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 cafĂ© 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.