a family matter

Last week, Alaa and Fanny took my picture with Donna Ferrato before any of this happened.

 I walked in the door and Fanny said, "You guys are dressed just alike! Let me take your picture! She and Alaa did a quick photo session. Alaa is screening award-winning The War Show, a documentary he produced about Syria, a week from today in New York. Alaa is from Syria, a permanent resident of the U.S., where he lives with wife Fanny and son. But now, because of Trump's fiat, he can't leave the country to see his family or do his work—he wouldn't be able to get back in. Donna was at the "No ban, no wall" demonstration supporting refugees yesterday at Battery Park in NYC, and here are some pictures. In our family, this has gotten personal.

 Here is Alaa's explanation of his current state.
 I have been asked by many friends about my situation in regards to the travel ban as a Syrian who lives in the US. Thanks everyone for being so supportive and empathetic. I'll explain my situation here.
I'm a permanent resident in the US and a national of Syria. This means that if I leave the country I'll be banned from coming back. I have been here since 2013, mostly in New York. Now I'm in the process of naturalization (becoming an American citizen). I'm married to an American and we have a son that was born here. I came here as an immigrant under the spouse program, so luckily I didn't need to seek asylum or apply for TPS.
In the past few years I spent a lot of time traveling for work, making "The War Show" in Denmark. I was always being pulled out of the line for "random" security check, which I don't mind. I was denied Visas to the UK and Turkey, even though I had American and Danish residencies. There is a great amount of bullying that comes with traveling while Syrian.
The immigration program to the US is one of, if not THE most secure in the world. The amount of information the DHS casually asked me would blow your mind, including my family's phone numbers in Damascus and their addresses one time. I always take it well. I understand there's a war in my country.
So far I can't travel because of the travel ban. I can't meet my family in Lebanon, which I haven't seen in over a year, neither can I do my book opening there. I already couldn't make it to the printing since Turkey didn't allow me a visa. I'm working on a new film project that requires travel there too, that's how I make a living, and now I can't do it.
The reason I never publicly raved about this is that I am in a much better situation than most of my Syrian friends in the US or in Europe who left Syria after 2011. But now for these same reasons I think we need to speak up. If I were under TPS I may not want to speak up because it can be taken away as it is Temporary Protection Status.
I was at the rally yesterday, it was great to see diverse New York stand up for us, people from all walks of life were there. It is very empowering and it gives me a sense of belonging to New York I haven't had before. I have a lot of criticism for liberals, I don't like Clinton or the democratic party much. But this is not political, this is an existential threat to what defines us as a city. People who happen to have a weaker position, due to unfortunate circumstances like where they were born, they need solidarity, speak up, this is a line in the sand that needs drawing. Once we compromise one thing, we loose everything.


kickin' out the jams

She turned 50 and wanted to celebrate. She threw a dance party and everybody came—her family and friends from grade school to Bronx Science to NBC to Life magazine to medical school to now. A half century of love. And she did dance! Like, the whole time!
And her sister, who was born when I met Miriam at Life, is now 26 and an accomplished artist. You can see some of her fabulous work here at her gallery website.
Miriam's mom, Rona, and half sister Nicole joined her on the dance floor much of the night.


year of the cock

Yes, it's the year of the cock, or as the more tasteful version would have it, the rooster. The fire cock, as a matter of fact. Sounds good to me! What does that mean to you? Well, you can check that out on this website, which will help you figure out which year of the Chinese zodiac you were born in. And Gong Xi Fa Cai!
—with thanks to my college pal Danielle for posting this video!


author, author!

Evocative photos promoted the book and could inspire the movie.

Note the special cocktail. Also Narragansett beer, RI hipster brew.
Rachel Hulin, a writer and photographer, told Hannah she was working on a novel and that she was going to start putting it up on Instagram. She cast the characters and made pictures of them and posted them up on a website as well as Insta. It made a mild media sensation, and the project wound up selling to Doubleday as a real print book.
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is an epistolary novel, written in the form of emails between a pair of 30-something twins, brother and sister. They are smart and snarky and very, very verbal. Which is fortunate, since emails are not visual—the visuals were in the photographs Rachel made, which were hanging from balloons all over the Wooly, a coffee shop in the old Woolworth Building in NYC, where she held a book party this week. (It's the second book party I've been to lately where you didn't buy the book—it was a gift. Is this a new thing?) Hear NPR's interview. I went home and read it straight through. I wanted to find out what happened. But I'm not telling you! You can buy it here.

Rachel signs a book for my date, Donna Ferrato,


guitar history

The repaired Martin, looking good!

The song list I made for the Midnight Rambler in Hawaii, 1973.
It's complicated. This sweet little Martin belonged to Robert, who bought it in a pawn shop for $65 back in 1968. Douglas had a nice, big Gibson. They decided to trade, lo these many years ago.  Robert used to play the guitar (either the Gibson, when at his house, or mine, when at ours). Sister Erin and I would sing, and Douglas and Robert's wife Ellen would leave the room. I inherited the guitar in the divorce (only fair, I thought, since Douglas didn't play).
  Over the years, the Martin developed a crack in the soundboard. The bridge lifted off. The braces inside loosened. It still sounded sweet, but needed some TLC. So when one of Hannah's friends said he knew a guy. . . Dude came and picked it up, brought it back repaired within the week. he told me it was worth around $1500 and would be more if I did a $1200 neck reset. Let that be the next owner's problem. And PS, Robert and I have a date to do some strummin' and singin'. On the Martin.


signs of the times

Jamie Whittington, girl photographer, flew from California to DC to march.

Chien-Chi Chang, Magnum photog, flew to NYC from Graz.
 Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. Photos of the women's marches all over the world were mostly pictures of handmade signs—everyone had their own agenda as well as one great overarching one: Dump Trump. There were plenty of great photos and great signs, but none convey the sheer joy of the occasion as well as the videos that pop up all over the web. In this article in Canada's Macleans, the video of Donna Ferrato shooting the march in Washington DC conveys some of this excitement. And it was excitement multiplied as the numbers of millions rolled in. Here is a spreadsheet of estimated marchers around the country, though Block Island is not included. New York City approached half a million, and they were marching downtown from all the way up here on the Upper White Side. Maybe the most impressive pictures, along with closeups of the faces, were the aerials of the masses. Protesting does not produce transformation of society, as many articles such as this one point out. But they make people feel less helpless and more hopeful.
    Oh, and no tear gas goggles were needed. Anywhere.
I did not have to leave the Upper West Side to photograph some signs.


attainable dreams

I have been waking up to the sound of sirens whining, helicopters chopping, bad dreams and a feeling of dread. But today I bring you a reminder that the small things are perhaps the most important ones. If our little dreams come true, the big ones may fall in line.


Look how young Phil Ochs is here in 1968. I was 18 that year myself. As a "Quaker youth," I was a big peacenik. HUge. And, yes, I marched on Washington and struck for peace (though how on earth taking over the administration building at Vassar College was meant to help I can't tell you) and had a conscientious objector boyfriend—no women were drafted in those days.
  I have been very disheartened in the half century since. People are still as violent and warlike as they have always been. What good has any of our outrage done? Like Phil Ochs, I ain't a marchin' anymore.


on the street where i live

I believe this. I really do. I can't love everybody, though, without my nearest and dearest suffering neglect. Just ask anybody in public service or social work or teaching or activism—or journalism. Nor can I love in the abstract. I can only hope that loving those nearby will ripple out into into the wider world. I can try to do the other thing, though. I am trying to think of a person I hate, and at the moment can't call one to mind. Trying not to hate in the abstract—that's harder. Especially now.
#invasionoftheswampthings #rulingclasssansclass #inauguration #congress


strange fruit

You have been wondering how the bitter melon (or karela) plant is doing, I know. The one I planted from seed in Missouri, drove to New York and watched crawl six feet up the airshaft almost to Toby's apartment. Well, a spot of cold weather did it in just as it was blooming, and it fell down to my window. You can just see the little flower and a tiny melon, but I doubt we'll get much further with this plant. I have a couple more seeds. . .


day at the shore

One of Dorothy's three porches.

The City—so near and yet so far.
 There were oysters and mussels and expansive views. There were walks and talks and lots of snacks. There was a signature cocktail and even a football game. And there were Lo Ladies. A quarter of a century ago, we were among the first trekkers to visit the Nepalese Kingdom of Lo. Nancy Jo was our leader and inspiration. Miriam was the oldest, and Dorothy was the youngest. (I know Miriam is 86 now, because she's 20 years older than me.) And there we were, at Dorothy's beautiful house in Atlantic Highlands, overlooking Sandy Hook Bay with New York City in the distance. Everything was so easy and comfortable, it felt as if we'd known each other forever. Oh wait! We almost have!

Miriam, Dorothy and Nancy Jo.


in the cat seat

Monsieur Nosebite: Hair guitar

Monsieur Zevon: Ne'er guitar
Nosebite, Esq, has asked me to post these pictures. He points out that his resemblance to the late Warren Zevon is of the most profound. One of Nosebite's greatest hits is Lawyers, Mice and Werewolves. He accompanies himself on guitar. I am assuming that this is homage to Zevon's  Lawyers, Guns and Money, in which Zevon accompanied himself on piano. Not sure what the legal implications of this adaptation might be. However, I would point out that this pose of Monsieur Nosebite's is neither convincing nor becoming to a prominent member of the bar (barre?).


full moon

Oh, and Nosebite? Happy Wolf Moon! Aawoooooooo


give it up

A stuffed peacock. White.
The color of a virgin, a bridal gown, a form of privilege, a white flag.
The color of surrender.


a gaggle of geese

Ed thought I would like this. He was right!
Think of it, all over this great land of ours are empty, tiny buildings with no remaining purpose. And if technology moves as it usually does, there will be many more of them—mid century modern, deco, '60s style. Just think you could each own your very own superfund site! Some people like the owner of the UCM Museum in Louisiana have made some success repurposing old gas stations as art project/tourist traps; others, like the one above, appear to have had less success. Maybe, like the Goose, they are not only victims of dying technologies, but of dying towns. But that can make their surroundings more pleasant. This one, plus house, could be yours for only—see ad!


the vicarious life

Donna photographing her daughter in 2009.
A voyeur spying on a voyeur. Those of us in the vicarious life, like Donna and me, are a little twisted. (Although I would maintain Donna is more twisted than I am!) We set out to do stories believing we were helping people. Helping people to know they were not alone, helping to raise awareness, helping to make things better. And so we seduced our subjects, convinced them to let us tell their stories. Almost everyone wants validation, to know that they are unique and important, so the actual process of gathering a story is flattering to the subject. But people have been harmed in the making of these stories, too. Most people were not prepared for the exposure, and some of them got burned.

In truth, we do it as much for ourselves as others. Witness: Clare Hollingworth, war correspondent, who died at 105 with her passport by her bed. Her obit here.


man up

Ok, y'all. This is sort of the equivalent of the annual membership drive.
Yeah, I'm talkin'to you.
I have been writing this blog, almost daily, for a dozen years—since before most of you had even heard the word blog.
I know it's not always that exciting, but I need feedback to get 'er going.

Dudes, you've fallen off.
Katie does her duty. And Doro.
Otra Rubia gives it a shot. And Dianne.
Dada and Ed have fallen off.
Barrett, from being a mainstay, is nowhere in sight.
Hannah hasn't reported in in a decade.
Bill never has figured out how to post. Nor Debby.

It really isn't that onerous. You have to check a box saying I am not a robot.
Big whoop.
It's hard to keep going out here all alone.
Just give me some kind of sign.




Do birthdays lead to epiphanies? Well they do if you're born on January 1 and you're  talking Epiphany, which is today. But if you mean a lower-case epihany
Definition a (1) :  a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) :  an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) :  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
maybe yes, maybe no. You'll have to ask Hannah if she had one.
Or most of my other friends, who have birthdays in Capricorn
In other news:
My friend Bill (a college boyfriend long married to my best college girlfriend, Laura) retired from the bench in Seattle, with perhaps his best known case being the one in which he ruled that gay couples should be allowed to marry for their children's sake.
Speaking of gays, a woman I met when I rented a house on the lesbian commune Hawk Hill in Missouri is interviewed in Vice about the aging out of "women's land."
In media news, word is that my former company, Time Inc., is encouraging employees to rat on one another if they misuse expense accounts. Back in the day we were encouraged to misuse expense accounts!
And finally, if you want a snapshot of how the nation was doing in this past year, you couldn't do better than consult this pantechnicon (or do I mean portmanteau?) of charts and graphs from the New York Times. Whether it will lead to an epiphany, I don't know.

Oh, and this from a friend in case you do have an epiphany:
Want all your representatives' phone numbers conveniently on your phone? If you TEXT YOUR ZIP CODE to (520) 200-2223 you'll get a text back with your senators/reps phone numbers so you can hassle them to do the right thing. It works and takes maybe two seconds. Save them in your contacts ... you'll need them a lot in coming months! 


hooray for the p.o.

The Block Island post office is the best.
   They used to be able to deliver a letter addressed only to Claudia, Block Island. Things have changed. The postmistress used to just stick on-island mail in the appropriate boxes forthwith. Now mail being sent from one islander to another must be sent off the island to be sorted then returned to the island to be put in the post office boxes (there is no house-to-house delivery). 
   Still, they received this letter to Nini in Block Island, and rather than sticking a forwarding address label on it decided to put it in an entirely new envelope and make sure it got to me in New York. Now that's a great post office!


last day of the year

Nice view of CPS

First day of skating. Loved it!
 Due to an unfortunate and very costly picnic (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) the tickets I thought I had purchased for the Nutcracker matinee at Lincoln Center were for the night before. So we went skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park instead. Last time I was there—must have been before 2001, when he started managing the place—the name Trump wasn't all over the T-shirts, the Zamboni and the walls. New Yorkers have long considered Trump's one real civic contribution his acceleration of the rink's remodeling back in 1986. However, that bit of credit has long since been undercut by his other "contributions" to quality of life in the city.


at 35

As is traditional, Hannah and the boyz pozed late at night on January first, the date of her birth 35 years ago. She doesn't look any older, and we're very pleased with how she's turned out. A good daughter, a good mother, a good granddaughter, a good cousin, a good niece, a fairly good wife (a little bossypants—wonder where she learned that!) a good businesswoman, a good friend, a good person. Happy birthday to my hostage to fortune, light of my life!
Jimmy is not Hannah's husband.

Nor does he usually rock a man bun. That is a joke.