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:

Jim,
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.

http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2007/review_a_dream_of_adonis


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.
October 12, 2007

Phone interview today with the Washington Blade. No one who has ever done an interview doubts that every media outlet has an editorial line which it hopes it can make the interviewee serve. One strives to hold that line as near as possible to the truth.

Friday, October 12, 2007

October 11, 2007

Ganymede Arts is billing The Loves of Mr Lincoln as "a Night of Controversy."

Asheville

October 10, 2007

One of my tiny green mantids from this spring has grown into the giant lurking in the mint forest, six inches long, motionless but for the swiveling of her mechanical head.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 9, 2007

Left the house early, after reprogramming dad’s phones and clocks and anything electric that had gone awry over the past year. I went to East Park, to the first water, where my independent life began. It’s the creek that drains Alder Pond, flowing through the Sullivan Street culvert, and then into the Little Cuyahoga, and it was the first wild place where I ever went alone. Jesse had taken me there once before, and I was proud to remember the way through the twisting, mayapple-accompanied path in Crine’s woods. I remember looking out for bears. Because I couldn’t see the borders of the woods, I assumed there were none. As I knelt to the water the light was low, golden, bright, earliest of morning, I think, and I moved as a figure in a painting, illuminated and portentous. I was very small. I knew this then. I went to the rock–as I did today–where the largest of all frogs held sway. I remember telling my mother about it when I came home. It was as if I had found the Northwest Passage, and though she was attentive, it was the inattentive attentiveness of mothers, and it was at that moment I got the clue that no one was going to be very much interested in what I was interested in, so silence and poetry would become the necessary way. Then to Maytree, to walk to my creek’s source at Alder Pond. Thus I had in this weekend visited all the sacred places. The ducks were visible and silent; the geese were loud and nowhere to be seen. Some hidden creature boiled the mud nearly at my feet. I sat at a picnic table in a grove and wrote a poem. The rain began then, that would be with me the whole way until a few miles from here.

Hiram

October 8, 2007

"Falsgraf Garden Room" of the Hiram College Library, Hiram, Ohio. I’m comfortable here. I thought it would be well to come here and write, so I can be sure to have written something in Hiram in two millennia. It turns out that one can reach Hiram simply by driving north on Eastwood into Portage County, and guessing your way after that, as I did this morning. It would have given me comfort in the old days to know my paradise was so available.

I wandered Hiram, and was glad for many things. The college is growing, vital, vibrant. I went into the bookstore, and signed my new book on the sly. I was glad that they had copies of all my books, the poetry, at least. I was triply glad that the bookstore manager recognized and knew me. I was gladder still when a professor from the time when I was a professor– Political Science, whom I didn’t remember and had no recollection of meeting– stopped under Hinsdale and called me by name. He realized I didn’t know him, told me his name, and then said, "I know you because you haven’t changed at all. I guess you decided not to age." True or not, it was the thing I needed to hear. I sat for a long while in the downstairs of the Kennedy Center. Carol Donley was in a meeting there, and of all people I wanted to see her most. But it looked like she was never going to get out of the meeting, and so at last I slunk away. It is cruel anyway to plop down unannounced into the middle of people’s lives.

I drove 82 to 91 to I could stop at Crown Hill and visit mother’s grave. The hurt child inside will never get over it, will sob like an orphan every time, but the rest of me owned something good. I possessed, for the first time I have ever stood there, the conviction that everything was going to be well. Aengus the Young had passed over those fields at my calling, and the earth was vibrant with him.

Hot autumn in Akron. Father has been driving me crazy. All is as it should be.
October 7, 2007

Sultry evening in Ohio, unlike the autumn it is meant to be. Drove to Cleveland last night, down empty Carnegie to the Cleveland Playhouse to see Man of La Mancha. Actually, I went to see Patrick Porter, who was in Man of La Mancha, but the one was conjoined with the other. I enjoyed the show, but I couldn’t see why it had been such a sensation, why it had become one of the permanent lights of the Broadway firmament. Patrick later told me that the experience of acting in it was rather disappointing, that some of the directorial choices were unexciting and that the rapport of the cast was not exceptional, and maybe it was these things that crept into the experience of the night. Patrick also reports that Don Quixote ripped a major fart in his death scene, and everyone was fighting off laugher, which I did not actually notice, but which did underwrite my impression that the show was running on pure professionalism and not much juice. It was great to talk with Patrick, and to hear about his life as a Rugby Star, and to hear he is fully committed to Edward in May. His partner told him he had never been in a better show than Edward the King, and had never been better in a show. Late supper at Stages, very light, so I slept unperturbed.

Interstate 77 between Cleveland and Akron is incredibly dark.

Wandered around Akron today, feeling strange emotions. I drank coffee and wrote at Angel Falls CafĂ©, listening to the intelligent conversation of people I might have known. Went to Akron U and found niches in the quite vast student union to write in, and study my lines. I went to a production of Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July put on by the Akron U theater. I have heard about the Talley series for years, but this is the first time I saw one. It is certainly workmanlike playwriting, but I think a little too busy, a little too anxious to cram in as much picturesque character detail as possible, even those which begin to veer from the plausible. One audience member had been at the Cleveland Playhouse last night, and when asked by his friend how the show was, he shrugged exactly as I would have done and said, "It was all right. The first fifteen minutes were hopeful, but it never made good on its promise." Rather as I felt and Patrick said.

The whole time here I have been besieged by the strangest emotions. I try to call them "regret," because they should be regret. But they aren’t, or aren’t exclusively so. More vivid, more immediate than regret. Tonight I walked to the elementary school, as I did twice a week day forty five years ago. The landmarks are still there. I could walk it with my eyes closed. I stood in the dark in front of Billy Bigelow’s house, thinking that all would be well if I could imagine him finding my house some dark, solitary night, standing before it and remembering. To school was a considerable walk. We must all have been in excellent shape. But as I walked I wondered what exactly was I feeling. Why were the emotions so chaotic, so inappropriate for my current age and station? Puberty was for me exceptionally forgiving and graceful. There was no trouble with the authorities, no temper tantrums, no emotional tempests, no overt rebellion (though my parents probably thought so, totally misjudging the firmament of rebellion from which they were spared), hardly any acne. It was so in part because of extreme covertness on my part. The emotions I was feeling, and, mostly, the objects of them, could not be acknowledged at that time, and so I hid them with what I believed at the time was cunning success. But nothing that must be manifest can be kept unrealized forever. Maybe the divine Bestower decreed that I should go through puberty in Akron, Ohio. I did not, and I thought that was a victory for my secretive and proud nature. But all emotions that are meant to be will be, and it crossed my mind that the chaos inside my heart right now is puberty, not so much late as interrupted, forbidden, and therefore ferocious, the part never let out, which should have run its course forty years ago, and will, by God, run it now. It is a bewildering thing. The brain spins, helpless, realizing the solution lies not within itself. That the solution lies not within one heart was the problem forty years ago. The doors of love cannot be opened by one, do not open one way. There was no one on the other side, bidding me welcome. It would be fitting, it would have the outline of a fine old story, if I were unable to continue with my life until I have an affair with someone in Akron, as I was meant to have done long ago. Yet one cannot image that happening. My mind ran all night on the faces of boys I loved, but I didn’t really know how I loved them, nor what it would lead to, nor what it would forbid. There was no way of asking them to join me in this, even if it were possible the answer would be yes.

Akron

October 6, 2007

Went downtown last night, onto the cleanly, all-but-deserted streets of Akron. It looked forlorn and sort of lovely all at once. One center of activity was the corner of Summit and Market, where there is a new arts center in an old building, including The Bang and the Clatter, which I suppose is nearly the only independent theater company of its kind in the area. The theater was a pleasantly amateurish set-up on the second floor, and the play was Eric Coble’s The Dead Guy. The evening had nothing to recommend it but adequate performances–in the lead’s case a quite good performance-- of a play that was all premise, and a flawed premise at that. After arising at 2 and traveling all day, I could barely keep my eyes open, and after a while stopped trying. It was a bad play, actually, and I mention that to point up still more dramatically the enthusiasm of the little crowd, which didn’t care that it was a bad play, only that it was OUR bad play. I went to see how my life would be if I had stayed here. I don’t think, now, that I would ever have been any of the people I saw in that room.


Things I had forgotten about Akron: its intense enthusiasm for Halloween. Halloween decorations are up all over, many of them quite elaborate. The lawn across the street from my father’s is turned into a graveyard, with a forest of tombstones with ghoulish saying on them, interspersed with skeletons and ghosts arising from the grass. The theater offered snacks of Halloween candy-- sugar pumpkins and those bright kernels of corn the taste of which is so distinctive–in bowls shaped like pumpkins and the hands of monsters. Almost every house acknowledges the season. The second thing is its sports-mindedness. A radio was playing in the theater lobby with the Indians/Yankees game on it, and the Indian victory was trumpeted at intermission.

Bought dad an expensive new computer system yesterday, which he will be happy with, I think, because he can actually use it. I will buy him a notebook to store all the passwords which he seems unable now to remember, even if he used it five minutes before. My organic inability to repeat myself runs headlong into dad’s increasing inability to hear anything, and his need to hear twice even if he has.

I would be well into my first day in Dublin about now, had things gone the way I’d planned.
October 5, 2007

Detroit airport. The wireless in the Charlotte airport allowed me to read messages from Ganymede Arts about The Loves of Mr. Lincoln. The substance of the queries was routine, but it is wonderful to be receiving messages from a theater, about my play, with some measure of urgency behind them.

I lay down to sleep last night, but I knew I had to wake very early, so the sleep was all REM, dream after dream of great vividness, near-the-surface dreams through which the sounds of the real night occasionally broke. I was thinking of my students, of the extraordinary ways they are trying to relate to me, trying to enter the sphere they perceive around me, of my too casual reception of this interest, as though it were amusing or of slight account. I must stop this. I must take their attention seriously, as they intend it.

In the end I rose far earlier than I needed to. When I drove to long-term parking at the airport, it was not open, and I pulled under a light at a closed service station and studied my lines for Virginia Woolf until the airport started up again at 4 AM. Contemplated the likelihood that such a thing had never happened on that spot in all the history of the world.

A boy and his father karate-spar in the concourse. There is the woman with the largest butt I’ve ever seen in the world. Her face and torso do not seem fat, especially, but her butt is colossal, and one cannot help wondering if she fits into one seat on an airplane, or has a row to herself, or what.

What is I had stayed in Akron? What if I made this trip again and again?
October 4, 2007

Charlotte Airport Microtel, tiny, adequate, lullabied by the sound of several expressways. Whoever was here before, perhaps the maid, left the Gideon bible open to Job 20-21. I was promised wireless internet, but it goes off and on, so I am isolated in my little room, with a vampire movie on the TV. Supper at a steak house surrounded by black families who treated the place as their own dining room. They laughed and I laughed. I sat near to them, and I didn’t need to.

Stayed at school this afternoon until the last minute, realizing that my students were giving me joy, and insulating me, if momentarily, against the anxiety of this journey.
October 3, 2007

Jeff Johnson e-mails from DC that the night for The Loves of Mr. Lincoln has been changed, which renders my flight and hotel reservations useless. I’d bought "vacation insurance" from Expedia, so that I wouldn’t lose piles of money if I had to cancel the trip, as I have had to cancel nearly everything for the last year. It turns out that the "peace of mind" it offers means that you are able to THINK you’re going to get your money back for as long as you don’t actually need to. The peace of mind ends when you actually have to fiddle with the schedule. The woman on one end keeps repeating. "The flight is non-refundable," and you keep saying on your end, "But I bought the damn insurance that’s supposed to handle that." Eventually you give up, because your cell phone battery is dying, and to keep from starting an international incident with India.

Bad day, all in all, agitated, wishing I were doing almost anything but what I am, horny as a teenager, wild with frustration over small things, which probably gather to the big one of not going to Ireland on Friday.

Mickey enters the hospital tomorrow.
October 2, 2007

Yellow morning. My windows are closed against the chill, but one happy bird-voice hammers through.

GW came to my office yesterday with news that I had not been selected for the India trip this summer, the reason being, basically, that I had not gratified the sort of people who look for that sort of thing by making up a story about how I was going to teach Hinduism to homeless kids when I got home. I recognized as I was dealing with the twin onslaughts of anger and disappointment that this is probably the story of most of my unsuccessful applications for grants and perquisites. I believe–I know–that the best guide to future action is past action, and, displaying the objective fact of my record instead, I have always fallen short on creating the fiction of what I will do with the money or how I will improve the world with the trip. Having done much without the money, having brightened my corner of the world without the trip, is the test of how I will use the advantages, and the reliable truth where all else is but a hopeful expectation. It is not that I haven’t known this was my downfall; it’s that I have stubbornly refused to budge from it. The criterion is wrong and a form of self-flattery to those who employ it. The poem I wrote yesterday, the class I taught yesterday, is the only thing known, the only thing knowable, and upon that should judgments be made.

Do I want to go to India? Not any more. Of course, I never wanted to go more than I did when GW appeared at my office, as he has never done before, and I knew why he was there.

A great yellow steam shovel is digging in the street in front of my house, putting in my gas service. It looks to me like they’re digging where the water line is, but I suppose they know their business. It might be a relief for the whole thing to blow up.

Rehearsal in Waynesville last night. It’s maddening to have two directors whispering to each other while you’re trying to do a scene. Mickey gave me a beautiful photograph from her show.
October 1, 2007

Never have I seen such a flutter of butterflies in my garden. The buddelia and the smoky purple asters are crowned with them sunup to sundown.