Thursday, December 31, 2009
I had a conversation with my mom, who makes no sense at all anymore. She told me how the people who visit her come mostly in the morning and around dinner time. Then they disappear. She seemed disappointed, frustrated, since they sometimes disappear in the middle of a conversation, apparently. But she says she knows they'll be back. I wonder sometimes what it is she is actually seeing, although I know they most probably are evidence of the Loey's body lesions in her brain, pure figments. Something in me wonders.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I was experiencing just this with the B of A today. Needing some money for my parents' expenses, I sold some of their stock, the last of the halfway valuable stock they had. I had the check since about the day before Christmas, and when I took it over to the bank yesterday, I realized too late that I had forgotten to get it signed by my parents. The banker told me to come back today. He said I could bring one of my parents with, and even without a signature, they would put the check in the account. But when I went to get them to sign it, I found out my mother doesn't know how to write her name anymore. She tried, but just ended up making a huge mess on the back of the check. So I took dad to the bank, and thought that would be good enough. But it turns out that because the check was made out jointly to him and her, and they can't have a joint account because the state of CA refused to issue an ID card to my mom, and she doesn't have any other recent ID, never having driven in any state and being born in another country, the check has to be torn up and reissued, either as two equal checks, one to him and one to her, or with an "or" between their names instead of "and." I am not sure that is possible, but I will call tomorrow morning early, before we leave for the SD Zoo, to find out. I tried calling today, but I was too late, and the office was closed.
Any ideas where we should go eat in San Diego, somewhere on the way back from the zoo? We like funky ethnic places with good food, especially Asian, but R likes Mexican too.
Monday, December 28, 2009
After a while, the owner arrived. He was a florid, red haired man, maybe about 35, with a nascent pot belly, wearing a clean white shirt and low slung pants of the kind much older men wear, with the stretch waistband. His eyes were pale, slightly faded blue. I heard right away that he had an accent, southern I thought, and asked him where he was from. It turns out he was from Virginia, not far from where Richard's parents live. He was surprised to learn that Richard and his family hail from that area, and that I went to school there too.
He spent a long time talking, speaking very frankly about himself and why he went into this business and why he bought this particular place. Though he is a lawyer, he is not a sharpie.
My parents' caregiver says there are many violations of code in the new house, and she will help him change those things so he won't get in trouble with the state licensing board.
So I told him all about my parents and the terms of our living there and he accepted them. I did not hold back all the difficult things about my parents and asked that the place make an exception for them, getting them washed and dressed at 5:00 or 6:00 AM, whenever they wanted to get up, while most of the time, people have to wait until 7 AM to get washed if they need help.
It was important to my father that he have this modicum of control over his life. He has been an early riser all his life, and he wants to go on being one. The owner says that their caregiver can get them up herself, and she expects to do so.
I think this is going to work, though he admits that we will probably have to move out of the big room if someone with much more money to offer asks to live there. There are lots of empty double rooms with private bathrooms. I think it will work out.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The new book is wonderful in the same way as the other. It features two sets, two generations of girl twins, one twin of the second set the amazing mirror double of the other, internal organs reversed. I have only a week in all to read this book, which I rented from the library. Every day beyond a week is an extra .25. Right now, about 4 days into the rental, I am about half done the book, but probably will finish it in time. I stay up late into the night reading it.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
We have pretty much decided to leave the board and care where my parents have lived for about 4 years now, so today we visited another one, which is close to the yoga studio where I often practice, the Steinmart we like to shop in, and the Trader Joe's I go to for my parents' groceries (a few treats like gouda cheese, etc.) every week.
The place was amazing. However, we were not able to negotiate a rent, etc. with the owner since he was not there today. However, it is much much nicer than the place they live in. There are several caregivers, not just one, as at the place where they live. The furniture is sparkling new, and the room we saw was absolutely House Beautiful. It had a private bath with a big big tub and shower, a lovely sink, and new toilet/bidet. There is a walk in closet in what would be their room, and lovely french doors leading to the big patio/garden where my dad can keep his plants and worm farm. There is a "fireplace" that is actually a central heater that goes on by itself. The place where they live now is so stingy with heat and air conditioning. This place isn't.
The caregivers do not look half-dead and exhausted because they have shifts, around the clock. Right now there are only three people living in the sizable house, one of them an artist, who had her first commission from the city of L.A. at age 12! She is 86 now, and very chatty. She got up out of bed to meet and talk to us, though she was recently in the hospital because of lung problems she got doing the restoration work she used to do on masterpieces owned by Hearst and L.A. area museums.
My dad would have someone eager to talk to him, which would be great. He doesn't have that now.
I am due to meet with the owner on Monday at 11, and I hope we can reach an agreement. Now the unpleasant part of the deal is that I have to give notice to the place where we live now, and they begged my father to stay. The woman who owns it is a very sweet lovely person, and she works very hard, but she has not been able to hire a caregiver to take my parents' caregiver's place, and I don't know how they will deal with my dad's very complicated medication or my mom's little habits, like throwing all the clothes in her closet on the floor on a regular basis and burying important documents and other things in the wads of used tissues she stashes everywhere.
The only thing that worries me is that if the economy perks up considerably, he may raise the rent beyond our meager means. We really cannot afford to pay anymore than we now do. Even the place where we live wants to raise the rent, or so it says in the contract, which I pointedly have not signed. I'm sure they expect us to leave, and we will. Now I just hope this place works out.
I have to do unpleasant things today, looking at a new place to live for my parents. The place where they live now has begged them not to go and threatened the former care giver if she "steals" us that she will be sued. Since I hate dishonesty and underhanded dealings of any kind, as well as giving anyone really bad news, I don't like sneaking around like this and will not at all enjoy telling these people that we are leaving, but I truly feel that they will not be capable of taking care of my parents properly. Between the two of them, they are quite a challenge.
Wish me luck!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
To Linda Dann
There’s a picture in my mind: a sturdy golden haired child, about three years old, stands on the grass of a sunlit playground, one hand pushed as far as it will go into his mouth, while the other tugs at his earlobe. This was my son, Jeremy, who is now almost a man, at 19, lean and handsome.
I used to ponder, engaged in the toughest task I had ever undertaken, that probably no one would become a parent if she really knew what the job would entail. Fortunately for the continuation of the human race, however, no one would ever believe it if you told her. We all remain trusting and blissfully ignorant, sure in the knowledge that it has all been done, albeit with varying degrees of competence, countless times before. So looking down at the tiny helpless being entrusted to us, splayed like a starfish and wriggling all its four perfect limbs, we feel nothing but love, and the certainty that we will puzzle it all out. And should we hit a snag, well, there are always the countless doctors, experts, and even family wisdom to fall back on.
We imagine ourselves as part of the largest village: parents, but for some, bringing up a child can be the loneliest endeavor of all, and all of the accumulated wisdom in the world does not seem to apply or even to be available to us.
When people don’t understand a phenomenon or the feelings it invokes in them are too strong, they prefer not to see it. This was true of the difficulties presented by my son, who had inherited some pretty heavy neurological baggage: Tourette Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, and most likely bipolar disorder, from my family. Instead of recognizing and treating these disorders early on, however, my son’s doctors and teachers and the community around us seemed invested in the idea that, in the words of one clueless neighbor, my son was simply a “bad apple,” with parents who had caused his problems by inconsistent or absent discipline.
Family elders shook their head, and people in the supermarket shamed me, demanding that I silence my child. The implication was that I in particular, the mother, must be responsible, and of course, genetically I was, so I carried a heavy burden of guilt.
I scrupulously examined my own behavior, and read books on childrearing that I can still find on the shelves around me, though the child has grown. We went to therapists, and applied behavioral methods as elaborate as plans for the invasion of a small country, all to no avail. My son refused to have bowel movements for weeks at a time, refused to eat (lest he have bowel movements), seemed never to sleep, and would rage and cry uncontrollably, apropos of nothing at all.
At the same time, he was frequently a happy little chap, athletic and popular with children his own age, full of energy and charisma. It was not until Jeremy was about seven years old and had developed his first obvious tic—a dry cough that would not go away—that a doctor paid any attention at all.
The cough had begun as a lung infection, so he was treated by a specialist and spent hours on a contraption designed to open his airways. But when the infection subsided, the cough persisted for years, and the steroids he was given by a doctor who suspected allergies caused sustained rages, screaming, violent fits that scared us silly. It would not be the last time that the “cures” doctors prescribed turned out to be much worse than the disease they were intended to treat.
It was not until I begged the boy’s doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist that we finally got a diagnosis of Tourettes. By then, he had the complex arm tic that still surfaces to this day, rippling up from the lower arm to the shoulder, which he would quickly flex like a chicken wing, and the doctor immediately noted it, referring us to a support group sponsored by the Tourette Syndrome Association.
We wept tears of gratitude to know that this problem had a name. Anything with a name has been studied and categorized. Treatments most likely exist for it. Most importantly, we were no longer alone or to blame.
Listening to other parents unburdening themselves at the support group meeting, we learned that others had even less support than we did. Other parents and even family members shunned them and their children, and many had no access to medical insurance. One parent went to 15 doctors before the last finally correctly diagnosed her son.
I took away from this that it was essential that one of us at least become a scholar of the disorder, that we turn our academically trained skills to archiving the latest research on Tourettes Syndrome and the other disorders our son had been diagnosed with, so we could request the latest medication or therapy.
There should be no reason for this. I myself have correctly diagnosed the disorder, and it is not all that uncommon either, but doctors tend to know almost nothing about it, and parents like me have taught them all they know. If I had ever harbored the belief that I could rely on experts, I gave it up now that my son’s education and medical treatment, as well as his social wellbeing, depended entirely upon my own advocacy.
I wrangled on a regular basis with teachers, the principal, the district, who insisted simultaneously and entirely irrationally that our son, intelligent and articulate as he was, didn’t need any special services, while they at the same time complained that he was unmanageable. One teacher, when he was in second grade, a narrow, biased woman seemingly returned from retirement solely to torture our son, left him in a corner facing away from the other children in the class for two months, except during my weekly visits as a volunteer, when he sat as the others did. I only learned about it when another volunteering parent told me, and then I demanded that this treatment stop. It was only threat of legal action that worked to stop it, but by then, the child was despondent, even saying he wanted to die.
I consulted the Internet, and joined a parent support group. That proved to be the best thing I had ever done, both for my son and for us, for it was in other parents that I found the most solid and generous source of advice, information, wisdom, and support, as well as much needed friendship from people who well understood what we had been experiencing. There were thousands of invisible others in cyberspace who had to deal every day with their children’s (and sometimes their own) irrational obsessions and bizarre symptoms, like a friend whose brilliant daughter, gifted intellectually and artistically, insisted there were gremlins in the toilet, or the parent who was several times almost killed by her psychotic child.
We learned how lucky we were to have a child with comparatively mild symptoms, to be capable of advocating for our son, and to have insurance and access to a doctor who recognized the disorders our son had. For the options available to the poor, uneducated, and uninsured are shockingly few and far worse than inadequate, bordering sometimes on the criminal, with children as young as 10 sometimes sent to juvenile hall for exhibiting symptoms of neurological disorders they cannot control.
Though the world has changed in myriad ways since my 93 year old father first exhibited signs of severe Tourettes as a child and was completely abandoned, placed in a charity hospital for months at a time without visitors because people feared non-existent contagion, and thrown out of school for his bizarre outbursts, things haven’t changed much for some. Parents are still often offered no assistance paying for the very expensive medications the children need (and which still, unfortunately, often return uncertain benefits), given no respite to regain their own spent energy. I have seen such parents turn their children over to the state in the mistaken belief that this will get the children the help the parents themselves could not afford. Indeed, in the years I have spoken to parents on TS-Parents group on Yahoo, these problems have seemed to proliferate, not lessen in both frequency and difficulty.
Yet at the same time, for many, there is hope. I speak with old friends from the difficult early days, and learn that their children, like mine, are finding their own ways in the world, are going to college, as my son is, working, having families of their own, learning to cope with their own disorders.
It is at those times that I think of the best and most loving community I have known—the fellowship of parents with children like my own, who have had to fight for their wellbeing, and now turn with generosity to others struggling up the same rocky path. I strive to be one of those parents. Now I pass the mantle to you.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
While Richard made his cheese run, Jeremy started to work on me, pressing me to respond about what made me behave in that way. I finally said that sometimes I didn't want to come home because I was afraid he would start this, and we jointly figured out that it was this very cycle of my avoidance that got him started when I would come home, and he would sense my feeling of anxiety. This would spur in him a compulsion to "fix" things. Since he has OCD, he cannot drop things once he has begun them, spending hours straightening his hair or turning on and off the light incessantly-- or berating me.
Of course, understanding these things is only the first step. One has to know what to do about them. I again asked him to come to the therapist with me, but he hates therapists, having experienced his share of them since childhood. Though he knows he should go with me, he won't, but he promised that if he cannot stop this behavior, he would go .
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
In the same book, we read about the Nazarites, who, like Samson, dedicated themselves or were dedicated by their parents to God and grew their hair as a sign of being set apart. No one seems to know exactly what their role was in the Temple, but women were also Nazarites. One wonders what their families had to say about that. Maybe they were widows or orphans, and, like the convent for Catholic women in Europe, the Temple provided a place for them to be protected. In any case, it was interesting in the midst of another book that was largely taken up with numbers few know how to interpret, like the census of books we had read recently. No one knows whether these numbers are meant to be read primarily as a sort of numerological code or to be taken literally, boasting of the multitudinous Hebrew populations in the desert. So these other details provide something a bit more intriguing to grasp a hold of in the midst of this parashah.
When he was 5 1/2, he told me that I had been making the rules for all his life, and now he wanted to make them. Then I was able to play the wise adult and tell him that it would be a few years till that happened. Now he is an adult himself, just barely, but an adult in age anyhow. And it is time for him to make that demand for real, and he does.
But it is not just his freedom that he wants, but to mold and change me. Some of these changes are positive, I know. He wants me to shake my anxiety, to drop my negative pall of thought and try to see things from the bright side for a change. He wants me to clean up my act and live in an orderly space. These are good things, but you cannot bully someone into doing them, and that is more or less what he does, every opportunity he gets.
When I am doing something, which I nearly always am, every second I am awake, he stops me in the middle and demands to have an intense discussion. So yesterday and the day before and the day before that, as I sat at the table grading interminable essays, he stopped me and demanded I look him in the eye and share my feelings with him.
It is rare enough for men to want to talk about their feelings, but Jeremy's way of doing this is aggressive and unrelenting. He is obsessive about this as about everything else. My response to this is to shut down. It is too much like my father, who could, before medication, turn on a dime from a cheerful and friendly demeanor to a dark and threatening one. And though Jeremy is not my father, even if has inherited some of the same neurological baggage, I cannot help to respond by cautiously avoiding his eyes, not saying anything that might set him off.
I love my son. I would like to mend our relationship, and so invited him to come to the therapist with me. In that safe environment, with a mediator, it might be the place to explore our relationship the way he wants to do, instead of pinning me to the spot every afternoon, so that I often avoid coming home.
When Richard intervened, after about an hour of listening to this go on, Jeremy became very angry for a moment, and then took hold of himself and left for work. But I know that today, the discussion will resume.
I shouldn't make myself sound like a victim. The spurts of anger and resentment I feel when Jeremy nails me that way make me say things out of aggravation. Yesterday I looked up from a student paper, a very good one, about chocolate slavery, and read a quotation from a former chocolate slave who had been kept since age nine, starved and beaten, carrying 60 lb sacks of cocoa. The boy said that every time we in the west ate a chocolate bar, we were eating his flesh.
Jeremy became infuriated, and said it was a lie, and even if it weren't, it wasn't his problem. I don't think he means that. Like the rest of us, when we hear this, he didn't know what to do with the feelings of guilt for a terrible situation he didn't realize he was responsible for. His response was to reject the feeling of guilt rather than to embrace it and promise only to consume fair trade chocolate from here on in. I don't eat chocolate, for medical reasons, so it is easier for me. But given Jeremy's mood, I should not have said that.
Monday, December 21, 2009
In that tiny space, it felt as if we were having a private concert all to ourselves, and I really was impressed and pleased. All the same, I giggled a bit at Liz's son's comment, which she related to me when describing Arkenstone's music. He said that the guy plays "pirate music," and I could definitely hear it.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
For the past two weeks, I've wanted to see that new Clooney film, Up in the Air, that has been advertised so aggressively that one would think it would immediately spring to a 1000 screens upon release. But it still has not come to the proverbial "theater near me." So last night, R and I ventured down to Aliso Viejo to meet Robin and Manny there, in order to see for ourselves whether the dialogue and acting were really as snappy as we had heard.
The theater was as well-developed as a small village, and lit up twice as brightly. I have noticed that in South Orange County, shopping centers tend to cluster together. Instead of a strip mall here and a strip mall there, as in Irvine, they conglomerate, so that one shopping center has half a dozen stores one might seek out and as many restaurants and maybe a multi-screen theater complex, like this one . So in Mission Viejo, the shopping center across the street from Yoga Works where I spend so much time has not only Stein Mart, but Trader Joe's, Big Lots, Party City, and a bowling alley. One almost need not leave that center to fill all of her daily needs.
The center in Aliso Viejo is even more packed full of anchors, like Trader Joe's (again), Lowes, TJ Maxx, the theaters, and lots of good restaurants one might otherwise have to drive hither and yon to get to--Philly's steak sandwiches, Native Foods, and not one but TWO frozen dessert stores.
I was glad I wasn't the one driving when I saw the enormous boats of SUVs and Hummers attempting to negotiate the parking lot's narrow aisles. There were some scary moments there, but we snagged a spot, and hustled up to the ticket booth 45 minutes early to buy our tickets, then to the ice cream place. I didn't feel like ice cream, but R created his own mix at Cold Stone. I noticed I didn't have my cell phone (it turned out I had left it in a different purse the night before, when we attended a party at California Pizza Kitchen), so it was just luck that allowed us to meet up with M and R outside the theater. But by the time they bellied up to the booth, the movie was full. So we got our money refunded and went home to our house to watch Smooth Talk, the film I will be teaching next semester, along with Oates' story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been," from which it has been adapted.
It turned out to be a nice evening, with a few snags. But I don't think I'll be going to a first-run theater any time soon again.
Friday, December 18, 2009
We will celebrate together at the California Pizza Kitchen and then go sing at synagogue. We haven't practiced the song in a while. I'm trying not to get anxious.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
According to the caregiver herself, he deceived her, promising to sponsor her in her bid for residency and citizenship, but he never did. That was 7 years ago. Now immigration has caught up with her, and she was allowed to apply, via her brother, who is a legal resident, but she cannot work anymore for a while. Of course, she still needs to work, but it won't be via legal channels.
She wanted us to let her work for us privately, and that would suit us fine, but we must be inspected by VA, and under the table won't work for us. So someone new, probably someone without experience, will take over. That makes me very nervous, so I am on the lookout for a new place, which I might have to move my parents to at a moment's notice, if something egregious happens.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
He takes his philosophy exam tomorrow. He has studied a lot for it, but has failed every exam this semester, despite studying. He should probably not be taking regular timed exams because of his disabilities, but he refuses all assistance, although he is entitled to it. So he is not sleeping, is angry, feels helpless, and doesn't know if he'll ever make it through college. He failed most of his classes last year because of this very reason.
I told him he might think about going to Disabled Students, but that would require him to go back to a psychiatrist and probably on a few meds again, and I don't think he is willing to do that or even that it would be the best thing for him right now, in most ways.
He has done very well in English class, but then there are no exams in this English class, and he has two English professor/writer parents, so it's not a surprise. I feel for him, but I don't think there is anything else I can do for him.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I was going to do a Hitchcock film and the text it came from (The Birds or Strangers On A Train, but I found that not much is written about the adaptations, and that I really disliked Highsmith's novel, so I decided to do Oates' short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" with the movie Smooth Talk. I think they will really like both of these, and will be engaged in the process for that reason. Also, I have the story online to put on Blackboard and the movie was cheap on Amazon ($3.00). I bought two copies, one for the library, and there was a bibliography online too. Of course, lots of buyable papers are online, so I will have to watch out for that, but the assignments should be specific enough that they won't be able to use those papers, I hope.
It is late night in the desert.
Miles of cool highway
slip by in the dark.
Thin saguaros, tall as a man,
stand guard by the roadside,
their arms full of blossoms
gathered in the night, haunted
by pale luna moths, the color
of twilight. In a sky deep
as breath, a circus of stars
tumbles and twirls, though no one
is watching, not even me.
All along the spine of the sleeping
mountains, the white line glows.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
That's when I started to think about how I began writing, and why. I apparently began making things out of words long before I could write. My parents' friend, Vivien, told me that when I was barely big enough to talk, I began telling her a story I had made up and asked her to write it down. I always loved books, and one of my early memories is seeing things written and being frustrated at not being able to make them out. I tried and tried, but it eluded me. When I studied foreign languages, this feeling again reemerged, particularly languages like Russian, with its script entirely unlike ours.
In middle school, where I was entirely out of place, I used storytelling as a way in to the society of my peers, who adopted me as an unofficial entertainer, rather like the artists who hung about the medieval courts. And, I realized, I have never entirely given up this role, though in college I found a group of people like myself. But, as John Sayles realized and ironically reflected, an anarchist's convention is a paradoxical thing, a group of people who never quite fit in still is not quite a group.
As I grew, I learned to hold these writerly impulses a little closer to the chest, because there were others who would steal them, or because, more often, they would not be understood or respected. This happened to me anyway, since, out of impulses I could not control, I wrote poems to celebrate various things, such as Jewish holidays, people, general feelings of unfocused joy, only to get in return a shrug of incomprehension.
Once, as a college student, to merge my love of poetry and tropical fish, I wrote some poems and sent them to Tropical Fish Hobbyist. I knew they did not belong there, but still was a bit put out when I got in return a note instructing me on how to write limericks.
So the poems in my yoga series are poems, and I guess I knew when I wrote them that it was likely that people who don't read poems, don't get them, would not be likely to see these poems as what they are: a gift I give in the only way I can, because I cannot express my feelings in the way others can, directly, anywhere near as well as I can in writing.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
So here's a revision:
In the quiet darkness, the stately
planets prance, wheeling in their
orbits, like partners in a dance.
The sun inspects its minions,
reclining on its throne. Mars, then Venus
passes, until Earth stands alone.
It bows before his majesty, low,
then lower, lowest. Then seems to
bite off brightness, in incrimental bits,
so that the sun shrinks to one line
and finally disappears. For me,
beneath the coral tree, a thousand
shadows mass, ghostly-green
coronas, wavering on the path.
planets prance, wheeling in their
orbits like the partners in a minuet.
At some point in its plotted course,
the earth stops before the sun,
so many times its size, bows low,
lower, lowest. But from here,
it seems to break the brightness
off in bits, to eat the sun,
so that it shrinks to one
bright line and disappears.
For me, beneath the coral tree,
hundreds of tiny shadows wink,
mirrored coronas, wavering on the path.
*Pranayama is the controlled exercise of breath. It takes the practice of yoga inside the mind.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Meanwhile, I haven't prepared at all for Chanukah, which starts Friday, except by buying and packing a few gifts. The majority remain in piles by the side of my bed, read to be packed. I bought too much wrapping paper, and it is everywhere.
But I went to Torah group, which this time consisted of a special Chanukah presentation, given by a member of the group, Pat Schlup, who grew up on a farm in the midwest (I think it was in Nebraska), and converted to Judaism later in his life. Pat is very knowledgable about Judaism and Torah, reading voraciously. He told us about the origins of the holiday, which have been somewhat mystified by tradition.
Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday not mentioned in the Torah or Jewish Bible. Nominally, it commemorates the Jewish victory over the Greek-influenced forces of Antiochus, a tyrant who wanted, as usual, to wipe out the Jews by preventing them from celebrating the rites and rituals of Judaism and forcing them to assimilate to Greek forms of worship.
The usual version of the tale we are taught has a rag-tag bunch of guerilla fighters, the Macabees, overcoming Antiochus and his forces, against terrible odds, and restoring to Jews their independence and right to worship. We are also told, as children, the tale that the rabbis made up, about the mysterious vial of oil in the temple Antiochus had violated, which was only enough to last one day, but managed to last for 7, so the temple could be rededicated.
The truth of the matter, it seems, is much more complex and dark. The Macabees were a questionable bunch. Brilliant military tactitions (sp?), they were cruel and tyrannical rulers.
So the rabbis banished the tale of their military victory from the bible proper. It survived only as an apocryphal book, Macabees, preserved by the Catholic church.
Yesterday, we read for the first time this banished book. It was very odd. Pat related that the word "macabre" is supposed to have originated from this book, which relates in gory detail the terrible cruelty of Antiochus. Besides blood and gore aplenty, which would make a snuff film addict salivate, the diction and the tone of the book is suspiciously Christian, even though it was supposedly written well before Christ. It speaks of resurrection, an alien concept in Judaism, and seems to embrace martyrdom with the hopes of heaven. At least in the Judaism that has survived to this day, this kind of thinking is certainly not what we're used to hearing. There were martyrs, yes, but they never held out the hope of being reborn because of their faith.
Since the Catholics were the ones who preserved this book, it is possible that the text is corrupt, that they tinkered with it, or perhaps even wrote the whole thing. Or perhaps this is a relic of a suppressed strain of thought in Judaism? We will never know, but it's interesting to think about.
Adho Mukha Svanasana--Downward Facing Dog
When I was four, I'd play
with dad's ocilloscopes,
energy made visible, pictures
of sound. I'd turn the knobs
until the line would angle up,
an inchworm, and I'd become
a god of volts and ohms. In this pose
that energy is in me. The legs,
like oaks, desire what is earthly,
all their secret life beneath the skin.
The spine spurns the mundane,
while the head, though distant
as the moon, yearns only to rest
itself against the solid knees.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
From those three, two did not do what I asked them to do, providing the criteria they would use to decide which of the two or three solutions they discuss is the best, and organizing the paper as a comparison based on these criteria. Only one did that. The others will have to rewrite. So I was able to tell the students what to do, when they eventually do complete this part of the paper, since the combined essay is due Dec. 15 and 17, for the two sections (the first date for the first, the second for the 2nd). I will have a not very pleasant task then.
Monday, December 7, 2009
my hips, I am standing
in the canyon, waiting
for the full moon to rise.
And now, the sky
so empty in the daylight,
swells full of secrets,
like a darkened hall
before the concert starts,
till a thin sliver of light,
golden, almost a sound,
skims the rock, and the moon,
with a clash of cymbals,
breaks free of the canyon walls.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The seed knows its strength--
an insistent shoot will crack
the brittle shell, find a way
out of the hard-packed earth.
And the rain, in pinprick
drops, breaks off bits
from the towering nimbus,
wearing down mountains
and turning rocks to sand.
It is not muscle that raises
my legs from the chair,
but a gathering force,
like flame from a struck match.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Dad was feeling a bit better, but mom was having a hard time walking, complaining about her hip. If she walked more, it would improve, but I know the process might be painful. I might teach her a few stretches, bringing in her own torture chair for the process. However, I should talk to my teachers first, to be sure what I do is safe and appropriate.
Friday, December 4, 2009
along the quiet river,
ribs open like a magnolia,
its stiff white petals
only this morning furled
in the burnished bud.
Legs strung tight as sails,
I hoist myself up, out of the hip,
arranging my torso, vessel
of precious cargo, over the knees.
Currents lap at my sides
as I surge forward, pulling
the oars of my feet
till the miles fall away.
But I DO know about students, and some of mine are hurting. There was a lot of reported illness, some quite serious, in my sections. At least one student had a fairly severe case of swine flu, and was hospitalized for a weekend, throwing up blood. Many were quite ill with other kinds of flu, and could not come to class for over a week.
One of these just returned, not quite well, and unfortunately for him, he did not keep up with the work. Since there is no time left, I gave him two days extra to finish his paper, due Tuesday, but asked that he combine it with the earlier research paper, the definition of the topic, to form the combined definition and causal essay. He did not come to class yesterday, when that combined essay was due for peer review. And he did not email me. I think he has given up.
Since that student had already written the definition paper earlier in the semester, this was merely a matter of typing up the two together. But he didn't try to do it, apparently.
Another student told me, after getting back his failing causal essay (an essay I spent a month and a half preparing them to write), that he didn't understand how to write a causal essay or how to take information from his sources to do that. Meanwhile, he lives nearly next door to me, and could have knocked on my door any number of times to ask for help. He has delivered papers to my door before, and not been shy generally about requested assistance. It is hard at this point to help him.
When this happens, I feel as if I am the one who has slipped up. My heart beats fast, and I relive that anxiety dream where one goes to take an exam without ever having attended the class.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
toward the distant floor,
I approach the knees'
locked gates, peering
into the darkened space
between, almost at my
the heels, the ropy
tendons, I belly forward.
Chest presses thighs,
buttocks rising and rising.
I am an explorer,
entering the ancient city,
descending into another world.
It seems that my parents' secondary insurance, Blue Cross, is no longer being accepted by UCI Medical Center, where the majority of their doctors are. I don't know what to do. I don't think any insurance company will give them a similar deal, given their age and health. We are almost out of money, but not quite. We cannot transition to MediCal, but we cannot move to a different insurance, I think. Changing all our doctors is not a good option. I don't know what to do or who to ask.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Today and tonight (deadline: midnight) large causal research papers will be coming, and Thursday, annotated bibliographies for the combined research paper. Tuesday are drafts for part one of the final paper; next Thursday, drafts for part two and the works cited page. The following week (Tuesday for one class and Thursday for another) are the revised final papers and presentations. I will be very busy.
I am working on one more poem, but it isn't ready to show yet. After that, 5 more to go. Then I'll have to invent another excuse for writing poems every day, or nearly so.
Monday, November 30, 2009
arcing backwards from the old
brown couch. The ordinary room,
with its worn black rug, scattered
with pink roses like none that grew
out in the yard, became a reef,
crowned with the tiny
pulsing mouths of coral,
their home a crypt and
nursery,built on the others' bones.
The t.v.'s featureless face
gave back my own face, turned
alien and odd, and I, a curious
dolphin, weightless and free.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Pamela Johnson Parker's chapbook, A Walk Through the Memory Palace, winner of the first annual Qarrtsiluni Chapbook contest (see link below), seems to possess a sure sense of its shape, though its subjects range widely, from the apparently autobiographical, to mythological and literary poems, sparked with multiple allusions, to richly woven paeons to the natural world. Somehow, though the topics go beyond the personal, the chapbook takes on the shape of a woman's life, the title crowning the collection with purpose, despite the book's multifarious moods and themes.
One poem in particular, "Some Yellow Tulips," catches my attention. I include it in full below:
Some Yellow Tulips
Old Mrs. Sonnenkratz, there in her yard
Bent over like a bulb herself, works hard
To edge her sidewalks, salt the slugs, and spray
The aphids from her roses. Every day
She’s pruning, pulling, plucking, weeding out
The strays that might be festering. No doubt
She loves her lawn, loves order, symmetry
Of seedlings, herbal borders; she would be
Ruthless to seeds gone volunteer, to Queen
Anne’s livid bruise, half-hidden in its green-
White froth of lace. Today, her turban slants
Askew over her blue-rinsed hair; her plants,
Once straight as soldiers on her patio,
Are blitzkrieged out of order, the yellow
Tulips (three days blossoming in a vase
Atop her wrought-iron table) don’t erase
Her frown, her sloppy slippers, or the brown
Age spots (about the size of dimes around)
She often hides with gloves. A jagged scar
Runs up her forearm, where the numbers are.
The tulips, like her, blowsy, need to go;
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’s on her radio.
She thinks, Acht nicht, acht nicht, nacht musik…
Their leaves are lances, and they slant, oblique.
The tulips stems outlast their showy flowers;
For years she plants by day and, at night, cowers.
The yellow of the petals starts to burn;
Perhaps the worst of absence is return.
She smokes and shakes and smokes. Each flowerbed’s
As neat as graves. She stubs out ash. The heads
Of these tulips wore bright turbans, tight-wrapped
And now unwrapping. In Berlin, she was slapped:
Sie ist ein Jude… Dry-eyed in Dachau, how
She’s crying over bulbs bloomed too far now.
In a world of absence, presence leaves a scar.
Each tulip’s ravelled to a six-point star.
(for Lilo Mueller)
Read more: http://memorypalacewalk.com/some-yellow-tulips/#ixzz0YI9nANIl
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial
Written in orderly couplets, the poem embraces the strength this form offers. The lines are clipped as topiary bushes to fit the inevitable end rhyme, yet remind one of Bishop or perhaps Hopkins (think "Spring and Fall"!) in their subtle emotional power.
The poem begins with a mildly critical and perhaps even disapproving tone, but morphs to a power statement of the futility of any effort to erase the past or the threatening future of mortality we all face with our present rituals. Loss enters into all our enterprises, and the poem muses, "Perhaps the worst of absence is return."
This poem about the Holocaust is one of the few that manages to universalize that event without trivializing it--a delicate balance to be sure.
I recommend this book to you, and also the journal Qarrtisiluni, and plan to send an entry of my own this year to its chapbook contest, the yoga sequence, if all goes well. Here is a link that will tell you more about that contest:
Enjoy, and visit Qarrtsiluni, which is always interesting.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
All lifetime long, fated to tread
their single paths on yielding earth,
to press parched soles against
unsympathetic streets, they desire
only new routes, not dreaming
what they truly seek.
Yet meeting arch to arch, each
toe pressing its long-lost opposite,
these feet have met their match.
Bound in a forced embrace, they find
a blessing in this union, welded
in a prayer to all things lost,
to what was always there.
NOTE: "Yoga" is from a Sanskrit word that, roughly translated, is said to mean or at least to connote "union." It is probably the root of our word "yoked."
Friday, November 27, 2009
I found the mop without too much trouble, but I had to wait in line for a long time; that line stretched halfway across the store. It was awkward and heavy to carry that box without a cart too.
Next, I went to Steinmart, and I spent quite a while looking around for jackets or something reasonable for women who take care of my parents. I was considering buying the cashmere doorbuster sweater that was on sale for one of them, but I decided not to because the mop cost $10. more than I expected, making the price of the sweater too much for us to spend.
And last, I went to Kohls. It was a nightmare. I bought my son some sheets and pillows and towels, but again there were no carts and the line was really really slow. I was there for 2 hours, trying to hold all this stuff in my arms, which was impossible. I would have bought more, but I couldn't hold what I had. Finally, I begged a passing worker to go get me a shopping bag, which she did. And another worker helped me carry the stuff to my car.
I don't want to go shopping for a while.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The smoked bird was very good, and the roasted vegetables were actually my favorite part of the dinner. It was red onion, portobello mushrooms, butternut squash cubes, garlic, carrots, and yellow bell peppers, plus shallots, olive oil, pomegranite vinegar, and fresh herbs. It could have stood more cooking on the lower shelf of the oven, but that was occupied by the bird. The guys liked their mashed potatoes and gravy, but that's really not my thing at all. The stuffing was good, and of course, the cranberry orange relish!
Jeremy sat with my mom and showed her old pictures of when he was a baby and before he was born. It was fun for all of us to talk about where those places were, who those people were, when it might have been, etc. My mom was not too interested. She didn't even know who the people in the room were, never mind the ones in the pictures.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Despite the fact that R asked me to buy a precooked turkey so I would not have to cook, I am actually making quite a few sides for tomorrow. It doesn't come with mashed potatoes, so I have to make those. My dad asked for cornbread, so I am making that (from a box). And, being southern, it doesn't come with veggies, so I am roasting butternut squash, asparagus, portabello mushrooms, and yellow bell peppers with rosemary, oregano, olive oil, and garlic... maybe a little balsamic too. And of course, there's the diabetic dessert for dad, a cranberry apple crisp, made with diabetic brown sugar and sweetener. I found a recipe online. And sugarless vanilla ice cream on top.
I polished my mom's old silver today. It is actually pretty beat up. I should not have insisted on taking it from the house. It doesn't seem too appetizing, even now that I've polished it up, because of the plastic handles on the knives (I guess it's plastic... it hasn't aged too well, anyhow).
But I took it, and I cleaned it, so people can use it if they wish. Of course, I didn't keep the china, taking pity on my uncle when he asked me not to make him send it out here. Too expensive, he said. Not worth it. So people will have to eat from my everyday stoneware. I am not buying china, or paper plates either.
I guess then that I'll be pretty busy tomorrow, along with most of the rest of female kind in the U.S. ... .
Monday, November 23, 2009
carving out an underworld
composed of legs and torso,
a cave, where intestines'
pearly ropes fall free,
and the heart, suspended,
beats its regular tattoo
against the chest
till the vaulted rafters
shake. The lungs, two sails,
spread their manta wings,
and breath bears me
through the sweet darkness,
all the way to the end.
After the appointment, I started to back out of the spot--it was a handicapped spot, the closest to our doctor's office, a score, I thought, when we pulled in, but it turned out to be a huge hassle. Well anyway, behind me, there were two cars going up and one coming down, and no room for me to go out to the street, so I had to go all the way up to the top of the parking facility, almost up to the roof, before I could find a spot to back out of and go down. That woman who wanted into my spot didn't have a handicapped sticker, and I am sure she found out she'd have to park elsewhere, after she insisted on making me drive in the wrong direction.
I get very very nervous backing out, especially since that big SUV hit me a few weeks ago and I had to get the car fixed, even though that wasn't my fault. Seeing how nervous and tentative I was, my father went ballistic and started yelling at me, and I yelled back, the worst possible thing when I am driving. Then, to make matters worse, someone collapsed at the exit, and a whole line of cars, including me, had to make a U-turn and go out a different way... more yelling, more ultimatums, nightmare. I have such a long history of terror in the car with my father, years when he was "teaching me to drive," but turned out to be making it impossible for me to get behind the wheel for about 30 years. He would pull my hair, kick me in the leg, scream in my ears, till I got out of the car and walked home.
As soon as we were out of that situation, things reverted to their usual state, and nothing more was said about driving, but I would have liked to have done better with that situation than I did. I'm disappointed in myself.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The inchworm angles
upward, its back end
lagging, to inspect a leaf.
In this pose, I am stillness
set in motion, legs like young
oaks, with all their secret life
beneath the skin. Half of me
insists on earth, feet wedded
to the floor--the other
half aspiring to the sky, the spine
yearning for what it's not,
while the arms, those mediators,
lie somewhere in between, and the head
a full moon among clouds.
The maid had actually begun to lose her mind, and much of the film records her struggle to regain some semblance of sanity and carve out some kind of life for herself. It was another young woman, brought in to care for the house and family while the other maid recovered from her collapse, as much mental as physical, who brought the original maid back to life, making her see that she needed to find her own way. At the end of the film, she was trying, in a small and rather pathetic manner, to do that. It was a funny, dramatic, and sad film.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Of course, neither I nor any of the other regulars would ever speak to her about these feelings. We respect her views, and what's more, sympathize with them. Perhaps one day I will stop eating meat. I don't eat cheese or enjoy milk products though, so it would make for a pretty boring diet, I think. At most, I could probably manage a pescavorian diet, vegetables, grains, and fish.
In any case, the yoga class WAS humbling and difficult. I lost my balance and fell backwards or forward more times than I can say when we were balanced on the side with the other leg in the air. One of these was anantasana, Buddha's couch, I think it's called. It looks easy, but it isn't, for me at least.
Despite my squatting prowess, my legs screamed for mercy when we squatted at the wall with a block between the thighs and stayed there for a while. But humbling is good. It makes one remember that however much she practices, there are always things to learn. Lots of them.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Inside its shell, all martial
turrets, spiral points, the whelk,
soft as a tongue, slips unhindered
through the polished rose-pink
lips, while I, a creature of another
sea, head downward on
this folding chair, extend
my toes like pink-tipped
tentacles. My head is free
for once to lose its lofty
place, and pillowed
on the floor, looks only
inwards at the chest, hands
lightly grasping the back bar.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I like to cook, but R has requested repeatedly that I not shift into my usual frantic, one-track mode of feast days, when I cook and fill the fridge for days at a time to over-flowing, something that in his OCD heart of hearts, he hates. And when my parents are around, I am already stretched to my limit, so I appreciate for once how he feels about this.
This morning I spoke to R about Jeremy's request, and he agreed that if I promised not to cook for hours and hours and got the place where I buy the turkey to carve it, we could eat here. It costs a lot less, which I appreciate, especially after I found out that I accidentally cleaned out R's bank account (causing late fees) paying my parents' medical bill. The account numbers are almost identical. I cleaned my own self out paying that back, and took only half from my parents for the moment (I'll get the rest after the checks arrive).
So I did some research and found we can eat almost the same meal as take-out from Johnny Reb's if I pick it up next Weds. I'll leave plenty of space in the fridge for left overs. Perhaps I'll fix a nice side dish (it doesn't come with a vegetable). I could also fix an extra dessert. It comes with everything else.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
undulate under the clouds like fish
in the shallows, soft morning light
singing on their silver scales.
I want to lie down in that light
and become a hill, but my mind
won't let me. Let me try again
to still the muscles' long
sigh as legs enfold the hips,
tucked under like hospital corners,
the thighs pulled taut as a harp string,
the ribs pried open as I
lie back on the folded blankets
exposing my heart to the world.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This was a bit of an adventure. I had never taken my parents to a play, especially one as long as this one (2 1/2 hours), and mom gets antsy even at the moves. She doesn't hear well, and is very confused at this point about what is going on, but she loves old songs, and she knows these songs well. We went to see the original off Broadway when I was a kid. She did fine till the intermission, and then she wanted to go home, and kept loudly talking and complaining until I got a chair and sat beside her. Because of my dad's walker, we had to sit in seats other than the ones we had tickets for, one behind the other on the far right side. Then we went out to dinner. That's always a risky proposition because there is very little she will eat these days. I know she likes steak, but I wasn't about to pay $16. for a small piece of strip steak at Mimi's. So I ordered her pot roast, on the advice of my dad. Since it came with soup and dessert, I figured she'd eat something, even if she didn't like the entree. But she wouldn't eat any of it, except dessert. We ended up taking it home. It was exhausting. I haven't taken her anywhere for an entire afternoon aside from shopping for some time. She doesn't remember how to get the toilet to flush, get paper towels from the towel dispenser, or how to get a roll of toilet paper to unroll. It just kept spinning round and round without giving her any paper till I spun it the other way.
Just now, at 8:30 PM, my dad called, after I dropped them off, saying he couldn't find his glasses. He had them with he got out of the car. I'm sure they are right on his dresser where they belong, since he is going to bed. Sigh.
One newsflash before I do: the caregiver didn't leave! I'm happy to say that. However, her furniture is still gone. Either that means that she is going to leave or that she is moving out of that house and into another one the owner has. Either way, that isn't good. I guess I'll ask her what's up.
About the film: I saw the movie last night, and I found it really thought provoking. As any review will tell you, this is a remake of the story of Job, set in late sixties suburban Minnesota, a milieu native to the Coens themselves. Unlike my old stomping grounds in Philadelphia, an urban shtetl closer to the roots of old world immigrants (a step up from the tenements, but not much of one), this is goyishe suburbia, but inhabited almost exclusively by country club Jews.
The main character is a physics professor, Larry Gopnik, a shlemeliel to beat all shlemiels. Mild mannered to a fault, he accepts without rejoinder his wife's unfaithfulness, his neighbors' insults, the rabbis' mealy-mouthed homilies, his supervisor's insinuations. Like Job, he is definitely being tested. Is he really a virtuous man? For most of the film he does not fall to temptation, until, after his wife leaves him for a disgusting and hypocritical neighbor (who later dies, and then she makes him pay for the man's funeral), and his financial world collapses, causing him to take the bribe a student gives him for a passing grade. Then he gets a cosmic answer to the question he has been pursuing, of what God is trying to tell him with all these accumulated disasters. There is even a satanic presence, in the form of the single most soulless-looking woman I have ever seen, a seductive neighbor, who sunbathes in the nude.
I will not spoil the rest of the film for you. Though if you are not Jewish you will probably be a bit puzzled at some of the references, much of it is pretty comprehensive. You may wonder at the Yiddish frame of a film, a seemingly-unrelated scenario set in Lithuania, which features a possibly supernatural presence. But it isn't irrelevant... far from that.
In this film, the Coen's, who have always been the Jewish clowns, tumlers, of tradition, only in film, make an explicit comment on the Jewish and western spiritual tradition, while in earlier films, that comment had only been tacit.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There are other caregivers who come in every once and a while, but not one of them can do what Susie can. She is an excellent cook, very smart, reliable, and trustworthy, and most of all, kind and compassionate. She gets up early to wake, wash, dress, and feed my early-waking parents, tolerates their difficulties (my mom throws all her clothes on the floor, and, if not watched carefully, stashes important things away so that no one can find them; my dad insists on going out in the yard and over-exerting, then yells and moans when he suffers the consequences). She can be counted on to follow their extremely complex medication schedules. I don't trust anyone else to do that, except perhaps the owner and his wife, and they don't live at the house anymore.
We decided to give it a week or so and see what happens. We don't think Susie is coming back because her belongings (an armchair and treadmill) are gone. I am sad that we didn't get to say goodbye. And I'm not looking forward to having to look for a new place or moving my parents.
Friday, November 13, 2009
We ate and ate, overlooking the ocean, and then took a long walk down the beach as far as we could walk ( that is, until the way was completely blocked by rock and ocean). We watched a few surfers and a family or two digging sand castles on the deserted beach, the sky pure blue with nary a smudge of cloud. But mostly our only company was a flock of gulls, some small sea birds the name of which I do not know, running from the waves as fast as their legs could carry them, and long-beaked avocets, poking at the wet sand to find their own breakfasts. Piles of kelp and other seaweed washed up on the beaches was still wet from this morning's high tide, not yet covered with flies as it will be this afternoon.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
At the reptile house I watched
with curiosity a two-headed
black snake, one head straining
to the left, the other straight,
a strategy that failed.
In this pose, each leg
stretches its own way,
parsing space like calipers,
and yet the spine, braided through
with thorns, becomes a stem
to hold all wayward parts
in check. I bow forward, pale
bloom bending in a breeze,
to honor each in turn.
The book was full of epic catalogues and formulas describing how each tribe lined up and displayed its colors and then how the Levites lined up, in their thousands, to be counted. There had to be a separate counting for the two groups because the first counting was for military conscription purposes, and the Levites, bound to the temple, were not to serve in the military or work in other occupations unrelated to the temple. In fact, the taxes went to support this latter group.
It struck me while we were reading over and discussing this hodgepodge of information that I know now where Melville got his idea for Moby Dick, since it so precisely mirrors the almanac-like structure of the Torah--a little history, some law, taxonomy, etc. ... .
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Here is another yoga poem:
Upavistha Konasana--Revolved Seated Angle Posture
At the zoo I saw a snake
whose two heads, to the
left and straight ahead,
each insisted that the rest
follow its lead, a strategy
In this pose,
my legs each stretch
a different way, parsing
space like calipers,
and yet the spine's
intelligence holds them in check
as I bow forward,
honoring each leg in turn.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Niralumba--Unsupported Shoulder Stand
The earth hangs in space.
No guide wires, not even
the thinnest, suspend
this green-blue bauble
from the sky. My body
also has its gravity, propelled
by breath, unfurling
like a fiddlehead,
head down and backward,
open fingers grasping
only air. If breath
should flutter, I would fail
instead of folding
inward, like a snail.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Niralumba into karnapidasan on the wall-- Unsupported shoulder stand with a chair
to ear pressure pose at the wall
The earth hangs
suspended in space.
No guide wires, not even
the thinnest, suspend
this green-blue bauble
from the sky.
Likewise, the body,
propelled only by breath
to land head down
and backwards from the chair,
unfurls like a fiddlehead,
and then, a time lapse
in reverse, spirals shut,
a snail's shell, on the wall.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
This was a history of yoga, unraveling its complex roots in religion, history, and philosophy of India. I knew only a very little of what it taught, and that was convoluted and dense, but for me, enlightening, since we in the U.S. have disconnected yoga asana, physical postures, from their context in the culture, history, and religion of India. I personally know so little about that. I have not studied the Vedas though I have had the opportunity to do it. The next time I have an opportunity, I promise to take it.
The lunch, by the way, was delightful. We had Idlis, a steamed semolina cake in this case with cashews, served with a cardamon chutney and sambar, a spicy vegetable stew, among other things.
Then there were numerous home-baked desserts. I had a slice of almond torte. Yum. All of this took place in Denise's paradise of a back yard, a tropical corner of fruit trees, full of chattering birds.
Friday, November 6, 2009
My mom's relatives were different types... more intellectual, more educated, I believe. They lived in Lithuania somewhere, where the more skeptical Jews were supposed to come from. They went to England instead of to the U.S. intially, and to South Africa, where my great-grandfather and great-grandmother went, and that's how my mom was born in Cape Town.
But back to the performance. Given that I saw my first Fiddler in New York (perhaps even Broadway; I was too young to remember), this production had a lot to live up to. But the guy who played the main character, Tevye the milkman, was really terrific. He captured that certain spark the character has to have, as well as being a good singer and a credible dancer too.
I felt bad that Steve, my friend from choir, who has played Tevye in other productions as well as other parts and is the understudy here, did not get a larger singing part because he has such a great voice and after all speaks Yiddish and lives the part in some ways in his knowledge of Jewish history and lore. I hope the director used him as a resource in planning the production.
Most things rang true. The sets were absolutely amazing, fully as wonderful as in the big production I saw in New York--very evocative and creative. However, the makeup, particularly the beards and (ugh!) Yentl the matchmaker's stereotypically "Jewish" hooked nose were downright offensive, especially the nose. And some of the bit parts were filled by people who seemed carved out of wood, whose faces and voices expressed nothing at all. But given the reality that this is small time theater, in a tiny venue, I was well pleased, and plan to go back with the synagogue choir and my parents on the 15th. I recommend the show to whomever might be interested.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
School today was rather aggravating, and I'd like to get it out of my mind for a few hours, so this outing seems the best way to do that. A number of my students are not showing up. Some, I am sure, are sick. Some have given up and will not return. There is another paper coming up, and if the students have not done the work up to now, it is past the point of no return as far as catching up is concerned. The earlier class is okay, though a bit smaller. The later class is full of people asking questions like, "Will we get extra credit for showing up?" I am not sure how to answer that.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The moon swells like a seedpod.
Inside the quiet studio, I take
my aching head into my hands,
fingers web to web. A breath,
and then this awkward frame
ascends, becomes an aspen
flexing in a nonexistent breeze.
Grounded in air, movement merges
with stillness, my ear a vehicle
for surging tides, the galaxies'
faint hum. Everywhere
and nowhere, the worlds
fall away, balanced
on these two arms.