How well do we know our parents? Where we came from? How well do we understand the circumstances and situations that swirled around them at the time of our conception? And not just our individual conception, but the conception of our siblings, the creation of our families?
E.B. White’s Here is New York is my favorite book about my favorite American city. Published in 1949, it is considered an essay, most likely because of its short length, a mere 56 pages, into which White packed such timeless observations about the island of Manhattan that this ‘book’ has a permanent place on my desk in New York.
In the Summer of 2006, the day before I returned to New York after using my entire year’s vacation to study Italian at the Università per Stranieri in Siena, Italy, I took an early bus to Arezzo and spent the morning roaming the city taking pictures. After the cool early hours had morphed into lunchtime, I found a little trattoria on a small piazza where I could have a salad and a cold glass of Prosecco to ward off the heat that had begun to rise from the cobbled vicolos.
I ought to have been born between the World Wars, when it was romantic to be sentimental, when having an attachment to the past was normal, when lovers would hand-write nostalgia-filled letters whenever apart, when taking a journey down a memory lane strewn with tales of adventures and friends and events long gone by could rouse a spontaneous and unembarrassed launch into Doris Day’s and Les Brown’s rendition of A Sentimental Journey.
I don’t watch much television, but these past few months I have looked forward to late Sunday nights with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, an update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which aired in 1980 to mesmerized viewing.
Standing on the barren landscape of what was once Uruk in ancient Sumer, now known as Iraq, in The Immortals (Episode 11 of the modernized series), Tyson tells us about Enheduanna, an Akkadian Princess (2285-2250 BCE) about whom I had never heard until The Immortals aired on May 18, 2014.
Where will you be when you are old? With your family? Your fiends? Alone? Will you be rich? Or poor? In good health? Or ill perhaps? Will you be mentally engaged? Or failing up there in some frightening way? How, and with whom, will you while away the hours of the day?