Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 26, 2007

In San Francisco a Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped from her cage at the zoo and killed one man and mauled two others. A horrible thing, of course, but imagine being able, when asked “Where did you get that scar?” to answer, “I was mauled by a tiger on Christmas day.”

My sister and I were discussing her adventure in Pakistan. I used the term “mistake,” which she corrected to “disaster,” indicating a situation which blows to pieces through nobody’s fault. This is a useful concept. It puts, for instance, my two years in Baltimore in a bracket freeing me of the culpability I could never fully own. It explains the calamity of taking a house with Toni and Richard the Worm in Syracuse under conditions which seemed so promising. It was not my fault. It was not a mistake. Who could have foreseen the outcome? They were disasters. Like tsunamis. I like that. Coming to Asheville was a mistake but not a disaster, and the mistake has been redeemed several times over, if mainly through sheer perseverance.

Excitement over my voyage tomorrow. I’m rushing around getting things in order, so Larkin’s tenancy can be as trouble free as possible. Painted through the afternoon, a fairy story for Tom’s unborn child.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


December 25, 2007

Messiah on the CD: “For he is like a refiner’s fire. . . .” Drinking chocolate out of the enormous mug my sister gave me for Christmas. I hope the taste of soap is my imagination.

At Mountain Java yesterday I broke the writing curse–the not-writing curse–which plagued me since the beginning of vacation, which I realize is not long as dry spells go, but long for me. Even in the white rush I noticed the room around me, how it was curiously filled with parents and children, and most particularly infant children. One family had two boys, about five and about three, I would guess, and a baby sister who could not have been more than a week old, and looked like a preemie on TV. The mother was doing something, rather frantically, on a laptop, and I had the sense that the expedition to the café was so the family could be together, officially, in a safe place, while she got this urgent matter attended to. Dad was wildly handsome, with the pale green eyes which make people look like beautiful aliens. The older boy flirted with me until we spoke. He was a gap-toothed little elf, with that strange, knowing charisma which very young children sometimes have. He was carrying a stuffed leopard which was a present he was allowed to open before Christmas day. His name is Connor. I told him I was soon going to a country named Ireland where many boys were named Connor, and he found that fascinating. He held his little sister–her name is Nova–for a while, in all the wrong ways, juggling her around rather roughly while mom tapped away. I said nothing because Nova seemed totally at peace with the treatment. When asked a question, Connor took a while to reply. I realized that he was doing one the courtesy of really considering the question, and giving the true answer. “Courtesy” was a living presence in his demeanor, the natural courtesy which come from a child’s sweetness and is so soon lost from so many of us to exhaustion and cynicism. Later, in church, when we were asked to pray for others, I prayed for Connor, that nothing would come to rob him of that sweetness, directness, courtesy. I observed that I wished I’d ordered hot chocolate as he did, instead of the nasty coffee. He said, “Why did you order coffee?”
“Oh, it was there.”
Pointing to his cup, “Hot chocolate was there too.”

I wonder if I was ever Connor.

Two Christmas Eve services at church, and then home, skipping late night parties because too many systems were failing. I think if I had decorated a tree I would feel more Christmas-y, but this is well. I will rejoice at the New Year in Ireland.

The “young people,” present and former singing scholars, plus Will Bryant, sang “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” and the beauty of it went beyond the beautiful singing. Careers starting, lives at the golden door. The Lord has many times heard my prayer to become the Covering Cherub, a prayer which I renewed on Christmas Eve, longing to take all under my wing, to turn aside the evils of the world, to build the battlements of crystal.

Christmas breakfast with Douglas and Amy and Luke and Alexi and Eli.
December 24, 2007

Pavel Cerny writes from Hollywood:

If you don't mind, I forwarded EDWARD to the main dramaturg of the Prague National Theater where I am supposed to direct a play. I am not sure they are ready for the gay theme, but they should at least know your name.

Cerny plans a reading of Edward in LA for February 18, but is having trouble casting the leads, among men (most of whom are probably gay) hesitant to play a gay character.

The sun rises above the hill and the trees just now. Sun rises way south of where the moon rises, at least today. Maybe everyone in the world new that, but it is momentarily amazing to me.

Went to school only to fill my window bird feeder, thinking the birds should banquet on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 23, 2007

Sang for Herschel Ponder’s funeral Saturday morning. A rich and useful life, surely. I wondered afterward if the things were said at the funeral that he would have chosen to have said, or if perhaps we all would be astonished by our own eulogies.

Drove to Alpharetta, were my nephews are big and funny and, like the kittens, never seem to stop tumbling over one another. All seems to be well there. J couldn’t leave his computer games long enough to see me, but I understand that his concentration has made him, or at least his electronic character, a name of renown in those circles. David is solid and very handsome, and has the world on a string right now if anybody does. We had wrestling matches which I still won, though being forty years older and fifty pounds heavier is not going to be an advantage much longer. Bekka is stylish and attractive. She told me what she was majoring in, but it didn’t strike me as a real thing, so I have forgotten it. She too could have anything, and needs only to decide.

We rose of a Sunday and drove downtown to the Atlanta Aquarium, which was exactly what one anticipated, or perhaps a little more. The whale sharks and the immaculate, muscular beluga whales will be gliding through my imagination for a while. Some fish are very ugly.

Linda and I sat at Starbuck’s and talked about our father, and came to the conclusion that the passionate, rather tender man he is now is who he was always meant to be, but which he masked and covered for reasons unknown to us, and for years the only emotion he could show was anger. It is a tragedy and a sin, but it’s hard to know whom to blame it on. Society, perhaps, which expected things from him which he was not quite strong enough to fight or laugh off.

The moon rose as I was heading home, a little below Spartanburg. He was vast and full, very pale, as though he were not a body but rather a transparent pool gathered against the sky. Mars rose with him, like the gondola to a great white balloon. Now, an hour later, they still sail side by side, glittering and white, as bright as I have ever seen either of them.

The car heater revived on the drive home as inexplicably as it had succumbed.
December 22, 2007

Evening at the Usual with Tom B and his handsome friend Greg. Fascinating look into a long-time and intimate relationship, which they are generous enough about to open all the doors. Alas, my guess is T’s chain-smoking is going to keep our relationship from becoming so intimate. It’s a curtain I can penetrate for a night or two, but could not live with, and I am sorry. The Usual was full of old friends and former students of mine, and Greg remarked, “You have a very large fan club.” Tom and Greg have a routine where they imitate a Polish musician they knew back in Saint Augustine. I hink if it were in a movie they woukld make a million bucks.

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007

Solstice. Blessed be. Maud purring on my lap.

The car heater chose now to die, so I note with relief that the days when I must drive to Atlanta do not, on the Internet weather forecast, look too arctic. Can one operate a car in winter without a heater? We’ll see. I want to complain,”Why do these things always happen when they cannot possibly be fixed in time?,” but I recognize that I haven’t broken a leg or am not on the lam, so all is well.

Quick lunch at Asheville Pizza yesterday, where I encountered AR, who was waiting for a friend. The friend, a local attorney (that should have been a signal) was distressed by the Feng Sui of the tables, and commenced moving them about–moving my table from under me as I was eating– arranging things so I no longer had an exit without crawling under the table, putting her purse and keys on my little table instead of hers. Tim immediately transformed into her personal servant. I wondered what sort of life she had which would allow for that.

The wiring at the studio was being seen to when I arrived yesterday, Mark P bustling colorfully about. It was like a movie about people fixing the wiring in a big arty studio. Eventually Nava stomped out because there were certain places she can plug her heaters in and certain places she can’t. I stomped out not long after because I was painting badly.

Linda says that Jonathan was home from college for a while, but went back in a huff because conditions would not allow him to be on the computer playing computer games every hour of the day. He went back to Columbus, where there is no competition for computer time.

Dad phoned to ask about the Saint Nicholas photos I’d sent. He could barely speak, but what voice he had was full of interest and good intentions and–what was it? Longing. I was standing in the rain outside church listening to him, and I had not yet felt grief like that for him before. I couldn’t go to the Usual with my friends, but had to go home and sit in the dark.

Gray rain. Music from the Elder Edda on the CD
Have painted a little. Have written nothing.

Trying to get students’ recommendations to graduate school in before the deadlines, which I know are out there but which I never sharply comprehend. The two I’m working on today are Devin and John S. What a remarkable breadth of character and accomplishment is represented by the two of them! One is sharp and fluid as Pope, and destined, I think, to wrench the course of American theater back a few steps toward where it would have been had Jonson and Etheridge had their way. The other is a warrior saint. I feel privileged to have known them, and prayerful that I might have done them right along the way.
December 20, 2007

Painted yesterday. The wiring is such in the studio that my neighbor Nava and I cannot both use our space heaters at once without flipping the circuit breaker and plunging ourselves into darkness, so it was an ordeal of cold, which, after a while, I overcame and painted happily enough to create a magical amusement park to thank A & B for their many kindnesses. Not much else yesterday. I hibernated, and chewed on a log of pepperoni someone had given me. I tried to write, but the presiding Muse was visual, so I gave in to her.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 19, 2007

Finally reacted to the Cambridge incident by taking to my bed like a girl in a Victorian novel. I must have needed that, for when I rose to sing the Cantaria concert, all was well enough, and when I had finished the concert–and we had done exceptionally well–all was very well indeed. People said we never sang better. I felt a more than common communication with the singers around me.

Mickey and Belve and Lyle were at Usual when we arrived, and Mickey wanted a picture with me in my tux, looking handsome and all. Kathy bought us our meals, and it was officially Christmas.
December 18, 2007

I’ll not be going to Cambridge this summer. Found the news on my email, and am still fighting the complex of emotions. That I would be incalculably–and undeniably-- the best resource for students did not change my assumption, during the very interview, that I would not be chosen. What would profit the students did not, I imagine, enter into the discussion. One would have to look hard to find the last time actual achievement dictated preferment at UNCA. I knew I’d not be chosen because, with the exception of Blake, it would have been difficult to assemble a more perfect congregation of trivial minds than those arrayed to make this choice. Like all trivial minds, they expected to be flattered and to have their triviality held up as a kind of insight. I knew as I was answering their questions that they were not the answers they wanted to hear, and yet, somehow, I thought the fact that they were the right answers would mean something in the end.

How do vain and stupid people manage to gain control of everything? I suppose they get drunk and proud on the heady liquor produced by the mingling of vanity and stupidity, and they reach out and take.

The angels must be astonished at my capacity to expect justice from people I hold in contempt. I wish my reaction could be all contempt and indignation. Too much of it is sadness and simple disappointment for me to sail on just yet, unaffected.

What an odd career I’ve had at UNCA! In some ways–in, for instance, the thing I was hired to do, teach young men and women-- it has been a success such that I find no blemish in it, but only joy and contentment to take with me to the grave. In other ways it has been an unforeseen flop. I had a thousand times more to give than the university seemed willing to take, and this reluctance, this pushing away has always puzzled me. I’m known for my work in the community, but that happened only because my energies were refused “at home.” In the eyes of the larger world, I may be the best known of all faculty here, but that is clearly irrelevant, perhaps even a point against me. I’m passed by constantly –invariably-- by the usual suspects for jobs I could clearly do better, and the only explanation can be that I have been irritating or off-putting to people in ways to which I am myself oblivious. This has saved me time, and I do thank the universe for that. But it has caused me sadness and wonderment and a sense of futility in my career which I do not, at this point, know how to explain to myself. I think it’s all probably for the best, but that conviction is not enough to cut off the puzzlement, the uncertainty, the lingering sadness.
December 17, 2007

Pavel Cerny wants to give Edward the King a reading and perhaps a production in LA. He wonders why I’m not better known, yet. I tell him I was slow to realize how anyone must sell himself. I don’t tell him what I think, which is that there is no “reason”, but that the Lord lengthened my road for reasons of his own. I hope no one reading these lines imagines that I am resigned to it.

Listening to medieval Scandinavian music. Titus sleeps on one corner of the desk, Jocasta on the other. Circe and Maud carry on in some space in the house, tussling, or asleep, and there seems to be no middle ground. The half moon floated pure white above Biltmore when I raised my head to look. There was snow on my windshield and nowhere else.

I think that if I were a child again, and if I came upon the holiday lights running down Patton Avenue, pooling into a tossing lake of whiteness at Pack Square, I would believe that I had come upon not so much a new season as a new world. It would not be automatically evident that the atmosphere was redolent of commercialism. What would a kid know of that? The redolence of pine in all the houses, of candles and tempting things to eat in the stores would present themselves first. An innocent person, a child, or perhaps an alien from some Christmas-less planet, may not notice that anything has been ruined through too much advertising or too much hope of profit, but rather that something impended, something so wonderful that people made mistakes anticipating it, hit wrong notes, fell over heaped-up abundance in their effort to speed its approach. You’d sense a great secret, and nobody sure whether to keep it or give it away.
You would hear tell, and you would believe, that somewhere in a deep gouge on the slopes of Mount Pisgah, roses were blooming in the snow at midnight, the snow-colored, snow-covered Christmas roses. Some people might dismiss this out of hand, but you wouldn’t. You’d seen the sparkles on the dresses, the curling smiles on the faces, the different tones in familiar voices, and it would seem to you that anything might happen, and the likelihood that it had not happened before would mean nothing at all. I think, if I were a child now, that I would assume not that the seasons had turned, but the world had, and it was darker, cooler, starker, so that the lights the people hung were the more beautiful, the warmth the people brought with them the more radiant; the magic harder to get at, full of mistakes and excesses and misdirections, and the more unspeakably wonderful.
I was born for Christmas. I turn away from it sometimes, like a prince who cannot endure the burden of his birthright.

The Christmas cactus is a flurry of white.
December 16, 2007

Snow in gathering darkness.

I impersonated Saint Nicholas for the Saint Nicholas breakfast at church this morning, a task I complained about so much I can hardly admit now that it was delightful, finally, to do. Talked with Tom M beforehand. I asked him about his vocation as a priest, and his answer was so sincere, so full of virtue and gravitas, so utterly without irony that I was, for once, left speechless.

Receiving a flurry of rejections from theaters who left their reading to the last moments of the year. I can but laugh, because I have done exactly the same thing with Black Swan, printing out polite refusals as fast as I can read the scripts. Keeping some, of course, against the event of a hole in time.

Saw the movie The Golden Compass, and am now longing for a demon, though something other than needy Jocasta draped across my lap like a threadbare rug.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15, 2007

Tree-trimming party at Amy and Bill’s. Ate way too much and finished the evening barfing into the rhododendrons, the curved moon riding high and pure above.

Tom B wanted to go to a movie. I wanted to go with him, but the messages crossed in the dark of space.

Tom D at coffee this morning, him cruising girls ever younger and slimmer, me never knowing when the conversation is slamming up against a wall of concupiscent distraction. My students kept coming into Starbucks to get coffee with their parents before winter graduation, asking if I were going to be at commencement, and I kept lying, “yes.” It actually wasn’t a lie when I said it, but became one when the time came and I was not there.

Churning out pages of copy but writing nothing.

Neighbor John buys me cheesecake. Tom gives me a Blake calendar. Leland gives me new white shoes. The Desert Star Award turns out to be a lovely, heavy, clear plastic star inscribed with my name and Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges, which can be placed on the mantel for minor showing-off purposes.
December 14, 2007

Ryan Cloutier writes from Lastrites Productions in Portland, Oregon, that Half & Half is to be part of the “Conversion Reaction Festival of New Plays” in February, 2008.

Odd e-mail from Los Angeles:

Hi. First of all, your play was given a terrific performance by the actors. I will send you a video of the whole evening as soon as I can. The judges took forever to decide but in the end they gave the winning result to Stardust by John Longenbaugh. So, despite the general feeling that you were going to be the winner hands down, you are the bridesmade and will win $100. I'm about to e-mail the results to everyone but I wanted you to know first. Thanks again for your submission and your wonderful play.
Dennis Safren

I wonder how the feeling that I was going to win hands down turned into runner up? Well, we’ll never know what went on among the judges. We won’t even care for very long.
December 13, 2007

E-mail from the director of Before the Holy Temple in Los Angeles:

Hello David,
I am the director of your play. I am enclosing my resume so that you know something about me. I just wanted to let you know what a beautiful play you have written. We have a brilliant cast (the actor who plays Arthur has portrayed Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for almost 4 years). I want to know what you think of the production once you see the tape. I hope you like what I have done with it.
I really wish your play was feature lenght, I would have found a producer to do it with fully staged. Do you have other one acts of similar quality to make it an evening? Or how about your feature length plays. I would love to read the ones you think are the best.

Pavel Cerny
11606 Kling Street
North Hollywood,CA 91602

Cerny, whose email address suggests he works with a film company, wants to see more of my work, which I will merrily send, wondering if my focus will eventually turn west from Manhattan.

The happy night with Jason’s friends Tuesday led to coffee with him this morning, from which I came away with a joyful heart and fresh ideas to put into effect in the studio, where I went thereafter, and worked hard and well. It also led to a change of plans whereby his lanky buddy Larkin will be housesitting while I’m in Ireland. This is so much better than what I had planned that it is virtually Christmas already. The cats will have somebody to snuggle. Not to mention that Larkin, who had planned to couch surf until the dorms open, will have a place to lay his head. He stood at my door all but smiling himself in half.
December 12, 2007

Yesterday was a reminder of the disturbing degree to which one is affected by exterior things. The first half of it was depressed, sullen; I’d even convinced myself that I was unwell. Perhaps I was. Time was on my mind, and finances, too many rejections in the morning mail, all the usual. After the exam in the Yeats class my students and I met at Hannah Flanagan’s for drinks, and I began to uncoil. Late in the night, after Crown rehearsals, I dropped by the Usual to hang out with DJ, but we became enmeshed in Jason’s crew from the art department, and the evening became merry and carefree. Jason regaled us with the story of his brief career as an exotic dancer. This morning I woke with a light heart.

DJ’s Christmas tree is beautiful. Despite my fixation on them, I will not be putting a Christmas tree up this year, as it will be inviting mayhem from the kittens.

Rereading Yeats’ autobiography, trying to figure out where his grandparents’ house was in Sligo. It’s amazing that as often as I’ve been there, I’ve never asked.

Beginning to expand and breathe at the end of the semester, beginning to pick up the ravels of unfinished projects.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 9, 2007

Deep, foggy night. The fog makes its seem deeper and quieter than it might really be.

Good Glgamesh rehearsal. Cody is suggestible, adaptable, and so beautiful whatever he does looks right.

Good Cantaria rehearsal, everyone quiet and calm and afloat in a blessed pianissimo.

Too much church over two days. Lessons and Carols last night, which at one time I thought was magical. . . which, when I witnessed it at St. Paul’s thirty years ago, when I sang it for the first time at the Church of the Saviour, was in fact magical. How did I get the magic back? How do I restore the sweetness to things which were once sweet to me, but which are now tiresome and taxing?

Favorable, brief (which is, I guess, better than lengthy and nasty) review of A Dream of Adonis in today’s Citizen-Times, as part of an omnibus review of local poets. I am described as charismatic and oracular. The reviewer quotes from the poem which includes both “suck my cock” and “fuck,” though he does not quote those exact lines. Proximity is daring enough.

Brian and Kam had their senior productions at Carol Belk last night, their own plays fully produced by themselves, with a theatricality and professional dedication that made me think they have futures ahead of them. The grit is there; the wit is there; the heart will come. The plays were better than I remembered them – or perhaps better staged than read-- and in several cases when I argued with them about a certain point, they were clearly right. The miles to go between this and great theater is less important than the step already taken.

Juanita Davis is dead in Akron. I diagramed my first sentence for her. I took grammar seriously first for her.
December 8, 2007

Brilliant morning.
December 7, 2007

Sleepless night, acid flooding my throat whenever I began to fall asleep. This is new. Eating late or much had caused it before, and I’d learned how to cope with that, but this came during a fast. Lying awake gave me plenty of time to think. Everything that could go wrong with Ireland or with Crown of Shadows went wrong in the hours of sleepless darkness.

Ann Rhymer brought her fledgling musical The Tower over last evening, and whatever I might have been thinking beforehand, it’s sensational. The music is passionate and soaring, very Broadway while being, nevertheless, very good. She wants me to help her with the lyrics, but the lyrics she has are wonderful and fit the music perfectly. I agreed to help, not knowing exactly how I can better what is already good. May my use unfold through time.

MA and Owen make me mixed CD’s. MA’s is Donovan. I don’t know who Owen’s is, “The Opal Stone,” but if it is himself (it might be) he needs to go pro pronto.

Iran turns out not to have nuclear capability, or even plausible ambitions at all. The cornerstone of Bush’s ongoing foreign policy collapses like a sandcastle, succeeding in the same manner all past offensives. Yet there he is, the one person in the world who does not acknowledge that this, like everything else–like everything else without exception that he had affirmed or done–is a horrible mistake. The New York Times this morning reports that the CIA destroyed subpoenaed tapes of illegal interrogations. We know that the secrecy of this administration has been only and always to cover up its own atrocities and for no other reason, and yet no one has been bold enough to say it aloud. I would vote for the person who did. Only Bush’s dying in an orange jump suit–perhaps, in fine justice, at Guantanamo-- can make this right.
Some commentator mentions Bush’s “legacy.” I believe his legacy is fully intact and ready to be passed on to history. Bush came to office intending to insure that his rich friends retained and increased their share of the resources of the world, at any cost whatever, and he has done exactly that. His legacy is secure.
December 6, 2007

Before light. Blocked and rehearsed Act II of Edward the King last night. I’m so lucky in my cast that I don’t know what we’ll have to do between now and February. Adam reads a scene the first time through haltingly, but the second time through as if he had been on stage all of his nineteen years. I’d like to give my direction some credit, but it may all be just an innate talent as great as I’ve ever seen up close. Anne-Marie’s instrument is like one of those machines so finally balanced the slightest nudge puts it in exactly the right place.

Coffee with Tiffany. She is so funny people forget how beautiful she is. We talked about the disappointments in her career since she left LA, and I found myself thinking up remedies–productions and showcases-- as if I could bring any such things to pass. I suppose making the suggestion puts energy out into the world. We talked about our mutual project last summer; she was dissatisfied too, and more bitterly, since it introduced her to this world. Talking with A-M at rehearsal, I learned that she was the most disappointed of us all; the three of us could have comforted each other, had we but known.

I’m not a fully useful critic because, finally, I fear to offend and to compromise friendships. Part of this is cowardice, part anxiety that I may actually be wrong. Honesty is not the same as truth, though many think it is. I don't think so, and try to be on guard. I need to drive to Atlanta and consider theater there, then drive home and live in peace.

Tiffany asked why I hadn't submitted anything to Catalyst, and I said I had, and it had been rejected. She gave me a very gratifying look of astoundment.

Phone call from First Stage saying that the production of Before the Holy Temple will be December 16. All three finalists will be read, to see how we divide up the money. The man on the phone said he liked the play very much, that the tenor, at least, was actually going to sing, and that the director was famous in the Czech Republic. I supposed all these things to be good.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December 5, 2007

Bright afternoon. I almost always get a little sick after the semester’s over, and today’s slump is probably that. I regret pulling myself off the sofa.

Poetry Night at MA’s. We listened to Donovan and conversed, and then free-wrote. Owen’s piece was very complicated and in places quite beautiful. Brian and MA usually write about ideas, which I cannot find much sympathy for, especially when I’m not sure what ideas they are, exactly. But their intelligence and dedication are roaring hearth-fires, and warm everything around them. I wrote about standing on the porch with TB, and discovering the tiny white star in the shadow of Antares. I’d been thinking of that night that whole time, as a happy obligato under the music of the present one. We had enough beer that they shared impressions of some of my colleagues. Had a vivid account of C’s Humanities class, where she plops herself down in front of everybody and says, “Let’s discuss the feminine qualities of The Iliad,” then faces an hour of silence, because there are none; then begins the next class the same way, as though to punish everyone for not pulling bananas from a turnip patch. Students recognize what we don’t, for the most part: that we can be absurdly doctrinaire, that we sometimes insist on foolish interpretations and fruitless perspectives in order to be thought politically correct, or in order to enforce a world view which, if questioned, would cast doubt upon long years of graduate school and an erudite, laborious dissertation. I fear for them sometimes, but it appears that they see through us when we are at our worst, and by us when we are at our best.

Ended the night by falling down MA’s fire escape stairs (the entrance to the apartment), and emerging, somewhat surprisingly, unscathed.

Took a white Christmas cactus from the departmental gift exchange, It brings me joy, hoisted up there on the bookcase, away from the cats.
December 4, 2007

Thomas B spent last evening here. We had enough time together, and enough Pinot Grigio, that I saw a silly, antic, unguarded side to him that makes me smile. People should understand how attractive silliness is, for the most part. He seems astonished when I tell him I’ve met no one like him, but it’s no more than the truth. Beautiful teeth. Eyelashes like a movie star. He smokes so much that every half hour or so we have a session outdoors on the arctic porch, so much that I cough getting close to his coat. But, still, I smile, as I am smiling now. He brought me fragments of his first play, which is about “straight” men discussing their homosexual liaisons. He’s a good writer. It’s paralyzing when a friend asks you to read his work, and it’s awful, but his is not awful, so I may speak honestly to him– or rather the delicacy one strives for involves more specific things than the question of whether he should be writing at all. I wonder if I’m unguarded with him? I tell him anything he asks, but I am not, and never have been, much of a volunteer when it comes to intimate conversation. Hope he does not take that personally.

Richmond’s book turns out not to be a novel but a travelogue, and an engaging one. Relief there too.
December 3, 2007

E-mail late last night:

FirstStage is happy to announce the three finalists of our 2007 One-Act Contest. The winners will of course be contacted by phone and given much more information. There are also several Semi-Finalists and some Honorable Mentions. These will be announced individually later. It was a very difficult decision which the seven Members of the Artistic Committee had to make. Many fine scripts will be given acknowledgment. So... Here they are.

BEFORE THE HOLY TEMPLE by David Brendan Hopes of Asheville, N.C.

CONNECTIONS by Jack McCleland of Jackson Heights, N.Y

STARDUST by Longenbaugh of Seattle, WA

We wish to thank all of you who submitted this year and we only wish we could give you all prizes.

My sister phones early in the morning I see her name on the caller ID and I think Dad’s dead. It was a missdial. She meant to call my nephew David. When my phone rings I think it’s going to be a tragedy and it ends up being a mistake.

Great winds sweep the morning sky. Wind was supposed to come at midnight bearing rain, but it comes now, dry as bones. I feel the air sucking moisture out of my eyeballs.

Roland C is out back as I type, having the Escort towed, finally, matching my blast of impatience with sweet and manly forbearance. I should have been a father. It’s odd to compare a big lug like Roland with my kittens, but they make me smile the same smile.

Broadway Christmas gave me an opportunity to know Eliza T better, an opportunity not as fraught with contradictory vibrations as Gilgamesh was. This second time around I see she is stately and witty and quite beautiful.

Woke last night thinking I couldn’t breathe. I lay there running myself through a battery of calm questions. Are you in pain? No. Is it hard to breathe? No, it just feels like I’m not getting enough oxygen. Does it all feel painful or distressing? No, just sort of– funny. When I got up I went straight to the Y where I did a step aerobics class. Hard and immediate exercise has been--since my heart surgery–the test for whether things have actually gone wrong or my brain is working overtime. It has never failed to be the latter. Nor did it today. Not only was there nothing wrong with me, but any feeling that there might be was blown out on the exercise floor, and I feel like Roland looks, big and broad shoulders and a swaggering twenty.

Chancellor Ponder announces the appointment of Jane Fernandes as our new Provost. When I was last in DC., Gallaudet College was in the news for rising up in arms against their president, who was not deaf enough, or some such thing. That was the same Jane Fernandes. My countenance fell at the thought of a celebrity Provost, but who knows? Give the woman a chance. What a matriarchy we’ve become! The Chancellor, the new Provost (as well as the acting one) and the President of the Senate (not to mention my Chair) are all women. This does represent a distinctive style of administration, but it’s not worth one’s life to try to define it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December 2, 2007

Bluish dawn, one of the cats batting a dish across the kitchen floor. Slammed down Gatorade to get rid of the hangover which seems to have been brought on by one drink–albeit a large one. Now that there’s only one matinee left, I have to admit that I have not hated Broadway Christmas, and was glad to have done it, if not exactly glad at the time to be doing it. The kids were charming; I made friends among the adults, and found that my theatricality can kick in and save a scene even when it’s not my usual idiom and when, as in the case of Mame, I had exactly one rehearsal before the run-throughs began. All is well. All will be very well when it is over. Tom, who plays Cratchit and Daddy Warbucks, is an especially kind man. He thanked a tiny little girl for feeding him a line onstage, and she literally danced for joy.

Ann’s Nutcracker plays this weekend too. I’m better off here. This show’s shorter, plays fewer times, and I still get to play with 10 year olds. The difference between Ann and Chris is the difference between a speeding, empty subway car, intent upon its way, furious, and a meandering family van on a Saturday afternoon, with all the windows down and all the seats filled.

Wrote bits of little plays in cafes, haven’t had a moment to type them up.
December 1, 2007

What a day! I’m just able to sit down after fighting agonizing leg cramps– I was yelling and dragging my convulsed leg from room to room, one of the possibilities of expression open up by living alone. My leg cramped up after I got up from for a nap wherein I’d dreamed a horrible dream. My mother had left my sister and me to fend for ourselves in a strange city. From time to time people would appear whom she had sent to “take care of us,” but they were more horrible than being left on our own. We went to one of their houses, and were sitting on the kitchen floor, when we looked down to see nematodes and bacilli and various microscopic disease organisms which some quality of the floor (perhaps extreme dirtiness) rendered visible. At one point my mother and a clump of strangers were having a whispered discussion at one end of a huge, filthy room. We had been banished to the other room, but finally I rose to demand to know what was going on, what secret was being kept from us, but I was stopped by my mother, who would only put her finger to her lips to shush my questions. She looked like a corpse with a hideous wig, and I was afraid of her. I lay down for the nap because everything in the day was going so badly that unconsciousness was, I thought, the only remedy. Titus’s eye is swollen shut with some infection. My friends were going to see the gingerbread houses at the Grove Park, and I kept asking to come, but they kept ignoring me. The peck of tangerines I bought from the Reynolds High choir rotted in four days. I’d worked out at the Y, which was all right, but depression made that an imperfect experience. I looked out at the Escort this morning and lost control. I gave the car to Roland on the one and only condition that it disappear from my life, and there it sits, he having not only failed to take it or get rid of it but also retaining key and title so I can’t. My rage was out of proportion for one day of this, but not for six weeks. I went briefly to the studio (too upset to paint, but not for a little housekeeping) to find a note from Richmond asking me to read his novel and critique it and tell him how to get it published, along with a codicil asking me to give the $100 I pay him for $20 worth of storage space to Jolene, not, apparently, imagining that my critical expertise and hours of my time were worth anything. And that was the base of it all: the fact that I am always engaged in something or other that is almost always volunteer, unrecompensed, unaccompanied, even, by the embarrassment which would obtain if anyone thought it SHOULD be recompensed and they just couldn’t, and which is EXACTLY like–except for being better– what other people are doing for pay. We opened Christmas on Broadway last night, and nobody could miss the fact that it’s basically a wreath of trifles surrounding two important pieces starring our director, a vanity project at which attendance is insured by finding parts for twenty kids, and in which the rest of us are variously ridiculous volunteers for a project for which he collects the money. I don’t really mind this sort of thing once in a while–one is sometimes a jester in the court of one’s friend-- but it’s gotten to be invariable, inevitable, ludicrous. At the studio entrance I passed a show where paintings no better than mine (I think worse, of course) had been sold for $500 a pop. Jesus, I could use a little of that! I receive a whopping bill from a credit card which I evidently forgot to pay last month, just when my decision finally to go to Ireland was balanced on a very thin margin of solvency–much thinner than the amount of the bill. And I thought “I will read Richmond’s book, because I love him. He will not give me– did not think to give me-- the $100 because he does not love me.” This cannot be refuted. I might have left some things out, but, anyway, I am not feeling very jolly, and I have one hour to jolly myself up for the second round of Christmas on Broadway.
November 30, 2007

Breakfast with Cameron Carpenter and the gang at 5 Points. If the food didn’t make me sick, I’d go there every day to reconnect with old friends and maturing students. CC seems happier, more normal, and way more buff than before. Pointed shoes and fur-lined leather seem to be the only visible concessions to celebrity. Likeable kid, and some one else to lunch with in New York.
November 28, 2007

The time I had figured as serenity and regathering has exploded on me, again, and I have nobody to blame but myself, for saying “yes” to “Christmas on Broadway.” Chris did give us a $2000 discount on the space for Crown of Shadows, and if this exhausting week has anything to do with that, then it is well recompensed. For me its awfulness is an alloy of chaos and T. Chaos comes with working with children in a show primarily for parents, at Christmas, when elegance does not count but cuteness does. I understand and accept that. It is in fact cute. T is a different story. He is not a useless musical director, but his usefulness is sown thinly in a rank garden of attitude, snideness, low competence and, paradoxically, showing off. Asked to play a part, he plays it very fast and very loud, so that the exercise is futile for learning purposes, but he has shown you a level of peppy shrillness to which you can never properly aspire. The fact that many notes were played wrong is meant to diluted by the speed and confidence of the playing. A section which is to be done without conductor he was conducting madly last night, at thrice the speed it should be done, to show. . . to show I don’t know what–that we were hopelessly distant yet from the Land of Peppy Shrillness over which he reigns with such pride. His beautiful voice is undeniable, but he should use that rather than other skills which may not be so singular. This all may be beautiful to me by the end. We’ll see. The kids are charming. Chris is a joy to watch. I would be exhausted in an hour. The other adults are warming to me, but there seems to have been a club to which I did not have automatic entrance.

Ann Rhymer has asked me to write the words to her proposed musical about Lady Jane Grey.

My sabbatical for the fall is approved by the Powers. It is called "ambitious but plausible."

Some spirit–good or bad– sat me down at the computer this morning and made me buy tickets for Ireland. The New Year shall be welcomed in Dublin. That is most well. Incredible how knots in my stomach smoothed themselves out as my flights were being confirmed. A month from now I will be living just off Parnell Square.
November 26, 2007

Rainy Monday. I must get the house in order for the visit from my students this afternoon. Plans evolved from all the things I was going to cook for them to all the things I was going to pick up at Ingle’s, ready-made, but I hope they will think it’s the thought that counts.

Bill Edwards passed out into the harvest home corn shocks at church yesterday morning. Luckily he passed out amid a clutch of MD’s.
November 23, 2007

Snow squalls in the morning. Tonight, the full blast of moon when I walked out the front door. I wasn’t expecting him. The time seems too little since the last full moon. He rose early, bright, turned the blue sky to silver around himself. Busy day, fulfilling day. I wrote my Dollywood Story. I walked all over, to begin a friendship with winter, who comes whether we are friends are not.
November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving day. Thanks for last night’s little bit of rain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bent Creek

November 21, 2007

Rehearsal for the Christmas show was better last night, giving a sense of coherence to the whole project. Parents of the innumerable cast of children will love it. Here’s what I learn: there are no basses on Broadway; I spend most of my time floating around at the top of my range, tenor Es and Fs and a couple of memorable Gs. T said the other night, “Chris doesn’t know you. The music in this part. . . it’s high. I mean it’s HIGH. I mean it’s VERY HIGH.” Finally he played it, and I sang it, and he shut up about how high it was.

Afterwards to Michael A’s, for “poetry night,” though what was going on was boys and girls sitting around in a smoky room listening to Springsteen and probably conversing happily before I showed up. They were smiling, friendly, convivial, getting ready for their Thanksgiving vacation drive to New Jersey, and I felt very much “on,” like a performer invited as entertainment to a party. I hope I rose to it. I hope I was scintillating; that was what I was aiming for, scintillating, though now that I think about it, the mood of the room was friendly, tranquil, relaxed, and perhaps I was just meant to sit tranquilly and soak in the atmosphere. I don’t sit tranquilly very well, and need a stronger signal when that’s what’s expected of me.

Evening: Of the things I might have done today I chose what turned out to be the best: I went hiking in the many-times-bent valley of Bent Creek. It was a fiercely, almost ludicrously beautiful autumn day, with the brown leaves falling and fluttering in piercing white light. Aengus the Young was upon me with his golden harp, as well, and I couldn’t walk half a mile without sitting down upon log or stone to write at a poem. I was sitting by the creek itself when a woman came by, a very old women with two beautiful necklaces on. I startled her there, hunched over quiet at the foot of a tree as though I were a stone myself, but then she called my name. She said she had been to my studio and that she liked my books, and wasn’t I writing another one there with my pen in my hand inches from the face of the water? I allowed as how I was. I skirted the south of Lake Powhatan, as I had not done before, and on the waters of the lake played a bufflehead. I shouted for joy, but not so loud that he might hear me. Maybe there was a female about, too; I didn’t see her. He did not run along the surface before flying like other ducks, but lifted himself directly into the air, fluttering his wings like a songbird. He spent as much time under the lake, I thought, as upon it. A little white bird on the green-gray waters, as happy as I.

Once there were cyclists, and then they went away, and I noticed then that the loudest sound in the world was falling leaves crashing into fallen leaves already on the ground. The second loudest was the scratch of my pen across the page.

A woman with three children came behind me on the trail. I was sitting and writing along the length of the creek, and they came over and began to throw stones in the water exactly where I was sitting. I wondered why this was, given there were thirty miles of meanderings to choose from. But I got up and left, trying to appear resolved on my privacy without appearing huffy about it. She was a nervous mother, and couldn’t let the kids throw their stones without harping at them constantly about getting too near the water. “You’re right at the very edge!” she was shrieking when I finally put a hill between us. What would happen if a child fell in? He would get wet and then come out again and have an adventure to talk about, the stream there gentle and shallow. I walked a long time in the deep woods before I came out again upon the path. I sat by the lake a while and finished my poem, and the mother and her children came out of woods again and did exactly what I was doing, exactly where I was doing it. Again I got up and left, wondering what on earth was on her mind, given the vast expanses available to her which I was not in. As I walked I thought, though, that here was a woman without a husband, three children without a father, and maybe he was missing for more than a walk in the woods. Maybe they had gravitated to me for a kind of protection, for a male presence nearby, without even knowing they were doing it. I hope I didn’t fail them utterly. At the lake, anyway, they could have seen me for a long time moving down the opposite shore, stopping now and then to watch the bufflehead, and even them, with their picnic and their red coats and the little voices piercing the quiet.
November 20, 2007

First rehearsal of the Art Center Christmas Show, Christmas on Broadway, last night. Chris under-presented the part I was to play. I feel harried–again–and a little out of my depth, but when I considered it, it seemed yet more fun than nuisance, so I’ve decided to go ahead. T’s being the music director is problematic. He tells me to sing radically differently from what I’ve spent the last three years learning from Paul, and though I concede Broadway is different from Mahler, it’s not beyond T to say things which will actually–though perhaps inadvertently--damage a person’s confidence. His discourse steers a path between flattery and snideness so inscrutable that one is never sure when or if one is hearing something useful and genuine in the middle. But, one plunges forward, looking, once again, at the calendar for the day when it will be all over.
Neither of us knew who “Ito” is in Mame, and he said, “Well you’re playing it, so I imagine he’s a buffoon.” Two minutes later he mentioned that Art said I was “by far the best actor ever to step onto the stage at HART,” with the hushed tones of an acolyte. Where does one find a path into such a disposition?

“Winter Birds,” the part of it now completed, premieres tonight at St. Bart’s in New York. Not especially heartbroken not to be there, what with the lights of Broadway dimmed and the weather here perfect.

Late night. Tonight’s rehearsal was chaos, but a rather pleasant one. One must admire Chris Lynn’s imperturbable patience, his systematic progress through situations which I don’t believe I could endure for a moment. He is doing valuable work at the Arts Center, giving kids a discipline, a skill, and an avocation. My guess is that he sleeps soundly at night.
Stopped at the Usual for drinks, greeted the people I know, thought that it is an odd life, all in all.
November 19, 2007

Met my former student Jacob R in the YMCA parking lot. He was looking smooth and bright and happy, with his baby in the car seat. Every time you ask Jacob how he is, he says “Great, I’m great,” and, as is not always the case, one believes him. When he was my advisee there was a professor who irritated him, but other than that he seemed to go from strength to strength, trying new classes, learning new skills, riding his bike to a sort of local cycling fame that few of his academic peers knew about. In Poetry Performance he was the class favorite; he was fearless and hardworking and, though not at the outset particularly good, he was never embarrassing, because he was never embarrassed. All of this instills an awkwardness in casual contact such as today’s, for he seems conscious of his good fortune, and realizes there’s not much to talk about on the superficial level once you’ve said, “Great, everything’s great.” One strategy is to assume he’s covering up, that he’s keeping the darkness in him secret, though that is the prejudice of our dark hearts, presuming that there is no one on the earth truly happy with his lot.


November 18, 2007

Sang two services, attended the senior reading, attended Cantaria rehearsal, and now await the fifth task of what is meant to be Sunday, a rehearsal here at the house. And this on top of arriving home at 12:30 this morning from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I’d had a visit to Dollywood at the back of my mind for a while, and when the occasion came up–an idea driven by Jack and Leland–I agreed, though it was the one free day in weeks and weeks on either side. The day began oddly: Jocasta was acting very strangely, sagging down on her legs, her eyes closing, apparently unable to stand. I thought she was dying, and my emotions were drained over that before anything else began. She sits on my lap now as I type, wondering what all the fuss had been about. Anyway, we gathered at All Souls in the early morning, Jack, Leland, Greg D, Steve, DJ, Amy and Bill, Kyle and myself and hit Dollywood just after opening. I don’t know what I thought it was going to be. I don’t know what I thought I’d find there. I know thousands of people enjoy it, but I found it little short of horrifying. It was steeped black in a false Americana, all nostalgia and self-satisfaction and all purchasable at the local shops. It pretended to history–the Appalachia of the greeting card–while prettifying history to the point of unrecognizability. I think they would have had cabins full of happy singing slaves had they dared. I wanted to see the stage shows, thinking they might not wholly disresemble theater, but the one we managed to see, Babes in Toyland, was appalling on multiple levels. Skill was not one of them, for it was well and expensively done, but the spirit was sealed in plastic, garish and glittering and dishonest. At one point the most important thing in the world was revealed. What was it? Being home for Christmas. What kind of people would suggest that as the most important thing in the world? The awfulness of it was largely on a spiritual level, and hence difficult to put into words. But the park was beautiful by night, all lit for Christmas. I liked that. I liked the one sycamore all wrapped in blue lights so it looked blue itself, strange and blue and paradisal. The people who rode the roller coasters had a better time than I did. I did ride one little one, and remembered the helpless horror of the sheer drop, which I thought I’d put behind me with the vow never to ride rides again. I can see how others find that sensation exciting. I don’t.

Good rehearsal of Hat in my front room, the actors fending off kittens as they worked.
November 17, 2007

Breaking dawn. Two carloads of us head for Dollywood in a few hours. May it sustain the onslaught.

Coffee with Tom in the early morning yesterday. He told me that he had met movie star Robbie Benson at the Asheville Film Festival, and moments later in he walked with his wife (I suppose) Karla DeVito, who is the heart-stopping female vocals on the Meatloaf albums. Benson was in successful disguise as a long-haired mountain hippie in a conspicuously new Yankees jacket, but if you looked close, the almost impossibly dewy youth was still alive in his face. Tom wanted to talk to him–and I sort of wanted to meet Karla–but my celebrity-aversion won the day and we merely sat and watched. I said that I wanted to allow them some peace and anonymity, and perhaps that really was the issue.

DJ and I went to see the new movie Beowulf. He made me promise not to obsess is it was “wrong.” It often was “wrong,” but I liked it, behind my 3-D glasses and all.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 15, 2007

Very dark, blessedly rainy, very early. One or the other of the kittens slept in the palm of my hand all night. They stagger to their bowls in the morning, which I fill up, then it’s full-out mayhem for hours on end. I laugh all the time.

Meeting for Crown of Shadows last night, the house full and loud, a chaos of movement not unlike the kittens’, but by very much bigger bodies. I’m uneasy having people–let alone crowds-- in my home space, but I didn’t used to be, so perhaps I’ll dig my way back into civility. Anne-Marie is going to make an excellent Isabella. She already is an excellent Isabella. Told Adam and her they could do the show tonight and, if it were all acting, it would be a success. M’s budget for the festival is $15,000. I almost laughed out loud when I heard it, but, on the other hand, what do I know? I have never succeeded at a really big event because I have only tried once, with City Dionysia, and who knows how that might have gone the second time. But everyone is enthused, and so I shoulder my way into the kingdom of enthusiasm with a smile on my face, a smile which becomes more genuine as the days pass. The honor they’re doing me by addressing my plays with such ebullience may never be repeated in my lifetime.

Plus, I like them. I shouldn’t make a kitten analogy, but that’s what creeps into my mind. They do what they do and I smile, grateful to have been a witness. TAB stayed a couple of hours after everybody else left to show me poems and a bit of a play and to talk. He thanked me profusely for my time, but I should have been thanking him. I never met anyone like him, and I watched him as if I were Miranda and he one of the shipwrecked sailors, fascinated, grateful. His diffident eloquence, his apparent fragility, his sort of defeated hopefulness are all new to me, and I could but cast around for way to treat him right. I know that if any stayed behind and claimed my attention, it would be the same.

I never stay behind. That is my loss.

I pray for things–like company–and when I get them, they are so much stranger and richer than what I thought I was asking for. MA asked me why I was a believer, and the first answer--though not the one I gave him-- is that things are so much stranger and richer than they could possibly be by accident.
November 14, 2007

Long dream of a burning church last night. Two of us– I’ve forgotten who the other was, though maybe it was Tom– were there when the fire started, and called the fire trucks, which did not come. We watched it burn to the ground then poked around in the ruins to see if anything was salvageable. Turned out that every scorched bookcase or shelf had another one behind it, full of hidden documents, still readable after the fire.

Discovered that Roger Casement and I share a birthday. Next to Edgar Rice Burroughs, this is the best one yet.

Lunch with Chall, in one of his patterned thrift shop jackets that only he can wear. He is so cultured and self-possessed I always feel like a bit of a ruffian in his presence. I was happy talking with him. I think he invited me to lunch to comfort me for being hated by everyone because of my blog. What a curiosity that continues to be to me. What a welter of misapprehensions–some of them clearly mine! I wonder if anyone has considered what mischief I could do if mischief were my actual object.

Riley passed outside on the walk as we ate. He was like the sun. The recollection warms me again.
November 13, 2007

Dug out some of the blasted morning glories. They have a pale tan root as thick as my wrist.

The Fine Arts League of Willoughby, Ohio, has chosen Ten Thousand Nights for their winter one-act festival. The little play would have gotten me to Finland if that contest hadn’t fallen through; it’s very unlikely that it will get me to Willoughby, which can’t be a twentieth of the distance.

The kittens continue the reign of anarchy. They seem to sleep at night, though, or else I just stop hearing them.

And now, by night, poetry, as there has not been in many a long night. Somebody be praised.
November 12, 2007

J came over last night, and regardless of my exhaustion–which was considerable– I wouldn’t turn him away. He adored the kittens. It wasn’t till he asked that I thought to write down what Mickey’s mother said, that they are New Orleans orphans rescued from the broken streets, and that she and her rescue organization have hundreds like them to find homes for. J‘s approval made “Circe” and “Maude” permanent. The kittens insisted on being part of the action, and what start as embraces ended up being kitten-wrestling and a good deal of laughter. Almost broke my face smiling at J asleep in the candlelight, two tiny kittens and colossal Titus asleep against the length of his body. Indignant Jocasta curls in my lap as I type, wanting assurance in the midst of change.

J must have read my mind deeper than I was. I needed him without knowing that’s what I needed.

After several freezes, the roses remain, and the snapdragons, whose hardiness is a surprise to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November 11, 2007

Evening, after a long ride from Waynesville, red tail light against red tail light in the endless construction zone of route 40. We closed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf tonight, and though I expected my reaction to be unmitigated joy, I am sad. I don’t know exactly what I’m sad about. I don’t miss the play. I miss the players– Belve and Trinity and Mickey were excellent company. Mickey is one of few actors who can keep up with me, my momentary shifts and innovations-- yes, and mistakes-- which drive most others mad. I think we were a good team. I think we showed Waynesville something. Suzanne is witty and bawdy and sexy. Art is big and affectionate and sincere. Little Adam laughs bent over at the waist, loud and free, the way I do. I miss them all.

Saw Ellen in the café yesterday. We chitchatted. She has been filming here and there for months at a time. I told myself that explained the silence. The casualness of our reunion was a blessing. The casualness of our reunion was a disappointment.

Clambering up my back and across my shoulders are Circe and Maud, my new kittens, thanks to Mickey’s mom. I laughed at them until I fell asleep last night, their racing across the floors of their new domain, standing on their hind legs boxing the air, tussling and wresting in every corner, climbing upon me to sleep the violent sleep of the young. I had forgotten Dinosaur Matinee. Titus is mature and Jocasta is old and Theseus and Conrad are gone. But Circe and Maude rumble and tumble, and I smile every time they do. Circe has a magic streak down her forehead and a passionate disposition; Maud is pale and beautiful, and if there were a Yeats cat, she would be his Maud. I needed something to take my mind from the sadness I don’t completely understand, and they are it.
November 10, 2007

Saturday morning. The water in the birdbath was liquid this morning, so it was a clement night, though why I care I don’t know, since everything is dead anyway.

The performance last night was pretty good, though I continue to wonder why we slip up in different places each night, as though the play were never going to allow us full mastery. It’s like a basket of kittens. Get one section settled in and another begins to break into chaos. Does the audience like it? Those who come backstage to talk do. Or say they do. I guess if you know all the rough spots and moments of panic, you assume they’re visible to everyone. Maybe we’re getting away with it. The cast makes this ordeal endurable. Belve said, “I don’t think I could do this play with any other group of people,” and I agreed.

Chall and Lucia were at the performance. They look happy. Jim, Phil, Kitty, Handsome John Highsmith, who reminded me that his fundraising efforts had built the theater. Other people were there, too, but the green room at the theater is lit so gloomily that it made me a little sad to see everybody in it, as though it were the lobby of a funeral home.

Evening. Today was supposed to be the studio stroll, and I tended my studio for a while, but I was too sad, too worried about tonight, too overcome by the probable futility of it all to stay the whole time. The good part was seeing Richmond. The good part was Mickey and Stan and Mickey’s mom and stepfather coming to the studio with four kittens for me to choose from. Though I’d wanted but one, I chose two who Mickey’s mom had said had become inseparable companions. That turned out to be well with Titus and Conrad, and may it be so again. They will be mine tonight after the performance, and may they turn my mind to kittenish things. And may they sleep very well on a night when I absolutely must.

Sadness today, difficult to pin down. Maybe just autumn.
November 9, 2007

Dusky brownish twilight. I must hit the road toward Waynesville for tonight’s performance in five minutes. I was frightened in my house for a moment, frightened at the brown, quiet isolation. I have professional life and I have solitude. . . but where the mid-ground? Where has intimacy gone? It shouldn’t be frightening, but for a moment, it was. What if it were twenty years from now, and the twilight gathering like this, and me facing a night without a show, alone, no hope, no remembrance, of anything else? I guess it’s time for some fresh air. Onward.
November 8, 2007

A bright cool day has become a purple cold night. Good classes today. Good students. I do try to remember my college classes, recalling how much I was engaged with them, how much they sparked my curiosity or shuddered my soul. I think they began to rock me seriously in graduate school; I give my students the benefit of that remembrance, murmuring, “You have time.”

I think I have ended my association with Laurel of Asheville. They “didn’t have room” for my December column, which I had thought of as a little masterpiece. Well, these things have their beginnings and their ends. Let’s see if anybody notices.

Seven thousand more in the red over this damn furnace, Something has to happen quick. I don’t think I’m going to New York for the premiere of Winter Birds, as I might have done without a second thought six months ago. Part of it is money. Part of it is the roaring hell of airports in the days around Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

November 7, 2007

Caroline stopped me in the alley to tell me that Lola has died of a heart attack. “Look at the picture in the Citizen-Times,” she said, “I just took it the other day. The light’s on her head; she looks like an angel.” Lola Gross was thirty seven. In my life she was funny and annoying, often amazingly thoughtful, one of those neighbors at whom you cringe when you see them coming but smile when you think of them later. What was she in her own? She was disabled, put-upon, disappointed and rejected, but managed somehow to keep slugging away. I admired that even when she was a pain in the neck. She tried hard to make a life for herself, and her failures were not always her own. She gave me a glass hummingbird for my Christmas tree one year, and that means that one person, anyway, will be thinking of her at least once a year for a while. No, more than that. I think of her now.

Almost sinful luxury of a day in which there was nothing which had to be done. Painted. Went to the Y after a month’s absence. Napped heroically. Ate tomato soup as I did on days like this when I was a boy.
November 5, 2007

Rose with the tiny dying crest of the moon outside the bathroom window, enormous Venus beside him, both still east of zenith, both ready to be overtaken by the sun.
November 4, 2007

Last night’s VW earned some of the accolades heaped on the previous one, for it was nearly perfect. Oddly–or perhaps expectably– the crowd was less demonstrative. Orion glittered over Asheville as I drove out afterwards, and but for the trees and the mountains, I could have followed him home.
November 3, 2007

I never tell people “that was the greatest performance I have ever seen on this stage,” or “that was the best acting I’ve ever seen,” unless it was, but I assume others are not so punctilious, for I had an ear full of that last night at the opening night party. I suspect Mickey did too. We have the distinction of knowing what a shambles some of the scenes were. It’s frightening how if one person gets a little off the whole thing can go to hell for a while, how it can become an ecstasy of groping toward firm ground. But it is also true that some projects gain a momentum which, seemingly, no misstep can derail. People are determined to think this is a great play nobly done, and I say “fine.” Stephanie brought me a rose backstage.

My morning glories are blasted; the cannas, dahlias, nasturtium, tomatoes, peppers, all blasted by the frost. The roses remain, the gold and the pink in bloom, the antique one I forget the name of-- with blossoms ranging from parchment to peach-- in the most glorious bloom of its life. Cyclamen stud the leaf-littered shade of the back yard. What prompted me to plant them in straight lines I don’t know, but it is a little disturbing. Pink, too, is a disturbing color in autumn. The hydrangeas, sheltered by the porch and the rhododendrons, endure, the one big blue blossom browned at one edge, where it peaked out into the wind. The air is perfect, cool but not cold; the light is perfect, a blue, pervading radiance short of aggression.

Friday, November 2, 2007

November 2, 2007

Grayish, yellowish morning. We opened (well, a “dress rehearsal” with a paying crowd) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf last night. I felt very fluid and “in the grove” the night before, less but adequately so last night. People who hated the show are not likely to stay and talk about it, but the people who stayed and talked about it seemed to like it to a degree exceeding reasonable expectations. I understand it is a shattering experience for an audience. It is certainly a crushing experience for an actor. At the end of Act I, I couldn’t believe that there were two acts to go, couldn’t imagine where I’d find the energy to do them. The crowd found the play a good deal funnier than I expected, but maybe that was the preponderance of students. After the show Mickey and Belve and Cody and a crowd went to The Usual for food and drinks; I could no more have followed them than flown to the moon. This is why I’m alone. When I’m tired and not hungry, I fail to join everyone at the restaurant in the dead of night. This had probably been a mistake. This morning I feel that I had done hard labor all day. Our directors were pleased with us. I think we are something not normally seen in Waynesville.

Jocasta scratches her chin on the edge of the desk. Three hellebores sit on the porch after I wrestled them out of their all-but-impregnable packaging. They wait to have their toes set back in the earth.

The gas furnace came on and heated the house this morning, having chosen the hour, apparently, on its own.

I walked down from the alley just as a screen fell from Caroline’s bathroom window.

On three consecutive nights I was on Main Street in Waynesville just at 11 PM, the moment when the traffic lights turn to give Main Street unimpeded flashing yellows. At light after light I would be gliding to a stop for a red, to have it change to flashing yellow just as I reached the intersection. It was wonderful.
November 1, 2007

Butter colored dawn. I’ve already exhausted myself with morning furies, coming upon me when my resistance was down and the recalcitrance of the universe was up.

The good thing in the news is that the Satan-worshipers at Westboro Baptist in Kansas will have to pay a little for a great wrong. One counts the little victories, which always seem futile, but the world keeps turning, so they must not wholly be.

Dress rehearsal last night. It actually went rather well, for our part, though on the production part nothing was ready, not the set, not the lights, not the sound cues, not the props; there was even notice that the production schedule had been wrong. HART is a fine facility, but it is run on a kind of home-grown American amateurism that in some ways is dear and in other ways not. The one problem we actors have left is that the play is long, very long, rambling, repetitious, the rehearsal period was short, and there has not been a night when we haven’t stopped dead because someone had no idea what the next non-sequitur was, and nobody else could help him. I asked for a prompter in the pit, just in case. The answer I got from our directorial duo, after they had the entire rehearsal to hatch it, was that our groping about for the path was endearing in some way, in some way attractively “in character,” and they would rather have that than the right line. I was too tired to be disgusted then. I am disgusted now. I do not, actually, have the sense of having been directed in this play. Mickey and I find our way about the stage, and it seems to be working. When S has an idea, we work it into the pattern, not because it is especially helpful, but because our director has had an idea, and that sort of thing should be encouraged. I am tired now. I shall no doubt feel better tonight. Providing we succeed.
October 31, 2007

Earliest moments of Halloween, the moon appropriately like a crookedly sliced pumpkin, orange and low over the mountains. VW rehearsal a thousand % improvement over last night, at least in terms of volume of lines remembered. In other ways, I think, too, Even when we are at full power, the play is going to be three hours long. What audience can endure that? We may be better or worse than I think we are. Right now there is no way to know. It is very late, and I have nothing to say, but I keep typing because I am too jazzed to go to bed.

The degree of stress in my life now becomes measurable when it is relieved a little, and I can make comparison-- such as this morning, when I managed to write some in the café, and the tension of not writing relaxed for the moment. Sexual release goes through my body like a drug, as if I had been a clenched fist suddenly unclenched. I don’t know how the celibate keep from becoming murderers. I can’t live this way for very long. When I think of the lives I might have chosen which would have presented these conditions perpetually, I thank God for the choice actually made. People–and this includes me–do not understand the wide swathes of what is apparently nothing going on necessary for any creative work.
October 30, 2007

Have been up and about in the gray morning. Stood in the frost-covered garden, and didn’t try to choke back the tears of botanical frustration and sadness, as nobody was watching. I think the one red rose may survive.

Letter from Barbara Gislason, my erstwhile agent. I know it was meant to be illuminating and enlightening, and I know I am meant to share her delight in her new spiritual path, and perhaps I do share it to some degree, but somewhere behind the swirling veils of anger and frustration. She kept me waiting for five years. She commissioned me to write a book for her, on a very clear-- if not fully legal-- understanding of publication, a book so specific that it may or may not be useful to me elsewhere. Amid periods of neglect she phoned every now and then and left the message “don’t give up on me,” which I-- foolishly, as it turns out-- took to heart. I am happy she has found a satisfying thing to do. It’s a shame that doing it made her a liar in other areas of commitment, but one chooses and goes on. The part of the stories of Jesus and the Buddha when they abandoned–or advised others to abandon–those who depended on them have always bothered me. The fact that Siddhartha had a wife and son–not to mention a kingdom-- is shrugged off as though they were mere inconveniences. I don’t pretend to understand the mysteries surrounding these things, but I think it is an error to hold them up as examples of good behavior to those who are not gods.

I do seem to be beset by professional deadbeats–two disappearing agents, that wretch David Godine, most lately Orion magazine– is it me? Do I have “sucker” printed invisibly on my stationery or something? If it’s me, I don’t know how. I try to be the soul of cooperation. I have cooperated myself mostly into innumerable dead ends.

The new furnace, though cold as mud, is Chinese red. I like that.
October 29, 2007

Cold night, frost. I think my comfrey is annihilated, but that may be the only casualty. Another casualty, though, was my curious faith that my new and expensive furnace was working, even though it was heating nothing. A city inspector appeared first thing this morning (steel gray eyes, shaved head, a little dangerous-looking, surprisingly redolent of cologne; woke me right up) to confirm that the gas is not yet hooked up. It’s well past time for the furnace to stop being an issue in my life. Not one winter went by without fussing with the old one, and it was FEBRUARY when I began trying to get this one installed. The final work order is dated August. The universe thinks that by frustrating me in those areas which really bother me–such as being cold-- I will be mellowed into a sense of resignation and acceptance. In this it is quite wrong. I become a steel fist of insistence, a brazen klaxon. The universe should pay better attention.

Noon: Drove with Roland to the DMV to transfer the title to the Ford. We laughed and joked in the car, and I thought what it might be like to have a grown son. Though the actual experience with Roland was sweet and funny, the thought which came after it was the bitterest sorrow and loneliness, and one which now can never be redressed. I don’t remember choosing this. I only remember discovering it come upon me.

Just past midnight. Tomorrow, really. Moon like a crooked cup, spilling whatever was inside. Rehearsal tonight was lousy. I thought, though our directors seemed to think it had leapt forward by light years. Had it? Such a leap would make up for vast areas of the text being skipped over, mostly by me. I was frightened driving home in the suddenly surpassing darkness. Every sudden light was a wild creature leaping from the shadows to collide with my car.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

October 28, 2007

Schubert in the morning darkness, turned down so only the crescendoes can be fully heard.

I was reading in one of those magazines where they have pithy quotes from celebrities, and one for myself jumped into my head: “I never felt that I had the lead in my own life nailed down; I am always auditioning.”

I suppose the new furnace is working, because I am not particularly cold as I write, but sort of not-quite-uncomfortably cool. The registers are never warm, and I hear nothing from the cellar, where I was used to the comforting rumble of fire and iron and then the tick of warmth in the coils. I’ll miss that. It was like having some big, useful animal dwelling under me. Of course, it is possible the furnace is not working and it is an almost-sultry autumn morning out there. Whichever it is cannot be worried about today, and that is the final comfort.

Late night. The moon just now rising, late and dented. The concert went well enough, and gave me as much pleasure as any concert every has. Am I more willing to be amused these days? Less frightened to be content?

Mickey decides she can’t do Isabella, and I called Annie Welty to see if she wants to step in.

I don't really want to do anything but write and paint and sing, maybe act, when there is some proportion to it. . . the rest is a kind of game. . .something to get through as nobly as possible. I would say something else if I weren't so tired, but I might still mean this.
October 27, 2007

Moon perfect, besieged by flying clouds. I don’t know how it can be so turbulent up there and so calm down here.

I planted winter aconite, daffodil, narcissus. I gave the bulbs that I couldn’t find room for to Jack and Leland. I gave my Ford to my student, Roland Crandall, who believes he can resurrect it. Left North Asheville only to go to dress rehearsal for Carmina Burana. There is not miracle enough in the world to make it a good concert, musically, but I am sure everyone will be having a good time, and sometimes that is enough. I take pleasure in the company, and the exuberance that is better, sometimes, than perfection.

Jocasta the Cat has found a new friend in the space heater. She lies against it, asleep, head to a hot fin that I cannot stand to touch even for a few seconds.
October 26, 2007

The moon was with me the whole drive from Waynesville. He stood in my windshield, huge and ivory with just a little imperfection on one side, which made him the more beautiful to me. When I arrived home he was shining directly down the path in the backyard, something I had never witnessed before. I thought this was blessed. I remembered all the times when I stood in my yard and cried to the moon in frustration and loneliness and futility. I was not frustrated or alone or futile this time. For once, all, or all that entered my mind in the sable and silver, was well.
October 25, 2007

A note from somebody named Sterling to Jim Cavener about The Loves of Mr. Lincoln last night:

Just a short note to let you know that I did make it to the reading last night! I made it a point to save the program so that I could sound a little more intelligent about it – but – right now I can’t locate it due to all the junk in my apartment. As you already know, Mr. Hopes is a professor at the UNC Asheville, and the play was a reading rather than the full production. It was part of a 10-day play festival produced by the local GLBT play production company. I had never heard about the GLBT company or the festival before last night; so, I’m glad that I went for that reason alone. All the productions are at Church Street, which begins almost opposite Annie’s Paramount Steak House and runs for 1 block. The playhouse is a very interesting venue – it has been many years since I had been there.
I am pleased to say that The Loves of Lincoln was an unqualified success. Apparently, this was the premier reading, which was videotaped for Mr. Hopes benefit. There were only 30 people in attendance – to be expected for a Tuesday night. The audience appeared to be an older crowd, and was serious and scholarly about the literature aspect of the play. I too found it to be a fascinating play. I do hope that it will be produced and has very much success. The director made some preliminary comments. He was a hunk as well as an associate producer/director at the Signature theatre. Washington does seem to have many prominent theatre companies.
It was 2 acts with a short intermission between acts. There were 6 actors plus a piano player – some Steven Foster and other period songs are part of the play. Afterwards there was a 15-minute videotaped interactive discussion with the head of the production company, the audience, and the actors about the play. This was for Mr. Hopes benefit in case he decides to make revisions before it is produced. The discussion was about the strong and the weak points of the play. In general, the reaction seemed very positive and everybody who commented stated that they want to see it produced. Mr. Hopes originally sent it to Fords Theatre about a year ago. Fords reaction was to forward it to the GLBT company. One of the main features of the play was the reading of Mr. Lincoln’s eloquent letters to Joshua Speed. The letters were built into the play.
I parked my car in Virginia and took Metro down. I have a policy of not driving into D.C., except for certain occasions when parking is not an issue, such as going to MCC of Washington on Sunday mornings. I now find that driving through that traffic plus parking is too much of an issue for me anymore. I did get back at midnight.
Take care. Talk to you later. Tell Mr. Hopes that he has a good play that will someday be a big success. – Sterling --

I thought, since I’d heard nothing from producer or director, that it must have been a disappointment. I hope people don’t assume I used Lincoln’s actual letters; I made everything up.

Just before midnight. On the drive from Waynesville I thought somebody was tailgating me with their brights on, but it was the moon, nearly full, but fully glorious, blue-white, washing the lawn outside my study window in perfect pearl and silver. A memorable moon. A perfect moon. The hills that were gold and scarlet when I drove out were blue and cobalt and silver when I drove home again, and through the layers of exhaustion, I was content.
October 24, 2007

Gentle rain. Clement night, with the windows still open. Horrific rehearsals of VW, sweet and happy–though probably also horrific–rehearsals of Carmina Burana. I enjoy being among the kids so much that the quality of the music is not my worry. Melodie is doing it right, making it a happy experience for her forces, come whatever in the field of musical achievement. Suzanne is doing to right in our rehearsals, too, keeping it light, not berating us for not learning any faster than we can. Mickey and I couldn’t stop murmuring, “God, I hate this play.” She said, “If I ever meet Edward Albee I’m going to kick him right in the balls.”

E-mail from composer Jonathan David:

Dear Sir.

I am a composer, and am writing to request your permission to set portions of your Winter Birds. The plan would be to set 3 or 4 sections. The piece would be in response to a request by New York City countertenor/baritone Phillip Cheah, a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, and regular performer with the renowned St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. The ensemble would consist of clarinet, viola and cello.

This is an extremely last-minute request; my apologies. It’s been a rough summer. The performance would be November 20 at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue in Manhattan. There will however be ample time to complete the cycle, as most rehearsals are bunched up for right before the performance, and I have several sketches already.

I was happy to discover from reading your bio our common interest in the choral and theatre worlds. I?ve attached my bio to give you some more background about me.
Mr. Cheah and I are both quite taken with your poetry and would be excited to work with it. I hope to hear from you soon. Again, my apologies for the lateness of the request.
All best,

Jonathan David

I had no remembrance of “Winter Birds,” but I discover it’s from The Glacier’s Daughters. So glad somebody is still reading that! So. . . fascinating (I was going to write “creepy”) to be known by people whom you do not know. Yet.

Studied my lines while slamming down coffee. Planted dog-toothed violet, iris, hyacinth, daffodil in the light rain.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

October 23, 2007

Rainy morning. Me with exhaustion almost supernatural, even at the first of morning. The Loves of Mr. Lincoln opens in Washington tonight. There are quotations from me in the Washington Blade, in which I sound cautious and defensive. Jeff Johnson says, though, "If Ford’s can’t do it, than it has to be controversial. There’s just some great things [in the play] … we’re just bubbling over."

Last night’s off-book run-through was either hilarious or agonizing, depending on how you look at it. I did pretty well–in comparison-- though there are long swatches which are like landscapes seen through fog: I know in general what is there, but the details are obscure. Albee does nothing to ease the burden.
October 22, 2007

Sudden cold. Sudden, if very modest, rain. The blue hydrangeas just now are blooming. I pray the north wind gives them a little time.
October 21, 2007

The electricity went out in this part of the city during the night. I was awakened by something, perhaps the extreme silence of the umber darkness, no flash of little lights from my computer, no clock glowing away from my bedstand, no humming refrigerator, no seep of illumination from the street or Caroline’s kitchen. It was disturbing.

Memorizing lines for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. We are meant to be off book tomorrow, which is probably a laugh. Albee hates actors. He fills the script with non-sequitors, which must be recalled (or not) by brute memorization, like a composer who habitually makes the singer start on a note which has not appeared in the last thousand chords. And the stage directions!-- there is not one case when the little commandments Albee gives the actor in parenthesis is not the second best choice, or even flat wrong. The revised version is worse than the original, though blessedly a little shorter. I can’t blame Albee for this, but the sound of certain words– puff, poof, paunch, toots, tot– are physically abhorrent to me, nails on chalkboards, and the script is peppered with them. I did want badly to do the play, though. Part of it is nostalgia for Ellen and David Wingate long ago. Part of it was a comment by Angie F-M which was reported to me after Athena: "I didn’t know David was able to create a characterization like that." No," thought I– "well you ain’t seen nothing yet." Praying at this moment that I don’t live to regret it, that I don’t screw up in some memorable and in-his-place-putting way.

One PM. Too much church. Came home and planted the other anemone, the Greek windflower

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 20, 2007

Not long after a brilliant autumn noon. "Perfection" barely covers the beauties of this day. I woke quite early and spent the morning planting, most notably tree peonies with their sound-of-wooden-bells Chinese names. The tree peonies cost from fifty to eighty dollars apiece, so I went to the hardware store and got the blackest soil in all the world to nestle them in. Also into the ground went pink lilies and grape hyacinth and blue anemones and daffodils the looks of which I can’t remember from the months ago when I bought them. I am satisfyingly sore, and half the day remains to me. Surrounding me as I labored were the hill of sky-blue morning-glories, a constellation of red-orange dahlia, the yellow-to-maroon spectrum of nasturtium, the dusty purple cloud of asters, and a single red and perfect rose. The blue sky covers all.

Thought I would take the ancient Ford on my errands today, but when I turned the ignition, there was nothing. It may be its long, useful life is at last at an end. Surprising stab of grief, which I put down, because it was just a machine. Yet, no it’s not.

Titus unaccountably fascinated with the sack of onions I brought home to make chili.

My father’s voice is gone to a hoarse whisper. He thinks it’s a sore throat; my sister thinks it’s a sudden incursion of the cancer. I know she’s likely to be right, but still I almost wish I were there, to protect him from the fatal vision.

Macbeth at NC Stage last night. I was sitting in a lucky place, near where Charlie F-M delivered most of Macbeth’s soliloquies. Moments when he was speaking were filled with meaning and precision. I thought the same thing during Hamlet, that it is hard to imagine anyone better for Shakespeare than Charlie, who makes sure every syllable is freighted with meaning, fully believed and cleanly delivered. His passion is full without being showy. His humor is truly funny without his ever telegraphing the joke. One never catches him acting. A newcomer named Jenn Miller Cribbs was Lady Macbeth, and every bit Charlie’s equal, a precise, inventive, intelligent actress, with the beauty to explain why her husband would do every dangerous thing she suggested. I had never seen John Crutchfield on stage before, and it turns out he is very fine, efficient and-- which is right for Banquo–modest.

These three were so good (Mike Coghlan was good as Malcolm, too, and cute, which turns out to be exactly what Malcolm should be to survive that bitter world) that the production almost fell into two pieces, because not everything was good. Almost everyone else was miscast in ways that one would have thought was obvious. Macduff was flat and Lady Macduff was atrocious (though beautiful). Ron Bashford’s unusual staging worked about half of the time. I have never seen Banquo’s ghost done better (or as well); the same with the parade of Stuarts-to-be. He telescoped the last act with percussion and fast cuts so that it was exciting and fresh. But the stage, hung with saran wrap, was distracting and discordant; the witches were no more compelling than kids in Halloween costumes (which I suppose they pretty much were), and having everyone crashing around in the dark carrying flashlights was irritating after five minutes. The Porter was a debacle. With only that scene as evidence, I would have concluded that Bashford hates Shakespeare. MM overacted and over characterized in ways I would have thought any director might correct. It was as if he was in a different production, one which hit the boards a hundred years ago.

The good parts win, though, and I came away from the theater with the feeling that I had seen something wonderful, and that I have reasons to love that play that I never had before. One expects to emerge from the blackest of tragedies depressed and solemn, but I came away rather exultant and energized.

DJ and I went to Scully’s afterward, where we were surrounded by beautiful young people in various stages of merry inebriation. I was very happy. DJ asked me, "If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?" and I realized it was right there.
October 18, 2007

Linda emails from Atlanta that she is employee of the month at Bridgeway School. I bet the honor is long overdue.

A group who gives out theater prizes in California has nominated Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges for best drama, several people in the cast for best actor, and me for best original play.

From Arch Brown in Palm Springs:

Congratulations all,

Thorny received 20 nominations. We pretty much swept the 'Drama' category as there weren't that many produced, and Doubletalk was listed as a drama. Who Knew?

So, Nominees are:

Anna Livia, Lucky in her Bridges
Lead actress, Louise Ross
Lead Actor, Bob Harrison
Supporting Actor, Elliott Ray Ehlers
Set design, Jean Skinazi
Costume Design, Robby Nothstine
Original writing, David Brendan Hopes
Outstanding Production, Thorny Theater

The Mountain Xpress readers’ poll has named me Favorite Poet/writer, and given me third place as "Favorite Arts Writer." I had a little sun by my name indicating that I had entered the "Mountain Xpress Hall of Fame." David Mc takes 3rd place as "favorite massage therapist"– I feel that I helped engineer that–and Usual Suspects pulled down a host of categories, including "best service" and "best bartender" for Cathy. All these things seem family victories.

At morning I thought that there was no way I could get through this day. It is now 5:45 and I have only two more duties ahead of me, two rehearsals, and I think I may just make it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October 16, 2007

Dark before morning. I must leave the house in a few minutes, and not return until 11, I think, under the glitter of the moon, Jupiter, red Antares. I don’t like packed days like this. Too much energy goes into finding a place to hide or to shut down for a moment.

Conferences with my poets yesterday afternoon, an event that turned out to be one of extraordinary sweetness to me, face after face of earnestness and eagerness, some of them truly gifted, all of them loveable to me, at least in those moments, as if I were the temporary father of the world. I feel blest that I am not in one of those colleges people talk about where the students are sullen and resistant. When I count my blessings, I too often pass this one over. Not this quiet morning.

Had an explosion of temper at rehearsal last night, a very little one, which perhaps nobody recognized as such but me. But, the worst thing in a play is for one actor to interfere with another’s process, and God knows what I do that infuriates the crap out of everyone, and I paused long enough to realize that exhaustion was angry, and not discernment. I knew about 1/5 of my lines, which was enough to keep me from panic.

Someone attached a snide comment to the review of my book on the Mountain Xpress webpage. I know who it was, and the sorrow of it is not the comment, which was juvenile, but the source, which is one I have tried hard to love, and evidently tried all the wrong ways.
October 15, 2007

White morning. Yesterday I sang for two church services, performed at the Up from the Ashes Holocaust Remembrance service, attended Cantaria rehearsal. When I got home I had but the energy to watch Titus go at it with a mouse. Packed days like that are interesting once in a while, but I see them stretching, with some interruption, through February, and the thought exhausts me before the day begins. Titus is an excellent hunter, without much practice that I know of. The mouse escaped, but had the cat really been hungry, it wouldn’t have. My hope is that the experience frightened the creature out of the house, where there must be marvelous slim pickings anyway. Up from the Ashes was a fine idea imperfectly realized. The boss lady was the fussy grandmother type, and explained the edge off things. There are some people whose appearance militates against too much exposition of tragedy. I am probably one of them. The organizer was too round, too packed, too red, too teacher-y, too American suburbs for her talk of concentration camp atrocities to sound much more than weird. It is unfair. Nathan Lane could never play Hamlet, no matter what is in his soul.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13, 2007

Brahms on the CD in the dark of the morning. Have been thinking of the trip home to visit my father. I watch movies where on one of their deathbeds father and son reconcile and finally say "I love you," but I do not imagine this happening to us. I have no conscious need for it to happen. I don’t even think it is true. I have no sensation of my father ever loving me. I’m not waiting for him to reveal some healing secret he has kept within his heart. I’m fairly sure there is no such secret. It’s like waiting for the cats to sing: one does not expect it; one does not grieve for the lack of it; one would be uncomfortable if it happened. I think he loves me now, in a way that has something to do with need, the growing dependency of old age which reaches out for support, and which support I hope I always have the gallantry to give.

At worst, in our day, he was cruel, petty, arbitrary and destructive. At best–and I think he is at his best now–he was genuinely curious about who my sister and I were, genuinely interested in the things we were doing and how we were doing them. Appropriate and also cruel, then, that my first and lasting weapon against him was secrecy. I don’t blame him for any of this, but neither can I attach the radiant concept "father" in my mind to my real father. He was often a good caretaker, within the limits of his selfishness (based on fear, I know, but the reason does not change the trait), and his brutality was only periodic and based, again, on fear. He did try to overcome his ignorance of –I should say innocence in–the world, and he never stopped us from bettering our lives. His notion that he was an exemplary father astonishes both my sister and me, but there seems no reason at this point to correct it. I believe he was so, according to his own perception of things.

After tormenting my mother with vicious bickering about money, after making my sister and me live with the notion of deprivation and penury, it turns out he is a millionaire. He chooses his restaurants because they are cheap, does not remember to tip, and can barely enjoy his new computer for fear the screen is burning up unnecessary energy. Reaction against this attitude has made me a minor spendthrift. I don’t blame him for that. I certainly prefer it to being a miser. I blame him for meanness, for spinning webs like an old spider around a treasure he will not use either for himself or for others. When he dies with it clutched in his hand, my guess is that it will be more trouble to my sister and me than benefit.

This is not to say I do not love something about the man. It is, I see now, an oddly impersonal love, but a strong one. I love the stories he tells about himself as a kid and a young man. That man I could have loved. The little boy lost in the hollyhock garden he took for paradise. Coming to Akron and sleeping in unlocked cars. Scurrying with his game leg past a graveyard to court a girl. His long memory of a girl with red hair who danced with him even though he was lame. A boy working his way down a hill of loose stone to get to school. A boy on stage winning a prize for elocution. A boy joining a community chorus in Akron as it was long ago in order to make friends in a new place. Even as an old man he is admirable: his garage door turned into a mural of twilight and coming darkness–his own life, I suppose. The neighborhood kids coming over, knowing he is always ready for a game or a treat from the refrigerator. He had an admirable life in brackets on both sides of the time I knew him. He had an admirable life even when I knew him, when he was not among us, in community involvements which I didn’t know then and which I am surprised to hear of now. When and where I knew him he was not admirable. He was mean and frightened. He destroyed that part of me which should have known how to form human bonds. But I do smile thinking of the man he was before me, and I grieve, even now as I write, for whatever it was shoved him from what seemed a bright path to what we know for certain was a dingy and narrow one. It is probably true that I do not have a son’s feeling for the man who begat me, nor he a father’s for me. I can speak for nothing more on his part. But on my part, I’m glad he lived long enough to tell me about a man I could have loved, long ago, in a world which turned out to be too hard for him.

I think of these things most when I’m in Twinsburg, standing beside my mother’s grave. My sister and merely woke up in the midst of it. She must have, at some point, desired and chosen him. She must have thought all would be well. She must have thought she would be happy.

What will I do when he dies? I’ll weep for the little boy lost in the wilderness of hollyhock, for the little boy stumbling on his bad leg down the treacherous stone.

A Dream of Adonis gets its first review, from Mountain Xpress. It’s titled a "book report," but I suppose that’s the same as a review, however it harks back to the 4th grade.

The hydrangeas, set back after the spring freeze, are just now putting forth tentative, pale clusters of buds. I pray the freeze doesn’t get them at both ends.

Virginia King is dead. She and Jane Bingham sat in the dark of the green door and laughed the laughs of sibyls at the antics of the young.