La Kid Backs Up Bruce Springsteen at Inauguration Day Eight Years Ago.

She’s just to his left.

Sightings Yesterday, George Washington University, Foggy Bottom, and Environs

First thing: As my morning train to campus pulled out of Metro Center, a man’s voice reached us from the platform. GO TRUMP!

Walking to my first class: A middle-aged couple in full Trump regalia (enormous Trump hats, red white and blue clothing with Trump written on it) strides by, excited and happy.

Walking from my second class: At one of the campus intersections, a green vintage car rolls slowly along with Trump’s name in big letters on most of its surfaces. It is softly tooting its horn.

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I’m a little early for my second class, so Ashley (Fulbright student from China) and I sit on a bench and chat. One of my colleagues comes by and says with dread What are you doing tomorrow?

Staying home in Garrett Park. I’m thinking of taking up knitting.

I feel as though I should be there, at an opposition rally or whatever… I asked [another colleague of ours] what he’s doing tomorrow. He said Hiding under the bed.

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Gatherings up and down the Foggy Bottom Metro platform that evening of Bikers for Trump — skinny sunburned guys with long blond hair and arm tattoos and skinny jeans with key chains and handkerchiefs spilling out of them. Mucho legible clothing with gun, patriotic, and Trump-love messages.

Snapshots from Home

Economizing, in UD‘s world.

The [$23 million] home [Jeff Bezos has just bought in Washington DC] is expected to be an East-coast pied a terre for the family — allowing him to avoid hotel bills.

Strange days…

… for ol’ UD. Sick as a dog with bronchitis plus, she lies abed and watches bits of snow settle on the garden. The world in the new year continues to shower UD with wondrous tales of serial plagiarism and quarter billion dollar football expenses, yet she can’t quite gather her thoughts about it… Whereas her efforts not to gather her thoughts about the upsetting political situation in her country are thwarted by unsettling and unignorable forms of protest. UD knows she has to draw some deep breaths and dive into everything again, but at the moment her lungs are weak.

Contrails at sunset…

… seen from the NE Regional.

New London Connecticut

Just now. From the train.

Late afternoon light.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Mother Has Died.

Rita Kosofsky was about to be 95 years old.

Here are the remarks UD plans to make at her memorial event.

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I must have been fifteen years old when I entered the Kosofsky house in Bethesda for the first time.

During that first dinner, Rita was quite openly interested in how well or poorly I spoke. To this day, I remember how self-conscious I felt.

After dinner, without any preliminaries, Rita ushered us all into the living room, gave each of us a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, and started assigning roles. She herself was Eliza Doolittle, and she relished every awful sound that came out of her character.

On the walls of Rita’s daughter Eve’s bedroom were colorful sheets of paper on which Eve had, with a careful hand, copied out lines from poems that she liked. I remember standing in front of one of these pieces of paper and reading its lines over and over, trying to understand. It was a song, from a Shakespeare play. This was the first stanza:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Nor the furious winter rages;
Thou they worldly task hast done
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

I registered the fact that this was a poem about death – about a calm acceptance of death after a challenging life well-lived – but I was too young to know – to realize – its deeper resonances.

Years later, when I encountered the same verse in a novel that Rita knew well and loved well – Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – I was old enough to understand why Clarissa Dalloway is haunted by that morbid verse, even as she goes about her ordinary, busy, day, buying flowers, arranging a party, being caught up not in death but in life.

Like Clarissa, Rita was at once full of life and profoundly aware of the deeper resonances that always accompany us. Indeed Rita was physically much like Clarissa – a birdlike woman who seemed fragile but who was actually intensely and strongly alive: sociable, chatty, cultured, well-traveled. Rita remained at a very high pitch of vibrancy until late in her life, even as her aesthetic – rather than spiritual – sources kept her mindful of what lay beneath the busyness.

Rita was an expert on the short stories of Bernard Malamud; but the primary way I will remember her is as a guide to many many people in how to be a serious literary intellectual. Hundreds of gifted students at Walt Whitman High School owe a great deal to her.

Rita’s own children were linguistically gifted, and they were incredibly fortunate to have been born to a person who was herself a lover of language and literature. I remember something her son David told me about Rita. She’d had to have some medical procedure or other, and had been put under some form of anesthesia. She told David that she woke from the procedure aware that the entire time she’d been under, pages and pages and pages of novels she’d read had flowed through her mind. One after another these white sheets had arisen, covered with words.

Throughout the young lives of their children Rita and Leon (with whom she shared a passionate love) took every opportunity to read to them, to discuss stories and poems and plays, and to encourage them in their own early writing efforts. This was a house bursting with books, paintings, and records, and busy with outings to readings and the theater. Throughout her long life, Rita’s open-hearted artistic enthusiasms never dimmed.

Back in Eve’s bedroom so long ago, I scanned the final stanza in Shakespeare’s famous song:

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!

After an Ice Storm.

Frosty beach stones and teapot.

Berries.

View from my Thanksgiving Table

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Deer eating a pumpkin.

Willows in High Wind at the Kennedy Center

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One of UD’s colleagues…

… helps organize a group of artists and intellectuals looking for ways to resist hate crimes in America.

“The sunlight on the garden…

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… Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold.”

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UD‘s woods, on a cold
bright windy autumn day.

3:03 PM, Mid-November.

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The street in front of UD‘s house.

Early sunset.

Seen from a screened window.

Buddha in morning sunlight…

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on a shiny black table
after a little rain.

UD‘s garden, November.

UD’s Campus, Moments Ago.

Just outside UD‘s office window (she’s not on campus today), one of the many food trucks along GW’s main drag is on fire.

Social media means that there are many excellent photographs of the smoke and flames. Apparently it’s the Falafel Bus. Lots of smoke – visible across the river in Virginia.

One student tweets:

Currently a falafel food truck on fire on campus and I just really feel like this is somehow something that would happen.

Yesterday UD had Indian food for lunch from the truck parked next to the Falafel Bus … There are food trucks everywhere, and maybe the student’s right that midday, with tons of students lined up for a meal, the situation is a grease fire waiting to happen.

Three injured people are at GW Hospital.

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A 2012 New York City fire de­part­ment study on food trucks found sev­eral com­mon fire haz­ards that could cause ex­plo­sions, in­clud­ing the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple pro­pane cyl­in­ders, hot fryer oil and grills, com­pressed gas­ses, high volt­age elec­tric­ity and bio haz­ards from un­safe san­i­tary con­di­tions.

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Taken by a student from his dorm across the street.

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UPDATE: The likely cause:

A fire that destroyed a food truck Wednesday at George Washington University, leaving three workers injured, started when an employee tried to fill a gas generator while the vehicle was running and food was being prepared and served, according to the D.C. fire department.

A spokesman for the department said the fire started on the outside of the Falafel Bus and quickly spread to the interior, where fuel feeding hot stoves added to the fire’s intensity and helped it quickly spread…

Safety guidelines prohibit mobile vending trucks from refueling while engines are running and while still open to the public. Ideally, the fire department says, the trucks are shut down and driven to a gas station where generators can safely be refilled. At least, officials said, the trucks should be shut to the public, turned off and allowed to cool down before refueling.

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