Part I: September

 

Hey Harry,

Today was kind of a wash. I spent 15 minutes on hold with my bank before I pounded enough 00000000s into the phone to connect me to a real person. I was convinced this fraudulent entity called “SBUX” on my statement was slowly and erroneously taking money out of my account in $4 and $5 dollar increments. I was extremely put out that I had to spend my time dealing with this. I was really outraged. It turns out SBUX is Starbucks. I had to hang up on the customer service lady because she was being smug.

Unrelated: Did you know Pomeranian is an adjective referring to Pomerania, an area divided between Poland and Germany? Maybe that’s why Pomeranians look so much like grandma.

Hey Matilda,

Life is logistics. You’ve got to learn to deal with these daily annoyances, Mat. You’re too hard done by.

Me, I make lists. You should make a list each morning and then follow it carefully.

Hey Harry,

I just put 300 Christmas lights (so cheap off season!) on a tree that’s barely three feet high. If I look at it and then look away quickly, little dots swim across my field of vision. It’s pretty excellent. In other news, the lady across the street keeps her blinds about twelve inches raised, so that when she’s just out of the shower and her lights are on, I can see the swath of her upper thigh to her lower abdomen, and her pubic hair is a wild, distracting show. It’s like the classic ’70s pubic hair that you just don’t see anymore.

The Brazilian bikini wax craze has had a really pervasive and detrimental effect on vaginas. This kind of thing is a rare occurrence now.

Needless to say, I’m tremendously visually inspired right now. What’s new with you?

(Don’t tell mom about the tree.)


 Hey Matilda,

 Two resounding thoughts from my weekend.

One: There was a woman in the newspaper saying she doesn’t like French kissing. This has caused problems in her marriage, but she just can’t bring herself to do it. I feel somewhat vindicated by this. But I won’t say I told you so.

Two: I watched basketball for a while on TV and had the realization that fouls are bad, not good! You don’t actually want to make them. That clears up some things for me about seventh grade gym.

That’s all for today— I’m off to grade some disappointing papers.

 

Hey Harry,

 I don’t remember you telling me you don’t like French kissing, but I’ll let you tacitly tell me so. I just got home and these were the contents of my mailbox, so I made a list. I don’t like what this says about me, it doesn’t seem true.

 

A.    Two Ivy League Alumni magazines

B.     Two New Yorkers

C.     Two New York Magazines

D.    One Economist Magazine

 

 

Matilda,

The boyfriend reads the Economist? I give you two seven more months at the outside.

I’m sorry you’ve forgotten that I don’t like kissing, but I’m sure you do remember that I like to get all my important correspondence out to folks on Tuesday mornings, as that’s when they’re most likely to read and respond. Tuesday between 10 and 11am. After coffee, before lunch haze. So hopefully I have your full attention right now.

I think you’re having bad luck, to be sure, with this residency stuff, but I also think your energy isn’t in the right place. I just read this great book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. It teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

Try it, M.  Here are some chapter headers:

The Waste of Free Time

The Rules of the Games of the Mind

Flow through the Senses: The Joys of Seeing

Disorder in Consciousness: Psychic Energy

Now go make some work! Make, make, create! Don’t analyze it, and don’t yell at bank operators.

Also: I saw an undergrad with a bowl cut and high striped socks on campus today, and it reminded me of you in your field hockey glory. You know, sports are a flow activity too.

One more thing, Matilda- bird watching is also a flow activity. You can get iBird Explorer for your mobile device. Then you can identify birds.

And lay off the bourbon please.

 

Hey Harry,

 Great tip on the bird watching. Remind me again when I’m fifty and live in backwoods Maine.

And keep your eyes off those coeds.

 

Hey Matilda,

I remembered where I got the bit about creating and not analyzing—from John Cage’s Rules for Students and Teachers:

Rule #8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Do you know what rule #9 is?

Rule #9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.

I tell this one to my students all the time.

 

Hey Harry,

#9 is a made-up lie. Do your students call you on it?

I fell asleep with my headphones on last night. I woke up with my music still blaring, in a cold sweat. The lyric I woke up to:

tell me what you know about dreams, dreams
tell me what you know about night terrors, nothin

you don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow
rather lay awake in a bed full of sorrow

 Do you ever feel like the universe is giving us hints about our future all the time but we’re unable to understand?

 

Hey Matilda,

I think these signs happen more often to you than to the rest of us.

 

Hey Harry,

 I think you’re right. I get the signs but not the message. I’m like a highly attuned, extremely useless oracle.

I found out today the head of my old grad school art program has retired and taken a job as a real estate broker. Compared to that, wedding photography doesn’t seem so bad. At least it’s a stone’s throw from actual art. A groom even told me last week “not to hesitate to be artistic.”

 

Hey Matilda,

 It could definitely be worse. I like to remind myself that teaching writing is highly related to actual writing.

 

Hey Harry,

Yes, teaching writing is perhaps the gateway to writing! You should probably write something, though, to prove the rule.

 

Matilda,

 Oh Im writing all the time. Just mostly in my head.

 

Harry,

If I looked on the bright side, my thinking would go like this: It’s a good thing that I accidentally grabbed the laxatives instead of the Ibuprofen this morning, because now my system is cleaner than it has ever been at 3pm on a Wednesday, and I can eat extra veggie burger because I’ve cleared room for it.

If I looked on the dark side, my thinking would go like this: This Bride thinks I’m a drugged out freak because I keep running to the bathroom during our business meeting, and not only will I not book this job, but I’ll have to skip my dinner date* too because it may be ok to take three ibuprofens but three natural and good-for-you laxative tablets take a full 24 hours to churn through.

*Which was my idea to bring romance back into my relationship and now will seem like “poor follow through,” one of my major issues, according to him.

 

You wouldn’t believe this bride, Harry. Her name is Catherine and she’s marrying someone named William! I think she was affecting a British accent to capitalize on the coincidence. She gave me relationship advice, too. Told me to ditch the boyfriend and wait until I’m ovulating (only she called it being in heat, like a cat, because we’re all mammals after all) and then go to an expensive bar with good clientele and wait for men to approach me. She said that hormones always work. This is groundbreaking advice. We ARE all mammals. Mammals who will mate and then die, never to return. Only our spawn will remember us.  Until they also die.

 

Hey, Matilda

I was just reminded of that Lenny Bruce bit from the seventies. Here it is in case you forgot.

 

Jewish and Goyish

Dig: Im Jewish. Count Basies Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantors goyish. Bnai Brith is goyish; Hadassah, Jewish.

If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesnt matter even if youre Catholic; if you live in New York, youre Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, youre going to be goyish even if youre Jewish.

 Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.

 All Drakes Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes, goyish. Black cherry sodas very Jewish, macaroons are very Jewish.

 Underwear is definitely goyish. Balls are goyish. Titties are Jewish.

 Celebrate is a goyish word. Observe is a Jewish word. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh are celebrating Christmas with Major Thomas Moreland, USAF (ret.), while Mr. and Mrs. Bromberg observed Hanukkah with Goldie and Arthur Schindler from Kiamesha, New York.

Lenny Bruce

 

ps Why dont people say dig anymore? Im going to take it up.

 

Hey Harry,

Ive made a Jewish and Goyish version of this in honor of my brides:

 Dig: I’m Jewish. Tents are Jewish, Banquet Halls, goyish.

If you make a long toast, give wet lipstick kisses, or have chair dancing at your wedding, you’re Jewish. If you’re married in Newport RI, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.

Fondant icing is goyish. Manischewitz is goyish even though the Jews invented it. Prosecco is Jewish and Champagne is goyish. Seltzer is Jewish. Jagermeister is goyish. Shots of Jager are very goyish.

All veils are goyish. Pantyhose are Jewish.  Stockings are Jewish. (But if you call them nylons, they’re goyish.) Bridemaids are goyish. Maids of honor, Jewish. Ring bearers are goyish, dog ring bearers very goyish.

Sobbing fathers are all Jews. Mothers dabbing their eyes are goyish. Bands are Jewish. DJs are goyish, even if they play Paul Simon.

Vests are definitely goyish. Bow ties are Jewish. Garter belts, Jewish.

“Wedding” is goyish. “Marriage” is Jewish.

Film is jewish. Digital: goyish. Video: extremely goyish.

Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Bradley are pleased to announce the wedding of their children.

Mr. Max Hirsch and Mrs. Rose Beckerman request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter.

 

Hey Matilda-

Well done.

 

Hey Harry,

 Thanks. You know I enjoy praise from the internet.

I think Ill purchase www.praisefromtheinternet.com and each day put up an encouraging thought. ie:

 Good job!

Keep going!

You have exceptionally nice hair and teeth.

DaVinci was under-recognized once too.

Wouldn’t that be good for the world?

 

Hey Matilda,

It would be. I might add:

There’s still time to be famous! 

You’ll definitely get tenure, don’t give it a moment’s thought!

 

Hey Harry,

Homefront malaise. I painted the hallway a delightful Babette Ivory this weekend, and Nate showed not the slightest interest in joining in the improvements. 

 

Hey Matilda,

I’m always surprised when I see the undergrads on campus moving into their dorms with diligent fathers towing their dressers and duffels. Seems like an alternate world of responsible men, it’s quite foreign. Speaking of, have you heard from him lately?

 

Hey Harry,

Oh yes, we had our quarterly email exchange about death and futility.

 

Hey Matilda,

Share please.

 

Hey Harry,

Hi Matilda! I was just looking at a picture of a retirement home on the seashore. I imagined myself there in 30 years. I’ll be almost 95. Then I thought, “Wow, Matilda will be 64! I imagined you more aged than I am now. Then I had to write to you  before you get any older!

 I was moved by our conversation a few months back at grandma’s. It was deep -- psychologically and spiritually. Love, death, the possibility of human choice in our lives. We were on the same wavelength. I said how choosing one path meant we lost forever all the other possibilities foregone. You said “Yeah, it’s like dying! I recognized your response as what I often say as well. It’s genetic! Amazing, and wonderful. I’m so happy you are alive on this earth!

 

 Hey Matilda,

Ah, that’s a good one, thanks.

 

Hey Harry,

 Yep.

Also: why is it so cold outside? I’ve been a little aimless of late, or maybe just distracted by the nippy air. I don’t want to put on pants again. I can’t leave the house. I need to locate the midpoint between a loafer and a boot. What are you up to?

 

Hey Matilda,

 Nothing much doing here. Grading papers. I went ahead and bought that online genetic test I told you about – the price went down to $99, so I figured it was worth it. It will give the part of me that was good at high school Biology a little thrill, I think.

It’s pretty amazing what science can tell us about our ancestry now. I’m so curious to imagine what our forebears were up to— maybe it’s the writer in me, but I find it totally fascinating. It’s so odd that most people don’t know anything about even two generations back.

 

Harry,

That just shows you how quickly our own grandchildren will cease to give two shits about us. Maybe that’s why grandma is so intense.

Will this test tell you if you (but mostly I) will die early of cancer? I maintain a lingering and not insignificant fear that I will die early of cancer, or will it be Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s? If I start thinking too much about it I can’t breathe right.

You know— I don’t even know my blood type, which is a tragedy because I can’t do the blood type diet. Although periodically I read the rules of each diet and decide which one sounds like me and then I fantasize about the diet I should be on to give me lots of energy and lifepurpose TM. I think I should be a B Type blood, because those are the folks who can eat cheese, lots of it.

 

Matilda,

 My blood type is A. I seriously doubt yours is B, unless you secretly hail from India. And yes, the genetics test tells you the likelihood of getting all types of diseases, and also tells you how much of which ethnicity you have in your ancestry. I will share the results with you—ours would probably be very similar, except different traits show up on the male/female chromosomes.

I’m not so interested in the diseases part. Carpe Diem, right? Try not to stop breathing. 

 

Harry,

Genetics are a bitch. I see this often when I’m shooting weddings, during the family portrait portion of the event. Five beautiful, vivacious daughters and two troll-like, red-faced sons. In any case, I hope you get some exciting news about the future. I have a long history of reading the last page of the book first, so I’m a fan of this project.

This really is exciting, Harry, that you can find this genetic stuff out from spitting in a tube and sending it to a website. I knew things were going to get good after they invented the Walkman.

Will they tell us if we’re distantly related to a famous, blonde, under-nourished actress, like they do on TV ancestry programs?

 

Matilda,

 I don’t think so.

 

Harry,

 That’s too bad. It’s kind of a gray day today, so I’ve been image searching Suprematist paintings and re-drawing them to make me feel better. The whole movement was based on “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling,” so I think if I re-create them, then I also can have a pure artistic feeling.

 

 (I always thought that temp job archiving slides of Russian art from the early 1900s was just going to be a minimum wage throwaway!)

 Here is a Rodchenko thats about me and you. Do you love it?


Matilda,

Who is big and who is little?

 

Harry,

I am big. 

 

 Matilda,

This looks more like you up on the pedestal, me grounding you.

 

Harry,

Oh touché, Harry. I dont like this new feeling Im having lately, the feeling of oldness. I know some day soon Ill wake up and realize Im absolutely irrelevant and it will be terrifying. Or maybe Im there already, Harry.

 

Hey Matilda,

Don’t worry, we’re not old. It’s all just beginning to crystallize. Whenever I start to feel old, I think of a painful moment in my early twenties, and I just feel relieved. I also look at my students, who are so clueless, and take a breath out. Today I had to explain to most of my English Lit I section who Virginia Woolf was. Help me out, High School English teachers! The kids they’re sending me are so half-formed.


 Hey Harry,

 It takes a long time for humans to understand things, give them a break. For example: I remember when I thought Mondale Ferraro was one person. And I just wanted mom to stop talking about him.

By the way, what was the most painful moment of your twenties?


Hey Matilda,

 Hmm. Probably when I confessed to dad that I was doing too many drugs at college and he asked me for the number of my dealer. So that he could “take that cocaine finally.” That was disappointing. You?

Hey Harry,  

Wellll, let me tell you the story about Martha’s Vineyard, Harry. As I recall you were in Nepal on a Yak and missed the whole thing.




This page will be updated weekly.

To make sure you don't miss anything, subscribe here.