I have about 2 rows of journals, on one of my bookshelves–primarily skipped through, written in haphazardly at best, printouts of poems, and other other unfinished bits of writing… They make for some possibly interesting if disparate writing. I’m planning to get my sh** together…
Here from last night…
I was sorting through some papers on my— okay a bunch, and by a bunch, I mean a mountain of papers on my much beleaguered and usually invisible desk. And I picked up this AARP magazine. It’s addressed to my mother, not to me. I’m way too young for AARP. It’s addressed to my mother who doesn’t live here with me anymore. She’s in a lovely nursing home where her needs can be better met.
But! This AARP magazine. I was about to throw it away and I thought, “hey! wait a minute!” I’m two years in—where this might be pertinent—something in it—some article could actually and possibly be in someway helpful to my life.
AARP relevant to me? And I stop! And think about all the magazines that are no longer relevant to me. Such as Cosmo—which at some point went off the deep end and geared itself towards all these single upwardly mobile? twenty-year olds, primarily interested in performing and perfecting lewd acts, usually saved for the 25th year anniversary shenanigans, in the hopes this was their way to finding true and lasting love via the one night stand. Or Vogue or Glamour— fashion mags for high salaried 30 somethings, who traded their souls and their stomachs for heroin chic. Or the plethora of Mom magazines— for all those moms who traded—nay not traded, went kicking, screaming and crying from the rack at Forever21 to searching for yoga pants that didn’t suck at Old Navy. No, I don’t want to know how to bake the winner cake for the PTA or how to keep him interested, when the kids won’t go to sleep—ever. Not then-not ever.
Where is the magazine for me? The 50+ year old woman who wants to look their sexy best with the gray hair? Where can I find snazzy, sexy, colorful clothes for me!?! at a deep yet respectful discount? Where’s the magazine that shows me—crazy dog fur lady, how to go from crumply gray glasses-lost-on-her-head writing lady, to razzle-dazzle option A, for the sensible gray haired gents, not looking for twenty year old heart-attack inducers? Not that I’m looking, but being option A, it’d be nice. Where’s the magazine, for the 50+ sexy gray-haired yet still cute woman, who doesn’t consider sudoku, Ellery Queen or Reader’s Digest worthy now or ever? Where’s my Dionysian underbelly of a sexy, glossy, thinking woman’s magazine?
So, AARP, with your 50 to death readership market. I have to laugh. I’m nowhere near done, despite the fact that if I were to call myself middle aged it would mean I expect to live to 104. And, unless I can manage being 104, while painlessly spry of both body and mind, I’d really rather not.
AARP it’s the sound you make, when you gag on mindlessness, and attempted condescension.
AARP? Trash it, kid.
“Bitches ain’t shit, and they ain’t sayin’ nothin’. A hundred motherfuckers can’t tell me nothin’.” ~Nicki Minage
“That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others” ~Hillel
Some wolves will escort you to grandma’s house.
All the better to help you along your way my dear.
Some wolves will chop wood and mow the grass for you.
All the better for you to sit pretty there my dear.
Some wolves will pay all your bills and taxes for you.
Don’t you worry your pretty little head my dear.
Some wolves will read poetry and whisper love to you.
All the better to forget who you are my dear.
Some wolves will demand too much from you.
All the better to step aside my dear.
Some wolves will vote for loud, orange-haired narcissists,
all the while telling you “hush hush voices carry”* my dear
Some wolves are women with ugly pant suits and secrets.
Hear them roar for all the wrong reasons, my dear.
Some wolves denigrate the dead, forgetting where they come from,
picking bones about whose lives matter. Nu, my dear?
Some wolves are cossacks and terrorists.
your taxes pay for that, here and there, my dear.
Some wolves will try to rewrite history and meaning.
All the better to know your past my dear.
Some wolves will huff and puff and howl and whine.
All the better to gather your voice, my dear.
Some wolves will tell you dreams come true by and by.
You tell them now, right now, my dear.
Some wolves will rip your heart out,
it will look like 5 quick shots to the chest, my dear.
Some wolves say there are no more miracles.
But, you, my dear, know the revolution is ongoing.
Some wolves will tell you, it’s all said and done.
With 3000 years of ghosts** behind you, stand up, my dear.
** Some ghosts in no particular order
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Yoni Netanyahu, Maya Angelou, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Tubman, Meir Kahane, Simon Bar Kokhba, Marvin Gaye, Harvey Milk, Maimonides, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Huey Newton, David Bowie, Prince, Gil Scott-Heron, King David, Theodor Herzl, Jacob Glatstein, Gabriel Gladstone, Golda Meir, and to all those who paved the way and died just being and…
Elie Wiesel–you opened our eyes, our minds, our hearts–we are forever indebted.
So, this happened at the store down the street from me. Not to me, but to my daughter.My daughter is at the Big Y supermarket at the customer service desk, wiring some money to a friend. She hands this oversized babbling idiot my Big Y card. There is no reason for this, it’s just requested. This idiot looks at the name on the card and say’s “my that’s a long name”. My daughter doesn’t respond. She repeats this at least three times. Finally she asks my daughter what kind of name is Bathsheva. My daughter says, “It’s Hebrew.” This tattooed behemoth stops what she’s doing, stares at my daughter with a look of disgust, and “says you’re Jewish? You don’t look Jewish.” My daughter says “that’s my mother’s name and yeah we are. Why?” This ‘chunk of foul’ stares at my daughter, who is Black and Jewish, and starts ranting about how “…Jews have ugly hair, it’s curly and out of place, blah, blah blah…” My daughter walked away in disbelief. She’s so much lovelier than I am. That troll would’ve had her teeth handed to her.
And here’s the thing, this isn’t new to me. These are just a few of my favorite things…
Nor to my daughter, nor to my any of my kids. I’ve been called kike and worse. I’ve had pennies thrown at me. I’ve been asked by some idiot I opened my house to with her husband and her kid, “don’t Jews wipe their asses with the same hand they eat?”. (Never heard that one before or since) I’ve been asked if I practice incest and don’t all Jews… I’ve been asked to convert to xtianity and to islam by “well meaning” friends. Who “love” me in spite of my being Jewish. I’ve had people tell me, it’s people like me, who make a good case for gas chambers. Over a mild disagreement. I’ve had people say in that same vein to go take a shower, not the kind with water.
I’ve been held at gun point for being in the car with my husband (may he rest in peace) who was guilty of driving while Black—with our then 2 year old child, by our friendly neighborhood police. I’ve been denied decent service at restaurants and elsewhere. I’ve been screwed out of apartments, when they found out I was married to a Black man, despite our both meeting all the qualifications, credit, background check etc… And that some of these realtors were in fact Jews, makes them no more and no less accountable or culpable than any of their Christian cohorts. Unless of course, they take into account that it was done to them, so don’t do this to someone else. One Jewish realtor who doesn’t consider himself a member of the tribe, explained, “it wasn’t them, it’s just they’re following unspoken orders.” Following orders? We’ve definitely heard that before. My father, in 1951, at the age of 23 was fired from American Airlines,or not following orders regarding Jim Crow laws.
Stand and Fight by Professor Martha Biondi, 2003 pg 87
My older son, who looks a lot like me, only with darker skin (there are pictures of both of us at about 2/3 years of age—we look identical), he’s been called every racial epithet known to exist. And what’s worse, he’s been severely mistreated in schools, by teachers, faculty and even the principal. In one particular instance he was called jungle bunny. He didn’t even know what the word meant. He came home and asked me. When I complained to the principal, she accused him of lying. And the next day called him a “mama’s boy” for telling me. He was ten and had no father. The cruelty he and I faced, from various people in the school systems, he attended, as well as elsewhere—always at the hand of whites and or/ non-Jews (with one exception) has left us shell shocked and leery. There was no stone left unturned as to the humiliation I and my kids suffered by the school system of our town. My kids were at one point subjected to the “smell test”. Where the teachers would arrange to as they were marching down the hall, to have the school nurse, stand in the doorway of the nurse’s office and they would stop when my older son and younger daughter would be directly in front of them. And they would start sniffing. I only found this out, because the nurse, accidentally let it slip when I started threatening her with having her credentials looked into, by authorities.
The thing is this, I try not to judge. I try like hell to give each and every individual the benefit of the doubt—decent until proven otherwise. Do I wait for the other shoe to drop? Well, no, not exactly. Do I trust you? Well, yes… Well mostly, I try… If it drops, I’m never surprised. Do I wait for whitey to fuck up? Nope, ‘cuz ain’t nobody got time for that.
And the thing is this. I’m educated—fairly. I’ve been reading since I was three, before I really spoke. I was reading Chaucer by 9 and understanding it. Getting the nuances. I’m able to read beyond what I’ve been told. I’ve been afforded every opportunity in life. And sometimes you can’t read beyond what you’re told. Sometimes it’s what you see is what you get. And here’s what I’m getting at. With the passing of Muhammad Ali, I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how he was a draft dodger, about how he was anti-Semitic and anti-white. And for the longest time, I was told I was white, by a system that only says I’m white, when they need me to check a box on some form, but doesn’t treat me white. I am not afforded the same opportunity to send my kids to school and not be subjected to hideous mistreatment and racism, that my white counterparts have. I can’t go to a college campus without seeing or hearing about some anti-Semitic garbage taking place. I see my government treating my people like second class citizens, where our interests and our safety and our lives are being tossed aside for some fun loving xtian oil guy to make another billion or so. Yet I pay my taxes like everyone else.
So, Muhammad Ali didn’t want to go to war. Good! When my son was younger, there was some talk of there being a draft being put into place. I told my son, under no circumstances was he going to fight for this country. I’d sooner never see him again, while he hightailed it to Canada or some such than have him fight a filthy war for some racist fuckface. Where they prefer to lock up young men of color, as opposed to educating them. Where there is still lynching allowed. Yes, shooting young men in the back and there is no justice is your modern day lynching. Imprisoning them and paying them whatever pittance it is they’re getting is your modern day slavery. And, perhaps, it was worse back then. Or maybe it’s just the same or worse now. When you sweep up a young child of twelve to have him get his brains punched in, to get him off the street. Oh boy you’ve done him a great big favor. And, yes, Muhammad Ali lived well.
And so did everyone who made a dime off him and all the other young brothers who got their brains bashed in, for a buck or two and a piece of the American Dream. And, while Ali, may or may not have been able to read, he wasn’t stupid. He saw where the money went. And if you think it’s not a simple thing to do, to take someone and inform them, or misinform them (if that makes you feel better), you’d be wrong. Tell them enough of the truth and throw in enough of your version to tilt the scales and what sounds good or true becomes the belief. It’s easy to look at someone who is rich and famous and hold them accountable. But they live these little small cloistered lives—many of them. They get informed by who is around them. And, who among us, pray tell, doesn’t? They become very dependent on those who are seemingly not grabbing from them.
The thing is too, we as Jews, are often quite offended, when we speak up for our interests, and are accused of having dual loyalties. I don’t get offended, I make no bones about it and offer up no apologies. I’m a Jew first, Black second(self—appointed honorary)—in that Black interests are mine as the mother/grandmother of children who are Black and Jewish and because human, Israeli third(not an actual citizen as of yet/right of return) and American—fourth. Just traveling through… So, why should I or we hold someone else accountable for having a separatist loyalty? He was afforded no favors by anyone. He received no breaks for his good fortune. He made his fortune at the grave expense of his health. Anyone who says that last fight of his, at age 39/40 didn’t destroy him, is just lying. We all saw it. He went in to the ring one man and came out someone else—almost entirely. He never recovered. Ever. We weren’t his favorite people? Get over it. What did we ever do for him? He was an icon, who brought joy and pride and good fun to so many.
I think I first saw him on TV, in the hospital in London. I was 6 or 7 and I was getting tubes put in my ears for the first time. So, his was maybe one of the first voices I heard. And, oh, what a voice it was.
“When masturbation’s lost its fun” ~Greenday
This contemplative essay was supposed to be about me. I called my daughter, Aviva, who upon being asked recently what my good qualities were, reeled off more than I needed—to the point I said to her, “oh go on now, now you’re just blowing smoke up my ass”, we both laughed, anyway—I asked her what my bad qualities were and she struggled with this for some many minutes. I’d like to think it’s because I’m just so genuinely wonderful that this query would indeed be damned near impossible for anyone, not just because she was terrified of the repercussions. At any rate here they are, in no particular order:
1) I make excuses for anything if I’m supposed to do something and don’t feel like it.
2) I’m self indulgent
3) I’m argumentative
4) I can’t have a conversation without turning it into something about Jews—I’m a “jewversationist” ~Aviva
It’s at this time, I will point out that because she couldn’t even come up with 5 bad qualities I’m guilty of. I decided I’m not going to do this contemplative essay about me, I mean, if you ask someone a favor and they can’t even help you out… besides I was in the mood to write something else anyway… It’s not my fault I’m damned near perfect…And you’ll notice I brought up nothing about Jews either directly or indirectly. The fact that it’s mentioned at all is merely because… Oh well what does she know…? If I were argumentative, I would take the time to point out all the facts, and the flaws to any given discussion and the perpetrator of said discussion, attack from all angles, not because it’s fun, but because—just because…
No doubt, by now everyone has heard about the horrible incident at the Cincinnati Zoo where this baby fell into the gorilla enclosure and was dragged and tossed, by an overly protective gorilla. The video footage is horrifying—so much so that I could not watch it in its entirety. The gorilla was shot and killed, in what was clearly a volatile situation, that needed the quickest and best decision to be made. The first few seconds of the video footage, where the baby is yanked and tossed violently is unspeakably scary. The subsequent outpouring of vicious hatred and condemnation, was, if not as visually horrific to the naked eye, a leveling of the playing field in horror nonetheless. Let’s be honest, the faux outrage is just nonsense. These “people” who are so ready to vilify and hang this parent, are hungry piranhas, whipping themselves into a feeding frenzy.
A couple of comments I read on that old reliable bastion of goodwill—FaceBook, read as follows. “Without offering any presumptuous expert input, considering what humans do to this world versus what animals do for/in this world, if having to choose between human and animal life, always choose the animal,” and “People do drugs. Some people should never be parents.” I ask, where the hell is love, compassion and it takes a village?
Here’s a couple of quick thoughts to ask yourself. How many parents drink as opposed to taking medication or smoking pot for medicinal reasons? If you’re so concerned about the life of a gorilla over the life of an innocent baby, why don’t you eat babies, instead of cows, pigs, chickens etc…?) Lobsters are boiled alive and often torn limb from limb before being boiled. Cows are horribly mistreated.
How many times did we bounce around in a back seat with no seatbelts? Run after a ball into traffic? Convince your mother we were fine to go swimming sooner than the hourlong wait after eating? Not see the shark?
Circa 1971, we’re driving along, when we realize some lunatic is shouting at us from another car. We try to get away to no avail. At a stoplight he again ambushes us, pointing out that my 3 year old brother is hanging precariously out of the back window. Not much after that, he pulled another stunt at the Grand Canyon. He’s still here, with the precariously hanging… My oldest—Aviva, at 2 made a dash into traffic at the corner of Elm and Church streets, New Haven. My older son at 2 wandered off at a flea market– in the blink of an eye. The worst scare ever– time is irrelevant– it was either 25 minutes or an eternity. My youngest kid, when he was under 2, figured out how to unlock childproof locks and went wandering down the driveway and down the street in his diaper. My mother, who was watching him at the time, was none the wiser. A neighbor brought him back. She had just checked on him and he’d been sleeping. My younger daughter, Jazzy, scrupulously saved her mishegoss for her teen years–bless her heart. My sister almost drowned as a baby in our pool– right in front of everyone. She took off her floatation device and jumped in the pool. We’re all here, none the worse for wear. By the grace of G-d.
Friends of my parents weren’t so lucky. They had a 3 year old boy and a one year old daughter. They had gone all out on making the baby’s room beautiful. They put her to bed in her crib. And sometime later they go to check on her and she’d somehow managed to grab hold of the curtain strings and strangled herself. Another set of parents lost their son when he at 3 years of age, fell out a window.
No matter how I wanted to blame my mother– I couldn’t. There’s just some things, no matter how you try to be prepared, to be on the ball, to be able to be Mr/Ms all around perfect, eyes on the prize 100% of the time, there will be that time you drop the ball. Hopefully no one experiences tragedy during that time. It’s a sequence of events… The reason we get so enraged, is because, we’re all human– prone to that infliction of being fumbling, bumbling mistake makers. And it’s terrifying. This time you get to breath a sigh of relief. Your kids are alright.
Now, before you get so outraged that you start accusing me of not caring about animals and start throwing both shade and hexes my way consider this.
I prefer animals to most people. I always jump for joy when I hear of a killer whale killing a trainer. When that idiot was mauled savagely by the tiger, I thought– finally vindication, a fine comeuppance indeed! You want to go live with bears in the wild? Get dead. Who cares? But, this is different.
Let’s say, for the sake of beloved argument, this woman, this parent- this “mom” doesn’t deserve anything but vehement vilification, beatings and maybe just maybe, she’s too stupid to live, let alone parent anything with higher sentient value than that of a pet rock– maybe we agree she deserves to die. But, we’re dealing with the proclivities of time. So, let’s be reasonable, her death can’t be arranged for a swap out in timely fashion. Maybe we agree, she deserved to watch her baby– be torn limb from limb. Make no mistake and have no doubt, that was what was happening. Is that what we’re saying, when we say opt for the animal?
Let’s all agree, she’s the lowest of the low– so stupid she deserved to watch her baby be torn limb from limb and then for good measure we could throw her in a pit and poke her with sticks and throw things at her until she dies. Let’s all agree.
And then let’s ask the question, does the baby deserve to die or is that just the unfortunate fallout for having such a horrible mother. Maybe we agree he should die. Shit happens, when you have the bad taste in opting for stupid mothers. And then, since we agree the baby should die. We must ask the next logical question, does he deserve to die a horrible and painful death–being torn limb from limb? Or maybe we just shoot him, instantly killing him, thereby saving him from a painful death and the savagery of life with a stupid, undeserving parent. And will all the hyenas in the zoo and elsewhere, have momentarily quenched their gnawing, cackling blood thirst for such sport?
We need to ask ourselves, what is our motivation here? Why are we vilifying this mother—this woman, sending her to hell with no parole, in our all too quickly constructed court of public opinion? Why aren’t we reaching out to her, reassuring her, offering up kindness, offering her help, offering her love? Are we part of a system that promotes a denigration and dismissal of the woman—the mother? Professor Phyllis Chesler, a long time feminist advocate, writes in the first two of a series on the subject of how mothers are castigated in the US court system. Far from the myth about how women fare far better than men do in courts, she shines the light on the abject horror and mistreatment women are subjected to.
Before you jump to negate these findings, I’d like to point out, at about the same time, a parent—a father left his baby in a hot car. The baby died. And the media, instead of coming to the conclusion of condemnation, were beating each other down to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, by asking all sorts of questions. What were the circumstances? Where was the mother? Are the parents getting a divorce? Is there a history of instability? Mental issues? All good questions, but no steadfast condemnation. Interesting.
Are we operators of free will or are we merely pawns in someone else’s calamitous agenda? Do we get to manifest our own destinies or are we just extras, currying favor from feebly manufactured G-ds, in a Game of Thrones episode?
Woof, Pasha here. Sir Pasha Wampus III, to be exact. Yeah, the old lady thought this was a sign of intelligence giving me this moniker. Well, I’ve got news for her, if you have to explain it to everyone, not so much. Right about now, you might be wondering how it comes to be that, I a dog, an entity of the canine species, would be smart enough to assess human intelligence, and yet here you are, hoping to glean some new insight into the nature of dogs, from a dog. I can’t speak your language, nor can I type and still you persist. Let me be clear, I understand everything you say and most of what you don’t say—what you think. And, I have to tell you, so far, I’m not impressed.
My people, don’t appreciate anything. Look, let me tell you this. I’m a pretty impressive dog. I don’t come from a shelter, nor am I a rescue. The old lady came in to the shop with the girl “just to look”. She justifies it, by telling everyone that she has two rescues and that all dogs deserve a chance. I agree and appreciate it. Did I tell you, I come with a built in perfume dispensary? Worth every penny! And I keep everything clean! You see this? This is my built in all-purpose dishrag, pre-moistened—perfect for those hard to reach places and for cleaning my people’s faces, their arms and their clothes. I’m diligent too, if they leave a glass or plate on the table, I don’t let a minute go by, before I get to cleaning. My “hoptoitness” is beyond reproach. I sometimes think they don’t always appreciate my attentiveness.
The old lady, she’s well meaning, but such a pushover. She’s trained almost to perfection. She calls me her forty-five hundred dollar doper doggie. Because, I got into her pills. They smelled so interesting. I chewed right through the plastic bottles she left on her desk. At first, it wasn’t so bad. But, then the lights went out. A bad scene. When I came to a day and a half later I was in the hospital. Something about 5-htp frying my brain. You’d think I’d learn—but man that smell—intoxicating! She’s nuts. She gives me everything. She shares every bite of food with me. She’d sell her house and her soul for me.
I came here last—the last and best doggie on the planet. They know. I rule the roost. I’m alpha doggie numero uno. Sometimes I have to let them know. The other two. Queeny and Harry. I love teasing them with my toys. I own all the toys. They chase me and get out of breath, and I’m just getting started. And when the boy comes home, and if he plays with me, I’m in heaven. I’m very good at catching the ball. I can jump really high. My paw pads are extra thick and help me bounce. It’s like springs. Boing, Boing.
But, my favorite time, is when it’s dark and I get to snuggle. We all, Queeny, Harry and me, we jump on the girl’s bed and arrange ourselves around her. Harry, goes under the blankets and sleeps. Queeny settles on the girl’s legs. And, I take my time and rearrange the blankets. I have my specifications. It takes a minute or two—it has to be just right. And then I flop down. Perfect.
Here’s me, willing a poor, unwitting child to do my every bidding. Like putty in my paws
“It’s your thing, do what you wanna do. I can’t tell you, who to sock it to.” ~ Isley Brothers
Earlier this evening, I was looking for math and science stuff, for my 7th grader granddaughter. I found two great math sites and a number of science sites as well. I thought beside Bill Nye—the science guy, who else can I get? Neil Degrasse Tyson! Yes! So, I come across this article from Wired Magazine. The headline screams, NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON IS A BLACK HOLE, SUCKING THE FUN OUT OF THE UNIVERSE! Well, that’s not very nice. The author, a Sam Kriss, axe murders Tyson, figuratively—of course. It’s funny and witty, but cruel in a vicious and mercilessly exacting, carnivorous way. He talks of running to the kitchen to slice open his wrists to avoid the onslaught of righteous dullness Tyson proffers up. He stops mid-rant, to query “Why can’t there be “Metaphor”, (Hmm metaphor? Metaphor!!! Have I found you?? I think to myself, yet again the universe is speaking to me! ) and Our Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ.” Nice work if you can get it. Wired, you lost me at wrist slitting over science, but oy, I don’t subscribe. Later, Kriss suggests there’s a happy medium somewhere out there. So, let me backtrack here…
This entire week has been a bit crazy. And it and my life, that I finally have where I want it, sans a few kerfuffles here and there and the need to address some pesky arthritis, is all of a sudden feeling a bit in disarray and erratic… The floor seems to be shifting, I’ve lost my foothold and I feel like I’m hurtling through space, reaching for something to grasp onto—anything. Let me explain.
First off, there seems to be all of a sudden an abundance of ticks. Last year, my 3 dogs, went the whole spring and summer with maybe 3 1/2 ticks between the lot of them. When they come back in from being outside, they invariably come in with at least 1 and usually more. I’ve found them on my bed, on my floor and one I even found embedded in my hamstring—left leg, while I was showering. Insanity! How do you ever feel clean after such an unwarranted attack? I was mortified, so I decided to look up online what the tick story was for Spring 2016. Sure enough, there’s an over abundance of ticks in the Connecticut area. Also, there is a new species of Lyme Tick, straight outta Texas. Apparently these ticks don’t play. So, look out and defend yourself. I further learn that there is a method to their little tick madness. They lurk, they hang out, either hiding out behinds blades of grass or on the ground or in trees. They hang on with their two back legs, and either drop in or leap on to the “bandwagon,” hitching a ride, for their next meal. Ah sustenance. And if this kind of invasiveness wasn’t enough.
My daughter pulled my granddaughter out of school, to homeschool her. We’d been discussing it. My worry was that it would be primarily left up to me and I’m already not just a grandparent but a co-parent, in a big way. But, the homeschooling, it’s been a long time coming. The school has a number of issues and my granddaughter was and has been terribly unhappy there for a very long time—three years. It’s gotten so bad, to the point that she can’t pull herself out of bed in the morning. This is a child who, besides being tall and gorgeous and generally happy, is highly intelligent and witty, and funny and has the retention rate of a solid steel trap. And loves to learn. And read. So, we’re homeschooling her, flying blind, building the curriculum as we go. We’re teaching her things we think she’ll need as well as hardcore math. She’s tall, smart and beautiful. And thirteen. Queen of pushing limits. So, my nights and now my days, don’t seem like they’re quite my own. So, I crawl into my quiet zone—FaceBook. Note to self—hide elsewhere. If peace, love and happiness is what you’re about, don’t do it. Don’t go in for heavy handed discussions— avoid religion, politics the middle east, Great Britain, France, cute puppies, veganism, and cloud formation. On all sides you’ll see the most horrific displays of wickedness and amorality, more nastiness and dread, than you could shake a bag of vipers at. Threats and/or wishes of beheadings, rape, child brutality and this isn’t even in a forum on the upside of Isis. It’s strange these most decent, middle-Americans, some of who are church goers or synagogue attendees, who mostly stand for good things, will get engourged with rage and spew. It’s as if they hang out, clinging onto the hope of good standing and solid ground, waiting, waiting for the opportunity to latch on and go to town.
As, I wrap this up, I feel a little creepy crawly. Face it, after this tick invasion, I’ve been a tad jumpy. I felt a tickle under my shirt and I shrieked incoherently as I jumped up, pulling my shirt up, trying to release this culprit from the depths of my cleavage. A piece of popcorn had fallen down my shirt. Nope, this is real and somehow this one is crawling and on my face no less. I stand up, I’m ready, armed and feeling a little combative. I have my trusty linter—the kind with the flypaper roll. My granddaughter figured out the common linter is the first line of defense in stabilizing ticks—they stick and can’t move. I brush him off, knocking him to the floor. And Wham! I smash the linter full force upon his tiny unsuspecting mindless tick body. He didn’t stand a chance. I walk over to the trash bin, peel the linter for a clean catch—the next go round. I almost but not quite, feel sorry for the poor guy, he was only hungry. I walk away. Dude was in my face. There is no happy medium to be found. He came, I saw, I conquered.
The assignment was to translate a paragraph of Montaigne into today’s language and then free write. I particularly liked the outcome, as did others who read it. So, here it is.
CHAPTER X——OF BOOKS
“I make no doubt but that I often happen to speak of things that are much better and more truly handled by those who are masters of the trade. You have here purely an essay of my natural parts, and not of those acquired: and whoever shall catch me tripping in ignorance, will not in any sort get the better of me; for I should be very unwilling to become responsible to another for my writings, who am not so to myself, nor satisfied with them. Whoever goes in quest of knowledge, let him fish for it where it is to be found; there is nothing I so little profess. These are fancies of my own, by which I do not pretend to discover things but to lay open myself; they may, peradventure, one day be known to me, or have formerly been, according as fortune has been able to bring me in place where they have been explained; but I have utterly forgotten it; and if I am a man of some reading, I am a man of no retention; so that I can promise no certainty, more than to make known to what point the knowledge I now have has risen.”
The Complete Essays of Montaigne—Michel De Montaigne, translation- Charles Cotton pg 303
There is absolutely no doubt that the things I speak of are best left to the experts who know what they’re talking about. My essay that you see before you, is purely that of a laymen’s mind at best. I write for myself and nobody else, nor do I wish to be responsible to you the reader. I don’t want to be held accountable to you for getting it wrong, or for things such as facts or more so, things being left out. If you want knowledge on a grander scale go read a book on whatever subject you seek. Again I am writing for myself. I’m quite satisfied with what I know, I don’’t seek more. It’s not about gaining more knowledge but to know myself a bit more. And besides, if I at one point I read something and learned it, I certainly wouldn’t remember it now.
Reading Montaigne, I enjoyed his approach. He employs/enjoys a rather Socratic (gadfly)? approach to his dispensing of knowledge. World weary? A false humility, possibly? “Oh go on, I’m not that spectacular or bright, just more so than you.” << on that order. From the few essays I’ve read, he seems clearly pleased with himself. I’m quite pleased as well, despite the fact I found Montaigne pretty hard to decipher. Also, while this chapter/essay is presumably about books, I find it’s primarily focused on him and his lingering (and perhaps, dwindling) relationship with books. A metaphor for his life? Further on in the essay, he says, “I seek, in the reading of books, only to please myself by an honest diversion; or, if I study, ’tis for no other science than what treats the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to die and how to live well.”
I’d written the above paragraph, before I understood the assignment. So, now that I do understand, welcome to my free fall. In keeping with the theme, on books, I decided to keep my first paragraph, it’s about ego as much as it is laziness. 148 well placed words, don’t write themselves, people! I sat and thought about my books and more so my relationship with books and can one know a person through what they choose to read, or how they read, or the roll that books and reading play in a person’s life? I’m not sure, but I think it gives a clue or two or five, perhaps…
What if I told you that, I don’t want jewelry, cut flowers or a trip to Maui. What if I told you, if you know me, get me some interesting book from Barnes and Noble or preferably some independent bookstore, if it’s not too far out of the way—something that touches on some subject, you’ve heard me speak on. One of my latest and greatest and many must know about subjects. Hand me a book, and I take it as meaning you’ve thought of me. Hand me a book on something I’ve been ranting about, and I take that as love—real love. I’m 52, and I’m quite likely, weather permitting to walk out or go driving, anywhere, having forgotten my shoes. They are inessential, like my car keys I lost a month ago. Copastetic, man—they’ll show up. Books are both my only material possessions and my link to my soul. A necessary luxury. Right now, I’m sitting mani-pedi-less, without decent clothes, I need a hairstyle. I’ve come to the conclusion, that ripped jeans, going shoeless and having disgraceful (to others) nails, is something that is unacceptable for a woman of my age, who doesn’t live in a cardboard box.
The idea is you can get away with not spending an insane amount on a suitable wardrobe. The essentials are the exteriors. A good $100-300 haircut. If you’re gray, excruciatingly necessary. If you’re dying—I’m not—neither me nor my hair—even more so. No roots—ever! Nails—kempt at all times. You can get a way with a couple of dark pairs of pants—black and navy. A few good 3/4 length sleeve shirts. A good fitted bra or two and impeccable shoes—sensible but not less than $100. A good jacket or two or more any color—dark to bright. And fresh makeup—a good rose glow or bronzer.
And why should I lie? I could not care less. In my 20s I wouldn’t go out of the house without makeup. I would step outside with a mirror, my back to the street, to check my makeup. I was on it. And ridiculous. And I didn’t read nary a line of anything. Not Quindlen nor Dowd of the New York Times, not e. e. cummings nor Ginsberg, or E.L— Doctorow—not James. Or any of the hundreds, thousands, millions? millions, of books that if I lived a millennium, I couldn’t hope to get to.
The other day I was talking with friends about, of course—books. I felt like a schmuck, my friends were talking about how they’d lost first editions of one book or another, how they collected them. How they were worth something. And it’s lost on me. I suppose it’s as fine a hobby as any to collect books, like one collects beanie babies or pens—without stealing. I guess if it’s books, it’s considered an intellectual pursuit, even if they go unread. I just don’t understand having something and not utilizing it fully. Nor do I want what I haven’t got.
I have a friend, who works for a spa doing massage—entirely legal. No funny business. She was telling me how she loved her work. How her clientele feels after a session with her. How happy they are. And that makes her happy. I told her, there is nothing I would possibly hate worse than having to massage people I wouldn’t sleep with. The idea of touching someone that intimately and leaving it at that. Either not wanting to or wanting to and not being able to due to ethics. Laughing, she told me to seek help. I did. In a book.
So, here’s the thing… I don’t feel that I’m in a position to give anyone advice on writing. I’ve never published anything beyond an article or two for a Community College paper. One could say, I’ve dabbled in writing, at best. I do have over 120 credits in the Humanities. So, I know a little. My writing isn’t where I want it to be in quality, quantity or anything. I’m working on it. And I have, by now, accumulated and read in the last 20 years, many, many books on all aspects of writing, involving many genres. So, I know a little about writing. Enough so, that I feel confident to point someone just starting out, in the write direction. My oldest daughter’s friend asked her what should they do to start writing. She immediately turned to me and asked that I supply her with a list and some advice to give. It is in no way a complete list, nor do I mean for anyone to run out and purchase all the books on my list. These are just some of the books I have falling out of the shelves at home.
First off, writers are readers. Read everything of interest, that you can get your hands on. Right now, I’m interested in the essay form. So, I’m reading all advise regarding that particular form. Reading all good essayists, I can get my hands on. I can’t stress enough, that while the writer tends to be a person, who doesn’t trust to share, share one must. That and feed back is invaluable! Join a group, or a class, or join WritersVillage.com (highly recommended) pay yearly, or break down and pay for a 3 year membership or a lifetime membership. Best bang for your buck! If you wait for inspiration to hit, you will never write. Just write and read and write some more every day! Understand the story arc—Everything must have a beginning, middle and an end. Two essential books by Joseph Campbell—The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Make the library your home away from home.
Essential Reading for Writing
Sid Field— An absolute must. The first step you take!
- Screenplay—The Foundations of Screenwriting
- The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver
- Four Screenplays
- Selling a Screenplay
Linda Seger— Her book is used in numerous college screenwriting courses. To be used in conjunction with Syd Field.
Making a Good Script Great, 3rd Edition
David Trotter—very necessary
The Screenwriter’s Bible, 6th Edition
1) Crafting The Personal Essay
2) Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals
3) The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction:
1) Phillip Lopate
2) Christopher Hitchens
3) Susan Sontag
4) Joan Didion
5) Lionel Trilling
6) Ralph Waldo Emerson
7) Henry David Thoreau
8) David Foster Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
Consider The Lobster
9) Michel Montaigne
The Best American Essays (any year)
You must know the basics.
Mark Strand, Eavan Boland
The Making of A Poem- A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms
A Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasure of Writing Poetry
Dana Gioia (anything on writing in any form/genre is highly recommended)
Twentieth-Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry
The Oulipo Compendium
Allen Ginsberg (knew the basics, then broke rules and rewrote the game)
Shel Silverstein (not just for kids, he was great!)
Any place that sells that sells books will be able to provide you with an anthology (look for resale shops or book fairs)
Editors of Writer’s Digest
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing
Any Literary Fiction, Jeffrey Eugenides comes to mind. Douglas Adams, Martin Amis, Neil Gaiman, Jamaica Kincaid, James Baldwin, Carl Hiaasen, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Howard Jacobson etc…
Short Story Writing:
The Art of the Short Story
Short Story Reading:
Ernest Hemingway (An Absolute Must, love him or hate him—it’s how to write.)
The Best American series…any year
This short story was written in a series of tweets. Every line had to propel
the story forward. Brilliant.
Also, beyond this read many “good novels”. Know the difference between Literary fiction and junk/pop fiction. James Patterson is a junk writer. He sells big—has a staff who writes for him, puts out an extreme amount of idiocy. Good Erotica vs. moronic extremely badly written soft porn. Anais Nin (class act) vs. E.L James (writes for people who can’t understand literary fiction)
Nature writing—Familiarize yourself with it. Helps with description. Annie Dillard though controversial in the nature writing circle, is one of the best.
Fantasy writing is exquisite to familiarize yourself with, because it helps with settings. Think Lord of the Rings and other worlds. J.R.R Tolkien was good. Terry Pratchett was well known and quite loved.
And I can’t stress enough, the need for a writing workshop or group or classes. Writers tend to be mistrustful loners. Share your work, get feedback, give feedback. It is the only way to learn and perfect one’s craft. DO NOT SHARE YOUR WRITING WITH FAMILY AND/OR FRIENDS UNTIL YOUR PIECE IS EDITED, RE-EDITED, SUBMITTED, PUBLISHED. THEY WILL NOT ONLY DESTROY YOUR WILL TO WRITE, BUT YOUR WILL TO LIVE.
Also, before submitting any of your work, read it out loud to yourself—essential! If it doesn’t ring right, sound right, or flow right to you, it won’t to others.
Write every day, try to have a desk/area where you work at writing and try to carve out the same hours daily to do so. Write every day for 90 days and you’ll have yourself a habit. Write about what interests you. Keep a journal. Free flow and just write. Don’t edit, until you’re done. And, pick up a style and grammar book. There are newer ones, other than Strunk and White, but good to familiarize yourself, regardless.
Writing prompts can be found online. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Good luck with your writing!
I had to discontinue with the challenge, due to unforeseen circumstances, regarding the health and well being of a family member. It took up a lot of my time, these past ten days. Thank G-d they are back home, comfortable and doing well.
The A to Z Challenge was a wonderful opportunity for me, to meet deadlines and come up with some interesting topics, as well as to meet some very interesting and wonderful writers. Please know that I feel atrocious, at not having been able to be as reciprocal as I’d wanted and intended to be. I’m also taking writing classes at the MFA level/style, which requires peer review as well as thoughtful writing. So a lot of writing and reading. I’m extremely committed to it and love it. And have seen vast improvement in my writing skill, in just the short time, I’ve been involved. So, with extra obligations, my classes, my family etc…something did have to give.
Please stay connected. I will peep in with the few I’ve touched base with. And hope to further my circle, when I have more to offer. In the mean time. I am not going to stop blogging. I’ve paid good money for this pretty site. I am committing to one good post a week–maybe more. Quality over quantity. Some of you are fantastic with both. I am humbled and floored. My hope is to provide something of interest, quality and in some way unique. I don’t feel I can do that on a daily basis. At least not at this point. So, I’ll be writing, you keep writing and I’ll see you shortly in Wordsville. Nihil obstat.*
*Nihil Obstat–nothing hinders.
From Endangered Words: A Collection of Rare Gems for Word Lovers. A just because gift, given to me today by my daughter, Aviva–who gets me where I live. Such a fun read!
Youth —the state of being young. Just when you think you’ve got it down pat, you aren’t.
There’s something wonderful about youth, in all it’s terribleness. You know everything. You’re better than your parents were—kinder, more accepting, more understanding, freer and way more worthy. You jump right in, oft-times without foresight. You don’t just get sad or lose at love, you get heartbroken—heart smashed to bits. You don’t just feel, you Feel. The love is so real and palpable you can see it’s movement, it’s vibe across the skyline the way sunshine shimmies across water.
And when you aren’t…young…anymore. You feel as well. You feel, the stiffness and the creaks in your muscles and bones. Your decisions are more measured. You contemplate, what it would really mean to let someone else into your life. There’s things and places for things and you say things like, “A place for everything and everything in its place”. And you don’t gag and you’re not jesting. You’re pleased. You remember your grandmother saying this and you don’t roll your eyes. And somewhere along the line you realize it stopped being all about you. And perhaps it was around the time you started having kids—more or less. Which gives you time to prepare…
…for when you need to make decisions for your parents who used to be young and now they are very, very old. Just when you stop deciding what your children will wear tomorrow and what sweet but not too sweet cereal, you’ll put in the house, you’ll find yourself deciding on which Depends fit your mother better, bargaining tv for showers and trying to explain what happens if you don’t eat. And asking questions, like what happens if you don’t eat? And the jump from understanding that a feeding tube will save her life, and she says things exactly like, “do anything it takes to keep me alive” to actually agreeing to get the feeding tube seems to be an insurmountable chasm yet to be comprehended and crossed.