From the New York Avenue Animal Shelter…
… to this. UD‘s dog stretches out in the back garden.

The Rapoports, Cherkassy, Kiev Gubernia, ca. 1900.
UD’s grandfather, Joseph Rapoport, about ten years old, stands behind his proud bearded father.
Snapshots from Home

“To be perfectly frank, I feel like a lot of our clientele is fairly insulated from the current situation. I don’t think anything would change in terms of how they’re buying or collecting wine.”

Yep, life round these parts is jest bout the same, thanks for asking.

La Kid…
…smiles for the camera.
Heller; High Water.

My reacquaintance with Erich Heller, my undergraduate mentor (not that he knew he was), via a memoir by his niece Caroline (who after several email exchanges I now consider a friend), took place over weeks of summer storms. Every hot afternoon burst out at around four with torrents that ran down Rokeby Avenue and made a real river of it. Branches and hydrangea blossoms from the town’s gardens rode the rapids, and Garrett Parkers knew they’d spend the evening, once the water receded, picking among plant matter for pieces liable to trip up bicycles.

I watched the river while re-reading Heller on Hamlet, with particular attention – because of her rivery death – to his evocation of Ophelia:

In Hamlet it so happens that a rose is taken from the fair forehead of an innocent love and a blister put in its place; that sexual love is sickened by the germ of corruption that, waiting for its occasion, always dwells in it; and that the thought of the marriage bed becomes unendurable to a prince of the mind because it is the couch of the mésalliance between the inner truth and the outer act…

Dead Ophelia drifted down Rokeby while I ruminated on temperament and metaphysics, on Heller himself as a prince of the mind for whom the thought of the marriage bed was unendurable.

I flashed too, gazing at the high water, on a scene in Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, where her main character, Anna, overhears her homosexual tenants talking about women:

She heard: ‘Fat buttocky cows…’ That was Ivor’s voice, and he added an obscene noise. Then Ronnie’s voice: ‘Sagging sweaty breasts…’

I thought of that scene because I was aware, even as a clueless nineteen year old Northwestern University undergraduate, of Erich Heller’s disesteem for women. As I understood more about his life, I grasped that its pinnacle was his participation in Cantab tutorials attended largely, I guess, by closeted savants. And I began to grasp – vaguely – that Heller’s revulsion at the physical world was metaphysical, that “neither the premeditated act of love nor the premeditated act of murder [we’re back at his Hamlet essay] can in its poor simple-mindedness express the complexities of the inner spirit… [Hamlet narrates] a noble insurrection of the purest inner spirit against all the crudities, awkwardnesses, and futilities of the material medium.”


Now, wee UD had infinite respect for this mésalliance business; she thrilled each time Heller quoted Nietzsche’s version of it:

Modern man … drags a huge crowd of indigestible rocks of knowledge around inside him, which then occasionally audibly bang around in his body, as it says in fairy tales. Through this noise the most characteristic property of this modern man reveals itself: the remarkable conflict on the inside, to which nothing on the outside corresponds, and an outside to which nothing inside corresponds, a conflict of which ancient peoples were ignorant. Knowledge, taken up to excess without hunger, even in opposition to any need, now works no longer as something which reorganizes, a motivation driving outwards. It stays hidden in a certain chaotic inner world, which that modern man describes with a strange pride as an “Inwardness” peculiar to him.

Hence Heller’s high esteem for poets like Rilke, who traced the dissolution of the outer world, and the cultivation – for the poetic few – of a rich, non-rocky, inner world. “Nowhere, beloved, will world be, but within,” wrote Rilke, and Heller in class quoted this too, all the time, and it was clear that the embodied world – not merely in its most embodied, female, form – was disgusting (indeed, in Heller’s traumatic personal history, external social reality was little more than recurrent scenes of atrocities), and that in any case the business of being modern – which is to say secular, lacking the shared spiritual community that, as Nietzsche says, “ancient peoples” took for granted – landed one hopelessly in Hamlet’s bitter paralytic conflict between a rich inner life and an outer world that utterly failed to jibe with it.

Another way of thinking about the mismatch would be to say that, although secular, we remain religious souls, fitted for, designed to believe innately in, a world of transcendent meanings and the “preconceived objectivities” (temples, monuments) that express them. We even retain religious guilt – but with no clear object prompting or giving meaning to it. This is the great Franz Kafka theme (Heller was a great scholar of Kafka), most dramatically embodied in poor Georg Bendemann in the short story “The Judgment.”

The only route out of this corrosive disappointment amounting at times to terror lies in Rilkean aestheticism, in the working out of a “pure spirit, taking within [it] into [its] disembodied condition ‘all torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement’ that inhabit ‘this fearful country’ of the senses.” (His quotations are from The Tempest.) It’s a modern version of Keep your mind in hell and do not despair – have the courage and clarity to acknowledge just how hideous modern? fallen? take your pick – life is. Internalize that vileness and still fail to despair – fail to be Hamlet. Find within your personal faith, your personal metaphysics, your personal aesthetics, a way not to be drowned in this monstrous torrent.


And yet, and yet, and yet (Heller loved this formulation and began lots of his comments with it) we are free to fail to recognize ourselves in this radically individuated, crisis-ridden picture. Temperament, metaphysics… How much of Heller’s take on, preference for, obsession with, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Kafka (rather than with, say, deleriously down and dirty Henry Miller, or unproblematically socially engaged Bernard Shaw) reflects his native aloofness (which seems to have transmuted over the course of his life to loneliness, attested to by his solitary suicide) and introspection?

If you want to be non-negotiably disgusted by the world, the world will always oblige, after all. Out here, never rains but it pours.

Erich Heller Artifact: Wee UD. [Scroll down a bit for other recent Heller posts.]
Debbie Schwartz, UD‘s Northwestern University roommate, gave her The Artist’s Journey into the Interior as a present. Later, as Deborah, Debbie would go on to do pretty well for herself.
Paul de Man blurbs it!
Typical underlining.
Another hot wet Sunday…

chez UD.

Early Morning Web Hunting

The bright blotch to the right is the web-weaver.

It’s in the early morning, with the sun just up and everything still wet from evening rains, that you can really see, in UD’s woods…

… the webwork.

How to Kill a City.

Go out of your way to attract violent people. Add innocent bystanders and shake well.

This recent blow to the town’s reputation may be the latest setback for residents and businesses who rely on a tourism industry that has already been hard hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[Danielle] Keithley, her cousin and … three children didn’t end up staying the night in Ocean City.

They were trapped on the Boardwalk for no more than eight to 10 minutes trying to break through [a violent] crowd.

In that time, Keithley’s phone and wallet were lost when her bag was knocked from her shoulder, her 4-year-old nephew got a small scratch to the face and her 6-year-old niece ended up with a knot on her forehead that left her dizzy, Keithley said.

Her small group was finally able to escape down a side street, but she was forced to return to the Boardwalk to track down her missing items.

“It was just so many people. There were so many people sitting on the benches. They were crying. They couldn’t breathe. They had water. They were just like putting water bottles all over their faces, trying to clear their eyes … The whole entire town stunk, you know?” [The police sprayed chemicals.]

She was able to find the individuals who picked up her phone and wallet, but her cash was already gone.

Although their hotel room was already paid for, Keithley said she and her cousin decided to pack the children up in the car instead and head back across the Bay Bridge at about 1:30 a.m.

She’s a 33-year-old Maryland native who’s been to Ocean City for everything from senior week to car shows, but says she’s never cut short a trip. 

Despite crowds and busy events, she’s only ever extended her stays. Keithley expects it will likely be years before decides to return — if she ever goes back at all.

She was frustrated by the fighting, but also by the police response, which to her seemed “absolutely unorganized.”

She acknowledges handling that kind of chaos is no easy task, but wants to see a more structured plan to deal with it in the future — especially when there are elderly people and small children on the Boardwalk.

“I hate to say it because who doesn’t love Ocean City? But we won’t be going back,” she said. “We won’t be going back, not anytime soon, not anytime in this season or probably the next season.”

UD‘s father graduated from Ocean City High. Generations of her father’s side of the family have lived and worked in Ocean City. The place was never upscale, but had a pleasant rackety energy to it. In recent years, though, politicians who see only money have allowed it to become ugly and dirty and dangerous. This is about drug cartels, gun markets, gangs. Climbing out of this calamity will take a long time; it will take a deep cultural change. I doubt it will happen. Ocean City is devolving into a skeezy police state.


Mayor Rick Meehan and Councilwoman Mary Knight said cheap hotel rooms needed to end immediately.

Listen to the cynical idiots who destroyed Ocean City; listen to them say things like cheap hotel rooms need to end immediately. Yes, tell the miles and miles and miles of cheap hotels that are Ocean City that a very few people in the political establishment have decided that you need to close. Now. Or hey maybe we should stop hosting major asshole events like H20i. Oh wait! We did! But they’re still coming every year, cuz there’s no place like Ocean City for cheap hotel rooms, cheap bars that never close, scads of other assholes just like us for us to fight with, and … I dunno… Just that ineffable history, that legacy, of town-trashing night after night, decade after decade, that makes it so special.

“I feel like a prisoner in my own home…”

“… there have been an overwhelming number of cancellations…”

“… everybody from the western side of Maryland and the north and south of Maryland come[s] here and it seems like their sole purpose is to destroy the town.”

The fate of Ocean City, Maryland, where UD’s family has had a business presence for over a hundred years…

… is appalling. Keep in mind while reading this short chronicle of the last few days that the city has itself to blame for the escalating violence. (It’s sheer dumb luck no guns have been involved; but that luck will certainly run out.) It has done little to make the place unattractive to violent people. No curfews; plenty of late-night bars with cheap booze; insufficient police patrols.

Boardwalk violence used to be about crowds of drunk frat boys (see my posts about OC sister-city Myrtle Beach); but while that of course still goes on, the really scary stuff now is about gangs.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 7, the OCPD responded to a fight involving multiple people on the Boardwalk between 6th Street and 7th Street. During that incident, one unnamed individual was stabbed and was taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. The victim’s status in unknown.

Last Tuesday, OCPD officers responded to two simultaneous serious assaults on the Boardwalk, one at 11th Street and another at 15th Street. Around 11:20 p.m., OCPD officers responded to a reported stabbing that had just occurred. The victim was transported to PRMC for treatment and severity of the victim’s injuries are not known.

Just after midnight last Wednesday, the three-day spree reached a crescendo when a fight broke out on the Boardwalk between large groups of young adults. At least one young man was punched repeatedly in the face while sitting on a Boardwalk bench to the point it appeared he fell unconscious. Other skirmishes broke out during the larger altercation which carried over to the beach area. A video of the incident captured by a witness and posted on social media went viral and left many in the community with more questions than answers…

Just after 5 p.m. last Thursday, two individuals entered a West Ocean City restaurant and were asked by employees to leave because they were not wearing masks or face coverings in violation of state COVID-19 directives. The individuals did leave as directed, but returned a short time later with a third individual and allegedly confronted employees and threw bottles and other items around the restaurant before fleeing on foot. One individual, identified as Roger Ja’Mil Brown, 19, of Severn, Md., was arrested a short time later and was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.

Around the same time last Thursday, another man was reportedly attacked randomly while shopping at the outlets in West Ocean City. The victim and his girlfriend were allegedly attacked from behind by five unknown assailants in broad daylight. The victim reportedly suffered multiple facial fractures including a broken cheek and a broken eye socket.

Back in Ocean City, the violence erupted again on Friday night with multiple altercations up and down the Boardwalk throughout the night. The situation reached a crescendo on Friday when law enforcement was forced to deploy pepper spray or a tear gas-like substance to break up the crowds.

On Sunday around 2 a.m., police broke up a fight among a group and apprehended at last two suspects on the Boardwalk.

On Sunday afternoon, the Alaska Stand on 9th Street announced on social media it was closing its doors early due to customer problems. Additionally, some other downtown businesses, such as the Crabcake Factory Poolside, did not even open Sunday due to concerns over safety.

In its social media message, the Alaska Stand wrote, “We are closed! … we have had more than enough this weekend dealing with a whole new level of disrespect to our staff, our business and our town and we are tired of being the brunt of undeserved verbal abuse by the public when ordering and picking up … we will regroup and try again … get it together OC … we apologize to our beloved and well mannered customers, we cherish and appreciate you to no end.”


By some measures, Ocean City has for some time been the most dangerous place to live in Maryland. Fixing the problem will make the place feel even less carefree and vacation-like: Extreme police presence; curfews; huge numbers of new rules; a general air of suspicion and threat. It’s sort of like what has happened to soccer (feast your eyes) in certain European countries: Organized gangs were allowed to proliferate, and now the game setting is one hundred percent male (women and families have abandoned the arenas; it’s only police and young male fans now) and way violent. Ocean City is getting there.

New Garden Update

At 5:55 this morning, I watched from the bedroom as a hummingbird buzzed my new, just-blooming, red bee balm. Looked like this.

Ten minutes later, from the kitchen window, I watched a large red fox just there, just in front of me, in the middle of the garden, tiptoeing along the irregular-stone path. But then it suddenly cringed, looked at our bedroom sliding doors, and ran away.


“I saw a fox from the bedroom,” said Mr UD five minutes later, as he made his coffee; “and I pounded on the window to make it get out of the garden.”


If you’re a fox, you definitely want to be in our garden. Chipmunks abound; and of course birds and rabbits (though the rabbits prefer the large wild patch I’ve established on a nearby hill) and probably a raft of other rodents…

Taking the “I’m Nuts” Approach in ‘thesda.

“I am committed to making amends by addressing, through counseling, the underlying issues that led to my abhorrent behavior,” announces a close neighbor of UD‘s here in Bethesda, Md. Having attacked college students holding Black Lives Matter signs on the Crescent Trail (Les UDs walk it all the time), this guy would, you know, prefer not to go to jail; so he’s going to pay some psychiatrists to attest to his attacking-innocent-people-while-cycling problem… A behavior rooted in the abuse he suffered from Mad Mom, Drunk Dad, Perverted Priest, etc.

I mean, not to make light of it; everyone’s got legitimate problems. But consider the fact that rich people with good lawyers routinely avoid jail for … forget abhorrent, illegal behavior… by seizing onto a psychosis or two for which, certes, they will be receiving counseling if you will just leave them the fuck alone.

If you ask UD, crazed assholes willing to assault strangers on a bike path should indeed spend a little time in jail. We will see if this one – even though a rich ‘thesdan – gets there.

Woke up just now (2 AM) and stood for a moment on my chilly deck.

Suddenly a jet engine thundered; and I looked up in a starry sky to see low overhead the bright-lit intricate underbelly of a massive military aircraft. It passed at an enormous rate of speed.


Things gather themselves into something more than unsettling. Cities are aflame – corridors of my city, Washington, are aflame, and a protest is scheduled tomorrow in Bethesda. Layers of surreality: the pandemic; the riots; the storming president.


When I, the other day, heard for the first time the phrase immunity passport, I thought, That’s what I’ve always had, and I still hold one now. The world does its chaotique, effrayant, thing, and UD sits way back here, amid the shady woods, fragrant flow’rs and crystal floods, taste, my soul, this charming seat, love and glory’s calm retreat, and now there’s a helicopter out there — I just stepped outside to watch it from the other deck — and it’s circling.


In front of me, as I stood on the decks, gleamed what I’ve come to call The Overdetermined Garden. Our new garden. We ordered up a bee, bird, and butterfly attractor, and boy has it been at it, all abuzz the live-long day… But it means too much to me; my work in it (and beyond it, in our established garden and woods and woody paths) has become too big a part of my buddha-noons, too much an act of belligerence against what is happening to the Isle of the Immune.

Of course no one who lives eight miles from Washington DC really thinks she’s immune. But there’s knowing and there’s realizing.

A box turtle eyes UD shyly…

… from beneath a bush in her new garden.

Soundtrack: Deafening early morning birdsong.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE