Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The rage within

When I was a girl, I had a terrible relationship with my mother. Truly, it seemed as though she didn't like me, and the only way I could achieve a truce was to do it—everything—her way.

I wanted long hair; she cropped it brutally short. She wanted me to be unfailingly sweet-tempered and respectful; I rose to every provocation. She wanted me to do chores; I wanted to be untethered from anything having to do with home.

In college and beyond, I've mostly been able to do it my way: I wore my hair long and wild; I spoke my mind; I found a (mostly) stay-at-home partner and largely avoided household toil.

So one of the things that get under my skin when I head out for California and my quarterly stint of elder care is a certain sense of defeat. In the end, after all these years, she's won. Cancer has shorn my hair more harshly than her shears, and only a monster would be anything but kind and helpful in the face of her frailty.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Occupy NoHo

We were pretty excited a few years ago when the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated our part of NoHo a historic district.  “Oh, goody!” we thought. “NYU can’t plant any more purple flags in our area. We’ll be able to, you know, preserve the unique character of the neighborhood. Our property values will go up. We’ll be rich!”

Not.  Somehow it didn’t work out. NYU continues to buy up buildings and snatch zoning variances. Giant hotels and tony restaurants have squeezed out the flophouses and soup kitchens. And as for getting rich, we’re just getting poorer. Old-time residents now have to pay more—way more—and eat a whole lot of red tape just to maintain our shitty little homes. Our cost to replace two of the three windows overlooking the street doubled when we had to make an application—with architectural drawings—to the LPC for permission and discovered that the application would require us to replace the third window too, even though it is practically new and works just fine. 


Asanology, yogamatics

Yet another news story in the Times exclaims on the amazing possibility of a relationship between physical exercise and mental dexterity: “Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.”

The connection seems so obvious to yogis and yoginis. One of the challenges of asana practice is the constant need to translate verbal instruction into physical expression. “Rotate your upper outer arms in and your lower inner arms out.” “Lift your chest and tuck your tailbone.” “Draw your hips toward the ceiling and drop your heels toward the floor.” 

Just like “Rub your tummy and pat your head,” these complicated instructions, which almost always come in opposing pairs, take a lot of brainpower to grok and even more to put into action. Of course it makes you smarter!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On aging

From “Hearing Secret Harmonies,” by Anthony Powell:

“The friendships of later life, in contrast with those negotiated before thirty, are apt to be burdened with reservations, constraints, inhibitions. Probably thirty was placing the watershed too late for the age when both parties begin more or less to know (at least think they know) what the other is talking about; as opposed to those earlier friendships—not unlike love affairs, with all sexual elements removed—which can exist with scarcely an interest in common, mutual misunderstanding of character and motive all but absolute.”

“Two compensations for growing old are worth putting on record as the condition asserts itself. The first is a vantage point gained for acquiring embellishments to narratives that have been unfolding for years beside one’s own, trimmings that can even appear to supply the conclusion of a given story, though finality is never certain, a dimension always possible to add. The other mild advantage endorses a keener perception for the authenticities of mythology, not only of the traditional sort, but—when such are any good—the latterday mythologies of poetry and novel.”

“She began to speak disjointedly of Stringham. She was, I thought, perhaps a little mad now. As one gets older, one gets increasingly used to encountering this development in friends and acquaintances; causing periods of self-examination in a similar connexion.”

“One’s capacity for hearing about ghastly doings lessens with age.”

The more you trans, the more you form

I rarely take yoga at the unfortunately named Crunch gym anymore. My tastes and needs and available hours have narrowed, so gym yoga doesn’t usually work for me. But the yoga class I took today suited me in every way.

Not only did it incorporate safety (precise instructions) and adventure (handstands!), but it also included a good homily, a feature missing from much modern yoga. It’s a mystery to me how women half my age can sometimes deliver a little sermon that magically speaks to brain and body as it perambulates among the poses throughout the class. 

The theme today was change, how change is stressful, but no matter how unsettling it is, we clearly crave it because we practice yoga, which is all about transformation. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The kindness of stylists

I just want to say that I have the kindest, smartest hair stylist in the world. This weekend when I got my hair cut, I told him I was worried that my very thin hair seemed to be falling out at a faster rate than usual. "Oh, don't worry about that," he said. "It's just the old hair making way for the new hair." He didn't skip a beat. How did he know to say this perfect thing? 

Friday, April 13, 2012


Artless art

I know this is not an original thought. Indeed, I myself have had it many times. But today as I was walking to the subway, it struck me again how construction-wrapped buildings resemble Christo installations.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


After reading the post on FOMO and YOLO, a friend told me she felt GORF—getting old really fast (or, alternatively, according to Wikipedia, Galactic Orbiting Robot Force).

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Two new words from the lexicon of youth: FOMO (fear of missing out) and YOLO (you only live once).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the air

Deepak Chopra, April 6, CNN: “It’s such an ugly word to describe the human being—consumer. I mean, here we are as human beings, with insights, intuition, creativity, inspiration, imagination, and choice, and we call ourselves consumers. It makes me shudder just to think of how we describe a human being.”

A cat and her girl


There’s a lot of lore on feline intuition about approaching death. There’s an eerie story about a cat that lived in a nursing home and consistently spent the night at the bedside of one or another resident who died the next day. (One wonders whether the presence of the cat played a role.) And my normally aloof cats were touchingly attentive while I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. 

At the time, I found Iggy and Ivy’s attention comforting. They seemed so sensitive and caring. But nowadays I find it a little alarming when they’re affectionate. Is it a bad omen? Do I stink of disease and death? 

Easter on 49th Street

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Old lady in her nightie

Is there anything more embarrassing than being caught in your nightie at 7 p.m. by the UPS guy? On Tuesdays I get ready for bed early because on Wednesdays I get up at 5 so I can get to work by 7. I made so many excuses to the poor UPS guy tonight—“Really, I’m not this pathetic. I never go to bed this early”—that by the time I signed for the package, he was saying things like “Honestly, it’s o.k. I don’t think you’re pathetic at all. Really, don’t worry about it.”

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The gift that keeps on giving

For Christmas I gave myself a copy of the complete 12-volume Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell. I had read most of it 30 years ago, but the volumes were hard to find, so I read them out of order. I thought that accounted for my difficulty in remembering who was who.

But this time around, reading it in perfectly chronological order, I find myself floundering again. Partly it’s because some characters, like Alfred Tolland (the name of an uncle and his nephew), have the same name. Partly it’s because a single character sometimes has more than one name, like Alf Tolland (one of 10 Tolland siblings), who is also known as Erridge, Erry and Lord Warminster. Partly it’s because a noble title often refers to several people who have held it at different times. And then there’s the issue of musical spouses, so a reference to someone’s wife might mean one woman in one volume and quite another in a subsequent volume.

Discouraged, I began consulting Professor Google from time to time to refresh my memory. And I came upon a citation for a 330-page “handbook” to the series, called Invitation to the Dance. Aha! I thought. I bought the handbook, by Hilary Spurling, and discovered that a good 200 pages of it consists of a listing of the characters, along with brief identifications. And the introduction, written by Powell himself, notes comfortingly that “throughout the course of a twelve-volume novel, four or five hundred characters, a million words, even the best disposed reader can forget the detail of what went before.”

Four or five hundred characters! It’s not me, it’s them.