IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I AM AMERICA

The above is a quote from Allen Ginsburg. It’s also the title of a book coming soon from Touchstone, containing both new stories and original art. I am proud as all get-out to have contributed to this book, along with Art Spiegelman, Susan Minot, Ha Jin, Neil Gaiman, Roz Chast… oh, what a tiny fish I am! But a thrilled tiny fish.

The book comes out January 2018 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March. The book, like the March, came out of the dark days when so many of us felt engulfed and powerless. We’re not, as we’ve proven again and again this last year, and IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I AM AMERICA is being published in support of the ACLU, to make sure our voices continue to be heard. You don’t want to miss out on a first edition, so order yours from your local indie today!

 

I’m baaaaaack

I know I owe you guys many posts about my trip to Eastern Europe, which was wonderful, and I’ll be bringing you up to date on that starting soon. Meanwhile I just had to post this — I was Guest of Honor at the Cloak and Dagger bookstore’s excellent Mysterious Affair at Princeton yesterday (no extra points if you get the reference, but demerits if you don’t, so hustle to look it up) and that meant I got to speechify. So here’s me, one hand in the pocket jiggling change, the other waving in the air, holding forth at the podium. Classic SJ Rozan photo by Jeff Markowitz.

 

“He who starts on a ride…

…of two or three thousands miles may experience, at the moment of departure, a variety of emotions. He may feel excited, sentimental, anxious, carefree, heroic, roistering, picaresque, introspective, or practically anything else: but above all he must and will feel a fool.”

— Peter Fleming

She will, too. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’ll recognize the quote. I use it whenever I take a big trip because it’s always accurate. I’m leaving in half an hour for the airport to go to Budapest and points east, circling back around to end in Prague. The cat, plants, and apartment have a great sitter; all my work is done; even the weather’s beautiful. And what a fool I feel!

But I’m going to the land of my people — not quite, we’re from Ukraine, but on this trip I’ll spend a lot of time walking the streets walked for centuries, until WWII, by Ashkenazi Jews, who are my extended people — and I’m going with some of my favorite traveling buddies, the gang I’ve been to western China and to Mongolia with. I expect once I really get there the whole fool/jitters/travel anxiety thing will melt away, and the trip will be great. Right now, I just want to stay home in my comfort zone, but that’s why you travel, isn’t it? When the comfort zone gets to comfortable, then you gotta go.

Try to stay out of trouble while I’m gone. Or, if you insist on getting into trouble, try to enjoy it.

I leave you, and NYC, with a river photo. The next river I sit beside, if all goes well, will be the Danube.

 

I love New York

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but NYC, my home place, just keeps coming. A few recent wonderfulnesses:

In Queens, right outside the gates to a large cemetery, stand two commercial enterprises. One, unsurprisingly, sells gravestones. The other sells construction supplies: hard hats, safety cones, warning flags. This strikes me as an excellent choice of location on the part of the construction business. The subliminal message is so clear as to hardly be subliminal: If you don’t buy OUR products, you might have to buy THEIR products.

Also in Queens, a psychic has a storefront office next to the We Buy Gold store. This is for your convenience, in case the psychic gives you bad news?

And, finally: the guy in the shoe repair/keymaking shop on 44th St. has a plastic jug into which runs a flexible piece of hose containing the overflow from his air conditioning unit. I’m thinking, how courteous, to keep people’s shoes dry, preventing what would otherwise be a small but steady stream on the sidewalk. That may have been the original impulse; but I was there when he opened the shop yesterday morning. He took the hose out of the jug, crossed the sidewalk, and carefully watered the street tree in front of his shop.

I love New York.

 

On the subject of Confederate monuments

I’ve been thinking a lot, as I bet many of you have, about the spark for tragedy in Charlottesville — the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

I’d like to point this out about it and many other Confederate statues: they did not go up immediately after the war as a way for the defeated but still proud South to honor its leaders. The vast majority of them went up in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s (the one in Charlottesville was commissioned in 1917 and installed in the 1920’s, by a private citizen, on land he bought and donated to the city) at the height of Jim Crow. They were an indirect but unmistakable message to black people who theoretically had rights and were trying to exercise them.

The timing of that is as though Germany, now, 70 years after the end of WWII, started erecting statues to honor Hitler, Goebbels, etc.

That being said, however, I’m not sure the right way to deal with this is for the statues to come down. I think they should be interpreted, as per the above, and to them should be added, facing them, statues of Sojourner Truth, of John Brown, of Frederick Douglass. Of the now-anonymous slaves they bought and sold. Of Emmett Till, of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement are what they are. Our side talks about inclusiveness; let’s include the whole of those histories together, side by side, so we can begin to talk about them.

 

 

More Assisi, and a little Bastia

I had the best of intentions of blogging often. I was thinking Ah, I’ll be lounging about, drinking a little cappuccino, laptop on my lap… My tenth year here at Art Workshop International in Assisi and I still haven’t figured it out. Between teaching and hanging with my buddies, between walks and art and my local friends I only see once or twice a year, all that lounging time doesn’t exist.

So here I am, belatedly, back again, with some photos. Most of them are from Assisi, though we took a little trip — and I mean little, literally 4 minutes on the train (though of course you have to walk down to Santa Maria degli Angeli to get the train, and then wait for the train, so from the hotel the trip is about an hour and 4 minutes) — to Bastia, and strolled around.

View from our favorite cafe

 

Breakfast at the Hotel Giotto (plus a little fruit for lunch…)

 

The hard-working guys holding up the rose window at San Rufino

 

Below street-level plantings. Don’t show this to Grow Dammit, he’ll feel insecure.

 

Flower pot on the wall

 

Sunflowers, almost ready for harvest

 

Bastia: the market’s over

 

Bastia: painted wall

 

Filipina nuns in habits and identical straw hats waiting for the bus.

 

Bastia: I don’t think this is the police station any more…

 

…or else some cop has a very green thumb.

 

Dragon sings karaoke

Assisi, Assisi

Arrived at the Hotel Giotto, went to my regular room, unpacked and I already know where everything goes. Charles Kreloff and Bob Hughes had a slice of Pane di San Francesco waiting for me. Went for a walk around town: it’s been beautiful for 1,000 years and it changes but it doesn’t; still beautiful. Herein, the first set of photos. Including food, as requested.

Salad at dinner

Archway

Bootleg photo in the Basilica (no photos allowed!)

Basilica door detail

Outside my room, dawn

The Pope’s Dining Room in the Basilica. For nine hundred years, when a Pope visits Assisi, this is where they feed him.

Interior garden at the Basilica

Lemon and sage ravioli (SO yummy)

We visit the Basilica at night

Walkway

 

Sprucing up the Rancho

With the landlord’s blessing, took a patch of grass thatch by the house and did THIS! The sad-looking lying-down ones are irises that a friend gave me. I’m hoping they’ll perk up. Everything else is doing fine, thank you, including the Queen Anne’s lace liberated from the side of the road. Please note the clematis already climbing the trellis. Now I’m sitting on the porch having a Negroni made by the house guest. (House guests at Rancho Obsesso have to work!)

 

Early morning at the Rancho

Well, not exactly at the Rancho. On the causeway nearby. Went for a sunrise walk, and can report we are rich in egrets this year. That must mean the marsh is rich in fish. Also was dive-bombed by some smaller shorebirds I can’t identify, but this also happened last year when I walked too close to their nest. (How come you nest so near the road, guys, when you have the whole marsh to choose from?) All the osprey nesting platforms are full, and a few telephone poles have been colonized with those big, sloppy nests osprey build. We have robins, redwinged blackbirds, catbirds, sparrows, cardinals, house finches, some kind of warbler I can’t identify, starlings, crows, Baltimore orioles, and woodpeckers (don’t know what kind, have heard but not seen them) in abundance but no wild turkeys, of which last year we had two broods marching around on their route from house to house, chowing down. The butterfly bushes I planted last year are just starting to bloom, so I’m expecting hummingbirds when we come back next weekend.

#resist #rememberwhatyou’refightingfor

A great idea! In fact, two.

I’m just loving this: ice stupas!

To bring water to drought-stricken areas.

Photo by Sonam Wangchuk.

And speaking of the Himalayas, come to Kathmandu!  Click the link for details. (Not the photo, the link.) See you there!

http://www.himalayanwritersworkshop.com/mystery-writing-in-kathmandu