Friday, November 15, 2013
I continue to go weekly to Manhattan Bridges, a high school on the West side midtown of Manhattan, as a volunteer to help kids wi5h writing essays for their college applications. At the risk of repeating myself, I like this school because it houses immigrant kids from Latin America, and few enough that they don't get lost. The majority seems to come from the Dominican Republic; I've met some from Ecuador and Mexico as well. Some have been here for years, but most seem to have arrived in the last 3-4 years, many without good English or any English, many from a family with divorced parents, in which case a mother or father may remain in the native country. Though they dress well, these kids are just about none rich. Given that what they write are personal essays, to open a window on themselves, remarkable stories emerge. One I heard this week was from a girl who had just given birth to a baby daughter only a couple of months ago--and here she was back in school and looking hardly different from other seniors. Her family wanted her to abort the child; she was resolved to keep the baby, and did. So many bumpy tales! Some kids in that school impress as industrious and up to the challenge of writing (not easy to begin with) in a language not their first. And some hang their heads and more or less stay awake. Not so different from teenagers everywhere. I've preached that as long as they're willing to work, I'm willing to help. Nothing in my life today--not even my own writing--gives me as much satisfaction as the day I spend at Bridges, especially when I see a light clearly turning on. Those kids are deserving.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
"Autumn in New York" goes the song that evokes a mood perfect for the season--lovely, melodic, a touch sad. The jackets have come out of the closet and gotten buttoned. Scarves welcomed around the neck. Soon gloves too--or already in use. It's not like any other season, a time both exciting for what happens in the city and melancholy for the days that have shortened. The sun shoots its rays only around corners, sends warmth but intermittently and not to be depended on. Yesterday a friend invited me to an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, and I planned to leave early enough to take the 5th Avenue bus, a rare event. I boarded at 77th Street and for twenty-five blocks was dazzled by the colors in Central Park. That park which is so well cared for rewards the city with outrageous bursts of yellow and orange and brown leaves--not much green left at all. I wanted everyone to see them, knowing their show will close soon. This was happening in New York City, not Vermont Vermont not needed.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
November brings Scorpio time and clusters of birthdays unlike any other season. (Why do I know so many Scorpios??) It's a brisk time, fall here for sure, time turned back an hour and very early sunsets. For me the month is happy and somewhat melancholy, since mine is one of the Scorpio birthdays. If you weren't watching time passing, you're thrown a clear reminder. My great nephew Jeremy was born a few days from mine on the calendar, just as I was turning 60. So I will always know how old he is--me less 60. That's a substantial gap, but he's smart and good and if I'm glad of that marker with anyone, I'm glad it's he. My niece Elissa's birthday is also a few days from mine. She isn't 60 years younger--thank goodness--but younger enough that I remain (by her choice) "Uncle" Stanley. It's a loving title, makes one think there should be an Uncle's Day. It's great that birthdays come--and go--hut do they have to come so fast? In a week I'll mark off another year. I remember when I was in college that friends and I used to have a symbolic calendar burning party at the end of each month. We actually celebrated time going by? Were we nuts?
Monday, October 28, 2013
I write, and though not officially a writing teacher, I help others do the same. They fall into two groups, age opposites. At the older end are some seniors who gather on Friday mornings at a neighborhood center on Manhattan's East Side, and who come to write a "memoir." This collective has gone on for a couple of years, writing under the most elastic definition of memoir--most anything about their lives. None of the people are professional writers, but all have gotten bitten by the bug, writing short pieces for their children or grandchildren, or just themselves. Everyone reads aloud, and offers friendly criticism. They have clearly improved. The other group are high school seniors whom I try to guide in writing personal essays for college applications. These are not wealthy private school kids; they're from immigrant families, mostly Latin American (and often undocumented). They are destined mostly for city or state universities--some quite good. They face the double challenge of writing--who ever thought that was easy--and in a language not their first. I warn them that they almost certainly won't get the work right the first time, and they moan and finally get into the groove, some at least. If they persist, produced come strikingly good stories. The teacher has gotten his pay. On a tax return nothing to declare but satisfaction.
Friday, October 25, 2013
The Frick collection on Fifth Avenue grows ever more incomparable. It boasts paintings of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals and others on loan for a few months from The Hague in the Netherlands. If you're a member you waltz in; if not, you need a timed reservation and pay a steep entrance fee. But it's an exhibit you don't want to miss...gorgeous.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Years ago my friend Len Graivier, a pediatric surgeon in Dallas, was asked to help on the March of Dimes. He did that for a long time and was joined by his wife Pauline who went on to be nationally recognized in the organization. Len died last year but Pauline has continued with M.O.D. and the two are being honored this week with a major fundraising event in Dallas. They set an example for me as people generous with time and energy and smarts, supporting an organization that continued long after the initial concern with polio ended.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
On Saturday I went to Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights to the Brooklyn Historical Society for a lovely program of vocal music of Benjamin Britten. The late 1800's building is grand, of the sort certainly not built today, with plenty to see and a library open part of the week. Worth the visit, it deserves to be known outside Brooklyn.