Friday, September 30, 2005


I met my neighbor Judy at the pool 21 years ago when our children were just little. She had just moved here from San Francisco and was trying to figure out how to get established as a graphic artist. Her daughter Lainie was a late frustrated talker and because she was so non-verbal, she ended up physically lashing out at Rachel a lot. But then they became the best of friends for years. Daniel and Matt were also good friends. Judy and I spent a lot of Friday afternoons downing Kahlua and cream while the kids played.

Over the years we sort of lost touch, as our children went to different schools and our professional lives became busier and busier. Even though I passed her house everytime I left the neighborhood, I did little more than occasionally wave.

We had a glimpse of Judy last year, when she worked so hard to try to get Kerry elected. She wrote impassioned e-mail messages for months afterwards. She bemoaned the loss of that election in much the way that Rebecca did.

As I told Rachel about my search for “true” friends over the past year, she reminded me what a good friend Judy had been so many years ago. We had a lot of the same values, including a strong love of family. I started to wonder why I had let such a friendship lapse, remembering several times when Judy had initiated an interaction.

Recently when David was out on a walk, he ran into Judy and caught up a little. I followed up with an e-mail suggesting a Friday happy hour of Kahlua and cream, just for old times. Judy came over this afternoon and we spent the better part of two hours catching up on the lives of our two families. It was as though there had never been a period of separation. She is so easy to talk to. And Judy has done so many things in her past that absolutely nothing would shock her.

As she left, we vowed to keep up this relationship, not to let it become a distant thing again. It does take work to make and keep friends, but the alternative of isolation from people is no longer an option. I’m glad to have reconnected with my old friend Judy.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Poor Ted

Our friend Ted is slowly dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has struggled so hard to maintain his independence, but his efforts have recently had disastrous consequences, as described in a recent e-mail from his daughter. One day last week during the brief time between the departure of his full-time daily caretaker and the arrival home of his wife Suzanne, he decided to go outside for a walk. This is a man who can barely walk down his hallway with a walker! When he tried to re-enter the house, he was too weak to open the door latch and slipped and fell hurting his head. Then one evening he tried to take himself out of bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night. He fell and cracked a bone in his shoulder, as well as gashing his head.

Ted knows the end is near. I’m wondering if he is trying to hasten its arrival. I feel so badly that he not only has to suffer from the debilitating effects of his disease, but now also has to suffer from these recent falls. I’m sure he is simply ready to be put out of his misery.

Giving up one’s independence is so tough to do. It’s like an admission of death. Poor Ted.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On a Brighter Note

I started the day feeling somewhat depressed by the conversation I had had yesterday with Dr. B (my surgeon). I called Dr. P (my endocrinologist), who unfortunately is leaving WHC and moving to Baltimore at the end of this week. She returned my call within a half hour and patiently began to answer all my questions. She thoroughly explained everything that is going to happen to me between November 23 and mid-January. She went over all the prep for the radioactive iodine treatment, including the special no-iodine diet for two weeks prior. But most importantly, she gave me all the numbers I failed to ask Dr. B for yesterday.

It turns out that papillary cancer recurs in 10-15% of those who have it. I will get a scan of my lymph nodes and a blood test yearly. Between these two tests, she will be able to detect any recurrence. If it is identifiable, it can be surgically removed. If not, I will undergo further radioactive iodine treatment. It sounds like if I follow this yearly testing, the risk of any real future problems from this form of cancer is minimal.

Whew! I feel like I am finally learning the real truth about this disease. Having this additional information today has really put my mind at rest. Dr. P is worth following to Baltimore!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Thyroid Woes

I met my surgeon today. Dr. Lisa B is an attractive, personable woman who looks to be a little younger than I am. She once again expressed her disbelief that last year’s surgeon did not remove my entire thyroid. She seemed to have a much greater concern about papillary cancer than my doctors last year, who never did anything aggressively to treat my cancer, other than remove the affected lobe, knowing that there were already two small nodules in the other lobe. I had been led to believe that this form of cancer only rarely occurred in other body parts. So I thought that if my entire thyroid was removed and I underwent the radioactive iodine treatment that I would be home free. Dr. B said that even after all these interventions, it can recur in the lymph nodes and the lungs. And how would I detect it there? The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that it is extremely slow growing.

My surgery will be at 1:30 on Wednesday, November 23, the day before Thanksgiving. I will be in the hospital overnight. After the surgery I will take another synthetic hormone until one week prior to the radioactive iodine treatment. For that week I cannot be on any medication. I can imagine that I will feel like an absolute slug, devoid of energy. I will be in the hospital for 36 hours to receive the radiation treatment. For the next few days I will have to keep my distance from everyone because of the emission of radiation. It sounds like I will be glowing! I can’t imagine what I am going to feel like if I have to be this careful about subjecting others to the radiation.

So once again, I’m wallowing in self-pity asking why this happening to me. When in fact I should be happy that this is being done in the name of prevention, that I don’t even know for sure that I have anymore papillary cancer. I should be most grateful for Deborah, Dr. P (the endocrinologist), and Dr. B. It would really have been great if I had gotten this behind me a year ago, but it just didn’t happen that way.

I’m already looking forward to seeing people and hearing from people as I go through this over the next few months. You can bet my New Year’s wish is going to be for a year of good health!

Being In Between

I had an interesting conversation with Rebecca yesterday. She has recently sworn off everything to do with Reclaiming and Feri, declaring that these practices did not bring out the best in her. And from her description, this is an understatement. This amounts to letting friendships of 20 years slip away and not attending rituals involving people who are still very attached to these traditions. This leaves her in that precarious position of giving up a lot and not yet having enough to completely replace it with, resulting in a calm, clean emptiness.

There was a time in my life when I felt something similar. For several years after I converted to Judaism, I continued to sing in the National Presbyterian Church choir. I stopped reciting the Apostles’ Creed and saying the Lord’s prayer. I stopped taking communion. When I wasn’t singing, I simply read the Bible (the Old Testament), pretty much cover to cover. Although the music continued to be as beautiful as ever, there was something lost when I became a performer and not a believer. I was in a religious limbo. At some point, I severed my ties with NPC and began wandering through a religious desert, looking for a way of belonging to my new faith that would give me the same level of satisfaction that I had once felt in the Presbyterian church. It was not until I joined Temple Micah 5 years ago that I once again had this feeling.

Being in between is not a comfortable place to be. It’s much easier to fully belong and to know that those around you have similar feelings. I hope Rebecca finds a new sense of belonging.

Self Identification

How would you answer the questions, “What are you? How do you identify yourself?”

With the daily “I am Jewish” readings coming out on our Temple website each day up until Yom Kippur, I have been thinking a lot about this question. Possible answers include: I am...

a musician
a Democrat
a Federal government worker
a babyboomer
David’s wife
Daniel and Rachel’s mother
my parents’ child
a friend to the disadvantaged

I find it very confusing to pick one label for myself, given that they all apply. It may depend more on the circumstance as to the exact identity I choose.

What is your self-identity?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Shabbat Prayer

At today's Shabbat service, Toby (our new associate rabbi) opened the service with a prayer written by a friend of hers. It seemed so appropriate, given what has been happening in the south. Here's the text of the prayer:

Every Shabbat we sing psalms praising Your power, known to us through the raging waters and mighty rivers. For we have been taught that if we follow Your ways the rains will come in their proper seasons and we will prosper. As we approch You -- seeking forgiveness -- we hope to be spared punishment by the engulfing power of these same waters.

In these days, when Your awesome power is seen at its most intense, we ask once again for Your help. Help us to see Your presence, not as the waters of destruction, but as the waters of sustenance. Help us to see your face, not in the crushing waters, the devastated cities, and the anguished people; but to feel Your presence in the receding waters, the rebuilding of cities, and the kindness Your people show one another.

Let these be the words we impress on our heart and on our soul. And let these be the words we teach to our children, and that we speak in our homes and on our way. Let us remember Your commitment to healing, light, and life when we need comfort to lie down at night and when we need hope to rise up in the day.

My Yism'chu Debut

Many Saturdays during the Shabbat morning service we sing Yism’chu, the translation of which is "Those who keep the Sabbath and call it a delight shall rejoice in your kingdom." Each time we sing this song, our music directory Teddy asks for volunteers to sing the three solo parts and for my 5 years in the choir, I have been saying, “No, thank you. I’m not ready.” When I finally sang by myself this summer for my bat mitzvah, I determined that I could now start volunteering.

Today I initially said no, but then I changed my mind and decided to volunteer for the first verse. I had about 20 seconds of practice time during our pre-service rehearsal and it seemed OK.

During the service as the song began I found myself thinking, “Pretty soon it’s going to be just my voice. Can I really do this?” Then I found myself singing the familiar words to the familiar tune and before I knew it, the first verse was over. I smiled at Richard in the congregation, who obviously recognized that this was my first solo attempt. I was followed by Jennifer, who has a world-class soprano voice, for verse 2 and by Laura, who sees herself as an opera diva, for verse 3.

I’m glad I finally did this. It won’t ever be so hard to volunteer again.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Swept Along by Hurricanes

If we were ever in doubt about getting the budget for our survey for next year passed, we can worry no longer, thanks to our benefactors Katrina and Rita. The American Community Survey (ACS) has become a hot-ticket item in Congress as our country’s leaders scratch their heads and ask all sorts of questions about the demography and the economics of the areas affected by these catastrophic storms.

FEMA has classified the counties of the Gulf Coast region as red, yellow, or green, depending on their recovery from Katrina. I assume a similar categorization will be applied to the areas where Rita takes her toll. So far we have avoided the red counties and tread lightly in the yellow counties, attempting to stay clear of those trying to put the pieces back together, to restore some sort of normality to what’s left. But it has become evident that if we are indeed to keep up with the people and their housing situation in the Gulf Coast areas, we will have to resume mailing, calling, and visiting them to conduct our half-hour survey. The ACS offers the country an opportunity to get a snapshot of how things are now, as opposed to using data from the last Census.

We had an interesting meeting this week to discuss just what we could do in response to this cry for data. We realized that we don’t even have a category to describe so many of the houses in the area which are not demolished, but are definitely uninhabitable. We talked about the need not only to know what’s happening along the Gulf Coast, but also what’s happening to all the people who left that area to live temporarily or permanently elsewhere. I suggested that perhaps the section about migration needs another question to ask the specific reason for a move.

I questioned how I would feel about someone asking for 30 minutes of my time if I had recently gone through so much trauma, especially in light of the unacceptable response to date by the Federal government. I might just say, “Leave me alone. It’s too late.” On the other hand, I might be persuaded that this could be a way to register the truth about my situation.

So as Rita prepares to come on land somewhere on the Gulf Coast, the ACS is gearing up for its first big challenge since it went national this year. I hope that those above me don’t make ridiculous promises that we can’t fulfill. This is our chance to get on the map and to secure our financial future, but we must come through! I look at this as my personal chance to make a difference for the victims of these natural disasters.

Monday, September 19, 2005

With a Happy Heart

The last few days have left me with a full and happy heart. My health issues have taken a backseat to all the good things going on in my life right now.

I am still reliving our poetry night by the river. As I collect everyone’s poems for the purpose of making an anthology, I remember hearing the words on that breezy, moonlit night as we sat in a circle and read to each other. As we were leaving, my new friend, doctor, and musical partner Deborah said to me, "Thank you for introducing me to so many things I would not have otherwise done." I could have thanked her for the same thing. I guess that's why we have become such good friends. That was the night the I came home full of love and wonderful feelings about my husband and all the friends who had participated.

Today Rebecca actually mentioned me by name (“my friend Barbara”) in her BLOG. That’s a first. She seems to vacillate on this issue of whether we can be friends, but I guess for the moment we are.

Deborah sent a last-minute e-mail message inviting me to play music with her at 4:30 today. We’re working on a new piece – the Concerto in D Major by Dittersdorf. I had never even played it through to the end. We actually played the whole thing and it was absolutely beautiful. I walked out of her house high on music and went to yoga to celebrate my happy feeling.

After yoga, I stopped to talk to my friend Tasha, who is a beautiful young kindergarten teacher at GDS. I noticed that she hadn't done several of the yoga poses that put pressure on the stomach and suspected that she might be pregnant because she had always done all poses well in the past. Indeed she is 12 weeks pregnant, due to IVF. She is very excited and is absolutely radiant with happiness. It took me back to my struggles to get pregnant and what a good feeling it was when it happened. She will make the perfect mother.

After I came home, I tried unsuccessfully to find a CD of the Dittersdorf piece. I called Deborah, who has one and who quickly offered up Neal (her husband) to make me a copy. That is not only a quicker solution, but it is also free, despite the fact that it is illegal. By the way, Neal gives the best hugs of just about anyone I know.

I'm looking ahead to October 2. I organized a trip to the mikvah with 3 other women to prepare ourselves for the High Holidays. We will each take some private time to dip into this sacred cleansing pool as we read the words that women have used for centuries during this ritual. Then we will go out to lunch and talk about our experience. Liz, Jan, Lynn -- these are women from Temple Micah whom I have come to love and trust. We're all interested in deepening our sense of spirituality. What better way?

Experience has shown me that these high points never last forever. But they certainly are nice while they are happening!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Poetry by the Light of the Moon

It is late and I can’t sleep because I am still so psyched by our evening of poetry. It was a somewhat rocky start but oh what a finish!

It hadn’t rained in DC for 19 days. At about 5 PM today the clouds started to move in and the weather forecast predicted thundershowers. As I was picking up 75-year-old Mollie in Old Town to take her to the “event”, the skies opened up and it didn’t only rain, it hailed! I couldn’t believe our bad luck! But I decided to drive on into DC to the spot (in West Potomac Park on Ohio Drive) we had chosen for the poetry reading and see how the weather looked from there. As we started to cross the river, the sun came out and the rain completely stopped. It doesn’t often happen that a storm passes that quickly. Meanwhile I had had several frantic phone calls with Deborah, whose house on Capitol Hill was our backup plan.

As Mollie and I unloaded the car, which was packed to the gills with everything from card tables to paper products to baked salmon to drinks, I wondered if anyone else would show up. Slowly they began to drift in, each person bringing a surprise to contribute to dinner. There was no shortage of food, with fruit predominating in the menu. We ate and drank and watched the sun go down and the temperatures moderate. There was a nice breeze off the river, which was only 10 feet away.

At around 8:00, when darkness had descended, someone said it was time to begin the reading. As for our winter poetry gathering, the person with the closest birthday began. It was Merv, who is in his mid-sixties and normally stutters badly. He read with a clear voice and no stutter whatsoever. The next reader was Steve, who is a multi-talented renaissance man. He writes poetry, builds furniture, designs theater sets, there’s not much that Steve can’t do. His website is He brought a whole book of his poetry, each poem having such clarity and purpose. Steve’s extended family, including his wife Daryl and his 20-something-year-old daughter and her two friends, entertained us with his poems. Deborah, who earlier today was in a panic because she had nothing to read, found poems written by her grandmother Rosalie Edge, mostly about birds and wildlife. Neal read from a book of poems published by his 98-year-old mother, who in 1988 was declared the Ohio state poet. I read mostly David Budbill and modern poets. David had a very timely poem by the Romanian poet Andrei Codrescu about the situation in New Orleans, as well as a great poem about a dog. Doug read a poem he had written and some other classics. David and Martha each read a poem and then sang one together. Mollie read some old “chestnuts”, as she referred to them. Florence (90 years old) read from a book of poems published by a friend of hers. Judith, Merv’s wife, just came to listen. We went round and round the circle, passing a small flashlight to illumine the pages.

I was afraid that the moon wouldn’t be visible because of cloud cover. However, at about 10 PM, just as we were getting ready to leave, the moon came out in its full and radiant glory. I have never seen it brighter or fuller. Steve set up a good camera on a tripod to take a picture.

It was hard to part from friends this genuine. But after a round of hugs, we piled all the picnic things into our cars and said a final goodbye to poetry by the light of the moon. We didn’t dance, as Florence had originally suggested, but we surely read some good poems. Everyone is already wondering when we will do another poetry night. It left me with a heart full of love and a great feeling.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Weekend of Music and Poetry

There are no “open days” this weekend. Instead it is action packed. Maybe I like it that way, instead of having options about how to use my time or even doing nothing, which I still have trouble doing.

Tomorrow morning, Deborah and I are playing 3 pieces for an adult chamber music class at GWU. At first I thought this sounded intimidating, but now it seems like it will not be any scarier than playing for Bill, who catches every mistake we make. There are usually about 10 people who come to the class, taught by Dr. Jessica Krash, who has a lot of impressive degrees and who teaches music composition in the Music Department at GWU. The idea is that we play our pieces and then get the feedback of the group for things that we either did well or might improve upon. What I have observed in previous classes has actually been very gentle criticism. We got toughened up by coaches like Evan at Chautauqua, so this should be a piece of cake! Anyway, instead of saying anything profound about what we are playing, Deborah and I basically plan to tell the group how much fun we have had working together to learn these pieces.

Then in the afternoon, I need to get everything ready for our poetry reading by the river in the moonlight evening. What is so bizarre about this is that I don’t have the slightest idea who is coming. We sent out the invitation to a lot of people and specifically didn’t ask for RSVPs. The request was for those who come to bring a dish to share and one or more poems to read to the group. I offered to bring drinks and paper products. I’m also bringing a big piece of baked salmon. I hope some salads and desserts show up. This is quite contrary to the way I organize most things, but more in keeping with a relaxed approach to life.

We do know a few people who are coming. We are providing rides to two older women. The evening was organized because of a comment made by 90-year-old Florence that she wished she could read poetry and dance by the light of the moon. This is her wish come true. The other person is our friend Mollie, who is 75 years old and who is recovering from cataract surgery this week. Deborah and Neal will be there. Their friend Steve (who is a poet) and his wife Daryl are actually driving down from New Jersey just for this evening. My friend Doug from work is also coming. Beyond that it will be a complete surprise.

I had fun last weekend choosing poems I wanted to share. I probably won’t get to read all of them, but it was fun finding poems that spoke to the way I am currently feeling.

David Budbill escaped from city life many years ago to live on Judevine Mountain in northern Vermont, where he writes poetry and music. He is a strong anti-war activist and is greatly influenced by Zen philosophy. His poems are frequently read on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.

Tomorrow by David Budbill

we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls.

simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now.

Drunk on music,
who needs wine?

Come on,
let’s go dancing
while we’ve still
got feet.

All This Ego by David Budbill

All this ego
all this drive
to get somewhere
at the finish line
death sits

one leg
over the other
hands folded
in his lap
a little smirk
on his face.

Easy As Pie by David Budbill

The Emperor divides the world
into two parts:
the Good and the Evil.

If you don’t accept that,
the Emperor says
you are Evil.

The Emperor declares himself
and his friends:

The Emperor says as soon as
Good has destroyed Evil,
all will be Good.

Simple as one, two, three.
Clear as night and day.
Different as black and white.

Easy as pie.

The Beautiful People by David Budbill

He is young
and handsome.
She is young
and beautiful.
They are wealthy
and intelligent.
Everything they turn
their hands to
a great success.

Maybe they will figure out
how not to die.

Ugly Americans by David Budbill

Americans climb all over the earth to get that they want.
They bomb anybody anywhere anytime if they feel like it.
And all that just to get some more oil or bauxite or human chattel
to make more gas or plastic or aluminum or sneakers or cars.

What causes all this pride, this hubris, all this greed?
How come we assume the entire world is ours to pillage?
Why do we just automatically presume that every poor person
in the world was born to be our servant?
Where did we get these ideas?

March 1640, a town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
the annual town meeting: from the minutes:

Resolved: that the earth is the Lord’s
and the followers thereof.
It was so voted.

Resolved: that the Lord may give the earth or any part of it
to his chosen people.
It was so voted.

Resolved: that we
are his chosen people.
It was so voted.

Carnal Vision by David Budbill

My carnal vision
never goes away.
My love, my lust –

for life, our flesh,
is always here.

Food, music, sex,
the delights of the eye,
ear, nose, and fingertips –

it’s how I know
I am alive.

It’s Now or Never by David Budbill

Eat, drink, and be merry, for
tomorrow you will surely die.

Get together with your friends.
Enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.

I’m pretty sure this is all we get.
I can’t be absolutely certain, but

of all the people I have known who
have passed over to the other side

not one has sent back any news.

Lucia Perillo’s most recent book of poems is The Oldest Map with the Name America (Random House, 1999). ******************************************************************************

Skin by Lucia Perillo

Back then it seemed that wherever a girl took off her
clothes the police would find her –
in the backs of cars or beside the dark night ponds,
opening like a green leaf across
some boy’s knees, the skin so white and taut beneath the
moor, it was almost too terrible,
too beautiful to look at, a tinderbox, though she did not
know. But the men who came
beating the night rushes with their flashlights and
thighs – they knew. About Helen,
about how a body could cause the fall of Troy and the
death of a perfectly good king.
So they read the boy his rights and shoved him spread-
legged against the car
while the girl hopped barefoot on the asphalt, cloaked in
a wool rescue blanket.
Or sometimes girls fled so their fathers wouldn’t hit
them, their white legs flashing as they ran.
And the boys were handcuffed just until their wrists had
welts and let off half a block from home.

God for how many years did I believe there were truly
laws against such things,
laws of adulthood: no yelling out of cars in traffic tunnels,
no walking without shoes,
no singing any foolish songs in public places. Or else they
could lock you in jail
or, as good as condemning you to death, tell both your
lower- and upper-case Catholic fathers.
And out of all these crimes, unveiling the body was of
course the worst, as though something
about the skin’s phosphorescence, its surface as velvet as
as a deer’s new horn,
could drive not only men but civilization mad, could lead
us to unspeakable cruelties.
There were elders who from experience understood these
things much better than we.
And it’s true: remembering I had that kind of skin does
drive me half-crazy with loss.
Skin like the spathe of a broad white lily on the first
morning it unfurls.

Christina Pugh’s poems have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Harvard Review, Columbia, Poetry Daily, and other publicantions. She teaches at Northwestern University.

Rotary by Christina Pugh

Closer to a bell than a bird,
that clapper ringing
the clear name
of its inventor:

by turns louder
and quieter than a clock,
its numbered face
was more literate,

triplets of alphabet
like grace notes
above each digit.

And when you dialed,
each number was a shallow hole
your finer dragged
to the silver

then the sound of the hole
traveling back
to its proper place
on the circle.

You had to wait for its return.
You had to wait.
Even if you were angry
and your finger flew,

you had to await
the round trip
of seven holes
before you could speak.

The rotary was wired for lag,
for the afterthought.

Before the touch-tone,
before the speed-dial,
before the primal grip
of the cellular,

they built glass houses
around telephones:
glass houses in parking lots,
by the roadside,
on sidewalks.

When you stepped in
and closed the door,
transparency hugged you,
and you could almost see

your own lips move,
the dumb-show
of your new secrecy.

Why did no one think
to conserve the peal?

Just try once
to sing it to yourself:
it’s gone,

like the sound of breath
if your body left.

Philip Memmer’s poems have appeared widely in journals, including Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Tar River Poetry. He lives in upstate New York.

Knowledge by Philip Memmer

My philosopher friend is explaining again
that the bottle of well-chilled beer in my hand

might not be a bottle of beer,
that the trickle of bottle-sweat cooling my palm

might not be wet, might not be cool,
that in fact it’s impossible ever to know

if I’m holding a bottle at all.
I try to follow his logic, flipping the steaks

that are almost certainly hissing
over the bed of coals – coals I’d swear

were black at first, then gray, then red –
coals we could spread out and walk on

and why not, I ask, since we’ll never be sure
if our feet burn, if our soles

blister and peel, if our faithlessness
is any better or worse a tool

than the firewalker’s can-do extreme.
Exactly, he smiles. Behind the fence

the moon rises, or seems to.
Have another. Whatever else is true,

the coals feel hotter than ever
as the darkness begins to do

what darkness does. Another what? I ask.

Bill Knott is the author of ten volumes of poetry. He is an associate professor at Emerson College.

Poem by Bill Knott

Fingerprints look like ripples
because time keeps dropping
another stone into our palm.

The Fate by Bill Knott

Standing on the youthhold I saw a shooting star
And knew it predestined encounter with the sole love
But that comet crashed into the earth so hard
Tilted its axis a little bit not much just enough
To make me miss meeting her by one or two yards.

Lawrence Raab’s poems have appeared in such magazines as Poetry, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Nation. He is professor of English at Williams College.

Request by Lawrence Raab

For a long time I was sure
it should be “Jumping Jack Flash,” then
the adagio from Schubert’s C major Quintet,
but right now I want Oscar Peterson’s

“You Look Good to Me.” That’s my request.
Play it at the end of the service,
after my friends have spoken.
I don’t believe I’ll be listening in,

but sitting here I’m imagining
you could be feeling what I’d like to feel –
defiance from the Stones, grief
and resignation with Schubert, but now

Peterson and Ray Brown are making
the moment sound like some kind
of release. Sad enough
at first, but doesn’t it slide into

tapping your feet, then clapping
your hands, maybe standing up
in that shadowy hall in Paris
in the late sixties when this was recorded,

getting up and dancing
as I would not have done,
and being dead, cannot, but might
wish for you, who would then

understand what a poem – or perhaps only
the making of a poem, just that moment
when it starts, when so much
is still possible –

has allowed me to feel.
Happy to be there. Carried away.

T. S. Eliot: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1919)
Eliot was born in St. Louis and educated at Harvard University, but most of his adult life was passed in London. In the vanguard of the artistic movement known as Modernism, Eliot was a unique innovator in poetry and The Waste Land (1922) stands as one of the most original and influential poems of the twentieth century. As a young man he suffered a religious crisis and a nervous breakdown before regaining his emotional equilibrium and Christian faith. His early poetry, including "Prufrock," deals with spiritually exhausted people who exist in the impersonal modern city. Prufrock is a representative character who cannot reconcile his thoughts and understanding with his feelings and will. The poem displays several levels of irony, the most important of which grows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his sterile life and his lack of will to change that life. The poem is replete with images of enervation and paralysis, such as the evening described as "etherized," immobile. Prufrock understands that he and his associates lack authenticity. One part of himself would like to startle them out of their meaningless lives, but to accomplish this he would have to risk disturbing his "universe," being rejected. The latter part of the poem captures his sense defeat for failing to act courageously. Eliot helped to set the modernist fashion for blending references to the classics with the most sordid type of realism, then expressing the blend in majestic language which seems to mock the subject.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo. (1)

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized (2) upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust (3) restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo. (4)

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, (5)
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter, (6)
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, (7) come from the dead
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the
And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern (8) threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, (9) nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . .I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

As a Recovered Workaholic

I used to be in love with my job, to the point that I often worked 60-hour weeks, going in early, staying late, working on weekends. I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work, solving problems. I was often embarrassed to admit to friends and even to my family the degree to which I was committed to my job.

Then about a year ago, I stopped working all those extra hours. To the contrary, I often find it hard to get in 40 hours of work each week, finding reasons – both medical and personal – to be away from the office. Oddly enough, the perceived quality of my work has not changed. No one has even noticed that I am working less.

As I sit here yearning for these deep friendships that don’t seem to be materializing for me, I now see some of the reason why I used to work so much, why I derived so much satisfaction from my job. My non-living, non-emotional job was always there for me, always waiting day or night. Whereas people are not always available.

I see the potential for music to take the place of my job as a focal point. It is interesting that I am making such a point of playing music that also involves other people. It is a way of assuring that my passion will still have a human element.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Always a Worrier

I have always been a worrier. When I look back now, I often worried about silly things, but at the time they seemed real and important.

When I was 2, I worried about leaving my old house and moving to my new house, leaving behind my familiar neighborhood and my backyard sandbox.

When I was 5, I worried about spending the night with friends because I occasionally wet the bed.

When I was 6 and in kindergarten, I worried about remembering the details of various fairy tales that we acted out.

From the time I started school, I worried about making good grades. I don’t know why because I always did.

When I was 13, I worried about being singled out in school for being a smart nerd. I so wanted to be just like everybody else. I also worried about not being able to do all the things on the President’s Physical Fitness Test. I never could and I didn’t fail PE!

When I was 15, I worried about being in a musical competition that my mother wanted me enter. I finally said no, and that was the end of that.

It seemed like I was from time to time worried about getting into exclusive groups – Keyettes in high school, math camp at FSU, college, and Chi Omega sorority in college. I eventually got into all of them and worrying about it didn’t help at all.

In my mid-20s, I worried about finding someone to love permanently. David came into my life and that worry was solved.

I have always worried about falling down because of the way I walk. The first time I remember falling was when I was 15 in junior high school. I walked out of the cafeteria and tripped over a small metal thing sticking up out of the concrete. I have tripped a few more times since then, the worst of these being in Norway when we were on vacation. I had my arms full and couldn’t break my fall and ended up breaking a tooth.

When my first efforts and getting pregnant weren’t successful, I worried about every being able to have children.

When I worked in the International Division of the Census Bureau, I worried about having to leave my family to go on long trips. I loved those trips, but hated being away, especially when my children were young.

From time to time, I have had typical parental worries when my children didn’t come home on time or when they had health issues. I still worry about Daniel’s OCD and Rachel’s eating disorder problems which are sporadic.

As my parents got older, I worried because I was so far away and couldn’t be there for them. When they were sick and dying, I never could just stay and take care of them because I had my own family to take care of.

For as long as I can remember, I have worried about drowning. I didn’t learn to swim as a child, partly because my mother was deathly afraid of the water and transmitted her fear to me. I can sort of swim now, but when I am in water over my head, I still don’t trust myself.

Until recently, I didn’t worry much about my relationship with other people. People in general acted like they liked me, but it was never a great concern until recently. I now seem to worry about having close friends and people I can talk to about anything and everything. I ask myself why this would be a concern now when it never was in the past. From a young age I had to be somewhat self-reliant because I had no siblings to share things with. So I just kept everything to myself and that was OK. But it’s no longer OK and I very much want these friends.

In the last few years, I have begun to worry about dying. I have had 4 small melanomas removed and half my thyroid removed with papillary cancer. The thought that there is some form of cancer lurking in my body is a constant concern. I see doctors regularly to reassure me that all is well, but they are just human and may not be able to really tell.

This sounds like a long worry list. Interestingly enough, many of the things that other people worry about – infidelity of a spouse, mounting debts, children on drugs, trouble at work, even getting older – are not in my list at all. In actuality, none of this worry has ever driven me into deep depression or caused me to ever really disrupt my life. I can truthfully say that it truly never accomplished a thing. But it is still an inherent part of me that I can’t deny.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

An Open Day

It’s not often that I get up with absolutely nothing planned for the day. This is a picture perfect day with all sorts of possibilities. Interesting enough, September 11, 2001, also started out as a picture perfect day.

Maybe we’ll take a long bike ride along the river. We rode to Old Town last week, but I much prefer to be near the water. The Mount Vernon bike path will probably be crowded with everyone else who has the same idea.

I could always work out in the basement gym, but this day just looks too nice to be stuck down in the basement.

I could sit out on the deck and do some reading. I need to pick poems to read next weekend. This time hopefully I will not choose the same one that someone else picks.

I could and probably will practice the piano. Deborah and I are supposedly playing for a class next Saturday morning, so we really need to get ready. We’ve been working on a number of pieces that are actually sounding pretty good, so I guess we need to figure out what we’re playing.

This evening we could go to a Public Issues Forum at the Temple. It will feature David Cole, Georgetown Law Professor and Radio & TV commentator, speaking on "Balancing Civil Liberties and Security". This is certainly something in which I have an interest. A grim reminder that today is September 11.

Lots of possibilities. It is nice to have choices with no obligations.

Ted Is Slipping Away

I first wrote about Ted on January 31. Since that time it has become apparent that Ted has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He is on hospice care, meaning that he has less than 6 weeks to live.

David and I visited him on Friday afternoon. We found him asleep and hooked up to a breathing machine with classical music filling the room. Ted has lost so much weight that he is virtually a skeleton with skin around it. He badly needed a shave. Such a contrast to the charming man who was always so well-dressed and vibrant. We called his wife Suzanne at work to see if we should wake him and she said YES, that he was expecting our visit.

Ted insisted on turning off the breathing machine and using his walker to go out to the living room to talk to us. Every move is with such effort. He breathlessly collapsed on the couch. We gave him an ice cream sandwich which we had brought, hoping it might put a few ounces back on his diminished frame.

Ted’s mind has not in any way been affected by this disease. He knows exactly what is happening and is prepared for death. In fact, he had such a bad last weekend that he was hoping to get it over with soon. At this point, he has a grandson’s bar mitzvah in October to look forward to. Maybe he will make it. Maybe not. He talked lovingly about his musical family – a lot of clarinets and saxophones. His sister, who is now 80, was the only white woman in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a jazz band of the 1940s.

Next Monday he will have full-day care, which is a good thing given his difficulty caring for himself. People from the Temple have been wonderful to visit regularly and bring him fattening food. I’m sure he looks forward to company.

When I see how bravely Ted is accepting the inevitable, I feel guilty for feeling at all sorry for myself. His will be a gruesome death, with the air literally squeezed from his body, but gradually, almost like drowning slowly, a minute at a time. But it will be soon. Then he will once again be at peace. I will really miss Ted.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My Thyroid Revisited

Last summer I had half my thyroid removed because of thyroid cancer. My surgeon decided to leave the other half in place and there was no followup with radioactive isotopes after the surgery. My endocrinologist said that he would watch the two tiny nodules in the remaining thyroid lobe and might possibly recommend removing it at a later date.

When I had my physical with Dr. E, she was very surprised that the surgeon had left any part of my thyroid and had not done the followup treatment. She suggested that I get an opinion from another endocrinologist. I went for my appointment yesterday, thinking that the course of action would be to determine whether or not the two little nodules were a problem. Instead Dr. P recommended removal of the remaining thyroid lobe in the next couple of months, followed by the other treatment.

I just had my stitches removed yesterday from the last surgery, so this was not welcome news. It made me angry that my doctors last summer hadn’t been more aggressive and proactive in treating my thyroid cancer. In all fairness to them, it hadn’t been definitely determined that the nodule was malignant until a few days after the surgery. In any case, I trust my new doctors and found their recommendations to be substantiated in articles from medical journals which Dr. E gave me to read.

I have an appointment with Dr. B, a surgeon at Washington Hospital Center, later this month. I will put the surgery off until after Yom Kippur, but then I want to get it over with. This reminds me in many ways of my tonsillectomy when I was 6 years old. It was scheduled for the day after Easter. So I wore my Easter dress to the hospital and the church brought me a beautiful Easter lily. That unfortunately didn’t make my throat feel any better.

This recent rash of doctors’ appointments and all the emotions they conjure up have been draining. I am so ready to be WELL, to not be thinking ahead to the next biopsy or the next medical procedure of any kind. I want to work on getting stronger, on doing yoga, on practicing pilates. And I want to have a lot of time left over to play the piano.

I’m sure by this time next year I will look back on this and I will look at the once-again faded scar on my neck and it won’t be a big deal any longer. And I can have the reassurance that I have no longer have any thyroid cells left to attract papillary cancer. But at this point I am still looking forward and I am not feeling too happy about the near future. This is when I wish I still had a mother!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Vietnam Vet, Homeless, Please Help, God Bless

These words evoke the image of a scraggly, white, unshaven man about my age walking up and down the lines of cars waiting at a light with a container in his hand for collecting money. These are the boys of my generation that got sucked up into the Vietnam War, to return as broken specimens of humanity who have since failed at life.

I have never given cash to people like this, thinking that it would only be intended to supply some nasty habit like drinking or smoking or drugs. Instead I avert my eyes and hope the light changes soon so I don’t have to feel so guilty for my lack of response. I start feeling so fortunate to be married to someone who didn’t have to serve and to have children who will (hopefully) never have to serve. Then I think how far our society has come from the days when the best and the brightest wore military uniforms and were greeted with tickertape parades upon their heroic return.

These poor broken men didn’t ask for a war that noone wanted. They didn’t ask to come back feeling ashamed for having served and angry for having their boyhood spunk sucked out of them in a godforsaken jungle while they witnessed and sometimes participated in untold atrocities. Today their bodies are not dead but they have that distant stare of the dead.

I think I would like to connect with just one of these men and try to make a difference in his life. I don’t want to do it by putting $5 in his outstretched cup, but rather by offering him some way to regain just a small piece of his pride. I need to have a better understanding of what his life is really like, what circumstances forced him into homelessness. Is this just another an idealistic idea or something that is really possible?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Why Do I Organize Things?

I have always been one to organize things. In addition to storing things in labeled boxes in my attic, lately I seem to always be looking to organizing “events” that pull people together. A lot of this has centered around putting together groups of people to play music. Then there are poetry readings – indoors and outdoors. There’s the Wednesday evening meditation group. My latest thing is finding a group of women to visit the mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) prior to the High Holidays and then go out to lunch.

I don’t find myself being invited to all sorts of bizarre activities. So I am wondering what it is that makes me want to do this. I hope it is not motivated by some desire for recognition, something that might have entered my mind growing up, where my mother took great pride in things I did that made me stand out. Yuck! Instead it is perhaps motivated by a desire to create a “family” of people I like since my own family is so small, especially since I am an only child. Or maybe it is simply a desire to establish new friendships. Whatever the motivation, it is somehow all part of this desire of mine to be around people I like. It’s the same sort of thing that drives my desire to communicate with people by e-mail. I am no longer self-sufficient.

Instead of analyzing this to death, I think it is better for me to simply enjoy the fruits of my labors. I truly love a lot of these new people that have entered my life over the past year, in addition to recognizing how much I love family and friends who have been in my life for a long time. I find myself drawn back to that poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by John Dunne (which Freddie Lee first introduced me to) which says: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a part of the main.”

Feeling Helpless

With each passing day the tragedy of Katrina becomes more evident. People are being transported all across the county to take up temporary homes because their homes are gone and parts of the Gulf Coast are virtually uninhabitable. Four hundred families are coming to Washington today to take up residence in the Armory building.

I look around and ask myself what I could possibly do to make a difference for any one of these people whose lives have been so disrupted. And I feel helpless. I have always disdained the idea of just giving money, when in fact it is probably the best thing to do in this case.

A couple of days ago a plea went out for the donation of children’s backpacks for all the young victims of Katrina. I thought about joining this effort, and then I pictured a warehouse of backpacks that could never be connected with real children with their crayons melting and their Goldfish crackers going stale. What a dilemma.

I will continue to look for something to do. After the initial surge of volunteering, I’m sure there will still be a neediness because this problem is not going away for a long time. Maybe I will eventually be able to make a real contribution.

Passover Revisited

One of the best things about Passover each year is gefillte fish. Some people never acquire a taste for it, but it is one of those Jewish foods that I have always loved. Early on I learned how to make it and forever impressed my mother-in-law. Cooking has been our real bond, not the actual beliefs of Judaism.

So every year I make fish. I never measure anything, so some years it’s better than others. It stinks up the whole house as the fish bones and skin and heads simmer in a water bath of onions and carrots waiting for the little patties of ground fish (mixed with onions and carrots and parsnips and eggs and matzoh meal and salt and pepper and sugar) to be dropped in to cook. I make fresh horseradish by grinding horseradish roots with beets and adding sugar and vinegar. It is hot enough to clean out anybody’s sinuses. We eat up all the fish and then we forget about it for another year.

But then around September I discover that frozen container of fish broth in the downstairs refrigerator. My friend Linda finds her Julia Childs recipe for fish soup and we enjoy it all over again. Her fish soup is to die for! She makes crusty bread and slathers it with a garlic sauce. Then she ladles the most wonderful broth over the bread and we enjoy the smell. The broth is seasoned with tomatoes and lots of saffron, rendering it a rich orange-red color. And then we eat, racing to eat the bread before it soaks up the last drops of soup broth. When it’s gone we think ahead to next Passover when there will once again be gefillte fish and more broth.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Picture Perfect Day

Suddenly the weather has turned from the sultry humid days of summer to something fresh and breezy, literally a breath of fresh air. I started the day with a trip to the farmers’ market, where summer produce is at its best. The tomatoes are red and lush. Ears of corn contain tightly packed juicy white kernals. I bought a huge bag of slightly damaged fragrant peaches for $2. I bought all the ingredients for a big batch of ratatouille. My friend Linda and I had a great time visiting each vendor and buying bags of fresh fruits and vegetables and eggs and even chicken.

Back home I cut up all the very ripe peaches while David made delicious omelets with free-range eggs. The only damper to this wonderful brunch was reading about what is still going on along the Gulf Coast. It sounds like our fearless leader W finally got the word that his constituents are less than pleased that his priority was playing golf instead of dealing with the wake of Katrina. It makes you wonder if this could have swung the election if it had happened last year.

I just practiced the piano for a couple of hours. I made many of the same old mistakes, but some things are improving. I will never tire of playing the Bolling Suite. It is such fun music.

David and I are getting ready to take a bike ride and enjoy the weather, which never lasts too long. We’re having dinner with Deborah and Neal – my ratatouille and whatever else they decide to make. Then we’re all going to the movies to see The Edukators, a German film.

Days like this don’t happen too often. But when they do it feels good to take advantage of the warm sunshine before darkness and cold weather once again come.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sins Against Boys

The Catholic Church has some sort of official office at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Street NW. Virtually every time I have passed by that corner for the last several years, a man about my age has been waving placards calling attention to the problem of sexual abuse. Over the years the signs have become more clever, better constructed.

This man commutes long distances each day to come to this spot and wave his signs. Why would he feel so passionate about this topic, even before it was widely exposed? It turns out that he was one of those young boys whose life was ruined by a priest’s sexual advances. He is simply asking the Church to apologize for the wrongs committed against him. Unfortunately the Church has chosen instead to ignore him.

But he has attracted the attention of everyone who passes by that corner. He has caused me to think how I might feel today if I had been violated by someone in authority 40+ years ago. This is his way of shedding those ugly feelings, those memories of a time that must conjure up a mixture of guilt and anger.

It’s interesting to consider how society’s view of this man has changed over the past few years. At first we chalked him up to a person with an ax to grind, but with a doubt about the truth of his claims. As the Catholic sex scandal unfolded, we realized that not only was he right, but that the scandal was more widespread than anyone could have ever imagined.

Now when I pass by, I feel like telling him that he has won, that the world recognizes his legitimacy. But that won’t force the Church’s apology that he still waits to receive. And it won’t fix the parts of this man that were broken so long ago. I consider this the most serious of mortal sins and pray that God can give him some peace of mind that will ease his burden and calm his anger.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just How Would I Handle Disaster?

There is nothing but bad news coming in from New Orleans and Biloxi and everything in between. It sounds like the chaos of a war zone with no hope for improvement any time soon. One scary thing I heard is that toxic waste dumps have floated to the surface with the rising water and just started to spread. What a sobering thought. But the more immediate problems of no food, no drinking water, and a total lack of everything else essential are far more obvious to most people. One person took comfort in the fact that all her “nearest and dearest” were safe and sound. But what about all those people who are just plain homeless and wretched right now?

I have lived through the heavy rains from hurricanes which came close to my home on the Florida panhandle, but never ever did we see anything like the devastation of Katrina. As I sit here with my stomach full and my A/C humming, I almost feel guilty for being so comfortable, so satisfied with everything I need for life.

All disaster spawns economic surges. I’m sure the construction industry on the Gulf Coast considers Katrina’s damage a windfall. I read today that there may be $35 billion dollars of damage. That will keep a lot of people busy for a long time.

Even the American Community Survey (a 3-million-household-a-year survey which I process) is stepping up to the plate as a way to track just what happens to those thousands of displaced people over the next couple of years. Their misfortune is our claim to fame!

I count myself fortunate to have been spared the loss and suffering that so many are experiencing. Perhaps my time is yet to come, another year, another storm. I wonder how I will behave if and when it ever comes?