Yesterday, walking down a midtown street, I hear this behind me: “Now you have to keep your eyes absolutely shut for the next five minutes. Either that or you can stay here and I’ll come back for you.” The answer: “Okay, I will.” Both voices sound cheerful but this is odd so naturally I turn to see what’s up. A young black man with an enormous grin is leading his eyes-shut girlfriend by the hand. They come to a shop; he takes her in and positions her in the narrow window by the door, facing the street so that even if she peeks she won’t know where they are. But I’m watching from the sidewalk and she’s doing exactly as she promised.
They’re in a jewelry store. Still grinning, he goes to the ring counter. He’s obviously been there before because he knows exactly what he wants. The salesperson brings out the ring he’s pointed to. They have a brief discussion which by the way he rubs his knuckle I surmise is about re-sizing after purchase. Satisfied with the answer, he glances over at his girlfriend, still with her eyes squeezed shut, which he can’t see but I can. He catches sight of me watching. I give him a thumbs-up, both about her not peeking and about the whole business.
He goes to the register, takes out his credit card, buys the ring, and walks over to her. Right there in the window, open box on his palm, he says something and she turns, opening her eyes. First she looks around and realizes where they are. Then she sees what he’s holding out to her. She bursts into tears. His grin has gotten so enormous it’s sparkling off all the other rings and bracelets in the store. I give them another thumbs-up and leave.
Romance is not dead. And I love New York.
This is what happened yesterday:
Because Russia, deliberately using a nerve gas traceable back to them and only them, poisoned one of their ex-spies in England, the US Treasury announced new sanctions against various Russian operatives and organizations, though the executive branch has yet to implement the ones voted by Congress last year.
Three-quarters of a million students, including in some places just one lone kid and in others whole classes of six-year-olds, marched out of class to protest the targets on their backs.
A porn star started a crowd-source funding campaign to raise the money to pay the damages she’s threatened with in a probably-invalid NDA, should she speak out about her affair with the POTUS.
There’s only one explanation, folks, and I think somebody has to say it. One of the computers that runs the Matrix has gone batshit crazy.
It’s not uncommon here to see plastic bottles and aluminum cans left beside trash containers, for street people to collect and redeem for the nickel or dime. People often place them carefully so they won’t blow away. This, however, was new to me: a pile, worth a couple of bucks, with its own handy carrying bag. I love New York.
It’s Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders, and I’m on it!
For years I’ve loved this sort-of-monthly event, an always-eclectic collection of musicians, writers, comedians, and who-knows-whats. Wesley Stace, a/k/a John Wesley Harding (yes, from the Dylan song, it’s very meta) is the only person on both my favorite-novelists and favorite-musicians lists. And now he’s invited me to be on the show!
It’s broadcast over NPR, or podcast, not sure which, but if you’re not nearby, check the NPR schedule.
But if you are nearby the NYC City Winery on Friday, March 9 — that’s next week, ladies, gents, and everyone else — come on down! For full cast, see the Mysterio Wheel, or click the link. (Don’t click the Mysterio Wheel — it’ll seem like nothing happened, but such things you’ll be setting in motion as will in years to come cause chaos everywhere but Wakanda.)
March 9th Cabinet of Wonders
But I don’t want to — I want YOU to. What I want for my birthday is for each and all of you to rush out and buy yourself a copy of this fabulous book. Then buy one for a friend, as an early, or belated, birthday present. Available wherever fine books are sold.
Why, you ask? Because it has heartbreaking, or funny, or breathtaking stories by such writers as Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, Paul Theroux, and well, ME. Not enough, you say? It has art by folks like Eric Fischl, Art Spiegelman, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. More, you want? We, the writers and artists, do not get the profits; nor does Simon and Schuster, who published it. Who does? The ACLU!
So — get yourself, and a friend, or many friends, a great book (and yes, it comes in e form), make a contribution to the ACLU, and celebrate the fact that I’m a year older.
Well, someone has to celebrate it. Not me. But get this book!
Here is Bella the Cat taking a drink. Note the balletic posture, left shoulder up, right paw crossed over and down for balance as she prepares to stick her snout into the H2O. Shocked, you ask yourself: what evil cat owner would make it this difficult for a kitty to get at her hydration?
Well, here’s the thing: this is not her water dish. Her water dish is an ignored object on the kitchen floor. It sits beside her food dish and is refilled every morning with the same fresh water as is in this. THIS is for the plants, to help humidify them. The previous cat, The Late Great Fugazy, never gave it a thought.
But from the moment — three days into her residence here — when Bella finally crawled out from under the bed to explore her surroundings, she found the water in this bowl much tastier than the water in her dish.
In reality, this is what I think is going on: Bella was a foundling. She was adopted as a kitten by some folks who wanted a friend for their aging cat. Bella, though, was too aggressive — in fact she was so pushy they named her after Bella Abzug. (Now that’s a real NY story, huh?) Finally the older cat was so terrorized she stopped eating, and they decided Bella had to go. So she came here. I think she must have survived on the streets until her adoption by a combination of aggression and sneakiness. Even now she doesn’t like to eat while I’m in the kitchen — if I come in while she’s eating she’ll run away. Otherwise she never avoids me (quite the contrary, e.g. she’s on my lap right now) but while she’s eating she wants to be alone. I think this water ballet business also has to do with making sure those other cats whom she used to have to fight for food on the street can’t sneak up on her while she’s stealing water from the out-of-the-way puddle. I also bet that if I put a food dish up there, that would be her dish of choice, too. Too bad that’s not about to happen.
Despite the 17 degree temps when we left in the morning, I went out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve with the intrepid Keith Michael in search of Snowy Owls, which Keith had seen out there last week. And look!
According to another birder we met out there, this one is a juvenile — you can tell because it’s not pure white. She — I don’t know how he knew, but he kept calling it “she” — was just snoozing on the marsh. The above photo’s a zoom-in; she was a dot from where we were and we wouldn’t have seen her except the guy had a massive camera on a tripod pointed right at her.
She’s the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen (yay!) and following the Urban Birder’s Owl Protocol, which I only learned about yesterday, I’m not supposed to say exactly where she was so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by gawkers while she’s trying to sleep, owls being nocturnal creatures and birders mostly diurnal ones. But she was at Jamaica Bay, so you intrepid birders, dress in your five thermal layers and get on out there!
The death of Ursula le Guin earlier this week hit me hard. She was a personal hero, a writing hero, a political hero. I first read her in college — I remember I’d gone to a conference in Toronto, some political thing, and someone gave me ROCANNON’S WORLD. I read it there, and then read everything else I could get my hands on, despite, or because of, the fact that ROCANNON’S WORLD made me cry. So did LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. le Guin had an enormous, compassionate heart, and a genius for following an idea to its logical, but startling, conclusion; sometimes that conclusion was not the end of a story, but the starting point for one. (See “The Word for World is Forest.”) She was also a great writing teacher. STEERING THE CRAFT is a book I still use when I teach, and I recommend it to all my students. (And what a title!)
Ursula le Guin, goodbye, godspeed, and thanks.
Just wanted to share these photos. The first is my posse pausing to pose (see what I did there?) as we approached Central Park West, to MARCH! The second is a brief breather in our marching, where, at the instigation of my sister Debby (in the purple coat, with the “We Remember” sign) we took a knee at the Trump International Hotel (because she knew that would piss him off) and gave the joint the finger while yelling, “Take a knee for Democracy!” A bunch of other marchers joined us and a bunch took videos as they went by. For my next trick, when I go to the Knicks game in 2 weeks, I’m taking the goddamn knee again. And will take it at every sports event until — well, you know exactly until when!
That’s what my mother used to yell when she was about to tell a secret. This isn’t a secret but I wanted to give her a shout-out because she’d have loved it. Seems I’ve been nominated for an Edgar! The nominee is my short story, “Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home,” published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s Jan.-Feb. 2017 issue. The narrator is Lydia Chin’s mother. For whom my mother always insisted she wasn’t the model. And she wasn’t, either… Thanks to Linda Landrigan and AHMM for taking it, thanks to the committee, and HEY, WOILD!