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WRITING DESK
June 16, 2011
 
My writing desk is not a desk at all -- it's an old dressing table I bought for ten dollars at a church rummage sale. It was distressed when it came and I have never refinished it, so now it's all but hysterical -- pitted and scarred, dotted here and there with the pale rings of bygone drinking glasses. A grandchild pasted a picture of a hummingbird on one corner of its top, and over in the center another one seems to have made liberal use of silver glitter glue. Somebody added incongruous chrome knobs, such as one would find in a kitchen, to its lone drawer. But it has graceful cabriole legs, upon which it stands without the smallest trace of a wobble -- remarkable, considering all it's evidently been through.. This desk has lived.

Every book I've written was written here. A chronology of writer's tools has lived on its surface -- a manual typewriter, an electric one, a dedicated word processor, two or three generations of desktop computers and a couple of laptops. My iPad is so light and sleek that I can use it anywhere, so it has not been as tied to this desk as its bulkier forebears were. But the iPad seems to be on some kind of job action today -- it won't send email. An ancient laptop I seldom use may not be as smart as the iPhone, but at least it's awake.

Let's see: I will have no office in the new house. That's been decided. I'll write on the iPad, or lying in bed, at the kitchen counter or in the living room, maybe out in the tiny garden. I have an office over at the church; I could go there. But I am unlikely to do so at four the morning.

I've got to find a place for my desk. As resolute as I have been about bidding farewell to so many beautiful things, I don't think I can part with this ugly one. We've been through too much together to say good-bye.
+

I'm Still Here
Good times and bum times,
I've seen them all and, my dear,
I'm still here.
Plush velvet sometimes,
Sometimes just pretzels and beer,
But I'm here.
I've stuffed the dailies
In my shoes.
Strummed ukuleles,
Sung the blues,
Seen all my dreams disappear,
But I'm here.
I've slept in shanties,
Guest of the W.P.A.,
But I'm here.
Danced in my scanties,
Three bucks a night was the pay,
But I'm here.
I've stood on bread lines
With the best,
Watched while the headlines
Did the rest.
In the Depression was I depressed?
Nowhere near.
I met a big financier
And I'm here.
I've been through Gandhi,
Windsor and Wally's affair,
And I'm here.
Amos 'n' Andy,
Mah-jongg and platinum hair,
And I'm here.
I got through Abie's
Irish Rose,
Five Dionne babies,
Major Bowes,
Had heebie-jeebies
For Beebe's
Bathysphere.
I lived through Brenda Frazier
And I'm here.
I've gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover,
Gee, that was fun and a half.
When you've been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover,
Anything else is a laugh.
I've been through Reno.
I've been through Beverly Hills,
And I'm here.
Reefers and vino,
Rest cures, religion and pills,
And I'm here
Been called a pinko
Commie tool,
Got through it stinko
By my pool.
I should have gone to an acting school.
That seems clear,
Still, someone said, "She's sincere,"
So I'm here.
Black sable one day.
Next day it goes into hock,
But I'm here.
Top billing Monday,
Tuesday you're touring in stock,
But I'm here.
First you're another
Sloe-eyed vamp,
Then someone's mother,
Then you're camp.
Then you career from career
To career.
I'm almost through my memoirs.
And I'm here.
I've gotten through "Hey, lady, aren't you whoozis?
Wow! What a looker you were."
Or, better yet, "Sorry, I thought you were whoozis.
Whatever happened to her?"
Good times and bum times,
I've seen 'em all and, my dear,
I'm still here.
Flush velvet sometimes,
Sometimes just pretzels and beer,
But I'm here.
I've run the gamut.
A to Z.
Three cheers and dammit,
C'est la vie.
I got through all of last year
And I'm here.
Lord knows, at least I was there,
And I'm here!
Look who's here!
I'm still here!
--Stephen Sondheim
1971

And here is Elaine Stritch's remarkable performance of this song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T67wmsEaYcE
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