Sunday, September 25, 2016


September 25, 2016

Rose in darkness and walked under a fragment of moon and brilliant stars, lovely except for one who so longs for rain. I had the city to myself. A cat talked to me from the school parking lot, but he seemed fat and happy and I walked on, so solitary that for the most part I walked in the middle of the street. What I noticed was that I felt miraculously well, the aches and stiffnesses that made me murmur “ouch!” at almost every movement gone. The bit of gardening I did yesterday loosened me up? The steroid Dr. Hicks gave me for gout but which I took last night because of the pain? If the latter–if either, now that I think of it–I am saved. It is still night outside.

I have wonderful poems that I forgot I had written, I’ll bet 200 which have never seen the light of day.

Woke dreaming that I was grading comprehensives, which means I should probably do that in truth some time today.

Prairie Wolf Review takes two poems.

I have been telling people the wrong title for the show I’m “producing.” Bruce sent me an outline. Not electrifing positive, but not a dud.

(Music, lyrics and book by Dave Malloy, directed by Rachel Chavkin. Performances begin at the Imperial Theatre on October 18th)
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (a.k.a The Great Comet) is one of my most cherished discoveries of the past few seasons. The show is by triple-threat author Dave Malloy, and it’s a stunner. Based on one mere thread of the literary tapestry that is Tolstoy’s War and Peace, The Great Comet has a score that artfully weaves in Russian musical idioms into what is an otherwise contemporary score. The show features just a tad too much narration (telling versus showing) for my personal taste, but overall the musical is rich and rewarding. I’m a tad concerned that Malloy’s more recent musical efforts have been alternately baffling (Ghost Quartet) and inert (Preludes), but The Great Comet is thankfully a strong piece in its own right. The big question for the Broadway version is whether Josh Groban, who will be making his Broadway debut as Pierre, has the acting chops for the role. He’s an odd fit: Pierre is grizzled and dyspeptic, two adjectives it would be hard to apply to Mr. Groban. Even so, I’m quite intrigued to see how the show, which was done in an immersive ballroom setting Off-Broadway, will translate to a proscenium stage. Based on the recent American Repertory Theater staging of the show, the show should make the transfer quite handily. Plus, there’s a stunning new song for Pierre that isn’t on the Off-Broadway cast recording, a brooding atmospheric solo called “Dust and Ashes,” which may well have been added to beef up the role for Groban, but it’s a strong song nonetheless, one that adds to the already rich fabric of The Great Comet.

It is apparently a version of War and Peace and had a life off Broadway. Interesting how I get into these things knowing nothing about them. 

Played the original cast album on Spotify. Hmm. “Triple threat Dave Malloy” made an error I could have spared him at the outset– exhausting references to the whole text of War and Peace, when he should have taken the moment of his show as though that’s all there was. Constant jokes about the characters’ many names. I wouldn’t have invested had I heard it first, but it might not be a disaster: the degree to which I and the Great Public differ in our theatrical tastes is legendary. 

4:30. Thunderstorm. Blessed.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


September 24, 2016

Rehearsal for the bishop’s installation. Almost wept with frustration going, though it was all right once I was there.
   
Planted iris against the fence, then mulched the spot, like covering a sleeping child with a blanket. The dirt was dust. It looked like a movie of people digging graves in the Wild West.
   
Got together the collection Me with a White Rose in My Hand. Worked hard at writing. Thirsty and exhausted now. Through the study window the northern sky looks green.

September 23, 2016

Cool of evening. I spent the last hour watering slow, thorough, aiming the hose until pools gathered under the leaves, determined that if the sky was not going to do its duty I would. The swamp hibiscus had collapsed on the ground for lack of water. The small red one in front is lifting itself up even now. I expect that great white in back to be erect again by morning.
   
Wonderful reading last night in the Reuter’s Center, Wiley-organized. I wasn’t a fan of the book being read from, but I was of the great crowd gathered for the sake of literature,
   
Z claims to have held his breath four minutes this morning, based on exercises developed by a man called “The Ice Man,” because he can endure low temperatures and climb Everest in his shorts and the like. I don’t know that I need to hold my breath for four minutes, but there must be some general good to be derived from such an achievement.
   
The last sky behind a few bunched-up clouds is cruel and fiery azure.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


September 22, 2016

Autumn. I do not want to think of it.

Howling of sirens. Somebody has trouble already at this hour of the morning.

The sewer men opened my driveway and installed a little structure way down there, covered it up with dirt, if not yet with pavement. They were actually as unobtrusive as you can be in an enterprise involving jack hammers and bulldozers. I surveyed the hole for a minute, and was disappointed that it was pretty much red clay all the way down, no strata, no fossils, one astonished root.

Niggardly film of rain a few days back, but I must go back to nightly watering. I think I’ve lost half of what I planted this year, between the maniac gardeners and the drought that assailed everything before it had time to root.
  
Wells Fargo in trouble for opening accounts that customers didn’t authorize. Years ago I myself got a call from the banker who’d helped us through dad’s crises, and she asked if she could open a savings account with my money, in my name, for if she did she’d get a bonus. I said sure. The account lasted five days, and then she reverted it to what it was before. What if they had all asked? What if they said, “If you let me do this, it will not affect you, and I can have a little extra”? How many would have turned them down? My dad did, but he was himself. 

Wednesday ended badly. Unspecifically ill, or rather miraculously run-down, I stayed home and spent the evening reading Virginia Woolf.

TIAA-CREF lady here yesterday to help me through plans for retirement. It’s a lot of bother, though not as much bother as it might be. She admired my garden. It occurred to me that David should have power of attorney, being both young enough certainly to survive me, and on my side.

Defiant reaction from my student at the suggestion that she should drop my course. She threatened to tell all sorts of authorities, not knowing that they had already been informed through the elaborate, and very much student-favoring, process. Her determination to “do better” is sad, because she cannot; the problem was never application, which she has, but native competence, which she does not have. In a normal lecture-style class this could be accommodated, but in a workshop her every anxious and wide-of-the-mark contribution veers everyone off course. She should not have been admitted, but I can’t blame admissions because admittance from a community college is–alas!–automatic. I try to put myself in her place. She is used to fighting for herself, and that is admirable, but it has also gotten her to a place well beyond her abilities, maybe past the point where sheer defiance can avail. K said she probably got through community college with a series of “accommodations.” Here is where that faults of that policy begin to tell. I can see physical accommodations for bright, disabled students, but sometimes we are asked to allow compensation for the lack of intellectual ability. Should that be part of a university’s mission? Should a diploma not be a kind of seal of guarantee, saying “This Person Can Do the Work”? I must say that when I’ve been handed a note for special accommodations from a student, they have never actually needed them, and did just fine. In this case, there was no letter for accommodation. She is trying to bull through on her own. What is the right thing? Luckily, many are in on the decision.  She may hate me now and want on her own to put distance between us.

Sunnyspot says ticket sales for The Great Comet are outstanding already. Fingers crossed.

Continued escalation on the part of the student. She wants me to be punished. She pretends to be ill and never to be “able to get over it.” Her parents are outraged and wonder what sort of institution they have committed their precious one to. She resents that I have “won” and wants some sort of punishment for me to even things out. She wasted our time in the class, and continues to waste it now that she is out. I allowed the possibility that this may be a message from the Universe, in which I was to divine comparison to my problems with the Boy. But for it to be comparable, the student would have had to be the best student in class, whom I resented because her writing was better than mine. But, to an onlooker, the situations may be comparable in the degree of possible redress. I can’t imagine who is going to listen seriously to her; certainly nobody listened seriously to me.

September 20, 2016

Still nursing my back.
   
Still having problems with my “special needs” student. It is a resignation of the responsibility of the administration not to provide her with facilities and personnel pertinent to her situation. Or not to have the courage not to admit her. She does not belong in my class. She does not belong in college. Her presence is ruinous, consuming, unfair to the others. Don’t know whom to speak with. Don’t know how to get past what I assume will be the party line about inclusiveness.  Don’t know for sure whether I’m being a concerned pedagogue or an asshole.

Monday, September 19, 2016


September 19, 2016

Little bulldozers devour the pavement in front of my house. One of them digs into the strip of grass between my holly wall and the street. I go out and ask “Did you lose something?” and the big handsome sewer guy smiles and says they’re looking for the phone cables, etc, which should be, and miraculously are, right there. No danger to my hollies after all, but I think losing the end of the drive cannot be avoided. They put the barriers every which way to keep from limiting access to my drive, and I’m grateful.
   
I rather like bulldozers, when I think of it.
   
Sicut cervus Sunday morning. Music could have stopped at Palestrina and been perfect.
   
Paradise Lost at 8 AM.  Though I tried manfully to stave it off, but burst into tears reading the last twenty lines or so of Book 12. I think the point was made. One student said she rode somewhere with her mother and spent the whole time talking about Paradise Lost.
   
Tired and buzzing with electric intensity at the same time. I don’t remember this.
   
Photos online of my niece Beka looking stunning at her wedding.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


September 17, 2016

Heroic gardening led to a painful back that Z only partially alleviated. Limited what I did today to what could be done standing straight or sitting down, nothing in between. Good day at the studio, though, with several visitors and gratifying progress in several projects.
   
Stopped for gas, noting that gas stations everywhere were jammed because of a pipeline break in Alabama. Don’t know if there is no gas really, or there is no gas because everyone feared there would be none and so bought it up. The Prius has a full tank. The truck is empty, because A and M borrowed it to move his brother back to his apartment, and A said, “I really meant to fill it up afterwards, but all the pumps were empty.” Of course. I got my Prius fill-up at the Shell station behind a woman who was taking up two pumps because she wasn’t thinking, and who went in to shop and get coffee before she pumped her gas, with fourteen cars lined up behind her. You figure out why murders happen.
   
The garden I planted at the Phil Mechanic is aflame with orange canna. I pulled at some of the weeds, but they were too firmly established for the casual application I was in the mood for.
   
Edward Albee is dead. He is a famous person with whom I had a couple of casual and one really awful formal conversation. He was great company so long as we were talking about his plays, which I was actually glad to do. He hated my play in Valdez, loved my play in Houston. I think he felt he had to hate the one in Valdez, or lose his reputation for liking plays only by handsome young men. I have thought about him a great deal. To me he was a false standard that I had, somehow, to find a way to true. I have been in several– five or six or more-- of his works as an actor. I do not think he was a great playwright, or even a very good one, but he did have a remarkable, almost supernatural talent for making people take crabbiness and smart-alecky-ness and self-gratification for a kind of greatness. And I think he knew this, and that cunning smile of his was pleasure at getting away with it for fifty years. He was a very smart man and he made that look like he was writing good plays. But I do miss him. More than I would have imagined. A wall I leaned against, that I could find my location by, is gone.