September 18

Off to New York City for three days. Updates below on the 4th, 5th, and 15th.

September 17

A footnote to last week's Harvest Moon (courtesy of The New York Times): Mars and the bright bluish star Regulus are still relatively close to each other early this week in the eastern dawn sky, 45 minutes before sunrise, though Mars is now racing away from the star, Mars is unusually dim now, shining only at magnitude +1.8, just a trifle brighter than Polaris, the North Star. This is because Mars is nearly 234 million miles from Earth. But that distance decreases a bit each day. By June, Mars will be about 42 million miles away and will appear some 48 times as bright. With the bright Moon now out of the evening sky, the Milky Way can be seen high overhead. This galaxy's center is about 30,000 light-years away toward Sagittarius; its outer edge is about 20,000 light-years in the opposite direction. With binoculars, observers can sweep up from the Scorpion's tail, through the Summer Triangle, and down to Cassiopeia and Perseus. There, vast concentrations of clusters, large apparent gaps like the Great Rift in Cygnus and an almost unimaginable array of stars are clearly visible.

September 15

I was standing on line at Barnes & Noble today, waiting to buy The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and I noticed this book on sale for $1.00: "Wisdom Distilled From The Daily, Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today." In the small book, the author, Joan Chittister, who is a member and former prioress of the Benedictine Sisters Community in Erie, Pennsylvania and author of "Psalm Journal" and "Winds of Change," presents the Rule of Benedict as a living guide that affirms the spiritual, psychological, and social values of work, leisure, hospitality, community, listening, humility, stability, obedience, service, and care for the earth. She shows how "immersion in life is exactly the point of Benedictine monasticism" and that "the Benedictine does not set out to avoid life; the Benedictine sets out to live the ordinary life extraordinary well."

I picked the book up and flipped the pages to this:

"Benedictine spirituality asks us to recognize our connectedness, that is, to see the consequences of our actions. Look at the following list and consider how what you do in each area is connected to the world and other people. Underline those ares of your life in which it is easiest to see consequences of your aactions. Circle those areas in which it is most difficult. What are some ways you can help yourself feel more connected and be more aware?

My daily work
What I eat and how I prepare it
The clothes I wear
The way I spend my money
Where I live
What I do with my free time
How I raise my children
The way I garden and care for my yard
The form of transportation I use
The way I exercise my political rights
Where I shop
My involvement with my church or religious community
My volunteer activities
The way I invest my money

September 12

Thunderstorms last night. And now storm clouds moving southeast, giving way to a robin's egg blue sky. Green leaves growing pale, or already turning red, orange, yellow.

Before Danielle's soccer game yesterday, I stopped at Forbes Library in Northampton and checked out two books: "Indivisble by Four, A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony" by Arnold Steinhardt and "The Brown Sisters" by Nicholas Nixon. I've always loved these photos of the Brown sisters and was fortunate to see the show (25 photos) this past year in New York City. Peter Galassi writes: "Rarely has so absorbing a work of art been so little in need of commentary. The Brown sisters face the camera just as our siblings and parents and grandparents and children and in-laws do in our family pictures. We might wish that we had made our photographs as regularly, and that our family included a photograpger of such discipline and skill. And we ought to marvel at the candor and perseverance of the four women, who have sustained the project year after year, even after they knew that their essentially private portraits were likely to show up publicly, in books and on the walls of museums. But otherwise Nison's pictures do what all family photographs do: they fix a presence and mark the passage of time, graciously declining to expound or explain. Or perhaps that is not quite true. Perhaps the obvious similarity between Nixon's series and our family photographs invites us to discount a crucial difference. We bring worlds of knowledge and feeling to our own snapshots, but we know next to nothing about the Brown sisters. The depth of Nixon's mute allusion to the living of four linked lives rests on the alertness and delicacy of his attention."

With its founding members still in place after thrity-five years (!!!), "Indivisible by Four" is the story of the Guarneri String Quartet. Here from the first page: "HMM. NOT QUITE. Perhaps if I play the melody with a little more verve and abandon, with more suppleness, it will come alive. But not too much abandon! Oterwise, John will have trouble following me. We two violins have to be perfectly together, like twins in matching outfits. And don't forget Micahel. His viola part, with the underlying rhythmic pulse, is a running commentary on the violin's conversation, and if we dawdle, we'll be out of synch with him. Try it again. No, no. Out of tune. That wouldn't sound pretty over Dave's sustained cello line. The row of naked dressing-room ligtbulbs casts a clinical glare on my music. Why isn't this getting any easier. We have played this piece, Smetana String Quartet 'From My Life,' literally hundreds of times, and before each performance I grapple with the same melody, a love song, really, trying to capture its youthful ardor...One might expect that after this long, Smetana's emotive music would have settled comfortably into the muscles, tendons, even the synapses of the the brain, and play itself."

September 11

This Wednesday night brings us the Harvest Full Moon, so designated because it is the one closest in this year's calendar to the autumnal equinox. Farmers at the peak of the harvest season can work late into the night by the light of the moon. Typically the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, though between September 12 and 16 the night-to-night difference will average less than 30 minutes. This happens because around the time of the Harvest Moon, the rising moon makes its smallest angle relative to the eastern horizon. The moon will still be in the sky to keep you company later in the week if you care to arise around 6 a.m. to catch the ever-changing configuration between Mars and the first magnitude star Regulus in Leo, the Lion. Each morning Mars gets noticeably closer, the pair appearing closest together Saturday morning low in the eastern sky about 45 minutes before sunrise. Regulus will appear a bit brighter than Mars, but the color contrast between the blue star and topaz planet should be striking--that is if it raining.

September 8

I think I have watched way too much tennis on TV these past eleven or twelve days (and this does not take into acount the tennis I watched on the Classic Sports network before the U.S. Open began); but maybe not enough--after Moya went ahead a few nights ago against Martin two sets to love I figured he'd win (it was 11:30 as well and I was tired; the match went till 1:30) know the rest of the story--Martin won. So I checked my e-mail, found an update from my friend Carol (Carol who asked me recently what I thought of prayer and the internet as it might relate to planetary healing) and went to bed and dreamed about playing tennis (yes, honest)! I'm not sure, though, if I was playing in the "Men's 45 Singles" or "Men's Legends." So all this tennis watching is the number one reason why I'm just now writing. Funny though--even Betsy was disappointed there was no tennis on TV Friday night. Me, too.

The other distraction has been that my "new" job is uncertain as they have yet to get their second round of financing. I had a very good talk with CEO earlier in week and he's hopeful it will come through as he met with a number of investors this past week and meets with board this coming Thursday. I am ever a believer that they truly do have a sound business model; business continues to grow (The Washington Post, The LA Times, more from Nordstrom's, Neiman-Marcus, etc.) What amazes me is all the wacky ideas that got incredible amounts of enthusiastic funding this past year; weak business models and weak management. I've never been particularly good waiting for something to happen so this past week I've been rather anxious (I guess it was a good thing tennis could serve as a diversion all week!). And, again, as Carol e-mailed me this weekend: "when one door closes another door opens."

An e-mail from a friend who I have not seen nor talked with in 35 years arrives (via "Bruce! Great to hear from you. Yes, it's tough to go back. When my parents still lived in Teaneck, I would visit Phelps Parks from time-to-time and would feel the shock. Everything seemed in three-quarters scale. But I guess that's what kids' memories are. I move west in 1972 as a transfer student to the University of Oregon and found a home there. I've been a reporter for 25 years, for the last 18 at The Oregonian, the big daily in Portland. Usually, that's a lot of fun. When I was kid I had no clue I could learn to write. In 1982, I married a Connecticut woman I had met at my first paper...No kids, but we have a dog and cat. We live in a cozy 1906-vintage house with a garden full of tall sunflowers. We have a corny old motorboat that looks like it belonged to Perry Mason and an antique electric train layout in the basement. I still get a warm feeling when I think of Phelps Park and our softball games. I get a chuckle thinking of you, Donny Schiller, Don Corbin, Greg Demadis, Richie Barron, and Jim Parkinson. Also others showed up--Stu Ostrow, Bert Holman, John and Jimmy Gardner. I wonder if some of those guys ended up in prison? I still have a great image of a Chinese kid name Andre that Schiller always called 'The People's Republic Rightfielder.' That still kills me. And then there was a kid we all called 'Dr. Alan' and I have no idea why. Do you remember all the semi-hoodlum Catholic school girls who tagged along, watching us. They provided great inspiration in more ways than one. Do you know what happened to any of those people? I hope you can write soon and tell me about your life." I will.

September 6

Did we leave for school so early? Danielle gets up at 5:40 and leaves with Betsy at 6:40 (Betsy drives her as it's not too far away from Smith). Betsy gets up at 5:50. Daryl gets up at 6:15 and walks down street with two neighborhood girls at 7:00. I get up at 6:30. This all MUST go as clockwork. I still hope to train my mind and body to wake up much earlier, say at 5, to allow time to meditate and run. I've been exercising after work but now with the kids' sports dominating the late afternoons and the possibilty of this new job, morning really is the best and right time. Danielle had her first two soccer games this week. She got a goal in both. They won first and lost second, which was today--the team looked tired, out of shape, so of course the coach will have them running wind sprints for next week or so.

September 5

A poem by Ho Xuan Huong (September/October issue, American Poetry Review). She was born at the end of the second Le Dynasty (1592-1788), a period of calamity and social disintegration. Nearly nine hundred years had elapsed since Ngo Quyen had driven out the Chinese to establish an independent Vietnam modeled, nevertheless, on the Chinese court and its mandarinate. By the end of the Le period, the Confucian social order had calcified and was crumbling. In the north, the powerful Trinh clan controlled the Le kings and their court at present-day Hanoi. The trinh warred with the Nguyn clan whose southern Hue court was aided by Portuguese arms and French troops recruited by colonial missionaries. Finally, adding to decades of grim chaos, in 1771 three brothers known as the Tay-Son began a populist rebellion that would vanquish the Trinh, the Le, and Nguyen rulers, seizing Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon, and creating their own short-lived dynasty (1788-1802) that would soon fall to the Nguyen. This period of social collapse and ruin was, perhaps not surpisingly, also a high point in the long tradition of Vietnamese poetry. What is surprising about Ho Xuan Huong's writing is that she wrote at all--further, that she earned immediate and continuing acclain. After all, she was a woman writing poetry in a male, Confucian tradition. While women have always held high positions in Vietnamese society--sometimes leading armies, often advising rulers, and always involved in the management of wealth--few were acclamined as poets, perhaps because few were tutored in the rigorous literary studies given young men preparing to take their imperial exams in hopes of finding their places in the bureaucratic hierarchy that governed Vietnam from 939 A.D. into the twentieth century. Also surprising is what she wrote about. At the end of the Le Dynasty, when the social status of women was sharply reduced, she constantly questioned the order of things. In addtion, she chose to write in Nom--a writing system that represented Vietnamese speech--rather than Chinese, the language of the Mandarin elite. And, finally, the most surprising fact is that the greater part of her poems--each a marvel in the sonnet-like lu-shih style--are double entendres: each has hidden within it another poem with sexual meaning.


Drop by drop rain slaps the banana leaves,
Praise whoever sketched this desolate scene:

the lush, dark canopies of the gnarled trees,
the long river, sliding smooth and white.

I lift my wine flask, drunk with rivers and hills.
My backpack, breathing moonlight, sags with poems.

Look, and love everyone.
Whoever sees this landscape is stunned.

September 4

Well, I did it. I cleaned out four file cabinets and cleaned off my desk today. Here are some interesting things I found:

February 1980 Esquire cover story "Sighs and Whimpers From the Sixties Generation" by Sara Davidson, author of "Loose Change--Three Women of the Sixties": "Who is the rich man? asks the Talmud. The question has never seemed more relevant. The answer of the sages is: 'He who is satisfied with what he has.' I have a good job and a condo on the beach. I run four miles a day and play tennis twice a week. I'm in perfect health, and my roller skates cost $100. I guess you could say I'm unhappy."

December 1980 Texas Monthly feature story "No Man's Land" by Richard West. "Dallas's Highland Park is a women's enclave. Luxury is the norm, raising kids is the major industry, and the only thing to fear is change. Now that the maid had arrived and was busy preparing breakfast for the kids, Ann pulled on her running clothes and stepped outside for her two-mile jog through the neighborhood, Her street showed few signs of life this early: a barking dog, a small nigthgowned child sleepily sitting on her sidewalk steps cradling a cat, an elderly man picking up the morning newspaper. As always, nothing appeared to be amiss along the streets of Highland Park--the still-slumbering neighborhood seemed to have existed forever. Constancy and predictability were two of its greatest glories; suprise was as rare as rubbish or decay. There was little to startle a stranger except perhaps the sudden activation of a lawn sprinkler system."

1978 Harpers & Queen feature story "Recycling The 60s" by Peter York. "Instant media replay means we live in a wraparound past. The Sixties, barely gone as reality, are already with us again as period: relived, reassessed, recycled (and occasionally reviled), as much an era as the Jazz Age or the War years. It's 1978, and the Sixties people temselves, scarcely into middle age, could be rubbing shoulders with a rising generation dressed up in their old clothes......On the street now, there are new skinheads, punks, disco kids, clones of every youth culture of the last twenty-five years--all out and running at the same time--and there is an upcoming wave of new Flower Children in the pipeline; fifteen-year-old bubble-headed freaklets--not your Frye booted early-thirties Eagles fan, but the Real Thing."

1986 Village Voice (or SOHO News) article about Tin Pan Alley, my all-time favorite bar. It was featured in The New York Times as a Times Square business owned and operated by a woman, a bar frequented by prostitues and other Times Square workers, artists, musicians, writers. When I worked at Hearst Magazines I went here for lunch almost every day and at nights to hear the music and poetry. It was here I met the photographers Nan Goldin and Philip-Lorca di Corcia (both took photos for me at Science Digest Animated; see below). The artist Cara Perlman. The actress Alice Barrett. Photographed The Clash. Heard The Del Byzanteens. The Drongos. "...with an owner interested in promoting challenging poets, and musicians, Tin Pan Alley has cultivated its own miscellany, and it may get a larger cast--whether it wants one or not, a very open question--from 'Sound and Substance' an 11-week series of unmusical pairings. Hooking up Japanese frontliners the Honeymoons with Hugo Largo's arid nocturnes, say, or Antietam's gusty wailing against Shelley Hirsch's wailing fun...Tin Pan Alley's owner, Maggie Smith, said: 'I'm very interested in booking and helping young political bands and artists (Nan Goldin first exhibited here)...I like to hear subversive music.' It's a bar with music, or poetry. 'I want people to come who want to be in a politcal environment, and who think that way.'"

A 1983 journal entry; a story Suzanne, a bartender at Tin Pan Alley told me: "Oh yeck," Suzanne said. "That's what my daughter said when I told her she was developing breasts. She called me at the bar and she was crying because she had a small lump below one of her nipples. I asked her if she had a lump under the other nipple and she didn't. I told her breats develop at different rates and into different sizes. The she started crying. You know, Bruce, she's at that age when she's filled with questions. Last week she asked me where kids came from. I told her and then she said,'Well, mommy, I know you didn't take your bra off.'"

1981 Journal entry. There was a party for Johnny D at Tin Pan Alley last night to celebrate his homecoming. He had been in the hospital for six weks recuperating from a gunshot wound in his forehead. He's the doorman at Tin Pan Alley on Friday an Saturday nights and the bouncer at an after hours club run by his twin brother, Steve, Maggie's lover of ten years. It happened at the after hours club. Some guy comes up to him and says buy me a drink; Johnny says no, and bang, the guy shoots him right above the eye. The bullet is still lodged there; you can actually see it bulging out from under the skin. This coming Saturday Maggie invited us to a party at Susan Brownmiller's penthouse for Jane Alpert. Susan wrote "Against our Will..." and Jane was a Swathmore honors student during the 60s and was responsible or took part in the bombing of several offie buildings in New York City, including the Chase Manhattan Bank. Jane's book is called "Growing Up Radical."

An old Poem:

By the ocean the singer stood and she sang.
In the still waters of a volcanic lake
Asphyxiating gases that had come
From as far as 1,000 years ago
Suddenly spewed into the air
A mysterious cloud of gas swept
Across the remote mountain valley of West Africa.
How without life this town is
Where a little girl died
Peacefully in her house, a horse
Tethered nearby, hopelessly entangled
Telegraph a message to off island worshipers.
Now from my porch I watch the Western breeze
Under the stormy sky the sea
And all that's green seems to stir.

Journal notes: On a cold, sunny Saturday morning, a few days after Ground Hogs Days, we had the opportunity to hear Helen Fisher, Ph.D, author of "The Sex Contract," research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research and co-vice-chair of the anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences, lecture on "Twenty Million Years of Human Evolution: Language, Kinship, Emotions, Religion, and Sex," to a group of fifty boys and girls, ages 11-15, who are enrolled in Science Digest Animated at Fordham Unversity at Lincoln Center, a program I helped to organize in my capacity as Promotion Director at Science Digest. "......Archaelogists are sometimes called garbage historians. They collect bones and rubbish and recontruct...the thing that has occupied my time for the past ten years is evolution. Where did we come from? Why and how did we come down from the trees?...This slide demonstrates a disturbing thing discovered a few years ago. Jane Goodall and an assistant noticed groups of male chimpanzees from one territory (we have territories; in school, in neighborhoods) sneaking off to the border and observing other chimpanzees in the other territory. One day the chimpanzees raced into the neighboring territory and slaughtered the chimpanzees and usurped their territory. Is that much differnt from what the Russians in Afganistan are doing

A Poem by Martha Rodgers called "True Objects"

There is a beach not far from here
that I have come to know and love
and often go to it at sunset,
for at sunset it is quite beautiful
and changes quickly
which I am impatient for--
It is not far from here
but far differently
as all that we come to know and love is.

September 2

When we arrived home from dinner at Kathy Byrnes' house in Leverett, we found an old black and white Beagle shivering and crying in the rain outside our house.

September 1

I had hoped to hear about my "new job" today; alas, no news.

It was just a few weeks ago I had promised to take Daryl and a few friends to Six Flags New England. I guess I wasn't paying much attention during the week when he kept updating me as to who was going for by Saturday there were more people than could fit in our car. I called Andrea from across the street to ask if she could take the girls; I would take the boys and stay with the kids all day. Five boys. Five girls. Daryl, Tim, David, Sean, Andrew. Alisa, Leah, Alysa, Katie, Ericka. I was their chaperone. We were to meet every two hours to make sure everyone was okay and I kind of promised a few parents I'd keep a close eye on them; between the brief meeetings I sat by the pool and read Bridget Jones' Diary. LOL. First meeting. Two O'clock. A snapshot: one girl with one black eye. Ouch. Seems she and Daryl were waiting on line to buy french fries and she fainted, falling on to a garbage can. I wsn't sure if she fainted from the heat or from standing next to Daryl. Have you ever fainted before, I ask her, this thin, perfectly cute, angelic blonde. No, never, she says. I wasn't sure if I felt better knowing that answer or not.

Patti at thegardencafe writes about an experience at the County Fair, "seeing faces of children I felt like I knew for 30 years...blended with the faces of their was only now that they had reached an age that matched an age of my most vivid memories of their was like seeing two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you know will fit together...and so a piece of sadness came to rest with me among all these sweet faces I saw at the county fair...Mary...was looking for her daughter--except she wasn't going to find her. We both knew that. She was hoping to catch some glimpse of someone that could have been her daughter admidst all these beautifully blended faces."