Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 29, 2010

The dark tonight outside my windows is different from the dark all nights since I moved here. The two rows of ragged hemlocks, one on the north side of the property and one on the south, are gone. They were the property’s most evident feature. The absence will take some getting used to. Even today, which was cloudy and blustery, the a flood of unwonted light was obvious. The arborists’ boss, Evan, had to leave to go to the funeral of a childhood friend. We talked about that for a minute. Evan said nobody he knew had died before; he had not only lost a friend, but faced death for the first time. Kelly and Zach are not sure they like it, though I did ask before I cut. It certainly allows us to mind each other’s business more than before. Caroline loves it. She said she was always afraid someone was hiding in the brushy tangle near her parking space, an issue which never crossed my mind. The openness reveals more fully the ugliness of my little house (which, like a father with the plainness of his offspring, I overlook). Also, it makes evident that the house is set at an angle on the property, or the property is itself a trapezoid. A bushy holly was cut free from its strangling companions and faces new life in the open. I have square yards of new planting space, and new light, and a few feet are already filled by the yellow rhododendron I got into the ground just before the rains. The intention to render this place as a cabin in the woods, completely successful when I moved here, is now undone. I almost cancelled the action because Evan said he had to cut phone cables in order to work. That sort of thing always feels disastrous to me, but I took a breath and work went ahead. Turns out that the cables were dead and brought power to nothing in anybody’s house. One of the tree men said, “They probably never bothered to fish them out of all that mess.” The ferns are flattened from having limbs dragged across them, and a downspout is down for the same reason, but all in all, I am glad it was done, even if all that was achieved was change.
November 28, 2010

Pale blue morning, crows calling.

A Congressman from Illinois, John Shimkus, who is being considered for the chairmanship Energy and Commerce, is confident that Global Warming is not a peril because the bible says that God will never again destroy the world by flood. An educator rolls his eyes and wishes that the lost might truly be lost instead of finding their way into government.

Combative dreams. In one, Chinese people –what’s with the Chinese people all of a sudden?– downtown own a museum that I’m taking my students to. I pay the entry fees, and then the owner of the museum tries to slap on a charge for parking. I point out that we didn’t park, but walked, and I refuse to pay. We argue for a long stretch of dream time about whether he has the right to charge for services he did not provide. He says they have to be paid for whether we use them or not, so we should use them. I sort of don’t totally disagree with that, but I set my jaw and the argument goes on.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 27, 2010

Pale blue morning, crows calling.

Adam included me on his list of visitations over the holidays, and that is a blessing. Drinks at Jack of the Wood. Someone across the room wouldn’t have to know he was talking about his life in the theater and as a student at UNG to see that he was very happy, very fulfilled, very much ready for what rolled before him on the horizon of time. Being with him is like drinking champagne, like holding your hands over a campfire. There are some who are simply blessed on all sides by all the gods. You’d think that knowing them would induce envy, but it doesn’t. Instead it makes you say in your heart, “This, at least, they got right.”

Then apres-Thanksgiving at Jack and Leland’s, where my pork roast with root vegetables was a hit the second time.
November 26, 2010

Now that I don’t have a Thanksgiving dinner to worry about, I can’t get J’s phone call back to its proper place at the back of my mind. I fear for The Loves of Mr. Lincoln. London is not right for it. It’s like having a dog show in Kabul. What on earth are people meant to think? Tomorrow or the next day are not right. The wave is cresting and another will not come. I did make mistakes. I sold the option for far too little for it to make any difference to them whether they acted on it or not. Relative to my long-standing resolution not to be a pain in the ass, it took me a year to inquire, let alone nag or insist. The rotten spot of that resolution is that it leads people to ignore you in favor of people who do nag and inquire, until it has taken too long and you emerge from a cloud of frustration as a shrieking harpy. It confuses everyone, who probably thought you didn’t care. The part that really must be hilarious to the lords of destiny is that B sweet-talked Me into investing in THEIR show. I can’t rage against that with perfect indignation because Pink Carpet was amusing and heartfelt. I don't like the feeling of powerlessness. I could hand them the Best Play Ever Written, and they might even agree that it was, but all they’d have to do is shrug and say, “the time’s not right” and I am annihilated.

Melancholy, poetical e-mails from Stee. I usually don’t know what to say. Sometimes when he says he loves me, THAT seems to be the source of the melancholy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving. Began it with a hike around Beaver Lake at dawn. The two best things I saw was a kingfisher and a man in a scull, rowing back and forth across the water at what I thought was a tremendous pace. Kyle and Thomas and I were the remnants of the company, but we ate well and happily. Grandma’s gravy boat saw action for the first time, maybe, in 40 years. The dishwasher sings a merry mechanical song in the kitchen. Leftovers for Kyle and Thomas and the crows and the neighbors’ dogs and such creatures as may be prowling this clement night.

I concentrate so much on what I want that I don’t think of what I’m thankful for. Everything, of course. Everything that I have and do not long for, plus the energy with which to long.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 24, 2010

Achy and bent from yesterday’s phlebitis attack. Whoever doubted the disease is brought on by stress should take the last couple of days as witness. Not a light one, but not a devastating one either, and I think I can address today’s tasks. No fever dreams this time, but in the regular dream before waking, I had invented a blanket that if elderly Chinese immigrants lay under it, it would not only restore their youth but provide them proper documentation for citizenship.

Illusion–perhaps the illusion–that the moon had been full many nights in a row. Varying silver on the backyard, slashed by the blue shadows of the trees.

Hauled three huge boxes full of clothes to Goodwill, and my closets are still what I would call overstuffed.

Cantaria sang for a gathering to honor the AIDS quilt at Pack Place. AIDS had receded a little in the public consciousness. I needed those handsome faces and appalling dates on the quilt to remind me of the lingering, wasteful tragedy.

Had to stay home from rehearsal last night watching Glee DVDs. The upside of that is that I received two wonderful phone calls from voices I had missed– Adam and Keith– who had thought of ways to get us reconnected. Sweet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 22, 2010

Days of progress in my writing typically alternate with days when I despair of its coming to anything in the world. This is the worst of all hazards, the worst of all dangers for an artist. Dodging bullets in your study, writing with berries and your own blood on roofing tile is a picnic in comparison. In the East they say you should not be attached to outcomes, but I am so attached, and, in this life, there is no way around it.

Lost half my Thanksgiving diners. . . after I bought the food, of course.

Call from JB on the progress of The Loves of Mr. Lincoln. He talked of everything else first, in his native enthusiasm, but also to imply how much they have on their plates, and how my little serving is pushed to the side. Their time is taken up with the Pink Carpet in London, with The Scottsboro Boys in New York and with a “new comedy” he didn’t tell me the name of, which will feature “real stars” and open on Broadway soon. The plan now is to do my play in London, in the West End. On one level this is fine–cooler than Broadway, even–but on several others it is full midnight. It represents delay. It’s another opportunity for everything to drift into the backwater and be forgotten. I think of Bruce’s smiling face at LJ’s opening “You’re next!” Well, evidently I wasn’t. London is cheaper because there are fewer unions to contend with. “It takes half a million even to load in,” Jack says. Most–by no means all--of what is playing in New York is dreck. People seem to find the odd half million to load in that.

Terrible rehearsal, singing all around as though they were seeing the music for the first time, me waiting for the call from Jack and paying imperfect attention, performances I’d forgotten about looming. Not a good Sunday, all in all. Yet this is Monday morning. All night the moonlight lay with supernatural beauty on my back yard.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 19, 2010

Claudia reports that my 6th grade girlfriend Mary Ann Dailey is dead. She was funny and fun in the 6th grade and disdainful and mocking in 7th. My first taste of mutability–

All my photos on Facebook are of me doing something, painting, doing a poetry reading, doing a wedding. No “just me” photos.

Dreams involving real estate last night.

Evening: the full moon rose in a silver sky, pink-silver on the eastern horizon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 15, 2010

Long slow rain. I rejoice thinking that all my bulbs are in the ground, sucking it in.

Drew, snapping photos of me during the studio stroll, said he had heard I was writing an autobiography that would be “one of the great books of the age.”
“Who’d you hear this from?”
“Oh, word is all around.”
I thought, maybe I’m going to have to sit down and write this book.

Huge progress on the Vance play and the Asheville novel. It is early in the night and I’m exhausted. It was Night, Sleep, I believe, transcribing the words that seemed to come out of the air at me.

Watched a two part biography of Bob Dylan, directed by Martin Scorsese. I found myself understanding Dylan instantly, even when he was being cryptic. I thought it was because we are both Mid-westerners. Both of us think the reward of artistry should be not having to answer any more questions.

Dusty pink heirloom rose still blooming. I have a rose catalogue that claims it has the white rose of York for sale. I think I must have that.

I remember when there were trolley cars in Akron, and you could watch the sparks coming out of the wires as they traveled. I remembered when there were people with cleft palates in the neighborhood, before there was a cure, or before anybody could afford the cure. I remember Vicky, the girl at church who had to press a button on her throat to speak. I remember Jimmy Lambert, who had a lead sole on one of his shoes, to cure some abnormality in his leg. If you were cruel to him–it was easy. Just calling him “lamb” would do it-- you could get him to kick you with the leaden shoe, and that was some kind of thrill. His vengeance was growing up to be fiercely handsome. His sister Corinne was hit by a car going to get a pizza.
November 14, 2010

Most of my recent dream life has taken place in Ireland. Last night I was running a camp or a school in Galway. The kitchen served one serving of a hundred different kinds of food, so it was my duty at each meal to suit the meal with the student, making sure they got what they wanted and needed. My knowledge of their intimate lives (at least as pertaining to food) was remarkable.

First day of the studio stroll was not so exhausting as usual, perhaps because the people who came to mine seemed smarter and more interested than in times past, perhaps because I had to leave hours early to do an intro for the Harwood-Cole lecture at Warren Wilson. The lecture was too beautiful to be listened to very attentively. The campus was a paradise of autumn colors and vistas. This will linger as the one of the great autumns of my experience, clement, vivid, almost agonizingly beautiful. The autumn when I almost bought a house in the country. The autumn when I wrote more than at any other time in my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 13, 2010

Dug and planted under the spruce yesterday afternoon. It was late, the sun declining. I stood up for a moment and leaned on my spade, and was still for maybe a minute. In that time a flock of goldfinches–eight at least–came to the birdbath and began to drink. At the same instant a downy woodpecker landed on the dogwood and commenced exploratory pecking. All in all, in the space of two minutes, while I stood still, watching, eight species of bird landed in area I could cover with a sweep of my spade: robin, goldfinch, downy woodpecker, nuthatch, chickadee, titmouse, mockingbird, house finch. I thought there was a cedar waxwing, but there is almost never only one. It was the Peaceable Kingdom. It made me remember a time earlier in autumn when I was filling the backyard birdbath with the hose, a process which must be slow or the power of the hose empties the basin as fast as it fills. An olive-y-yellow warbler sat in the branches of the dogwood. He was clearly very thirsty, for as I poured, he dropped down branch by branch, till he was inches form my shoulder, watching the progress of the water, wondering if he dare plunge in while I was standing there. He even squawked and scolded a little to hurry my lumbering giant ass along. As soon as I turned my back and made for the door, I heard the tiniest splash behind me.

Circe did an amazing little dance around her stuffed mouse. It was downright ballet. What goes on in a cat’s imagination?

Sent Riding Funhouse to the Anderson Agency in New York, at their request.

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 11, 2010

Kimberly Road alive with flags for Veterans’ Day.

Sacred and Profane Love finally arrived from the National Gallery, London. It is more meaningful to me than I fully understand at the moment.

Had a meltdown at the studio when I was attacked by Henry the dog. For the third time. Heather, his owner, said it was my fault for not being there more so the dog would know me better. I said it wasn’t my place to cater to the psychology of a dog, but hers to keep it under control. Etc. The dog and I have been friends in the past; he had slept in my studio, suffered my petting, and to have forgotten me is indicative of some sort of doggie retardation that I haven’t the time to help them through. I thought that my outburst would make me a pariah on the second floor, but no such thing. In fact, L and A, having lunch at the table upstairs as I left, were tenderly and gratuitously kind to me. They seemed astonished to hear that I had never used the elevator and had dragged everything up to my studio up the winding cement stairs on my own back. L looked at me with expression one reserves for the very pitiable. It is true that I get notions into my head that I don’t shake on my own and yet inconvenience me terribly: YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO USE THE ELEVATOR. . . .YOU HAVE TO HITCHHIKE BECAUSE NOBODY WOULD LET YOU RENT A CAR. . . NOBODY IS GOING TO GIVE YOU A MORTGAGE. . . X MIGHT BE LEAVING TOWN, BUT YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THOSE SHE WANTS TO SEE BEFORE SHE GOES. . . YOU CAN'T ASK YOUR NEW EMPLOYERS TO HELP YOU FIND AN APARTMENT. . . YES I KNOW IT’S YOUR TURN, BUT YOU DAREN’T ASK. . .This conviction of negative entitlement has cost me more labor, perhaps, than anything else in my life. I even assumed that I could protest being attacked by a dog because I was somehow not part of the “group.” Turns out Henry has had his turn with everybody. This is not most people's experience of me; they probably think of me as forward and direct, and that is true, too, so how I pick the things to be timid about is an ongoing mystery.

Glorious day, but maybe too glorious. I look at the dirt over the billion or so bulbs I’ve planted, saying delaying spells so the bulbs don’t think it’s spring.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10, 2010

Slept late. The east was pale when I shouldered the cats off me and threw the comforter back. Rising was difficult after two days of hard yard work. Monday I dug the front yard against the house, and planted the irises I had planned for the newly cultivated back yard, when the hemlocks would be cut and my tiller would be in operation. The arborist never came and the tiller didn’t work, so back to the spade and the bent back. The men from Sears who came to pick up the hateful tiller were kind and enormous. Yesterday was even harder. There was some sort of emotional crisis that I never identified, and I wanted to do none of the things I had to do, so I began pulling ivy out of the fern beds. As I did, I kept running into the dark bushy spruce, and it entered my head to prune it. It was like the cone of a green rocket, its thick branches coming all the way to the ground, a depression in there in which animals–including Jocasta–used to hide. I had never seen the trunk of the tree. I keep forgetting how long I’ve lived here, but it’s years and years, and in all that time the wide circle under the tree has been completely hidden. I didn’t know the tree was branched into three near the base. When I was done, the spruce was bare of limbs up to the level I could reach with my handsaw. One of the three trunks I cut away completely. One can walk under the tree for the first time–if you’re no taller than I, standing up. The ground underneath was powdery and ashy, whether from some chemistry of the tree or because it had been hidden from the elements for so long. I dug up a wide circle around the trunk, hauled in 180 kilos of topsoil, and planted crocus, iris, anemone. The topsoil–400 pounds– I had to haul twice in the space of two hours. They were short-handed (and all girls) at the hardware store, so I had to load the pickup, the unload again onto the land. All that and the depression underneath is still visible, though barely. I wonder what it was. A garden pool long ago? I dug quite deep and got nothing but old needles and powdery soil. And a lost softball.

Reading about Zeb Vance. There are a number of ways to get into his life if I were just pleasing myself, but I imagine around me the throng of amateur historians and descendants of the great man and protectors of Southern honor who will all expect their axes to be ground.

Got to the studio at last. Painted joyfully. I was the first there, and there was sweet silence, but the noise level rose as one by one the others arrived and began the battle of the speakers.

A water leak bubbled up from a crack in Lakeshore Drive three or four days before the city came out to fix it. It’s taken them too days, digging an immense trench and doing a lot of banging and scraping, which shook the windows in their frames. The guy running the bulldozer weight upwards of 300 pound, I’d bet, and is maybe necessary as a counterweight to the tremendous blade that shakes the earth when it falls.

Evening: More digging, more planting. I think the property is thanking me with what pleasure it can give for not buying the other land and moving away. Dug up more of the immense flagstones that must have paved most of the back yard at one time. Some I could lift. Some I had to roll like Sisyphus to the place I wanted them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 7, 2010

An observation from the wedding: heavy ink does not go well with evening wear, with low cut gowns, with deep backs and necklines, with sleeveless gowns. The women who had heavy tattoos (and there were several) looked. . . well. . . inelegant. I love unmarked bodies, so I hope this fad passes, but if it doesn’t, someone should devise a kind of formal wear which can harmonize with it.

The white Christmas cactus is in bloom.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 5, 2010

Bright, cold morning.

The bride’s dad sidles up to me and says, “I wish we had gotten someone else to do the service. . . someone spiritual.”

I’m sitting at my desk reverberating from the shock of finding Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers, whole, intact, sound, blessed, blessed, blessed. It was in a file where I would have never saved it, discovered this morning while I was just idly poking through wondering what could be safely deleted. And there it is. I will keep from the laity my conviction that I did not save it there, would not have, could not have, though it was saved. In any case, the world turns around.

Planted twenty or more lilies. Received delivery of a rototiller which is far too big now that I decided not to take the Pine Forest property. Do I send it back, or keep in hopes of larger times to come?

The L wedding was sweet and happy, all cozy and candle lit while the sleet fell outside. Felt affection for the lot of them. The groom was handsome, the bride was beautiful, the families were (so far as I could tell) at peace. Stopped at the Usual on the way home, heard the life story of a woman caring for her invalid dad.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 4, 2010

The best bet is that I was trying to save over a read-only file. The program actually warned me’‘ “You can’t do this”– but I assumed THAT was the glitch. Yesterday was the most terrible day in my writing life, at least that had to do with something mechanical. Carlyle’s manuscript in the fireplace; Hemingway’s valise lost on a train; Millay’s poems burned up in a hotel. Woke before 4 today to savor still more of the dead, exhausted feeling. It’s like losing an election, I guess, or a child. Not as bad as a child. But I mourn as though I lost one, as I have, a wonder of my own making now gone.

Cut the last of the roses and brought them into the house, for there are rumors of snow tonight. The yellow Paul Newman was just in bud after the dry shock of summer. The Mr. Lincolns are huge and fragrant. Pruned the holly and the dogwood and the oak, to encourage loft and discourage bushiness.

Sarah’s wedding rehearsal. No reason why it shouldn’t all go well tomorrow. EN was there, looking radiant, with her equally radiant Israeli fiancĂ©.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 3, 2010

Remembering things from the journey: how the waters between New York and Newark teem with life, low trees thronged with herons I at first took for debris. In the water were strange shaped I couldn’t identify, until I realized they were herons standing on limbs in the water, the whole heron what I took to be the bills of something huge and fabulous; the great cities beside complicated rivers, the sea opening on the distance. Philadelphia? Baltimore? I never knew.

Frost came while I was gone. Some things are withered, but the roses remain undaunted.

Sad election results, but I suppose not tragic ones. I thought President Obama was doing a good job, and was prevented from doing a heroic one only by the recalcitrance of the Republicans. I never understood what all those angry people were angry about. “We want our own way” is, after all, not a very patriotic rallying cry. My great astonishment is that the GOP didn’t die of mortification two years ago, when it should have done.

First meeting will BG et al at SART, to discuss the Vance play. I was sort energized and sort of discouraged–energized because Vance seemed to have lived an eventful life, discouraged because the number of constituencies which need to be pleased by this project may be unworkable.

Put together my new Kangen water machine and drank the first draughts out of it. The water is, as they say, tingly, and I haven’t had acid-reflux all day, but the experiment is ongoing.

Started to write on Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers this afternoon. What came up was not right. The computer had not been saving my work to that file since September 28. I save after every paragraph, so it was not me. Everything written in the month–since before I went to London-- is lost. I have no idea where or how. Carbonite has only what the computer has. It is all lost, wasted. Someday I should just take the hint.

Oh. . . it’s worse. . . the revisions I made on other texts have also not been recorded since that time. . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


November 1, 2010

It was only this morning that I realized my shoes are mismatched, a left shoe of one pair, a right from another. I hope people (who tend to be more attentive to shoes than I am) interpret it as a fetching eccentricity.

Saw Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight in Mamet’s A Life in the Theater. It was, essentially, two good actors having a good time, and that brought pleasure. Talked briefly with Knight afterwards. He looked so tired. I thought for a moment he was a buddy of mine whom I could invite out for a drink and a little chit-chat, but the delusion passed and I move on. Walked to Columbus Circle and wandered the edges of the park until it was night.

Spent the morning paddling about in Soho and Tribeca. It was cold, but the light was clear and beautiful. It was difficult to look east. The curved scimitar of the moon hung pale over Varick Street, Ate at the Tic Toc Deli, for old time’s sake. The men next to me were discussing the filming of a movie, clearly the director and the cinematographer. It was exciting to listen to. Near the entrance a self-satisfied young man was reading a script, broadcasting to all the world “I have a part.” I was happy there. I almost missed the atmosphere of theater blocks and blocks wide.

Evening. Quite cold enough. Luckily it’s only a block from the theater when I saw Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. The show was great fun, not as revolutionary as the talk about it would imply, and an apt thing to see the night before an election which may plunge us again into an at-least-temporary Populist backlash. The show is right that the inevitable outcome of Populism is tyranny made worse by the belief that it is the tyranny of the people. I tried to analyze the difference between Jackson’s Populism and the Tea Partyers’, and I think that it’s the fact that Jackson’s was genuine and ours is the disgruntlement of the privileged classes at having their privilege curtailed. The difference between Jackson and someone like Sarah Palin is that Jackson had some genuine– if historically questionable, even lamentable–achievements, whereas she is merely a complainer.

Calls from Mickey and Damian. Finally glad I bought the phone.