba. I wrote on July 25, 1984, and I was all into “the agony of writing.”

I was at that time doing galleys on Only Great Changes and also working on the novel that became Trespassers, the final Blair Morgan, and not published for more than ten years. This was at the very beginning of the publisher shake up, Scribner's would be dropping me in about a year. It was the heart of Reagonomics.

We were at the lake and I was deep into trying to get pregnant and also Being a Writer. “Do I have too many threads here?” I wrote, with an eye no doubt to the imaginary graduate student someday studying my journals for clues to the source of my brilliance, “Too much to handle at once? Maybe I have to leave out the hospital, but I really do want to finish with Blair in this book. None of this speculation, though, is the agony of writing. This is all just chewing it over: it will take care of itself later. I might, for example, separate out the Porter Otis stuff altogether, let it stand as a novella. Or turn it into a many-viewpointed piece like ‘The Birds That Stay.’”
This surprised me, that I had already at least drafted “The Birds That Stay.” Also that Porter Otis (which became the story “Evenings with Dotson”) was apparently part of what became Trespassers. Boy, you forget the details.

I go on, rather dramatically: “There is some discomfort in speculation–the pain of uncertainty. But the real agony is the blank page syndrome. Dark screen now. How to fill it with light, the page with words.” And then I went off on writing on the computer, how it seemed to encourage less linearity, and this is still true, for drafting. I think in fact the digital age encourages a lot of linear maundering in bloggers.

I commented that “there is much more freedom to stop in the middle and go in different directions. The several dimensioned flowering seems paramount instead of the linear narration. A problem of computer writing I have solved is how to make changes in hard copy. I turn to the place in the hard copy, located in on disk, wrote and rewrote the new part, then printed up (via a file called ‘Type’) and inserted it into the manuscript. The problem had been keeping hard copy and disk material equally updated. Little changes will still have to be done twice, I guess, but this larger changing will work well. The most practical effect of Zorba on my writing (and teaching and business letter writing and resume updating) is of course the ease of using drafts again. Another practical effect related, is the relatively late state of drafts that are finally printed out."

This was printed out and pasted into the journal book. The next entries were handwritten in ink, with little sketches I really like, dreams, all my agonizing over getting pregnant. As time goes on, there are increasing numbers of pasted in typed passages. I seemed to have started doing journals on the computer and saving them around the summer of 1986. Gain and loss, of course, the loss is off the flow of ink and the sketches of my dreams.

All that speculation about writing is so interesting to me to read now. I had no idea of what was ahead-- the world wide web, the incredible amount of information in each computer. David Weinberger as philosopher of the Internet, my son who I had not even met yet majoring in computer science in college. Only 22 or 23 years.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Atlantic City

May 17, 2007

Last night Carol and Mila and I went down to Atlantic City to receive an award for the Coalition. It was a real adventure getting down there--an hour to go ten miles because of a downed wire on the Garden State Parkway, and then through the recently reopened section of the Parkway where the sky was still full of yellow smoke and your eyes smarted, and you could see the backfires still burning from the big forest fire in the Pine Barrens, started by National Guard flares dropped from a plane. Very spooky, smoke, blackened grass.

I enjoyed the ride down and the dinner, but especially the ride back, late, Mila driving, Carol riding shotgun, me napping in the back seat with their voices going on, two hours of a golden nostalgic glow in the dark for me, Carol’s familiar deep chuckle, Mila’s lighter voice. Telling stories, talking about how to help kids who need scholarships. I felt relaxed and safe as I used to on the ten hour drives to my grandmother's while my dad and mother talked endlessly in the front seat.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day

Chiaki Achiwa at Ethical Culture on
May 13, 2007, Mother's Day

May 13, 2007

Another beautiful performance by our friend Chiaki Achiwa at Ethical Culture today, accompanied by our neighbor Jim Harrington. Chiaki and Takeshi came in from New York last evening with a Junior's cheesecake, and Chiaki went across the street to rehearse with Jim, and then the Harringtons came over for dinner-- Lienne after softball tryouts. Cara-An did some amazing knife work making tiny slices of some grapes, and we all enjoyed being together. Then today, Mother's Day, Chiaki sang two songs, including a lovely Japanese piece called "The Red Dragonfly." There was group sharing of music, poems, and thoughts about mothers and nurturing. Andy took along to share the photo of his father and mother in a restraurant in New Orleans. Beautiful weather.

Monday, May 07, 2007


More pix at pictures

May 7

We're back from a whirlwind visit to Brown where Joel had his final dance performance, and Andy decided we should buy flowers for Joel-- all the nineteen years of him dancing, and all the little girls in tutus who got flowers-- and we never gave any to him till last night! Sarah gave some to him a year ago, and the dance team gave some to the seniors, but these were Joel's first. He danced very well, and the show was extremely well choreographed and organized this year with funny bits of patter between routines while they changed clothes, and once Joel changed behind a sheet on stage! Some of the girls were really super, Camel on the front row left above and Meg on the top far right plus Sarah F. on her right in a blue tee. ALl of them really, but it was the wholeness of the show that stood out for me. A really nice turn out too, lots of Joel's CS friends, including an important professor in his life, Shriram, who (they tell us) shouted Take it Off or something like that from the back row when Joel was changing clothes! Oh, and Joel shaved off his moustache in the middle of the show-- offstage that. And one number was called "Billy Joel Weinberger!" And Meg and Sarah F. did "Moses Supposes" again with Meg's dad onstage as the benighted elocution professor.

We had a nice time with Sarah, too, riding up, riding back. She just left to drive to D.C. today, straight to work. Joel has projects, one final, has finished classes. "It kind of sneaked up on me," he said.

Well, lots to say good-bye to, but this was a lot of fun and I'm working on my upper lip stiffness quotient.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Demos & Haiku

I went to two demonstrations last evening– the usual one with the Military Families in South Orange, and then I went to Maplewood and caught the tail end of the South Mountain Peace Action/ MoveOn rally against Bush’s veto of the spending bill with the deadline for beginning to leave Iraq

I was struck by how I don’t appreciate the fine points of ideology– ideology interests me and informs me, but doesn't grip me the way art grips me. Yes Bush is a disaster, and yes I love to wave a sign that says “Bush lied they died,” but it’s the lies and the deaths that move me, not whether the Democrats should be castigated or praised for their efforts at a deadline rather than an immediate pullout.

I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I were Emperor of the World or the Demiurge (if the Demiurge gets to change what already happened). I’d certainly stop the invasion of Iraq. Or maybe I’d make sure the winner of the majority of presidential votes in 2000 actually became the president. Or I’d go back to the end of WW I and make better arrangements in the Middle East. Or...

But I guess that’s the point. What I see is what has happened and what might happen, all extremely complicated, and I don’t think in terms of policy, or rather, I see clearly certain general directions, and I have a few clear policy preferences: elect someone who will make better choices for the Supreme Court. Find a way to extend Medicare to everyone. Get rid of the Death Penalty. Get the heck out of Iraq. I react with a strong sense of what is right and wrong, which is admittedly often simplistic, but isn’t right and wrong always?

One reason I stand with the Military Families Against is that I am glad when someone takes the farther left position, which ultimately, I believe, moves things that way. I also vote for the Democrat for president because I believe that small practical improvements count. I'd rather vote for a Socialist, of course.

One great success of the Reaganites was the creation of a culture of greediness. The even greater success of the Right has been to move the discourse so far in their preferred direction that people laugh nervously if you say you’re a democratic socialist.

May 1

Dogwood pink and white,
Maroon tulips, cherry blooms,
Fragrance? Wild onion!