Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Are Buying a Condo!

We have a contract on a condo!  Those of you who live in Louisville will recognize it as 1400 Willow.  And while it looks like a high-rise apartment building anywhere, it's actually located just across from Cherokee Park.  (Cherokee Park is in the Highlands, where we live, and is a Fredrick Law Olmstead Park, which is one of the reasons we so much wanted to stay in this area.)   We are on the eighth floor in the front, overlooking Cherokee Triangle and the Park itself.  It has several things we most wanted:  it's in a secure building (so we can just walk away when we go to Michigan in the summer or on other trips); it has an elevator (so we can live here even if our legs eventually give out); it's in the Highlands.

There are very few buildings that fulfill all these criteria, and we have been hoping since last May.  This is the first and only unit we've seen that checks all our boxes.  So we jumped on it.  We saw it on Monday evening the first day it came on the market, and by Tuesday afternoon, we had an accepted contract.  We still need to go through all the preliminaries (inspection, appraisal, etc.) but we foresee no difficulties.  Here are pictures from the listing service; remember this is not our furniture or style.

Entry Hall

Living Room. The back wall is all windows overlooking the park.

Dining Room.  



Breakfast Nook

Second Bedroom/Den

Eventually we plan to redocorate, but that's a bit down the road,until we have settled in (and our finances have some breathing room.)  We are up to our ears right now, renovating our house so we can sell it.  So we are going to wait til we've lived in it a bit.

I have never made such an important decision so quickly.  Tony and I usually belong to the Undeciders, senior level.  But given the absolute lack of anything else (and how much we really like this building), we uncharacteristically jumped right in.

#1400 Willow

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cold, as in temperature, health, mood, and ambience.

For the last two weeks, I have been sick.  Coughing, hacking, sneezing, blowing nose, fighting headace: feeling generally crummy.  I think I am finally coming back down from it, but it was a nasty, nasty bug.  So bad, I couldn't do jury duty for most of the second week. I have hardly been out of the house for 2 weeks.

Outside, it has been cold.  While we were almost in shorts for Christmas, we are now in the middle of winter.  Wind chills below zero.  Today it snowed,and there seems to be more on the way.

Our house is cold.  It's too big to keep heated all the time, so we run from one warm spot to another.  A lot of layers and blankets.

I have done almost nothing in the last two weeks except flog myself through a book for book club, which I may not even be able to get to, depending on snow tomorrow, watch a lot of politics on tv and a lot of movies on Amazon Prime.  We have been living off Whole Foods soup and various snack/type supplements.  I have eaten three boxes of tangerines.  The only good part of it, was that I didn't have to figure out whether or not I was too sick to go to work: I just slumped into my bed coccoon.

Why is this blog-worthy?  I haven't a clue.  Just felt like I had to put something down and had no interesting experiences or even thoughts to report.

I miss summer.  The picture is of my feet in Lake Superior last July.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Slides; Or What To Do When Technology Changes

My father took slides.  He took LOTS of slides.  Though early in his family's life he tried out movies, and he also took black and white photographs, he eventually chose slides as his main way of documenting.  Among the things he documednted were family events, flowers in his yard and in other places, birds, places he visited professionally (he did a lot of international travelling) and personal life.  He also took slides as part his forestry field work.

When my mother died, I inherited all the slides: a vast collection.  Most of them were stored in carousels, so the collection was not only large in terms of the number of slides it contained but also in bulk.

I also took slides.  When I bought my first SLR camera, I usually took slides because photos, mainly of the places we visited (a lot of hiking in the southwest and a few trips to Europe) just weren't adequately captured by photographs.

So I also have my own slides. I did not, however, store them in carousels.

I have recently been cleaning out my house because we are hoping to sell our Louisville house and buy something smaller: ideally a condo in the Louisville neighborhood of the Highlands, where we now live.

Today, I gave away my slide projector and all my father's carousels (though not the slides they contained) to Goodwill.  Thus, I have effectively decided that I will not view my slides through a projector on a screen.  (Candidly, though, this was not a difficult decision, as I don't believe I have taken my projector off the shelf for over 15 years.

Technology has changed.  For the last 15 years or so, all my pictures have been digital.

But what am I to do with the slides?  I painfully digitized about half of my father's family slides.  I haven't digitzed the rest of the family slides nor my own slides.  I have persuaded my brother (thank you Ben!) to take Daddy's other slides.  He admitted he didn't know what or when he would do something with them, but I said fine: it's now his responsibility (and no longer mine).

Like all my VHS tapes, all my floppy disks (in three sizes), my video camera that requires a cable that no computer has a port for anymore, etc., etc., my slides are a vanishing technology.

I can live without VHS tapes; I don't have enough personal ones to make it onerous to have them digitzed.  But the slides. . . .

How many of us, about my age, have their pasts recorded in slides?  How many of us will have to figure out what to do with them, once their parents have passed them on to us (in one circumstance or another)?  How many of us can just throw them out (not me)?  But how many of us want to have 100s of slides of flowers professionally digitized (also not me); even the thought of winnowing through them is exhausting.

The picture above is of my grandmother, morther, and me--probably taken around 1963.  I think it was taken when I was confirmed from Sunday School.  Kind of like a graduation.  I am the last generation alive in this picture.  I can't let it go, but who else will want it (and all the other slides that come along with the collection)?


Friday, January 8, 2016

Where We Are Staying in Budapest

We aren't exactly staying here.
This is one of the Klotild Towers which is near Ferenciak ter.
We are also staying near Ferenciack ter, so it's in the nneighborhood!

We are going to spend March in Budapest.  Why?  We love Budapest.  We want to go back.  I need to take more pictures for my book. Our wonderful landlord John Farago of Budapest Vaction Rentals can accommodate us. 

This time we are staying in Apartment Olive. Check it out; it's really gorgeous. 

We now have our plane tickets and the contract on the apartment.  Next, I will start buying opera and symphony tickets!

What larks!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Jury Duty

Image result for waiting at the airport

I am on jury duty for this week and next. So far, almost nothing has happened.  It feels pretty much like being stuck at the airport, waiting to see if your plane will ever take off.


Friday, January 1, 2016

The Best Books of 2015

The best books I read in 2015, in the order I read them.  (Because we were in Budapest from February through April, the first part of this year was dominated by Hungarian novels).

The Door.  Madga Sazbo.iCompulsively readable. Many of the reviews mention its autobiographical elements, but if it is autobiographical it is in no way sentimental or self-forgiving.  The novel's language--it's style, tone and affect--creates  a world that is uncanny and is difficult to visualize, even for someone reading it in the city in which it's set.  There is something deep, elemental, and Greek (as the novel hints) in its tragedy--a tragedy born in Hungarian history but hidden behind the barriers of conventional life.   conventional life.  More here from my blog.  

The Sun Worshiper [sic].  Istvan Gall. Probably unfair to include as it is probably unavailable in the US.  But a great book.   The Sun Worshiper is a short novel that, on one plane takes place during a single night, but on another across the whole lives of a middle-ages married coupl.  Their stories encompass their lives during World War II and their identities within the Communist party after World War II, and their various political and personal struggles.  It is often difficult to tell exactly what time period they are thinking about, as the various parts of their past blur into one another and into the present.  More here on my blog.  

The Smell of Humans.  Erno Szep.  The book describes events between October and November 1944, after the brunt of the "organized" part of the Holocaust in Hungary had largely transpired: the deportations and transports to Auschwitz.  During this period, Szep occupied one of the Jewish Yelllow Star houses but had been saved from deportation, in part, by being protected by Raoul Wallenberg.  Nevertheless, on October 20, 1944, the 60-year old Szep, along with about fifty other elderly Jewish men, was rounded up and sent on a forced "labor" march by Arrow Cross thugs.  The Smell of Humans narrates the 19 days of the march that Szep experienced.  A very different Holocaust memoir; more here on my blog. 


The Goddess of Small Victories.  Yannick Grannec.  A fictional account of Adele Godel, the wife of Kurt Godel (of the incompleteness theorums).  Godel was brilliant but deeply troubled.  Adele kept him alive and in the world.  Grannec takes the very few facts known about Adele and turns them into a a brilliant novel.

Journey by Moonlight.  Antal Szerb.  One of the greatest Hungarian novels of the 20th century.The story of  a young man, Mihaley, who is on his honeymoon in Italy.  One night he unexpectedly meets a man from his youth, and then tells Erzsi, his new wife, the story of his relation with this man, another man, and a brother and sister during his school years and early adulthood.  Later, he "accidentally" gets on the wrong train while in Italy and becomes separated from his wife.  He then wanders through Italy, meeting other people from his past, until he arrives in Rome.  His Italian journey (like that of so many others) is to some hoped for self understanding.  It is a journey by moonlight--outside of the world of "the fathers, the Zoltans, the business, world, people."  Except that it is not.  He ends by going home.  The book exhibits what its translator, Len Rix, calls "an irony distinctively Middle-European in character.   More here on my blog.

The Stone Bridge. Alexander Terkhov.  Loosely, there are two inter-related plots in The Stone Bridge.  The immediate plot is the story of an investigator, Alexander Vasiliyevich, who decides to find out exactly what happened on The Stone Bridge when two children of prominent Soviet leaders (sometimes called Stalin's wolf cub) were killiked; Vasiliyevich is the narrator of The Stone Bridge, and much of the book is focalized through his consciousness.  The underlying plot is the retrieved history of the Stone Bridge incident.The story of Vasiliyevich's quest to find out the "truth" of what happened propels the novel.  The narrative line takes him from one source or archive to another.  As he discovers more, the things he wants to discover grow exponentially.  The investigation generates a huge web of information and an ever larger set of unaswered questions.  Terekhov draws on material from now-public Soviet archives, including transcripts of interviews; memoirs written by contemporaries of the Umanskys; and representations of historical figures, particularly Maxim Litinov and his daughter Tantaya Litinov. Terekhov spent ten years researching the book.  More here from my blog. 

Parallel Stories.  Peter Nadas.  Parallel Stories is huge: in length, scope, and ambition.  It includes many (sometimes very, sometimes barely) linked stories that are located in Hungary and that range from the 1930s up to 1989.  This means it includes the lead up to World War II; the Holocaust; the years under Communism, including the 1956 revolution; and the fall of Communism in Europe. It took 18 years to write. I began this book when I was in Budapest and finished it here at the lake.  (I took breaks from it every now and again.). Published in Hungarian in 2005 and translated into English in 2011, it is considered one of the greatest Hungarian novels of the 21st century.  Peter Nadas's (b. 1944) earlier novel, A Book of Memories, was described by Susan Sontag as "the greatest book written in our time, and one of the great books of the century,"  More here from my blog.  "

The Zone of Interest. Martin Amis.  It is impossible to imagine a serious book about the Holocaust that is "funny."  Amis's book, about a work camp at Auschwitz, tells the stories of 3 men.  One, a Jewish man who accompanies victims to the gas chambers, trying to make their last minutes as peaceful and unfrightening as he can; he is as aware of the irony as his readers.  Two, a man who manages one of the projects and does whatever he can to slow down or undercut the work.  Three, the captain of the camp, a man who is a blustering boor; he is the source of "humor" in the extraordinary vocabulary and tone.  A tour de force and a series of moral confrontations that include the reader.

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North.  Richard Flanagan.  The absolute best book I read in 2015.  Booker Award winnder.  It tells the story of an Australian man who becomes captain of an Australian army company captured in Japan.  The title reverberates, in many way, througout theh book.  Morally complex and deeply felt.

Purity.  Jonathan Franzen.  I have been a big Franzen fan since I first read the The Corrections, which I still think is the best.  Purity is a kind of post-modernist re-telling of Great Expectations (The main charater's name is Pip, etc.)  It was a little programatic in parts but a genuinely engaging read.

The View from Castle Rock.  Alice Munro.  I had never read Munro, mainly because I am not a big short story reader.  But in this collection the stories are connected (and autobiographical in part).  I absolutelyy loved it, and am now set to read more Munro (and there is a lot)>


Ulysses.  James Joyce.  I read it, and I couldn't not include on this list, even though reading was sometimes a chore.   I read it over the course of several months with Tony. We tried to read it without scholarly scaffolding (to the degree possible) and try to read it as "readers."  In the end, we realized that there were huge chunks of Ulysses we didn’t get, and that we could live with that: reading  Ulysses was not going to be a project of our lifetimes.  But there were many parts that we read for the pleasure of the text.  We both loved the exploration of Bloom’s consciousness—its richness and diversity.  We loved (as do most readers) Molly’s interior monologue.  We liked Stephen’s argument in the Library about Shakespeare.  We were in love with NausicaƤ.  We were stirred by Cyclops. In the end, we were glad to have done it and were glad it was done.  More here  from my blog.  PS Also returned to The Rainbow by DH Lawrence, which was a complicated reading experience, narrated here on my blog. 

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Voices from Chernobyl.  Svetlana Alexievich.  I read this because I was curious about how a book that is made up of oral histories collected by a journalist could win the Nobel Prize for literature.  All I can say, is that the Nobel committee made a great (and innovative) choice.  This book, a collection of people's memories of Chernobyl was absolutely riviting.

Thirteen Ways of Looking. Colum McCann.  The book sets a contemporary New York murder "mystery" against the Wallace Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."  Although it got mixed reviews from some of the people I recommended it to, I thought it was a profound examination of what it means to read poetry and fiction.