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Remembrance: Jan Augustus Gies

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Augustus Gies, unsung hero!

He was a real Dutchman, very tall, lean, with billowing white hair. We used to joke that Miep had never seen him without a jacket and tie. He smoked small cigars, was a man of few words, who had a sharp, dry sense of humor. He collected stamps. I last saw him in Amsterdam in late January, 1993 as I was leaving for the airport to fly back to Santa Monica (where I then lived) after a week’s stay in Holland. He was 87 years old, had been ill and had spent much of the week bed in the bedroom he and Miep had shared for more than fifty years.

The last cup of coffee drunk, gifts of Edam cheese and Verkade chocolates squeezed into my suitcase, I was ready to leave and I knocked on the bedroom door to bid Jan goodbye. He invited me inside where the drapes were drawn. I sat beside him at the edge of the bed. He looked very, very worn out. The old duvet with its white linen cover was pulled up to his neck. He withdrew his large, dry, bony hands with their neat nail, from underneath it, and took my two hands in his. We were eye to eye. I told him I was off now and he squeezed my hands. We spoke quietly for a bit, then I kissed him on both cheeks, told him to please get better and said goodbye. He whispered “Farewell.”

My heart stopped. At the end of our many visits, Jan had always said  “À bientôt.” [see you soon] when we parted. This time he’d said, “Farewell!” Because Jan was so reliable in all things (though I hoped it wasn’t so), I guessed this would be the last time we would see each other, that he was at the end and knew it.

He, Miep and I  had shared a deep and rich adventure during the past eight or so years, meeting, working together on what became the book Anne Frank Remembered. We’d held onto our hats and each other when the book unexpectedly became an international best seller, coming out the other end, tried and true, trusted friends. Besides publication of various editions in various languages, promotion tours and other Holocaust-related events, we visited each other several times a year — me to Amsterdam, they to Los Angeles.

When I phoned from the airport a few hours later, he’d drawn his lasts breath an hour before. Miep asked if I would come back into Amsterdam. Of course I would. By the time I’d cancelled my flight, hurried back into town to their apartment on Woestduinstraat, his body had been removed.

Jan’s birthday is today, 18 August. He would be 118 years old, as he was born in 1905. Though less well known than Miep who has become an icon, like Miep, Jan had contributed greatly and at great risk in helping with the protection and hiding of Anne Frank, her family and the others during those twenty-five dangerous months. Because those in hiding longed for visitors, Jan would climb the steep steps behind the bookcase up to the hiding place every lunch hour, bringing news, library books, friendly conversation, cigarettes for Peter’s father when he could. Anne writes about these visits, one particularly memorable visit that included a sleep-over. Anne writes of her admiration for Jan as he (and Miep) were young, chic, sexy, newly married and she had attended their wedding.

As it happened during those dark years, Jan was also a member of the Dutch Underground. Because of his (dangerous) connections he was able to obtain illegal ration coupons for the people in hiding which meant that desperately needed food for eight extra mouths could be acquired. In our book we touch on a few incidents relating to his underground work, but – generally – when I would ply him for more details, he would light a new cigar, shake his head, and look out the window, remaining silent about details of these activities. As much as I love prying information and stories out of the fading past, I also love leaving secrets alone.

In 2009 our original publisher Simon & Schuster planned a celebratory re-issue of Anne Frank Remembered in honor of Miep’s approaching 100th birthday. Because so much had happened in the Anne Frank world in the almost twenty-five years since its original publication, Miep and I crafted a new epilogue to be printed in this edition of our book that had been originally published in 1987. Read it and understand why Jan, like his wife, and a few others risked all to shelter, feed, and bring support and friendship to friends in a time of overwhelming peril.

(Entire posting can be found on  2016-08-18 on the occasion of his 111th birthday)

(Photo left: Identity card of Jan Gies from time of German occupation of The Netherlands, Photo right:  photos taken by street photographer after wedding of Miep and Jan Gies on 16 July 1942, Amsterdam including Miep Jan, the wedding party following the bride and groom including Anne and Otto Frank, Mr and Mrs van Daan, Miep’s adoptive mother, two women who worked with Miep in Mr. Frank’s office)

Remembrance: Nurse Anna Kennedy aka Gerda

On Sunday, August 13th, after years in a nursing home on Staten Island suffering from Alzheimer’s, a treasured family Gerda (though her real name was Anna) died. My son, Thor, and I each wrote a remembrance to be read at the service/mass being arranged for August 25th at The Esplanade Assisted Living facility, the second of two Staten Island nursing home at which she’d resided.  Following: these eulogies:

Thor wrote:

Gerda became an important part of my life when I was very young. I believe I was 7 or 8 years old. She quickly became more than my friend, she became an aunt to me. We did a lot of things together, often driving around in her small, blue Toyota all over New York City. We did this while listening to the Beatles over and over. Our favorite song was Octopus’s Garden, which we would sing together as we drove around the city, then we’d argue about the song, and then we’d come to an agreement about who Ringo was singing about.
One time Gerda came to the rescue the night before Halloween. I was very stubborn and wanted to wear a Japanese Kabuki costume for Halloween. In order to do that, I needed white Kabuki make-up to complete my costume. The white Kabuki make-up is a white make-up, similar to the kind of white make-up a clown would wear. I had to have it for my Halloween costume. My mother had no idea how to find that kind of make-up. Gerda didn’t know either, but she and I hopped into her trusty little car and drove all around the city singing Octopus’s Garden as we searched for this make-up. Finally, at almost 10pm at night, Gerda and I found the make-up in Times Square (where else would it be!). She saved the day for me, allowing me to wear my Japanese Kabuki costume for Halloween. 
Gerda: I am lucky that you came into my life at a time when I needed it most! You were the best aunt a kid could want. What I learned years later, when my mom told me how instrumental you were in saving her life, I realized you were more than an aunt. You’re an angel! You looked out for my mom and me when we really, really needed it! I can never thank you enough for what you did for us!
I love you Gerda!!!

I wrote:

Over around fifty years ago I became friends with a young woman who had white skin, a choppy haircut, lively dark green. She spoke with a beguiling Irish lilt. Like me, she was in her twenties and, also, like me, full of fun, even a bit wild. We were cut from the same cloth – danced at discos until dawn, drank many Irish whiskies, smoked thousands of cigarettes, laughed ourselves silly, and never tired of partying. Her name: Anna Gerda Kennedy.

Anna was born in Dublin, Ireland, a city with cabbage-green busses and had studied at convent schools run by nuns. She went to nursing school in the London of red double-decker busses and, when she graduated, brazenly traveled to far-away New York City whose busses were Parakeet-green at the time. By then both parents were dead and she was without family except for a remote older brother who was studying law in England, an aunt in Canada, and a few distant relatives still in Ireland.

Quickly she became part of my family which consisted of myself and my small son. Later when she landed a rent-controlled  apartment on Bleecker Street, that happened to be across the street from my where my mother and father lived, they opened their arms to her too because she was funny, generous, and very good company.

Early on Anna worked nights on the kidney unit at New York hospital. A tireless worker who loved nursing, she later cared for drug addicts, and still later, the mentally ill. Through the many years of our friendship, almost anywhere we went in New York city, she would run into former patients, even on the Bowery.  These folks would greet her with a smile – “Hi Nurse Kennedy! Do you remember me?” –  and mostly she did remember.

As years, then decades passed, though our paths zigzagged in many diverse directions, our friendship continued on.

One night Anna, and another nurse friend, Andrea – from Belfast, also a nurse and life-long friend – and I were finishing a meal at my apartment. Once Anna had finished off a glass of red wine, she told us that she’d just been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer by her doctor. Later on, as she and Andrea were leaving, after Andrea had gone down the hall to ring for the elevator, Gerda and I stood face to face at the threshold; we fiercely embraced. When we drew apart, our hands remained tightly clasped. She looked into my wet eyes and said in that Irish lilt that hadn’t gone away, “Be assured … I won’t forget you!” and I replied in my ‘New Yawk’ way “Nor … will … I … forget … you!”

I have no reason to think that the promise we made to each other that night hasn’t been kept, in the deepest part of our souls.

When the time came, Gerda went to live at a small, cozy nursing home on Staten Island where she was very happy. When we could, Andrea and I would take the ferry and bus to visit. Each time we visited Gerda seemed to be a little worse. This is where we first met a beautiful woman with an alive, friendly face named Dalia. Because Dalia always treated Anna with tenderness, patience, and wisdom,  Andrea and I would leave knowing she was in very good hands, were especially grateful to her as our friend’s condition slowly worsened 

One spring day before that decline accelerated, we walked outside into the garden after lunch and sat together in the gazebo-style arbor enjoying the sunny day.  Anna had taken a bread roll and several packets of Saltine crackers from the breadbasket, and soon began pinching off bits of roll, tossing them into the air, laughing and smiling as she did so. As if out of nowhere, one small sparrow, then two, flew down to feast on the bread. These birds were brown and pale grey. Quickly, more birds joined in and scurried, gorged, hopped, and squabbled to get at the food.

When the roll was gone, crumbled Saltines were strewn about.  At one point I took a bite from one of the salty, dry Saltines and realized that it tasted exactly as those in my mother’s pantry had when I was a small child. I don’t know why I was surprised that the taste was the same, but I was!

We noticed a trail of ants had joined the feeding frenzy, were carrying away crumbs larger than themselves, Gerda scoffed, sang out, “American ants … join the Union!”

Just then, a cinnamon-colored squirrel cautiously stepped out from under a shrub, its nose and front legs trembled. Hoping the squirrel wouldn’t scare the birds away, Gerda shook her finger at it, sternly admonished, “Rub along!” and the squirrel dashed back into the shrub.

Spellbound, I watched while my precious old friend fed the happy birds: Here was the same woman whose visits to roulette or bridge tables went on around the clock, who had ridden a bicycle to work rain, snow or sunshine almost until she retired, who had driven anywhere and everywhere whenever she had the whim in her trusty blue Toyota.

This was the woman whose skill with cat-gut sutures had staunched the flow of the brightest red blood I’d ever seen late one winter night after I was stabbed in the throat with a broken bottle by a nutty drunk; this was the same friend who, when I was suffering from a dangerous illness that I didn’t recognize, did realize and figured out how to save my life.

Yes, it’s true. Had it not been for Anna Gerda Kennedy, I would have died before my 30th birthday.  Instead: I was saved, became a writer, and managed to publish many books and live to be an old, white-haired lady.

As I think about my eternal gratitude, I am reminded of Anna’s many years of nursing and realize she helped many thousands of beings, not just me. Remembering how hard she worked, how much tender kindness and compassion she freely gave away, my decades of solitary writing seem in comparison to be selfish and pale.

This goes for Andrea too, here today. Andrea was Anna’s life-long friend, also from Ireland, who was also a skilled and dedicated nurse.

It also goes for dearest Dalia, whom most of you know, who gave Anna tenderness, care, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty.  In my mind Dalia, you are a saint. I realize that the gods must have loved Anna very much because she brought and kept you, Dalia, by her side until the end.

I, and all who loved Anna, thank you Dalia from the bottom of our hearts.

Photo from Gerda’s scrapbook, labeled: Joseph, me, Daddy and Mammy. I presume it was taken in Ireland but, in fact, could have been anywhere including Shangri-La.

Second posting of blog from 5/26/2016

Today is 8 August 2023 – two days and 78 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima and minus one day and 78 years since a second atomic bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki.  For anyone interested in details of these events six first person accounts can be found in war correspondent Jon Hersey’s iconic book Hiroshima, written in 1946, never out of print since then. Calling Hersey’s work gruesome would be an understatement. As it happened, his original statistics were later revised as follows for Hiroshima by the U.S. Department of Energy: “… 90,000 to 166,000 died from the bomb in a four-month period following the explosion and … further estimates that 237. 000 people were killed either directly or or indirectly by the bombs effects, including burns, radiation sickness, and cancer … for acres and acres the city was like a desert except for scattered piles of bricks and roof tile.”

Because I, a precocious child who read everything, insisted on reading this slim book from my parent’s library at age ten, my inner being was altered; the details within this book were forever seared into my soul. Tomorrow: the 78th anniversary of the tragedy that befell Nagasiki’s.

In 2016 I published the following piece as a blog post. It was titled

OBAMA WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR HIROSHIMA BUT I DO

Given the dangerous, sorrow-filled world of 2023,  it seems a good idea to publish it again.

Image-1-30

Following, extracted from a BBC report:

Barack Obama has become the first serving US president to visit Hiroshima since the World War Two nuclear attack. Mr Obama said the memory of 6 August 1945 must never fade, but did not apologize for the US attack – the world’s first nuclear bombing. Mr Obama spoke to two survivors and in an address called on nations to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. At least 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and another 74,000 three days later in a second bombing in Nagasaki.

Mr Obama first visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum before walking to the Peace Memorial Park, accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both men stood in front of the eternal flame. Mr Obama laid a wreath first, followed by Mr Abe. “Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr Obama said in his address, noting that the bombing had shown that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself”. Mr Obama said the memory of Hiroshima must never fade: “It allows us to fight complacency, fuels our moral imagination and allows us to change.” Of nuclear weapons, he said: “We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

Mr Obama then spoke to two survivors, hugging 79-year-old Shigeaki Mori. “The president gestured as if he was going to give me a hug, so we hugged,” Mr Mori said. Mr Obama also talked to Sunao Tsuboi, 91. The image of President Obama hugging a survivor will resonate deeply with the Japanese public. Opinion polls show that the majority of people welcome this visit and most, it seems, do not mind either about the absence of an apology.

The deep symbolism is enough; the leader of the only country ever to have used an atomic weapon laying a wreath in a city that has become a monument to the perils of our nuclear age.But others will point out that, while his speech was long on lofty idealism, he remains the commander in chief of one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, one that he has approved billions of dollars to modernize.

Standing just a few rows away from the president, as he always does, an officer could be seen holding the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. Mr Obama had earlier flown into the nearby Iwakuni Marine Corp base nearby, after leaving the G7 summit. Mr Obama told service personnel at the base: “This is an opportunity to honour the memory of all who were lost during World War Two.”

Mr Obama praised the US-Japan alliance as “one of the strongest in the world”, with his visit “a testament to how even the most painful divides can be bridged – how our two nations, former adversaries, cannot just become partners, but become the best of friends and the strongest of allies”.

Many in the US believe the use of the nuclear bomb, though devastating, was right, because it forced Japan to surrender, bringing an end to World War Two. The daughter of one survivor, who was visiting the memorial on Friday, said the suffering had “carried on over the generations”.

“That is what I want President Obama to know,” Han Jeong-soon, 58, told the Associated Press news agency. “I want him to understand our sufferings.”

Seiki Sato, whose father was orphaned by the bomb, told the New York Times: “We Japanese did terrible, terrible things all over Asia. That is true. And we Japanese should say we are sorry because we are so ashamed, and we have not apologized sincerely to all these Asian countries. But the dropping of the atomic bomb was completely evil.”

Thank you for this visit Mr. Obama; also for your eloquence and good heart. I too honor the memory of all who suffered then. As an American implicated in my country’s actions, though, I go a step further, and DO apologize for the use of this bomb. (All bombs.) In my opinion is was wrong, is wrong, will always be wrong.image-8

 

Excerpt: from a newly published book

What writer wouldn’t hope that a reader of a new publication would find himself deeply engrossed?  Indeed … on seeing the attached photo of one such (discerning) reader,  a warm glow was cast out in a widening, warming oval!

RANSOM NOTES #2/ RIVERS OF NO RETURN IN FIVE FLAVORS  is the second collection of experimental pieces published by TMI Publishing, Providence, RI. The company belongs to Israeli-born Hanaan Rosenthal, is a savvy fellow whose vast talents include design. The first of this pair of non-conforming books was published in 2022, titled RANSOM NOTES/ TRAVELS IN WORD BRICOLAGE.  Each ransom note springs from a single book either read or listened to during these many, many past seasons of monastic reclusion. As it happened, clusters or themes sprang up of their own volition during these years of book-binging. Entries in #1 relate in some way to travel; in #2, each has a connection to rivers though, in the newest volume, other sources were tapped. Additionally: the life saver candy one sucked on or crunched during (and after) childhood sweetly flavored (and colored) the whole.

The following excerpt is from

Part III-a:

AMUR RIVER Peoples Republic of China, Russian Federation 

ever-changing sandbanks

virgin forest

marshlands of northern Siberia

flowing through taiga forests

past frozen mountain ranges

below forty degrees Fahrenheit

“across sunlit country”

“the grasslands are yellowing into autumn”

“now I realize what Igor sees”

something like homesickness

“in sunlight still”

“the Amur mouth yawns three miles wide”

waves of silvered mud

(based on the book The Amur River: Between Russia and China by Colin Thubron, Harper Collins, 2021)

 

DANUBE RIVER Central and Eastern Europe

Morteratsch Glacier

frozen headwaters of Danube

from the Alps

melting snow

someone’s home

Alpine marmot

as melt waters run on

forests of Bosnia

with miniature waterfalls

over moss

golden shoals

busy trout

the Danube salmon

where there are fish

the trout

trick a trout

in Slovenia

the banks of the Sava

follow the flow

towns, farmland, cities 

outside Vienna

our turtle

the size of a thumbnail

through Germany, Austria, Slovakia

arrives in Hungary

Budapest because

a moving jigsaw

seems slow and sluggish

from the clay

young larvae

only three hours to live

several million mayflies

the Drava, the Jisa, the Saba

Belgrade in Serbia

rapids and whirlpools

enters the lowlands of Romania and Bulgaria

the sturgeon

draining into the Black Sea

through Romania and Ukraine

undisturbed wetland

covered in waterlilies

species of birds

Whistler, Turner, squatter houses

the great white pelican

in giant flotillas

at the end of the Danube

and beyond

benighted by water

(based on Rivers of Life,  BBC films, 2022)

 

BAGMATI RIVER Nepal, south Asia 

pristine drops fall

from the mouth of a tiger

fields of rice

Nepal’s holiest river

Hindus flock to the riverbanks

through the ages

single women

wash the feet of the dead

stacked wood for funeral pyre

Buddhists too

huts, shacks and brick homes

three decades on the stone steps

(based on “Nepal’s Holy Bagmati River from an article on holy rivers  by Caty Weaver, Associate d Press, 2022)

 

LIMPOPO RIVER Southern Africa

in a great arc

through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean

mangrove vegetation

then east

finally southeast

(based on: cpwfbfp.pbworks.com from a website edited  by Maya Rajasekaharan, 2013)

 

OSUN RIVER, Nigeria, Africa 

water has changed color

seen in a flowing white gown

drink or bathe

the river brought her a child

Osun “gets angry”

(based on the article “Nigeria’s Osun River” by Chineda Asado,  The Seattle Times, 2022)

(available on Amazon worldwide)

 

 

 

Covid 19 notes + Last Suitcase notes

COVID 19 notes

March 20th, 2020: lost my sense of smell today … the day before my mother’s 100th Birthday

April 22nd, Earth Day: next door neighbor (Maureen) has died. I only discovered her passing because policemen were standing outside her door. Smell (and most taste) has not returned

May 2nd: am regressing back into childhood in matters of food: eating steak sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, matzoh brie, cheep lemon cake, frozen dinners, pot pies, potato sticks. Thank God for Anton Chekkov! Am swilling his beguiling short stories like a thirsty person might imbibe cold water.Following, a tender morsel plucked from A Story Without a title”: In the fifth century, just as now, the sun rose every morning and every evening retired to rest. In the morning, when the first rays kissed the dew, the earth revived, the air was filled with the sounds of rapture and hope; while in the evening the same earth subsided into silence and plunged into gloomy darkness. One day was like another, one night like another. From time to time a storm-cloud raced up and there was the angry rumble of thunder, or a negligent star fell out of the sky, or a pale monk ran to tell the brotherhood that not far from the monastery he had seen a tiger — and that was all, and then each day was like the next. If words were pillows – I’d like to rest my head on these

5.6.20: found $1.09 in the lobby; ate two white castle burgers for breakfast

5.20: saw Dr. D.B., had test. Could hardly wait to get home so as to remove my bra. Thank God D.E. has arrived to stay … yes … to stay!

5.17: test result: positive for covid-19. Am in seclusion

5.29: second test

6.1.: test, negative. 10 PM curfew;  looting and protests out there

6.2: 8 PM curfew now. More looting also riots (curfew seems to be Trump’s idea of a quarantine …)

6.3: night after night helicopters hover. Huge marches. D and I watch from window. I’ve put on 10 pounds since new year.

LAST SUITCASE notes

7.13: removed wristwatch. Can’t stand the constraint

9/19/20: the Farrari-red colored sheets ordered on Amazon have arrived

9.20.20: cracked front tooth in half

9.21.20: sent under construction ms – (12 reunion stories compiled, tentatively titled “We’ll Meet Again”) – to UK (on anniversary of sale of “Found and Lost”)

9.30: had tooth repaired at new dentist near Gramercy Park. An astonishing job was done; that I hadn’t worn a bassiere wasn’t an issue.  Anniversary of Lily’s death also Rie birthdate

11.16:

11.19: ms. of “We’ll Meet Again” returned with detailed, thoughtful, helpful notes

11.22: bought a new jolly (black with red, green and yellow) flowered watchband; attached it, threw away the old one, returned watch to left wrist rather than right

11.24: received a death threat by email this morning from a ‘J S’

12.11: have begun cutting my own hair

12.3: brain fog, rash on both arms near elbows … Eerie not be be able to smell. Wonder – after sweating so much – do I stink? I’ve know way to know.

12.15: cascades of mucus in the middle of the night to the point of retching up a cloud of it

12.16: 5:20am – framed painting of three lemons on wall behind above my bed dropped with a crash. Out of the blue it slid between bed frame and wall but didn’t hit me in the head.  Thankfully. Heavy dark wood frame cracked apart, glass didn’t. It would have done a number on my head and/or face. The brown twine Dorothy used instead of wire (probably 50 years ago) simply dissolved

12.18: Sam and Anne’s silver-plated letter-opener dropped when I stood up; it stabbed my toe

12.19: while washing dishes in the kitchen, a silver fork dropped from my hand and stabbed my other foot

12.20: woke with a black (left) eye. Have no idea how or why or when

12.22: put watch back on this morning … had removed it for the night

12.26: took covid test at a walk-in clinic on 23rd Street.

12.28: result of test – Negative

12.31: ate lobster bisque for dinner, put watch on watch around two in the afternoon. Skyped with AM in Haarlem near midnight Dutch time. Alternating between/among: Episodes of “Spiral” – French detective series – 78 episodes/8 seasons and Wandering Jew: The search for Joseph Roth” by Dennis Marks ( beautiful Notting Hill Edition)

1/1/2021: made french toast with soy milk also fresh bread from Sullivan Street, drizzled New Hampshire maple syrup given by Alice, assume it’s still eatable as syrup has been in refrigerator for a good number of years

1/5/21: special election for senate in Georgia today, everything at stake. Discovered circular medallions of painful fungus under both breasts from sweat. I seem to sweat when I go outside even if it’s icy. Need to find Elie Wiesel’s review of Anne Frank Remembered for SFB, found it: (was in International Herald Tribune on May 10th, 1987): Am struck by it’s power, as I haven’t read it in thirty years … several paragraphs follow: One better understands their rapport by reading the testimony that Miep, in her turn, has just written (with the remarkable collaboration of Alison Leslie Gold).

Having met her by chance, Alison Gold spent 16 months with Miep Gies and her husband Jan — Henk in the book — questioning them on their memories of the occupation. Let us give recognition to Alison Gold. Without her and her talent of persuasion, without her writer’s talent, too, this poignant account, vibrating with humanity, would not have been written.

Miep relates with simplicity and sobriety her ties with the Frank family.  … Thus her book can serve as commentary on, as interpretation of, Anne’s “Diary.” Thanks to Miep, we better understand what the young girl tells us, and why.

.. Who betrayed the Frank family? The informer was never found. Otto Frank did nothing to search for him. He preferred to use the past in order to save the future. Is this the reason why his daughter’s book sustained such enthusiasm in the world? Because the reader wanted to reassure himself? Because he managed to believe, like Anne, that man is good … in spite of everything? Anne Frank has left an unfinished Diary. If she had been able to write in Auschwitz and in Belsen, what would she have said? Would she have manifested the same confidence in man? No one can answer these questions; no one has the right to.

Let us simply remember, in the name of truth, that it was only when Anne wrote the last word of the last sentence, that she entered, mute, into the night of silence.

The review of a lifetime!

3.23.2021:Elliott born to A. and S! The sight of his little face in the first photo makes me happy … a happiness that begins at my knees and travels up my entire trunk

3.24.21: used a cane for the first time going to the dentist for a deep cleaning on 53rd Street. Seems like I’ve crossed a line when I dusted of this cane.  Can’t remember where I got it … I think I brought it back from Poland or perhaps it was Slovenia. Brings to mind literal lines written in Rome (on 30 November 1820) in a letter to Charles Brown by John Keats: “… I have an habitual feeling of having my real life passed and that I am leading a posthumous existence.”

3.25.2021: can barely walk across the apartment from bedroom to kitchen. Legs stiff, hurting. Tried compression socks and pain went away for an entire day. Once I was an athlete, was awarded best athlete prize when I graduated from Junior High School. I fondly remember all the sports in which I happily participated: swimming stoop ball punch ball canoeing fencing kendo judo volley ball scuba diving 8 ball pig and chicken (never hiking …. always hated hikes)

5.5.1: could it be that my knee issue after tormenting me for months has been divinely lifted? When I woke from nap just now knee and calf felt NORMAL. Dumped cane

7.22.21: Louise Fishman died at dawn. Am in shock. We had a long conversation from her hospital room a few hours before …. she was fearful … due to a dramatic reaction to a steroid medication given after miner heart surgery. It’s a hot summer weekend …the hospital quiet, half functioning since so many doctors are off sailing on their yachts  in the Hamptons. She was totally herself and lucid during our conversation.  It shouldn’t have happened …

12.30.21: helped wheelchair-bound neighbor (C.M., age 90), into her chair so that her sister (B., age 88 once a actress on Broadway stage) could give her an at-home covid test that registered positive. Thus: am in quarantine again for 5 days and won’t be able to help C. get out of bed as I’ve done on consecutive days since last May without missing a day. I hope she can find someone else to fill in  …

December 31.21: set of lime-green-colored sheets arrived. Perhaps the last day of the year is like the last chocolate in a gaudy box. Once its eaten, the box will be empty. It is. I wonder what fate has up his/her sleeve for this new year?

1.1.22: put out my light last night early and listened to Stendhal’s (famous for never altering his daily routine including shaving every day during the retreat of Napoleon from Moscow in 1812) novel La Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black).  Listened on and off all night, falling asleep for some hours and then backing up the tape and listening again. Woke predawn and called N to say happy new year, skyped M on Isle of Whyte, then zoomed into a 24/7 meeting in New Zealand first thing. ‘Alvin’ was speaking. I looked at my phone, saw a nondescript middle-aged gent standing in what looked like a park, several other men were sitting on a benche along the side by a wall. It turns out that Alvin was speaking from prison. He explained that he’s 52 years old, has been in prison since he was 17, found alcoholics anonymous in prison and has been sober for 18 years. He’s getting out of prison in 9 days and is scared to death. After Alvin, Wendy from South Africa shed tears as she told the group that this was her very first day.

Later: Re-read Turgenev’s “Bezhin Meadow” from Sportsman’s Notebook (my favorite book of the year … perhaps the decade (translated by Constance Garnett in 1897). Recently I discovered that Turgenev died of syphilis, I can’t remember how. Seems like I’m on a roll with syphilitics having listened to The Most Dangerous Book by Kevin Birmingham on Joyce who, according to the author, suffered all his life from symptoms caused by syphilis including his eye troubles; also Edouard Manet as reported in The Lost Notebook by Maureen Gibbon – didn’t but never finished. Stendhal, Joyce, Manet…. A book for someone to write. Not me

1.2: these months I drink coffee from a glass, never a cup, mug or bowl. The preferred ‘glass’ is my  Bormioli Rocco tumbler from Italy. Have a tickle in my inner ear that defies every Q-tip. Don’t think I’ve fastened on a bra in half a year

1.3: at-home  test – negative.

1.11: Miep died 12 years ago today. Lit a Yehrzeit Memorial Candle. Pat Hemingway also died on this date but 45 years ago. Bitterly cold outside, I love it. It snowed two days ago at last. Listened to Sinead O’Connor’s autobiography Rememberings all day. She, like me, battered as a child by her mother. Got text from D (in Paris) where he’s experiencing unpleasant health symptoms. Is it possible that you have syphilis? I asked him. It’s occurred to me too though it’s probably unlikely, he replied, and added, It was called ‘goujere’ in Shakespeare’s day … known as ‘the French Disease in those days. Probably just a UTI…..

1.16: negotiating contract as ‘consultant’ on 8 part mini-series “SMALL LIGHT IN A DARK ROOM” so as to be available for zoom meetings with ‘writer’s room’ or whomever requests as an informational resource (authority?) during the pre-production, also production

1.21: out of the blue learned that the Dutch film about Hannah Goslar – “My Best Friend Anne Frank” – has come to Netflix. It’s the (made in Europe) feature film based on my book. Yes, they’ve credited the book  although I’d passed on personal involvement wanting remuneration for Hannah to use for her constantly growing extended family – (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – about 75 to date) – can always use funds. Had lost track of the film after news of its premier in Amsterdam

1.23: A windfall suddenly. 12 degrees with fresh cold air so delicious to swallow.

1.25: hair falling out in droves. am trying minoxidil spray

3.21.22: mother’s 102 birthday. Second anniversary – loss of smell – though it randomly, briefly, returns. Received query for stage rights to ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED  from two woman in theater, a producer, a director

7.9.22: Gerry Margolis died suddenly … or suddenly to me. I can’t stand it.

9.6.22: breakthrough: at 3:15 a.m. ordered a ticket for $76 to see Allen Cummings & Steven Hoggett do “Burn” on Robert Burns at the Joyce Theater down on 8th Avenue tomorrow.

9.7.22: Walked (bra-less) to the Joyce had perfect seat upstairs on left side.  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  Loved everything about it

9.8.22: Queen Elizabeth dead

10.5.22: cut sheaf of Basel from garden. Chopped for pasta sauce and … trumpets please … actually smelled the sublime odor of Basel so so strongly. If this is all I ever smell again … so be it! The smell brings tears

10.9.22: Paul Gies died today.  Totally unexpect. A tragedy.   (His death has come on the same date as Daddy, though Daddy died 13 years ago.) Another coincidence: Paul and I share the same birth date; his in 1950, mine in 1945.

10.10.22

10.28: Hannah Goslar has died

11.21: Marijane Meaker has died, not surprising since she’s almost 93 but still a shock as I’ve known her since 1969-ish and she seemed invincible

May 24.23: ordered set of (crayola) lemon-yellow sheets. Put on watch . Rereading George Orwell’s Burmese Days. The line from it, The moon came out like a sick woman getting out of bed, describes tonight to a T

6.30: why so many sets of sheets piled in the linen closet?

7.12: Dashiell William born to A and S at dawn! Wondrous!

Not so new addiction – XXVI

Harold by Steven Wright

The Covenant of Water by Abraham  Verghese (Kerala, South India)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

Light Action in the Caribbean (short stories) by Barry Lopez

Short Stories by Saki by H.H. Munro

The Traveler and Other Stories (short stories) by Stuart Neville

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (short stories) by (Nigerian-American) Lesley Nneka Arimah

Marigold and Rose (fiction) by Louise Glück

Marina Tsvetaeva Poems (in Russian) read by Vera Pavlova

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar)

Pilgrim’s Way by  Abdulrazak Gurnah

Norma by Sofi Oksanen (translated from Finnish by Owen F Witesman)

Patrimony, A True Story (memoir) by Philip Roth

Goodbye Columbus and other Stories (short Stories) by Philip Roth

Leaving a Doll’s House (memoir) by Claire Bloom

The Outlaw Album (short stories) by Daniel Woodrell

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurhal (Zanzibar born British)

Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurhal

After Lives by Abdulrazak Gurhal

On the summer solstice – 2023

June 21, 2023 is the anniversary of my arrival in Greece on the Queen Anna Maria in 1970. I hadn’t known at the time but it opened a clean page on a new chapter in my life. That day, the arrival, my first meeting with Lily Mack, my future mentor, remain indelible in my soul. Not really “in” my soul but “is” my soul. Fifty-three years later, having weathered over 3 years of

 

a hermits life (with long covid symptoms rampant like loss of smell, covid induced asthma, sudden urgent diarrhea, indigestion,  hair loss among more) …

… the search for a tripwire to facilitate the opening of the next clean page/new chapter is ongoing. My ear is on the ground.

 

 

Not so new addiction – XXV

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells

The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond by Stephen O’Shea

No One Writes the Colonel Anymore and Other Stories (short stories) by Gabriel  Garcia Marquez

Demon Copperfield by Barbara Kingsolver

The New Life by Tom Crewe

The Jerusalem Syndrome by Marc Macron

The Ally by Iván Repila (translation from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem)

I’d Like to Say Sorry, But There’s No One to Say Sorry To short stories by Mikolaj Grynberg (translated from Polish by Sean Gasper Bye)

When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar

Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch (set in Namibia)

Alibis (essays) by André Aciman

Blood Feast (short stories) by Makika Moustadraf (translated by Alice Guthrie –French-Moroccan-Arabic )

The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel)

Collected Stories (short stories) by Shirley Hazzard

The Novelist by Jordan Castro

Spare by Prince Harry

Seven Empty Houses (short stories) by Samanta Schweblin (translated from Spanish by Megan Mc Dowell

A Guest at the Feast (essays) by Colm Toibin

 

 

Not so new addiction – XXIV

A Permanent Member of the Family (short stories) by Russell Banks

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories (short stories) by  Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Cruelty Special to Our Species (poems) by Emily Jungmin Yoon

If Men, Then (poems) by Eliza Griswold

Miss Aluminum (memoir) by Susanna Moore

Trying to Float: Coming of Age at the Chelsea Hotel (memoir) by Nicolaia Rips

God’s Children are Little Broken Things (short stories about Nigeria) by Arinze Ifeakandu

Manderley Forever: A biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosney

Some Girls (a memoir) by Jillian Lauren

Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

The Black Wedding by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Little Labors (short pieces on babies) by Rivka Galchen

Sudden Traveler (short stories) by Sarah Hall

The Interior Silence (essays) by Sarah Sands

Zeno’s Conscience by Italio Svevo (translated by William Weaver)

The Half Known Life (essays by) Pico Iyer

Objects of Desire: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and other Inscrutable Geographies (short stories) by Clare Sestanovich

Unruly Places (essays) by Alastair Bonnett

The Art of Stillness; Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer

Black Shack Alley by Joseph Zobel

 

Not so new addiction – XXIII

I Used to Live Here Once, the haunted life of Jean Rhys by Miranda Seymour

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

The Marches: A borderline journey between England and Scotland by Rory Stewart

Just Kids from the Bronx: An Oral History by Arlene Alda

The New York Times Book Review: 125 years of literary history, reviews and essays edited by Tina Jordan and Noor Qasim

The Aye-Aye and I  by Gerald Durrell

 

 

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (translated from the Japanese) by Stephen Snyder)

The White Road by Edmund De Waal

The Collected Stories of Diane Williams (short short stories) by Diane Williams

Prayer for the Living (short stories) by Ben Okri

Love Like That (short stories) by Emma Duffy-Comparone

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

(translate from Swedish by Rod Bradbury)

The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (short stories) by D.H. Lawrence

Lawrence Loves (short stories) by D. H. Lawrence

Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain (short stories) by Lucia Perillo

A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (short short stories) by Lydia Davis

The Greatest Russian Stories of Crime and Suspense (short stories) edited by Otto Penzler

Walking on Cowrie Shells (short stories) by Nana Nkweti

Down Home Meals for Difficult Times (short stories) by Meron Hadero