Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28, 2009

Dark of the morning. Maud crouches in the window, peering intently at something only she can sense moving among the roses.

Evening: Damien Rice on the CD. I’ve thought too much about things. It makes me melancholy in the melancholy after-showers evening.
May 26, 2008

Spent the morning weeding–which, given the state of the weed beds, is more like excavating. The cicadae make a high drone over all the world, ceasing abruptly at dusk.

I’m sitting here before my computer screen. It is almost dark. I feel that summery feel of tried sweat and sunburn under the white shirt I put on because I wanted to drink iced tea and sit on the café terrace and read Brideshead Revisited. Heaps of weeds dry on the dirt, or did dry before the light sprinkle of rain began. I have worked hard today. My tiredness is virtuous. A lover might visit. A lover would be welcome. Other than that, I don’t know what I would need tonight. One bird, a robin, still sings almost hysterically in the dark. What a strange heft to the night, melancholy, passive, heavy as old marble under miles of sea.
May 25, 2008

The wedding was beautiful, and very much, from my perspective, the joining together of aristocratic houses. Everyone on both sides was svelte and professional. Not a hillbilly or a black sheep among them. The bride was gorgeous. The mothers of the bride and groom were gorgeous. I wore Charles McKinley’s Trinity Dublin gown to preside over the ceremony. I think I did all right. I was conscious the whole time that any number of people, the bride in particular, would think of this as THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN MY LIFE and I was not going to be the one to screw it up. The drive home was eventful in the mind if not so much upon the road. And I have found another place on earth I would happily return to.
May 24, 2008

Prowling the Internet from my hotel roomthis AM, I find a review of Edward the King:

Oscar E Moore from the rear mezzanine for Talk

Sexual shenanigans in high places. Intrigue. Vying for position. Either on the throne or coupled with someone unsuitable in the royal bedchamber. Specifically the bedchamber of Edward II – Prince Plantagenet and then King of England - 14th century. Or is it The Governor’s Mansion in New Jersey – 20th century? Fact or fiction? Edward II – best remembered for his alleged homosexuality and supposed murder. All is dealt with in an intelligent, captivating and witty manner by playwright David Brendan Hopes in the first of a five play series which makes up GAYFEST 2008 at TBG Arts Center at 312 West 36th Street, New York, New York. What an impressive start. If the other plays are as good as EDWARD THE KING – then the students of Harvey Milk High School which benefit 100% from the profits of GAYFEST’s fundraising efforts for this festival (to send them off to college with scholarships, to hopefully major in playwriting) all will be well in the Kingdom of Gay.

Ably directed by Sidney J. Burgoyne who has a deft manner with his actors – drawing
out emotions and nuances of character – EDWARD THE KING – satisfies on all levels. From the elaborate costumes (T. Michael Hall) and scenic design (Michael Hotopp) to the original music by James Bassi ("Come Live With Me" – words by Christopher Marlowe who also penned an opus on Edward) – EDWARD THE KING may have a long reign – post festival. Let’s hope so. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect and I was quite surprised by the production. But really, I shouldn’t have worried. Two of the producers – Jack Batman and Bruce Robert Harris are the same two responsible for the terrific productions at The White Plains Performing Arts Center. They have come to New York and conquered. We are in merry olde England – or I should say gay olde England as Prince Edward (a compassionate and extremely likable Chad Hoeppner) - is trying to escape from his overbearing father, Edward I. It is in an alleyway that the Prince meets his Pauper – Piers Gaveston - beautifully played by the gifted actor Brian Charles Rooney in a near pitch perfect performance. Piers is no peer of Edward and that is where the trouble starts. He is however, street smart, smells foul and immediately upon the Prince meeting Piers, the two fall hopelessly in lust - sniffing each other like two dogs in heat – the pure bred and the mutt – opening the forbidden door to eventual love. They are not naked. They should be. In this case it is warranted. But they are both so good it matters not. Use your imagination. To complicate matters, Edward II is married to the scheming Isabella (an elegant, beautiful, amusing Megan McQuillan) who is having her own lustfest with her confidante Mortimer (an extremely effective Patrick Porter). Into this nest of cobras arrives The Bishop to negotiate for Isabella as to what is to be done with Piers. The Bishop is played by an extraordinary actress – Jo Ann Cunningham. She gives a stellar performance. All in all, it is one incredible cast in a play that is somewhat Shakespearian in tone and yet very modern – what with all the royal murders and desire from one and all to be on top and to win the game of courtly intrigue. In the end it is Edward III (Chad Hoeppner doubling as his own son) who neatly takes hold of the throne and the family jewels. 05-23-08

Winnie McCroy’s review, from Gay City, says in part:

Hopes profiles gay royal Edward Plantagenet's tumultuous life from the closet to the throne as he balances a pre-arranged marriage with Queen Isabella of France and his desire for the handsome Gascon youth Piers Gaveston, depicted in the play as a street urchin. "I was inspired to tackle the story of Edward II after I'd seen 'The Massacre in Paris' in Dublin, and was reminded what a great playwright Marlowe is, and after seeing the movie 'Edward II', which, despite Tilda Swinton's best efforts, does not do the work even proximate justice," said Hopes, playwright and professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. "I said to myself, 'I can do better,' and so I set out. The story seemed so contemporary to me, like something snatched from the headlines rather than from history."Hopes' story straddles the 14th and 21st centuries, treating King Edward's unconventional love as just another celebrity scandal, with attendant paparazzi and gossipmongers adding grist for the mill.The Actor's Equity Association cast features Chad Hoeppner as Edward, reprising his role from last year's staged reading of the play, and Brian Charles Rooney as his handsome lover Piers. As the action opens, Edward the prince is running away from his oppressive father. The manhunt pushes him into the arms of Piers, who opens a whole new world of love for Edward.Their relationship is clearly rooted in physical attraction, but it is also one based on love. Piers, soon exiled from any royal contact, pines for his lover, as does Edward for him, and when the old king unexpectedly dies, it is not long before Piers is recalled and named Lord Chancellor.This strains relations between Edward and his wife Isabella (Megan McQuillan), who has taken her advisor Mortimer (Patrick Porter) as her lover. The two begin scheming to get rid of Piers, and the "she-wolf of France" eventually plants a knife in his belly, a favor that he repays by laying a curse upon her.Edward's grief distracts him from the plot against his own life, which is carried out by a vengeful former bishop (Jo Ann Cunningham). He gets it in the end, literally, skewered up the rear with a hot poker. But Piers' curse plays out when young Edward III beheads Mortimer, and seizes his rightful crown, throne, and rule from his conniving mother.The cast shows off their truly superb acting chops in this fast moving, riveting performance brought alive by director Sidney J. Burgoyne. Gay viewers will appreciate the wealth of onstage action shared between the two handsome leads, but the relationship between the two men is a love story for the ages, one that transcends mere sexual orientation.The genuine bond between the two doomed men, said Hopes, is what drew him to the material and allows it to rise above the tabloid fodder he parallels.

"Gay plays have rested too long on simply being gay, on having a lot of camp and hunky actors and comfortable coming out stories. I like all those things - especially the hunky actors - but I believe it is time for gay playwrights to step up and knock a few out of the park based not on recognizable icons of gayness, but on quality. On daring. On eternality," said Hopes. "All the sequins and one-liners were jolly good fun, but our real company is Marlowe and Shakespeare, O'Neill and Williams, and it's time to step into their presence."Many of my plays have gay characters and show men loving each other, but I hope never to be tempted to write a 'gay play.' We are past that now. Our gay brothers and sisters opened a thousand doors on the American stage, as actors, playwrights, and choreographers. It's time to walk through those doors."

"Edward the King" is the first in what promises to be a high-quality lineup of new works by playwrights Brian Dykstra, Philip Gerson, Tim O'Leary, and Steve Hayes. Only in its second year, Gayfest NYC 2008 attracted dozens of submissions, and showcases the talents of both local actors and celebrity guests, including Emmy Award-winning actor Leslie Jordan from "Will & Grace" and "Sordid Lives," who kicked off the event on April 14 with a benefit performance of his new show, "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet."


Good review or bad review, it doesn’t change what I saw on stage– or I would like to think so, but the confirmation that someone liked it as well as we did means more than I wish it did. I feel ready to exhale. I feel I can seal the past ten days with sign that says, "Accomplished."

The Carlsons live in a cul-de-sac in the flat froggy forest that predominates around here, in a beautiful house with a beautiful yard which make sense when one recalls he is an architect. The wedding rehearsal went off without a hitch in the blazing sun. Today looks less brilliant, though perhaps cooler. Rehearsal dinner at the Global Gourmet in "downtown" Carbondale. I filled the evening afterwards at the cinema, seeing the latest Indiana Jones flick. I don’t mind stupid and derivative, but this was maybe a little too derivative. The turn-off-the-cell-phones announcements were made by a real person. Maybe this is an Illinois custom.

The Holiday Inn has a frog pond dug in front. Excellent. At night, most musical.

Afternoon: Drove down Giant City Road to the Grassy Lake Fish Hatchery and saw more little channel cats than I believed there were in the world. The peppy attendant, who reminded me of the women of my mother’s family, recounted the various hunting techniques of individual herons and eagles, who find such a place a smorgasbord. Drove on to Blue Sky Winery. The father of the bride was the architect of the faux Tuscan villa in the middle of it. I played in the frog pond, then sat under a striped tent and wrote. Had nothing to write, but my hand needs to keep moving even when the rest of me is still.

Friday, May 23, 2008


May 23, 2008

On I-24 somewhere in Tennessee I saw a box turtle on the side of the road, its head stretched quizzically toward the din of the highway. I hesitated too long, and by the time I decided I must stop and make sure it got somewhere safe, it was no longer possible to do so. The intensity of the remorse was strange, because it may have turned around the next instant and toddled back into the wildwood. A few miles farther on, I saw a man at the roadside apparently fighting with a couple of gas cans beside a stopped car. I thought of the turtle, and I stopped.

"Do you need a ride to the gas station?" I said.

He hesitated for a moment and said. "Yes." He got in the car without his gas cans, but I figured he knew what he was doing. He reeked of gas. Did he spill some? Did he spill it all? I realized he was wet with it, or had been. I lowered the window against the fumes. He was crying, as I probably would have been with the frustration of it. I told him my name and he said his was Carl. As I watched him, almost unable to believe what I saw, he took a lighter out of his pocket and set the flame to the edge of his jacket. A sheet of blue flame climbed the jacket, but went out almost immediately. I whirled to the roadside and jammed on the brakes. I heard myself saying, as if it were a middle school science class, "Gasoline evaporates really fast." He seemed dazed, but I pushed him and he got out of the car. I pulled several yards ahead and called 911 and told the Highway Patrol–whoever was on the other end, I think it was the Highway Patrol–what had happened. They asked my approximate location, and I told them, and they told me to drive on and have nothing more to do with Carl. I did exactly that. In the rearview mirror I saw him walking back in the direction of his car. His shoulders were slumped, his right hand over his face. He was weeping bitterly.

I am certain that the turtle turned and walked back into safety.

Rose early and walked in the construction area behind the Carbondale Holiday Inn. Rough cuts of machinery bordered a little wood–perhaps a great wood, who knows?– and dry lakes in the construction gouges–oddly, one of the landscape most immediately nostalgic to me, because of the conditions of my boyhood. I stopped and peered into the little wood, reeling off the names of old friends, red oak, elder, poison ivy, dogwood, joe-pye, sassafras, green ash, snakemaster, hawkweed– a red-winged blackbird gurgling overhead–and I felt the burn of grief in my throat, and I heard myself whispering, "I want to come home."

Treated Carbondale as if it were some Irish town, and wandered through with eyes open. The town square is huge and sprawling in the Midwestern way, so spacious as to look disorganized. Visited the public library. Sat in the Japanese garden, though the effect was mitigated by the host of lawnmowers prettying up for memorial Day. Had iced tea at the Long Branch, where I was Ancient Marinered by an ex-Marine ex-Green Beret (I know this because he mentioned it in every sentence) whose topic for the day was the valuable stuff students leave in the dumpsters when they vacate for the summer. His latest find was a perfectly good bike. He grew up in the south side of Chicago, and is only now losing the suspicion–born of that and of being a combat Vet–that led him to carry two firearms and suspect every stranger. Must have been like the emotion I felt when I saw him walking toward me. The girl I bought a SIU T-shirt from explained that this area is known as Little Egypt, because of the river, and that the saluki is the sleek Egyptian guard dog of the tomb paintings, hence the name of their mascot. To honor the Ancient Mariner and the saluki, I bought a bike pump and a college T-shirt. I will go home and ride my bike as if I had just pulled it out of the dumpster.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 22, 2008

Preparing to light out for Carbondale, which is not that much preparation since I didn’t fully unpack from New York. Got the service and my little sermon written. Chose clothes that I hope will not look too ridiculous.

Holiday Inn, Carbondale, Illinois, after a drive that was far too long, through land that was, all in all, stunningly beautiful. Saw a heron standing and three in flight, one high up over the colossal gray-brown Ohio. The French Broad is a mighty river in Tennessee. Mapquest sent me through the wilderness behind the hotel, but also through flocks of bluebirds, looking steely and mysterious in the evening night. Many deer dead along the road, apparently fresh. I raged through Tennessee, so that I was at peace through Kentucky, recovered in two days from the imagined calamities of New York.
May 21, 2008

The distant whirring sound is cicadas. It’s an alternate year, not the great throngs, but enough to make high music and leave substantial, decorative corpses on the ground or head down in the water gardens.

In twenty minutes the lights go up on Edward in New York. I can’t stand the idea that I may never see my cast again. I can’t stand the idea that any thing at all may come to nothing, no matter the energy and goodness behind it.

The night black iris.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20, 2008

Two things I did not say about New York:

1) Boots and Saddles is gone.

2) What of the far-famed sophistication and jadedness of New Yorkers? I find in them a kind of innocence, a kind of openness that we have too much private space to need. I sat in the movie Prince Caspian and listened to full-grown New Yorkers gasp at tragic moments and applaud at triumphant ones. I loved them for that.

The one surviving goldfish could not eat enough larvae to quell the mosquito infestation in the 3rd water garden. So, instead of buying more, I went to the pond south of Beaver Lake with my bucket and net and fished for minnows. Brought back a shoal of five good-sized minnows, a couple of fry, a water-strider, a water beetle or two, and a larval something, maybe a dragonfly, to establish a wild ecosystem. I was once again me forty years ago, a kid bent to the wild water, standing so to block the glare of summer sun, watching the life in the moving crystal a few inches from the tip of my nose. I also noted that in twenty four hours I had stood on Times Square and fished with a bucket and a little net in a muddy pond in Appalachia.

Farewell New York

May 19, 2008

Just afternoon. I am in Asheville, the garden checked, the cats greeted. All is most well. The garden is ablaze with roses and poppies, and voodoo lilies which do not even stink. The woman I waited for the shuttle bus with has a daughter, Layla, who dances with American Ballet Theater.
I had developed the rhythm of walking the streets and touring museums from early in the morning, coming back to the room to rest, and write, and nap, maybe eat a little before heading out to the theater. It was a good rhythm, and I’d like to maintain it here, even if there is no material to put into the slots. Production e-mails begin to talk about the strike on Saturday night, which is dolorous conversation indeed.

New York Continued

May 18, 2008

Calm Sunday morning. Many cabs down there on the street, but apparently no people to ride in them.

Edward the King’s Saturday night was by far the best performance yet. Everyone was alive on the stage, listening to one another, following new leads dealt out by their colleagues. Some magic came upon the moment and I was able to watch as if I’d never seen it before, as if I hadn’t written the play but only come to it on a whim. I thought it was magical. I thought it was surprising and thrilling and funny, and of a sort of dark crimson, the color in the mind before Marlowe and Webster. I felt the play had chosen its company and lived up to them, and I was content. I thought, too, that exactly this might be the reward of it all, knowing I had created something nearly perfect, and to have seen it presented nearly perfectly before one’s eyes. It was like holding up a great jewel and peering in and seeing all the little jewels inside that are the record of its making and the pattern of its aspiration. I smiled my face in half, and for the moment thought, "this is enough."

Of course, in the pale blue of morning, it is not enough. I want Edward to go to Broadway. I want everyone on the planet to see it and, having seen it, ache for the next Hopes play. If I knew how to make this happen I would be out doing it. If I knew how to make this happen without appearing to be as self-promoting as I would probably have to be. I can, of course, be a jackass, but I don’t like it. Bruce and Jack are on my side, and others whom I met and did not meet. Some who are not on my side are on the play’s side, or Sidney’s, or Meg’s, or Brian’s. I want to bring everyone with me. I want to make Bruce and Jack rich and my cast famous, and I stand looking out the hotel window as though sudden firesigns on the side of Port Authority will show me the way. There were reviewers with their little pads, scratching away. Where will these reviews appear? What will happen in the week I’m away? It’ll will probably all happen then, when I’m absent, to keep me from messing things up in the way you have when things are too important to you.

Meg and Chad and I went to the Tic Toc afterward, and were joined by Adam and Stephen, who had just seen Young Frankenstein up the street. I wanted them to give Adam a boost in his career, some advice to straighten the path. What they said, and what I later read in a Backstage magazine I picked up in the foyer, made me think that professional acting must be the most demanding, grueling, unfair, exhausting trade in the world. Of course, exhilarating when everything is right. When I considered it long ago it may have been simpler, but still I set it aside easily enough, and have not regretted it since.

Walking back to our hotels up 8th Avenue, we heard someone behind us shouting, "Adam!" Adam had dropped his wallet, and a couple behind had scooped it up and run after to return it. The almost inconceivable good fortune of that confirmed our belief that a good angel watches over Adam’s determination to come to New York. A derelict was watching from the shadows against the wall, watching the whole return-of-the wallet drama. Our eyes met and we smiled. His smile said, "That wouldn’t have happened had I been the one to snatch that up. Your boy is blest."

My smile said, "Yes. Sometimes these things turn out right."

Went to Saint Thomas, 5th Avenue for sung mass. Arrived early enough to hear the choir warming up. It was gorgeous. I was ashamed for a moment of being so caught up in the glory of the singing, but corrected myself with the long-known truth that beauty is a surer way to God than reason, even than scripture. I had come determined to pray every spare moment for the success of Edward, taking God by storm, if that were necessary, but I’d barely got the first round out of the muzzle when that still, shockingly present Voice said, "I have already said ‘Yes’ to you." I knew that he had, but my faithlessness required me to go on haranguing even after the gift was given. That shut me up. I have already said yes to you. I was able to listen to the music. I was able to try to flirt with the man in the row in front of me. I was able to have a brief, pleasant dream during the sermon, which, on Trinity Sunday, tried and failed to explain the Trinity.

In a rare gesture of symmetry, the woman in the pew beside me left her purse, and I ran down the aisle with it in my hand to catch her. Adam’s debt is paid.

Meting of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation. I tried to get my mind off Edward, which was transpiring at the other end of the same block. A second visit to Francine Trevens’ doll-filled apartment. We discussed mostly bad submissions and worried about Arch’s health.

I do not want to go home. I went to see Prince Caspian near Penn Station, and when I came out I was thinking, "This is my town." Now I have to find some way to make that true.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New York continued

May 17, 2008

Brilliant cool blue light through the window. I tried for the Met the second time yesterday in the pouring rain, this time making it. A special show of Superhero fashions; a special show of Courbet, whom I had but meagerly known, but whom I like a great deal. Such energy! Energy capable of being melodramatic, even crude, such as in The Stag at Bay, but always something attractive and defiant. Set myself for a long walk home, which might have been fun, but the rain caused it to be an ordeal.

Performance last night was not brilliant. Lack of rehearsal won out over the nervous energy that pushed everything over the hump on opening night. Energy last night from the first was low, and there was a power of missed lines, some of them important. BCR was awkward and "off" at the outset, and he’s the kind of actor who reacts to bad early moments by being grudging and reluctant throughout the show. Something went awry with the speakers, which for a while sent a hornets’ nest drone out into the theater. Terrible weather left the house at about 3/4. The best thing was that I met Damian in the lobby beforehand, and we got to catch up a little. So far he’s the only person from my actual life who has seen the show in New York. It was wonderful being with him, and I remembered in seconds why I love him. There was a talk-back after the show, which went well enough. I was thinking, with great self-satisfaction, "Here I am on stage for a talk-back for MY play in New York City!" Jack cut the talk-back off when BCR began to launch rambling bits of unidentifiable philosophy into the air. Damian and I hit the rainy night, and had more drinks than we should (than I should, anyway) at a bar a block down the street. After half an hour he was my old friend again, comfortable and funny and goofy and unguarded, with that ever-young venturesomeness that I found so attractive. I left him to get into his cab with something like real grief, real anxiety for when we would meet again. When he had a few in him a vulnerability came to the surface. He is lonely and still a little uncertain in his new home. As are we all.

Afternoon: 39th street has been dug into a canyon, and I had to cross what appeared to be police barriers to get to my hotel. Thank God the guard was asleep in his chair in the perfect sun.
Today so far I have ranged from 125th Street to Macdougal. I aimed for St. John the Divine, but because I picked the wrong train, or something else was wrong, it swept past my station and on to125th. Harlem on a brilliant Saturday morning is calm and very neighborhood-y. Wound my way on foot back to the Cathedral, which was mostly boarded up, and only the choir and a fragment of the nave stood open. I’ll be more impressed the next time, I’m sure. But in the children’s garden is a statute of Saint Michael trampling Satan underfoot while riding a crab and caressing very affectionate giraffes, the sort of thing that is exactly to my taste. Took it into my head to walk the whole length of Central Park, from 110th to 59th. This was partially to have another chance to meet Mrs Thomas across from Lincoln Center, but again she wasn’t there. Almost ludicrous perfection of spring sun. From 59th I took the subway to Washington Square, which was unavailable because of construction. The West Village was blocked off for a street bazaar, which I investigated until the shadows were long and it was time for my ante-theater nap. My back was fiercely sunburned even through my shirt.

New York continued

May 16, 2008

Brisk rain. I’d saved room in my luggage by not bringing rain gear, and this is the day of reckoning.

Yesterday’s daylight hours were rather a waste, ruined by invasion by the outerworld. BUT, evening was different, and if it had to be one hemisphere of gray and one of gold, I’d rather it be the way it was.

The opening of Edward the King was splendid last night. It made a geometric leap from the premiere, and though I suppose it could have been better, it lies not within my compass to imagine it. We had a full house. I had to scrunch up under the tech window in order to have a place to sit. I didn’t mind. The music, which had been confusing (I guess that’s the word) the night before was clear and right and at some moments quite beautiful. Gaveston’s sense of drama causes him to hold lines many MANY beats longer than I would, but I focused on that because everything was so wonderful, so nearly (and in some cases, quite) perfect. My Isabella and my Edward are boyfriend and girlfriend, and I say they must be the most prodigally gifted couple in this city. Was introduced to old stars of old Broadway shows whom– as everyone thinks I’m from New York City–I was expected to know. I pretended that I did. Everybody knows everybody, so I felt a little awkward at intermission and at the reception afterward, but everyone’s calling me a genius was some compensation. The success of the show was so great that hunger and exhaustion–relief-- came upon me like a tidal wave afterward, and I did not go down and party in the Village, as I meant to do, but staggered back to my brick spike and slept, and woke this morning about 3 hours later than my custom. Everyone is of the opinion that piece should go to Broadway–two blocks away. I am of that opinion too. It is a good play and a great production, and all we need now is those wild gods who preside over luck to be on our side. Will the right person see it? Bruce whispered to me last night that if I knew the right people I should get them to come, which indicated to me that though everyone assumes these wish-granting magicians to exist, nobody knows exactly who they are. I will do what I always do– which is, everything I know how to do, then pray like mad for the rest.

Friday, May 16, 2008

New York, cont.

May 16, 2008

Brisk rain. I’d saved room in my luggage by not bringing rain gear, and this is the day of reckoning.

Yesterday’s daylight hours were rather a waste, ruined by invasion by the outerworld. BUT, evening was different, and if it had to be one hemisphere of gray and one of gold, I’d rather it be the way it was.

The opening of Edward the King was splendid last night. It made a geometric leap from the premiere, and though I suppose it could have been better, it lies not within my compass to imagine it. We had a full house. I had to scrunch up under the tech window in order to have a place to sit. I didn’t mind. The music, which had been confusing (I guess that’s the word) the night before was clear and right and at some moments quite beautiful. Gaveston’s sense of drama causes him to hold lines many MANY beats longer than I would, but I focused on that because everything was so wonderful, so nearly (and in some cases, quite) perfect. My Isabella and my Edward are boyfriend and girlfriend, and I say they must be the most prodigally gifted couple in this city. Was introduced to old stars of old Broadway shows whom– as everyone thinks I’m from New York City–I was expected to know. I pretended that I did. Everybody knows everybody, so I felt a little awkward at intermission and at the reception afterward, but everyone’s calling me a genius was some compensation. The success of the show was so great that hunger and exhaustion–relief-- came upon me like a tidal wave afterward, and I did not go down and party in the Village, as I meant to do, but staggered back to my brick spike and slept, and woke this morning about 3 hours later than my custom. Everyone is of the opinion that piece should go to Broadway–two blocks away. I am of that opinion too. It is a good play and a great production, and all we need now is those wild gods who preside over luck to be on our side. Will the right person see it? Bruce whispered to me last night that if I knew the right people I should get them to come, which indicated to me that though everyone assumes these wish-granting magicians to exist, nobody knows exactly who they are. I will do what I always do– which is, everything I know how to do, then pray like mad for the rest.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New York 3

May 15, 2008

Overcast dawn. People talk about how big everything is in New York, but it would also be possible to talk about how small the actual living space is. I watch workers hauling immense loads into tiny fright elevators, people turning on dimes in their own apartments. The Comfort Inn where I’m staying is a narrow slab twenty stories high with room for only four rooms on each floor.

Tremendous walking yesterday. I hiked up to West 64th and Lincoln Center in order to find Owen’s mother at her photo cart, but she was not there. NYU’s commencement ceremony filled the courtyard with purple. I lounged at Columbus Circle, thinking how wonderful it was to be in New York City lounging in the sun on Columbus Circle waiting to see your own play in the evening. Bought a cat painting from a cart vendor. I do like the look of New Yorkers, the language of their bodies, the private selves revealed on the streets because of the lack of private space elsewhere, for the reason already mentioned. I went to MOMA, where a few of the works were impressive and most weren’t. Much hanging of mirrors and ejecting of mist in ways that made interesting patterns in harsh, focused light. One corridor with hard yellow light shows you what you would look like if you were in black and white. I like going to MOMA because I’ve a membership card and they whisk me past the door and the impressive lines. Wrote a poem in the café while eating, essentially, a dish of leaves. Watched workers with their shirts off cavorting–it was lunchtime after all–on the elaborate roofs of 53rd Street.

I’ve almost stopped looking for Susan. There was never a good chance that I’d run into her on the street, but I still looked. Now she’d be an old lady and I would look right past her, maybe.

Dozed some, had very odd tuna at a restaurant down the street, showered and went to the theater. Bruce looked right past me in the elevator. I was out of context. Everyone–especially Sidney–kept warning me that it was a preview, essentially a dress rehearsal, as they’d never done a run-through with tech. All that considered, it was very well indeed. The decision to use British accents dismayed me a little, partially because I didn’t think Brian’s thick Cockney was finding its way into the ear. But, he was getting laughs, and all the accents settled into refined East Coast American before the night was over. The set is gorgeous, elaborate where it needs to be, cold and austere where it needs to be. It’s a little massive, and the men-in-black can be seen grunting and straining onstage trying to move it, but that may be part of its charm. The sound effects were too loud and the actors too soft, but I trust they heard that themselves. The lines that were dropped might have added ten minutes to the play, but that is, God willing, something only a playwright would hear. So, bla bla bla from a guy who never imagined as a kid that his work would be produced in New York City. Well, he did actually, but–. Cell phones went off twice during the first act. The second time the offending party decided to pretend it wasn’t his, and the ring cycle went to its bitter and dialog-annihilating end. Perhaps others were not as infuriated by it as I, though Bruce was spinning in the next seat, glaring into the room as though to set the offender afire with his X-ray eyes. Some of the performance, dress rehearsal or not, was stellar. Megan was absolutely on, all fire and hidden evil, with that supple and expressive voice of hers. JoAnne as the bishop had grown the most since last year. She was every bit as perverse as the role demands, and her interpretation added a Tudor bottom that was exactly what was needed. Patrick was perfect. Chad was clearly in a rehearsal trying new things, and that was well. All was well, and the show could go as it was, though I expect opening night will be that many times more remarkable.

Praise was high and universal– at least universal among those who spoke to me at all, though one man couldn’t find his way around the fact that a Medieval king should be using cell phones and computers. "It’s set in modern London," says I. "But, this sort of thing could never happen nowadays," says he. I allowed as how it could not. One man who had seen a couple of the Edward II’s which seemed to be in fashion this season said, "You’re way better than that Marlowe. I mean, what’s with him? And he’s supposed to be a big deal, isn’t he?" I said, "Yes he is."

I was sad that no one invited me with them to party after the performance. Perhaps I should have invited myself, or perhaps everyone went home to lick such wounds as they might have imagined they had. I was in the mood to be garrulous and bubbly, but that will have to keep till opening night, tonight. I needed beer. I almost never need beer. I wandered downtown and hit a couple of mustang bars–Mustang Harry, Mustang Sally–and an Irish bar I forget the name of, where I met Roberto, a Brazilian sent here by his father to learn English. Whoever was teaching him should give the money back. But it was all right; he expressed himself well enough to carry on a discourse about the relative merits of Brittney Spears and Whitney Houston. He thought he was in an Italian bar, a mistake which seemed to center on his inability to tell orange (in the many Irish flags hanging from the wall) and red (in the Italian flag) unless it was pointed out to him. The shamrocks and the pots of gold on the mirrors meant nothing to him. He assumed I was Irish–how else would I know all that?–and I let him. I showed him the program for Edward, and what he seized on was that it was a gay event, and instantly he invited me to his place, and I might have gone, except that it was on Long Island, which he pronounced with the hard "g" of Long Islanders. There was a guess-the-age contest in the bar, led by the gorgeous bartended, and my age was guessed at 37. The light was very flattering. Nevertheless, I walked back up 7th Avenue valuing that as the triumph of the night.

But tonight belongs to Edward. People assume it is going to Broadway and ask me when it will open there. I assume no such thing, and cringe, lest the jealous gods be listening. I have some of the best actors in New York. The idea that Edward might take them somewhere they want to go is sweet to me.

New York 2

May 14, 2008

I can see the Times Building, the McGraw-Hill Building, and that crazy nursery building-block building with the scimitar of light on its side from my window, as well as the activities in apartments stories below. Unlike London, where there is just the hum of city life, or Dublin, where there is the human voice, New York is full of honking horns. It is not, considered abstractly, altogether unpleasant. The action of Port Authority fills the middle distance. Ten stories below, ailanthus shoulders its way up from the concrete courtyards behind three-storey tenements, which seem anomalous amid the behemoths all around.

Hillary wins West Virginia and stays in the race.

Enough buzz on the internet media about Edward to keep me content. The items seldom mention the playwright, but as long as they mention the play, I am content.

Reading Brideshead Revisited until anything is open and I can hit the town.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New York 1

May 13, 2008

Comfort Inn, Times Square, 10th floor. Blessedly uneventful flight and arrival. The weather is perfect, or maybe just a shade cooler than perfect. I walked the three blocks to the theater to stare at the outside, as it was hinted that I shouldn’t come in just yet. Jack Batman entered the door as I watched, me an anonymous guy in a gray pullover on the far side of the street. I regret a little that I am so comfortable in New York now; some of the old frisson is gone, some of the old spice of strangeness, even danger. It’s like going on a picnic in a place where you used to go by night and dig for treasure.

I ate, as I always seem to do, at the Tic Toc diner, then made my way to the Joyce to see the Momix suite Passion. I thought it was beautiful and exhilarating. The bodies were extraordinary, and the dances are made so show off the extraordinariness of the bodies. I’m looking for the word to describe MOMIX. I want to say "surreal," but sometimes it’s moving and tender, too, and I don’t think of those as part of surrealism. Everything, even the funny parts, balances on the brink of agony, and the bodies are most beautiful and the dances most profound when agony is mingled in. I remember Ann’s comment that "they always do the same kind of thing." I suppose that’s true. They’ve done the same kind of thing the two times I’ve seen them, but I am still thrilled by it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 12, 2008

Stormy morning. The furnace kicked ion. I ran to look at the garden, but there are 30 degrees between the furnace kicking on and freezing, and all is well, if chill.

Sick to my stomach, partially in dread of what is happening in Atlanta to my father, partially in anticipation of what might happen in New York. It is a sensation I don’t like very much.
Sidney phoned to say that I might not want to come to the rehearsal Tuesday, as it is a cue-to-cue. The tone of the call was rather preparing-me-for-the-worst, though I wasn’t too frightened, as the cast was pretty good last year even with the scripts in their hands. Unless there’s some tech or set disaster, I don’t see how things can be too bad if they just get out the lines. MC phones to say he has a ticket for opening night.

Stephen Kurtz, Principal of Exeter during my year, has died. So far as I could tell, he was a man in whom there was no shadow.
May 11, 2008

Gentle morning rain. I will not have to water the garden. I will not have to worry about the water getting too hot for the fish in the water gardens.

Pentecost, and here I sit in my flame-red shirt. The bishop preached this morning, upon one of those Japanese soldiers who went on fighting World War II twenty years after it was over. I followed sort of vaguely, until he said, "The war is over. Come home." Then I understood. I have been fighting and skirmishing and bleeding from ambushes, whereas God has been calling the whole time, "The war is over. Come home." Or, perhaps, the war hadn’t been over, but it is now. The immensity of it approached me like a great wave, which I had to stifle because I was in a public place. But soon, in a moment of calm, I will let it flow around me; I will savor what it means no longer to be at war.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May 10, 2008

Chancellor Ponder captained a dignified and reasonably swift Commencement this morning. The speaker was energetic, though amid all her sistering and go-girl-ing she might have acknowledged that some men were in the graduating class too. Had extended occasion to notice how beautiful the UNCA campus looks, the foresightful ways in which the plantings were established and are just now coming into fullness-- like the Quad, where horizontal crabapple trees are balanced by the abrupt vertical spires of the metasequoias, and all as a frame for blue Pisgah floating in the distance.

Went to O's graduation party. His parents had rented a cabin out in Candler, at Pisgah’s feet, where we lounged and drank and crunched the crudites. O’s mother sells photographs from a cart across from Lincoln Center. That seems hugely romantic to me. O is a remarkable young man. I hope we keep in touch. His rich baritone contrasts with his skinny body, which again contrasts with the voluptuous fullness of his eyes. When he speaks, you look around the room for the substantial, thoughtful elder whose voice it should be.

Came home and plucked dead fish from the water gardens (enough remain in each to gobble the larvae) and dug, and planted gloriosa daisy and some daisy-like thing which promises to be scarlet.
May 9, 2008

A bit of rain brings the double peonies into bloom, and as near as my little yard can produce of a blanket of poppies. The peony by the garage is exquisite, single, pale pink with a golden center. Paul gives me a cutting of his grandmother’s Christmas cactus, a very old variety, he says. More midnight iris. The yard roses bud and the terrace roses burst into pink bloom.

DJ and I meet Micah and his girlfriend at the Usual. The girlfriend tells us about her recent stay in Malawi. I am fascinated. Micah and I start chatting about French Existentialists, and she is angry, telling us to stop "talking shop." I wondered how that was different from her discourse on Malawi, either more or less "talking shop." They arrived at the Senior Gala after I left, and they said the talk was of me. The girlfriend said, "You Are Loved!" as if, after seeing me, it were hardly to be believed. I’d not been feeling good about myself in recent days, and that news was excellent, but it might have been more excellent if I had known it, or even suspected it, without having to be told. It’s an old story. One hungers for the things everyone else seems to imagine one has in abundance.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May 7, 2008

Blazing day sometimes, sometimes overcast as though it were about to rain.

Cleaned out the storage space I’d been renting from R at the studio. Since everything is secured elsewhere, it’s clear I didn’t really need the space, and was paying him $100 a month to enhance our friendship. That is an old habit which I have to break, if nothing else, out of sheer futility.

Senior Gala at Barley’s. I promised David V that I would be rich right at the time he was getting his landscape architecture degree, so he could make me a Japanese garden.

Jason gives me a sculpture called "Seahorse Habitat." It looks like a formation you’d find beside an undersea volcano, and I love it inordinately.

Night purple irises.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May 6, 2008

D T, A K, M A, D K all say they will be with me in New York. This is excellent, if bewildering, news. I am not used to not being on my own wild lone upon Manhattan. This will be far sweeter.

Chat with M at the studio. He wanted to show me the new blacksmithing machine he made, a colossus whose use seems to be to bang things into different shapes. Today he was banging cylinders into flattened cylinders. To do this you have to heat them till they’re red hot. He almost vaporized me, as I was standing right at the point where the flames shoot out of the oven where he heats them. Blacksmithing is way too scary a job for me. He talked until I excused myself away about how the women who now run the Fiver District Arts organization talk too much. I like him. He’s tall and skinny and smelly and not at all afraid of the smashing and burning things that would have me jumping incessantly. I was filled with envy when he told me how much he makes banging red hot metal in his room that used to be a meat locker. His wife makes tiny things, like baby shoes, and his descriptions of the tiny objects was loving and amazed as only those of a pounder-of-red-hot-iron could be.

Iris speckled white and purple. The blue geraniums.
May 5, 2008

One magenta primrose and one scarlet poppy come to bloom.

A suspicion led me to look back in my grade books, and, yes, James Karpinos the boy who fell from the waterfall and whom David V grieved for, was my student in Humanities when he was a freshman. I remember his pervading sweetness of nature. What I did not remember, and what the grade book told me, that he had a 50 on his first exam and ended up with an A-. Sweetness and valor.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4, 2008

Three purple globes of allium come to bloom. The dusty pink heirloom rose that I forget the name of reaches for the sky, blooms is old fashioned, wonderfully durable blooms.

Went downtown to see Immediate Theatre Project’s The Only Worse Thing You Could Have Told Me, a series of vignettes about gay life, superbly performed by Francis Kelley. People are always finding excellent actors I had never seen before. If you had seen Kelley on the street you would not have imagined him an actor, and even his acting was not very "actorly," which is to say, his transformation from one person to another occurred without artifice, without reminders to any part of his body to stay in character. Either very adept or very well rehearsed, or both.
Downtown was filled with kids on their way to Prom, stylish or gawky, full of hope, grownups looking for parking places, guiding their dates up Walnut Street toward the Civic Center. Prayed that all would lie down in their beds–even if not until tonight–safe. In my day girls wouldn’t wear anything that betrayed that their figure was less than perfect. Not so now, when really big girls hobble up the street in sheaths–I think you call them-- which reveal every bulge and roll. I suppose not caring is healthy.

Please, God, stop me from using sentences which begin with "In my day–"

Good day in the studio yesterday.

Report on Edward from New York-- where doors get locked during rehearsal , elevators get shut down, assistant directors and interns do not show up, costumes get lost. You think that stuff only afflicts YOU, but there it is in the big time as well.

Jason phones that the University Library has bought his portrait of me– good news for him, and perhaps for me, though it does make me a little squeamish. Perhaps after a year or two people will forget whose the image was. It’s a fine painting and deserves such a public space, and I do look rather benevolent, if also quite strange.
May 2, 2008

Someone left a May Day gift on my back porch, a paper funnel full of candy, and a blueberry bush. The blueberry is problematic, for one needs two for them to come to any good, and I don’t know where to put them anyway. I perceive the gift as a sort of test: "See what I have given you. What can you make of it?" I believe my neighbors J and H, brilliant former students, are to thank, but I will not thank them. They wanted a mystery, and they shall have it.

Wrote early. Lost the whole morning’s work to a computer snafu.

Maude stepped on my foot this morning, and cut the second toe on my left foot. There was no blood, but instead the transparent fluid that my swollen legs are always full of. It has been seeping all day, wetting my shoe as I was gardening, leaving a sticky pool when the foot sits still on the floor for a while. It is kind of appalling, but also kind of cool– a stigmata, of sorts. I can’t imagine that it could go anything but good, draining the leg almost to normal for a while.

Titanic effort left the front garden free of grass and turf and weeds, pristine, if a little rough and brown from the uprooted herbage left dying in the open spaces. Hard as it was, I had thought it was impossible, so in the scheme of things it was a easier than I imagined. Lilies and iris were hidden in the thickets, and I uncovered them. A whole bank of beebalm emerged from behind the barricades of grass. One rose I had to dig up and clear the intertwined roots of grass away from its roots by hand, strand by strand. I replanted it. We’ll see if the surgery was a success. Napped gigantically, because of hard labor and no meals. Now it is almost time for the real sleep, and I am ready for it.
May 1, 2008

The sudden release of duties at the end of a semester should foster a release of creative energies as well, and I guess it has, though it has been a splash rather than a stream, so scattered and unfocused that I have not set myself down to any one project, no matter how much I want to. I am a child in a room full of toys. David and Jonathan is the most focused and specific at this point, so perhaps I should turn my energies there. The garden is almost too alluring, for the work done shows at the end of the day, and, no matter how minute, is done.

Weeding around the golden tree peony, I almost swoon from the perfume, which may be my favorite in the world. Feminine, oddly cool, sharp and sweet at once.

A bottle of liqueur dives off the top of the refrigerator and smashes the florescent desk lamp that I found in my closet in the house on Harvard Place in Syracuse. I thought as I gathered the pieces for the trash that it had been with me thirty three years. I tend to animate all objects; I hope they will do the same for me one day.
April 30, 2008

Last evening ended with Amanda’s recital at All Souls, an eclectic mix of songs, mostly in French. She has a talent for characterization that must be great on the stage, a natural actress. R entered at the exact last phrase of the last song, thundered his way to the front, laughed loudly.

Abundant day today. Rose and went to the Y, where I worked out long and nobly. Returned home and plunged into the garden, weeding, weeding, digging out a new planting space from the grass, into which I set lupine and Jacob’s ladder.

In the evening I went, at DV’s invitation, to the honors banquet at a bistro in South Asheville. His friend James fell from a waterfall over the weekend, and the demands of mourning have drained him considerably. He talked of his family in ways that made me envious, the closeness, the completeness–even the exclusivity–of the familial circle– I have nothing to compare it to. No way even fully to imagine it.

Father was denied his driver’s license not because he’s 89, but because they were "not happy" with his ID. He had no birth certificate and has never had a passport. That it is asinine needs hardly to be said, the notion that he could be a threat to anybody, or that a person who has been carrying a driver’s license for 70 years should suddenly be faced with new, bewildering, and absurd requirements. Nothing will be better than for everything George W Bush has done, desired, caused, touched, or considered to be sunk into the earth. In an effort to find proof of identity, they began to search old records. Father’s father’s name was Oliver Percy, but some memory of a noble name made him tell the researchers it was Oliver Wendell, some echo of Oliver Wendell Holmes. No wonder they found nothing.

Voted early downtown. The voting officials were welcoming and jolly almost to the point of hysteria.