Sunday, August 27, 2006

goin' back to the country...

Does anyone remember that song? It was by John Sebastian, I think. The singer sings in a strange flute-like voice.

I am going back to the country, and will stay until the end of the week I think. Or maybe I will just stay there and never leave...


Saturday, August 26, 2006

reading list

I read Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING last week. It had been on my book pile for quite some time but I had not had the time and quiet to give it the reading it deserved. I am a great admirer of Didion's writing. I first encountered her when my mother was reading her novel PLAY IT AS IT LAYS. I thought the cover, with a willowy-thin model-y looking woman on the cover, cigarette in hand, was too cool. And Didion herself, with her frail, ethereal features and huge trembling mouth has always fascinated me. She's so mysterious. She lost her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, suddenly, at a time when their daughter was in a coma. He had a massive heart attack as he sat at the dinner table on the day before New Year's Eve. Their daughter died after the book was finished. It described her year, the first year without her husband and partner (they wrote numerous film scripts together and both worked at home as writers virtually their entire married life and they were rarely ever apart. It was like my Tuna and Pomona. Always together). And theirs was, in many ways, a charmed life, though how suffused with sadness. But it somehow reminded me of how her sadness was pillowed, in a way; unlike so many people, her security was never called into question. Flying on the Concorde to Paris, chartering a private plane to take her ill daughter from California to New York; for most people these things would be impossible and other, smaller tragedies would mark the trajectory of the decline into old age that she finds herself in. But perhaps that is a point she is making. "Don't feel sorry for me" could be the subtitle.

I decided that by the time I have been in NYC twenty years (this is fast approaching) I want to find the way to be out of it for the most part. If I make a plan thoughtfully I have no doubt that I will not follow through. I am good at that, making plans and following through with them.


Yesterday I was busy. I made a list of things I had to do and methodically went through it, happily crossing off each item. There are a couple of things left to do today before I go back upstate.

Walking down a buzzing Montague Street I felt physically uncomfortable in the noise, the crowds, and most of all the sickening smell that we have on the streets after they've been cleaned in the summer, when all the rotted trash and god-knows-what is ground into a slush and wiped along the asphalt. It is a smell that literally makes me gag.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I am back in Brooklyn for a few days. I drove back yesterday, somewhat impulsively. I had planned to come down today, but when I woke yesterday I could tell I was not in the mood to work and the weather was cool and I had my stuff together so it was simple to just put things in the car, get Mabel and take off. So I came here about midday and was busy all afternoon straightening up and doing some organizing, paying some bills and taking care of business. I will go back to the country early Sunday with Y and I will stay until the end of next week. After that I must be back here because I have faculty meetings on September 6 and begin classes the next week. I don't feel the kind of dread of the academic year beginning this time around because I feel calm in general. Even the fact that my car headlights stopped working in the middle of the woods late last Sunday night didn't make me freak out. I am seriously thinking about living in the country, at least as much as possible while still teaching. It is much better for me. I felt some stress returning as I drove down the West Side Highway, but I didn't let it take over me and by the time I got home I was ok. I was thrilled to see Patsy, alarmed to see the huge pile of mail waiting for me, and happy to have my guitar and my piano and my bass. I purposely did not bring any instruments to the country, and there is no piano there. It is one of the longest times when I did not make any music that I can remember. Even when I went to Japan I played piano, because everywhere I stayed there were pianos available.

Here is the house seen from the barn.

Stone House and Field

Monday, August 21, 2006

from the country


This is my friend. She is living in the barn on the property where the house is. She has two other small friends--they are miniature horses, not ponies (?)--and one large, a ftwenty-year-old quarter horse. Mabel thinks they are all dogs, and she wants to play. The first time she saw them was hilarious.

I am having a wonderful time, feeling relaxed and calm. Time moves so much slower here. The nagging things that frustrate me so much seem to recede. Now I am in this café in Hudson where there is wifi. So I have checked my mail, uploaded photos to Flickr, and now figure I will post something to let my readers--if there are any left--know that I am alive and well. I swim in the pool every day. There was a bat in the house last night. I have seen all manner of animals--wild ones--and am eating amazing vegetables that I buy at the numerous farmstands that I find along the roadside. I will return to Brooklyn at the end of the week for two days, and then jet back up here.

I have not gotten tons of concrete work done, but much thinking. I will write more about this when I am at home. I have made some decisions and am considering many things, important things, about my life and how I live it.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

adieu (for a while)

Tomorrow very early I will set off for my country escape. I have been trying to pack my stuff in an organized fashion, rather than my usual haphazard style. I am trying to bring the minimum of stuff, although the work I need to do requires more than I would ideally bring. I will not have much internet access, just dial-up, and don't intend to post to my blog much. I'll see how I feel.

Yesterday Y and I went to Robt. Moses, to the beach. The weather was perfect. Y lost his cellphone when we were leaving, but amazingly, it turned up and when I called his number, one last sad attempt to find it, a lifeguard answered. He was disappointed that Y was not a girl. He couldn't be the valiant stud to rescue some distressed damsel. Parking the car back in Brooklyn I miscalculated and crunched the parking light on the driver side of my car. Oh well.

It is time to get out of NYC; the tourists are frightening in their abundance and I need to spend time in the woods, wandering, playing with Mabel, and getting outside my normal daily life for a bit.

water (3)

Friday, August 11, 2006

freaky dreamland

I had two scary dreams last night. The first made me bolt awake, heart pounding. I woke in tears from the second. Needless to say I did not sleep well last night.

leaves and sky

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I feel unmoored. Things are happening all around me and I am floating uncertainly, with little to hold onto. My surroundings have changed. It seems the world is falling apart, with war and fighting and tension mounting. I find it difficult to get through the days; the last two weeks have slowed to a crawl. I struggle to work. I try to escape by sleeping. I try to find peace inside myself. Outside I feel uncomfortable with the oddness of August in New York, when the natives have left but tourists swarm around, changing the balance of things. Now Brooklyn is a big tourist destination (officially proclaimed in a recent article in that rag of rags, NEW YORK MAGAZINE) and while we in Brooklyn Heights are more used to them now there is no respite. Huge tour buses drive down our very narrow streets and make the windows rattle.

I should add that I am a little hungover this morning. Last night I went over to M's where we played her vast and amazing collection of Tibetan singing bowls and I drank most of the bottle of wine that I had brought for her, forgetting she doesn't drink. And neither do I, normally.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nader = Nadir

Last evening while listening to WNYC to find out the results of the Connecticut democratic primary, Brian Lehrer of the hideous voice did a brief telephone interview with Ralph Nader. Nader was cheering on the defeat of Lieberman. I wanted to vomit. If it weren't for Ralph Nader and his blind egotism George Bush would not be our president and we most likely would not be in a horrifying and ridiculous war. I can't even imagine being Ralph Nader. How could you live with yourself? Then again, anyone who would do what he did--refusing to drop out of the race despite the fact that by staying in he drew voters away from Al Gore--clearly has no conscience.


Yesterday I gave up on working. I did some yoga to relax, fell asleep for an hour in the afternoon, went swimming, came home, did laundry, and then watched my latest Netflix acquisition, AFFLICTION. I had read Russell Banks's novel a few years ago. It was haunting. The film was as well. It is the story of one man's rapid spiral into self-destruction. As is typical in those cases, he takes others down with him. I am not a Nick Nolte fan but he was powerful in this film. Afterwards, I could not sleep, felt so restless, and stayed up until 3 am. Now--it is shortly before 9 am--I feel like a veil of gauze is wrapped loosely around me. And I still feel so sad.

I experimented more with the polarizer filter for my camera, and I got some good pictures while walking Mabel in the early evening.

ivy and window

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I am tired and frustrated. I keep thinking that I should be fine and ok with all of this--Pomona and Tuna--and move on and get back to work and all that. But I am not over it and I can't focus and I just feel really desperately sad. It's like I am trying to break through a wall, but instead I just keep hitting myself over and over again. But why should I be ok? Why should I be over it? They were part of my life for a long time, a very beloved part of my life. I am trying to find some kind of solace in working on Oedipus. An aged man, at the end of his days...sound and fury and beauty and peacefulness.

Some people have an attitude that "they are just pets, not people." They aren't people, it's true. But for me they were as important as any person I have known. Does that make me weird? Why do I care if I am weird, anyway?


Monday, August 07, 2006

you've got to be kidding

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.

And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.

Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...

Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!

pilgrimage, part two

rampBrooklyn Heightsferry terminal drivewater (1)byzantium waiting

Staten Island Ferry

Ferry Ride
Originally uploaded by madabandon.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I took Mabel to the groomer this morning, so it is just me and Patsy here in the apartment. I wanted to work, but have been listening to WNYC. First Bush at his press conference (frustrating) and then the irritating but fascinating Brian Lehrer show. I realize that since Mabel is not here there is no reason whatsoever for me to go out. That means that if I did not have a dog, I might spend entire spans of days in my apartment. That would be very bad for me.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Today I went to Staten Island. I took the R train to the ferry, and the ferry to Staten Island, the place where I first met Pomona and Tuna, not at the same time, and not in the same area of Staten Island--which is a big, suburban, strange place a world away from Brooklyn--but just to the water's edge. I stayed only a few minutes, just waiting to catch the ferry back home. I vividly remember both trips, almost eighteen years ago, spring, once to fetch the tiny round ball of kitten Pomona, one month later to get scruffy fuzzy Tuna. How long ago that was. How lucky I was to find each of them.


status quo

On Friday I decided that I would have a fun weekend. I made a festive dinner that evening--Y joined me--of roasted chicken (organic, free-range blahblahblah) and the accoutrements. Then early yesterday we drove to Robert Moses State Park. The beaches there are beautiful and it is nicer than Jones Beach, although a bit more of a trek. That was nice and the weather was great. However, in the car I just started bawling. Then on the beach I was consumed with sadness. When I drove back to Brooklyn I was exhausted and just wanted to get inside, take a shower, and rest. But I got to the apartment only to realize that I'd left some stuff in my car. This tiny little hitch--my car was parked several blocks away--just made me crumble. It wasn't anything in particular; it was my grief. Just plain exhausting, horrible grief and sadness. But last evening Y and I found this amazing Japanese restaurant in the most unlikely location in Prospect Heights. So it was a fun day but I was just too sad to realize it.

brick corner

Friday, August 04, 2006


(I don't wish to bore anyone so I won't write about the fact that I am simply sad, that I never lived in this apartment without Tuna and Pomona and that it is very very strange, living like this)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mel Gibson

From the BBC News website:

"Please know from my heart I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith," he said.

Mr Gibson has also asked to meet Jewish groups to "discern the appropriate path for healing".

Drunk folks tend to say what they would avoid saying when sober. But what people say when they are drunk reveals their hidden thoughts. Think of Plato's Symposium. Drinking frees the mind and unleashes the tongue. Gibson is a repulsive. His movie "The Passion of the Christ" was revolting. And now this. I think of all the fights I had as a kid, defending myself when I was ridiculed for being Jewish. Where did kids get their views? They heard them from parents, friends, parents of friends. I had a swimming coach who always spoke of "jewing them down" when trying to get a lower price on something. When I quit his team--and was berated constantly by other teachers for being "a traitor to my school spirit"--a few enlightened ones congratulated me for protesting, in my own not-so-small way. Before I quit our team was undefeated season after season. I was among the highest point-earners on my team. After I quit, they were defeated, and they never regained their supremacy. And I don't regret it for one moment. Recently my sister told me that that coach had suffered a severe heart attack. I felt nothing.


It is so quiet here. Tuna was hardly a noisy cat, but he generated a lot of activity. Patsy was always engaging him, wrestling, licking (and he licking her), cuddling. Tuna liked to have fresh water throughout the day, and he needed assistance navigating from the floor to the table to the bed and to the sofa. Now Patsy is subdued, and she seeks my attention much more than before. Mabel is clearly missing Tuna. She still looks around when she comes in from her walk as if she expects to find him. And I am just plain sad. The heat does not help. I can't really go out for diversion. Even a short walk makes me miserable. I find myself avoiding people too. I don't really feel like talking.

patsy at night

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I am so deeply sad today, fundamentally sad. I lived almost half of my life with those two. I hope they are together now.


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It is so strange here now. Within one month I've gone from having a houseful of pets, three cats and a dog, to one dog and cat. Tuna and Pomona lived with me for almost eighteen years. I was so used to their presence. When Pomona died, it was so quiet without her, but I still had Tuna to remind me of her every day. Now, with Tuna gone too, some crucial part of my life is a void. I know in time I will get over it. I have so many wonderful memories. But right now it is just painful. I barely slept last night, despite taking every sedative I have at my disposal (don't worry, I did not endanger myself, nor was that my intention. I just wanted sleep so I could forget for a while).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I am lucky to know you...

tuna's paw 1

As Y said this morning, we are very lucky. We got to hang out with Tuna. He is right.

Right now I feel in shock, still. He should be here, sleeping on the kitchen floor like he does in the hot weather. The tiles must feel cool.

things to do

Just now going through papers on my desk, after taking a valium so that I can calm down, I found a list I made last week, things I had to do this week. "Get steps for Tuna," one entry said. You see, I put the cat food in dishes on my dining table so that Mabel will not eat it. Tuna had increasing difficulty getting up there--he climbed onto a chair first, and from there to the table--and even more difficulty getting down. Often I would lift him down, but what would he do if I were not home? So I was going to go to the pet store and get one of those elaborate cat things, covered with rug, with steps so that he could more easily eat. Now there is no need. And now Patsy is looking all over. I guess she wonders why he is not here. And I am sitting here, feeling sad, relieved that he will not suffer, but wondering what it will be like without my Tuna-Buddha to talk to. And Tuna and I had a great day yesterday. He even asked to come up on the bed, one of his favorite places, and I took a nap with him, and he rested his paw on my hand the whole time.


(Frances sent this to me. She came to see Tuna Monday, while he was lying on the bed).

Cat! Who hast past thy Grand Climacteric,
How many mice and Rats hast in thy days
Destroy'd - how many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green and prick
Those velvet ears - but pr'ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me - and upraise
Thy gentle mew - and tell me all thy frays
Of Fish and Mice, and Rats and tender chick.
Nay look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists -
For all the wheezy Asthma, -and for all
Thy tail's tip is nicked off - and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter'dst on glass- bottled wall.

John Keats, "To Mrs Reynold's Cat"


tuna looking

My beautiful, gentle, sweet, kind, angelic Tuna died this morning. He died exactly one month after Pomona.

We will all miss him. Anyone who knew him know how special he was. I have never known another cat who was so kind and sweet.

I am a fucking mess.