A public garden

A day trip during COVID times recently involved going to a nearby (within an hour’s drive) public garden on a Friday afternoon.

The recently re-opened Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center is a fine place to go, where, for no entry fee, the public can sit under a tree or meander along paths and absorb the views and learn about plants (and trees and views) that might not normally cross one’s path.

Here are several shots from a recent visit to this lovely garden.

 

 

 

| Leave a comment

Everything Fathers Day represents fits onto the front of a greeting card

I hope everyone out there had a good Father’s Day, whatever you may be a father of.

Fathers Day CardOver the weekend, while lingering six feet away from the person in front of me in the grocery store checkout lane, I saw this Father’s Day greeting card. It struck me immediately how funny it is that all the things we (at least in the U.S.A.) associate with dads are usually the same, from year to year and generation to generation.

On this particular greeting card, for some reason, those things include the following:

Grilling and grill-related instruments

An apron, an oven mitt

Ketchup, mustard, hamburgers, hot dogs

A tomato

A fishing tackle

A butcher knife, I think.  (I’ll leave to your imaginations what that last item might be used for.)

Obviously, dads are about so much more. My own dad did all the things dads are “supposed” to do — provide for the family, take care of household responsibilities, and dole out “dad’isms” (e.g., “money doesn’t grow on trees”), AND he was about grilling on certain occasions, yes, but he was also about good advice (that his children mostly did not take), wisdom, kindness, and an easy smile.

Now, a departure:

Some people don’t HAVE dads.

They HAD dads.

The world of dads according to Perry Farrell’s “Jane’s Addiction” lyrics* provides an offbeat nod to dads, from the unique perspective of a troubled son:

Had a dad
Big and strong
Turned around
Found my daddy gone
He was the one
Made me what I am today
It’s up to me now
My daddy has gone away…

[Verse 1]
Well I spoke to the mountain
I listened to the sea
Both told me that the fountain
Was the best that you could be
My daddy’s hand it growed
Slow to the lickin
Sonny boy
Grow to whip him!

[Verse 2]
If you see my dad
Tell him my brothers
All gone mad
They’re beating on each other
I walked around
Even tried to call
Got that funny feeling
He’s not there
At all…

[Verse 3]
If you see my dad
Tell him my brothers
All gone mad
They’re beating on each other
I walked around
Even tried to call
Got that funny feeling
God is dead
He’s not there at all

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

[Hook]
I had a dad
He was big and strong
When I turned around me now
I found my daddy gone
Yes, he was the one
Who made me what I am today
It’s up to me now
My daddy has gone away
Gone away, gone away gone away

[Outro]
Yes, I said I had, I had a dad
I said I had, I had a dad
I said I had, yeah yeah yeah-yeah yeah

* Jane’s Addiction (written by Jane’s Addiction and Perry Farrell) “Nothing’s Shocking,” released in 1988

CHECK OUT THE SONG wherever you listen to music. It’s pretty great.

 

| Leave a comment

Going soft

Among the many meanings of the phrase “going soft,” all of them, AFAIK, come with negative connotations.

Couch potatoLetting yourself go physically, getting out of shape, going easy on other people, withholding judgment on them, showing a little too much forgiveness in a given situation. In a harsh Type A environment, whether a corporate office or the gym, “going soft” is not a highly valued trait these days, if ever it was.

From a purely physical standpoint, an easy comparison of the old vs. new versions of what it means to be “in shape” are what once represented Tarzan in a retro movie vs. the reboot.  As fit as Johnny Weissmuller might’ve been in the 1930s or 1940s, it looks nothing like today’s standards, with or without help from performance enhancements (or CGI).

But consider advantages of going soft. It makes space for experiences you hadn’t paid attention to while forever seeking the next win. It changes perspectives. It quiets the noise, calms the mind, stills the heart. It lets other things in. It is the artist’s way.

While this isn’t a deep insight or an obvious one, it bears repeating.

Some people “go soft” one day a week, for instance those who practice a form of sabbath, where Saturdays or Sundays are a day of rest. Others choose certain times of each day. Many people find some balance between working hard, playing hard, and resting hard (if there is such a thing), while others lean heavily in one direction or the other every single day.

Mona Lisa Coloring PageLike me, some sway between two poles depending on circumstance and momentum.  During the COVID closures, many of us have been forced into “soft times.”

It is easy to wonder what great works of art, presence of mind and rebellion will emerge from this, as one friend calls it, “great calming of 2020,” which may even lead to a great rebirth nobody ever saw coming at the pace we were going.

 

 

 

| Leave a comment

One

A song is stuck in my head:  https://bit.ly/3ceCpFh

This song is based on a book — one that was assigned in my high school English class decades ago.  My Goodreads review is brief:  Undoubtedly my single favorite book of all time. Bar none.

Trumbo

This is one of the most powerful books ever written as a comment against war. It received the 1940 National Book Award. Though it was written in the context of World War I — the first-person point of view of a soldier who gradually awakens to the effects of the war on his existence, now reduced to only his mind — its impact is startling, desolating, unimaginable, and timeless.

I recall reading it, and re-reading certain sections around the middle of the story and eventually at the end.

“They died crying in their minds like little babies. They forgot the thing they were fighting for the things they were dying for. They thought about things a man can understand. They died yearning for the face of a friend. They died whimpering for the voice of a mother a father a wife a child They died with their hearts sick for one more look at the place where they were born please god just one more look. They died moaning and sighing for life.”

This book reinforced and firmly entrenched an already-forming belief that war is jaggedly uneven and unfair in its outcomes. It also was the first book that served as an eye-opening education in how words strung together can speak to a naive, untested 16 or 17-year-old soul and shape a belief system. Never before had I seen words put together in a way so staggering that it could reach that far into my emotional psyche and grab hold of feelings I could not shake in a lifetime.

“Hickory dickory dock my daddy’s nuts from shell shock. Humpty dumpty thought he was wise till gas came along and burned out his eyes. A dillar a dollar a ten o clock scholar blow off his legs and then watch him holler.”

The words were relentless. Passage after passage described the brutal interior experience of its main character, Joe Bonham, the soldier just home from WWI but who would never be home again.

I remember crying, and I specifically remember not being able to stop crying. I went back and re-read and re-read the passages that had this inestimable impact on my teenage mind.

I would never be a soldier in a war, but these words managed to put me in the role of a relative, friend, neighbor, and a thousand strangers I would never know, for giving up their lives for a cause they didn’t even know they were fighting for, for consequences unconsidered, from decisions made by men who would never risk their own.

“You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else’s life. They’re plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and legislatures and congress. That’s their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor.”

My earnest teenage conscience latched onto these words like fuel for a ride with an uncertain destination.  But like any book you savor to the end, the final paragraph held the biggest punch.

“Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into reality. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility and security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”

“Johnny Got His Gun,” Dalton Trumbo, 1939

 

 

| Leave a comment

2 workouts, 2 recipes and a blog post

We, the human race, are in the grip of a global airborne disease pandemic. Regardless of interpretation of the severity of this problem, everyone is, on some level, struggling through restrictions being externally placed on comings and goings. Many of us aren’t leaving home. Others leave only under certain circumstances. Still others leave to go to a work environment that is risky for them and their families.

Psychologically, mentally, emotionally, many people are struggling. Extroverts may be struggling more than those who savor indoor time. I happen to know a few who are having a particularly rough go of it.

While we don’t know for how long these restrictions will continue, there ARE ways to get through the next X number of months. I have my own time-occupiers (pandemic or not) that keep me engaged in normal times, let alone in the strange days we are in now.

Here are some things I do on a regular basis. They fall within three categories. Feel free, mysterious readers, to steal any of them for yourselves:

Person LearningLearning:  making lists; learning (or improving) a language; taking photos; design of anything; traveling through the remarkable power of Google Earth; and anything that involves watching hours of YouTube videos.Person Creative

Creating:  making lists; writing a story or essay or even free-writing; finding new recipes for ingredients you already have; making new recipes; writing a new blog post.

Person PlanningPlanning:  making lists; going through budget; filing; organizing; throwing things away; coming up with a plan for when this whole thing ends. Because it will.

Making lists is in all categories, because it is practically a prerequisite to everything I do.  Physical fitness takes up a lot of the day, too.  With all the fitness studios and gyms offering free trials and online classes, an argument could be made that some of us could all come out of this ordeal healthier than we went into it! Today two workouts made it into my day (vinyasa yoga and barre) but only because I couldn’t decide which one to do, so I did both.

And honorable mention must go to the two recipes that comprised my dinner:  This one and this one.  Feel free to poach those, too.  Par excellence!

 

 

 

| Leave a comment

A snowstorm and a cancelled flight

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head, I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
—————————————————
And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world
—————————————————
Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen
Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher, tell me what’s my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me…
Sad Superwoman
—————————————————
And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world, Halargian world, mad world.
—————————————————
by Roland Orzabal
| Leave a comment

Mourning Rushes in

I was about thirteen when the sound of drums became the backdrop of my adolescence in the house I grew up in. Between church youth groups and cheerleading practice and Friday night football games, I heard, almost constantly, the banging of drums, snares, tom toms, high hats, and cymDrums Charlie Brownbals.

Why?  Because my little brother was learning to play “the set.”

Eye-rolls and heaving hearts were steady reactions from my parents, but me, I loved the noise. To me it was life — edge-y and cool.

This was a new sound I was hearing from my brother’s turntable. It wasn’t the juvenile reliability of Kiss or the pop sweetneRush 2112ss of Michael Jackson.

This was something different:  the syncopated rhythms and heady weirdness of Rush. To a kid who already felt a little weird, it fit. My ears became attuned to the drum tracks on “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of Radio,” and later on “Limelight.” and they became as significant as the melody.  I loved Geddy’s twangy, gratingly-appealing vocals. I wondered how so much sound could come out of three guyMoving Picturess. When I eventually saw them 28 years later on tour, I saw and heard for myself.

And that was when I got to see, up close and personal, the real genius of “Neil.”

Few articles written about Rush do not mention Neil’s God-like status as a supreme drummer, in a class by himself. Every concert Rush played had a room or stadium full of air drummers.

I didn’t know much about this man’s personal life. I had never read any of his many books, but I’d heard that Neil suffered inconceivable tragedies, his wife and daughter each dying in a short time frame, which set him on a path to leave the band and retreat out into the wilderness on a spiritual quest, like a holy motorcycle crusader out to challenge God.

If they need a drummer in Heaven, God made the obvious choice.

So now, let the cosmic tour begin.

RIP Neil Peart

Neil

“The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide.”

From “Tom Sawyer”

 

 

 

| Leave a comment

2019: Let me count the ways

How did I love thee, 2019?  Let me count the ways.

I loved the month of January, and my brief visit to Savannah, Georgia, in all its mysteries.

I loved the month of February, when I climbed a mountain so steep I was sure I would fall backwards to my demise.

I loved the month of March, which had the most to give:  the Museum of Illusions where I did not believe my eyes and laughed at tricks. A cousin I’d never met and finally did after twenty-one years. When the generosity of a sibling overwhelmed me and led to serendipitous moments.  And my recovery from every sadness, abandonment, and trial that seemed insurmountable.

I loved April, when I visited Westeros, saw Japanese Breakfast, ate pizza, and went to a museum.

I loved May, when I worked a lot and wrote more.

I loved June, when I danced again and saw St. Louis.  July, when I came home again.  And August, when I faced fears and God came closer. September, when I moved toward my self, and October. October. October. Then November, when I saw a mockingbird, sang, and wore a dress for a change.

I loved December, when I saw people I love most but faced new fears. December, the mother of all months to me, the first path and the home stretch.  I will always love December.

Calendar passing

Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet (Sonnet 43):

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints.

I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

 

| Leave a comment

The local vacation

You’ve heard of the Staycation, but that’s a vacation where you stay home or near home and just have a little leisure time. But I recently rented a hotel room a block away from my residence, and I can fully attest to the wisdom of doing a “local-cation.”

Stressed Out PersonRecently, amid a series of unfortunate events and various stresses and strains of a personal nature, things were getting me a bit “insane in the membrane.”

So during one sleepless night, the thought occurred to me that I should just get out. Board the dog, get a room, take my laptop, and walk a block.

Hotel MotelOne advantage to living in an urban jungle as I do is that there are a multitude of hotel chains in the vicinity all competing with one other, which in turn works to my advantage.  It allowed me to get a fairly decent rate on a room for a night.

And a good night’s sleep.

It is a wonder what a simple change of scenery can do.

 

 

Posted in Staycation | Leave a comment

Tricks of the Eye

Normally I am quick to correct people (even if only in my mind) who say “All is not what it seems.”  The reason I am so quick to correct is because usually what they mean by that statement is that “not all is what it seems” (meaning, some things are potentially wrong, and some are potentially right) — as opposed to “all is not what it seems” (meaning, everything is potentially wrong).

In reference to the Museum of Illusions in New York City, however,  the phrasing is a rare instance where it actually means what it is intended to mean.  Here “ALL is not what it seems.”  Which is another way of saying Nothing is what it seems.  Because everything you see at the Museum of Illusions — not just some of it — is a trick.

IMG_3646.JPG

IMG_3648.JPG It is well worth it to visit just to get pictures to confuse and confound your friends, and to get a good laugh,  even if you don’t learn anything about the optical illusions that can alter your perceived reality.

One of the coolest exhibits is the chair that makes whoever sits in it look tiny in relation to another person who is standing in the foreground. There is also a bench that can make you look (in a photograph) like you’re doing a handstand off the side of it without any help. And many other neat things. It is probably even better if you visit after ingesting some potentially hallucinogenic substance, which I did not, but the two friends I went with had done just that.

Even without, I laughed the whole way through.  And there was no trickery to that.

 

Posted in Manhattan, New York City, Tourism | Leave a comment