Saturday, April 5, 2014

Occupy… and Defuse Capitalism's Handmaidens

I wrote this article for Csaba Polony's publication, Left Curve, No. 36, 2012 issue.
Occupy… and Defuse Capitalism's Handmaidens 

In 2011, I wrote, "The same ground you walk on, we do too" for Left Curve, No. 35. Download and read it. 

In 2014, after 30 years of publications, Left Curve will print its last issue, No. 38. Order it from Left Curve website, also the archive.

This journal was unique in that it published articles, poems, art and ideas that our culture tends to marginalize as not mainstream enough.  For example, this was one of the few print publications where writers critical of Israel's policies and brutality against the Palestinians (and others who highlighted them) were published.
Csaba Polony's passing is a blow to his family and friends...and also signifies the end of an era. Where else might such ideas and the product of such ideas arise?

A Friend Passes

Csaba Polony, friend, editor and publisher of "Left Curve" journal, and core to San Francisco's North Beach literary crowd and Spec's bar, died mid-March, 2014.
He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in mid-January; 8 weeks later he was gone.
As I write this, it is early April and I'm still "processing" the speed with which my friend left us.
In early December, he reported he was able to sleep even less than usual. I shared a sleeping pill; it didn't help - he said it made him fuzzy the next day.
At his usual winter solstice party, before Christmas, he was his normal party self: a quiet host ensuring his many guests had food - lots of it, including his signature Hungarian goulash - wine, and music. The "usual suspects" sat outside the apartment smoking, talking, sharing poetry, singing, and playing music; inside - the no smoking zone - we ate, drank, talked, and danced. Those of us who frequently contributed articles to Csaba's annual journal, Left Curve, looked forward to another issue. It was, as usual, due out in late April with a publishing party at City Lights in North Beach; after that, those of us who could, crossed Columbus Ave and gathered in Spec's for a drink and more talk.
This year, cancer intervened.
At the first medical visit, Csaba's doc said the preliminary examination indicated an ulcer...or cancer. Then next examine revealed cancer - advanced.
I volunteered to help produce this year's issue of Left Curve. Csaba, meanwhile, worked as hard and as fast on the issue as he could while he could. When he and I talked about it, he'd download as much info as he could to me ...then fatigue would overtake him.
He began chemo. I introduced him to someone who had beaten stage 4 cancer and, 3 years later, was still in remission. We all took heart from this miracle man.
Chemo knocked Csaba sideways.
And chemo is, well, dreadful. I learned, for example, that the person administering the chemo dose must wear gloves; the chemo pill may not touch the skin of a healthy person. (Yet we dose a person already weakened by cancer with this chemical?)
After a week of chemo, Csaba - and his family - elected to forgo that treatment.
Ten days later our friend was dead.
I said goodbye to Csaba about a week before he succumbed. I thanked him for being my friend, for being the one person I knew who understood, and could talk about with honesty and intelligence, the actual experience of being an immigrant to the US.
Csaba was a child of war. His family fled Budapest for the US when he was four. When he was five, his family set up a home in Ohio.
His memorial at the Emerald Tablet in North Beach showed photos of the young Csaba, a lovely lad with white blonde hair.
It would be hard to find someone less likely than Csaba to remain in Ohio and, after college, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and attended SFSU and earned a Masters in Fine Arts.
I knew Csaba for 14 years and, each of those years, he traveled back to Budapest during the summer for at least one month.
While I knew my friend never forgot his homeland, it was only when I worked on the production of the last issue of Left Curve, that I discovered how deep was his attachment. More than that, he considered himself far more of an European/Eastern European than an American. Indeed, cultural dislocation was one of the elements that bound us as friends. Our views of our adopted culture were similar and, instinctively, we talked to one another from the point of view of travelers in an alien land, populated with ideas alien to our own - even as our own ideas were our adopted culture. Interestingly, Csaba was a city boy from an historical European city; I am a country girl from an authoritarian British colony yet our views of American culture and society were congruent.
How true that one can take the boy (girl) out of Hungary (South Africa) but one cannot take Hungary (South Africa) out of the boy (girl).
One goodbye story stands out.
Accomplished poet Jack Hirschman and Csaba were friends for at least 40 years. In the last couple of years there had been a period of ...estrangement?... between the two; not uncommon for good friends who are also strong characters. When Csaba was diagnosed, Jack came down with a cold then pneumonia...and, around about the time Csaba was using, then forgoing, chemo treatments, Jack ended up in the ICU for a week. About a week before Csaba died, Jack's wife, a wonderful woman and great poet, Aggie Falk brought Jack and his oxygen tank to Csaba's house, then helped Jack up the steep stairwell and to his friend's bedside. Then Jack, as only Jack could do, paid tribute to his friend and their friendship: he sang. I was not there - alas - but among the songs I heard Jack sang to Csaba, who was semi-conscious and holding Jack's hand, was "Sonny boy."
I cannot think of a more apt, moving, and perfect way to say goodbye to one's friend.
Here's a picture of the friends, Csaba Polony, foreground, and Jack Hirschman, taken on my cell phone, in Spec's in 2013.

Left Curve, No. 38, will publish in June. After 30 years, this will be the last issue.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Myriad Faces of... Facebook

There is a lot to say about Facebook. Yes, it is a sign of our times; it can be a time sink; yes, it has Zuckman - what more can be said about Zuckerman? yes, too, Facebook has got more than its share of not-too-smart people trolling around; then again, it has some very cute pictures of cats...and other critters.
And, yes, it has a good number of PC people trying to keep the rest of us in line.

Here's an example:

Here's a sample of what followed:
Now, these days - after going through several iterations of pro- and con-Facebook - my Facebook persona tends towards, first, see if any more pix of my grand kids have been added; if there have, I hover over them, laugh, enjoy, write a comment or two.  This is the Number 1 Best Use of Facebook.

After that, since I'm also attracted by pictures, and if I have the time, I scan recent  pictorial additions. Now and again, and if necessary, I chime in with something.
In the above case of "he's not your dad", etc, I chimed in with:
"C'mon all y'all ... the joke here is that it is SO EASY to divert the issue. Take one serious issue - surveillance - and shove it aside with what is known as "shock doctrine"! The kid - or whoever is the recipient of the shock - is so blown away by the new revelation that the old revelation is minor in comparison. Now that is smart ideology at work!"
Now it is also true that any one person is in the particular "life phase" that s/he is in...and, try as one might, it is difficult to break out, really break out, of that phase (sure, one can pose as in "be a poseur" but, why bother?)
So, if you are a PCing PC'er, be the best PCing PC-er you can be. By all means, correct the folks who find stuff funny that you think is serious and that you think everyone else should find serious too. But, try to do it with the understanding that, one day, you, too, might pass out of the PC phase and find others still in the PC phase to be tedious, humorless, and annoying. Yes, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll be happy you passed out of the PC phase but try look back with compassion, understanding, patience, and, yes, lots of humor and a good dose of chagrin too.

Another thing that might happen after you pass out of the PC phase is that your thinking becomes more nuanced and less rigid; you may find wider understanding of the complexities around you and also deeper enjoyment of life and its oh-so-many-wonderful-possibilities.
Just like the Men's Warehouse, I guarantee it!

One year later...

Yikes! It has been more than a year since my last entry here. So much has changed/so much has stayed the same.
I wonder...should I draw a heavy line to separate this post from the last one, February 19, 2013?

Yes. Let me do that and then begin, again, for April 1, 2014.