Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Elephant in Our (History) Room

July 25, 2014

Maybe the only way history becomes meaningful to anyone is when it illuminates your own experience, and vice versa. As a white person who was around for the Civil Rights Movement and played a very small role in it, I thought I understood something about the realities of our bloody history.

There was, of course, the one great peaceful moment: the 1963 March on Washington. I rode down from Boston overnight in the vast cavalcade of buses streaming south to hear Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

March on Washington, 1963

March on Washington, 1963

The following year, I picketed the Boston School Committee over segregation and was escorted to safety when Southies arrived in force. I was acutely aware of the violence faced by the people my own age who went down to Mississippi for Freedom Summer, from fire hoses and police dogs to murders and bombings. (The guy who pulled me off the Boston picket line had just returned from Mississippi.)

All of which counts for nothing. In fact, I understood very little either of the realities of the black experience in America or of the extent to which the violence of racism has shaped and warped us and our culture. Two excellent, compulsively readable books have made that plain: Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 by Brenda Wineapple (2013),

Ecstatic Nation

and The Warmth Of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (2010).

The Warmth of Other Suns

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Me and My Bionic Shoulder at Two Months

August 24, 2011

I last weighed in on my new, titanium-and-polyethylene left shoulder on July 2, just 10 days post-op. A lot has changed since then. For anyone interested, following is a rough diary of my post-op progress:

2 Weeks Post-Op

On July 6, I start 3 months of twice-a-week physical therapy (PT) at a facility at the Hospital for Special Surgery, where I had the surgery. It’s an easy bus ride from my apartment, and the physical therapist follows my surgeon’s protocol. Most of the other patients are in my demographic or older, but there are some young people too. Everyone is serious, focusing on their therapist’s directions; there’s little banter. (Sports-related injuries are handled at a different facility, across the street; here it’s all post-op.)

I don’t do my home PT exercises daily, but since I’m allowed not to wear my sling at home (apparently not everyone gets this privilege), I’m using the left arm as much as it can handle (e.g., no heavy lifting, but I can do laundry [goody], make the bed and pick up a plate or mug ). Serious apartment-cleaning is beyond me; a friend has kindly given me a session with her cleaning lady so my apartment doesn’t become totally rancid.

I do wear the sling whenever I go out, to support my arm and, hopefully, warn people to steer clear of my shoulder. Seems to work. It also generates a certain amount of sympathy: I’ve had total strangers stop and say, “I hope you recover soon.” Read more

What’s What with a Bionic Shoulder?

August 24, 2011

Some friends I saw a couple of weeks after my shoulder replacement wanted to know what part of my shoulder was “me.” I realized that we’re all pretty hazy about anatomy. For instance, who knew that the shoulder joint is part of the shoulder blade (scapula), not the collarbone (clavicle), which is the bone from which we hang our tote bags, briefcases and pocketbooks?

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Report from the Surgical Trenches: Total Shoulder Replacement in NYC

August 5, 2011

July 2, 2011; 10 Days Post-Op

Having had my initial follow-up visit with the surgeon and seen the x-rays, I can now say that I underwent successful surgery on Wednesday, June 22 and am the proud possessor (bearer? wearer?) of a titanium and polyethylene left-shoulder joint, plus a plastic ID card to show TSA screeners should I set off their security alarms. Read on

Blog Identity Crisis

November 16, 2008

I started Beyond the Zeitgeist as a New York City blog—random acts of culture from beyond the zeitgeist. “Culture” in the broadest sense, meaning just about anything out there that took my fancy. Certainly not myself.

It seems a little early for a blog to have an identity crisis. In fact, it’s the author who’s having the identity crisis—in a way, starting this blog has been part of it. It’s a beyond-the-zeitgeist crisis: I lost my very long-term freelance gig, I’ve already had a long and checkered career, and I have to decide whether to relaunch myself in New York City or retire to Mexico, where I can afford to live in moderate comfort without working.

Retiring to Mexico is both tempting and terrifying. On the one hand, it would be in a town—San Miguel de Allende—I’ve stayed in many times, where I have friends. It’s beautiful. I have the offer of a beautiful little house, a casita, on a friend’s property, at a very good rent.

The problem is, I’m a New Yorker. Not born, but bred. I’ve lived here for 43 years—virtually all of my adult life. The layout of Manhattan is part of my brain’s wiring. New York City Ballet seasons are not about “going to the ballet;” they’re part of my identity. Virtually every dancer I came up with has retired—Wendy Whelan is the the only one left—but there are some very interesting younger ones, like Ashley Bouder. Continue reading