Being of sound mind and body

Being of sound mind and body

According to a recent New York Times article, some fans of the famed children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak fear that his former caretaker is not qualified to run the foundation that was created to preserve his legacy. These critics have questioned the estate’s decision to withdraw original artworks Sendak had lent to a Philadelphia museum. They also object to the sale of some of Sendak’s personal collection, including “ephemera from the kidnapping of Lindbergh’s young son, which traumatized Mr. Sendak as a child and which he described as a profound influence on his development as an artist.”

Having just had my own brush with mortality (I nearly inhaled while using the men’s room at the Port Authority), I wanted to make my own intentions clear to whoever is tasked with executing my estate and legacy upon my demise. 

First, in the matter of my early journalistic work, I request that all notes, drafts, manuscripts, and published material shall be acquired by my alma mater — the former Waltoffer Ave. Elementary School in North Bellmore, NY. This includes the typewritten manuscript of my first article as a summer intern for Bellmore Life newspaper, titled “Local man grows world’s largest zucchini,” as well as the full-page retraction that ran the next week, titled, “Zucchini was not world’s largest, nor even a zucchini, and local ‘man’ in fact teenage girl with overactive thyroid.”

The display of my artifacts shall include a vitrine dedicated to my term as editor of the high school literary magazine, The Bellmoron, with a special emphasis on my daring editor’s note, which predicted that “like appreciation for the music of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Jimmy Carter’s legacy is only bound to grow in coming decades.”

The diaries I kept while backpacking in Israel the summer after college should be of particular interest to scholars interested in the history of the region, especially the complex relations between North American and Israeli youth in the aftermath of the Lebanon War. Note this entry from August 1983, shortly after the resignation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin: “See a cute blonde woman soldier at a pub near Ben Yehuda Street. Offer to buy her a beer. She laughs and returns to squeezing the thick bicep of a guy with shaved head and aviator sunglasses. I got her to laugh!!”

Material pertaining to my 1980s magazine work shall become the property of the Newseum in Washington, DC. These include notes and drafts for my 400-word profile of the synth-pop band Level 42 in You Rock! monthly, in which I confidently predicted, “As with acid-washed jeans and the comedy of Mr. Bill Cosby, history will be kind to the blue-eyed soul of these funky British rockers!”

The 700-plus columns I have written on a weekly basis for New Jersey Jewish News shall be collected, bound, and published in a multi-volume set, with an introduction by Leon Wieseltier, annotations by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, and chapter headings as follows: “U.S-Israel Relations,” “The Future of the Two-State Solution,” “Challenges to American-Jewish Identity,” and “‘Humor’ Essays Written in Lieu of Actual Research.”

All photographs shall be donated to the Photographic Archive of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, with the exception of the one depicting my parents’ friend Irwin dressed up as a woman for the bungalow colony’s annual mock wedding, which traumatized me as a child.

I irrevocably assign to the American Jewish Historical Society my voluminous correspondence, in various formats, including electronic mail (“e-mail”), file interchange format (“JPEG”), tagged image file format (“TIFF”), instant messaging (“Leaving office now; pick up anything on way home?”), and Facebook (“LOL at picture of cat wearing yarmulke!!”).

My house in Teaneck should be preserved as is for posterity, except for the 24-inch flat-screen TV in the master bedroom, which should really be replaced with a bigger one now if we plan on enjoying the playoffs. 

I request that the ephemera I display in my office never be divided, so that future scholars may treat them as a whole when investigating their profound influence on my development as a writer. These include my Sholom Aleichem bobble head, my Baruch Spinoza finger puppet, my Emma Lazarus “Give me your tired” throw pillow, and a coin bank in the shape of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ. The Barack Obama-ke and John McKippah yarmulkes should be preserved as a pair, as should the marble paperweight commemorating the signing of the Camp David accords and the Bachman-Turner Overdrive boxed set.

All other correspondence, legal documents, financial records, registers, annual reports, typescripts, newspaper clippings, printed material, microfilm, and art work shall become the property of my children, whose responsibility it will be to clean UP the basement and throw out all that crap.

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