Saturday, May 11, 2019

True Romance

On a blanket, under a tree in the Glen Oaks apartment complex in Queens, New York City, Carol and I read True Confessions, True Romance, and True Story magazines. Shiny covers showed a handsome man tilting a beautiful girl in the about-to-be-kissed passionately pose. She often had a bare shoulder and more than a hint of cleavage showing.

The stories seemed to have recurring themes. A young girl lies to her parents and has a secret meeting with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks or, a young girl lies to her parents and has a secret meeting with a boy from the right side of the tracks. These railroad romances often took a dark but surprising turn usually on the “to-be-continued” page. I don’t remember Carol’s last name and that seems somehow wrong of me. Glen Oaks apartments are still in existence and so are the romance magazines only now they sell for $4.99 not twenty-five cents. I like to think there are still grammar school girls munching candy while reading stories under trees, though I imagine clicking or scrolling instead of turning paper pages.

I supplied the quarters for these romance magazines and Carol supplied the courage to walk into a store in broad daylight, and purchase them in front of people. I know Carol was tall for kids our age, and had ink black hair. My family moving from the Glen Oaks apartments to a ranch house in Little Neck, Long Island ended my reading romance magazines. I hope Carol found happiness, on either side of the railroad, and that whatever dark turns may have occurred were transformed into starry nights of true romance.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

BCM (Barbara's Classic Movies)

The following short comedies are not from the '30's or 40's, they're from 2001 and 2009, and I doubt very much they're "classics" but they are fun. After all this time, they still make me smile. I hope my mini film fest makes you smile too. I'm posting the videos in the order they were filmed - "One of Those Places," (about 20 minutes), "The Bench" (15 minutes), and "Jack and Thalia" (3 minutes).

One of Those Places

The Bench

Jack and Thalia

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Living a Poem

Several years ago I participated as a student and a teaching assistant in a poetry MOOC (massive open online course) taught by former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky. At the completion of "The Art of Poetry," each participant compiled an anthology of favorite poems. Many of the poems in my anthology are fairly obscure but one in it that is well-known is "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry. This poem came alive for me one morning in a park. The following is an I excerpt from a blog post I published in 2017. 

In this one stanza free verse poem Wendell Berry speaks in the first person and he is speaking about the healing power of nature. Several years ago, I had a terrifying nightmare that left me nervous and upset. The following day I took my little dog for a walk in a nearby park. Suddenly, I heard the sound of pounding hooves so close I felt the vibrations in the ground caused by their power. Four beautiful white-tail deer galloped by! Awestruck, I stood very still and watched them till they disappeared in the woods. My dog was also still. No longer startled, I felt calm but not an ordinary calmness, something deeper and not easily described. The last line of “The Peace of Wild Things” came to me – “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” I don’t remember the nightmare. I do remember the deer and Wendell Berry’s poem.

To read the poem click here.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Book Notes

When I was working at some dreary office job, three-day weekends seemed like manna from heaven. I would tell my family I was spending the holiday with friends and tell friends I was going to be with my family. I’d wander through block long bookstores in the heart of the city, blessed with the commodity of time. Hugging books I’d purchased as I walked to my studio apartment, I felt oddly victorious and goofily happy. There was nothing more fun than three days of reading, deli food, and some wine. Years later, married, and still a working stiff, I would spend large chunks of my paychecks on paperbacks and hardcovers. Once, when I came home with a big bunch of books, my husband said, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you buying dresses?”

I like to own my books and keep them nearby. There is something very special about a new tome. And most of all, I love to make annotations of affectionate concurrence or thoughtful dissent. I don’t rage the way dear Blake did in the margins of his books (usually at Joshua Reynolds) but I like to let my view be, if only on a page. You cannot have a dialogue with a library book. And those times I’ve borrowed library books, there have been more than a few instances of some stranger’s ear wax or something more gross embedded on pages. How can one enjoy Dickens or Dickinson in yucky circumstances like that?

My respect for librarians is unbounded. Still, like the smell of popcorn in a movie theater, the crisp pages of a new book delight.