Violent Images

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Last night Chris and I saw the play Tamburlaine. At the 30-minute intermission, I told Chris, "This is the best production of Tamburlaine that I will ever see. And the worst." I said that about Cymbeline too. Glad I saw it. Don't need to see it again. 

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John Douglas Thompson (photo courtesy of Nigel Parry and NYMag)

It has my favorite actor, the Marlon Brando of our time, John Douglas Thompson, in it. Tamburlaine reveled in his own psychosis and had such a lusty love of blood-letting.

Thompson, in fact, is a gentle man, a bit of a friend. He played MacBeth when Chris played the porter in the Scottish play. Chris says of him, “He doesn’t shy away from the big parts.” (Othello, Emperor Jones, Julius Caesar). He is all in. So good. Exciting to see such commitment. And the whole stage rocks with turmoil.

But to what end? The play is loaded with buckets of blood and plenty of gore, including a scene where a tongue is cut out. Eeeeew! The play by Christopher Marlowe was first staged in 1587.

I overheard an audience member say, “This hasn’t been done since 1957 on Broadway.” And with good reason. It’s just an endless parade of marauding death.

On the way to the beautiful Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, Chris realized he forgot his medicine.

“Do we go back home?” I asked.

“No.”

“I will just be slow.” Chris’s Parkinson’s medicine helps him move. Without it, he freezes. After the play, I put a hand on his back. On the way home, I pushed him along.

He was extremely slow walking to the subway, heading back to the Upper West Side. Then we got home and I had to tell Catherine she could not watch Django Unchained.

“It’s not a problem,” H. said. “She looks away during the violent parts.” He loves having a companion with whom to watch movies.

“I’m sorry. No,” I said.

“You’re too protective.”

“Yes,” I said. Believing that they secretly like that. Even thinking maybe Catherine wanted to be told not to watch that.

“Why? Why can’t she watch it?”

“I don’t want her to have those images in her head — of such violence.” I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve heard. And yet, Tamburlaine filled my head with violence too. I don’t think I’m worse for it. Maybe it would’ve been okay. I don’t know. We live vicariously. But plays are different. The cast comes out for a curtain call.

We know it’s fake. We love the artifice.

We go slowly home.

Autumn in New York

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They write songs about New York City in the fall. Jean jacket weather. Burning bushes. And Central Park. Ah. Don’t tell me about the polar vortex. I can’t hear you. La. La. La.

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Jury Duty

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Although I cannot discuss the criminal trial I am being considered for, I can disclose what happened in the hallway.

Apparently, a very large light-skinned bald man (Large Man) ran out of his courtroom and ran towards the elevator bank and a set of open windows.

We were on the 13th floor. (The building does not have a 12th floor, but has a 13th floor? What?)

Earlier, I had been talking to Juliana on the phone from that very windowsill. I had been sitting, taking notes when a glamorous cop told me, shaking her head, “Do not sit on the windowsill.” I complied.

I swear. At that time, I had thought, someone could so easily jump out these windows.

And that, I believe, was the Large Man’s intent. I did not see him run, pursued by cops. I was in a nearby stairwell, (again, on the phone). We were on break from this loooooong jury selection process.

But I did hear and see a cop came running down the stairs next to me. I followed him. There was some police action right in the hallway.

Another juror told me that she saw it all — the Large Man, hand-cuffed, running down the hall with several cops in pursuit. When he climbed up on the windowsill, they pulled him down. I did hear the thump on the marble when the Large Man hit the marble floor.

The Large Man started screaming. Another cop told me later that the Large Man was screaming to get his handcuffs off, but the court officers could not comply. (My fellow juror told me he wore two sets of handcuffs.) Another officer shoo-ed us out of eye shot. But later, he told us, it was for our own protection, and not because Large Man was being hurt.

All 50 or so of us jurors looked at each other, slightly worried, eyeing the elevator bank, where all this commotion was happening, until they wheeled the Large Man on a stretcher out through the service elevator.

I said to my fellow juror, “That must’ve been traumatic to see him up on the windowsill, wanting to jump.”

She said, “Didn’t see much. I got out of the way in case the cops had to shoot him.”

I know I mostly blog about how much I love NYC and how beautiful and safe NYC is. And you can see from my photos of trees, flowers, picnics, museums, and Broadway shows, it’s true. But I guess I must admit there is a seamy side to the city. Fortunately, I only see this side every four years when I serve my stint on jury duty.

This was the surreptitious photo I took of the incident — after the cops told us, basically, ‘Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.’ And this incident is why jury service at the criminal courts in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart.

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Not Worried About Ebola

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When I saw that the NYC doctor with Ebola had worked at Columbia Presbyterian ER, I did feel a little a butterfly flutter in my stomach. That’s where Coco and I spent the night on Friday. (And I had told her, at the time, “Let’s get out of here as fast as we can. You can get infections in the hospital.”)

But I’m not scared. I’m proud that our favorite hospital’s doctors work with Doctors Without Borders.

Borders are made up. Borders are moving. We are all brothers and sisters in this world. Trace us back, and we all descended from some fireside circle. We come from hunters and gatherers — women and children gathering berries in handwoven baskets. We are all eking out our survival. Even now.

I got so lucky in my adult life when I worked for so long (too long?) for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I met so many brilliant people — people very similar to Dr. Craig Spencer. They are trying to lift the whole world out of particular miseries — illness, poverty, loneliness, oppression. Through their efforts, for example, and in a joint effort with lots of other do-gooders, malaria is practically history.

I’m also not worried about Ebola because I know that the things that will get you in this life are not the flashy front page diseases or airline crashes. But the less sexy — heart disease, cancer. And it’s better to take care of your daily health — floss, eat right, exercise — than stew about infectious diseases.

That’s why today I’m going for my annual physical and my twice-a-year dermatology exam; on Monday, I’m going for my annual gynecological exam.

I remind myself in this media swirl: It’s the little things that will kill you, not the big things. And I’m trying to take care of all the little things today.

The ER at Columbia Presbyterian – great people doing great work:

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Extraordinary Meal Planning

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I stave off uncertainty by systematizing.

We have always been very loose about dinner times and meal planning. But we always aim to sit down to dinner together.

Since this school year’s launch, we have set a goal to eat dinner at 6:30 every night. And now we have a dinner plan:

  • Meatless Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Prince Spaghetti Wednesday
  • Comfort Food Thursday
  • Fish Friday*
  • **Clean the Refrigerator Saturday
  • **Sunday Supper

*Friday might be pizza. (The kids don’t like fish).
**Saturday and Sunday might be FFY, Fend For Yourselves. 

So far, so good.

Chris loves to eat but he takes forever to cook. And he is a messy cook. So having this schedule get keeps him moving and motivated. (I think the Parkinson’s meds have affected his executive function/planning.)

Besides, the kids are starving when they walk in the door from various afterschool activities at 6:30 pm. (They leave the house at 7:35 am — long day!)

Last night, it was FFY, because the girls and I went to see Pippin on Broadway for their birthday. How fun was that! The understudy was on and I can’t imagine the real lead, Kyle Dean Massey, could be any better than the understudy, Mike Schwitter. (Chris’s friend John Dossett played the king! Other highlights: Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine and Lucie Arnaz as Grandma Bertha.)

I think the message of the musical is find the extraordinary in your ordinary.

It’s a highlight of the day to eat dinner together. It’s the ordinary.

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Advice to the Woman on the Subway

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1. You’re not a failure if you’ve learned something
2. Let go. Because you can’t control outcomes
3. Learn to ask for and accept help
4. Find your own constant

I found these guidelines on my Notes app on my phone. I think they’re from my kids’ headmaster on parents’ day, but I’m not really sure. I was looking for something to post today — another crazy busy day. Not enough time to write.

I was on the subway headed to see Laura Pruden’s show. The woman next to me — middle aged, white, long hair, flouncy conservative clothes, stockings — was crying. I could see she was reading some sheets of paper. I caught some words over her shoulder:

Self-parenting
Sexuality
Context
Intimacy
How can you tell if a guy likes you?

She noticed me, noticing her. I gave her a weak smile. She blew her nose. She stopped crying.

I got off on Grand Street to see Laura’s show at Dixon Place. It was awesome. It addressed these topics. And a lot more.

Laura Pruden

(Laura Pruden’s one-woman show, Growing Up Straight in the Shadow of AIDS. Photo by Nikolitsa Boutieros of Divine Light Photography — at Dixon Place.)

There’s a shared intimacy to city living. We know each other so well. We sit so close to each other. And really, we don’t know each other at all. We go deep together. And then we get off at the next stop.

Thanks, Laura, for reminding me to remember our stories of love, loss and the epidemic.

Bloomsday

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Celebrate fiction. We all know that fiction is truer than real life.

This summer every person in my family is taking a big trip. My oldest goes to Botswana tomorrow; the girls to camp in Vermont next week; and then, my husband fishing to the Canadian wilderness. I am going nowhere.

Wait. I am going to be in Dublin — just for a day. Just in my mind. On Bloomsday.

I’m going with the Irish American Bar Association. You don’t have to be a lawyer to attend. I’m not. Join me. Buy tickets for Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar. The event is so inspiring. I have attended several years now. It is always hilarious and moving. And reminds me of the reasons I love the First Amendment and this novel that opened up the possibilities for our literary creativity.

“Copyright, Creativity and the First Amendment,” will be delivered by the Hon. Gerard Lynch, United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit, and will be followed by readings from Ulysses.

I like to introduce my tutoring students to James Joyce’s Ulysses by asking them to read and riff on Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. Lay out your own stream of consciousness. Yes. And yes.

I like to show them that this, some say the greatest work in the English language, breaks all kinds of rules.

Joyce said of his work, “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book. – said in 1918, from the book James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses” (1934).

The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book — or worse they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it. – from an interview published in Vanity Fair (March 1922).

And some people had their shoes off and were w...

This is not Ireland. This the Riverdale section of the Bronx. And yes, some people walked barefoot in the grass #wavehill #bronx via mbcoudal

 

heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit. – James Joyce. Ulysses.

It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don’t spin it out too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the ethereal bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness… – James Joyce, Ulysses.

 Amazing, right?

Yesterday’s WordPress prompt verbal ticks. And yes, Molly Bloom had a verbal tick. And yes, I will hear it on Monday. Can you come too?

Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it? – Ben Huberman