Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why? Why? Why?

Why is it acceptable to show the inside of your butt but not the outside. An example is Katie Couric who for a very good cause had a colonoscopy on TV. But why is the close up of the inside ok while one of the outside would cause a scandal?

And while we are at it, why is it ok for men in the US to show their nipples but women can't?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Evil Seagull!

I know I know, seagulls are supposed to be mystics and great philosophers. Their soaring flight dances are supposed to inspire us... but let me tell you the truth about those shitting creatures and the saga of their persecution of my otherwise bird loving beloved partner Rich.

It first started long long time ago. Rich was a sailor in the navy (I’m being redundant, everyone in the navy is some sort of sailor, right? Even submariners.) So a resplendent admiral was inspecting the troops lined up on the carrier. The sailors were in their formal white attire which they had painstakingly washed and ironed. Rich was doing his best to stand ramrod at attention. When the admiral came in front of him, guess what happened? A seagull shat on Rich’s shoulder. Rich, nineteen at the time, felt horribly embarrassed while the admiral visibly was doing his best to repress a chuckle.

Now I’m asking you! Out of hundreds sailors, why did a seagull chose Rich? Why didn’t it for instance shit on the admiral’s head so that the sailors could be the ones to repress a chuckle?

Not surprisingly the story doesn’t end there as seagulls seem to favor Rich and he’s persuaded they’re doing it on purpose. He practically has to carry an open umbrella for protection when we walk by the shore. As for me, I seemed immune up to now, but no longer...

We woke up yesterday and there was an enormous bird poop on our car. It began on the roof above the passenger window, dribbled on the window and then there was an gigantic plop spread out under the window on the door. At first I thought that some kid had thrown a milkshake at our car, or that someone had suffered a truly explosive bout of puking. But no, we were facing genuine bird shit.

So the troubling question is: what kind of flying creature can produce such a giant poop? Is it a monstrous seagull sent by its fellows to still wreak havoc on Rich’s life? Or is it some sort of alien species? (No it’s not a Canadian goose because they produce well formed brown turds --we have an abundance of them at certain time of they year and you really have to watch where you’re putting your feet down when walking by the lake....).

Anyone has some zoological insights on the identity of the guilty species or on how a supposedly small bird can produce such a great amount of shit?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doom and Gloom Chronicles: King Midas (Montsanto & Co.?) is an ass (no insult intended to our four legged friends)

Earth has been rumbling and grumbling and spitting more than usual it seems. Well you know, I do live close to a volcano’s foothills, so I thought it best to check things out. To that end, I went into my yard, laid down (on mud and gravel, ouch!) and put my ear to the ground.

There was an immediate explosion of insults: “You idiot, you moron, you imbecile, you you you how could you!?” I had to jump up because my ear was hurting from those sulfuric insults. But curiosity got the best of me so I put it back on the earth and asked why?

Well it turns out the earth is pissed off because of our (Montsanto etc) invention of the Terminator a.k.a. Suicide seeds. These are self sterilizing seeds so that farmers can’t save seeds from the resulting crops to plant for next harvest. They have to buy new ones each year.... Now there seems to be a pseudo-ban of those seeds, but there are still cases of cross-contamination galore (you know the wind etc) and others are being created and sown around, such as for instance seeds that contain their own pesticide which –surprise surprise– has led to less pollenization and thus less crops...

So said the earth, “your species was stable for at least one million years and enjoyed life and painted beautiful paintings on cave walls and worshiped buxom women, and then what do you do? You invent agriculture around 10,000 years ago --give or take a few millenia-- and look where it got you: famines, inequality between groups of people and also between men and women, and is driving me, Earth, to the brink of destruction. And now as a logical deadly continuation of this nonsense, you’ve invented suicide seeds which have the potential of also contaminating wild plants. Do you thrive on impotence, or what?”

“Of course I would survive your suicidal impulses even if all of you idiots died but I wouldn’t survive you throwing your nukes at each others. I probably turn into a comet that might be visible to other sentient beings for a split second ten millon light years away. So since you morons have invented total suicide weapons it’s perhaps not surprising that you also invented suicide seeds”

“But but I say to the ground, how about the profit motive? Isn’t it a great motivator for human enterprise?” “Ha,” spews Earth into my ringing ear, “don’t you remember what happened to King Midas? He was granted his wish that everything he touched would turn into gold –and soon enough that idiot starved to death... profit motive, my foot! –well if I had a foot ...”

I went off after this conversation and instead of listening to the earth rumblings I put my ears on Google. I found out after all those years that there has been a kindred spirit sharing my long held dim view of agriculture in the person of one Jared Diamond who, among many other books, wrote an article titled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” –meaning agriculture! (It’s on line like almost everything else!). And then about those impotent seeds, there’s the body of works by Vandana Shiva....

So if I may digress, my impression is that there must be or has been a whole corpus of King Midas stories. But I know only one other and it’s Hungarian. It goes like this: King Midas had donkey ears which he kept hidden under his crown. The only person who knew about it was his barber who had been sworn to secrecy under pain of death. That information was swelling inside the barber’s head and giving him hemorrhoids at the other end. So he decided that he had to relieve himself one way or another. He traveled to the country side, the Hungarian plains in this case, dug a hole in the ground and told it his secret. Then he filled the hole and went back to barbering feeling much better.

Well what do you suppose happened next? The grass grew over the freshly filled hole and soon enough the grass all over the prairie was singing in the wind “King Midas has donkey ears... King Midas has donkey ears....”. I don’t know what happened to that poor barber, you can fill the blanks, but I just realized why Montsanto came up with sterile silent seeds....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yes, there are green eggs!

Bear with me, I’m on a trip through memory lane. This is how I started my autobiography eight (yes that’s 8!) years ago. As you can see, I didn’t go beyond a couple of paragraphs!

August 2002:

By then I had been in the field for three years, first in various locales in Hungary, and, at the time of the picture of puzzlement so clearly kept in my memory, in Switzerland.

The image of puzzlement is as follows: I sit at a huge dark long wooden table. My legs are dangling from a dizzyingly tall bench. The room is huge, it’s really a hall, arrayed with several of those long tables. I am all alone. There are rays of sun filtering through the slats of the wooden shutters on the tall narrow windows. Yes, I'm all alone. I am looking at a circle of greenish white on the table in front of me. In the middle a filled round of green. The ensemble is at once translucid and opaque, there are mysterious ripples and shadows inside the white circle. I don’t have a clue as to the nature of the artifact or the purpose of my contemplation. Was my puzzlement due to an abrupt change of language, the classical failure of communication encountered in the field? Yet I can’t remember any inner dialogue in any language. I can only remember wordlessness....

It was only after earning my doctorate in anthropology that I was able to resolve that puzzle. I was starring at an egg, fried sunny side up. I deduce that I must have been left in the dining hall to make me eat it, though I also deduce that the thought, or image, of eating it never crossed my wordless mind...

Perhaps I should have put that in quotes because I’m probably no longer the same person as I was eight years ago. Actually, my sense of self is a bit fuzzy right now but my self always had pretty permeable boundaries anyway... Identity is still one hell of a mystery to me, the more I try to elucidate it the more mysterious it gets (cf. my post on strange loops: “Oh it’s you, no it’s me”).

So let me explain this fried egg memory: My mother made it to Switzerland in 1945 after waiting for weeks (six, I think) at the Austrian border –it seems we were pretty hungry and also got infected by lice. My head had to be shaved and that’s why I have very short hair in my early photographs in Switzerland.

My mother was going to import Hungarian stuff in partnership with her brother Zoltan. They had some money and the conditions of entry in Switzerland were that my mother put my brother and me in an expensive boarding school and she stays in an expensive hotel. The conditions changed one year later (or was it a year and an half?) after she met a civil servant in the visa department in the train going to visit her kids and she started to cry when telling the story of the enforced separation –and a few days later, oh miracle, it all changed and she was allowed to rent an apartment and bring her children to Zurich with her.

The boarding school was in Gstaad. It was called Tante Flora’s, and was frequented by the children of very wealthy people, as for instance the Shah of Iran...

I remember my brother crying his heart out when my mother first left us there. I didn’t cry, I don’t remember any feelings, but I remember my glasses falling off my nose –perhaps they were new? (At some point they thought I was autistic, but I’ve made up for it since! Though I obviously had been traumatized by our previous adventures. When we were underground, we had to move every few weeks and even spent some time in a Catholic boarding school where my mother thought my brother and I would be safe, but she found out otherwise as the nuns were getting suspicious, so she had to take us out... Lest this be misinterpreted against all nuns, there was a religious order whose members risked their lives saving Jews. When my mother worked with Raoul Wallenberg that nunnery was a place of refuge and hiding where she brought Jewish families in the middle of the night...).

I remember an egg hunt, and the eggs bore their recipients'names and a kid who was very clever couldn’t find his and eventually it turned out hidden underneath lose tiles in the empty swimming pool.

I remember having to take my afternoon nap in my bed and watching the patterns the sun made through the blinds. Once (or twice?) I got to take my nap with the bigger kids outside on the chaises longues in the veranda....

Tante Flora’s followed the latest hygienic strictures of the time. You couldn’t get another glass of water unless you ate a whole other plate of food –gasp! You also had to produce a turd in the toilet every morning. For some reason the ski instructor slept nearby and it was up to her to inspect the toilet and note (in writing!) that the subject indeed had pooped..

Now I was terrified of this ski instructor. She was very tall (from my three year old height ) and wore her hair in a bun and had a large red headband and I thought she was a man. I was also terrified of flushing, but less than I was of her. So I remember a couple of mornings when I wasn’t able to produce anything I flushed and then ran like hell before the toilet could swallow me. I told her I mistakenly flushed my poop before she could examine it and I remember her yelling at me... (Is this why I’m always attempting to write? You know, produce something?)

What else? One image that's still in my mind is hanging for dear life on the back of a sleigh with my brother up front and going very fast and winning something. My brother in that year learned to ski as well as he walked... and we both learned French, but in Zurich we had to learn the German dialect spoken in Switzerland.

(Of Hungary, only one image remains. My brother and I were on a farm with Etel Neni. Auntie Etel –the subject of yet another even more amazing story. She was not a real aunt but Hungarian kids called adults their families were close to “aunt” and “uncle.” There was a wooden platform and huge pigs below (well huge compared to my tiny size). I was on the ground having left the safety of the platform and the pigs suddenly came in my direction. I started to howl, and Etel Neni picked me up and brought me to safety.... that’s all.)

Well here's a real trip through memory lane, from one ear to the other in this case....It's funny, at least in parts, so give it a chance...

Tinnitus in A sharp

There’s a racket in my ear
a ruckus a fracas
a grind a growl a gasp
knocking and knocking and knocking
in between
the rattle of small bones

there there
says the ear
it’s just your ear

This ear
a canal a passage
through the middle
an orchestra forever
tuning its violins
then through the drum’s misbeats
to the inner vertigo where
I plummet
to a forest darkness
muted flashes softly zap
and zip peregrinating
along knotted ramifications
twisty grey branches
Welcome to Memory’s Mist Road
says the ear

First in water I dwell
hands seeing blue softness
the Danube where my mother swam
while I swam in her
But noise pushes me out
crawling eyes opened
into fear’s archives

The war is still here
hidden at a farm from the hunters
killers (I must have done something?)
I so small
on uncertain legs
myopic crossed eyes
farm beasts chasing me –I think
sueeeeeeeeeeeeeee sueeeeeeeeeeeee
till auntie picks me up
there there

And next I find –what!
Shame --but I got rid of it so long ago?
Why is it still lurking
its strangling permeating
tentacles regrowing
as they’re cut
weed killer doused
draino burnt
reason graveled
common sense smothered

In fear’s archives
waking dreams of nameless
eight legged gigantic
dark creatures
rustle and scrunch
on terror road

But I escape again
right next door
to the fornication sector
zzzips and zzzaps speed up
into viscous electronics of body parts
toes elbows cunts pricks
and and
almost despair? --till black ink floods my brain
into silence into forgetting
there there

Midpoint is the earth
spinning sparkling on the dark road
a blue and green marble
I played as a child
here a corn multitude dances
back and forth with indefinite grace
to the blue trees’ wind music
here fountains slurp
watermelon juice
chocolate cream
and inside out swirling rainbows
I too spin my dervish dance

Train train of memory
across my brain tonight I gather
all the faces and bodies to keep safe
--I must have entered love’s archives--
life itself? –till words fail me
there there

Sui sibi se se sui sibi se se sui sibi se se
the Latin I flunked
three times in the tenth grade
pursues the train
in my tired counting
languages penetrate
one and other
egy kettő három vier fünf sechs sept huit neuf –Ten!
sui subi se se sui subi se se sui subi se se
one two three four cinq six sept eight nine
and and

I wake to the train whistling
through the multitude
in concert for the earth
fields of hands dancing back and forth
with indefinite grace
to the planet’s silent music
till the volume turns up
the sound of a single piccolo
arabesquing in between
pings of a silver triangle

there there
says the other ear
It was just your ear

Poem copyright 2008 by Catherine Tihanyi
Photo: Kati 1945

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Playing Hopscotch in the Hospital? (2 poems)

March 4 is my mother's birthday! So here are poems about mothers and daughters


Sur les amandiers au printemps
Ruisellent vieillesse et jeunesse.
La mort sourit au bord du temps
Qui lui donne quelque noblesse.

René Char

[Over the almond trees in the spring
Flow old age and youth.
Death smiles at the edge of time
Which gives it a sort of nobility.]

‘tis written in the wind
‘tis written in the trees
so tightly gripping
the sky’s empty slate.

At my lover’s house
the wind writes
with tall pine trees
Furiously it bends their tips
and writes its plot
on the heavy clouds’ slate

At my lover’s house
the words of the wind
are the storms of the rain
The wind writes its plot
with ferns trembling
over my body’s slate
and into the green black woods
in my dream I am erased.

‘tis written in the wind
‘tis written in the trees
so tightly gripping
the sky’s empty slate.

At my mother’s house
the wind writes
with the shimmer
of flowing eucalyptus
It writes an invisible plot
on the sun’s blinding slate

At my mother’s house
they always look to the sea
But the words of the wind appear
in the shadows of the trees
where already the black bull
lies in wait.


At my daughter’s house
the wind cradles a sort of smile
in the crook of the almond tree
It writes its plot with pale blossoms
and showers petal ciphers
on the green grass slate

While the parade of school children
tubas and flags its way to the arena
where thin poplar trees
write the wind’s hurried plot
on the field’s cinder slate

‘tis already written in the wind
‘tis already written in the trees
But she arrives with the clamor of the crowd
to take her place in the relay race
Her outstretched hand
captures the baton
And over the cinder track our daughter runs
faster than the wind.

(Copyright 1989 by Catherine Tihanyi)

Hopscotch in the Hospital

Hospital paved with square tiles
undulating down hallways
till intangible lines reveal
a game of hopscotch
its skipping numbers jutting
to corridors’ ends
whirling rectangles
dizzying up the walls
then falling to the ground
again and again

Like blood lines perhaps?
Like my baby’s veins
curly and deep and thin
so the needle must be twisted
again and again in one arm
then the other
while in pain’s silence a single tear
runs down her cheek
you’re not alone you’re not alone
says the mother’s hand holding
the daughter’s foot

Yes she played hopscotch
a beached child’s soul
stuck in atmospheric grit
inner compass lost
to so many circuitous roads
landed in Brussels (why not)
long ago
schoolyard lines
of chalk squares numbered
throw your marker and hop
to oblique victory
but she preferred
making pretend houses
sweeping fall leaves into maps
the bedroom the livingroom the kitchen
she should have been an architect!

Trains make lines too said her mother
in her long ago hospital
sailor dress pigtails
hopscotch in the street
singsonging in Hungarian
squares drawn with a stick
in the dirt no cars
to speak of
I was very good
a champion hopper
won lots of games
In pain’s silence
a single tear runs down her cheek
was she alone was she alone
says the daughter’s hand
emptied of the mother’s foot

And my daughter
with the curly veins
didn’t she play hopscotch
in Berkeley USA
after I too wandered her
(a bad habit) too long
there was no shortage of chalk
in the schoolyard then
but she preferred to study
the underside of things
hanging upside down on the monkey bars
for hours till falling down
head first in the sand

Am I really hopping in this hospital?
on one foot and the other
in endless corridors of hopscotch squares
I can feel my foot lifting off the ground
I’m a spring
flying yes I’m flying
coming down on two feet in the double squares
turning around hopping to the end
my marker always hits the mark
what fun!

But what marker is that?
asks her spiraled brain
playing a snail shaped
hopscotch game
you hop to the middle
and if Escher allows
you hop back again
her brain convolutes
on the marker a dot
and her inner gaze
finds in it
another snail shaped
hopscotch game
with a dot and a hopper
again and again
oh, so that’s the game
in wonder she moans

The hum of a morphine drip
while in pain’s silence
a single tear runs down her cheek
you’re not alone you’re not alone
says the daughter’s hand holding
the mother’s foot

(Copyright 2008 by Catherine Tihanyi)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hungarian Condoms and Tea Sets (illustrated!)


The locale is Budapest: my mom and dad got married ca. 1937 (can’t remember exact year, I wasn’t there). My brother was born in 1938 (gasp how did he get that old!), and then my parents dutifully practiced birth control. They bought condoms at the neighborhood pharmacy which actually offered a free tea set to whoever turned in 100 empty condom wrappers. Well my parents did, and the pharmacist told them they were the only ones in the neighborhood brave enough to do so. I don’t know what happened to the tea set, though.

OK, how to visualize the setting? A quiet suburban dirt street, cars are few and they raise dust. The joke was that when a car went through, the dust took three months to settle. Was the sun out, brightly lighting a small storefront pharmacy? I see it all in miniature, almost like a toy set, probably because it has to fit in the limited space inside my head. Actually I would like to get a look at that infamous tea set and even more the impressive collection of condom wrappers ( I wish I had asked my mom where they had stored them --perhaps in a cookie jar?).....


No, the condoms didn’t fail. What happened is that my mom and dad were getting ready to go to Great Aunt Riza’s birthday party. They had to dress up and the time was short. In the process of undressing and dressing they got terribly horny and there was no time to mess with a condom –so --ta ta– here I am! They were late for the party anyway and had to come up with some lame excuse –so perhaps this explains why I’m always late and always have to invent some lame excuse of my own (The dog ran away and I had to catch him....etc)

So how to imagine that scene? Was it raining? Perhaps there was a wild storm like those shown to hint at great sexual passion in the Hollywood films of the time (how did we come down now in the twenty first century to allude to sex by showing two people in separate bathtubs side by side but not even touching –gasp!). Were electric undercurrents springing forth in the Danube in the form of foamy wild waves of .... (reader fill in the blanks, please). Yet I picture the scene in fuzzy slightly washed out pastels, a soft molecular dance between two pointillist shadows...(sheesh what did you expect? Am I supposed to actually visualize my dad putting his penis into my mom!)

Later, when my mother was pregnant, she swam and swam in the Danube... The river, she said, nurtured both of us. My mother was one heck of a swimmer! She had come very close to making the Hungarian swim team to the infamous 1936 Olympics in Germany. Tragically some pretty sad things also happened in that river just a couple of years after I was born (the web knows; just look up Danube Budapest Holocaust....).

There are no photographs of my parents’ wedding. My dad’s mother was dying and they got married at her bedside. Other pix didn’t make it, except one. It was a passport photo. By that time they were frantically trying to get out of Hungary because they were Jews (converted to Calvinism for protection but really agnostic by belief, but since your ID had to have your religion in it, and there was no slot for agnostics, let alone atheists, they had tried another route. But the minister who converted them kept a list of the converted Jews and turned it over to the Nazis)

So to make a long story short, my father didn’t make it. My mother did, escaped from prison, went underground, spied for the Allies and was part of a network that saved other people, a gypsy smuggled her kids out of Budapest, then we got smuggled back in.... etc etc etc but that will have to be for another post ‘cause remembering is pretty tiring, not to mention tiresome.

The Holocaust came late in Hungary and, as elsewhere, included Tsiganes (Romas a.k.a Gypsies) except for the musicians in Budapest who were spared so that the Nazi could keep on enjoying their amazing music. Gypsies haven’t talked much about their Holocaust but I heard it in person from the musicians who worked in my mother’s Hungarian restaurant in Brussels....

Warning! mega digression afoot: when the Congo was negotiating with Belgium for independence, the Congolese delegation used to regularly come to the restaurant, and, lo and behold, I actually made an order of fries ( Belgian fries of course: “French fries” are impostors) for Patrice Lumumba himself whom I still mourn as I read of the seemingly endless catastrophes the inhabitants of the Congo have endured since his assassination...

Oh well, I hope you didn’t all get lost in these zigzagging journeys between continents and centuries. There are no fixed boundaries in memory so it all gets jumbled together –there’s a theme though, but that’s for the reader to uncover....

Forthcoming: how my uncle Zoltan escaped from his work gang by running between bullets, was hidden by an enormously fat women and fell in love with her and all fat women thereafter (except for his future wife who’s also my father’s first cousin and shares his and my last name and is the last surviving members of this group of siblings and cousins), and later on became postmaster of the whole of Hungary for the brief happy moment in between the Nazis and the Communists regimes....


So here comes a tearjerker of a poem:

Father Lost (lament over a single photograph) (poem)
To my brother Paul, my childhood protector

Father hiding in the wordless memories
of a baby you held in your arm
brown eyes to brown eyes did I coo?
When I was two you were gone
where where, anyukam, asked my brother
six years old where is my apu?
So he left secret messages to his father
behind an enormous wardrobe
he moved back and forth from the wall
by the magic of his sorrow

And I?
Only one photograph left
passport photos side by side with my mother
black and grey shadows in an old frame
Bella and Laszlo were trying to get out
of Hungary just before

My mother’s face turned toward the photographer
only one ear showing but I know the other
sideways over her shoulder her eyes so light
so serious already did she know?
My father’s face turned to the right looking away
only one ear showing and I don’t know the other
his eyes so sad already did he know?

I stare and stare and I can see under the sad eyes
a song on the lips
and laughter and delight
my mother said there was so much music and dancing
and then

He was an engineer in a shoe factory
he thought of using old tires for the soles
because of the war
he sometimes or once made shoes from scratch at home
for the feel of it
he sang in the shower
he sang so well the neighbors asked
what radio station they were playing next door
in the morning such beautiful music
after the war my mother
went to the train station day
after day waiting for him to come out
of a train

The twenty first century already emulates the twentieth
but we’re good at information
So I’m trying to find out
what my father’s eyes saw
Google conjures up a map
of Müldorf
a town like any other
I see roads and streets in pastel colors
I find out my father died under the weight
of hundred pounds sacks of cement
and an empty stomach
my lost father
younger than my children
but I find him at the moment of death
at the moment of light
he knows Bella hid
and his children will live

Father oh father
for a moment a tenuous moment
I am your mother
holding your tears in my arms
shielding your eyes

The moment is lost as often as it is found
and still I ride the train
now far away from those tracks
yet linked to them in a straight line
I can see all the way
to the dark horizon where their beginning ends
in void
and so lost daughter still I reach
with an infant’s wordless clumsiness
towards my lost father’s photograph.

Poem copyright 2008 by Catherine Tihanyi

Top: Bella (aka Isabelle Vital) and Laszlo Tihanyi ca. 1939, 40?
Second: Kati, 1945, Switzerland (head had been shorn for lice
in order to enter Switzerland after weeks of waiting at Austrian border)
Third: Geza and Miklos at the restaurant in Brussels
Last: Paul and Kati in Zurich ca 1946/47

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Praise of Memory before mojo gets ripped off...

No no, not that mojo! Another one also known as a gizmo. The truth is that I’m a cyborg. I’m powered by a pacemaker. I need to plug another gizmo up my nose when I sleep (a.k.a. a c-pap machine) and I have to sleep with a dental guard lest I destroy my equipment –because you know, cyborgs just don’t know their own strength!

So this Son of an Electrician has noticed that my pacemaker’s battery is running low, and He has decided in His infinite sparky wisdom that tomorrow is the day it will be taken out and replaced with a brand new mojogizmo.

Now us mere humans have been thinking of alternate solutions. Rich, my very clever mechanically inclined and environmental conscious dude, has come up with the suggestion of having a solar panel installed on top of my head so that the mojogizmo could be continually powered.

But wait! We live in a rainy part of the country. So I suggested a supplemental energy producing device such as a cranking system put through each of my ears. These crank handles could also double as environmental friendly hearing aids.....

So I’m wondering, should I put these suggestions to the Electrician before he starts on the magical procedure?

I’m running out of steam here (a catastrophe, as any cyborg will tell you) –so all I got to say, is that, yes memory is good a lot of the time and so is the memory that is history, etc etc. Buuuuut (grinding noises at this point and a slowing down of speech) I’mmmm beginning to “think” that the Great Electrician has already pulled out most of my rams and even my hard drive ‘cause I can’t remember how I was going to make the case for memory, or even what it is.....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Praise of Amnesia

I woke up this morning and a beautiful rant was ranting in my head. It was as melodious as a Schuyler piece and as dainty as any of Smag’s posts...

But now I can’t remember it..... so don’t expect any stream of consciousness à la James Joyce here....

It was about amnesia, if I remember right and if it’s not too PC to remember what happened a couple of hours ago?

Oh yes, remembering is now PC:

Support our troops, yes! Remember our veterans, forget it!

Concerned about soldiers injuries? Anyone with a bit of will power can overcome losing a limb or two. As for PTSD, why, the whole notion is so ridiculously PC! Just forget it, I mean get over PTSD by forgetting since it’s a disease of remembering, right?

I vaguely remember (I must do something about that nasty habit, perhaps there’s an amnesia pill I could take?) that previously PTSD used to be called “shell shock” and before they had shells, it used to be called “a soldier’s heart” and, like we do now, they did use the terms to explain other traumas. So, gasp! even Medieval Europeans indulged in PCness!

And then of course there’s the PTSD of the civilians at the receiving end of bombs, land mines, bayonets, swords, fire, salt spread on their fields etc etc etc. But it’s even more PC to remember that....

My rant might have been triggered by the righteous notion that studying sociology is now PC. Yeah, get all the social sciences and particularly history out of higher ed! (I can’t remember why it’s called “higher education” anyway, so I must be making progress on the road to amnesia)

Or it might have been triggered last Sunday while watching 60minutes. I was filled with admiration upon hearing that Messy’s favorite person had forgotten (never known?) not only two world wars (such ancient history, who needs it!) but even the Korean war. Of course our ground breaking “you bet ya” amnesiac could have asked somebody of the generation immediately preceding hers about it, for instance a veteran of the Korean war? Or she could have read a book or two, but luckily she’s above such vulgar PCness, and so were whatever college and high school that gave her degrees. (The one thing someone should have told her is to not pick on the hired help. My stepfather was the scion of a long lined noble Belgian family and he explained to me the true meaning of “noblesse oblige”. It means you treat the hired help courteously otherwise they might spit, or even pee, in your soup. These days gasp! they might even write a book and give interviews). But maybe Wailin' Palin didn’t remember who was who and what was what during the campaign. Good for her for showing us the way to righteous amnesia...

There was more to the rant. I’m one of those people who sometimes wakes up in the morning and bemoans the burning of the library in Alexandria –was it in the fourth century? And what about the two weeks long burning of books by Whaling Palin’s Christian ancestors missionaries in Meso-America (yes these Heathens also put their Satan inspired writings in book form and it took the rest of us centuries to realize that these people did have writing and to decipher the handful of books that had been hidden away or were secretly written after the Spanish invasion –but, what am I saying? Just forget it!). Some PC people bemoan all that loss of human knowledge, but we know better! Down with PC, up with Amnesia!

Oops, I better stop while I’m behind. There’s no telling what I will advocate forgetting next if I keep this up.

However, here’s a poem I wrote about remembering. Like all poems it echoes other poems, this one is conversing with/ inspired by Dylan Thomas’ “And Death Shall Have no Dominion”. Unlike mine, there’s a lot of green and hope (not to mention genius!) in that Dylan Thomas poem which is probably readily available on line (reading a whole book is soooo pc, don't ya think!):

Death’s Dominion (poem)

But now death’s dominion is green
darkly through the blind television screen
a glaucus city spins
gripping ground and sky
its minarets wailing
prayer strings of human voices
against the rockets’s screeching din

The green night city
spins down the black hole
of my heart’s memory
it remembers the hungry flames
hiding beneath that green smoke
it remembers brother and sister
clinging eyes shut for dear life
but nonetheless seeing
the exploding fountain of blood
where once a second long ago
stood a reassuring smile


But now death’s dominion is white
oh so blinding grinding white
sands and skies and one scream
the world pulverized
into shards of white
a silent breach spilling out
from the man the boy’s body
leaving his crimson mark
on the desert of his exile

The white desert
spins down the black hole
of my heart’s memory
it remembers
his mother waiting on another continent
dread suddenly stabbing at her fear
of the cannibal flags’ hunger
their striped drapes slurping up
plane loads delivered
in the dawn’s early light


Oh death’s dominion is singular
for we can only die
one by one

(Poem copyright 2004 by Catherine Tihanyi)

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Neighborhood

Ooops this is an older post in a new dress.... didn't realize the date would change.

(A poem, gasp! And about my very own neighborhood even! It might be dangerous reading)

Michelangelo of Golden Valley Parkway (poem)

Ethnography of Golden Valley Parkway?
no no it has to be a poem because
I cant really do all those interviews
what with the guarded stares
growling dogs
probable guns
toothy rabbits
attack roosters
clucking hens
crunchy egg shells besides
some don’t speak English
and some think I don’t speak English
on Golden Valley Parkway

Way back when
there was a forest
in the good ole US of A
at the foot of fast asleep
mighty volcano ski resort
a corner of forest turned into woods
into a country club o my
roads cut through trees
crisscrossed into small lots
for campers and others
little big vacational
vehicles and cute houses mostly Canadians
visitors of modest means
on GoldenValley Parkway

We are not talking
of a stately avenue
just one road curving on itself
cul-de-sacs left and right
country club no more
visitors gone
mobile homes looking like stick houses
stick houses looking like mobile homes
and shacks looking like themselves
side by side
smattering of medium and big houses
small mansions even
no trace of urban planning
no right wrong side of tracks
no tracks
haphazard arrivals
newly minted property owners
and some dirt poor renters
housing too dear in town
but not here
in the American dreamland
on Golden Valley Parkway.

Waves of people from town
and Alaska California
Ukraine Russia a scatter
of American flags support our loggers
landscaped flowers on side up front
cars trucks refrigerators washing machines
in rusted tormented chunks
trampolines basketball hoops
dogs and cats and chicken coops
old man walking with pet goat
meth lab sheriff down the block
cornered by six cop cars
even once homeland security
soldiers with guns at ready
on Golden Valley Parkway

Still tall pines green
belts and vacant lots
shrubbery and forts
gaggle of children playing huddling
under the crisscross of electric wires
and here yes here on a wire
on either side of dead appliances
a pair of sneakers dangling by shoelaces
bleached and washed bright by rain and sun
recording forever
the gesture the throw perfect
heart of creation
on Golden Valley Parkway

Way way back when
there was a marble mountain
and in its tortured stones
Michelangelo found a David
catapult on his shoulder
ready for the perfect throw
smashing an invisible giant’s grip
to smithereens
and here
I found the hidden Michelangelo
brightly dangling on a wire
his shoes forever flying
over tortured rust and flowers
pine trees and trampolines
children in their dreamings
on Golden Valley Parkway

Poem copyright 2008 by Catherine Tihanyi
(imagine, a copyrighted poem! Now who would steal such a thing!
I’m more concerned that somebody would locate Golden Valley Parkway and steal the magic shoes in the dead of night)

The Enormous Pot of Potatoes, the Fireman and the Psycho.

Wow! I made it to the big time! I’m in The Fly! Thank you, thank you for this honor!

I don’t have much to say about this week's letters to Prudie that hasn't been said by much abler advisors than me. So I’ll get back to reminiscing --as befits my senior predicament.

So in this episode, I’ve moved from the place on Maple Street (the pants’ thief neighborhood) and am now living in a cute little rented house on C Street.

I’m not sure where to begin this story. Well, even though he’s marginal, I’ll start with the neighbor across my yard. His living room was always dark but he had no curtains or blinds so we could see him at his window constantly rocking in, you guessed it, a rocking chair. He didn’t seem to leave his house at regular intervals like the rest of us working stiffs did. My boyfriend opined that the guy was the psycho in Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.

One day a dear friend asked me to help with her daughter’s wedding by taking charge of the potato salad for the outdoor festivities. I promised to deliver a turkey roaster filled with my very popular (if I may say so myself....) potato salad. So I took out my trusted enormous cooking pot (at least three times the size of a standard stock pot –how I came into possession of that huge pot is a story all by itself), filled it with twenty pounds of potatoes, submerged them, and put it on the stove to boil.

Now this was a pretty old electric stove. After the potatoes had boiled for about ten minutes, a sort of bolt of lightening about a foot high came out of the burner. I rushed and turned that burner off, but lo and behold, the lightening popped up on another burner that was turned off and then another. It was going in circles following the rings of each burner.

I frantically looked for a plug at the back of the stove but couldn’t find any. It seemed to have been directly connected to the wall.

So I called 911.

I did tell the 911 operator that it was just a little thing. An out of control stove but I didn’t know how to turn it off. Perhaps if someone happened to be available and in the neighborhood he/she might help me?

So next thing, I heard sirens coming closer and closer to my house. I took a peak and what did I see? There was a huge fire truck in front of my door and two other huge fire trucks blocking access to my block and, gasp, all the neighbors were out watching (except for the psycho who was busy rocking). And then, as if I wasn’t embarrassed enough, the fire squad came out of the fire truck and I gasped as I realized that their leader was a guy who used to be in grad school with me. I had vaguely heard through the grapevine that he had put his MA in anthropology to good use by becoming a fireman, but of course I had forgotten it till that moment. He immediately greeted me by my name (probably figured out I had put my MA in anthropology to good use by wasting the fire dept.’s time).

So all the squad trooped in my kitchen where the stove was still doing its strange flashing but the firemen seemed more impressed by what was on the stove as they all, to a man, commented on how big that pot of potatoes was.

They also asked me where the electrical plugs were. Ooops! I hadn’t even thought of them but I cleverly said I didn’t known, had just moved to that house (a lie!), did look for them (a lie!) but couldn’t find them. One fireman went out to the yard and did find them on the outside wall hidden by a bush –so my lies took on some desperately needed credibility. The youngest fireman took me aside and gave me a standard spiel that I shouldn’t be embarrassed because they would rather be called for a trivial thing than not be called for a big thing... I saw the squad to the door and all the neighbors minus the psycho were still there along with the fire trucks at each corner.

After they all left,I went back in and my youngest daughter (still in high school at the time) and myself contemplated the enormous pot of potatoes. Well, I couldn’t let my friend down, right? These potatoes had to be cooked! So my daughter and I each took the pot by a handle, crossed the yard, and knocked at the presumed psycho’s door. He did indeed let us finish boiling the potatoes on his stove, he was a bit strange but didn’t wield a knife (of course we were not foolhardy enough to ask if we could take a shower in his house....) . The potato salad was made in time for the wedding and the happy couple is still living happily ever after....

The landlord replaced the old white stove with another, even older, stove, this one in bright turquoise –but it didn’t do anything strange the rest of the time we lived there....