Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29, 2008

Sudden cold snap, though not cold enough to inspire and worries about the garden.

A’s determination to go to New York prompted me to get in touch with people I know there to pave his way, to open a few doors, maybe provide a few free lunches. I apologized for acting so much like an anxious dad, and he replied, "It is good to have many fathers."

It is not always pleasant, though, to have even one. My sister phones that dad has become nasty and foul-mouthed, and obsesses over his checkbook, though how to deal with it seems out of his ken. He blames her for– something– messing up his system, stealing money, it’s hard to know what. Meanness is not new to his character, but he had gone decades without it, so far as we saw, and it’s sad to see it rearing its head anew. The house in Akron haunts him. He wants to put it up for auction now and get it out of the way. It hasn’t sold in three months in a depressed town in the worse real estate slump in living memory; I don’t see what the panic is. He’s not in need of the money. He wants to sell his van so he won’t have to go to the "damn doctors" anymore. That going to the doctors is the only way to get his pain medicine he cannot seem to internalize. It has always been a trait of his, now clearly uncontrollable, to act precipitously against his own or others’ interests. He has always been a coward and therefore a bully. Or is it the other way round? I search for all these things in my own character, hoping to know the signs when it begins. I am no coward, and hate bullies. In that I am my mother’s. I can certainly be impatient. . . but mean? Maybe impatience will thicken into meanness in time. I have a trust in my own impressions which can make me intractable, and which may look like pig-headedness one day, if it doesn’t now. I have never feared the uncontrolled or the uncertain the way he does. I rather trust them to go my way. I am not obsessed over money. For the most part, I have assumed people to have my best interest at heart, and have been disappointed in that less than one might expect. There are safeguards, anyway. I mean to live ever where there is a deep river and a high bridge.

Grim hope allows me to think that dad is playing my sister, because he sees her as an adversary. I told her to send Daniel of David over. If he is mean to his grandsons, then he is gone. If he’s not, then he’s playing a game that we could ignore. How infuriating it must be to be talked about like this, to be treated as a nasty child (even if you happen to have become one) after so many years of control.

Today may be the most turbulent of the semester. It’s the last day of class, and for my humanities students, anyway, the day which determines whether they graduate. Things will come at me too fast, too many voices, too many excuses, too many appeals, and I will understand the siege laid to my father’s brain.
April 28, 2008

Drab dawn, though I see from the study window that one white iris and the golden tree peony are in bloom.

Reading at the Black Mountain Museum last night as part of WordFest. I take it that we were not the "major" poets but rather a salute to "local" poets. One tries not to dwell on such distinctions. All the events of WordFest were advertized as free, but the Black Mountain people were charging at the door, and there was a bit of a flap over that. Met Galway Kinnell again. He said he remembered me. I sure as hell remembered him. He looks weirdly like my grandfather now. Many opportunities to reconnect with old friends, especially with AW, whom I’ve always liked but whose life and mine have drifted apart. I saw him leave a reading of mine long ago. Discovered last night that it was because his vasectomy had become infected. Now there’s an image one wishes not to linger over. One of his boys almost died of meningitis. . . I knew nothing. Mistakenly, I take his unlined, boyish face as testimony of his life. Group readings like that bring out the best and worst. We were told we had 5 minutes each. The first reader took 25, and the poems were, with one exception, the worst of the evening. It’s a law that the longer the introduction, the worse the poem. The same man told us the ENTIRE Orpheus story, as though we were idiots, before he read his crappy sequence about it. But, many good things, too. I hope I was one of them. I whittled down my presentation to one poem, hoping to balance things a little. Some lady who was wearing a pharaoh crown (and who had protested the entry fee bitterly) admired it, and I gave her the copy. SM kept telling us how much he loved us. N is such an ass that I expected his poems to stink, but they didn’t. KF showed me the church he bought out in the wilderness.

Turns out that a teacher retiring from the Farmor School in Gloucestershire has the same name as myself. He has worked there since 1971 and was head of English. We could be related. We even look a little alike. The article says he plans to write a novel.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


April 27, 2008

Sunday morning. A lone goose honks overhead, circling North Asheville as though looking for something–probably the rest of Beaver Lake, which has been drained repeatedly and unnecessarily over the course of the year.

DJ and I hauled ourselves to Waynesville to see Equus at HART last night. I’d heard it was good, but I was really not prepared for how good it was. After a time I stopped saying "It’s better than the London production with Daniel Radcliffe," because people say that sort of thing all the time, but the fact is, it was. What London had in elegance and expenditure, Waynesville had in sheer virtuosity of acting. Steven Lloyd as Dysart was modulated, underplayed, professional, dodging the urge to melodrama detectable in each of the three other productions of this play I’ve seen. His British accent was perfect, and exactly tuned to play "posh" to Allen Strang’s convincing "working class." The horses were not only easy to look at but excellent and concentrated actors; Nugget was miraculously expressive, a horse and a god at once. The directing was superb in being all but invisible, which is to say, there was not a single mistake, nor a single moment when somebody onstage was not onstage. Adam’s Allen Strang was perfection. No gesture was off, no line delivered less than maximally; there was no instant when he did not inhabit the character fully and transcendently. I think it might be the best performance I’ve seen anywhere. Adam is a fully natural actor, untrained except by experience, and in no need of training. His task in the profession will be to remain unspoiled by other people’s ideas. I wish the evening could be frozen somehow, as an exhibit for producers and theater boards, for the money spent on the production could probably have come out of my monthly paycheck without my missing it, and yet a better evening of theater could hardly be imagined. I thought I didn’t like the play that much. Now I think I do. But, in some ways, the play is not for me. Though I am more cleverly socialized than Allen, I worship at midnight the wild god who has always swayed my heart, weeping and aflame, and the uses of the world have turned that emotion sometimes to anger or hatred, but never to neutrality.

Everyone was there, all hugging and asking after one another’s latest projects. I sound like an ass to myself for reapeating "I have a play opening In New York in three weeks." Drink for Stan’s birthday at the Usual afterwards.
April 26, 2008

Fended off phlebitis, which left me without the deep affliction, but feeling tired and achy for two days. Events did not stop, so I had to catch the gigantic and necessary naps wherever I could.

Kam was glorious–or at least by far the least inglorious–at the end-of-semester alumni presentation in Humanities 414. Her work is always better than I think it’s going to be when she tells me about it. Memorable line: "Given six months to live, I chose college."

Owen and Michael had me over to their house for afternoon conversation. I admire the purity of their desire for discourse, debate, for contact with the things of the mind. They had even prepared a picnic, which was a carton of dip and some vegetables set on a trunk in the living room. What do they say to each other after I have pontificated for an afternoon? What did they say in the car as Michael drove Owen to work?

Ill, I skipped a theater piece I meant to see for Stephanie’s sake at the Arts Center, but made it to the segment of the Asheville Word Fest which was dedicated to remembrance of the Green Door. It was a joyful occasion, and for once the poems were almost all good, and I was sitting with my student Zack who had come out of pure curiosity, and I was happy. Among the deceased who were remembered were Pat Storm and Katherine Graham, whom I still think of. The accolade after my performance reminded me of the Slam scene long ago, and made me, almost, turn back in that direction. The number of ponds into which I dipped my toe without really taking a swim amazes me sometimes. But I have been testing myself against the same deep sea always, and there was never time for anything, seriously, else. Glenis and Allan and Laura H-G presided with elegance and aplomb. A multitude of judgments and opinions keep me from enjoyment, sometimes, but they did not last night, and though I’d not had a drop to drink, I don’t remember coming home.

Unless you count the Dead Poets Slams, I slammed exactly twice at the Green Door, appearing only on championship nights to grab a place on the team from people who had been working at it all year. Now that I think on it, it was great courtesy for them even to include me. One can be such an ass.

The first pale golden peony is in bloom.
April 25, 2008

Sidney sends out an e-mail with the Edward the King logo dramatically displayed, and the message, AND PLAYING PIERS GAVESTON WILL BE: BRIAN CHARLES ROONEY. What on earth was all that about? BCR says they had even hired a casting agent. Some New York theater stink fight of a kind that I know nothing about? Mysterious silence from everyone up there, as though I were being left deliberately out of the loop. I care less than they suppose. I care more than I expected to.

Dinner with Glen, L’s boyfriend, who wants to work with Black Swan. His extreme nervousness was apprehension at meeting me, which I found at once odd and dear. Lots of Greensboro theater gossip. He has the makings of a full-blown eccentric, and I like that.
April 23, 2008

Early morning on Shakespeare’s birthday. A fit of weeding got a narrow strip of the terrace cleared and planted in sky-blue morning glory. Uncovered remnants of sweet blue alyssum planted long ago. What a tangle of ivy and rogue saplings and I don’t know what! The ripped-out bio-mass is more than I can lift in two loads.

Re-writing Tub, now with the subtitle: "a fairy tale." It’s amazing how much I thought was part of the story but wasn’t.

Afternoon: Went to the studio and painted, deciding that the black paintings should constitute my September show. Bought plants in Weaverville, then set into the ground several kinds of sedum, yarrow, forget-me-not, white bleeding-heart, as well as coleus and asparagus fern for the containers. The Christmas cactus has gone to live on the porch. I forget that I have any occupation but gardener.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 22, 2008

Glorious morning. I think the moon was in my window last night, but now there is no trace of it.

My sister’s sadness about dad’s wheelchair ramp seems unconquerable. I understand completely. The triumph of Wrong is unsettling no matter how incessant. The odds in favor of mendacity should have worn us down, but they haven’t quite. We rise up to meet the next blow. The Mannings Ridge Nazis have had their way, and expect her to be civil about it, under the doesn’t-even-need-to-be-expressed threat of more difficulties and more sanctions. Meanwhile my father has to sit in the lawn, unable to enter his daughter’s house. People are unaccountable, what they find important, what battles they insist on fighting, what thoughtless things they imagine might be important.

S sends me e-mail, evidently blaming me for the calamity of The Tempest Project. Or so I gathered in the time it took me to read his name and the first line of text. I stopped there and deleted, knowing there would be nothing useful in the message. This is my concession to midnight turbulence: try to avoid reading or hearing things which you know beforehand will be foolish or, by reason of irrationality, unanswerable. But I know the impulse. Find reasons why other people are to blame for your disasters. We all do it. Few of us do it with such self-exposing sincerity as S.
April 21, 2008
Jonathan says the boy genius at No Shame is named Julian Vorus. He could be on any stage anywhere.

Half my poetry class did their presentations today. Danny sang the e.e. cummings poems he had set to music, accompanied by drums and a toy piano. It was such genius I am thinking of ways to steal the idea. Seth discovered Australian Bush Poetry, which was a whole new world to me. Rob drew pictures to Stephen Crane paintings, as if they were graphic novels. It was a delightful afternoon. I heard some voices I had never heard in class before. I asked the class if in semesters to come we should do oral reports earlier, so to get to know each other better, and they said yes. I think so too. Have they been waiting all this time to have their lovely say? If so, did I bring it out of them now, or prevent it earlier? I sometimes think it is harder for me to socialize because my students are so excellent, and most people, beside them, are disappointing.

Weeded in the morning, about 1/3 of what needed to be done, but enough to give me pride of accomplishment and energy for the next bout. Planted the poppies I bought from the Men’s Garden Club at church on Earth Day.

BCR wonders if his schedule was not accommodated because they wanted someone studlier, whose shirtless image could be used on the poster. I have no idea, and offered nothing but condolence and the hope that our brief friendship can survive this.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 20, 2008

After I watered everything yesterday, down came the rains and watered to a fare-thee-well. A bit more of my ceiling crumbled, so that drama was not ended by handsome Sam on the roof, as I thought it might be.

Went in the evening to the play Kimberly Akimbo at 35 Below. It was an excellent script excellently performed. A new actor named Nathan, one of Chris Lynn’s students, was especially fine, daring and fearless and goofily natural. I laughed constantly, and none of the laughs were those cheaply bought kind you regret afterward, as though someone had asked you to pull his finger, and you did. The room was deservedly full. Afterwards I hiked down to No Shame at NC Stage (slamming down a rum and coke at Smokey’s on the way) where all was as it should be, rowdy and funny and rough. Some of it is not rough at all. A blond boy whose name I forget does these innocent/violent monologues which are little short of genius.

Brian Charles Rooney e-mails from New York that he has been cut from the cast of Edward the King. I read the message repeatedly to see if it was a hoax. My mind immediately went back to Night, Sleep in Cincinnati, which flopped (if it flopped; I was never certain) because they couldn’t decide until the last second who was directing. I have no way to affect any outcome at the moment, and nobody but BCR has even mentioned it to me. I forget whose aphorism it is, but I now repeat, "I’ve never regretted what I didn’t say." So, for the moment, I sit tight and wait.
April 19, 2008

Went to la Rue’s last night to see Scott, whose stage name is Phoebe Fabu, perform. He sang well. It was difficult to me to see what was added by the gowns and rhinestones, but perhaps it was that which I recognize myself to be dull to, that element which the community calls "fabulous." Oh, she was fabulous! I suppose she was. I would have thought Scott singing the same songs in a tuxedo just as "fabulous." But it was good to be back at La Rue’s, good to see Cookie again, who seems to have found a niche in his intimate, tacky-elegant nightclub with the jello molds on the walls.

DJ expresses an interest in columbine, so I go to the Farmers’ Market and get some, plant them in the rain, which is good for them, not so good for me. For myself I get a plant advertized as "Carolina lupine," which is not a lupine at all, but, I would guess from the leaves, a kind of legume. But it promises big, sloppy, golden flowers at high summer, and that’s what I’m in the market for. Couldn’t dig in the place I first chose for it for the mass of canna tubers, shining and slippery with vitality.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April 18, 2008

Strange feelings– like I was a boy again, unable to figure out what to do, but with a vague sense that anything I choose will be right.

Jason came and dug up the Japanese maple I’ve been trying, half-heartedly, to kill for so many years. I hated it because R planted it. Jason said, "It’s not its fault who planted it." I’m happy that it is now with somebody who loves it.

Turned away from a bare terrace, and when I turned back one Dutch iris had come into bloom, blue as midnight.
April 17, 2008

Surprisingly extended e-mail conversation with the director of Centre Stage, Greenville. I sent her Threnodies of Corinth, because the events of the play occurred in her back yard. She writes back that she "Generally" does not look at new plays except during a contest that they have, which is over for this year, but she could put it in the pile for next year. I answer that it’s very topical and particular to her situation, and list recent accomplishments to assure her that it’s worth her while to read. She sends back a quite detailed, and patronizing, plea about how hard and expensive it is to run a theater and they TRY to do new works, but they NEVER make money– the whole familiar, and partially correct, lamentation. She could have read the play in less time than it took to compose her reasons for not doing so. Crown of Shadows might stand as evidence that new works can stay afloat–that THREE new works at once can stay afloat–but I can’t get myself together to make the case, and I wish it weren’t MY plays I was pushing; it somehow weakens the argument. Anyway, I sit at my desk pitying her because her I’m-a-savvy-professional mind set causes her to pass up a good thing; she sits at hers pitying me for my naivete. Face-to-face I would enunciate through clenched teeth, "We would have a triumph." She would pat me on the head and say, "Poor dear."

Rising tide of end-of-year hysteria and neediness on the part of my students, which I must strive not to meet with hardness of heart and constant reference to the syllabus, whereby they might have foreseen and provided for all future exigencies.

Dinner and conversation last night with David Verga. I try to keep out of my mind the unprofitable longing to exchange lives with him.
April 16, 2008

Sidney reports that Edward the King rehearsals don’t start until April 29th. I draw in my breath and force myself to think, "Well, they must know what they’re doing . . . "

Early evening, and already it has been a glorious day. The freeze promised for last night came to nothing, and my garden stands in dazzling, not to say belligerent, splendor. Weeded, dug. Second kick-ass workout at the Y this week. I feel sensational. Bought goldfish for the water gardens. Placed rocks as shelters for said goldfish. Reading Edith Wharton– having forgotten over many years, now, the pleasure of just sitting down and reading a novel. Sat in the sun reading, while a large beetle made an extraordinary din bulldozing around in dry leaves. I think it may be time to send the novels I’ve written seriously out into the world to make their way.

"In a Summer of Almost Too Much Light" won second prize in the South Carolina Review’s 40th Anniversary contest. In one second I gloat over the publication and in another I sneer, "second prize?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008

A student invited me to a "Freedom Seder" last night, and I went, and was glad I did. A Freedom Seder is not actually a seder, but reproduces the tradition of the seder in a way that is meant to take in all ages, tongues and races. A little diffuse, but charming, and populated with sweet kids whom I had not known before. The parsley struck me as almost incredibly delicious, and I went around gobbling up everybody’s bitter herbs.

Attended this morning a talk Jason gave on his mythological paintings, which include me as the Aztec feathered serpent. . . holding a sort of hummingbird-seahorse in my hand. . . teaching wisdom. . . to a baby raven. . . anyway, despite the awkwardness of my description, he did beautifully, and the work is extraordinary. I think he may be a genius-- a genius of the best kind, entirely without self-consciousness. His paintings are literary and narrative, and I was proud of his colleagues for not taking him to task for this, for completely accepting–so it seemed to me– his very un-post-modern ambitions for himself as a painter.

My sister struggles not only with the lawyers but with my father’s reflexive assumption that the lawyers are shysters. They may in fact be, but the point is to keep as much of our money away from the government as is legal, and in that they are on our side. He refuses to sign the necessary papers. He accuses her of cheating him. He accuses everyone of cheating him. He apparently paid his Visa bill three times last month, and then accused Chase Bank of stealing from him when his bank balance was off. Her desire is to get his investments in trust for us so we don’t have to go through probate when the end comes. Father actually thought he had done this back in Akron, but, typically, he did it on the cheap and did not follow even the bargain lawyer’s advice, so it must be done again, with him in the valley of the shadow of frustration whenever it comes to money, at which he used to be so point precise. Turns out even his living will has to be redone for Georgia. If he "codes," they will put him– a man of 90–on the respirator until the courts assure them they cannot be held accountable. But his new lunch companion is to his taste, and she and he are like old chums. That may be more important.

I cannot express how relieved I am that my sister has taken this on. I simply wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have thought of it. I would have assumed that dad knew his business and gone merrily on my way, until he died and the Great Tangle lay before us. I would probably have ignored that too. Oh, take the fucking money and leave me alone. Fault or blessing, I don’t know: it is what it is. I would walk into a burning building to save a dog, but I would not phone a lawyer on a sunny day or in a starry night. I can fathom the hearts of poems, but having to sign my name two times in one day drives me into fury.

"Fury" reminds me of how much of father’s stubborn rages I see in myself. Add confusion to the mix–as is the case with him now– and I too would be impossible. Forewarned is forearmed, and I must discover how to back away from my rage, my ability to nurse an injury through weary months, my overdeveloped sense of justice and offence.

BE says that I talk in my sleep. I thought I left off that long ago, but how would I know? What did I say? He said I was complaining that I lost a filling, and that I had to find it because the filling was also the bulb of a lily I wanted in my garden.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 13, 2008

Sitting at my keyboard, I heard the first bird singing in the darkness before morning.

In prayer in church this morning I heard myself praying not to be such an asshole all the time. It was a spontaneous, righteous and necessary prayer, though I’ve probably compromised it by congratulating myself on it.

Evening. We got out of the car after Cantaria rehearsal, and I stopped us dead, for something was singing Ki! Ki! in the sweet gum tree. We stood still long enough for a peregrine falcon to sail out of the branches, heading west, his wings stretched at his side like swords. When I caught my breath and stepped into the living room, a hummingbird was at my feeder. Blessed all around.

Linda says my dad’s lunch buddy Joe died. That’s cold and strange to me, even though I spoke to him only one time. I doubt very much that he regretted closing that door behind. Do I want to be 93? Ever?

BE is coming over in a few minutes. Whatever I planned for the night will be saved for another time.
April 12, 2008

Up before dawn to help with the Cantaria yard sale, which looked liked it would be washed out by the rain but ended up not being. I was miserable watching the things I brought–to some of which I still had an emotional attachment–sitting forlornly in the rain, but the misery went away as, one by one, they began to find new homes. My carved bear went home with grandpa. My grandmother’s pink Depression glass went home with a woman who actually knew which piece was meant to be a mayonnaise bowl. When someone bought something of mine, I was unable to stop myself from telling its little story.

The sale was within half a mile of Home Depot, so afterwards I veered off and completed purchases for my water garden, another barrel (acrylic, this time), a liner for the acidic oak one, water lilies (white, red, yellow), horsetail and cattail– all of which weighed significantly less than the one real wood barrel I had bought yesterday. Set up two water gardens, one in the front and one in the most light I have in the back. Weeded heroically. Lay down and slept, feeling like I had been in a brawl. Titus was lying on my chest when I woke up, and I felt I simply could not move him off, so I slept some more.

Hung up the hummingbird feeders. Now all’s to do is stand at the window and wait.
April 11, 2008

The least and newest lilac is in bloom on the front terrace, its little branches hardly able to hold its clusters of blossoms above the ground. The wood hyacinths have come into flower; the trout lilies are in their glory; the violets are a purple shadow under the sweet gum in the midst of day. The pale lavender hepatica come between the blue and the white. I bought an oak barrel to start a water garden in. I can hardly contain my impatience to have waterlilies blooming in my yard.

Went to see Underneath the Lintel at NC Stage, an intriguing one-act which supposes a librarian in Holland discovers a book 113 years overdue in the return slot, which he eventually traces to the Wandering Jew, and through which, I suppose, if I was following it right, he seems actually to become the wandering Jew. The librarian, who had been an atheist and had believed in nothing spiritual, took the revelations of the Wandering Jew as mounting proof of the existence of God. I, who never doubted the existence of God, would have taken it as proof of an uncharacteristic and soul-troubling malevolence. Wicked deeds do not become justified because God does them.

It was raining a sweet rain when I left the theater, and in the park the drummers were drumming and the young of Asheville were trance-dancing, faces tipped up to the rain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April 10, 2008

I was having coffee with DJ yesterday morning, and I said, "This is the first day in weeks when I’ve actually felt well." We got in the car and drove to the Arboretum. I had wanted to trudge off into the deep forest and see what was blossoming there, but given my state of exhaustion when we’d finished with the planted beds, I wonder if I would have made it. The day was perfect. We saw a huge anole, like a blister on the bark of a tree. We had excellent blueberry pie. We saw JT, like a figure out of an old story we had never finished reading.

Dug out a patch half in shadow and half in sun for my blue Tibetan poppies. May they prosper and may their homeland prosper.

Last night it was UNCA’s The Tempest Project at the Diana Wortham. It was gawdawful. It was bad as a production can be only when wilfulness is married to incompetence. The costumes were gorgeous. Somehow, the gorgeousness of the costumes, too, seemed a miscalculation, like dressing the tar baby in silk. Cody was good. Part of an actor’s duty is obeying the director, and in that, Cody was good. He could not save a ludicrous interpretation, but he was good.

Temptations afterward, where there is a crowd I don’t normally see. I don’t remember coming home. Glad DJ was driving. I do remember the moon, and insisting that it was rising, though it hung low and bent in the west.

Moments ago I finished the rewrite of Threnodies of Corinth. I sobbed through the last ten pages. To me, at this moment, it seems earth-shattering. But it has lain fallow for– what?– nearly a decade because of mocking voices and criticism which could not have been well-meant. I take other people’s counsel far to seriously. I recoil and retreat rather than considering. I violate every precept I try to give to my students.
April 7, 2008

I was in the midst of a dream about– which play? Some play of mine. I had fallen asleep during it. I woke, and then the end of the scene came. What I noticed was that there seemed to be no live actors, but rather video with bad audio which was obscuring all the lines. I stood up and began shouting notes at the actors and techies. But, after a few agonizing moments, it became clear that it was not a rehearsal, but rather a performance, and I had been unconscious a considerable stretch of time. It was too dark to see if everybody were looking at me, but I’m sure they were. One of actors was sitting in the audience and whispered to me, "When all the fires go out, we’ll go back and see what we can salvage."

Sunday, April 6, 2008


April 6, 2008

Every three or four years, it seems–it had been longer this time–I’m overcome by a possession which must be called demonic. I don’t know where it comes from, unless it’s the long accumulation of frustrations, each one of which may be hurled behind unnoticed, but the mass of which have been trooping behind in the shadows all the while. There’s no sign when they take me over, just rising wrath and gathering fury which become, in time, sometimes for weeks on end, the center of my life. Wrath has always been my pet among the Seven Deadlies, perhaps because it can be passed off as rational. Certain things really are grievous affronts, and the effort to avenge them is blameless to the mind. These people really have sought actively to ruin my life, and the simple calculus of things allows me to react in kind. Even now it doesn’t sound irrational. It sounds dark, hellish and no longer to be considered. This is the first time I recognized the process enough to bring it to an end by prayer and will. In the past it has merely exhausted itself in time, while I grew more and more hateful, made my life more and more dangerous. The most memorable of these occasions was 1987, when I almost lost a career over such suffocating, uncharacteristic fury that I could not put down the weapons even after I recognized they were cutting me every time they cut my enemy. "But I am right!" I would cry to the sky. The fact was that this point, which seemed the whole issue to me, didn’t matter at all to the progress of events. I saw something in me yesterday, heard a tone in my own inner voice. I held my hand out and said "Stop!" This morning I dreamed the sweetest dreams, and believe it to be over. It is as laughable at the little points as it is perilous at the big: me screaming with fury if the capsules didn’t come out of their packet at the first try; fighting off rage if a student asks the question that was answered two seconds ago while he was staring off into space; instantly rabid if the wrong letter was hit on the keyboard; blind rage at receiving a rejection of work I don’t remember from a publication for which I have no respect. Tyrants and demagogues are always ludicrous and appalling in equal measure. There are times–rare times, praise God– when I am so near to that state I almost understand, can almost make a defense. "But you don’t understand, I am right!"

Here’s the highest hurdle. I am right. But It doesn’t matter. That, for some reason, is not part of the fabric God is weaving just now. A person like me finds that almost–but, thank God, not quite–unendurable. And here is the last test, for today: if the demon revealed himself and said, "You can have those things which were stolen from you, you can punish the people who hurt you and those you love. Just say the word," on this murky April morning I would answer, "No."

Detroit Repertory Theater is interested in Eulogy, but wonders if I would object to a multi-racial cast. I think it is an odd question even to ask. Maybe they assume I am very old.

My discourse on wrath, while I was thinking it out, explained a number of things about my father as well, especially now, when his powerlessness and confusion probably allow his demons–so very like my demons-- free rein.

Had a breakthrough during my voice lesson Friday. Paul had been telling me what he wanted, but I had been misinterpreting it, and making worse the habit he wanted to correct. The light finally came on, and out of my mouth came this stab of silver I never heard from me before. Sang Purcell’s "Evening Prayer" and Mahler’s "Um Mitternacht" with the same spears of silver flashing in the air. It utterly amazed me. What a long process to master what is, on some levels at least, blissfully natural. I want to sing now all the time.

Here is my morning prayer, Lord of the Universe: Let me always know when I am being ridiculous.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fascists at Mannings Ridge

April 4, 2008

Wondering why I feel so run-down. It’s like flu, but if it is, it’s stalled five days at one moment of its progress.

Cold morning, but still a morning of spring. Jack Batman e-mails to invite me to the gala pre-festival benefit for Gayfest, an evening of jollity starring Leslie Jordan, a campy actor whom I remember from TV shows. I did consider it, but it would be $800 for two days in New York, and I can’t add that to the stack just now. One of the other playwrights in the festival, Brian Dykstra, is billed as "Special Guest," and I hope that’s because he too is a performer and not because he’s suddenly the designated celebrity playwright. In any case, it points out the disadvantage of living in Asheville and trying to have a career of some dimension in New York. You either have to live there or have the means to get there whenever summoned. No one will know you. No one will remember you from the time before. For the moment I must live my life as though that were not true.

Discussing with my students the Black Swan readings of the last two weeks. They preferred E’s, while I preferred H’s. But during the discussion I realized I preferred H’s because it was tight, streamlined, with no problems she was willing to fix, professional, slick, its obvious limitations exhibiting themselves as choices. Exactly the play that would be praised in a graduate school workshop, one, anyway, which leaned toward the professional rather than the experimental. E’s was awkward, raw, too new, intelligent, brilliant, intriguing. I have allowed my judgment in these matters to change from that of the artist to that of the producer, and that was a mistake I mean to reverse as fast as I can.

The Mannings Ridge Homeowners Association, where my sister lives in Alpharetta, has decreed that she must remove the ramp her friends built to get dad and his wheelchair into her house. The ignorance, cruelty, and self-satisfaction of this have been choking me with bile since she told me of it. Even if she had the ramp rebuilt by professions, which is what they say they want, the committee chairman said he’d sit on the proposal with his fat ass for as long as he is allowed. Clearly they must get some satisfaction out of complicating the life of a sick old man. The un-diseased mind will probably never comprehend it. It’s the George Bush model: no need to support the best choice, no need to avoid the worst choice, the only thing being to show who has the power to make the rules. I hate them with a pure and righteous hatred.

I have not been putting things behind me as I should. I have not gotten over the fact that the three stupidest faculty at UNCA were allowed to deprive me of Cambridge, in defiance of their responsibility to their students’ welfare, to the authority of the program, and in grotesque and shrugging defiance of their own application process. One rather expected that from them, but that they should be allowed that power without review and correction still chokes me with disgust. It’s like leaving the house and the baby in the care of the guinea pigs and going on a long vacation. I have not gotten over being at first granted and then denied leave next year on the most transparently dishonest and partial pretext, and Kathy and Sam both either in collusion or without honor enough to change a very bad decision. I have not gotten over being passed over for India in favor of nitwits (some of them) by the authority, I think now, of the same nitwits who presided over the Cambridge selection. That nitwits should prefer nitwits is not surprising, but there should be some system of review and correction. I have not gotten over these issues, and some of them are old. Those slime bags at Mannings Ridge brought it all bubbling back to the surface. I do blame Bush, in part. He gave people the idea that the worst program in the world will be allowed if you swagger enough, if you portray your idiocy as a higher wisdom.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


April 2, 2008

What tumult for a fine sweet spring day!

The reading of Edward in Hollywood was not particularly a success. From what Pavel implied, the actors were under-rehearsed, under-prepared, and perhaps a little unsympathetic to the script. In addition, he reports that lighting made every mistake it conceivably could. I don’t know why there WAS lighting at a casual reading. The actor playing Mortimer had a good deal to say about the script, but it sounded like the blame-placing of an actor who was unprepared and didn’t do well. One of my goals is actor-proofing, but I cannot possibly anticipate all the ways an actor can go astray. A couple of other people had comments, which Pavel reported. None of them seemed actual–that is to say, actually a fault in the script-- so I ignored them and put the event down as something which might bear fruit in the future. But I woke this morning feeling as if I had been contemplating those critiques all night. I summoned Edward to the screen, revising widely if not massively, tweaking here and there, fixing things which had bothered me during its run here, even following some of the advice sent to me from Hollywood, thinking it could as well be a way that didn’t arouse criticism as a way that did. Some criticisms– "the soliloquies are too long"– are reflexive and asinine, but, if you can write the scene so even a dumbshit audience cannot make one particular dumbshit observation, why not do it? I sent the revision to Sid and my actors in New York. Within fifteen minutes–after my not hearing from any of these people for months–B was on the phone foaming at the mouth for being left out of the loop, practically weeping over my–what? Malice? Insubordination? Cruelly manifest desire to wreck his life and his production? That my sending out revisions would be read as an act of violence never entered my mind. That I should have sent them to the producers first rather than to the people who were actually going to use them never entered my mind. I thought I was saving everyone time and bother. So I sent the revisions to B and J, with a note repeating I was sorry but also stating my conviction–rather mildly–that they had blown a gasket over nothing. B phoned with an apology. I accepted and assured him all was forgotten. I don’t fully understand what ignites that bunch up there, so I don’t know how to prevent future explosions. Perhaps my not letting this one go unchallenged will help.

Rented a U-Haul and brought a garage full of DJ’s and my junk to the Cantaria yard sale locale. I’d planned this for some future moment, but, as usual, precipitous action proved the better choice.

Planted my mail-order walking ferns in the wet loam of the back terrace. Dug weeds out with a trowel.
April 1, 2008

Though it is still dark, I have been up for an hour, and in that time have gotten nothing done but taking out of garbage and cleaning up of messes. Most of the day will be spent in exactly that way, re-dos of things that should be over, application to tasks unnecessary or thoughtlessly imposed. Even legitimate tasks inspire resentment, because on forgets how to discriminate.

M decides she’s back in the game, that she will cash the check and pay whom we can pay. After all expenses we made about $450 dollars. I expected less, actually, but everyone was fantasizing about more. She asks me to write an e-mail to the cast and crew, explaining our financial situation. She asks me to do it under the theory that while everyone shits on her, nobody shits on me. I understood what she meant by that, but the real reason, I think, is that she interprets many things as getting shat on that I interpret altogether differently, exhaustion or personality quirks or, occasionally, legitimate questions asked at the wrong time. Belve, for instance, is forever stalling the action with a scattershot of questions or comments, and she will pick one of those as the moment to decide she’s being shat upon, and fire back. Belve then looks astonished, trying to figure out what, exactly, was the trigger this time. I did send the email, and the responses have been, so far, along the lines of "don’t worry about me, I’m satisfied with the experience." Though the individuals who had harangued her most for payment have not yet replied. The individuals who have harangued most for payment are, perhaps not incidentally, exactly those people whom public comment singled out for substandard performance, tech and set. We had to delay a performance for forty minutes while one of them got out of bed. It was my counsel then to pay him nothing.

Got the pharmacist to give me the most high-powered antihistamine he could without a prescription. I took it Saturday night. I was annihilated all Sunday, largely out of it yesterday, and am still woozy today. Let me remind myself never to do that again, unless I want to be useless for a couple of days. Turned on the vaporizer in the bedroom, which achieved the same ends that I had desired from the pill, without changing me at all.

On the other hand, my blanket of violets is coming into variegated bloom. The bloodroots hold up their white starbursts day after day, and the tree peonies are shooting out their red stalks. The male goldfinches have turned back to gold. The robins stand around with beaks stuffed with dry grass.

Received a check from Emerson College. I have no idea why. Something I forgot, something which is not yet revealed to me. Nice in any case.

Gave my lecture on Persia and Alexander, still in my antihistamine daze. No comments, except that I looked good. Probably the comment I wanted anyway.
March 30, 2008

Very odd weekend. I have lived like a wild man. I have done nothing but what I wanted to do. I have not showered since Thursday night. I painted excellently, and finished Dead Lovers Meeting at Moonrise and a small picture I call Dogs of the Apocalypse I. I think I have written, but it was longhand in the café, and I will have to look at it to see what I have. Got some strong medicine from the pharmacist to battle my sinus congestion. It turns out to be too strong for me, and I have that moving-underwater groggy feeling you get from too much medicine. Did not go to the Crown Cast party last night. Part of it was debility from medication; part of it was that sick feeling you have for a day or so after a good massage (Ben, Friday afternoon); part of it was that the massage ickiness read to me for a while like phlebitis. Part of it was a series of semi-translatable messages from M that made me reluctant to see anybody involved with what was beginning to look like a horrific mess.

Maybe I should collaborate only with men. I don’t know that men are necessarily more stable, but with them I can usually figure out what the problem is.