In my New York neighborhood no morning is quieter than the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Everyone’s still away or sleeping in, except a few joggers and dogwalkers. I went out early; I like cold weather, sharp wind, I’ll even like the gray rainy slushy days, when they get here. I don’t like the fact that in this season the sun rises after I do and twilight starts at 3:30, but it’s a package deal.
Down at the river (for those of you who are new here, I live in downtown Manhattan two blocks from the Hudson) the tide was high, the sky was gray, and the wind was still. The ferries and tugs were all docked and I guess it was too cold for pleasure boating, even for those who haven’t put up their boats for the winter quite yet. Nothing disturbed the water: reflecting the gray sky, it looked like glass. A few gulls floated without even a tiny wake-wave to bobble on. Right beside the seawall, a platoon of geese swam by in single file. When the water’s at its highest the geese can reach the moss near the top of the wall, which is apparently quite tasty, because they all stopped every few feet and stretched their necks for a nibble.
I walked around for awhile and as I headed home the tide was turning. I’m reaching for a metaphor here; I’m hoping without much justification that the tide is turning in the middle east, too. The release of hostages and the ceasefire constitute a tiny ray of light. I have definite thoughts about what has to happen once all the hostages are home, and they all depend on the ceasefire continuing to hold after that. Which is possible, barely. But hope is hope; not rational, but necessary.
Hope with me, if you want.
Also: There’s no free lunch, but this is a free Substack.
Some of you know this, some of you don’t — is that not true of just about everything? — but every year I take some of the gabazillions of photos I’ve shot over the year and make calendars for your gift-giving and schedule-keeping pleasure. This year I’ve put together five. They retail for $18.00. All profits go to charity; this year’s choice is the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Click on the calendar’s name — not the photo — and there you are. Buy one for every room in the house, why not? It’s gonna be a busy year.
And about the subtitle of this Substack: a lot of writers have both free and paid versions of their Substacks, to try to make a living, not so easy for writers. Mostly those writers are experts on the thing they want you to pay for their thoughts about, and often it’s a good idea. In fact I subscribe to a couple of those. But me, I’m not an expert on anything. I’m just talking here. I’m honored enough you want to read what I have to say. No way am I going to charge you for it. SJ’s Substack, free as a boid.
Colors and Patterns
New York City
So about this Substack thing
What am I doing and why am I doing this? And why is it orange? (It’s not orange here on my website. Sorry.)
To answer that last one first, it’s orange because I found where the colors are. Be warned I’m likely to keep changing colors until I hit on the right one. Or as my mood takes me. Or maybe I’ll just go back to white, or straight to black…
What I’m doing is, sending out a newsletter to subscribers, plus posting it on my website and my social media. Broad-spectrum newsletters, like broad-spectrum antibiotics, have the unfortunate effect of hitting things besides the things you aimed them at. Antibiotics can give you a stomach ache if they hit the wrong bacteria. Newsletters can give readers a headache if they fill up mailboxes of people who didn’t ask for them. Okay, it’s a weak analogy, but you get it because you’re all so smart. Which is why I don’t want to give you a headache. So hit the SUBSCRIBE NOW button and this thing will come into your mailbox more or less once a week.
I’ve posted for a long time on social media. I’ve written, more and less dependably, a blog. For the blog you needed to go to my website. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Mastodon, my reach is large, but random. Lots of people can see what I have to say, but do they? Social media’s like a river, and each post like a piece of driftwood. You blink, it’s gone already. That wasn’t a great analogy either, was it? What happened to my mental analogy generator, I wonder? Also, I’m watching that little hairball Elon destroy Twitter (stick your X, Elon) and thinking, the s.o.b. is like a landlord closing everyone’s favorite bar. If I could I’d open a new hangout for us all, but I can’t do that (though if anyone has a great post-Twitter site I’d be glad to hear about it). So I thought I’d try this Substack thing. After all, if Barbara Shoup, Peter Blauner, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar do it, it must be a good idea, right? I know there’s a way I can link to those Substacks for you but that’s for next time. It was enough today that I found the colors.
Hey, I’ve just won the Falcon Award from the Japanese Maltese Falcon Society! It’s given for the best hardboiled book published in Japan in a given year. My winning book was PAPER SON, which came out here in 2019 but was only recently published in Japan.
The award itself is a hand-carved falcon statuette. It’ll be here in 6-8 weeks — it’s being carved as we speak. In the meantime, here’s Sam Spade contemplating the original.
Yes, folks, the 2023 SJ Rozan Calendars are now available for your date-keeping pleasure. This year we have four: Bella the Cat, Colors, Plants, and New York City. All money raised goes to The Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Get one for your home, one for your office (even if they’re the same), one for a friend, and one to put above your cat’s water dish!
Bella the Cat 2023 Calendar
Colors 2023 Calendar
Hey, youse guys (as we say in the Bronx)! The 2022 SJ Rozan Calendars are here! For your gift-giving, including to yourself, pleasure. Extra added attraction: all profits from this year’s calendars will go to Planned Parenthood. Because dammit. Helpful hint: click the link, not the photo.
Bella the Cat
Through the wonderfulness of a friend I scored a ticket to the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season. This was a particularly exciting opening night because of course last year there was no season at all. Still, I might not have gone; opening night is fancy and I’m not a fancy kinda gal. But the season opened with FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES, Terence Blanchard’s opera based on Charles Blow’s memoir. I very much wanted to see it, so I accepted the challenge of dressing as though I almost fit in. Silk shirt, silk trousers, embroidered silk Chinese slippers — I don’t wear heels — and there I was, among the ball gowns, capes, embroidered sequined jackets… and you should have seen the women, too. No, seriously, everyone looked great.
And the opera? I’m far from knowledgeable enough about opera to be qualified to review it, but it seems unfair to tell you I went and then not tell you how I felt about it. So: the performances were great. Angel Blue, especially, and Will Liverman, were mesmerizing, and Walter Russell III, who plays Charles as a child, has probably had his life ruined by getting a standing ovation on opening night at the Met. The music I also loved. Blanchard drew on many sources and handles his transitions seamlessly. I was disappointed in the libretto. An opera’s not about the libretto, and most are probably disappointing but luckily in languages I don’t speak. I’m probably too word-oriented and placed too much emphasis on it.
The most interesting thing about this opera, though it’s by a Black composer based on the memoir of Black man and performed by an all-Black cast, is that it’s not a Black story, if by Black story you mean a story about racism, a story that defines Black people in terms of how they’re situated in the White world. This opera is about making choices, about a child becoming an adult, about leaving, or not leaving, the past behind. That these universal themes are dealt with in the context of a Black man’s life, instead of the default White life, is, if you ask me, the real cause for celebration.
It’s spring and the waterfowl on the river are busy as bees, or beavers. This morning two pairs of mallards were swimming around, with a male Gadwall in attendance. One of the male mallards swam away from the little flock, which caused two events. First, the female he’d been with zipped over to him, swam right in front cutting him off, and then settled in right beside him, reminding him who he belonged to. The Gadwall, meanwhile, came over to harass them. That left the other mallard pair on their own, but not to worry: a female Gadwall came flying in, landed behind them, and started annoying them. What does this say? That the Gadwalls, as they’ve done before, are nesting in the bushes by that stretch of river and the mallards were getting too close in their own search for a nest site. Also, that female mallards like to keep their males in line.
And speaking of nesting, those of you who remember the goslings born last year on the rocks by the Sanitation Pier and raised in the park by Mama and a very fierce Papa may be happy to know M and P have nested again, and I think she must have eggs in there because he’s been swimming back and forth patrolling for enemies. This is the best photo I could get so I’ve circled them in red. Papa in the water, Mama in the upper left of my circle right up by the wall. Just after I took this a crow flew in and landed near her. Papa lifted out of the water and flapped over, practically sat on top of it. It left in a hurry. Hatchlings coming, I hope!
It’s 2021. Well done, all. Here’s to peace, good health, and good work in the new year.
Standing third from the left, Parnell Hall one of the ways I remember him best: on the basketball court, where he had a funny (of course) one-legged stork shot that always went in. I remember him at the poker table, too, where he’d shake his head sadly at his cards, sigh at his luck, and leave at the end of the night with great piles of other people’s money. He was one of the first people I met in the crime-writing world. I was a last-minute substitute on a panel at Bouchercon Seattle in 1994. My first book had been out about an hour, I hadn’t expected a panel assignment, and I was terrified of being up there with the grownups. Turned out nothing I did mattered. Parnell and Donald Westlake spent 40 minutes being hilarious and ended the panel with a cream pie in the face. Parnell’s face, of course. He was generous, kind, funny, smart, and I’m going to miss him terribly.