Tag Archives: Joanna

A classic is a book no one reads, Mark Twain said

"I read from Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy."
“I read from Mark Twain’s lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.”

I had pneumonia until three days ago when I was discharged from the hospital.

These days, my health has been doing well:

  • In May, I attended my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s graduation from college.
  • In June, I spent two weeks in McKeesport, PA seeing how low-cost high-tech housing for elderly and disabled individuals can be made to work.
  • In October, I returned from elder daughter Joanna and future son-in-law Jade Phillips’ Engagement Party.

I am happy in my work and in my life.

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A little illness serves to remind that the way we spend our time matters.

What follows on this site is short installments of Helen Keller‘s 116 page book The Story of my Life.

Here in this season of darkness, when fancy paper containing gifts you will not use are torn away, I have decided to make a token gesture that will brighten your life and change your world view for the better if only you let it.

What follows are selected quotations Helen Keller published in 1903. How Helen Keller’s perspective on the value of life has affected me personally is a subject for another time.

For you, the following may alert you to the fact that a young woman in her 1920s, a woman who could neither see nor hear, opened up the world to another way of viewing reality–a path so radical in its conception and so beneficial to anyone who reads her that life as we know it will never be the same again. That is why The Story of My Life is   appropriately regarded as one of the great books of the 20th Century (and of the century in which I live in now).

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–“I found out the use of a key. One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the servants were in a detached part of the house. She kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the jar of the pounding.”

–“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

–“It seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: “What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?” In the most evident sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.”

–“In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had always been accustomed to read the propositions in line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions were right before me, I found the braille confusing, and could not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had always done my work in braille or in my head. Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to write examination papers. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples over and over before I could form any idea of what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it very hard to keep my wits about me.”

–“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am not going to tell anybody.

–“But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and “faded into the light of common day.” Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college, there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.”

–“But the examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life. Although I have faced them many times and cast them down and made them bite the dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals take place are spent in cramming your mind with mystic formulæ and indigestible dates–unpalatable diets, until you wish that books and science and you were buried in the depths of the sea.”

–“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew. Again and again I ask impatiently, “Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?” They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men.”

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For extensive bibliographic information on Helen Keller’s Story of My Life: see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html

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Joel Solkoff, December 20, 2012, State College, PA

 

 

 

My mother’s Thanksgiving story and my Thanksgiving letter

Let us start with my mother.

My mother Miriam told me [when I was a freshman at Druid Hills High School in Decatur, Georgia in 1961] of her attempt to convince her Aunt Marcia (Tanta Masha) to have a Thanksgiving celebration in 1933 when my mother was eight years old.

Tanta Masha, married to Sol Demick [a sweet, bald man who worked at a delicatessen] and my grandmother Suschi Schneider’s older sister, ran my mother’s household in The Bronx (of course, of New York City) with an iron hand.

Tanta Masha and my mother did not get along, “Probably,” my mother said, “because we were so much alike.”

Why my mother and grandmother (whom I called Bubbie) lived with Sol and Marcia Demick and their two sons Norman and Alvin (Vremmy) is a story for another occasion. My mother said that in 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, Thanksgiving [first established as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln’s executive order] was not universally celebrated the way it is today.

In fact, my mother said, FDR (whom my mother adored) was responsible for Thanksgiving’s widespread celebration (probably at the suggestion of FDR’s political adviser then Postmaster General James A. Farley) as a way of including the immigrant community into the lumpy American melting pot (and not incidentally securing their vote.)

So taken with FDR’s appeal to celebrate Thanksgiving, my always precocious and astonishingly serious (and beautiful) mother appealed to Tanta Masha to celebrate the holiday complete with turkey and Norman Rockwell-like trimmings.

[Note: Yes, I am aware that Norman Rockwell’s iconographic Freedom from Want painting first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943.]

Mother explained that for Tanta Masha, Thanksgiving complete with turkey and cranberry sauce [hint: cranberries will later take on great significance in my life] meant a great deal of unwanted work and expense she and the family could ill afford. [When my grandmother talked about poverty—and indeed when my father did—they spoke with an understanding of pain they could never express successfully in words but the pain came through clearly and on the mark like the early promises of digital sound and flat screen high-definition television.)

“With Tanta Masha, everything was a power struggle,” Mother explained. Then weeping unexpectedly, Mother described how Tanta Masha had outmaneuvered my mother—bitterly angry that Mother’s goal to become a good American had (as she explained it) been stolen from her by an unfair trick.

Tanta Masha asked her sons Norman [who died unexpectedly this year] and Vremmy [about whom more needs to be said than can fit neatly into this section] (Mother’s cousins were really more like brothers than cousins), “How would you like to celebrate Thanksgiving with hot dogs and baked beans?” My mother’s dream of patriotic desire had been robbed from her by what she conceived of as a mean parlor trick.

In the long run though, Mother prevailed (as she always prevailed when something Important was at stake). And so, for me Thanksgiving evolved into the holiday of the year—significant in a way I will try to define, but whose root structure now clearly runs deeply into the ground holding generations fixed in place.

Thanksgiving has become the holiday that defines me as a person, as a father, as a family man, as a citizen in ways no other holiday can. What makes this definition especially auspicious this year (a year of enormous change in my life)….[Let us wait and see what happens next after I have completed cleaning out the oven and stuffing the fresh turkey that is now in the refrigerator.]

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This photograph taken in 1990 is especially significant.

The photograph shows some of the people I love most in life. The six-year-old girl, front row left, is my elder daughter Joanna Marie, now 28 and engaged to be married.

The infant, back row right, is Amelia Altalena, my 22 year-old daughter who graduated from college in May.

The grinning young woman, back row middle, is my sister Sarah Schmerler.

The woman seated is my grandmother Celia Pell, my Bubbie, shown here in celebration for the last time outside the Jewish Home for the Aged in Riverdale where by some miracle my mother Miriam Pell Schmerler top left was able to obtain for Bubbie a private room at the most beautiful home for the aged in the universe–a room overlooking the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge where there is a collection of art so wonderful it will knock your socks off. Especially notable is the fact that I am shown, holding Amelia in my arms, and I was then able to walk. Four years after this photograph was taken I became a paraplegic. At the time I was merely a procrastinator–a vice sadly that continues to this day.

The photograph was taken in my mother’s apartment in Inwood, a neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan Island. At the time my mother, a Hebrew educator, was a newly enrolled graduate student–then 65 years-old–at the Jewish Theological Seminary where she later received a doctorate in Hebrew letters after completion of her thesis on the Roman Catholic Church’s significant decision to change its theological doctrine so that today the Jewish people are no longer blamed for the death of Jesus Christ.

In my mind’s eye, I think of this photograph as being taken at Thanksgiving. But by November of 1990, my former wife Diana, my two daughters, and I had relocated from Washington DC, where I lived and worked for 17 years–many of them heavily influenced by Edward R. Murrow’s Thanksgiving Day broadcast “Harvest of Shame” which I had viewed in my grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment and which changed my life (as if I were on the road to Damascus). In November of 1990, we relocated to Durham, NC where I began a new career as a senior technical writer for Northern Telecom–a career that I loved.

Not shown in this photograph is my favorite (and only) nephew Asher Benvenuto Simonson, now 11, who was not yet a gleam in his father Robert Simonson’s eye.

What compelled me to write this Thanksgiving posting is one consequence of this month’s Hurricane Sandy. This posting begins with my mother’s attempt to have a real Thanksgiving overruled, among others, by her brother-like cousin Vremmy (a nickname from the Yiddish name Abraham Meyer), one of the most influential people in my life, publisher of Arts Magazine, who arranged for publication in The Washington Post of an advertisement for my book Learning to Live Again, an advertisement which appeared in the book review section with a photograph of Joanna, then one, and me.

Vremmy died shortly after the advertisement was published leaving his widow Theresa Demick, an elegant and cultured delight in my life and that of my family. Theresa, one of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, was on the 16th floor of her apartment building when the storm hit wiping out the electricity.

Somehow, Theresa managed to get to the street where she wandered around aimlessly, taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, diagnosed with dementia. Now, thanks to the efforts of my sister Sarah, my brother-in-law Robert, and others, Theresa has found a safe berth at the wonderful Jewish Home for the Aged in Riverdale–the wonderful wonderful place where my grandmother lived out her final years with pleasure and respect. Although Theresa suffers, her knowledge of art remains in tact and Sarah feels confident that Theresa will be able to work with the home’s magnificent collection–Theresa safe from harm.

Not shown in the photograph is my sterling prospective son-in-law Jade Kosmos Phillips because Joanna did not meet him until 22 years later when they met while Joanna was working as an ambulance driver–the romance beginning in typical Joanna fashion when she insulted Jade who is a firefighter/paramedic.

The photographer is my now former wife Diana who blessedly drove up from Durham to New York with Joanna earlier this week to comfort Theresa–which should serve to reassure Amelia who also was close to Theresa and who is celebrating Thanksgiving in rural Spain near the Portuguese border, where she is teaching English.

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Tom Connolly, my drumming teacher and friend just arrived and we will now celebrate Thanksgiving, cooking and playing the drums. Tom has invited beautiful women over who are younger than Amelia but who, if they come, I will flirt with shamelessly as I have in the past. After celebrating, making music, and flirting, I will return to you to post my Thanksgiving letter of thanksgiving (or wait for a more auspicious occasion when I have completed work interrupted by an intense case of the flu which has caused me to feel as if I live on another planet).

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Noisy Thanksgiving November 22, 2012

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The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
November 20, 2012

Presidential Proclamation — Thanksgiving Day, 2012

THANKSGIVING DAY, 2012

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.

Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe — a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before. When President George Washington marked our democracy’s first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come. And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break. Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.

As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.

On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together — whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors — and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

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Tom Connolly plays as the turkey cooks

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Katie Gates, PhD., transient brain statistician, Washington, D.C.

Click on Memo to hear the After Pumpkin Pie Trio perform: “Thanks. Giving.”

Memo

 

File:Kerouac by Palumbo.jpg

The spirit of Jack Kerouac (as photographed by Tom Palumbo) returns with our song to wish us all a free-spirited conclusion to Thanksgiving Day, 2012. Kerouac is my daughter Joanna‘s favorite author as she takes an after dinner drink in Durham, N.C. before returning to her nursing school studies.  For daughter Amelia Altalena, where her computer is broken in rural Spain, it is now 3:18 tomorrow morning; celebration must wait for Skype repair as all my dear readers for whom I am thankful, will await the writing of the forthcoming Thanksgiving Letter.

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Afterthought. The idea that I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving appropriately–including, of course, a prayer of thanksgiving–comes as a surprise now that my guests have left. Tom, whom I met at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe, across the street from my apartment, is relocating to Philadelphia to pursue a music career. State College, sadly, has not yet developed the resources to support musicians serious about their work. The idea of getting together was a spontaneous thought Tom had earlier this week.

Katie’s presence surprised both Tom and me. She was in town visiting friends. Tom was sure she would not come–not recollecting clearly that he had invited her. Neither Tom nor Katie could remember how they knew each other–perhaps through a mutual musical connection. As I helped Tom load his many drums in the car, where Katie accepted Tom’s offer to drive her to her friend’s apartment, I told Katie I do not understand how she arrived here; it is almost as if she never existed at all, but she certainly quickly warmed to the spirit of the occasion, banging drums with enthusiasm. Childlike percussion noise-making now goes on my list of Thanksgiving rituals.

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I end this posting for tonight with the words I first heard Edward R. Murrow broadcast on television after Thanksgiving dinner in 1960 (words I recall each Thanksgiving):

“This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame. It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth. These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed. We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials. We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth.”

These are the words that inspired me to publish a book on agriculture policy. These are words that cause me concern in the all-too close seasons and months ahead as I view with alarm the world’s adverse weather conditions, short supplies of soybeans and grain, astonishingly high future prices, and by calendar year 2013, a world where people will starve (not because, as has been the case for decades, they do not have enough money to afford food), because there will not be enough food to feed the world’s population.

Yes, automation and other developments have changed the visual portrayal that came to my grandmother’s living room television in 1960. In this global economy, the men, women, and children who harvest our food may not be U.S. citizens or they may not be harvesting in the United States the food we have on our Thanksgiving table.

In Spain, where my younger daughter is currently teaching English, the agricultural attaché at the U.S. embassy in Madrid told me that organic vegetables are a major agricultural export from Spain to the United States.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Hegira Succeeded: Report on the 989-mile-away-Engagement-Party-for-my-daughter Joanna

Mazel tov: Welcome to My Hegira.

Webster’s defines hegira as:

A journey esp. when undertaken to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation.

Cosmic Invitation

How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap–
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?
Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter
but we’re gaining a son–
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

–from Marriage by Gregory Corso

Note to Beatnik Music fans: Tom Connolly, my drumming teacher, has recorded a bongo drum track which will be added to the following recording. Listen here now at this link:

BeatnikJoel

 

The Event has concluded, but the Party is not over.

Thirty minutes before the Party begins at the patio of the Weathervane at Chapel Hill‘s famous Southern Seasons

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It is 6:06 in the morning.

I am back at my apartment in State College PA after the return from the Blessed Event at the patio of the elegant Weathervane Restaurant in Chapel Hill and spending time with Joanna, Amelia and Jade [a lot of time with Joanna Amelia and Jade] and with David Hiscoe, my former boss at Northern Telecom where I worked at Research Triangle Park for four years as a senior technical writer.

[I have never been a junior technical writer or a simple run-of-the-mill technical writer; there is grade inflation in the technical writer world where however young and inexperienced, I have always been a Senior Technical writer.]

Of course, there is the description of THE PARTY.

I will not even pretend to be comprehensive here. I am tired now and my typos are increasing at an astonishing pace.

Relax, dear reader, I will describe the party where Joanna invited her neighbors and friends and Jade imported Brandon, his stepson who is attending Guilford College in a beautiful location outside Greensboro near where my mother was very happy to live.

I will note that the proprietor of the equestrian center where Joanna and Jade plan to marry attended.

Pat and I discussed Joanna‘s plan to have George, Joanna‘s beloved horse, attend as a guest of honor.

Much as she would like to, Joanna cannot ride George because he is old and frail.

Joanna plans to ride side-saddle on Scarlet, the only horse ever to have thrown Joanna. Pat and I discussed the relative merits of each horse participant in Joanna and Jade’s wedding.

The Party and Wedding details have caused my dear muscle-bound future son-in-law to roll his eyes dramatically.

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[Note: Joanna has asserted the right to censor anything I write or any photograph I post and any thought I have in my mind regardless of subject. I have denied her the right to delete photos from my iPhone the instant after they are taken or remove photos from my computer. But this copy will change without notice. You can depend on that.]

This is the ramp the wonderful ground crew of United Airlines constructed and assembled for me and me alone to board the flight to Dulles airport, similar to the ramp used  at Dulles Airport to get to RDU  [Raleigh DUrham International Airport].

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The following is a JMS-approved photograph of the happy couple.

Jade, of course, is wearing his Tom Selleck imitation costume, but that is a story for another time, like the buying shoes story.

Jade Phillips and my only elder daughter pre-celebrate their Engagement Party on September 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More to come.

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As an aside….

I am trying not to repeat:

  • I hate United Airlines
  • I hate United Airlines
  • I hate United Airlines

I keep trying to figure out a way to get even with United Airlines for the shabby way the company treated me.

The best solution for  United Airlines is for United CEO Jeff Smisek to hire me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Smisek

I would serve to make United responsive to disabled individuals, especially disabled-veterans, the elderly, and Baby Boomers whose market demands will bankrupt United Airlines if it does not get its act together.

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Thank you dear readers for your donations. Those of you who did not give relax. I got there and back, didn’t I. Let us celebrate.

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The night before I left to return to State College, Joanna came over to my hotel room where Amelia and I cooked eggplant.

Amelia Altalena, Joanna’s younger sister, was appointed Maid of Honor on Saturday night.

Amelia will be flying to London on October 18th to work as an English teacher in rural Spain.  Amelia’s impending departure is the reason Joanna rushed up the ceremony. With Amelia it is easy to say here today off tomorrow for who knows where. Whooooooooooosssssssssssssssssssssss.

Joanna had worked from 5:30 in the morning to 7 PM giving pain medication to hip replacement recovery patients who were not pleased with the amount of pain they were experiencing.

Joanna just collapsed on arrival to my room.

Amelia and I shoooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwed her out of the room and into the car and home to bed before Joanna had to wake up at 5:30 the next morning for another grueling round.

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Joanna, my elder daughter, is engaged to be married

August 14, 2012: Today, my elder daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff became engaged to be married to Jade Kosmos Phillips. Jade proposed on his knees at the mouth of a volcano in Hawaii on Joanna‘s birthday.

 

August 15, 2012: Jade called from Hawaii at 11:35 Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Jade asked for Joanna’s hand in marriage. I said Joanna and he would have a great marriage; he is her anchor windward. [Note 1. Watch Facebook for the formal announcement.] [Note 2. I have been on both sides now: asking and answering. Answering is better.]

August 18, 2012: Facebook notification. Joanna Solkoff is engaged to Jade K. Phillips.

Frequently asked questions:

1 When will the wedding take place? In the Fall of 3013 after Joanna graduates from nursing school.

2. Where will the wedding take place? In a horse barn in Chatham County, NC. A special guest will be Joanna‘s beloved horse George, no longer capable of enduring a rider,  in attendance. The bride plans to wear a wedding gown patterned after a Ginger Rogers outfit in the film Lucky Partners. She will arrive at the ceremony riding side-saddle on Scarlet, the only horse ever to throw her off.

3. How do I obtain driving directions to the wedding at Baywood Farms Equestrian Center in Apex, NC at a date yet to be determined? http://www.mapquest.com/maps?zipcode=27502#a7ca199086f84f6bb05916de

{Caveat lector! A shameless pitch for expenses in getting home from Joanna and Jade’s Engagement Party that still continues after the bar closed at 11 PM on September 29, 2012 at Chapel Hill NC on this link: Caveat lector!}

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[This space is reserved for  biographical sketches of Joanna and  Jade, photographs and additional material.]

 

 

 

 

Footnote 1: Technically there is no Footnote 1.

Footnote 2:

This is the Lucky Partners review Joanna and I published at amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars My daughters and I re-enact this movie on long weekends, August 31, 2012.

“Lucky Partners” is one of a small list of ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIES. My daughters Joanna, Amelia and I have watched this movie together for decades. I think Amelia was one when she first saw it; Joanna was seven.

Joanna, now 28, just told me she plans to design her wedding gown based on an outfit Ginger Rogers wore in “Lucky Partners.”

I had thought myself capable of writing this review myself. This is an urbane romantic comedy. Joanna says it is a satire on morality within a [cell phone static] within a comedy. As the battery on her phone dies, she starts quoting from the incredibly funny and brilliant lines from “Lucky Partners.” There is, for example, the opening meeting between Ronald Coleman and Ginger Rogers.

Ronald Coleman plays the role of a brilliant artist who aristocratically refuses to continue painting in Ronald-Coleman-incredible-diction. (I will never forget Ronald Coleman, in that incredible scene just before they cut off his head in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever ever done. It is a far far better world I go to than I have ever ever known.” [Boy, I wish I could talk like that.]

Coleman also has eccentric ideas about the institution of matrimony and honeymoons in particular (which he explains to his art dealer who is trying to convince Ronald Coleman to return to painting).

Instead, Coleman then leaves the building, walks down the street and passes the adorable [astonishingly adorable] Ginger Rogers. For no apparent reason, Ronald Coleman wishes Ginger Rogers, a total stranger, “Good luck.” “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

As Joanna‘s cell phone dies as she drives home with her fiance Jade Kosmos Phillips, Joanna says, “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

Joanna Solkoff and Joel Solkoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating

Oh, a storm is threat’ning/ My very life today/ If I don’t get some shelter/Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away/

–“Gimme Shelter” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

The site has two central parts:

I. The theme

II. Digressions (anything not related directly to the theme; for the purpose of the site my daughters Joanna and Amelia [you may ask “You really regard your family as a digression?), my stories, essays, career achievements, poems, and other flights of fancy and whimsy are off message.

Now and then being a nerd, as I am, can get in the way or as the Tibetan Book of the Dead notes sometimes you (by which I mean I) become so intense that the intensity becomes “intense pride, and the pride turns into an ice-cold environment which reinforced by self –satisfaction begins to get into the system. It does not allow us to dance or smile or hear the music.” At the risk of not hearing the music, I will leave you, dear reader, to find order in Diversions as you will. Right now, the task at hand is the order the theme.

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Navigating the theme: No shelter from the storm

  1. Where do I want to go?

To a neighborhood which must be developed to serve as a global model for providing independent living so elderly and disabled individuals can age in place.

  1. What would the neighborhood consist of?

a)      It would consist of an experimental residence for an individual or an individual family. The example of the Blueroof Experimental Cottage in McKeesport, PA is a good example. The cottage consists of a one story residence built on inexpensive land in a downtown burned out section of town where rotting buildings could be razed and a community developed.

b)      The individual residence could be built out of factory housing (the fashionable term for mobile home) where sensors and other off-the-shelf technology can be embedded in the walls to monitor and protect the resident. Including building the foundation, each residence can be constructed in three days.

c)      Technology in the residence would include:

  • Security system to protect elderly and disabled residents in high-crime areas such as exist throughout the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania—where the neighborhood would gradually change to a family friendly area attracting economic growth.
  • Motion detectors to monitor falls throughout the residence, especially high risk areas such as the shower.
  • Computer voice simulation which combined with a wireless communication system can have, in effect, the walls of the building calling family or other emergency services for help.
  • Monitoring devices to detect, for example, whether the refrigerator has been opened and to call for help after an adjusted period of time. Example of a computer generated call, “Hello, your grandmother has not opened her refrigerator in over 24 hours. You might want to look in on her.”
  • Remote medical monitoring, including taking blood pressure and other health measurements and transmitting the results automatically to a physician’s office.
Blueroof”s trial pill dispenser which monitors whether the resident has taken each required pill and after computer simulated warnings, reports failure to do so.
  • Computer terminals and other equipment to provide the resident with job training (one is never too old to learn) and work opportunities from home.

d)      A research facility at a major university, such as Penn State, where the Immersive Construction (ICon) lab develops a 3-D model of the experimental model so stakeholders can suggest design changes.

 

Stakeholders would include:

  • Prospective residents of future neighborhood (or elsewhere) housing
  • Members of the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) community
  • Caregivers

The research facility would also be able to process data collected at the experimental facility, such as remote medical monitoring and activities of daily living (ADL) so future construction can benefit.

e)      Creation of an inter-generational accessible community with shopping, recreation, and other services which make a community a community.

Stay tuned for further navigational aids which link posts on this site to the issues raised here and which answers the question: Why is creation of a new kind of neighborhood (with a variety of other options to be presented) so critical to dealing with the housing shortage throughout the world as the largest generation in history begins to retire in an environment where a previous generation of elderly and disabled individuals (including, of course, veterans) are so poorly served at a great expense to society and at a loss of dignity among people whose talents are not being developed adequately.]

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I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away/ It’s just a kiss away….

–“Gimme Shelter” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nU4aiqvyt4&feature=watch_response

Random Thoughts: January 30, 2013

Time for more random updates and personal revelations out of date to everyone but me

January 30, 2013: Someone stole Goya’s head. (The fact that his happened in the 19th Century is irrelevant.)

“On a November morning of 1888 in the cemetery of the Grande Chartreuse, Bordeaux, the Spanish counsel resident in that opulent city received the shock of his life. Hastening to the nearest telegraph he dispatched a wire to Madrid: GOYA SKELETON HEADLESS.

From Goya's Disasters of War, soldier cutting off head. Other Goya drawings show heads on spikes.
From Goya’s Disasters of War, soldier cutting off head. Other Goya drawings show heads on spikes.

”In a less agitated condition and able to recall the master’s whimsical etching of a seated corpse pushing up the lid of a tomb bearing the one word Nada (‘Nothing’), the counsel might pardonably begun his telegram TYPICAL GOYAESQUE SITUATION….

“Dying in self-chosen exile in 1828, at the age of eighty-two, Francisco Joseph Goya y Luciente had been buried in the tomb of a close friend and fellow-expatriate, Miguel Martin Goicoichea, deceased three years previously, the memorial tablet accurately proclaimed him Hispaniensis Peritisimus Pictor. His skull, stolen at some time unknown, has not been seen or heard of since. The exhumation duly proceeded, and Goya’s truncated remains were returned with honour to his native land after an absence of sixty-six years.”

The World of Goya by D.B. Wyndham Lewis

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It reminded me of the night when on the George Washington Bridge, bound for Manhattan, I encountered a raccoon determinedly padding his way back to the New Jersey shore. –A. J. Liebling

Amelia as a torch singer at her high school graduation

Designing a trip and a way of life

On Wednesday, I will take the longest trip since I first arrived in State College, PA about six years ago. I will be attending my daughter Amelia Altalena Solkoff’s graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina in Ashville. Amelia has already earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and while the ceremony may be a mere formality, it is not a formality I can miss. Many of the people I love most in the world will be there, including Amelia’s older sister Joanna who received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is currently completing nursing school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time I was in Ashville was 19 years ago before I lost the ability to walk as a result of a spinal cord injury. Both my daughters have visited me here in State College, but while I have driven to other places, the 900 mile drive has eluded me to the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

My elder daughter Joanna visiting me at State College.

My trip to Ashville marks a new feature for the joelsolkoff.com site. Here I will finally take my best friend David Phillips’ advice and begin a consumer book on scooters, power chairs, and peripheral devices. Al Thieme, who invented the power operated vehicle (POV) scooter and the chief executive officer of Amigo Mobility has supplied me with his latest travel scooter, which I will be evaluating on the trip. Other manufacturers are invited to supply equipment for evaluation.

I assembled the scooter myself in my messy apartment.

The fact that this feature begins with equipment for disability travel is especially appropriate. I have been writing about disability travel for a while now and this trip to Amelia’s ceremony provides the opportunity to focus on the importance of people with disabilities being able to visit loved ones, obtain employment, and function in this mobile society. Each of my daughters has extensive experience over the past 18 years of my paraplegia riding mobility devices, figuring out inventive ways of providing me with access to the world, and indeed helping me put out a fire when an electrician installed a wheel chair lift to my car using faulty wiring and burning down my red Buick.

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The word “design” is actually the primary theme of this website, of my career, and indeed of my personal life. As anyone who knows me will testify, I am by nature an impulsive person, but impulsivity can lead to danger for those of us who are disabled. We need to put aside basic parts of our personality (as I have done and failed to do to my regret) in order to consider the consequences and redesign ourselves for a world that is not built for the elderly and disabled.

–Joel Solkoff, April 28, 2012, State College, PA

Method acting classes have made a new man of me.

Stay tuned to this posting for more, which contrary to traditional blog chronological custom, will appear as I write my story. Links will be dropped in without warning. Become a frequent flyer and subscribe to this site.

Countdown over: Amelia’s graduation ceremony was very wet; may end with my joining the Smyth County Moose Lodge

Soaking wet, Amelia Altalena Solkoff graduated with honors in Spanish at the University of North Carolina, Ashville (UNC-A). UNC-A ran an awful graduation ceremony. When I get rich, I will provide UNC-A with funds for rainy day graduations.

Asheville CITIZEN-TIMES previews the graduation ceremonies that have now taken place:

ASHEVILLE — Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles will speak at UNC Asheville’s graduation ceremony in May.

“Bowles served as President Clinton’s top assistant and was tapped by President Barack Obama to tackle the nation’s budget woes. He also spent five years as president of the UNC System.”

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304170019

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Then, on May 6, 2012 The CITIZENS-TIMES report on the event:

“UNCA’s rainy spring graduation : As soon as UNC Asheville students got to the quad for the spring graduation commencement, the rain started to pour Saturday. 5/5/12 – Erin Brethauer ([email protected])”

See video; hear rainhttp://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305060044

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Amelia at Celebratory Meal # 3 (of 4) THE BIG ONE
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At Celebratory meal # 4.

Joanna and Amelia’s mother Diana Bass

 

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At Celebratory meal # 1.

Our daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff, who graduated with honors in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently studying to be a nurse. Accompanying Joanna is Jade Phillips, a rock and refuge shown together at my apartment at State College, PA in March:

 

 

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Sarah Schmerler, Robert Simonson, and Asher Simonson during a brief dry spell at the graduation ceremony

Sarah is my sister (https://www.artnews.com/author/sarahschmerler/). Robert Simonson is my brother-in-law (http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Simonson/e/B001K8HFEA/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1337188291&sr=1-2-ent). Asher Benvenuto Simonson is my camera-shy only nephew; he is nearly 11.

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Asheville, NC 7:19 PM. May 4, 2012 [official Star Trek holiday celebration; see Wikipedia.].

I am ensconced in a disability room at the Asheville NC Extended Stay America motel.

This is directly down the road from the University of North Carolina Campus where Amelia graduates tomorrow at 9 AM.

Relatives, loved ones, friends, and the like are preparing to come to my hotel to engage in a Jewish celebration of Sabboth and undoubtedly much mischief.

When I have time, I promise to TELL ALL. Including photos.

Gotta run.

Amelia, the evening before graduation ceremonies, helps me unload my car.

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There is candle lighting in my room: “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

 

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Flashback: Two days earlier

Michelle, front desk clerk Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, Hagerstown, NC, prepares to put my travel scooter into the trunk so I am ready to drive south for hundreds of miles.

Michelle is my candidate for Best Western employee of the year.

 

 

As we all know, commencement is not a beginning, it is an end.

On the road again:

May 3, 2012 Hagerstown, Maryland,  Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, 11:55 AM

8 AM today ready for breakfast at the free bar on the second floor

The route from Downtown State College, where I live, to Ashville North Carolina, where Amelia will be receiving her diploma on May 5th at 9 AM at the University of North Carolina in Asheville is 571 miles–a 9 hour and 40 minute drive, longer than I have driven in over eight years.

Yesterday, I left State College after my friend Pinki Heyn helped load the Enterprise Rental Car driven by Dawn, a new management trainee, who brought me to the rental office for the ritual filling out of the forms and paying the money. After picking up a suit (which I have not worn in 7 years), several starched shirts, and clean clothing, I left town at 5 PM and drove the astonishingly beautiful Route 99 to Route 70 to Hagerstown, site of the Battle of Antietam, the first Union victory, giving  President Lincoln the credibility required to issue the Emancipation proclamation. More on Emancipation later in the trip.

I now have traveled 158 miles of a 571 mile trip. Amelia called anxiously trying to rush me. Whose celebration does she think this is?

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Amelia in my arms before age one–the rest of the crew will be described later.

 

Last year, before reaching her current level of maturity, Amelia prepares to run with the bulls

 

 

 

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This Amigo TravelMate will take me to Amelia’s graduation (photo by Andrea Gatzke).

A Commencement Speech I Approve Of

I have been led to understand that…you are going to graduate. Well, my strong recommendation is that you don’t go. Stop! Go on back to your rooms. Unpack! There’s not much out here. Chekhov tells the story of the traveler faced with three roads… If he takes the one to the right, the wolves will eat him up. If he takes the one to the left he will eat up the wolves, and if he takes the one to the center he will eat himself up.

The point is we don’t want you out here very much. We on the outside see graduation as a terrible event–the opening of an enormous dovecote from which spring into the air tens of thousands of graduates. What is particularly disturbing is that you all come out at the same time—June—hordes, with your dark graduation cloaks darkening the earth. Why is it that you can’t be squeezed out one at a time, like peach pits, so that the society can absorb you without feeling suffocated?

My own profession is being, swamped with writers coming, out of college, despite the conditions out here that no one reads. Indeed, my friend Kurt Vonnegut was saying the other day that the only solution to ·the moribund state of publishing would be to require all of those on welfare that before receiving their welfare checks, they must hand in a book report.

So go back to your dorm rooms and stay. True, there may be some practical problem. The deans may come tapping at your door like hotel concierges wondering about checkout time. Tell the dean through the door that you don’t think you should go out into the world with a C- in Economics 10. Great damage can be caused to the economic structure, and probably already has, by Harvard men out there who earned a C– in Economics 10; you must tell the dean you don’t want to compound such a situation.

The dean will say that he needs the room for the junior who is going to become a senior–the process must go on. Tell him there’s no reason why the juniors can’t stay juniors, the sophomores, sophomores, and the freshmen, freshmen. Tell him to stop the process. Why should the process go on? The Harvard Lampoon has had, in its century of operation, 100 different editorial boards. Has it improved? Probably not. Why not keep the same one?

Besides, we are told all the time what a marvelous institution Harvard is. Benjamin DeMott once likened Harvard to the continent of Europe: “Either you’ve been there or you haven’t,” And you’ll all remember the Boston dowager who said of a nephew: “He doesn’t go to college, he goes to Brown.” Why do they tell us such things if they don’t want us to stay? So tell them you’re convinced. You’ve decided to stay. You’re not going to budge.

After a while the dean will go away. Deans always go away. They go away to ponder things. They will assume that your parents will finally force the issue. They’ll want you home. But I am not so sure. I have the sense that parents would rather not know what’s being sent home to them these days from the college–not unlike receiving  a mysterious, package tied with hemp, addressed in rather queasy lettering from Dutch Gularia.

They’d much rather you stay here. When a mother is asked about her son at the country-club dance she can always say: “Why John’s off at Harvard.” There’s something quite grand about that certainly compared to: ”Well, the last time I saw him he was throwing a frisbee in the backyard.”

If your parents insist you pack up and come home, there are always measures. If you’re chemistry major, tell them that you’ve become very attached to something in a vat of formaldehyde. If you’re in pre-law, tell them that you’re thinking of bringing home a tort. Your parents will probably have forgotten what a tort is, if they ever knew, and it sounds so unpleasant–something that your Mom wouldn’t want to have stepping suddenly out of a hall closet. Surely, there is hardly an academic field of one’s choice which does not have a nightmare possibility with which to force one’s parents to pony up enough to allow nearly a decade of contemplation in one’s room.

You’ll remember the King in Alice in Wonderland. When asked: “Where shall I begin?” the King says, “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end; then stop.” What I am suggesting is that you stop at the beginning, stop at your commencement. It’s not very interesting to stop at the end–l mean everyone does that. So stop now. Tell them you won’t go. Go back to your rooms. Unpack!

–George Plimpton, Harvard University, June 1977

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The reason we moved to North Carolina, where my daughters graduated from its fine public university, is that Kathleen Atwater, then manager of Northern Telecom’s technical writing, hired me, moved my family to Durham, and arranged for the company to buy our DC home if we could not sell it.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Peterson_(author) “…In 2003, he was convicted of murdering his second wife, Kathleen …” Alava shalom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorifics_for_the_dead_in_Judaism

זיכרונה לברכה
zikhronah livrakha of blessed memory.]

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 The party is over, but I linger on in Asheville after everybody left.

The graduation was on Saturday. On Saturday at 5:15 PM we had a celebratory dinner at a classy Spanish restaurant. Asheville becomes more charming every day. On Sunday morning, my sister Sarah Schmerler, her husband Uncle Robert Simonson, and my 10.5 year-old nephew Asher left to return to Brooklyn, NY. Also that morning I had breakfast with my former wife Diana Bass, my elder daughter Joanna and her friend Jade Phillips, and Amelia. Joanna and Jade left to the airport to fly to Los Angeles where Jade’s mother lives, before…Diana drives off to her home in Durham. Amelia lingers an extra day and morning and is now with her mother camping on the Outer Shores of NC. Wonderful ferry ride. wonderful world.

And I returned to the Extended Stay Hotel here in Asheville at Kenilworth Knoll where the helpful staff help me with my disability gadgets. Here is Extended Stay Wendy helping with a light-weight wheel chair I am experimenting with.

 

 

As I pack my car to leave North Carolina, I TEMPORARILY interrupt this posting using this photo of Amelia and me in the Spanish restaurant in Asheville celebrating her graduation on graduation day. Think of this as not only an ending but a beginning for me to write more.

 

The End. REALLY.

Somethings naturally come to an End. The countdown to Amelia’s graduation from college has come to an end. She graduated a week ago today. This posting is mostly over. Yes, there are details to be taken care of such as the deep skinny on Graduation Meal celebrations 1-4.

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As I write this from Marion, VA still miles away from home at the Budget Inn (not affiliated with anything) across the tertiary road from the beautiful Walker Mountains, the details of the end have not been codified. Last night, for example, I was invited to join the Moose. Come next month’s check, I plan to join the Smyth County Moose chapter where I had friend okra for dinner last evening. My Moose card will get me in any Moose hall in the country.

–Joel Solkoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem: Difficult

In Africa, lion after lion fell before the Colonel’s artillery.  Rhinos, hippos, antelopes, wildebeests, and all manner of game were struck down, helpless as Democrats.  When a skeptical George Creel asked one of Theodore Roosevelt’s guides how the former President, “blind in one eye, and myopic in the other,” could hit any of the animals that he accumulated on his safaris, the guide explained that when the Colonel leveled his, three other guns were also leveled, “ Mr. Roosevelt had a fairly good idea of the general direction, but we couldn’t take chances with the life of a former president.”
from America Enters the World by Page Smith
Difficult
You are difficult.
You are difficult.
Just because I love you…
Just because….
You were named Joanna
during the eye of a hurricane.
Your name meant passion.
You became the center of our lives.
I remember driving around Washington listening to your fetal heartbeat.
Tick.
Your Mother carried you inside her to the Great Wall of China,
the only humanly crafted object one can see from outer space.
Watching Diana win over the Chinese–winning slowly and persistently–gave a sense of your mother’s
     power and talent.
Diana received for excellence a US Department of Commerce specially minted coin presented by
     the Sectary of Commerce himself.
My life also became less interesting.
Remember you were the show.
We wanted Amelia because we so much admired your performance, we wanted more.
More?
I see you on the grounds of the National Arboretum.
You have a large ball in your hand
and are wearing an endearing look caught–as a perfect image.
Why are all the photographs we make of you perfect?
Were you an error-proof model in a previous life?
You are too close to me to write about you clearly.
I love you too much for dispassion.
I am who I am–the fellow who is there for you when you are about to trip. 
I am the fellow who anticipates danger and attempts to avert it.
Why is it the father-daughter/parent-child language’s sentiment is so sugary sweet in its
     sentimentality?
We both admit that we love each other.
Does that mean we are members of some special covenant?
You are quiet with me; you are angry; you are accusing, you are a number of words and paragraphs ending with the encoded words “and I’m glad to see you.”
I know you.
                                   — Joel Solkoff
May, 2003, Durham, NC