Saturday, January 30, 2016

great-uncle ben and the cincinnati newspapers of 1904: a yiddish opera: a work in progress

My great-uncle Ben was the oldest of the three, of Ben and Daisy (my grandmother) and Joe. Ben was the one who stayed in Russia, with his father, while the other two emigrated to America with their mother. At least that is one version of the emigration story. But, for Ben, who was six or seven at the time, which is 1890 or so, the particulars of the emigration do not really matter. What matters, and what might best be told in the form of a Yiddish opera, which we’ll get to, is that while my great-grandmother and Fannie and Sussman (aka Daisy and Joe) were in America, my great-grandfather and Ben were back home, in Russia.

As always, what happened after the emigration is just a whole bunch of stuff like kids being born, people moving on and people moving up, setting up house, doing whatever they do to make a living, finding a community, raising children, some children getting lost in the shuffle, some children getting put on trains and shipped to new homes, religions and customs lost, religions and customs held close. Some try to hold on to the past while others try to let go, maybe even hide, but all, always, trying to forge a future. Soon it was 1904, and, without a doubt, Ben was crossing the ocean in search of his past, in search of his brother and sister, and when he landed in Cincinnati, where his mother was living and raising a family with a man Ben did not know, well, the whole thing ended up in the papers.

In the present: a snow photo taken earlier this week.

I had just aborted my registration on when the phone rang. It was a pleasant-sounding man from the website, and apparently he knew what I was up to: searching out the past, searching out Ben, looking for articles about when Ben came to America looking for Fannie and Sussman. I had already found a few on another site, and, according to the articles, Ben had promised to go to America and find his siblings while sitting at his dying father’s bedside. Once in America, Ben found his mother, and in his effort to get her to tell him where Fannie and Sussman were, he brought in the cops, had his mother and her husband arrested for adultery and bigamy. You see, Ben didn’t believe that his mother and this man she was living with were legally married, and maybe they weren’t, maybe they hadn’t even been legally divorced from their former spouses, but again, try to get a straight story out of anybody. Anyway, by the time I was talking to the guy from, I already had three Cincinnati Enquirer articles about the event.

The “Trouble” article is more about the ex-wife of my great-grandmother’s second husband, Israel, and I’ll go with the story that my great-grandmother and Israel were married because, after all, they had five kids and were forging a life together. It seems possible to me that this ex-wife was only there to help Ben make his case of bigamy, so perhaps she was an opportunist. (No offense if she is your ancestor.) Whatever the story, though, the lead paragraph of “Trouble” provided me with loads of new information.
Israel White, or Israel Solomayack, as his right name is claimed to be, is having a peck of trouble. Israel is a Russian and conducts a secondhand store at 1559 Central avenue. As Israel White he is married and has five children. As Israel Solomayack, it is alleged that he has another wife and an equal number of offspring.
A busy guy.

But, back to and this nice man who was calling because I had aborted my registration on the site when a pop-up thingy informed me that the 30-day trail cost $9.95. I had already taken advantage of a 7-day free trial on, which brought me the Enquirer articles and loads of other good stuff, relevant and not, and I had just started a 14-day free trial on, which so far had brought me nothing, so I assumed the 30-day trial membership on was free, and indeed, I was not asked to pay until I could hazily see the beginning of an article from The Cincinnati Post.

And Then White Declared They Were Divorced in Russia.
Police Judge Lueders Delivers Caustic Comment
to White and Woman He Eloped With.

How irritating that the article was blocked by this gauzy, attention-demanding pop-up thing asking for money. Was it worth it? Should I pay? For one article? I pondered. Maybe I could find the article elsewhere. And then the phone rang, and it was the pleasant man from (How many times will he pop up before I get on with it?) He gave me a spiel about how great the site is, and I told him I was really just interested in that one article but wasn’t sure it was worth $9.95, and he pulled up the article and read me a bit, and I was hooked. I gave him my credit card number. I now have the full article and must remember in 30 days to cancel this subscription, because all these sites can get costly if you forget about them. But, this article is worthwhile. The “caustic” comments Police Judge Lueders made to the Whites, which included ordering them to leave Cincinnati, which they did not do, add much to the story. And all I can say to that judge is: So, what is your family’s story, bud? Please, regale us with tales of your virtuous ancestors.

To give its full due, through it I learned that one of the Enquirer articles had been picked up by the Grand Forks Daily Herald, way out there in North Dakota. I guess those folks were hard up for news. Of course, in 1904 they didn’t have TV or the Internet.

So, now I had four articles about Great-uncle Ben, May 1904, Cincinnati, Ohio, plus the original article that had led me to search for more. I’ve had that since 1997. It came from the Children’s Aid Society, in New York, as a photocopy of what I assume was an original clipping from The Cincinnati Times-Star. You see, in 1904, the people at the Children’s Aid Society were the only people who could tell Ben where his long-lost siblings were. My great-grandmother thought they were there, at the Society, in New York, where she had left them and written to them, faithfully, all these many years, but Fannie and Sussman were not there, of course, but in Iowa. Had been for nearly nine years. Were now known as Daisy and little Joie. Due to Ben’s dogged search, that included having his mother arrested, the Times-Star article became part of Daisy’s file at the Society. It is short, but it includes a picture, a photo—a studio portrait—of my great-grandmother and her husband Israel and four children, one just a babe in arms. If only I could get a clearer copy of the article, of that picture …

At times, the search becomes obsessive.

The same snow, a day later.

I remember a time when I looked at that Times-Star photo in all its black-and-white photocopy blottiness and thought wow, who are those people? Now, I can tell you everyone’s name. I can tell you when the children were born. And I can tell you about when the picture would have been taken. I can tell you when those kids were married and who they were married to. I can tell you the names of their children and grandchildren and, at a certain point, that all gets a bit creepy. But I think: To have that photo. Wouldn’t that be great? How did the newspaper get it? Who gave it to the Times-Star to print with this scandalous story? Was it Ben?

The photo.

Where was I?

Oh yes. Why can’t I find this article with this photo online?

The website for The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County lists the periodicals it has on microfilm, and the list includes the Times-Star. I sent an email to the reference desk telling them exactly what I was looking for and asking, if it’s not too much trouble, and if it’s something you do for people, could you see if there’s anything else on this story? Within an hour and a half I had two responses from the reference librarian. (Let’s pause now and pay homage to libraries and librarians everywhere. Thank you.) She had attached four articles. Three were the ones I already had from the Enquirer (which seems to claim copyright to, which opens a whole new can of worms in a whole other realm), but the fourth article was new. It was from the Times-Star, and although not the one I was looking for, the one with the picture, what it adds to my great-uncle Ben’s story is immeasurable, because it claims to tell Ben’s story in Ben’s own words. Ben’s own words! The words of Ben, my great-uncle, then a 19-year-old, newly-arrived-in-America Russian Jew (though in this article he is Polish). The copy of the article is dark and blurry and hard to read, and I have no idea who has the right to copy it and who does not, but I type it out here, giving full acknowledgement and thanks to the reporter who wrote it (name unknown), the paper that published it, whoever it was that put the paper on microfilm, and the library that stores the microfilm and provides access to it.

So, with just a little bit more introductory ado, from The Cincinnati Times-Star, May 17, 1904, page 9.

Imagine, if you will, this entire story as an opera, sung in the natural language of each character. For this scene, Ben’s aria, a spotlight, stage left. We see Ben, our young Russian Polish lad, seated, head bowed, cap in hand; to the side, left of Ben, a reporter, in full reporter’s garb, the fedora, the suit, a pencil, a scrap of paper, an avid look; behind Ben, a policeman, in full uniform, portly, perhaps behind a raised desk with one of those lamps that looks like a streetlight. Ben lifts his head and sings the exact words the reporter will write (see article below). At the end of the aria the spotlight dims and a new one appears, center stage, and we see Ben, standing alone. He now sings the exact words he spoke that night at the police station. The spotlight dims, and a new spotlight appears, stage right, and we see Ben, standing alone. Again, he sings, the same story, now in Yiddish, his native tongue, or so I imagine …
Romance of Modern Life in the Case of Saladuchow, Who Crossed Sea to Find His Parent.

Tuesday afternoon Benjamin Saladuchow, a Polish lad nineteen years of age, swore out a warrant for the arrest of his mother and Israel White. They have been residing on Central avenue, near Fifteenth street. Behind this charge of a son against a mother, there is a pitiful story, and told in tearful voice by the young Pole it is very touching. “I have been in America six months,” said young Saladuchow, sitting in the office of the chief of police, a worried look on his frank, intelligent face. “I arrived in New York, having left my home in Poland a long time ago. My aunt, my mother’s sister, gave me fifty rubles to come to America and find my brother Samuel and sister Fannie, whom my mother brought with her to America when she left my father, fourteen years ago. I was only a little boy when she left, and do not remember the circumstances. Two years ago my father died. On his deathbed, besides which I sat, weeping, for he had been my friend all my life, he took my hand and said to me, ‛My boy, I am going to die. But before I leave I want you to promise me on your honor, that you will some day go to the land called America and find your sister and brother.’ He made me promise before heaven. I have waited two years and my aunt gave me money to come over here. When I arrived in New York, six months ago, I advertised in a number of Jewish papers for some trace of my sister and brother. I got a letter from a man named White, in Cincinnati, telling me that my mother was here and for me to come here, but to say that I was the nephew instead of the son of my mother. I came here and found my mother living with a man who called himself Israel White. I do not believe they are married, and that is why I have had them arrested. I asked my mother: ‛Where is my sister and my brother?’ First she said that she had left them in an orphan asylum in New York, and then again she said that they both died a long time ago on the same day. I told my mother that I did not believe her, and demanded that she tell me where they were. She refused. I hope that by this arrest I can get some information out of her regarding my brother and sister.”
The three-part aria ends, the stage is dark. Light slowly returns. Others come on stage, sing their stories, the stories they know, the stories they have heard, the stories they have lived, and some scenes will be acted out—think of the deathbed scene in Russia between Ben and his father, or the scene where Fannie and Sussman are left at the orphanage, or their train ride west, those corn fields of Iowa, the slums of New York, all of it come to life—but of course, I haven’t worked it all out yet.

Meanwhile, just so you know, all this, including the Yiddish opera idea, is now under my copyright, me, Leslie Allen, grandniece of my great-uncle Ben, year 2016.

Me, just lying on a snowbank, somewhere in America.

Friday, January 22, 2016

the shovelnose terrier, or, taking a plunge

On a rare sunny, warm afternoon, Josie and I sat on the porch, soaking up sun. We were just back from our river walk, which was highlighted that day not only by sunshine but by our ability to walk on water. Elliott had been invited out, but he opted to stay in.

A lovely day on the porch with  Josie.

Outside, Josie never stays still for long. Soon from the porch he bounded, going after something he seemed to see beyond the driveway’s far snowbank.

There he goes.

I was not far behind, and I began making a video.

My Boy Jo, Part One: Something Beyond the Snowbank

I admit to being impressed, perhaps overly so, with Josie’s ability and desire to plow through snow. He will follow another’s trail, certainly, but just as often he likes to plow his own. Thus, I have dubbed him a shovelnose terrier, a rare and quixotic breed.

Shovelnose terrier.

Josie’s legs are no more than six inches long—the shovelnose standard—and up this-a-way the average snowfall per year is around 200 inches. This left little doubt in my mind that come winter I would be shoveling paths for my helpless, little, short-legged Jo, but this was, of course, before I learned that he is, indeed, a shovelnose.

My Boy Jo, Part Two: Backtracking Home (oops, no) New Path

The only time Josie seems not to like the snow is when it’s getting down toward 10 degrees. (This year that seems to be the chill point inside and out.) At 10 degrees, Josie’s paws begin to hurt. Luckily, the day he fell in the river it was 18 degrees. It was overcast, a light snow in the air, and we were walking on the river, staying fairly close to shore as there are still some open spots down the river’s mid-section—they look like busted open zippers—and you can see the water flowing swiftly, a dark rift against the snow-covered ice. One thing about shovelnose terriers is that they are notoriously short-sighted: they don’t always think before acting. So although Josie had trotted to the far side of the river via solid ice and had so far avoided all open spots, when he decided to cross back toward me he ran straight at one of those gaping holes, a large, dark, black, flowing open zipper, and I thought he would see it and have the sense to avoid it, but no, he ran straight at it and fell straight in.

Things change so quickly.

Josie was in the water at one end of the zipper; he kept his head above water, but that was about it. His head was drenched, and his big dark eyes bugged out even more than usual. He pawed at the ice around him to no avail. This was quite a sight, and a number of things ran through my mind, the most important being the realization that it was unlikely that Josie could pull himself out of this situation. Second, I had little idea of what to do. Third, something had to be done.

I got close to Josie, sprawled on the ice on my stomach, and reached toward him. With a fist I broke away some of the thinner ice between us, and he moved closer to me, and then I was able to grab his collar and maybe a leg or two, I don’t really know because in a flash he was out, running to shore, running all the way home. Once home and inside he was kind of wild, as a shovelnose terrier is likely to be, especially after a drenching, and it was all I could do to wrap him in a towel, rub him dry. Elliott was all agog, of course, thinking the whole thing a fantastic story.

My Boy Jo, Part Three: Shake It Off

What I have come to learn about shovelnose terriers is this: they are wholly able little dogs. They are loyal, brave, alert, strong, tenacious, adventurous, and, for the most part, quiet, that is, until something really important is happening. They are not very good swimmers, but, as with most things, they’ll give it a try. They are independent, accept help in a pinch, are sometimes like Velcro and can hardly be peeled off. They are known for eating everything from tangerines to avocados to popcorn. They are not the friendliest little dog—you must earn their devotion, most likely with the offering of several bits of cheese or baked chicken, and then, still, it may take a while. They quite often get the hiccups and will make a squeaky noise when yawning. Some say the shovelnose has magical voodoo powers, especially those of the northern climes, as they appear to be directly descended from the ancient terriers of the Outer Hebrides. Overall, this terrier is easy to clean, sporting both fur and hair, often in a comic combination, and they come in all colors, though the red-coated shovelnose is preferred. They are playful and funny as heck. If you are lucky enough to have one of your own, you are probably laughing every day. And if you don’t have one, but would like one, there’s only one place to go, and that’s the animal shelter. As I said, the shovelnose is rare, so if you do not find one, or, as is likely, get distracted by some other, well, I’m sure you’ll find some one or the other, maybe even one of your own rare breed, and then: lucky you.

But be warned, for as able as the shovelnose is, sometimes he will need a little backup, and he will probably be counting on you.

Does this shovelnose have any idea where he’s going?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

cold, change, mad russians, what if, what was, what is

A drop in temperature so I took pictures of the river every day for several days at about the same time from about the same spot.

Click the “i” to see date and temperature for each picture.

I had been thinking about change because of a passage I came across while reading Primo Levi.
If a man heads toward a fork in the road, and doesn’t take the one to the left, it’s obvious that he’ll take the one to the right; but our choices are almost never between two alternatives alone. Every choice is followed by others, all multiple, and so on into infinity; and, finally, our future also depends heavily on external factors, completely extraneous to our deliberate choices, and on internal factors, of which we are not aware. For these obvious reasons, we can’t know our own future or that of our neighbor; for the same reasons, no one can say what his past would have been “if.”
As I read this, I felt like telling Levi no, it’s not obvious that if a man heads toward a fork in the road and doesn’t take the right fork then he takes the left, because maybe he takes the spoon. And if not the spoon, the knife. You see what I mean: … our choices are almost never between two alternatives alone.

Then David Bowie died and I was hearing the song “Changes.”

As the temperature dropped, I was reminded how cold the cabin gets at about 10 degrees. It is nice, though, on the sofa in front of the woodstove, and it is nice in the loft, where the warmth gets trapped, and the kitchen can be OK if I have the oven going.

One day, in order to take our usual walk by the river, I stuffed Josie into a sweater and a double layer of socks held in place by rubber bands. In the snow, though, by the river, he lost all the socks but one.

Elliott’s prints on the upper deck, one not-so-cold morning.

I was procrastinating, so got a lot done, all those odds and ends, little things, and the desk, in the loft, swept clean. Then, out of the blue yonder, an email from a woman I do not know. Turns out I was hearing from the Heintzelman family, and there went my clean desk, buried under a flurry of orphan train story files and notes and 10,000 photos. The act, then, a day or two later, of getting all those pieces of the story into—finally—some kind of order, showed me the story, and it’s not so much the orphan train story anymore as the story of how my grandmother and her brother, in 1895, at ages 9 and 7, respectively, came to be on the train. They never talked about it, at least not to anyone I know, but nevertheless, a lot is known, and over the past several years a lot has been learned. Now I hope to learn more about a man named Israel White and more still about Lena Shapiro, my great-grandmother.

Nothing to do with anything.

All indications are, that back in Russia, Israel and Lena were known as Israel Solomayack and Hinda Saladuchow, two people married to other people, each with children. But, in Cincinnati, from about 1895 on, it seems they were known as Israel and Lena White, a husband and wife residing at 1529 Central Avenue. They had five children: Herman, born 1892 or thereabouts; Katherine, born 1895 or thereabouts; Jean, born 1899; Eugene, born 1901 or 1902; and Aaron, born 1904. They were a Jewish family, kept a Jewish household. Israel had a secondhand store and may also have worked as a paper hanger. Katherine married a man named Berman, and in 1939 they lived at 216 Rockdale Avenue, and in 1949 they lived at 939 Tennessee Avenue. In 1918, Jean married Eli Meitus and for a time they lived at 1617 Asmann. Aaron married a woman named Esther and worked for the Times-Star in the circulation department. Herman married Lillian Armstrong. He was a salesman and had two children, Rosalind Annette and Betty Jean. He drowned in the Ohio River in 1939. According to his obituary—which my grandmother kept in her Bible—Herman and his brother Eugene often fished together in the East End. At the time of his death, Herman lived at 345 Erkenbrecher Avenue.

Israel’s other family, the one believed to be left in Russia, included a wife (maybe ex-wife) and five children, and Lena had three other children: Ben, Daisy (my grandmother), and Joe. She left Ben in Russia with the children’s father and Daisy and Joe at an orphanage in New York City. The orphanage put Daisy and Joe on a train headed west in the hopes that they and the several other children on the train would be taken in, given homes by good Christian folk, and for Daisy and Joe, in Iowa, that is what happened. Daisy found a home with the Morrises and Joe found a home with the Heintzelmans. We know about Daisy and Joe and their Iowa families. We also know a little about Ben, the Russian brother, but only because he came to America in 1904 looking for his siblings. First, though, he found his mother. He raised such a ruckus over her new family that it made the paper, was in the Times-Star. And, funny thing—Israel’s ex-wife showed up about the same time and she raised such a ruckus it made the Cincinnati Enquirer. However, Ben, Daisy, and Joe did eventually get together in Cincinnati and this picture was taken.

So, maybe you see why I want to know more.

At times it has felt as if there’s this big crazy Russian Jewish family in Cincinnati that I am, or could have been, part of, except for the fact that some of the family got left behind. Maybe, even, at times, I wanted to be part of this big Russian family—imagine! A grandmother speaking Yiddish! At other times, though, I think it scared me.

What if.

But, too many what ifs. Now my interest is just in the story of these people, this time, these places, and in how things happened, how decisions piled up, how lives were lived, and how lives were lost. I would like to know what was. Because more and more I find that the only thing that makes sense in life is what is. This week, for the first time, I talked to a first cousin once removed, Joe’s granddaughter, and heard some great stories of my Great Uncle Joe, a man I never knew. In the photo above, he’s the one on the right.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

as 2016 continues: primo levi (reading) & the year of elliott (vomit & worms)

I may rue the day I made 2016 The Year of Elliot, but I will never rue the day I began reading Primo Levi. He and his Complete Works of … were my New Year’s Eve date, and I have yet to let him go. Below are just some of the things I’ve marked while reading. After that, you may want to stop reading, as I will be telling you about Elliott’s morning of vomit and worms. Don’t worry, you will be warned before we get there, which is more than I got. But, first: Primo Levi.
Sooner or later in life we all discover that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but few of us pause to consider the opposite: that so, too, is perfect unhappiness.
From “If This Is a Man”

We often went to question the engineer … but the engineer, who emerged like a lower-world god from his burning-hot cab, spread his arms, shrugged his shoulders, swept his hand in a semicircle from east to west, and answered every time, “Where are we going tomorrow? I don’t know, my dears, I don’t know. We’re going wherever we find tracks.”
From “The Truce”

We must therefore be distrustful of those who try to convince us using tools other than reason, or of charismatic leaders: we must be wary of delegating to others our judgment and our will.
From the Appendix to “If This Is a Man”

Dawn came upon us like a betrayal …
From “If This Is a Man”
Thank you, Primo Levi. Now:

Vomit & Worms Ahead

Except for the dead mouse by the door, the morning started like any other. The little stiff was just off to the side, on his back, front paws curled tight against his chest. The corpse gave me a start. I grabbed one of the leather gloves I use for handling firewood, put it on, picked up the critter by his tail, went out on the porch, flung him into the snow. I discovered later I’d thrown him about 20 feet, which I figured was pretty good for an old lady, but that’s neither here nor there for this story. And neither is the mouse, really, except for the fact that it was in that same spot, later, after breakfast, as I was about to put a couple of logs on the fire, that Elliott moaned, a low growl-like moan, an unearthly moan, a moan that I sometimes hear from Elliott when he is outside, about to devour a catch, and I think it is like a mealtime prayer—his outside, fresh-caught, mealtime prayer—but I’ve never heard this moan inside. I am startled. I look around. I see Elliott sitting, crouched low, right there where the mouse had been.

So, what, he’s mourning the mouse?

Now: Elliott’s body starts rippling, heaving, and I suddenly remember Elliott’s predecessor, Goldie, who vomited all the time, most routinely at 5 a.m., when he would roll off the bed, land with a thud on the floor, begin to heave, to retch, then, blah, vomit. Cats do this. They throw up. But Elliott; Elliott never vomits. At least not inside. Not that I ever see. But in this one split second it’s all coming together: Elliott is about to vomit.

I think I am going to move him outside, but, no, that is not going to work. At least, OK, now he is on the doormat, good, and then he erupts and out comes this massive amount of barely digested food and … OH MY GOD! WORMS! Long, white, skinny, writhing worms! This is so disgusting! And my mind is racing, and Josie is at my heels, just inches from the vomit and the worms, and his eyes are as big and black as those of a Keane painting, and Elliott is still hunkered down, still vomiting, two, maybe three more times. The last upchuck is just a spit of beige, so, phew, I think he’s done, but those WORMS are definitely NOT! They are moving and curling and waving and dancing and, OH MY GOD! I’ve got to do something about them worms!

I must have said something, spoken sternly, because Elliott ran upstairs and Josie backed up, then froze in place, stared at the worms while I got a plastic bag to scoop it all up and then another plastic bag, and then I threw the bags outside in the garbage, and then I put the mat in the tub and hosed it down, and all this in just a matter of seconds, or minutes, I don’t know, but that image of writhing worms … Forever.

I called the vet with the news, which was actually a news update because Elliott has been on antibiotics for a few weeks due to sneezing. It was just before Christmas that I rushed him to the vet one evening, having called just before closing, because Elliott had sneezed so hard he got a nosebleed, and he kept sneezing, and his nose was bleeding, and so blood was spraying all over, and there was blood all over this sheet he sleeps on, and all this seemed a little crazy to me, so we rushed to the vet, bloody sheet and all. By the time we got there, of course, Elliott was fine, no sneezing, no blood, and the vet was delighted I had brought the sheet along because he was able to scrape some blood from it and peer at it through a microscope. What he saw—thousands of something, I forget what—helped him to believe that antibiotics would do the trick. So it shouldn’t have surprised me, then, that the woman who answered the phone at the vet’s office on Vomit Morning was happy to hear that sure, I could bring in the vomit and the worms so the doc could take a proper look-see, and, for a while, that’s what I thought I would do, drop off the vomit and worms, which is why I was driving around that morning with a sackful of cat vomit and worms. But, as it ended up, I decided to forgo the vomit analysis and just picked up some dewormer, which was applied to Elliott later that day, and I also got another round of antibiotics, as Elliott is still sneezing, but it’s possible the worms were exacerbating the sneezing situation, so, now, with the worms eliminated (I hope) and the ongoing antibiotics, Elliott should be okay.

But here’s the thing: throughout all this Elliott has seemed absolutely fine. I mean, he hasn’t been moping around. He hasn’t been whining. He hasn’t been refusing to eat. His coat is sleek and he seems as plump and self-content as ever. I guess, as the woman at the vet’s office said: Cats hide it really well. Yes, I see. They hide it until they sneeze blood all over you and barf up worms.

Anyway, Elliott has seemed perkier the past few days. He wants to play with Josie, baits him by hiding around corners, darting out, racing up and down the stairs. Josie is at times excited by this, at times cowed, which may have something to do with Elliott’s claws. No blood, but once in a while Josie yelps, comes running to me, and then Elliott is puffed up, full of himself, I suppose, or full of something, anyway.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

resolved: it’s the year of elliott, slideshows, mystery, art, the same old silliness, plus: my new year’s date

It’s a new year. Resolutions have been made. Elliott has resolved to get more attention. We proclaim 2016 The Year of Elliott. We present his first composition, in 3-second slide.

Josie has resolved to pursue more mysteries, to follow more trails, to let nobody steal his thunder. Together, Josie and I resolved to seek out and ponder more art. We immediately went to the Riverside Art Gallery. There we found works by I. Sing Waters and caught a glimpse of S’No E. Butt, that famed North Woods explorer .

The river has resolved, of course, as always, to go with the flow.

And I have resolved to step aside, to let life happen, and, to the best of my ability, share stuff with you. Such as this: I had a date for New Year’s Eve that I hoped would last long into the night, and it actually started New Year’s Eve day, and, understandably, I was excited. It was, in essence, a blind date, despite having been introduced briefly, by a trusted source, a few months ago. And it was just one of those things. I felt a connection, I felt this thing, and I felt: this is right. I was willing to take a chance. So I forged ahead blindly, spent some money—bought something I never would have otherwise bought—and set the stage for a possibly wondrous New Year’s Eve day, eve, and night. So here it is, nine o’clock New Year’s Eve morning, the fire is hot, the sofa cover smooth, the pillows plumped, the blanket just right; on one small side table I’ve placed a dictionary, a notebook, a pen, and a pencil; on another small side table I've situated a cup of tea, a plate of ginger snaps, two tangerines, and some tissues. I hold in my hands my brand new copy of The Complete Works of Primo Levi, Volume I, and I sigh. I get under the blanket, begin to read. I mark many passages, lose my pencil for a while, find it later in a fold of the sofa cover (I have been lying on it), and mark many more passages.
But where we are going we do not know. Perhaps we will be able to survive the illnesses and escape the selections, perhaps even endure the work and hunger that wear us down—and then? Here, momentarily far away from the curses and the beatings, we can reenter into ourselves and meditate, and then it becomes clear that we will not return. We traveled here in sealed freight cars; we saw our women and our children depart toward nothingness; we, made slaves, have marched countless times to and from our silent labor, dead in spirit long before our anonymous death. No one must leave here who might carry to the world, together with the mark stamped in his flesh, the evil tidings of what man’s audacity made of man in Auschwitz. (Page 52, “If This Is a Man,” The Complete Works of Primo Levi.)
So I resolved to thank God (or whomever, whatever) for those who survive, for those who are saved, for writers like Levi, and for translators and editors and publishers and printers and proofreaders, the whole lot, the reviewers, the sellers—all who endeavor to bring story to light.

But I’ve made no resolution about commas. Except, perhaps, to use more, more often. They give one pause.