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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gratuitous Indoor Soccer Dad Post (Shayna Scores again, 12/16/2007)

For those of you who are gluttons for blurry, shaky footage of Shayna's awesomeness, here's the second goal from Sunday, December 16, 2007. It's not as clear as the first goal (here), but fellow team member and part of the dynamic duo, Max, gets the credit for a sweet assist.

Again, stick around to the end of the clip for the goal.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shayna's Gold Team beat the Orange Team today 2-1. Shayna was studly, scoring both goals for the Gold. Both goals are below.

Goal #1: Within the first 30 seconds of the game, Shayna drove the ball down field, outrunning the defense and launching a bullet into the net for a quick 1-0 lead:

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Later, Shayna scores a sweet goal, dribbling through a sea of Orange defenders and knocking in what will eventually be the game-winning goal:

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Definitely a banner day for Shayna!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Where the City Schleps

Weekend In New York | Subway Survival

Where the City Schleps

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Anders Kruus, center left, a tourist from Sweden, navigates the subway system at Canal Street.


Published: July 8, 2007

HERE'S an abbreviated list of what tourists interviewed recently from Battery Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art said were problems they encountered on (otherwise wonderful) trips to New York:

• It's hard to figure out which restaurants the natives go to.

• The subway.

• Chinatown is too touristy.

• The subway.

• That cheap hotel found online turned out to be shabby.

• The subway.

• The subway.

• The subway.

• It's illegal to carry a concealed weapon.

• The subway.

Souvenir hawkers take note, it looks as if it's time to add something to the back of the “I ♥ New-York” T-shirt: “But I hate the subway.” It's too dirty, visitors say. Too loud. Too hot. Too confusing which MetroCard to get. Can anyone tell me if it's safe to take late at night? And what was that muffled announcement about “express to Brooklyn?”

Alma Buss of Plano, Tex., in town with her husband, Leroy, and her granddaughter Bethany, wished they could make it work. “We try,” she said, “we really try.” But it's unbearably hot — especially in the depths of the No. 7 train platform in Times Square.

“A, B, C, D, where do they go? Which one's an express?” asked Patricia Wundersee, a military pay technician at Fort Riley, Kan.

“When should you not get on the subway?” asked Doug Ivey, in from Tennessee.

“It's rundown,” said Fernando Guerrero of Mexico City. “Considering what country we're in, it's really unsuitable.”

Those who moved here as adults remember how it feels. It takes weeks, if not months, for that multicolor spaghetti jumble to morph into a comprehensible map and for the screeching of brakes to fade away. But now, despite complaints galore, few New Yorkers would trade it for a cleaner, close-at-midnight-and-go-hardly-anywhere system.

But if you're only here for a few days, how to survive? Take taxis and tour buses? You can't really claim you've been here until you've swiped a MetroCard and received a “swipe card again at this turnstile” message and a courtesy jolt to the pelvis, or experienced the utter discombobulation of emerging back onto street level and having no idea which way is north or south or east or west.

So, visitors, here is your crash course (New Yorkers: add your own tips here:)

Plan your route You've journeyed back in time to pre-G.P.S. navigation. Get a map from the token booth attendant; it's free and comes with citywide technical support. New Yorkers have an entire lobe of the brain dedicated to calculating subway routes, and a soft spot for tourists who can't find their way. So stare at the open map, express confusion loudly, and 9 times out of 10 someone will magically offer to help. And though that person who comes to your aid may have an Indian accent, she won't be talking to you over a scratchy line from Bangalore.

If you're too immersed in the modern age to work with paper maps and human interaction, try www.tripplanner.mta.info or www.hopstop.com for MapQuest-like help. Both are surprisingly functional on BlackBerrys and Treos, though Trip Planner is New York-only and requires fewer clicks. Check for notices about service changes and get a second (human) opinion.

MetroCard math Here's the basic rundown: Official price is $2 a trip, but if you buy five, the sixth is free, effectively cutting the price to $1.67 a trip. (Multiple riders can swipe the same card.) Compare that with the individual unlimited passes — the one-day for $7, worth it if you're going to take at least five trips before 3 a.m. the next morning, and the $24 seven-day pass, if you're sure you're taking at least 15 trips.

Dirt and noise The subway has been around since 1904, so expecting it to be as clean and quiet as Washington's or even Mexico City's is unreasonable. (Mr. Guerrero, are you listening?) That's not grime you're seeing, it's historical charm. And those creatures scurrying down the tracks are, um, underground squirrels. As for the screeching cars, how else can you tell the train is coming? A computerized announcement? Flashing lights? So unromantic.

Safety No one will fault you if you want to take a cab back to the hotel at 3 a.m. But you don't have to. Around 3 a.m., the Manhattan trains can be so jammed with late-night revelers (and a few jealous bakery workers) that you'll feel silly for even having worried about your safety. Two incentives to take a cab late at night: trains are less frequent, and should you fall asleep on the way, the cabby will wake you up at your destination; subway cleaners will wake you up at 4:30 a.m. — in the Far Rockaway section of Queens.

The heat In summer, stations can be a tad stuffy. Some prefer the terms “stifling,” or “living inferno.” One possible solution: come back in the winter. Another: buy cold water from the underground newspaper vendors (it looks as if they wouldn't have a refrigerator back there, but nearly all do). Once you realize those people are stuck there all day, it's harder to feel sorry for yourself.

The wait Sure, but a taxi doesn't provide entertainment. Check out the crazy fingernails on that woman. Is that guy really playing the theme from “Happy Days” on his sitar? Who'd have thought there'd be so much legit artwork? And a special for science lovers: understand how anthill traffic works by observing the teeming underground corridors of the Times Square stop, where miraculously people never bump into one another.

Bearing the noise There are five kinds: a) The rumbling that says the train is coming; b) the honking that indicates a train is bypassing the station; c) the cursing that follows; d) the unimportant, clearly enunciated announcements (“thank you for riding New York City transit”); and e) the vitally important incomprehensible announcements (blah-blah-will-be-skipping-blah-blah-now-running-express-blah-blah-shuttle-bus). Solutions: bring earplugs, and ask for help.

Finding a restroom Good luck.

Jazz Messenger

Essay

Jazz Messenger


Haruki Murakami at his jazz bar, Peter Cat, in Sendagaya, Tokyo, 1978.

Published: July 8, 2007

I never had any intention of becoming a novelist — at least not until I turned 29. This is absolutely true.

I read a lot from the time I was a little kid, and I got so deeply into the worlds of the novels I was reading that it would be a lie if I said I never felt like writing anything. But I never believed I had the talent to write fiction. In my teens I loved writers like Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Balzac, but I never imagined I could write anything that would measure up to the works they left us. And so, at an early age, I simply gave up any hope of writing fiction. I would continue to read books as a hobby, I decided, and look elsewhere for a way to make a living.

The professional area I settled on was music. I worked hard, saved my money, borrowed a lot from friends and relatives, and shortly after leaving the university I opened a little jazz club in Tokyo. We served coffee in the daytime and drinks at night. We also served a few simple dishes. We had records playing constantly, and young musicians performing live jazz on weekends. I kept this up for seven years. Why? For one simple reason: It enabled me to listen to jazz from morning to night.

I had my first encounter with jazz in 1964 when I was 15. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers performed in Kobe in January that year, and I got a ticket for a birthday present. This was the first time I really listened to jazz, and it bowled me over. I was thunderstruck. The band was just great: Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Art Blakey in the lead with his solid, imaginative drumming. I think it was one of the strongest units in jazz history. I had never heard such amazing music, and I was hooked.

A year ago in Boston I had dinner with the Panamanian jazz pianist Danilo Pérez, and when I told him this story, he pulled out his cellphone and asked me, “Would you like to talk to Wayne, Haruki?” “Of course,” I said, practically at a loss for words. He called Wayne Shorter in Florida and handed me the phone. Basically what I said to him was that I had never heard such amazing music before or since. Life is so strange, you never know what’s going to happen. Here I was, 42 years later, writing novels, living in Boston and talking to Wayne Shorter on a cellphone. I never could have imagined it.

When I turned 29, all of a sudden out of nowhere I got this feeling that I wanted to write a novel — that I could do it. I couldn’t write anything that measured up to Dostoyevsky or Balzac, of course, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to become a literary giant. Still, I had no idea how to go about writing a novel or what to write about. I had absolutely no experience, after all, and no ready-made style at my disposal. I didn’t know anyone who could teach me how to do it, or even friends I could talk with about literature. My only thought at that point was how wonderful it would be if I could write like playing an instrument.

I had practiced the piano as a kid, and I could read enough music to pick out a simple melody, but I didn’t have the kind of technique it takes to become a professional musician. Inside my head, though, I did often feel as though something like my own music was swirling around in a rich, strong surge. I wondered if it might be possible for me to transfer that music into writing. That was how my style got started.

Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music — and mainly from jazz. Next comes melody — which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. If the way the words fit the rhythm is smooth and beautiful, you can’t ask for anything more. Next is harmony — the internal mental sounds that support the words. Then comes the part I like best: free improvisation. Through some special channel, the story comes welling out freely from inside. All I have to do is get into the flow. Finally comes what may be the most important thing: that high you experience upon completing a work — upon ending your “performance” and feeling you have succeeded in reaching a place that is new and meaningful. And if all goes well, you get to share that sense of elevation with your readers (your audience). That is a marvelous culmination that can be achieved in no other way.

Practically everything I know about writing, then, I learned from music. It may sound paradoxical to say so, but if I had not been so obsessed with music, I might not have become a novelist. Even now, almost 30 years later, I continue to learn a great deal about writing from good music. My style is as deeply influenced by Charlie Parker’s repeated freewheeling riffs, say, as by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s elegantly flowing prose. And I still take the quality of continual self-renewal in Miles Davis’s music as a literary model.

One of my all-time favorite jazz pianists is Thelonious Monk. Once, when someone asked him how he managed to get a certain special sound out of the piano, Monk pointed to the keyboard and said: “It can’t be any new note. When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!”

I often recall these words when I am writing, and I think to myself, “It’s true. There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.” I find the thought reassuring. It means that vast, unknown stretches still lie before us, fertile territories just waiting for us to cultivate them.

Haruki Murakami’s most recent book is a novel, “After Dark.” This essay was translated by Jay Rubin.

From Hawaii with Love from the Yankees

Cheering Section

From Hawaii With Love for the Yankees

Suzy Allman for The New York Times

Don Mayo with his daughters, 10-year-old Racquel, left, and Summer, 16, at Yankee Stadium last Sunday. They came from Hawaii for a 10-game homestand.

Published: July 8, 2007

Many fans take the subway, some drive and a few walk, but when it comes to getting to Yankee Stadium, Don Mayo tops them all: He flies 12 hours from his home in Maui to see games in the Bronx.

Mayo is one of about a dozen Yankees season-ticket holders from Hawaii. For years, he bought single-game tickets during his frequent trips to New York, where his parents grew up. But playoff tickets have become so expensive that since 2005 he has bought two full-season passes that include postseason seats at face value.

Mayo, a former professional surfer who attended his first Yankees game in 1970 with his uncle Buddy and has loved the team ever since, owns a construction and restoration business. This gives him the flexibility and the means to attend about 40 games a year. Mayo said he flew in for about four homestands a year, including opening day and games against Boston and other top teams. He said he had not missed a playoff game since 1997.

He gives the rest of his seats away — to friends, cabbies, waitresses, police officers and strangers on the subway. He asks only that they not resell them.

“I get a big kick out of giving away the other tickets,” said Mayo, who paid $5,670 for his two tier box seats in Section 653, not far from the right-field foul pole. “In Hawaii, we have aloha spirit; you give, and it comes back to you. I try to put out good vibes.”

Despite his imposing frame and massive grip, Mayo appears as if he belongs on the beach, with his sandy blond hair, sunglasses and a Yankees tank top.

For the current 10-game homestand, he brought his daughters, Summer, 16, and Racquel, 10, who sometimes have to skip school, much to the consternation of their teachers. Mayo gathered single seats so the three of them could sit together.

“I have one friend who likes the Mets, but most of them don’t know much about baseball,” Summer said. “Mostly, they are jealous of my coming to New York so much.”

Finding lodging is tough. Sometimes, Mayo gets a discount from a friend who works at Marriott. Some strangers who hear about his long-distance devotion to the Yankees have bought him meals and drinks at restaurants, including some on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

Then there is the bowling. Thanks to jet lag, Mayo goes bowling after every game at the lanes across the street from the stadium, sometimes finishing at 2 a.m., which is dinnertime in Hawaii.

“The day games are killers,” he said.

So far this season, Mayo estimated that he had spent about $20,000 on tickets, airfare, food and other sundries, including a No. 1 foam finger and a hat for Racquel. He said he expected to spend roughly that amount in the second half of the season if the Yankees make the playoffs.

“I’m one of those impetuous people who will figure it out later,” Mayo said. “I don’t stress how it will work out. I don’t even read my credit card statements.”

In the feast-or-famine construction business, Mayo often takes on extra work during the winter to finance his habit. If money is tight or his schedule is too hectic, he will cancel a midseason trip.

“I work for these tickets,” said Mayo, who likens his ethic to that of Paul O’Neill, the former Yankees right fielder. “Nothing is for free.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Summer and Racquel want to meet Derek Jeter. They take their father’s affliction in stride and seem at home in the stands, particularly Racquel, who often wanders off by herself to find food. They also enjoy the visits because they can visit their paternal grandmother in Connecticut.

In Maui, Mayo follows all the games on MLB.com. Conveniently, night games in New York begin during lunch hour in Hawaii. Mayo turns on the game in the office and does paperwork or works out in the gym while listening.

Mayo’s friends and former wife say he is nuts for spending so much time and money following the Yankees. But they realize that Mayo’s passion for the Yankees is in line with the way he runs his company and his life.

“He’s kind of an extremist,” said Stephen Santos, who works for Mayo on Maui. “Everything he does, he does beyond what people normally do or expect to do.”

Santos, who said he rooted for the Los Angeles Angels, added that Mayo talked so much about the Yankees that “he’s gotten me interested” in them as well.

The Yankees’ recent woes have not diminished Mayo’s enthusiasm. In a rare flash of annoyance, he said he disliked fans who booed them.

“The Yankees never let me down,” he said. “Even if they lose 100 games, I’d be here. I’ll make it happen, unless I can’t pay my mortgage.”

Cracker-Barrel 2.0

Cracker-Barrel 2.0


Published: July 8, 2007

ONE Monday morning, on the way to her office in the basement of the Montauk Club in Park Slope, Louise Crawford passed a man staring up at a tree. Lingering for a moment, she asked him what was so interesting.

It turned out that a yellow-throated songbird known as a Nashville warbler, in its northward migration, had made a pit stop in the neighborhood and was perched on a branch.

Not exactly a lunar landing. And even on a slow news day, the warbler’s arrival seemed unlikely to attract the attention of the news media. But Ms. Crawford, who writes a Park Slope-focused blog, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, and whose role in the borough’s blogging family most closely resembles that of the nurturing matriarch, was elated.

“It’s a good story,” she said. “It’s an exclusive.” Later that day, the post went up: a short account of the human encounter and the bird sighting, tinged with Ms. Crawford’s recollection of her father, an amateur ornithologist, taking her as a child to Central Park on bird-watching excursions.

Such musings, embroidered with the personal, are a critical element of “placeblogs” like Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, whose writers frequently and sometimes obsessively punch point-of-view histories into their laptops to yield sites that document everything from a neighborhood’s significant quakes to its slightest tremors.

Or, as Placeblogger.com, a Web site that promotes and tracks blogs with a hyperlocal focus, put it: “Placeblogs are about the lived experience of a community, some of which is news and some of which isn’t.”

In the past year, the word Bloglyn has been cropping up a lot, a reflection of the fact that Brooklyn, particularly brownstone Brooklyn, has emerged as possibly the center of the placeblog world. Web forums serve as virtual town hall meetings (complete with hecklers), and bloggers peer with equal interest at controversial development projects, restaurant openings and the most minute of neighborhood minutiae.

After tracking blogs in about 3,000 American neighborhoods for six months, a study released this year by the Web site Outside.in declared Clinton Hill the “bloggiest” neighborhood in America.

No other Brooklyn neighborhoods made the top 10. The people conducting the survey acknowledged, however, that Brooklyn neighborhoods could have taken up a lot of space on the list; as if wary of placing an entire ball club’s roster on the all-star team at the expense of the rest of the league, they chose Clinton Hill for the No. 1 slot but omitted the others. And as Steven Berlin Johnson of Park Slope, a creator of Outside.in, explained, in terms of socioeconomic makeup, the national top 10 and the Brooklyn top 10 look a lot alike.

“On a per capita basis,” said Robert Guskind, founder of the year-old blog Gowanus Lounge, which he says gets 85,000 page views per month, “we have more bloggers than any other part of the city, and more than anywhere that I know of. More than in Manhattan, and way more than in Queens.” Mr. Guskind, who is also the Brooklyn editor of Curbed.com, said he was not aware of any placeblogs in Staten Island or the Bronx.

Ms. Crawford is typical of the breed of individuals running these quirky byways of the information highway.

In accordance with the unwritten rules of placeblogging, Ms. Crawford considers her three-year-old blog an “informal portal” with no pretense of objectivity and, by definition, an automatic interest in anything that ever happens in or relating to Park Slope. This is why she welcomes e-mail tips from readers sharing observations like “I think I heard a gunshot” or questions like “What was that smell last night?” For Ms. Crawford and her audience, absolutely nothing is too trivial.

The quirks of her own life reflect her postage stamp of home turf. Ms. Crawford, a mother of two, writes a parenting column called Smartmom for The Brooklyn Paper, and observations on education and child-rearing factor prominently in her blog. In a recent entry on her daughter’s fifth-grade graduation ceremony at Public School 321, she wrote: “Graduations. Parties. They’re going on all over the city. These are the milestone moments that require Kleenex and a strong margarita afterwards.”

Inspired by The Atlantic Monthly’s list of the 100 most influential Americans, last year Ms. Crawford compiled the “Park Slope 100,” a list that included well-known Slope figures like the writer Paul Auster and the actor Steve Buscemi, but also lesser-known residents, like a stoic local barista who serves coffee and muffins with a particular grace, and her therapist.

“I just kind of threw that in,” Ms. Crawford said of this last inclusion. “Nobody mentioned it.”

One of the longest-running and most popular Brooklyn placeblogs began in September 2004 when Jonathan Butler, formerly the owner of a real estate investment company, closed on his Clinton Hill brownstone, and, as he put it, “I had all this interest and energy that I needed to channel somewhere.”

The next month, Mr. Butler created Brownstoner, a real estate blog that assiduously monitors Brooklyn properties, claims more than 100,000 unique visitors a month and receives more than 100 e-mail tips a day from readers. The site’s ubiquity in the blogosphere, both in and beyond Brooklyn, earned Mr. Butler’s neighborhood top blogging honors in the Outside.in study.

Whether or not neighborhood-focused blogs like Brownstoner actually play a role in enacting or preventing change, as some bloggers claim, they undeniably give local residents a sense of empowerment. This may be one reason for their proliferation.

Robin Lester, who operates online under the name Lesterhead and who last summer launched the Clinton Hill Blog, which boasts about 750 unique visitors a day, has another theory. She sees the surge in neighborhood-focused blogs in Brooklyn as a reflection of the borough’s relatively high ratio of homeowners to renters. That long-term commitment, she suggests, inspires a strong bond between resident and neighborhood, one she did not feel when she lived in Hell’s Kitchen. There she briefly considered, then dismissed, the idea of starting a neighborhood blog.

When a friend of Ms. Lester’s, inspired by the Clinton Hill Blog, recently mentioned an interest in starting a blog about her Manhattan neighborhood, Tudor City, Ms. Lester encouraged her but with ambivalence: “I thought, ‘That’s great, but that’s kind of weird.’ ”

Mr. Guskind of Gowanus Lounge offers yet a third theory to explain the proliferation of Brooklyn blogs.

“The only explanation I can think of is the critical-mass explanation,” he said, suggesting that Brooklyn’s abundance of charged issues, coupled with its rich culture and long history, has led to an exponential increase in the number of blogs devoted to covering its neighborhoods. Or, as he put it, “Blogs breed more blogs.”

Still, not every corner of Brooklyn is lucky enough to have a blog.

“There are large parts of Brooklyn, be it East New York or Sheepshead Bay, where you just don’t have blogs being done,” Mr. Guskind said. “There are still a lot of niches out there, a lot of gaps, and it would be great to fill them.”

In the past few months, several blogging outposts have sprung up in less-gentrified neighborhoods like Bushwick, where in March Jeremy Sapienza inaugurated BushwickBK.com.

“There was a big vacant spot waiting in Bushwick for somebody to start talking about it,” Mr. Sapienza said. “I was moving into the neighborhood, and I couldn’t find any local information, any local blogs or papers. I thought, I’ll just do it myself.”

The Brooklyn blogging community actually inspired one person to move to the borough and explore the blogging possibilities of Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the least-blogged neighborhoods.

“Being a blog reader gave me a taste of Brooklyn life, and I liked what I saw and read so I decided to move to the borough,” wrote the author of Bed-Stuy Blog, who blogs under the name the Changeling.

Mr. Sapienza pronounced himself thrilled by the arrival of Bed-Stuy Blog in March, and promptly launched into a debate with the site as to which neighborhood has more bodegas.

“Mm-mm, girl, you need to take a walk up in here one day — you cannot stand on a Bushwick corner and not see a bodega — some corners have two and even three!” Mr. Sapienza wrote in defense of his neighborhood.

One evening in May, more than 100 bloggers gathered at the Old Stone House in Park Slope for the second annual Blogfest, an event organized by Ms. Crawford to bring together Brooklyn bloggers to discuss the impact of their work.

Most of the participants chose to write their blog names, not their real ones, on the name tags they had been issued at the door, and some people, unaware that an R.S.V.P. had been required to gain entry, met with confusion and even resistance upon arrival.

“What’s your name?” asked a woman posted behind a check-in table, whose nightclub-bouncer approach was roundly criticized in the next day’s Blogfest comment section.

As one man gave his name, the woman dragged a finger down the guest list. His name was not on it.

“Do you have a blog name?” she asked.

“No.”

“Do you have any other name?”

He didn’t, and he left the building.

Introducing the event, Ms. Crawford said she was thrilled at the turnout, especially because she had first conceived of Blogfest almost as a joke. After brief speeches from some of the borough’s most prominent bloggers, including Mr. Butler, Mr. Guskind and Mr. Johnson of Outside.in, more than 30 new bloggers lined up behind a microphone at the front of the room to plug their projects.

Earlier, Mr. Guskind and others had spoken of the need for more diversity among bloggers, but as the newest members of the community introduced themselves, there was a conspicuous lack of representation from less gentrified neighborhoods. No Brownsville. No East New York. No Canarsie. To remedy this, several bloggers, including Ms. Crawford, have organized a series of blogger socials, the first of which took place last month in Flatbush, to encourage networking and, as she put it, to “take the show on the road” to underblogged neighborhoods.

There was, however, much diversity of subject matter: love of Brooklyn and eagerness to blog threaded through interests ranging from politics and gentrification to gardening and food. Among individuals in this last category was Emily Farris, who is at work on a casserole cookbook and whose blog Casserolecrazy.com contains her recipe for the Greenpoint, inspired by her neighborhood’s Polish flavors: kielbasa, cheese, mushroom, potato and sauerkraut.

Nearly two weeks after the Blogfest, Ms. Crawford reflected on a moment that seemed to define the evening. After the meeting, when the bloggers retired downstairs to a catered party of Mexican food and margaritas, one of the bartenders told her the event had him thinking about starting a blog.

“This is the year that we’ve carved out our own various pieces of Brooklyn,” she said. “Everybody’s grabbing their neighborhood.”

Brooklyn Blogs

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"To Jewishness" by Kenneth Koch

As you were contained in
Or embodied by
Louise Schlossman
When she was a sophomore
At Walnut Hills
High School
In Cincinnati, Ohio,
I salute you
And thank you
For the fact
That she received
My kisses with tolerance
On New Year's Eve
And was not taken aback
As she well might have been
Had she not had you
And had I not, too.
Ah, you!
Dark, complicated you!
Jewishness, you are the tray
On it painted
Moses, David and the Ten
Commandments, the handwriting
On the Wall, Daniel
In the lions' den
On which my childhood
Was served
By a mother
And father
Who took you
To Michigan
Oh the soft smell
Of the pine
Trees of Michigan
And the gentle roar
Of the Lake! Michigan
Or sent you
To Wisconsin
I went to camp there
On vacation, with me
Every year!
My counselors had you
My fellow campers
Had you and "Doc
Ehrenreich" who
Ran the camp had you
We got up in the
Mornings you were there
You were in the canoes
And on the baseball
Diamond, everywhere around.
At home, growing
Taller, you
Thrived, too. Louise had you
And Charles had you
And Jean had you
And her sister Mary
Had you
We all had you
And your Bible
Full of stories
That didn't apply
Or didn't seem to apply
In the soft spring air
Or dancing, or sitting in the cars
To anything we did.
In "religious school"
At the Isaac M. Wise
Synagogue (called "temple")
We studied not you
But Judaism, the one who goes with you
And is your guide, supposedly,
Oddly separated
From you, though there
In the same building, you
In us children, and it
On the blackboards
And in the books Bibles
And books simplified
From the Bible. How
Like a Bible with shoulders
Rabbi Seligmann is!
You kept my parents and me
Out of hotels near Crystal Lake
In Michigan and you resulted, for me,
In insults,
At which I felt
Chagrined but
Was energized by you.
You went with me
Into the army, where
One night in a foxhole
On Leyte a fellow soldier
Said Where are the fuckin Jews?
Back in the PX. I'd like to
See one of those bastards
Out here. I'd kill him!
I decided to conceal
You, my you, anyway, for a while.
Forgive me for that.
At Harvard you
Landed me in a room
In Kirkland House
With two other students
Who had you. You
Kept me out of the Harvard Clubs
And by this time (I
Was twenty-one) I found
I preferred
Kissing girls who didn't
Have you. Blonde
Hair, blue eyes,
And Christianity (oddly enough) had an
Aphrodisiac effect on me.
And everything that opened
Up to me, of poetry, of painting, of music,
Of architecture in old cities
Didn't have you
I was
Distressed
Though I knew
Those who had you
Had hardly had the chance
To build cathedrals
Write secular epics
(Like Orlando Furioso)
Or paint Annunciations—"Well
I had David
in the wings." David
Was a Jew, even a Hebrew.
He wasn't Jewish.
You're quite
Something else. I had Mahler,
Einstein, and Freud. I didn't
Want those three (then). I wanted
Shelley, Byron, Keats, Shakespeare,
Mozart, Monet. I wanted
Botticelli and Fra Angelico.
"There you've
Chosen some hard ones
For me to connect to. But
Why not admit that I
Gave you the life
Of the mind as a thing
To aspire to? And
Where did you go
To find your 'freedom'? to
New York, which was
Full of me." I do know
Your good qualities, at least
Good things you did
For me—when I was ten
Years old, how you brought
Judaism in, to give ceremony
To everyday things, surprise and
Symbolism and things beyond
Understanding in the
Synagogue then I
Was excited by you, a rescuer
Of me from the flatness of my life.
But then the flatness got you
And I let it keep you
And, perhaps, of all things known,
That was most ignorant. "You
Sound like Yeats, but
You're not. Well, happy
Voyage home, Kenneth, to
The parking lot
Of understood experience. I'll be
Here if you need me and here
After you don't
Need anything else. HERE is a quality
I have, and have had
For you, and for a lot of others,
Just by being it, since you were born."

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