Totem Pole Park, Foyil, OK

From the federal government Route 66 website “Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is the oldest and largest example of a folk art environment in Oklahoma; its construction lasting from 1937 to 1961. Totem Pole Park contains the original, highly decorated creations of Galloway, one of Oklahoma’s premier folk artists and significant in the “visionary art” movement. The park is located just 3.5 miles off the Mother Road. All of the art objects are made of stone or concrete, reinforced with steel rebar and wood.”

Photographs by Richard Feldman–views on a rainy day earlier this month–

Bubbe Report: Sleepless at the Sleepover

It is bedtime, at my house. Ms. G. aged 2 years and 2 months is sleeping over because her parents have requested a night off. We always have fun, but now the struggle begins.

“My dad is coming,” she says. She’s getting very good at stringing words together. She looks out the window. “Dad,” she says, but perhaps with more hope than certainty. Still, it is heartbreaking. Even I, who know he is out to dinner with G’s mom, am thinking—where the heck is he?

We’ve played and eaten and bathed and danced along with Big Bird and read. Now at dusk, grandpa Rich announces he is going for a walk. “Go for walk!” she suggests to me. But I’m now the evil witch, and I insist on bed. A bit of sobbing, a bit of thrashing, collecting Bitty Binkie the Blankie and Tygger and the two favorite baby dolls, and soon snoring. I lie down next to her—I’ve promised. And besides, I’m exhausted.

In the middle of the night we wake up, stagger to the bathroom, and then a bit more sobbing, “Read! Book book book!” “Ok,” I say. “I’ll read Little Bear. Shut your eyes.” Of course I can’t read in the dark, but I’ve got Little Bear memorized. More snoring. But now I’m wide awake.
I’m old, I’m tired, I feel bad that not every minute is perfect. What is she learning? That you have to compromise with others? That sometimes our chosen person isn’t there? That her grandmother is slavishly devoted but still can’t indulge every whim?

By morning, all seems forgiven. Breakfast, and by 7:30 am main man dad is back. “Your dad is here!” I say. But she bolts into my lap, buries her face in me, holds tight. Only when he opens the door does she rush towards him, wreathed in rewarding smiles.

And off they go. What is unfamiliar to me in her—her sunny good nature, a love of heavy machinery—comes from him, my son-in-law. She is familiar to both of us, but in different ways. Last night as she kicked my back in her sleep and edged me off the bed she reminded me a lot of her mother as a babe.

Does she remind me of myself at two? Well, that I can’t remember.
“Grandpop walk,” she tells her dad as she reports. That is what she retains. A missed adventure, something intriguing, something she is sure to get.

H’America: Poem by Miriam Sagan

in the Alibaba
gyros joint
in the Tulsa, Oklahoma
strip mall
we’re all
watching Manchester
play soccer
in Spanish
in the rain, and wondering
about some private concerns
that can’t be seen
even by the waitress
with her suddenly
beautiful smile

“It’s H’America,”my dad used to say
making his fake Yiddish joke
self-deprecating, as is the custom
of the Russian Jews everywhere,
we who can’t really
forget or forgive
our pasts
or even
properly remember.

Vikings in Oklahoma?

Alas, no. This so called Viking rune seems to be a forgery–either on purpose or by happenstance. But we enjoyed going to find it in a green leafy glen near Heavener, OK.

A fellow visitor opined that maybe they came up the Arkansas River. Much as I like the image of dragon prows in that part of the world, it just isn’t true. There is no evidence of Vikings south of Newfoundland in North America. And the Vikings really didn’t tend to leave runes, not even in Iceland or Greenland.

Still, one can imagine.

In Which Someone Sees Me For Who I Am–Miriam Sagan

The Oklahoma City farmer’s market is a bit raucous compared to Santa Fe’s. That is, folks hawk their samples–taste this cheesecake! Try some sauce!

A tall gentleman with an American flag motif pull up mask offered me some bar-b-que spices and then startled me by asking: “Are you Jesse James?”

For fourteen months I’ve been wearing my bandanas–purple, pink, black–instead of a conventional mask somewhat to the disgust of my cohort who find it informal, perhaps not efficient. But I like my bandana. Instead of making me feel like I’m in a medical setting, I tell myself I just might hold up a bank and I hum a few lines of “Pretty Boy Floyd.” (Oklahoma knew him well…).

“No,” I told the guy.” I’m Jesse James’ grandma,” I said.

He laughed. “Amazing what a gene pool can do,” he batted back.

A witty friendly guy. How I’ve missed this kind of interaction with strangers. The vaccine has given it back.

And finally, someone saw me for who I am, with my bandana. I’m an outlaw, a free spirit, but a conscientious one. I’m practical–the bandana has other uses. I’m colorful–it might even clash.

And I’m glad to be here.

Breaking Up with Andrew Cuomo by Conchita De Luto

Breaking Up with Andrew Cuomo
Conchita De Luto

I must confess that as COVID-19 accelerated my aging process and sank me into a deep state of funk that the experts at the New York Times now call “languishing,” I developed a mad crush on Andrew Cuomo.

For several months, my sister even referred to him as “your boyfriend.”

My partner, understood that I was polyamorous only in my heart and went along with it, enabling my schoolgirl crush by calling out every morning at 9:30 PST, “Andrew Cuomo is on!”
I would then scamper out of my Zoom infested office in my old man pajamas, grab a cup of coffee and sit on the edge of my coffee table, in front of the TV, hanging on his every word.

“What a man!” I whispered to my mug of coffee.
“Isn’t he great?” I asked my partner who shall remain nameless.
“Better than an orangutan.” Said Man-of-Few-Words.
When Cuomo’s “address to the nation,” was over, I felt buoyant with optimism and I would call my sister who would have more to say than “better than an orangutan.”
“Isn’t he great?”
“Andrew Cuomo.”
“Yeah, it feels good to have someone make sense out of this horrible mess,” she would agree.
But then I couldn’t help myself, “He is the perfect combination of the stereotypical tough guy and the kind father you never had.”
“My dad was never unkind.”
“I mean father as the universal father, you know, the one we, none of us, ever had.”
“Like the epitome of masculinity. Like a benevolent macho.”
“Sure,” she said. “Your boyfriend makes a lot of sense and we need that right now.”
Not getting what I needed from my sister, I turned to Siri.
“Siri, is Andrew Cuomo single?”
“What does Andrew Cuomo do in his spare time?”

I found out several interesting facts about Andrew Cuomo.
***He was once married to a Kennedy. Did you know that?
***He adores his mother.
***He cooks spaghetti for his adult daughters on Sunday! Imagine that!

Honestly, I visualized Trump raping a woman in a Bergdorf Goodman’s dressing room while Cuomo stirred bubbling tomato sauce with a giant wooden spoon on a Sunday afternoon in New York.
That did it. It was as clear as crystal, that I was head over heels in love with Andrew Cuomo and he didn’t even know I existed. It was not unlike what happened with Ralph Woodhouse in high school.
Then the story broke. First came the young, overly thin woman wearing a bare- backed dress at a wedding. Why of course, she felt his clammy hand on her back! What choice might he have had?
Slobbery kiss?
Did he drink too much? That can happen at weddings.
When the second story broke, I called my friend Ersi, “So do you think he ruined this young woman’s sex life?”
“Well, that’s what I heard. Apparently, when he asked if she would consider having sex with an older man, she was so creeped out she never wanted to have sex again.”
“That bad?”
“Yeah, made me think of what happened to me at my cousin Cristi’s quinceañera.”
“Yeah, my tío Victor was drunk, as usual, and I was wearing a halter dress. Remember those? He put his sweaty meaty hand on my back and pushed his hot tequila marinated lips on mine like a stinky suction cup.”
“Gross, Ersi. You never told me this.”
“Well, it was a long time ago, and it never stopped me from having sex.”
“Lucky for you.”
“No shit.”
“Okay, but should I break up with him?”
“Yeah, you need to break up with him, Conchita.”
I gave this matter serious thought.
And then the realization hit me hard. I was a feminist, and I couldn’t have this. I wrote him a little note:

Dear Andrew,
My heart is broken. I thought you were my hero, and it turns out you’re not. It turns out you’re just as creepy as all your other smarmy baby boomer has-been alpha male compadres trying to hang on to the old-world ways of treating women. I don’t hate you but I’m mad.
May you be forgiven,

Later that week, I read my letter to Ersi.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Just my luck, right?”
“Yeah, you didn’t have a lot of boyfriends but most of them were bad.”
“Thanks,” I said.
Ersi, though was not ready to let it go at that. “Now the real question is, should he be removed from office?”
“Fuck no.”
She laughed. “You still love him!”
I laughed. “Touché!”
“So, he shouldn’t resign?”
“Not on your life. One thing is for him to be a creepy asshole, taking unfair advantage of young innocent women, and another is for him to resign. If he resigns or is removed from office for this, we will tip the scale so much politically that only Republicans get to be creepy assholes, and not just for sexually harassing and in some cases sexually assaulting women, but also, for fomenting racism and running our country into the ground. And that just wouldn’t be fair.”
“In other words, we need our fair share of assholes?”

Reconciliation Park

The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa, OK was not what I had expected. It commemorates the Tulsa Race Massacre, a tragic and violent part of American history. But although the destruction and burning of an African-American neighborhood and community–with attendant murder–by a white lynch mob is certainly not underplayed it is not the only focus.

I am used to Holocaust museums, Civil War memorials, Maya Lin’s Vietnam wall, and more. These are places of grief and mourning. Reconciliation Park, named for the famous historian whose family was impacted by the massacre is more than that. Its name says it all. Not something easy, or washed over, but real. The possibility of reconciliation.

It is a beautiful urban park, surrounded by downtown high rises and currently lots of construction. We were there early on a cloudy morning, with rain coming in. It brings tears to my eyes just to remember.