Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 2011

Lightened the challenge of this day by spreading out cooking over the last few days. A pistachio cream pie and a Julia Child cream of cauliflower and watercress soup chill in the fridge. Wild rice and roasted goose and root vegetable should be, by comparison, simple this afternoon. DJ is making an eggnog which may slay all the senses and render my care unnecessary.

On K’s sudden impulse, we drove to Johnson City, Tennessee last night to the Down Home bar, to hear Doc Bonhomie, Russell’s band. The drive was seriously dark in both directions, but the bar was merry and the band were all excellent musicians, amiable and crowd-pleasing, with nary a faltering voice among them. They did largely originals which, while impressive, lent a sort of soft-focus monochromatic lyricism to the first set, after which one rejoiced at the hard-rocking vitality of the various covers and rock allusions in the second. If I were their manager I’d tell them, don’t do two college-boy soul-revelations back to back, at least not in a bar in Johnson City. Their skill in any case was amazing. That they got their start together in the ETSU chorus is everywhere (and splendidly) apparent.

Oh, anthems at the year’s end! One may always fiddle and adjust, and there may be whole vast areas of possible improvement to which one is simply blind, but forgiving that, I don’t know what I could do to make a better life for myself, a life for myself that I desire and dream of, than I have already, or am doing, in some cases almost from the beginning of it. What is left is for the universe, and were there any way to force the universe’s hand, I would have found it, having, there also, tried almost everything. Though I am not good, I am not the worst in the world at lying back and letting it all unfold, so that is the pertinent resolution here at the end. The universe thus far has largely wasted me, but one keeps in fighting trim, keeps one’s lines solid in mind, heeds distant cues for the moment when the curtain opens.

The cats make playthings out of my cast-offs. There is something there.
December 29, 2011

A night-blue windflower blooms on the back terrace. Does it prophesy the new year or bid adieu to the old? I am frantic to save it, to preserve it, to allow its gesture to be complete.

“Ode to Joy” on the concertina.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 28, 2011

Used my father’s rhyming dictionary last night. The intriguing question is what was my father doing with a rhyming dictionary. Once when I was writing a poem for some church contest, he took my ideas and put them into standard poetic form. What I wondered then, bur for some reason didn’t ask, was how he knew what poetic form was. An off-hand comment once revealed that his mother had written stories. I am wild to see those stories but they have been gone–I suppose–forever now.

Watched the Cuckor flick Holiday last night, the exact opposite of the Gold Diggers of close to the same time, almost perfectly realized, witty, intelligent, the hands of both Hepburn and Grant played with immaculate skill.

Cheetah, Tarzan’s chimp, has died at the age of 80.

Serious work on the concertina. Almost successfully beat out “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” and "Twinkle Twinkle." My progress was thwarted at first because I was holding the thing backwards.I blamed it on faulty construction, not thinking for a long time merely to change hands. My senility is going to be awesome . . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 27, 2011

Heavy rain, blown by strong wind. Beethoven from iTunes. Maud demanding her morning backrub.

Good Christmas Eve service at All Souls, if about as much as I could stand. Drove in the dark of Christmas morning to Atlanta. Was watching as the sun turned the southeast to the infinite reds. Big old red-tail in his accustomed tree. Can it be the same one all these years? Joyful time in Alpharetta. The Adam boys form among themselves an ideal brotherly community, and it was a joy to watch them and their friends together. They are a clan in every sense of the word. The probably have their holy objects and rituals, too, though they do not speak of them. Daniel chided me for staying up with the adults rather than coming down to the basement and playing with them, which I would surely have done had I been sure it would not have been an intrusion. Jon’s adventures in Thailand are good on so many sides, and breeding good as they go. I came away with, among other things, a set of harmonicas, which added to the concertina makes this a musical Christmas. To round it off, or to make it odder, I ordered a harmonium online. I have always walked through every door that opened, banging it against the wall as I came. L’s friends gathered for Christmas dinner. They were easier for me to relate to than in the past, not quite so churchy, even refreshingly ribald. Poor R was allowed to, even expected to, go through the litany of his past misdeeds, a sort of community confession, as though he had been the designated sinner. Drove home that evening, because the drive was so to be dreaded that I didn’t want to begin another day with it. Also, thought I might have a date, but did not, in the event. St. Stephen’s Day spent running errands, writing abundantly in local cafes, working out, sleeping off an unaccountable exhaustion that left me feeling, all day, like a tired kid. Not an unpleasant feeling at all. In fact, extraordinarily happy from Christmas Eve till this moment, and having no reason to expect immediate change. I have to stop thinking about my life in order to be this content; sometimes I am able to do just that.

Lovely stock market will allow me to pay off my December excesses.

– the ravishing theme of B’s violin concerto– soaring and melancholy at once.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24, 2011

Cantaria Hans has died. I never knew him except when he was sick, but I think he must have been a kind and merry man. I’m glad he decided to spend his last days with us.

Lunch with SC to discuss the past and future of Cantaria.

Full day yesterday, which I rounded out in late afternoon by going to the café, sitting down without much expectation, and ended up writing. . . well, it exhausts to keep saying “the best I ever have,” but it was like the glory days composing “The Glacier’s Daughters” when the flood of words could not be stopped. That it should be going just as strong after forty years is a blessing I remember less often than I should.

Watched fifteen minutes of Gold Diggers of 1935 last night. I have to say that, especially when he’s not tethered by a strong script, Busby Berkeley is quite horrifying. Leni Riefenstahl is the nearest–maybe only-- comparison. The extras on the DVD praised his vision and technique, justly, except that it could be pointed out that vision and technique are neutrals, capable of serving either the skew or the straight. My repugnance is more instinctual than explicable. Only horrified fascination kept me the fifteen minutes.

Here is the oddest thing. I can call to inner sight every ornament that was on our Christmas tree back home, in perfect (I think) detail, even to nicks and discolorations. I saw them only once a year, and not since for forty years. My tree has its visible ornaments that anyone can see entering my house, but also those ghostly ones from long ago, hung as the palpable ones were hung, as though existing all in a separate and unbreakable continuum. I have learned the amazing, perhaps pathological, strength of my imaginative world back then–as perhaps now– and suppose that the adamantine retention of those images is part of it in a way that there is not leisure at the moment to understand. I long for them, but I don’t know why. That I yet possess them in this way is a blessing equally inexplicable.

Maud the Cat holds on to my leg, insisting that I pet her, insisting that I rub her back. She is not patient. She does not doubt for a second that what she desires will come to pass, for why shouldn’t it? It is so little to ask. It reminds me of me and God, except, unlike God, I reach out and hold her, rub her back, explain why it has taken me so long.

What if the purpose of us all were to teach God how to be a man? I would be content with that. It would suffice. He gets to try again, tonight. He gets to come back as a baby and try it all again.

My mother will not be making hot chocolate tonight and serving it in the embarrassing Santa mugs. My father will not be putting swans on a mirror lake under the tree in his mysterious way. My grandmother will not be preparing a giant feast for everybody. That “everybody” is dead or mad or scattered to the wind. I think I am here to remember them. And I do. The night is unimaginably deep.

A mallow blooms in my garden for a Christmas miracle. It is Christmas Eve and I am twelve years old, dizzy with joy, and no way to explain it.
December 23, 2011

The possibilities of my expanded vacation days send me into unexpected adventures. I drove yesterday, for instance, to Hendersonville, thinking there might be some inimitable holiday cheer to be had there. It was warm, and I regretted my heavy jacket, but it allowed me to have cappuccino at an outdoor table on Main Street at the winter solstice. I had not brought my journal, and I feel naked just sitting in a café drinking without scrawling my little notes about the progress of the world. The guy in the piano-and-Jewish-holiday-decorations store showed me how he had souped up his electric pianos so that they sounded way better than they had coming from the factory. The cappuccino girl and I formed an instant bond. But I had the feeling that I had gone there for some purpose, and was moderately frustrated and not discovering that purpose. Now that I’ve written that, I suppose it’s the summary of most people’s lives. In any event, I passed the window of a music shop. In the window was a second-hand concertina that the talkative clerk said had been left there a long time ago. I bought it. I asserted it was my reason for going there. I’ve already discovered that there are differences between the English and the German concertinas (mine’s German), and different notes are played when the bag (if that’s what you call it) goes in from when it comes out. Awaiting my instructional manuals’ arrival in the mail.

Reading the bible in Italian from my Kindle as I tread the treadmill at the Y. Have made it to Genesis 3. Tom remarks on how odd it is to say the sentence, “I’m reading the Italian bible on the treadmill at the Y.” I’m all the time trying to translate things into Italian, which is working better than it once did, and I usually remember to double check the gender and the verb ending. Sia luce! Et cosi fu. Italian is not hard-edged enough to have been the language of creation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 21, 2011

Late start– the sky already paling gray.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 18, 2011

Green-gray dawn, Lauridson coming from my computer. Painted yesterday, wrote, worked out and slept: in some ways, perfection.

Vowed to write a sonnet a day in December. At 13 now I am behind, but not so far behind as one might have anticipated.

Rhetoric surrounding the Republican candidates illuminates a problem I had with Tolkien, with his vision, specifically, of Mordor, of evil. The problem I had was that evil in the books did not seem to give any advantage to those who practiced it. Did an orc or a man of Harad really derive pleasure or advantage from wicked deeds? They denied things to others without seeming to retain them for themselves. One imagines that fear of punishment could drive a being to do selflessly wicked deeds (think, in actual history, of all those Nazis) but eventually flight or inertia or rebellion would certainly kick in. Climbing the dark ladder, the captains and generals of Evil are to be feared and that fear might drive those beneath them, but might not even they ask if their quality of life were actually improved by what they were doing? Not even Sauron, presumably, liked living in soot and brimstone, never being able to rest for fear of usurpation. But I read where people were speaking out about Newt Gingrich, fearing that he was not “conservative” enough, that his “conservative” credentials were in doubt because, once in a while, he advocated policies that were not thoroughly selfish and inhumane. Actual advantage, actual value were lost in the desire for doctrinal purity– dedicated parties expecting a purity– in this case of evil-- no thinking human can sustain. It dawned on me, the awesome power of rhetoric, which, once adopted, replaces reason and humanity and even self-interest as the mind’s governor. Adherence to the party line becomes the whole field of vision, which no greater good or greater reasonableness may ever budge, because the first tremor is the prelude to collapse. To make an exception or to moderate a bad policy cannot be considered, for to consider the policy is to reveal the badness of it. Conservative theorists cannot admit reason or proportion, or compromise, or statesmanship at any point, because only blind assertion will allow their ideas to exist at all. “War Against the Light” can impel the throngs of Mordor so long as they never put it that way, so long as it is described as resistence against interference and creeping otherness and absolute self-will. That the will is resigned as soon as one signs on to an inflexible doctrine cannot be admitted. Investment bankers convincing waitresses and dock workers that they all have the same interests is like the captains of Mordor drawing men into the ranks of evil– a deed so incomprehensibly contrary to self-interest that it must tap some inner, reptilian impulse to cast one’s lot with Power, no matter how inimical the Power is to one’s own well being. Finality of blind assertion is the great power of conservatism. Many Americans think that what is reasonable, provable, scientific, is a kind of elitism, and that blind assertion of untested principle is a kind of self-determination. Of course it is, but the freedom of Mordor, to be made at once cruel and miserable by the sanctification of one’s prejudices.

Played Saint Nicholas at church today. Each year it’s bigger and rowdier, and I hear myself getting louder and faster to overcome it and get through. It is gratifying afterward to have a toddler point at me and scream, “Saint Nicholas!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011


December 17, 2011

Transcribing my New York poems from my notebook, almost defeated–wholly defeated in places– by my execrable handwriting.

DJ and Russell and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, and, returning, saw a car speed up Merrimon, turn sharply in front of another car, and disappear down a drive between two businesses. Another car had been chasing that one at a similar high speed, but kept on going. When we passed the drive I saw that the car was lying on its side, pouring out smoke. We stopped and I ran back to see a small crowd (mostly diners from the Thai restaurant) exhorting the driver not to move. He was conscious, but I would say not fully cognizant of what happened. That he was alive was incredible, for the car had taken out a retaining wall, and turned completely around and flipped onto the driver’s side, and was a wrecked as anything I have ever seen. The driver was trying to crawl out through the peeled back roof. The pavement was strewn with glass, and the people from the restaurant kept trying to convince him to stay inside the car until the paramedics came, as there seemed to be no danger of explosion. Either drunk or in shock, he kept murmuring, “no broken bones. . .” His face was bloodied, and had clearly bashed the windshield from the inside. His scalp was torn and gushing blood. As I had nothing to say to him that the diners were not already saying, I began walking up the sidewalk. It was apparent then how narrowly the event missed being worse, as the woman he had cut in front of and the boy who had been walking up the sidewalk at almost exactly the spot of impact were both standing in the dark, shaking off the shock. DJ observed that if we had not been slowed by the idiotic obstacle course on Murdock, we might have been even closer to the crash than we were. He might not have missed us as he had the shaken lady.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 15, 2011

After I woke the first time and fed the cats, I lay back down and was seized immediately by the most elaborate dream. I was on my way home from New York, but decided to stay another night. I wanted to revisit the National Hotel. It is long gone in life, swallowed up by the complex of buildings which now stands on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, but there it was in the dream, far more squalid than it had been in life, when I had my memorable adventure there. The room was long, the corners of it so dark that unexpected roommates or passers-through kept appearing out of it. The floor of the closet was a deep pool of water, and one had to be careful not to drop anything in it, for you couldn’t tell how deep the water was and whether the dropped thing would be retrievable. The room, I realize, was flown in by the dream from the long high room Nick and I had in Cobh, but darkened and windowless and filthy. Derelicts wandered in and out, and prostitutes, each more debased than the last, but somehow none of them very threatening. I must have chosen that place for human adventure, but when one arrived, he was too dirty and, probably, disease ridden to be appealing. I dropped one of my shoes into the pool. That was the last straw, and I packed up and snuck out, at each step expecting somebody to bar the way, but they never did, and then I was out on contemporary 8th Avenue, and then Maud banged the cat food can in the kitchen, and I was awake again.

I was not ready to return from new York. All day yesterday I was planning adventures which could only be realized if, when I opened the door, I’d be looking out on W. 46th.

Bought and erected the Christmas tree yesterday. I was– what is the word?–blithe. Caught myself singing through it all.

Dear God, I stand at the brink of age and still worry about what I worried about as a teenager, suffer the same hurts I suffered as a teenager. Less piercing, less long lasting? Yes, of course, but I don’t count diminished appreciation even of suffering as much of a blessing.

I tempt God by saying, “All would be well, I would behave if things went well for me, one day, all day.” He does not take the bait.

Crystal attached to the window blind caught in the sun, blazing blue-white, like the hottest star in the galaxy.

Evening: The Cantaria concert--audience packed to the rafters-- does, again, five times better than any rehearsal would have led us to expect. Somewhere there is a choir rehearsed to perfection which ctrashes and burns at every concert, to balance us out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New York

December 13, 2011

On two New York days–yesterday, Monday, was one of them– I sat in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel and wrote poetry, big slabs of happy poetry, with all that din around me. Yesterday when I wandered away from the Paramount I found myself at Bryant Park, all greeny-silvery sylvan with its middle-aged sycamore, all Christmas card-y with its skating rink and little temporary shops. One of the shops was a café, and I perched there with my cappuccino under a radiant heater (which grazed my right ear only, but that seemed to be enough) and wrote still more. I’d wondered what I could do to fill the morning before I met Owen for lunch, but in the end I barely got to Columbus Circle on time. Lunch with Owen was delightful, and full of revelations about the future he has planned for himself, a future at once exiting and, giving his potential, modest. Luxuriated in my room for a while, then made my way to 64th street to JoJo’s for dinner with Philip Cheah and Jon David, and Sue, and Shirley the president of the Central City Chorus-- the fancy dinner I had asked for my fee. I am not a “foodie,” but was awestruck by my tender sweet duck and the clouds of dessert which floated out following our meals. I took the wrong train from 59th street, and ended up in Queens Plaza, with the intercom blaring that there was no service back to Manhattan from that station that night. I had no idea what to do, at midnight in a part of the world I didn’t know at all. Two random guys coming home from work appeared in the vast emptiness, and I asked them for help, and they not only helped me but walked me to the stop to make sure I got the right train (the 7, as it turns out). Today at Newark airport this little Indian guy chased me through terminal A to return a credit card I’d dropped when I was checking my bags. The guy at the museum shop gave me his employee’s discount out of thin air. It was the Weekend of Being Helped.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Tightened String

December 12, 2011

The big bookstore in Madison Square Garden is gone, and it was one of my designated destinations.

Shopping. . . and a go at MOMA for the Diego Rivera exhibit. What did I learn? Rivera’s social consciousness is impeccable, but he was not, really, a painter of the first rank. Innumerable black suits in the lobby. They didn’t look like museum guards all assembled like that, but I assume they were. More like a cartoon about fascism. My first stop at FAO Schwartz afterwards. It truly is magical. The towering guy in the wooden soldier costume at the door was greeting and joking. In answer to a question I didn’t hear he said, “Naw, I have the greatest job in he world.” He did look sublimely happy. The kids stared at him and smiled. A street kid inside was demonstrating some toy that catches a ball midair, happy as Santa’s elf. Glad I stopped in now. Would have exploded when I was a kid. On to Columbus Circle, where there was a kind of bazaar, and the bored, cold artisans were eager to smile at you. Lunch at Huey’s diner, where my waiter was an opera singer and an angry Chinese girl at the next table never left off scolding her brother.

It’s starling to see women walking down the street in full length furs.

Made my way to 87th Street, a little later than my usual wont, to find the line for the concert already wound around the corner onto West End Avenue. This made me happy. There was my name on the poster, along with Jon’s and Samuel Barber’s and Johannes Brahms’. That made me happy. Eventually the crowd overflowed little St. Ignatius of Antioch, and more chairs had to be brought, backsides had to be compacted on the pews, and still a mob stood around the back and sides. Owen and Thomas appeared. They were both looking handsome, and having friendly faces in the crowd was icing on an ample cake. Met Jon’s father, who turns out to be the producer of Jersey Boys. Jon warned me that Central City Chorus is a “mid-level community chorus” and that there had been problems with our piece at dress rehearsal. The first piece, Barber’s “adagio for strings” set to the words of the Agnus Dei, was iffy in pitch all the way through. I expected the worst. Jon kept murmuring, “I made it too hard. . . maybe it was just too hard. . .” But when they came to “The Tightened String,” a miracle happened. Maybe because it was so hard and they had to concentrate, the performance was– so far as I could tell– perfect. It is a beautiful piece. Tricks like “prepared piano” usually annoy me, but they were used with musical logic this time. The thing I should have been most concerned about–the setting of the words– took me some time to express an opinion about. It was an apparent act of adoration. The words were set in blazing, expressive clarity, and to say I was happy falls short. I was amazed. It was as if Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart were starring in one of my plays. I did not truly understand what music can do for poetry (always sort of assuming a composer was a poet’s natural enemy). I’m still thinking about it, still fathoming the power of true collaboration. I suppose it’s what a baroque poet felt when Monteverdi set his text. If Jon asks again, that’s what I’ll tell him.

The Tightened String as follwed by The German Requiem. Whatever else happens, one must grant Brahms the higher seat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New York

December 11, 2011

Full moon over Times Square. It was dim and Friday last night, bright and full last night, almost holding his own amid the lights of the city.

Shopping this afternoon. I never shop, so that was worth noting. Found difficult gifts.

Nostalgia drove me to 36th Street, to the Barrow Group Theater, where Edward the King ruled the boards for a while. Met two actors in the lobby, who convinced me to see their play, Any Which Way Thou Wouldst Have It. Sarah was good. John was not, though very handsome. The play was a pastiche of Restoration Comedy, and though the author understood the genre, he added nothing to it, did not bring it into the present, and the afternoon wore on. The costumes were glorious. The woman playing the pirate captain had fans in the crowd, who laughed uproariously at the least thing she did, which caused her to ham it up in a way she’s probably ashamed of now. I wanted it to be good because, however briefly, I felt I knew people in the cast. In the evening I went to Theater Row and saw Balls: the Musical., which was unexpectedly funny. Sent me smiling through the moon-haunted streets. Had time before the show, which I spent in Dave’s, an Irish/Mexican bar on 9th Avenue. Rough. Two people were thrown out while I sat at the bar, one invited back with copious free beer and apologies. The waitresses Tanya and Diane were treated like daughters by the hairy workingmen on the stools.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New York

December 10, 2011

Slightly hung-over, ensconced ln my remarkably tiny room on a ventilator shaft in the Paramount. Except for bold mural-like attachments to the wall, it would look squalid, which is a lesson in the efficacy of canny decoration. I must have “give him the ventilator shaft” written beside my name on some big hotel book in the sky. Anyway, a lively evening in New York. Subwayed down to the Village. Getting off at the Christopher Street, Sheridan Square stop used to be such a thrill, with the promise of excitement and multiple partners for the night. I never knew what the Village itself looked liked, but just the faces on it, which I cruised with what seems now to me to be touching, if fully rewarded, eagerness. Stopped in a few of the old haunts–all of them changed and far less dangerous– ending up at Marie’s Crisis (the least changed) before walking to the Lucille Lortel for Wild Animals You Should Know, a new play by Thomas Higgins. It was neatly written, finely acted, and for a while pretended to be frothier than it actually was. Initial laughter drew us into a rather dark complexity of emotion. Good night of theater. Came back and stood on Times Square until my legs buckled under me. Cosmos at the hotel bar, and then I remember nothing. Notable faces: the red-blond angelic countenance in the Aeropostale, who tried to direct me to the right place to buy a G force watch for my nephew; the tall, gaunt man beside me at the bar at the Italian restaurant on Times Square, who ate more than anyone I have ever seen at one sitting, including two tiramisous; the check-in girl at the hotel, who told me of the play she wants to write about working in a restaurant. She gave me complimentary WiFi for the trouble of my listening.

New York

December 9, 2011

Singing carols at the Asheville Country Club, with a view of mared Paradise in all directions.

Asheville Regional Airport, sucking down soda water and lime at the bar where Kim the waitress tells me the history of the big bow she wears in her hair. The TV monitors indicate a good day on Wall Street, which dissolves my last hint of travel anxiety (ie, how am I going to pay for this?), and allows me to face this day with unusual alacrity. I feel ready for it, eager for it. Even the diarrhea that carries with me from last night seems more a recollection than an immediate threat. Everything in the airport is Christmas-y and expectant. The TSAs were jokey and confiding, explaining to me the variety of things which could cause a false positive from the metal detectors. Swinging the arms is one, which I was doing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 8, 2011

I know. The end of hope is the end of sadness.

Set colored lights up in three rooms of the house, three different colors in three rooms. The green I saved for my bedroom, so that I can imagine that I am sleeping in a high radiant forest.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 5, 2011

Have been retiring early, which leads to the most amazing run of dreams, some of them plausible enough to pass, for a while, as life.

Awful rehearsal last night. The baritones behaved as though they had never seen the music before; there are two more rehearsals till the concert. The basses are worse. We are too old and our voices are rough and wide and stiff. One of us has the temperament of a diva while possessing no talent, not even adequacy, and his efforts to avoid contamination by anyone who might have the right note is the stuff of sketch comedy. Afterwards ate mushrooms and commiserated with DJ over the ruin of all at Charlotte Street Pub. The wild boys there were wild for their football, which was refreshing. I think most of us are not loud enough over our enthusiasms. No such blame at the Pub.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 4, 2011

Happy Saturday yesterday. I painted quite well, and allowed myself not to go to the gym. Sang a sweet Lessons and Carols, which, unlike so many services in the recent past, lightened my soul. They gave Blake’s “The Tyger” as the last of the readings, and I read it as though it were auditioning for the bible.

Resolved to write a sonnet a day during December.

Blessed is the cup about to overflow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 3, 2011

Unsuccessful date last night. I’d been looking forward to it, too. Maybe a person should think twice before he invites someone over and then talks immediately, obsessively –weeping copiously-– about his former boyfriend. Or maybe I should resign myself to possessing the face–if not actually the disposition–of a good listener. Too much gin–there were generous cocktails, anyway–and then home–nearly sideswiping a car on 19/23 which had not turned its lights on, then to odd dreams in which I was an editor choosing the winner of a novel contest, then finding A) that the chosen novel was entailed in some complication with its agent, and 2) that the author, in frustration over these complications, could shoot up high in the air like a rocket, then turn and come down and land on his toes. In the dream this was a display of the most transcendent anger.

In fairness to my date, I realize that I’ve always thought that conversation is a deeper intimacy than sex, and so believed that physical contact should come first, or at least quite early. There was a time and a place when this was a more common conviction. To me a kiss is less provocative than a confidence. And far less invasive. Why would a person want to know your past or your beliefs or your tragedies or your experiences at yoga camp if he does not yet know your body, the simplest item of them all? Unwanted monolog is, to me, as threatening as unwanted sexual advance, and usually far more time consuming. The body is the door, and one should enter there even before knocking on the ears. Consensual physical contact should be the least complicated thing in the universe, and that upon which all the complexities build. So I think. Maybe I’m the last of us in all the world.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 2, 2011

Student in creative writing, on the second-to-last day of class: “Do you have an extra syllabus? Somehow I never got one, and I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

Student in humanities after the second-to-last day of class: “Now, what is it we’re supposed to do about cultural events?”

DJ and Russell and I went to Magnetic Field to see this year’s edition of the Christmas show. What was funniest was what reprised from last year, but I guess that’s how tradition gathers. Trinity underused: there are some roles she’s just too smart for. Had a delicious creamy cocktail and remembered how much I love the music of trains.

Happy day. Two miles on the machine before morning, good painting in the afternoon. Thought all day that I was going to meet L, but that has not yet materialized. Heard from Chris L, who broke his leg and was alone and in distress here without calling anyone, or at least without calling me. Back home in Ohio now. Somehow I knew his adventure here was a wrong path. Easy to tell when it’s somebody else.

Semester ends raggedy and raveling, as though we were all made of sharp edges and tore everything that passed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1, 2011

Left school late last night, though, as ever, I was in a panic to get on to the next thing. One of my creative writing students has something to show at each class, and I have to put her off–yesterday rather gruffly– saying that we need to hear from somebody we haven’t heard from the last fourteen times. At the end of class she asked if there were time to do one more poem. I said there wasn’t, but as the class filed out I suffered a twist of vision and realized she wasn’t selfish, but rather as we wish all our students to be, eager, over-eager, striving, gluttonous for improvement, and I said I had time myself to look at her poem. I don’t know why my thought turned around like that, from irritation to appreciation, but I’m grateful it did. We made real progress on the poem. Her lines are brilliant and flat footed in an almost predictable alternation, and we worked on telling the brilliant and the flat-footed apart. My reward for staying late was that when I stepped onto the Quad, the fat crescent moon and the hard shard of Venus held up a sky graduating from deep blue at the top, through the most exquisite lilac, to flame orange at the western end. It was the most perfect sequence of colors I had ever seen, and the black outlines of trees and the two pools of white fire set it off and gave it scale.

Tiny black spider in the bathroom. She’s built a web in a magazine I was reading, and when I ruined it by picking up the magazine, I saw her scurry, in rather a confusion, across the white floor. She has built again in a safer place against the tub. Her web is very elementary– just one thread, as far as I can tell, to lift her a little above the floor. She has a week before the cleaning lady comes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 29, 2011

Sang for the reception for the AIDS quilt at Pack Place. Rock Hudson and Freddy Mercury had panels. The sight is always sad– all that beautiful youth cut down, a war, a holocaust, an ambush without bullets. Part of my emotion is survivor’s guilt. The whole issues recedes in the public consciousness. My students think of the disease as an item in history.

Each “update” of AOL is worse. When it is working, my random messages call me handsome and wonder if I’m lonely and offer me jobs as a secret shopper.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 28, 2011

Slashing rain in the dark of morning.

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 27, 2011

A number of bills–including mortgage and utilities– went unpaid this month. I was shocked each time the notifications came, for I do not generally neglect those things. I investigated, and the checks had been written and, I supposed, sent. What happened to them? Things’ actually getting lost in the mail is so rare one looks for more sinister explanations.

Advent 1.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 26, 2011

Cats woke me at 3, pretending hunger. Fed them, lay back on the bed for a glut of dreams before the present pale gray light.

Drove to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. Left in morning darkness when the sky was a flitter of clear stars. By the time I hit South Carolina, the east had turned burnt orange, like the flame of a campfire. The boys are handsome giants, almost absurdly well-built because of the rigors and diets of wrestling. They are affectionate and possessed of hilarious friends, living a life I would have thought, had I been their contemporary knowing them in high school, ideal. They are easy where I was tense and taut. They are suave confidence where I was nervous subterfuge. My sister has been careful not to make the mistakes she saw in our upbringing. Whereas I never knew whether I was pleasing my parents or not, and was rather steered away from consideration of the issue, she praises her sons lavishly. David said to me that it was a shock to be in school where not everyone thought he was the greatest thing in the world, after being home where he is reminded (about every 5 seconds) that he is. I never once thought I was the greatest thing in the world, even on those occasions when I was. My sister and I spend a good deal of time deconstructing our common past, and sharing what we have done to outlive it, or repair it, or manage to look beyond. Daniel has a powerful will and sense of justice, and the courage to put them into effect. Politics? In a perfect world, maybe. After Thanksgiving dinner we went to Andretti’s. From the name I thought we were going to the races, but Andretti’s turns out to be an arcade. The fact is that I’d never set foot in an arcade before. Nor had I driven a go-kart, which is what we did first thing. I was terrified. I didn’t understand why it was fun. I hated it. It was the longest eight minutes in history. I don’t have a daredevil bone in my body, at least when it comes to vehicles. Even the virtual version threw me off. I couldn’t get it into my head that it was just a game, and kept going slower and slower so I wouldn’t damage anything on the screen. The machine eventually cast me off in sheer frustration. Did enjoy the bowling. Bowling and ping-pong (which we played at the house) are things I’m pretty good at without deserving to be, engaging in them about once a decade. Left Friday morning as the boys were rousing themselves for wrestling practice. Went to the gym, met horrifying margin calls on my E-trade account, watched far too many DVDs, slept.

Went to tend to DJ’s cat and aquarium. Grace the cat was agitated. She kept running toward the back, stopping and waiting for me to follow, as at last I did. The utility room door had been closed, and she couldn’t get to her litter box. She had used DJ’s bed for that, but you could tell she was upset about it. As soon as I opened the door her little rump was planted in the litter. You wonder what goes through inhuman minds, what she was thinking, and why she was thinking it.

AK emailed he would call me to find a time to meet while he was home from school. I devoted the day to waiting to his call, and it never came. One is not surprised anymore.

Odd truth: I never appear in the photographs of those events at which I am present. It feels conspiratorial. It makes me sad about 50% of the time, relieved the rest.

Mosquitos in the air in the unseasonable warmth.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 23, 2011

Titus rooted out my wolf spider from wherever he was hiding. They were nose-to-chitin for a moment, but then decided on mutual toleration. The spider draws his legs in and compacts himself, once in a while, to something resembling a clod of dirt. I assume this is spider nap-time. I think he’s under my church directory now, but I won’t disturb him by looking. It’s not impossible that he’s the same which used to live in my mailbox, and came in on a piece of mail. Would he rather be outside? Is he happy here? I cannot read arachnid body language. I am amazed, though, by the aura of calm he throws around his tiny self. He is at home in ways that I am not.

TT has been posting sections of the Hyre and Ellet newspapers on line. Apparently I won the superlative “most studious” in junior high. That must have struck me as odd then as it does now. Though I devour texts and facts, it’s not because I’m especially studious. I’m curious, and ravenous. Bought a biography of Van Gogh and, trying to read it, realized how long it has been since I’ve done leisure reading in my own house. There is no space for it that is not in some degree awkward, at least in the evening when artificial light is necessary. Read in cafes, on the fly, from my Kindle on the treadmill, in airports, often for weeks on end not at all, not anything that can be called recreational. My bookwormishness as a child filled my quota, perhaps. Did go to the studio, where I painted well and large. Doing things replaced readings things before I was quite a man. Reading seems a neglected friend now, who must be cajoled back into my life.

Ten pages into the Van Gogh bio I’m reminded that Calvin is number one on the list of people whose memory and influence I would cleanse from the world. The reference?: “What is not a duty is a sin.” Mao is on the list, and several minor figures whose influence is not so wide or deep that they must be weighed for all consequences, as must vaster figures who, initially, cry out for inclusion, Hitler and Cromwell and the like.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 2011

My creative writing students have done their best work so far with short plays inspired by the prompt “the very fancy lingerie.” Four of them yesterday without overreaching, with wit and focus appropriate to their state of development. Any one of them would triumph in a festival of one acts.

Early morning BBC full of prophetic gloom about the exhaustion of the West. Confusingly, the pundits each blame something slightly different, though too much borrowing to sustain unsustainable lifestyles and too much money concentrated at the top seem to be repeating themes. Woke exceptionally early, even for me, and wanted something more silken to ease me into my day.

The cats pad after me even when their bowl is full. Love? Some need I do not understand and have not filled?

I watch the girls walking to school with their jackets wrapped around them and the wind blowing in their faces. They look so alone when they are alone, so vulnerable when there is weather or too much traffic or night is falling. I wonder how fathers can let them go, how they can refrain from hovering, from hiding behind trees watching to make sure everything is OK.

Even after days of hard freeze, the baby blanket roses push out bloom at the edge of the front terrace. Maybe enough heat keeps coming up from the street.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The "Super Committee"

The “Super Committee” will announce in a few hors that it has failed to make the necessary adjustments to prevent catastrophic legislated automatic cuts in the federal budget. The issue seems to be, solely and wondrously, the stubborn refusal of Republican demagogues to accept the necessity of new taxes. A four year old can tell you the way to have more money is to increase revenues and reduce expenditure, and that one alone will not, in dire events, do. The rich must keep their riches, all else be damned. My rage is increased because there doesn’t even seem to be two legitimate sides to this issue, and yet the wrong side wins. It’s like observing that the boat is sinking, and one says “Bail till we reach the shore” and the other says, “Saw a bigger hole” and somehow the bigger hole wins. Republicans have found a way to govern through hollow slogans like “No New Taxes” or “Take America Back” or “Class War,” discovering furthermore that the sooner the slogan crumbles under investigation, the more the American people like it, the more fervently and unthinkingly they will defend it. They have discovered that hysterical declaration is thought by many to be equal to a reasoned argument, that a prideful community of falsehood is the accepted counter to investigation and proof. Something in our heritage or educational system makes us think that ingrained belief or heartfelt prejudice is a right that reason and investigation should not be allowed wrench from our grasp. You can be a Republican and be intelligent, and you can be a Republican and be moral, but you can't be a Republican and be both. We’ve got ourselves a government by demons, an Infernocracy. Democrats? If angels, timid angels at best, shying from the holy war. The Republican party is at war– deliberately and consciously–with the America which takes care of its weak and curbs its predatory. They want old times back–though they are too ignorant really to understand how the old times were-- where the big prey on the small and nothing prevents the greater robbers from stealing year by year more of the common wealth. They fancy themselves among the privileged, as surprisingly many of the underclass– out of the sadness of imagination-- do. I remember my friend in Furey’s in Sligo saying that he was afraid in America, because there was nothing to stop your fall. It will be worse now. Education, healthcare, the safety of the elderly, art, public works, all gone so that a few calculating demons can return to their constituency and say “I fought new taxes!” I believed after George W that no Republican would ever get a vote again. My pity is gone for a people who stick their hands in the fire again and again and wonder why they are in pain.
November 20, 2011

Sultry Sunday, back to months to the middle of September. On the passenger’s seat in the car lies a pile of cast-off one-by-one clothes.

Senior creative writing readings– quite good, quite varied. One felt what one seldom feels at a reading, that one wanted to hear more.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 19, 2011

Chipper and hopeful before Saturday dawn. I feel the moon is almost gone and under the earth.

The crew, plus sweet J, went to see the meta-radio-theater adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life at NC Stage. Don’t care for the movie, didn’t care for the play, but we went to support Maria, and that was accomplished. The acting was good. That there are three touring companies of this piece is amazing to me. J suggested seeing Brief Encounters with me tonight, but I think an opportunity with his beauteous ex has derailed that.

J and B stared daggers at one another all the time in Cambridge, by which I knew they were not finished with each other.

Got to the studio, painted well, and not only that but sold a painting– the snowy owl and the moon and the star on a black plain– for exactly the price of next month’s rent.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 18, 2011

Mr Newhouse died in Akron. He was a sponsor through part of my Eagle Scout progress, and I remember a banquet we attended together, where he talked of his love of 40's hits such as “Deep Purple.” The contrast he made with my own father was remarkable, clearly, as I’m still remarking upon it. Someday I’ll take the time to recall all the random people who did me good during my childhood, for no conceivable gain but, perhaps, remembrance such as this decades later.

Went to bed with phlebitis last night, an attack caught early enough to be mostly a dull ache and almost comic exhaustion. The fever gave me vivid, repetitious dreams of considering the purchase of a mansion and a huge estate on a mountain in Pennsylvania. Did go to the Y in the morning, did work out feebly. Went with MP to see his property out near Sandy Mush. It requires too much either for my body or for my wallet, but in some ways–size, for instance–it is near the mark. The plots in the country around here look like salamanders or lightning bolts, never rectangles. M says it is so everybody gets a little bit of bottom land. Came home and slept fiercely for the rest of the afternoon, which is not what I was planning for my day almost off. Theater tonight. The test will be if I stay awake when every cell is crying “Sleep! Sleep!”

I think at least part of my gloominess the past few days was that I was getting sick. I’ve noticed this repeatedly in the past, and so sometimes make the connection, but nearly always a little to late to dodge some passage of grumpiness or annoyance.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 17, 2011

Too spent after a day. Even the next morning I, sometimes, feel not totally recovered. The weekends are obliterated by duties, so in effect I’ve had twenty days without a break. I hear my head repeating the mantra “one day. . . one day. . “ as if a mere 24 hours with no demands other than those of my soul would restore everything. Probably they would. People say, “Oh, it will only take a minute,” not realizing, or not caring, that a minute is an interruption as surely as an hour. Half the things I bring on myself, wanting to have done this or that without wanting to do it, wanting to look back in satisfaction on what gave no satisfaction in the performance.

Uncharacteristically waiting for dawn before setting out. Maybe I dreamed of bears in the back yard.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 15, 2011

Overstuffed Monday. At the Y before dawn I reached the weight machines just after a blond, 6'2" Viking about 30 years old, if that. I decided to do exactly the weight settings he had done. Somewhat to my surprise, I did so, and with so little strain I realized I had been indulging myself; I can do more than I typically make myself do. The blond giant returned to a machine after I had finished, checked the weights, saw that they were exactly as he had left them, shot me a gratifying glance of surprise.

Drove to Hendersonville to see one-act plays that Hendersonville High and East Hendersonville High are putting on for NCTC later this week. EH put on a stunning reduction of Terra Nova. The acting was so good I didn’t believe they were all high school boys until I saw them getting out of costume backstage. HH put on a piece called “Gratefully without the Muses” (I think) which they had written themselves, and which any college would have been proud to do. Mara Egan was my hostess, and she has the makings of a subtle and effective comic actor.

First departmental quarrel I remember in 28 years. The issue is equity in scheduling, and though I really don’t fuss that much about my schedule, I find myself in there scrapping bitterly. I suppose principle is important, or maybe I’m just in the mood for a quarrel.
November 14, 2011

Senior readings at school yesterday afternoon. We have surprising number of transsexuals in various stages of transition. It is a fad, related to the curious recent idea that all choices are available, all options open to all, always. The Lords of Dharma shake their heads. I hope no one goes too far and can’t find the way back. One was the handsomest boy in school, opting now to be a rather disappointing woman. The readings were diverse, uneven, individual, well-coached.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 13, 2011

A fairly creepy wolf spider hunts across my desk lamp, ascending and descending in a manner of particular calm. I’m thinking of ways we can live together peaceably. He stares steadily at me at intervals, likely thinking the same thing. Tiny orange bands near the ends of his legs, as if he were wearing jewelry. He really is a most serene little creature.

Went to see APO’s one-act festival, which included my “I Should Warn You I Have a Gun in My Bag.” The student-run operation was lively, well-attended, free. Some of the kids who had little to do in Our Town revealed that they are capable of much more. Projection was not much thought of, so my piece was lost, but pieces where boys shouted facing the audience were not lost, and it all warmed my heart. The potential for good theater exists on campus, if it can find its way past an exhausted faculty.

Unusually pleasant River District Studio Stroll yesterday. I even made sales, which though pitiable in size encourage simply by existing. Painted a lot. Looked up at one point at one of the world’s handsomest men, with a great silver lizard for a belt buckle, tall and thin enough of make such a detail work. He wanted to chat, and I was grateful. He seemed melancholy, and I was thinking, unsympathetically, “If I looked like that, you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.” One of the women who bought paintings chatted with me for a while about whether I was afraid someone would pass me a bad check. When I looked at her check later, she had left the write-out-the-sum space blank. On purpose? I filled it in myself with, I hope, some skill.

Left the Stroll to rush to Warren Wilson for Holly’s speech. She was funny and insightful, and Sebastian was walking, which was a glory to see. He looked tall and rangy and happy, as if the crutches were a kind of unnecessary courtesy. I have a tendency to want to joke with people in extremis, thinking it will lighten the situation, though I wonder of it reads the way it is intended.

Me: “Seb! You’re walking! And here I came with a whole load of wheelchair jokes.”
He: “My wife is still in a chair. Try them out on her.”

Left WW and steamed downtown (it was one of those days when I had to be watching the watch to make sure each obligation was met). TJC had comped me a ticket to hear Joshua Bell, the glamorous violinist, at the Thomas Wolfe. The playing was exquisite, though that room deadens everything–exquisite without resonance, one must then say. Bell had to deal with the typical yahoo Asheville audience which, among other things, longs to applaud between movements of a sonata. He took to holding the bow aloft to signal he was mid-movement–a signal which a significant number ignored anyway, and then laughed about. A cell phone jingle was playing as he wanted to begin, and he quipped to his pianist (Tracey’s comp was right down near the stage, bless her) “I guess I’ll have to play louder.” All the bars were full and happy as I walked back to my car. I wanted to join in, but, at that point, not enough to counteract thoughts of couch and a cosmopolitan.

RS asks me to begin reviewing again for Mountain Xpress. Missed it. Need to get a rhythm back.

Will return to work tomorrow without having had one hour of rest. Let’s see how that works.

My little ghost was with me through the day. I smiled and went along with it all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 11, 2011

Eleven. Eleven. Eleven

The moonlight was so bright last night I could see every detail of the yard, almost even the colors. Light glanced off the aluminum tank to make another moon, low against my window.

KM and I went to see Brief Encounters at MF, me for the second time. She assured me it was better than I had prepared her for, and it was, in fact, a better evening than a week back, with a livelier and less drunken crowd. Sat late with Casey and the Hyorths, us reminiscing about the good old days in Asheville theater, Casey politely taking it in, his copy of Grotowsky under his elbow. Heard that one of the other playwrights– the author of not quite the worst one–supposed that I had written “The Future of the Theater” for this event, targeting these actual plays, and rose at the end and gave the finger to the stage and stomped out. I miss all the good moments.

Evening, moving into night. Strange visions, and though they seem melancholy to tell, they bring me joy. I napped on the couch in the winter sunlight, and I dreamed of a little long-legged puppy showing up ay my back door. I decided he was meant for me, and that I would keep him. I was listing the things in my head that I had to buy-- toys, some rope for taking walks, fence to enclose the yard–when I woke up. I lay there for a moment trying to figure out whether I needed to go shopping or not. Then later as I was half-watching a DVD, a shape materialized, as if in the corner of my eye. It was a young man or a boy, with blond spikey hair, and a certain look, familiar and yet startling. I knew it was my unborn son. The first sensation was relief and joy–yes, yes, this, at last, is right– and then I sobered up a little and thought, “it is not right that you should haunt me. It was not my fault.” But then I realized it was not a haunting, but another sort of visitation altogether.
November 10, 2011

The soft light that I thought might be dawn an hour ago is gone, and night is back. Maybe it was the descending moon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 9, 2011

The garden is actually pretty riotous for the full moon of November. All the roses are blooming, and the purple Persian honeysuckle, and the forget-me-nots, wild geranium, purple phlox, flowering maple. But for a yellow rose and pink roses, most are in the family of purple.

Student M tells me of heatstroke in Army camp in Fayetteville. He was so bound up with muscle cramps he couldn’t move, and then passed out. When he woke, ants were in his mouth and nostrils. All he had to do was think, “I’m going to die this way,” to rouse himself and begin to fight again. The theory that training should be worse than any circumstance one will likely encounter seems, to me, boyish.

Spectacular back spasm prompted me to cancel classes (I was walking like the Mummy, unable to straighten up, unable to rise from a sitting or lower from a standing position without yelping in pain. Getting into a car was unthinkable). Twenty minutes after I sent the message to my students, the seized-up muscles relaxed. Instantly. Completely. I gave myself a mental-health day, going to the studio to paint and read through scripts sent to Black Swan. Notable flaws in scripts read today: 1) too-deliberate attempts at fashion, 2) lines that the characters wouldn’t really say, but that the playwright thinks the audience needs to hear. A number of playwrights seek to “update” scripture: Jesus as the panhandler on the public square, as the mysterious new neighbor who appears in hours of need. I wonder if this is ever successful. Very few of the scripts were quite horrible. Very few were exceptional or memorable. Sadly, many were really quite good, and deserve a showing, at least once, somewhere, if there were just enough energy and venues and money. The worst were those which were skillful and professional, but possessing nothing but skill, without an ounce of heart or evident humanity. These I assume had been through the development process, and shorn of every virtue with which fault could be found.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 8, 2011

Ordered a used copy of Millay’s “Fatal Interview.” The inscription on the cover page reads, “To Deedie from Jay, 3-24-‘37.

At last count, five tasks have risen up to interfere with the studio stroll this weekend. I think I’ll just give it up. Angry and frustrated by this, even recalling that the stroll is usually more exhausting and futile than it is rewarding. There is always the hope, though, of some break-through, of some resonant contact–unless one isn’t there. Oh well. Most of what I have taken on to "enrich" life makes me miserable, though I keep on doing it lest one day I regret giving up, in case the very day I quit is the very one which would have made it all worthwhile. Proofs of Satan abound.

The moon, nearly full, rebounds off the galvanized aluminum pool on the back terrace and lights my whole room slant through the window.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 5, 2011

Went to the doctor yesterday to get various things checked, She gave me script for blood pressure medicine that won’t make me cough all day long. She also gave me a flu shot, which almost instantly gave me the flu–or, as they say, “flu-like symptoms”– which ended the progress of the day. They’re still with me. Moving about the house like I’m 90. You wonder what the point of medicine is that 1) gives you the disease it’s supposed to guard against, which is 2) one that you haven’t gotten on your own in five years. Wonder if I can use this to get out of rehearsal this morning.

Dragged myself in the evening to the Reuter center for the first reading of SART’s Scriptfest. Glad I did, for several reasons, none of which, alas, was the script. Saw old friends and was assured by WC that they had not forgotten my money, but have been working diligently to scrape it together. Didn’t know whether to feel justified or greedy. The musical (we didn’t hear the music) involved the hanging of the circus elephant Mary for killing somebody in Tennessee a number of years back. The playwright was a good writer, which disguised until about forty minutes into the first act that the play was dismal. When the playwright began to speak I recognized instantly the main reason for its flaws: it had gone through several development processes. This is almost always a disaster and almost always dilutes the vision of the playwright without educating it. Someone had said he needed African-American characters, which he added without giving them a reason to be there, which is worse than not having them at all. Someone said he had to punch up the rather thin story with something sensational, so there is a totally gratuitous rape and two totally gratuitous murders–events which make us think for a moment that something is going on, but there’s really not. The character of Red (the one killed by the elephant) was pleasing, but probably because Chris A read it so well. There was a scene where a number of old townsmen were chatting, which was screamingly funny. He should drop the elephant scenario– sensational without being really interesting–or, like “Snakes on a Plane,” expressed and exhausted in a single instant-- and start with those men. I crumpled up my comment sheet and threw it away, thinking it would have been too harsh. The playwright had driven all the way from Orlando.

Late afternoon: rehearsal despite of the ague, then planting what I think will be the last of my upcoming garden, emptying a great crate just received from the nursery, containing four Japanese-named tree peonies, two kinds of fox-tail lilies, two kinds of day lilies (one of them reputedly black), and regular showy lilies in white and pink. It’s hard to imagine a square foot of land now without its tenant. Simmering on the stove is self-invented lentil soup with cabbage and onion. Not really hungry, so maybe it will open tomorrow’s gustatory adventures.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 4, 2011

Bitter winter rain.

Took TD and my student Alex and his roommate Ben to Magnetic Field to see Brief Encounters. Ben is learning Japanese and Farsi. The boys, who had ridden their bikes through the rain, were engaged and interested and sweet and curious about everything. I was stupid with pleasure being with them, going into a sort of paternal overdrive I hope they didn’t find too goofy. MF’s deep bench of excellent actors and directors saw the night through without much help from the scripts. Grateful to John and M & S Bean for doing well with my piece which, ending the evening, got laughs, and so was I content. Since I was with 20-year-olds, didn’t try the enticing cocktails invented for the program. Will next time.
November 3, 2011

The “post-mortem” for Our Town was cancelled moments before it was meant to happen. Cast members think it’s so the department doesn’t have to hear criticism, so it can maintain its old path of oblivious self-satisfaction. I think they’re probably right.

Enraging rehearsal last night. It’s curious how too much effort, wrongly directed, ends up with too little product. Did end the night merrily at Avenue M over drinks, Jake the Actor joining our churchly party. We bitched about everybody, and felt better for it.

Students not doing their work, not reading their assignments, smiling sweetly while you go on about matters about which they are blissfully ignorant, To punish or let pass? Surely I skipped assignments in my day, but I don’t remember, until it came to the 4th Henry James in graduate school. Unlike us, they can’t even rely on a foundation of general knowledge. Discussing Tennyson I would have been happy had they known ANYTHING about the Arthurian tales, but they apparently didn’t, except for some revisionist crap lately on TV.

The antique rose is suddenly, miraculously covered with November blossoms, dusty pink, oblivious to the hour.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2, 2011

Male notte. Molto male notte. Brutta. Cattiva.


Finished with Lupe’s discernment process. Finished correcting the Holy Spirit.

Apparently will not be playing Lear. Apparently misunderstood. I am trying to say, “Well, it frees up my spring” in a way convincing to myself.

Casey tells the story of a couple stomping out of Brief Encounters at MF, attacking the bartender (who, at any rate, was not at fault) because the plays were so bad. During the attack they apparently paraphrased the dialogue of my play about bad plays– which, of course, they had not seen yet. Life & Art–

Casey assures me that the evening is not bad at all. See for myself Thursday.

Apparently fried bacon last night in a drunken stupor. The smell was in the kitchen. The utensils were out but, wonderfully, cleaned. A greasy plate lay on the floor beside the couch. Hope I enjoyed it. Glad I didn’t burn myself. Maybe it was not I who fried the bacon at all.

Apparently the dark outside, speaking now with the voice of the across-the-street apartments’ trash truck, is another day.
November 1, 2011

Despite expecting no trick-or-treaters, one buys provisions just in case, realizing that one reason to keep teaching is have a population to consume leftover Halloween candy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October 31, 2011

Walked out in darkness, with the nearly half moon peering through my pines.

Lakeshore Drive is dark and without sidewalks, so not only do we get few trick-or-treaters, but it seems dangerous to lure them here with a burning pumpkin or a lit porch light. But I wanted to get into the holiday spirit, so I cruised the back streets where it is safe for the princesses and ninjas, including Kimberly and Edwin Place, which are the prime trick-or-treating areas in the north end. All sweet and happy. The dark shapes darting between cars across the streets are a little nervous-making, so the speedometer seldom exceeded 15.

I think too often of one Halloween–we still lived on Goodview, so I couldn’t have been more than 12, if that–when I had my costume all ready and was planning the trick-or-treating route with my friends, when my father decided (or at least said) that I was too old for Halloween and that I would work in the garden instead. He had me clearing out the frostbitten garden, by night, while everybody was walking the streets in their costumes, and the moon was high and golden, and the grief in my heart was inexpressible. Even then Halloween was not about candy, but about some high and mysterious solemnity, and I was agonized to be stopped from celebrating it the first time I understood it. I had no idea what had gotten into him, what lesson he thought he was teaching, and got slapped across the face when I asked. Still a puzzle to me today. It couldn’t have been simple cruelty, unless it was. What I do know was that it was destructive past what my father intended, indeed if he intended destruction at all. My father’s lessons tended to make me go and do the opposite the rest of my life. It was a particular grace that he didn’t know how utterly I rejected his every precept– except those having to do with making sure lids were on tight and not to be late.

How long have I labored to get that Halloween back?

Full moon one Halloween at Hiram. George and Denny and I ran to the Hiram graveyard and cavorted there as ghoulishly as we could, full moon and Halloween and graveyard and all. I remember thinking, “This may be the best Halloween of my life.” I think it was.

Went as a genie one Halloween to Scandals, my chest bare, my head shaved. I was sexy. I was popular. I left the bar very late, thinking, “everything will be all right now.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

October 30, 2011

Two days of low-grade headache.

Lunch downtown yesterday with Donna Cowan and her husband Jeff, down from DC. Donna had been mentored by TG at V Tech, and has just come out with her first book of poetry, for which she’d asked me to write a blurb. It is an excellent book, lively and individual, so the writing of a blurb was a pleasure. TG had given her a copy of A Sense of the Morning long ago, and she says she had adopted it as a kind of bible-- the sort of flattery which abashes and justifies in the same moment. They were good to be with, and the bitterly cold afternoon lifted the unpromising day completely. TG had confided in her about our friendship. I smiled hearing about it from a third party.

Our Town ended last night with a moderate bang. It was our biggest house– the theater approached half full–and most of the actors were “on.” B delivered his lines as George with the enthusiasm he should have, and could have, from the start, had he and all of us not been held back by one of the “concepts” governing the production. Directors and costumers and the like adore concepts by which they put their mark on a production, but when a production fails, it is often due to those concepts. Few are the “concepts” which are not burden which must, somehow, be borne up by extra energy from the text and the cast, by a conspiracy of acceptance on the part of an audience. I’m going to found a troupe called, “Just Say the Words Theater Company.” The house was lit for Our Town, and the actors warned not to make too strong a character, lest the audience fail to identify with the figures on stage The lit audience had the unexpected effect of confusing new audiences–of which we had an unusual number–by making what was incidental and what was theater hard to distinguish. Our audiences were sometimes badly behaved, but I think we set them up to be. Our presentation was sometimes bland, in the service of a not-quite-thought-through concept. Distancing and alienation were ideas that had their moment, only, and were bad ideas even then. Did I have a good time? Yes. I enjoyed being with the cast and grieve already at the inevitable diminishment of contact when the show is closed. Jake and I will probably work together. I’m churning the waters even now to allow that to happen.

“The Future of the Theater” getting good reviews from people who saw it. Seeing it myself of Thursday. What a difficult audience I can be . . . .

Overtures from L. I’d turned them down before I asked myself what I really wanted.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 29, 2011

The dogwood holds its red branch like a torch in my bedroom window. The golden angel’s trumpet is frostbitten at the top, but still blooming below, like a great palace whose top floors have burned.

MA quoting my poems at me last night over drinks. It was confusing. That someone should actually know one’s work–

Why can Keats say “My heart aches” and no one else?

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28, 2011

Friday morning, when I can take a deep breath, even if it requires some artificial clearing of the calendar. What do they call it? A mental health day? Very dark outside. I have been leaving early in the morning for the gym, when the keen stars are twinkling, sharp and compact, as are the stars of winter.

Second weekend of Our Town. RB had to go out into the quad and into a lecture hall giving away free tickets, else our house would have been sparser than it was. Somehow our theater has not entered into, or has been exiled from, the consciousness of the campus. It’s convenient and cheap and, this time, watch-able, the young actors well-prepared and personable, and students always have obligatory cultural events, so it’s difficult to understand the disconnect. Whenever I want wholeheartedly to boost the organization, though, I’m confronted with events such as last night’s pre-curtain lecture, wherein the morale of the actors and the possible success of the performance were sacrificed so that our stage manager could be made to feel good about herself. It was shocking, actually, for that fit of self-regard to be presented to the students as something that might go on, ever, in legitimate theater. Much of our energy has been drawn off so that our stage manager (NOT the one on stage in this particular play) could preserve illusions about the extent of her authority. She has teachers, mentors; somebody should have told her that the people backstage, as well as on stage, are there to enhance the performance rather than to draw its energy away to themselves.

However sweet the bud, there must be a weevil in it. I guess.

MA arrived an hour in, but says it was his best theater experience in Asheville, that it was moving and dignified. Wasn’t expecting to hear that, but glad to have done so. He’s coming back tonight to see Act I. Drinks with him at the Vault, where we discussed his joblessness, and the sense of joyful anticipation he harbors during the job-hunt. It was good to see him. He is always full of ideas and appreciations. He joined us last night at Avenue M for drinks after the show, which was merry, and I dragged home drunk and happy.

My own “The Future of the Theater” premiered at Magnetic Field last night, though of course I missed it, and will continue missing it until next Thursday. Two of my students want to come with me that night. That will be festive.

Shocking what energy it takes just getting through the week. The soul of art hibernates, and one lies down on any horizontal surface, begging for forty winks, resenting so much as a trip to the store for cat food.

Speaking of cats: A few days back I’m fed up with interruptions, and bellow at Maud to get out. She retreats cringing a few paces before my onslaught, but stops, hovering in the doorway. She thinks, “I will not let it end this way,” and boldly trots back, braving my wrath to take up her place on my lap. I should take this example of love and courage.

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 23, 2011

The house is too cold if I set the thermostat at 67, too hot if I set it at 68. Perils of autumn . . . .

Tiny houses continue for Our Town. I don’t wonder why going to our own theater is not part of university culture, but I do wonder what can be done about it now. Faculty and administration have not been in evidence at all. Backstage culture here is fascinating. There are clear currents, clear processes of exclusion and inclusion, but my immersion has been too brief to have much of a handle on it. It is to some degree a meritocracy. Jake’s maturity and advanced skills are respected, and there are no divas, or if there are they are not shrill enough for me to have sensed them. The atmosphere is unprofessional, though not in a charmless way. Certain customs are presented as theater etiquette which a professional theater would find risible. I suppose that has come from the faculty, but perhaps not; perhaps it is sui generis. One group or another (among the crew) is always reminding us to show respect to them. I have not witnessed disrespectful behavior, so I don’t know exactly what that’s about. Usually reminding people to show respect indicates that respect has not been earned, but perhaps there is a history to this I have not understood. I remember this respect anxiety from my tenure there a generation ago, though from no other theater where I have worked. Some kind of local sensitivity– The kids are cheerful and clearly having a good time. A good time for cast and crew does not always translate into a good time for the audience, but a bad time backstage would surely affect an audience’s pleasure, so we’re ahead there, if slightly. I will miss the kids if we don’t meet again after the run is ended.

B remarked that his father and his girlfriend’s father were sitting together in the house. “It’s so cute. It’s like a dad date.”

Jake reveals some things about the production of Vance which I did not know, namely that the director dropped out for the most part and the show was directed essentially by cast and crew. This means I have to end my resentment of the quality of direction and turn it to gratitude that it came out as well as it did.

Evening. Our Town matinee again sparse, but a good performance, I think. I felt more into the atmosphere than I have before. I had friends in the audience, and as things were set up, I didn’t even have to try not to look at them. The girls in their makeup look like movie stars.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 22, 2011

White Christmas cactus in bloom, pink in bud.

Two of my Vance actors came to see Our Town last night. (Jesus, JJ is a handsome man!) I was touched to see them. House still small, but friendly and responsive. I have no particular laugh lines, but I could hear them out there in the dark trying to find something to titter at, and I was grateful. The time backstage seems about four times longer than, by the clock, it is. Especially weird review of Montford’s Romeo and Juliet makes me ambivalent about whether I want us to be reviewed or not.

The dates for I Should Tell You I Have a Gun in My Purse are November 11 and 12. I was told last night that it was “very funny.” “The Future of the Theater” opens Thursday at MF.

Coughing like I'd smoked for thirty years,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 21, 2011

Banshee-like whistling of steam in the radiators. Winter approaches.

Planted the moneywort I gathered from the Lucy Cavendish garden.

Noticed that lemon balm was taking over the garden, carried out on all-out assault. Planted the moneywort in part of the space thus cleared. Orange bachelor button in bloom, seeded from last year. The pink terrace roses bloom, and the golden angel’s trumpets, and the pink hollyhock-ish things that I keep forgetting the name of, that grow all over Rome.

Bought seed and suet and hung the winter feeders.

Wrote in the café until the coffee started making me sick.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 20, 2011

Gaddafi’s death sparked a debate in my Honors class, one student saying that it is wrong to rejoice over the death of anyone, others saying that destructive people should expect a sigh of relief, if not of joy, at their demise. I was with the latter group, wishing I could feel that all human life is sacred– I guess I do on an abstract level– but actually thinking that for some, good riddance is good enough. I used to wish, half-seriously, that Dick Cheney’s wicked heart would give out on him, or that John Ashcroft would melt when somebody threw water on him.

Opening night of Our Town. Tiny house, but the veterans seemed to think that was to be expected. I can’t tell by listening-- as I do from the ambulatory practically all three hours-- how well we are doing. I can count my own bobbles, which last night was one.

The more I think about the play the more I think it is a bitter satire, and the fact that it is “beloved” high school fare is deeply ironic. Emily’s life is wasted. She is the smartest girl in town and should have gone to college; instead she hunkers down with the local rube– because, I guess, she is supposed to–and dies young, in childbirth, and even in death can only talk about a stupid watering machine purchased in lieu of a trip to Paris. Grover’s Corners is proud of having no aesthetic or spiritual life, and hounds its one artist into drunken suicide. Not only does it have no such life, buts warily shrugs off all such aspirations to it. Only Rebecca is allowed a momentary foray into wonder, and that rhapsodizing on a fanciful address on an envelope. Thornton Wilder, a gay man, writes at least three times in the play that most everybody gets married and goes through life two by two, which is either sad, sad self-loathing, or irony so scalding nobody (in the commentaries, anyway) dares quite to get it. The Stage Manager misquotes carelessly and dismisses Poles and Canucks on the wrong side of the tracks. He –or in our case, she-- focuses on the mundane in a way that is occasionally poetic, but most often reductive and insular. The implication is that the narrow minds of Grover’s Corners are exactly the way true American should be, without aspiration, without compassion, without enterprise, without vision, without love that goes beyond a recognition of proximity. I like the play better than I did. I like everyone in it less. I like Simon and Emily; both are annihilated. I like my “son” George,” but only, I realize now, because I like the actor who is playing him. In the abstract, he’s despicable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 19, 2011

Boys kiss backstage. Things are not yet so advanced that they can admit it’s because they want to rather than pretending it’s on a dare. But things are far enough advanced that they do.

The hummingbirds are gone. One feeder was emptied by them before they left, but one hangs still, half full. I’ll keep it there for a while, remembering a solitary hummer at it in a snowstorm on Thanksgiving day.

Saw JF’s moment on One Tree Hill. It lasts about five seconds, but, sure enough, there he is, in momentary glory. I think I started watching the DVDs to see him, imagining something a little more substantial.

We are to have in our minds, on stage, the conceit that we are only partially our characters, partially actors playing those characters, so that if we have a band-aid or a cough we must decide if that band-aid or the cough belongs to the actor or to the character. Most of the cast has realized by now that this is unplayable. So far during production week I have received one note: that I was carrying the imaginary casket wrong. I don’t contest this. If you didn’t have context to guide you, but only our appearance on stage, you’d probably think we were wrestling not with a casket but a giant Slinky.

Quite late. Final dress was before an audience of urban kids, very young and predominantly black, and very much different from our usual crowd. They had no idea of the conventions of the theater, and laughed not at what they were meant to laugh at, but at what they really thought was funny. It was instructive and refreshing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 17, 2011

Pale stars still present, but gleaming subtly in the gray silk lightening all around them. When I set out it was still night, with moon and stars as bright as I’ve ever seen them in town, two curving ribbons of cloud, one on either side of the moon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 16, 2011

TT sends a link to an article in an Ohio paper about Virginia Goson, my art teacher at Hyre Junior High. The article spotlights a mural she and her students painted in a Kenmore school in 1947. Her students are 77; she doesn’t look much older. I suppose after a certain point additional years have no more damage to do. I recognized her because the article told me who she was, but I did see the woman I knew. Back at Hyre she was dramatic, Cleopatra-like, with raven-black hair and excessive eye make up, and sweeping garments, every inch the Artist. She took an interest in me which I never particularly understood, for it was clear she didn’t think much of me as an artist. She’d corner me in homeroom in 8th grade and ask me questions, one of which was to guess her middle name, which I did in one try after she gave me the initial. The initial was “D” and I said “Dare” in two seconds. Maybe she thought I was some kind of oracle. She was one of the two deliberately discouraging teachers I ever had. She said, giving me a C on a design for a new kind of car, “It’s good you’re in college prep, for you have nothing of the artist in you.” What a victory for her that it still stings after 48 years.

Late in his life my father observed how grateful he was that he had happy memories to think on now that the active part of his life was over. I was jealous of that even as he said it. I don’t want to go so far as to say I have no happy memories, but I might in fact mean that. Whenever I’m thinking undirected thoughts–whenever monkey-mind prevails–my thoughts light on sad, tumultuous things, occasions when I was cruel or gauche or thoughtless, moments when I was excluded, wounded or rejected. Other, neutral moments might have a gleam about them, but they turn eventually toward some darkness, some regret that seems to be attached, in retrospect, to every moment of my life. Even if I tell myself to think of something purely happy, it is difficult to do without my mind’s pointing eventually to the way in which that joy ended in catastrophe or disappointment–or to nothing at all. Some pure moments are available from my experiences in the natural world– moonrise on that road in Clare, the yellowhammer perched for a moment on my boot, the skunk singing to me in the silver woods–but among persons there is always irony, mortification, regret, heartbreak, confusion about the fact that I have never seemed able to rouse very deep emotions–except for anger–in other people. I wonder if my mind lights on sad things as a sort of punishment, though I don’t know for what, and what good is the punishment if there is no understanding of the sin? Maybe no one else can think of a happy moment unalloyed with grief, either, and I simply need to consider it part of the human condition. It is as if I’m fighting a long war, a war as long as my life, and all thoughts, all emotions must be geared to combat until that struggle comes to some sort of end. Repose is nowhere to be found, whether because I cannot or because I must not. I have an excellent memory, one which responds to my needs, and I do not think it is blocking the joy. I think there has been none, no joy that lasted longer than the hour of its birth, or that I didn’t make myself out of pure will. If that is the case, then the war, whatever it is about, is just.

Amazing sky as dawn comes– silver and turquoise and gold all at once.

Realized (during church) that the exception to the lamentation above, those memories which are in fact sweet & without a bitter aftertaste, are the random sexual encounters (I don’t want to use the word “random”– perhaps “unanticipated” would be better) which began in Syracuse and were almost always good, and offered no expectations of quality or endurance to be disappointed by. And, to be fair, there were a considerable number. Not the same as a life, but– almost enough midnight snacks to make up for never having a meal.

Worn out by my own emotions on what may have been the most beautiful day of autumn. An orange monarch settles on a pale lilac aster against a cobalt sky. Only October can get away with that. I worry about my frog, what will become of him in winter. I think, “the blessed spirits who will not look after you will, however, look after him,” and, oddly, the thought is comforting.

My mind has gone twenty times today to the upstairs bar of the Abbey Theater in Dublin. Does somebody there think of me?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 15, 2011

Stood on the porch after waking and watched the moonlight gush onto the yard.

For some reason I was thinking of J, missing him. “Oh, we will be friends forever.”

At practically the last moment when such a thing can be accomplished, the front terrace is drowned in a wash of deep purple morning glory.

Afternoon of tech for Our Town. I think it went well. It’s impossible for me to tell how this production will strike an audience, or how it will look when we open on Thursday. I enjoy being with the kids. I enjoy comparing them to how we were back at Hiram when their parents– who could have been us– were young. Good God, their grandparents, even. Not that much different, except that we were not so giggly, far more focused and efficient with our time, with both more seriousness and more intellectual pretension. I think I like these kids better than I did us. Both our worlds were dangerous, but in different ways. Our enemies were more recognizable, more “them” at whom rocks and epithets could be hurled. Wall Street, in comparison with Viet Nam or Richard Nixon, is diaphanous, elusive, interwoven, impenetrable.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 14, 2011

When I rose to go to the Y, there was just enough light to invoke a soft gleam from the many colors of the trees, above which the round moon slid down the west, which it made blue-silver with its passage.

My honors students have begun their class reports on various geniuses in their estimation, and I’ve never been prouder of any group. I should have just shut my mouth long ago and let them have their say. Charlotte introduced us to Theo Jansen, of whom I had never heard before, but who instantly revolutionized, with his almost living beasts, my concept of what art and imagination are for. The actions of the demiurge have always seemed dark and blasphemous to me, Doctor Frankensteins of various ranks and abilities, but here the demiurgical labor is sweet and playful as a child with a box of toys, as an infant God with his new playthings strewn about a white-hot universe. Everyone was eloquent and engaged, a teacher’s dream.

Planted a few things, but otherwise gave over most of the day to recovering from the week. Need to see half a dozen plays full of my friends playing about the city, but, trapped by my own role, will probably see none. Tomorrow promises to be swallowed up by “wet tech.”

Maud manages to get herself locked in a closet all night. How she latched the door behind herself I don’t know. When she was banging to get out I thought it was someone trying to break in the front door. I thought, "You idiot! All the lights are on!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 13, 2011

Back to class after the brief break, flattened, as my students must be, by the demands of the semester. I am always amazed–as they might not be–by how easy it is to catch up, given a little application. What in the past sometimes has been a diversion– choir, for instance-- is, for this time, a further tribulation. Bad stars in an off sky. Production week for Our Town is upon us without my having paid enough attention. There were too many wine bottles in my recycling bin this week.

Learned to use my I-pad, lounging around watching old episodes of Numbers.

I want to check my mail, but it is still pitch dark, and a rather formidable wolf spider has taken up residence in the mailbox. We don’t mind each other too much, but I want to be able to see him when I visit, for his safety and my peace of mind.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 12, 2011

Remembering Matthew Shepherd.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 11, 2011

Autumn rain. I ran onto the porch after a ringing bang on the picture window, and saw that a ovenbird lay there stunned. I picked him up in my hands, and held in for a long time. He was very beautiful, his markings as if laid on by a painter, his back a curious dark green/russet, however, that paint could not hope to duplicate. He was very warm, and his heart beat furiously against my palms. When I opened my hands, he could stand well enough, but showed no desire to fly. After holding him for about an hour, a worried that I was somehow impeding his recovery, so I set him on top of the desk, so he’d be out of reach of anything else that might invade the porch tonight. He was standing, his eyes wide open, his wings intact so far as I could tell. I made maybe too much of him, hanging my hope for the future on the possibility that he might launch into the air recovered while I was watching. This did not happen, so I eased the hope over on his being gone in the morning, and my being able to imagine, anyway, that everything was all right. If only this one thing can happen, if I can have this one miracle, everything will be all right. I caught myself thinking, “if anybody but me had picked you up, you might have a chance.” Whatever spirits still have mercy in this world, I put my ovenbird in your hands. The night is dark and cold.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 2011

Stood in the mesh green house at Reems Creek Nursery. A huge monarch fluttered against the wall, trying to get out. I caught it in my hand, where it was not diaphanous at all, but sturdy, indignant, its legs palpably gripping the palm of my hand. When I let it go outside it shot like a bullet almost due south, high up in the blue air. Later saw another butterfly, high, high up, and quite alone.

Dream last night, wherein a group of us from high school were told to follow certain signs to places where important things would be revealed to us. Angie Parrotta was first. She had to dive down into a cement pool in Ellet. What she found there made her laugh, but she wouldn’t say what it was. The signs told me to go to the Amos Englebeck Lodge–my father’s masonic Lodge in Akron–though the place in the dream was a huge camp in the forest, with a pavilion in the center. What I was told there was so inconsequential that I figured I’d best keep it to myself lest it discourage the others, so inconsequential that I have forgotten what it was.

Vivid late roses, forget-me-nots, blue geraniums, tradescantia, a carpet of pink cyclamen.

New singer–sort of sexy–at rehearsal last night. Though he had his own music, we had to share because, he said, he couldn’t tell where we were unless I was pointing at the notes. And, evidently, unless his body was pressing pretty hard against mine. Not a complaint. He was clueless about the printed music, but could match pitch and learned fast. We wanted to grow as a group, but all the growth seems to be among the basses, of which there were too many already. I liked it when I was the only one and could sing as lustily as I wished.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 8, 2011

Tired end of a lovely Saturday. I finally made it to the studio and did some painting, and left a box full of small paintings I was sick of out on the street for anyone who wanted them. I was sort of sick of everything I had done, but the impulse was to go back in and revise, rather than to abandon, as it sometimes is. Came back here and gardened, transplanting a volunteer sycamore to where it might be allowed to thrive, planting wind flowers and daffodils. Some time back I bought a bag with about a billion daffodil bulbs, and now the task of getting them all into the ground lies before me. My frog still swirls about in his water garden.

KS took DJ and me property hunting yesterday. There was one perfect house, but it rests in an urban environment almost exactly like what I have now. I actually know the owners, slightly, and there is a photo on the wall of them getting married in All Souls. There was an almost perfect lot of 3 acres or so off Reems Creek. I still think about that one. There was an awful place set within the immense Claxton farm which, nevertheless, had vultures feeding on the ground nearby, and I would almost consider it just for that. There was a bungalow that had burned and was, therefore, cheap. The shower curtain had melted off its pole. Varnish had blistered off the bedroom doors. The family had left all its sad possessions behind, including a couple of singed bibles which had got as far as the porch before also being abandoned. Karen quizzed me on what I was looking for and why I was looking for it, and, frankly, I didn’t know. I told her my dream of planting my own forest, but she didn’t think I was being serious, and afterwards I wondered if I was. I want SOMETHING. Maybe if I knew what, I could have had it already.

Maybe I just need to get out. I’ve been home for three months, and perhaps that is enough. Did buy my ticket for New York for Jonathan and my premiere. Investigated other hotels, but ended up staying at the Paramount again. I so long for tradition.

Stared at the moon through my binoculars until my arms were tired. It is every bit as remarkable as one expects, which makes it, somehow, more remarkable still. How many things do not disappoint?

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 6, 2011

Friends of the Library Board at Warren Wilson. Sebastian rolled in in his wheelchair, but for all that he looked well and on the mend after his calamitous accident. He was cheerful, helpful, engaged. You could see the bones and muscles knitting under his skin. Relief came to hearts which had been led to expect worse.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 5, 2011

Received a royalty check for “Cyclamen,” my first as a librettist.

Got a shingles vaccination. TG’s tale of his suffering with the condition put me over the edge.

Drank delicious riesling out of a blue bottle at Avenue M.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011

Brought the Christmas cacti in at the threat of a freeze. The threat was vain, but I’m glad they’re in anyway. The flamingo/tangerine roses that I begged to endure have endured.

Met Mickey in her sweep through town last night, at Magnetic Field. As ever, she is full of plans. Her beloved boyfriend has an affect not unlike mine, which I found intriguing. Jayson tried to comfort me for my disappointment with Lear.

Casey asked me to play Friar Lawrence in R&J, which I couldn’t do because of Our Town.

I move from one task to another in a daze. I am in a phase of fending off.

My Lit students are the worst I’ve had in years, grudging and uncommunicative; my beginning creative writers are the best I’ve had in years, one or two of them presently publishable.

Proustian moment: I bought some lard to make pie crust. Of course I have not made the pies, but I decided to use the lard to fry some vegetables. The minute I tasted them I remembered my grandmother, my father’s mother. Taste memories flooded back. Her cooking always tasted spoiled to me, tainted, and the loathing and anxiety that caused was part of the reason trips to her house were a trial. The spoiled meat taste was in fact lard– which is, I suppose, in a way, spoiled meat. I wish I could go back and apologize, for in my direct way I must have said something about it sometime.

Case said, “I thought you were a wonderful professor, and thought it wonderful that you had no filters on what you said or did. But then I realized you DO in fact have filters, and then it became a little terrifying.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2, 2011

Blue Ridge Pride was more fun than one anticipated. We sang not well, but well enough for the occasion. The occasion itself was light-hearted and beset with bitterly cold winds, so one came away with the tingle on one’s skin remembered from autumn afternoons long ago, when one played outside until it was too cold and too dark, but that didn’t matter. There are about a hundred photos of us, now on the web, and I am not in a single one.

When I was asked to read Lear for the Bardathon my heart leapt up, but that didn’t turn out as I imagined. Some of the best young actors in the city were assembled, and I was happy to be among them, but the spirit of inanity settled on the room almost at the outset, after the first actor committed the first blooper and tried to joke it off as of no account. The laughing-it-off-never stopped after that. The performance spiraled down until, had I been watching, I would have left the room, and even as I was acting it was difficult not to throw down the script and creep defeated out into the starless night. Giggling, cat-calls, ad-libs, unwritten mocking asides, almost page-by-page descent into helpless hilarity, indeed anything and everything that could take away from the majesty of the English language’s supreme achievement. I had to begin “Howl, Howl. Howl. Howl. Howl” with the dead sisters writhing on the floor–just having died– laughing as though there had just been a good one at the Comedy Club. I don't think anyone would accuse me of over-seriousness, or even meet seriousness, but I think some things must be beyond mockery, and if anything is, it’s Lear– letting alone simple courtesy to actors who are still trying to speak tragic lines in a monkey house. Cornwall and the Fool and my Cordelia tried to play it straight with me, but the tide could not be turned. A long run in a bad production is, I suppose, worse, but for three and a half hours, this was the worst theatrical experience of my life. I tried to figure out what happened. My best guess is that many did not prepare, and tried to disguise ineptitude as nonchalance, with nonchalance sliding gradually into the deliberate effort to sabotage. If I am not good, nothing shall be. It was far too forced and enforced to be simple silliness, which might have been attractive in a way, or even a kind of homage to the unapproachability of the text. I did the best I could even amid the monkey house, and probably came off looking like a fool who was not in on the joke.