Archive | Past Matters

‘Don’t Blink’: The Legacy of Dick Gregory

It’s 3 am and I can’t sleep though I usually am dead to the world by 9:30. I keep thinking about Dick Gregory, who gave us so much and lit up even more. I have a theory that public people pass over just when the world most needs to receive the message of their lives. So when figures I deeply admire die, I try to hear what’s being said.

In Mr. Gregory’s case, he had jokes but was not pop culture; he was culture, pure and sharp. Sharp-dressed and sharp-toothed with kind, sad eyes that scarcely blinked when it came to taking it all in. “I’m not a comic; I’m a humorist,” he said, and showed us the difference. With his kindly, kindling wit, he never sang for his supper but cracked on love and hypocrisy, diet and addiction, and, always always, race. He talked about our blood legacy, the generations of backs that refused to break, the greed and loutishness that was as American as apple pie. He was a bridge who assessed the toll already taken. Continue Reading →

Alt Delete

Today at the coffee shop, the mansplainers who always hold court while I roll my eyes– three left-ish, bearded dudes who’d rather be heard than be just–effortlessly folded the term “alt left” into their discourse. Jesus it all happens so fast. Obstensibly they were using 45’s latest malapropism to blame the actions of the alt right (read: Nazis) on the left, as they so often do. But really these dudes seized this term, jumped on this bandwagon, because it resonated with something fetid in them even here in Brooklyn.

It’s always such mishegos when Northerners act like white supremacy is relegated to the South. With the men in this story, I resorted to mockery. If people are laughing at not with such types, it does embarrass them into watching their words; their brand may be nonconformity but they’re self-conscious conformists at heart. But this worked only because of context. There, I had enough social capital to be the bullies’ bully. G-d knows this is not always the case in these alleged united states.

My family is small on my dad’s side because we were Polish Jews and everyone knows how few of us survived World War II. Those of us who could fled to America and thus inherited its complex story of liberty and oppression. Today the past is so painfully present. After all, Hitler didn’t create the third reich in a vaccuum. He tapped into an evil already lurking–an ugly entitlement rotting at the core. Nothing untreated ever heals.

Midsummer Songs, Midsummer Singers

There’s real hubris in sliding a snatch from my book next to a glorious Robert Frost poem. But in a climate in which September scalds, this is midsummer, and midsummer wreaks glorious madness. Especially when eclipses are afoot.

From Robert Frost:

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

From mid-book me:

I was a child with balled fists,
Who winked,
Who loved her daddy,
Who knew to watch grown men’s hands.
I was a child who already was ancient,
Who longed to be young,
Who craved the biggest love,
Who despaired of being loved at all.
I was a child.
It’s hard to believe.

Paintings: Florine Stettheimer

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy