Saturday, September 10, 2011

Late Summery Summary

Some nice building contrast in the Bronx. After I took this photo, the (alleged) building owner drove past slowly, and shouted at me: "Nice old building, eh? I own it. You wanna buy it?"

A taller-than-thou building in New York.

Don't move or he'll shoot your ankles off.

Neon, always neon.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Next Day

What I’ve become / Troubles me even if I shut my eyes

I take some small comfort in the thought that our turbulent times are only to be expected after the world thawed from the Cold War. The destruction of the twin towers followed on the same continuum as the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the Wall and the Cold War have their roots in what is perhaps the most fateful year in modern history, 1945. But the comfort gained from perspective is, as I said, small. 

Remember when President George W. Bush asked for our "continued participation and confidence in the American economy", or, in other words, 'keep shopping!' The voice speaking in this poem by Randall Jarrell is that of a woman out shopping. 

Next Day

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I’ve become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.

When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I’d wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I’m old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. It bewilders me he doesn’t see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile

Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water—
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don’t know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work—I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:

I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: “You’re old.” That’s all, I’m old.

And yet I’m afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend’s cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me

How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I’m anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.

Photo by Mitch Epstein.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Hurricane or Him-icane?

That is Roxcy Bolton. Motivated by Hurricane Irene, I decided to find out why hurricanes are named as they are, and discovered that pilots of WW 2 aircraft collecting meteorological data over Florida informally named hurricanes after their wives or girlfriends. Florida feminist Roxcy Bolton said the practice was sexist, and called for male names to be used -- women generally do not cause vast amounts of economic devastation and death, she said -- men do. She even suggested that 'hurricane' sounded too close to 'her-icane', and wanted 'him-icane' used instead. Meteorologists adopted equal naming of these vast storms, from an alphabetical list that rotates about every six years. Hurricanes that cause huge death and devastation, such as Andrew (1992) or Katrina (2005) have their names permanently retired.