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August 27, 2017

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Mr. Senescence

July 20, 2017

There were those that would have wept to step barefoot into reality…                            —Wallace Stevens

A picture of my family:
My mother and father and me,
all wading in some river.

Must be 1949 or so.
I can’t really remember it.
I would have been two.

But my feet were wet.
My father had his trousers
rolled up to his knees.

And mommy had a dress on.
The cold, clean water ran
through our toes.

(I could walk then. )
When your tongue reaches up
into the sky, the sky kisses it.

Yippy yi yo kayah.


Manhattenhedge

July 5, 2017

A few years ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the distinguished head of the Hayden Planetarium, became aware that NYC, because its streets were set out on a grid, some of them, indeed most of them, lined up pretty well with the setting sun around the summer equinox.  He gave the event the name Manhattanhenge, as the sun preformed the same function as at Stonehenge—it marked the summer solstice. The setting sun doesn’t line up at Manhattanhenge as precisely as it does at Stonehenge—it lines up 22 days before and 22 days after the equinox, and because the streets are a lot wider than the narrow passage, we get to see it four times a year, twice in May and twice in July. The next occurrence of Manhattanhenge is this July 12.  What was once a non-event has become a real New York adventure. People come from all over the word just to see the sunset. And they come to take pictures. Some of the biggest, most expensive cameras in the world take a picture of Manhattanhenge at least once in their lifetime.

Now, one of the best places to take your picture of Manhattanhenge is on the bridge over 42nd Street. The street lines up about as well as any street in Manhattan, and there is a lot of famous buildings to see, and there is a bridge over 42nd street that gives you an excellent view of the whole proceedings. The only trouble is the area gets very crowded and there is all that traffic anyway on 42nd street.  But this is where I live. I can go past 42nd street every day, and I could watch the sun set every day if I wanted to. (Of course, you can watch the sunset too.)

I was trying to take the best damn picture of Manhattanhenge that anyone has ever taken, and I think I succeeded. Take a look at the picture in the July 3 entry. Note I said July 3 and not July 12. I’m nine days ahead of time. Yet the sun appears to be setting. How did I do that? I’ll tell you in a minute. Let’s just take in the whole picture. At first glance, you just see the top half of the picture, where the sun is actually setting. It takes you a while to find the lower half of the frame. Low and behold: there is a car there with its roof dividing the picture in two. The top half, sure, holds the main event; but the bottom half takes in the rest of the world. That squat shape reflected in the glass is the UN, pal. Also in the picture is yours truly and some beautiful clouds. While the camera points west, the view in the car window is east, out across the East River, Long Island, the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe.  (Okay, you might have trouble making out Europe. But that really is the UN over there.)

Go back to the top half and look at the car roof. The reflection of the sun is continued down 42nd Street and on to the roof of the car. It holds the picture together, gives it a center. We follow the sun down 42nd Street and on to the buildings. The sun is blazing. On its fiery way to the other side of the planet. I took this picture at 8:20 July 3. Sunset is at 8:30. Why does the sun look like it is setting. Why can you even see the sun? if it is setting on July 3, it has passed 42nd Street.

Truth is, you are seeing the reflection of the sun as it shines off the glass windows of the newly refurbished 42nd Street. The sun is further north. 42nd street used to be the province of porno stores and heroin addicts. Now you can get a fix of Tex-Mex food on the corner and go see a show. Come and see those dancing feet. Where there is always light. 42nd Street. Just remember to bring your camera. Go see if you can take a better picture than I did.


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July 3, 2017

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June 23, 2017

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The Little Ones

June 17, 2017

I have been thinking of unearthing some of my old prose pieces that I wrote when Extrasimile was a mere babe in my arms. Though some of the material is dated, most is not. Or it is dated in a good way: it will help by providing a perspective on our current situation. Much of Extrasimile was written during the internet explosion. And when I was teaching at City College. I remember asking a teaching assistant I had had he ever heard of the Wikipedia. He shook his head. No, what is it?

I will start with a short story. It name when first published was A Thanksgiving Tale; that is still a good name, but I like The Little Ones better.

When he read it John Looker (then John Stevens)  wrote:
I thought I’d save it for later but read as far as: “the enormous faux pas of inviting Friedrich Nietzsche for Thanksgiving dinner” and was immediately hooked. What a hilarious idea!
It’s several decades since I read a bit of Nietzsche in my efforts to manage a youthful transition from faith to unfaith. I remember thinking that he created such an appallingly bleak vision of a godless universe that it strapped crampons on my feet before I slipped all the way down into nihilism.
Then I reached your bit: “There is a kind of parallel between the idea, held in such contradiction to the facts, and the believer who thanks God for His blessing, even as this God (who must be responsible for the bad as well as the good) rains down adversity.” So by now I was hooked on the ideas in your story and not just the humour. Where would you take us?
Then at the end you gave us the phone call from Jocelyn, the gasp, and an explanation for that early reference to the hospital that had been left hanging in the air.
A clever tale and woven very tightly. Not very comforting, but then why should it be? We have to find a way to cope. Perhaps May in the story in right (along with many millions) but that way simply won’t work for many of us. It didn’t work for FN either but he didn’t offer much of an alternative unless you find comfort in the thought of eternal rebirth in an arbitrary existence.
Perhaps Voltaire had a point: keep digging the garden? Raise turkeys. Enjoy your turkey today Jim and happy Thanksgiving.

John is a good reader of my stuff; his comments are introduction enough,

“Look, he practically begged me to invite him. He’s alone, he’s lonely, but in truth, he’s a nice guy, we shoot the breeze now and then, he’s very smart. Once you get past the silly mustache…

“Yes, I did know he can be contentious…

“Yes, I did know he can be overbearing…”

“And he brought those horrid sausages.”

Well, yes.

“And that beer….”

Okay, yes.

“…which incidentally had everybody so blitzed there was no one to drive me to the hospital.”

Yes, true, but…

***

A short segment of a very long conversation I had with my sister after I committed the enormous faux pas of inviting Friedrich Nietzsche for Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, I should have told her I was inviting a stranger, but it was a last minute thing. The man’s a famous philosopher, after all. Okay, a philologist. I still think it was more about turkey gravy in his mustache, then about what probably is a stupid idea—that which does not destroy me, makes me stronger. Sure, everybody had a little too much to drink, but that whole ‘grace thing’ my cousin May does every Thanksgiving set him off. It doesn’t mean that much to me. May wants to pray; I’m cool. But Friedrich Nietzsche…it’s obviously… you know, he’s made a name for himself, Mr. Anti-Christian.

“Father Sprit, blessed Jesus, Lord of the land, sea and air—please bless this table and those who sit in common communion at its portals…”

“This ‘Father Spirit’, liebchen, what does it signify…?”


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Cry, the Quiet Child

June 12, 2017

Cry, the quiet child, for there is such a stillness
in the air this morning, the meadow seems silent as frost.
So subtle is your murmur, it seems we must confess:
your voice must be the one—or be the one that’s lost.
For we were planned and planted deep at birth
to have the inner strength to free
the earth of all the world’s debris,
it must have all its hopes in grave and gravel earth.
So cry. Cry of august trees awake.
The sky, awake. The lake, awake. Stay, terrain.
Cry of song and psalm to shake
the house alive, massive in refrain.
Cry of moss and flowers frozen in the frost.
Cry the quiet child. Your meadow now is lost.


The Glories Undefined

May 18, 2017

Through a thrill of flowers that cannot be found
in any other meadow, the slimy vine is
thought to be extravagant; it seems to seep around
the luscious soil as if it were molasses
going uphill in January, cold and numb,
attached like wings to the ‘flesh-like’ roots:
Will the glories come? Will the glories ever come?
Many of the glories have routes
they have always used and have won with.
The glories grow inviolate in a violent mind.
The glories all want this urge to transform ‘kith’,
unprincipled, into a glorious morning, undefined.
But summer’s sun returns day after day.
The sky clears; the glories swell and sway.

 


The Moth

May 18, 2017

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May 15, 2017

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