I knew some of my relatives were crazy. This confirms it.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Nothing Gold Can StayNature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
This time of year always makes me think of this poem.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Can money be made selling used books? You bet.
And who buys them? I do. I usually find something to read at the Good Will. Among my recent finds: "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank," by Thad Carhart, full of interesting music about pianos, pianists, piano tuners, and music generally; "The Devil to Play," by Jasper Rees, about playing the horn, with lots of gossip about music, musicians--Mozart in particularly--and everything else you might want to know about the horn. I never would have looked for these books anywhere else because I didn't know they existed.
I bought a paperback copy of "An Officer and a Spy" by Robert Harris, which only came out in January of this year, but found its way to the Good Will. It's a well-researched re-creation of the Dreyfus Affair. Harris, author of "Imperium" and "Conspirata," never disappoints.
Also "Dear Family," by Camilla Bittle-- an unpretentious, sympathetic portrait of the ordeals lived through by members of an ordinary family.---not a masterpiece for the ages, but if you want to know what families endured in the Depression,you will find out here. It's a nice change from the razzle dazzle pretentious fiction turned out nowadays. Magical realism and all that rot.
Also, deTocqueville, "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson, a collection of maps of ancient history, and more.
If I am in search of something published and forgotten long ago, I go to abebooks.com. Amazon also has many forgotten but readable books, many in Kindle form.
Many of the books I buy are not very good, and I read a little of them and then cast them aside. They go back to the Good Will, or to the AAUW book sale, or to my daughter's college book sale.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 11:55 AM
Friday, April 17, 2015
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 10:24 PM
Monday, April 13, 2015
O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
- But O heart! heart! heart!
- O the bleeding drops of red,
- Where on the deck my Captain lies,
- Fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still; My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will; The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
- Here captain! dear father!
- This arm beneath your head;
- It is some dream that on the deck,
- You've fallen cold and dead.
- Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
- But I, with mournful tread,
- Walk the deck my captain lies,
- Fallen cold and dead.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 8:32 PM
Sunday, April 12, 2015
We were living in Brooklyn near the subway and were poor as church mice. In fact, church mice could have taken our seminar in how to be poor. We were so poor that my mother sent us a Kosher salami from Columbus, Ohio. And we ate it. So it seemed like a great idea to get a car.
Mr Charm wanted to drive to Coney Island and eat at Nathans. He also wanted to drive up to the Shawan gunk (pronounced Shongun) mountains and practice his mountain climbing. There was nothing for it but to buy a car, so we could get out and smell some fresh mountain air, or sea air, as the case might be.
Mr Charm found himself a used car guy called Meyer the Buyer and bought the best car you could get for $75--or maybe it was $250. He paid Meyer part of his fellowship check and arranged to pick up the car. He was going to bring it home to Brooklyn and we were going to go somewhere in it. I arranged for a friend to babysit and got dressed up nice and waited. And waited.
You younger people--which is everybody, because I'm older than everybody--you don't know what it was like back in the 20th century. American cars were horrible, and there was nothing else. The Japanese were just getting into the American market. So the car Mr Charm bought was a horrible used car, worse than any horrible new car then on the market. But they were all lousy.
Meyer the Buyer was in Manhattan someplace on the West Side, so Mr Charm had to come down the old West Side Highway, where the car broke down almost immediately. . At the time you did not dare leave your disabled vehicle on the West Side Highway while you went off looking for help, because thieves prowled the highway and would steal all the salable parts from the car. Like tires. Stuff like that. So he sat with the car for hours.
I don't remember how he ever got home that day, but Meyer was intractable and we were stuck with the car. Where we lived, there was alternative side of the street parking on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 12 a.m,, so every Tuesday and Thursday we had to move the car. Sometimes it started; other times it didn't, and we had to pay someone to tow it to the other side of the street.
But we did drive to the mountains, and we went to Coney Island and had hot dogs. We had a good time, too, although Mr Charm had to keep a case of motor oil in the trunk of the car, and occasionally had to pull over and give the car a couple of quarts of motor oil.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
My dishwasher is broken, not in the sense that it does not perform, but in the sense that it no longer has the ability to get dishes clean. Since I am not planning to get a new one immediately, it has become necessary to wash dishes thoroughly by hand if I want to eat off of clean dishes, which I do. After hand-washing them, I put them in the dishwasher for a nice swim. They don't come out any cleaner, but no dirtier either.
I also have ants. I have put ant traps everywhere. I managed to eliminate them from the stove, but then found them climbing into the refrigerator, so I sprayed them with dangerous ant killer. This ant killer is not recommended in any place where food is prepared, but unfortunately the ants prefer to be around food. So I spray them and then thoroughly clean the places I have sprayed, thus saving my life, I hope.
They abandoned the refrigerator at last. I thought I had them on the run, but found they had moved their activities to the microwave, which I then sprayed. Next was the dishwasher. I loaded it with poison, then ran it twice to eliminate the poison. All was quiet when I went to bed. This morning, when I went to make coffee, I discovered them cavorting in the sink.
I'm warning all my friends: if my dead body is discovered, covered with crawling ants, you will know who won this war.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
The scholar and his cat, Pangur Bán(from the Irish by Robin Flower)
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.
'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 1:34 PM
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee; And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Posted by miriam sawyer at 1:29 PM
Sunday, April 05, 2015
Saturday, April 04, 2015
When I was a child seders seemed to last for eons. All my mother's family, my parents, my two uncles and their wives and children were always present, because anything bubbe hosted was a command performance. The good linens, china, and silver made the table gleam under the light of bubbe's two candelabras.
We children were excited beyond hysteria until the ceremony began, and we were forced to come to the table and stop hanging upside down from the sofa, climbing the walls, and knocking down the furniture. I particularly enjoyed the presence of my cousins because I was an only child at the time, and lonely. My eldest cousin, three and a half years older than me, was a goddess of sophistication to me; her brothers were rowdy playmates. Uncle Doc's little girls were too young to play with but they were mighty cute and dressed to the nines.
Once the youngest child present had recited the four questions the prayer competition began. Both my uncles and my cousin Bernie read the haggadah aloud --individually--in Hebrew as quickly as they could. The conversation went like this:
Uncle I: It's time for the first (or second, third, or fourth) cup of wine.
Uncle II: I haven't gotten there yet. You read too fast.
Uncle I: It's a long service.
Uncle II: All right, all right. Come on everybody. Drink the fourth (or third, or second) cup. Where's the bottle? Pass me the wine, somebody.
They raced through the prayers and then had to stop and wait impatiently for the others to catch up. It was rather like riding in a car that alternately speeded up and stopped dead, causing you to lurch forward and back.
Meanwhile, my cousin Sam and sometimes one or two of the other children would drink too much wine and slip quietly to the floor. It taught me the meaning of drinking yourself under the table. After a brief nap the culprit would re-appear, refreshed.
The two little girls were too small to read, so they raced around the table fighting with each other until Uncle Doc started yelling at them and threatening to spank them. My aunt, his wife, would burst into tears because he had shouted at the girls. She would threaten to leave. They would yell some more until he calmed down and apologized to the girls and gave them some candy or gum he just happened to have in his pocket. The girls, of course, would stuff themselves with sweets and would not eat the festive meal when it appeared.
The festive meal! Chicken soup with matzoh balls. We called bubbe's matzoh balls cannon balls. They were heavy but nourishing. Then we had chicken. With the chicken came potato kugel and chopped liver. Gefilte fish. Someone probably slipped a green vegetable in there somewhere, but I don't remember it. Bubbe didn't hold with all this greenery anyway. Her idea of a salad was: take one cucumber; add pint of sour cream; eat. And we couldn't have that, this was a fleisheke meal.
Bubbe would heap each of the children's plates with massive portions of food and then bawl them out for not eating it all. We were starved and ate voraciously. If someone had thrown one of us into the river we would have plummeted to the bottom and sunk without a trace.
Dessert featured, but was not limited to, Manischevitz macaroons, served in the can. The featured wine was Mogen David.
After eating, there was a timeout while the children searched for the afikomen and the adults sat still and burped.
Since I was not used to staying up late, the remainder of the seder was one big blur to me, except for opening the door for Eliyahu hanovi. Then came Chad Gadya, which meant the end of the service and blessed release.
And then we did it again the next night.
Friday, April 03, 2015
The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. So did the little old ladies of Jerusalem, fearlessly striding up and down the streets of Jerusalem with their shopping carts. I could barely walk, and seriously thought I would die there. On about the third day, I got better, and there was no stopping me. Sort of. My daughter, who is a hiker, strode ahead of me and kept stopping to let me catch up. But still, I loved Israel.
After Israel, the sunshine here looks like a black and white picture. Is it so much nearer the sun?
We were there two weeks, and would have stayed longer and seen more, but I was out of clean underwear and longing for an all night drugstore.
I am a terrible packer and know it; still, I never improve. I pack summer clothes, and freeze when I arrive at my destination. I forget pain relievers. I can't find a pharmacy. I can't find Tums anywhere. Don't Israelis have stomach aches? Especially with all the sweets they eat?
The food was wonderful: fresh vegetables, olives, pickles, hummus, halva, falafel, fish. The meat, not so much. But I could live on falafel. And did.
The Arab traders: "It doesn't cost anything to look!" "You are my first customer of the day, you bring me luck!" "I like you, that's why I give you a good price!" But somehow it seems okay. This is their shtick.
Incidentally, all Israelis DO NOT speak English, except when you don't want them to, as when taxi drivers ask whether you are going to vote for Clinton or Bush.
I'm still a little hazy. More later. Maybe.