Showing posts from May, 2019

An Extraordinary Painting

   Here is a painting that has fascinated me for years. Young Virgin Spanking the Infant Jesus In Front of Three Witnesses  by Max Ernst, 1891-1976  I first saw this at the Museum of Modern Art—I think it was a show about surrealism but I can’t find it on MOMA’s website.  It’s a shocking painting, almost six feet tall as I remember it.  Mary is sitting in a shadowy corner of a de Chirico like space before a bright blue sky,  spanking the heck out of the toddler Jesus—so hard his little bottom is bright red and his halo has fallen to the ground.  It’s a violent image—all sharp angles and brilliant colors.  She wears a  red dress and her lap is covered with a blue robe. Her arm is high over her head—she’s really letting him have it. And she’s doing it in front of witnesses; there’s a window through which Ernst and his friends, Paul Elard and Andre Breton are watching. Why are they there? Their presence is creepy and voyeuristic.     It knocked me out and ra

I Love My Neighborhood

I love my neighborhood, the Far West Village. In our early days here a visitor said, “Wow, you live in the Boonies.” We moved into our home in 1981. It was only two blocks from where we had lived but Washington Street was a line of demarcation between the brownstones of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the factories and garages of our new block. It was remote and industrial but the building had an elevator and we were expecting our second child—who turned out to be Sam.    I’d had it with lugging toddler Jessie, the stroller, and the groceries to our third-floor walk-up.    In those days, Skippy peanut butter came in glass jars, and I was mortified that Jessie repeated what I said when I dropped an extra large jar and it smashed. Our new block stood between two elevated roadways. To get to our place you walked under the    viaduct line of the NY Central Railroad, dodging what the pigeons roosting there dropped on the street. It was now disused but left alone because

Today is My Mother's Birthday

Today is my mother’s birthday.    She would have been ninety-two.    I can’t picture her as an old lady; she was vigorous up until the day she collapsed on the golf course.    I’m pretty sure that’s the way she wanted it.  I was born on her twenty-first birthday.    I once, looking for some love, asked her, “What was the best birthday present you ever got?”    I thought she’s say, “My darling baby girl.” She replied, “I guess it was the blue bike I got when I was eight.” “Hey, what about me?” “Oh, right.    Well, you were nice too.”    Fishing for compliments never pays off.  It was nice sharing a birthday with Mom. She was energetic and creative and I’d always have a great party.    Then Dad would do something nice for her.    The year I turned nine and she turned thirty I had the first slumber party of all my friends, and the next night Mom and Dad went into the city to have dinner and see The Music Man.    They brought home the cast album and I can still sing every s

It's Almost Mother's Day

Sometimes the universe, via the grapevine, the internet, the New York Times or the Bible sends me a message that I can’t ignore. This verse, which I had never heard before, is one of those.    I    found it in a hymnal. It's from Paul's second letter to Timothy, chapter 1, verse 5. “I am reminded of your sincere faith that lived first in your grandmother and your mother and now lives in you. I remind you to rekindle this gift of God for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline.” I thought of my grandmother, Louise Russell, and her daughter in law, Ginny Brown, my mother.    MomMom and Mom. They both married into the Swanson family and both answered to the name Mrs. Robert S. Swanson. Mom married Dad at nineteen.    On her first Christmas visit to her new family she got into a pillow fight with her husband, his little sister and three brothers.    MomMom stormed into the room to quiet them down, saying, “Now that’s en

Theology in the Air

“Barbara--that woman across the aisle from you--she’s crazy,” said    Arthur. We were on a plane headed to Paris. The flight would continue on to Tel Aviv and we were surrounded by Orthodox Jews and a church group from the mid-west. I really didn’t want to hear about a crazy person. I looked.    She seemed perfectly ordinary—a fresh faced woman in her thirties, attractive in an open, friendly, way. “Why do you say that?” “She’s reading the Bible.” “Arthur, that doesn’t make her crazy.” “She’s wearing a jumpsuit.” Still no red flags for me, but I started paying attention. \When the stewards came around to offer us lunch the woman next to our neighbor requested a Kosher meal. Our neighbor said, “You’re ordering Kosher?     May I ask, exactly what does that mean?” The Orthodox woman said, “We observe certain ways of preparing food, especially meat, and we keep meat and dairy separate.” “Well, that’s just fascinating. How do you know all that?” “It’s written in our