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Somewhat more chipper today than I have been the past few days, though I still wouldn’t call myself Ms. Happy Song & Dance.

• Yesterday was absolutely paradisiacal here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley, and I spent a pleasant afternoon tromping around the Vanderbilt estate, playing Pokemon Go. Slugmas are spawning!

• I did some desultory paying work, a kind of essay on the Pareto Principle. Somebody should really write an essay on the significance of pea plants to modern science: First Mendel, then Pareto. And who knows? There may be others.

• In the evening, I had a long conversation with B. Asperger-y cousin Doug is pregnant – or rather his wife is. With twins. Doug is 55; the wife is 48. Twins makes me think that they used the family trust fund for IVF.

I can’t imagine anyone in his or her right mind wanting to have children after the age of, say, 45. I mean, I had a kid at 43, but it was a happy accident. And, though in retrospect it seems difficult to believe, I actually didn’t know I was pregnant with RTT until halfway through the pregnancy.

Existence is better than nonexistence, I suppose (though I’m open to arguments on that one) but I worry that RTT got the bad end of that deal. In my 40s, I didn’t have the type of energy you need to be a really proactive parent.

• RTT himself checked in briefly to tell me that with his new learners permit, he is now the Designated Driver of Choice for all his frat buddies.

• I listened to a Freakonomics podcast on the economics of spite. I love it when economics is applied to human emotions!

In the course of the podcast, someone explained the origins of the phrase to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Evidently, in the 9th century, a Saxon abbess named Ebba – later canonized – heard that Vikings were closing in to plunder her convent and rape its inhabitants. Rape was bad because Christ evidently is very picky about His brides and prefers virgins. And even if it’s not your fault that you’re not a virgin, you’re still – not a virgin.

Ebba hit upon a novel solution to impending sexual assault: She decided to mutilate herself in a way that was so horrible that even Vikings would be put off the pussy trail.


The other nuns thought this was a great idea. They did it, too!

The Vikings didn’t think this was such a great idea. They set fire to the convent – with Ebba and the ladies in it.

The 9th Century sounds like it was a long time ago, and, of course, it was a long time ago. But it was approximately the same chronological distance from the birth of Christ as we are from the 9th Century today.

• In the evening, I started rewatching Orphan Black. If you’re gonna write dystopian fantasy, Orphan Black is a fine thing to immerse yourself in.
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Celebrated the solstice at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. If you can’t scamper naked through Stonehenge playing ring-around-the-rosy then hanging out at the Coney Island is the next best way to see the summer in. Right? Right!

I had a blast.

The parade’s history kind of parallels the rise and fall of civilization, which naturally makes it even more fascinating for moi, ever the uneasy bystander at scenes of transience. It began as a marketing scheme in the early 1900s when Coney Island was (believe it or not) the more innocent of New York City’s two major entertainment districts and continued in its guise as a bad Mardi Gras homage until 1954.

I’m not entirely sure why it stopped. I went to Coney Island often as a kid in the 1950s and early 1960s. My memory was that the beach was always packed with bodies; there were long, long lines at the rides.

But in the 1940s, urban planning zealot Robert Moses rezoned large swaths of Coney Island as “residential,” hastening its demise. I suppose Moses preferred the poor to engage in middleclass aspirations rather than to revel in cheap street entertainments and the petty crimes that inevitably accompany them. (This is why I hate all liberal do-gooders, by the way.) New York City residents revolted, however, forcing the rezoning of the tract of Surf Avenue between West 22nd and West 12th for outdoor amusements once again.

By 1964, though, the last remaining amusement park Steeplechase Park had closed its gates. The real estate upon which Steeplechase Park sat was sold to Donald Trump’s father. He was unable to get a variance to build the first Trump Tower, though. The property was eventually sold to another real estate developer with the rather amusing name of Thor Equities, which plans to tear down the few old buildings that are left and replace them all with Burger Kings and Taco Bells. Hurricane Sandy forced Thor’s hammer down but only temporarily.

Meanwhile, the tiny Coney Island USA nonprofit set up shop in one of the few early 20th century buildings remaining. The Mermaid Parade is an attempt to stay Thor’s development – but, of course, it can’t really be stayed, and one assumes that in another five to ten years, the parade will be just another promotional event, smaller in scale than the hideous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – an event that I also remember as quite charming while I was growing up in an apartment between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, literally half a block away from the parade route, but which today has degenerated into inflated billboards for bad movies, stale cartoons and other forms of artificially created demand.

The parade itself was very long and poorly organized. I enjoyed it, but I suspect most of the spectators took off long before the midway point. I will say this for corporate promotional events: Just like Mussolini’s trains, they run on time.

The sweetest part for me was right at the very end. Fifty or so of us went down to the beach for the official opening of the ocean itself. Some signatory cut ribbons on signs representing each of the four seasons – I toted the heavy wooden Autumn sign – and a small group of revelers ran into the Atlantic, scattering strawberries and other fruits and dumping bottles of vodka into the saltwater. This was very touching to me. Yeah, yeah, a prefab ceremony but really reminiscent of something older, far more primeval, like the Cretan bull dancers marrying Neptune by throwing gold rings into the Mediterranean six thousand years ago. I was moved.

Other stuff is happening too, but for some reason, I'm finding it difficult to write right now.


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Every Day Above Ground

September 2017

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