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This is basically a writing diary where I write all kinds of stuff that will be immensely boring to anyone who stumbles across it.

So you should go back to Facebook.

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

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It’s raining.

Post-Fosse, I have been high-stepping around the empty house, belting at the top of my lungs:

One singular sensation, every little step she takes
One thrilling combination, every move that she makes…

One, of course, is not a Fosse number at all but from A Chorus Line, which snatched the Tony from Chicago in 1976. Chicago is actually a much better musical. But One is an earworm, and the creative consciousness is open source.

Shortly, I must begin working on the first of the 24 separate assignments I have from various clients, all of which must be completed by Wednesday.

I suppose I should be happy to have this much work. Most of the stuff is for a very boring book on professional healthcare education, but the other stuff is for a boutique capital management group that’s looking to make a bigger splash. I know absolutely nada about the China trade wars or the yield curves charting the differential between short-term and long-term Treasury curves, but I guess I’m about to become an expert. Ugh.

This is another year where I didn’t manage to wrangle an invitation to a sedar.

I’m not a very good Jew.

Yom Kippur and Passover are the only two high holidays I try to observe. I’m usually able to pull off Yom Kippur by fasting all day and sneaking in to evening services at a reform synagogue in LaGrange.

But Passover is tactically harder.

There just aren’t that many Jews in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley. And I don't send out the right signals to the ones who are here.

I don’t have a “Jewish” name. Plus my own particular mode of observance, which takes the form of reverence for the great lingua franca of sarcasm and fierce debate, is hard to read.

I’ve actually scouted several local synagogues. They seemed very dull.

What I really want is to become eccentric Auntie Patrizia to a warm, inclusive Jewish family who will invite me for Shabbat twice a year—with one of those Shabbats being Passover.


Meanwhile we are in full spring, and the panoply of flowers is very gorgeous indeed:



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RTT spent all yesterday reading the Mueller Report. Here’s what he had to say:

From what I’ve gathered Mueller didn’t want to inflame the far right by pushing forward the charges himself, so he tried to be as unbiased as possible. From his perspective, we still can’t definitively say Trump DID do something, at least with his knowledge, but we can say the foundation of conspiracy is right there for anyone who wants to piece the puzzle together.

Barr’s response was inappropriate and more akin to an advisor than any actual attorney general, and while Mueller might have counted on that, he knew that there wasn’t a basis to redact everything. With the report now in Congress (and the public’s hand) right before the 2020 elections, while the obvious option of impeachment is on the table, the better option is to publicly drag this out in congressional hearings, watchable by everyone, while hammering out the details over and over again. This isn’t a corrupt president, this is a corrupt administration, and impeachment is only shedding blame off one party.

Finally, in Trumps defense, it’s clear to me he had no plans on winning the election - this is less of a conspiracy against the government, and more of an idiotic despot that was banking on publicity for his business, not the responsibility (and political backlash) of a presidency. There’s a lot of culprits here, but ultimately Trump was simply a cog in the tyrannical oversight of Russia’s incredible propaganda network, and now he’s frustratingly dealing with the fallout.

Vote in 2020.

That distinction between tRump himself and the tRump administration is key to any real understanding of what’s going on in the U.S. right now, and one that most people I know are failing to make. And Robin's observation is that impeachment only takes the blame off the Democrats when, in fact, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for tRump, is spot on. Ditto his note about the propaganda value of endless Mueller Report hearings.

RTT is an excellent analyst.


Of course, I personally would rather shoot myself in the head than read one word of the Mueller Report.

I am all about November 3, 2020. (Only 564 days to go!)

Instead I’ve been playing a lot of Tropico and simultaneously reading Sam Wasson’s Fosse and Leonard Gardner’s Fat City, both of which in their very different ways are amazing books.


I’ve been circling Fat City for years, but always avoided it because—ugh—boxing.

Boxing has a certain literary frisson, I realize.

All those macho writers and editors who dominated the 60s, 70s, and 80’s: Norman Mailer, Pete Hamill, George Plimpton, Gay Talese. When they wanted a token female fan, they trotted out Joyce Carol Oates (a writer whom I much admire.) Lucius was a tremendous boxing fan; he was close friends with Katherine Dunne (Geek Love), and their entire relationship revolved their mutual love of the ring and the gloves.

But I’ve never liked boxing.

I’d go so far as to say watching a match makes me physically uncomfortable—which is odd, because back in the day, I was a pretty good martial arts fighter: I like punching and kicking people.

I think it’s the blood.

Blood takes boxing out of the realm of sport and into the realm of attempted homicide.

Calling Fat City a novel about boxing, though, is kinda like calling Sons and Lovers a novel about coal mining or calling To Kill a Mockingbird a heartwarming YA novel about wholesome kids growing up in the South.

No. Fat City is a novel about futility.

And I’m just fine with futility!

The novel is set in the late 1950s in Stockton, a city I never knew well but that’s okay ‘cause there was no upside to knowing Stockton. Its protagonists are two young men; its subject matter, their marginal lives.

Its prose is just amazing, an intoxicating fusion of Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov. The dialogue is better than anything in Hemingway or Elmore Leonard.

A perfect sagittal slice of life in a dingy diner where redemption is not on the menu.

Anyway, I was totally blown away. Short book, so quick read, and after I read it, I went into a fugue state for a while.

After I came out of the fugue state, I realized the reason I’m having so much trouble with Chapter 4 in the Work in Progress is because everything I’ve written in Chapter 4 is wrong.

I need to throw it all out and start fresh.


Fosse is an equally great book. As you may have surmised, it’s a biography of the late director/choreographer Bob Fosse, and yes, I am reading it because I’ve been watching Fosse/Verdon. (Bob Fosse, as portrayed by Sam Rockwell, reminds me of Ben with that slouchy, hustler, dance tramp persona.)

But it reads like fiction because Wasson has a tremendously exuberant and, yes, imagistic style: You can really see those dark rehearsal rooms with the carefully scuffed floors (so the dancers won’t slide on them); you can actually visualize the dance numbers as you read about them (I know because I’ve been devouring the cited dance numbers on YouTube.)

Totally a tour de force.


Tropico is an economic simulator disguised as a video game. A cheesy Caribbean island! So much fun! You have to jiggle the supply chain to get it to evolve from banana republic to totalitarian industrial powerhouse. You also have to negotiate political and economic alliances with other countries and keep the native population happy so they don’t stage a coup.

My last six games crashed and burned when negative cash flow made the local population so unhappy that rebels marched on El Presidente’s palace and destroyed it.
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Notre Dame. Engulfed in flames.

After I heard the news, I wasn’t much good for anything yesterday. And I had to wonder why. Because it’s not as though I personally have a strong connection to Notre Dame.

I mean—

Yes, iconic building. Yes, the glory that is France. Yes, it survived religious wars, revolutions and Nazis. Sure, the rose windows, the organ, the gargoyles, the art. And I’ve been in that cathedral many, many times though none of those times has been in the last 40 years.

But what I felt had relatively little to do with those things, relatively little to do with the diminishment of historical collective memory.

What I felt was this need to own a piece of the social media frenzy.

To post despairingly on Facebook. To shuffle frantically through 50 years of snapshots to find the one I took of Jean-Louis standing in front of Notre Dame, so I could upload it onto Instagram.

OhmyGawd, how do I even still remember Jean-Louis? How do I remember any of that time in Paris? I’d done a big Bohan show. We’d dropped acid. And ended up walking through the streets of Paris for eight hours straight. (Where was Godard? We were his movie! We even practiced doing the Madison!) And somehow, precisely at dawn, we found ourselves in front of Notre Dame, and I hadn’t lost my cheap camera.

Is this a 21st century phenomenon? This overwhelming need to make every story a story about ourselves?

Or do I have a genuine claim to owning Notre Dame?


Cathedrals burn. It’s what they do. Canterbury Cathedral was actually destroyed twice by fire: the first time, one year after the Norman conquest; the second time, four years after Thomas Beckett was murdered. Both times, the building was rebuilt according to the trendy architecture of the time. (One wonders whether IM Pei will be commissioned to redesign Notre Dame’s interior; one suspects not.)

Of course, in the 21st century, acts of God have been superseded by tort law, so I imagine the firm that was hired to restore the spire—on the cheap from what I read this morning—will be the scapegoats. The enclave under the spire is where the fire broke out. Very tight space; probably not wired for electricity, thus necessitating the types of extension cord relays that every Home Depot brochure ever printed warns you are extremely unsafe.

When they don’t burn, cathedrals’ roofs cave in as is what happened with Lincoln Cathedral, which was the tallest building in the entire world throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, thanks to the lead spire attached to its central tower. Lincoln Cathedral was just one disaster after another. Its roof was destroyed by fire a mere quarter of a century after the building was completed, and then 50 years later, there was an earthquake (!) that split the building in half.

The spire blew off in a big storm a hundred years later.


If Notre Dame had to burn, though, this morning is a kind of a best-case scenario.

The ceiling vault survived, so burning timbers did not do a hideous amount of damage to the interior. The organ survived. One set of rose windows in the Apses were destroyed; the rest of the stained glass seems to be intact. (The destruction of all those windows would have been an irreplaceable loss because we no longer know how to make medieval stained glass.) Hideous amount of smoke and water damage, true, but with time and money enough, smoke and water damage is remediable.

They’ll have to get to work on a new roof quickly.

There’s a complex symbiosis between cathedrals’ intricate latticed wooden roofs and their stone walls. If the oak posts, beams, and mortise and tendon joints that receive the hand-carved dowels, aren’t designed to precise specs, the walls weaken. And eventually tumble.

It’s a great time to be a contractor in Paris, I’m thinking.


In other news, I decided to go to my high school reunion.
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The Buttigieg Announcement Watch party was very interesting.

Of course, everyone there was a Boomer.

Buttigieg gave an excellent speech, touting the fact that mayors must focus on practical solutions to problems. (“A pothole doesn’t ask whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”)

I’m here today… to tell a different story than “Make America Great Again.”

Because there is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back.

It comes from people who think the only way to reach communities like ours is through resentment and nostalgia, selling an impossible promise of returning to a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with.

The problem is, they’re telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places.

Because if there is one thing the city of South Bend has shown, it’s that there is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word “again.”

I think it’s entirely possible that Buttigieg wrote the speech himself.

Thing is, though, most people my age do live in the myths of their past to a large extent. And we are the demographic that votes! So, as insightful as this analysis is, it strikes out as a psychological truism.

More interesting than the speechifying was the strategy leading up to the announcement.

The speeches leading up to Buttigieg’s were from other mayors of small and mid-sized cities. His overarching narrative, then, is change that comes from the bottom up not from the top down. He is a great believer in one of my favorite truisms: All politics is local.

His vulnerability is his sexual orientation.

Vast swaths of American voters won’t vote for him because he’s gay. That’s just a fact. He’ll enrage tRump’s base more than anything that Joe or Bernie or Elizabeth Warren or Kamela Harris could ever do or say because if nothing else, they’re still hetero, they still play for our team! Truth be told, I suspect a lot of Dems aren’t ready for Mayor Pete either.

So, I don’t know.

I went home and sent him more money that I can really afford because I really like him. But I’m trying to keep my options open and remain as uncommitted as possible—because the #1 criterion for any candidate I support has to be that they can defeat tRump.


I need to do a shout-out, too, to the house in Woodstock where the Announcement Watch party took place, a converted 19th century barn with fabulous beams and interesting spaces. No insulation, though. And lots of windows and skylights. A real bitch to heat in the winter, I imagine. (As tactless and blunt as I famously am, I knew better than to ask, “So! Exactly how high do your utility bills run in January?”)


Came home and played Tropico for four hours. Because who wouldn’t rather be the dictator of a small Caribbean island republic than analyze the Medicare X legislation currently pending before Congress, right?

I also watched Game of Thrones.

Gotta say, I thought GoT was dull, but then I found the whole last season dull.

When showrunners get away from character development and into the realm of Marvel-esque superhero plot wrangling, I completely lose interest.

I’m just weird that way, I guess.

Still, it’s a cultural phenomenon.

So, one must participate.
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On the last day, Pokemons invaded the TaxBwana site:


I was the only one who noticed, though.

I am off shortly to a Pete Buttigieg Special Announcement Watch Party in Woodstock.

I wouldn’t say Buttigieg is the Democratic candidate I support; what I would say is that Buttigieg is the Democratic candidate I am most interested in.

I have reservations about his candidacy. They have little to do with him.

The Number One criterion for a Democratic candidate in my eyes is that he or she must be able to defeat tRump.

I’m not sure Buttigieg can defeat tRump because I’m not sure Americans will vote for a gay candidate, particularly not one with “butt” in his last name.

I would love to be proven wrong about this, but that will only happen if Millennials become the biggest voting block. In 2016, just under half of all eligible Millennials voted, which seems large until you compare it with Boomer voting numbers (69%). I have a feeling that while many Boomers talk the talk when it comes to normalizing sexual orientations, they will actually balk when it comes to voting for them.

Like I say, I would love/love/love to be wrong about this.


In other news, I have until tomorrow to decide whether or not to attend my 50th (ugh!) high school graduation:

Poll #21810 Should Patrizia go to her 50th high school reunion?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 6

Should Patrizia go to her 50th high school reunion?

View Answers

1 (16.7%)

2 (33.3%)

Yes, but she should bring along some random homeless people she meets in Grand Central Station.
3 (50.0%)

No, and she should write a scathing letter to the NYT about how elitist schools like Hunter are racist and reek of privilege.
1 (16.7%)


And last night, I was futzing around on the Internet and came across half a dozen books that describe the Tom/Nana love affair at exhaustive length.

Each and every one of those books incorporates the lie about Tom dying while listening to the strains of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

That’s my lie, by the way!

Nice touch, isn’t it?

I knew Tom himself would have appreciated it.

Actually, Tom died listening to the hiss and sigh of the morphine pump while Nana and I sat bleary-eyed on either side of him, each clutching one of his hands.

There’s a book by Joyce Johnston of which I’m very fond called Minor Characters in which she describes what it felt like to see her name in print as one of Jack Kerouac’s throwaway girlfriends.

Whenever I revisit that time on the Well and Tom’s death, I always feel like a minor character in some famous person’s biography.

Assuming mankind doesn’t succumb to the cataclysmic cosmic events attendant upon the rapidly accelerating shift in magnetic poles—look it up!—I have no doubt that Tom will eventually become one of the most famous people from the second half of the 20th century. The Internet needs a hagiography, and he’s perfect for it!

Katie Hafner sez Tom looked like Jeremy Irons.

I don’t see it myself.

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The big news story right now is Julian Assange. He’s dominated the news cycle for two straight days! In vain, does tRump seek revenge on asylum cities, does the federal deficit hit a new high, does Theresa May twist in the wind. The wind cries Julian! Julian! Julian! Will he be extradited to the U.S. or Sweden? And what the hell happened to his cat?

Most of the coverage is negative.

The Daily Mailmy main source of news—paints him as the world’s worst roommate. He left dirty dishes in the Ecuadorian embassy’s sink! He crammed shit-stained drawers down their toilet. He neglected his cat.

The New York Times and The Washington Post are more measured in their reportage since any criticism of Assange’s legacy must perforce be viewed as an assault on freedom of the press. WikiLeaks gave us the Hillary Clinton email archives, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Democratic primaries were rigged; in the Democratic Party’s version of recent history, it was those emails that compromised Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and cost her the Presidency. (I have a feeling she would have lost anyway, but what do I know?)

Outlets like The New Yorker that specialize in intellectual whimsy focus on the book Assange was holding as he was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy. If you’re interested, it was History of the National Security State, purportedly by Gore Vidal, though not really since it was transcribed from a long, rambling interview Vidal gave when he was old and drunk and despairing. (Full disclosure: I more-or-less taught myself to write by reading every single word in Vidal’s United States: Collected Essays 1952-1992 10 times.)

The most sensible analyses come from the left-tilting The Nation and the classically liberal The Economist, which point out that Assange’s crime was two-fold: He conspired with the ill-fated Chelsea Manning to hack a database without a password and he connived to disseminate WikiLeaks dirt.

The hacking charge is irrefutable.

But the conspiracy charge is what’s making news organizations nervous. In the present political climate, it’s difficult to see it as anything but an attack on investigative journalism.


I used to date Huey Newton. I knew Tom Hayden in Berkeley.

And I’m here to tell you that activists on the left are just as unpleasant as activists on the right.

What drives them is not idealism but ego. They’re like predatory animals evolving up the food chain. They identify a niche they rightly surmise they can dominate, and they proceed to do everything they can to dominate it. Much of the time, they are suffocated by the narrowness of the niche, so they die disillusioned.

Assange is no martyr. I am quite sure he’s a genuine creep.

But I’m puzzled how to respond to his arrest since all in all, I think whistle-blowing and investigative journalism are good things.


In other news, L took me out yesterday for a b-day lunch to the Village TeaRoom in New Paltz, which is the most delightful place and sadly will be closing its doors forever tomorrow. No, they aren’t going broke. The owner just got tired of running a restaurant. Who can blame her?

Here is the amazing cheese and potato tort I consumed for lunch:


And here is their cocktail menu!


I had the Devereux.
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The TaxBwanas had a little birthday party for me!

Sweet, right?

Lisa—whom I barely know—came up to me practically in tears and said, “I baked you a cake last night but I’m so bad with layer cakes! It looked awful, and I thought: Patrizia deserves a cake that looks good! Because you do so much! And you’re so fast! So, I ended up buying one.”

I was really touched.


Most of my TaxBwana-ing time was taken up with a client who came in with four years worth of back taxes. Very attractive woman slightly younger than me. Her saga: Hideous divorce following 25+ years of marriage; husband had been living a double life for years siphoning away all her money etc etc.

I don’t know how common that “spouse living a double life scenario” is, but I certainly see a lot of it as a volunteer tax preparer.

Of course, she ended up with an enormous liability. She was pale and shaking. “Thank God, they’ve done away with debtors’ prisons, right?” she said.

“Listen,” I said. “It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing today, and I for one think you should be very, very proud of yourself.”

I added up her total tax liability, divided it by the 72 months the IRS typically gives people to pay off tax debts. Gave her an estimate for what her monthly payment was likely to be.

“That sounds… doable,” she said.

“Right. But it doesn’t take into consideration the interest and penalties they’re going to throw in. That’s why you absolutely have to talk to someone at the IRS. Don’t set up a payment plan online. If you talk to someone, you may be able to get them to waive some of the interest and penalties. It will probably take you hours on hold to actually get to a real human being, but do it! It’s worth it.”


Came home and puttered. Phone calls trickled in throughout the evening.

From Max who was doing his best to have a perfect day of happiness!

From Robin. (Ben has set up Alexa in the Tburg digs. I personally would die before I’d set up Alexa anywhere: Seems to me that the 15 extra seconds you spend searching your playlist for Sid Vicious’s cover of I Did It My Way is well worth the peace of mind you get from knowing Jeff Bezos’s underpaid minions aren’t listening in to your morning dump.

“You do know that Alexa is spying on you, right?” I asked.

“Alexa, how do I fuck a couch? Alexa, what are the best quality couches for penetration? Alexa, do Amazon employees fuck couches? Alexa, what quality couches are available for Amazon employees to fuck?” asked Robin.

He’s only 24, so I guess this is what passes for humor.)

From my sister in New Mexico. I’m thinking of visiting her in August.

From various members of the California support system.

From Terri, my best friend in high school.

My high school class is planning its—ugh!—fiftieth reunion in June. Right here in New York.

“You must come,” she said.

Must I really?


Here we all are in the 7th grade—Hunter was a six-year school, spanning 7th through 12th grades.

I am the really, really tall one in the back row.

Terri must have been the one with the Kodak Brownie camera.
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I’ve finally worked my way up to hardcore grammar with the lamas.

Okay, maggots! No more, “There are words for things, words for actions, words for descriptions.”

From now on, it’s all, “Nouns! Verbs! Adjectives! And give me 40 pushups while you’re at it!”

Yesterday, I introduced infinitives.

The lamas stared at me in disbelief and horror.

“They’re like verb roots,” I explained helpfully. I’ve been teaching Tibetans English on and off for a decade now, so I have tried to learn a little bit about their grammar, and unlike Chinese, the Tibeto-Burman languages do have verb tenses.

The lamas sat in perfect oneness with their utter lack of comprehension.

I started drawing the familiar schematic on my portable whiteboard. Today (Now) | Yesterday (Then) | Tomorrow (Future).

Underneath these words, I wrote “To be.”

“I am,” I said. “I was. I will be. But the perfect state of existence for this verb is ‘To be.’ Think of it as the verb’s perfect state of dharma consciousness: The verb outside time!”

I could see the little pinwheels spinning in their eyes. They were getting it!

We moved quickly on to “to go,” “to speak,” “to see,” and “to talk” (must throw them a couple of regular verbs!)

On the drive home from Wappingers Falls, I thought, Well, I wasn’t so far off the mark. The word “infinitive” does sound like the word “infinity.” Maybe there’s some kind of connection!


My FB feed is crowded with angry feminists denouncing Joe Biden.

Fumes one irate poster, Biden’s behavior is patriarchal! It is about personal space! Women can have their space but it is not equal to men’s space...therefore, the space can be violated, invaded, encroached upon. Space is autonomy! To be autonomous is a powerful, brilliant and dangerous existence.

And I’m thinking, Jesus, lady. In the 1970s, we used to have a word for you. And that word was “uptight.”

This whole obsession with “personal space” is such an American obsession.

I remember sitting in parks in Italy and watching groups of young adults play. Mixed groups, males and females. They tussled like puppies! It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t aggressive. It was completely casual and careless. Males touched males, females touched females, males and females touched each other.

Americans are so fucked up when it comes to that “personal space” issue, and of course that underlying Puritanism is exacerbated by the increasingly long hours people spend on the Internet, the increasingly intense relationships they pursue on the Internet, where, of course, personal space is simply not an issue.

Of course, I am not talking above about invasions of personal space that are done with a sexual or aggressive agenda. Those are and should be verboten.

But casual touch? Playful touch?

I think it’s a gift.


Interesting corollary to the above: The same friend who started the thread I paraphrase above posted some incredibly graphic pictures of a woman giving birth. You could reach out and lick the placenta!

So beautiful! oooh-ed and ah-ed the Joe Biden haters.

And I’m thinking, Jesus! If there was ever a time when I didn’t want a camera pointed at my snatch, it was while I was giving birth!

People are really comfortable sharing the most amazingly graphic pictures of themselves. I suppose they’d say it’s because they give permission for those pictures to be shared, but I think it’s more psychologically complex than that.

I think they’re inviting mental touch.

Why is mental touch so much less threatening than physical touch?

I find mental touch a whole lot creepier.
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I walked from Sunset Park to the Brooklyn Museum.

This is how you get the most out of NYC: You walk, you look at things.

I added to my ongoing photo essay about the 25¢ rides of Sunset Park:






(I would so go to that Spanish American Halal all-you-can-eat place if only I could remember what street it was on!)

Park Slope used to have an enormous number of late 19th century brownstones that looked exactly like miniature Museums of Natural History. Most of them (alas!) have been torn down to make room for utilitarian-looking apartment buildings. What would you call this architecture style? Gothic? Romanesque?


Then we get to the six-way intersection that looms large in my childhood memories and adult creative imagination: Grand Army Plaza! (Click on the picture for the blown-up view.)

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It looms large because my mother was constantly shipping me off for extended stays at my grandfather’s house. He lived in a neighborhood just to the east that’s now called Prospect Lefferts Gardens. His mother, my great-grandmother, was supposed to be taking care of me, but since she was in her 80s and completely demented, I mostly spent my time cutting elementary school, wandering instead between the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Museum.


Those doors, right? Whoa! Word on the street is that the architectural design of the library was supposed to resemble an open book.

To my mind, the Brooklyn Museum itself has been practically ruined by the addition of a modern atelier thingy in front of the 19th century façade. I simply do not understand why modern developers insist upon ruining perfectly wonderful neoclassical kitsch.


The Brooklyn Museum’s Frida Kahlo exhibit is surprisingly satisfying.

Because I am at heart such a shallow creature, I find myself less and less interested in people’s art and more and more in what they have to do to themselves to keep on producing art.

In Frida’s case, she had to become monumentally obsessed with herself, and that is essentially what this exhibit is about: Frida’s self-obsession. Thus, we see a lot of Frida’s clothes and discover why even though she never ventured south of Mexico City, she was so obsessed with huipils! We learn about her makeup habits: She loved Revlon. We see her empty perfume bottles: Shalimar! Chanel #5! We see old movies of her. We even hear Trotsky—with whom Frida had an affair—ranting about communism while she gazes on tenderly.

We see very, very few of her paintings.

Don’t get me wrong! I love Frida’s paintings. As [profile] lifeinroseland sagely observes, Frida was the inventor of the selfie.

But I preferred these glimpses into the life that went on between the strokes of the paintbrush.

Maybe it was the mood I was in.
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Dreamed I was sitting in a café following some sort of elaborate graduation ceremony. In a burst of nostalgia, I was wandering from table to table, and espied a group of girls I’d always found intriguing though I wasn’t sure where I knew them from, so I sat down at their table to chat for a couple of seconds.

I recognized that one of the girls had actually started school in the class that had just graduated but hadn’t graduated. I wondered—had she taken a year off? I thought (though I wasn’t sure) that the girls at this table were in the class one year behind me. So I asked her about that—and she said something to me that was completely unintelligible.

I asked her to repeat it, and it was just as unintelligible the second time.

So, I just pretended I understood. She was mentally unstable—that I got.

At a table a little distant from me sat a group of poseur boys. Plump, ringleted hair. The type who never exercise, smoke cigars and talk a lot about Aleister Crowley and polyamory.

The café was on upper Flatbush Avenue—not the Flatbush Avenue in real life but the Flatbush Avenue of my dreams, which is always this immensely hilly road, adorned with strange buildings. Somehow I had ended up with the phone that belonged to one of the poseur boys, and he had ended up with mine!

This was a problem because I had errands to do and now could do none of them.

The phone was in an elaborate case that had a little pad of paper and a stylus and a bunch of other cool things. There was no name or address, though. And I wondered how long it might take me to guess the phone password because naturally I wanted to spy on as much of the poseur boy’s life as possible before I had to give the phone back.

I was supposed to catch a bus. The buses didn’t come often, but I had to miss one because phone

I decided to run back to the café. No doubt one of the boys was still sitting at the table, and I could set up some sort of exchange—

But when I got back to the café, the boys were gone.
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I had fun in NYC.


One thinks of cities as eternal though, of course, they’re not. Since 1900, for example, the sea level around Manhattan has risen by a foot; by 2080, it’s likely the sea level will rise another six feet. That’s not within my lifetime, but it could be within my youngest child’s lifetime (if he stops smoking and starts exercising.)

Jungles throughout Central America and deserts throughout North Africa are filled with the ruins of dead cities.

As are the woods around Poughkeepsie:


Spring after the snowy desolation has melted and before the jungle forests have leafed is the absolute best time to view the remains of Poughkeepsie’s manufacturing past from the window of a moving train.

The land values hereabout are so low that it’s cheaper to let the buildings rot than it is to tear them down.

This kind of stuff fascinates me. Economic geography!


I got out at 125th Street and tromped the mile or so to my rendezvous with the world’s Kutest Kouple. Harlem is changing rapidly, too, though the land values are high, so many of the old residential low-rises with their collapsing ceilings and lead-paint-coated walls are being demolished so that developers can replace them with luxury condos. I’m not exactly sure how this building survived:


I suppose they’ll just dynamite the projects behind it. I don’t know what they’ll do with the people who live in them.

NYC got into the public housing business in the early 1950s. In their early days, the residents were mostly white: Applicants were screened for signs of moral turpitude such as alcoholism, lack of furniture, single motherhood, irregular employment histories, and (we can assume) skin color. Neighbor Ed grew up in Stuyvesant Town – Peter Cooper Village, which is a complex on the Lower East Side, and (when he was growing up) mostly inhabited by third-generation descendants of the folk who lived in the tenements the project replaced.

In the late 60s, a wave of social activism and pressure from federal authorities forced the New York City Housing Authority to change its policies. Skin color and sources of income could no longer be used as qualifying criteria.

Then came the 1970s when the city started one of its periodic bust cycles so there was little money to spare for maintenance. Windows got smashed, elevators were vandalized. Mail boxes were bashed into because in those days, people got their job and welfare checks by mail, and anyone could cash one, no questions asked.

With the 80s crack epidemic, the whole system became untenable. The municipal government wanted out of the landlord business (to the extent that was possible.) And so there was a shift in the Section 8 model: The government began paying private landlords to house the poor. See Matthew Desmond’s very brilliant Evicted for more details.

Of course, the projects that had been built continued to function. My Uncle Rik, always a revolutionary in his pragmatic way, decided to apply for public housing in 1964 while he was getting his PhD at Columbia and ultimately moved into Grant Houses on 125th Street and Broadway. This was at a time when my mother was at her most unstable: I’d come home from school and find her lying in her bed, gibbering to herself, wetting herself so that I’d have to change the sheets—though I was fairly sure she got up to use the bathroom when I wasn’t around.

After about a week of this, I called Rik who swooped down and carried me off to Grant Houses where I lived with him, Annie and the baby for a few months. It was a great novelty being one of only four white people among the 10,000 or so residents, and I don’t remember feeling unsafe in any way. The famous Harlem Riots of 1964 took place way over on the other side of town—actually, the very part of town I was walking through to meet up with my friends!

What a difference half a century makes.


The Kute Kouple and I met up at the Museum of the City of New York.

Lots o’ Kool exhibits plus this very elaborate dollhouse whose creator somehow managed to get Marcel Duchamp and other Famous Artists to make stuff for.


I have a major dollhouse fetish, so this was definitely the high point for moi.


Simply the most beautiful early spring day in the long, long annals of beautiful spring days in the history of the planet!


And what could be cooler than strolling through Central Park with good friends on our way to eat meat?

Here we are, a trio of contented carnivores, on the subway ride back to Brooklyn:


But I see I have exhausted all my Dear Diary time.

Coming tomorrow: Frida Kahlo and a stroll down Memory Lane—which happens to be located very close to Grand Army Plaza.

If I can remember back that far in 24 hours.
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It snowed yesterday. Snowed! In April! Hideous white stuff actually stuck to the ground!


One of those days I wanted to spend in bed with a package of Oreos and a gallon of milk.

But I didn’t because that’s an indulgence I would never, ever allow myself.

Instead, I puttered, watched the BBC’s indifferent adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl and read along in the novel—it was one of the books I rescued from the Staatsburg Library a couple of years ago when they were culling their collection.

“Nobody reads John LeCarré anymore,” the librarian told me. “And we have no room for stacks.”

Nobody reads John LeCarré? How can that be? He’s pretty much one of the best writers in the latter half of the 20th century!

Apparently, nobody reads Joyce Carol Oates either, another big favorite of mine.

Or Larry McMurtry. (Well. McMurtry is an uneven author, and his more recent stuff is Not Very Good.)

I had a library of 3,000 books when I shut down the Monterey house more than a decade ago. It physically hurt me to part with those books, and I swore I would never have a library again, but now, thanks to the Staatsburg Library’s Draconian policies, I have built my way back up to a modest collection. And have no room for them really. Thus, my interior decorating scheme is books! And more books.


The Little Drummer Girl is about a plucky, self-involved and somewhat delusional young woman who falls under the spell of a charismatic spy handler and comes to grief.

In this, it is a very neat parallel for the kind of dominant/submissive male/female relationships that have mostly been relegated to cosplay and dreadful bestselling potboilers.

Those kinds of relationships are just bubbling cauldrons of political incorrectness nowadays.

But LeCarré’s story simply does not work unless the young woman is stripped of her ability to think independently.

And this the BBC production simply refuses to do.

Florence Pugh, the actress who plays Charlie, is very good.

But Alexander Skarsgård—always a boring actor—is just abysmal in the part of Joseph, the battle-weary Israeli special op who turns Charlie. Plus, for some reason, they decide to call him “Gadi Becker.” Gadi Becker? Puleeeeze.

The novel is more about the power dynamic between Joseph and Charlie than it is about catching a Palestinian terrorist.

But Skarsgård is just such a passive and terrible actor that none of that manifests. Charlie is the clear aggressor in this adaptation. And this does not work.

One of the things LeCarré does particularly well is aftermaths. What happens after the various highfliers crawl in from the cold, the various types of psychological damage they incur.

Thus, in the novel, Charlie suffers the equivalent of a nervous breakdown and spins into emotional retrograde so that when Joseph tracks her down—because he loves her (goddammit!), it’s actually a really, really moving scene and a superb ending.

In the BBC adaptation, none of that is allowed to happen. How could Charlie be emotionally damaged? She’s a heroine for the 21st century! So, she’s the aggressor in tracking Joseph d/b/a Gadi Becker down, and it makes no sense whatsoever.

And where did they get the actor who plays Kurtz—yes, yes, I’m quite sure that’s LeCarré’s subtle nod to Joseph Conrad—the demonic Israeli mastermind who concocts the gambit? He was really awful!

Bad acting. Bad writing. Have I mentioned the music yet? Really terrible music.

I can’t really speak to the direction, knowing absolutely nothing about the process whereby words (scripts) are translated into images—personally, I mostly think in terms of words—but I have a feeling anyone who knew that world would find the direction subpar, too.

So, kind of a wasted day.

But apparently a day I needed to waste.

Down time is important.


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Every Day Above Ground

April 2019

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