Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 31, 2008

Saw Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at All Souls last night, as part of a series that is rather badly organized but offers, nevertheless, music the one never expects to hear in Asheville. The man at the ticket table was not only blind and had to peer searchingly at each ticket or document–even if he had peered at its identical twin seconds before–but couldn’t remember what things cost, and so the organizer (the darkly handsome symphony cellist) had to be sent for every time someone wanted to buy a ticket for any event but that. I stood the entire intermission behind the richest woman in Asheville, who was afraid he was charging her $10 extra for a ticket for Friday night. Turned out he was. The people next to me arrived late, chattered until they were hushed by a woman behind us, then, having chattered about the rudeness of someone shushing them, left early. Still, I loved Orfeo, and the performance was good enough that what I love was everywhere discernible. Amanda sang like an angel, and looked like one. The high artificiality of the piece strikes as the most amazing daring. Maybe it was even then. I want to write such works. When, that is, I have a moment to write anything at all.

After a final sally, the battle over my leave ends with complete capitulation on my part. It’s one of those situations especially bitter because I was not only right but needed the victory even if I hadn’t been right, would have needed a concession, or mercy, needed the thing I fought for despite the arguments against it. No go. K was rooted to the principle that the deans must never appear to have been in the wrong. I have never in my life continued a quarrel, held to a stance, fought a point for one second after I perceived I might be mistaken. Or for one second after I perceived that need lay on the other side, even if rectitude lay on mine. I sort of expected that energy to be returned to me by the universe. Again, no go.

Turquoise and flamingo dawn.
January 30, 2008

Someone on the radio repeated that old saying, "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones." I think that’s a lie. I have shed not one tear over getting what I wanted, unless it came too little or too late, which is not what I think they mean.

Mickey bought me a ring, a cool round moonstone which looks like the crown of Ra. She said it’s the color which reminds her of me. It's a different color at each looking, depending on how it's held.
January 29, 2008

Evening, had my interview with the deans–or whatever they are in this changing world--and my leave remains denied. I really thought there was a chance of talking my way back into it. I understood their point. They understood mine. They said nothing could be done. I assumed that was untrue, but you can repeat the same argument only so many times before you become sickening to your own ears. It’s a bad destructive, reductive choice, but I’m content that no amount or no quality of protest will change it. I’m sorry I argued, for instead of one day of sadness and defeat I have two. K may remember that years ago her signature was on the letter that denied me promotion, for a reason that appeared on none of the guidelines and which her committee had to make up to disadvantage me. The same thing happens now, though they cannot admit to it. My early journals are full of accounts of our friendship. I do not know what I do to create hostility. I mean always to be a gentle friend.

My sister sends the web page of the auction at our house. I cannot bear to look at it.

Today I became ordained in the Universal Life Church. It’s for Devin and Ariel’s wedding, but who knows what other mischief I can get into?
January 28, 2008

Thanks to the tardy Valerie, Maud entered estrus last night. She vocalizes like a wounded bird, and holds her rump up to Titus, a likely enough male, but lacking the equipment she requires. Every now and then she screams when he swats her away, out of sheer frustration.

Turbulent waking.

Cody and Anne-Marie and Adam at rehearsal last night. They are dreams to work with, intelligent and responsive. Anne-Marie can do anything you ask, but you usually don’t have to ask. Adam is very young, and some of the emotions I sense when I’m talking to him I don’t fully understand, but, as I have said before, he has more native talent than we know what to do with. Plus, his family owns a cosmetics business of some kind, and he often smells like the gardens of the Taj Mahal. Cody too can do anything, will do anything. As their processes are so different, it is amazing to see Cody and Anne-Marie achieving the same level. One flies and the other burrows, and they get there at the same moment.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

January 27, 2008

Cool dawn. Jocasta limps around on a foot injury she got outside. It’s much better today, and I no longer think I’ll have to take three cats to the vet tomorrow rather than two. Her going outside is the deal we struck between her no longer using the litter boxing and my needing to kill her for not doing so. She seems eager to go out when the time comes, and then vocally eager to get back in. Life runs on compromise.

Attended the monthly meeting of playwrights at the Democratic Headquarters, beside the Court House, in Hendersonville. Hendersonville fascinates me itself because it seems to hover between life and death, empty for blocks and blocks, then livened by a happy family strolling and looking in the windows. The playwrights are a perplexing lot. Like the town they meet in, they hover between one state of being and another, having worked hard enough at their craft seldom to be quite bad, but nowhere and at no time very good. Gina’s dialogue is quite good, often hilarious, and her professional experience makes her seem, to me, a little out of place. There was the one-time professional actor with his unfolding Beowulf musical. When I attended a year ago and a year before that, we were treated to bits of it, and yesterday we heard some of the music. It is by no means inept, which will make it hard to say-- if any one of that group indeed does say-- that it will not be performed anywhere, and if once never twice, being as lifeless and pointless as it is flawless. There is the man with the vague European accent who read with Dana Gioia in New York once, who speaks six languages, who brought with him copies of a magazine in which his poem appears, who presented himself as a cosmopolitan among the rubes, and whose piece was a sort of Continental melodrama, sophomoric and presumptuous in equal measure. One could accept them as hobbyists sharing their hobby if there weren’t such an anxiety of professionalism about them. So much talk of what producers want, of what theaters rejected them, and which with a note that actually mentioned the name of their play; of where one can send and what point in the "process" an ignored submission might be, parsing the silences as a Roman priest the guts of a sheep. Of course I was spoiled in the same way, at first in graduate school with poetry and later, if less direly, with theater, but I have found a way around it, a way to maintain perhaps a little purity. Going to their meeting is like a successful AA member entering a room full of drunks still in love with drunkenness. But they are steadfast and hold to their dreams, and one recoils from the seat of the scoffer.

Afterwards to the Cathedral to see Benjamin Bagby do Beowulf, in Anglo-Saxon, with harp. Bagby is a fine singer and an extraordinarily fine actor, and I had bought a seat where I could note every nuance of his skill. I wish we still spoke that language, which is maybe a little harder than ours to make yourself clear in, but whose essentiality and emotional truth was the greater for it. It was a superb performance. One imagines that the scops were exactly like that, except that in their presences you could move about and drink, which are the things which would have made the evening perfection.

Drove Chris A home afterwards. We detoured for a drink at a new bar on Patton, with a tiki-rich Polynesian theme and heavily tattooed bartenders. I liked it. People I didn’t know were shouting my name at me. There are not nights enough in a week to get in touch with old favorites while still exploring the ever-expanding offerings of even this little town.

This is the day when the auctioneers come and empty out the house on Foxboro. I though ten times of driving back and taking more, taking everything, taking something. Never had a moment. Now it is all gone. I’m not going to forgive something; I’m not sure what. I will probably have the key to the house in my drawer until the day I die.
January 26, 2008

Digging around in old journals: I met TD on April 12, 1985.

Pavel sent me the program and the video from Before the Holy Temple at the First Stage festival in Hollywood. I was lucky in my brilliant and attractive actors. I was not lucky in the prize-giving. To be as fair as can be, the one the judges gave the prize to was not by any means the worst play on the program. What goes on in people’s minds?

Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25, 2008

Maud and Circe fight for space on my lap, which I mention because they were supposed to be at the vet’s getting spayed today. I made them fast after midnight, rearranged my life so I could get them there at 7:30 as prescribed. At 7:50 I left the veterinary parking lot and took the cats home, for no one had come. When I phoned, the distraught Valerie said yes, she knows I was there (I’d left my card in the door) but her car wouldn’t start. ‘What would you like me to do, sir? What can I do to make it right? Would you like me to quit my job? I’d do that if it would keep you as a client . . .etc. . . " Whatever the words, the tone was quite aggressive, as though my complaint were crudely insensitive in the face of the trauma of her unstarting car. I should have said "Yes, I want you to quit your job," and seen where that would lead.

It has been a pretty awful week, all taken into consideration. But I was standing in my office yesterday, and happened to look through the window of the classroom opposite, and saw, on the stone rim of the building, a red tailed hawk. She was a first-year fledgling, I think, fluffed up and gigantic and perfectly at peace there on what might as well have been a cliff crag. I burst into tears. When I gathered myself, I alerted as many people as I could to the wonder, and we watched her for a good ten minutes before she leaned into the gray air and flapped off. The tears interested me, for they were the sign of an immediate release of tension allowed by the visitation of the bird. She was the gift from the sky, and I accepted her, for once, with exactly the right reaction. Meeting with Jason this morning-- after deepening the anguish of my veterinary assistant– was the same feeling, though that time I did not cry, but smiled.

I’ve decided to fight the rescinding of my Professional Development Leave. It’s likely that they will prize "face"– the unsullied impression that they know what they’re doing–over justice, but I felt it was, this time, worth the try.

My sister reports on the saga of my father’s new life in Alpharetta. He ordered the staff to take all the furniture out of his room except the bed, and to leave him alone. He refused to attend any of the activities, but then kind of liked the dancer (even if not liking the guitarist). In a gesture of determined detachment, he tossed all the files of his old life away, though the files contained the deed to his house, his insurance papers, and the like. Now my poor sister must go dumpster diving after work.

Dad insisted on leaving the amaryllis I got him for Christmas at the house in Akron. For some reason this made me very sad.

Good students, good classes, many "good"s stuffed into the pudding with a few but very bitter "bad"s.

Rehearsals for Crown of Shadow are an emotional crazy quilt for me. Most of the time I feel like some sort of fraud, all these eager and talented people spending their time bringing life to my words. I wonder when I will get over that? I felt it in New York, too, wondering when somebody would say it, would whisper, "What the hell are we putting so much time into THIS for?" On the other hand, I listen carefully to the words, and when the actors come to the end of a line and it’s perfect, in nuance, in tone, in expression, in meaning, there is one moment of perfect joy, in knowing that I have done it right, and that no one I know does it in the same way. I expect the festival to be savaged in the media, though there’s no reason to expect any media attention at all (this being Asheville), or malicious comments from colleagues in other theater companies, though to expect anything before it happens is to extend the lease of misery. All is well now, with the words in the mouths of my lovely actors. All might be well to the very end.
January 23, 2008

My Professional Development Leave for the fall was rescinded–or as my "official" letter said, "denied." I’d earlier received a letter from the Dean supporting it, but who knows who has the last word anymore? Whatley said into my voicemail that SO many people had applied and some of them had taught twenty years or so without leave. There’s part of me that understands that, part of me that curls his lips scornfully at yet more evidence of this campus’ queer bent of anti-meritocracy, where everything– potential, lack of potential, no previous evidence of potential, potential long ago abandoned, long endurance, pathetic underachievement, mildness, gender, friendship with the members of the committee– is honored except actual achievement. India, Cambridge, professional leave: a clean sweep, and not one of those I can shrug off as fair play.

Made a date with the CoS cast to meet at the Usual last night. Of course I ended up sitting there alone.

I had not fancied myself as one of those who takes to his bed with sadness, but I guess I am. Maybe it’s a new stage of life; maybe I always did it and hid it from myself.

A not-unfair review of Virginia Woolf appears in a blog called Asheville Reviews, or something like that. Jason told me about it at the coffee shop. The blogger acknowledges that everyone around him thought the production was wonderful, but he found himself looking at his watch. His impression that Martha was a petulant child and George her faithful guardian was not, perhaps, what we were going for, but probably pretty close to what we got.
January 22, 2008

Moon still gleaming in layers of cloud to the west when I rose in darkness to take out the trash.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January 21, 2008

Whereas my trip from Akron was all weepy nostalgia, my sister’s turned into geriatric hell, and it’s not over yet. Father conceived the notion that the auction man already owned the stuff he was going to auction, and so opposed my sister’s attempts to pack some of the things she wanted. She was not deflected, and so they left the house already in a grudge match. He decided that he was going to drive to Atlanta, and when she protested, he became aggressive and boorish–very dangerous driving habits in a man nearly 90–and there was a fight, during which he ordered her to take her bags and get out of the van. I don’t know how it all turned out, but when she last called they were in a motel in Kentucky. I hope his new life starts today, or whenever he finally gets to it, on a lighter note. I hope my sister and he can forgive each other. I’m sorry she relocated the man-in-the-middle, the difficult stranger we all raised our defenses against in the house that is now closed to us. Moving is hard. I myself sit here in a house I don’t especially like just hating the idea of packing and getting out, which I bought because the idea of moving was more grating than the idea of hammering out a mortgage.

Malaprop’s has put me on a bill with three other poets. It’s disappointing, but it does relieve me of the whole responsibility of finding an audience.

Watched the film Once, and became fiercely homesick for Dublin. Made me want to be more generous to buskers next time.

I was standing at my front window reading Dramatist Magazine, and when I looked up, the moon had risen, full and pale into the pale blue sky, arranged against trees and mountain like a perfect painting.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Moving Dad

January 20, 2008

Phoned 330-733-1708 just to test my sister’s declaration that it had been disconnected. It had. For sixty years, if you dialed that number you got one of us. It dissolves into the air, an error message coiled in a computer somewhere.

Dad’s famous garage door was painted in dark colors, the last of sunset, small groups of people climbing over the hills toward the last light and the far side. He had written the title at the bottom: Night Falls.

Kyle’s birthday dinner last night at Mela’s, one of the most hospitable rooms in town. It is the first time have eaten there without throwing up.

Thin blanket of snow, brittle cold.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Moving Dad

January 19, 2008

Blue dawn. Saturday.

Snow canceled class on Thursday, so I revised my plans and set out toward Akron in a U-haul Thursday morning. The weather was bad, but got only marginally worse as I head north, and then better, or at least dryer. In the thirty-seven hours between leaving my house and returning to it, I spent twenty five of them on the road, blasting through seven states and making, as the song says. "front page driving news." It is one of those personal records I have no desire ever to break.

It’s difficult to know what to write about the two last days. I arrived in the evening and loaded the rented van with dad’s things, the few he would find indispensable in his new home. Alongside them I put a few things I wanted, garden tools, my mother’s dresser from when she was a little girl, a large photo of my father when he was four-- looking very suspicious-- the red toy spade my aunt bought me to dig the sand beside Lake Erie. I wanted to dig up and take with me the hibiscus I planted thirty-five years ago, but it was too big. I said goodbye to my basswood tree, and to the creek still flowing merrily between its artificial banks. I thought I would feel worse than I did. Father was frail and befuddled. It’s not dementia, for he was very much himself, himself as he always was, but forgetting everything, and talking mainly about how thoroughly he was going downhill. Yet he seemed eager and happy. I think he was taking it all as an adventure and, unlike myself, exhibited no regret, no debilitating nostalgia. I realize I may never see my father again. If that is the case, this is the story of our last hour. We had supper at a place he likes out by Chapel Hill. Afterwards, there was ice cream in the freezer, so we shared a little of that, watching TV. Then the power went off. The neighbors’ houses were dark, too. I remembered where he kept the flashlight–the same flashlight I had received as a tree gift when I was seven or eight–and he remembered at last where there were candles. I lit three candles. I said "Where do you want your candle?" He said, "the living room, I guess." I took mine to the bedroom. I’d brought my diary, as I always do, and in it I was going to write:

January 17, 2008. These are certainly the last words I will ever write
in the room where I wrote my first poem. This is the last time I will sleep in
the bed that grandma bought me when I grew too big for the crib, which is–now
that I think of the mattress and box springs sitting on the floor back home–
the only bed I ever owned.

But the lights were out, and it was too hard to see, and I did not write these words in my diary. My father and I parted, candles in hand, into our separate rooms in the vast dark. I was gone before he woke. I thought that I would dream by candlelight, that I would have some summarizing dream about that room and my old life. I did dream, but it was about Rick Wilson, the choirmaster at the Church of the Saviour, the first man I knew to die of AIDS. He was playing the organ in a restaurant, and the playing produced food rather than music, and that was the gimmick of the restaurant, and he played something special for me that he thought I’d like. I woke very early and began the marathon drive to Atlanta and then back home. I tried not to think about anything, I paid careful attention to the radio.

The Dogwood Grove, or Dogwood Forest, something Dogwood, which will be his new home in Alpharetta, is very elegant, but not the sort of place my father ever frequented in his life. The first wave of real sadness came when I imagined him waking there the first morning, not knowing where he was, confused and alone.

Linda and David met me at the facility, David looking wildly handsome, Linda on the edge of despair from the conspiracy of Delta and the weather to keep her from finishing the move. This is a drama which has not yet played itself out.

In the last week I have been a mass of undifferentiated emotions, some of them quite ugly, until, during hours and hours of driving, they sorted themselves out into the best and worst of them, grief. Mr. Ralphsnyder shouted at me from his driveway in the dark of the morning, and when I shouted back I knew I would never speak to him again, and I regretted not knowing him better; I regretted– everything. Everything that did not happen. I was grateful for the drive. Trying not to by sideswiped by careering semis kept my mind out of the depths.

Among the things I hauled from Akron was my mother’s black wood dresser with the lyre mirror, that had come from her father’s house on Hampton Road. Her father died when I was in Baltimore, and she must have gotten the piece then. She lined the drawers with newspapers, which were still in the drawers until today, Akron Beacon Journals from October, 1972. Fiddler on the Roof, Slaughterhouse Five, The New Centurions, Butterflies Are Free, Super Fly played in Akron cinemas. John Raitt appeared in Kiss Me Kate at the Civic Theater. The Weathervane was playing Done to Death, and the Falls Masquers, The Girl in the Freudian Slip. There were three "adult cinemas" still advertising, and the live "State Burlesque" offered Diamante the Great, plus comic Jimmy (Yockum Yockum) Mathews. The best sellers were Jonathan Livingston Seagull and I’m OK–You’re Ok. A gas furnace cost $377. Akron, though past its prime, was livelier than it would ever be again.

Amid the traffic stalling everything out of Atlanta, I thought of my father, of the bright being that is his eternal self. I asked his forgiveness for not being a very good son. And I gave him my forgiveness in return for being not so much a bad father as a bewildered one. He was the wrong man for the job. It was not his fault. We had nothing in common. I look at his old photo, taken before the Depression started, and I think we might have found common ground, had things been different; we might have been friends had we not been thrown together in the oddest and most cruelly intimate way imaginable. But all things come to rest, and all things come out well. I do believe this. I think he does too. Grief and exhaustion are two roads leading to forgiveness, and I was traveling both.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

January 16, 2008

Tom e-mails that he has a son, August, born January 14th. I think that is an auspicious name.

Brown-gray sky, that we are told foretells a winter storm. I am meant to drive to Ohio tomorrow. I don’t know what makes me think that anxiety will change one thing. Spent most of the afternoon curled up on the bed with the cats, soaking up a store of comfort for a comfortless time.
January 15, 2008

Only one class yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been through the ringer. Today, the onslaught.
Feel we made progress as Gilgamesh rehearsal last night, though Mickey and I both having our separate goes is confusing the actors. I hope they hear everything and choose what is most useful.

Linda writes that father is attached to nothing in the house and has no interest in being brought "home" to lie beside mother in death. I want to admire his lack of attachment, but I can’t, quite. What stabs my heart whenever I think of her life is the degree of betrayal and abandonment she endured–taken out of a warm, close family into a cold one, kept apart from the things she loved, abandoned by a husband who, to say the least, withdrew emotionally quite early on, without the mercy of removing himself physically. Now the betrayal is complete. I can’t stand it. The only workable policy is not to think about it and keep a closed mouth.

But I do reflect on how little family drama there has been among us, until now. Perhaps I just never paid attention. Perhaps it was part of the coldness that pervaded everything.
January 14, 2008

I don’t know why the washing machine sometimes leaks and sometimes does not. You’d expect consistency at least from a machine. Maybe my machines are as cut-loose-from-the-center as I.
JS and I were talking about D and A’s wedding this spring, and I remarked that I was a little embarrassed to be conducting the service, as I’m not a legitimate clergyman. He said, "But that’s the role you fill for us. Most of us don’t go to church, but you standing in front of class going at it, that is the same occasion for us."

Monday, January 14, 2008

January 13, 2008

Late, weary night, the moon a fat bright crescent over downtown. I drove to Statesville to lecture at the library, but only by Kelly’s good deed. My radiator is leaking, (or, I blush to speculate, I didn’t put the cap on right), so I was going to cancel the drive and the lecture. Kelly heard me, and promptly lent me her car, so that all that little thing was accomplished. Irish music on the radio as I drove.

More thinking about my father’s move. Any possible reservation is balanced–overbalanced-- by the fact that he will be within a five minutes’ walk of his grandchildren. That’s an ending so good it can almost be called Hollywood. I hope he lives another decade, to take advantage of it.

A voice whispered in my ear as I was singing "Saint Patrick’s Breastplate" in church this morning. I was going to say "a strange voice," but it wasn’t. It was the voice I heard in Galway in the tunnel of rain. The voice said, "You are in the midst of yourself." I have not always been in the midst of myself. Often I have been in some wild corner. Because of what we were singing at that moment, I knew what the voice meant. We were singing "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity." There was no doubt who I was. A trinity myself, past, present, future, all simultaneous, all existing in one moment, complete, though known to this mind, as it is, sequentially. I thought of my father in that instant, too, how the sweet child and the kind old man seem sundered by the sad angry man in between, but it isn’t so. Only now he is in the midst of himself. And I am in the midst of myself. It’s hard to say what I mean, but I can see it, three ardent flames bound in the middle, Was, Becoming, and Will Be. Together they are "Is." It is a body light. I am a body of light, if I could but come fully to myself in a moment of history. One never perceives things such as this. One must be told, and it is best to be told by a song.
January 12, 2008

Wonderful time last night at Asheville Pizza with most of the cast of Crown of Shadows. We went to see the movie Across the Universe, a 60's musical buoyed up by Beatles’s songs. They probably didn’t know how much it meant to be to be invited, especially after the gloom day I was having. The film didn’t move me as much as I think it was supposed to, but I was delighted by my companions’ full-blooded reaction. They brought sparklers and set them off at an appropriate moment. The management gave us ice cream. The very big man I was sitting next to moved and gasped at scenes he especially liked (having seen the movie a dozen times already), and it was fascinating to compare his enthusiastic body language with what was going on on the screen. I thought I knew how to have a good time, but some people leave me in the dust.

Belve looks sensational in his new haircut.

Coffee with JS to talk about his graduate school applications. I wondered what it was like to be beautiful and smart and young and tall and committed and brave and stand at the edge of an infinitude of possibilities. I’ve had a few of those things, but not all, and never all at once. He thinks he is requiring a task of me, but he is really allowing me to bask for a moment in human glory. Maybe our gratitude evens out somewhere in the middle.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January 11, 2008

I will, as things appear at this point, drive to Akron on Thursday or Friday, drive home on Saturday, bearing with me the things that dad wants that won’t fit in his van, and the few things I might want myself. I regret all this is going so fast, but perhaps that is for the better. Less lingering. No time for nostalgia to sicken. It’s hurtful for me to think of my father leaving that house, though. I am not ready, even if he is. I thought maybe he would leave it and my sister and I would sell it later and have some time to say goodbye, but none of that is going to happen. It is a characterless aluminum rectangle, true, but I tried so hard to give it some spirit out of my spirit that something of me must be alive in it somewhere. The last memories of mother. The night I wrote my first poem. The nights I would lie awake in my bed, believing that God, or at least some angel, was my lover. Bimbo running to me out of the forest, wagging himself in joy. The woods beyond, which once were all the wild world. Sexual awakening in the white afternoon light. What will I miss most? The basswood tree in the side yard, that I planted myself, fighting father for a while for its life, until he saw the beauty of its blossoms in spring. The thought of this is bitter sorrow. There is no remedy for it. I will work it out of my system.

My father at 88 is willing to close the door behind him and move on. I was never good at that. I am my mother’s child in that.

Part of my fixation with Ireland is the attempt to build for myself a past. What experiences my ancestors might have had there I couldn’t know. Misery, maybe. But I willed to build something else, something magical and rooted in the land deep as the land goes. The same with Foxboro Avenue. It was half my childhood, and I can’t let it be nothing. What a suburban waste, to any observer, how lacking in depth of any kind. But I tried to build there. I was willing to make all the magic up. That is over, and it is for the best. Its being for the best does not keep me from bending over and keening like a Connemara crone.
January 10, 2008

Most of the morning spent firing off recommendations for students and friends to attend this or that school or program. I would never have dreamed of applying to Juilliard or Yale, and yet here I am, convincing those same places that I know whom they should take to their bosoms. I hope I’m doing it right. I hope everybody ends up where they need to be.

Reading over my museum book from the Yeats exhibit, finding pictures of the very young poet oddly familiar. I stare at one for a while, and realize the resemblance is to Chall. I wish I looked like Yeats rather than Elton John.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January 9, 2008

Maud, like a tiny white cloud, glides over the keyboard as I write.

I have been rising at 4 in the morning since returning from Ireland, and working steadily through the day, without being able to dig completely out from under the tasks at hand. This is remarkable to me. This signals to me that there are too many tasks at hand.

The time, apparently, became right for me to turn Gilgamesh into a full-length play, which I have done with the speed and invention and delight I associate with doing it right. Each page was a fresh discovery, a jeux d’esprit. I wish I could get it into the hands of every producer in the world at once.

Cody was relating his visit home to Texas to visit his folks, and how his father is having premonitions of death.
“How old is your dad?” says I
He is exactly as old as I.

Mickey brought my plaque from winning “Outstanding Performance” honors at HART. There’s a picture on it of me looking old and fat. Nevertheless, after a clash of vanities, the vanity of the actor wins and it goes on the mantel with my Desert Star star.

In something of a precipitous chain of events, my father has determined to move to an assisted living facility within a block of my sister’s home in Atlanta. He had been opposed to such a thing, but he must have had a scare that made him doubt his continuing ability to live alone. He seems happy about it. Either age has changed him, or I never noticed his excitability, his tendency to leap into things in full panic mode. Maybe I did notice it subconsciously, and from it derived my calmness, my casual approach to crisis situations, which people with higher idles probably find irritating. I am one of those people who does not rush to put out a fire, but waits to see if it will exhaust itself. It usually does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Father thinks that because he pays a deposit and a month’s rent, he is wasting money if he is not there living all that month, taking advantage of every dollar he paid in rent. I think that since the money must be paid anyway, and since there are no expenses on the other side (the mortgage long since paid), one could take one’s time and get to the facility whenever one wished, and the money would be spent no more or less. I bet we will never be able to convince one another of the rightness of our stands. Anyway, one doesn’t expect this sort of thing. One ponders how to work it into the mix.

I contacted one moving company online, and have received responses from six. You gotta love the Internet.
January 7, 2008

From Gayfest’s recent newsletter:

We have decided to open this year’s Festival with David Brendan Hopes’ extraordinary play, EDWARD THE KING, originally presented in our Reading Series last May. We were all thrilled at the reception it received then and just knew that it was the perfect play to receive a full-scale production this year and be seen by many more of our devoted audience members. EDWARD THE KING neatly straddles the fourteenth and the twenty-first centuries, which manage to appear almost equally violent and inhospitable to love. Beset by the duties of his birth and dominated by a heroic father, Edward looks forward to a life of apparent conformity and desperate subterfuge, until he meets Piers Gaveston in a dirty alley. Then, it’s love and rebellion at first sight.

This remarkable play will be directed once again by Sidney J. Burgoyne, who comes to us from directing the epic musical RAGTIME at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. It is the ideal work to kick-off “the country’s premier festival of gay plays and a leading voice for the LGBT community.” The process of stepping-up from staged reading to full-scale production is, indeed, the whole thrust of GAYFEST NYC: to establish a year-round, not-for-profit play development organization that presents an annual showcase of those works most ready for production. We are a serious entertainment business developing new LGBT works for world stages, or film and television production, and we only produce works that we feel will live beyond the festival.

Only these things assure me it is a go.
January 6, 2008

Epiphany. It is 8 AM and I have been up four hours.

Larkin had set the alarm to waken him with the local Christian station. I heard the music and couldn’t imagine where it was coming from. You never know about people.

Late afternoon coffee with Elisabeth Gray and Luke Haynes. They were delightful. We talked about art and nothing else, and they restored pleasure to a day that was too much given to catching up with work that is not going to be caught up with in a day. They are both far more reflective and self-conscious artists than I, and the exercise of self-consciousness was good for me. I spend most of my life doing it; I should be able to explain what it is I’m doing. Luke is always smarter than he looks like he’s going to be; another way of saying that is that he is too cute to be as smart as he is. Elisabeth is just as smart as she looks, which can be terrifying. I was very happy in their company. E helped me understand the situation with the Catalyst series. Her perception is that it was invented to reward NC Stage actors and volunteers who are otherwise sadly under-compensated. This seems rational and virtuous, and the only problem is that it is concealed from people, like me, who assumed it was something else altogether. Fine. Enough of that. Elisabeth’s Plath piece–with me as Plath’s father in the video–won first prize at the Edinburgh Fringe, and may have a run in the West End in October, when I may just go over and see it. That these things are not known to the Asheville public is shocking, but, then, who would tell us?-- seeing that the newspaper cares for nothing but weather and gossip.

Sweet, soft night.
January 5, 2008

Dark of the morning, typical of my home-from-Europe early rising. I must say of until-now-unknown Larkin, that he was a faithful caretaker, and all looks just as it did, or better, and the cats are not freaky. I did sort of hope he’d stay here for a while with me, so I could have his company, but his choice was probably the comfortable one. It was good to have the cats around me last night again. I purposefully tried not to think of them in Dublin, for it made me sad. After the eucatastrophe of first class on the plane, I guess you’d say the rest of the journey was uneventful, or at least not unexpected. The six-hour layover in Atlanta was always on the schedule but turned out to be more grueling than it looked on paper. I was depressed, and almost frantic with exhaustion, by the time I landed in Asheville. I did phone dad from Atlanta. He said, “I wish I could be there with you,” but I didn’t know whether he meant Ireland or the airport or some more general thing. Snow lies on the ground here, as it was falling from the air when I left Dublin. Red and cobalt dawn in the east.

Mickey says she and I won “Outstanding Performance” certificates over at HART, for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This makes me very happy. I have felt myself wandering in the dark locally, and that is a light.

The Christmas trees in the Asheville Airport reminded me that I arrived back with two days of Christmas left.

Leaving Dublin

January 4, 2008

Boarding Delta Flight 177 to Atlanta, a miracle occurred: I was upgraded to first class. I could dance the tango in my personal space. I am already tipsy with free wine. My seatmate, Patrick Lambert, is an accountant from Miami, currently unemployed. He used to work for a beer company and always flew in private planes, and there were hors d’oeuvres and prostitutes. Rose late this morning for the first time in my adult life, two hours later than I had intended. Didn’t miss the flight, but I did miss the time languishing in lounges getting all weepy about life & Ireland & wandering, and maybe that is better. I have a wallet full of euros there was no time to change.

Sunset: Atlanta. When I left Dublin this morning, dawn was flamingo pink over the Liffey. Now sunset is red-gold over Atlanta. I am thinking of my cats. I am wondering if Larkin saw everything through. I am home in thought, though I have a layover of many hours here amid the scurrying and waiting. I have never been more tired. The urge to call my father is overwhelming, so I will.


January 3, 2008

Troubled dreams last night, concerning Crown of Shadows, which, waking, seem propitious on several levels. It shows my mind is back across the waters, making ready. We had played the shows in the auditorium of Ellet High School, and they were a disaster. The actors were making things up as they went. I was trying to remember the places to hide.

Snow fell on Dublin today, not much, but enough to give it an air of a dark European capitol in the dead of winter.

A woman stopped me on O’Connell Street and asked where such-and-such a hospital was, and what bus to take to get there. I told her I was a visitor and didn’t know. She said, “I looked at you and thought, ‘now there’s a native Dubliner.’” It’s an honor with which to start the new year.

I am not ready to return home tomorrow, but that is what I must do. I feel that when I leave Ireland this time, I will leave my youth. Someone looking at me might laugh at that comment, but what is in my heart is different from what is on my face. I had an extremely extended boyhood, when the arts and imaginings of boys seemed the whole world to me. If I say that boyhood ended with the arrival of sex, and the reign of sex was the mark of youth, then I had a youth which lasted thirty years. Therefore it is difficult to phrase what I feel tonight as a complaint. I’ve had a long run, in some ways uniquely successful, in other ways quite pointless, tragic. I don’t know what I’ll do now or what I’ll do when I return to familiarity. Perhaps things will go on just as they did for a while. The dawn of the idea that the sovereignty of flesh is over and the sovereignty of responsibility has begun is a surprisingly slight disruption, as though it were a step all my faculties were ready for. Ireland has been the country of my youth, symbolically, often literally, and I fear that when I leave tomorrow it is an end to all that. If I could change it, reverse it, I would. Knowing I can’t is a surprisingly small grief. I began my responsibilities long ago. I must now let them slip into the Center.

As far as leaving the carnival still alone, as I entered it, that was not my plan, not my fault, and it cannot be forgiven.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


January 2, 2008

Bought a packet of white shirts at Marks & Spencer’s, and it feels special to crawl into a white shirt of a morning, especially after a night when no white shirts were worn.

I hiked across town New Year’s Night to the National Concert Hall to hear a concert by the National Symphony. In the lobby, the biddy factor was high, so I should have known what was coming. I bought the ticket to have something to do that night, without even asking what the program was. Predictably, the music was waltz-y, Strauss-y, very Viennese. I wonder how the Viennese managed to capture New Year’s? The music was unchallenging, frothy, amusing, and at the end I realized I’d had a good time. The conductor was an excellent showman; the soprano was a local favorite, and the tenor–one Michael Bracegirdle–was superb. I was seated almost under the stage, near enough to hit the concertmaster with a brick thrown underhand, and I could watch every detail of the soloists’ physical technique. My location made the orchestra sound stringy, and I knew the mix was off for me a little. It will be years before I need to hear Strauss–those Strausses–or Lehar again.

Ranged the darkness for a while. Found an alley for an emergency piss, like a good Irishman. I ended up at the George, which I didn’t think I would do. I met many, so it was some angel led me there. Ray was compact, handsome, maybe a little desiccated, as though he had been left out in the sun too long. He looked very gentle, but also very disillusioned by everything around him. I was interested, but I could feel his interest cooling into the default mode of polite disappointment. John with his prematurely white hair was garrulous and funny, but also a little competitive, the way educated Irish sometimes are. I said something which he thought was profound, and we spent the rest of our time together dealing with that, he alternately challenging and honoring the intelligence which I’d had–God knows–no intention of revealing. Had to refuse his offer of a bed for the night, as I had no stomach to continue fighting that fight. One slurring but quite beautiful Irishman suggested an alliance between us, but in the end he was too drunk, and all the name I have for him is “Sheeshosh.” he looked like a farmer out of a Benton painting, all sinew and shoulder. Sweet Martin was from Brasilia and makes pizza in a Dublin suburb it would cost him a hundred euros to taxi to if he missed the last bus.

Then came Francisco. Francisco is from Barcelona, with the dark, fragile beauty and sculpted black hairline of Spaniards. He was twenty six, I would guess, perhaps younger, and as great as his beauty was, the beauty of his spontaneous, absolutely un-self-conscious affection was greater. Francisco was kissing me within moments. I did myself proud by not asking why, but responding one for one. His demonstrativeness might have been embarrassing in another place, or if I had very much of a capacity to be embarrassed. I couldn’t stop smiling, even laughing, with his dark head burrowing into my chest. I think he and I were playing in different theaters, but as he had little English and I no Spanish to speak of, our separate dramas could keep their uncommunicated purity. I walked him home to his hostel. He wasn’t very drunk but he was very– something– innocent?–and I was afraid for him. I’m glad I made the effort. He didn’t have a private room in the hostel, and if it didn’t bother him, it didn’t bother me, either. I have met men who were pure desire. Francisco was something else. He was pure generosity. At one point I lost consciousness– it’s melodramatic to add “wafted off in a sea of bliss,” but that was precisely the case–and when I came to he was kissing my eyelids, the cardamon-scented warmth of his body all around me. I left when Francisco fell asleep, his body buried so hard into my chest that I didn’t know how to breathe. I left because the room was beginning to fill with other guests, and I didn’t know how to make my excuses with my reason for being there asleep. In any case, bless Spain. Bless Catalonia. Bless the gold sun and the gold son of the Mediterranean.

The thought crossed my mind concerning Francisco’s choice in the bar, “Why me?” I was likely not the only one asking that. I think the answer is that he knew he was a fountain, and he needed a deep pool to contain him. He knew he was a whirlwind and he looked for the jagged coast which could endure his onslaught.

All the beggars in Ireland are frauds.

Pavel wants to send Edward the King to a theater in Prague. He asks me if I mind.

The toilet in my room flushes with warm water.

The special display at the National Library is Yeats. After coffee in a French café where you can look out on Dawson Street through a great bubble of a window, I hurried there, whimpering with greed at the not-yet-open door. It was a series of videos about his life, quite well done, along with objects such as specimens of handwriting and a trophy he won in a foot race as a schoolboy. I could not hear the poems read without weeping. There were movies of the poet, as well, which were a good thing. One assumes he moved like a heron or a phantom, but among family and friends, drinking and laughing, he was a strong natural Irishman, and that put a foundation under all. Yeats is my spiritual father. There amid the ghosts of my father I realized it was time to stop mourning and start spending the inheritance.

Crossed the street to see Hugh Leonard’s adaptation of Great Expectations at the Gate. I had planned not to like it, but in fact it was thrilling, and, as I had never read the book, the surprises were an actual surprise.

There is a terrible wind. I keep thinking of horses.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


January 1, 2008

I set out like a panther in a new forest last night. I stopped at pubs along what I supposed from signs I saw on the bridge to be Tara Street. Began at Kennedy’s, where the barman reeked of urine, which was a shame, as he was a tall, strapping man. Went from bar to bar feeling drunk and free and happy, but my steps were winding, whether I willed it or not, toward Camden Street and familiar territory. There too I went from pub to pub, choosing those which didn’t seem stuffed yet with revelers. I was hungry and very drunk, so I stopped at Bo Bo’s, a place advertizing “gourmet Irish hamburgers,” hamburgers with different toppings named after places in Ireland. I could even get one wrapped in lettuce rather than a bun. The place was fronted by a graceful Argentine named Sebastian. Sebastian’s brother guarded the door, and a Chinese kid with the most perfect manners did the cooking. Sebastian covered me with a variety of Argentine blessings for the new year, and accepted my drunken benedictions in return. Worked my way through the Grafton area. Grafton Street is hung with faux light curtains and chandeliers of lights, as though it were a great ballroom. Finally found myself in the Temple Bar, thronged and merry. The night was mild enough that boys were rampaging in T-shirts and the girls were out in low-cut and high-hemmed sparkly dresses. Hare Krishnas came dancing into one side of the square, while American frat boys bellowed out cowboy songs in another. Found myself pressed against a boy from Belfast who was–I gather– a professional golfer who had played in Atlanta and lived for a while, unhappily, in Pennsylvania. He looked like a very young Bob Hope, which, so much time having passed, he is likely never to have been told. Clocks strike midnight at different times in Dublin, but I think it struck first in Temple Square. Everybody was kissing everybody, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, the big boys traveling together on a lark. Nobody was kissing me, and I was too embarrassed to solicit it, even for luck. How much luck is a coerced kiss? In an analytical sense, it was the saddest moment of my life, an old man with nobody to kiss him at the stroke of midnight, surrounded by those whose most careless gesture won for them what a lifetime of exertion had failed to win for him. But, except in the moment it took to perceive and say all that, I was not sad. I was in fact quite merry, quite genuinely happy. I was in my way happier than they, for while they had their separate and particular nourishment, I was sampling from a table that offered thousands. I was like one of those aliens in the space movies which feed upon human emotions, and the emotion which fed me was joy, and all my gluttony didn’t seem to diminish the supply. If a movie director had set up a scene to exemplify mirth and goofy goodwill among the many-colored and many-tongued variety, he could not have done as well as New Years night in Dublin did by chance.

Garda were arresting and giving lectures along O’Connell Street. Drunken Irish men (and women) were arguing bitterly with them, but I thought if they had an American cop to compare to theirs, they would bless the night and the stars.

New Year’s Morning. Misty first-dawn now. I am ready for it. Wandered through the rainy morning, which never seemed to include actual rain. Found Grogan’s open near Grafton Street. It’s a remarkable pub, its walls covered with art in a wide variety of styles, and a wide spectrum of quality. It’s the sort of pub I might run if I ran one. The most impressive objects are two works in lighted glass, one a striking mass of portraits, the other a rendition of the interior of the pub itself. Beautiful. But what knocked this fine experience askew was the behavior of the bartender, an object-tossing oaf of a man who clearly woke New Year’s morning with a grudge or a hangover or both. He threw four lovely girls out of the pub because he suspected they had been out all night. They almost certainly had been, by the look of them, but I wondered why it was his issue, what justified his display of self-righteousness, why he thought denying them morning coffee struck a blow for morality. I’ll come to Grogan’s again, just to see if the beauty of the art balances, finally, the ugliness of the proprietor.

Went to the National Museum on Kildare Street, and ogled the bog men in their miraculous state of preservation. One had his nipples cut off. Among the ancient Gael, sucking the nipples of the king was a sign of submission; so, no nipples, no hope of kingship. You’d think being dead and in a bog would curtail that ambition just as well.


At Trastevere

There is something to be relieved about
to have you far away
and me here at my table for one,
able to gaze at the stunning Italians next door,
able to gaze at the gray sky comma-ed with gulls,
at the fire-dancers in the square.
instead of your half-hidden
girders of cheekbone,
black wrath of hair,
those blue eyes
bewildering, inflaming, enemies to every other appetite.

I know there is a blue under the waves
the color of them.
I would dive for it even if I didn’t know how far.

There is something to be said for consuming
this goddamn salad
with the same salt sea in neap tide from my eyes.
Yes, waiter, I would like another glass of red.
I am crying over that.
The Italians at the next table see me.
Watch me, then. Watch me lean over, making the gesture
of the connoisseur,
shaking it down upon my plate. I’ll say,
“You cannot know the savor, salted like this,
thinking of him, and he, thank God, years now away.”

December 31, 2007

Took an early bus to Dun Laoghaire. It’s a pretty town, but something, maybe DJ’s account of it long ago, made me expect more. The Irish Sea lay gray and calm, gulls arrayed around his head like a crown. I didn’t know whether to walk by the sea or through the down. I chose the town, and I think that was wrong.

I stopped at the town’s bookshop and asked for Gogarty. One being told that Gogarty was a poet, the girl said, “Ah, all the poetry is down in the cellar for the Christmas season.”

Late lunch at Trastevere put it into my head that I should go seeking Diarmuid. I ate there with him, and then watched him moving on the other side of the glass, with the people in the street stopping with their mouths open to stare at him. What a romantic idea, having only his name and the remembrance of a body. I believe those old stories, though, where lover finds lover through impossible odds. It could happen. That it doesn’t happen to me doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I stood in Temple Square looking this way and that, not knowing where to begin, then realizing there was no way to begin, no reason once more to be going down that road. If he had looked for me once he could have found me. I pressed my book into his hands. If he googled me I would be there on forty pages, and any one would lead him to me. No, that’s not the shape my life took. Finish the excellent lunch and move on.


December 30, 2007

Last night at the concierge’s suggestion I went to the Brazen Head, where drinks have been served since 1198. Eight hundred and more years later it is still crowded and loud and pulsing with mirth, if rather too full of American tourists, in which group I never count myself.

Out on the Liffey is closed, replaced by a poxy garlicky restaurant. I think of the joy I had in past times from those three grubby rooms (if you count the loo) and I weep.

Visited the George, where there was nothing, then out into the Temple Bar, where there was plenty. Talked a while to a lanky Frenchman who kept a notebook, one section of which was dedicated to the origins of people he met. Under “Ohio” he already had “Akron”–which I found amazing, somehow– but I was able to add Asheville to his North Carolina list. His name is Cyriac (Cyriaque). And he was delighted when I was able to quote to him Milton’s poem, “Cyriac my grandsire . . . ,” which he had never heard, and which he wrote down greedily in his book. Even, I suppose, as I do now.

Late in the day now I must say this has been one of the remarkable days of my life, though whether I can tell of it, or will want to tell of it, when the time comes I don’t know. Maybe the center of it should remain secret knowledge, so all may work itself out in the secret gardens where it grows best.

Rose, of course, too early to have access to any of the places I needed to go. It was too early for services at Christ Church, so I had coffee at Jury’s across the street–free coffee, as it turned out, for the till girl, American Alana, had run out of change. As I sipped my free and therefore sweet coffee and waited for church, it felt as though a roof in my brain was peeling back, and a clear, brisk illumination pouring in. I crossed the street and sat down. The beautiful floor of Christ Church was all around me. I speculated on the shapes in the floor, especially the doughboy dogs–dogs on their hind legs, wearing helmets and backbacks, and walking with walking sticks-- which seem to be the central motif not only of the floor but the new chairs as well. I finally asked the old gent next to me, and he said they are meant to be Franciscan monks, rendered as pilgrim wolves because they used to scurry down to the Liffey to beg alms from newly arrived sailors and voyagers, alms which the clergy of Christ Church believed rightfully to belong to themselves. A thousand year old grudge repeated endlessly, expensively, in imperishable stone. The sermon was something about how we should tolerate Muslims because the Holy Family fled from Herod to safety in Egypt. I wondered why the Flight into Egypt should be celebrated before the Epiphany, but nobody had an answer for me. Coffee in the crypt afterwards, where I go whenever I can, for I love it so much, where you can see the still older wall built by King Silkbeard when everybody was a Viking, where I talked with an American woman who had moved to Ireland to do good deeds for the insane. Something like that. Had lunch at the Bull and Castle, in a little bowed-out window where I could watch all those passing between me and the cathedral, all those pausing to read the menu board. I thought, thought, thought all the while. Then I went to Dublin Castle. Meanwhile, the Bull and Castle meal (or the Irish coffee with which I ended it) was making me sick, so I had to find a place to vomit, and finally asked for the combination of the locked lavatory (it had become a gay cruising area, and we can’t have that) and the combination is 1-3-1-1, in case anyone is in the same state as I. And I vomited heartily, almost endlessly, and when I was done I strolled to the Chester Beatty Library, where there are lovely oriental things, including a stunning series of prints called One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, and I kept writing The Beautiful Floor of Christ Church and One Hundred Aspects of the Moon alternately in my notebook, as though some great discovery or work were going to come out of one or the other of them, and then I climbed up to the roof garden, and there, amid the rooftops and spires, with the gulls gold-bellied from sunset flying over, the vision was complete in three seconds.

For the first time I saw the shape of my life. It has a story, and not a bad one, when it comes to that, if not a spectacularly good one. It is easier to feel, to see, than to explain, and the explanation makes it seem more fragmentary that it feels, for some hurts must be protected always. I know now the story that will make life make sense, a story that I have been telling accidentally (or however you describe the power that rules the word) the whole time, a story substantially true, but which I have made truer by, I suppose, the subconscious recognition that I must. I don’t think I’ll tell it. I’ll let my work tell it. Some of it I will keep utterly to my heart. It is better than it might have been. I can work with it. It is worse than it might have been, too, in ways that seem to me arbitrary and wilful. But I can argue or I can go on, and I choose at this moment to go on.

It is a comedy, by the way. Sometimes it is actually funny, but I don’t mean that. I mean that all the invitations to degradation are ultimately refused. I don’t know exactly where the roof will be, but I stand upon the floor, and it is pretty high, and will not now sink under the flood.

One bit I will tell, and it is one of the funny parts: never was there a man whose appearance was more at odds with the qualities of his spirit. This is why I became an artist, so that one part might be explained to the other.

Doors which were always locked are not locked now.

The wine knows what cup will hold it.

The apprenticeship is over, the masters found, the workshop built. The work begins.

(You really can go on like this forever, once you get into the groove–)

Walked late. Went to a bar called Joxer’s. I guess the guidebooks would call Joxer’s “rough” if they mentioned it at all. A video was playing, with Dolly Parton at one moment and Andie MacDowell at another. I felt they were messages from home. Went to the Blue Goose, which had swallowed up Out on the Liffey. It looks the same, except the beer is Polish and nobody was there. Walked and walked. It is still a thrill to stand where Michael Collins stood, to touch a stone Maud Gonne touched as she walked.

Here’s a secret: I am better than I say I am. My secret places are not dark, but too bright to show.


December 29, 2007

Delta found and delivered my bag, and the concierge, as he was carrying it up to my room for me–an unnecessary service, but one he would not be denied– explained that a lift could not be installed because the building is of historical significance, an honor bestowed on it by the birth of Gogarty. I said, “Could it have been in my very room?” and he said, “Not unless you start writing poetry in there.”

Visited the Hugh Lane, where there are nice drawings, and where you can get somebody else’s shoes at the door to wander around in. Then it was off to the National Gallery, and then I wandered sections of Georgian Dublin I had not seen before, and most of which seems to be To Let. Cold, but not unbearably so, the sky easing out a little rain although it seemed bright and cloudless. The Dead Zoo, the Natural History Museum is “Closed Until Further Notice.” Jack Yeats has his own gallery in the National now, low-roofed, rather solemn, rather like the interior of an old sailing ship. It seems wrong to me, somehow. I’d been feeling a little dreary, a little solemn myself, but my heart lightened the minute I began to cross St. Stephan’s Green. It was, amazingly, alive with flowers, narcissus and acanthus and a pale white blooming tree, and purple groundcover I did not know, and at the edge of the park a robin was singing with all his heart, and a little boy asked me what I was looking at, and I pulled out my one dependable fragment of Gaelic, spidog.


December 28, 2007

I am established on the third floor of the Charles Stewart on Parnell Square, part of which building was the birthplace of Oliver St.John Gogarty. My room is at the back and looks out on what must have been a lovely park or garden, but which is now a car park and a series of undistinguished blue-green outbuildings. It must be used sometimes as a playground, for the roof of the nearest outbuilding has a groove in it and the groove is lined with brightly colored balls and frisbees, soccer balls and kick balls and the like, kicked or thrown there and never retrieved. The far side of the space is a rank of tall brick houses, like this one, showing their narrow backs, some of which are, or were, quite elegant. It is by many levels of magnitude the quietest digs I have ever had in Ireland.

Shared my seat on the ride to Atlanta with a woman from Hendersonville who was reading a book on how the world will come to an end–as suggested by the ancient Maya–in 2012. The matter-of-factness of her tone left no room for the hilarity with which I wanted to approach the whole subject. Delta was its usual troubled self, and though I had plenty of time on paper, I eventually had to make my international connection at a dead run, and my luggage did not make it with me, so I am, for the moment, dispossessed of all accouterments of civilized life. My seat mate from Atlanta was a big, talkative man who goes on beer drinking vacations with his buddies in various European cities, their favorite being Brussels. He is meeting his Hungarian girlfriend in Dublin to celebrate the New Year.

Wandered, as I must, immediately upon arrival. The atmosphere was clear; indeed, the brightness of the northern winter is quite amazing. Fashion persuaded me to leave my cap at home, but I regretted it, for there was nothing to shield my eyes from the white blast from the south. The light seemed to flow like liquid around the spires and roofs, and they no shelter at all. How do the natives endure it? They are eagles from looking at the sun. It is well the weather is fine, for all my heavy gear is in the misplaced luggage.

The biggest and worse change in Dublin is the closing of the Andrews Lane Theater. A big “To Let” sign lies across the window. Andrews Lane was at the center of my cultural life in Ireland, and I never considered continuing one without the other. My conviction had been that one of my plays would be seen there. I’d even begun making inquiries back when Monday Morning was interested in 7 Reece Mews. Now no such thing is ever going to happen, and I am sorry.

The café north of Parnell Square where the proprietor was one of the handsomest men in the world, “Lovin’ Spoonful” or suchlike, is To Let as well.


I have disgraced myself by stumbling back to the B&B before midnight. Did a tour of nearby bars before heading to the Abbey. The Shakespeare is now Chinese-owned and serves Chinese bar food. Met Brian Kennedy in the Metro a few doors down. Brian is a follower of Manchester United, as is most of Ireland, and with brightened countenance told me of his holidays along the Welsh coast. Brian was excellent company, and I told him I would meet him again at the Metro, as I mean to do.

Saw Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer at the Abbey. It was funny and engaging, whereas I has expected it to be a cultural duty. I’d expected wit, and there was wit in abundance. It rockets near the top of my unexpected preferences, along with London’s The Man of Mode. The play inhabits a remarkable world. Everyone is dazzlingly witty, yet everyone is, in his own way, a bit of an idiot, locked-stepped in a peculiar, skew world view that will never quite get them what they want, until one of their number steps aside and is forgiving, or sincere, and then everyone is quite willing to realign themselves into happiness. Also, has anyone ever remarked on how aggressively homoerotic the play is? My God, the asking of men to lie with you, the oft-repeated preference of men over women, the kissing of other men and the uttering “my dear,” the dressing of women in pantaloons in order to gain the attention of men. It never even winks.

Scuttled through the wintery blast after theater to Madigan’s, where I met Ronan, from Limerick. He studied in Italy and now lives in Dublin, but heads out tomorrow morning with some mates to celebrate New Year in Berlin. He took a call from his mother in the bar, telling in what sales to take advantage of before he leaves. I thought for a moment that red Ronan was going to invite me to Berlin. I would have gone.

The room is grossly overheated, and I am cherishing every prodigal BTU. Moon over my courtyard, his bright hat flattened.


December 27, 2007

Finished the last Harry Potter book while waiting for the limo to take me to the airport. I have made certain resolutions in preparation for the journey. I have resolved to use the break in my routine fully to break routine, to revolutionize the way I behave and behold in the most lasting ways possible. I am always a good man in Ireland. The task is to make that goodness–that mirth, that adventurous spirit–habitual.