Saturday, March 31, 2007

An Alternative to Waiting

We wait
for this
and that.

We leave the present
and live
in the future.

Siddhartha learned to wait, saying
"the greatest prayer
is patience."

Did he learn to be so mindful
of the present
that the future did not matter?

My job soon changes
from working for someone else
to working for myself.

And then,
in a number of days/months/years,
I will sit in a rocking chair

creaking as it rocks,
and wonder when
eternal sleep will knock at my door.

We wait for a semester to start,
for a class to begin,
for a class to end.

We wait in line
at the grocery store,

that someone else is
stealing our precious life
from ourselves.

When's dinner,
we ask?
wondering how we can

shorten that time,
until our perceived needs
(or wants?) are fulfilled.

An alternative, you ask?
The water will boil
whether or not

we watch
the pot.
What could we do

in the meantime
so we are living,
rather than waiting?

Friday, March 30, 2007

When Parents Leave...

Eyes follow
hands point
tears fall

we distract congole
dissuade accomodate
"Let's look out the window"

"Let's play on the floor"
ba ba ba boom
now he's alone on the floor

tears, we say
"you're a big boy
let's walk around

what else is in the room?"
aaannn aann an
"did you see this...

on the other side?"
Oscar and his mom come around,
waiting for his sitter to go to the park.

And we take Jasper for a
very long walk and the big boy
sleeps happily in his stroller.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Cheap is a touchy subject but
other words are more positive,
like thrifty or economical.

When I was a kid, cheap
was from China (no longer
the case, of course) .

Cheap is poor quality, or
a behavior some disdain,
and some appauld.

My grandpa carried
discount gasoline and day-old bread
in the trunk of his car.

That was cheap! But he
would put a deserving stranger
through college.

That was not cheap!
Sometimes seemingly
cheap people are,

like gramps--
mixed bags. Others
are always stingy,

not able to give
to (or of) themselves.

Some places charge
more than a dollar
for a cup of tea,

yet a cup of hot H2O
is often free.
Is it cheap or

thrifty to carry
one's own teabays
around for that free

cup of hot H2O?
How about taking
those mini shampoo

and lotion bottles
from a hotel?
Hey, that cheap,

you say, but suppose
you give them to
the homeless?

Well, that's different.
Certain ethic groups
are thought to be cheap

but if you dare say
to someone that they
are cheap because

of who they are
you'll be thrown
out in the street.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Noam Chomsky and William Glasser

Chomsky regretted writing
the intro for a book
denying the Holocaust,

not because he didn't believe
in freedom of speech,
but because certain subjects

are so hot that people can't
be reasonable about them.
There are a host of those subjects,

from mentioning the KKK
to a southerner, to, geeze (definition #4),
I better not say any more.

William Glasser said that
we know how to get along
with our friends
but not our family.

He said we don't criticize
our friends because then
they wouldn't like us.

I wonder
if we also don't mention
all those sacred cows as well,

like how much money they lost
on bad investments, whether they
believe in the best God,

and whether they
really follow each of the
ten commandments.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Good Book (Culture Shock)

At the Chagall exhibit in Rome,
a docent was lecturing to
a group of Italian kids,

who couldn't get close enough
or eat more of the words
from her energetic mouth.

Some religiously jotted
notes as she enthusiastically
talked about the masterpiece.

Plop, a few days later,
I land in the Atlanta airport, walking
by an impassioned print by Howard Finster

but soon am (sadly) assaulted by
a noisy/smelly world of fast food and
sickly and puffy looking young and old

and CNN comes on about
the 250 lb 7 year old that might
be taken away from his mom

because she's not feeding

and I am overwhelmed (and depressed)
by how far we are from
educating our youth

and I talk to my wife (and daughter)
about starting a school for infants
(and their parents)

and then I see one shimmer
of hope, one young, good looking kid,
oblivious to the noise/smell,

CNN on the 250 lb 7 year old
and how Anne Nicole Smith

a kid who has escaped a 2007
"wasteland" into the throws
of a good book.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Over Virginia

Flying over Virginia
from Rome to Atlanta
at 36000 feet

from my seat in the middle
of the plane
I look out the window

and see only a portion
of a silver wing, a bit of a blue sky
and a few lonesome white clouds.

Turning my head,
I see highways
on the movie screen

as we hone in on
our destination.
Lots of noise from

conversations and
a roaring engine and
pungent smells from the

pizza with pesto
and the overused toilet
(just) a few feet away.

Many are now standing
with their toothbrushes
and combs

in line at the toilet
getting ready
for their plane's descent.

Soon they'll embrace thelr
loved ones, or noone—
but their cat or dog or turtle,

or they'll transfer to another
plane & postpone their homecoming
for a few more hours.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


(Note: After trying to read the Financial Times Magazine flying from Rome to St. Louis)

Countless drivel fills
magazine racks &
trash containers.

Drivel this and that,
using the most imaginable
pedestrian language

to describe
ideas, events,
discoveries and inventions.

But rarely is the subject
itself the cause
for the drivel

rather it is the treatment
and presentation of the same
that causes me such distress.

Ordinary reporters
never go
beyond the Five Ws (and one H),

while the gifted poet
makes the everyday

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rubics and Logic

I've been very suspicious of
rubrics and logic,
who may be first cousins.

Both are useful enough
when their powers are limited,
but neither gives us the truth.

We don't make
a lot of decisions
based on logic.

We are creatures
of subjective impressions
(is that redundant?).

We are drawn
to and from objects
for unknown reasons.

We conduct many (if not all)
facets of our lives
as if guided by a powerful spirit.

Our decisions are often
directed by a strong "intuition"
rather a large bag

of empirical evidence.
Rubrics are equally faulty
as a determinant of quality.

Yes, they make it easy
to give a low grade
on a student's paper

because the essay contained
four spelling errors,
included five grammatical errors,

lacked a topic sentence,
and more. But the rubric
didn't address whether

the author made the reader
"think and feel, and hopefully,
[took them] to a place

they hadn't been
(a definition of art from
one of the curators at MOMA).

Recently a teacher
gave a student a better grade
than their work deserved

because, even though
the student had fulfilled
the requirements of the rubric,

they had not understood
the content
of the course.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ode to the Lovely One

It is always amazing to me
how good things

A job opens up, and someone
is lucky to
get an interview.

And when he goes for inspection,
he gives a talk, and in the front row,
is the lovely one.

And he gets the job
and they marry and she is the perfect
compliment, companion, compatriot for him.

And then is born the perfect prince with golden locks,
who knows exactly what he wants
and what he doesn't want.

And she and him, are perfect parents,
each with an extraordinary gift
to make beautiful stuff "from nothing."

They made the prince, not from
nothing, but from the lovely one,
who knows just what to do and just what to say,

and from him, who listens and records,
as if he is a siphon, taking in everything
around him in such a gentle way.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Advice to Marc Chagall

Coming back from a large Marc Chagall
exhibit in Roma, my son and I agreed
that Marc was not a great painter.

Surely, I said, he blows Norman Rockwell,
or Andrew Wyeth out of the water. My son
could not argue that point. But he said

that Marc just drew, and then filled in
his drawings with blue and red,
except for this one wall of beautiful colleges

that he did in 1970.
I said he was a great lyricist
and that even though painters

wouldn't look up to him for inspiration
a lyricist would.
I then imagined what

I might say to Marc,
should he, one dreary day,
be in a despondent mood about his art,

and decide to telephone me.
"What's wrong with my art?"
he would say

and I'd tell him that he should get
a new manager who doesn't want him
to illustrate so many bible stories

and that he should mix up his colors a bit,
and take the advice of one of my teachers
that every area in a painting should

include a little bit of every other color in the painting,
or a friend who said, always look at the
whole when you are working on the parts.

Or maybe I'd give him the
gold toothbrush of advice,
that one should "listen to everyone and believe no one."

But then I started wondering, what if
Marc really did take my advice,
then we wouldn't have

his spirit and paintings that
are so unique and so compelling,
especially he,

having lived through countless
wars and turmoil,
taught us such priceless lessons

about joy and love
and just doing something crazy
because it feels so good!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Walking down the street in Rome
yesterday, I realized that his name
wasn't Alfred, but rather Dr. Dolittle.

I wrote a piece about that, but
lost it as I transferred it to my

And then today, I realized that
his name was probably Alfred
Dolittle, though if I had to

swear on a stack of bibles, and (even)
if it truly was a formidable stack, then
I couldn't say for sure what I used to call him.

Which all makes me further suspect
history as a precise accounting of
what happened, one day, very very long ago.

If we can't even trust the horse's mouth,
How can we trust anything?
The journalist wants multiple sources,

even if one is very very good.
But here, I'm not sure if I ever
told anyone what his name was, or is.

I do remember that I did
want to befriend Dr./Alfred Dolittle,
because my speech wasn't good,

and I thought he would interpret
what I wanted to say
to my parents and friends.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


50 years ago I drew
Alfred in the margin
of my notes.

I was supposed to be
taking notes, something
I never learned to do.

Except in one class,
where the teacher
wrote the notes on the board.

Ben sat behind me and
drew Abe Lincoln or George
Washington—I can't remember.

He was the real artist and still
is. I was a "wantabe." I just
would have to learn to draw George or Abe.

I don't think my guy that I drew had a name
at first. But in French class, around the same
time, I learned that Kim was not a good name.

Bruce whispered to me "Alfred" and that became
my name in French class, and the name of my
guy, whom I've drawn for 50 years.

My high school art teacher laughed at my
funny drawings. I did one of a sadistic cow
and Alfred. He laughed and put it up in the hall.

He said that I could learn to draw.
In college, Mr. Savage said, anyone can
learn to draw, anyone, that is, except Kim.

My father could draw, and my wife
and son can draw. I think Alfred would
just look like Abe or George if I could draw.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Almost Gyped

Looking down

small hand reaching
for my wallet
hiding in my inside pocket.

It was a hand I did not know
sneaking, small, not one that
I knew.

I grabbed the hand and moved it
out and away from me, scratching
my neck with her fingernail.

Looking up at her I said damn you
and an odor came from her
or her baby.

She muttered something, rearranging
the babies' blanket
and quickly exited from the train.

From the platform, she
looked back at me and grinned,
holding up her hand

with two outside fingers
becoming a devil
extending to the sky.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Walt Disney

As I understand it, Walt Disney's goal was simply to make people happy. Coming from two world wars, what else matched Walt's creations in the way that they gave us a glimmer of hope.

I am much better at playing now than I was as a kid. I remember watching the kids next store playing cowboys and Indians, and I couldn't imagine myself as either. I was me.

Now I play with doing things like stapling, cutting, painting, drawing, or writing. Even walking is good, but I'm not a great fan of fantasy.

I guess it is because the infinite realm of possibilities is overwhelming, and because reality is so much more interesting too me. I'd rather read non-fiction than fiction for the same reason, though sometimes fiction is really the best way to communicate about the real world.

You'd think (after all this) that I'd go to Disneyland if given the opportunity. No, I'd only go if I could take a little kid. I staying in a hotel across the street and never had the slightest inkling to go. But for a kid——to watch a kid laugh——that would be worth it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Peace of Mind

Edward Weston said that with “peace of mind and an hour’s time [he] could make great photographs.”

The jet lag is finally over, after a week here in Roma. I’m up early while everyone else is asleep. It is quiet and critical issues from work are fading from my mind.

Being a grandparent is more difficult in some respects than being a parent. I am trying to embrace someone else’s parenting methodology, which may not be my own.

Now I want to have my own children again so that I can see if what worked before will work again. And maybe I could do things correctly this time. But I realize that the result of great parenting may not be a guarantee for great kids. And would I miss the ability to spend a day by myself? Being busy doesn’t create either peace or time.

We are surrounded in Rome with great achievements. For the most part, I believe it was the men who did the buildings, aqueducts, art, literature, etc.? What about the woman? Whatever that was done with the children created a culture with great integrity, love of beauty, and discipline. I envision long days for the workman and the artisans. But what about the kids? Who tended to them? The women? I once heard that it took the average Parisian woman in 1900 fifteen hours a day to prepare food for her family. What would it take the average Roman woman 1000 years ago? And how did they take care of the kids?

In some third world countries, the kids are born and then, on that same day, the woman is back in the fields with the babe in a sling close to their mother. The Roman woman must have had to work day and night sweeping dust from the house, preparing meals, and tending for the sick and elderly. All of this was a critical, if secondary, role to enable the city to be built. Certainly the women were responsible for both feeding the workers, and for raising the future workers.

I imagine a very abbreviated childhood for the Roman youth. The boys were apprenticed early and their future was laid out for them. The girls took care of the younger kids until they had kids of their own. Today we say that kids grow up too fast. Compared to what? Ancient Rome?

Did anyone have peace of mind and an hour’s time back then?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kim as Statute

Probably out of jealousy, or maybe from pity, I decided to become one more Roman statute.

Jealousy since I haven't made it to the ranks of stone, and pity because the stump looked sad having nothing to hold up.

As you can imagine, my pose was precarious and the next moment I was on the ground. Luckily my photographer missed that shot.

We finally got to the point in our baby sitting saga where we decided that Jasper was the one who was sitting us, or more accurately, had decided that he be pushed in his stroller from one Roman park to another. He did not want to spend any time entertaining himself.

Exhausted from two long trips to different parks in one day, we sat him on the floor with his toys and told him to play. He decided instead to cry...and cry...and cry.

Eventually his father came home and consoled him. I guess today it is back to the parks.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Conversation with a Stone Man

Note: I wrote this is my normal prose, and tried incorrectly to lower the photo and the whole page went into text heaven. I decided that was a message from the writing god that I should never write prose again because it all looks the same.

She said this is a beautiful place except for the dead people.

Who's dead? I asked. Are these tombs?

No, she said, they are just all dead.

Who's dead? I said.

My dad's death certificate said he's dead, yet he talks to me day and night.

Dead is when no one thinks about you.

I went up to the stone man to talk. I was surprised at how tall he was. I stood on a boulder, and then on my tip toes, looking at his stone face. I still didn't measure up, reminding me of when I was a short kid and they called me "mouse."

Some get bigger than life when they die that first death—the one that comes in old age, in battle, or when the scooter rounds the blind corner. Pow!

I tried to look in his eyes, but he was stone and didn't want to talk to me. Maybe he was dead, after all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Success in Baby Steps?

Today we are soloing with our grandson, Jasper. His parents, Sarah and Josh, wanted to work in their studios, and so our job has begun. First he was crying and cranky, but then I held him, bouncing on an exercise ball and talking gibberish, and he finally fell asleep. Now my wife, Linda is holding him. He doesn't like his crib. Who would choose a crib when they could be held by a warm loving body?

I left to go on a walking tour that ended up at St. Peters. The group were all classicists except me. It was hard to figure out what the talk/walk was about, but I did get that it was all about constructing what went on in the Vatican area before it became the Christian mecca.

And now back to babysitting. Jasper slept for about ten minutes, which was a welcome relief from his crying. And now he's crying again. I put him in his stroller and wheeled him around the apartment, and then read some books to him. He then watched me cut and staple one of my heads. It occupied his attention for a (very) short time.

Success? There are times where you think he's going to never have another sad moment for the rest of his life, and then his cranky side comes back.

Progress, maybe, but no success.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Best Laid Plans

"Want to make God laugh? Make a plan." And so it goes. Sometimes plans go like clockwork, and other times like a ship in a storm.

Bush thought that we'd go in to Iraq and get rid of Saddam and the WMAs and then we'd be out of there before you could say "jack rabbit." And now he is asking for 30,000 more soldiers to reduce the chaos that he has caused.

Did he not have adequate information? Did he not listen to the experts? How did he go so wrong?

On the personal front, I planned with a friend for two years to take a walk tomorrow in Tuscany. Lo and behold, something happened and she was not able to come, and it wasn't a good time for me either.

I wonder if we should just say, "no plans, let's just be spontaneous." Events would not be publicized, but instead would (or wouldn't) spontaneously erupt. Calendars would be thrown out, or use for fodder by college artists. Restaurants would be open or closed depending on everything from the position of the stars to the whims of the cooks.

Hey, wait, that's no way to run the world. It would be utter chaos. But would it be any different that Iraq, my walk in Tuscany, or the result of any of our other best laid plans?

I've heard that you can't get lost if you don't know where you are going. Unfortunately, or fortunately, making plans is probably warranted, as long as we are accepting when they have to be tweaked and thrown aside (as they usually do). We certainly don't want God to laugh, do we?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Crying and Childrearing

Last night my son and his wife decided it was a good night for their six month son to cry himself to sleep. It was supposed to be discipline or something.

I thought sleeping through the night was good because then the parents could sleep too. But now it seems like it is something you do because the book tells you to do it.

I didn't mind the crying too much. He has a beautiful cry. He wasn't mad. He just cried and cried because he didn't want to be in bed. My theory was that he slept too much during the day, but their book said that the more a kid slept during the day the more he'd sleep during the night. Dr. Spock was wrong, you know. So I put my earphones on and watched a movie. Probably not what a good person would do.

Ok, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea about childrearing. I think our kids turned out great, but I don't know what we (an extended we) all did to contribute to their positive qualities.

How is it that we don't know any of the real secrets in life? We don't know what makes a good anything. Sure, we can talk about discipline, love, trust, and a host of similar words, but do we really know how to parent, how to teach, how to lead, how to do anything well?

Or do we just go by the seat of our pants and listen to our hearts (or to the book)?

So Jasper, our grandson, will grow up picking and choosing those myriad qualities that surround him. He'll find people and environments to support him. He'll decide at some point to raise his own progeny (however he will define that), and he'll give his best, only to one day also realize that the mysteries of life are mysterious and deep secrets.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

CEO's Salary

My friend complains about CEOs who get paid too much. He laments, how can someone possibly earn 500 million a year? This stems from his liberal bend that believes that the bosses exploit the workers.

I'd certainly like that CEO job (the pay, not the responsibility), though I think it probably includes golf and ties, neither of which are my cup of tea.

I give him the same arguments each time:

1) Leadership is both a rare talent and a grueling task, and anyone who can do it is worth their weight in gold.

2) The stockholders should complain if their company is wasting money by paying more than they should (and need to) for leadership. Or they should sell their stock.


3) The alternative, that the government sets limits, has so many problems and is so contrary to a free society, that we should not touch that with a ten foot pole.

And I ask him how he'd solve the problem, to which he says that he doesn't know. He just says that it is wrong, obscene, and that justice will not come from the stockholders cries because the world is so corrupt and all these CEOs sit on each other boards.

One could say that anyone, like Atlas, willing to put the weight of the world on their shoulders, is deserving of such great compensation. Or perhaps that the solution might cause more problems than the problem.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Packing, Rushing and Stuff

In a few minutes we leave for Roma. There are so many things to do so we can leave for a few weeks.

And I think about what we leave behind, and how we manage without those things. I'm looking at a glass jar filled with a multitude of pencils and scissors. Then to my right, as my eyes pass over a computer printer, I see a bookshelf with six shelves of books. And the list goes on and on.

I never really believed that history was real until I went to Florence and stood in the footsteps of Leonardo. Events really did happen in the past, even if post-modernists minimize these events by allowing different readings of them.

One of my original thoughts was to have this blog be a diary, or "diaristic notations," as I once titled a course I taught. But no, I'm going to resist that because where I am in time or place is being a slave of the present. The Buddhist (given my sophomoric understanding) attempts to be here now (mindfulness). A good alternative would be to be everywhere at all times. To go to the Colosseum and watch the lion fights. To close my eyes in the airplane and fly to the closest inhabited planet.

It is not right that we invent time (and space?) and then we are bound by it's confines. Being human should be to have the ability to connect past, present, and future so that we are in all places at all times all at once.

A little challenge for the imagination.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jan Nesser-Chu and the Art Rubric

Last night at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley I was knocked off my feet by the powerful works of Jan Nesser-Chu. Because the works do not fit any rubric, they could easily be dismissed. Yet I woke up this morning still seeing (and feeling) the works as if they were permanently lodged in my heart and mind.

Wordsworth wrote "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recalled in tranquility." Jan, "in her grandmother's blood," creates a powerful environment where we visit her very private and very personal "inheritance," yet we also struck with the universal qualities of her narrative. Her voice is almost muted so her story becomes our voice telling our story. The new pictures force us to realize that we share the same planet as she. The lace dresses surrounded by dress patterns are in an intimate (sewing?) room by themselves, yet we can't touch them because of a spiderweb strung from one wall to another that creates a separation of both space and time.

Jan has put herself and her feelings "out there," displaying bromide prints of antique aprons like they were lingerie from Fredericks of Hollywood. They are images from her grandmother's era when women waited on men, and thankfully Jan has ended that era by hanging these aprons out to dry.

Bingo is another symbol of some of our mindless activities of her grandmother's generation, yet is reframed by Jan by the powerful emotive words that appear on each of the bingo cards. Another artwork talks about the meanings of names, and asks the audience to sign their names. Because each signature is so unique we hear many different voices .

I've often though and said that rubrics don't work too well for art. Good art may not get a good grade. The art hopefully will ruffle some feathers. It might be rough around the edges. It might break every rule in the book. It will, like Jan's work, open the door to the very soul of the artist. And we thank Jan for that exposure, for it lets us know some of our own secrets.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Bruce, Religion, and Death

When I was twelve, Bruce asked me to go to church with him. I remember that my mom said that I was too impressionable to go to church. She was an atheist (or so I believed) and was sure that I would be swept away by the currents of salvation.

I'm not sure what I did that Sunday (church or not), but before long I was an avid church goer. My favorite was the Catholic church, partly because of the wine and the wafers (I didn't know any better).

One Easter I went to four churches. I became known as the religious globe trotter. A few years later I joined a very liberal Baptist discussion group at the University of Chicago (I liked both the discussion and this cute blond) and even reconciled my disbelief in God with the minister's belief that God is only real because we believe in him.

My parents turned into agnostics after they left the University because (in my mind) they had many new friends who were believers. They never convinced me that their transformation (from atheist to agnostic) was authentic, but they were steadfast in their new belief that we just don't know whether God exists. My dad even denied that he had ever been an atheist.

Now that I'm at the top of a hill (and I hope, not the last hill) and am looking down at the rest of of my life, I'm wondering about the end, just beyond the farthest point that I can see. I certainly would like to be led by a beautiful angel into eternity, but know that hoping for something doesn't make it so.

Bruce (5 Jul 1945-15 Jun 1972) is gone. Life did not agree with him. I'm not sure what happened, but I knew Earth was not the right place for him. Will I see him again? I do not know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Noises While Writing a Poem

Doors shutting, voices mumbling,
the scent of roofing tar shoots through my nose.

How much time is a little time before my next meeting?
Is there time to write something?

Another door shutting, now opening now closing.
More mumbling. Where is quiet?

The second hand creeps, feeling each number being passed.
Is there time for one more line?

Another voice in the hallway, mumbling.
Now a conversation.
Some words that I can recognize.

Oh, I need to run...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


As a kid I was shielded from death. I'm not sure whether it was because my mom believed that "life was for the living" (as she would say) or that it was because she and my father had both lost a parent as kids. I didn't attended a funeral or wake until I went to college, and then only one. I still feel like a stranger at these events. We are a cremation family, and also one that likes to do memorial events, not funerals.

Sunday I went to a wake for the mother of a secretary. Her father had already passed, so now she is parentless (and an only child).

I told her I used to fear that when I lost my parents I would be an orphan, and how, to my surprise, the wealth of memories that I retain make me anything but an orphan. In fact, as I was telling her this, I was thinking that it was time for parents (or for me?) to stop hanging around in my mind. But I couldn't say that. I knew she was at a far different place in her grieving.

During the last couple of years I've taken a special interest in the display of snapshots at wakes. Her husband started giving me a lecture on photography, and how it is that photographs help us remember our beloved. He was so glad that he had photographs, and reveled at how these images jar his memory. I asked myself whether there was any profound change in our memories before and after the invention of photography. I knew, however, that this was not the time to win an argument, and since he felt secure in the thought that he would have images of his mother-in-law and their family celebrations forever, I didn't want to contradict him.

I looked through the three photo albums and the pictures on the two bulletin boards. One was from her parent's fiftieth anniversary, and a second from their sixtieth anniversary. In the albums, I looked to see how people were (or weren't) touching one another. And I wondered if the secretary was the photographer, because she wasn't in most of the pictures.

Then I went to see the mother, laid at rest, whom I had never met. It struck me a little strange that she was wearing glasses, not that deceased persons shouldn't wear glasses, but because it interfered with my ability to see the eternal peace that is usually expressed in a corpse's face. And my particular angle to her is not how I usually see people. Usually when we go up to someone they look toward us, so we don't see the space between their eyes and their glasses. But I just saw this foreign object sitting on her face. What was she seeing through these thick lenses, I wondered? And what was she hearing? She was very frail, and very tired. Is she is ready to be forgotten as she departs to that other world, I wondered? Must our lives go on?

Monday, March 5, 2007

List of Lists

1. Processes Lists. Glenn Alps, a renowned printmaker in the 60s, visited SMU when I was teaching there. He looked at a list of steps to process a lithographic drawing that I had written on a poster board for my students. He laughed and told me that lists don't work, because processes can't be broken down into steps.

2. Laundry Lists. Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, used to write down his laundry list on an ink slab before he sent out his laundry. He was a printer, and after the laundry came back, he tried to wipe the list off the stone with water. He noticed that the ink resisted the water, but the rest of the stone absorbed it. Low and behold, he inked up the stone with a roller, put down a sheet of paper on stone, ran it through a press and presto, had a mirror image of his laundry list. Lithography had been invented.

3. To Do Lists. Kim Mosley, the writer of this blog, has quite a few "to do" lists. Sometimes, though, he can't remember needed tasks long enough to write them down. Most of his items on the list never get done, or even, never needs to be done. Or inadvertently get done anyway, in spite of the fact that they are on the list.

4. Bad Lists. Then there is the Black List from the Senator McCarthy's days. These were people that you weren't supposed to hire because they were red. And don't forget the Most Wanted List from the FBI, a group of people we wish never to meet, except on the bulletin board at the post office.

5. Conservator Lists. One of the most comic lists I've seen was made by a museum conservator who was inventorying one of my photographs. I mistreat photographs, not because I'm mean, but because I feel sorry for them and feel that they need a little help. The conservator had to log everything I had done to this poor photograph. It sounded like a catastrophe. A staple here, a scratch there, some thread going through a hole in the middle, and an second scratch there. She didn't miss a trick!

6. More on To Do Lists. I'm not sure if organized people are more likely to make lists, but I do know that certain people won't do something unless they write it down. And then there is the proverbial "email me" which means "I'm more important than you and so you should make it your job to remind me because I don't have a list with me of things I need to do (you see that is a pet peeve of mine.) But I oblige the person with an email, and I also put the task on my to do list, because I know, in time, a second email will probably need to be written.

P.S. Wedding Lists. April is the cruelest month. If you've never made a wedding list (and had to pick between aunt Sima and cousin John) you haven't faced a real dilemma. You imagine that the unlucky one will face the disgrace of being the last to be chosen for a sandlot baseball team. You remember all the good and bad that each did to you, and you weigh the "contestants" out so very carefully and then you flip a coin and then you change your mind and then you decide that the stars aren't aligned properly and you need to come back to the list tomorrow, or better yet, next week. In the end, you never face the truth that most people want to be invited, but feel relieved to find out they are already booked for that evening.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Neve Shalom

Last night was the reception for my exhibit at Neve Shalom, a modest, but an incredibly special, venue. In Europe, one sees places of worship as they enter the towns. They are the highest and most elaborate structures. Neve Shalom is a secret, located in a basement adjacent to a home for retarded folks. The synagogue appears to run on a shoe string budget, but is abundant in sincere and enthusiastic people who might not be comfortable anywhere else. And it is led by James Goodman—poet, musician, and last, but not least, rabbi.

After hearing that people spend about eight seconds per artwork in a gallery, I start adding words to my pieces, hoping to engage the viewer a bit longer (I think it works). This particular exhibit is composed of digital paintings and text done in collaboration with Joan Lipkin, who participated in email interchanges with me during her visit to Little Cayman last year.

During the reception we sat around the joined tables to have a conversation about the pieces. I read a message from Joan, who is lost for the weekend in some remote area of Mexico. Then I mentioned some questions my daughter asked earlier at dinner, ending with the prizewinner: what one idea do we want to be our legacy for years to come? Even having one idea remain is quite an accomplishment, considering the population of Earth.

Next James Stone Goodman pulled a poem out of a crinkled envelope. I could see that he had printed it on discarded paper that had printing on the other side. Jim said that he had written the poem in three parts about our works, and that he'd never had been to Little Cayman, but that he did a little research on the place, which he loves to do. The poem was a wonderful impression of the enviroment we had attempted to create in our text and pictures, and soon it will be webbed so all can read it.

After a brief discussion that followed, the program moved to a musical concert ranging from John Coltrane to Middle Eastern music, "entitled SIN AND SOUL, music from the holy and not-yet-holy character of Purim festivities, also the holy ceremony Havdalah done in the old/new Breslover style and other delectables." It was stupendous, to say the least.

William Wordsworth, the hopeless romantic, wrote, "The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours. " Our lives are about things that don't really matter, things that don't connect us to ourselves, to one another, to the world, or to eternity. Yet, at Neve Shalom, there is a generosity where people lay aside the business of their lives and open their hearts to higher order concerns. It was heartening, to say the least, to be part of this secret enclave (dare I say ghetto?) where life (in the broadest sense) is celebrated through the creative arts.

Thank you, Neve Shalom, for making this world so much better.