Civilization and Its Contents
Visited New York City twice this summer, both times for work, though one (the more fun one) was only marginally work-related. Splurged on a gorgeous hand-sewn retro-ish shirt at D.L. Cerney in the East Village. The stuff there is really the work of artists. I can't wait to go back. One of the owners is Linda St. John, a very friendly woman who is also a fine artist and the author of the memoir Even Dogs Go Home to Die, which I have not read yet but mean to. We've had nice chats on both occasions I've been in the store, though she's given to surprisingly kooky comments such as "I don't follow politics -- why do people hate George Bush so much?" She seemed to be genuinely clueless about that particular point. But I've also heard her read from her work, and she's a serious, talented writer. The shirts she sells (some of which I believe she makes, along with other apparel, including for women) are both subtly and out-of-this-world beautiful, if that's possible.
Heard one of my favorite writers, David Rakoff, read at the DC Jewish Community Center. This was before his new book of essays, Don't Get Too Comfortable, came out this fall. I've since read it, and it may be even better than his first book, Fraud. At the JCC, he read an essay from the newer book about his ambivalent decision to become an American citizen (he's Canadian by birth). In it is a phenomenal passage containing yet another appallingly insensitive quote from former First Lady Barbara Bush. What he does with it -- and her -- is hilarious and outrageous and moving all at once.
Memorable musical moments: The brilliant and warm singer-songwriter Patty Griffin at the 9:30 Club -- her exuberant encore cover of "Tears of a Clown" particularly lingers. A Grand Ole Opry evening at Wolf Trap featured a too-short appearance by the great country singer Patty Loveless but was most notable for introducing me to the neo-old-timey string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Should have known about them long ago. Especially love "Wagon Wheel," an adaptation, with additional lyrics, of a Bob Dylan song. And I had a nice birthday present of seeing the Proclaimers at the Birchmere. If you think this might have been a reunion tour by a duo that has done little of note in 15 years (having fallen out of touch with them, I almost expected that myself), think again. They were fantastic.
Could go on and on. I made a good new friend (he knows who he is), enjoyed pleasant times with older friends and family (they know who they are), appreciated every moment in my home, and at this time of year am once again reminded of a Sigmund Freud quote I first encountered 25 years ago, the opening words of Civilization and Its Discontents:
"It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement -- that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life."
Happy New Year.