I never knew Eric, he was always Sam’s friend, but like many people in our city, I knew who he was. Riding a bicycle down Langalibalele Street, heading towards the city center of Pietermaritzburg, it was hard to miss his double bed jammed into the double doorway of the old and abandoned St. Anne’s hospital. It wasn’t just a double bed in width, but in height, with two bases and two mattresses, giving the impression that this was how the princess and her pea would live, if she were homeless.
Sam first noticed the hospital, before he noticed Eric, and he loved it, with its tangled garden and hanging shutters and star-cracked windows. A few meters from Eric’s bed, an embroidered heart flapped in the wind, given as a red get-well gift, now grey. Behind his bed, a chain padlocked the double doors. I pictured the floors shiny, disinfected, the corridors bustling with soft-shoed nurses one day, and the next day superintendent pulling the double doors to, winding the chain, clicking the lock, saying, “Well, that’s all folks. Thanks for everything.” More… “Eric Was Here”
Sarah Groves lives in an apartment in the inner city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa with 1 husband, 5 children and 98 neighbours. She spends her afternoons writing, and her evenings enjoying the city. It’s dirty, noisy and busting with language and culture, from all over Africa. Her first childrens’s book (Sbonelo Snoop) was published last year with Penguin SA.
Harry Houdini’s escape trunk stands in the Jewish Museum like a coffin. “Embedded in Houdini’s ventures were competing ambitions,” says the wall text in the museum’s new “Houdini: Art and Magic” exhibition, “he simultaneously courted mortality and the triumph of life.” There’s a lot of metaphor in a trunk: adventure, travel, excitement, secrets. Houdini turned his trunk into a symbol of resurrection. Houdini’s audiences couldn’t know what tricks went on inside that trunk after he had allowed himself to be locked in and the curtain was closed. But some part of them believed that when Harry Houdini burst free, undefeated and smiling, he had shaken hands with the Grim Reaper and spat in his eye. Harry Houdini met death and came back to tell the tale.
My friend’s son just died. He was only 10 years old. It happened so suddenly that my friend can barely understand her grief or how to cope with it. I want to help her, but I don’t know how. Sadly, I don’t think words can help in this situation. — Kay
Maybe some time needs to pass, but I think one day you’ll see that words can console in even the saddest situations. Right now, for your friend especially, the world is simply too cruel — it can’t possibly offer anything redemptive. And she’s right: The world is not just, and she should grieve. She should not be scouring books of poetry for something that will help her cope, and neither should you, not right now. What you can do as a friend is give her space to… More…
Our singular social interaction outside the building came two years ago. I invited him to a reading I was giving at a local Barnes & Noble to celebrate one of my books on censorship. But even at that festive occasion we men of words exchanged but few.
Over the years, I gleaned hardly anything else about Mr. Aronson. I can’t recall ever seeing him with company. He apparently enjoyed hiking. Sometimes in the summer he looked like a big kid in shorts, a T-shirt, tube socks, and hiking boots. And he must have loved jazz. Sax solos routinely burst through his black metal door. I imagined Mr. Aronson methodically removing a Charlie Parker record from the jacket stored in a plastic sleeve, checking both sides for scratches and gently placing the disk on a vintage turntable. But he could have owned a brand new MP3 player for all I knew, as I never set foot in his apartment. In Manhattan, proximity does… More…
From the editors: We are saddened by the passing this week of Drexel University President Constantine Papadakis. Quite simply, this publication would not exist if not for the strong and unwavering support of President Papadakis. Contributing writer Paula Marantz Cohen reflects on his legacy.
Constantine Papadakis, president of Drexel University, died at the age of 63 on April 5. “Taki,” as he liked to be called, succumbed to complications connected to a year-long struggle with lung cancer. His death should not have been surprising, yet it was. It seemed unthinkable that this enormous life force had been quenched.
When Taki became president of Drexel 13 years ago, the university was in dire straits. The physical plant was in disrepair, enrollment had plummeted, and salaries were frozen. I recall the first time the faculty met with its new president…. More…