Despite What Social Media May Tell You, You Are Not About To Make A Horrible Faux Pas And Ruin Your Life Forever

What if you make a mistake, a big mistake? About parenting, religion, art, politics? What if you are inadvertently rude or just plain wrong? Politically incorrect? Socially inept? Your condolence call, your comment, your thoughts and prayers, your actions, your casserole–wrong wrong wrong. Are you about to become a friendless pariah? No.
Full disclosure: I like advice. I like giving it and I like getting it. My Eno card for the day was “Take Advice.” I felt all warm and happy. But whose advice?
My social media seems to be full of advice, but not particularly nuanced or personal. I’m plagued by the belief that there is perfect information out there–that experts know SOMETHING and I should too. But, I’m starting to have to admit, this may be fruitless.
Social media seems to include social control. Shaming. Conforming. It’s no different than a little village, a stetl. Exile means death–at least death of the social self. I hope some anthropologists are studying this.
So–here’s my advice. It is very unlikely that there is only one way to do something, whether it is clean a sink or be a friend. You are better off doing things your way than some abstract way. I’m responding to an article where the author berated herself for, gasp, sharing her own experience during a condolence call. It didn’t work well, and the author swore off narcissistic self-disclosure forever–encouraging readers to do the same. However, when I was a bereaved young widow I loved other peoples’ confessions and experiences. So sorry, one size does not fit all.
We are going to make social mistakes. My biggest–at a party many decades ago I asked an acquaintance about their family, as a form of small talk. “They are all dead,” was the response. Well, I wanted the earth to swallow me. But did I swear off inquiry or small talk? No, I did not. I eventually realized, too, that that person’s response was not the most gracious, as it punished the ignorance of a well meaning stranger.
Social media can function as a village in a negative way. It can try to enforce norms–maybe norms you never signed up for. To engage with others is to take a chance, to suffer at times, but I hope, worth it in the long run. Otherwise, contemporary life is no different than The Pale my grandparents ran from.

Letter From Nepal by Michael G. Smith

Currently I am in Kathmandu, Nepal doing volunteer work at an orphanage and a school. I do this work every year or two. To escape the city grime and dust, I recently took a bus to the lakeside city Pokhara for several days. Pokhara is the gateway to the famous Annupurna Circuit trek. While there, I returned to Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Settlement, one of three in the area. Three years ago I bought a beaded bracelet from one the settlement’s vendors, Yangchen Dolma, and wanted to visit her shop again. Greeting me warmly when I walked in, she saw that my bracelet was frayed and offered to re-string it. He son, Tenzin Kelsang, helped her. As we chatted, I enjoyed the cup of black tea and a piece of Tibetan bread they gave me. I bought several more bracelets. A repeat customer, bartering was unnecessary. When I left Yangchen’s shop, I stopped at three more vendors, all of whom we anxious to barter and sell me something. Of course, I paid more than was necessary, but that was fine with me. Part of the joy of visiting places like Tashiling, is knowing we can contribute in small ways. On my way back to the local city bus I stopped at the Potala Restaurant, and sat outside under tarps. As all Buddhists know, the Potola was the Dalai Lama’s residence in Tibet. A small notice on the wall said the restaurant would be closed on Wednesday for the Dalai Lama’s birthday. This Wednesday? Every Wednesday? I didn’t ask, and instead savored a lunch of noodle and vegetable soup, called thukpa in Tibetan, and two cups of traditional Nepali milk tea – black tea, spices and milk.



resettlement camp

restoring my frayed bracelet

winter sun warm

You Were Born A Woman Not A Slave

There is a light dusting of snow. I’ve been sick for a nasty week, and I’m feeling better. Let’s just say the meds were right for the parasites. Strangely enough, I’d spent a week of the autumn looking at the microscopic world with Art Loves Science in Canada. I felt sympathy and admiration for what I saw. Not currently. Die fuckers, I mumbled as I popped the pills.
I’m not good at being sick. No one is, but I think I’m particularly bad. My history of a near death experience causes me to tank immediately. This is IT, I tell myself. Good-bye. But maybe I can’t just blame it on my NDE. I tend to think the same thing if I fight with my husband or if I get lost in a foreign country or if someone doesn’t show up. IT. And IT is not good.
Laura Nyro is singing to me, as she has for so many decades. Little girl of all the daughters, you were born a woman not a slave. That got my attention when I was a teenager. The rest of those lyrics are fairy dumb, so let’s skip over them. Did I take Nyro’s words to heart? I tried to, but I failed.
In a recent deconstruction of someone else’s relationship I had that gloomy doomed feeling about women. So often we are slaves, at least the women of my generation. I went from fighting it to accepting it to fighting it to being happy that I’m as un-shackled as I am. It’s not perfect, but it will do.
And I think about my grandchild who will be born, God willing, this spring. And what kind of person this child will be.

Intermediate Creative Writing Poetry: On-Line with Miriam Sagan

Ghazals, imitations, the blues, and more.

This is an affordable 15 week class (a lot of bang for the buck!).

You can take it from anywhere (in your pajamas).

No textbook–you’ll do your own course of reading.

LOTS of personal attention and feedback–with an assignment every week.Also peer review and discussion forums to feel connected to your peers.

To register: https://www.sfcc.edu/

If you have any problems with pre-requistes etc. (you already have a B.A. etc.) I can get an override and register you. miriam.sagan@sfcc.edu

How To Be An Artist–from Jerry Saltz

Lesson 18: All Art Is Identity Art!
This is because it is made by somebody.
And don’t worry about being “political” enough: Kazimir Malevich painted squares during World War I; Mark Rothko made fuzzy squares during World War II; Agnes Martin drew grids on canvas during the Vietnam War. All art is a confession, more or less oblique.
Artists who claim that art is supposed to be good for us need also to see that there are as many ways of art being “good for us” as there are works of art.
https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/jerry-saltz-how-to-be-an-artist.html

I love all the advice–check it out.

Streets of NOLA, photo by Rich Feldman. He asked if he could take a pic and they said yes, but please harsh tag: #antifa