Keats, hanging out.

I read Keats’ letters every once in a while.

Here he is, writing to his brothers. I was startled because I didn’t think this slang was used before the 20th C.

I am… getting initiated into a little band. They call drinking deep dyin’ scarlet. They call good wine a pretty tipple, and call getting a child knocking out an apple; stopping at a tavern they call hanging out. Where do you sup? Where do you hang out?

They’ve been going in and out of style

I was born in September, 1967, right after the Summer of Love. When I was a kid, I figured that made me an actual child of the 60s.

My parents were not hippies, but they met in the midst of the Minneapolis folk blues scene, and they certainly had a lot of interesting friends.

In 1967, they were living in Ankara. They only got new records when friends and co-workers brought them back from the USA and UK. Whenever those records arrived, they  had a party.

When Sgt. Pepper arrived, the party went over 24 hours. They just kept turning it over. Mom was past 8 months pregnant with me, and along with everyone else she danced all night to that one record. She got broken glass in her foot and didn’t notice. She had a good time.

After I was born, she says when I got fussy, if she put that record on I would quiet down and listen. If I was tired, it would put me to sleep–I would go out with that final chord.

I still have no objectivity about this record, or not much. I go years without listening to it, but it’s part of my brain, I still have it memorized in detail, in depth.

She always said that her original copy, printed in the UK, had the sound of a cocktail party on whatever you call the final groove that winds toward the center label, and is usually blank. Some later party guest walked off with that copy, and her replacement didn’t feature that extra. After she died, I found a copy that does. It’s not a cocktail party. But it makes all the sense in the world that she remembered it that way.

None of you will sleep here.

It’s been a dark week. Today I realized I’d been hearing this song in my head for hours.

I started listening to my mother’s collection of musicals, mostly from her brief frightening time in 1950s NYC, when I was about twelve or thirteen. I liked the dark ones best, a taste that would only intensify over the next few years. I especially remember being deeply in love with Lotte Lenya in the 1950s NYC production of The Threepenny Opera, and her “Pirate Jenny.”

I identified with this song to a degree that gives me a different set of chills, listening to it now. But I know I was far from the only adolescent girl to be enraptured by that fantasy of total revenge. Things had been going very badly for me for a few years, and people were always telling me to smile, because I was so pretty when I smiled…and damn the rest of me.

I don’t recall that anyone commented on my attraction to stories of horror and destruction.

I knew life would be better when I grew up, and I was right. But the attraction is still there. And now I have an adolescent girl who loves them too.

There’s a few videos of this song online, not to mention all the covers. Back in the 80s I was in love with the English language recording, made when Lenya was over 50, with an expressive acting style, and a lower vocal register. Here’s one TV performance.

But looking it up, I ran across this German version from the 1931 film and was even more struck by it. Her piercing girl’s voice, her frozen face and posture. Mac the Knife sliding in to watch.


I have a book coming out. But it’s not my book.

Jirousek_Ottoman Dress and Design in the West_cvr

Charlotte Jirousek, professor of textiles and apparel at Cornell University, and my late mother, wrote it. Took her about 15 years, including the research.

She went to Turkey for the first time on a college trip in 1959, and fell in love with that part of the world for life. In the 1960s, she and my father served with Peace Corps Turkey and helped a village get a rug cooperative off the ground. At age 49, after various other adventures, she got her PhD. Tough age to start an academic career, but she did it. Cornell was her second job after graduation. As soon as she got it, she began almost annual trips to do primary research in Turkey on vanishing textile technologies at the end of what was once the Silk Road, aided by her fluency in Turkish, her experience with Anatolian village culture, and her background as a weaver and weaving teacher. She traveled to places that few other researchers had been to. And over time, she became interested in the influence of the Ottoman Empire on European dress and design.

Her premise in this book is that dress historians in Europe and the USA often write as if a cultural wall separated the Ottoman Empire and Europe, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Those cultures influenced each other for centuries, and the history of how the balance between them shifted along with political, military, and economic power is one of the most interesting parts of this story.

Plus all the cool tidbits like–guess where buttons came from.

Right after she retired in 2014, she died. Her coffee table was stacked with books and maps to plan another three month research trip.

We were flooded with condolences, and also many notes from her collaborators and peers saying, “but what about the book?!”

The manuscript was complete enough to pitch. Once I had cleared out the estate, and placed her collections, papers, and personal library at Cornell, I picked it up.

I took a “how to pitch a scholarly book” class with Audra J. Wolfe via Thinking Writer,  sent out queries, and it was acquired by Jennika Baines of Indiana University Press.

With her guidance, and using skills I learned as an academic librarian, proofreader, and indexer, I completed a massive developmental edit, and cut the images from over 300 down to 196. When I couldn’t find copyright holders or even sources for some of those images, I found new ones that illustrated the same points. That part took almost a year! Try looking for a specific 15th century sleeve detail in scanned manuscript databases held by national libraries and little monasteries, using google translate to navigate their sites.

I also corresponded with many curators and librarians, often across language barriers (though I did improve my French). Many were lovely, and went extra miles to help me.

To pay thousands of dollars in subvention, permissions and international wiring fees, I held a GoFundMe, and my mom’s network stepped up and covered it all.

There is no way I could have done this project 20 years ago.

So it’s done now. It is brilliant, topical, beautiful, accessible to a general audience, and out March 1, 2019. This is how the preface begins:

“In 1959 I made my first visit to the Middle East. It was a revelation.”

Charlotte Jirousek in Iğdır 1959
Charlotte Jirousek in Iğdır 1959

Thus the Birch Canoe was builded

I’m on a John McPhee kick, which is starting to tie into my childhood “abandon me in the wilderness” fantasies. I’m reading the library’s copy of The Survival of the Bark Canoe. Someone copied part of Longfellow’s noble savage fantasy, Song of Hiawatha, into the back.

Hiawatha stanzas

I never thought it was a good poem, even as a child growing up in Minneapolis, with this statue a semi-annual school field trip, and real Natives, some AIM activists, talking history at school and elsewhere.

Hiawatha statue

But I can still sympathize slightly with the defacer of library property because it is a hard poem to remove from memory, once in. And it always makes me think of Katherine Hepburn as a reference librarian.