The Other Side of the Ocean
Friday, December 31, 2004
Looking forward with zip and enthusiasm to 2005, shouldn’t we pick something more up-tempo for a NYEve ballad? Hey Ya! – someone here just suggested it as a replacement. I’m in agreement. Bring out the strobe lights and the champagne! I wanna see y’all on y’all baddest behavior! [In other words, to translate for the older set: Hell with New Year’s Resolutions, they suck!]
Okay, just a thought.
First, I’m getting email “lack of progress” reports from certain writers over at Professor Barnhardt’s Journal. That’s what I call getting punched in the noggin: I struggle to articulate something reasonable, something possible, something worthwhile to set as a 2005 target, and I get a little reminder that my goals are likely to go the way of the toilet paper – flushed in the weeks immediately following January 1st. Resolutions are made to be broken.
And leave it to academics to point out yet another problem with this whole resolution mess. Over at U of Minnesota, a psych prof notes:
But research shows that six weeks after people make their New Year's resolutions, 80 percent have either broken them or couldn't remember what they were.Oh my God, this is written directly to me, isn’t it? You deliberately forget every small and large task that lies before you: write it down already!
Write down your resolution at the top of a sheet of paper--in big, bold letters!
Others tell me that’s not enough. Forget writing things down. The reason we break our resolutions is that we do not recondition our brains to think in new ways! An optimum performance expert says this:
“People don’t understand how their brain functions and therefore renege on their resolutions 99% of the time within very short order. Using will power is absolutely the worst way to achieve your new goals because it is controlled by your conscious mind, which is only responsible for one sixth of your abilities.You mean I don’t need will power?? So what is it that I have to do (remember – I just want to write more; I don’t want to lose weight, drink less, make new friends, I just want to write!)?? Our performance guru has this advice:
It takes about 30 days of everyday mental training to re-train the brain if you want long lasting and permanent weight loss or if you want to earn more money. By doing a few simple visualization exercises seeing yourself at your perfect weight or career, you start to recondition your internal image and you begin to erase the old image. The more you do this the faster you’ll see results...
Another simple technique you can use is a written positive affirmation declaring,“I now weigh xxxx. My body fat is xxxxx. I feel and look great and I am at my ideal and perfect weight now."
I’m into trying new things. Let me give it a whirl. Beginning tomorrow, I will post pictures of me writing with declarative sentences to this effect “I am now writing excessively. I am at my ideal writing performance level now. At this very minute, I have more pages of text than I can possibly deal with. My works are flooding the shelves of every literate person on both sides of the ocean...”
But let me not get ahead of myself. That is tomorrow’s post.Today I am just a slovenly, still-in-my-pajamas law prof with a stack of unread exams, spending too much time at the computer, producing worthless dribble.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
- Devote more time to playing my fucking guitar.
- Smoke more pot.
- replace the 'blech' items in wardrobe with new funky fun items
- Have sex again
- stop slacking with housecleaning, work, paying bills, hair care answering emails and basically anything in my life that involves responsibility.
- cut down on the alcohol and drug-consumption.
- stop picking at my skin
- stop pulling the hair out of my knees and knuckles as stress relief
- Finish grad school applications
- Moisturize more
- Publish three things in refereed journals.
- Go to Italy (or else Poland, but probably Italy)
[I was with her until the last one. Definitely she should go with Poland. Italy is everyone’s choice. Poland is for the lovers, the intellectuals, the truly forward-looking.]
I resolve to write more, rather than less, in 2005.
That’s it. Nothing more.
On the strength of that, I went to Borders today and looked again at their (meager) collections of correspondence. People are private about their letters -- not much is made available for publication. But in my search through the anthologies I came across something almost as enticing: A Chance Meeting – Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854 – 1967. W.E.B. Du Bois and Charlie Chaplin. Norman Mailer and Robert Lowell. Gertrude Stein and William James. Etc. Private history (a term coined by Mark Twain). You can’t ever conclude anything on the basis of the scant information that we are presented with, but still, it can give you pause: a chance meeting and we have a changed person. That it then has an impact on her (his) art or writing goes without saying. The Mystery is absolute though, because the reader can never fully understand how different things may have been without that little pod of influence.
Just a fragment from “A Chance Meeting:”
In years later, Gertrude Stein used to tell the story that one beautiful spring day, after she had been to the opera every night for a week and was tired, she had to take an exam in Professor James’s class, and she found that she “just could not.” Writing in the third person, she described herself sitting there: “Dear Professor James, she wrote at the top of her paper. I am so sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today, and left.” He wrote her a card saying that he perfectly well understood and, according to her, gave her the highest mark in the class. That she actually passed with a B seems to have been solidly obscured in her mind by her preference for her own version of the events – one that illustrated the deep sympathy between Gertrude Stein and William James.
No no no, do not force me to dangle white strings from my ears, I do not want an iPod. But I also do not want to listen to Gidget discuss her shopping trip with Aurelia for two hours right as we are flying over Buffalo.
People who use cells in public do so loudly and without attention to the other. It has become such a nuisance that trains on the East Coast, in Europe and in Japan (and the world over for all I know) have created quiet cars. Seats there fill faster than in the “regular” cars. I wonder why.
We are generally a noisy people. It is said that Americans stand out abroad and I can see that: we boom and bang our way through most chatter. But if the rest of the world is to be trapped with us in tight spaces, can’t it at least request of us that we shut the little hell-toy up for a few hours? Let’s get email on the planes up and running. Yes, yes, I’m all for that. But please, keep that little cell jingle on silence mode while in the air.
When I need to find the weird, the obscure, the original weblog, I go to the cool, the wonderful, the prolific boingboing.net. After all, they were the source of the link to Shizzy’s Page, where a guy recounts how he developed an email correspondence with a lowly employee of Starbucks while pretending that he, the blogger, was the CEO. [A handful of Ocean readers thought the prank was mean beyond mean and they threatened to boycott Ocean if I posted a link to it, so I restrained myself. I agree that it’s mean beyond mean, juvenile, impish, vile even. To agree along with us, check it out for yourself, here.]
Boingboing did not disappoint. They offer a link to 43folders.com where a geek (Merlin Mann) recounts his implementation of principles articulated in the popular “Getting Things Done.” Yeah!
Reading just the last few entries floods me with the realization that things are slated for failure unless you keep your projects small and you get rid of ambitious and complicated to do lists. I am staring at my ambitious and complicated “to do” list as I type this. Dare I tear it up for the New Year? Wee hoo! Merlin writes [emphases are my own]:
I try to ensure that any action I identify as a next action can be finished, front to back, in less than 20 minutes time—preferably in fewer than 10 minutes. So, forexample, while “Write an article on GTD” is practically useless (that’s a project!).
Okay, resolve to resolve small things, and get rid of grand plans and unwarranted optimism. I'm getting warmer now to the day when I can actually resolve something! Stay tuned.
In a previous life as a producer and project manager for some good-sized web projects, I once approached my work with a completely baseless optimism and sense of possibility that I had absolutely no business feeling—let alone foisting off on others as way to guide big projects... Yikes. Simpler times.
The reality is that projects change, and projects break; that’s what they do. It’s their job. The smaller your project is, and the shorter the distance there is between “here” and “there,” the less likely you are to have to chuck it and start over for reasons you couldn’t possibly have foreseen when you were knitting up them fancy GANTT charts for Q3/2007.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
This December, in my absence, the computer in the office was upgraded (I posted about this earlier). The techies actually took the little post-it and transferred it to the new computer. HOW AWFUL!! Now they know I am capable of thinking evil thoughts and writing horrid emails.
So, if resolutions in the middle of the year just lead you to make a fool of yourself, what good are resolutions set for January 1st?
This post is in response to the NYT online news brief. Here it is, in full bloom:
US Airways Is Predicting a Smoother Weekend: US Airways said that with the help of volunteer employees, it expected a smooth weekend at its Philadelphia hub after a Christmas weekend of mishandled bags.
This year, I decided to do what in previous years I could not have done (due to blog-ignorance, laziness and sloth): check out eminent bloggers and read what they had to say on the subject of resolutions.
One of my favorite lists of resolves comes from Professor Barnhardt’s Journal (it’s a webzine, with a handful of writers posting each Tuesday on topics selected by the editor, Bob Sassone, who himself is also a contributor at McSweeney’s, Salon, Esquire, etc). And so, to warm up to the topic, I decided to share some interesting possibilities, ripped from their January 2004 posting. Later, I will craft my own, but for now, if you’re thinking to resolve things, mull over these options:
(From Tod Goldberg): …Don’t resolve to fundamentally change a part of my personality. I’m an asshole, I recognize that, and thus it would be silly for me to decide come January 1st to become the Mother Teresa of Gen-X novelists... [And on a more practical note:] Learn to wipe sitting down. Now this is a weird thing. All my life, I’ve stood to wipe. My wife learned of this a few years ago and informed me that I was “weird” and that what I was doing was “wrong” and that I should learn the “right way”… 2004 is the Year of Sitting Down, folks.
(From Joe Lavin): … If this year I come up with a resolution in December, I will act on it immediately, instead of waiting until next January just so that I can make it an official New Year's resolution…. [Also] I resolve to be more mysterious, even if people just think I'm being an idiot. … [And on a more practical note:] I think I'll have some cheesecake.
(From Brian Lewandowski *): … [Remember, this was written in 01-04. Sigh…] I resolve never again to vote for any Presidential candidates with 6 or less letters in their last names. They have been nothing but problems… think about it. All the good ones have more letters than that in their monikers. So I am sorry Mr. Dean and Mr. Clark, it looks like I am gonna be riding the Kucinich - Sharpton ticket all the way to DC! [And in a less practical vein:] I resolve to also never ponder if it’s a NASCAR or a NASCAR car.
(From Bob Sassone): More drinking, more smoking, more sex.
* Because he shares my last name (in its "maiden"--oh, what a curious word that is! -- version), and because his recent blog post speaks to my own holiday gluttony, I thought I'd cite here a few sentences from his exclamation-point.com entry yesterday:
Breaching the 200 lb mark for the first time in my life, I am feeling a little plump. Traditionally, like any good Lewandowski, I am carrying that weight in my belly. No where else, just the big belly on my little chicken legs. I look like a freaking Weeble balanced on toothpicks.
So in order to lose the weight I put on sweats today. That's the ticket, right? I see tons of really fat people wearing sweats at the mall and I see athletes wearing sweats. The sweats must make all those mall fats turn into athletes...
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
I can only respond to it from the Law School because it is there and not here, and unfortunately I am here and not there. I will get to it all, I will. In the meantime, here’s a small chunk of attenuated responses:
Thanks, sorry you feel that way, no I cannot do that, of course you should study that for the exam, yes please do send it to me, gym would be fantastic, I liked your Christmas pictures as well, thanks for that story, no I am not insulted, of course I read your blog, I would love to eat dinner and I’m glad you’re not holding grudges over that unfortunate incident back in November.
But fashion – it suffered in postwar Poland. The styles were conservative, the colors were uniformly washed-out. Burgundy looked like last year’s plum preserves. They said it had something to do with the quality of the dyes. Maybe. I think it had to do with a national disinterest in developing a great fashion industry. In fashion taste, Poles were being compared with their neighbors – to the west (Germany) and to the south (Austria), except it was said (I’m just reporting here, not commenting on the veracity of the claims) that the Germans and Austrians at least made shoes to last, even if you didn’t especially want to wear them.
So don’t you think that it is reasonable to compensate for the years of dyspeptic colors in this new Polish market economy by flooding the stores with strong statements about color?
I bought the orange shirt in Poland at “Reserved,” which like “Tatum,” is a leading Polish clothes retailer, sort of our meager analogue to J.Crew. Reaction here to my proudly displayed shirt:
-> it looks like it should be worn by a traffic person
-> nice and bright, isn’t it?
-> next time bring me one…around the end of October
-> really bright…
See, I knew it: suddenly it’s on everyone’s wish list. How nice to see that Polish clothes are making a statement again!
Panic. I am certain that I have missed the crucial, all-important deadline. And, I have appeared rude to students, colleagues and friends. (And truthfully, some have appeared rude to me.)
Clicking onto the web-based Wiscmail reveals a completely empty Inbox. What???? I have been erased from the web planet! I am no more. Except sometimes, I am as before.
I will unravel this, I will get to the bottom of this hellish email ride. In the meantime, if you have written and received no answer, it is not my fault! The cyber gods and I appear to be having issues over who is really in control and at this point, they are ahead in the battle. Hang in there, nlcamic at wisc dot edu has got the wise and wonderful tech support staff on her side. They’re scratching their heads as we speak.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Click here (select International Response Fund) or here. It will make a difference.
I’m off to stock up. I don’t trust my readership at all.
I am less happy to read about certain social transformations that have accompanied the Great Change (here, though in Polish). Recent studies reveal that Poles now think of themselves as alienated, indifferent toward their neighbor, angry and downright mean-spirited. Those in the rural areas still regard the village community as supportive and kindly disposed toward one another. Elsewhere? Forget it. I'm dismayed to read the words that now describe daily life: “wyscig szczurow” (race of the rats), “wzajemna agresja” (mutual aggression). In some regions, only 7% of the population think that that people these days are well-meaning or kind. Lovely: a generous nation turned brutish and sour. Best visit now before you’re greeted with daggers and swords at the airport.
I’ll admit that I find it hard to stay with a text more than two years and not be somewhat revulsed by its shortcomings (I teach Family Law I both Fall and Spring semesters). When I have to make an effort to enjoy delivering a lecture based on assigned readings, I know it’s time to think about a change.
And so last night I stood up and formally announced (to myself and anyone who was listening): I will make the switch now. Effective immediately. No looking back.
It’s not that the students would have noticed had I stayed rooted to the old dog – they appear to enjoy whatever compellation of readings I pass on. And not an insignificant handful like using the notes of Family Law alums. Sorry guys, the notes are worthless. I’m starting afresh. I’m bored with the old stuff. I dislike the ordering of topics, I find the chapter notes silly and the problems ho hum.
And so comes the paradox of paradoxes – in order to make my semester more enjoyable, I have to pile vast amounts of additional work onto my days. Changing a text is almost like teaching a brand new course. New lectures have to be written. New questions need to be addressed. Halfway through the semester I’ll kick myself I’m sure, but for now I’ll be oh so happy to kick the offensive fat book further under the table, along with the other well-used and now abused texts from years gone by. Welcome, newly anointed chosen one (it’s amazing how many there are to pick from)! I hope you and I enjoy each other’s company. For at least a year or two.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
1. Cellphone rings in restaurant. You answer it.
2. You’re talking to your pal and the cellphone rings. You pause in your talk and check to see who is calling.
3. You’re at home, the phone rings, you wait to see who it is and if you feel like talking to him/her.
If you read the NYTMagazine article on the evolution of connectedness, maybe you’ll have given a fleeting thought to your own standards of what is passable behavior. The author considers the following trends in the ways we attempt to connect to others:
In fact, it’s now considered rude not to have some sort of machine to take messages for you. And not only have we become used to machines that take messages, we also sometimes prefer them to live communications…The article suggests that in making decisions about answering, checking the caller’s ID, etc, you are making a series of instant status judgments. You flip open your cellphone for some, not for others.
Between cellphones, email and instant messaging, it’s now considered exotic to be truly unreachable at all.
It says something about me that I am constantly being preempted by a cell call. It could be that I am boring. It could be that people even get coconspirators to dial their number, just so they could have a respite from our exchange. At less paranoid times, I have concluded that I appear so completely benign and informal that the world out there has determined that I cannot easily be offended by such behaviors. Or at least that I wont kill the perpetrator.
Okay, I’ll confess: I wont kill, but I do hate the whole imposition of pseudo-connectedness on human interaction. You’re hanging at home – pick up the darn phone. You’re out and about, hanging with someone, trash or silence your cell, or at the very least, ignore the precious Ode to Joy when it sounds in your pocket. Bach would have wanted it that way.
A visit to a store to exchange a game. We’re into games around here but, predictably, everyone has strong preferences as to what talent is to be tapped. I, for instance, hate trivia games, but love “make up creative lies” type games. Others feel differently about this. I have been accused of being extremely competitive, to the point that I will use every devious strategy to sink a competitor and come out victorious. Of course, this is the opposite of how I really am. Honestly!! Anyway, I exchanged my first choice for someone else’s first choice. It’s Christmas, I can be magnanimous.
A visit to the gym. This goes without saying. Anyone who stands and cooks all day long and then devours all that comes off the stove, sometimes even before it is fully off the stove, needs to go to the gym after the holidays. I was not the only one there.
Reading the newspaper. I have not done this for a while. I’d been gone, I’d been busy, I’ve had every excuse to avoid picking up hard, dirty print. Today I am back at it. Things that caught my fancy: Maureeen Dowd’s tribute to Mary McGrory. Part of me would very much like to be like Mary McGrory: brilliant with words, always on the job, inquisitive, plucky, biting sharp, pushy. I think I can appropriate two from that list: plucky and inquisitive. The rest – merely aspirational. At the end of the article, Dowd cites McGrory’s advice to her nephew, given to him at a stuffy D.C. party: “Always approach the shrimp bowl like you own it.” Absolutely right. There’s no need to pander to stuffiness in this world.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
The palate changes over time. Over the years, we adjust for it. The buche de Noel shrinks (who can eat that much…), the chocolate ‘bark’ grows darker, more bittersweet, because that’s how preferences fall these days. The Cornish hens get zestier, spicier, the warm mushrooms in the salad get funkier, more exotic.
But the basic ingredients stay the same. Unless you forget to buy some of them. Then you adjust. Happy are those who can adjust, because let me tell you – all grocery stores are closed on this day, and the local PDQs do not carry such fancy items as heavy cream (for example). Adherence to rituals and traditions is satisfying. But shifting things around a bit is what makes the day especially interesting.
The final item to come out of the kitchen: a buche that recognizes current tastes and makes do with available ingredients.
The puff pastries come out of the oven in time for Christmas breakfast. The spice cake was made last night.
And, fan that I am of the Daily Show (I pay for cable just to occasionally catch Stewart – you might say that I am that deprived of opportunities to laugh), I somehow completely neglected “A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.” Today it appeared under the tree. It’s a good book to flip through. I just picked up this piece of legal trivia that I am certain will help me sound impressive in social gatherings: Until 1943, Supreme Court nominees were wrapped in litmus paper and dipped in acid to determine their worthiness for the Court. later Courts were less literal-minded.
Gifts are good. They put a shirt on my back and a pear in my stocking.
Does anyone else wake up at 5:30 and cannot return to sleep because of a nagging thought that they forgot something?
By 6 a.m. I finally recall that I did not wrap a pair of mittens from the Polish highlands. Nice sheep’s wool, warm and still smelling of fur and firs – I am certain that I did not wrap them. By 6:30 I give up on the idea of sleep and start searching for them. In the suitcase pocket: eureka!
For instance, here’s issue number two: I wonder if anyone will notice that I forgot to buy apple cider to steep the dried apples in for the morning apple puff pastries… And btw, I'm still fretting about the misplaced camera case.
An update on this promising-to-be-interesting day will follow.
Friday, December 24, 2004
The Pope (he is Polish, remember?), resting before Midnight Mass.
See how happy I look? (That's because I am near the end of the 45-minute stirring that polenta demands.)
- A search for my camera case. I cannot find it. Where the devil is it? I am obsessed with looking for it. My co-hunters have given up on me and on the camera case. I, however, am determined.
- I’m on the Net right now. How pathetic is that…
- Filling the cart at Whole Foods. The Whole idiot that I am, I allowed little elves to sneak in their favorite: Angel Fluffies. As a result, our cabinet at home looks like this (posting the picture reminded me of the lost camera case; the hunt must continue!):
- I have four separate baked goods to put in the oven. I am not starting in on any of them. Instead, I am about to return to the mall. I have this unwieldy curiosity about what the mall is like minutes before it closes for the holiday.
A note of caution: Ocean will not opine about much of anything important between now and the close of 2004. Look not for studious commentary and stay away if you crave reflective insight. [In other words, Ocean will proceed as it always does, in a whimsied, designless manner, without any clear idea of where it’s heading or why it is going there.]
Thursday, December 23, 2004
My trusty rusty truck (alright, ye of high accuracy standards – I mean van) let out air in all four tires, but especially in one. That was the final straw. Not a single machine stuck by me during this cold spell. Thanks, guys.
I abandoned my man of slight mechanical aptitude but great friendship potential and called the local heroes at the Mobil station. I am in full support of friendship, but when my days are being trampled upon, it’s time to think selfishly about taking care of myself. And my van.
Store clerk(s): Tomorrow, everything changes. The crowds diminish. It will be mostly men with a last-minute enlightenment about what their loved ones really want.
Items purchased: few. But I felt the season would be imperfect if I had not even once made it to the mall.
Mood meter: shoppers appeared benign, like they really did not mind being there. Odd!
Prospects of returning anytime soon: when the weather changes and I need a new bathing suit, if then.
Late in buying holiday cards? On sale, 40% off. Late in mailing present to parent in Berkeley? No lines at the post office anymore. Late in putting up yard lights outside? Let it go – no need to do it now, maybe next year. Late in getting dinner started? Oh, don’t bother, we can just eat out (I’m hoping for this one).
Poor suckers who get things done ahead of schedule – you don’t know what you’re missing!
The IHT article reporting this (from Paris) gives anecdotal evidence of a restless populace, tired of visits to picturesque villages along the Normandy coast where the old relatives still reside, anxious, instead, to get out and see the world during the holiday season (the article reminds us that in Europe, the holidays generate a greater number of time-off-from-work days than in the States).
Does anyone think that travel during the holidays is fun? La Guardia early in the week was a nightmare and this was without winter weather interference. Prices at traditional vacation havens are inflated, local eating establishments are often closed. What is the joy in this?
Maybe this is more of a comment on the nature of our encounters with family and friends. We are so unused to seeing each other that forced holiday get-togethers can be a bit of an encumbrance. During the everyday, we surround ourselves with people exactly like us, we do not relish accommodating the inclinations of others. How boring, then, to deal with the aging parent, the cloistered setting of the family home that we’ve outgrown. Oh, we’ll do it, we’ll pack the bags and the gifts and head out (the study also notes that in reality, only 12% actually do abandon family in favor of holiday escapes), dreading it, waiting for the return to our own piece of heaven at home. Of course, someday we will be at the receiving end as our friends and relatives eventually lump us into the category of the boring and seek ways to escape. Maybe the solution is to find the boring less boring, if only during this brief holiday period.
Maybe. And the French would agree with her, since they use the word she favors: “joyeux.”
But the Poles would not. We tell each other “Wesolych Swiat,” which literally translates to “Merry Holi-days.” If we have enough air in our lungs, we say “Have a Merry Holi-day of the birth of God.” The word “holiday” preserves sacredness, in that it keeps the emphasis on the “holy” (whereas in English, we have come to think of “holiday” as something that entitles us to time off from work).
As for the merrymaking – it is entirely right that one would wish the very jolliest, richest (calorie-wise) of celebrations. A Polish Christmas is all about family, friends and food. The tree goes up, the crèche is artfully arranged and then you feast. And feast. And feast. I can think of no words that more aptly capture the spirit of these days than “Merry Christmas.” Unless it’s “bon appetit,” but that’s a little too French.
* Yes, I do read other blogs. But Althouse offers abundance, both in quantity and quality. Moreover, it has no “comments” feature. For all these reasons it inspires a greater number of links than the average blog.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I’m doing none of that: no baking, no holiday anything for that matter. I am, instead, cultivating a long and enduring friendship.
I met him by chance, but we have become great friends. We tell each other things, we speculate about the future, we turn to each other in stressful moments, we enjoy a good laugh together.
The only thing is, I can’t quite remember his name.
He first showed up at my doorstep yesterday to fix car number one. Then, of his own accord, he tackled car number two. And today he is back, tackling the freshly stalled car number one. He hasn’t much faith in it, I can tell. Nor did he have an easy time towing it away. He followed me up and down the Beltline, finally dropping off the problem child at the dealer’s service entrance. But friendships don’t die easily. He’ll be back soon, I’m certain of it.
Last night’s tree enterprise was trouble-free. Over the years the stand has grown so that there now is a monster of monster stands, sturdy enough to hold a tree meant for Rockefeller Center. So the tree is up, it is not tilting, and it is adorable in its adorned state. It is a tree of stories because every single ornament was purchased in a special place at a special moment. Each year a handful is added and somehow or other there is always room for those new additions.
Everyone knows that my favorite is the simple cut out of two little faces at the window. But I am a fan of so many more – the winners and losers, they all were carefully selected and placed with great ceremony and, in the Polish way, with lots of accompanying food to move the task along.
Just a few photos for blog readers who like trees, like the holidays, like the idea that you can let your imagination create something so colorful and lovely right inside your home.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Perhaps due to the inordinate pressure this has put on the day for me, I backed out the one drivable truck right into the Christmas tree in the garage. That’s okay, I think the dent in it will be rather charming, Charlie Brownish almost. Perfect trees are not real. This one will look real.
If I can’t have a partridge, I at least want an organic pear tree. Or for the AAA truck to come NOW, so that I can leave the house and buy some fruit already. Grrrrr!
And don't any of you, friends and blog readers, even think you're getting a holiday card from me this year. I hereby send greetings to all. There, are you happy now?
UPDATE: That sounded cheerless. Greetings may come, but maybe a little, um, late-ish and perhaps via email. I'm full of remorse, okay?
Anything to show off for the blog?
Okay, here’s one: chocolate covered plums: you should be ogling a dinner invitation from me in the next weeks just to be served these for dessert (with a brandy if you’re into that sort of thing). Succulent and aromatic and totally yummy.
How about this: artisanal vintage numbered plum preserves.
Artisanal, vintage, numbered. Why?
Well, because plums, like grapes, have their good year and bad year. These preserves are stirred in large kettles, then packed by hand: only a couple of hundred jars are made each year. I have jar no. 184.
Could you tell the difference if it was from the year 2002 rather than 2001?
Jam should be eaten with as much care as anything else. I bet if I paused and savored it and rolled it around on my tongue…
Honey from pine forest undergrowth.
I can’t translate it. You need to taste it to understand how the essence of the forest can make its way into a great honey. This jar is somewhat depleted not because I had a honey craving and dug in halfway through the trip, but because some of the honey exited from the jar mid-flight.
How about these artisanal cholcolates, individually crafted? I think Belgium is going to have to share the stage pretty soon: Polish chocolate is catching up to its EU neighbor!
Too many holiday secrets in my suitcase. But I can show off this rooster that I now put in the kitchen: he is made of Polish hay and let me tell you, it brings the barn smell right into your home.
Is that a good thing?
Yes: I am referring to the fresh, sweet smell of hay. Okay, maybe it’s not that pungent, but if I bend down and sniff and close my eyes, I can see the haystacks before me…
That would not be a winter image now would it?
No matter: the rooster traveled straight from the holiday market in Krakow and as he sits perched on my kitchen countertop, he is my tiny reminder of who I am and where it all comes from. I am transformed again. Friends wont recognize me.
(Oh oh, are we going to see more of that Eastern European angst? The eat, drink and be merry cataclysmic personality that plunges and plunders and then writes dark brooding stories about the meaninglessness of life? )
(People have such weird ideas on what it means to be Polish.)
Monday, December 20, 2004
Sunday, December 19, 2004
There is something innocuously pleasant about going to the Village and walking down Bleecker Street, stopping at the (crowded!) Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes and looking at the cute and quirky holiday decorations on brownstones and in store windows. That’s it. Nothing could be simpler, less taxing. And short-lived.
Tomorrow, a return to the moment when I nearly missed the bus for O’Hare. Sigh. Poland didn’t quite leave my system the way it was supposed to.
Huh? You mean we’re in the Christmas season?
Where have you been? We are moments away from the big day itself!
This year I just cannot wrap my mind around Christmas. I have been in places that have holiday spirit up the wazoo, yet being away from home makes me think that the holiday season is remote.
Get with it! You are out of step with the calendar! Quit flipping the channels to different cities around the globe and start baking!
Monday. I am going home tomorrow. But why bake when there are holiday cakes for sale around the corner of every place I go to? This begs for a photo run. Just three examples from the past week:
Oh sure. Clearly the most pristine “holiday” moment has to be handed to Rynias. I mean, don’t they make Christmas cards that try hard to replicate these kinds of scenes?
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Oh, and guess whom I ran into there? Answer: no one known to me, but everyone else was making a fuss. So I went up, always eager to make a fool of myself with my camera and as a result, I was filmed chatting to this guy. I am certain that there will be the following commentary: Robert Verdi (that appears to be his name) meets a shopper in Bloomingdales while filming for his E! Fashion Police show and wonders, after looking her up and down, why people go out in public looking so… casual. I was very sorry I did not wear my new French rose-beige corduroys.
So take a look. Am I the only one who had no idea who this dude was? Btw, that’s me, the one with the gloppy cords, but cool enough jacket and scarf, standing next to him.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Today I upped that contribution considerably, to be more in line with the amount of time I intended to spend there. I was anxious to check out the special exhibit: “Wild: Fashion Untamed” (displaying fashion developments in the past fifty years). I can’t say that it was phenomenal, or even really worth the visit if you’re not otherwise Metropolitan-bound. Consider this photo (this was before the guard told me to hide the camera, in spite of signs saying “no” only to commercial and flash photography) and then run upstairs and indulge your senses in the wonderful art there. I can forgo the Egyptian mummies. It’s the European masters that dazzle.
Many things (including all this nanny talk) conspired to make me pick up the phone and call an old friend today (he’s both old and I’ve known him for a long time). I suppose “friend” is not really the appropriate term. Technically he was my employer: he wrote the check that went into my pocket for my nanny work. And it was because he hired me that I traveled back to the States in the seventies, pretending that I knew how to care for his little girl. They had had several bad runs with American college kids acting as nannies in the summers (we’re talking the peak of pot-smoking years on campuses) and so they were stretching, thinking that perhaps Poland would offer up some talent in this area, or at least some sober not whacked-out alternatives.
This going back to people from the past can be so good for the soul! There I was today, in the same old Fifth Avenue apartment (obviously a person who hires nannies is going to have a nifty NY home), looking at the same old face of a man I knew when he was… my age. He has Parkinson’s disease now and it affects his speech. But not his mind and heart. So this would be good, I tell myself: to be as generous and warm thirty years from now, and to think crisply about matters of the world. Nor does he regard his age as an impediment to much of anything. Tomorrow he is heading out with his “brood” of kids and grandkids to Mexico. His sister, he tells me, has just finished writing her first novel. She’s eighty. He goes into the office each day, even though his son has completely taken over the family business. I can see going in just to open mail and respond to email. It takes me half the day to do that now.
I visited him because he asked me to come over, but surely I got more out of it than he did. I’m just the same old wild card. All I can do is amuse (if I’m having a good run of it). What he can do is act as a role model of how to age without putting the brakes on, even if you’re being pushed to do so by forces beyond your control. (It helps, I suppose, to have enough cash to fly to exotic places with your grown kids and their families during cold winter days.)
It is so ironic that my profile appears on a European blog the first day that I am on this (American) side of the ocean. In fact, my most recent trip to Poland (described with posts and photos this past week) convinces me that I am both privileged and burdened by my absolute commitment to thinking and worrying (and therefore blogging) about both continents. Ocean remains true to its title, selected somewhat impulsively almost exactly a year ago.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
He is a writer – splitting his time between eating peanut butter sandwiches in Paris and living in a basement room in the East Village. He is working on his first novel (read his book when it comes out in a year or so -- the title is “Rode” and St. Martin’s Press is interested). But let me say this: he saved my skin at JFK and he told many a good story too. It was a nice transition from Europe to New York.
Nannyish Britain indeed: if a key member of Blair’s cabinet resigned after acknowledging that his department sped up a visa application for his former lover’s nanny, does it mean that he is in trouble for the fact that it was a visa fast-track, or that he had a lover, or that his lover was in need of a nanny – perhaps maybe to care for his child?
Of course, in Italy, Berlusconi should be wishing that his friends only helped their lovers’ nannies. Berlusconi’s good pal and political ally has just been convicted to nine years in jail for colluding with the Mafia. It’s all politics, says Berlusconi: what else would motivate the 400 plus investigations launched against him since he first took office?
Oh, but wait: did I read this right? Do I take it Kerik’s withdrawal from the nominated position of homeland security secretary ostensibly also had nannyish overtones? You mean he hired an illegal immigrant for a nanny? And paid no taxes on her? Lovely. I’m thinking back to my college days in NY: I moved here from Poland as a nanny. I had no idea then that I occupied a position that would cause cabinet secretaries, judges and friends of prime ministers to fall.
One more: this is in the IHT via the NYTimes and so perhaps others will have blogged about it already, but I am reading here that men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses (compared to women, who are willing to date men professionally above or below them). I should imagine nannies would be satisfactory candidates as well. Though perhaps nannies of one’s lovers would stretch the political imagination.
BTW, here’s a way to travel: a woman rushes to catch my Paris – NY flight. She is with a little toddler. I empathize. Oh, she is in business class! With a nanny to look after the child. Nanny gets an upgrade. How nice. I wonder if it’s okay to drink champagne if you’re nannying your way across the Atlantic.
As a post scriptum, I am amused to read (also in the IHT) that men may produce inferior sperm if they rest their computers too much on their laps. Sperm function well in a temperature setting that is lower than the rest of the body. I am wondering if this is another instance of studying men before we get around to contemplating women -- you know, the ones who are serving as secretaries and nannies (and therefore wives!). Are their eggs better off under the heat? In the sunny-side-up fashion, you’d think so. Best to get the studies going though. I’m past caring about such matters, but I want to ensure that society reproduces itself. A shortfall of a sperm or two wont change the composition of the next generation, but eggs are a more precious commodity.
A few pommes et oranges:
- I’ve not read a single page of an American newspaper since I left the States. It is interesting how easy it is to become engrossed in the news of your immediate surroundings, even though absolutely nothing prevents you from reaching into more distant sources. Thus I track with more than my usual curiosity stories about Blair and Berlusconi and Paris mayor Delanoe, and give only a passing glance to the cabinet musical chairs and various other DC shenanigans. This is not necessarily a good thing, but it is worth thinking about what encourages parochialism in our canvassing of the presses.
- The challenge ahead: to manipulate two suitcases and a computer through the Paris metro system during morning rush hour, knowing as well that the metro stop I need to get through has stairs rather than an escalator (but very courteous and helpful French men) and those lovely turnstiles that jam even one hefty suitcase let alone two. What would travel be without challenges!
UPDATE from the airport: Chance enounters... Struggling at the metro station, I am aided by an older gentleman (older than me, so that tells you something). He not only helps lift my bags onto the train, but rides the distance, clinging to them so they don't fall. Who is he, this savior of mine? A professor of mathematics at the Paris University, it turns out. He tells me stories of his brother the writer, of Christmases at the family home in Brittany, of the beautiful cemetery right there by the village church, of his father who remarried when his wife was proclaimed dead during World War II, only she wasn't dead, she was hiding... my 29 minutes fly. And the travel story only gets better as the ticket agent looks at my chipper (hopeful?) smile and tells me, with the most pleasing French accent: "I ev deecided to geeve you an upgrade. Bon voyage en business!" (It's not really about me; judging by the crowds, I'm sure the flight is oversold.) Surely I'll pay the price: suitcases will get lost, we'll not get there today, but let me not forget this moment, when travel is rewarding and people are kind.
- One tends to forget that northern Europe has a late sunrise in the winter. I mean really late. I’m ending my European blogging with a few shots from a brisk walk. Don’t let it mislead you. It’s not a night walk, it took place this morning, between 7 and 8 a.m. No hint of sunrise at that time. Empty chairs and empty benches. And a final croissant and café crème.
The b&w camera setting makes it appear lighter than it was. Bookstalls shut tight, Notre Dame barely visible, sidewalks wet from a morning spray.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
When I was a senior in my Polish high school, the slow dance to savor was Adamo’s “Quand les roses” (“When the roses..”). Oh that memory!…my high school crush and I, moving to the “rose” song. Life didn’t get any better!
I saw my high school crush this Sunday. Every person who has ever fought the devilish battle in their younger years against a dwindling relationship, should have the pleasure of meeting their crush 30 years later, just to recognize how small, in the scheme of things, the impact of it is on the rest of your life.
At the table next to mine right now they are singing happy birthday in French. The waiter brings a cake and a small gift from the restaurant. He pauses a long time to talk with the group. His stories are clever and long and they cause great hilarity. Indeed, every last person at the table appears terribly jovial. I’ve never seen a group so completely engaged in a moment of pure fun.
Florists sell bunches of roses in Paris year-round. Even in the coldest months I see these displays outside flower shops (we’re talking Paris, not Wisconsin).
- Having a same old croissant and a same old café crème at the same old bar, pretending thus that I actually have a neighborhood in Paris. Since I have never lived here, that’s a bit of a laugh, but the image itself jumpstarts the morning for me.
I caught her reflection in this mirror behind a table: Madame is having a morning café with her friends.
- A walk through a park is a high for me always. I’m right there, by the Orangerie and so the Tuileries is the obvious choice. It is empty.
A personal favorite, but there are so many to choose from (forgive the washed-out tones of the photo).
Puy's paintings of nudes are so sensual that they are said to be never vulgar. This one dates back to 1910.
On my list of shops to visit is the tights store where Monsieur asked me a year ago what I thought of the war in Iraq. He had said then that he was willing to fight at the first sign that there were any WMDs. He didn’t remember our conversation when I went there today, but I nudged him to it. Afterwards, he sneaked a little toy doggie into the bag. What’s that? – I asked. Un petit cadeau. Hmm. Either a sign of “I don’t hold grudges toward Americans for the french fry thing,” or a sign of how much business I do in a Parisian tights store.
What was the last thing that I bought? Minutes ago, before all stores closed, I did what I seem to always have to do (fifth time this has happened): go out and buy another suitcase. It’s not the Paris shopping actually that puts me over the top, it’s the Polish gifts I take home. When family and friends load you with honey, candies, cakes, creams, jams, etc etc and when I want to take home the quintessential highland treasures because I think life is incomplete without them, well, it gets kind of crowded in my little Samsonite.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Well now, here’s a surprise. Since my last visit here in spring, this has popped up on the Boulevard St Germain:
As midnight approaches
I’m eating dinner late, at my same old place. I like it here. Why? It’s all about the waiters. No no, don’t get me wrong, they’re not hot or anything, they’re just so fast and professional. They make the entire dining experience a tour de force indeed. I choose the smoking section which has 100% French customers, as opposed to the ugly upstairs non-smoking rooms which are filled with 100% foreigners. The waiters (therefore) assume I am French. Everyone else does as well.
Madame et monsieur are at the table next to mine (oh so close – you know how it is: one big comfy couch for the ladies, then chairs opposite small tables for the men). Madame is eyeing my dessert. She throws one glance, then another, then another. Finally she can’t stand it and asks what I am eating. You know what she really can’t stand? Monsieur’s monologue about the reasons behind the falling dollar. We talk about the loveliness of serving warm winter fruits with a delicate sorbet. Monsieur does not like this. He has lost Madame’s attention. He coaxes her to try a more intricate chocolate dessert. She hesitates. The waiter comes. She gives a wisp of a smile and says: I will have what madame is having at the table next to mine. I leave before Monsieur shoots me or slashes my throat with a bread knife. But damn, I feel French! Stripped of Polishness & Americanisms for a brief minute, I am stateless, nationless, I am nothing. I may as well be French.
I’m riding with my sister to the airport in Warsaw and we get stuck in traffic. The road is partly under construction, but that doesn’t explain the complete impasse. It’s the trucks, she tells me. There is no highway that circumvents the city center and so every piece of machinery heading north or south ends up passing through the city itself. The cars no longer pollute in the way that they did ten or twenty years ago, nevertheless there certainly are a lot of them.
We pass the dzialki, little plots of land once given over to city residents who wanted to cultivate gardens. My sister reflects, sadly, that it’s hard to maintain them now. Vandalism and theft make it difficult to leave anything behind. Things disappear.
In Paris, I take the RER train to downtown Paris. I have always liked the ads they have posted at the airport: bus to Paris: delayed; taxi to Paris: delayed; car to Paris: delayed; RER to Paris: 29 minutes. I always arrive here from Warsaw at the same time: during rush hour traffic. It is unthinkable to take the bus then – it takes too long. Rush hour on the metro with a suitcase and a computer poses interesting challenges nonetheless.
I pass suburban stations and I note the graffiti on the platform walls. Vandalism: a theft of clean public spaces. As I look at it, I am remembering the worst graffiti I’ve seen in a long time: my sister and I had been walking through Warsaw’s Old Town and we saw it there, on a wall of one of the pretty, blue buildings. I thought then –how could some jerk with spray-paint deface something that was built out of the rubble, by the bare hands of those who had the vision of a new “Old Town?”
Paris always serves as the connecting city, the city that transitions me to the US and so I make a point of stopping here for a couple of nights. Because I know that once I step off the plane on the other side of the ocean, it will be as if I never had my week in Poland. That’s the way it always is: my Polishness remains nearly invisible to everyone but myself, even as my Americanisms are so obvious to all my Polish friends and family. One country (Poland) is a scanner and a sponge for all that comes from the other (the US). And that other? Oblivious, unaware. It’s just the way it is.
Okay, one last look at Warsaw: decking out a restaurant for the holiday season, then a quick switch to Paris: decking out a restaurant for the holiday season.
Monday, December 13, 2004
I bought garlic from a street peddler today. Better that she have the cash than the large grocery chain. Her braids of garlic where quite pretty and I asked if I could also take a photo (having almost been arrested for improper photographing earlier in the day, I thought I better be careful). She said -- go ahead and take a picture, but without her in it. Then she said what I made to be the title of this post subsection.
I try not to do that – to photograph something ridiculously ugly. But she was not even a tiny bit ugly. She was just plain and ordinary. Yet, I knew what she was talking about: to me, something is normal and ordinary. To another (a blog reader?), some of the posts and photos of the ordinary may be something to smirk at. Should I avoid posting them?
Today I am not avoiding them. I am not giving a tour of Warsaw now, I am on my last day in Poland, and I want to give a run through the ordinary, the everyday.
I’ll avoid too many words because it would take too many words to say anything right.
I walked around my childhood neighborhood today – right in the city center. I moved here (from the village) when I was three. It’s amazing how little has changed. The room that I shared with my sister looked out on the tram stop. The only other room in our apartment looked out back, directly into an older woman’s rooms. We waved to her all the time.
At the side, there was a courtyard for kids to play in. Most apartment houses in Poland had those back then. The playground equipment was as sophisticated then as it is now. The apartment house, the entrance to it, the courtyard:
The tramcar rings a bell every time it stops and starts. I can tell you *exactly* how that sounds. Our window is marked by the red circle.
Tomorrow I am in Paris.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
For the record, I don’t do roots. I can tell you for sure that no one in my family ever traveled on the Mayflower. Indeed, no one in my extended family even knew what the Mayflower was until about a generation (or so) ago. I know this much: my ancestors appeared to be scattered all over Poland. How’s that for precision?
Am I wedded to my past? Well naturally, on these trips to Poland I am a bit overwhelmed with memories. I walk to Lazienki and see this:
Kurt Cobain? Can I admit to not knowing who that is?
I don’t want any expressions of shock and disbelief. I really did not know (I’ve since sent my research team at my sister’s home to work and I’ve got some answers). I’m stuck on Chopin alright. Or, I’m just plain stuck. Maybe sometime during my crossing of the ocean in one direction or another my internal calendar-clock lost its battery and quit functioning, so that I am perpetually set on the hour five, or the age five and cannot move beyond that.
Things I did not know about myself
1. Speaking weirdly
I tell one of my high-school friends tonight: you know, I think I am beginning to speak Polish with a slight American accent. My “sz” sounds are too soft, they’re beginning to sound like “sh” (this is an unthinkable enunciation atrocity for a Pole). He looks at me and hesitates before saying anything. What? You agree, don’t you? I am beginning to sound American? Um, even in high school you spoke…not exactly like the rest of us, he tells me. Endearing. But different.
Great, I sounded like an outsider at the age of fifteen. And in Wisconsin I am always told I speak with a slight (kind people add this adjective) accent. Basically I can conclude from this that I do not know how to speak any language well. I can just imagine the French laughing as I mess around with their vocabulary.
2. Overcome with emotion
I asked my sister today: do your (grown) sons ever cry? No, not really, she said. But then neither do I. I mean, if there was a tragedy or something, but otherwise no... I answer - oh. She looks at me and comments – you know that you always were the emotional one in the family. I mean, you were always laughing or crying…
Good thing we have these reunions so that I can get a sense of who I was.
A gray day. A cold day. The kind of day I think chills me more than any other: damp, freezing, windy.
(Dreadfully bleak, isn’t it? Isn’t it?)
When I was very little and then again, as a teen, I’d head for the park on Sundays. First with my sister and father, later with my boyfriends or girlfriends. That is what one did.
(Sounds miserable in a month such as December.)
The thing is, it was always wonderful. I have said this to anyone who’ll listen: Warsaw has the most beautiful park in the entire world: a park with wide alleys and curving paths, a summer palace (rebuilt, naturally – remember, we are in the capital of war rubble) and a lake, an orangerie with peacocks wandering freely, a rose garden surrounding Chopin’s statue…
(Lovely. Did you smell the roses?)
No roses in December.
And people. The park is always full of people. Strolling people, older younger, people feeding birds, squirrels, ducks, swans, peacocks (it’s the primary activity for little kids). And it has an open terrace where you can sip coffee and eat sweets.
(You sat in an open terrace? How exciting. How cold.)
Naturally the terrace is closed for the winter, but the café still sells rurki z kremem (a rolled wafer stuffed with fresh whipped cream) to strollers.
Lazineki park is where you exhale before Monday places demands on you all over again. You take it slowly, it’s meant to be savored. It is, for me, Warsaw’s greatest treasure. It doesn’t carry any history with it, you make up your own personal one and in a city like Warsaw, that is so refreshing, it hurts.
To accuse the Polish Catholic Church of shielding perpetrators of violence (against women and children) by its constant reinforcement of the notion that the family is sacred and untouchable, will get you into a lot of trouble.
Attitude about the war in Iraq was marked by indifference and mild support – until the first Polish soldiers were killed in the conflict. Now public opinion has shifted, arguably for the wrong reasons.
I am hereby stating that “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” just does not work when translated into Polish.
For the common person, the greatest problem with the last decade under communism was the absence of favorite foods in grocery stores. You could say that rationing kielbasa was the last straw, the trigger behind the silent revolution. My sister, who has been a vegetarian for the past twenty years or so, was less affected by the long lines forming during that time to buy meat.
Poland has more women in leading government positions than even countries such as the US. Nonetheless, discrimination based on gender and age (including asking pre-hire questions about pregnancy plans) is common in the workplace.
Stories about people dying from eating poisonous mushrooms are greatly exaggerated.
If the Americans do not change their policies on granting visitor visas to Poles, they may experience the first waning of enthusiasm toward their government, Bush or no Bush.
A Polish university student commented that he was glad to learn (from listening to the American presidential debates) that his knowledge of the English language surpassed that of the leader of the free world.
It’s interesting to immerse myself in stories and news originating solely from this side of the ocean. Nonetheless, I remain extremely grateful to those of you in the States who have written and commented on Ocean posts. By far, the post that has generated the warmest, nicest emails ever is the one on Rynias. I hereby admit that it, too, is my favorite and it may remain so for the rest of Ocean’s time on the Net.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
The first one, with this fellow (but the photo was taken in Warsaw, in 1926) – a very close relative of mine (okay, my father):
Four people with four fascinating perspectives on life in Poland; some of them even overlapped, occasionally.
What topics were contentious? Here’s one: what to do with the old communist guard – throw them in jail or let them be? Answer: opinions vary. Oh, and another speculative issue: how many Poles are worse off now then, say, 20 years ago? Answer: maybe 70%. One more: so how church-inclined are people anyway? Answer: in the city – less than you’d think, but not many dare admit it. And one comment made directly to me: “you are so forthright in your questions!” My answer: I have to be. I have so little time here to learn what people are thinking and feeling.
Why have I looked forward for so to blogging from Poland? Ocean is not, after all, a journal. Not at all. NOT AT ALL! What I most wanted to do was write about the Poland that I grew up with, through my now Americanized eyes. The pictures are ones that I have had, in a sense, in my mind long before they were taken. I truly carry them with me always, even though I rarely talk about it.
Okay, this week of Poland posts cannot be complete without a trek to my grandparents’ village, where I lived the first three years of my life and visited just about yearly until I left for the States as an adult.
Village life for me is, was, all about meadows and forests and farmsteads, dead pigs wheeled from the market, narrow strips of fields (Polish farmland remained mostly privatized after the war), farm men and women, chapels on dirt roads, children watching as you go by, watching, waiting, waiting for the next big event in their lives. [See photos of all these images below.] Village life in Poland has almost nothing in common with life on a Midwestern farm, of that I am certain. Crops are grown, animals are raised, there ends the similarity. I wonder if even from this handful of photos a reader can understand this profound cultural divide.
At the bottom of the photo-roll I’ve posted a picture of the house that my grandfather built, one room at a time. Eventually it grew, then shriveled and crumbled in disrepair. My sister has only recently managed to lay claim to it again and is now trying, along with my nephew, to bring it back to life, one floorboard at a time. Fifty years ago it was surrounded by cherry and apple trees and an organic garden (my grandparents were the original naturalists!). Little of that remains. But the pond outside has frogs and fish again and the river is getting so that you can see the sandy bottom once more. Progress in this case means going back to the way I remember it from almost half a century ago.
This "chapel" was built in 1916 (note date on the bottom) when there was no Poland on the map. It stands half a kilometer from my grandparents' house, at the intersection of two dirt roads. To this day, there is no paved road within miles of the village.
Friday, December 10, 2004
I walked over to the grocery store tonight with my sister. They sell large quantities and vast selections of everything there. For instance, they sell the game “Scrabble” – a special promotion tonight! – but with Polish letters inside the box. It is an odd thing to buy with your dumplings and pickles.
For a Varsovian, yes. But ask what that may be – and we hesitate.
Consider these four major sights: the old wall that once surrounded the city, the buildings in the Old Town, the monument in front of the courthouse, and the Palace of Culture (all pictured below). Tell me, which one would you take a visitor to and speak only in the present, without mentioning the last sixty years? Not bring up the rubble? Or Stalinist architecture? Or the defense of Warsaw? None, of course. Is Warsaw beautiful, therefore, only if you carry her past in your pocket?
I have been engaged in too many discussions about Polish sausage lately and I want to put the topic to rest. Each nation defends its sausage. The Germans stand by their bratwurst, the Italians love their pepperoni, the Poles cling to their kielbasa. I posted a photo of the grilled stuff in Krakow, but for the everyday you head to the local butcher and admire this:
And let’s lay down the rule about poppyseeds: densely packed in between cake layers. None of this “sprinkling” into the batter. Keep it rich and keep it sweet. Here’s an example from Blikle, the premier bakery in Warsaw (ah yes, afternoon snack time for me).
- Polish men like to talk and tell stories. I mean, you can’t get a word in sometimes, they get so wrapped up in a story. They’re good at it too. Yesterday, on the train back from the mountains I listened to a highlander tell the story of last week’s earthquake – he shook his body to demonstrate, he expounded, elaborated, making it into a one-man show. Then his buddy chimed in. The three hour ride was filled with their booming voices. No one minded. Other passengers chimed in. It was fascinating to watch and listen to. I threw in a comment or two as well, but I was shot down, having had no experience with the earthquake here, loathing to admit that I was then in the States, thus too far to have felt anything.
- Women talk so fast that you, the listener, cannot drift off for even a second or an entire chapter of a life may have been offered and you will have missed it.
- If they don’t shut off the background music everywhere, I will seriously injure someone. Frank Sinatra, loudly, for breakfast. Light pop in the judge’s chambers during my meeting with her. Some odd instrumental twangy twang in the psychologist’s office when I discussed abuse and neglect issues with her. It doesn’t stop the conversation, no, not at all, but why is it there in the first place?
- We need to introduce the slob factor into the dress code in Poland. Coming from Wisconsin, I do not have the habit of dressing up for, say, a train ride. Here I am right now, in a train compartment (speeding back to Warsaw) with three women, all dressed and made up as if they were going to a fine dining place. Me, I am in my trusty comfy cords. At least I don’t have my jogging shoes on. No one here, male or female, wears jogging shoes ever.
- Poles have the endearing habit (shared by those in other countries in Europe) of greeting each other often. You enter a store, it is absolutely obligatory to say “good day” to the sales staff, and then “thank you” and “good bye” as you are leaving. It is rude rude rude not to exchange such greetings. In the States, if the salesperson is obsequious, she or he will say “can I help you find something?” setting up a negative exchange as you are most often forced to say “no thanks, just looking.” If they aren’t helping you find things, you are nothing to them nor they to you.
- Poles are physically initmate with each other in public. Maybe it’s because there’s not much privacy at home, what with all these generations living together, but still – men kiss and embrace the women in public, clap each other on the back, hold hands with their sons, women walk arm in arm together, people greet each other with kisses, they touch! It’s nice.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Did you cover in the blog all that you wanted to about your brief Krakow visit?
Of course not. For example, I did not even mention the place that most Poles would regard as the symbol of this old city: St. Mary’s Basilica. No, it’s not my lopsided photography. One tower is indeed shorter than the other. Legend has it that two brothers set out to build it (construction began in the 13th century) and one did a better job than the other. The altarpiece alone is worth a trip to Poland, even if you’re not particularly church-inclined in your ramblings. But what every Pole knows by heart is the trumpet melody played every hour on the hour from the taller of the towers. It is sharply cut off in mid-note. The origins of the ritual? In 1241, a trumpeter played this piece from the tower, warning Krakovians of the Tartar invasion. His throat was pierced by an arrow and the music stopped. We hear the melody daily at noon on the radio and hourly in Krakow (played by local firemen). Oh no, Poland isn’t tradition-bound, not at all, what makes you think that it is?
Last night’s trout that I ate very late, in a local place where hordes of students appeared to hang out (“Cherubino”) stands out. I am a great fan of Wisconsin’s Artesian Farms trout, but this one was every bit as good. I always hesitate before ordering trout in Poland because oftentimes you have to play with deboning it yourself. This one was wonderfully filleted. The baked apple was an added yummy bonus. [The meal that most westerners would like to pass over in Poland, on the other hand, is the traditional breakfast in any hotel. Who needs all those meats and salads in the morning? But I have to put in a general plug for my hotel – the Amadeus. It is a delightful little place, one of my all-around favorites.]
The “last thing” hasn’t happened yet. I’m meeting a friend and colleague for coffee on the Main Square before I catch the morning train to Warsaw. But last night I took a walk up and down the Old Town and even at midnight it took my breath away. Oh, and they finally decided that the Square is ready to put on a Christmas twinkle. The lights were turned on, adding a special magic to the place.
I can do this in a day, yes I can: an early bus takes me from Krakow to the Tatra mountains; I find someone to drive me to the village of Brzegi, right at the border with Slovakia. From there, I hike the hour or so to Rynias. They said the weather may be miserable: cloudy, windy, cold. So what! I want to get grounded again. I need a day in Rynias.
I met them first exactly 35 years ago. I was a student in Warsaw. But I moved to the States a few years later and I didn’t go back to Rynias for many decades. Pani Anna and Pan Stas went from being in their 40s to passing 80. They lost their one son to a motorcycle accident. Pan Stas, as of today, has only one tooth left. He will not smile at the camera, but he’ll smile and smile for me.
I have to go: my ride is waiting in the next village. I love that he walks out with me, my highlander, my grandfatherly friend. He stands in the snow and watches me trudge down the path until we cannot see each other anymore.
The walk to Rynias is through a splendid pine forest... Balsam firs, dusted with snow, are everywhere...
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Q: How do people move around in the city at night?
A: Walking is a must in places like Krakow. Many of the central streets are narrow, cobble-stoned, one-way, and have restricted access for non-taxis. Outside the Old Town area, trams are popular (as they are in Warsaw).
A: Not with these guys:
The menu was set and it included broiled eggplant, the ubiquitous raw carrot salad, roast pork in a mushroom sauce and potatoes. The dessert was a lovely chocolate thing. Poles are especially good with desserts.
A: We call them “jasiek,” literally “johnny pillows.” They’re cool, they let you wrap your arms around them, sort of like a teddy bear. Most homes have them too.
Be warned: Polish beer and vodka are rocket fuel. If you’re determined to make a prat [sic] of yourself then make sure it’s not in front of the law. A trip to Krakow’s premier drunk tank (ul Rozrywkowa 1 – which literally translates as Entertainment Street) will set you back 250 zl [equivalent to about $85] for a 15 hour stay. In return for your cash expect a strip search, a set of blue pajamas and the company of a dozen mumbling vagrants. Those resisting arrest will find themselves strapped down to a bed, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style. Refreshment comes in the form of limitless coffee, though the mug it comes in will smell of urine for a reason. Credit cards not accepted.Makes you wonder how the writer knew of all those small details…
Why all this constant talk of cold? The temps are in the upper twenties. What’s the big deal?
In truth, the prickly cold air is not constantly on my mind. I get easily distracted. For instance, this morning, I peeked into the Collegium Maius. There, the date 1492 is most significant, not because Columbus sailed the ocean blue (not this Ocean!) but because Copernicus began his studies at Krakow's Jagiellonian University in this year.
This cafe went all out with the whipped cream and the added sauce. But the taste of the "szarlotka" (apple pie) is the same: fantastic!
P.S. I’m not in Krakow tomorrow during the day. Be patient. I have this zany idea and I am banking on things falling into place.
What does age matter? If she’s competent, then does it matter if she’s wrinkled or barely able to order a drink in a bar?
How old, come on…
I find ageism to be repugnant. For instance, this morning I was eavesdropping in the hotel breakfast room and I heard an American woman describe her experiences conducting workshops that had something to do with the Internet. She looked to be in her upper sixties. Yeah!
You are so avoiding my question. You had a meeting with a judge who handles abuse and neglect cases. In fact, it appears that she has huge discretion to basically decide the fate of children and families in crisis, more so than the judges in the States and I’ve heard you complain that the American judges have too much discretion. So, this judge whom you met with all afternoon, how old was she anyway?
Maybe approaching 30?
The circuit court in Krakow. Kind of looks like ours on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, doesn't it? Please do not comment on the decrepit bench out front!
Christmas is a Big Deal in Poland. Still, to the outsider, things look tame. Yes, there is the holiday market. But the decorations elsewhere are only now going up. And Krakow appears to be conflicted about how much of the American Christmas should make its way here. The traditional Polish Christmas has a tree, but there is no Santa. Did I say no Santa?
No! And then what happened? …Well it’s a good thing you parted with him. Of course! And what did Henio say about all this?
(English speaking, presumably uncomprehending customer waiting at desk): Ummm…
I think that you’ll go by yourself then, don’t you think? You know I did buy it in the end. It’s normal to do that. No no, I wont be here then, I am about to go on vacation…
(English speaking, presumably uncomprehending customer waiting at desk): Ummm…
You know he’ll do that each time. Seriously. But I have to go soon. There’s a lady at the desk right now… Yes of course you should have. Did he hang up then? I don’t think it matters a bit. I would tell her all about it and see what she says…
(English speaking, presumably uncomprehending customer waiting at desk): Ummm…
I really do not think it matters. Listen, I will drop it off later and then you can take a look at it. Oh, I hug you tightly then. A big kiss for you and Asia. Oh, really? He said that when? Oh then definitely you did the right thing. It doesn’t matter, tomorrow you can go to the store and pick it up.
(English speaking, presumably uncomprehending customer makes like she is about to leave)
Well of course I will call. Yes yes yes yes yes. I really should go. The lady at the desk looks like she is leaving. Yes a big big hug, tight tight tight, for you then. Bye! (In English, to customer): Is there something I can do for you?
Some things are in our blood. Friends and family come first, the hell with market capitalism.
Sights to die for, or at least to see before you fade into the sunset
I mentioned that Krakow boasts two sights that are on the "must see" list for this planet. I am posting two quickly taken photos, done by a person whose fingers were frozen even inside a brand new spiffy pair of gloves (that would be me). But they give you an idea of what is worth looking at. I’d add a few things myself, but the Internet at the hotel is being fussy and so let’s try for the main two for the moment:
The Main Square is perhaps the largest medieval square in Europe. Even in December, the flower stalls stay open under their yellow umbrellas.
Wawel Castle and Cathedral: each king added his own thing and so you have Medieval, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque styles, all rolled into one fantastic complex at the top of a hill overlooking Krakow
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
There is a travel book on the bestseller list in the States. It lists all the top sights in the world – the ones you should definitely see before you die. Three of them are in Poland -- two in Krakow alone (the castle and the main square). Okay, so the cynic will ask – what’s wrong with the rest of Poland? Wrong question obviously.
I am tired (and wired! My hotel room has a hook up!). But I go out to take a look at the holiday market on the main square (see photos below). I hear someone say in English “damn, that’s good!” They mean the hot red wine with spices that you can pick up at one of the stands. You can sip it while eating, what else – roasted meats, sausages and cooked cabbage stew. Now come on, stay open minded. Imagine: it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s late and you come across the smoky stand where someone is turning sausages. Better than brats, I’m sure.
But I pass on it. I’m aiming tonight for the Peasants' Kitchen, where they serve good old pierogi, stuffed with cabbage and mushrooms. What's this though? The old Peasant Kitchen isn’t full of Poles anymore. I hear German, or English with a German accent. Okay, okay, the Polish hosts were not ALL pandering to their western neighbors with disparaging comments about women , Warsaw and who knows what else. But I do hear one Pole tell his German guest: “Warsaw? There are lots of nice things about Warsaw, I just can’t think of what they might be.” Politeness forces me to keep quiet and concentrate on my peirogi.
On the train to Krakow I sit compartment style. Everyone is shaking hands: they know each other. Enter me, the outlier, the one in the pink shirt and black pants amidst a sea of tweed. They are academics it seems, profs from the Academy of Agriculture. Slightly older than me. In Poland, everyone is lightly older or younger than me. What happened to my generation?
Everyone is reading, I’m writing. I’m “Polish” on this run, I already spoke it to them in Polish and so there’s no going back, I’m committed. But please don’t ask me about my work. I have been traveling all day, I am too tired to think lucidly about the law in Polish.
Central Station in Warsaw. All those people are waiting for the Krakow train. Popular run at a popular hour.
It’s a skill, but we can do it. If I had to split the plane in two parts, one for the Poles and one for the French, I bet I could guess who would belong in which group with an error of no more than 1 or 2. My father, proud of his worldliness, used to say that he’d be indistinguishable, that is --within the error group. I humored him and answered-- yeah, sure.
I have to say this at the outset. I love Warsaw and I am fiercely protective of her. Krakow, the beauty queen, did not suffer in the way Warsaw did in the twentieth century. Warsaw has scars like the kid who once had a bad case of acne. Scars that are difficult for others to understand. Scars of destruction followed by poverty. Warsaw has grit and determination to make something of herself and I just love her to death for it.
Once when colleagues traveled here and later showed me photos they took – I remember vividly one of a decrepit park bench – I cried. Is this the way you see her? --I asked.
Loving her as much as I do allows me to look critically as well. Driving in from the airport is revealing. These are the streets I remember: blocks of apartments that westerners regard as quaintly decrepit in their ugliness. I think—oh how happy are the inhabitants! They have their own apartment in Warsaw and they have their neighborhood and I bet they feel at home there.
It is the new that appears to me more garish, more unsightly. Unregulated advertising. Big signs. Big towers of modern church spires. BIG, it has to be BIG. Aggh! Get me out of here! Thankfully, the city center is spared. It remains as I remember it.
Arrival in Warsaw, but then straight to Krakow
These days I do not initially stop in the capital for more than a few hours (I am in Warsaw now, unloading suitcases and presents). I head straight for Krakow (3 hours by train). My work connections are at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and it’s best to get work done first, before I forget that there is work to be done.
My sister acts as chauffeur. But for our childhood six years in NY and then a brief stint at an American grad school, she has always lived in Warsaw and she is street-smart, keeping up with the new ways that you have to pay attention to. I’m stuck in the old ways of safe streets and low crime rates. She is my protector. Don’t flash cash! Don’t drink tap water! Keep your purse to the front of you! Do not use unmarked cabs. Mafia!
Would you buy yourself some easy love and worship by speaking English in stores/restaurants/hotels even though you were fluent in Polish? I’m always torn on this and I cut it 50 – 50, depending on what I am after and how important it is that I get it.
[I do it for them too! If you are a Pole and the door opens to your store and the person says “dzien dobry” – ho hum, just another customer. But you hear a foreign sounding “hello” and you perk up. God, Americans have currency here. The dollar can plummet to negative numbers and it’ll still buy you a hero’s welcome.]
Off to the train station now.
Monday, December 06, 2004
It’s because of the Christmas treats. I had to mail a box of goodies to daughters who are far away and (I am thinking) in desperate need of chocolate-covered gingerbread. But oh, the line at the post office! When it became clear that waiting it out would cost me my bus and therefore flights and therefore Poland and all my meetings, I considered two alternatives: toss the box into the car and forget about it, or give it to someone in line with a $10 bill and the following plea: “mail it for me please; I am desperately late. If it’s more, forget it, throw it away, eat it, pocket the money, whatever. But I don’t think it’s more; I will appreciate it so much. And so will the little ones at the other end.”
So which would you have done? *
That I made the bus is nothing short of a miracle. Now, at the airport, I am finding innovative ways to blog. Of course. A day cannot pass…
* We live in troubled times. I took one look at the people in line, all over the age of 80, it seemed (who else has time to stand at the post office at 11:20 a.m.), and I thought – they’re going to have me arrested. Sigh. The goodies got tossed to the back seat.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I can’t help the news that I hear about every waking hour. Ocean is only as happy as the world around it.
So you could not find anything to balance the morning post? No one, including you, is doing anything happy-happy?
I ran around in the bleak wintry weather and dark days to crowded stores where people were excessively shopping. I am in a mad dash to Get It All Done before tomorrow’s departure.
Departure? So where are you going and why?
In this one month I am privileged to be spending time in four cities and two villages that have easily been the most important places in my life. I have work to do, yes, but I also have time to spend with my Polish family and pals, and then with my residing-on-the-East Coast family.
So you wont be blogging much?
Who are you kidding? I have already told my sister (who lives in Warsaw) that I will basically not leave her apartment because I have too much blogging to do and so she may as well not coax me into any other activities.
Seriously, ever since I started blogging in January, I have wanted to post from Poland. I am traveling with my computer and my camera and my tested trusty world Internet access (dial-up, but oh well), so I should be fine. Ocean is crossing the ocean and she and I can’t wait to plunge right into my homeland with vignettes of life as I know it, remember it, miss it. The next 24 hours may be thin on writing as I am on a bus, then in the air, then in the air again, then on a train. But after that, if you are curious about life Over There, tune in.
His blog has generated enough attention to be of concern to the US government. In response to the disconcerting images, the US military has taken the time to put together a website with its own slide show, intended to generate support for the military intervention in Iraq.
Still, the authors of the news article interviewed a number of military experts who claimed that the blogger’s site is the more compelling of the two.
"As far as the blog site, this is information operations at its finest," said one Marine officer who has served in Iraq. … An Army soldier who fought in the Sunni Triangle last year and maintains a blog himself agreed. "The winner has to be the blog," he said. "There's something all too visceral about seeing the pictures of the dead and wounded, on both sides, which overwhelms static displays of weaponry" in the military presentation.I’ll list the two sites, with a note that the blogger’s site is indeed very graphic. Here’s what the WashPost says about it:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs … came to a similar but broader conclusion: "What the two presentations show us is that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds."
In the version of the Web site that was up last week, the first image on the site showed a malnourished Iraqi baby, wide-eyed and screaming in pain, under the sarcastic headline, "another grateful Iraqi civilian."The “Soldiers for the Truth” site, supported by the US military can be reached here: http://www.sftt.org
Many of the photographs are far more graphic than are usually carried in newspapers, showing headless bodies, bloodied troops, wounded women, and bandaged babies missing limbs. One added recently shows a U.S. soldier with part of his face blown away by a bomb.
The private blogger’s site can be viewed at: http://www.fallujahinpictures.com
Saturday, December 04, 2004
This year it did not roll off onto the Beltline (as it did several years back); big enough for you? The thing weighs a ton.
The top ten chosen titles will be announced in four days. In the meantime, there is a short list of thirty. Looking at it, I had this idea that some of the titles could indeed have been nominated by men, and some only by women. Here’s my guess as to who is responsible for the leap to the short list (question marks mean I don’t know the book, F/M means it’s a toss up; there are more Fs because I am sure many more women than men voted):
Angelique by Sergeanne Golon (?)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (F/M)
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (F, with maybe a couple of guys who had to read it in school or something)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (F)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (F)
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (bizarre choice for this list so I’ll have to say M!!)
Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (sadly F)
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (F)
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (F)
Game Of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (F/M)
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (F)
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell (unfortunately F)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (F/M)
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (?)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (F/M from school days)
The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks (?)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (a cruel hoax I hope, even if you like the book, wrong list!)
Middlemarch by George Eliot (F)
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (?)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (F/M)
Precious Bane by Mary Webb (?)
Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen (F)
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (what woman would identify with Rebecca?? But then, what man would read Rebecca?)
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (?)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (F, with despair)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I don’t get how this says anything about women so I’ll say M)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (F)
Unless by Carol Shields (F)
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (?)
The Women's Room by Marilyn French (F)
If you’re not part of the first year Torts small section 10 (Camic), skip this post: it’s too mushy for the innocent bystander.
Thanks guys. For the flowers and the card (I was not *that funny* but thanks for telling me I was). For the dinner and the numerous drinks tonight. For the reunion plans and the shared stories and the toasts. But mostly, thanks for this semester. I have vivid memories of each and every one of you and only my shyness (you’re laughing now, I can tell) held me back in telling you how much I respect and like you. You are unique. I loved every hour of class time together. I’m sure you could tell. Take that spirit of camaraderie and good will and make a difference in the legal profession. I am counting on each of you to do that. And then come back and tell me about it.
Friday, December 03, 2004
She still loves him even though he is a 1L and forgot to get her a birthday present (because of Law School demands, so he says!)
Texas dudes - each so talanted it hurts; and the one in pink? She can deliver a line with a straight face and leave you convulsed with laughter.
Does anyone else think that the British have a superior sense of humor – so much so that sometimes it’s hard for other mere mortals to laugh along?
Today marks the day of the return of the Little Britain – a comedy series aired on the BBC. How funny is it? Consider this description and photo of one of the characters:
Repulsively obese Bubbles spends all her time at a health spa, being preened and pampered at the expense of her mysteriously-absent businessman husband. Whenever the manager tries to establish when her husband will be settling the balance, she fobs him off before offering him 'alternative' methods of payment...
In Britain, roundabouts were installed in 1904 at cliffs to stop people driving into the sea.
Scotland was supposed to be called Wales, but it was found that the name had already been taken.
In Britain, something funny happens every 13 years.
Cornwall was added onto Britain in 1923 to make it a more attractive shape.
Britain is actually pronounced 'Britain', which not many people know.
In Britain 86% of people are right handed, 13% use their left hand. The other 1% don't bother.
For health reasons, doughnuts contain no nuts.
City gents in Britain wear bowler hats as a tribute to Laurel and Hardy.
Britain's museums contain the largest number of bronze age pots in the world. Please feel free to take one.
The only qualification you need to work for the Royal family is, bizzarely, the abilty to spin plates.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
* I would have responded to you personally had I your email addresses.
Obsessively blogged about lately on Ocean.
Freezing in Europe...
Poland in December...
Snow, icicles, sleet, chilled, shivering…
Okay okay. Earthquake...
No, I mean San Francisco is wrong.
How can it be wrong? This is free association! No right, no wrong. Just free!
But it’s an educational free association and “San Francisco earthquake” is wrong. The most recent one, just today, was in the Krakow – Zakopane area of Poland.
Earthquakes?? In Poland?? But that’s where you’re heading, right? First Hokkaido last spring (earthquake recorded a few days ago), now Krakow – Zakopane, aren’t you scared?
Believe me, if I see anything rattling down there it will be, most likely, the highlanders’ dentures.
I wish I were a student again. I'm home grading papers. Their papers. Bummer being a professor rather than a 1L, engaged in merriment now, in the last days prior to exams.
(This poll follows an article about how Poles are breaking with stereotypes as they travel to England to find work under the new EU open-door policy)
Which of these stereotypes about Poles do you think is most widespread?
(3025 Poles responded when last I checked)
That s/he is a drunkard: 30%
That s/he is lazy: 1%
That s/he is knowledgeable: 7%
That s/he is hardworking: 3%
That s/he steals: 22%
That s/he is a manipulator: 37%
How many books did you read in the last 6 months?
(1021 Poles responded when last I checked)
4– 6: 21%
7 – 10: 12%
more than 10: 31%
[If you are thinking that Net users are perhaps more likely to be bookish, I’d say an argument for the opposite can be made: avid Net users tend to read less than those without access to a computer. In any event, the results don’t surprise me. Poles really do read a lot – not only books, but also journals with social and political commentary.]
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
I woke up to news of the closing of JFW – the weblog that inspired Ocean. Thanks, Jeremy, for introducing yourself through your blog.
… And I turned on the news tonight to listen to Brokaw’s parting words on NBC Nightly News: It’s not the Qs that get us in trouble [he tells us], it’s the answers and no one person has all the answers.
At the same time, Ocean got a link moments ago from a blog titled “The Polish Immigrant” (it is not the first time). A sympathetic fellow blogger? Couldn’t be less so. He writes in his post:
(Knee) jerk [that would be me]
I've been ignoring this blogger [link to Ocean] for a while now but all good things come to an end. She is a somewhat influential [!?] Pole teaching in my graduate school. And she is wrong on all important issues.
The blog has a comments function where I responded thus:
I guess I find it somewhat reassuring that someone out there has all the correct answers and can definitively say that I am wrong on all [issues]. I myself do not think I am "right" or "wrong," I simply give one perspective -- my own.
I guess Brokaw and I agree.
As for Jeremy, let me say this: get going on your next writing adventure, a.s.a.p.
The gingerbread is soft, yummy, the chocolate is dark... the perfect winter companion to coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
Italians routinely ignore the conservative Pope John Paul II in matters of private morality, like contraception, divorce or marriage (far fewer Italians are marrying, in the church or out), but admire him deeply for his stands on issues like caring for the poor or his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq.
The article points out that Italians are much less adversarial in their approach to secularism and Christianity. There may be a crucifix in every classroom, but few give it more than a passing glance, feeling neither devout about it nor repelled by it. Though I have read this about Italy before, I wonder sometimes if there isn’t a geographical divide there as well, with the South being less tolerant of secularism and the North, less preoccupied with Church matters in general, feeling perhaps culturally more aligned with its north-western neighbors than with its southern provinces.
Still, it’s ‘good’ to read that the Pope has some fans outside of Poland.