Friday, February 27, 2009

February 26, 2009

Late night. Have just returned from the theater, seeing Stoppard’s Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at NC Stage. When I read it as an undergraduate, I thought it was the greatest play since Shakespeare. I no longer think that, but nostalgia for that time of awe enriched my reactions tonight. Willy and Hans could hardly have been better or more complementary as the leads. Michael as the seer/hack Player was in his element fully. It was a flawless production, though now I think that the script is a little too brainy to be fully engaging to the emotions. That we care at all about their fate has something to do with the innate likablity of the actors paying R and G. I saw it once (NC Shakespeare? I forget) when Rosenkrantz was not likable (and a woman), and the production was a flat failure. It seemed five hours long. Tonight flew. I sat beside Andie MacDowell, and expended some energy pretending not to recognize her and to think she was just another society matron out with her girlfriends for an evening of theater. She was excited over a new, and quite beautiful, scarf.

The pain in my toe is back. For some reason, I found myself googling “gout,” and I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. I wish not EVERY article had mentioned that it is one of the most excruciating pains available to man. But I guess I already knew that.

Dress of Titus last night. . . well, I honestly don’t know. Compared to NC Stage’s R&GAD it is a kitten-tangled skein of wool, but beyond that? It was one of those times when I could not put myself in the audience’s place, could not quite imagine the experience they were getting out of it. J’s directorial ideas are good, but frustrated sometimes not only by personnel but by the severe limitations of the space, which is pretty much unusable for a play with more than two characters. Our dozen or so of widely divergent levels of ability jostle backstage and cobble and improvise, and it is not always a useful idea to do more with less. A hundred bucks might have made the difference between absurd props and, at least, unnoticeable ones. JS is most of the play, and I think he can be magnificent, but he is pretty much confined to a single pitch of clamorous lamentation. Does that lend a grand consistency, or is it tedious? Are the performances I find iffy really crowd pleasers? Is what I think of as sometimes thoughtless bombast coming across the footlights as high drama? I hope so. It is possible. I really have no idea. Stephanie’s Moor shuns all temptations to excess and stays, I think, exactly on course. But, in total, what do people think? What will they when we open for real tomorrow night? I have no idea . . . . I have enjoyed being with the people involved. I have enjoyed seeing a play I didn't know well from the inside. Putting on a full-scale play in that space may just be too hard. We did it with Crown of Shadows, but there were no precedents to honor, no expectations to better.
February 25, 2009

Waiting to go to opening night, which will, perforce, be our actual dress, last night being a midnight-kissing disaster. I go tonight with no anticipation. I go hoping all my be turned around by the actual delight of the actual performance. I do not expect it, but I am open to it.

Arrived home at 12:15 AM after rehearsal last night, tore myself awake in time to meet Tom at Starbucks by 7. Was, of course, stood up.
February 24, 2009

First dress at the Arts Center last night. Let me say for myself that none of the gaping lacunae were my fault. All in all, a weary, weary evening.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 23, 2009

Glittering thin snow falling in full sun, a frozen sun-shower. It looks happy, if a natural phenomenon can be happy, dancing sideways as much as falling to the earth, the sun lighting every angle.

I ran today at the Y twice as far as I’ve ever run, at least since coming to Asheville. My time was slightly improved, too. Taking a lesson from Thursday, I wore thick socks and used the cross-trainer, where you don’t step at all, but rather push. Stretched diligently afterwards. I mention this, and have mentioned it several times, because I can’t explain it. Putting myself into a sort of trance, or at least thinking determinedly about other things, improves cardio performance in a way that I would not have credited if told me by somebody else. Today I ran lines from Titus, and when I was finished, and looked down at the read-out, I had soared past 2 miles, with a minute and a half taken off my usual tortoisian mile pace. I ran on, stopping at last not because I was tired or bored, but because I was simply out of available time. I didn’t even need a minute to stand against the wall, shaking. I’m not sure the technique would translate to the road, where you need to be alert. I’m not sure even what the technique is. Taking my mind off this task improves it; taking my mind off other tasks (singing or acting) demolishes them, so for a man looking for some consistent message from the universe, it can be perplexing. Which is the Zen mind?

Watched the Oscars, in which I was not really that interested, at Travis and Kevin’s, down the street, with most of the cast of Titus and assorted others. It was loud and fun and funny. I was happy, and I didn’t come home until it was over, when it was bitter cold and the stars hard. Walked past my old car, now Nathan’s, and whispered to its hood, godspeed.
February 22, 2009

Dream before morning: I went to Harry Johnston for a massage. When I entered his house it was empty, most of the furniture removed. A strange couple appeared, nervous and diffident. When I asked where Harry was, they smiled uncomfortably at me, as though unsure whether I should be told. Harry once said to me, “You deflect friendship,” one of the comments made to me which I have turned over most obsessively in my mind
February 21, 2009

Spent yesterday as an invalid. Did go to rehearsal, but I must have looked like something left over after a massacre. The pain is not gone, but I think I can get a shoe on, or step on a pinecone without screaming. Maybe a limp will engender sympathy at the recital this afternoon.

Drove Trinity to Waynesville for the Proof rehearsal, the first time we’ve had for an extended conversation. She told me about who was in love with whom the last few years in the theater scene. I am never on those lists. Hobbled out into the auditorium so I could watch A in action.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February 20, 2009

Seven hours since I last wrote. There was little sleeping in those seven hours. Some strain or tear or deep bruise sustained by my big toe either at the Y or at rehearsal began to throb as I was going to bed, and when my shoe was off became agony, piercing and sickening, and no less for being one of those agonies that have very little to show for themselves, no visible wound, little if any swelling. No position was endurable, and no sleep possible. To make it worse, the exertions of the day, and my stupid failure to stretch, encouraged muscle spasms even more painful, if shorter lived. It took me minutes to find the right way to lie down in the bed. I couldn’t move the toe to experimental positions because my sides or thighs would light up in paralyzing cramps. When I finally had to get out of bed, at about 4, I had to dance around on one foot trying to defeat a leg cramp without letting my toe touch the floor. Soaked it in Epsom salts. I don’t know whether it did the toe any good, but a blast of heat rose through my body, bringing on sweat and the strangest tingling sensation. I thought I was going to faint. The sweat made me think I was having a stroke– though when I talked it sounded OK to me-- so I hobbled over for aspirin. I got maybe two hours of sleep as the toe eased a little and I turned the radio on for distraction. When I finally rose for the morning, the cats–or poor Jocasta–had vomited more than on any given morning, and I staggered around cleaning it up, afraid of spasms, afraid of touching my toe to anything, running out of paper towels before the job was done. Did get socks on, but a shoe sent me screaming. I’m supposed to meet Jason in and hour, and go to rehearsal in 5 hours. Oddly, the toe does feel a little better when it’s walked on than when it’s not, but a shoe is another matter. That has been my last seven hours.

The stock market is lower than it’s been in memory, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t go lower.

Denise S works for the Stanford investment billionaire who is now under arrest for fraud. All his assets are frozen, and Denise has to take calls from investors whose money is not available, without being able to tell them when it will be, if ever. Her old bosses phone the clients she took along with her and hiss, ”If you’d stayed with us, you’d still have your money.”
February 19, 2009

Frigid night, just minutes until midnight.

First rehearsals of Titus in the performance space were no worse than they needed to be. Most things will improve. Some things, some performances, will not. This cannot be helped.I think it may be a social success, though, a feather in the cap of those who saw it through. J controls the stage like Lear, often magnificent, often wrong. Acting opposite him is like acting opposite an alcoholic. No minute is your own, but every minute is spent supporting him. I think he was probably born to play Titus, and those who come to see him will see–in addition to whatever else–a culmination.

Paul reminds me that I have a recital to sing Saturday afternoon, Purcell and Vaughn-Williams. In the midst of this week, it is largely another burden, another thing that has to be done, and I am sad, for it should be joyful and anticipated. Tonight I left a rehearsal of Bach and went to a rehearsal of Shakespeare. I know what a gift, what an honor that is. I need to be more selective, though, so gift and honor shine out of the catastrophe of overflowing schedules.

The acid is still conquered. It has been five days.

Damaged my toe on the treadmill. It’s good to have running injuries again.

Finished the revision of The Last Poet.
February 18, 2009

Rain. I was always puzzled why the back walk flooded. Today I notice–after living here for 20 years–that the downspout from the cottage empties right upon it. I study the situation, rain pouring around me, and decide that we can endure the occasional lake as we have done in the past. Take the path of least resistence– as the rain does.

First Proof read-through in Waynesville last night. It’s a good cast. I think it will be an easy production. Proof is not a masterpiece, but it does take matters of the intellect seriously, and is to be cherished for that. Robert’s delusional proof on the wintery porch is the best thing in it, and that is very good indeed.

Stephen says that D read beautifully for Hamlet, but that everyone told him he was a loose cannon and would never be solid on his lines. I told D about the auditions, because I knew that to play Hamlet was the defining dream of his life. I think he might have made it this time without the gossip– though the gossip is genuine information so far as anybody can tell from actual experience. The badness of D’s Henry V is legendary at Montford Park. Still. . . he has been Hamlet in his own mind for so long. Maybe that would have made a difference. Some people cannot catch a break.
Adam will be playing Hamlet, and deserves and needs to. He is catching a swarm of breaks, and though every one is righteous, I can’t help comparing him to D, who must have started out with the same gleaming promise.

Replied to the invitation from Exeter that I will be attending Charlie Pratt’s retirement gala.

Sunday was a milestone, health-wise. I was in such intense pain, debilitating and distracting, that I ended the day by swearing that I would never again suffer from reflux. I mean, swearing with clenched fists at the throne of the gods. I bought soy milk. I replaced meals with that. I ate abstemiously, and coated my stomach with soy milk if I thought there was the least fear of reaction. I was careful and determined. I relied on both experience and intuition to tell me what foods to pursue and avoid. I have not put one anti-acid in my mouth since Sunday night, nor needed to, which is a bigger deal if one considers I sometimes needed a handful a day. A handful of barbecue potato chips first thing in the morning was a mistake, but we got through that . . .

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 15, 2009

Bad day. Acid storm in the thorax. I thought it might have eaten a hole through at last, but through the day it calmed, and I was very, very careful. White grapes, soy milk, clam chowder (New England) head the list I must make now of what can be eaten with fountaining acid up into my throat and, I think even my sinuses. The affliction focused my attention so whatever else might have happened today is background noise. In Cantaria we’re singing that Whitman song, the love song that I can’t get through if I think what it is about. Love is a vast lake in the forest of self, now. If in my travels I see it gleaming in the moonlight I veer a course away, not knowing if it can do me more harm, waste more of my time than it has, but thinking that it might. Yet someday I plan a night as the nights that were. not knowing whether bodies or ghosts will be there to meet me.

And when I thought how my friend, my lover,
was coming, then I was happy;
Each breath tasted sweeter—and
all that day my food nourished me
more—And the beautiful day passed well,
And the next came with equal joy—And with
the next, at evening, came my friend,
And that night, while all was still, I heard the
waters roll slowly continually up the shores
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and
sands, as directed to me, whispering,
to congratulate me,—For the friend I
love lay sleeping by my side,
In the stillness his face was inclined towards me, while the moon's clear beams
shone, And his arm lay lightly over my
breast—And that night I was happy.

In a dream before morning, some horrible thing was lurking in the dark. I was paralyzed with fear, the way you are in dreams. It would neither come forward and finish me off, nor go away. Finally I said–surprising even myself– sing. I could tell in the darkness it was confused. But then it began to sing.

I have turned to my own way, hating all delays and reversals, thinking my anger justified if things do not go as I think they must to make the vision come to fullness. Defiant feet on their own little path, winding and winding through the wilderness. I don’t know how to get back. I don’t know which way home is. Sometimes I think I should just sit down, silently, and wait to be found.
February 14, 2009

Of course one checks the mailbox to see if someone might have sent one a Valentine card. . . .

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009

It was Syracuse’s turn on Google Earth– my sprawling old house at the edge of Thornden Park, the streets I walked to my job on Westcott Street, the streets I walked to school, the Church of the Saviour on James Street downtown. This puts a whole new light on the concept of lost time. All last night I thought of those places and those times, evoked by the visible presence, so that for a while they were not lost at all. All things do look strange from above, though, and one must be very careful to recognize anything. It’s a wonder that the angels ever find us.

Small, invasive spikes of duty rip into my supposed day off. Disappointment over denial of my leave was an issue of justice at first, but I begin to realize it will be an issue of sheer survival, getting from day to day for another year without blowing up in somebody’s face.

Linda sends a photo of dad holding a duckling maybe a month before he died. That the duck should be alive now and he not. . . it’s a strange notion. He allowed us to have chickens and ducks that we got as babies at Easter, and then took to the zoo in burlap sacks when winter approached.

Lunch with Kermit. We laughed at everybody and everything.

Leland’s spaghetti supper fundraiser for Cantaria looked like a success. I sang badly, but it was called a “no-talent talent show,” so I was merely complying with the dictates of the moment. Donated $6000 of paintings to the silent auction. I drew in my breath, but I’d had them long enough. It was time for them to move on.
February 11, 2009

DJ joined Travis and Greg and Nathan and me after rehearsal last night. I think he was overwhelmed by the flood of theater gossip, as indeed was I. Those youths know twice as much about theater as I. But I have never been very conversational about the things I loved best to do, thinking that discussing and doing were somehow inimical. I have said in the past that I am all practice and no theory, and though I probably said it to fend off unwanted confabulation, it is nearly true.

Cast as Robert the crazy mathematician in Proof and as Hamlet’s ghost in Hamlet, though Hamlet is so far off who knows how that will turn out. Was it Stephen Daedalus who assumed Shakespeare played Hamlet’s ghost? I will think of that, happily, the whole time. Working with Adam and Trinity again, all sweetly incestuous. Adam and Cody and Trinity are the best natural actors I know. Cody, receptive and a little undiscriminating, could be ruined by bad instruction, but I think the other two are indestructible. Adam’s variety and inventiveness are remarkable; Trinity makes everything she says sound intelligent and evocative. Cody engages the passions. I should have included Darren in this group, though what he does is to turn everything into Darren, which, in everything I’ve seen him in, has been plenty.

The gods of theater have struck G with the inspiration to do Saturninus as a comic figure, which may save the show.

Loaded Google Earth, and have spent an hour zooming in on places known to me. My father’s patio and the fish pond are visible in the view of Foxboro Ave. A white car is parked in the drive. Individual trees are visible in Goodyear Heights Metropolitan Park. My sweet gum blots out the cottage in the photo of my home, and the photo was taken when the pear still filled up the front yard.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 9, 2009

Fog this morning, made brilliant by the rising sun. Venus with a halo tonight.

Excellent playwriting class, full of daring and enthusiasm.

M had a sort of seizure in the parking lot. I thought he was playing at something at first, and wasn’t sure whether it was a serious event or some sort of theater. Missed rehearsal waiting for the EMTs to come, and when they came M was so befuddled he couldn’t answer their questions. Except for being able to dial 911, I felt helpless.

Intense workout at the Y. Counter-intuitively, exhausting myself in that way in the morning keeps me wide awake the rest of the day. The intensity, or at least the duration, of the workout was increased because P was there, and I think P thinks we’re quarreling, and I was determined not to leave until she got a feel for my indifference to the whole question. Or, I made everything up and she didn’t care whether I was there or not . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 8, 2009

Watched the moon rise over the HART parking lot, tremendous, covering, it seemed, half the sky.

J is beginning to interpret his lines with real power. In such a case, one is happy to give him what he needs.
What an odd play Titus is. Shakespeare is already at his full rhetorical powers, though that fact that ideas possessing an equality of brilliance in the mind might not so on the actual stage seems not yet to have struck him. Lavinia carrying the hand in her mouth is sublime as an idea, but it is horrific and offensive (yet devoid of pathos) embodied on stage. Shooting the arrows at the gods is a superb conception, but clownish and awkward in any possible staging. Nor, after the murder of Mutius, is it possible to have sympathy for the main character. Titus seems to have no emotion but the most abstract of them all, a sense of honor. The only people whom one can possibly not hate are Marcus, because he is such a naive and perpetually astonished old fool, and Aaron, because his wickedness is absurd and therefore delicious. Perhaps the play’s pleasure is meant to be varying levels of satisfaction at seeing characters whom one hates with varying levels of vehemence get their comeuppance one by one. Almost every line says “this is the greatest poet who ever wrote.” Almost every line says, “this boy has no idea what he’s doing.” But, he learned.

I was in Waynesville to audition for Proof and, as it turned out, Hamlet. I would not have gone had Adam not asked me to. The possibility of being on stage with him allowed me to accept the idea of another month or so of driving west with the sun in my eyes, driving home at night amid the semi’s and construction barriers, thinking the sad thoughts one things alone on the highway at night.

There was a smell on the road as if someone had hit a skunk with a truck load of horseradish.
February 7, 2009

This is the hour of morning when light strikes my aquarium just so, and the fish float in blazes of gold and platinum and rainbow. I imagine God’s aquaria, great walls of glass set in the perpetual sunlight, where the fish go like stars and wheeling suns.
February 5, 2009

Brutal cold lingers. Rehearsal was sparse last night, because of the weather. Jason’s patience is greater than mine by an infinite degree.

Sparse snow, falling against a brick wall and a cold stand of yews.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 4, 2009

Snowy, and deadly cold. Schools are closed today, and I get to do what I was going to do anyway, but with that sense of urgency that comes with deadlines. Emma Kirby sings Elizabethan songs on the CD.

Worked harder at cardio yesterday than I had the day before, with less after-effect– except a few monumental muscle spasms late in the evening. They felt of righteousness, though.

I need to mention my playwrights’ workshop Monday night. It was one of those occasions when one remembers why one went into teaching. The kids were bright, eager, playful, happy, insightful, generous and rigorous at once. I told them such classes bring light into my life; I only hope they believed me. What would I have done had I taught at a place imbued by cynicism, as I understand some are?
The hardest cases in a playwriting class are those who think they have succeeded if they have presented the point they intended at first to present. The starting point is the point you depart from, nothing more. The Way is not known at the first step, but only at the last.

Printed out 24 pages of tax forms.
February 2, 2009

Groundhog would see a shadow a mile long.

Overdid at the Y, feel that airy, shaky feeling that I have not experienced in a long time. It is a good feeling. Hope I can stay awake through the day.

A woman is writing a book about Blue Pond and, finding it mentioned in A Childhood in the Milky Way, has been asking me about it. It’s odd how much I remember about a place I only 2 or 3 times saw up close (though nearly every day from a distance), mostly from my mother’s recollection. It had apparently been meant as a playground for Goodyear employees. In my life it was never anything but a great bog, of mysteriously ill-repute, though you could see ducks and herons in the shadow of the rubber plant smokestacks.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 1, 2009

Walked under the brilliant stars to Kenn and Michele’s for a gumbo dinner party last night. Met new people, heard about one woman’s house that she is restyling, and another woman’s Chinese daughter, and what she had to go through to adopt her. The tall pathologist was comparing what really happens in his work to CSI. Kenn’s art show at Mars Hill opens in a week, featuring one of my poems rendered into braille and made into– well, something. I’ll have to see it to understand exactly what he was describing. The great grin of the moon was high when I left and low in the west when I walked back.

Hundreds burned, many fatally, when a gas lorry tipped in Kenya. The poor villagers rushed out to scoop up free spilled gas, and then it all exploded. I can hardly stand the thought of it, people imagining they may be getting a little break, a little windfall from the tight fist . . . .
January 31, 2009

Dominick Trifero, my high school trig teacher, has died. He was a dedicated teacher and, as one reads in the obituary and as one knew then, an outstanding citizen. He was the faculty adviser of Future Teachers of America. I won a small scholarship through FTA, and I was meant to send my first college semester’s registration in to claim the money. When Mr. Trifero sent the check he wrote, “An impressive line-up, but couldn’t there be one math class?”

LaNeita e-mails that Treva Browning’s little brother, Doug, is also dead. I remember him as scrappy and slight and hairy, a very male version of his sister. Shy, also, but I forget the reason. I have carried his image like a snapshot all these years, to be pulled out at news of his death.

Painted in the just-bearable cold of the studio with Jason and his student Merlin, a big red-haired oaf of a kid. Merlin is autistic–fairly high functioning, though startling from time to time–and through Jason’s good offices has developed a reputation as an artist. His imagination is intricate, heroic. and funnier than you’d expect from a person in that situation. Now he is doing assemblages in which he paints over a ground made of the comic pages of newspapers. Merlin paints what he wants to paint, then Jason surrounds identifiable images with thick strokes of magic marker, which makes all the difference in compositions which might look like chaos unless the eye were guided in some way. I finished my first painting in the new space, nothing spectacular on its own. Painted it on paper to remind myself of the perishability of all.

Long-with-love-acquainted Eyes

January 30, 2009

Convinced, today, that Sidney’s “Astrophil and Stella” is the greatest of sonnet sequences. I keep repeating to myself snippets of–

With how sad steps, O Moone, thou climbst the skies!
How silently, and with how wanne a face!
What, may it be that euen in heau'nly place
That busie archer his sharpe arrowes tries?
Sure, if that long-with-loue-acquainted eyes
Can iudge of loue, thou feel'st a louers case,
I reade it in thy lookes: thy languist grace,
To me that feele the like, thy state discries.
Then, eu'n of fellowship, O Moone, tell me,
Is constant loue deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they aboue loue to be lou'd, and yet
Those louers scorn whom that loue doth possesse?
Do they call vertue there vngratefulnesse?

– ravished each time I come to “long-with-love-acquainted-eyes.”

Tea with Jason, then a session of painting at the almost-warm-enough studio. He’ll be good for me. I think my painting’s done when it expresses the meaning I meant it to express. He thinks it’s done when it is a work of art.
January 29, 2009

Professional leaves are cancelled for next year–at least mine is. Sadness is unavoidable, but this time it is harder to cry “unfair” as everybody–apparently– is in the same boat.