Monday, April 8, 2019. We’ve had some nice weather over the weekend in New York, after a very heavy Friday night rain. Temperatures reached up into the low 60s with a bright sunshine. A friend of mine who walks my dogs occasionally came over from her home on the West Side on Saturday morning to take them out. I prepared them by putting on their collars and leashes. Under those circumstances, they go nuts whenever the doorman rings up to say she’s on her way up. They know. And we think we’re the smarter?
She was wearing a lighter (weatherwise) jacket. Because she’s one who is very sensitive to the weather, and not having been outdooors yet, I commented on her lighter clothes. She told me that it was warmer outside but on the West Side in the Sun, it was comfortably warmer. However when she got to my apartment on the far East Side, and near the East River flowing by, there was a wind that gave it all a little chill. The East Side Chill.
On the last Wednesday in March, The Writing Center of Hunter College its their annual dinner at Doubles, the private club in the Sherry-Netherland. This is a very homey affair. The menu at Doubles is always tasty and alluring to the eye and the palate, and guest list is basically writers, publishers and serious fans of writers. It’s a dinner that people attend year to year out of the pleasure of the company and the atmosphere that prevails: relax. Among those attending were Geoffrey Bradfield, Andre Aciman, Kitty Pilgrim, Iris Love, Elizabeth Strong Cuevas, Lucinda Franks, Louise Sunshine, Dan Rose, Michael Gross, Chris Cerf, Amanda Fillipachi, David and Lisa Schiff, John Simon, and Malachy McCourt.
This year’s guest of honor this year was Joyce Carol Oates. There was a special honor for Lewis Frumkes, the director of the Writing Center and the force behind its success, in changing the name of the Lewis Burke Frumkes Center For Writing and Culture at Hunter College.
As fate would have it, Ms. Oates had to cancel her plans last minute and fly back to California where her husband was critically ill.
She sent these words to be read at the dinner honoring Lewis and the name change of the Writing Center:
“Thank you for this enormous, and very touching honor. I am thrilled at this distinction, particularly as it comes from my dear colleague and friend Lewis Frumkes, whom I have known and admired for years. And congratulations to Lewis also on the occasion of the ‘Lewis Burke Frumkes Center for Writing and Culture.’ — this is much-deserved!
“We are living in a time in which the life and work of the imagination — of the human spirit — is more precious than ever, as it is challenged by the hostility and indifference of a morally unmoored public governance. Though we understand that art will survive — indeed, in some quarters art is, perversely, flourishing — nonetheless the individual writer, poet, playwright, and artist can feel isolated, unacknowledged.
“The community of writers and artists — symbolized here by the festive gathering in this room, in acknowledgment of the ‘Lewis Burke Frumkes Center for Writing and Culture” — is a strong one, and loyal to its own. We need one another at such times — we love and value one another — if we are writers, we should read one another — and (not least) we should buy one another’s books …
“Recall Emily Dickinson’s slant, quirky, inspiring words:
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird—
That kept so many warm—
Again, thank you—with much love—and gratitude—to all.”