Thursday, June 25, 2009


I found my talisman today. (In bed last night, I realized that my previous blog post had talked repeatedly about "talismanic object," which is a phrase I'd immediately strike out on a student paper and replace with "talisman." I'm surprised Gary didn't call me on that!) Anyhow, Val and I went into one of her favorite shops in Northampton, which I'd somehow missed on my shopping expedition the other day, and I told them what I was looking for, and the owner immediately pulled a glass-and-wood sculpture out from underneath a shelf and said, "Here you go." She'd nailed it; it was exactly what I'd been looking for. (And yes, I'll post a photo when TSWP goes public.)

The owner said they'd had it in the shop for a while -- it was dusty -- and although it had originally been $170, she sold it to me for $65 plus tax, and even threw in free shipping to Reno. It was obviously waiting for me. Gary's taking it as a sign that TSWP was fated. We'll see if other people agree.

We also got my travel arrangements made for tomorrow. I'd thought (silly person!) that getting from Amherst to Logan Airport would be easy, given the sheer density of colleges around here, but not so. Turns out most of the students use Hartford Airport. From here to Logan, I'd have to take two busses, pay $205 for an airport shuttle (!), or do a bizarre bus-and-two-subways combo. And the knee's not great, and I have lots of luggage.

So what we've worked out is that I'll take one bus to Boston. My cousin Steve's wife Barbara will pick me up at the station, and the three of us (maybe their older boy, too? I think the younger's at camp) will have dinner and go to the Museum of Fine Arts, which is open late tomorrow, and then they'll take me to the hotel. On Saturday, I'll check out and they'll pick me up and put all my luggage in the car, and we'll go do something, and then they'll drop me at the airport for my 3:00 flight.

I'm really grateful that they're willing to do all this schlepping; it makes my life much easier! And I can't wait to see them. They moved to Singapore a year ago, but are back in Boston for their younger son's Bar Mitzvah (which I couldn't attend because it was last weekend, when I was at the Narrative Medicine workshop). I doubt I'll be getting to Singapore anytime soon, and who knows when they'll get back here, so the fact that we're all in this vicinity at the same time is a blessing.

Speaking of Bar Mitzvahs, today Val and Bruce and I went to the National Yiddish Book Center, dedicated to saving the Yiddish language. It started when a graduate student working on Yiddish put out a personal ad asking for Yiddish-language books and found himself besieged, largely by elderly people whose children and grandchildren weren't interested in the books, and who wanted to find safe homes for them. We watched a video where he tells the story of his first collecting trip. An old man had contacted him and said, "I have all these books, but I can't travel. Can you come to me?" So he did, and found the man in an apartment containing a bed, a table, and almost nothing else but books. The man insisted on telling the story of each book as he handed it over, and when they were done, he said, "Now we can go to my neighbors' apartments. They all have books for you, too." The old man lived in a twelve-story building, and every resident had books in Yiddish, and all of them insisted on telling the collector about each book as they handed it over to him. Many of them were crying.

There's also a small collection of objects found in the books: coins, pressed flowers and butterflies, a letter from Albert Einstein.

Amazing place.

Val and Bruce have started work on dinner, so I should go over to help them, and/or work on TSWP. I got a paragraph done today, which is better than nothing!

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid whenever my grandparents wanted to keep a secret from me when I was about they would speak to each other in Yiddish.

    One of my great regrets is not ever properly learning the language except for some choice obscenities (of which Yiddish has a plethora). I can speak passable Hebrew from my time in Israel but it's not the same thing.

    If you're interested I've got a recording of Mandy Patinkin singing "Take me out to the ball game" and "God Bless America" in Yiddish. :)


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