Sunday, March 30, 2008

Coal Miner's Dinner and a Haiku

March 30

Well, the Coal Miner’s Dinner fundraiser for Ethical went off smoothly! Eleven paying guests (one less than originally planned) plus me and Andy. Butter pie was a big hit, as was apple butter. I had a song on Jack Wright's the “Music of Coal” about being poor and eating corn bread and pinto beans, which was part of the meal. We also sampled moonshine and pronounced it excellent! I made slaw using my mother's recipe, pork chops (but grilled on the George Foreman--too many people for me to handle all the pans for frying), fried potatoes, three kinds of bread (sliced white bread, cornbread, biscuits), and then many pies. Everyone seemed to have a good time. I did put out the bench at my mom's request, because her family only had chairs for the parents, but in the end, our guests preferred chairs!

March 26

Lilac crocus here–
Overhead maroon leaf buds
Pale scumble of spring!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shinnston photos from Charlie Cowger

March 22
My Shinnston friend Charlie Cowger, a professional artist (see his web page at ), sent these neat photos he took of Shinnston. The big open photo is the view we used to see from what we called "Up On the Hill," and the one with the high school is Shinnston High School, Shinnston, West Virginia!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Sprung

March 20

Spring begins, and also the the beginning of the sixth year of the war in Iraq. I didn't demonstrate yesterday in the rain; went instead to have dinner at North Square with the old mom's group. That isn't that the moms are old, but that we have been together 22 years or so-- since we had babies in Brooklyn (see photo) . It is always invigorating to be with them-- they all had another child after the ones we had together-- Evelyn had two more, so she makes up my singlet. Eva's Theresa is teaching for the first year in Canarsie; Maddie's Julia Kaminsky is in El Salvador, Nancy's Matt is working at a financial firm in Jersey City, Jody's Kate is teaching in Brookline. And Joel still deciding if it's continue to work or start graduate school! This time a year ago we were thinking about his upcoming graduation-- yes, yes, it goes fast, but also the things we worry about (and I suppose enjoy too) change so fast!

March 18, 2008

It is after all very close to spring-- St. Patrick's Day is over, and I had a busy day yesterday working at the Newark Museum with the Jersey City teachers, not presenting as much, but feeling more of a sense of what the thing is about-- I'm going back Monday to see how the hands-on art stuff goes.

AND!! I got home and had an hour or two before making a presentation with Marlon to the SO/Ma Board of Education-- and I planted peas! And the yard has lots of little crocuses hanging out in the grass which is always that unexpected end-of-winter green which reminds us that the grass never really dies and in fact grows whenever there's a break in the frost and freeze.

So, I had quite a day: work at the Museum, stuck the peas in the ground because it was St. Patrick's Day and supposedly he or some other saint will make 'em grow if you do it on the right day, and also sowed indoors in a cardboard egg carton some cabbage (which should have been done two weeks ago) and got some dinner, did the political thing-- everything but write and exercise.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Playing around with the camera--self-portrait: everyone else in my family is in California or West Virginia. And the Parakeet won't hold still.
March 15

I went to New York yesterday and started off at J&R down at City Hall after coming in at the World Trade Center site: that is still an amazing, experience, how the first light you see after the tunnels is this vast stone and concrete pit, looking more crowded than a year ago, cranes, workers, the big sewage drains or other pipes studding the exterior walls, and then up, several levels, lots more work going on, and then you're out on the street with Century 21 blaring out its wares and the church yard of St. Paul's chapel.

Then I went to J&R to hold in my hands and type on the Asus eee, which is as cute as a button, with the keyboard very tight, to the point I have trouble imagining anyone really using it with hands larger than mine, so I was a little clumsy. Linux rulz, of course, and the tiny screen was remarkably readable. Really nice for $300. I want one But not pink or blue.

Then to the subway City Hall Brooklyn Bridge station a whitish gray day, all the New York people looking pretty withdrawn, dark colors, hurrying, and I was actually relieved to see one big girl striding by with lip jewelry, wearing an odd flared plaid skirt over baggy jeans, short sleeved tee shirt to show off some kind of braces or splints on her arms, decorative, not medical.

Then up to the East Side, a different world with très expensive little boutiques for toddlers, the the museum, all the little carts outside selling photos and original art, or at least craft. Lots of school groups and inside the Greek and Roman galleries, students giggling over the naked people. I wandered past various old friends, the Chinese vases, Syrian sculptures, Lady X, lots of Sargeants and Picasso's monumental Gertrude Stein, Rosa Bonheur's Horse Fair, and finally, not absolutely enthusiastic, went to this season's Big Exhibit, the Courbet ,

Which I didn't get into right away: it begins with a lot of showy, melodramatic self portraits of the young man, but gradually, as the sheer volume and skill and breadth of his work became obvious, I got more and more interested: he is, after all, the visual expression of what Zola was doing. The sex room was pretty funny, and titillating, including a little dark cul-de-sac with genuine French Picture photographs and his famous crotch painting Origin of the World (which, I should have guessed, if you goggle Courbet, comes up first and often. Then on to really wonderful landscapes and I particularly enjoyed his apples, painted along with a lot of trout when he was in prison for political activity in the 1870-71 Commune: spotted apples, more appealing to me that Cezanne's famous ones (that Joel famously critiqued at age 2 in Williamstown: "App-ul, Mommy! App-up!")

Also dogs, hunting, dying stags, especially winter scenes, just so much sheer splendor that I forgave him his self-dramatizations in his twenties. I'm sure he appreciates my forgiveness.

Anyhow, I had a nice lunch at the Petrie Court -- “organic” chicken and greens and some kind of special blue cheese and apple and a little bacon, also special and a dinner roll shaped like an upside down apostrophe. View of the park, eating on a stool overlooking all the people, white ladies of a certain age-- mine, lots of young couples too. I went back to Courbet again, looked a little more, bought the Phaidon book as cheapest and easiest to transport. I don't really particularly need the big museum book with his long semi-specialist articles on more aspects of Courbet than I want to learn about right now.

So I had a really nice day, got home in time to use my off-peak NJT ticket and to finish some work. Talked to Andy and Joel,everyone in California excited about how Andy went rock climbing with Joel. Joel and Sarah were cooking some kind of very California-sounding asparagus and morel pasta for him.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Jim White at Ethical

March 10

I’m back in the swing, some kind of swing. It’s 9:12, and I’m at my desk at what would be an early hour, except that we’re on Daylight Savings, so it isn't early anymore. Andy leaves in the morning for his conference in SF, and I'm already feeling sorry for myself--he's going to see Joel and they're going to have all kinds of fun without me! And everyone says, You could have come too!

Yesterday Jim White spoke at Ethical on “A Humanist Confronts Death.” He gave several humanist answers to death: the negative one that the idea of a punishing/rewarding God doesn’t work for so many of us; then the one that we live on in our genetic issue, which is okay but minor for most people in the twenty-first century; then that we live on in our effect on people we know and love (and he detailed things he admired about his great grand and his grand and his mom). He also talked about the impact of martyrs– people who died in the civil rights movement, for example, including some of the less famous ones. That was the big thing, I guess, the impact we have, which we don’t even know all of, the spreading ripples in the water of humanity. Surrounding a lot of this was the preciousness of now because it is all we have. So he didn’t have anything new (I guess I’m still waiting for Humanist Heaven), but it was laid out powerfully. We have Now: we have what people leave us and what we leave people– and he had a lovely image of each of us having a colorful thread in the great cloth of being and how our beautiful bright thread ends, but is still part of the whole thing, the fabric still strong.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Back from West Virginia

March 6

I am still catching up from being away, a couple of hours of odds and ends including clearing out the dining room of all the clean clothes and sewing up the torn sheet from the guest room (but haven’t made the bed down there yet) and putting away all my travel clothes, at last– anyhow, if I could just do some writing I would feel very good, I think. It's amazing how many chores have to be done even in a household with no kids at home and me being a really minimal housekeeper. I've always been harrassed by the sheer length of the list: feed the parakeet, put away the clean dishes, clean clothes upstairs, in drawers, buy groceries, put on something to eat. And also, many of the things that began as exciting political events turn into chores: the institutionalization of the Coalition has meant fewer impassioned speeches about racism and more uploading information to the website and carrying flyers to the schools etc. Funny connection to all this: the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Columbia University sit-ins and strikes. There is a lot happening with that, including a spontaneous Sundial rally being planned (is it still spontaneous?). Back then, there were fewer details and more passion, although of course someone always had to do the details-- who made the peanut butter sandwiches when we were sitting in Low Library and Math Building? I remember I made a point of not doing it-- it looked like girl work, which I had scorned from earliest infancy, except of course one does do girl work in the end, or else nothing happens....

March 4, 2008

Back from the whirlwind tour of West Virginia and Pennsylvania in the rain! I drove today from Shinnston (looking magical in the early morning light on the amazing 3rd of March, which was superbly warm and brilliant with light unmitigated by leaves.

But today-- rain "heavy at times" as in hour after hour I drove to Wheeling to appear at Lunch with Books then home to New Jersey, listening to John McWhorter's Teaching Company Lectures on the history of language. Thankful to be home on one piece and really weary.

March 2, 2008

I'm in West Virginia after driving my mother down today. I'll be here tomorrow, then Tuesday on to Wheeling and then a long drive home. My big success was getting her DSL turned on! I am really proud of myself with that– it went pretty smoothly, the filters on the phones, ethernet, phone wires--wires all over the place, the modem, the excitement of the moment when I realized we were communicating with the internet. All this technology, and she likes email, but all she really wants to do is to lay out her collections of stones that look like faces and shells and other people's discarded boxes.

There was snow in the Maryland Allegheny front, the mountains Andy and I call the Ethnic Slur range because they all have names like Big Savage and Polish Mountain. Lots of light today, and out of the highest area, the fields bright tan with no snow. Ridges with straight thin tall trees lined up and light coming in a band between their thicker upper branches and their trunks against the hillside.

We ate at Jimmy's on the West Side of Shinnston, near closing time on a Sunday, and Jimmy was sitting down to eat with his sister and her kids and some friends. It felt like being in his living room: Mom had a pizza burger which wasn't a burger at all but an open faced sauce and cheese and pepperoni on a bun. I had the Rosie's special of course, big sausage patty with hot and sweet peppers and mozzarella. My fave.

Portrait of Taxicab, Pet Parakeet