Monday, January 15, 2018

Poem #3

My guilt is "slavery's chains," too long
the clang of iron falls down the years.
This brother's sold, this sister's gone,
is bitter wax, lining my ears.
My guilt made music with the tears.

My crime is "heroes, dead and gone,"
dead Vesey, Turner, Gabriel,
dead Malcolm, Marcus, Martin King.
They fought too hard, they loved too well.
My crime is I'm alive to tell.

My sin is "hanging from a tree,"
I do not scream, it makes me proud.
I take to dying like a man.
I do it to impress the crowd.
My sin lies in not screaming loud.

-- Maya Angelou, "My Guilt," from Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971)

These days, when we seem to be reeling over and over from the racist rhetoric of our Tyrant and his sycophantic supporters, it seems more important than ever to remember someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as everyone of any race, color, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and creed, who has died in the fight for equality in this nation built on democracy, equal opportunity, and freedom.

(Here is a link to my tribute to Maya Angelou when she died in 2014.)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Happy 2018!

Happy New Year!! Well, yes, we are a bit late for the official, annual HNY message on bklynbiblio (here, here, and here, for instance), but this year we were doing something quite different and extraordinary, and we were traveling on January 1st as a result, so no chance to blog. We went to Ciudad de Mexico! The picture above is AA, his cousin GD, and me...after a few tequilas...ringing in the new year at the balcony bar of our hotel overlooking the Zócalo plaza and the main cathedral. We had a wonderful night, met some new people, ate a delicious multi-course dinner, and danced a bit too.

We had arrived on the previous Friday (after an exhausting red-eye flight), and after an early check-in and breakfast, headed to the Frida Kahlo House with timed tickets we purchased online (good thing too, as they had run out of tickets for the day as soon as we got there). The house-museum is a bit hagiographic, but considering it is meant to give you the sense of who Kahlo was, it does its job relatively well. You do come away sympathizing with her pain and anguish--seeing the wheelchair she used, the corsets and back-braces she wore, and the bed she lay in staring at the mirror on top while painting self-portraits--but I can't say you come away with a greater appreciation for her as an artist. The picture you see here is a photo I took in the exhibition room where some of her indigenous-style clothing was on display. Across from the vitrines were photographs of Kahlo taken by her father in some of these dresses, including this of the artist at age 25. I was pleasantly surprised by the unplanned mirror-effect of how her clothing appeared around her face. What struck me most about the numerous photographs of Kahlo on display was how much, in recent memory, Salma Hayek has come to dominate our impression of what Kahlo looks like and how she acted. It was refreshing to remove that veneer and actually see the "real Kahlo," albeit through her father's photographic eye.

We went for a stroll afterward in Coyoacán, where on a random street I found this beautiful sanctuary for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Other highlights of the weekend included a fantastic dinner at the San Angel Inn (NOT the one at Epcot Center at Disney World!), and a visit to the university art museum at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), where we saw an interest, compact exhibition about Yves Klein (and some brain-numbing exhibitions by conceptual contemporary artists...the same thing also when we visited Museo Jumex...). GD also took us to the fascinating Museo de El Carmen, a former Carmelite convent where you can see some of their cells, view colonial Catholic paintings and polychrome sculptures of saints, and visit the sepulcher where unknown individuals from the nineteenth century had been buried, but whose mummified bodies are now viewable in class-covered caskets. That particular bit of the weekend may seem an odd way to ring in the new year, but perhaps it was a personal, poetic experience we needed that reminded us about the cycle of life and the ongoing march of time. Or perhaps it was just creepy-fascinating. I'm still trying to decide.

Happy 2018!!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

First Snowstorm: 2017-2018 Winter

Today we got hit with our first definite snowstorm of the season! It was supposed to start snowing in the NYC/JC area after about 1am, but when I woke up around 3:30am, there was nothing falling. Needless to say, by 7am, it was coming down in droves, though, and it got worse all day. AA took the photo you see here from outside our window at home...they've been calling it a "bombcyclone" blizzard...I have no idea what that actually means, but presumably it it a meteorological explanation of how bad the blizzard was today. The crazy thing was that, even though every school in NYC closed today, Columbia stayed open, so I had to make the trek into the City and go to work, intentionally arriving early before conditions worsened. I was convinced the school would close early, particularly since I and others slipped going up the stairs of the library among other mishaps, but surprisingly they never closed. I left half-day, though, because the snow was intense and the commute treacherous. It's now about 3pm and AA informed me a few minutes ago that it has officially stopped snowing now. We probably got about 6-7 inches in Jersey City. Now we just need to get ready for the Arctic freeze for the next two days...a high of less than 10 degrees!