Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day. I thank God for a dim, gray day, which means I may be able to keep out of the garden.

A great rainbow burned in the east when the storms were over.

MM did me the unexpected honor of asking me to be an usher at his wedding.
May 24, 2009

West Side Story at Reynolds last night. The girls were excellent; the boys were young. Scully’s afterward, where women at a bachelorette party were drunk and happy and dressed deliberately in the worst bridesmaids’ dresses they could find in their closets.

I think of corners to cut so that I can spend more time in the studio. I have J to thank for this.
May 23, 2009

Great day yesterday, writing, painting (alone this time), finding a few corners in the garden to cram in a few more plants. Sold tickets at Montford, then watched Mike, Cody, and Darren perform The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged, during which I laughed out loud many times. For selling tickets, they placed us on the crest of a steep hill looking down into the glistening twilight foliage of Riverside Cemetery. I need never have moved from that spot.

One of my senior seminar students (she said enough that I knew who she was) gave me a blistering critique for the class. One tries to take those things in stride, but– What she said was both true and untrue, plausible and unfair, and I carried on a disembodied argument with her all day. I would have done all the things she wanted me to do if she had asked me to do them, had it crossed my mind that anyone would need for me to do them. I would have mother henned and overseen had I not thought that would infuriate them as it would infuriate me. I sat in my office with the door open, thinking that those who needed me would come, and those who did not would work in blissful sovereignty. That there needs to be schedules and requirements for help-seeking would not spontaneously cross my mind. I know that my flaw as a teacher, as a member of the university society, is that I do not turn over rocks to find trouble beneath them; I tend to under-instruct when it comes to assignments, having rejoiced in expressive freedom when I was an undergraduate myself. I tend to think that people will ask for what they need (many students in that class did), and I don’t go out of my way to provide what would have been an imposition to me. I understood her critique, but would never have understood those qualities of the class to be faults unless someone complained of them–in time to make correction. She was the only one to provide an interview, so I don’t know if the feeling was general. Can I even learn from this? I am committed to the way of self-motivation, and may not be willing at this point to depart from it. I’m not a good teacher for those who need to be led down the path. Ah, well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

May 21, 2009

Went to a new masseur yesterday, Norwegian Brett, who’d screwed wooden bars to his ceiling so he could hold on and walk on people’s backs. I agreed to this, and the result was wonderful, like getting a massage from the strongest man in the world. He felt the muscles of my back and said, “Yeah, you can take it.”

Heather’s Ireland: the Legend and the Dance came off pretty well, better than one expected. In terms of audience response it came off very well indeed. Adored blond Vincent in the band, a burly rough Irishman. Made me homesick. If I had a daughter, I might prefer for her to go to Irish dance class rather than ballet, for the whole high-strung, hierarchical ballerina tone was missing from the enterprise. If I had a son, too. The one little boy was self-composed and adept, his energy clearly different from the predominant energy in the room. Heather rightly made sure his masculinity was asserted in his costumes. I said, “Buddy, you have a whole harem.” He said “Yes sir” out of politeness, not having any idea what I’d just said. At curtain call there were fifty little girls looking out at the stage, one little boy looking intently at the mechanism which was lowering the curtain.

Excellent day, writing, gardening, painting with Jason. I muddy my colors by being too impatient and painting over before things are ready. We were warned that our neighbor Ursula was trouble, but she has come over to the studio repeatedly and is sweet and curious and serious about her art, and what the problem with her was supposed to have been we can’t tell. J said that he simplified his life by calling all of his friends except five and telling them not to get back in touch with him. I found this cold, but I suppose we all do it in less direct ways. How many of my friends will I never call again, and who will disappear from my life unmourned unless we collide by accident? I couldn’t avoid thinking, “When will I get the call?”

CL phoned to tell me about the new professional theater, Altamont Theater, that a couple is starting on Church Street. It will specialize in musicals. I did not say what I thought, which is that Asheville cannot sustain another full-scale arts organization, partially because I was wrong about both NC Stage and the Arts Center, which both have found a support base. CL says they are interested in The Loves of Mr. Lincoln.
May 20, 2009

When I returned from New York, the garden had burst into wilderness of roses and peonies. The voodoo lily lifts its weird spear amid the roses. The valerian holds white sprays into the shade of the back yard. The lupines are Disney castle turrets of pink and red and purple. It is within a year of exactly the way I want it. A sweetness drifts from it all I the morning and evening air.

Tech and dress for Heather’s Irish dance recital last afternoon and evening. I fluffed my way through the poems, but tonight will be better. The evening will be a strange mix of the inept and the wonderful. I’d never put on a show in the state it’s in, but I must remember the primary audience will be fathers and mothers, who won’t care. The musicians– Red Wellie– are good. and there are moments when the dancers almost carry it off. No lines are straight, and some of the little ones get distracted after ten seconds on stage, though that will be dear to all the parents in the audience. It’s funny to hear Heather shouting into the mic: “Now! Now! Go now!. . . Don’t look at the floor. The floor won’t help you. . . Crystal, stop doing that. It’s very distracting.” Despite their clear differences, Heather and Ann must be made of similar stuff, and it is stuff to be feared. Putting together a dance recital is tougher than anything I have been called upon to do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 17, 2009

Waiting for Godot last night was brilliant, and probably the bit of theater for which I came, the one that didn’t have the taint of product on it. I wish I’d seen Nathan Lane’s Estragon before I did my own. Four huge talents subordinated themselves to ensemble and to script, and the result was dazzling. . . . so dazzling that the superfluity of the second act was more apparent, but let that ride. Adam wanted autographs, so we lingered at the stage door. Nathan Lane and John Goodman were hustled to their limos by beefy bodyguards. John Glover and Bill Irwin stopped, signed autographs, got pictures taken, hobnobbed, then melted into the night on foot. May some spirit of good will bless them! After a vain search for the right bar, Steve and Adam and I ended the evening in a piano bar in the Edison. No seats were left but at the singer’s table, right in front of the piano, where one had to smile and nod and pretend one was in love with the old smoky bar standards.

I realize when I’m around people like Steve that, comparatively speaking, I have seen very little theater. In only a handful of cases can I compare one production of a play to another. My proportion of the crappy or the semi-crappy, the underground, the experimental, and student work is very high, but there’s not much occasion to chat about that. The ten other souls who saw some of these works dissolve into eternity and are found no more.

Morning stroll to Central Park in the almost-too-cold wind. It’s the date of the New York AIDS walk, and hundreds of people gathered with the names of their lost loved ones on their t-shirts. Went to Columbus Circle, bought a cappuccino for myself and a croissant for the birds. I fed them from my hands. It was the most joy I’ve had this weekend. A derelict who was watching said, “I wish somebody cared about me as much as you care about those birds.” I gave him $20. He bought coffee and a croissant, and crumbled the croissant for the birds, even as I had done.

Evening. S and A are gone, and I have had my meeting with the Foundation, and there are no shows, and I withdraw to my room a block from Times Square, feeling a little–lonely.
May 16, 2009

Breakfast with S and A, then along the 6th Ave. street fair, then off to MOMA, which I enjoyed more than I did the last couple of visits. Miro made the deepest impression. Bought toys. Schiller’s Mary Stuart in the afternoon– a great and majestic play, whose day was not today. My knee hurt, and it was too easy to foresee all before the end, so I left at intermission. Had lunch with two 13 year old girls and the mother of one of them, who had also left at intermission. The theater crowd is not attuned to plays like Mary Stuart as they are to, say, Jersey Boys, for it was a purgatory of paper rattling and candy unwrapping and random ringing of cell phones, about which a warning was apparently not sufficient. Maybe it’s just that when a play is miced to a fare-thee-well, all the rattling and wheezing is not heard. I have no complaint, though; somehow the day is turning out exactly the way I wanted it to.

New York, New York

May 15, 2009

My early trip to the airport was prophetic, as on the day I was actually scheduled, I ended up delayed seven hours in the wretched Charlotte airport. They blamed weather, though planes for New York were taking off all around us, and after a while members of the crew “expired” and had to be replaced, at least once by people who refused and themselves had to be replaced. US Air handled it very badly– essentially a series of deceits, as though their passengers were whining children–but the complaint personnel–whatever you call them–treated me with almost unbelievable graciousness and helpfulness. At about midnight I did at last arrive at the Paramount Hotel on W 46th, and inhabited my incredibly incommodious–though not unattractive–room. Still couldn’t go to sleep, but wandered out onto Times Square, and bubbled with joy at the sheer energy of the place, and my delight in being there.

Meeting with Bruce and Jack of Sunny Spot this morning. Quite astonishing. They have elaborate plans for presenting The Loves of Mr. Lincoln to producers, believing that it has a real chance. I might not have believed it–they being effusive and broadly enthusiastic–except they are offering real money and a contract, and the few things I managed to think of to ask, they agreed to. And they paid for breakfast.

Lunch and tour of the Met with Steve and Adam. It’s good to be there with others, whose interests lead you to places you would not go on your own. I had never looked very hard at either the armor or the musical instruments. Steve and I competed in telling Adam anecdotes about the art. Adam is someone I have never been–the effortlessly beloved.

Jersey Boys in the evening. Shows how far you can go on a concept and not much invention. The play is flimsy, largely unnecessary; the performances were superb, the music fun– like being a kid, like being a kid forever. The woman next to me sang along with all the songs. There is really nothing to it but the songs. Passed 33 Variations just as Jane Fonda was leaving the stage door. People stood twenty feet deep, but she emerged just where I was just when I was there, and gave me a big, tired smile. The irony is that of all the people waiting, I had probably been the one who cared least about seeing her. Maybe that isn’t an irony at all, but the way things work. Walked on in time to see Susan Sarandon getting into a limo, as cell phone flashes sparkled all around her. Walking to the August Wilson, I passed many theaters, each with a throng waiting to get in, the largest crowds, for the most part, at the silliest shows. People take theater seriously, at some times and in some places. It is a type of haj: you must go to New York and you must see a Broadway show, but for many it never filters into ordinary life.

Wanted to walk the streets all night. The spirit was willing . . . .
May 13, 2009

Steve the fish guy came and replanted the aquarium. It looks beautiful again, maybe more beautiful than before. I stared at it until th lights went off and the fish began to drift to sleep. Steve did this while I drove to the airport to fly to New York. When I got to the US Air desk, my reservation could not be found, until we discovered my flight is not until tomorrow. I looked at the reservation for a long time, unable to credit my own stupidity. But, it was one of those mistakes which was totally without consequence, other than a wasted drive to the airport, and a certain measure of embarrassment. Curiously, I have been happy all day that I did not go to New York, as if four days there were perfect and what my soul wanted, while five was a cause for sadness.

Black iris blooms beside peach-colored iris in the backyard, a striking and rather Chinese-looking arrangement. The south side of the yard is a wall of purple. Golden towers of yellow iris thrust up through the foliage. A creamy yellow rose rests on my dresser.

Abbott’s Dance is a finalist for production at Louisiana Tech.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 12, 2009

Brilliant summer day. I set aside all else I vowed to do, and gardened.

I made Titus, Maud, and Circe vow to live forever. They thought it was folly, but I told them I had my reasons.

Call from Bruce and Jack at Sunny Spot productions. They want to take a stab at producing The Loves of Mr. Lincoln in New York. I told them it was fine with me. A first reading will be at the Barrow Theater on June 5. They said they’ve been looking at hundreds of scripts for this year’s pared-down recession Gay Fest, but there was nothing remotely as good. Hope it’s true. We’ll plunge forward as though it is. They were setting up auditions with one hand while holding the phone with the other.

Took this computer in for servicing. I’d never done that before. Their talk of “wiping everything clean” made me nervous, but I signed the contract, and before I’d quite got in the door the phone was ringing; it was Sassy’s computers telling me there had been a power outtage an all my data were lost. I first assumed it was a practical joke, but it wasn’t. I plodded about in the garden, wondering why I wasn’t more furious than I was, or furious at all, for that matter. When I came in there was a message saying they had gotten everything back. Glad I didn’t waste the rage.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10, 2009

Jocasta being gone means that I no longer have to include among my morning rituals looking for the cat vomit. But that’s the end of the good. She was the gentlest and most mysterious of all my little brood.

J and DJ and I went to see A’s dance concert last. Billy the Kid was pretty much a mess, but Ann’s original works, one to Matt Richmond’s music and one to Vivaldi, were wonderful. A is the most accomplished artist in Asheville, at least one of a very select number, but she does keep making the same mistakes, year after year, the kind of mistakes anyone can see but the one who makes them. What keep her from ultimate greatness. . . what keeps her in Asheville when I think her name was written on the stars . . is that she would never solicit, nor ever accept, the kind of response that would polish away these few habitual flaws. I wonder whom she has ever trusted? She is the best in the town, but she could have been among the best in the world. The inventive genius is there; the corrective genius is not.

Bob Brunk tells the story of, just this afternoon, selling a 18th century Chinese vase for $1,230,000.00. He’d listed it as a fine reproduction, when some expert from Hong Kong knew that it was quite real. The kicker is that the owner of the piece was essentially homeless, living in her car, raiding an old closet of her parents’ things when she needed a buck. There’s someone whose life has changed.

Ave atque vale

May 9, 2009

Jocasta couldn’t climb to her place on my thigh last night. In the morning I let her out into the yard, so that if she had some favorite places she could revisit them. She tried, but in the end sat on a stone and quivered. I took a few photos, in which she is all green eyes, the one part of her still ablaze. I lifted her up and held her for a long time. Only then did she stop howling. Then I took her to the vet and they eased her into sleep. Jocasta has been my faithful companion for nineteen years. I buried her and planted mallow over her. Of course now I hide in the house until I can stop sobbing. I have wondered before, and it still amazes me, how those who have lost a child can go on, or why they wish to.

GD’s birthday celebration at Frankie’s Bones last night.

Went to the new Star Trek movie (which was sensational) with a clutch of friends. Came home and counted the cats, wondering if maybe things had healed themselves in the last hours. No. Jocasta the cat had been scrambling to meet me at the door for 1/3 of my life.

I found the first mention of her in my journals:

October 3, 1990

Drove to the Buncombe County Animal Shelter and got a dark calico kitten whom I have named Jocasta. She is black and chestnut flecked with gold. Far from the prettiest animal there, I chose her because when I came to the cage she greeted me with the most joy. She has spent her time patrolling the house and getting underfoot. Now she is gravely stalking a volume of Ovid.
May 7, 2009

One pale iris was toppled by the rain. I cut it and brought it inside, and now the whole house is filled with its delicate, fresh fragrance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 6, 2009

Royal purple iris outside my study window. The rain comes to nourish my flowers, and I bless it on its way down.

I’ve been attacking the wild front terrace with pruning shears and a saw blade, and interesting things emerge from the dying heap of junk vines: roses on the verge of bloom, two volunteer dogwoods, the nest of the towhees. The Mr. Lincolns bloom in the front garden.

Monday night my playwrights put on their show at the Flood Gallery, and it was remarkable for the pleasure t gave to the people who attended. I was very proud of them, and hatching plots to keep them with me, though we know all such effort are futile. Three UNCA faculty attended, the first time, I think, in eighteen productions. It is a new, bright age. I promised to party with them afterwards, but I was too tired almost to close the car door.

Wrote Bloom’s essay on Shelley and the Sublime between last night and this morning.

Penguin Rep in Stony Point, New York is interested in Saint Patrick’s Well. The Irish Rep in New York wrote me a darling rejection of The Ouzel and the Seal. . . almost as encouraging as an acceptance. Almost.

Jocasta is not sick, but she is a rag of fur wrapped around a spine. She cries piteously, and in a voice unlike her own, when it has been too long since she cuddled in my lap. She sleeps, and stirs only when I lie down, when she crawls to her accustomed place on my thigh.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May 4, 2009

Sent The Falls of the Wyona off to an agent who expressed interest in it, actually, on the day dad died. Hope she has not forgotten. Hope it has not changed past recognition. Or that it has–

The execrable anniversary. . .
May 3, 2009

Read for WordFest on May Day. I’m not sure I was very spectacular. I didn’t feel spectacular.

Student Stephanie N and her big friend came to clean my gutters. She wanted the job, and I insisted she bring somebody to hold the ladder, and she brought Goliath, which was well. Goliath’s name is Andy. Andy mentioned that he is engaged. I said, “To Stephanie?”
“No,” he said, “but it would be all right if I were.”
If I had seen them together on my roof without the preliminaries, I would have thought them very good friends indeed. The rain came not only as I was finishing my planting, but as they were finishing the gutters.

I whined that if I had a few days unencumbered, I could work wonders. Well, I had Friday, Saturday, and today (having been a truant from church) for the most part unencumbered, and I finished planting my garden (hours before the drenching spring rains); I finished the Whitman essay for Harold Bloom’s series on the Sublime, and I “finished”– preliminary to revisions and re-visions– The Falls of the Wyona. I think that is something to be proud of. I think that is almost miraculous. Moreover, I was joyful every second. It wasn’t as a task, a labor. . . it was youth returned, the golden age as I lived it. Now, if I fall in love tonight, all will be a sphere of gold. Yes, thinking of what I have to do yet tonight, that is extremely unlikely, but not impossible. The magic weekend is not over.