Question: What role do elderly parents play in your life?

My mother died last week,Muff near Eastern Market, 20 July 2004 and I’m mourning and thinking back. When I decided to stay here in Germany, an ocean away, I automatically decided against sharing her day-to-day life and being there to help her with her big and small needs. Not being there has felt morally wrong, always. After all, you simply can’t “delegate” tender loving care, no matter how involved you get in your parents’ living arrangements from a distance. Two of my brothers cared for her in Washington, which is very comforting, and I spent time with her recently. But still, she wasn’t a part of my daily life. I’ve always dreamt of a utopia where all of the generations of my family and my and our friends are nearby, but reality is very different.

Can you imagine having, or are you planning to have, your parents live with you and your family? There will certainly be more of that in the next years, as retirement homes will again become a great luxury. As for me, I’d like to find group living arrangements myself, with a small group of like-minded people sharing a house, and kind-hearted professionals to take care of our physical needs. Yet another utopia?

What about you? Are you struggling with arrangements for your elderly parents? Or are you already thinking about how you will handle your own last years?

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Dog, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn’t hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a seriously dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog’s life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
democratic dog
engaged in real
free enterprise
with something to say
about ontology
something to say
about reality
and how to see it
and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
his picture taken
for Victor Records
listening for
His Master’s Voice
and looking
like a living questionmark
into the
great gramaphone
of puzzling existence
with its wondrous hollow horn
which always seems
just about to spout forth
some Victorious answer
to everything

Stolen from Poetry Foundation

About this poem:

We read this poem at school, and I loved it from the first moment on. It reminded me of a gorgeous bronze by Giacometti of a dog with a sagging back.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919) is an American Beat poet and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind (New York, 1958), a collection of poems translated into nine languages. In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Martin founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and he launched the publishing wing of City Lights and published Beat Generation writers, including Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. The book was seized in 1956 by the San Francisco police, and Ferlinghetti and the bookstore manager who had sold the book to the police were arrested on obscenity charges. After a long trial, Howl was found to be not obscene and Ferlinghetti was aquitted in October 1957. The landmark First Amendment case established a key legal precedent for the publication of other controversial literary work with redeeming social importance.

I remembered this poem after an online discussion with Heike and Christian about Charlotte Link’s Roche’s “Feuchtgebiete” (which I don’t like) and one of their friends mentioned Bukowski, whom I mixed up with Bulgakov, whose book “Heart of a Dog” I love, which again reminded me that any down to earth description of our human weaknesses benefits from the absurd, surreal, imaginative (which Charlotte Link Roche lacks, I feel). … But then I realized my error and seem to remember that Bukowski is just as down and dirty as Charlotte Link Roche is, but still thinking he’s cool. Sheeeesh. So now that I’ve gone off on a tangent to no place and have managed to enjoyably waste half of the morning – make that afternoon – , I’m sitting here wondering:

Do we forgive men writing up their physical excesses, and not women? Are men who write about their grunts creating art, while women create, um, non-art?

So this post is dedicated to Heike and Christian.

Grammar Guru: Predictions

Last week: I’m ready to leave to go on a trip, so I say

  • I am going to Poznań this weekend. (80%, 16 Votes)
  • I will go to Poznań this weekend. (20%, 4 Votes)
  • I go to Poznań this weekend. (0%, 0 Votes)
    More here.

This week: Which of these predictions is correct English and most probable?

  • It could freeze next week
  • It’s likely to freeze next week.
  • It might freeze next week.
  • It’s probable to freeze next week.

Agile one to one. Progress, step by step

This is how I teach. Aiming too high can cause negative stress. I’ve learned to break learning down into small, productive, rewarding steps.
I was thrilled and very priviledged to be sponsored by Cornelsen to present this at BESIG, the Business English Special Interest Group, in Poznan last weekend. It was a great event. This presentation was sponsored to promote Up to Speed by Carole Eilertson and Louise Kennedy. Carole mentored me in this presentation.
My favorite BESIG presentation was actually the keynote by Vicki Hollett, who emphasized that we need to teach dialogues and focus on the pragmatics that allow us to communicate effectively. To see some of the other presentations, go to the BESIG website.