Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27, 2009

Oddly dark morning. Rumble of the washer several rooms away. I won’t go there until it’s finished, then to see if there is another flood or if all that time and money actually fixed anything.

The scarlet crown imperial is in bloom.

Cantaria sang well, so people said, for the opening of the GLBTQ conference at UNCA. By the time the evening ended, I could do nothing but hoist the cocktail to my lips.

Reading Mary Gordon’s In the Company of Women. It’s a splendidly written book, though I hate everybody in it. Every one of them is an idolater and a hypocrite, though it is perhaps true that one cannot be an unconscious hypocrite, in which case they are fatally deceived about the nature of spirituality, and of spirit. On the most basic level, the Spirit never requires judgment, or even opinion, on the actions of another.
March 26, 2009

We always note this as the day of mother’s death. Too many anniversaries to remember now.

House still in turmoil. In order more easily to bash holes in the walls, Steve the Plumber empties out the closets and piles everything on the bedroom floor. He acknowledges his destruction, fixes it without comment. It must be frustrating. B, missing his check, wants to come and clean around the mess.

Dead-stopped by howling on all sides.
March 25, 2009

Two thousand dollars spent on home repairs. Gaping holes knocked in walls and floors. The washer guy ripped the one-day-old $900 dryer vent rebuild out of the wall while he was snaking the washer drain. Did he not notice? Did he hope I didn’t notice? We have that confrontation when he comes for his check today.

Days of rolling catastrophes, most of them minor, adding up.

Jocasta vomits her way through the days, deaf and skinny, looking happy and content, nevertheless.
March 24, 2009

The idea that the various plumbers and fix-it men might be out of my hair yesterday got me through a very long day. Turns out–naturally–that NOTHING was done, one job proving too costly and complicated to do in one day, and for the other the guys just didn’t bother to come. The plumber is facing original equipment on the house–older than I am– which has denatured, disintegrated, which was fixed badly long ago or hasn’t been up to code in thirty years. I do not envy his time rolling around in the crawl space. The electric plug fix-it guys are milking a simple job into the second week.
March 23, 2009

East mottled purple and azure, dark versions of those colors, before dawn.

Arrange for the plumber to fix the sink and the drain to the washer; wait while A-1 Appliances finishes re-venting the dryer (a task, typically, akin to reconstruction of the house) and installing new plugs, a project begun last week and mysteriously abandoned; go to the colonoscopy workshop on Wednesday; prepare for a lecture in Statesville on a book I’ve never read for Sunday; prepare for and attend four different types of rehearsals; sing a concert; do a reading at the GLBTQ conference; lecture on Persia and Alexander today; read through a class of research papers, three weeks’ of student plays, nineteen senior projects, about 10 Arch Brown scripts, mostly delayed by illness. Try to finish the Sublimity essays. This is the week alone; this does not include class or regular things, and I know I have left plenty out. Have to get out of this, have to shake things off. It cannot go on. Ten things must be eliminated for every one taken on, and this for a very long time.

Tried to call dad last night. Wakened by the electronic voice on the other end reminding me that the line had been disconnected.

Sang for Becky’s funeral. Much sadness, audible sobbing. Standing room only.

Cantaria sang for the Men’s Supper club at the very pink Victorian B&B on Biltmore. We sang well enough, given the circumstances, but the event was horrifying to me for reasons I am still figuring out. Too much energy was going into admiring the woodwork.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 21, 2009

The Equinox has come and gone, and changes came in its wake. My plot of bloodroot floats like a little ghost a few inches above earth in the twilight. Two crown imperials shoot up in the front yard, and if one of them is gold and the other is scarlet, all shall be perfection. I found strange flowers in the yard, slender, delicate gold. I wondered about them until I realized they were the pistol and stamens of crocus, from which the petals had fallen away.

TD and I finally manage to hook up at Starbuck’s this AM, after three mishaps. The melancholy tale of his screen writing career continues to unfold. I understand in five seconds how his collaborator is taking advantage of him, but T is slow to be convinced. He takes their fifteen years of (fruitless) history as cause for loyalty, whereas I take it as a sign of mendacity. I suppose we all see other’s problems clearer than our own. I take The Beautiful Johanna to C to see if he wants to design a set, and in one minute he has a beautiful conception, the likes of which I would never have thought of on my own. I wander downtown in the cold, bright light, half-awake, in a pleasant way, thick and slow, as though moving through crystal. I spend the afternoon at the university, empty except for me, trying to shovel out from under the strata of unfinished work. My students writing beautiful essays that nobody will see but them and me. This is why I am a Platonist, that I might assume all that effort comes to something, and is not lost, and comes back as music in some festival yet to be enjoyed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 18, 2009

Quick tour of the yard. The shafts and cotyledons pushing up from the wet earth give me joy– especially since I don’t remember what all of them are. I must have dropped daffodil bulbs wherever I walked. One of the things I wanted was a self-sustaining patch of bloodroot, and now I have it on the little terrace outside my kitchen window, shaded by the sweet gum and a shapely black spruce. Bought spring flowers from a catalog, whose saleslady pronounced "quince" and Kween-se. I bought two just to hear her say it twice.
March 17, 2009

Blessed Saint Patrick.

Relapse yesterday, or rather a new wave of brought on by pills recommended by Dr G as “system cleansers,” which turned out to be a sort of self-inflicted dysentery. Staggered through the day feverish and achy. I suppose the pills were doing their work, and gallons of toxins not reached by the antibiotics were released into the system, and subsequently flushed. In any case, this is the first morning in the last 14 when I have felt really well. Rose early, after all that sleeping. The half moon was pale gold in the south. Birds were singing in the darkness across the wet land.
March 15, 2009

Becky died this morning.

Bishop Gene Robinson spoke at both services this morning. He is small, jolly, confiding, humorous, and doesn’t have the look about him of one at the center of the great schism of modern times. Of course I have been on his side the whole time, but I did wonder how he made up his mind how much trouble was too much trouble, how he decided to persevere rather than to bow gracefully out when so much seemed to hang in the balance. He preached on Christ and the moneychangers, and made clear that he thought you were failing the world if you didn’t irritate the world, at least a little bit. He is a true image of valor. He also may be the most famous person I have met in a long time. A number of people remarked that he and I resemble one another physically.

Willy Repolay was there with his truly miraculously tiny baby in a fuzzy apparatus against his chest: Fatherhood in an allegory.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March 14, 2009

Piercing chill, wet, wintery. Becky Stallings has been in a terrible accident on Patton Avenue and is not expected to live. Her guide dog, also injured, as been put down. Yet, well done thou good and faithful servant.

Cocktails (which for me was sparkling water) with Jason last night. His offer of friendship is so inclusive, energetic, straightforward, that what I consider to be my own fairly direct manner looks suspicious and circuitous in comparison. Like the Irish, he intends what he says and is best taken at his word. I have a better friend than I know now how to accept. I pray for the grace to grow into him.

I didn’t intend to spend this afternoon with him and Merlin, but it ended up that way, in the clammy studio with Merlin painting one of his superheroes and supplying the audio (Biff! Bam!) while he painted. Patiently Jason is teaching me the “secrets” of the old Masters– which as he says are not secrets at all but fairly well documented and reproducible. Underpaint, glaze, scrape, glaze, repaint, glaze– it goes against my own furious pace and haphazard planning–which I am pleased to call “inspiration”-- but the results are pleasing and I will go with it until I lose patience or it becomes my way as well as his.

Writing on The Sublime for Harold Bloom. Memorizing Proof.

In response to economic stress, Asheville Community Theater has decided to do nothing but comedies and musicals. I wish there were some way to punish choices like that, but surely they wouldn’t be made if they didn’t make, or if someone didn’t think they made, good, it temporary, financial sense. I doubt they’re losing sleep knowing I will not darken their door while this obtains. Does a cultural institution which resigns its duty to its community deserve to endure? I suppose you could make the argument that if it compromises today and survives, it may do some good in the future. But the argument can also be made that there are no ends but means, and to be lost on the path means that the goal too is inevitably lost. Why shouldn’t a theater do nothing but light comedies and musicals? Why shouldn’t a meal be nothing but desserts? When you build a house, why shouldn’t it be all gingerbread and decoration, without any of those nasty and difficult foundations? In addition to all that, the idea that Legally Blond or Cats is more “entertaining” that Proof or Doubt or Hamlet is reflexive, under-examined and not supported by experience. The entertainment is more passive–rather like a force feeding–but I don’t see how it is greater. Watching a DVD and playing a round of tennis are both, potentially, “fun,” both “entertaining,” but to choose the DVD as “better” is not really a preference, but a form of resignation. I tell the Powers, “If I had a million dollars I could make it all come out right.” So far the Powers have not responded.
March 13, 2009

Steve the fish guy brought angelfish yesterday. They give a new dimension to the tank, vast silver and tiger-stripe clouds floating behind the little tetras I’m used to. They are capable of disappearing amid my little clump of waterweeds. I have looked for them for five minutes before one of them turned and flashed from the dark corner.

Today would be dad’s 90th birthday.

Cocktails and supper last night in support of NC Stage. All was convivial, and I met new people that I am glad to have met. Struck up a rapport with my silver fox host, and we vowed to get together and see more of each other; that’s the sort of thing I always mean and others seldom do, so I never know exactly how to proceed. One used to be a simple and passive consumer of the arts–a ticket and a show--but now there’s more responsibility. One feels that one is everybody’s father and must somehow provide. Everyone is out of money. One believes that the money which once was everywhere must be somewhere, but the truth is that, like the conjuring of a sorcerer, much of it never was at all.
March 11, 2009

Ran my mile + early this morning. Tired, but not THAT tired. Warblers throng the limbs overhanging Edwin Place. Big flock of big turkeys blocking traffic on Kimberly.

Trip to Waynesville yesterday to rehearse Proof, S is the dream director; he never directs unless you do it wrong.

Monday, March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009

Dream before morning. I’m staying in the hills above a charming Irish seaside down. As I watch through the window, a great tidal wave comes up and swallows the town, recedes, leaving part of it and dragging part of it away. I’m staying with an extended, aristocratic family, and the reaction of everybody is something of a thrill. We decide to wait until morning so we can go down and pick among the ruins, discover what the sea has done to familiar places. Various threads of family soap opera spin around us as we wait till morning. It was all, in its way, quite beautiful. I suppose we all knew the town was conjured and no real souls were there to be lost.

Far from over, the day is developing into the first good one in a while. Did some work at the computer, then went to the Y where I did a cautious but unstinting weight set. Accepted Jason’s invitation to join him at the studio. We painted together for a while. I finished my piece (completely reworking the plan) while he made progress visible to him on his. Loki the greyhound was with us. But when I was too tired to paint more, I sat down in his easy chair and read while he painted– “hanging out,” as I have often been blamed for not doing. We talked sometimes about Manet or gouache; sometimes there was silence. It was a sweet and full afternoon, in the blinding light of first spring. I will not concede this aloud to anyone, but my irk at not getting to New York is less than it might have been. There is enough to do here.
March 8, 2009

Odd, ugly dream before morning. DJ and I had been disappointed in attending some arts event underground, and when we emerged he said he wanted to have lunch, and wanted to have it in an exceptionally ugly (and remote) hole, which was like a concrete box carved out of acres of dirty concrete. He was furious with me and I didn’t know why. It was a cafeteria, and he got his food and ran to a distant table and sat down beside Amy Doyle. When I tried to join them, he knocked my juice over, staining my clothes purple, then lay down on the bench so I couldn’t share it. After a string of furious accusations, he said that we both suffered from “malevolent diphorism.”

Woke this morning in time to combat an onslaught of gout. Aspirin did the trick (though a second dose was necessary moments ago), but I thought how this has not been an especially good week, health-wise. Going to two services at church was doable, but not a good idea. A couple of times I thought I was going to pass out, and walking to the car I was shaky and bleary, and convinced it had been a bad choice. Besides, the altos stepped on my solo entrance. I needed the sermon. Perhaps that was why there was enough strength. It was about people who put themselves at the center of the universe and then blame God for not confirming the address.

Canceling the New York trip I wondered if I’d regret it, if Monday morning I’d be chipper and ready to have gone. The answer is “no.” I can’t imagine navigating an airport, much less the rest of it.

J blames me for making Titus crumble around his head. I have no defense. I would be thinking the same thing if the tables were reversed.

Daffodils out full. Not a cloud or host, though I must have planted that many.

Watched the DVD of the old movie Teahouse of the August Moon. I was lying on my side on the couch the whole time, so I remember it sort of sideways. Glenn Ford was an unexpectedly able and attractive comedian. Besides that, I was stuck on qualities of the script. The trailer insisted that the play was the most watched comedy of all time, and thought I doubted that, I do remember when Teahouse was fairly standard at dinner theaters and high schools, and was one of the scripts we read while choosing a senior play at Ellet. It was adeptly written and, in an official and saw-it-coming-a-mile-ago way, funny. It dealt with stereotypes, but the stereotypes were not mean. The American officers were a clueless as the natives were picturesque. It was very Plautian, with the wily servant and the bent course of love and all, but what bothered me was the clank of expectation-fulfilling machinery, the smug, tidy, inconsequential squareness of the Well Made Play, which I have always hated without considering very precisely why. Ford soars because he possesses (or successfully affects) innocence of the strings he’s pulling. Brando is mortifying because he is so very knowing–besides being got up as an Okinawan servant boy. That big body, the face that carries almost any emotion better than cunning, should have militated against such casting.

Watched a bit of Reflections in a Golden Eye, but found its pathological circumspection to be as sickening as my staph. One decade’s raw exposed nerve is another’s too-dainty shellac job. One wishes to enter certain dated works of art and scream, “Oh, just do what you want to do. Ten years from now it’ll be in TV comedies.”
March 7, 2009

Pulmonaria, purple and white crocus, Lenten rose, daffodils a day or two off. The day was hot, actually, though my house is a little refrigerator, and I had to walk outside to know it.

Progress of the disease disappointingly gradual. Today I can scarcely stay awake, though the continents of scarlet have receded. Have eaten, though certain choices–surprisingly enough hummus– proved instantly nauseating. Jason and Denise arrived with provision. Jason last night scolded me roundly for not calling on my friends in times like these, and he was right. They were looking at my aquarium, and Jason said “Oops, there’s a dead one at the bottom.” Denise said “No, it’s still breathing. Don’t say things like that!” Turns out when I looked myself, it was dead. I wondered what the set of assumptions in that conversation had been. It was as though Denise thought it impolite to interfere in a death in the family. Or maybe the deceased piscine seemed a secret best kept close.

Friday, March 6, 2009

March 6, 2009

Everything since Tuesday afternoon obliterated by phlebitis. It has been an especially bad attack–not the worst–with nuances I don’t remember from other times. One such nuance is projectile vomiting, which I had not experienced before, and which I had thought a figure of speech. Convulsion-like chills, then hours of delirium and pain. One thing I thought would never happen to me was to miss a performance, but I missed Wednesday’s Titus, and I don’t see how, at this point, I could endure tonight’s. It was a strange thing. There was actually no choice. I was powerless. I could not be there. David Mycoff did the part on book, and word was it was fine. Walked to the mailbox yesterday. Driving to the doctor’s office today. I’m bored, but too achy and weak to do anything that’s not boring. When it becomes such a monumental task is when I realize how much time I spend cleaning up after cats. Jocasta, actually, who spews forth at both ends habitually, but does not have the wit to die, at her advanced cat-age. Have cancelled the New York trip. Even if I am well by Monday, it is not going to do me good to whirl around in the subways for hours on end. I lose hundreds of dollars in theater tickets. Trying to get MA to come get them (he too is going to New York) but I don’t think he believes I’m serious when I say they’re free. I even know what caused this: a torn toenail which I neglected, trusting in my habitual vitality. Our hubris is frequently over-penalized.
March 2, 2009

Slush in the birdbaths. A cuneiform of birdtracks cross-hatched the porch this morning. I threw sunflower seeds on the ground for the gallant towhee pair, handsome male and handsome female, who stayed with me all this winter. Classes were canceled, so I have had two days given me for leisure by the weather. Went to the Y, which was all but empty, and one moved from machine to machine at sweaty leisure. I bought the giant bag of peanut M&M’s, and thought to pace myself by selecting out only the orange ones before moving on to the other colors. Amazingly, the orange ones have proven inexhaustible, and though they appeared by no means to take up more than their share of the mass, every time I return for a candy, there is another orange to be had. Perhaps I chose the Inexhaustible Bag, and so long as I search for the one remaining orange, there will never be an end.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March 1, 2009

Part of the stage was in imminent danger of collapse last night, so intermission was extended so it could be reinforced–with a tire jack, I think. Tony spent the evening reminding people that he had spotted the problem before curtain and sounded the alarum, but was unheeded. Lavinia burst into tears because her father was in the audience. Three wan laughs are predictable in the show: when Aaron, the Moor, says “More or less,” when Marcus says, “but I will use the axe,” and when Lavinia puts the severed hand into her mouth. I think the last one Shakespeare did not foresee. The most uncomfortable moment in theater? In the running, anyway.

Changing Scenes Theater near Seattle is doing a public reading of Before the Holy Temple, deciding, I think, whether to chose it for a main stage.

Evening: blinding wall of snow, wet and heavy. Tara phoned to say that Titus has been cancelled for the night. Cantaria, too, cancelled, and so I have an unexpected evening to myself.

Spoke to the adult class at the Hendersonville UC of C this morning, about the Inaugural celebration, and the new administration and the arts. I was under-prepared, but they seemed to like me, and only the only person who was a Republican was upset, said my host The intro note alleged that I had caused a stir with my poem, but I forgot to ask what stir it was. To cause a stir with a poem is an ambition not to be downplayed.

DJ saw Titus last night and said it was quite horrible. He is the only person I’ve spoken to about it who is not, to some degree, involved with MPP. I feared that, but the infectious enthusiasm of those around me encouraged me to imagine it was better than judgment suggested. I have enjoyed the fellowship; let it go at that.

The house glitters with candles. Have just dared to turn the computer back on after a series of electrical events. The lights went out three or four times. I watched out the front window as a transformer exploded in green fire, and all went black, coming on again out by house, and finally the giant red letters of the Ingles sign in the distance, which I never notice unless they’re gone. Some phenomenon of light, maybe refraction from downtown, makes the snow in every direction unmistakably pink. It is a beautiful and violent night.
February 28, 2009

The voices I heard last night, or in emails this morning, said they liked Titus, and I will take their perceptions as the truth. I know that working beside JS is working beside someone possessed. Modulation might improve the performance, but for sheer force and stamina, I doubt that anyone is his rival.
February 27, 2009

Rainy, clement morning. Dream before waking that I was trying to convince somebody that I’d had an intimate relationship with Ben Affleck. My memories of it were very vivid; I don’t know about his. To prove it, we went looking for him. The dream ended in a crowded mall, in some corner of which Affleck lived. He was repeating the directions to his place over the loudspeaker, but there was so much noise I couldn’t quite get them. I think Andie MacDowell pushed me into celebrity mode.

Long ago somebody made a quilt out of yellow and cream flower-printed cloth, with yellow tufts of yarn here and there for decoration. My mother? My mother when she was a girl? I wanted it to be recorded somewhere that I used that quilt from the time I found it in my father’s house until it finally fell to pieces this morning.