Monday, 4 February 2013
Announcing a Poetry Workshop in Jackson Heights, Queens
In the autumn I ran a workshop with the theme "poet's notebooks" and
it went really well. I'm hoping to do part 2 of the class on mondays
6-8:30 from Feb 25 to April 29 at my apartment in Jackson Heights,
Queens. I will see if I can get 7 students-- I think that's a good
number. It would be $300 for new students, $275 for returning
students. I want to run the class as a theater performance of sorts.
There will be five topics that we'll focus on in notebook writing:
State dept (current international affairs)
And we will spend two weeks on each topic. The goal is to write
obsessively in the notebook about the topic in an "as if" mode.
(during these two weeks I AM an architect or I AM fluent in Japanese,
or I AM a state dept official.) I'm thinking of the workshop meetings
as a kind of salon, where we come in, have a glass of wine, (or tea),
and talk about our discoveries, read from our notebooks, and spin off
into in-class writing exercises inspired by the information we've
Please let me know if you're interested, and please forward this to
Monday, 7 January 2013
Whit asked about Defiant Lightness, which was on my vision list for the new year. I stole the phrase from the Burmese Prince, who had it on his vision list last year. It's just what it is, a bouncy step heading around town, like Frank O'Hara.
If you can't get enough of this silly blog news, see also the Poetry Foundation. I'm guest blogging on Harriet the Blog during the month of January: Harriet
Also, on Wednesday night there's an excellent Robert Duncan Birthday Party at the Poetry Project. We will be there, you should be there too: Po Project January 9th
Also, also, fermented applesauce. Yes, that's what I said:
Pardon its sidewaysness. A glitch in the machine.
The Jackson Heights Farmers Market has been a remarkable find in this new neighborhood of ours. It turns out that we can do all our shopping there, once a week, and we can stick with a diet of local seasonal food, which is where it's at. Winter makes eating easier: fewer choices, predictable food prep routines. We've settled on one chicken, some beef stock bones, many apples, many carrots, many sweet potatoes, some squash, some brussel sprouts, yogurt, and milk as our winter staples. With the fermenting kit (pictured above) we end up with a couple jars of fermented apple sauce every week too. After years of experimenting, it feels like we've arrived at a mix of healthy and tasty stuff that feeds the family well. Sugar and wheat are out. (Okay, not entirely true: the kid is a sugar magnet: she sneaks treats whenever she can.) Canned food is out (eliminating the BPA issue). Processed food is out. No boxes, no cans. Just the real deal. What I'm happy about is the foundation this gives the kid re: comfort food routines. She really chomps away on the raw carrots and apple and peanut butter treats. Bone broths with rice noodles are also a big hit. Voila, kid nutrition is under control. (And we're tossing in some fermented cod liver oil with raw butter here and there, just to keep our fur shiny.)
Meanwhile, we are settled in Jackson Heights, but why are we in America and how long will we stay here? In New York City we don't so keenly feel the madness of guns and Jesus, but we know they are lurking just outside the city limits. (Actually Jesus is in our neighborhood pretty heavily because of the stupid Spanish converting everyone south of the border.)
We also ponder issues of community and the communal, and the differences in the social contracts UK versus USA. Americans (especially New Yorkers) may know you for years without asking where you came from, where you went to school, what your family is about, and what your experiences of the world are.
I often feel guilty of being an American in a particular social shyness. Is it a lack of interest in my neighbors? Is it that the pubs of Britain lubricate the social contract with stout? Is it that the UK and Europe are simply more socialist? (I mean the social contract triumphs over the wild western individualism.) Look around you. Who do you know and what do you know about them? I have one project in the works that has helped me to rethink people and why I love them. I've started a CIA file style notebook, a list of all my friends and acquaintances. Alphabetical by first name. Every person gets a page, and on that page I take notes about the details of the person's life. Creepy? Not really meant to be. It's more of a love affair with community. It's nice to know that so and so has eight step-sisters and that madame x spent a year in south america. who would have thought that jane doe's neurosis started with her mother who was an orphan.
Talking to people about who they are seems like a basic human activity, but I can think of twenty years worth of experiences in New York City where talk has been more about commodity experience (where did you get those shoes?) and foody culture (where did you get that sushi?) and snarkiness (a's big butt, b's drinking problem, and c and d's lousy marriage).
And now it's time to say good day. Back soon. Peace out.
Monday, 31 December 2012
Last year at the New Year the Burmese Prince made a list called "Fifty Things", not of things he particularly wished to do, but of things he grooved on. I made a list of Fifty Things that was more goal-oriented, which is my way of being— like a hamster on a wheel. Last year's list had some nice things on it. Fermenting food (we've really had fun with that, and this week we came up with an excellent fermented applesauce that tastes like fizzy thick apple cider.) Baking bread— we gave up on that one as we don't eat wheat anymore, and the alternative bread-types are so odd and complicated (though a pie crust of almond flour and coconut oil is pretty fantastic). Buying a house in the Bronx. Well, we did buy an apartment in Jackson Heights, so that's the big deal for this year: having a homestead that is lovely and lovable. And then there was the theme of birds. In 2012 we learned to identify a lot of birds in the course of our Central Park walks: the titmouse, the chickadee (an old favorite from childhood in upstate New York), the house finch, the chipping sparrow, the golden crested kinglet, the downy woodpecker, the grackle, the wood duck, the northern shoveler, and so on and so forth.
The theme lately has been simplicity, so in 2013 our Fifty Things will become Ten Things. Here it is.
Old English could be on the list too. Ancient Greek? Back to that soon.
Meanwhile, Happy New Year to all our peops here there and everywhere. And a heads up to the UK crew: we arrive January 19.
Sunday, 23 December 2012
In an effort to be cheerful despite the upcoming Consumer-Family Holiday, here is a photo essay.
On a side street here there is good weird cheer (the santa pig is charming). The Beast and I took a stroll along this route the other night on our way home from the park. Jackson Heights continues to delight (and Bea actually now calls the neighborhood Jackson Lights).
Milk and Cookies. In an effort to curb the kid's sugar consumption, we've instituted an afternoon milk and cookies ritual. We even found gluten free cookies so that I can join in (wheat has been out of circulation for some months here as it gives me wicked headaches). Instead of having a treat in the morning or a treat on the way home from the park, we wait til we're home and at the dining room table to break out the snacks.
A tufted titmouse in the Ramble, Central Park. The last few weeks have been filled with winter bird sightings in the park. The Forest Nursery kids are now pretty clear about what's a woodpecker and what's a sparrow and what's a starling. As for pigeons, Bea refers to them as Rock Doves, which is what they are. And the toe action of the pigeon? Well, any Forest Nursery three year old can tell you that the pigeon foot is pretty similar to the T Rex or Allosaurus foot. The "unschooling" thing comes together organically, which is why we don't want to call it "unschooling"-- we're not "un-ing" anything and we're not relying on the apparatus known as "school". Learning all the time, autonomously, yes, but that's not radical, it's just what humans do. The Burmese Prince appreciates "defiant lightness" as a principle of being. That's how life-plus-kid-minus-school feels: defiantly light.
This photo, well, I just like it. Leela (age 8) took it the other day when we had a mini-party with Miku, Yui, Toby, and Aisha.
The other miscellaneousness of the season is related to food. Shredded beets, carrots, and ginger are fermenting, and two more projects of fermented apple sauce and pickled turnips are on the schedule for tomorrow's kitchen experiments.
The news of the world is still the news of the world: haunting really, with massive ice melt stories (can't wait to see what the next hurricane season brings) and as for guns and the NRA, holy shit as my friend Bernadette would say. Because after all, if you're going to send your kid to school, you want to be sure they have the opportunity to see good guys shooting bad guys. (And you can imagine the mental state of any "good guy" who wants to volunteer his time to stalk around the outside of a school with a gun.)
We're pretty depressed about the fact that the victims list for Sandy Hook has been officially set at 26. Victim number 1, Adam Lanza's mom gets left off the victim list, as does victim number 28, Adam Lanza. The Guardian ran a good editorial piece on this part of the story:
Peace people, and eat the NRA (remove the buckshot first).
Saturday, 15 December 2012
In America, about 9,000 people a year are killed by guns.
In the United Kingdom the number is about 40.
In the United States, every year about 300,000 violent crimes are committed with guns.
In Japan, in 2008 there were 11 homicides by gun. Eleven.
In America the number was 11,000. Eleven thousand.
Here's a chart:
Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):
| ||Homicide||Suicide||Other (inc Accident)|
| || || || |
|USA (2001) ||3.98 ||5.92||0.36|
|Italy (1997) ||0.81||1.1||0.07|
|Switzerland (1998)||0.50 ||5.8 ||0.10|
In the midst of this crappy weekend, we simply don't understand how people can continue to say gun control is not the answer. People with guns sometimes shoot other people. People with semi-automatic military rifles (apparently a legal and desirable accessory in a suburban connecticut household) sometimes shoot a lot of people. People without guns do not accidentally shoot themselves or other people. People in affluent suburbs do not need guns. If you're that paranoid about escapees from the local prison, build yourself one of those safe rooms inside your house.
We'd meant to write about fermented carrots and cooperative housing today, but bigger things loom. The Burmese Prince, who can hardly believe he lives in a country where "school shooting" is a normal part of the vocabulary, is just about ready to catch the next ship home.
Perhaps if nothing else we have another reason not to send our kid to school. But mostly this weekend we feel like we have a whole lot of nothing.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
This and That
It's a Saturday night on one of the shortest days of the year and we are nesting, grooving on doing less and staying in familiar habitats and sticking with familiar habits.
We were watching a video of a lecture by psychoanalyst Salman Akhtar the other day and one phrase he used (with fondness and in solidarity) was "colored people's time" (CPT).
When we had our place in the Catskills, there was another variation of that, called "country time" (it meant the plumber would come, maybe next tuesday, so just be chilling).
When we visit the Simplicity Parenting site we see yet another version of this idea. It's called "Maui Time", and yes, that's when you get away from it all and start to appreciate your family more, etc.
Here at Lisablog headquarters, we can't currently afford to go on Maui Time. (There's only $53 in the South of France Fund, and $1.61 in the envelope titled "change found on the street". There are 32 pounds in the "UK fund" envelope, but going to the UK is never like country time for us because there's so much to do and so many people to see, like they say.)
So, we ponder Colored People's Time, and wonder if it's also TT (Toddler Time), since the Beast will leave the house when she's ready to leave the house, which is after certain Barbies are arranged in some weird voodoo fashion, and also after there has been an inventory of marbles, and a packing up of various trinkets to be taken with us wherever we go. And then when we do get outside there are so many things to look at, so don't expect to get anywhere fast.
All of this must be okay, because really there is enough time to do everything there is to do. How is this possible? you ask; yes, I know.
My first question is How Important Is It?
Years ago a friend pointed out that the world will not collapse if you don't check your email every day since you're not Superman and you don't have superpowers to resolve any world crises anyway. We've found that to be true. And usually it's disappointing to come back to email after two or three or four days away. Why? Nothing has happened.
As for Facebook, do you really need it? I don't know. Probably not.
As for learning things, yes it's great to learn things. The school model for learning things is the cramming model. You take five classes a semester, read eight books in each class, and commit a bunch of information to short term memory. Two years later it's gone. So why not learn things well and slowly? (For example, here at the Lisablog offices we are studying Old English, one word at a time at a pace of one word per day. It's a dead language, is it really that urgent?)
The same with exercise. It doesn't have to be a big production. Our new schedule includes a 10 minute run every morning. Hey, it's exercise and we're doing it. And we're not paying a gym or a personal trainer.
What about simple food? We're lucky here in NYC. We have green markets around town every day of the week. The Sunday morning green market in Jackson Heights provides eggs, milk, cheese, bread, meat, fruit, vegetables, and honey and maple syrup. One big shop (take the rolly cart), and voila, a week's worth of food is in the house. Yes, we supplement (rice, nuts, coffee, etc.) at the local health food store.
Not enough variety in local food? How about mixing up the meals with some canned and fermented treats from across the seasons. I'm not talking about buying cans of food. I'm talking about canning foods. Tomatoes in February. That's our desire. And as for fermentation, we just scored the most excellent anaerobic fermentation set up: mason jar, recap-it BPA free plastic lid, cork, and airlock. Here are the carrots (about to be shredded) and here are the jars where they will reside, anaerobically, to become carrot sauerkraut:
Simple kitchen? Two more words: Crock Pot. (Find one without lead in its glaze.) Also remember to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one go: tea kettle boils while toast cooks while lunch is packed (yesterday's leftovers) and jam everything else into the crock pot. You get home, dinner is there.
Okay, one other note: we just got this Big Berkey Water Filtration System:
The filters in this dude take out fluoride, chlorine, lead, arsenic, copper, creepy crawlies, and so on. Tap water goes in at night, and clean water comes on in the morning. If the city won't agree to take the fluoride out of the water, we'll do it ourself. Very satisfying.
Stay tuned to Lisablog for more tips on transitioning to CPT. And Peace.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
This and That
It's six a.m. and Lisablog comes to you from Jackson Heights, Queens. We inhabit a new homestead, or as the Beast says, we have a new habitat.
As always, moving shakes things up and we've been thinking about new unschooling possibilities. Learning Spanish seems like a good idea. In Sunnyside Bea picked up a little bit of Spanish from our friend Zenado at the bodega on the corner of our block. In Jackson Heights, the immersion will be even more intense. Sixty percent of our neighbors are from Central and South America, with Ecuador, Argentina, and Colombia high on the list of home-countries. So, Spanish it is. And very good food, of course.
Leaving behind the Americas, we have Asia. We're a stone's throw from the 74th Street strip of Jackson Heights that is dense with Indian groceries, restaurants, sweets shops, and fabric stores. Maharaja Sweets is our favorite for Indian burfi:
Burfi is made with condensed milk and nuts (cashews and pistachios). Trivia note: the Persian word of origin is "Barf" meaning snow (and these are cold white treats), and really you can call it barfi, if you must.
And hopping on the subway we can be in Flushing's Chinatown in ten minutes. My understanding is that Flushing Chinatown is a Mandarin community, where as Manhattan Chinatown is a Cantonese community. When I was a youngster (21 or so) I spent three years living in Oakland's Mandarin Chinatown and it was life-changing. (Being white meant being a ghost, and it was quite fantastic, and strange, to walk crowded streets and always be invisible.) And of course there is the lure of cooking delights: raw water chestnuts, five spice powder, and winter melon for soup.
Now, as my 45th birthday looms, I can really say I have the best birthday presents anyone could have. A share in a cooperative housing project (80 shares, that is), a Burmese Prince and a Beast, and a shift in the voting patterns of this country that finally brings us closer to an integrated civilized world. (I know, the last one is a little bit utopian, but at least the Mormon didn't win.)
And a final note about the neighborhood: we're walking distance from Malcolm X's house over near Laguardia Airport. So, that will be a pilgrimage too.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
And Now We're Back
Hurricane Sandy howled through yesterday, giving us enough time indoors to knit, sew, and even now, yes, blog.
This entry comes as a simple plea. Please vote next week. And vote for the muslim. No, I don't like the drone strikes either, but please vote.
Here is inspiration in the aftermath of yesterday's fourteen foot storm surge—
(thanks to the Burmese Prince for alerting us to this speech snippet)
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet." (laughter from Republican backers) "MY promise … is to help you and your family."
And if you don't want to vote to save the planet, can you at least vote to save the rights of the women who you love?
Friday, 28 September 2012
Why We Are Away From The Blog
We are away from the blog these days because we started using a typewriter. The article in last week's New York Times on carbon emissions and the internet actually made us kind of sick. And then we stopped over-using the internet. We, meaning not the whole household, but me, Lisa of the Blog. But actually Bea stopped asking to watch Winnie The Pooh when I stopped checking my email during the day. This was really interesting. What do we do? The daily email check is at 8 am and usually takes about 15 minutes. Business gets caught-up-with, and then the computer is off for the rest of the day. Bea and I have been using the typewriter, knitting socks, sewing (yes, the sewing maching is up and running), and tomorrow we pick up our raw milk delivery so that we can make some yogurt. We're not shunning technology, but are trying to use it more wisely. The result, for me, is better sleep and better concentration. Go figure. And peace out.
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Love Thy Neighbor
Thinking today of something Bob Dylan said in a telephone conversation circa 1971 to A.J. Weberman that great gentleman junkie Dylanologist who routinely picked through Dylan's garbage when he lived in the West Village. Dylan was complaining to Weberman about his scavenging activities, since Dylan's kids, toddlers, would watch out the living room window. Weberman said "The kid didn't look scared," and Dylan said, "no, my kids aren't aware of this or that."
Having a three-year-old means living with someone who's not aware of this or that, but is aware of everything. My kid knows the phases of the moon, she can scout out tiny mushrooms across a field, and she remembers the exact conversations of Tin Tin and Captain Haddock inside the frames of 80 pages cartoon books. Today she matter-of-factly recounted seeing a guy with no legs, and she often cheerfully tells strangers about our cat Harry who died last summer. But she isn't aware of the waves of bloodshed in the Middle East, or death by lethal injection in Texas, or hate crimes against queer and transgender people [and Sikhs, and fill in the blank].
It occurs to me these days that my energies are so consistently funneled into the daily orders (as Robert Duncan would call them) of raising a child, that another part of me is missing. It used to be that I could read the New York Times and check in with Democracy Now and see what Noam Chomsky was saying and I even had the time and desire to exchange letters with those guys down there in Texas on Death Row.
Those guys have since been executed, and it's not the time, of course, to bring my kid into a conversation about all such things. It may be that there never will be a time or a reason for her to know about Anthony Nealy who possibly robbed a gas station and killed two clerks. I never asked him during the course of our letter exchanges. Mostly we talked about appeals, about what he read in the newspaper, about what he could and couldn't get with the few bucks he had in his snack bar account.
Sure, I'd like my kid to know that marching on the pentagon in 1987 to protest American policies in Latin America was a highlight of my youth. But who knows if that will be meaningful to her either. Perhaps what I hope for is more of what Alfred North Whitehead called "a feeling state." I'd like her to know that she's loved and that she can love other people. I'd like her to have some cosmic empathy for all the creatures in the universe, without any indoctrinating influence (or forced viewings of Eyes On The Prize) on my part. Perhaps I've set the bar too high.
This morning one of our neighbors across the street here on 39th Place stabbed his wife. Bea and I went out for our trek to the park at about 9 and had to wade through a little crowd gathering on the sidewalk. "What happened", I asked? "A guy killed his wife; he's on his way to Boston, but they'll get him." My first thought wasn't to "get him," but there it was. We made our way up to the train platform at 40th Street and strolled down to our regular spot at the end of the platform (less crowded at rush hour with a stroller). And there he was, about my age, barefoot, sad, weary, wearing a white tee shirt with the red streak of a bloody hand-print across the shoulder. He was sitting on the white metal box at the end of the platform, looking at me while I looked at him. Everyone else was busy as usual with their personal devices. I thought to say something to him, as a gesture of reaching out, or figuring out if he was who I thought he was, but there I was with the kid in the stroller who was not aware of this or that, my little bundle of joy who I protect from trips and falls and sugar-rushes. So I stood there, and looked at him, and called Thomas to ask him to mention to the cops crowding our block that here was the guy they were possibly looking for. And then the train arrived, and I pushed the stroller through the doors and took one last long look at him, who was still looking at me, not in any particular way, except for in some deeply empty human despair that simply called for compassion. Ten minutes later he jumped off the platform onto Queens Boulevard and died there. It was probably about the time we were pulling into Queensboro Plaza and I was trying to decide if the kid and I needed to get off the train because she was shrieking, an ear-shattering shriek, loud and sustained, that came out of nowhere except for the morning crankiness that sometimes takes over.
Now we're at the end of the day; the New York Post reporters are gathered on the street eating potato chips waiting to take photos of the family coming into or going out of the building, because someone has to show up to clean the place up and make sense of what happened. One murder, one suicide, one kid who's not aware of this or that, and me, still not understanding the chasm between me and my neighbor as I watched him making his way out of the realm of human relation.
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