Archive for December, 2009

XCI.

Posted in Uncategorized on 27 December 2009 by ms. v

British Prime Minister Lloyd George at the end of World War I, on the region that would become Iraq:

We might abandon the country altogether. But I cannot understand withdrawing from the more important and promising part of Mesopotamia. … What would happen if we withdrew? … After the enormous expenditure which we have incurred in freeing this country from the withering despotism of the Turk, to hand it back to anarchy and confusion, and to take no responsibility for its development would be an act of folly and quite indefensible.

Quotation encountered in Desert Queen, by Janet Wallach, the story of Gertrude Bell, whose life does not sum up easily.

XC.

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 December 2009 by ms. v

Do you know the name of this place? It’s what your mother says when she answers the phone.

I look behind me to see a tall graying father talking to his son, maybe eight or ten, in a blue and red ski jacket.

Grand Central?

Yes, this is the real Grand Central.

In every direction, people are moving, in pairs, alone, in small groups and large, pulling suitcases, lugging shopping bags, holding the hands of their children, holding coffee, holding the New York Times.

They look up at at the great boards above the ticket windows, at the old four-faced clock in the center of the hall, at the green-blue ceiling, aquamarine, with its gold constellations. They queue for tickets, at the counter or from the machines. They queue for coffee, for cheesecake – and now, in the new market, for cheeses, for caviar, even. For last minute gifts and gift-wrappings. Some are passing through on mundane errands or morning commutes; for others it’s the first glimpse of New York City.

For years now, the passage entries were watched over by soldiers in fatigues, a reminder of the meaning of the place, that anywhere busy and romantic, commercial and symbolic had become risky, targeted. You could avoid knowing the alert level but you could not avoid seeing the soldiers.

I didn’t see them this year, though. No idea if this means we’re safer, or just less obsessed, or saving money, or fatigued of staying alert. Or if I just missed them.

I also didn’t see signs for the holiday light show, whatever significance or obliviousness that betrays.

Every year when I walk through Grand Central on my way to my parents’ house, I feel a little thrill of romance, that the old New York, the city that people see in movies and dream about, is the place I get to live in, at least in the last few moments before I board my train and leave.

Merry Christmas!

LXXXIX.

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 December 2009 by ms. v

I am not doing anything creative lately, if you don’t count lesson planning, which should count, but only so far.

I am not cooking.

I am not writing.

I am not taking pictures.

I am not even reading.

I am thinking a lot about how to live, but I am not changing much.

What is this about?

LXXXVIII.

Posted in Uncategorized on 7 December 2009 by ms. v

The morning after a really bad night, I am thankful to have a job that asks nothing less from me than to be completely present. I am happy that my morning starts with a girl asking if I saw a boy’s new haircut, with a question about static electricity, with hellos from a few dozen people who see imperfect me as someone who can answer questions and listen to jokes and give hugs. And sometimes all that being present makes me want, even more, to make all the rest of my life special and good and meaningful. It’s hard to explain.

LXXXVII.

Posted in Uncategorized on 6 December 2009 by ms. v

I think you secretly love your phone, my friend said to me yesterday.

I do, I said, but I secretly hate it, too.

It’s one of those phones – not that phone, but a phone like that phone.

It’s supposed to help me stay connected, stay organized, stay occupied. It makes me feel, sometimes, alone, disappointed, and like my priorities are all wrong. I feel like I react to the phone. It should be a tool for me to use, but it changes my behavior.

Some people are trying to have just a hundred things. Think about this if you’re even slightly drawn to it and observe the battle that starts in your head.