July 19, 2013
I traveled upstate last Monday hoping for a respite from the city heat. I planned to finish the final revision of my new novel, “What Returns to Us,” and had a meeting scheduled with my book designer. The book is finished, the cover design was discussed, thankfully, but most of my plans for the week were abandoned. It was hot. Very hot. So hot, in fact, that it was hard to breathe much less think. AC was never a thought before so far into the mountains, but climate change is serious, it is real and, it seems, even the mountains will not be spared. I had been there during Hurricane Irene. Ulster County was hit hard and it is very far inland, a big surprise to everyone, including scientists.
I don’t think writers, or anyone else, can be insouciant about these changes, how they effect our lives, and what adaptations we have to make. Will we have to forgo fresh air upstate as well as in the city? Stay indoors in AC on the worst days? This has never been true before and I dread the prospect of being stuck inside for days and weeks at a time. Walking loosens my imagination and I couldn’t walk outside—safely—all week. In fact, I tried to take a walk early yesterday morning and returned to the house with heat prostration. I was unable to move off the couch all day. At least I got some reading done, but I felt so lousy I could hardly concentrate.
How do the Chinese do it? They live in choked, polluted cities. There was an item on the news the other night about a mother of a newborn who monitors the air from her apartment before she ventures outside. What has become of them? Of us?
I think, for starters, if we haven’t gone green and sustainable already, now is the time to start. This very instant, right now. And if we have gone green, we have to proselytize like crazy, as I am attempting to do here.
I traveled back to the city early this morning and enjoyed the ride in my fully air conditioned car. 99 degrees in the city with a heat index of 110 degrees, hot enough to melt rubber tires and gold, the radio announcer said with a giggle. I wasn’t laughing. Luckily, I found a parking spot close to my apartment building. That’s because everyone—with means and/or a place to go—has fled the city.
July 12, 2013
After packing, moving, and unpacking (nearly done), I vowed to myself not to buy another book, but I went to the exhibition of Hopper’s drawings at the Whitney yesterday and was so taken with his process—observing, sketching, drafting—and the beautiful paintings, that I bought a HUGE HARDBACK EDITION of Gail Levin’s biography of Hopper. It was only $15 and should have been $50. How could I resist? Fortunately, I had my backpack on wheels filled with swimming gear and a pack lunch, plenty of space for the TOME. And I love tomes. Lugging the bag up and down the subway stairs was a challenge—I carried the tome in my arms—but the book is safely home now and I’ve started it: well-written and deliciously thick, with vivid plates of Hopper’s work. (The postcards were all washed out.) When I’m done, the book will be donated to a reference shelf upstate where my artist-daughter lives and where I can always find it.
Books that have been packed, unpacked and now remain on my shelves are another matter. I had thought I’d given many away—donated, gifted, pulped—but there are still so many. So I’ve made another promise to myself: to reread every book I have carried with me. I’ve started with two slim volumes by William Maxwell who was the New Yorker fiction editor for forty years and a fine writer himself. I’d forgotten how fine, in fact. Now I am reminded. What a pleasurable experience that is.
As for the books on my Kindle, they are carried, too, of course--always and forever-- and there is a TBR list there also, but it will have to wait.
July 1, 2013
I moved into a new neighborhood which feels like a community, not a city. The realtors now call it Hudson Heights though—in the day—it was simply Washington Heights. George hung out here during the Revolutionary War, the highest point on Manhattan Island; it was a fortress. The footprints of that war are in the names of many streets. Now “The (Lower) Heights” and the (Upper) Heights, known as Inwood, are largely Dominican and Hudson Heights—artists, young families—is squeezed between them, contiguous peaceful neighborhoods. And because all the streets are narrow and there are no high rises, the hood has a human-sized village feel. It reminds me of London and, with its hilly terrain and a view of the GW bridge at night, San Francisco.
Still unpacking boxes and boxes of books and belongings, I took a break on Sunday morning to walk the neighborhood and pick up a few groceries. A hot humid summer morning, dog walkers, runners, and Kelly Evans Ruby in the “Children’s Garden” at Bennett Park working the soil. City gardening has been a favorite antidote to the sedentary writing life. I chatted to Kelly for a while, told her about my experience with the Central Park Conservancy and Riverside Park Fund, and volunteered.
At the west entrance to the small park, a structure that looked like a bird house was painted artfully with portraits of community dogs by local artist Gareth Hinds. The post was donated and constructed by Kevin Orzechowski, also a local resident. The Little Library even has a Local Little Librarian: Oshrat Silberbusch. A community project indeed. Inside the Little Library: books for adults and children. This was a book exchange, a national initiative known as “The Little Free Library.” It’s adorable: http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/ and anyone can do it! This is their mission statement: "To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations."