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

Bridges of Madison County

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While Hollywood continues to ignore women, Broadway continues to do an awesome job of letting women run the show. This is a delicious musical made from a bestselling book. I never read the book, because I thought, “Oh, that’s trashy reading, not for me. I’m so literary.”

But this show was for me. The musical explores stay-at-home mother Francesca’s complicated feelings when a handsome artist, a photographer from National Geographic, crosses her small town path, just for a few days.

I made the mistake of going to see this with one of teenagers. I should’ve seen it with a girlfriend. Because, yes, it’s a show about an extramarital love affair, but it’s also very much about best friends and women supporting each other. I need to debrief this show.

As her affair unfolds, I worried that our heroine, played by the brilliant Kelli O’Hara, was going to be busted by the gossipy neighbor Marge, played by the funny and charming Cass Morgan. But Marge never outs Francesca. She helps her. See, there’s marital loyalty, which is on the wane, and then there’s girlfriends’ loyalty, which never goes out of fashion.

I love the singing. And I love the set. The covered bridge is this simple, floating, bare-bones structure, not an oppressive, dark archway. Nice. I’d like to think that this ‘lightness of being’ can translate into our idea about marriage too. Marriage, a covered bridge, can be lighter and less oppressive than it looks.

Francesca’s heaviness of marital love is brightened by something — or someone — light. The two artists are drawn to each other, even in Iowa, even in the 1960s.

I love the way they talk about art and photography. I love the story.

Marriage is simpler and more complicated than it seems — less trashy novel, more sophisticated musical. And Francesca was loyal and unfaithful at the same time. Bridges of Madison County got me thinking about all that.

bridges of madison county

(Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, courtesy of Bridges)

Disclaimer: Thanks to Bridges of Madison County and the Serino/Coyne group for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own.

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Wordless Wednesday

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This morning I felt so downhearted when I saw the snow.

downhearted

But I rode my bike. I met my friend Barbara for breakfast. I led a writing workshop. I met some colleagues about meaningful work.

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And I saw this awesome play I Remember Mama tonite at the Transport Group Theatre — 10 older women play 25 roles. These pics are from the set. 20140416-230122.jpg

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So, despite the snow, it was a good day after all.

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Beautiful – The Creative Process

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The other night I saw Beautiful: the Carole King Story. It was an awesome rumination on the creative process. Want to be creative? You have to be dogged.

Sure, King (born Klein) was brilliant — the characters mention several times how she graduated high school at the age of 16 — but she was hard working. I love that. “Good things come to those who hustle.” And our girl Carole hustled.

I loved that the musical shows how creativity is a collaborative and a competitive process.

Mary Beth Coudal, blogger, and Anika Larsen, who plays Cynthia Wiel in Beautiful.

Mary Beth Coudal, blogger, and Anika Larsen, who plays Cynthia Wiel in Beautiful.

The cast was awesome. Everyone’s raving about how amazing Jessie Mueller is. But so is Anika Larsen as songwriter Cynthia Wiel, Carole’s gal pal, foil, and competition.

Now, from my lonely feminist perspective, I must point out that King’s songs really defined a generation of women finding joys in being a woman, “You make me feel like a natural woman!” (co-written by her partner, Gerry Goffin.) So fantastic — a real anthem and celebration of natural womanhood. I, for one, in this age of Botox and plastic surgery, would like to return to the beauty of natural womanhood.

natural womanI also wanted a little more about how Carole came to love herself and not just the ups and downs of her romantic and troubled love for her fellow songwriter and husband, Goffin. But this musical shows one slice of her life. To find out more I think I will have to read her memoir, A Natural Woman.

This musical is amazing. Carole King’s talent and output inspire me. Go. See it Sing along.

“Get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.”

Disclaimer: Thanks to Beautiful and the Serino/Coyne group for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own.

 

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Mothers and Sons on Broadway

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Bobby Steggert, Frederick Weller, Grayson Taylor and Tyne Daly (photo courtesy of entertainment weekly, Joan Marcus)

I saw Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons in previews on Broadway the other night. I liked it. It threw me back to a really sad time. This play is the story of a deceased actor’s mother showing up like 25 years later, after all this time, to reminisce about her son with his beloved.

I think the two main characters, the mother and the lover, want forgiveness from each other. And basically I want that too. I want the characters to love each other, to get over their awkwardness.

The mother, played by the amazing Tyne Daly, cannot give love and can hardly give acceptance. The two circle one another without coming to a resolution. Fortunately the new husband, played by Bobby Steggert, and the couple’s son arrive. Just in time, to cut through the BS and awkwardness.

These two are the heroes because of their forthrightness – the new husband calls out the mother’s past injustices and the little boy articulates the family’s need for a grandmother.

The play reminded me of how the AIDS crisis in NYC swamped us. I felt overwhelmed by this again, when my son was reading Angels in America for his Constructing America class and he asked me and Chris, “Did you lose friends to AIDS?” And we told him “Yes.” Among them, Chris’s actor friend Robert Farber, a great artist, a great friend, whom we visited in his West Village apartment when he was getting close to death. And I think that we are still bothered that we didn’t visit him more.

So the play brought that up for me – how much of yourself do you give when you know someone is dying?

It was particularly heart-wrenching in the play when the survivor told his lover’s mother, “You and I are the only ones who still remember him.”

I don’t think that’s true. There are people, like me and Chris, friends on the margins, who remember. We know what happened and we still talk about it.

In the ’90s, I used to host my TV show, Mary Beth and Friends, at Manhattan Neighborhood Network right after Act Up taped their show. And I would schmooze with the on-camera people and the crew. I told them their stuff was cool, their interviews, their lying down protests, their silence=death. And I told them I supported them. But honestly, they weren’t all that interested in my opinion. They appreciated my support, I guess. But let’s face it, they had bigger issues.

It was a crazy time. I worked at the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center in the mid-late ’80s and lost a friend, fellow front desk clerk, He was a few years older than me and I was still in college. And he seemed to be one of the first deaths by AIDS. And it was so very hushed, very uncertain, a gay man’s disease, that we didn’t know how to talk about it. We didn’t have the words.

The play reminded me about all that. About how we talk or don’t talk about death and dying. A year or so, I bumped into an actor friend whose partner/friend had died of AIDS. I told him I still often remembered his friend fondly. In the coffee shop, we didn’t get all maudlin. We just reminisced. We just talked about his friend, like it was 9/11. Like, such a tragedy. Still, it had not stopped our lives. Remembering a death can cause us to stop in our tracks, unprepared for grief, but the remembering doesn’t make us stop living.

That’s the thing about Mothers and Sons and the death of someone you love — you see that serious illness, death even, doesn’t stop loved ones from living. You can’t stop living, even when someone you love is sick or dying. (And, of course, for me, this brings up Chris’s Parkinson’s. How can I stop myself from living? How can I not stop and treasure each day? Each day, a gift.)

Now, about my home girl, Tyne Daly – she just throws lines out there, so naturalistically. I love her arch intelligence. She owns the stage. The other actors were wonderful too, but it was hard to know if their awkwardness was due to the great lady on stage with them or just the scenario of the play itself – the mother of a deceased ex descending for a night on your boisterous, wonderful, ongoing family life.

What can you do? Keep living. Keep remembering. Keep talking. Silence=death.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Mothers and Sons and Pivoting Media for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own. 

http://www.mothersandsonsbroadway.com/

Robert Farber’s art

 

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Tending Twilight

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the day darkens. i get too tired. i find the housework oppressive.

i ask for help, then don’t want it. like in the decluttering. i don’t know why it bothered me. what to do with the tapes from my old show? leave me alone.

Today #snowday #gopark #riverside #park #urban...

Snow day in Riverside Park via mbcoudal

the snow — more of the same color of the same grey sky.

i like when the sky is a crisp blue, like today. then i can forgive the weather gods. i can go on. but when dark and grey, i want to stay in bed. i have only a few weeks left of winter. i would like them to be azure blue.

i would like blue sky days. but after all the grey — why is grey so like death?

i go to Florida — old people, malls, alligators.

for a few days, i sleep in a twin bed, and laugh with Nicole and my brother, (and dad and Marty). we talk about creativity.

Tonite at the lower school #sunset #riverdale ...

Lower school sunset in Riverdale via mbcoudal

that is the start of my spring. and that is followed by the buds on the trees in Riverside Park.

my kids get older, get away from me, find fault in me, our apartment, why don’t we have nicer floors?

the sun does not ask for thanks. so i try to just give light too. just do my job — mother, wife. but the endless giving becomes a chore.

sure, the sun must want a thank you. the grey day gets no thanks. for it takes my energy. it does not give. it is the negative ion. i need the positive.

the wind whips and the shadows blend into dark night. i know spring comes after winter, always taking me by surprise. then the summer. lighter, longer days of laughter, hugs.

we are destined for spring.

Laughter is the language of the soul

Laughter is the language of the soul (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I wrote this in a writing group last weekend. Here’s more writing from a blogger in the group: Wendy: the prompt that made me cry

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Museum Hack

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My coworking guru Tony Bacigalupo suggested a MeetUp for coworkers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So a handful of us meet there on Wednesday, Lincoln’s birthday, to fire up our laptops and work. We also took a few quick breaks to see a few cool things with Museum Hack’s brilliant Jen Oleniczak.

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Jen gave us some insider info on Madame X by Sargeant. And then in honor of Lincoln, we checked out his death mask (created while he was alive). She was an awesome guide and leader — really passionate, smart, informative, funny.20140212-133801.jpg

We even got to groove on the vibe of the Visible Collection, a vast storage space I’d never visited before. Jen showed us a scary story here (you can tell, we’re scared). 20140212-133815.jpg

We hacked into the Museum so hard that we even got into the Media Lab. That’s me with a 3-D printer.20140213-194311.jpg

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Here is our group. And below, that’s the Met’s media lab manager Don Undeen, showing us some cool stuff the Met’s working on to marry tech with fine art. They’re making projects around smiles in art and around getting pathways mapped out for people with special needs. 20140213-194342.jpg

I am crazy in love with the flowers in the grand lobby of the Met. They never fail to blow me away.20140213-194411.jpg

The highlight of the coworkers’ hacking into the Met to celebrate Lincoln’s b’day?

Yup, we sat on the floor — and also sprawled out on the floor — of the Fragonard room. We looked up at the Rococo ceiling and took in the whole frilly mess. So cool. From the three hundred year-old floorboards, you can take in all the possibilities at the Met from a new angle — literally and figuratively. 20140213-194630.jpg

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Birding: What We Saw

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I was in Central Park on a snowy Saturday morning with my friend Charles Chessler. He had rallied several of his friends to go birding and photographing birds through a Facebook invitation.

I love walking or riding my bike in Central Park.

Charlie has great charisma. People and birds just love to stop, chat, and pose for him.

I’d gone out birding with Charles a few times before. On this trip we were searching for some rare long-eared owl in the pine trees near the Angel of the Waters. But instead, on that branch, we spotted a fat and still-hungry hawk. We spotted a lot more than that too.

Here’s what we saw:

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A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park

A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Finch
Northern cardinal
Dark eyed junco
Downy woodpecker (male and female)
Brown creepers
Goldfinches
Carolina wren
Blue jay
Hawk
Yellow bellied sap sucker
Sparrow

9/7/13

Swan
Grackle
Robin
Northern cardinal (male and female)
House sparrow
Maybe yellow warbler
Mourning dove

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Charlie captures a bird perched on Amanda’s hand. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Yellow rump warbler
White-breasted nuthatch
Swamp sparrow
Northern parula
Ruby-crown kinglet
Louisiana water thrush
Black and white warbler
Palm warbler
Cardinal
Blue jay
Starling
Red wing blackbird
Black birded green

We go birding in Central Park behind the cafe, across the Bow Bridge, by the Ramble.

For the record, I could not identify any of these birds (except maybe the cardinals and blue jays) without help from Charlie and fellow birders and photographers Dan Lane Williams and Amanda Bielskas. On previous birding jaunts, we met Birding Bob and friend Andy Gershon.

Although I don’t really know about birds, I know about the beauty of birds. As Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -

Going out for a walk with birders reminds me to slow down, take in the beauty, stop time with a photo, even if it’s cold and snowy — especially then! There’s beauty and hope all around. You just have to look for it.

If you like the beautiful photography of Charles Chessler, (and who doesn’t?) I have a request. Chessler is entered in a photo contest. If he wins, he gets a trip to a safari in Namibia. He is less than one thousand votes away. He needs 212 Votes to pop into 4th place!

Charlie and I are friends from the NYU Stella Adler acting school in the ’80s. He’s a fitness trainer with a specialty for keeping senior citizens active.

If Charlie won the trip, think about the great pics he’d share with us! Vote at BandH Photo Contest. He might even just even invite all of us along — at least on his Facebook stream! ;)

Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.

Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.

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Talking Transitions

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One thing I love is curiosity. The other night, on the way home from my co-working space, new work city, I spotted this pop up tent at Canal and 6th Avenue. I wanted to know what this random townhall was all about.

It is a place for New Yorkers to say what matters to them about the city. I didn’t talk to anyone. I felt shy. Some dudes were drumming. The Talking Transition tent didn’t seem a real social place when I stopped by. Though I’m sure the place gets hopping with cool events, panels, and cultural offerings.

I just played around with an iPad questionnaire. The Talking Transition tent is not affiliated with the new mayoral team; it’s a private effort to get people to converse, especially the less-than-affluent people who have not felt they were heard in the Bloomberg years.

I voted for di Blasio. We went to college together though he was a year ahead of me. We lived in the same NYU dorm — super-nice guy. Back then, he went by the name Bill Wilhelm. He changed it because his father suffered post-traumatic stress and was cruel, so Bill took his mother’s name. Sometimes, my kids want to go by my last name. So I get that. That’s cool.

And the transition tent was cool. You’re invited to write on a sticky note what you want to happen in the city.

I wrote that I wanted more bike lanes and Citibike extended to the Upper West Side. Sure, it’s great for me to use my own bike. But sometimes, if I stay late somewhere, I’d like to subway or cab it home. Citibike is perfect for that.

That’s another thing I love about myself — in some small way, I have been a leader in the bike culture in New York City. I have been riding a bike in the city for decades.

The city just keeps getting better for bicyclists. And biking is such a cheap, healthy, and eco-friendly way to get around.20131117-152933.jpg

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“Talking Transition has created a new gathering place for New Yorkers to talk about the future of the city. Open 9AM – 9PM daily November 9th – 23rd, join for events, activities, food, and culture, and come to talk transition.” At Sixth Avenue and Canal, right by the #1 Train.

Earlier this summer, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park

Earlier this year, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park