Book #89

I have been going to almost every protest held here in Pittsburgh, particularly the climate crisis strikes. On October 23 there was a conference about shale gas (fracking) addressed by POTUS and a protest. Many of the speakers were indigenous people from protest groups in other states. They came a long way. Unfortunately not so many people came who had only a short distance to come.

As I stood there, with all of these wonderful, articulate people, and not enough response, I lost hope. Five minutes after I returned home I wrote the words that became #89:

Who will mourn the earth
Where is the wake for the animals
What is the prayer for the birds
Who will sit shiva for the bees
And who will say Kaddish for us


The words stay in my head and I repeat them again and again, a prayer for someone who never prays.

Book Cover-

When a close relative dies we are supposed to tear our clothing. In practice, the undertaker pins a black ribbon on our clothing and slashes it.



We sit shiva, mourning, for up to a week.


We say Kaddish, a prayer to remember who we have lost.


Rainy Sunday

I woke up to a gray, rainy morning and thought about spending the day in bed. That got boring pretty quick so as the rain lessened I got dressed and went out, had lunch and went over to the West Side to see another documentary; this time about Sholem Aleichem–good, but not the most interesting thing I've ever seen. Too many talking heads, but I suppose there's not much else that could be done.

After the film I walked over to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle for some dinner and some nosh to bring to my next stop. Then on to the subway the GW Bridge, and New Jersey, my old stomping grounds. Ellen had a Stitch and Bitch for me so I could see many of my old friends. We did this every Sunday night for years so it was great fun to see them again.

The week that was

Last Wednesday I took the Megabus to Philadelphia. Except for the fact that there's no way to get up and walk around, it's a decent way to travel. Of course, they leave before dawn, which meant I had to get up at 4:30, but it was OK. I met Renee in Philly and we went to the Chagall exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. Very nice. We also walked around South Street; went to the Magic Garden, Reading Market, and Eastern State Penitentiary; staying overnight to do all of this.

Finally, exhausted, we got on another Megabus and went to New York, where I went to the Japan Society to see Bye, Bye Kitty, a really good exhibit put together before the earthquake, but entirely appropriate to the circumstance, and then spent time at the Met. I can't go to New York without spending time at the Met. Also went to visit friends who have just moved into a new apartment.

Robin and Steve drove in on Saturday and we had dinner with Steve's family: Renee, Michael and Rosemary. On Sunday Renee went to Boston to have a Passover Seder with Steve's sister, Robin and Steve moved to the apartment (musical apartments) and we had our Seder with friends in Teaneck. Our friends have a mixed marriage: he's Ashkenazi; she's Sephardi. The Seder is always a blend of their traditions, making it more interesting for us.

Now comes the bad part:

We were supposed to stay until yesterday morning, but I had a problem so my kids very kindly brought me back to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Two weeks ago I had the implant inserted where my tooth had been pulled. It became infected, although I wasn't certain of it until Sunday. Monday morning I called the oral surgeon and got a perscription for an antibiotic, but it didn't seem to help. Feeling worse on Tuesday, with obvious swelling of my cheek, we drove back. Yesterday, I spent the morning back at the oral surgeon's. You don't want to know the details. I'm still swollen and not certain it's getting better. I am allergic to penicillin and tetracycline, and I've had bad side effects from levaquin. It makes it very hard for me to take antibiotics. They've been alternating between two arithromycins, but now they don't seem to be working. So I'm taking cipro, a levaquin-type, and keeping my fingers crossed.

Robin’s Challah

One of the treats of my life is Robin's Challah every Friday night at Shabat dinner. I smell it when I come into the house, and it comes out of the oven just before we light candles and sit down to eat. It's amazing!

Last night she made a special challah, in honor of Purim this weekend, and I think in honor of being done with the surgery.

This challah is stuffed with onion and poppyseed. I behaved myself and only ate a couple of pieces, along with the rest of a very healthy, well-planned meal. But I think when I am 80 I will ask for a whole challah, just for me.

I wish I could give you a piece.

Wrap up of the week’s good classes and events

It's a dark, rainy, somewhat chilly morning and I don't have to be anywhere until 4 pm. I went back to bed for awhile, then read blogs and finally took a long, hot shower. Amazing what that does for all my aches. It doesn't seem to matter where the water hits me, usually on my back and the back of my neck, and all of the pains in my hip and legs go away. It's better than Tylenol, the only thing I'm supposed to take.

I've really had a busy week. On Saturday, Ivetta and I went to the SPF Expo–Small Press Festival. It was very nice to see all those publishers, but the best thing for me was the venue: AIR: Artist Image Resource. They have open studio time; I could go and make silk screen prints if I can work up enough ambition. Something to keep in mind, anyway.

We went to another festival: Little Italy Days in Bloomfield. As with most large city ethnic neighborhoods, identity is anchored more in nostalgia than in reality. It was fun, a little like a New York street fair.

Sunday night Robin served dinner in the sukkah–a Jewish holiday tradition. We had dinner in Dina's sukkah on Friday night. Miraculously it didn't rain either night–the usual sukkot event.

Monday I went to my World War I class. That one is good. We are not fighting each battle, but rather, examining possible causes. Excellent presentation. Tuesday was Japanese art history, then an open house at the Intel lab at Carnegie Mellon. I find I can understand about half of what they try to tell me.

Tuesday evening there was a lecture by Rev. Tom Johnson, Jr., who runs a school, the Neighborhood Academy, for children living in poverty. His goal, which he mostly has met, is to have 100% of his children graduate and go on to college. He explained his philosophy and his methods. I wish I had his talk written out. He's an amazing man.

Yesterday was infectuous diseases, another great class. I can't say I have any special interest in diseases, or in World War 1, but a good teacher can really capture me. That's the best part of these OLLI (Osher LIfelong Learning Institute) classes. Yesterday was also my next to last cardio rehab session. Friday is the end, but there are ways to continue and I may do it. First, I'll see if I can get religious about going to the health club.

In the evening I went on a walking tour of some of the art in East Liberty and in Mellon Park. I enjoyed the teacher and will be taking a class with her next month.

Labor day labors

It's been a beautiful weekend, the best one all summer–sunshine, cool breezes. I walked about a mile on Saturday, then two and a half on Sunday. This morning I went back to my health club to work out. Rehab was closed, so you can tell how dedicated I am. Unfortunately, my afib kicked in; I was wiped out all afternoon, never got out to another beautiful day. I feel better this evening after taking a long nap. 

I'm so inspired by the Japanese art class I printed out all the readings and I'm slogging my way through them. Most of it is way over my head. I vaguely remember something about Hegel from college, but never read any Foucault or the other two guys. The class is about space in Asian art. I understand a lot about space in art, but I"m not at all sure about the readings. I'm anxious to get to the class tomorrow, find out if anyone else understands this stuff.

After making several flag books and a few single page books I'm back to work on my garden book. I think I've got about 250 pages already, mostly photos. I'm thinking about another trip to Japan, probably April or May. I don't know how this will work with my afib or all the blood tests, but I've got a little time to work on it.

This week is Rosh Hashanah. I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful new year.

Continuing New York

Saturday I met up with Sybille again and went to the Jewish Museum to see the Curious George exhibit. It's amazing to know these people went through so many terrifying episodes to leave Europe during the Second World War, but still retained their imagination, creativity and the ability to appeal to children.

Later in the afternoon I went out to New Jersey to visit with Robin's friends, Ron and Ilana. Two of the guests write art criticism for an online journal called Art They specialize in contemporary art, not exactly my cup of tea, but it was fun talking with them. I went from being Robin's mother to an artist in my own right. Very nice.

Sunday morning, for the first time in several years, I went to a street fair on Columbus Ave. There were some vendors I had not seen before, and of course, my old favorite: Mozzarepa, another guilty pleasure.



ove the lady's dress and hairdo.






Renee came home on Sunday afternoon in terrible pain. She had fallen during the night and hurt her back. I helped her unpack then went out for dinner with another friend.

Monday morning I met Mary over at MOMA to see the Matisse, then a nice visit over lunch. Finally, it was time for the appointment that brought me to New York: my contact lens optician. I will have new lenses when I get home and I have prescriptions for two different pairs of glasses, one pair to use without the lenses, one to go over the lenses. I went back to the apartment and brought dinner in for the two of us.

Renee is feeling better today. I went looking for papers for bookmaking, again, and actually found something I liked and could afford. Lunch was at an Indian buffet on 56th St. where I sat in the window and looked at this strange old building that fronts on 57th. I'm always fascinated by these seemingly forgotten bits of real estate in very high-priced areas.


After much walking I limped back to the apartment; a satisfying day.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

I’m sitting in a lovely hotel room just outside of Chicago–a rare experience for me–and enjoying doing nothing. Robin and Steve arrived earlier. I gave them the car and they went shopping. Tonight is Jerry’s wedding; I’m resting, regrouping and enjoying the free wi-fi with two days to tell about.  

I got a parking space at 9:30 Wednesday evening; undoubtedly the luckiest day of all. First a long lunch with my cousin Phyllis, shopping with no purchases to show for it, dinner with Karen and Kathryn. All told a satisfying day.  Found out the North Shore Hotel in Evanston is still a retirement facility. If I ever decide to come back here, that’s the place. Everything in downtown Evanston and much of Northwestern is accessible on foot and there is train service to downtown Chicago.

Thursday, Betty and I went to Skokie to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. They told us it would take one or two hours to go through; we were there four or five hours. It’s a heart wrenching experience.  Original films and oral histories are used to tell the stories of the people whose lives were so drastically affected by Hitler and his war against the Jews. 

I am always amazed at how pervasive anti-semitism is, and how easily it is blamed for anything someone doesn't like.  Louis Sullivan, not a Jew but with a Jewish partner, whose work was too "different" for the establishment and establishment architects, was accused of creating Jewishness (whatever that means), according to this statement in the exhibit I saw on Tuesday. (Chicago's first architect) John van Osdel says "it's architecture run crazy. It's an experiment in Jewishness like we have never seen before."


Playing catchup

I apologize for the hiatus and promise I'll try to do better. Mostly it was laziness; to a small extent it was income tax. I got so little money last year I get a refund from the feds and only owe the state a very small amount. I use an online service called TaxSlayer. It's very easy and I was finished within a couple of hours. It would be even easier if I was more organized. I was waiting for one form that never came and the other envelopes got shuffled into a pile with lots of other stuff. By the time I found out I didn't need the missing form, the required ones were out of sight and out of mind. Then, of course, I had to find last year's tax, also out of sight and out of mind. It's a great relief to have it all out of the way.

So I'll tell you what I didn't write about: first, the Seders in New Jersey and New York. We were with friends in NJ. The hostess is from Israel, her family originally coming from Iraq. It was a little different from our usual ritual and very interesting. Our kids were still in Chicago–no holiday from college, but the two sons of the host family were there, along with one girl friend. This is very much a family holiday–these friends are just like family. Our New York Seder was with Steve's family on Long Island, again a little different and very nice.

I had my yearly mammogram last week, no results yet. I wasn't going to do it this year, based on someone's (a government health service)  recommendation of every two years for women over 75. After Alice's experience, I decided to go ahead with the test. I should have a result tomorrow or Tuesday.

The snow is finally gone, the weather has been mostly wonderful, although not while I was in NYC. There I got wet and froze–didn't have proper clothing with me.

I bought the camera but have had it only two days. I promise a report in about two more days.

Here is the tulip tree welcoming spring.


One last bit of snow. This picture was taken on March 25 after many days of 70 and 80 degrees. The snowpile was created when they shoveled the snow off of the top of the building (parking garage at CMU). Originally it was almost as tall as the building.

It's finally gone.

Christmas day, New York

I couldn't sleep last night. Not surprising; Renee usually goes to bed about 10pm and wakes up very early. Since we share her bedroom, I go to sleep at the same time and stay in bed until after eight, my usual wakeup. I've been getting 10 hours sleep and it finally got to be too much. The coffee I had with lunch didn't help either. So I lay there, almost too warm under a lovely down quilt, but with two blocks of ice for feet, and thought about anarchism and its various adherents; trying to figure out if any good had come from it. Most of the so-called anarchists during the 70s were nothing but common criminals: Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, the Unabomber.Certainly none of them brought about any good outcome. The most destructive group, the nineteen Muslims who destroyed the World Trade Center, were not anarchists, but nevertheless, wanted to destroy our way of life. It was a terrible disruption, but now, less than ten years later, New York moves along almost as if nothing had happened. The entrepreneurs on the streets work as usual. Panhandlers work the subways and skyscrapers continue to rise.

We took the unusually sparsely populated subway down to Battery Park. During the trip a man in a wheelchair, who had lost one leg, came through the car and collected money from almost everyone. Immediately following him two men with large conga drums sat down on their own chairs in the middle of the car and tried to put on a show. They had a lot of trouble warming us up. Most of the riders sat stone-faced throughout the performance. Too many hands out, I guess.

Emerging from the subway we saw lawns covered with Christmas wreaths, a 9/11 memorial sponsored by Wreaths Across America and Wal-Mart. Since 9/11 Battery Park has become the site of many memorials, including an interesting one for the merchant marine. (Photo to come)

We walked across the park to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where we saw a very moving exhibit called Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, which makes a horrifying comparison between segregation and the holocaust.