By Barbara Woshinsky
Original published in the October 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter
Read Episode 1
The next morning, I was sitting drinking café con leche in the tiny kitchen of my Coconut Grove cottage. This old Miami neighborhood was once a haven for artists and hippies. Its bohemian flavor has been largely submerged under shopping malls and high-rise condos, but some of the old residential streets still keep their secluded charm: coral rock houses nestle on large lots shaded by live oaks, and you sometimes come across a road with a gumbo limbo tree growing right in the center. At night, it can feel like you’re driving into a forest—a nice respite from a city mostly buried in asphalt.
Before the divorce, I lived in a neo-provençal mansionette in Pinecrest, a pricy but characterless suburb south of Miami. Flat as a pancake, it boasts neither pines nor crests. I call it “Piecrust” because it is the home of so many upper crust doctors and lawyers. My ex-husband Jack is a successful gynecologist who took too close a look at one of his patients. I never suspected anything even though, according to my friends, South Florida is one of the cheating capitals of the US. If the men are honest when they arrive from Missouri or Oklahoma, something in the water must change them. Before I knew it, fluffy haired Vanessa was installed in my house enjoying the services of the Nicaraguan maid and the undocumented yard men (don’t ask, don’t tell.)
Suddenly I needed both a job and a place to live. Desperate, I turned to my friend Sherry, the director of Jasmine House, a refuge for abused women and their children where I volunteer parttime. She took me in, as she had taken in women in need before the refuge acquired its own building. She couldn’t offer me a paying job but pointed me towards Experienced Eyes Detective Services because it is a women-run organization that hires “mature” females. But my first job for them had ended in tragedy.
What would I do now?
As I sat looking out the window, the phone rang. It was my daughter Alexandra, better known as Alex. She is studying at the University of Miami Law School to become an immigration rights attorney.
“Hi, Mom. How are you doing? Have you heard from the Creep’s lawyer lately?” We are still arguing over alimony.
“You shouldn’t call your father that, even if he is one; and no, I haven’t.”
“OK, the Slimeball. How’s your new job?”
“After one day?”
“It was an interesting day. They say they support women, but they put them at risk.”
“Well, that’s too bad; but why not give it another try? Sorry, I’ve gotta go now; I have a huge test Friday. Love you, Mom.”
“Love you, dear. Good luck.”
“You too, Mom.”
I went back to sipping my Bustelo and staring out the window at the sun-dappled queen palm in the back yard. The old air conditioning unit groaned and dripped, trying to cope with the humidity. I knew I should get up and start looking at job listings on the internet, but I felt as limp as a towel left outside overnight in the rain.
The phone rang again. “Hello?” I said.
“Hi, Margaret. This is Rosa, from Experienced Eyes. I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. It was really terrible. But you did a good job. I’d like you to come back to work.”
“I don’t think so.”
“But I have a case that would interest you, helping out another woman. Please come in, and let’s talk about it.”
I hesitated. I had nothing pressing on my schedule—nothing at all, in fact. “Yeah, I guess so. I’ll be there in an hour.”
I walked through the beaded curtains into the small living room. The furniture consisted of an old wicker couch and chair, a glass table, and a poster for the 1981 Grove Art Show. In the bathroom, I stepped into the clawfoot tub and let the cool water wash over me from the old round showerhead. Refreshed, I put on baby powder, deodorant, and my favorite citrusy cologne. I slipped on a beige linen skirt, pink tee, and sandals, and I was ready to go.
When I got to Rosa’s office, she was speaking to a young woman with deep honeycolored skin and big dark eyes. She would have been pretty if she had been smiling.
“Margaret, meet Nella. She was just telling me her story.”
Nella pushed her thick hair away from her forehead. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I think my husband is infidèl, but I’m not sure.”
“Why do you think so?”
“The other day, I came back from work—I’m a waitress at Denny’s—and there was a strange red car parked in front of the building. My husband was already home. I asked him if he had a guest, and he said no, but he looked really nervous. I started looking around the apartment and heard a noise from the bedroom closet. I opened the door, and there was a woman inside. I tried to grab her, but she got away and ran out the door.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked my husband. ‘She’s just a friend,’ he said. ‘We were talking and heard you arrive, and she was afraid you’d get the wrong idea so she hid in the closet.’”
“Oh yeah?” “Yes, querida; I love you.”
“What do you think?” asked Rosa.
“I’m really suspicious. Jorge isn’t working right now, so he’s home a lot. But this morning I saw him go out, and the red car was there. So would your operative come with me and try to surprise her?”
If there’s anything I hate more than boa constrictors, it’s cheating husbands, so I agreed. We headed off in Nella’s car to an address off Bird Road (birro in Cuban speak).
Sure enough, the red car was still parked in front of the building. Nella quietly unlocked the apartment and we entered. The bedroom closet door was shut. I opened it quickly. There was no one inside, but on the floor I saw…a pink thong.
To be continued….
By Mary Lynn Kittelson
Original published in the September 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter
The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images is a big beautiful book, more than half of which is colorful, lovely pictures. Its 792 pages contain five major sections: Creation and Cosmos, Plant World, Animal World, and the two largest, the Human World and Spirit World.
“Archetypal,” of course, indicates that an image or symbol is meaningful to the heart and mind in all cultures and deeply into our past. It is the language of the human experience of the world through the psyche.
The guiding principle of this book is stated in Meister Eckhart’s words: “When the soul wants to experience something, she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” The editorial staff describes in detail how they decided to present an archetypal image.
Together, the pictures and words (including fascinating poetry and quotations) create “the numinous particular” (p.6), so that the invisible manifests and another world shines through. Each entry hopes to “open up” perception of the symbol and not to confine its vitality for it has mystery and unites opposites.
You do indeed have the chance to get a deep and inspiring sense of the 700 images that the book includes. Take a look. It’s on the upper level of our library in the anthropology section.
By Katie Weiblen
Originally published in the March 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter
You may have noticed the Little Free Library at the entrance to Grove Park. This colorful addition to the park came by a very indirect route. A number of years ago, as a retired librarian from the Minneapolis Public Library, I attended a luncheon meeting of the Metropolitan Library Service Association. There was a drawing for one of the early versions of the Little Free Libraries. Much to my surprise, I held the winning ticket! I had a choice of designs and chose what I thought was the most beautiful and elaborate.
Fearing that my Little Free Library would not survive the weekend student revelry and accompanying vandalism in our Minneapolis U of M neighborhood, I gave it to my grandchildren in University Grove. After some consideration, the family decided that rather than setting it out at their home, it would be of greater service to the community if it were placed in a more public area. A letter of request was sent to the Falcon Heights Parks and Gardens Committee. The committee suggested that the Little Free Library be placed in the community park on Roselawn Avenue. This led to the circulation of a petition for permission to place it in Grove Park, where it would serve visitors to the park.
By Barbara Woshinsky
Originally published in the February 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter
Last year, in response to the Library Committee’s annual request for new acquisitions suggestions, one resident asked whether we had a good selection of “classics.” Yes, faithful reader, our library does contain works by Shakespeare, George Eliot, Dostoevsky, Henry James, and others that many would consider classics. But this query caused us to ponder further. What, in fact, is a classic? Is it just a book we were forced to read in class, perhaps turning us off it forever? In reality, “classics” are not necessarily dusty and fusty. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil were censored for obscenity, and that American icon, Huckleberry Finn, remains one of the most frequently banned books in U.S. libraries. When Mark Twain heard that a librarian considered his works dangerous for children, he commented that they were written for adults, and cautioned her not to leave them lying around near a Bible. Suppose children should get hold of that!
Returning to our initial question: one common definition of a classic is a work that has stood the test of time—that communicates universal values beyond the period when it originated. It also possesses an artistic power that is hard to define but easy to recognize. According to Italian writer and Nobel Prize recipient Italo Calvino, “a classic is a book that people say they are rereading, or else that even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading.” What works give you that feeling of familiarity? Another writer, the ninth century French critic Sainte-Beuve, sums it up in this way: a classic is “an old author, canonized by admiration, and an authority in a particular style.” Given that definition, can there be a “modern classic?” Will Lord of the Flies or Catch-22 retain their classical status in 2216, or will they descend to the level of texts read only by English professors and their graduate students?
Sainte-Beuve’s definition reveals a close connection between “classic” and “canon.” Originating in biblical study, the term “canon” denotes works of great cultural or moral authority that every educated person should read. A twentieth century attempt to define the canon was made by the famous “Great Books” program at the University of Chicago. Its first edition of fifty-plus volumes was heavy on ancient Greek literature (the original “classics”), philosophy, and English and American authors. It contained no women writers. Since the 1960s, this traditional canon, with its focus on books by “dead white males,” has been hotly contested. Works by African-American writers like Toni Morrison, many of which we would now consider “classic,” have been added to the canon. Other forgotten writers have been rediscovered.
So the answer to “what is a classic?” is not as simple as it may seem. Like so many aspects of culture, the “classics” are not fixed by some immutable authority but evolve through time and social change. What are some of your favorite classics? Let’s continue the dialogue and fire our own canons!
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