Friday, August 29, 2014

Goodnight air

The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter



If you want go see this exhibit at the New York Public Library before it closes September 7th.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From Bangkok to Calgary

At just about half past four today it already felt like the day was leaving and I don't know why. I mean, I do know why, because the light is leaving, has been since June, and our apartment faces East, and I keep replaying "I will follow you into the dark" even though I'm not a huge Death Cab fan but my cousin played that song Sunday when we spontaneously stopped by my aunt's house by the beach and it really is a hauntingly beautiful song, better when my cousin sings it than the original. And that means I can't hear the version that is going around in my head. It's there somewhere, but I can't grasp it. It feels spectral. So much felt spectral in August 1999 when I first moved to this city into the apartment on West 87th with no kitchen where Kristin and I spent the evenings awash in toxic fumes from her paints, vodka splashed and I tried to write, our duffel bags and mattresses on the floor in the other room. Just for a short while really until we moved out. So much felt packed--was packed--into those 7 months and now years fly by in the same amount of time.

Other years we have been on vacation toward the end of August, and I think that is the time to be on vacation, because then you still feel that it is summer.

It's okay though that the summer went by in a blink because this time I was awash in Joyce, crickets chirping in that oasis in the Bronx, the late rides home on the D-train, the feminist and post-colonial jargon, my final paper seeping its way into my vacation this year up in Vermont.

For years I've been accused of over-analyzing, thinking too much about what someone said, reading too much into...strange currencies...into a word, a signal, a nod, a little breath...and then I went to get my master's in English...and oh my God, of course, of course that's what all these years in the back of my mind I thought I had to do. 

But it also feel crazy now, to be sorting out schedules constantly with two kids, my nonprofit work, my new poetry job, my new classes about to start. And I think with-- I don't know if it can accurately be called nostalgia? --I think back on days when I actually looked at cookbooks and thought about what I'd make for dinner that night, or clicked on mommypoppins and thought about where I'd take Wally that day. 

Somewhere I fell off where I was processing things though, and that's what I want to get back. I want to get back to where I am feeling and processing things enough and I did that that first year the sangria summer when I started this blog.

I remember nights at my dining room table with the air the perfect spring new air (I'm thinking about many many years ago now, high school) coming in through the window and my books and papers spread out in front of me overwhelming crushes all consuming and listening over and over and over again to "Half a World Away" - "This lonely world is wasted on pathetic eyes" after that I never understood what he said. You know how the chorus is not that satisfying, not very melodic, you just almost can't stand how perfect it is when it swoons back in turn to marigold I always thought, but it's miracle? I haven't watered the garden today we have a pumpkin problem we did not realize how long and greedy the vines were going to be. A pumpkin is not the thing to plant in July in a tiny NYC garden patch.

Back to the vacation timing. I think I didn't realize that by this time even just half way through August everyone is in back-to-school mode. I know stores are, because they want to sell college-ruled paper and compasses. But was everyone always like this so early on? I thought August was legit full summer, but I swear everyone for a good week now has been moaning bemoaning the end of summer. And I think because we were usually up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire at this time or at least the back porch in Massachusetts I never until now thought of it that way. 

Last year on this exact day I believe we were visiting my friend Heather and her family, the boys roasting marshmallows maybe at this very minute, Alex and Heather's husband drinking the choc au vin we'd gotten at a roadside store. I got a voicemail on August 21 from a school downtown saying they had a seat for Wally and my stomach was in knots for the entire night trying to figure out if I should keep him at our local school -- community was so important, I'd been talking about it for months, trying to help improve prospects for under privileged students (the majority of the student population there) for nearly my entire adult life -- or send him downtown. It created this haze of the next few days. 

He's in Queens now, where he is king. The house is quiet. I have a chance to work. But the quiet means that my mind stirs. Calgary, that's Canada, right, not a holy place outside Jerusalem where Christ died. 

In all these songs, it's what you think they say or mean that matters. Once you find out the actual words, that can't change the way the song was imprinted in your memory. August was always the hottest month, the longest playing outside after dinner firefly evenings, the lambent, swelling, dog days of our green and crazy summers, even if for days now for all these years we've been slowly tilting away from the sun.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

I don't think I am that good at catching people up on what I've been doing. Not keeping people caught up, that elusive covenant of the blog, that I've clearly been terrible at lately, but, after a break, letting them know in broad terms what I've been up to. Like a recap. It feels overly committed and final. My sister has joked for years that she can talk to me for an hour hang up the phone and have no idea that I got laid off from my job or applied to grad school. I am too invested in what's going through my head right now. That's all I usually want to talk about. Not that it doesn't often refer to the past or become completely swallowed up by it but it's all based on what I'm feeling at any given moment.

This morning was madness...bubble solution spilling in the hall, mashed corn muffins, babies wailing, water buckets dumping out, my friend M. leaving with her one and a half year old to go back to Chicago and I just wanted to talk to her for like five minutes, or even just one, but I had to keep chasing Petra and then realized at one point feeling this frustration like there I am out there on the street...coffee mug in hand...with M. back at my parents' house and then it hit me that, wow, there I was out in the morning sun drinking coffee, that is what I'd wanted so long during vacation that little tiny thing, coffee in the sun, and there in the midst of the chaos and Petra-chasing I couldn't escape from, I escaped.

Four years ago I remember writing in a dark hotel room about the unbelievably sober family reunion going on right that moment. Writing here had an energy and urgency then a feeling like I had (created) some responsibility to report on the goings on in my life - the mystery weddings the unspoken conversions...my grandmother's unveiling was coming up and after that up to New Hampshire but I'm getting away from what I meant to write about. We just had the same reunion, the same crowd I should say, this time up in Vermont, same crazily hydrated seltzer-drinking Jews but Wally is such a different person it's hard for me to wrap my mind around, not just that he's calmer but I mean he is a person to talk to and relate to and it's like - where did you come from? It's just amazing all these experiences that I remember and he does not but now here he is inside every moment and understanding things in such an intuitive way. 

In the middle of the day I brought W and P to the Acton Library playground and was disappointed to see it had completely changed since the last time I brought Wally there...I was caught in my usual loop, "I can't believe they changed it" (even though even the one I am now attached to is not the one from my childhood) and Wally said, "Change is good" as he scampered off.

I found out yesterday that Sky our (former - don't like to call her that) dog is not doing well and had a series of tests today. I had expected to hear something like this for a few years now maybe she is after all 13. Today I went with W and P to say goodbye to her. It could be that we'll see her again, but I prepared Wally for the high probability that we will not - he is super-attached to her even though he can't possibly remember the 6 months they lived and napped and walked together every day but maybe it was stored somewhere, imprinted. The new owner said she'd let us know tomorrow (about the test results).

Saying goodbye to Sky was so sad. She kept staring at us as we left and I waited and waited because I wanted her to be the one to leave, not watch us, and finally the new owner took her and they went through the door and it closed behind them. Wally looked up at me voice shaking a little at first. "It's okay," he said, "We'll hear about her tomorrow". It was such a hopeful thing to say.