Sunday, June 2, 2013


Ooo! Mood night! 

For fans of both the book & movie GORMENGHAST, & of THE CURE:

Did you know THE CURE wrote their song ‘THE DROWNING MAN’ about LADY FUCHSIA?!
(Lyrics below). Some band members were fans of the book. I heard that leader Robert Smith said he cries when he reads it because he knows what happens to her.

Here's links to movie & book, if you're a curious Cure fan; or a swoony new fan of Dracula Jonathan Rhys Meyers- or generally want to see fantastic BBC character acting: go watch, & come back for videos & lyrics.

JRM is considerably skinnier here: he put on 25 lbs of muscle later when he got tired of being cast as teenagers. I'll stake anything that he had fun doing this one, though.

on the same album, also said to be inspired by Gormenghast- I'm guessing the lyrics speak for our sad, tragic villain Steerpike as he hides, trapped, below in the castle "amongst the stones" and the flood. (Lyrics later.)

THE DROWNING MAN, Storyline:  

Is this song about suicide? Not necessarily. Our beloved Fuchsia in the book seems to decide against suicide- then ironically dies by accident: perched on the windowsill (not intending to jump), Fuchsia “starting at the violent sound” of a knock at the door, falls into the floodwater. The author mercifully has her knocked unconscious first.


Monday, May 27, 2013


Pretty me, reading Ulysses
hahaha! It's not Marilyn, it's...

THIS the FOLLOW-UP to my previous post:
"Reading Ulysses: Guided Or Unguided?", so it might help if you want to read that first.

Every REFERENCE in this post is listed at bottom of that first post "Guided or Unguided."


James Joyce's Ulysses intimidated me. I wanted to prepare myself before I began it. I wanted to research and find out ahead of time, for example: Which edition? Read it cold, or buy guidebooks to explain it? -especially on the first-time read. Which guidebooks? etc.

In the first post "Guided or Unguided" I researched and learned the many options readers have, for "how" to read Ulysses.
By now I'm halfway through the last chapter! Yes! Here I tell you which of those options I chose, "how" I read Ulysses after all.

So you can go read "Guided" where I research my options; or break the suspense now and keep reading to see what I chose!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reading Ulysses: Guided or Unguided?

cover of Poets and Writers. Photo by Eve Arnold 1954
           publisher: Abrams Books, Eve Arnold's photos of Marilyn:  website link

Marilyn kept Ulysses in her car
to dip into for ex. while
waiting for Eve Arnold,
her photographer

How will I go about reading Ulysses?

The way that Marilyn Monroe did, perhaps? I think yes, I will. More about her, further on.

Follow-up: I did decide how I will go about it, and wrote a follow-up post to tell you my decisions:
"And So This is How I Read Ulysses"- this time with Madonna!

So, I am about to tackle Ulysses after all these years; I have a friend who thinks it's one of the most enjoyable books ever, but even as a great reader I felt no shame at knowing I never planned to even attempt it. It wasn't until I became a fan of 1000-page books, and filled a bookshelf with them- stacked, not standing- that it ever entered my head to try.

Here I am hard at googling..
or somebody is..

Will I use my usual method of reading things? Above all I am analytical, and like to understand what I read. I research everything. Nothing escapes my academic approach- the arts included- even the scorned teen series Twilight (which I venture to admit reveals an interesting side).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Phone Is Cool Like You

Elizabeth and Bill today
Prada phone

I used to be really cool. I was soon to learn that I was not.

I belonged to a celebrated Manhattan Writer's Group, and my friends had names you might hear of someday. This was just before the bohemian had morphed into "hipster." My bohemian forward-fashion was remarked on. I lived in north Williamsburg with all the other cool people, a "suburb" of the Lower East Side. I was a girl in the center of things.

One day I saw someone in my neighborhood wearing a suit. Around a decade ago. Since you would never see a "suit" in north Williamsburg, I recognized it as a Sign of the end- the Upper West Side was about to move in. This meant of course that rents were due to go up and push us out.

So goes the life cycle of a bad neighborhood: first the most courageous of the artists come in and make the place habitable, then the bohemians (like me) come running after and kick out all the natives of the neighborhood, and then once the neighborhood has become interesting, the yuppies come in and kick out all the bohemians. Sure I was part of the problem, but now the next cycle was going to be my problem.

Suits appear in Brooklyn
shameless use of Jonathan Rhys Meyers in blog

This man in the suit was touching his ear and talking to himself. Then I realized it was one of those new cell phone thingies, which people in business had just begun to use, and yuppies. These symbolized their status even more than did their suits. Wall Street, money, ambition, power, and other suit professions, as opposed to the search for beauty, truth and meaning. Yes there was once such a time, when no self-respecting artist or bohemian would have a cell phone. Or be seen anymore near one. I mean that literally, as you shall see.

It wasn't long before, as I prophesied, my building was sold and the rent doubled. For complicated reasons I had to abandon it before the end of the month and to crash in a friend's living room. I was homeless, so if I wanted to make appointments to look at apartments, I had no choice but to buy one of those cell thingies. To a 21st century eye my phone was clumsy and had no special functions. But for that time it was practically science fiction. As a self-respecting bohemian I found it a little embarrassing; but honestly it was the perfect solution for my predicament.

my predicament
fr Malte Jäger's photo travel book: 
'Couchsurfin' the World'

I met some friends for dinner in the neighborhood. I waited on the corner with my friends Elizabeth and Bill, waiting for friends of theirs. She worked in a junk shop and he tested computer game programs. Both were Williamsburg artists. I was homeless, and we were waiting outside a restaurant I could not afford. While everyone else would eat a nice Italian dinner, I planned to order a small soup.

My watch told me it was 7:00, time to make a call about an apartment. I pulled out my little cell phone. Elizabeth and Bill looked at me, eyes wide. "You have a cell phone??!" like it was a bad word. I was self-conscious, embarrassed and apologetic. I tried to explain that I was homeless, but they just didn't seem to get it. How ironic that they thought I was like a yuppie.
sent away

They actually made me walk down the street away from them so their friends when they arrived would not see me. I let them make me feel ashamed. Yet they were about to eat in a restaurant I couldn't afford. I did order my small soup (minestrone). Frankly it makes more sense for an artist to be embarrassed seen through the window ordering a $20 entree.


I have a shiny apple in my HIP pocket

The real irony didn't hit me until last year when I saw the viral video of Atomic Tom, a hip rock group with fabulous haircuts and one even in a suit, riding on the NYC subway, who supposedly (turns out not really) had their instruments stolen. They all just happened to own iphones, so they played a song together on their phones. 

I'm sure I am the only person who saw this viral video and thought, "How uncool." It seems somehow incongruous, these two worlds clashing, the haves and the have-nots. Since when did artists become consumers? Perhaps it was my experience with Elizabeth and Bill that makes me feel this way. I haven't quite adjusted to the fact that what once was incongruous is now the proper combination.  

Don't get me wrong, I do love the video. But you know what I'm about to say.
Not Elizabeth and Bill

What irony. While I am still using that same clunky old no-function phone from a decade ago, what do you want to bet that Elizabeth and Bill are proud owners of the latest sleek iphones, with upgrades and new apps each time. As a computer program tester, Bill is surely proudly geek now, chasing the latest technology. So much for cool, I'm still on the wrong end of it.

Don't get me wrong, I also think these phones are cool, and geeks are cool (I always did), and all the rest of it too. My clunky phone is still a little embarrassing, except this time for the opposite reason. It's very possible that someday I will- but for now I just don't- own one;  I just don't really need one. Mine isn't great but it's good enough. It's good enough! To me my phone is cool like you, Elizabeth.

Several months after writing this, the author confesses she has succombed to 'smartness.'

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do I Study Alexander Because He's Cute?

The finest nose:
Alexander the Great on his
horse Bucephalos
by Charles le Brun 1673 (detail)


born 356 B.C. --  died 323 B.C.

= 2300 years older than me

Why does a historian choose a particular subject and hold to it for a lifetime? Why did Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox, and historical fiction writer Mary Renault, for example, choose to "spend so much time with" Alexander the Great? What is there in an historical figure that pulls the researcher on, year after year?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spelling Bee Confession

"Summer," Jacques-Joseph Tissot

A writer is sometimes called upon to write nearly anything. What is it like to be the Caller for a spelling bee? What is it like to write the word list? And strangest of all- what is it like to have the power to make or break a winner? This is where I failed- I'm here to confess: I threw the Texas Regional Senior Citizens Spelling Bee.

I was asked to write the list and be the Caller, and my list was then used for the State Spelling Bee. To make a list I consulted a few spelling bee lists. I added some words on my own from a thesaurus, as the dictionary is complicated by word particles, botany terms and foreign words for mud hut.

There is a certain type of word that just "looks" like a Bee word. Once you've seen such a list, you can recognize them anywhere. They tend to have doubled letters like 'perigee,' unexpected vowels like 'camouflage,' surprise letters like 'c' in 'reminiscence'- and a certain weight to them, an independent, well-rounded feel. Take for example the difference between 'splendor' and 'splendid': which is the Bee word? I bet you can tell.

all the rage in Paris
but not in Texas

I ended up with many pages of tricky words: a few pages of easy, a few of intermediate, and a few of difficult which I labeled "tie-breakers." But on reflection, I realized that I couldn't use the hard words. This was my theory: This was not a competitive nationwide Bee. I realized that the goal of a Senior Citizen spelling bee is not just to see who is the best speller, it also had to be fun, for both contestants and audience. It's not fun to watch spellers dropping out like flies.

In that case, there would need to be a few rounds of fairly easy words so the fallout rate would be slow and give everyone some kind of a chance. The audience is strung along and the tension increases, but slowly. Only gradually would harder words be introduced- but never too hard. Words that a very good speller would get. At every level, words they and the audience knew. Never "surtout," "reliquary" or "rubefacient."

And so I did this. I began with several rounds of:
splendor (see, you knew!)

gathering of the 'Society Dilettante'
London c 1780s, Sir Joshua Reynolds
Eventually I moved to these:

Once it was clear who was really good, it could be ratcheted up a notch- not too much, just what would distinguish a good speller from an excellent one:

I decided against controversy like:
Matisse, "Dance"

When I arrived at the Bee, I saw the seniors sitting in bridge chairs and murmuring excitedly. I was announced by the Activities Director of the Senior Center, then I took the microphone. I began the list, calling the words like an actress, to make it more exciting.

It went as I'd planned, slowly for awhile, so we'd have fun, then a little faster, until finally the race was down to two people. The man was large, expansive, a Texas "good old boy." He wore a light-blue summer suit jacket and his shirt strained at his stomach. He was someone quite distant from my experience or who I felt comfortable with. The woman, however, was a spry, delicate, chatty black woman, very classy and personable. I wished with all my heart for her to win.

Idyllwilde Arts Academy, Missouri

I looked at my list. Whatever it said was going to determine the winner. First, his word. I felt hopeful, it was ''naivete": maybe a bit too easy, but still a chance he might fail. I saw the word after that- HER word- and my heart sank. It was "baccalaureate." She'd never make it.


To my relief the man missed his word. He'd gotten his 'i's' and 'e's' mixed up. But he was not yet out, as the little woman hadn't gotten her word. Once again I looked at her word, and happened to notice the word after that was "savvy." How much simpler it was! How did it even get onto my "difficult" list?

I hesitated a split second to check my moral judgement. A perceptive person might have detected that slight hesitation. Should I? Should I? It was only one word away. . . it could have come out that way otherwise . . .

"Savvy," I said.
Yes, I did.

The little lady came to me afterwards and squinted up at me. "Really!" she exclaimed, irritated, I realized. She shook her head. "Savvy?! Come on!" I don't know how she knew, but she did. She felt cheated out of her glory, on such an easy word- denied the chance to show what she could do, win fair and square on her own merit.

And so the little lady went on the the State Bee, which was held in the same place. They made their list from my complete list of words, but they brought in their own Caller. For another thing, there were two readers, each following a copy of the list, to make sure nobody jumped a word. The Caller spoke in a flat monotone. The folks complained later that my calling was much more entertaining.

I am admitting it only now: I threw the Texas Regional Senior Citizens Spelling Bee.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vitas: Diplomatic License


Vitas is the name of a young Russian pop star who within the past few years has become a major celebrity in Asia, particularly China. Vitas has a five-octave range, it is said sometimes reaching five and a half.

I am very curious to understand what exactly appeals to the Chinese about this Latvian/Ukranian young man. I have done some reading and watched many videos to try to understand this curious phenomenon. I think his relationship with China sometimes borders on controversial.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BOOK TO FILM: Can We, Should We, Improve Henry James?

Ben Chaplin as Morris Townsend 1997

How to make a movie from the work of a brilliant writer, how intimidating is it to alter even a single sentence of the great Henry James? And if we do, how can we live up to his high standard?

Henry's brother William was a pioneer in psychology, and Henry himself is famous for creating characters and situations which hinge on psychology.

However in his novella Washington Square, though the characters are quite carefully and fully drawn with the interiority of psychology, nonetheless James created his villain with his motives black and white with scarcely gray. So often, the power of a tale rests on how well the villain is drawn. Dare I say that the entire novella fails because the villain needed more ambiguity.*

Henry James
Intimidation from a man
dead a century?

How could the Old Master of psychology make such a grave psychological mistake? Or am I judging by modern standards? Dare we alter his story to our taste? And how?

It was produced for Broadway and twice for Hollywood. The black and white nature deeply bothered all three of those writers/directors (four actually), and they all did something about it, yet keeping fairly faithful.

James is a bit difficult to dramatize as so much of the "action" happens inside people's heads. To dramatize him requires made-up scenes. But even the made-up scenes remain faithful to the original. Is this reverence? Is it intimidation from a man dead a century? James does look fierce in his older photos, and I can imagine moviemakers tip-toeing around, hoping not to rouse the giant asleep.

Further down is a beautiful song video from the 1997 movie

Henry James young, if he ever was

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No No It Was I Who Discovered Stephen Fry

I know a good thing when I see it

It was I, it was I who discovered Stephen Fry. It was me.

What is our relationship to celebrities?

You know how it is, you stumble across something, something no one ever told you about, and you figure out all by yourself that it's something really special. You're so proud of yourself, you're going to tell the world about your discovery, everyone will look to you for what's newest and best.

And what's more- he's yours, all yours. You can tell people about him-- but he will never be theirs, he'll always be yours-- Right?


For example I am the sole discoverer of many other such stars. A search for "BBC comedy" on a download site, brings up many wonderful acts that I discovered all by myself. Have you ever heard of The Two Ronnies? Probably not- I discovered them. Have you ever heard of Mark Steel? Probably not- I discovered him, too. Of "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again"? No, you haven't, they're all mine. The Goon Show? No, mine. Victor Borge? Probably not. Mine, mine, mine. You may never have heard of them, yet they are all simply brilliant. Heard of Stephen Fry? Probably not. . . because he's mine. . . Oops! I guess you have. . . And where does that leave ME?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

let me see the colts


Bill Callahan
formerly known as Smog
(photo fr music-illuninati)

Bill Callahan is an unusual singer/songwriter, a product of Austin (well not originally)- he is not just talented but peculiar, not just sensitive but, as he appears from the video (below), also a little cocky (in a good way); a little awkward and standoffish, even dismissive- but embraces his star power- my assumptions just going by that video.

I suspect he takes his fame ironically, he's a name you imagine written all lower case; nevertheless, he takes it. He's loyal to his first label; he used to live with Joanna Newsom; you can tell he's awesome. He's clearly an underground star but I think he will stay one. I do not know if he is "old news," but then, how can Bill Callahan ever be old news.

This first song is not just my favorite song by Callahan, it's one of my favorite songs by anyone.

But lyrics first!


I Have Been Faithful to Thee. . . in my fashion.. Two LOST POEMS

The Stolen Kiss

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1787-1789
(The Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

I used to spend hours at a time as a girl in my bed luxuriating in poetry books like a long lazy boat ride, especially when I was sick, woozily lost in a world I have missed for a long time.

I never knew whether the poet I was reading was famous or "lost" or altogether terrible, so I formed my own mind and favorites.

It turns out my natural taste was pretty true to canon. Two I am thinking of now, however, are genuinely "lost," or at least two of their poems are; once beloved and now virtually unknown.

And yet, one of them coined two spectacularly famous phrases that all of us still know- and use! I guarantee that at some time, you have used them both.

 chaste obsession, the Muse
Photo by Joanna Thomas, flckr
The young Ernest Dowson- who was to remain forever young (1867-1900)- was a Decadence movement poet who hobnobbed with the likes of Yeats, and presumably addressed his poetry to an 11-year-old waitress at the restaurant he frequented. 

Oscar Wilde's biographer discovered him in a bar dying of absinthe, to which he was addicted, and took him home to mend but, age 32, Dowson never recovered.

Dowson has two phrases we've eternalized- and yet few know his name. His work is full of phrases begging to be eternalized. The poem he is known for (if at all), remains one of my favorites** that I find truly delightful (if decadence can be delightful)- and full of quotable phrases.

Dowson is a poet lost but not forgotten. His name is what's lost. This poem might appear on any list of lost poems. I discovered this terrific literary article that analyzes that poem.* Here we learn of Dowson's skill as a French translator of Verlaine- from whom he borrowed the 12-syllable French line called the Alexandrine, to powerful effect.

Here are Dowson's two phrases that I promise you, YOU HAVE USED:

A Mathematician makes a very good Hero! The Wild Numbers by Schogt, Review

Philibert Schogt
photo: chris van hout

I discovered this charming and peculiar book in an excellent "remains" bookstore in the Village*- an all-too-slim novel about Isaac Swift, 35-year-old mathematics professor afraid of never doing anything spectacular- when he finds himself in the middle of solving one of mathematic's greatest puzzles.

Over a series of sleepless nights, nearly to drive him insane, Swift finds himself solving the "Beauregard Wild Number Problem," proposed by 19th century mathematics genius Anatole Millechamps de Beauregard. The core of the book is about math, but as accessible as a letter from a best friend.

De Beauregard, a mind too restless to be more than a riveting, large-living and -loving puzzle writer, was murdered by his best friend when found in bed with his wife. Thus de Beauregard died without telling anyone the answer to his latest riddle, and a century of mathematicians have all but despaired of solving it.

What- you've never heard of mathematician Anatole Millechamps de Beauregard?! Or of his "Beauregard Wild Number Problem"?!!


Shakespeare's Manager Requests A SMALL REWRITE


English majors may consider this the funniest video ever.

Rowan Atkinson as Shakespeare's manager, wishes to improve one of Shakespeare's more flawed soliloquies. Shakespeare looks suspiciously like Hugh Laurie.

"I think we should trim. . . some of that stand-up stuff in the middle of the action."
"You mean the soliloquies."
"Exactly. And I think we both know which is the dodgy one."

From Comic Relief, not sure of  year.

Book Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Marisha Pessl
book jacket, as mentioned below
Photo: Deborah Lopez, The New York Times

I found Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics as charming and fun to read, was as impressed by her cleverness, as anyone. It was on the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year (2006). Charming, fun, clever- but its strengths are its weaknesses too.

The book has its own charming, though slow, website:
And a movie is said to be in the works by Scott Rudin, the producer who snagged The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and produced The Social Network, The Queen etc.

I was particularly impressed by Pessl's creation of the character of the father, who came across so three-dimensional that you could assume that it must be Pessl's real father, and the story a memoir. Sometimes we love him and sometimes we are appalled, but always we are fascinated and wish we knew him. The narrator's voice is fairly distinctive also. The Hannah character wasn't too bad either. But no creation here comes even close to the father's character.

charming "photo" (found online) of Blue van Meer,
the heroine/narrator of Special Topics*

A lot of critics were irritated by the style..

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Olive Kitteridge book review: I Trust Elizabeth Strout

One Minute Book Review
Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout
In Word for Word productions,
actors read aloud the entire chapter,
including "he said, she said."

Joel Mullennix directed two chapters
from Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Olive Kitteridge."

At Theater Artaud, San Francisco, Sept 2010,
& later at Standord Univ. 2011,
starring Warren David Keith & Patricia Silver.


One of the most important things I look for in a book is: "Do I trust the writer?" 
When the writer reveals characters through what they feel or do, is this really human nature?

I'm not a fan of those family dramas, the "real life" of mature people; for example, I was unable to force myself through Judy Picoult's The Deep End of the Ocean. 
But Olive Kitteridge, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by this woman, Elizabeth Strout:


Physicists Vote on 'Most Beautiful Equations of All Time'

illusion by donguriko

Physics and mathematics periodicals frequently hold polls  for readers to vote on the equation they most admire. The results hold fairly stable from poll to poll. Here are some excerpts about these results:

“Some were nominated for the sheer beauty of their simplicity, some for the breadth of knowledge they capture, others for historical importance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls Development: Raphael Golb Appeal Brief Filed, March 2011

Latest developments in the Dead Sea Scrolls trial of Raphael Golb:

Raphael Golb's attorney Ron Kuby has filed his Appeal brief, to the First Appellate Division of New York:

from Raphael Golb's Appeal brief: the Tucker Carlson hoax emails: 

Tucker Carlson opened a fake website/email for "Keith Olbermann." "Olbermann" answered a reporter, who believed him, with outrageous emails. "'s amusing as hell," said Carlson.

"The opportunity to acquire arose 
and we felt it was a market niche which we could enter and dominate 
and it would be a public service so we did it. 
Plus it's amusing as hell." -Tucker Carlson

If the court of Appeals does not overturn the Dead Sea Scrolls case, then people like Tucker Carlson stand in danger of being sent to the State Penitentiary for this "amusing" behavior.

The jist of Kuby's argument seems to be that what Raphael Golb did on the internet was simply not a crime.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls: Two Nov. online Articles by Golb, Golb

Raphael Golb was given permission to write.
Judge Berkman, in her November sentencing, gave Raphael permission to write about his case.

Raphael Golb has written his own account of his Dead Sea Scrolls case (link below).

In his essay below, Raphael provides a multitude of details, most of which will be quite new to readers.
Raphael's essay ties together loose ends; shows everyone's part in the case; etc; and it will be clearer how the case was too complicated for a jury.
(A great deal of his account, you will find, my own blog had gotten wrong, or halfway, or not at all)

Raphael Golb: "The Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal: How I Was Convicted of a Crime" Nov. 2010:

Monday, November 15, 2010

This post is for my Jewish Readers. Dead Sea Scrolls trial of Raphael Golb

giant "menorah of freedom," lit around the world


Yud Kislev   י כסלו       
Wednesday November 10, 2010

Yud-Tes Kislev   י"ט כסלו
New Year of Chasidut
Friday November 26, 2010

פדה בשלום נפשי מקרב לי כי ברבים היו עמד
Tehillim 55:19  He has redeemed my soul in peace . . .

A webpage describing the detailed, day-by-day progress, from the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment to his release:

from the initial complaints of the Misnagdim of Vilna; day-by-day details of the interrogations and responses; simultaneous historical events; dates of specific documents and petitions, etc.:


You may recall this event in Brooklyn, exactly a year ago:

Why choose the most physically dangerous place to send skinny 125 lb bookworm Raphael Golb, fellow Jew, and son of an academic rival? In my understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong, even a felon can be eligible for rooming with other non-violent, minimum-security inmates.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Facebook page for 13 Young Gay Suicides- Wear Purple Oct 20

6 of the young- very young- men
fr facebook
Join a Facebook page, and commit to wear purple Oct 20.

two Facebook pages honor recent suicides of very young gay girls and boys:

*facebook page honors 6 young gay suicides:
*facebook page honors 13 young gay suicides:

Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Alec Henrikson, Sladjana Vidovic, Eric Mohat Zach Harrington, Phoebe Prince, Meredith Rezak, Jennifer Eyring and Billy Lucas.

info tip thanks to gawker: article at

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Long Night's Journey Into Day

age 17, Nancy Bird Walton
1933, first Australian
woman flyer

State Library of
New South Wales
Last summer I packed two giant suitcases and stuffed a large backpack and dragged them bravely out to Kennedy Airport. I was headed to Toronto to see friends.

I had an "enhanced state-driver's license," which I understood was good in place of a passport to get to Canada.

my passport?
1970 ad

I stood in line 45 minutes. Between the taxi, the dragging and the waiting, this was quite a brouhaha for a 41-minute flight. I was feeling a little nervous noticing that every single other person had out a traditional passport.

the fine print
I finally reached the guard who pointed out to me the fine print that said the card was good for travel to Canada "by land and sea." That did not include the medium of air.

 I had to drag my baggage all the way back home.

My vacation was ruined. Not only could I not get to Canada, but how was I to catch the plane I was reserved on from Toronto to Chicago, my next stop to see more friends, if I wasn't in Toronto to catch it?

by land or sea
I accepted defeat, left my bags at my house, and went to visit my neighbor for her commiseration over my ruined vacation, by land or by sea, but not by air.

Her husband happened to be home, which was unusual as he was often away driving a long-distance bus. He was at the computer now, ordering tools online. I told them my story and without looking away from the screen he said "Take a bus."

That's ridiculous, I said. You can't take a bus to Canada.  Not from New York. How is that possible? That's nuts I said.

I do it twice a week, said the bus driver. 
minutes fly by

What can I do? It's too late to take a bus, I said.

Nonsense, said the bus driver. Run home and get your stuff.

What??! I said. 
You'll see, it's easy, he said.

9:30 p.m.   Friend's husband tells me to run home.

9:35 p.m.   I arrive at home, open my suitcases and throw everything onto the bed.

9:40 p.m.   I stuff the most important items into a smaller suitcase

9:45 p.m.   I call the bus station and buy a ticket

"Me and my suitcase"
9:50 p.m.   I run out the door to the subway

Horsecab 19th century.
Cheapest seats were
on the outside.
10:30 p.m.  I arrive at Port Authority bus terminal

10:45 p.m.  I AM ON A BUS.

Ok, you'll say, You're exaggerating. You didn't REALLY just run home, grab a suitcase, make a call, run out the door, and boom! you're on a bus, all within an hour and 15 minutes.

Ok- you're right, I exaggerated. An hour and a half.

My friend's husband told me the old traveler's trick: traveling overnight, you efficiently combine travel with sleep, saving countless hours, and you arrive tired- but early. A series of overnights can save you days of vacation.

Wagon Train, Oregon Trail
I was told the trip would take over ten hours. I could not believe my ears. Who on earth could travel for so long? By air it's 41 minutes. What was this, a horse and buggy? How would I endure it? Why had I listened to my friend? What was I doing here in this bus seat?

It would take me awhile to figure all that out.

Christopher Plummer 
prepares to play Cyrano 1973
Larry C. Morris NYT
In the meantime, I took out one of the books I had brought. I had no faith that a book could get me through the unendurable time ahead of me, but what else could I do.

The book was about a young actor's struggles in New York. 

It had a strong plot and strong characters who were always doing things. It was contemporary and clever, and at home it had been great fun to read. I tried reading it now for about an hour or two, but the concentration it took was exhausting.

I put it away and took out my other book, a gift, having grabbed the books closest to the door on my way out. I never would have taken it on the trip otherwise, because it was a book completely without a plot. It was just a scattering of thoughts, vignettes and descriptions. I thought it would be too dull to focus on for a bus trip.

Diane Ackerman the poet had written a non-fiction book about the five senses (six actually, including synesthesia). It was an experiential science book written as sensuously as only a poet can.

At first I wondered how I was going to concentrate but soon I found myself wallowing in her descriptions of scents and perfumes and following the butterfly as it plunged into the fragrant garden flowers. 

"An ancient Egyptian socialite attending a party would wear a wax cone on the top of her head; it would melt slowly, covering her face and shoulders with a trickle of perfumed syrup." I had accidentally discovered the right sort of book for a bus trip. First of all it had, for sure, to have no plot.

I looked with glazed eyes
from the window
After an hour I felt a little fatigued and set aside the book. I didn't know what I would do next, maybe look out the window. To my surprise I found I didn't care what I did. I looked with glazed eyes from the window at the trees passing by and thought about nothing, not even what I was looking at.

WHEELS illusions
I could hear the sound of the wheels of the bus. No I mean I could feel the wheels of the bus. Well it was an odd kind of combination. I was feeling the revolving of the wheels through my whole body. I relaxed into it.

I was aware that I was riding along a highway. Or maybe just a road is more what it felt like. I didn't even notice other cars, I was only aware of being as much on the road as was our driver. Then I realized I'd been dozing on and off.
Omnibus 1865
Honore Daumier

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
tent revival
Oklahoma City 1963

We were all on a level together, a walking level, ground level, the same level I would be on were I walking amongst the trees I saw out the window. We were all together and all joined in this rhythm.

The driver was in charge of it all, the wheels rolling and the trees passing and the people sleeping, and this rhythm that had become part of us. Was he the bus? Was the bus us?

Paul Heussenstamm
How many hours was it. . . wait. . . it's only been. . . well only a couple of hours. . . what? six hours? That was six hours? I think I must have been meditating. 

time warp
If anyone had gotten on that bus and busily taken out his laptop, or if we could hear his ipod through his earphones, or if he took out his CELL PHONE to call-

could you please
quiet down your brain

I feel fully confident that the driver himself would stop, get out of his seat and come help us shove the noisy fellow out the window, it being more convenient than getting him to the door.

night riding

We were lucky: there were seldom many of us, all these endless hours; each person had his own set of seats to sprawl across, spread his bags, sleep or sit. It was uncomfortable but that just became another part of the warping of time.

in and out of consciousness

Drifting in and out of awareness of discomfort, like an invalid slipping in and out of consciousness.

When the driver interrupted our reverie to send us down to the border guard, this was our only contact with reality. The guard was surely trained to spot suspicious signs and I was afraid I might exhibit some of those. This was the only shadow upon my waking dream.

bucket ride
We were now on the Canadian side. It was still night but I was sitting awake for awhile. A few roadside stops, when a very young man got on and sat in the seat just ahead of mine.

His hair was dripping wet and he was wringing water out of his shirt. He hung it along the seat to dry. I watched dreamily, unaware there was anything unusual about this. It took quite awhile for it to enter my consciousness that this was odd. I leaned forward.

screen siren
"You're wet," I informed him.

He was coming from upstate New York to see his girlfriend, who he had not been with in quite some time. He wasn't exactly moving in, but he was planning to stay for an undetermined length of time, depending on how it went. They were excited.

'Through the night she calls to men'
Maxfield Parrish 1901

At the border to Canada he was turned away, something out of order with his passport. He was 22 and very eager to be with his girlfriend. He went home to Buffalo and took his kayak and crossed the border, where he said they didn't watch very well.

Samuel J Dixon crossing
Niagara 1895
niagara falls public library

He hid his boat in the weeds and caught the Toronto bus on the Canadian side. First by sea and now by land. He swims rapids to get to her.

I know his adventure has little to do with my topic but it was too good not to tell. If by some cosmic chance the fellow I am speaking of happens to stumble upon this blog- give a shout out, please!

We arrived in Toronto first thing in the morning, with the sun. Disembarking to ground level was only one step down. Once on the ground, I found myself still carrying on the bus journey, the rhythm in my steps.
'crooked house' (Poland)
Walking along felt no different from the soothing rocking sensation of riding along. I had the same distortion of time and place, the same sense of placidly observing a world passing by. I was only a little surprised by the change in scenery "out my window" so to speak- I was now on sidewalks, moving among people. All in a dream. Toronto is a great city to step into after a ten-hour bus ride, it is so low key. It scarcely disrupts the dream.

Airports and flying will never seem the same again, the preparation, the agitation, the uncertainty, the crowds, having to make reservations weeks ahead, checking online for changes, checking-in online, measuring baggage, labeling baggage, checking for liquids, figuring out the right lines, figuring out the gate, checking the monitor for changes, walking from terminal to terminal. . .
Bayswater Omnibus, Victorian
Jeremy Paxton

I remember my hour and 15 minutes- or hour and a half- all it took from suitcase to seat- and I remember the rhythms, the detached dreaminess. 

Back in the days before flight, anyone would have welcomed the chance to abandon the horses and wagons and worn-out walking shoes to get 2000 miles in five hours rather than five weeks. In old novels, characters are always walking miles and miles.
hayride, Poconos 1900s

It's easy to look back nostalgiacally now that I can choose my method of transport, and as I board an airplane. Romantic memories gloss over the monotony and discomfort. But it was such a beautiful monotony, someday I really may choose to repeat it.