Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wintry Chicago

Mystical night lights . . .
taken at the Corner of State & Wacker . . .

and again the next morning, taken with color film
on a very gray day . . . so gray in fact that the
yellow and red taxis and green banners seem to be
colored in with crayon on a black & white print!

For more pictures, please enjoy my photo album:
Wintry Chicago

The Chicago Poem
for Ted Berrigan & Alice Notley
the bridges of Chicago
are not the bridges of Paris
or the bridges of Amsterdam
except they are a definition
almost no one bothers to define
like life full of surprises
in what now looks to be the oldest
modern American city
o apparition of the movie version of
the future circa 1931
the bridges soon filled with moving lines
of people workers' armies
in the darkness of first December visit
along the water
bend of the Chicago River
the cliffs of architecture like palisades
at night the stars in windows
stars in the poem you wrote a sky
through which the el train pulls its lights
in New York streets of childhood
is like a necklace (necktie) in the language of
old poems old memories
old Fritz Lang visions of the night before
the revolution the poor souls
of working people we all love
fathers or uncles
lost to us in dreams & gauze
of intervening 1960s
there are whole tribes of Indians
somewhere inhabiting
a tunnel paradise
they will wait it out still
with a perfect assurance of things to come
everyone so well read in old novels
maybe the economics of disaster Ted
depressions of the spirit
so unlike the bright promise of
the early years
gloss of the young life easing death
atop a hill in Lawrence Kansas
the afternoon sky became aluminum
played on a tambourine to calm
the serpent fear
the material corpse that leaves us vulnerable
everyone will come to it I think
I do not think you dig it
getting so out of hand so far away
but we remain & I will
make another visit soon
hope we can take a walk
together it is night & we are
not so bad off have turned forty
like poets happy with our sadness
we are still humans in a city overhung
with ancient bridges
you pop your pill I laugh
look back upon the future of
America & remember
when we both wrote our famous poems called
Modern Times

by Jerome Rothenberg

The Poetry Foundation
at Dearborn & Superior

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Be Gentle When You Touch Bread

Card / Poster from one of my favorite companies:
The Printery House ~ Conception Abbey ~ Missouri

A nice prayer for Friday, Saturday, Sunday or any day:

Be gentle when you touch bread.
Let it not lie uncared for, 
taken for granted or unwanted.

There is such beauty in bread,
Beauty of sun and soil, 
Beauty of patient toil.
Winds and rain caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.


A year or so ago, my friend Rozena, who lives and works and writes in Paris, posted this sweet anecdote:

"Back safely in gay Paris, thanks in large part to an 84 - year - old man with a cane who insisted on carrying my suitcase up two flights of stairs. Apparently after fighting in WWII and doing something - something french - accent - I - don't - understand - something in Province, that's the shit that keeps you young."

I loved Rozena's story and recommended that she save it for a future magazine article. It struck a chord with me because I had recently had a similar experience at the supermarket, loading up my car with donated day - old bread to take to the Food Pantry. My 80 - something guy was having a cup of coffee at the little Starbucks counter that is inside our grocery store, right near the bakery. He asked where I was going with all that bread, and then volunteered to help me wheel it out to my car. When we were done, he said, "Well, I better get back in there and pay for my coffee."

There was something so straightforward about his chivalry and so trusting about his closing remark, like a scene right out of Pleasantville or Mayberry R.F.D. It totally made my day. Maybe it was because a kind stranger had just been so gentle about bread.

Delivery Day

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kiss Pie!

Before the Valentine Season Slips Away

Now seems like as good a time as any to explain why, in our family, we say "Kiss Pie!"

Back when my younger son Sam (now 20) was about 3, he came bursting in one day and said, "Splash pie in Mommy's face!" I never did know the origin of that particular exclamation -- maybe something he heard (or mis-heard) on a cartoon show or something one of his little friends said (?).

As for the origin of "Kiss Pie," after Sam's "Splash Pie" greeting, I gave Sam a kiss on the top of the head and said, "Kiss pie on Sam's head." We did that back and forth for a few weeks or months, and from that point on, the phrase became embedded in our family lingo and gradually shortened to "Kiss Pie!" as a kind of all-purpose way to say "Good night" or "Good bye" or "Love you" or "Awwwwww!"

Visiting Sam's classroom during the Late "Splash Pie" Era

Kiss Pie, Indeed!
Peppermint Christmas Pie ~ Cheesecake Factory ~ Chicago
"We must have a pie.
Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie."
~ David Mamet ~

"Don't say you're full before you've seen the pie."
~ Russian Proverb ~

See also "Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?"
& "A Pie for Your Thoughts"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gold Days, Gold Friends

So far, 2014 has been a great year for reunions with old friends. I have been lucky enough to spend

Martin Luther King Day
with my friend Etta in Chicago,
at Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg):
back in 1970

the day before Valentine's
with my friend Sheri in Chicago,
at her family's restaurant, Topo Gigio:
back in 1982

and Presidents Day
with my friend Cyndee in Salt Lake City,
on Temple Square & at the University of Utah:
back in 1969

These three reunions reminded me of three enduring songs about the good old days.

First, from Gordon Lightfoot:

"Did She Mention My Name"
It's so nice to meet an old friend and pass the time of day
And talk about the home town a million miles away

Is the ice still on the river, are the old folks still the same
And by the way, did she mention my name
Did she mention my name just in passing
And when the morning came,
do you remember if she dropped a name or two
Is the home team still on fire, do they still win all the games
And by the way, did she mention my name

Is the landlord still a loser, do his signs hang in the hall
Are the young girls still as pretty in the city in the fall
Does the laughter on their faces still put the sun to shame
And by the way, did she mention my name

Did she mention my name just in passing
And when the talk ran high,
did the look in her eye seem far away
Is the old roof still leaking when the late snow turns to rain
And by the way, did she mention my name

Did she mention my name just in passing
And looking at the rain,
do you remember if she dropped a name or two
Won't you say hello from someone, they'll be no need to explain
And by the way, did she mention my name

Second, from Chicago:

"Old Days"
Old days
Good times I remember
Fun days
Filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies
Comic books and blue jeans
Howdy Doody
Baseball cards and birthdays
Take me back
To a world gone away
Seem like yesterday

Old days
Good times I remember
Gold days
Days I'll always treasure

Funny faces
Full of love and laughter
Funny places
Summer nights and streetcars
Take me back
To a world gone away
Boyhood memories
Seem like yesterday

Old days - in my mind and in my heart to stay
Old days - darkened dreams of good times gone away
Old days - days of love and feeling fancy free
Old days - days of magic still so close to me
Old days - in my mind and in my heart to stay
Old days - darkened dreams of good times gone away
Old days - days of love and feeling fancy free
Old days - days of magic still so close to me

Third, the couplet that I always think of whenever I hear Chicago sing "Old days . . . Gold days":

Make new friends,but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.

I was never involved in scouting, so I never knew this as a Girl Scout Song, but only as a rhyme that my children sang at the conclusion of their University City Arts League music class:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.

A circle is round,
it has no end.
That's how long,
I will be your friend.

A fire burns bright,
it warms the heart.
We've been friends,
from the very start.

You have one hand,
I have the other.
Put them together,
We have each other.

Silver is precious,
Gold is too.
I am precious,
and so are you.

You help me,
and I'll help you
and together
we will see it through.

The sky is blue
The Earth is green
I can help
to keep it clean

Across the land
Across the sea
Friends forever
We will always be.

The lyrics appear consistently marked as Anonymous. However, I did come across a rather interesting friendship blog that attributes this somewhat different version to Welsh composer and musician Joseph Parry (1841-1903).

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test --
Time and change -- are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
Friendship never knows decay.

For 'mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.

But old friends, alas! may die,
New friends must their place supply.

Cherish friendship in your breast--
New is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

Our fun music teacher Heather
who taught the boys to sing,
"Make New Friends"
Philadelphia ~ 1998

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Snowy Valentine's Day!

Plow & Hearth Birdseed Wands

For a few quasi - cynical Valentine thoughts, check out my new Fortnightly Post

Inordinately Realistic

The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence;
custom & ceremony

P.S. ~ FYI
"This year, the full moon falls on February 14, Valentine’s Day. The phases of the moon recur on (or near) the same calendar dates every 19 years. So the full moon won’t come on Valentine’s Day again until February 14, 2033! After that, a Valentine’s Day full moon will occur on February 14, 2052, on February 14, 2071 and February 14, 2090!"
~ from EarthSky


My friend Joni took this picture of the
~ Full moon over the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem ~
"Especially for you Kitti for your collection of moon pics"
Thanks Joni!

By contrast, here are my shots of the same full moon,
taken in Chicago

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Covered Bridge

Christmas Card
from Uncle Wayne Mesneak

Last year I told my cousin Maggie that I wanted to find this card, written by her father -- my Uncle Wayne -- many years ago. I wanted her to see it, and I knew I had saved it, because I was so touched by his efforts to carry on the holiday traditions even without my Aunt Frances, who had died earlier in the year. Over the weekend, when putting away Christmas decorations, I started looking through the cards I had saved from the 1990s, and there it was. Despite the sadness it conveys, it also did our hearts good to reminisce.

Maggie wrote: "Oh Kitti, this made me cry. Daddy had such a hard year without her. We went to a restaurant for dinner that year because he didn't want to celebrate. So happy they are together now. Thank you for posting and saving this. I love you! Kitti cuz, you probably know this, but my mother just loved covered bridges; it is so sweet that Daddy used a card with a covered bridge on it. And it is wonderful to see his writing. It is funny how we can instantly identify the handwriting of our loved ones. I think he did a great job for a grade school education."

My cousin Maggie with her Dear Parents.
This is exactly how I remember
Aunt Frances and Uncle Wayne!

Thanks to my friend Barbara Tilley, who commented:
"You are an extraordinary archivist.
This is a beautiful card, and I love covered bridges."

A few people asked who drew the picture of the covered bridge, and I would like to be able to acknowledge the artist, but as with so much of the really beautiful 19th - 21st C British & American Christmas Card art, this one is unattributed! It merely says, "A Sunshine Card / Made in U.S.A." I will never understand that practice! This is someone's handi-work! Please tell us who left behind the legacy of these lovely brush strokes! I always feel the same when looking through some of the lovely historical Christmas books that my sister - in - law Tina and I have given each other over the years. So many of the classic scenes -- children, fashion, home decor, holly greens, sledding and snow, quaint villages -- simply say "Anon." It's disappointing not to know the artists' names, but how lucky for us to be able to enjoy their talent decades -- even centuries -- later.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Fish Hatchery, Neosho

"The Fish Hatchery Neosho ~ 1912"
by Thomas Hart Benton, American painter and muralist
born in Neosho, Missouri on 15 April 1889
died in Kansas City on 19 January 1975

For the past couple of weeks, some of my friends have been playing a kind of tag - you're - it art game on facebook. Your friend names an artist and you post a painting E.g., when I received Georgia O'Keeffe, I pulled up an old favorite; and when I received Fra Anjelico, I learned something new (click here or scroll down).

I was most excited when my childhood neighbor Rebecca gave me an artist from our home town of Neosho, Missouri: Thomas Hart Benton. We grew up proud of his artwork and his famous family. Some of our friends attended Maecenas Eason Benton Elementary, named for his father, the U.S. Representative for Missouri (from 1897 - 1905). Becky and I and our siblings were just as pleased to attend Eugene Field Elementary, named for the St. Louis poet.

There are various examples of Benton's artwork around Neosho, and I was all ready to share a photograph of his ceramic tile mural on the side of the former Safeway store, across the street from Big Spring Park. Not only did we love it as kids, but I even took my kids there to see it one summer, on a family vacation:

Sam & Ben acting out the scene on the mural
on the side of the old Safeway Store
Labor Day Weekend, 2002 ~ Neosho, Missouri

However, as I got ready to post my example of Thomas Hart Benton's work, I learned that I have been mistaken all these years! This well - remembered mural is NOT by Thomas Hart Benton! It was commissioned and designed by local artist Lawrence J. “Larry” Sanchez, who had studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and won a mural-design contest sponsored by Safeway Stores. Mr. Sanchez, my apologies for the confusion!

Of course, I still admire the mural as much as ever, but I realized that in order to fulfill my art quest assignment, I would need to search further. There are so many to choose from, but I settled on "The Fish Hatchery" because if there's anything that defined our growing up in Neosho besides Thomas Hart Benton and George Washington Carver and Eugene Field and Big Spring Park and Fort Crowder and Rocketdyne . . . it was The Fish Hatchery!

I was sure that Rebecca would approve of my choice, and even though it was totally new to both of us, we immediately agreed that "The Fish Hatchery" has to be the quintessential Thomas Hart Benton painting: local artist, local watering hole, local color, local beauty, local peace of mind!

Rebecca said, "Yes. I've never seen this painting before, but I love it. So much of his work is action - oriented and masculine. This is peaceful, sweet and gently rendered, and the subject is a place I remember from so many elementary school field trips. Thank you so much for finding this."

All of our Neosho friends agreed, if you went to school in Neosho, you've certainly been on a field trip to the Fish Hatchery! It really was the perfect in - town getaway, just as Benton has portrayed it, though the painting doesn't really capture the fishy aroma, yet another memory that shall never fade!

For a view more scenes of the good life in Neosho,
see my photo albums:
Neosho, Missouri & Few Acres

Burnetta wrote to say:
"I love Thomas Hart Benton, and Steve and I visited the hatchery on a scavenger hunt for my 60th. It was an awesome birthday surprise. We also went to the largest planter."

Yes, of course! How could I have forgotten Neosho's nickname
and it's famous gigantic Flower Box!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Art Appreciation

"For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing
but the highest quality to your moments as they pass,
and simply for those moments' sake."

from The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry
by Walter Pater, 1839 - 94
English Literary & Art Critic

The Glorification of Saint Dominic
by Fra Angelico, 1395 - 1455
Artist of the Early Italian Renaissance

Thanks to my friend Ann de Forest at Obscolescing,
who suggested that I share a painting by Fra Angelico!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Behold the Boy

Mystical Groundhog Day photography by Nancy Allen

Happy Birthday James Joyce
2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941

James Joyce (and my brother Dave) both share the honor of arriving on the cross - quarter day known as Imbolc, the half - way point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox (which accounts for cultural observations such as Groundhog Day and Candlemas).

So many poems and passages are appropriate for this day, but my favorite has to be the bittersweet poem that Joyce wrote in 1932, shortly after the death of his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, on 29 December 1931, and the birth of his grandson, Stephen James Joyce, on 16 February 1932:

Ecce Puer

Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

James Joyce

Happy Groundhog Day Birthday Greetings
to my brother Dave Carriker;
to the master, James Joyce; and belatedly to

Carl Sandburg, a child of Epiphany
6 January 1878 - 22 July 1967

Whereas James Joyce was born on Candlemas Day, Carl Sandburg had the distinction of arriving on the Epiphany (celebrating the Feast of the Three Kings, immediately following the Twelfth Day of Christmas).

Sandburg's birthday poem "Harsk, Harsk," captures the almost eerie joy of entering the world on an auspicious date in a whirl of snow. I nearly posted this poem last month, on Sandburg's actual birthday, along with his Epiphany poem "Star Silver," but in the spirit of a poem for every poem, I saved it for today.

Harsk, Harsk

Harsk, harsk, the wind blows tonight.
What a night for a baby to come into the world!
What a night for a melodrama baby to come
And the father wondering
And the mother wondering
What the years will bring on their stork feet
Till a year when this very baby might be saying
On some storm night when a melodrama baby is born:

"What a night
for a baby
to come into the world!!"

Harsk, harsk, the wind blows tonight.

It is five months off.
Knit, stitch, and hemstitch.
Sheets, bags, towels, these are the offerings.
When he is older -- or she is a big girl --
There may be flowers or ribbons or money
For birthday offerings. Now, however,
We must remember it is a naked stranger
Coming to us, and the sheath of the arrival
Is so soft we must be ready, and soft too.
Knit, stitch, hemstitch, it is only five months.

It would be easy to pick a lucky star for this baby
If a choice of two stars lay before our eyes,
One a pearl gold star and one pearl silver,
And the offer of a chance to pick a lucky star.

When the high hour comes
Let there be a light flurry of snow,
A little zigzag of white spots
Against the gray roofs.
The snow - born all understand this as a luck - wish.

Carl Sandburg

Thanks once again to my perceptive sister - in - law - in - law
Nancy Allen for sharing her photographic talents!